Reach or engagement- Whats more important for employer brands?

While companies have focused on outreach as the most important social hiring metric, the buck doesn’t simply stop at going viral.

Jasper Visser is a digital strategy consultant; he helps organizations maximize their digital presence. What many do not know about Jasper is that he is also an excellent cook and loves house parties. Jasper would love to throw a party at his place some day; and even though Jasper is anything but a social recluse, one thing stops him. Jasper just does not know how to convince his friends that a Friday evening at his place will be worth more than the regular bar-hopping-club-dancing-drunken-revelry with strangers. He makes new friends every weekend; some even visit him once a while. While most of them find him a nice guy and his line of work gives him credibility, they are not sure about spending a whole evening at his place. What if it turns out to be a drag?

Jasper’s dilemma is typical of what most Indian organizations are facing in the social media space. Up until now, most Indian organizations have been looking at social media as a channel to “spread their net.” The assumption being, once an individual has visited the organization’s social media page, it will automatically trigger a top-of-the-mind-recall thereafter. That, unfortunately, is not the case! A 2012 Forrester Research global survey among top performing sales organizations to assess the typical behavior of online buyers reveals that less than 1% of transactions of new and repeat customers can be tracked back to social media.

Not surprisingly, social media experts have now started debating about what constitutes a more important metric for an organization’s social employer brand― reach or engagement. In a recent study conducted by Facebook, Tata Docomo stands at #1 among Indian organizations in terms of reach or “page likes.” In fact, 1 out of every 6 Indian on Facebook has liked the Tata Docomo page. While Sony features way down among Indian corporations in terms of reach, Facebook Analytics reveal that the Sony page is #1 when measured on terms of “engagement.” The engagement metric is calculated based on multiple engagement factors, including how many people actually view page updates, post content, or share activity. Experts argue that the only real metric of an employer brand on social media is engagement as it has the potential to trigger desired behaviors.

A 2012 social media survey in more than 500 organizations reveals that companies in India spend very little amount of time on social media branding with more  organizations spending less than 2 hours per week. Among the organizations that use social media for hiring, 53% use it for sourcing passive candidates. Social media experts reveal that the importance of passive candidate sourcing is only going to go up across the coming months. The two key social hiring metrics “time to hire” and “quality of hire” will depend on how well an organization is able to impress the passive candidate pool toward the organizational employer brand. Organizations have, therefore, started realizing that while the fixed costs and entry barriers on social media is low, the ROI of social media branding has to look beyond traditional metrics, such as outreach and “virality.”

Here are some tips on how to increase the engagement with your employer brand on social media:

  1. Understand the boundaries― Presence is social media gives an organization access to a large number of candidates and information sources. An organization needs to be careful about how and when to use the information to their advantage. There has to be a targeted strategy for outreach for the brand to make an impact on the intended audience.
  2. Investigate what impacts the audience― The employer branding message on social media needs to successfully communicate what a passive candidate wants to know in a short span of time. It is also important to conduct some web analytics to determine when and how the employer brand should show up on web searches, social media platforms, and portals.
  3. Have the right mix― There is no one-size-fits all strategy for social media branding. Employers who are only looking to maximize their social media reach should start questioning the fundamental assumptions of their branding strategy.
  4. Test, measure, and adapt― It is alright to go wrong the first few times. Success in social media branding, however, will depend on how an organization is able to measure their failures and quickly adjust there engagement strategy.

2013 will likely see more frenzied activity in social media hiring, and organizations will be scampering to increase their employer brand presence. Success of employer branding will depend not just on whether more people know about the organization, but really on whether the passive talent pool is able to understand the brand message, therefore resulting in greater number of conversions.


Social hiring outlook for 2013

Six key trends will shape the hiring strategy for organizations in the coming months.

The strong focus on social hiring seen across 2012 is likely to continue in 2013, compelling organizations to factor in some key trends in the recruiting space to stay competitive. In a joint roundtable by People Matters and LinkedIn, Irfan Abdulla, Director of LinkedIn Hiring Solutions reveals that in the face of an acute demand-supply mismatch, some key trends will drive the hiring outlook for organizations in the coming months. LinkedIn recently conducted a survey among 250 senior business executives in India to understand the recruiting outlook for 2013. The survey revealed the following key hiring trends that will drive the focus for recruiting organizations.

