Tag Archives: Social Media

Happy Easter Recruiters and there’s a birthday next week…

Pop!  That surprised you didn’t it?  Like an early hatching Easter chick, here is this week’s Whiteboard post, poking its fluffy white head out of the internet eggshell to wish you an early Happy Easter.

Well what with it being Good Friday tomorrow, and The Whiteboard traditionally getting its weekly stroll around the exercise yard on that very day, I thought I’d better give you all something to read a day early this week rather than posting something as well read as a Hays Social Media policy.  Speaking of which, my rubbish usually gets collected on a Friday morning around the time I post The Whiteboard, so can anyone tell me if I’m supposed to chuck that up the end of my driveway a day early too?

Truth be told, I have little to report this week.  It’s a short week.  It’s been a frantically busy start to the new financial year here in New Zealand and all seems to be picking up very nicely indeed out there in the wider Asia-Pac region of recruitment.  The Auckland office of Absolute IT have invited me to a local bar to watch Spurs (pronounced bleurgh) v. Arsenal but I have unfortunately booked myself out all morning in a meeting of which you will hear more about further into the future.  Plus almost the entire office supports Spurs, having very recently farewelled their lone Arsenal supporter, and the way Arsenal are playing I’m not sure it sounds like an enjoyable prospect.  If you guys are reading this from smartphones at half time then cheers to you and go the Gunners.  [Update: Arsenal are 3-2 up at half-time, sorry I’m not there now!]

Honestly, if you’re an IT recruiter looking for a new home, and sad enough to support Spurs, then speak to those guys.  You probably wouldn’t even need an interview 😉

But wait!  I do have a small piece of news to impart.  This is the 51st posting on The Whiteboard, where I have published a fresh blog post every Friday since it all kicked off on 22nd April 2010 with the following thoughts:

“…if you are an agency or internal recruiter, particularly in New Zealand, or perhaps a recruitment Director or company owner, you might like to check in with The Whiteboard every now and then.  We should be posting something up every Friday and hoping to lighten the mood towards the weekend, as well as keep you informed of news, articles, opinion and gossip from the world of recruitment, with a definite leaning towards the Asia-Pac region that is our hunting ground.”

 

Yes next week will be The Whiteboard’s first birthday and I hope that some of my plans and aspirations for this blog have come true over the past 12 months.  It has been a pleasure to write and comment upon various goings on in our world of recruitment but most edifying of all has been your growing support, from reading numbers, subscriptions, comments and general word of mouth comments made to me.  Thanks for your support and keep those comments coming.  I look forward to ever more vigorous debates over the coming 12 months.

For a birthday present I am taking The Whiteboard on a designer shopping spree.  Watch out for the new-look Whiteboard next week and if its bum looks big – don’t be afraid to say so.

All that is left to say is Happy Easter to everyone out there in recruitment and I hope you all enjoy a well-earned break.  But mainly to the New Zealand recruiters, not because I live and work here, but because you jammy Aussies have such a prosperous economy your Government can afford to give you Tuesday off for ANZAC Day as well.

At least that’s an extra day’s revenue on temp margins for the New Zealand recruitment firms.  Clutching at straws?  You’ve got to look on the bright side!

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The Future of Recruiting? Predictions from 2004 vs. Realities of 2011

Last night I had an interesting chat with Dave Thomas who is the Chairman of CXC Global Board of Directors, ahead of his visit to New Zealand next week to make some presentations to our recruitment community and leaders. 

Dave is an affable, straight-talking South African / Australian who founded CXC back in the early 90’s by accident.  He started out as an accountant, which he despised, so he thought he would give IT a go, which he rather enjoyed.  Moving to Australia he stumbled across a company managing a payroll system that was not legally compliant with Australian tax laws, much to the shock of the company’s global CEO.

Dave spent 28 years as an IT contractor, travelling the world, before ending up in Australia.  So he reckoned that this, coupled with his accounting background, meant he knew a thing or two about contracting, payroll and different tax laws.  Turns out he was right as the company he started to provide a solution to that original employer now operates in over 30 countries worldwide.  CXC Global looks after self-employed contractors, sorting out their GST, taxes, salary packaging, payroll and all that boring administration stuff that gets in the way of actually doing your job.  This has actually provided a path for small to mid-sized recruitment companies to build their contractor books up too, which is something that has traditionally been hampered by lack of cash-flow and accounting or tax law knowledge.

