The Talent Landscape Is Changing. Are You?

Two things are happening in parallel in today’s workplace that are challenging human resources and learning professionals to reevaluate their approach. First, there aren’t enough highly qualified people to go around these days. This month, McKinsey and Co. reported that nearly 40 percent of U.S. employers are struggling to find skilled workers. Second, the high-quality talent that is currently powering companies forward has no qualms about leaving if they don’t feel like their needs are beings met, said Mika Nash, academic dean for Champlain College Online’s Continuing Professional Studies division.

An ample paycheck isn’t enough; it may not even be the difference-maker. Now more than ever, employees want to know organizations will invest in them, and they will walk away from one opportunity for another if they don’t.

In the face of this mounting stress on the business, Nash said it’s critical that academic human resources programs adjust their curriculum to this new reality, if they haven’t done so already. She said over the past 10 years, a trend has emerged where human resources leaders are becoming chief learning officers and other decision-makers more focused on strategic business goals. In these positions, leaders can support their organizations’ efforts to think differently about talent.

It’s a philosophical shift human resources is having to reckon with, Nash said. The old-school human resources approach reduced people to the lowest common denominator, an employee, one easily substituted for another. Today, however, leaders understand that retaining workers means acknowledging their individual value and strategically investing in it.

Nash said when human resources integrates talent management and organizational development agendas, the goal is no longer to bring in and work people until they are sick of coming to the office. “The goal is to bring people in, and then make them feel good about the work they’re doing so they want to stay and grow and be productive — a great symbiotic relationship.”

Arriving at this evolved view requires going beyond building an understanding of benefits, payroll, employment law, promotion policies and other records-mired responsibilities that once defined the HR role. People preparing to enter the field also need to know how to identify skills gaps and development needs and how to support people when evolving personally and professionally.

The modern human resources professional needs to know how to design a workplace culture, how to engage workers and cultivate leadership and coaching approaches that empower employees to respond effectively to work problems, and to grow and think different about their work, Nash said. An ability to synthesize metrics and other analytics will increasingly be necessary as well.

Jean Roque, founder and president of the human resources consulting firm Trupp HR, said HR professionals — new graduates as well as those with established careers — also lack an awareness of what comprises a company’s employee value proposition and how to market an employer brand, align with it and promote it. This is important, because through interactions with company websites, social media and even conversations with current and former employees, prospective workers can build an idea of what a business stands for as an employer.

“Are we being intentional about what that brand is and are we making sure that once those applicants come to work for us that what they were expecting based on what they saw on our employer brand is what they’re getting from the standpoint of engagement and that employee value proposition?” Roque asked.

An understanding of marketing and social media also would be beneficial to today’s human resources and learning professionals, she said. And it’s critical they have greater awareness about different types of applicant pools, the different generations of workers, their stages of life and what appeals to them.

Leaders may naturally encounter insight into these areas once on the job, but Roque said development of these competencies should start before then. Academia must extend its view of human resources management from an operations enabler to a strategic business arm responsible for attracting, engaging, developing and retaining people. “A lot of HR professionals come out of school not even knowing that that’s part of what they need to be doing because when we don’t intentionally do that, it gets defined for us.”

The generation of people now entering the workforce are well-acquainted with the speed of change and ambiguity in ways their predecessors may not be, Nash said. Companies would be remiss to cling to antiquated human resources practice.

Reprinted from CHIEF LEARNING OFFICER magazine

How to Identify Truly Exceptional Talent

There’s a great story about Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington’s pianist and collaborator that tells us something about truly exceptional talent. Strayhorn met Ellington in 1938 at age 23 following one of his concerts in Pittsburgh.

Ellington sat Strayhorn down at the piano and challenged him to do his thing. He was clearly impressed with Strayhorn’s artistry, but he already had a piano player. Still, he invited Strayhorn to visit him in Harlem, even giving him subway directions on how to get to his apartment. You can guess the result. Strayhorn turned the directions into “Take the A Train,” the Ellington band’s signature and a permanent fixture in the Great American Songbook.