  1. Organizations will continue to see a strong social hiring outlook―The last few months saw organizations opening up more positions to fill through social channels. These positions across roles and levels have seen, and will continue to see, an increase in volume. The poll revealed that over 50% of hiring organizations will continue to see an increase in social hiring budget and volume.
  2. The competition for talent will increase― Competition and compensation came across as the biggest hindrances for organizations in attracting talent. This reflects a highly competitive landscape led by social media as one of the most important channels for hiring in the coming times. In order to remain competitive, organizations are investing in employer branding, improving their employer referral program, and investing in new recruiting technology and tools.
  3. Recruiting organizations will focus on passive talent and pipelining― 65% of the surveyed organizations are focusing their recruiting efforts toward passive talent and over 87% are actively engaged in pipelining talent. Organizations realize that opening up the passive talent pool allows targeted access to more aligned candidates for positions. While training schedules and onboarding time continue to shrink, there is a greater need for organizations to target talent with the right set of skills and experiences to take on the more complex jobs that modern day organizations require. Another key development that is fuelling the focus on passive candidates and talent pipelining is the transition from an industrialized ecosystem to a knowledge ecosystem. As the skills required in knowledge economy are difficult to build and take more time, more and more organizations are looking for more targeted candidate sourcing and talent pipelining.
  4. Quality of hire will be the name of the game― As Irfan mentions, “the focus on passive talent is because hiring for quality has become very critical.” Organizations across all industries witness that there are various aspects of quality that act as constraints and make hiring more challenging. One of the most common challenges is ‘time to hire.’ Most organizations grapple with the dilemma of hiring the best talent within a limited span of time. Another key challenge that organizations face is the “quality of hire” with over 45% of organizations mentioning this as their most critical challenge. Some of the key complicating factors of the “quality of hire” challenge involve how to provide competitive compensation where industry boundaries have ceased to exist, when and how to assess quality, and what metrics to measure.
  5. There will be heightened focus on employer branding― Employer branding will constitute one of the core priorities for organizations in the coming months. Organizations, however, face a number of key challenges in employer branding. Many are confused whether employer branding is an HR responsibility or a marketing responsibility. There is a lack of standard mechanisms to track and monitor an employer brand, thereby making it difficult to demonstrate ROI to senior management. In addition, many organizations struggle to formulate the right employer branding metric. Social media has become an important channel for organizations to promote the employer brand. Organizations, however, are unsure about how to measure the reach and engagement with an employer brand through social media. LinkedIn has an interesting metric to track the effectiveness of the employer brand― “the number of follows on the company’s page.” In social media, the common denominator of engagement with an employer brand will comprise people who either aware of the company or are connected directly or indirectly with the company.
  6. Hiring is mostly a data-driven decision― Confirming that employers in India are serious about their employer branding, the survey reveals that Indian corporations are ahead of the curve when it comes to regularly measuring the employer brand. Against a global average of 33%, 50% of Indian organizations regularly measure the health of the employer brand in a quantifiable way. Again, 45% of Indian organizations regularly survey candidates to understand employer brand position against a global average of 32%. Organizations that are poor at leveraging data for making hiring decisions will fall behind in the race for acquiring the best talent.

With the talent landscape becoming increasingly competitive, the need for HR organizations is to understand the best mechanisms by which they can reach a larger talent pool more effectively. Data analytics and employer branding will be the primary avenues where organizations are likely to invest their social hiring time and efforts in the coming months.

The LOL manager

Effective team management need not always be serious business. Humor, used appropriately, can do wonders for driving team engagement.

Humor, perhaps, is one of the most effective and yet under-appreciated tactics of communication. While most managers continue to investigate ways of how to build more engaged teams, they view (if not overlook) humor as a trifling appendage to a large and complicated engagement model. In the absence of factual analysis and survey data, there are no real studies that establish the impact of humor on team engagement. Many engagement experts, however, reveal that teams managed by a manager with a funny bone are typically more engaged and productive.