Anyway, this isn’t a sales pitch for CXC, I’ll leave that bit up to Dave at the end of his presentations.  I’m mentioning it because the actual presentation really caught my eye and is probably well worth the attendance of all you recruitment owners, Directors, and general recruitment futurologists out there.  Here is the outline of Dave’s talks:

“As Dr John Sullivan saw it …5 years on”

In 2004 Dr John Sullivan, a world renown thought leader on strategic talent management and human resource practice, produced a paper “The Future of Recruitment” in which he made interesting predictions on the direction of the recruitment industry. Many of these have come to pass.  

At the time CXC Global ran a series of talks based on Dr Sullivan’s paper, and offered our technology solutions to the recruitment industry at large in preparation of these imminent changes.

Five years on, the face of recruitment has changed and the pace of change is accelerating.  Many agencies have adapted their business model, but is this enough? Is it sufficient to take you to where you want to be in 2020?

 

Putting on my cynical hat for a moment, I thought that 2011 would actually be 7 years on from that 2004 white paper.  And keeping up with the cynical theme, I decided to take a closer look at this white paper to see just how prescient this Sullivan fella really was.  Sure he has some good credentials.  A large body of work on HR Strategy, Recruitment functions, and an unhealthy obsession with Metrics to measure the ROI of everything, which I suppose is just a by-product of his being American.  Looking through ERE.net to get the links to this big article it is clear he is a prodigious writer, commentator and provocateur on all things recruitment, talent and HR.  He is, according to Fast Company magazine, the “Michael Jordan of Hiring”…oh and also a Professor of Management at San Francisco State University.

If you have the time or compunction to read through the entire article I have put the separate links here for your reading pleasure:

The Future of Recruiting Part 1

Part 2: Internal Departmental Changes

Part 3: Internet Recruiting Approaches Will Change

Part 4: Websites Shift to the CRM Model

Part 5: Metrics Dominate Decision-Making in Recruiting (see – told you so)

Part 6: Recruiters Will Change

I have to say it makes an interesting read, although obviously far more aligned to the US business style and recruitment approaches than ours here in Australasia.  But he made some big calls back then.  Try these out for size:

Junior Recruiters.  Since managers using self-service tools will do the most recruiting, the few recruiters that remain on staff will be experienced recruiting consultants who will focus only on key hires”

Has this come to pass?  Demand for my services certainly hinges around finding more experienced recruiters and I get a sense that the days of filling recruitment agencies with young, energetic, have-a-go Graduates has shifted to a slightly more mature culture.  But is this really sustainable as the talent shortages start to really bite later on this year?

Brand Manager.  As recruiting strategies shift away from short-term “paperwork” solutions (such as running ads or going to job fairs) and towards the ultimate long-term answer – a strong employment brand – the employment brand manager will become the most important position in recruiting.”

 

Bingo.  Although many New Zealand companies are still slowly getting to grips with this concept of Employment Branding, great strides have already been taken by the likes of Trade Me, Deloitte, The Warehouse, Air New Zealand and Counties Manukau District Health Board.

“Changes in Candidates Will Dramatically Impact Recruiting:  Resume Spamming.  Candidates can use software to continuously submit their resume to every possible job”

 

This really made me chuckle.  What foresight and this is a definite blight on the life of recruiters nowadays.  What the good Dr got wrong though, was how the candidates that spammed their resumes everywhere would not gain an advantage by doing this, but would in fact cast themselves in a poorer light in the eyes of recruiters.

Social network referral systems.  As the popularity of social network systems grows, more recruiters and managers will utilize them as referral sources.  These systems will automatically rate the referrals base on the past referral success rate of the person making the referral.”

 

Hmmm.  An amazing prediction given how LinkedIn was in its infancy back then and Twitter was still 2 years away from even coming into existence.  But I am not convinced we have quite worked out how to use these social network systems as a truly effective referral method yet.  It’s still a work in progress but even in the past few weeks I have started to elicit more business and referrals through this method than ever before – so it’s clearly a hot topic right now.

