Recruitment's Problem with Persuasion

It was my great pleasure to speak at the excellent RecFest in London the other week. My presentation on “The Art of Persuasion” was inspired by some recent conversations with a number of employers who have found themselves struggling to recruit the talent they need in 2014.

Many employers are currently facing a big uplift in recruitment and some are going into a blind panic throwing money at projects that have been on ice since 2009 (new EVP, new recruitment website etc) to try and fix their problems.

I wanted to look at the root cause of the issues and think about how to actually solve them. This then lead to the realization that the biggest problem we have in 2014 is actually a persuasion problem.

I’ve produced a 20 minute webcast of my presentation which is embedded below where you can see and hear my thoughts on the problem and the potential solutions in more detail.

Here is a top line summary:

The Persuasion problem is being caused by:

  • The lack of any need for proactive recruiting through the recession
  • Technological and demographic changes which mean the old ways of doing things aren’t as successful as they used to be
  • The move from the "Desk Top Age" to the “Age of Mobile Devices”
  • The sheer amount of recruitment noise the best talent is exposed to
  • Generic approaches which result in a huge amount of “inappropriate” applications

The three elements of the DNA of digital persuasion are:

  1. Be Magnetic - Attracting the right audience to your content is vital
  2. Be Convincing - You can’t rely on the right people just wanting to work for you, you need to convince them
  3. Convert - Even the most convincing messages often have no call to action or are attached to a broken process. Getting people into and through your recruitment funnel effectively is absolutely vital.

More details on all of this in the video. I also give an example of great persuasion at work and a simple framework to help you make your recruitment communication work harder.

 



Game Changers, Red Herrings and Relentless Hype

Now that was a long blog break! No particular reason for it either, I wasn’t kidnapped by Monster and forced to write a nice article about BeKnown as ransom (see my last post) nor unfortunately did I spend the summer sitting on a beach drinking ridiculously named but reassuringly expensive cocktails. I’m back blogging again now though and thought it might be worth giving my verdict on a few things that have been going on over the summer. Google +

Firstly I suppose I should say something about Google +. I like the interface but I absolutely hate the ridiculous bandwagon-jumping link baiting hype that has accompanied it. The Quora stuff at the beginning of the year was bad enough but some of the complete rubbish that has been written about Google + (some of it recruitment related) is really clouding the water when it comes to any actual usefulness the platform might have.  Yes Google+ does have some nice functionality but if that is your USP then it is easily copied. This is exactly what Facebook has done in the last week or so and in so doing has graphically illustrated that functionality alone will never make Google+ a Facebook killer.

Google’s actual USPs are its reach into the Gmail user base and an implied role in SEO. This it what has driven its growth and is also why there is very little content and engagement on there.  At the end of the day while people may join multiple networks they will only invest their time in places where their friends / target audience hang out. Google+ might get some traction in certain niches in the short term but will take a very long time to go mainstream, if indeed it ever does

My Verdict – Relentlessly overhyped, will have relevance moving forward but it is too early to say what that will be

Be Known

I know that I promised an in-depth review in my last post and I’m sorry if I’m disappointing anyone by not doing one. While I still think this is an incredibly significant move by Monster there really isn’t very much to review at the moment. In some ways I think the situation is similar to Google+, lots of people are joining, with Monster leveraging its enormous existing audience to drive this, but there is very little actually going on.

The “commercial talent community” space is an interesting and evolving one but platforms like BeKnown and Branchout have yet to prove that users join for any other reason than to look at job postings.  As it stands BeKnown is just another platform for job distribution and little else. That said though its mention (albeit just on a slide) in the recent F8 conference and partnership with Facebook to be one of the first new social apps could be very interesting indeed!

My Verdict – A Red Herring for now but watch this space!

The LinkedIn Apply Button

I’ve blogged about this before but it seems that lots of people got distracted by a summer long argument about the “death of the CV” that was quite frankly pointless. I really wish a lot of this black or white 140 characters powered thinking would just go away. Ninety percent of the time in has no foundation in the current realities employers are facing.

In an attempt to get closer to the reality of the situation I spoke to LinkedIn’s EMEA Marketing Director, Laurence Bret-Stern, earlier in September. When I asked her about the CV vs Profile debate she pointed out that thousands of companies have already voted with their feet and have installed the LinkedIn apply button! She also intriguingly hinted that there was much more to come as LinkedIn becomes an ever more open platform to “connect professionals with opportunities more efficiently and effectively”

I really feel this is the most under commented on story from the whole summer. Not only has LinkedIn launched an apply button but a significant number employers are now actively using it which, despite their user growth, is not an achievement Google+ or BeKnown can currently match.

