Every week we hunt down the choicest bits of HR news, articles, and insights, compiling them here in a weekly roundup. In this week’s roundup we examine how the old guard of tech is rebranding itself to appeal to top talent, how algorithms can strip away hiring bias, and warning signs that an employee is about to quit. We’ll also look at the most recent Uber scandal, as well as 10 old-school HR dogmas that should be disposed of.
Dan Lyons, Fortune
In the era of the startup, the old guard of tech has a branding problem - making it difficult for companies like GE and IBM to attract the most talented college grads. “Millennials view the old guard as the corporate equivalent of mom jeans,” Dan Lyons explains. “Today’s young tech elite covet gigs at Google, Facebook, or sexy startups like Snap.”
In order to combat this perception, old tech industry stalwarts have taken a page from the marketer’s playbook.
In 2015, GE invested in an ad campaign that saw a young software engineer explaining to his friends why he took a job at GE, while they worked at a startup for an app that put fruit hats on animal pictures. The result? The GE career site experienced an eightfold increase in traffic.
For the top tech talent with seemingly infinite options, large paychecks just aren’t enough. In the GE advertisement, the young software engineer explains that his new role will put him in a position to tackle big problems with global impact - he’ll have good reason to be proud of where he works.
“To some, no doubt, the employer branding campaigns will reek of desperation,” Lyons concludes. “But there’s often a good, honest case to be made that a century-old company has a heart and soul - how else could it survive so long?”
That tech industry stalwarts feel the need to launch full-scale marketing campaigns to attract top talent goes to show just how competitive tech hiring has become.
It is interesting to note that both of the "old guard" mentioned in this piece, GE and IBM, are either winners (GE) or sponsors (IBM) of Talent Board's Candidate Experience Awards. As organizations continue to try and differentiate themselves from the competition, it has become common for them to address their application process and candidate experience. With sites like Glassdoor providing insight into the experience an applicant can expect while applying, it is easy for organizations to gain an edge on the competition by making that experience stellar.
If you're interested in the full findings of the latest Talent Board Candidate Experience Research report, you can download it at the bottom of the page.
Karen McCandless, GetApp
Diversity continues to be an issue many organizations struggle with. According to leading recruitment experts, this unfortunately stems from human nature. “Eventually, if you’re human, you’re (unconsciously) biased,” Elad Shmilovich, co-founder of Joonko explains. “Recruiters will favour candidates who are either similar to them or considered “better” by social patterns.”
This unconscious bias is compounded by attempts to scale and hire at speed. “In the interest of sanity, recruiters naturally start shaping their own elimination bias simply in response to the volume of information they face,” Will Hunsinger, COO at Riviera says.
Blind recruiting techniques, like anonymizing resumes can do a great deal to help recruiters and hiring managers make more objective decisions, but there is another technique on the horizon with even more potential: the algorithm.
According to Gartner research, algorithms can “transform recruitment processes by replacing reliance on both recruiters’ intuition and automated résumé evaluation based on word matching with insights gleaned over time from analysis of large datasets.”
As more companies compete in an increasingly competitive talent market, algorithms will be critical to removing bias while continuing to scale and hire at speed - though for now, the science is still in its infancy.
Increasing diversity in the workplace isn’t just the right thing to do: it has the ability to increase productivity and revenue across the board. Yet somehow, with organizations doing everything they can to eek out the smallest bit of innovation, it has fallen under the radar.
Well, that’s not quite correct. It would be more accurate to say that many organizations continually move the “diversity issue” to the back of the priority list - there is no shortage of news coverage highlighting the lack of diversity in the workplace (and especially in tech).
Why? Because addressing the issue of diversity hiring is hard. Many organizations have latched onto the idea of a “company culture” that requires maintenance and fortification, rather than addition and inspection. And attempts to revise traditional hiring might be misconstrued by the recruiting team as accusations of racism and overt gender bias.
So for many companies, an attempt to solve the “diversity problem” might cause more (short-term) problems than it solves - and we’re back to square one. Or are we?
Data-driven decisions offer the ability to solve the diversity quandary without stepping on too many toes. Data has no bias, and companies that take the plunge with tools that enable data-driven decisions will not only see greater gains in workforce quality, they’ll weed out hiring bias naturally.
Christian Schappel, HRMorning
We think we know the warning signs that signal when someone is about to quit: they have lots of doctor’s appointments, they dress up at work, they leave early and show up late - but according to Tim Gardner at the Utah State University School of Business, the real signs are much more subtle. These are the signs he identified:
- They offer fewer constructive contributions in meetings.
- They are more reluctant to commit to long-term projects.
- They are more reserved and quiet.
- They show less interest in advancement.
- They don’t care about pleasing their supervisor.
- They avoid social interactions with their managers.
- They suggest fewer new ideas.
- They begin doing the minimum amount of work.
- They are less interested in participating in training and development programs.
- They are less productive than before.