Anyway, I’ve no doubt this will be an informing, thought-provoking and enjoyable presentation from Dave Thomas and I reckon you recruiters of New Zealand should check it out next week.  Here are the details for Wellington and Auckland:

Wellington – Lunch Presentation

Monday 7th February

12.30pm

Level 16 Vodafone on the Quay

157 Lambton Quay

Auckland – Breakfast Presentation

Tuesday 8th February

7.30am

Mecure Hotel

8 Customs Street

RSVP to kirsty.erasmus@cxcglobal.co.nz

How Effective is Linked In for Recruitment?

I clicked over that holy grail of social media targets this week when my Linked In network exceeded the 500+ mark.  I was quite chuffed with myself.  Social media is a key part of my marketing and branding strategy and, particularly as a recruiter, Linked In is a critical tool in networking with professionals and sourcing candidates for roles with my clients.

Or so I thought.

But having reached this milestone of the digital networking space I thought I would do an audit of my Linked In network and try and assess exactly how effective mine was.  After all, my approach to Facebook and Twitter are at odds to my hunger for connection-building on Linked In.  With Twitter I try and keep the list of people I am following as small and targeted as possible.  Most are involved in the recruitment industry in some way, then there’s a smattering of Arsenal-related tweeps and a couple of other amusing social media types.  But if I am “Followed” by some online hotshot with thousands of Followers of their own and a daily splurge of online diatribe, I won’t automatically “Follow” them back unless I am actually interested in what they have to say.  With Facebook, which I rarely even use these days, my approach is even more at odds with Linked In.  I have always actively sought to keep my network of “Friends” below the 100 mark (which I think it just crept over again recently).  I just think that it is highly unusual you would really have a real-life network of more than 100 friends, so I don’t see the point of treating this differently in the online space.

So how effective is my Linked In network?  Well I am currently up to 506 connections and I was surprised to discover that exactly 100 of these connections are not in any way related to recruitment, which if you’re not aware, is the niche area I recruit for.  I wondered if these 100 people were my Facebook Friends, jumping across to my Linked In realm to try and get noticed by me, because I certainly wasn’t on Facebook!  In fact half of them probably are friends from school, University, football etc, with the rest being made up of pre-recruitment work colleagues, and about 4 or 5 who I have to say I have no idea who they are…!

Still, that means over 80% of my network is directly related to, and mostly currently working within, recruitment.  Which pleases me greatly, as this is the kind of network I am seeking to build, from a professional standpoint.  So okay, I know that if I write a Status Update, or post a link to The Whiteboard, or mention a role I am recruiting for, then lots of recruiters, mostly in the Asia-Pac region, will see it.  Great.  But how do you measure the effectiveness of this?  When all is said and done, the ultimate aim of my business is to place recruiters into roles within the recruitment industry.  So how many of my placements for 2010 can I directly attribute to my Linked In network?

One.

What’s that I hear you say?  Yes…I said…One.  Hmmm.  I joined Linked In in 2007 and have worked hard building my online brand and network.  Many hours would have gone into it over the years.  But was it all really worth it?  Just for one guy to say he had found me on Linked In and me then taking him through to eventual offer and acceptance stage with one of my clients.

As a comparison exactly 50% of my placements for 2010 came via online advertising, mostly on job boards, in particular Seek.  Now I am also happy with this number in comparison to previous years as it used to be a much higher percentage.  Watching the percentage of applicants being placed as a result of online advertising reduce means that a larger proportion are coming to me through word of mouth and referrals.

And I think this is where the intangible benefits of a strong, engaged, Linked In network can really be found.  All of those candidates are connections of mine on Linked In.  Many could have seen my updates and decided it was time to make a move, but applied through my website, for example.  Others were referred to me by colleagues at work, who might have been connected to me on Linked In, but rather than directing them to my Linked In profile took the easier route of just giving them my phone number.

So I have to say I am happy with my Linked In network, with its strength and relevance to my specialist sector, and with my Return on Investment for the hours put into it.  But it seems impossible to scientifically assess its effectiveness in monetary terms.  Okay I can say I have made one placement in one year as a direct approach to me on Linked In.  But my gut feel, my instinct, is that my efforts in the social media space have generated many more word of mouth referrals.  Just don’t ask me exactly how many!

I will leave you today with one final thought that my analysis threw up.  17 of my connections have surnames beginning with “Mc” or “Mac” and all of them, bar one, are in the middle of highly successful recruitment careers, most of them occupying senior positions within the industry.  So if you’re ever unsure about whether to bring someone of Celtic origin into your recruitment team, chances are you should just go for it, they look like they’re made of good stuff!

