Want a Career in Data? You’re going to need these…

If you are going to be a major influencer in Data, the way you communicate insights and bring out your business accumen will be the key thing you’ll need. Similarly, if you looking for top-notch analytic talent, this should be high on your list of requirements.

This Big Data thing is really becoming an indelible feature of the employment landscape. We are seeing more and more requests coming through for specialists across BI/ETL/Analytics/Science, and there seems to be no end to this energy for data and the power and potential it holds.

Thing is, though, can these roles be held in the same light as other, more technical roles? Does a Data Engineer or Analyst compare closely to a software engineer, or similar?

Yes…and no.

When working with several companies looking for their next data analytic talent, the big thing I have observed is the need for this area to be completely au fait with what each area of the business is engaged in. They need need to regularly interact with these areas and come away with complete understanding on their needs and the impacts their insights will have.

The appetite for data, and what it can offer the whole-of-business presents a very interesting proposition for the more technically-minded. The creation of dashboards, report structures, data lakes, even core EDWs are central to the overall message data is going to offer.

All that leads to the end result. The outcome of that engineering and analysis. We’ve heard of it being labelled as a data story – the extraction and presentation of  data in such a way as to create an easily digestible take for all folks – the techy and non-techy alike – the articulation of that story to those areas of the business impacted.

Don’t get me wrong, your technical skills are indelible to be a specialist in data. Not everyone can write a script in R or Python, construct graphs in Ab Initio, run statistical analysis on structured data, set up ETL process via Informatica, or build entire environments with Hadoop.

Yet, when data and analysis provides insights, can identify possibilities and opportunities, gives structure to the masses of information available and offers businesses the keys to unlocking information about their business previously unknown or unavailable, all areas of the organisation will want in on this.

The way that data story is articulated and presented is the single-most important facet. It’s not just the job held by one area.

The engineer must know and be comfortable with the areas of the EDW they are going to target to extract that crucial piece of data. They must listen and engage with those areas requiring insight – be it finance or marketing or HR.

The Analyst must be able to take that extracted data and analyse it accordingly. The the data scientist must be able to use that data to predict and report on the future issues or opportunities.

How we listen, respond and offer expertise to these areas outside of the technical, or translate tech speak to non-tech speak and vice-versa would be will be central to how we can ensure the data is available and how articulate the story is.

So how do we get those traits right and how do employers ensure their candidate have it in spades?

It comes from experience. It comes by working closely with the greater business in any capacity. From my experience in sourcing in the data sphere for many years, those coming from a Business Analyst background, who show great aptitude for data analysis make the transition really well, as they come armed with solid business savvyness. Likewise, those coming from a development/engineering background with high-volume stakeholder engagement function also seem to transition comfortably.

For those looking at starting their career and/or engaged in uni, look for ways to gain all-of-business knowledge as it will be those areas that will provide the necessary edge when you are looking to get deeper into data. Roles that offer the mix of solid development and engagement with other areas of the business are your keys here.

Conversely, as an employer, the business savvyness will be indelible to the success of your data team. The way they can tell a story with data, or offer deep insights from their current experiences will give you a clear picture of suitability. Whilst technical competencies are needed, should you test these exclusively in the interview process? From my experience, concentrating on technical knowledge only, whilst ignoring their abilities to articulate or engage with stakeholders means that only half the requirements are being assessed. This could provide a challenge in the future.

A business’ future is going to be impacted on its use of data. The reliance of those that can present that data in meaningful ways will be huge. Make sure you or your team are armed and ready to be a part of it.


The CDO – Overseeing the Next Big Jobs Growth

As we approach the threshold of the next big phase of jobs growth, it is becoming clear that one C-Level role could well be in the middle of the fair majority of this growth. By virtue of this, they will need to be as in tune with the jobs market as their impact on the business.

The Chief Data Officer, or CDO, sits at a strategic position in an organisation. As the curator and wrangler of one of the most important (and until recently, though, largely not properly maintained) assets, they will be as critical to strategic success, if not more, than the COO or CIO. This is incredible to see, given there was really no concept of data as a business asset up until only several years ago

So now what? Firstly, there is increasing recognition of the importance to retain, manage and manipulate data as an asset, structure it in a far more strategic and decision-influencing way and use it as a predictor for where the business is, where it’s going and what the competition is doing.

