This Staffing Journal was created with Recruiters and Human Resources professionals in mind. Feel free to share your thoughts, insight and postings with the staffing world. Our mission is to become a forum for sharing of ideas and intelligence that impact us everyday. Share and have fun!

Friday, October 15, 2004

Balance is Bunk!

This is an excerpt of an article in Fast Company Magazine
From: Issue 87 October 2004, Page 68
By: Keith H. Hammonds

It's the central myth of the modern workplace: With a few compromises, you can have it all. But it's all wrong, and it's making us crazy. Here's how to have a life anyway.
It may be that you recently had a week that defied sanity. You faced an impossible deadline at work. You were expected at your daughter's dance recital, at a soccer game, and at a meeting with the kitchen contractor. Then another big project landed in your lap (thanks, boss!). You were exhausted, and your spouse was miffed. And your job? Well, at 11 one night, you finally bailed on that deadline.

And you wondered, What's wrong here? Whatever happened to balance?
The truth is, balance is bunk. It is an unattainable pipe dream, a vain artifice that offers mostly rhetorical solutions to problems of logistics and economics. The quest for balance between work and life, as we've come to think of it, isn't just a losing proposition; it's a hurtful, destructive one.
This is not, of course, what many of us want to believe. In the last generation, balance has won huge cultural resonance. No longer mere cocktail conversation fodder, it has become something like a new inalienable right, creeping into the American ethos if not the Constitution: life, liberty, and the pursuit of balance. Self-actualization and quality time for all!

This hopeful premise, born of the feminist movement, has been promulgated relentlessly since the 1980s by writers like, well, me. (At one point, in the name of balance, I actually diapered my infant daughter on CNN.) The froth fed a sort of industry, as consultants rushed to help businesses help employees balance work and life. That's the point of on-site day care, of breast-feeding rooms, of flextime and telecommuting and take-home dinners from the company cafeteria -- and, more notorious, in days of dotcoms past, of take-your-pet-to-work policies and foosball tables.

But the balance movement is fatally flawed. For those of us trying desperately to keep up with everything that needs doing, it poses two mythical ideals. If we work hard enough at it, one goes, we can have everything. Or if we cut back, we can have just enough to be truly content. The first obliges us to accomplish too much, often at too high a price; the second doesn't let us accomplish enough. Either way, balance is a relic, a fleeting phenomenon of a closed, industrial economy that doesn't apply in a global, knowledge-based world.

There's a better way to think about all this, one that requires us to embrace imbalance. Instead of trying to balance all of our commitments and passions at any one time, let's acknowledge that anything important, and anything done well, demands our full investment. At some times, it may be a demanding child or an unhappy spouse, and the office will suffer. At others, it may be winning the McWhorter account, and child and spouse will have to fend for themselves. Only over time can we really balance a portfolio of diverse experiences.

For now, the balance mania persists: Media mentions have soared in the past five years, and executive coaches say their clients are as consumed by the problem as ever. Employers, meanwhile, are trying desperately to say the right things: Accenture, the big professional-services firm, knows "how important it is for our employees to strike a balance between their work and personal lives." Google offers workers a slew of benefits (On-site dental! Dry cleaning!) billed as "balance enhancers."

But this passion and fury is misspent. All our striving for balance is only making us crazy. Here's how to think about living in a postbalance world.

The Happy Workaholic

Sigmund Freud suggested it first: Imbalance is part of the human condition. The father of psychoanalysis observed that anxiety is a crucial "signal" function, a response to danger -- either external physical danger or internal psychological danger.

That is, anxiety is a central part of our existence. It is a source of creativity and drive; it spurs us to accomplishment. Great leaders, serial innovators, even top sales reps may be driven by a kind of inner demon -- the need to prove themselves, to achieve for fear of being worthless (or, as Freud postulated, for fear of castration).

But it's hard to argue with the result: Such people are incredibly productive. They drive change. And that cuts to the problem with a reductionist view of balance. Simply cutting back on work inevitably fails, because in real life, success in work is predicated on achievement. In a competitive business environment -- which is to say, every business environment -- leadership requires commitment, passion, and, to be blunt, a lot of time.

This isn't a cynical argument in favor of clocking the hours -- though let's face it, in some organizations, that pressure is all too real. Rather, building something great, leading change, truly innovating -- "it's like falling in love. You have to abandon yourself to it," says John Wood. "There's the risk of inherent contradiction between wanting to do something entrepreneurial and wanting to have balance."