Nine Factors to Shape Recruitment in 2011

This will be the last proper Whiteboard post for 2010.  I say “proper” because I will probably do something next Friday, but being Christmas Eve I really don’t think there will be much interest from you lot.  But I’ll give you something, nothing much, but something nice from The Whiteboard to wish you all a Merry Christmas while you cast sideways looks at your recruitment managers or Directors and wonder just when they are going to crack open the wine cabinet and call an end to proceedings for the year.

I was going to write a reflective piece on the year in recruitment we have just had.  But to be honest, as much as I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, I’m a bit over it now.  It can be summarised like this:

1st Quarter:  Wow we’re busy again!  What is that plastic box on my desk making weird noises?  What do you mean pick it up?  Hello?  Sorry…who?  Oh yes thanks for returning my call from October 2008.  You’d like some staff?  And you’d like to pay me to find you people?  But we made everyone redundant and there’s no-one left to recruit for you!  Quick let’s build up our teams again – but this time make sure they are bloody good recruiters, none of that cowboy stuff from 2007!

2nd Quarter:  Ooooh wait a minute.  Double dip, double dip.  Hmmmm…don’t want to be caught out like last time, no siree.  We’re not going to be the ones all the other recruitment firms laugh at for moving too quickly and over-egging the pudding.  This pudding is remaining flat!  We’re making pancakes, none of this fancy soufflé stuff.  Let’s just take it easy.  OK you can join us but you need to prove you can start billing $100k per month from day one or the deal is off.  We still have debts to pay you know!

3rd Quarter:  Right this is really knackering.  The job board is absolutely buckling under the weight of orders from clients, but those poxy economists are still playing around with their Alphabet Spaghetti and talking about U-shape, V-shape and W-shape recoveries.  And house prices are NOT GOING UP for goodness sake!  But all of my team is exhausted and close to burn out!  Oh what the heck, Australia hasn’t even been in recession officially, and they’re going mental, what are we waiting for?  Let’s go for it!

4th Quarter:  Wahey!  Record months, record Quarters, happy days are here again!  But let’s not get too carried away.  2009 is still a painful memory and the lessons must be learned.  It’s slowing down now towards Christmas anyway…at least I think it is…oh hang on it’s getting bloody busy again!  Jeez we need a break but how can we say no?  Not after last year!  Keep going keep going keep going.  Friday 24th is in sight and we can all take a massive…well-earned…collective sigh of relief.

Well done everyone.  From what I’ve heard talking with a huge number of recruiters this year, things have certainly improved and recovered and there have been some stellar Quarterly results posted recently around New Zealand.  But it is also fair to say that most recruiters are knackered – so enjoy your breaks!

Then onto 2011.  Continuing economic recovery and the Rugby World Cup will all provide for a big year for New Zealand business, and as ever us in recruitment will be right in the thick of it.  Here are some thoughts from The Whiteboard on what might be in store for the New Zealand recruitment industry in 2011:

1.       Growth

Simple enough concept for us to all to understand.  But how recruitment companies handle it and harness it and take real advantage of it is going to be the trick.  Those of you in external recruitment will have a wonderful opportunity to get back to pre-recession levels of billings in 2011.  Those of you in internal recruitment will get increasing pressure from line managers and stakeholders to deliver on increasing numbers of roles.  Be prepared to work hard to take advantage of this upswing in business because if you don’t, someone else will.

2.       Competition

2011 will see the introduction of more and more recruitment businesses into the market place.  Some will spring up organically within New Zealand and some will enter from overseas.  What the big players need to realise is that these smaller boutiques can pose a bigger threat to their business than perhaps they could in the past.  With the amount of technology so easily available nowadays, small solo operators can move quickly, efficiently and with great flexibility and will work very hard at developing tight client relationships.  They can also source candidates via a raft of new methods that don’t necessarily rely on expensive job boards and ancient candidate databases.  The old adage of “big likes to play with big” doesn’t ring so true nowadays.  Many HR teams or candidates like to build a relationship with a person rather than a brand, so the bigger recruitment firms need to allow their recruiters to build their own personal brands and not hide behind a chromed, marbled, corporate image all of the time.