The aforementioned stereotypes: having lots of doctor’s appointments, showing up late, etc, were not as closely correlated with the above behaviors.
“Of course, it’s possible for one or two of these to apply to an employee who isn’t looking to leave,” concludes Christian Schappel. “But even then, it’s still something worth addressing.”
Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. After an employee quits it is easy to reflect on their recent actions and retroactively notice a trend of lackluster participation and low productivity. But to notice these trends before they result in resignation would require superhuman levels of observation.
You may have noticed that almost none of the ten signs are particularly trackable. Most of them can only be judged based on vague intuition (and the aforementioned superhuman observation).
The HR professional who pays too much attention to these less quantifiable metrics risks paranoia. Rather than jumping at shadows and preparing for a resignation that may or may not actually happen, take Schappel’s advice: address (what you perceive as) the issue.
Ask why they have not been as active in meetings, or why they are reluctant to commit to long-term projects. The HR role has been revolutionized by actionable data - so get your information straight from the horse’s mouth.
Carol Hymowitz, Bloomberg
The recent Uber HR fiasco is, unfortunately, not unique. “It’s partly a consequence of a growth-at-all-costs environment that sees Human Resources as a drag on the mission,” Carol Hymowitz explains. “Some new companies also see human resources professionals as rule-bound killjoys, anathema to the work-hard, play-hard culture of startups.”
Often HR professionals are only hired after the fact, as part of a PR move to clean a reputation sullied by sexual harassment. GitHub Inc. famously hired a senior HR executive in 2015 (seven years after it was founded) after a female software engineer publicized a culture of bullying toward women.
Fortunately, stakeholders seem to be coming around. “More VC-backed companies have HR systems in place by the third year than those with other sources of funding,” Hymowitz says.
She concludes with a quote from Marc Andreessen, co-founder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz: “Without smart, effective HR, terrible internal managerial and employee behavior leads to a toxic culture that can catalyze into a catastrophic ethical - and legal - crisis.”
In this edition of “Business Scandal of the Month,” we find Uber in (more) trouble. And I think Uber’s latest scandal is a great example of what happens when diversity (and the HR function) is not prioritized.
In our previous discussion of bias, Elad Shmilovich touched a bit on the notion of implicit (unconscious) bias, stating that recruiters are more likely to hire those most like themselves.
Why would this be any different in the workplace? Most people will give preferential treatment to those like themselves, and this is made easier and enabled in less diverse workplaces where there is little to no negative feedback. The result is a “culture” that sweeps harassment under the rug.
Even if a homogenous workplace improved productivity (it doesn’t), it still wouldn’t be best for business. Consumers are increasingly making buying decisions based on what they perceive to be the ethical values of the vendor. Uber itself provides a perfect illustration of this, with competitor Lyft’s app downloads skyrocketing in the aftermath of the JFK airport strike. And what’s the point in rapid technological advancement if nobody buys it?
Liz Ryan, Forbes
Bad business habits have a nasty habit of becoming entrenched and never questioned. In this column, Liz Ryan addresses 10 of these “ancient, goofy ideas” that serve no purpose:
- Stack ranking programs that compare employees to one another on a scale of “best” to worst”.
- Annual performance reviews. Bad habits should be nipped in the bud as they develop, not used as a way to beat employees over the head at the end of each fiscal year.
- 360-Degree feedback systems. Subjecting employees to anonymous feedback from their peers is a great way to kill trust in a team.
- Bereavement Leave policies “that require an employee to bring a funeral notice when a loved one dies.”
- Treating attendance as a disciplinary issue. Your employees don’t choose to get sick and get involved in car crashes.
- Allowing department managers to approve or deny team members’ applications for transfers and promotions. “Good employees who are thwarted in their ambitions will simply leave your company and join one of your competitors.”
- Paying too great of detail to when employees arrive and depart from work but ignoring their overtime efforts.
- Prohibiting department managers from giving great references to former employees.
- Stealing frequent-flyer miles from your business-traveling employees.
- “The last brainless HR idea on our list is the idea that you can hire great people by treating them like dirt, subjecting them to insulting online application forms and then using a keyword-searching algorithm to screen resumes for you. Employers who can't evolve beyond Applicant Tracking Systems and keyword-based resume screening will lose out on the best talent -- just as the laws of supply and demand predict.”
#10 is especially pertinent, what with Talent Board publishing their yearly Candidate Experience Research Report just last week. And while Liz’s language is a bit harsh, she hits the nail on the head.
Long periods of employment make it easy for the successful HR professional to forget the experience of the average job hunter. A poor candidate experience can have a huge impact on your organization’s bottom line: candidates are customers, after all.
As mentioned earlier, sites like Glassdoor make it easy for the 75% of candidates who do their own research to omit poor experience providers from their job hunt. And the candidates that can afford to exclude your organization from their application checklist are the candidates you can’t afford to miss out on.