Controlling The Message??

I’ve noticed a lot of concern voiced recently over the possibility of employees saying negative things through social media which may affect their employer’s brand or image. There’s a neat summary on this blog by Michael Carty and I was involved in at least 2 group discussions at HRevolution on the subject.

HR clearly feels that they will have to pick up the pieces. I’ve heard talk of controlling the message, of laying down ground rules and guidelines for staff who want to blog, tweet or go on Facebook fan pages.

Yet I wonder what damage is done when a senior person in an organisation voices something, either planned or spontaneously, that gives a negative impression of the business. And why are there no controls, guidelines or ground rules for them?

Surely an employer being indiscrete does more damage than an employee?

Some readers will remember the entrepreneur Gerald Ratner. For those unfamiliar, he was CEO of a large high street jewellery group. He once commented in a speech:

“People say, “How can you sell this for such a low price?”, I say, “because it’s total crap”.

When commenting on the earrings that his shops sold, he said that they were:

“cheaper than a Marks & Spencers prawn sandwich but probably wouldn’t last as long”

Needless to say there was an immediate negative impact on the business …the value of the group plummeted £500million with loss of custom and jobs. Clearly customers don’t like to taken for granted, but then neither do employees. Who wants to work for a company whose goods can be dismissed so lightly by the CEO? Negative employees don’t always put shoppers off, but a CEO dismissing his products will.

Most of my regular followers will know that I’m a supporter of Arsenal Football Club. Well this weekend I received my season ticket renewal application. It’s not cheap supporting a football team, particularly if you go to matches every week, and Arsenal is one of the more expensive clubs to follow, yet loyal supporters’ passions are not normally subject to cost criteria. They do, however, go into each new season with an expectation of seeing some success.

Football followers will know that Arsenal haven’t won a trophy for 5 years and that, whilst they may play some exciting football, supporters begin to get restless.

So it was a bit disconcerting to see the manager, Arsene Wenger, say last week that finishing 3rd in the Premiership, and therefore qualifying for the Champions League, is like winning a trophy. The rationale for this I believe is that if you don’t win the 2 main trophies (Champions League or Premiership) then automatic qualification for the Champions League will net you about £20,000,000 whilst winning the FA Cup will net you £1,800,000.

Which makes great commercial sense…yet will hardly quicken the pulse or heart rate of a supporter about to hand over a lot of money for their entertainment next season who desperately want to see their team win. Hardly the best sales pitch…come and watch us finish 3rd.

Never mind the customers (like me) what about the current and future employees?? A top club employs, and hires, players who want to be the best and win…yet what if your boss effectively tells you that not winning will be OK? That finishing 3rd is like winning? Can I be confident that when I turn up next season I will be watching players who want to win trophies…or just finish 3rd?

We football fans are used to seeing players moan about their clubs, and openly tout themselves as available for transfer, and none of this dims the supporters’ enthusiasm…yet a negative message from the manager (the voice of the club in terms of exposure) can achieve this instantly.

I can understand concern over employees voicing negative thoughts…but will a policy to counter this also cover comments from managers and owners?

What are the most damning comments you have come across…and what effect did they have?

Reasons To Be Cheerful…I’m Chicago Bound!!

I am so excited! I’m going to Chicago for HRevolution!!! And I can’t wait!

I’m honoured to have got a scholarship from Nobscot, a company whose products and services, and vision and values are genuinely impressive. Getting the chance to meet their CEO Beth Carvin, and spend time with her finding out more about what they do, will be an absolute highlight.

The whole buzz surrounding the event is electric…and I’m still 3,000 miles away! Seriously, some of the blogs I’ve already read have already created a real sense of anticipation, with the range of topics, track leaders and attendees truly awesome.

My introduction will be simple…

I’m Mervyn

I’m from England

I’m here to learn and to share

I’m a Recruiter


(That’s right…I don’t want to scrap it, I don’t hate it…and as I’m an HR recruiter, they tend not to hate me either!)

With that out of the way I can’t wait to meet all my US HR Twitter pals and talk, engage, debate and learn about some really important and vibrant topics. Vicariously I think and talk about these issues every day, so the opportunity to listen and learn more from thought leaders, bloggers, futurologists and some really great, clued up HR pros is too good to miss!

Big, Big shout of thanks to:

Nobscot…for generosity and a mission to make the world a better place to work

The HR Evolution Team…for tirelessly putting this all together and making it happen


Twitter…hell, none of you would have known who I was otherwise!

See you Friday!!

Fear and Loathing in Social Media

At last! 

NOW is when it starts to get REALLY INTERESTING!!

What does??….Social Media!