Wood is 40 years old. He helped build Microsoft's business in Asia until 1998, when, trekking through Nepal on vacation, he saw villages with few schools and bookless libraries. In response, he started Room to Read, a not-for-profit group that builds schools and libraries and provides books and scholarships to Asian children.

Wood isn't married, though he does date. He loves biking, running, and the annual trek that he takes with friends through Southern Asia. Mostly, though, he loves Room to Read. He'll do 11-hour days in his San Francisco office, have a working dinner, then check email late at night. He works seven days a week, year-round.

"I don't look at balance as an ideal. What I look at is, Am I happy? If the answer is yes, then everything else is inconsequential."

But here's how he thinks about it: "I don't look at balance as an ideal. What I look at is, Am I happy? If the answer is yes, then everything else is inconsequential. If you look at the number of hours I work, it's probably extreme. But those hours talking with an adviser over dinner -- is that work? Well, yeah, but it's also stimulating.

"At Microsoft, my definition of balance was getting a decent number of hours outside the office and off email. Now I don't care about that, because the email I check at midnight may come from a person who says he wants to endow a school in Vietnam. So I can't help but read that email, because it's a chance to change a kid's life."

Most achievers don't work hard just at work. They think about their work a lot of the time outside the office. Even if they acknowledge the value of paying attention to their families or their health, they're consumed -- and thrilled -- by the task at hand. Stewart Friedman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, and Sharon Lobel of Seattle University have a term for such folks: "happy workaholics."

Friedman, who has long encouraged business leaders to pursue "whole" lives, thinks it's possible for leaders to be "poster children for balance," as he says. But he also agrees that conventional arguments for balance devalue the work half of the equation. "Work is an experience through which much of life's rewards and opportunities for service can be realized," he says. "Creating value for the world, for the next generation, all our high-minded ideals -- much of work has the potential for giving voice to that sort of aspiration. And most executives are passionate about what they do.

"So if people are fulfilled through their work, why do we question that?"

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Recruiters Use Google to Screen Job Applicants

By Erin White
From The Wall Street Journal Online

Executive recruiter Peter Bell recently made an unpleasant discovery on the Internet. He was looking for candidates to fill an investor-relations post at a financial-services firm. To research one promising candidate, Mr. Bell's colleague entered the man's name in Google, the popular Internet search tool. But Google unearthed a surprise: It found another version of the candidate's resume, with two jobs that weren't listed on the resume he'd submitted to the recruiter."He just eliminated them and added a little time to the other jobs," Mr. Bell says. Mr. Bell concluded the man had lost the jobs, and tried to cover it up. Mr. Bell didn't submit the man's name for the job.

Internet searches have become common practice for hiring managers and recruiters, who say the effort sometimes yields useful information about candidates -- things employers wouldn't have learned from a resume and cover letter alone. "Smart hiring managers will always Google their prospective people," says Allison Hemming, president of the Hired Guns, a New York interim-staffing company. "If you've got a sixth sense about somebody and you're not really sure why you're feeling that way, Googling can really help you out in vetting a candidate."At Chicago-based staffing firm Corporate Project Resources Inc., which places marketing professionals in jobs on an interim basis, "Google is something that we use a lot," says Sheri Karley, recruiting manager. Staffers there often perform an Internet search along with a background check and personality test when they screen candidates, Ms. Karley says. But such searches can be a land mine for job-seekers. There's a bevy of information on the Internet, including things you may not realize are out there. Searches can turn up everything from personal Web sites and blogs to old company newsletters to articles you wrote for your college newspaper. "It's almost like a shadow résumé you haven't exactly made but it's following you around," says Pam Dixon, director of the World Privacy Forum, which studies workplace privacy issues. She says some of the worst problems for job-hunters arise when people fire off angry or vulgar e-mails that find their way onto the Internet. "Most Google damage is self-inflicted," Ms. Dixon says. Sometimes the damaging information comes from former employers. Ms. Dixon says she has been contacted by a teacher who was fired from a prior job whose school board included her firing in online meeting minutes. Making matters worse, she has an unusual name. So when prospective employers Google her, the minutes pop right up. "She literally has not found a job because of that," Ms. Dixon said.