Secondly, the need to facilitate this new enthusiasm for data and bringing together the talent to properly utilise it is now down to the new position of CDO.

What happens now really can point to success or otherwise of an organisation’s data policy. Here are 4 points all CDO’s, or those aspiring to the role need to keep in mind.

1. Know The Market

Putting together an idea of what the talent market is like in data management is perhaps more difficult than most other areas of the organisation. Where clear ideas on the available talent within the likes of Finance or Marketing or IT are readily available, pulling information on the market in the data space is not so detailed.

For starters – and this is more pointedly aimed at the Australian market, it is a relatively brand new area. Aside from some hybridity with IT, the more focused analysis and analytics are the new tenants in the data warehouse (see what I did there?).

Then there is largely unfamiliarity with this emerging (or emerged) offering for business, leading to the simple ‘don’t know’ when market questions are asked.

The CDO has a great opportunity to corner market knowledge, to understand exactly who is doing what and where the data trends are heading. Put all of this together, and the CDO is starting off well.

2. Know The Person

Who makes a great employee and what does the CDO need to be aware of when hiring?

Technical skills are, of course, vital. Thorough experience, clear knowledge of relevant toolsets and a background that offers evidence of competency paint a good picture of how an individual will apply themselves to the role, and offer the CDO solid information to base hiring decisions on.

So, this is the only thing that should be considered when hiring, right?

Yes…and no.

Thing is, the data structure of an organisation bridges front and back end development, as well as having more than a passing requirement for external stakeholder contact – at times over and above that of their cousins in IT.

This is why a proper (and thorough) examination of a potential candidate’s fit into an organisation is needed. Cultural fit, the ‘soft’ skills (communication, interpersonal, presentation) and attitude all go towards profiling the best candidate. CDO’s need to have this knowledge in their arsenal to properly and effectively build their teams.

3. Know The Roles

What makes a great Data Analyst? An awesome Data Scientist? Modeller? BI Architect? ETL Developer? Report Writer? Or any other role, for that matter? There is no straight answer to that question, as there are so many variables. As CDO, the role of knowing what will work for their organisation is the first rule in identifying what is the best employee.

These roles will ultimately point the organisation in the direction of their data strategy. Yet, without this properly defined, the chances of the CDO impacting overall business transformation will be slim. It should come as no surprise that the CDO must have the ‘finger on the pulse’ of how roles impact this.

4. Know The Future.

What do you mean you don’t have a crystal ball? Shouldn’t that be in the pocket of every CDO (and technically every C-level)?!

Nice though it would be, knowing the future is fraught with danger. I mean, how many of us would’ve thought we would be even discussing a CDO role 10 years ago…even 5? Not all of us did – but some others recognised where data management was heading and worked to make businesses ready for it.

For the purposes here, the CDO will need to have a real eye for what is happening and be prepared to jump on new tech, or practices or methodologies to embrace the new wonders of data management. The general rule here would be stay on top of the industry and you won’t get left behind.


The bottom line to all of this is if businesses really will go down the CDO path. There are many views one way or the other as to if this will be a universally held position. Thing is, though, if there is to be any constructive focus on data management in the future, getting the resourcing basics right will prepare any business for the new world of data. The way CDOs find talent will be the next big challenge. How they do it and what help they get will be the difference between a fantastic talent pool and a data program going nowhere.

Get Your 2015 Hiring In Order – 5 Quick Tips to Get It Moving

2015 cubesJanuary, 2015, where plans are made and enacted for the coming year and where what you do now will have a solid impact on what happens later.

It is also the time to really plan what is going to happen with your staffing. What new projects will need to see increases? Can you see any staff looking to leave? Any changes that will see fluctuations in numbers? All of these need to be considered now to make sure you and your business are geared up and ready to face the year.

So what are the best tips to get these plans happening?