My Verdict – The game changer of the summer and I’m amazed no one seems to have noticed!

"By Grads for Grads" - Social Recruiting from Unilever

I’ve been slightly disappointed lately with the quality of Social Recruiting case studies coming through and this is why I haven’t featured any on the blog for a while. Although some great work is being done, many organizations are just focusing on “social job distribution” and in so doing are missing many of the key advantages that social is bringing to recruitment. With this in mind I was delighted, while doing some work for them just before Christmas, to get an insight into how Unilever are setting about making their UK graduate recruitment properly social. Before going into the detail of the tactics and channels Unilever are using, it is important to reflect on the strategic thinking and resource planning round their social tag line “By Grads for Grads”.  Unilever has recognized that to be effective in the social space they have to have a genuinely authentic conversation with their graduate audience rather than talking at them as the majority of graduate recruiters still seem to do. Instead of using an advertising agency to “manage” their activity Unilever have put together a digital team of previous graduate recruits to run the social channels and be responsible for answering questions while keeping the conversation flowing.

Having current grads help recruit the next year’s intake is nothing new but Unilever are one of the few companies I’ve come across using social technologies to extend the reach of such an initiative. By putting such a resource in place I feel Unilever are in a fantastic position to be transparent about any gap between their employer brand perception and their employer brand reality.

The execution of the strategy runs mainly across Facebook and Twitter. There has also been the recent addition of a growing YouTube channel of video content. It’s great to see an employer really thinking about the importance of conversations and while the content does play an important role, Unilever aren’t blindly taking assets from their website and dumping it onto Facebook in the same way some of their competitors do!

As this is a fairly new initiative it is slightly early to be able to analyze the results. This is also an evolving strategy rather than a one off campaign and more sophisticated measurement techniques are currently being put in place to assess the true long term value of the approach.

Stella Maerker who helps run the digital graduate team has this to say about the success of the campaign:

“We can see a steady increase of followers and fans. Click through rates from the social media pages to the careers website and vice versa prove growing traffic. Applicants will be asked about our social media pages during application process. The real success will be number of successful graduates that got attracted to Unilever by interacting with current grads online!”

While I’m sure some purists (if you can have such a thing in a brand new field!) might criticize the comparatively low number of followers I think this is actually irrelevant at this stage of an ongoing initiative. Unilever have gone for a quality rather than quantity approach and the time spend considering their long term strategy and allocating dedicated internal resources are bound to pay dividends in the long term as social becomes their most important channel for graduate recruitment.

There are of course huge challenges in applying this kind of approach to a broader selection of Unilever’s recruitment activity but Unilever are committed to doing soon. As their Global Resourcing Director Paul Maxin says:

"Digital and social media is a key enabler to the way Unilever builds an engagement based approach to our employment brand equity. We'll continue to integrate it, providing candidate-centric platforms that build advocacy of our employment brand and scale the approach both regionally and globally."

Why Job Boards need to innovate or die

First of all this isn’t another generic all job boards are doomed blog post. I wanted to put some recent thoughts I’ve had in writing that I truly believe represent the issues job boards are facing or about to face. My credentials to do this are 12 years experience of working with job boards in the UK market as opposed to mere speculative opinion! This post starts about 10 years ago. Back then I was one of the few professional buyers of job board space in the UK and my day was always a whirlwind of presentations from new job board launches. Some of sites don’t exist anymore; many more of them are now mainstays of the UK market. The one thing they all had in common though was innovation. Everyone was going to change recruitment for good, everyone had a new and interesting model, everyone was a disruptive force in a recruitment space that was over priced, old fashioned and out of touch with jobseeker and client needs.

Business models and market share were established and the job boards did indeed change recruitment, not as quickly or by as much as the initial optimism suggested but they were a truly disruptive force. However the dot com bubble bursting, a relatively small UK internet audience (back then anyway) and limitations in technology did take the edge off a lot of the promised innovation

Fast forward ten years and Job Boards are indeed a dominant force. With this though have come severe product commoditisation and a rather alarming establishment mindset that is personified by the frequently heard mantra - “but there will always be job boards”.

There in lies my issue because it’s not true; job boards have no more right to exist than the traditional publishers they have slowly been displacing. Don’t believe me? Then ask anyone over about 35 and if they think about it they’ll remember a significant period of their career when job boards just didn’t exist. The industry is far too young to have such a “you’ll never cope without us” attitude

Ten years later I’ve moved on as well,  I don’t buy job board space anymore but nevertheless as a consultant to the industry I’m getting a strange sense of déjà vu.  Once more a series of wide eyed keen young start ups are seeking me out for advice and presenting business models designed to disrupt the recruitment status quo. This time the perceived status quo aren’t traditional publishers it’s the job boards themselves.  Then there is LinkedIn probably the biggest potential disruptive force in our space that I’ve ever seen. Any job board owner who says it isn’t a threat to their business is either lying or hasn’t thought about it deeply enough.

