Talent Management Technology – Reviews

This week is all about Talent Management Technology. I have a guest Blogger, Kyle Lagunas of Software Advice to thank for the content below. The review on WorkSimple is yours truly.

Talent management technology is evolving. Social features that drive collaboration, enable real-time feedback, and give employees (and their bosses) more visibility into what’s going on in their organization–furthering the trend towards consumerisation of workplace IT. Early adopters of these socialized talent management technologies are seeing some immediate value-adds.

Specifically, here are four ways social technologies are having a positive impact in talent management:


 1. Invigorated Open Door Policies

Marketing services firm Dominion Enterprises has always had an open door policy. But leadership struggled to sift through and act upon all the input they received. They needed a central platform for gathering, sharing and developing ideas.

“While we had channels for feedback and input, it was hard to get traction around ideas,” explains Susan Blake, VP of HR.

After giving UserVoice Feedback software a test run in one department, they rolled it out company-wide in March. Uservoice allows employees to submit ideas, vote on others’ ideas, and discuss them. The software had immediate impact, giving management the tools they need to give their open door policy new life–with employees from every department offering suggestions for improving products, policies and processes.

Furthermore, by showing employees that their feedback results in real changes, they’ve seen a spike in employee engagement. “To say UserVoice was a catalyst is an understatement,” says Blake.



2. Interactive Talent Directories

Gone are the employee directories of old, replaced with a strategic tool for both employees and leadership. You can still find contact info for colleagues in another department, but innovative products like Saba’s People Cloudhave offer something more akin to an interactive talent directory.

Employees can create detailed profiles–listing skills, competencies and interests (relevant to their current roles or their career goals). Colleagues can search for experts in the company, and garner attention from peers and leadership by regularly lending expertise hand or sharing articles of interest. Managers can find viable candidates internally for key hires.


3. Motivating Career Management

One of social talent technology’s greatest value-adds for employees is in career management functionality. Systems like UpMo–the first enterprise talent network–are offering users a unique approach to career pathing by putting employees in the driver’s seat.

With UpMo, employees grow their internal network and their skills profile simultaneously, making them more appealing candidates for opportunities in the organization. Like other social talent technologies, there’s even a bit of gamification built in, which encourages usage and makes the process more engaging. Employees can give each other shout-outs for a killer meeting (a +1 in Presenting), or thanks for explaining Cloud computing (a +1 in Cloud).

This highly social product, which launched a free version last week, brings new energy to career management by keeping employees focused on growing within their organization.


4. Performance, Engagement and Reward Management.

As workplaces shift from the Industrial Age 9-5 hall monitoring to something altogether more dynamic, fluid and lifestyle balanced, so do our systems need to be able to cope with keeping across Performance whilst both Engaging and fairly Recognising/Rewarding people. Social Web based systems are the solution to this and companies like WorkSimple are leading the charge. Rob Fanshawe of 33 Talent has used WorkSimple to manage ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) in his last two companies:

“There were issues of continuous changes as with any early adoption but it is a great system and one of the only truly Social and Results focused systems out there, that consider both the employee and employer in equal measure” – Rob Fanshawe

WorkSimple offers companies flexible Results focussed and Social way to cover everything from Goals and activity through to rewards and appraisals and Rob’s evaluation of the product is as follows:

  • It’s Social– this is key to any true ROWE environment as it creates the “virtual” platform  necessary for people across the organisation to interact without having to physically be with them. I found it to be properly interactive and with high visibility.
  •  Its Results focussed – in other words everything everyone does is always contributing to an end goal, whether it be share or individual, town based or country wide.
  •  Its transparent – everyone knows where everyone stands so there is no miscommunication between management and employees. Mission, Values, Goals and Results are seamlessly linked
  •  Its real time – there’s no waiting around and subjectivity. Everything you do is rolled up into something else so results and reports are instantaneous. Updates and changes are immediate. You know how you’re tracking before the report comes out!

Its involving and supports recognition – “we found it great for making sure everyone is recognised by everyone else. It’s a great system for cross team and cross level sharing and rewarding.” says Rob.


Social Technology Has Hurdles to Clear

While the products described above offer significant value, social technologies as applied to talent management still have room to evolve. For example: Seamless integration with other systems (e.g. simply having a single sign-on across systems could greatly boost user adoption).