There will be some sniffing around from some larger players overseas too, particularly Australia.  Talent International, the fifth largest IT Recruiter in Australia, has already opened its doors here, as has Integrated who are a massive supplier of labour hire over there.  No doubt we will see some eying up from the likes of People Bank and Chandler Macleod too, once they have finished acquiring the Julia Ross business.  My gut feel though is that 2011 might be a bit too early for these guys to make a really bold move.  It will be hard for them to acquire businesses because the current owners will feel they can significantly grow the value of their recruitment businesses over the next couple of years, and will be unlikely to sell their undervalued businesses right now.

3.       Internal Recruitment

2011 will herald a new era for internal recruitment teams but the full effects won’t start to really show through until later years.  More companies will implement an internal recruitment function, and all will do so with the best intentions, but not all of them will get it right first time.  The old system of putting in disgruntled agency recruiters, or starry-eyed HR advisors, to create a department disrespected and misunderstood by hiring managers, is in the past.  Internal recruiters will need to develop systems to engage with the wider business and earn their respect.  They will need to harness new technologies to attract candidates, but more than that it will be about developing and nurturing a passive pool of talent, rather than going out to recruit reactively as and when it is needed.  They will also need to understand employment branding, how to create a brand and culture that people aspire to work for, and how to keep that message consistent and real throughout the business.

Importantly, they will also need to know how to manage relationships with external recruitment agencies.  Whilst many internal teams will be built with the aim of reducing recruitment expense, it is no longer going to yield the best results for your business by simply appointing a panel of PSA suppliers who have offered to drop their pants the lowest on fees.  To access the best talent, much of which will still come via recruitment agencies, the smartest internal recruiters will get more by developing quality relationships with specific recruiters who intimately understand your business and really get the culture.  During 2011 this will start to happen increasingly outside old-style PSA panels, although the PSA supplier relationship will still remain at the fore until later years, especially with bigger businesses.

4.       Flexibility

The recruitment industry has come some way in this regard in recent years, but 2011 will take it to a whole new level.  No longer the sole occupancy of fiery, energetic, young Grads, more and more recruitment desks are populated by more experienced, commercially-astute and business-minded consultants.  With the ability to monitor e-mails on the move and log onto your CRM from home, some firms will go to 9-day fortnights.  New Mums will be able to return to work and run a desk, without leaving their child in day care for the entire working week.  Experienced overseas recruiters, seeking a move to New Zealand for the fabled “lifestyle purposes” will not want to find themselves stuck in an air-conditioned skyscraper for 60 hours per week.  Firms failing to develop a more flexible working style for its employees will lose quality experience and expertise and struggle to attract good quality recruitment talent from overseas.

5.       Contracting

Following on from flexible working practices, the concept of contracting will take off in a big way in New Zealand in 2011.  Lagging behind much of the developed world, this has been slower to properly catch on in New Zealand, but many recruitment companies will look to grow their contractor offerings at all levels.  From a recruiter’s point of view, this is one of the toughest and busiest desks you can run, but also by far the most financially rewarding.  From the handful of $1million+ billers there are in New Zealand, all of them either run exclusively a book of contractors, or have a significant contractor pool to augment their monthly Perm billings.  This is a rapidly growing market and recruitment companies will be ramping up this offering almost universally.

6.       Salaries

During the GFC most base salaries in recruitment were trimmed back by around 20%.  Whilst there has been pressure during 2010, many recruitment firms have managed to hold true to their principles and newly austere approach.  This is already under severe pressure now, but in 2011 it will break.  Firms determined to keep base salaries the same will struggle to attract the top talent and will need to develop very generous commission incentives to retain high performers.  Here is a guide to current base salary levels in New Zealand recruitment (mainly Auckland and Wellington):

–          Candidate Manager        $35k – $55k

–          Trainee Recruiter             $40k – $55k

–          1-2 years Recruiter          $50k – $65k

–          3-5 years Recruiter          $60k – $80k

–          5+ years recruiter            $70k – $90k

There are occasional exceptions to the rule but to go outside this…you will be exceptional…see what I’m saying?  Anyway, expect to see these beefed back up 10%-20% again by the second Quarter of 2011.

7.       Probity checks

During 2010 the recruitment industry came under intense media scrutiny around the quality of background checking undertaken, particularly in the instance of Stephen Wilce and Momentum Consulting.  Whilst the recruitment firm was in my opinion unfairly made a scapegoat for the Defence Force’s own ineptitude, it has nevertheless made many in recruitment significantly ramp up their compliance.  So in 2011 we will see many recruitment firms introducing credit checks, education checks and criminal checks along with the standard employment reference checks.  Much of this will be outsourced, but will actually serve as a significant improvement to our overall service offering anyway, so hopefully some good will come out of that difficult period.