For too long social media, and in particular Twitter, has been one long love-in…Woodstock, peace and love, one great happening…we’ve been awesome, we’ve been rockstars, we’ve loved everything everyone has written…

…or have we?? Is it just that no-one has wanted to make the first move to shoot from the hip, tell it like it is?

Suddenly it’s all changing…there’s Debate! Opinion! Disagreement! Argument!

What we say on Social Media? Who reads it? How do they interpret it? How do they judge it? Are they snooping or are they sourcing? Do they hire or do the fire because of it?

…and guess what…we don’t all agree with each other! Yay!

All of us…

…the employed, the self-employed, the under-employed and the unemployed…

…consultants, advisors, directors, experts, gurus, enthusiasts, commentators, copywriters, marketers, coaches, trainers, conference organisers and conference disorganisers…

…blogging, microblogging and guest blogging…

Debates are starting…

This morning a debate started at 5am (UK time) about use of social media websites for referencing…it spread from Australia to UK to US….and it’s still going…and we don’t agree

Follow it Andy Headworth’s blog…the comments are long and passionate

And a new thread is staring courtesy of this morning’s blog from Aaron Dodd

Then turn to Alasdair Murray’s blog ‘A Job Description Isn’t a Sales Tool’ and look at the range of comments, the disagreements, and the tangental diversions!!!

Then there’s Felix Wetzel’s excellent blog…he posted about communities, Bill Boorman didn’t agree and was offered a guest blog to reply…and the debate twists and turns and rages on

In my opinion, this is what it should be…honest debate, lots of opinion, theories debunked, ideas written about and read and absorbed…

This is the conversation we ALL need to be a part of

The Conversation That Never Sleeps….

Social media is a conversation; it’s a number of platforms, a set of tools that enables conversation, engagement, transferal of thoughts, ideas and information…

It’s New York New York…the City that never sleeps

Its Old Man River…it just keeps rolling 

It’s a neverending networking event!

So many times I hear ‘I’d like to try Twitter, give it a go, see what it’s all about, but I don’t have the time’ and I say ‘just dip in and join in the conversation…you can dip in and out, or you can stay around a bit longer, make some contacts, read some interesting stuff you won’t see anywhere else’ 

I believe it changes the way we communicate, because there’s no end! If you phone someone – a client, a candidate, a contact – then there’s a beginning and an end to the call, and if you want to move forward you need to conclude with an action. You can’t just pick up the phone an hour later and say something else. 

But with social media, there’s always a chance to pick up the conversation, anytime! Whatever you talk about, you’re engaging with people. As long as you’ve got something interesting, engaging, informative or just plain funny to say, then people won’t mind hearing from you. 

There are very few HR professionals and recruiters from the UK on Twitter, which is a shame. I would love to be able to build an online rapport with them. I speak to many in the US and chat about all sorts of things. I have often asked them ‘if I was US based, then you could well be my client or my candidate – if that was the case, how would you feel about the conversations that we have?’ 

They usually tell me that it wouldn’t make any difference, that the business and personal can easily mix…this is who I am, take me or leave me. They feel the same about Facebook. In the UK though I think it’s a bit different, it’s more…

No Facebook Please, We’re British! 

Will it change? I think it will, eventually! 

So for this post I’m going to throw down the challenge to everyone from the UK reading this who is not blogging, tweeting, contributing to groups on Linked In, or generally joining in the conversation… 

Come on in, the water’s fine….!

Trains, Planes and Automobiles – #TruLondon and the Power of Twitter

If you organise it, they will come. And they did, from far and wide…representing recruiting, HR, technology, job boards, branding, marketing and many other disciplines. Some had laptops, some had smartphones, some had cameras, and all had a lot of ideas and passion.

I met loads of great people today, and there were plenty more that I didn’t get time to talk to. Hope to put that right tomorrow.

So exciting to put faces to names, personalities to tweets. And for me, Twitter is what today was all about. Without Twitter there wouldn’t be a TruLondon and I wouldn’t have met so many great people. I know them all from Twitter, and whilst they all feel like friends and contacts, you can’t beat meeting in person. Real face time.

As for today, it was by turns chaotic and thought-provoking, disorganised and inspiring…exactly what an UNconference should be!

I talked candidate experience.

I talked job boards.

I talked Gen Y (when do we not!)

I talked blogging.

I talked employer and employee branding.

I talked social learning.

And I met loads of intelligent, fascinating and inspiring people!

I was called a rockstar!

I was called enigmatic!

I was told I was talking BS on HR Happy Hour!

I was shouted down for making a ‘political rant’ in the Gen Y debate!

And I didn’t mind one bit!

And that’s not all…

I popped out at lunchtime and had coffee with 2 Twitter buddies, one of whom I’d never met before…she happened to be in Central London today.