“It’s a real problem if every product requires another log-in or user profile,” says Joe Fuller, CIO at Dominion. “We want single sign-on–it’s the biggest complaint.”

What do you think are the greatest opportunities for social technology to drive innovation in talent management? What hurdles are there to clear before we see widespread adoption?


About the Author: Kyle Lagunas is the HR Analyst at Software Advice—an online for reviewing and comparing talent management software. On the surface, it’s his job to contribute to the ongoing conversation on all things HR. Beyond that, he makes sure his audience is keeping up with important trends and hot topics in the industry. Focused on offering a fresh take on points of interest in his market, he’s not your typical HR guy.


Why counter offers are NOT good (for 90% of us at least)

There have been plenty of articles written on ‘why never to accept a counter offer’, but a recent post “Why Counter Offers Are Good (except for headhunters)” on recruitingblogs.com by @Amos spurred me to write about this for my audience. I was incredulous to read her article whole heartedly encouraging her candidates to elicit a counter offer to get the promotion you want. Sure, it was a brave post to a hostile audience and sure you might think, ‘of course you’ll disagree’ Rob but for those that know me well, trust me when I say, whilst in my benefit it is not for my benefit, but yours. This is wrong advice on so many fronts and in 9 cases out of 10.

I am not going to write anything revolutionary here but it is worth pointing out the facts so that if anyone does encourage (outside your current boss who obviously will) you* to take the counter offer, you have a reference point. Read them carefully and keep them at hand.

The fundamental facts are wholly aligned against counter offers and are as follows:

*Quit pro quo: the presumption here is I am talking to an audience with a strong ethical and moral value system here. If you would happily sleep with your best mate’s sister to get ahead in life then your moral compass is probably too far gone for this to be relevant.

1) Statistically, six to nine months later, 90% of those candidates who accept a counteroffer are no longer employed with the company that extended the offer (Martin Varnier Research)

2) Have a plan. Decent and well-managed companies don’t make counter-offers….EVER! Their policies are fair and equitable. They will never be subjected to counter-offer coercion, which they perceive as blackmail. Do you want to work with one that does?

3) Personal brand damage. By accepting a counter offer, you have committed the unprofessional and unethical sin of breaking your commitment to the prospective employer making the offer.

4) No smoke without fire. Any situation is suspect if an employee must receive an outside offer before the present employer will suggest a raise, promotion or better working conditions.

5) Re-active environments. Counter-offers are only made in response to a threat to quit. Will you have to solicit an offer and threaten to quit every time you deserve better working conditions?

6) Tactics. Counter-offers are usually nothing more than stall devices to give your employer time to replace you. Your reasons for wanting to leave still exist. They’ll just be slightly more tolerable in the short term because of the raise, promotion or promises made to keep you.

7) Team player? No matter what the company says when making its counter-offer, you’ll always be a fidelity risk. Having once demonstrated your lack of loyalty (for whatever reason), you will lose your status as a team player and your place in the inner circle.

(1-7 Source: Wall Street Journal)

These are all very serious and compelling truths about why you shouldn’t stay. However, the ones I want to focus on are 1) and 2).

1)      Because it is a researched fact, not whimsical argument

2)      Because fundamentally whatever the short term benefits of agreeing to a counter offer, do you really want to work for a company that is neither decent nor well managed. Will it serve your career goals in the long term?

Finally, my advice to avoid this situation which is actually the ultimate goal as opposed to turning down counter offers, is this:

If your company is not professional or mature enough to promote someone that they clearly need to and that deserved it because of a lack of corporate discipline i.e. ‘managers too busy’ or any such excuse, then you should take control (this is the proper ‘taking control of your life’ part as opposed to forcing control as a last ditch attempt to get what you think you deserve).

Walk into the CEO/Managers office with a plan. Say you want a promotion and deserve it and articulate why. Being promised “it will come” is not good enough. Do not leave without agreement on your plan or the understanding there will be no promotion because of x, y, z. This plan should be a 3 month SMART goals based plan with Results that lead to Actions. It will maybe take you about an hour to knock up (if anyone wants help with this please email me at rob@33talent.com).