  1. Nail down your culture – Make sure you know exactly what makes your current employees get out of bed and come into work every day, what keeps them with you, what makes them happy, what engages them to the work they do and what you need to do to foster this. If you have no idea what your culture is, get it sorted now. You cannot hire without knowing exactly what makes your people great employees
  2. Get the basics in place – Do you know what is a killer job description? Know where to find the best candidates? Got your interviews structured nicely? Know the ins and outs of background checking? These are the basics that can mean the difference between success and failure.
  3. Start engagement now – this is something not a lot of businesses really understand. Employee engagement starts even before they are hired. Business leaders need to get out a bit more to attract the right people. Use social media, networking, whatever to create a sense of you as a leader being highly approachable and dedicated. Additionally, when you are starting the hiring process, think engagement from the first step. Present a clear picture of what your business is all about, get your other employees involved and get that message out where you can. If you create a great impression of your organisation before you go to hire, you may not even need to advertise the role as you be an attractive proposition for any potential candidates.
  4. Get to know who is about – recruiters call it ‘talent mapping’, but we’ll just call it good planning. Knowing who is in the marketplace, where potential candidates could come from and even initiating conversations prior to a role becoming live is a brilliant way to get the jump on the market. It will increase significant your ability to locate and secure great new employees and place you in a great position to lose as little time possible when filling your next live role.
  5. Profile the best candidate – this is the picture of who would be the perfect addition to your business. This picture isn’t the technical skills they have, but the behaviours, attributes, persona – the soft skills – the candidate will have to be a brilliant employee. Note who are your best workers, and those who show high levels of engagement and use them to create this picture. Put it together now so that when the time comes, it is an easy reference to base selections on.


Get the plan in place and actioned – OK, so we know we are going to increase staff numbers this year, we can see the little bits to make it happen, so now is the time to be putting the plan together.  You are at a great time of the year to put some serious thought into what you are going to do this year to hire with a high level of success. Take these points and give your hiring policy some purpose and structure to really propel it into 2015.

Have a great (hiring) year.


What To Do When Your Top Performer Goes Rogue

ClarksonThings are going brilliantly. The business is building some impressive productivity results, the goals are all being achieved and the team is working harmoniously. Of particular note is your star performer. He or she is the gun of the whole business. They get the major clients in or produce the highest quality results and you know that your business would not be in the position it is without their input.

On top of all that, they are your model of the perfect employee that you use to gauge new candidates against when hiring. They are there when new employees start, and always turn out to be the perfect mentor and role model for any new team member.

So what happens when that perfect employee, that top performer, starts causing problems? What do we do when questions over ethics or behaviour or productivity or approach start to be asked? What do we do if they have done something so problematic that their very employment could be questioned?

As we have seen this week in the very public career execution of former Top Gear host, Jeremy Clarkson, it can really be a thorn in the side of the organisation and something that would require careful examination and detailed processes.

We Are All The Same

Thing is, the Clarkson episode offers up another sticking point: that top employee is also very popular and it is not going to be easy to enter disciplinary action with such acceptance and visibility across the team inside the business, let alone a worldwide fan base. Issues arise when any sort of action is taken – it’s going to be clearly obvious to the rest of the business on what is happening and it in turn has a real question on impact on engagement and loyalty attached to it.It is going to require incredible management, end-goal determination and a clearly defined and backable process.

The one thing that was handled correctly by the powers-that-be inside the BBC was that Clarkson was not treated any differently from other employees. When it comes to commencing any sort of performance management, it is essential there is no difference between management of junior staff to that of senior staff. This transparency allows a strong sense of equality manifesting within the team – this is incredibly vital for engagement.

Look! Over There!

The temptation when your best performer turns sour is to fall into complacency…or even worse, ignoring it. This is a real engagement killer and far more pronounced than with any other employee. As this employee is highly visible and noted as a mentor and ‘buddy’, so too would any actions they take will be replicated throughout the team. These actions will be indeed be positive when everything is running fantastically, but can turn problematic when behaviours and approaches dive.

This is why leaders need to be observing what is happening in their team. No, this does not mean micro-management, which is itself an engagement killer, but awareness. If things sour, you as a leader must be able to pick up on it quickly and address it even quicker. It really goes to the heart of what a Leader does – or should do – every day. They must be so clued into what is happening in their team, the dynamics that influence it and the changes, however subtle that can impact it.