This evening I went to a gig with three friends that I first met through Twitter. Turns out we all liked the same band. Midlake – an evening of glorious, cosmic country folk from Denton, Texas.

February 18th 2010 – a day when I did so much with so many people, all of whom I met through Twitter.

Friends tell me that they don’t ‘get’ Twitter. They don’t have the time and they don’t see the point. They’ve got enough friends and contacts without spending time online meeting new ones.

They’re wrong…

They should have spent today with me!

I Got a Headhunt Call…Lucky Me? Not!

I say a headhunt call, but maybe just saying I was approached would be a better description, mind you I daresay that the guy doing the approaching probably thought he was headhunting.

Not sure that any of what follows would be overly familiar to the track leaders at TruSource but unfortunately too much ‘sourcing’ goes like this….

It was a depressing experience. Switchboard had a call for me. Someone who would only give his first name and who claimed he knew me. They put him through…

…and he introduced himself and launched straight into a pitch, how he was recruiting for a client who was looking for an HR recruiter to join and grow their business at the senior end…he gave me a range of basic salaries (I commented that it didn’t sound a particularly attractive range and he DISAGREED with me, saying ‘from what I hear it’s good for the market’)..the commission scheme is really good (he said this twice) his client had recently merged with another group (so I kinda now knew who they were) and now had more clients to whom they could offer HR recruitment (but he also said that it would suit a strong sales person), apparently I could join as a solo recruiter or I could manage a small team it was up to me (hey they’ve really nailed their structure and talent development programme) and then he asked if he could take my mobile number so that he could ring me outside work and discuss it more. He never actually asked me if I was interested or if I actually WANTED to talk about it more, he just presumed…

The interesting part for me was that he said he found me on Linked In, thought I had a good profile and was the kind of person he was looking for, so I had 2 questions for him:

What made me so relevant?

What did he think of what I wrote on my blog and did this fit in with his client’s values?

He couldn’t really answer either. What made me relevant, apparently, was that I was an HR recruiter who had previously also worked in Recruitment to Recruitment (though he couldn’t explain the relevance of that) and as for the blog, well no he hadn’t read it…and where was it? Er, well it’s there, on my LI profile.

Had he bothered to properly read my profile and follow the link he would have seen that my most recent blogpost opened with ‘I really love working as part of the Stopgap Group, not least because…’ now you would have thought that if someone REALLY wanted to headhunt ME then they may find this fairly relevant.

Surely if you want to try and seriously approach someone who has just written publicly about how much he loves the company he works for, then I suspect you need a slightly different opening than the scattergun headrush of basics, commission, selling in to new clients etc.. For a start it may actually require a MATCH between me and what the client could offer.

A cursory read of some of my other blogposts would have further enlightened him to the fact that values, service, reward for feedback and a move away from the traditional sales model were all important to me…his time could probably have been more profitably used seeing if his client could offer these to me.

I blogged a couple of months ago about whether recruiters really get social media as most just seemed to think LinkedIn and Twitter were there to find more candidates to headhunt…and 2 months on I’m still wondering!

Now, I’m not looking for a headhunt approach and I’m very happy where I am, but had I been in a position where the call was more welcome then I would like to think that through Linked In, this blog, Twitter and participation in events like TruLondon, there was enough readily available information on me, my thoughts and my style, to enable a rather more intelligent, engaging and personal approach …

Maybe I’m expecting too much…

Do People Still Buy People First??

“People buy People first and everything else after…”

That was the very first piece of advice given to me on my first day in recruiting, also my first day in professional sales. The role was in a candidate driven sector, a niche market with about 100 potential major clients and a lot of potential candidates. Oh, and a lot of competitors too! Developing relationships with candidates, from the time they first make contact with you, through their first meeting with you and the process of arranging interviews, briefings and feedback, to the eventual decision, meant taking time to build up the relationship and trust. I quickly realised that in a specialist sector your candidates become clients and your clients become candidates.

Last week I interviewed 2 very strong, senior candidates, both had contacted me speculatively with their CVs, and at the end of each meeting they both thanked me for having called them and arranged to meet them. I found it strange, as I would have assumed that candidates of their calibre would be on the radar of most HR recruiters, but both told me that they had difficulty even getting their CVs acknowledged, let alone getting phone time with a recruiter. To get a face to face interview, without a specific role to discuss, was impossible… except for me. Now both these candidates have had recruitment as one of their functions, and both have hired many HR staff in the past, yet even recruiters who they have briefed before don’t seem to want to talk to them.

One of them then said….

“I’m not sure if recruiters realise that candidates want to interact with a person, not a website”

Which kind of takes me back to my starting point…people buy people first…and I’m wondering if, in this social media driven, job board oriented, brave new recruiting word of communities and networks, this is still true.