Consequences of not hitting these goals needed to be outlined for both sides i.e. Joe Bloggs doesn’t get the promotion if falling short and the company X must promote if hitting or exceeding goals. Within 3 months you will have reached your goals (if you don’t then focus on getting training on where you fell short and do the same again – all planned and time lined). At this point they have no choice but to honour the agreement or break it. If honoured, break out the champagne. If not, then you now have the ethical and moral high ground to look elsewhere. What happens after that is clearly up to you still (which is a good thing). If you get offered elsewhere and counter offered then of course you could accept it. The good thing is here; you wouldn’t lose the loyalty bonus or ethical standing as they broke their promise first.

However, my aside at this point would be that you are too good for this company. You know you have gone above and beyond, been pro-active, and even implemented a career progression plan for them which they then broke a promise on. So if I was you and the company had rescinded on such a professional, clear plan of action that I had brought to the table, I would know whatever the short term benefits of the counter offer, long term the company did not have a belief or value system that I could happily work within and my career would be better off elsewhere.

My advice to candidates would be to always do it like this, in a professional and planned way. The other route is way too unplanned, emotive, risky and potentially career damaging.

Rising attrition and what to do!

Below is an excerpt from a recent interview I did for Campaign Asia on attrition rates in the media and communications world. It’s bad, and a senior regional exec I know well said in a cynical tone “well its all good for you, Rob!” which demonstrated what I know people think when they do see the stats…recruiters must be making tons of money.

The reality is different. Sure it’s easier to get vacancies on a contingency basis. Sure we don’t need to chase a million clients to get a snippet of work. However, it is a lot harder to fill them AND believe it or not, high turnover is not exactly an attractive trait for a company to have that we represent. It is not a sustainable position for anyone.

Job satisfaction for a good recruiter is not money but relationships and they only thrive when all concerned are getting what they need. We want the Talent issues fixed more than anyone and I would much rather clients partner us on retention and engagement strategies, and listen to us when we are talking about employment branding and partnership solutions that will improve your talent acquisition success and reduce costs, than spend more money on repeat contingent recruitment transactions.

Rob says turnover rates have already risen from around 20 per cent a few years ago to over 30.  

“In some agencies it has recently been as high as 40 per cent,” he says.“That means people are moving jobs on average every two to three years.”

Within advertising and media, Fanshawe says much of the attrition is borne out of an industry sector in continuous change through the growth of ‘digital’.

Online media has exploded and large corporate companies, like Lenovo, are now catching up and starting to build their own, dedicated internal teams.”

He says the Asia-Pacific region has generally higher attrition rates at the moment because, even factoring in the global financial crisis, it consists of the key growth markets where talent is in short supply.

A Robert Walters survey found that over 55 per cent of professionals in the Asia-Pacific region are hoping to move jobs in the next three months. The research was part of a global poll that interviewed 2835 professional-level workers around the world. Each was asked when they were hoping to switch jobs, with options ranging from three months to three years. As well as the 55% of regional staff who hoped to leave within the next quarter, a further 25% hoped to leave their current employment within six months.

With all this in mind please make sure you start thinking about Talent in a completely 360 fashion. Every single candidate you speak to is a channel to market, every job you have an opportunity to stand out. Your Talent Acquisition solutions need to be holistic, continuous, consistent, strategic and brand conscious. Do not treat it as a cost but as an opportunity and you will be amazed at not only the improved retention stats and quality of new Talent but also bottom line savings and revenue growth gained.

Exit Interviews – how to make it a valuable Talent process?

I was recently interviewed by Human Resources Magazine for a feature they are running on exit interviews for their July issue and how I consult in that area. They were looking for advice for readers on what to do during an exit interview and what they can do to make it a better experience for all parties involved. Below is the Q&A. with my intro:

Exit interviews are a fundamental part of a wider policy of Talent engagement and retention so should never be looked at alone. The best time to communicate with your employees is on a regular basis while they are still that – your employees.  However, people always move on and it is a great opportunity to get two primary outcomes – a temperature gauge on the coal face of the organisation and knowledge transfer.

Could you list down three dos and don’ts when it comes to conducting an exit interview?

Prepare your exit interview questions (ideally through a pre-designed form) and the topics and information that you’d like to cover off.