Strayhorn was a young, exceptional talent in the same way Lin-Manuel Miranda — “Hamilton” — is today. But preternatural talent is not confined to the arts. Elon Musk — Tesla/SpaceX — developed computer code for a video game at age 12. At 24 he turned over his first company to Compaq for $300 million. Evan Williams — Twitter — “invented” blogging while still in his 20s.

What is interesting for those of us in organizational life is that we don’t separate the exceptional from the high potential. We put them in the same talent bucket. Unfortunately, most succession planning tools such as the nine box fail to differentiate the “A+” from the “A” or “B” player, and our learning programs assume wrongly that the truly brilliant should be singularly educated on leadership techniques versus technical, market or entrepreneurial skills.

Yet, we know that exceptional talent is poised to make exceptional contributions. Like the free agent who helps a sports franchise make the leap from second best to world champion, or the “10x” programmer whose architecture disrupts an entire industry, they are worth a disproportionate investment in time and money.

What makes them different? They share a few traits:

Extraordinary ambition: Extraordinary ambition is not just what separates the best from the rest, it drives high profile talent to leave one seemingly satisfying job for another. Money may make the world go ‘round but stories of top talent leaving for salary increases are dwarfed by instances of them leaving for huge challenges — opportunities to leave a legacy, to run something bigger, bring a new idea to market or make a contribution that redefines an industry.

The software industry entrepreneur Ray Ozzie is a classic example. Ozzie moved from Data General, to IBM/Lotus to Microsoft to the startup Talko — each time for a bigger challenge. Exceptional talent in the millennial generation is even more impatient than the tech icons of Ozzie’s era. So much so that among Inc. magazine’s “30 under 30” coolest entrepreneurs, none began their careers at big companies.

Exceptional competency: Competency is a word commonly used to describe extraordinary employees’ capabilities. However, what we know about competencies for exceptional talent is a little confusing. On one hand, they may have the most highly evolved technical skills of anyone in their profession, yet in some cases are missing other competencies — EQ, for example — that are essential to high performance, or, vice versa. Consider Steve Jobs and his partner Steve Wozniak, both were visionaries yet each lacked competencies that would have made one a more well-rounded leader and the other a more influential technical contributor.

Versatility: Exceptional talent is versatile in ways that many high potentials are not. These individuals can quickly pick up specific language, culture and desires from their key stakeholders. And they are typically dilettantes in other functions, surprising peers with their knowledge across multiple domains. Top technology leaders, for instance, could segue from deep technical conversations with R&D fellows to actionable, strategic decisions with business leaders without missing a beat — and they’re comfortable doing so.

What can talent leaders do with these extraordinary talents? At the very least, identify them early, coach them and actively manage their careers. However, an intriguing new way to develop them is through talent incubators, which follow the same approach as incubators that nurture innovation ideas. Talent incubators cast a broad net, then incubate the most promising talent with a test-and-learn strategy that parses out roles and assignments to help gauge interest and fit for strategic roles across a company. Add assessment and coaching to promote reflection, and release them into the organization with opportunities that exceed the normal maturation curve.

To accelerate exceptional talent growth requires an individualized approach. Putting them in the same category as other high potentials may be convenient, but it is unlikely to produce a windfall ROI or give visibility to the next home grown genius.

AUTHOR: John Hendrickson is a partner at Cambria Consulting, Inc.

Reprinted from CLO


Ten Tips for Hiring a Stellar eLearning Freelancer

Organizations looking for help with developing eLearning content would do well to tap into the fast-growing freelance market. It provides a wealth of skills and expertise that is cost-effective, flexible, and agile.

But with so much choice available, how do you ensure you hire the best eLearning freelancer?

I have pulled together this list of 10 tips on how to hire an eLearning freelancer, based on the experience of providing freelancers to fulfill eLearning projects all around the world.