Studies reveal that humor has two key attributes that can help a manager drive engagement and productivity within the team― reduce stress and develop an emotional connect. In the stress-loaded working environment that characterize today’s job conditions, experts recommend that an employees need to de-stress at regular intervals to avoid burnouts. Corporate health consulting firm, Helpguide, recommends humor as an essential component of manager training to deal with workplace stress.

Present day working conditions are also characterized by the shift from an industrialized ecosystem to a knowledge-based ecosystem. In a knowledge-based ecosystem, collaboration has become the key to efficient execution, thereby making effective communication critical for success. Communication experts have proven that the most effective communications are characterized by the ability to trigger an emotional connect with the recipient. Humor is a proven tactic that good communicators employ to build an emotional connect with their audience. Social media expert, Mark Ivey, remarks, “Some of the most popular brands on social media platforms are ones that have effectively created messages that are funny or offbeat. After all, who can resist a clever or a funny tweet or conversation starter?”

Anirban Roy who works as a senior planner in one of the largest global advertising firms reveals that stressful situations and long working hours are common aspects of his everyday job. He admits that humor aids in maintaining high spirits and team morale on difficult days. As Anirban puts it, “My current manager has a brilliant sense of humor: I have nick named him, the laughing buddha. He just keeps at it even when the going gets tough. It tells the team that despite all the deadlines and deathbeds in the workplace, there is room for humor and that work is never boring.”

Many managers, however, feel that being funny at the workplace comes at the cost of credibility and thus choose to avoid it. In the absence of gold standards, it is difficult to strike the fine balance between humor and credence. It is easy for team members to perceive a manager as less credible if s/he uses humor inappropriately. Apurva Chiranewala, who works in the strategy team of an online commerce firm says, “I think a witty and light hearted manager is always good to work with provided he/she uses his/her wit at appropriate times.” Many managers curb their light-heartedness at the workplace to maintain their professional image as a firm and credible leader. Deepten Chatterjee, Project Manager in an infrastructure advisory firm reveals, “a lot of senior level managers would perhaps prefer not to open up or show their lighter side to their teams in a formal, office-like environment (maybe there’s a feeling that if your juniors see you joking too much, they might end up not respecting you). However, such managers are also seen to be openly displaying their fun side in informal parties, and where there’s lesser risk of being perceived as being an over-the-top comedian.”

It is no secret that humor is serious business. Here is my take on when and how a manager can start off a laugh riot.

The policy paralysis

Most organizational employees are unaware of HR policies and where they’re housed.

A June 2012 survey by market research firm Business Environment suggests that almost half of organizational employees are not aware of their organizational HR policy. In the frenzy of work priorities, career aspirations, and business targets, organizational employees overlook the importance of HR policy; many even remain oblivious to the existence of an organizational HR policy. While most believe that the organizational HR policy is limited to the clauses of employment, the fact remains that an HR policy is a comprehensive manual that describes how organizational values translate into conduct and behavior during employment. It is a set of guidelines that details how an employee is expected to operate on a day to day basis and what are the non-negotiable guardrails of conduct and discipline.

While most have a formal HR policy, organizations across size and industry voice a common concern― employees violate the codes of the policy every day, oftentimes unaware of its existence and the potential repercussions of violation. Experts reason that there are many factors behind why employees are unaware of their organizational HR policy. Organizations have started realizing that lack of information about policy can end up in situations that are embarrassing and costly. A couple of the most common clauses of HR policy that employees breach are as follows.

Dress-code clause: Most employees feel that it is acceptable to violate the dress code policy of the organization every once in a while. Dress code violation is arguably the most commonly violated clause of an organizational HR policy. Employees feel that violating the dress code is acceptable during days when there are no client visits, on Fridays, and during days when management presence is thin. It is also common to hear that team members felt that it is acceptable to violate the dress code because they’ve seen a manager do it. While it may not constitute an agenda for a firm wide CEO address, it is important for HR to proactively and periodically reiterate the dress code policy of the organization to all employees through e-mail campaigns, portal messaging, and one-on-one interactions with managers.