Listen, concentrate and take notes rather than talk. This is vital. The interviewees will often need time and space to answer the question with any meaningful depth, or gather the courage to speak freely. This is where the value lies.

Ask open ‘what/how/why’ questions, not closed ‘yes/no’ questions, unless you are looking to find the answer on a specific point. Remember your aim is to elicit honest feedback, useful information and glean answers, not to give an opinion or to judge.


Do not see the interview as an opportunity for “revenge” or to leverage a “higher” positioning by being judgmental about the company they are going to; reasons for leaving; or indispensability to yourselves – this can be particularly rife in  organizations that allow the managers to conduct the exit interviews.

Avoid getting pulled into a “who” or “s/he said, you said, I said” style discussion (or argument) that will leave you saying anything in the meeting the exiting employee might construe as improper discrimination. Also this is NOT a Witch hunt but a cooperative and constructive value based meeting for all involved.

A bad vibe in a final meeting leaves a bad impression not only on the departing employee, but the company’s employer brand. By using any negative or dismissive tone with an exiting employee you are putting all the hard work and high costs of attracting and retaining Talent at risk and doing more damage than you’ll ever get back in that moment of base level ‘satisfaction’.

Are there any questions HR/managers should and should not ask employees?
Some high level advice is make sure you use open questions such as what/how/why/when (but not the who!) and then a funneling process and a sweeper at the end to clarify you have understood properly. Your main aim is to “understand” so always keep this at the core of your questions. Your main enemy is “blame and pressure” so make sure that these are absent. If an exiting employee thinks you are going down an unpleasant path they will clam up and or walk out which is pointless exercise. At the end of the day this is an interview situation so there are many Questions not to ask and my overall advice is to make sure that a skilled and trained interviewer is the person that conducts the interview. It will most likely do more harm than good otherwise.

What do you think the management can do to make the exit interview process painless and productive?
The best thing Management can do is to just agree on a process that is supportive, inclusive, productive and positive.  Obviously some departures fractious by default but in an ideal world the exiting employee should be encouraged and rewarded (if necessary) to attend a face to face briefing. Particularly in the divisions run by A-type directors and managers there is often an attitude of ‘chew em up and spit em out’ which needs to be overcome as it does no-one, least of all the rest of the department/team, any good. If all people involved have a pleasant experience it will gain a credible and valuable reputation and improve your employment brand.

Management need to remain objective, calm and positive to support HR and/or the process to make it worth everyone’s time. This cannot be a half-baked attempt at a policy with no real implementation or follow through, as it is far too emotive at its core for people to not (want) to see through it.


What advice would you give HR professionals to help them improve on their exit interview processes?

All policy change/improvement is difficult, especially those around emotive subjects such as employee exits, whoever the instigator. The business and management insecurities that manifest themselves in aggressive or defensive attitudes can be a big obstacle to overcome so you need to a) operate a change/educational piece around this b) a step process of opt in and b)  undertake exit interviews with your own staff first and build a case study to use in future pitches to the management/business.

A lot of organisations opt for the easier questionnaire form based process. Don’t. This is missing the crux of the value to all involved. I advocate questionnaire forms only as a backup. This is a voluntary process and a form filled in by the “shy” or those lacking “confidence” is better than nothing. However, exit interviews are best conducted face-to-face as it gives a final chance to build a reputation for your brand, understand the exiting employee in a fluid and connected way and react appropriately and promptly with any necessary actions

Take action! If you have followed the advice above you should have a lot of information both in terms of knowledge to transfer and useful information about your employer organisation whether it is processes, culture, or management. You need to assess this in an objective way, understand contextual meaning and create action items that are trackable to see how the environment improves as a result..

Going ROWE: The Final Step!

This is the final part of the ROWE interview I did, on our final session of the ROWE migration. I explained what happened in Culture Clinic and what it feels like to goROWE!

So, the big day arrived and there was quite a buzz about the office! It was clear from the chatter stemming around the excitement for the Culture Clinic session and knowing we were about to fully goROWE!

After reflecting on the Sludge session, the 3 impediments (judgment, beliefs, and time), and the 13 ROWE Guideposts, it was good to hear that there was no Back Sludging (that nasty talk behind each other’s back). However, we realized all the Sludging was internalized. The team contributed willingly to share their Sludge-Fessions and the atmosphere was one of relief knowing “we are all in this together.”