So how can you sidestep these pitfalls? First, career advisers recommend, search the Internet yourself to see what's out there about you. Ms. Dixon suggests searching for your name on its own, and also in quotation marks. If anything comes up that could harm your job search, you have a few potential remedies. You can contact the owner of the site, and ask him to remove the information. You can also try contacting Google. If you can't remove the information, prepare a defense in case it comes up in an interview. Come up with an answer that directly addresses the problem, but then segues to a new subject. For instance, if the information involves opinions you'd rather have kept private, "you can turn it into a positive by stating that this is something you feel very passionate about, and remind the person that this is your personal opinion and won't affect your ability" to do your job, Ms. Hemming suggests. Google says people shouldn't blame it for what users find on the web. "Google is a reflection of what's on the Web so if there's information on the particular Web page that they're not comfortable with, then they should contact the site owner," says spokeswoman Eileen Rodriguez.Being the subject of an Internet search can work in a job-seeker's favor in some cases.

Bruce MacEwen, a New York-based consultant who aspires to get a job as an executive director of a law firm, started writing a blog this year about the business side of law firms. This spring, his blog turned up on a Google search done by William Henderson, an associate professor of law at the Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington. Mr. Henderson was devising a new course on the economics and business of law firms, and decided to see what he could find with Google. "I can't believe I found a blog on point," Mr. Henderson recalls thinking. He contacted Mr. MacEwen. The two are now collaborating on a research project and Mr. MacEwen is set to guest lecture in November. And sometimes, just because you're blindsided by a search doesn't mean your job prospects are doomed. A law-school student recently interviewed for a summer position at a law firm. One of her interviewers Googled her and found her blog, which included some critical sentiments about big law firms in general, although not this particular firm. "My face went beet red and I lost all of my concentration" when asked about her blog, she recalls. "I just sort of chuckled -- 'oh ha, isn't that funny.' "She ended up getting an offer. And she took down the blog.

Direct Placement Comes Alive!

We at Staffing Journal have noticed a shift in the staffing market from temporary and contract labor services, which has been the trend for the last several years, to a demand from customers for specialized search and direct placement. For the Staffing Industry, this paradigm shift poses new challenges. The candidate pool is getting smaller and Recruiters possessing the competency to proactively source and attract top talent are few and far between.

It is a well known fact that Babyboomers are on the move into retirement which will eventually lead to a huge gap in the labor pool. The GenX population has been bruised and battered over the last few years by the downturn in the economy and the loss of high paying jobs they had come to depend on. Remember, these are the candidates that we were all fighting for on college campuses across the country, offering large salaries and compensation packages like never before. Today, these GenX'ers are concerned about stability and work life balance. The BMW sign-on bonus is less important than vacation time and flexible hours. Enticing candidates to make a move will become more and more difficult over the course of the next few years.

This change in thinking will cause candidates to evaluate opportunities based on stability and balance and will create a demand for Recruiters with very specialized skills. This is different from the ".Com" boom when the life was sucked out of the candidate pool. During the ".Com" boom any candidate that met the top 3 requirements of a job was hired at an outrages salary and entered into indentured servitude. Moving forward, as we have begun to see, client companies will be looking for candidates that are the total package and it will take Recruiters using an Executive Search approach to attract them. In the end, finding Recruiters that buy-in to a well defined skill based recruiting methodology will be the ultimate challenge.

Recruiters, as well as candidates, have enjoyed the ride of years gone by. Recruiters are Salespeople and will need to be great Salespeople to compete in the new market. The key to success is going to be developing very specific recruiting niches. Here is a good analogy; If you are a talent scout for a professional football team, it is your job to know every person that has ever touched a football and their skill level, their motivations and what type of environment and coaching it will take to make them successful. Recruiting within a niche is no different. Recruiters in the new market will need to establish themselves as the expert within their niche and be well networked with the best talent.

The new market is going to be difficult and exciting. Be smart, be connected and be nimble. Most importantly have fun!

Blog or not to Blog

Email article from CrossXroads, which is an excellent article for recruiters using or thinking of using Blogs to find candidates.

A syndicated career columnist just asked about what a blog was and how it might be used in staffing- especially by job seekers. We answered: Just when you finally figured out how to post your resume online and search for jobs on multiple-sites. Just when you thought you caught the biggest wave in networking history and could link from one 'friend of a friend' to one of their friends to the company where you really want to work. Just when you were getting comfortable with all those online screening interviews, virtual job fairs, instant background checks, company research sites and web-based career management tips, along comes - 'recruiter blogs'.