Personal communication clause: Most employees are oblivious about what constitutes the acceptable domains of personal communication with office colleagues. It is difficult for an HR policy to capture all the aspects of acceptable communication. Most of the clauses on personal communication are really broad guidelines that are open to interpretation. While the organization should not get into hard monitoring measures to track each and every form of personal communication between colleagues, it needs to outline the norms of acceptable communication as definitively as possible.

While there can be many reasons why employees do not feel the necessity to educate themselves on HR policy, the most common causes are as follows.

Lack of training: In most organizations, training on HR policy is not mandatory. Most onboarding conversations are work-based; and broad organizational training is focused on career paths, performance management, and organizational values. It is necessary for an organization to ensure that all new hires are adequately briefed on the HR policy, including what constitute the broad clauses, what forms the organizational philosophy, and where the policy is housed (employee handbook, company portal etc.).

No recall incentive: In the scheme of work priorities, HR policy features among the employment mandates with the least recall value. An HR policy is typically referred to during situations of conflicts or disagreements. Most organizational employees believe that there is no real incentive attached to visiting and reading through the HR policy. Another key reason behind the lack of drive stems from the prevalent ‘democratization’ mindset among most organizational employees, “Everybody’s business is nobody’s business.” There are many ways by which HR can drive employees to educate themselves on HR policy. Quizzes and certification are known to be common ways by which this education can be incentivized.

An organization can potentially lose credibility and face embarrassing and costly litigation in the absence of an HR policy. Good and dynamic policy administration entails openness toward regular policy update, clear communication, and aspiration to create clauses that are definitive and exhaustive.

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The Hangman Style

Cut the final conversation to the bare essentials; it reduces the pain of termination.

Scene from the Oscar-winning flick, Moneyball. Administrator of the basketball team, Peter Brand is apprehensive; he is worried about how the person he is about to fire will react to “the news.” Brand calls the player in his office and coughs out a singular statement, “I’ve gotta let you go; Jack’s office will handle the paperwork.” As Brand walks out of the office he is reminded of what his mentor Billy told him minutes before― “Would you rather have one shot in the head than five in the chest and bleed to death?”

Most HR professionals feel that firing someone is the hardest part of the job. According to a June 2012 article published by Harvard Business Review, most managers let anxiety drive the process of firing rather than intellect. Many others believe in farming the dirty work to an HR associate. While HR managers continue to look for inventive ways to conduct the final conversation, experts believe that long oratories and delegation only aggravate the pain and intensity of departure for an employee.

Breaking the news of firing someone is an awkward conversation, which involves telling a person why his performance was below par or why his role has become redundant for the organization.  Oftentimes, these conversations can take an ugly turn, and spark a debate filled with arguments and disagreements. Most believe that it is better to prepare a targeted employee for the final day across a period of time to reduce the impact of shock. A termination can elicit unfavorable emotional reactions, such as feelings of rejection, depression, and drop in confidence in an employee. If managed poorly, a termination conversation can also lead to angry reactions that can have long-term repercussions for others in the team. In this age of social media, it has become even more important for organizations to be sensitive to termination conversations, as an individual’s personal and professional network has become independent of location and time. While many believe that subtle messaging about expected termination over a period of time acts as a buildup to the final conversation, research suggests that it is human predisposition for employees to shy away from expecting the worst. Most experts, therefore, suggest that the only real gesture of empathy that HR can demonstrate is by making the conversation direct and impassive. In many ways, therefore, the role of the HR manager during a termination is like that of a hangman. Just like a hangman, HR’s job is to pull the lever quickly and dispassionately to reduce the pain and anxiety of anticipation.

Here is a checklist of 10 things that an HR manager can do to make a termination less painful for an employee.

  1. Maintain clear and precise communication on the reason for termination
  2. Provide space for the terminated employee to put forward his point of view
  3. Avoid emotional reactions to the employee’s viewpoints
  4. Be prepared with the most expected answers
  5. Have all the paperwork ready before the conversation
  6. Communicate what the organization will communicate to the other employees about the departure
  7. Insist on having a face-to-face conversation
  8. Do not end the meeting on a low note
  9. Thank the employee for his contributions
  10. And of course, keep the conversation to the bare essentials

The ever increasing skilling demand

To bridge the future skilling gap, the gap between market reality and perceptions about employable skills needs to be reduced.