“I really realised in the migration meetings what a huge change this was going to be. I got some flutters of excitement about how life was going to change, and I also noticed colleagues feeling the same thing – working through those sessions really drummed in that this wasn’t just a flexible working policy, but a concept and perception change to the way we view work”. –  Principal Consultant

We are going through a particularly busy time at the moment in Singapore and as Asia leads the world out of this recession, we are at the forefront of helping that happen for businesses from a Technology, Media, and Communications Talent perspective. Fundamentally, we are growing which means looking at potential new office solutions in Singapore, opening an office in Hong Kong for clients in North Asia and China, finding the best Consultants to join us across the board and, of course, implementing ROWE and looking at solutions such as WorkSimple. These were just a few of the projects on top of running sales & operations for SEA in the here and now! So with ROWE in mind, I applied myself to arranging my days and evenings around getting the RESULTS I needed whilst still keeping an exercise routine (which was important as I had just come back from a long illness), seeing my wife, and enjoying life (huh, shock horror hey!). As it turned out, this often meant working the first part of the day from home and then going into the office to focus on activity in the city.

As an example, I am happy to share my own Sludge-Fessions. My Sludging came from the pit of my stomach. I am sadly my own worst Sludger. The team was great and as they shared Sludge-Fessions, sharing mine greatly helped me. The work I got done at home in the morning was tenfold – as it was done without distraction. However, the guilt was there every day. Despite being frantically and effectively busy at home, I began to feel nauseous as the time in the morning moved on – I had to get into work! What were people thinking? What if a client didn’t reach out to me on my mobile? What if they couldn’t see me on Skype? Guilt and fear drove me to pack up and move into the office at a time when it broke my flow. This may seem silly to you reading this, but I guarantee you, if you were brought up with a strict ideology around punctuality and then worked in a strictly timed office environment all your life, no matter how progressive and liberal you might think you are, the internal feelings you have when you go ROWE will completely surprise you!

After a short break, we moved onto the 2 games – “The Feud” and “Do Something Scary”. Both were really instrumental in the mind shift. For The Feud, we split into two teams – girls vs. boys. The girls kicked butt! Although in a fantastically cheesy way, I can say everyone won. Once we had gone through the Scary cards and wrapped up, everyone felt nervous but ready.

“We’ve always been told that the business is our business and with ROWE, it actually feels that way now. It’s amazing what happens when we take away ‘GOING TO WORK’ and switch it to ‘DOING WORK’ instead.”  – Senior Consultant

The old way of working 9-5, five days a week in a cubicle were officially behind us. There were still elements of fear, worry, anxiety etc held by all in varying degrees about what would happen and how we would cope, but that’s always the case with something new. That is the lizard brain (to borrow from Seth Godin) – fear of the unknown – and our lizard brains are quieted – we ship! We ROWE!!! 

ROWE migration step 3 – eradicating Sludge

This is the 3rd part of my ROWE interview with Michael Barata – this time the topic is Sludge! For the purpose of understanding the context and its use below, the definition of ‘Sludge’ used in a ROWE is: any negative (toxic) language (garbage) in the workplace that is used to cast judgment about how people are spending their time. The cultural aspects of having sludge in the workplace are all negative and cover 3  areas. These are:

– Sludge Justification: A natural response to receiving sludge

– Sludge Anticipation: Telling lies or making excuses about how you spend your time from 9-5 in anticipation of getting sludged

– Back Sludge: Talking with others behind co-workers’ backs about how or when they work.

It is obviously fundamental to rid an environment of Sludge when transitioning to RESULTS only and removing all notions of Time Management. So to the interview:

“Our sessions are running every week on a Tuesday and I find myself getting excited on a Sunday knowing that we are fast approaching the next one – asking around I find I am not alone!

I have to admit though, I was slightly apprehensive about our Sludge Session after such an amazing KickOff session. The fundamental reason for this I realized, was funnily enough, because both I and the team all thought that there was no ‘real’ sludge to eradicate. We have a great culture here and it is because of that and our reputation in the market place that we have won numerous awards, have a happy ship, and find no issue attracting top talent, and I didn’t want for it to be irrelevant. So I have to admit, I opened with aplomb that whilst it might not be so relevant to us, it was clearly ultimately important we go through this session at least from a mind change and cultural learning perspective….boy are we glad we did!

