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Archive for September, 2010

How Not to Use Social Media

September 29th, 2010 7 comments

This post is probably going to definitively out me as an HR person (if I haven’t done that already).  I’m already a little bit of a skeptic when it comes to hiring and social media, but the existence of this company frankly just makes me uncomfortable.

Social Intelligence essentially touts itself as a way for HR folks to screen information about candidates available on the public internet, while somehow preventing us from learning protected class information.  The ERE article on Social Intelligence is studiously neutral, but let’s just say I’m less than convinced that “researching a job applicant’s online activity inevitably reveals a great deal of insight about a candidate.”  You know, like the fact that they follow this guy on Twitter…

The Social Intelligence website actually provides little information about how the hiring product actually works.  But looking at ERE’s screencap of the tool highlights the problem I have with using social media this way.  How do you connect information someone posts about violence, drugs, gangs, or poor judgment with actual concerns about these things? Let’s say I post Wu Tang Clan lyrics(very NSFW) on my Facebook page.  It would certainly look like I do lots of drugs, but it turns out I don’t. Where’s the line between what I consume, and what I do?

Social Intelligence’s monitoring tool is maybe even worse.  Do we really want to reinforce an image of HR as a nosy, Big Brother type of function?  And again, there’s no distinction between what people choose to do on their own and behalf of their employer.

Ultimately, this feels like a solution finding a problem to solve by scanning the headlines.

More on Education

September 27th, 2010 No comments

I’m a documented skeptic about education and hiring, and the release of the College Board’s College Completion Agenda 2010 report added further color to the debate.  Its headline finding is that the US ranks 12th of 36 developed countries in the percent of 25 to 34 year olds that have a college degree.

The New York Times’ reporting on this finding typifies the hand-wringing that has ensued.  I agree that the following statistics are a concern:

While almost 70 percent of high school graduates in the United States enroll in college within two years of graduating, only about 57 percent of students who enroll in a bachelor’s degree program graduate within six years, and fewer than 25 percent of students who begin at a community college graduate with an associate’s degree within three years.

Something is clearly not working, and I agree with the various experts cited in the article that we need to do something about it.

However, this overlooks an important nuance to America’s challenges with the numbers of graduates we’re producing: as a system, we don’t have any way of ensuring students are enrolling programs in match the needs of market.  This point is well articulated in this article by Ilana Garon, and nicely captured here:

Statistics like those put out by the College Board are misleading: they promote a foolish sense of tunnel vision, leading students to believe that the only possible way of obtaining even a middle-wage job is through the traditional, four-year college route. Reliance on the standard liberal arts degree as a benchmark for competence belies not only the fact that many jobs simply don’t require such an education, but also that middle-wage jobs are going unfilled due to a lack of applicants with the necessary specialized skills.

The reason Garon’s article stood out for me is that it highlights two reasons why the conventional wisdom that degrees are inherently good is dangerous.  First, it’s a misallocation of resources: students spend time and money on degrees that don’t give them a positive return.  Second, as our system evolves away from career and technical education programs, our business and industrial base suffers from talent shortages.

Again, no earthshattering conclusions.  Just that it’s important that we look at the utility of a particular degree, rather than a woolly notion of its benefits.

2010 SMA Staffing Symposium Recap

September 24th, 2010 2 comments

I attended the SMA Staffing Symposium yesterday, and it was a good day overall.  Some thoughts on the presenters:

  • Carol Mahoney’s presentation was entertaining and engaging, but there weren’t a lot of tangible take-aways for me.  Good reminders though: do what you need to to keep engaged, get outside yourself and your role to stay fresh, etc.
  • Since I’m at a 450 person nonprofit, I generally don’t think I have a lot I can learn from Microsoft. But Scott Pitasky did a nice job of distilling his learnings from the last few years into things everyone can benefit from: goals are great but don’t let them get in the way of your strategy, let cost inform but not dictate your decisions, and make your work relevant to the businesses you support. Plus Scott is a very engaging speaker, one of my favorite sessions.
  • I admit I didn’t think I’d get much from Eric Jaquith’s presentation (I’m not much of a tools junkie).  But he introduced a few things I’ll explore: TimeBridge and Setster for scheduling, drop.io for file sharing, Jing for screen capture.
  • We went a little old school with Steve Lowisz. Billed as a primer on establishing credibility and being seen as a business partner, it was a reminder of the basic things we have to do to be good recruiters. Before you click this link, can you name the five steps in effective selling?
  • Elaine Orler gave what may have been the driest talk of the day, walking through the evolution of recruiting technology.  Only interesting if you like enterprise business systems, so I ate it up.
  • Laurie Ruettimannwrapped up the day with a typically irreverent performance. In order to be better recruiters, we need to be normal people, not caricatures of HR people.

And a few general observations:

  • For all the chatter about how recruiting will be revolutionized by [insert trend here], it was striking that every speaker talked about things that have always been true: credibility is earned not granted, recruiters must be good business partners, good recruiters are hard to find. I’m not holding my breath until the revolution arrives.
  • Seattle is a small town.  If you know the right person, you can be 2 degrees of separation or less from everyone in a room of 175.
  • Here’s something to think about if you’re certain social media is unavoidable in recruiting: maybe 75 of 175 attendees use Twitter.  In tech-crazy, recruiting-sophisticated Seattle.

Update (9/30): if you’re interested in each presenter’s slides, you can view them here.

Categories: hr, recruiting Tags: ,

Women in Finance

September 20th, 2010 No comments

I find this to be a surprisingly haphazard article from the Wall Street Journal. The data it cites from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is striking: from 2000 to 2009, the number of women working in financial services fell, even as the number of the women in the overall workforce grew.

Like Felix Salmon (whose post brought this article to my attention), the explanations cited range from the unsupported:

…technology likely accounts for some of the shift.

To the downright offensive:

They’re always perched on this edge, and if the value of staying in a high-pressure job goes down just a bit, then that might make a big difference in the number that jump.

Buried in the second to last paragraph of the article is what I see as the most plausible explanation of this trend:

Many women report that sexism is still rife on Wall Street, albeit less overt. Sexual-discrimination charges by women at finance companies dropped 28% from 2000 to 2009, according to data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But the number of charges per woman in the industry climbed during the recession in 2008 and 2009.

A 28% drop is significant, but it’s not zero.  So it stands to reason that this sexism is a disincentive for women to enter financial services.

This trend puts them squarely on the wrong side of America’s changing workforce gender demographics.  For an industry whose success is based on hiring the best and the brightest, it would seem obvious that this is an urgent problem.  Given the self-delusion that we’ve seen from the industry in the last 10 years, I won’t hold my breath that they’ll admit to it.