1. Be ready to hire

This may sound like a statement of the obvious, but the freelance market is fast-paced, and freelancers with good skills are in high demand. That means you need to offer work that is ready to start in the next few days, not projects that are at the planning stage with a start date that could be six or seven weeks away.

2. Clearly define the task

Be crystal clear about the project and what the role is. This should provide some context about the organization, the scope of the project, and what you expect the freelancer to produce. This part of the process is critically important, as you might find you don’t need a freelancer at all—or that you need more than one. By defining the task, you define the resource capacity required.

3. Know your budget

The budget is an important filter that will help narrow down potential freelancers. Providing a range for the fee—whether it is a day rate or fixed-fee job—is a good approach, as it will mean you get interest from freelancers who will have differing skills sets and levels of expertise.

4. Set the expected time commitment

From the outset, freelancers like to know what the time commitment is likely to be for your job. It may be a few hours a week to a few days a week, and it may last a week or three months. Make sure you are clear about the immediate time commitment and whether it might flex over time. This information helps them to pick the right job, and it helps you find freelancers who can fully commit to the work.

5. Ask yourself: Do you need a freelancer on site?

Looking for people who need to be on site or at your office will dramatically reduce your choice of freelancers. So, be clear as to whether you really need freelancers to be on site, and if you do, then think about how much time you need them there. Requiring someone to be in the office one day every two weeks, versus every day of the week, will expand your choices.

6. Check out their portfolio

Gone are the days when freelancers could reasonably say that their work was hidden behind a corporate firewall or buried deep in a learning management system. Ask and expect to see one or more portfolios from a freelancer. They might have more than one portfolio showcasing their range of skills—instructional design and eLearning development, for example. Good freelancers will provide portfolios tailored to the work and skills you are looking for.

7. Set a test

You wouldn’t hire a permanent employee without assessing their skills—and the same rule applies to freelancers. Make sure to set an appropriate test or task based on the skills you are looking for. For example, a task for eLearning content development might be to make a change to the skin on a document and rewrite copy to be more scenario-led.

8. Get testimonials

Ensure you have success stories from the freelancer’s work for other clients. Freelancers need to provide evidence of the project or challenge, what they did, and the outcome. Expect to see examples of work from a range of clients—you want to see that the freelancer has worked for different organizations and across different industry sectors. Expect to see feedback from the person who hired them.

9. Communicate effectively

Set out how you would like to communicate with your freelancers for the duration of the project. This is especially important if they are based off site. Make sure you schedule regular project updates and ask your freelancers to provide a time sheet.

10. Define the tools you use

As well as setting out what tools you use for eLearning development work—such as Articulate or Captivate—make sure that you outline all the other internal communication tools that will be used on the project: Slack or Yammer, for example. This will help identify freelancers who are able to use your tools.

These 10 tips describe how to find the best eLearning freelancers for your next learning project. But remember, this is just the start of the process. Think about onboarding freelancers in the way you would onboard any full-time employee.

That means clear communication around when the job starts, what they need in advance of that happening, and what you need them to know. The more effort you put in at this stage of the process, the quicker your newly hired freelancer can get on with the job you hired them to do.



Adobe Creates a Recruitment Process That Sticks

Adobe Systems Inc. is one of those rare Silicon Valley tech companies that has managed to stay relevant for more than 30 years. Millions of computer users enjoy Adobe products like Acrobat, Dreamweaver, Photoshop and Reader, helping the company grow to 14,000 employees and roughly $5 billion in revenue.

And the company is still evolving. As of 2013, all new versions of Adobe software have transitioned to the Creative Cloud, the company’s cloud-based subscription model, which freed its software engineers to implement more aggressive upgrade cycles and release new versions of products as soon as they become available.

Since then, the company has been growing rapidly, hiring roughly 1,000 new employees every quarter, said Jeff Vijungco, vice president of global talent. This rapid fire hiring has kept Vijungco on his toes, first as a head of talent acquisition, and now as the person in charge of making sure all new hires have what they need to thrive. “When you hire 4,000 people a year, ensuring their onboarding tees them up for success isn’t easy,” he said.