The first warning sign that we might have underestimated Sludge was given in Cali & Jody’s lead up which introduced the example of a team who thought they had no Sludge to eradicate, but went on to uncover they had loads. Luckily that wasn’t exactly us, but what did transpire was a realization there was more than enough Sludge, just hidden i.e. that we Sludged through comedy or internally, on ourselves or to ourselves. There was no ‘back’ Sludging per say but there was plenty of [Sludge] anticipation and [Sludge] justification – even if just internalized. The discussions and learning around this were clearly moving for people. I myself realized I had been trained and brought up so strictly on beliefs about time that I was my own worst Sludger! Again, I was not alone.

In a company with excellent work ethics, the traditional inclusion of time beliefs were very evident. Everyone just Sludged themselves and feelings such as ‘guilt’ and ‘worry’ were aired way more than expected. One really interesting aspect that came to light was the idea that this was a comforting ‘support’…that somehow without these time games of give and take we would be less supported. As a leader, I was so glad this surface and it was very cathartic for all to start the change process on this with presenteesim vs. true support as the main focus. We have a way to go on this path but we made a great start and people felt liberated.

“Throughout the past month, as we were new to ROWE and now on the cusp of practicing ROWE, it has been an enlightening journey. I learned more about myself – beliefs, strengths to fears. This is a chance to better myself as a person and a professional, I can’t say I’m feeling 100% ready for the ride but definitely looking forward to see what it’ll be like in a year’s time! To use my dear colleague’s words – it’s time to free myself.” –  Consultant

The whole team came in at about 5 – 8 (out of 10) on the self assessment at the end and have been discussing these ‘feelings’ and ‘realities’ very well since.

So to surmise, whilst having a healthy and strong modern but still ‘time traditional’ work place, we still have sludge to eradicate. We have realized we need to help each other eradicate being so ‘time’ hard on ourselves to change such deep seated beliefs. We have challenges to deal with in terms of guilt and stress based around time as well as making sure the right support is there when this old and unproductive framework is removed. It is a great feeling knowing everyone is on the same page and working together to achieve this. Everyone is getting very excited about Culture Clinic and to GO LIVE!”

Going ROWE: The Kick Off Session

As promised as a follow on from last week, this post is the next part of my interview with Michael Barata – covering the next step of our ROWE migration – The Kick Off Session: (The name of the session is pretty self explanatory so no need for a long build up….)

“The Kick Off session went really well. The team was excited and upbeat – intrigued to see what lay ahead. We had done good preparation in purchasing a few copies of the book, which were shared with the team to be read beforehand. The intro from Cali & Jody was very useful to set the mood and the session started well. We had good discussion around trust as we progressed and then came the game. The team had warmed up well by this point and the game got people really thinking about internalized beliefs as well as the obvious verbalized thoughts on what is and isn’t acceptable and why.

We had a good session on the first 2 impediments (Beliefs & Time) and then energized, but hungry, we broke for lunch – not because it was lunch time but because we were all hungry!

After lunch we rejoined to investigate Judgment – the final impediment. This was a short but philosophically interesting piece that we all knew we would investigate in more detail next week.

Moving on to the “13 ROWE Guideposts,” the atmosphere was one more of caution and concern. Everyone reacted differently to different guideposts, but all found it very useful – if sometimes scary! We ended up spending a lot of time discussing the guideposts, which we decided to roll with. Actually, we found this session to be very fruitful. It unearthed worthy fears and anxieties up to this point unsaid, and made each other realize that both manager, senior and more junior people shared similar reactions and concerns. It also got people realizing it was ‘real’ and that it was not just an exercise for the latest program….it was in one consultants words ‘life changing.’

We finished the KickOff session with a healthy Q&A on all the topics covered and a summary as to the next steps. Once back at our desks the mood had seriously changed, but the old life resumed…for now…”

Next post…The Sludge Session – aimed to eliminate the toxic language around presenteeism and  time, called “sludge”, which exists in our workplaces

Also, as always, if there is anything in the posts you wish to know more about please feel free to leave a Q.