Although impossible to monitor, more and more clients and recruiters will also be conducting “informal” background checking through social media channels such as Facebook, Linked In and Twitter.  Whilst the legalities around this remain a little hazy, it is something that will be a major feature of how recruiters handle their candidates and how clients make hiring decisions.

8.       Social Media

Which brings me nicely onto the eighth factor – and the one on everyone’s lips – the influence of social media and social recruiting.  2010 saw the uptake of Linked In in a big way by recruiters looking to build innovation into their old-fashioned sourcing techniques.  In 2011 the same will happen with Twitter and, to a lesser extent, with Facebook.  Whilst internal recruitment teams will start to use Facebook more and more to tie into their careers site, nurture that passive talent pool mentioned earlier, and deliver a human side to their corporate image, I think that agencies will struggle to find any significant Return On Investment to their Facebook efforts.  Twitter will be a different story.  By the end of 2011 most recruitment firms in New Zealand will have some kind of Twitter presence.  However, like Linked In, only a handful will actually harness the real power of this social media channel, most will get it wrong.

Using a job portal to automatically load your job ads onto your website and various job boards is a useful, time-saving tool.  But letting it dump all your jobs on Twitter is not clever, and will actually do more to tarnish your brand than promote it.  Companies using Twitter to solely advertise their jobs are not getting what Twitter is about.  Twitter is the vehicle by which you can do what I suggested earlier, and promote your personal brand.  Develop your online relationships with clients who will come to better understand you as a person rather than just a corporate entity on a PSA panel.  This will engage them and make them want to do business with you.  You do this by being honest, authentic and real in what you Tweet.  Talk about things that will interest your followers, and include links to interesting articles you find, and build a reputation as an industry expert.  OK you can chuck the odd job on there too, but doing it constantly will switch off your audience and make Twitter into what many still regard it as – a waste of time.

Some recruitment firms will also start implementing Social Media Policies, a set of guidelines for their employees on how to behave on the net, how to protect the company image, and how to protect their own interests if those employees decide to leave and take a load of contacts and networks with them.  Once again, most will get this wrong, and many won’t even bother until later on in 2011 / 2012.  Social Media is constantly evolving, so make sure your policies are designed that way too, and get the input and consultation from your own staff on how this policy should look.

9.       Corporate Social Responsibility

What used to be the domain of large multinationals, often headquartered in the USA, is now catching on with smaller, more local firms too.  As profits rise and firms look to give a little back, as well as elevating their perceived image in the wider community, 2011 will see an increasing focus on CSR with many SME kiwi recruitment firms developing new approaches.  Some clients such as Office Max won’t even let you recruit for them unless you have a dedicated charity your company works with.  Kelly Services have started offering all employees a ½ day off per month to undertake charity work of their choosing.  2011 will see a new era whereby clients will start to decide on suppliers based on their CSR policies, and recruiters will chose who to work for based on this too.  I think there will be a lot of well-meaning efforts made in this regard by recruitment firms in 2011, but again many will miss the mark of what this is about.  Make sure it is something supported from the very top down, communicated by company Directors, and make sure there is a CSR dedicated champion in the office who co-ordinates these efforts as part of their daily responsibilities.

So there you have it, the 9 factors that will shape our industry in 2011.  One thing I would love to see more of in 2011 is more comments and discussion on The Whiteboard, which is really what this should be about.  I am humbled by the numbers of you out there reading this and talking to me about it when we meet, but it would be great to get your comments on here too.  This is a Whiteboard for you to write on as a recruitment industry, not just for me and my personal thoughts!

So if you fancy starting now, how about rounding this up to 10 and suggesting what could be the tenth factor to make a major impact on our industry next year?

A Glimpse at the Hays “social media policy”

I’m going to kick things off this week with an apology to Seek and their ex-GM of NZ Annemarie Duff.  Last week the question was asked whether she had had a dig at Momentum in her speech at the recent Seek Awards, as was the rumour I had heard.  Feedback from other sources has since suggested that it was a case of mistaken identity and comments were in fact made by an entirely different dark haired lady representing another four-letter organisation.