‘Stickiness of Hire’

Vijungco joined Adobe in 2008 as a recruiter and fully admits that his talent development credentials were pretty slim when he was offered the talent leadership role in 2013. “I led talent acquisition, not talent development,” he said. “Putting me in this role was a stretch.”

Adobe leadership disagreed. For years, Vijungco had established himself as a thorn in hiring managers’ sides because he was never willing to just start recruiting every time a manager requested a new hire.

First, they had to sit down with him and explain why they wanted to hire someone from the outside, whether there was a clear need, and why they couldn’t coach someone on their own team to fill the gap. “A lot of times, we found that it was a performance or coaching issue; if we hired someone new we would just be adding to the problem,” he said. If they insisted, Vijungco then challenged them on their hiring criteria.

Vijungco’s talent acquisition strategy is what made him attractive for the development role. When he took the position, one of his first goals was to integrate talent acquisition with talent development to create a seamless onboarding experience that set employees on a career development path from day one. He started by changing the way recruiters engage with new hires.

Recruiters are sales-oriented, and measure their success by things like time-to-fill a role,  but once the job is filled they quickly move on to the next one, Vijungco said. That created a gap between hiring and onboarding. To close it, Vijungco added a new performance metric for recruiters around “stickiness of hire.”

To ensure new hires stick around, recruiters are expected to stay with them through the first several months of employment to create a more seamless transition from candidate to productive employee. Recruiters now work directly with the human resources and talent development teams, involving them in weekly meetings to discuss short lists of candidates for key roles, what each person brings to the table, and where they may need development or coaching to fill gaps. “It gives them more context for the person once they are hired,” said Trisha Colton, senior director of executive talent search.

As soon as a candidate is selected, their recruiter works with HR and their hiring manager to create a career development plan that includes short- and long-term performance goals, development needs and a meeting plan to connect them with people they need to know to succeed in their jobs. The recruiter also shares their perspective on what the new hire will need to succeed based on the weeks they spent recruiting them.

Recruiters continue to follow up with their new hires, touching base in the first few days and then every few weeks to be sure they have what they need to do their jobs. “Our goal is to set them up for success in their first 90 days,” Colton said. “That’s the time frame when most new hires are still making up their mind about whether this is the right fit.”

The decision to make development part of the recruiters job helped to reinforce the learning culture at Adobe, and it lets new hires know they will have opportunities to grow from the start, said Liz Quinn, director of global talent development. “By day two, we are talking about their career plans and how we are going to help them succeed,” she said.

Further, Colton said it doesn’t require a lot of extra time from recruiters. It’s more about involving managers and HR in conversations that were once only held by the recruiting team.

Learning in the Cloud

Along with integrating recruiters into the talent development process, Vijungco also revamped the company’s approach to learning. Following Adobe’s strategic move to the cloud, he pulled much of the company’s leadership development content out of classrooms and put it online. Facilitators were on the road 120 days a year, teaching the company’s signature Leading@Adobe course to 20-30 managers at a time — if they all showed up. “We were hitting about 5 percent of our population. That was a problem,” Vijungco said.

Instead of implementing a lot of self-paced learning, the team used Adobe Connect — the company’s mobile Web conferencing software — to create a series of virtual labs and online classroom courses that employees could take from their offices. The content and the trainers were the same, but the reach and impact was much greater.

At first, the facilitators thought teaching in a virtual environment wouldn’t be that different from teaching a course online. Not true, said Justin Mass, director of digital learning. Facilitators had to learn how to adjust lighting, queue videos and manage chat rooms all while they are on the air. It required a significant behavior change.

To ease them into the new learning environment, Mass created a digital facilitator boot camp to ramp up their skills. The development team also provided employees with access to a library of online training modules on a variety of topics from and Harvard ManageMentor, and business book summaries from getAbstract.