Keep The Talk Open

When action taken against a star employee is viewed by the greater team, the sense of trepidation of ‘it happened to them, it can happen to me’ will really start to influence. This needs careful management. Whilst specifics about the action taken may not be able to be exposed, a good leader will update the team and allay any fears about their own roles. This is a delicate path to tread, as a lot of these employees would see this employee as the epitome of excellence and now they are being seen as in a totally different light. As a leader, the communication must be open and remained open. Indeed at the conclusion of any action, and regardless of the end result, these communication channels must be left wide open to allow proper disclosure and acceptance of actions taken. If a business is serious about keeping employee engagement as central to their business, this is a non-negotiable.

Time Killers

Finally, the need to process any management activity as soon as possible allows the impact to be felt as least as possible. Notwithstanding the need for proper processes that allow appropriate action and reaction (and hopefully a return to star status for the employee) to be allowed, the fact that this process should happen in an effective time frame shouldn’t be discounted. A prolonged and visible review can disrupt the team, the business and productivity over an even greater length of time as team members debrief, and this can only be detrimental to long-term engagement.

It can be a devastating event to have your star performer turn rogue, but handled correctly, the damage can be mitigated and the successful resolution of the employee’ problems can be applied. Whatever the outcome, keep your sense of proper process in place, your ability to keep other employees engaged and your strength of character to see this to the resolution should never be underestimated. Your employees will thank you for believing in them, regardless of how things turn out.

My Story…and Why I Believe Humanising Hiring and the Workplace Matters

handsBefore I publish the next instalment of Humanising Hiring, I wanted to take a step back and reflect on why I see this as so vital and how that realisation was made. Believe me when I say this wasn’t a recent idea I woke up with one morning, it has been something I have learned, developed upon and understood for a long time and now it is the time where it needs to be a tangible and credible argument, one that can really change the way a business not only hires but engages with their staff. This is my ‘why’.

It is the beginning of the year 2000. We had survived the Millennium Bug and getting on with the new century. I had recently moved back to my home town of Newcastle, NSW from Sydney to move in with my then-girlfriend, now wife. I was still working in Sydney and commuting from Newcastle (2 hours each way) but was looking for something closer to home. I found a role with a Job Network provider. Job Network (or Job Services Australia as it’s called now), for those who don’t know, is the Federal Government program designed to help unemployed people return to work or training. The program was administered by a wide array of private sector firms who were actively involved with assisting the more vulnerable in the community.

I am not sure I could’ve been adequately prepared for what I was about to face over the next four-and-a-half years. As a twenty-something it was an eye opening insight into what happens when people are forgotten by society.

I was placed in an agency in the city of Maitland, some 45 minutes out of Newcastle, in the beautiful Hunter Valley. Maitland had a staggeringly high unemployment rate (always above 25%) with very few industries in the local area, and poor transport to the city. It was really feeling the effects of drought, closure of the BHP, a huge employer across the Hunter, downsizing of local businesses and a general unwillingness of governments of all persuasions to invest in the city and surrounds. On top of that, I was also given the outreach role in the small town of Dungog, a further hour’s drive into the Hunter region and with an unemployment rate of nearly one in two.

Moving into the role of ‘Employment Consultant’, I was responsible for assisting clients who were classed as ‘Intensive Assistance’, or those with significant barriers to employment or who had been unemployed for over 12 months (some may know that as Stream 4 in today’s JSA).

IA clients came from all walks of life. Some had never held a job before and came from generational unemployment. Some were professionals, with impressive qualifications, skills and experience who slipped through the cracks for differing reasons. Some were parents, some university graduates, some had never been in this situation before. Some were ex-prisoners, ex-drug addicts or people with mental health issues. Each, though, was a person, with a story and a desire. Not once did I come across a stereotypical ‘dole bludger’ that the media like to portray taxpayers as subsidising. A lot of clients were placed into sustainable roles, where they were happy and finally motivated. I remember receiving flowers and boxes of chocolates from relived clients as they restarted their own dreams and futures.