Blog. The sounds like an early title for a Sci-Fi movie starring Steve McQueen but it might be better to think of it as a contraction of Web & Log, an Online Diary that comes complete with a selection of 'paper' colors and formats. Anyone who ever enjoyed putting their thoughts down on paper and is still anal enough to keep doing it day after day after day is a sure fire candidate to become a 'blogger'.The reason why blogging isn't quite as analogous to keeping a diary as it should be is that a (paper) diary is typically thought of as private but, online, if you are willing to go to all that trouble of writing on the web, why would you hide it? Let everyone see it - and everyone does. And not only can the world share your thoughts, they can also tell you what they think about them (your thoughts).Every 'posting' you make to your blog is a two-way discussion between you and your fans (they must be fans if they bother to read what you wrote). You might return to your last posting to find (possibly) dozens of comments assuming you want to create an open dialogue with just about everyone. Finally, if you happen to like to read a blog or two yourself, every day but hate the inconvenience of navigating to multiple sites you can download software (RSS, atom) that helps you control, keep track of your favorite blogs, learn when new postings are up and even import them and format them for your own custom news feed. Essentially you can tell your computer "Hey fella, go out on the web and check my favorite diaries and if something new has been added, bring it to me and format it this way."The really nice (but still unappreciated) feature that this 'pull' technology offers is privacy. It means you can monitor information sources without disclosing who you are and without giving your email to someone who might misuse it.

So, how do employers benefit by blogging? Several recruiters at Microsoft are pioneering the answer to this question by creating an open dialogue with potential candidates. Heather Hamilton, a Sr. Microsoft recruiter, and her colleagues Zoe Goldring and Gretchen Ledgard have been sharing what they think it really takes to compete for a position at Microsoft and perform once it has been won with 10s of thousands of 'readers'. Each handles it with a style that is uniquely their own (i.e. that means try not to do what they do). They respond to questions and comments openly and publicly. The bottom-line is they keep the most qualified candidates engaged and interested until the right position comes along. They offer honest feedback and guidance to folks who may never compete effectively for a job at Microsoft. They share personal opinions about their company, their work, the people they meet and the teams they support. Most firms wouldn't tolerate having their recruiters publicly engaging in an 'unfiltered' Q&A with outsiders without having a lawyer present but, Microsoft seems to embrace the notoriety and knows how to hire and retain empowered recruiters. Obviously their leaders trust their judgment and ability to maintain a credible dialogue without putting their firm at risk. This is a brilliant bit of strategy to build a real 'community' among prospective candidates and manage them as a 'pipeline' because the price of entry is too high for most firms to contemplate (unfortunately).This is not your (grand) fathers hiring process.Why we don't think blogs will become the tool of choice anytime soon is that recruiters wasting their time trying to search millions of blogs for the 'right' candidate just isn't how this tool should be used- unless of course the job requires writing blogs. Having found the finalist for a position however, it would be easy (maybe too easy) for a recruiter to research candidates by reading their blogs but, unfortunately, that wouldn't be a good thing either because the typical blog is going to contain a lot of personal information that has no relevance to their ability to perform.I

n an excellent article by, Kris Maher, in his Wall Street Journal column, The Jungle, last Tuesday, he stated that many 'experts' predicted that blogs could become the "next wave in electronic recruiting, following job boards and corporate career sites." We couldn't disagree more. Blogs are too labor intensive and, coupled with the discipline imposed by a 'diary' format, the number of recruiters who can exploit the form credibly are few and far between. The comments we made when Kris interviewed us for the article were that "This is an untapped resource for managing a pipeline of candidates," and "The use of blogs by corporate recruiters is still in its infancy - more companies (will) experiment with the interactive format."We would advise jobseekers to put their blogs on hold while seeking a position (or keep them confidential until they land) and suggest employees to be careful what they say about their firms even if they write their blogs on their own time.For corporate recruiters, the fundamental element to a successful blog is to speak 'honestly' and this will be too risky for most. But, for the willing, a blog offers a critical edge in engaging the most qualified candidates early and managing them in a pipeline for a firm's future openings. For most firms though, their experiment will fail when either a recruiter's poor judgment or the firm's legal beagles shut it down.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Our First Posting

Welcome to The Staffing Journal,

This blog was created with Recruiters in mind. It is a forum for sharing all of your vast knowledge of Staffing and Human Resources. Please feel free to post Jobs, thoughts and comments you may have related to trends and industry intelligence. Above all else, network and have fun!