Usage Data Soars

Once the digital content was in place, the learning and development team worked with the information technology department to develop a reporting tool to track content usage rates and create dashboards to highlight results. They report usage rates to leadership, identify trends in content usage that might suggest skill gaps, and help managers understand what learning their people are accessing and who their biggest users are. “Moving to digital forced us to develop a real data strategy,” Mass said.

That data tracking strategy enabled Mass’ team to compile statistics that demonstrate impressive uptake in the new virtual content. In 2015, more than 8,000 employees completed the digital Leading@Adobe course — up from just 500 managers in 2013. More than 2,800 new hires attended the digital new hire orientation via Adobe Connect. The company has seen “stickiness” of new hires rise to almost 100 percent, up nearly 10 points from five years ago, Vijungco said.

The development team is now working with IT to link content usage data with other HR data so they can further parse results by geography, title, manager and other demographics. “It is just one more way the talent development role at Adobe has shifted,” Quinn said. “Now we act more like consultants to the business.”

For companies interested in following in Adobe’s path, Quinn said to “deconstruct so you can reconstruct. The opportunity to learn and grow is a promise we make to all our employees.” Integrating recruiting with development and moving learning is helping the company fulfill that promise on a much grander scale.

AUTHOR:  Sarah Fister Gale is a writer based in Chicago.


The Best Talent Strategies are Marketing Strategies

I have been discussing the converging roles of marketing and HR in the past few posts. I believe that organizations will eventually find themselves with a critical role that is a hybrid of the CMO and CHRO.

But for now, I want to take a deeper look at why HR should continue to take strong cues from marketing as it adapts the talent strategy and process to the current and future workforce.

Specifically, I’m discussing why a progressive recruiting strategy might start looking more like the strategy marketing pros apply to the customer purchase funnel.

For many organizations a highly desirable talent target and the “ideal consumer persona” that marketing departments are already obsessed with engaging is actually the same person. Marketers are in the business of mastering the emotional consumer buying process of brand awareness, consideration, preference, purchase, loyalty and advocacy.

Replace the word ‘purchase’ with ‘apply’ and you can see where this is going. Logic tells me that HR must begin to think more like a marketer and visualize engaging and recruiting talent much like a content marketer visualizes the stages of the purchase funnel. That means crafting the appropriate type of content to complement each stage.

Oh, and marketers need to serve up nearly every piece of content through a mobile experience. I’ll address some technology trends at the end of this article that support that. First, let’s dissect a typical marketing funnel and apply it to the world of recruiting:

Awareness: For marketing, brand awareness is table stakes. If the brand has no presence where potential customers are, the marketing strategy is already a fail. To that end, marketers are having growing success integrating brand messaging into social/mobile platforms.

For example, the fact that 21 of the top 25 brands are using the ‘new’ IAB Rising Stars Ad Units [1] shows us that cutting edge brands are increasing engagement and interaction by delivering ads that leverage native mobile behavior (swiping, clicking) and are optimized for mobile consumption.

In the recruiting world, there is stiff competition for real world experience and desirable skills.

Therefore, much like a marketer, your strategy must include creating brand awareness where talent is not necessarily ‘shopping’ – yes – I’m talking about passive candidates. This likely begins on a platform where the talent is already engaged.

Consideration: As a culture, we are now programmed to do our research before we make purchase decisions. We also value the influence of others in our decision making process. In fact, 70% of Millennials are more excited about a decision they have made when their friends agree.[2] Marketers have embraced the new reality that consumers trust word of mouth over a traditional marketing message crafted by the brand.

By acknowledging this and applying technology appropriately (think shareable consumer ratings), they are finding ways to infuse brand interaction points with authentic stories generated by their existing customers and fans. Great visual examples abound in the fashion industry: jewelry brand Stella & Dot leverages the visual story telling of their stylists by streaming Instagram posts right on the product shopping page (stylists are the freelance workforce of the brand). In this case, what’s true in consumerism holds true in recruiting – authenticity matters.