But there were also times when nothing can prepare you for. I was working with a lady in her late 30’s. Very intelligent, a good career and some excellent skills. It was also clear she was battling some real personal demons, and it was hard seeing her consumed with this overarching sadness. At times, she would come into our appointment visibly wretched from crying. She was desperate. She could not find work, and the debts and stress and lessening self-worth were compounding with every week. It was difficult for her to even attend interviews with employers, as this would mean she would swing between elation and downright terror beforehand and would not be in a state to put her best foot forward. All conventions and tasks required under the Job Network rules were thrown away as I tried to comfort her, reassure her that it will be better and we will work really hard to get her something to regain her own personal importance. During one appointment, we talked for well over an hour (eating into the next appointment – but necessary) as a way of giving her some hope and purpose. We made a new appointment for the following week and she left seemingly better than when she came in.

Two days later I received a card from her thanking me for taking the time to listen and to help (as much as I could). It was a heartfelt gift and I displayed it prominently on my desk.

The following day I took a phone call. It was mid morning, and I was between appointments (we always scheduled 7 per day, for each hour, bar lunch, so it was always busy).

Everything stopped.

It was the police. They asked me if I was her case worker. No, just her Employment Consultant I responded. Then they told me: she had taken her life.

I stopped, stared at the card sitting on my desk, then with my head in my hands, wept. I cancelled the bulk of appointments until mid afternoon. All the training I did in suicide prevention failed…I felt I failed her.

Nothing prepares you for that to happen. In total we had three people take their lives whilst I was there. To be faced with such desperation, such vulnerability, such sadness and then trying to explain it rationally is incredibly difficult.

The thing is, Job Network couldn’t prepare you for the numerous issues that would be present. As an Employment Consultant, you had to wear many hats. You were a resume writer, an interview guide, a counsellor, a financial advisor, a carer, a career guide and a friend. You learn quickly that above all, you have to be there. Some clients saw you as their only hope and a beacon of light in an otherwise dark world. It was up to you to guide them through the treacherous waters in the hope of finding a safe harbour. All this on me in my mid-20’s was indelibly life-changing.

It lead me to my first conclusion: Job Network (and JSA) is abhorrent. Focused on punishment rather than assistance, it is almost like the government is deliberately washing their hands of the unemployment question and telling someone else to fix it. No responsibility. No care.

It is inhuman to force people into further desperation by having to jump through hoops and demand compliance. These people are human, they have different influences and they cannot be given a blanket response. They are individuals. It was that experience that taught me of the intrinsic value of treating everyone as human.

From there, I matured into my second, and most significant and lasting view: being human matters, from where they come from, what circumstances they are faced with or the challenges that have to overcome. They need to feel respect, dignity, to belong and have a future they can grasp. We need to treat people as humans, not numbers or statistics or entries on an applicant tracking system.

This is why I now fervently believe that as a business / employer, we must bring the human side to the way we hire and the way we build our businesses. We must bring in a clear understanding what makes us who we are and what challenges and successes we face and why it is vital there is ample consideration for all that when we are firstly bringing on new employees and how we treat them when they are with us. To some it is a revolutionary thought…but frankly it should be the basis of how a leader operates. Incorporating this philosophy into our business will see a reinvigoration of the people within it, an attractive proposition to any potential employee and a real sense that we are changing people’s lives for the better.

THAT is the real reason why we do what we do…and that is the reason I believe it.

What Makes High Turnover a Recruitment Killer?

I was genuinely chuffed to present at a recent Career Development Association of Australia event, looking at the world of recruitment and how it interacts within the greater Career Development Consultant market. The research into the presentation included a look at staff turnover rates for most industry sectors. Most were pretty average and indicated and level of comfort and engagement within a number of these industries. The usual two industries often noted as having the highest – retail and hospitality at 29% and 31% respectively – maintained that standing…yet they were both superseded significantly by one other.


At 43%

exit-44205_1280So, in essence, 43% of employees who start a role, leave within 12 months. That is almost half and indicates that an almost full office of recruiters is replaced every 24 months. Suggestions that a significant number of employees leave the industry for good add to an already problematic situation – and one that really threatens the industry as a whole

At more than 10 percentage points higher than the next highest, it is a figure that should sound alarm bells to the industry as a whole. Whether it actually is creating concern or not is a matter of opinion (mine says it’s not…), but whatever the resonance from this statistic is, the fact is it is a very unsustainable rate.

