Are you a Recruiting Samurai? Then identify your “Keiretsu culture”…

Great interview this week with the head of US HR for a major Japanese automobile company. We were talking about what makes their business unique, what they look for in leadership, and so on. We got to assessment, and I learned that during their interview processes that every leader in the organization in the California office has to interview the final candidate. All 12 officers.

My response?  I asked her if a Keiretsu-like culture was alive and well in her organization. She said “Absolutely!” Her tone changed after that because she realized I was in on a secret. Keiretsu is a corporate relationship and governance structure that has been used in Japanese business for quite some time. Its not publicized as it was back in the 1980s/90s, and globalization of companies have severely decimated the actual corporate alignment it used – but the cultural aspects associated with that business model can still linger – even here in the States. Its not everywhere in Japan – please don’t make that leap. Lots of books and data on this, but if you think Fedex or Facebook has a culture…you should do some reading on Keiretsu.

She continued to tell me that assessing candidates to fit into their culture is done by making sure that all the players agree that the person belongs. Its a careful sell across the organization top down that allows for support and exposure all at once. Culture is their greatest asset, and its primarily how they invest in their recruiting and assessment efforts.

That is where the lesson is…allocating time to what is important in assessment. They spend over 80% of assessment on ONE THING. But at least they know what that is…culture.

What are the primary drivers in YOUR business? Technology? Innovation? Culture? Leadership? You probably already know, but the question is have you invested your resources in such a way  that you are really vetting against those significant assets?

If its “leadership”, are you asking questions in interviews about leading teams? Developing them? Addressing conflict? Are you presenting cases regarding leadership and having them work out the problems? Are they interviewing with not only the hiring manager but well regarded leaders in the organization? Are the leaders designated certain questions about leading teams, and are they debriefing specifically on those topics? Are you having top individual contributors ask about leadership and management techniques and comment if those candidates can lead people like them?

If you don’t know what makes your company tick – you better ask. If they don’t know – guess. But at least take your assessment resources and strategize how you are really measuring those really important assets.

By the way – retention in this company is tremendous if you think it doesn’t work. And for the record, I don’t have a patent on Recruiting Samurai. I am sure I saw that somewhere else.

Sourcing and the Great Assumption

First to admit that I am not a sourcing guru. For one reason or another, that is assumed by people I meet, and at first I was not sure why that followed me around. Don’t get me wrong, on the daily grind of recruiting I was able to cold call and hunt down the folks, but no better than many recruiters – I just made tons of phone calls 🙂 I will admit, dropping about 150 voice mails before 9am each morning always helped.

As the world becomes socially smaller though, I really admire all the sourcing folks out there that really spend time and effort understanding the methodology of cutting through all the networks, groups, media sites, and of course those who gate crash and get the names. I have not honed this skill over the years, primarily because I have to focus on other competencies to hone, and have advised many to outsource this work to experts who hone those competencies daily.

I still stand firm on my belief that for positions where you need to recruit, as in you really need to sell it, you need to PLAN on having at least 50 conversations in the bag before you make the hire, give or take a few. These include the interviews and back and forth with the managers/candidates, so assume that about 15 of them are already off the table for sourcing.  You need to have 35 strong, detailed conversations about the job, people in the marketplace, their qualifications / interest / motivations / experience, and then some secondary validation in order to feel really good about the 3 to 5 people you are putting in mix. If you can’t count the 35, I think you are making some really big assumptions when stating “this is the best talent”.

Of course you may want to double count previous conversations you have had in the space, but I just call that knowledge. Maybe you can cut out a few, but don’t you think that you should at least have 25 good conversations with either people you trust will know the right people OR the actual prospects themselves in order to find a slate of 4 or 5? If not, what are you using as your decision engine…the resume or LinkedIn profile that they produced themselves?

So back to the Great Assumption – Managers think recruiters / sourcers are actually doing this work (or more) to find the talent that is needed AND we also think that in order to be successful, we need to have this amount of effort.