I enjoyed the company of Seek at an ad-writing seminar they put on at the Hilton this week.  It was pretty basic stuff but a very worthwhile refresher and there were plenty of new-to-industry and internal corporate recruiters there picking up some great tips.  Cheers also to Ross from Seek who showed great generosity of spirit in inviting me to their offices for a beer sometime in the future.

Onto other things and I recently heard from an old colleague who left the employment of Hays that they had to delete their Linkedin account entirely when they resigned from the company.  If you read The Whiteboard a couple of weeks ago you’ll have heard about another recruiter, from a different organisation, who was forced to delete Linkedin connections that mirrored names in the company database.  Well it sounds like Hays have taken things even further lately.

Hays have historically been swift and decisive in their handling of social media and the way their employees and ex-employees can utilise it, which is consistent with their strict enforcement of contractual obligations under restraints of trade for exiting staff.  They were one of the first to successfully challenge an ex-employee’s Linkedin network in a (UK) court of law.

As far as I’m aware Hays only recently allowed its employees in this region to have access to Linkedin.  Having computer systems that can allow certain staff access to certain websites, and others not, enabled them to say, “OK, you can have access to Linkedin at work if you like, but if we allow it then you have to sign this policy agreeing to delete your account if you leave our employment.”

This may seem Draconian but it is quite clever from Hays.  If an employee is using a work computer to access Linkedin then the inference would have to be that they are using the site for work purposes, and thereby the content of that account including its connections, messages and groups are owned by Hays rather than the recruiter.  So can Hays employees have any complaints?  They are not forced to sign such a policy, merely told that they can’t have access to the site at work unless they do sign it.  The more technologically savvy could still build their networks through a home PC or Linkedin i-Phone app.

So there is no doubt that such a policy will protect Hays’ IP generated during working hours, which is rightfully theirs to protect.  But I do wonder how such a policy would make current employees feel about the tools at their disposal as a recruiter.  Social media is an increasingly important phenomenon in a recruiter’s toolbox, and in my mind social media policies should be a collaborative and liquid affair, constantly moving with the times.  It should encourage recruiters to communicate, externally and internally, in a more personable and authentic way.  We are fast approaching an age where clients want to do business with real people rather than faceless brands and it is essential that personality and authenticity shines through.

Some of the top recruiters in our region are heavily involved with social media across all the different applications, but most notably Linkedin.  I would imagine that recruitment firms would be quite interested in securing the services of such recruiters and having them in their team.  So how, then, would it work if a recruiter joined a new company with an existing network of 500+ relevant connections and Group memberships, and utilised this network to generate fees for the new employer?  How would a policy such as Hays’ work in this instance?  My concern would be that it would be a big deterrent to that recruiter joining such an organisation in the first place.

It is completely understandable for Hays to impose such a policy but I think it is equally important that companies realise what they might actually be losing by doing so.  Something that black and white can give you security over IP and retention of existing business.  But it could also lose you creativity, openness and collaboration amongst employees, the hallmarks of the new social networking age, and mean you could be missing out on business that you didn’t even know existed.  

Discouraging or limiting social media activity must surely be a short-term fix rather than a long-term strategy.  One would hope so anyway.

Linked Out – recruiters forced to delete Linkedin contacts

 

I’m generally a pretty easy-going chap but there are some things, I’ll admit, that make my blood boil.  Technology that won’t do my bidding or listen to reason and insist on freezing no matter how many times I press CTRL / ALT / DELETE.  David Bentley at Spurs.  Pretty much anything to do with Spurs.  People speeding up in the lane beside me when I’m trying to politely indicate and change lanes, blocking my manoeuvre.  Trying to spell manoeuvre properly before resorting to spell check.

Quite a few things, actually.

But one thing in particular really gets my goat:  Employers who believe that the way to retain and develop staff and protect their business’s interests is to watch, monitor, scrutinise and basically harass their employees until they have created an environment of pure fear and paranoia where nobody dares express an original thought or new idea.

So I was pretty miffed when I bumped into a recruiter friend earlier this week who recently changed employers and is now working for a new recruitment firm, but in the same type of role they occupied previously.  After devoting a sizeable chunk of their career to the firm in question, they decided that the time was right for a new challenge, so they resigned.