So why is it so grim for the industry?

Is it too salesy?

No. Outside of the myopic view by some that cold, unsolicited calling still has some part to play in modern-day recruitment (it doesn’t), sales is incredibly vital and it must be in the kit bag of any recruiter. On top of that, it has such a visible element of the role that no one new to it will be unaware of its requirement. Savvy agencies realise that sales is not cold phone-based, but involves deeper understanding of industries and business and being able to build business via branding and more modern marketing techniques.

Is it a rotten job to work in?

For all the comments I have made about its negatives, recruitment, when done right, is a fantastic job to work in. Imagine being able to directly help in getting a candidate to realise their career goals, or to be influential in making some pretty important decisions about their jobs? Or help a business find that elusive candidate they have been struggling for months to find? It can be a really fulfilling and exciting career.

Do certain agencies perpetuate this problem?

I know of agencies that give consultants minimum training (usually of the internal database and recruitment software), give them a list of clients and tell them to find roles. Worse still, some are actively giving consultants only a relatively short time to make ‘sales’ or they are booted. This is the oft-touted ‘churn and burn’ in recruitment, and it has no place at all in the modern industry. It is archaic, misinformed and a highly contentious policy to play – and agencies subscribing to this method are part of the problem, not the solution.

Does it attract the right people?

This is a key issue. Problems within the industry are not consultant-centric. They are management’s doing. The industry is not an attractive proposition to those who would give the industry a much-needed boost – those who are people-centric, personable and driven to meet the needs of candidates, clients and internal colleagues equally – and it is the failure of management or those responsible for hiring consultants to properly secure these people.

Is there enough ‘can’ or too much ‘should’?

How agencies allow consultants to play their own game, give it the ability to become engagement models. What a consultant can do offers flexibility in the way they find clients, negotiate terms, locate candidates and complete roles. Compare that with agencies who tell consultants what they should do (or even worse; must do) to see where the more favourable – and engaged policies – lie.

Does it lose the right people

Unfortunately it does. If the industry is lucky enough to hire these quality candidates, it doesn’t take long for the ugly side to come out and for these folks to be turned off and ultimately escape it.

Does it actually have an ugly side?

When recruitment goes wrong, it does so spectacularly. Forced KPIs that fail to acknowledge changes in markets and which are changed on whims, the ever-present spectre (real or not) of ‘cowboys’ and the self-centred, money hungry, crash or crash through approach to recruitment, antiquated sales techniques forced on consultants, usually to the detriment of more modern and effective techniques and an obsession with the ‘old ways’ all seem to set modern-day recruiters up for fail. When these are present, the role is an ugly one to be a part of.

Is the views of outsiders impacting?

Oh, definitely. The agency recruitment model has one of the worst reputations in the business world. Comments throughout social media, publications and general viewpoints offer clear examples where the industry is falling over. Whilst some would say that only negative comments make it to the public domain, they are ignored at their peril.

Is it a transient industry?

By this, I mean is it like hospitality or retail: used as a springboard into another industry / career option or as a tool to get one’s permanent residency? It certainly appears that way – in some cases, whilst in others it is held onto as a career in itself. Can it be solely attributed to high turnover? I’ll lean to a ‘no’, but it is something that needs careful looking at. Using the industry as a ticket to other outside areas is not sustainable. Recruitment is not hospitality nor retail, where transience is common. Serious thought needs to given to making it attractive to the point where importing consultants from overseas is not a necessity.

Are employees engaged properly?

A-ha! Bingo. Here lies a big gap in the industry. Engagement levels hover at a lower-than-average and are a hugely untapped area for the industry that could really change its standing. This goes way beyond Friday drinks and the Christmas party, and more into both structured and organic programs designed to make a consultant feel a part of the organisation, in tune with what they are doing and how it impacts and happy with where they are and where they can be. Whilst some agencies have semblances of engagement programs, it does not go deep enough for long lasting engagement, and its most common result: retention.