Sourcing is not about math. Sourcing is about results. We know the matching can just happen. This is not a manufacturing process. There are people who just gel with the recruiters, leaders, and managers. Chaos happens, and we break through the math all the time. Maybe “great” recruiters are lucky, or the brand works, or maybe they are just highly skilled and tuned to the managers, so their research is solid.

Besides – I can prove that sourcing at this level is unlikely to happen all the time anyway:

  • 2100 hours in a year for a person to work
  • assume 20% for non-recruiting meetings, training, water cooler time (1680 hours left)
  • assume all meaningful convos + notes captured are 30 minutes (3360 sessions)
  • 50 sessions per hire (67 positions filled a year)
  • Meanwhile – you forgot scheduling, research, document prep, offer letters, admin, and a bunch of other stuff.

Maybe your team does less – maybe they do more. But even IF they are doing less or more, you can’t deny the numbers…so what are you giving up? I appreciate if you team is really good at finding 2 people and selling it hard to the managers who buy it when you tell them “this is the best talent” and a great hire happens. Be honest – did you REALLY source to 35 to 50 conversations or just get people who match.

And it is AWESOME to get people who match. That is the goal. Just don’t tell the managers you busted 100 hours of sourcing and hard selling when you made three phone calls and got three great candidates.

We need to be cautious about the Great Assumption – that we sourced “all the talent”. 1 – it is difficult to prove, 2 – it is difficult to have it happen consistently, and most importantly – 3 – it does not really matter if you have a great hire and the person is productive.

Take Action and Translate to Everyday:
Let your managers in on the secret. Let them know that you will plan to have 35 to 50 conversations with the likely suspects after research and knowledge is gathered, meaning it could take X amount of time. You may be able to shortcut and get results early by finding people in the first 10 conversations, rather than the last 10. But if that happens, you will not talk to the other 40 on the list.

It’s now on them to close the deal, and you will assist as needed. Remember – results are not a measure of effort, and you have other managers looking for results. 



Why Surfing and Talking at the same time on an iPhone will help you Retain More Employees

Yesterday I got a 12 page magazine from AT&T. I did not subscribe to it, and did not send for it. It came to my home mail box, and was addressed to me directly. On the cover, it said Special iPhone Edition, and in the lower left corner there was a very Cosmo-like caption stating “Great Match! 10 Reasons AT&T and your iPhone work best together”.

My first response – wow! haven’t gotten a retention package on anything in a while. Of course the word retention then stuck out and I started thinking about this blog post. Meanwhile, my colleague and FB friend Jeff Bloch threw up a status the other day that 26% of AT&T iPhone customers are switching to Verizon. I am pretty sure he didn’t make that up – if was a re-tweet of an article from some survey. Both the magazine and the tweet arrived within a few days of each other, not to mention the constant AT&T and Verizon commercials on the iPhone I am seeing on every channel – its like a US Presidential Election out there.

This is a great battle – the next Cola Wars – but it is actually a preview of what will happen if the job market’s flood gates every swing wide open and employees consider leaving or staying with their current employer.

We all knew that Verizon was eventually getting the iPhone. People on AT&T have dropped calls. Some hated it so much that cracked the code on their AT&T iPhones, and switched to Verizon or another carrier through hacking. Then the day came. The waters parted, and there was beady eyed glasses guy on an iPhone saying “can you hear me now” and he was on an iPhone? Prayers were answered, AT&T’s sweating had officially gone public, and people left the warm blanket of of the Stanly Tucci voice over for the windbreaker of the nerdy guy.

For the record, I am former Verizon person, who switched to AT&T for the iPhone, and I am sticking with AT&T, even though I drop calls in my own house on a regular basis. Why I am sticking is why employees will stay…

So if the waters part in employment, there will be a mass exodus of employees from current employers to new employers. All of a sudden employers will start being concerned about retention. Some have started already, but probably not as many as they should. In fact, they have been remiss in working on retention as they have assumed people can’t leave in the wake of the recession.

