Thursday, 24 July 2014

Digital in the talent acquisition process

I’ve been doing a really interesting case with a client recently, helping them to use digital to reduce their expenditure on third party recruiters and simultaneously increase the variety and quality of new recruits that they obtain. Here’s a few high level thoughts from the work…

The first - and perhaps most obvious – principle is that it’s time to treat employees and potential recruits like customers. Understand their archetypes and needs and engage them on their terms. Using classifieds or Linkedin only gets you to about half of the direct recruiting community and if you’re after graduates or under–35’s, you will need to think about how you use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in combination. If you want scarce talent, you’ll need to seek them out on their own terms and be proactive in targeting them. 

Information in recruitment is now symmetrical and good people – hell, all people – are being constantly bombarded with interview offers thanks to a horde of recruitment consultants (sensibly) seeking to profit from the situation. Talent is scarce as the focus on creativity and outcomes in the digital economy means that people, rather than process are ever-more vital to the success of organisation. HR departments need new skills, such as content creation, digital marketing, data science and user-centric design in order to understand the capabilities of more diverse talent.

In light of these factors, the old model of HR, where talent acquisition is rolled into the general HR functions is perhaps nearing obsolescence. Instead it could be time to split the operating parts of the department, for example. reward and benefits from the strategic parts in the same way as digital teams are splitting the fast-moving innovation and product design components of IT from core infrastructure to make the former more business-centric and the latter more focused on efficiency.

The strategic talent function would  align the organisation, talent and culture of the business to the corporate strategy and then work with other parts of the business to trial novel ways of identifying, measuring, selecting and deploying people in the organisation. Philosophies like test-and-learn, agile and lean start up can be applied by this team to enable growth. Targets and governance should be set more like those of a Product Commercialisation Business than of a traditional HR function. Doing it this way also enables the operating functions of HR to be more effective as they can focus on enhanced efficiency of known processes and bedding any new ones that come out of the more strategic team into common practice.

This splitting of functions is a consequence of moving to a more measurable, outcome-based way of working. With less emphasis on hierarchy, completely transparent objectives and easier inter-operability of teams it’s fine to have small pockets of real specialism. 

There is an immediate question for me about how those teams are assembled though. Traditionally you’d have reporting lines and human hierarchies to organise the business. The most logical way for the digital business to be structured is as a collection of spans of control, arranged in a hierarchy of outcomes.

If this sounds like management gobbledegook, that’s because I haven’t really got my head around how to create it in practice! What I’m trying to remove is the large group of people that are employed to manage the hierarchy of a business rather than the outcomes the business needs in order to win. Clearly I haven’t come up with the answer yet… and this head cold isn’t helping!

Friday, 11 July 2014

What I've been reading this week

A few stories I've been reading this week (due to a Blogger fail, I lost rather a lot of others :(. )

Digital world

It's fashionable to suggest that Android Wear has rendered Google Glass obsolete. I'm not so sure. If you believe in a Design Thinking approach, then this is the difference between the iteration of a known, successful category and the beginning of a new one. The miracle here is actually that Glass is as good as it is, not that Wear is functionally superior in many respects. It's sort of like comparing the self-driving Google car with a similarly priced conventional vehicle. Allowing for development costs, that's something like a Bentley Continental. One is an ultimate expression of something that we've known how to do for years. The other is disruptive innovation. Move the development forward ten years and their ancestors will be radically differently positioned relative to each other.

One of the commonly talked about use cases for wearables is to collect data on people's wellness in order to reduce hospital visits and insurance premiums. Here's a case study from a US consulting company that's using Fitbit to do just that - it's saved $300,000 a year. Impressive!

One of the issues with home automation is that most people in the developed world already have a full set of unconnected gadgets that they're unlikely to do away with. But where there's a will, there's a way. In this case by using an add-on device to connect air conditioning units to wifi via their infrared remote control units. Simple genius... also interesting to see the way in which other technologies have enabled them to get to this point. The original was based on a Raspberry Pi.

Digital strategy

Facebook buys LiveRail to extend its portfolio of ad-serving options and apply pressure to Google, Microsoft et al in the battle for internet ad dollars. I don't pretend to understand the subtle differences between these platforms, but the continued aggressiveness companies like Facebook display in the acquisition market suggests that there's to be no let-up in the multi-dimensional competition between the superpowers.

A little bit odd, but here the Chief Experience Officer of sprinklr explains why he buys the toilet paper. I totally agree with his point that in the social age every single part of the customer experience matters. Everything has to embody your brand. My favourite piece of branded user experience is the intermittent wiper speed dial on my 1995 Porsche. It's a totally insignificant function on the car and hidden away, yet it has a feel that must have taken ages to get right and money to fit. That's the sort of attention to detail you need nowadays...

Digital future

Artificial intelligence has been 'tantalisingly close' for a generation now and yet we still can't make a machine that passes the Turing Test, long seen as the defining point at which machines will have become our intellectual equals. But does it really matter? Here, Singularity Hub presents the case that the test itself is irrelevant and that: we can’t prove “a machine thinks” any more than we can prove the person next to us thinks. But when one is indistinguishable from the other, then we are allowed to question whether a machine can think only as much as we are allowed to question whether a human can think—and beyond that point, the question can be resolved no further. I found it an interesting argument.

3D printing is one of the key technologies of the Second Machine Age because it enables the fruits of our intellectual labours to be rendered in the physical world without the need for learning craft and manufacturing skills. The sophistication of 3D printers advances at the rate of Moore's Law meaning that we'll see a lot more stories like this one about the printing of artificial human organs in the coming years. Replacing body parts will extend our individual longevity, leading to ever-more different life expectations and thus further economic change. Hopefully.

One of the principles of the new economy is the use of machines to extend our intellectual limits. Often this is about replacing basic intellectual tasks with the output of AIs or semi-sentient systems, but there are other ways. In a series of experiments US Military scientists have been using (gentle) electrical stimulation of the brain to enhance the speed at which people can learn new skills and make their reactions to situations more automatic. This is a fascinating article and although slightly disturbing, the technology could be of huge benefit to people adapting to new ways of working - in my experience, most traditional training is fairly useless!