Is the recruitment industry serious in addressing this unsustainable turnover figure? Do they want to set up their agencies for success within their own employee base, as well as their profit margin?

Let this be a wake up call.

Humanise Hiring – People Need Love Too

happy employeeIf we are going to be serious – I mean REALLY serious in building a human, highly engaged hiring system, we have to acknowledge a few basics that form the core of how we will hire.

Last time I looked at humanising hiring, it was to curtail a reliance on technology in the sourcing and selecting of potential candidates. In this chapter, I want to explore how we as humans get along and why it is vital to understand human interaction as a basis for any hiring process and how to humanise it.

To be clear, the point I want to make is this: a hiring process with full human interaction is a perfect way to identify and hire top candidates.

Inherently, humans need to feel they are appreciated, accepted, loved or admired. There is a sense of achievement that we want to constantly have and always seek out and it is this need that drives a lot of us to push ourselves both in work and outside. Do you think the guy that punishes himself for 2 hours in a 40km marathon does it purely for the exercise? Or the musician who travels up and down the coast for gigs does it purely for the driving? No they do it for the achievement, the admiration and the sense of purpose.

Looking for work can be one of the most challenging and stressful times for any person to go through (according to the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, it sits above moving house) and so, by virtue of this alone, hiring managers, HR, recruiters or anyone responsible for sourcing potential candidates needs to be a little more aware of what they are dealing with. So that’s one way to look at it…

…another is common to the psychology of human interactions. In it’s basic terms, a level of interaction that is personal, face-to-face and connecting is the best way to create feelings of connection and comfort as well as a commodity that no other interaction can create: trust.

Trust is big. Trust gives you significant credibility and unquestioned goodwill. It is an element of business that significantly overrides most other intangible assets and when it comes to hiring is probably the most powerful thing a hirer can possess. You will not find trust at the end of an email, follow, Inmail or retweet. It can only be achieved in person. For all the technology, arms-length interaction and unprecedented access to a company’s personnel, nothing beats the old school.

Humanise, Man…

Before looking at the how we must first think of what we are doing. In any conversation I have had with hiring managers or recruiters about how to humanise it, the first thing I say is this: think of what happened when you were looking for your first role, or your last role. How were you feeling, what emotions were being played out, how did you feel during the actual hiring process, how nervous, scared, worried, elated were you? Use this, then, to determine how you will approach your candidates.

Keep in full mind that the way we were treated when we were on the other side of the hiring process should help us in the way we treat our candidates.

Hello? Is Anyone There?

Nothing irritates nor confuses more than submitting an application only for nothing to be heard or a phone message never returned. It’s as if the effort to apply, to address criteria and to fashion a response particular to the requirements of the role have disappeared into the ether.

The way we can keep candidates informed on how their application is being processes will be a clearly definable way to know whether your hiring process is healthy or not. Regardless of the outcome of their application, communication allows the candidate to know exactly where they stand and allows them to adjust accordingly.

Everything Old Should Be New

The use of more and more impersonal means to communicate is at the very heart of why there is at times a disjoint between those hiring and those applying. Communication channels are often held at arms length, indicative of a certain type of fear or discomfort in having the channels opened to more personal conversation. The recruitment industry has labelled this simply as ‘Phone Fear’ and it is a net result of the plethora of ways communication can happen without physically speaking to the recipient.

In all that, it should be noted the old methods of face-to-face conversation and phone calls yield far better results. Astonishing, I know. The more personal the contact, the more involved directly with candidates the employer / recruiter, the more substantially qualified the decision to hire will be. When it comes to identifying the candidate’s cultural fit, or understanding how they will communicate to the team or customer, or even just to get that ‘gut feel’ about them, the more personally focused it is, the better the result. In other words, bringing in the human communication channel will also bring in the results.

Get Your Feet Wet

OK, so you have the communications and the more humane contact sorted. Great! Keep it up.