The fear is climbing – how are we going to hold our top talent? Do we need to make promises? Do we give them something else? I am hearing it more and more each week from our companies and in the wind from people who are restless in their job.

Employees are restless because they just ARE. There are lots of people who had planned on leaving their job, but all of a sudden could not, for whatever reason. A small percentage of those people have changed their mind, but wake up employers – they decided to leave a long time ago.

These are the AT&T customers who were waiting for Verizon. Its a sizable group. But they stayed with AT&T because they had no choice. As employees, they wanted two things – the money and the job satisfaction, but they needed the money. Now they will go and get the satisfaction now, because its available.

Then there are the employees who are staying with AT&T. There are likely two types:

1) DON’T FEEL LIKE MOVING – They don’t want to change because they think its a pain, or something will go wrong, or they don’t want to bother, etc. This is the majority of the crowd, and guess what – that is the majority of the people who will stay with a company. They have too much invested to not even bother. The brand (like AT&T) might be holding them, but I am sure that if the deal was sweet enough (from Verizon) they would jump. BTW the way, you have probably noticed that Verizon is not giving away the iPhone or having massive discounts. They are not cutting their own throat to get people to jump. That is because of the NEXT group.

2) I AM STAYING BECAUSE ITS BETTER – The magic group. The ones who want to stay because they know its actually better for them – really better. For AT&T customers, its probably because they can talk and surf at the same time. I am on my phone so much that I surf, text, Google, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and so on while on the phone. Maybe I am on a conference call and texting people at the same time. Its really convenient, and makes me productive.

Yes – I experience at least one dropped call a day, and at first I was ready to switch. Then I realized I can just call people back. People understand – they get it. Its actually a nice reinforcement. Whatever I was talking about was provocative enough that they were eager to have me call back. I am not leaving AT&T because I am actually at my most productive and effective with AT&T – and THAT is what we want for ANY top employee. That very realization.

You want employees who realize they want to stay because they know they are at their most productive and effective with your company.

So send your newsletters and emails. Make your websites. Have your conversations at your companies. Some people are going to leave. Oh – and CEO – don’t blame your HR people when they do – if employees bail its because of the reasons I mentioned earlier, not because your HR manager is weak.

The thing about exodus, is that its catchy. You don’t see too many lemmings stay back after the jump…

So you have to prepare to hold onto the people who use the iPhone and like to surf at the same time (keep that visual in your head). BTW – this is the market share that Verizon (your competitors) are REALLY going after and going trying to steal. he are the most effective and productive people you have. Its the few percentage points of the team, but it makes all the difference in profitability.

Protect your “iPhone talking surfers” from the exodus. Find out who they are. Get HR and managers to engage with people and find out why they are with the company. How does your company enable them – really and truly. For top talent, CEOs and heads of businesses can do this themselves. Make the time and have talks with those who are marked for promotion or have intellectual knowledge that you know you need. Get out of the office talk to the great team players. Find out if and why they are talking and surfing at the same time.

Realize that the “surfing” at your company is a unique combination of things for each employee, and likely has differences for each person – but make sure they are surfing and talking at the same time. Once they recognize that the surfing is really not available elsewhere…you will keep them on your network.

Mentorship – No…its not important to have it…

Okay – that was a sarcastic remark. Of course its important – but that importance varies person to person, and as you design a role for people in your organization, design the sell of a position to an employee, or think about what you are going to talk to your boss about come review time – MENTORING should be a consideration you are making.

As an HR / talent exec it starts with your employee value proposition, and how important mentoring is to your culture. Do you have a program? Is it formal? do YOU have a mentor? Does the employee take responsibility? Is it frowned upon? Who are the examples of two people with strong mentoring relationships? If you can’t answer some of all of these questions, realize that there are candidates where mentoring is important when considering your job, and there may be top performers who are frustrated with their current job because of the lack of mentoring.

Employees – speak up. Find out if there is a program (if you want a mentor) Are you involved? Do you know any of your peers who talk about their mentors?