The atypical development of the Indian economy in the past few years has resulted in the job market getting biased toward “high-skilled” jobs. In a span of 10 years the economy witnessed agriculture’s contribution to GDP fall sharply, giving way to an unusual rise to the industry and service sectors. While the economy has progressed exponentially, giving way to new employment opportunities, the potential workforce has unfortunately not kept pace with the evolving skill requirements. The past decade witnessed a mad scamper for skilling in the IT/ITES sector, as demonstrated by the innumerable number of professionals entering the workforce with technology certifications. Market experts, however, believe that the employment landscape in the coming years will change remarkably and the market will see a more balanced distribution of opportunities across all sectors and skill-levels. While the requirement for skills will continue to grow across all segments, the demand for some specialized skills will come to the fore.

In a recent skilling seminar conducted by People Matters, NSDC revealed that their skilling target stands at 150 million professionals by 2022. While enrolment into professional and vocational courses continues to demonstrate an upward trend, a large gap exists when it comes to skills that they develop and the ones that the industry actually requires. While India has taken some strides in skilling, especially in the erstwhile booming IT/ITES sector, most of corporate India finds itself staring at the face of a large demand gap in other greenfield sectors.

Mr. Santosh Mehrotra, Director General of the Planning Commission says, “The economy needs all kinds of work, people with technical diploma and above, people with vocational training in the age group 15-18; it also needs people with general academic education. On the basis of these three categories we have estimated for agriculture, manufacturing, non-manufacturing, services and the global number which we have arrived at is 265 million till 2022 end of the 13th plan. (Over the next 10 years).”

There are two macro-economic developments that will demand attention to the industry of skilling across the coming years― the transition to a knowledge-based economy and the large demand for professionals with vocational skills. The knowledge based sectors witnessing maximum growth across the coming few years include IT/ITES, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals, requiring aptitude in business communication, technology, and collaboration. Along with that, the demand for managerial and financial skills will continue to rise. The largest demand for specialized skills will come from four industries― infrastructure, BFSI, organized retail, and tourism/hospitality.

Is the workforce equipped to meet the demand?

There will be 200 million people in the employable age bracket of 18-60 years by 2030. Presently, there is a large mismatch between demand and supply of skilled talent in India. More than 50% of the employable workforce in India is employed in agriculture, a sector that contributes less than 30% to the overall GDP of the country. Large differentials exist in the skills that the future workforce is acquiring and specialized skills that the industry requires. The difference is most pronounced in four sectors, construction and real estate, transportation and logistics, tourism and hospitality, and textiles.

A 2012 industry analysis by KPMG and NSDC reveals that the existing system of skilling in India is hugely inadequate to build an employable workforce, as the largest segment of the supply comes from courses with limited industry linkage. In addition, the Indian academic system arguably lacks the outlook to prepare industry-ready skilled professionals.

Building skills of the future

There is an unusually high premium placed on pursuing higher education in India. In the same light, the perception toward vocational skills is low. The industry is not willing to pay for unskilled candidates, and from the supply side candidates do not want to pay to get skilled. The ministry of labor and employment and NSDC recognize that to tackle the broad issue of skilling, there are some conscious efforts required through planned interventions both from the government as well as from the industry.

The government needs to make conscious efforts toward making vocational education a part of the academic curriculum. The role of public private partnership will come become eminent as these partnerships will facilitate the plugging of the skill gap that exists between need and supply. Owing the limited market-readiness that the education system provides, there is a great need for the prospective and existing workforce in India to be trained both on hard skills and soft skills. The need for skilling is pronounced at all levels― entry-level, mid-level, and senior-level― and ranges from hard technical skill development to soft management and communication skill development. There is a significant need for development of business acumen, as we integrate more and more with other global economies and adopt progressive operational practices from large global conglomerates. In addition, there is a pressing need for market-linked vocational skill development amongst the Indian workforce that will allow professionals to decrease the traditional reliance on educational degrees and shift focus toward employment.

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