Therefore, much like a marketer, your strategy should include serving up user generated content – think employment brand stories. To see this concept playing out today look at Zappos. Zappos has turned the recruiting process upside down by eliminating job postings all together and turning recruitment into a full blown marketing experience born from authentic employee ‘reviews’.

Preference: Brand preference happens when the consumer is given something valuable – when the brand delivers on its promise. Maybe it’s a solution to a problem, maybe its inspiration or aspiration, maybe it’s just a different perspective on something – whatever the ‘value’ is – that is when the magic begins to happen and a brand rises above the noise.

Therefore, much like a marketer, once you have the disposable attention of a potential candidate, it’s critical that your interaction provides VALUE. In the case of millennial talent, maybe it’s an explanation of your tuition reimbursement program or a look at how the company gives back to the community.

In the case of a Gen X parent, perhaps it’s a flexible workweek and remote office capability – Whatever “it” is, it’s incumbent upon you to serve up the information at the appropriate touch-point. (Side note: this is an interesting article in Fast Co. about the difference between brand preference and brand relevance.)

Purchase: When a consumer finally takes action (the big purchase!) the real work kicks off and marketing’s job really heats up. Delivering on the product/promise begins, and sets the tone for the next stages in the marketing funnel – customer loyalty and brand advocacy.

Ecommerce marketers are haunted by the abandoned cart – it’s a constant reminder that something in the process failed and caused the consumer to move on.

Much like a marketer, HR needs to make sure that the purchase process (which we are replacing with “application process”) echoes the desired brand experience, values the candidates time, and is worthy of completion. Using technology to make the process mobile, easy and dare I say enjoyable is critical as HR builds out the recruitment strategy that delivers on the next part of the funnel…

Loyalty & Advocacy. I’m combining these last two because this piece is focused on recruitment strategy, and we could iterate these into full blown discussions about onboarding and employee referral programs (maybe I will – let me know if you’re interested.) Brand Loyalty & Advocacy are the Holy Grail of marketing. I’m not talking about loyalty programs either – I’m talking about true loyalty – why a consumer will pay more, patiently wait for, or go without something that is not their preferred brand.

Marketers strive for this, and the really smart ones find a way to capitalize on it and reward it appropriately. Much like marketers, HR needs to tap into the most loyal talent within the organization and transform that energy into advocacy (think NPS scores). The ability to capture that energy and put it at the top of the entire employment brand ‘funnel’ is the cycle that will continue to build on the overall success of the strategy.

While I’ve focused on the strategy that marketers apply to the funnel, I also want to make mention that marketers are viewing all of this through a mobile enabled lens. Their strategy accounts for the way consumers behave on mobile devices and it would behoove HR to do that as well.

Consider the impact these mobile trends might have on your strategy:

1) Mobile ad spend soars past digital ad spend by 2017[4]. Design content for mobile consumption.
2) 80% of time on mobile is WITHIN Apps. HR must engage via social platforms, a ‘mobile career site’ isn’t enough.
3) Hyper local overtakes national ad spend by 2017[6] When location is a factor, ex. retail hiring, seize the opportunity with location aware engagement.

Further indications that recruitment will continue to look like marketing can be found in continued growth of HR technology platforms built to empower organizations with tools that look a lot like those inherent in inbound marketing platforms: SmashFly, Jobvite, Jibe, SmartRecruiter, KarmaHire, Recruitics are just a few of the companies worth following.

[2] US Chamber of Commerce: Millennial Generation Research Review:

About the Author:

Jason Averbook is CEO of the Marcus Buckingham Company and recognized as one of the top thought leaders in the space of HR and workforce technology. Jason contributes to Inc., Businessweek, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CIO Magazine, HR Executive Online, Talent Management Magazine, NPR, SHRM, IHRIM and other well-known publications. He also is author of the new book HR From Now To Next: Reimagining the Workplace of Tomorrow.

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