Recruiters – find out how important this is to the candidate. A strong mentoring program may actually get you through a tough negotiation for the right candidate, while it may mean ZERO to another. But find out. During recruiting, ask them about what empowers them daily and what resources they use for advice and counsel. If they have a mentor that is an employee at the current job, they may actually lose the ability to talk with that person – especially if the work is highly confidential or competitive. This can make your opportunity not as attractive.

Mentoring is part of the Development category of the employee value proposition. There are Four Corners to every employee value proposition, and a balance across the four is desired to make a strong match from employee to employer. The Four Corners are Development, Work Experience, Personal Match, and Financial.

Own a Ferrari, but can’t drive stick. Twittering and Googling never out-corner a well trained hiring manager.

That’s right. All the googling, hunting, twittering, blogging, myspacing, linkedin-ing (that one is hard to say) in the world is not going to close a hire for you. But guess what – neither did the cold calling, Monster crawling, careerbuilding, or yahoo-ing (this is getting fun). All these processes and tools just identifies the candidate.

People take jobs for ALL kinds of reasons. But its rare that it has anything to do with how they were found. Its about how they are treated. 

Yes – unemployment is up. But guess what – more people are holding on to their jobs more than ever. If you think there are people “available” now – wait until 18 months from now. When the people who are holding on to a job are at their wits end and the economy recovers. Do you really think that a candidate is going to be impressed because you connected them via Twitter? Because your company was crafty enough to find them on Facebook because they forgot to change their security settings? I am sure they will be impressed right until you tell them that job is a lateral move. Or further impressed when the manager is late for the interview. Or when the manager asks “are you pregnant?” Yeah – I just had someone tell me that war story.

These behaviors and other like them, are happeningmore now than every. Why? Maybe we got lazy. Maybe people are out of practice. Maybe we stopped hiring and let go our recruiters. Funny thing is that most companies are getting more traffic than ever before. Call your recruiter and see if the conversation goes like this: “Are we getting more resumes…..yeah…..uh huh…. We are huh?….. Well, who is respond….oh, we let her go huh…..ohhh…they are getting a standard reply via email….”

See what I mean. That will make you stand out. One of 300 auto reply messages that candidates are getting daily. That’s their feedback. That is about as exciting as deals I get in my spam box.

Not to worry – candidates will be impressed with one key item. They will be impressed with the ease and ability to tell everyone via text, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and so on that your employment process is weak. There is no fury…like a poorly treated candidate with social networking skills (I know – not as catchy as the other phrase). Do you really want people to think NOW that you don’t care about them? That you think you are all high and mighty and you don’t need to give them feedback? That you were not organized? That your interview questions sounded canned or like the ones they heard 30 minutes ago from the interviewer next door? That you didn’t even look at their resume before the interview?

This is such a fantastic time to focus on the fundamentals of recruiting, and why people take jobs in the first place.

Control your brand. Control yourself. Don’t get sloppy – get lean. Contrary to popular belief there is not more talent out there. Why are we saying that? Because more people are out of work? Because companies are going down? Because bonuses are being skipped? Guess what – those people were there. They had their heads down, and were working. There is this myth that in October of 2008 we created a bunch of people in a lab, and they are on blue light special at KMart. They are just talking to you now because they have to – not necessarily because they want to.

Ask yourself why you are working at your company, and make sure that you can explain that better than anyone. Tell each and every candidate you know. Better yet, tell everyone. For every resume that comes across your desk, make sure that person gets a “thank you”. That they are taken care of. That they remember that even though they did not get the job, they were treated with decency. It will come back to you 7x over.

Fireside Chat:
In order to make that “Ferrari” (all your twittering) turn like its on rails, rather than stalling on the hill, review what people tend to consider when taking jobs in the first place. View this diagram that help walk you though the “four corners” of an employee value proposition. Take these into consideration and have strong points of view on each. You will inevitably create better jobs, be able to provide more value to the interview, create a better experience when interfacing with candidates, and likely make better decisions about a hire.