Maybe we need to personalise our processes more…our Candidate Care Team recently sent an e-mail to a candidate whom they couldn’t reach by phone to let him know why he wasn’t suitable for a role he had applied for…he replied…

Thank you for taking time to write to me, honestly this is the first time a recruitment company has spared time to personalize an e-mail, especially when this person will have no value for them.”

So what do you think??

Do we still buy people first?

Do we still trust the judgement and advice of people that we know well? Those we have a relationship with?

And if so how do we now establish that personal relationship?

If we swap messages on Linked In, or tweets (which we can now show on Linked In too), or comments on blog postings, are we establishing a relationship that will encourage dialogue and trust?

What will it take to get recruiters to interact face to face with candidates?

I’ll be co-hosting the ‘Who Cares What the Candidates Think?’ track at TruLondon and would love to be able to share your thoughts…..

Do Recruiters really get Social Media??

I had a great time at the Recruiting Unconference (trulondon) last Thursday…lots of interesting and thought-provoking debate and information. Over the next few blog posts I am going to write about some things that have had me thinking.

A key track for me was the one on Social Media…I have certainly tried to embrace LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogging over the last year or so and talk passionately to candidates about the need for them to get connected and get in the conversation. I was keen to learn more…

Track host Matt Alder started by asking each group member what social media they used and why…and four things immediately stood out for me:

Hardly any recruiters seemed to use any Social Media other than LinkedIn

Those that use LinkedIn seem to regard it as a database, a source of names to headhunt, and a medium to advertise jobs

Most recruitment companies seem to regard a consultant’s LinkedIn connections as owned by the company not the consultant

The only interest in Twitter seemed to be as a medium to advertise jobs

Clearly there are a lot of recruiters in the UK who haven’t yet got Social Media. There was little talk of developing networks or communities, of engaging candidates and clients in groups. It seemed depressingly familiar, just another medium for finding names to headhunt and for advertising roles. I’m not saying that there aren’t recruiters who provide a service doing just that, but why do we have this amazing new medium which opens up all sorts of possibilities, can really transform the way we work and interact, enables us to deliver some real value for candidates and clients…and then just try and find ways of using it to do the same old, same old…

I’m going to share some of my thoughts about LinkedIn here…Twitter will get its own post, hopefully soon!

On the question of ownership, I firmly believe that my contacts are mine…and I say that having been employee and employer within the industry. I appreciate that I have made contact with people whilst in employment, but it is how I have worked and interacted with that network that has provided fees and therefore revenue for the business. I know that there was a court case involving Hays last year which they won, but I believe in that case that the employee in question was sending invitations to clients that he hadn’t met or worked with, whilst at the same time setting up in competition. Sorry, but that’s unethical. Also when it was heard, use of Social Media as a business tool was still fairly embryonic.

I have met virtually all my contacts; those that I haven’t met I do have a working relationship with, and would have spoken to them at length on the phone (or social media). I have never invited (nor accepted an invitation from) anyone that I have not had interaction with. I can share information with them through status updates, and will call or send messages on a regular basis especially acknowledging when they have a relevant change to their status. Used properly it provides a great platform from which to start building a network/community (Twitter can help further develop this)

My LI network has delivered fees, not just for me but also for colleagues…and I am transparent with the network, giving them visibility of my Twitter feed, and this blog, on my LinkedIn profile.

Someone on the track, who owned a small IT recruitment business, legitimately raised the fear that a consultant leaving and taking his LI connections was taking business away…and Paul Harrison (Carve Consulting) who co-hosted the track made a great point when he said that the company may lose someone’s contacts, but then they would hire in someone who would bring with them a whole new set of contacts.

My personal view is that the attempt to protect is old, sales led recruitment thinking and does not take into account the possibilities opened up by social media.  Recruiters, in future, will be hired because of their network…not just who they know, but how they engage with the network, what information and knowledge they build, what business opportunities the network offers. There’s an onus on the recruiter to behave ethically and professionally if they want flexibility and trust from their employers…certainly not adding connections that are not technically part of their network, and with whom they have had no personal interaction, particularly if their intentions are to leave soon.

I did make the point on Thursday that in my opinion recruiters probably would not join a business that made them leave their contacts when they left…I certainly wouldn’t sign a contract that effectively said ‘we want you for your contacts, and when it’s time for you to leave, we’ll keep the contacts, thanks’

Social Media policy will soon be an extremely important criteria for candidates to consider when assessing a company (actually, why isn’t it now?)… and a legitimate question for the interviewee to ask. In fact as recruiters I think we should be finding out what the policy is when we take a brief.

I can certainly see a time soon when businesses will be rejected if their policies are not forward thinking, encouraging, empowering and trusting.