A couple of strange things happened next.  Firstly, they were required to work out their notice rather than go on gardening leave.  Fair enough, this is the company’s prerogative as they are still paying that employee through the notice period so can essentially require them to do whatever they wish.  But because they knew this person was leaving for a competitor they spent the next month watching like a hawk, monitoring every little movement and action.  I mean what is the point?  You know they won’t be undertaking  any work of real value to your business, so the only reason I can see for this course of action is to somehow deter other staff members from resigning, because they can see how uncomfortable they will be made to feel.

Way to go with your retention strategy and talent management there guys.

But the other thing that happened is what really made my blood boil.  They were presented with the restrictive covenant clause from their employment contract and underneath the actual clause, they had written their own interpretation of the clause and how it related and pertained to social media connections.  The argument presented was that any Linkedin or Facebook connections or friends that were also contacts within the company’s database were in fact relationships owned by the employer and not the employee, at which point they were told to delete those connections there and then.

 

And being a sweet-natured employee not wishing to rock the boat, this person complied and proceeded to delete their Linkedin connections that duplicated those in the company’s database.

Can you believe this?

What is interesting to note in this debate is that there is no legislation or case law setting a precedent around who owns your Linkedin and Facebook connections.  So there is really no reason why anyone should comply with this kind of directive.  I certainly wouldn’t.

In a US case earlier this year TEKsystems, Inc. vs. Hammernick et al this issue reached the courts for the first time.  An employee of TEKsystems left for a rival IT recruitment firm and sent messages through Linkedin to 16 IT contractors to see if they were looking for work and would they like to come see her in her new company and see what was available in the market.  These 16 contractors were all currently on the books of TEKsystems and she knew of them through her previous work at that firm.

In fact here is an example of one of the approaches made:

Tom—

Hey! Let me know if you are still looking for opportunities! I would love to have come visit my new office and hear about some of the stuff we are working on!

Let me know your thoughts!

Brelyn
 

Hi Brelyn,

Indeed I am still looking. I have time, though!

Lets get together. Where are you working these days? Your profile still has you working at TEK Systems. BTW – my email address is …. if you would prefer the non-Linkedln route.

Tom 

 

I should also mention that the over-use of exclamation marks is another thing that annoys me, but it seems to be an affliction besetting many a recruiter out there.  Add to that she is American and…well…!!!!!!

Anyway, in my opinion this kind of activity is clearly breaching the non-solicitation clause of her contract and I fully expect the employer to be found in favour in this case (the actual hearing and outcome isn’t until August 2011).  The fact she used the medium of Linkedin, rather than sending an e-mail, making a phone call, or stalking them on the way home, doesn’t stop it from being an attempt to solicit business.

But what is starkly different here to our recent situation in New Zealand, is that this was positive, active breaching of the restrictive covenants.  By forcing someone to delete connections you are assuming they will use that information to damage the company’s best interests.  But what if you just wanted to remain in contact to share ideas and information, or had developed a social relationship as well as a business relationship?  No employer has jurisdiction over that kind of behaviour.

What’s more – how about this?  What if all of the social media connections had been made during the employee’s own time, on their own computer at home?  Why would any employer have any say over those relationships?  And just because Linkedin has become the tool used for business networking, where is it written that social connections on that medium alone must be for business reasons only?

For recruitment company managers and owners worried about the recent trends in social media and how it can be “controlled” in their business, there are some helpful pointers here which basically covers:

  • Implementing a Social Media Policy – which I believe to be a good idea but it must be a fluid and ever-changing policy that can move and adapt with the times and is developed by consultation with everyone in the business in a collaborative way
  • Placing resigning employees on gardening leave – a no-brainer for me, especially in recruitment, but clearly not a sentiment shared by everyone
  • Specifically referring to Linkedin and other social media in the Restrictive Covenants of the employment contract – if I saw something like this in a contract presented to me I would leave the room laughing my head off

 

What employers need to grasp is that in the modern business world it is no longer efficient or effective to protect the assets of your business through command and control tactics.  We live in a world where so much information is so readily available that it is entirely pointless to try and physically prevent ex-employees from tapping into networks and contacts made during their previous employment – THIS IS HOW BUSINESS IS DONE NOWADAYS.

What employers need to be doing is creating vibrant, energised and positive workplaces that inspire collaboration and open communication and thereby engender the trust, respect and loyalty of your employees.  Don’t force them to stay working for you.  Make them want to.

That, for me, is a far more positive course of action than trying to police and control employees’ social media activities.