Thing is, unless you dive in feet first and actually meet the candidate who could be your next employee, you are not getting the full deal…and neither is the candidate. Phone communication is fine, but it is simply lazy to solely rely on it. Nothing provides a greater indication on the suitability of a candidate than meeting them face-to-face (or via Skype / video conferencing if geographical boundaries are an issue). So doing it is paramount in creating a more human-focused hire for two big reasons:

  • Proper decisions cannot be genuinely made without physically viewing the candidate. They just can’t. How are you going to get an idea on how they will fit your culture? Or communicate with your team or customers? Or how will you get that ‘gut feel’ that many an informed decision are based on? You can’t until you lay eyes on this candidate. Sadly, I know of recruitment firms who do not interview candidates for roles, almost instantly referring them on to the employer. I’ve seen it first hand and it gives me the irrits (as my 11 year old son would say). Suitability cannot be assessed by a phone call only, and I don’t care how good a phone interviewer you are.
  • Interviews, indeed the whole hiring process, is a two-way street. Not only are you assessing a candidate’s suitability, so too is the candidate assessing your suitability as an employer. Meeting them will give clear ideas on how they are to you and you are to them. In other words, you are providing solid information to the candidate to base their decision on. It’s empowering, it’s comforting and it allows the candidate to feel a real sense of being acknowledged as a real option for employment. This is solid human hiring.
  • Get the critical elements of your business involved. What do I mean by ‘critical’? It’s the people that are the decision makers firstly, but also those who will interact day-to-day with the candidate. Most times, they are incredibly important to gauge a potential employees fit into that team.

Friendly – and Human – Tech

Sure, I gave tech a big old slap in the face last time, but I am not the Luddite, tech-will-ruin-our-lives kind of guy. In hiring it must be used sparingly, but where it can be used to enhance the hiring process, it should be embraced. Social Media is a good way to keep the hiring channels open and interactive. Picture having a Twitter account that can be your channel for sourcing great talent or indeed answering questions about what it’s like to work in your company. Starbucks did exactly that as described in this article in Smart Company from a couple of years back. Similarly, there is coming into the market a suite of collaboration apps and online networking tools that allow interaction with a a array of people from the phone or PC. In fact, your online realm is just as busy as the brinks-and-mortar one and just as vital in ensuring engagement. As a means of gaining traction with potential candiates, creating the buzz of attraction and ensuring your presence in both worlds is maintained, it is a solid investment. However it only works if both worlds work in unison and tech does not fully take over the hiring process.

Remember I mentioned the biggest benefit in humanising your hiring? It’s trust. By keeping this in touch with the people you are looking at as potential employees, you are creating something that is often not thought of as important in your hiring structure:

Brand Power

Let’s get one thing sorted: true candidate management creates something that cannot be undervalued – engagement. You engage a candidate to your hiring process, you engage them to your business. Remember, candidates are customers, and thus part of your branding strategy. Sort out how you work closely with your candidates and how it intermingles with your branding, and you will realise that a practice of relationship building at the start will pay dividends later.

In addition, and perhaps more importantly, it creates something that a lot of companies want, but few claim to really have: “Attractables“. What are attractables? Simply, they what you company does internally and externally that give potential candidates / employees a sense of who you are, what you stand for and what you offer that make you an attractive employment prospect.

In marketing, much is made of having people rave about your product or service; tapping into motivations behind consumer behaviour and how they can be geared towards your business is something businesses spend thousands and thousands of dollars on. What gets me is that for all this money, if you cannot attract the right people, treat them brilliantly and give them a sense of engagement within your business, the greatest potential ravers of your product of service – your people – are going to be disinclined to do so. You attract great people via the same way you attract your customers…you keep your employees via the same methods you keep your customers.

Hiring is marketing…and human hiring is the single greatest marketing plan your business can implement.

Love Is All You Need

The bottom line to all this is simple: treat candidates as humans, put a bit of old-school contact in your hiring process and understand that this is the sure-fire way to build engagement from the very moment your role is launched in the market. An engaged workforce is now seen as the single-most important element for productivity gains and increased revenue generation…and about time too. Human Hiring allows for greater communication, openness and enhanced employee satisfaction from day one. For it is the human aspects of a business that are its most tangible and beneficial asset and it is the way a business incorporates its human side in their hiring plans that ensures these assets are afforded the best and most obvious vision of your business from the first point of contact.