Add in the embryonic force of social recruiting that is seeing progressive clients proactively undertaking activity with the aim of reducing or even eliminating their job board spend and you’ve got a heady mix of forces that should give job boards all the motivation they need to innovate and take their offerings to the next level.

What absolutely amazes me though is that with a few very notable exceptions (keen market observers will spot them!) this innovation isn’t happening. It seems to me that most job boards are expending all their energy either denying that there any threats to their model or doing whatever they can to maintain the status quo and in so doing are potentially taking their business models into a commoditised death spiral

I’m not writing all of this because I want to see job boards disappear in fact quite the opposite. I truly believe that they have a small but significant window of opportunity to innovate and thrive. Once the window closes though I’m afraid there will be no way back. So this is my challenge to the job board industry, put more of your energy into planning for the future and make me eat my words by creating some innovative disruptive business models that will drive the industry forward. I know you can do it because I still remember the year 2000 and how we’ve all been in the same position before. This time though the audience, technology and timing are all perfect……

My new training course partnership with Emarketeers

A quick blog post to announce that I've formed a partnership with Emarketeers to offer digital and social recruiting courses. There are a growing number of fantastic knowledge sharing days, unconferences and workshops out there at the moment in our space and I fully intend to keep participating in them as I think they are doing a great job at spreading knowledge and driving the industry forward. I've been getting a lot of feedback though that suggests a number of people and companies would prefer to find out about more about topics like social recruiting in a slightly more structured way and I'm launching these courses to meet that specific need.

It's very important to me that people always get the best possible experience when I work with them so that's why I've chosen Emarketeers as a partner. They are real experts in organizing and delivering digital training  and run courses weekly in some fantastic central London venues. I actually attended one of their other courses myself last month so can personally vouch for both the quality of the venue and of the food!

The first courses are going to be on social recruiting. I believe it is a very important topic which everyone should be aware of even if they aren't yet ready to integrate it into their recruitment and employer brand activity

We've currently got social recruitment courses scheduled for July and September in a great venue near St Pancras and if you sign up now you can get an early bird discount

The Social Recruiting Debate - Why I'm leaving it

Well the debate is well and truly up and running now. You can’t open Twitter these days without seeing the full range of opinion...”everyone must implement social recruiting now”,” social recruiting is a dangerous fad”,” social recruiting doesn’t exist”, “lets just call it recruiting”, “ get your recruiters off twitter and back on the phone”, “get your recruiters off the phone and on Twitter”, “Job boards are dead”, “job boards aren’t dead” etc etc etc. Now while this debate can be interesting it is just that, debate and speculation. It is also debate that deals almost exclusively in generalisations and exists in an echo chamber that still hasn't reached the mainstream although it is edging ever closer.

I’m bored with it and I’m not playing anymore

So what am I focusing on?

Well you only have to look at the utterly astonishing rate of social media adoption across diverse demographics to see that we are living through a communication and networking revolution, if you want to debate that then I’m sorry I'm not listening just have another look at the figures. The real question for me is how this revolution is actually being felt in the parts of recruitment space it has reached. I’m not interested in generalised debate based on people’s own self interest, alleged guru status or guess work, I’m interested in what is actually happening.

That’s why I’ve been collecting case studies on this blog. I’ve recently identified another four strategic social recruiting examples that I will write up at some point and have some emerging work coming through from my own clients.  As well as looking at the actual social strategies these progressive companies have successfully (and yes they are successful) adopted, my major fascination is how they were actually implemented within the context of that company’s individual organisation and culture. Despite what the Twitter generalisation merchants would have you believe, my experience of working with hundreds of companies over the years has told me that each one operates in a unique way. So there are actually two different things going on here and two different areas in which to learn from those companies that are already up and running with social recruitment. Firstly what are they doing that works and secondly how did they get to do it within their company in the first place.

You might be the most networked knowledgeable Twitter user in the world but you aren’t going to get anywhere strategically if your company is still banning access to Twitter. There are going to be a number of strategic stages of development to get through before you can be another Microsoft or Best Buy. Moreover you might never get there but you might get somewhere else just as interesting

Although every company is different I believe that modeling those that are successful in this space in detail will give those that haven’t figured things out yet a series of potential maps that might just get them further on their inevitable social journey. In fact, with some help from some very clever people, I’ve already started this modeling process

So that’s what I’m focusing on and I’m already very excited by what I’m seeing. If you are interested in working with me then take a look at the MetaShift site and let’s talk because in the end talking is what this is all about