Jul 27, 2014

What I learned after twelve years of blogging :)



So this month I completed 12 years of blogging on - well- my blog :)
It has been quite a roller coaster ride with 2964 blog posts over these 12 years. The real "golden age" of blogging was in the 2004-2007 era before the arrival of social and information networks like Facebook and Twitter.
So what did I learn during these 12 years of putting my thoughts out for faceless readers. Here are some thoughts

1. It's a global world

When I started blogging about HR issues I had no idea who all were blogging about the area. I discovered the ability to find out who was linking to your blog and realised that some recruiting and HR bloggers were linking to my blog from Canada and US. After that I discovered bloggers in the UK, Singapore, Australia. Over the last few years the readership of the my blog has been quite global - see these stats! Indian readership is actually second after the US!

2. It takes a community to succeed

Carried on from the first point - it is vital to find a group of like minded innovators to form a community and connect with each other and support. Without the community one would also run out of things to blog about - and learn new things. A blog is basically a many to many conversation and other bloggers are key to making a blog vibrant and sharable.

3. Give first, expect nothing

A blog is about sharing without the expectation of getting anything in return. My personal experience is akin to sharing half-formed thoughts - like a pot made fresh of clay - and putting it out in the baking heat of public commentary. The feedback only makes the thought better.

4. Find a personal "voice"

Since a blog is conversational - don't make it sound monotonous and "corporatese". Finding a "voice" that is typically you is key for blogging. It could be humour, a sardonic style or straight talking. It humanises the blog, makes the reader aware - even if he/she can't see you that there is a person behind that content and not a "content churning machine".

5. Attention does not scale

I read this statement in Clay Shirky's book "Here comes everybody" - and it's true. When you start out blogging you respond to every comment, every visitor who connects with you. However as the number of visitors and commentors increase it gets very difficult to maintain that human touch. On top of that your blog is being shared on Facebook and Twitter and multiple other networks.

Here's why you should become active on Twitter



Among Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter the three big "social networks" I spend the most amount of time on Twitter.
And I think you should too.
Many people who have tried Twitter can't carry on and abandon it. It's not easy and intuitive to understand as Facebook and LinkedIn. Both of these networks have language we can understand - friends and connections. Both parties must agree before they are friends or connections. However Twitter has "followers" and "following" (I follow 500+ people while 15,300+ follow me) which don't make sense to many people. We are not used to non-reciprocal relationships in real life usually.
But if you persist Twitter can be an enormously useful tool for networking and learning. Here is how:

1. You can interact with Thought Leaders

I don't mean the garden variety of thought leaders. I mean the real deal. People like Tom Peters. Yes, I've had conversations with Tom Peters on Twitter. 10 years ago I would have had to pay a hefty fee to just listen to Tom Peters if he was visiting my country to listen to him. Where else can you do that, eh? There's Ken Blanchard, Clayton Christensen, Robin Sharma all active on Twitter.

2. You can follow experts in your industry

You know that picky guy who won't accept your LinkedIn connection request. Well, if he's active on Twitter you can follow his updates without waiting for his "permission" (unless he's kept his account protected - in which case he doesn't get the point of Twitter anyway) It's a great tool specially if you are exploring business partnerships or pitching to him to be a client.

3. Participate in Tweetchats for Learning

A tweetchat is a series of tweets - in which many people post about a pre-decided topic and moderated by a moderator using a "hashtag" - which is like an anchor text to find tweets about that topic. For example I participate in HR oriented Tweetchats like #IndiaHRchat #HRtrends and #chrdx. There are chats about customer service, PR and every industry. Participating in tweetchats can be an incredible learning opportunity as well as networking.

4. Get to know what's happening around you

The real-time nature of Twitter makes is a fertile ground for breaking news. It helps that many journalists and editors are active on Twitter and you get to know things before the mainstream media does. The most useful accounts in that respect for me are the Traffline accounts that share which roads in which city are jammed due to traffic and which roads to avoid.

5. Utilize non-productive time in Tweeting

Many people who join Twitter say they don't find time to tweet. However using Twitter apps on the phone can make many non-productive/frustrating time (like being stuck in traffic or waiting in a queue) very productive.

6. Whom you follow defines what your twitter experience is like

You might follow someone because they tweet interesting stuff but after sometime you can look and see that that they are no longer very interesting. Don't feel shy about unfollowing people who tweet a lot or tweet stuff that is no longer interesting for you. Also stay away from people who are regularly whining and negative.

7. Share interesting content

After a period of time you will find people following you. Understand their interests and interact with them. Share content that you come across on the internet that they might find useful. Use browser extensions from Buffer and Klout to easily schedule content at specific times.

8. Use Twitter lists to find people to follow

Many people have curated lists of people on twitter. For example I have a list of 525 Indian HR professionals on Twitter and 60 Social Media professionals. In fact you can find every kind of list on Twitter. Use them to find relevant people to follow.
So what are you waiting for, join us on twitter! Happy tweeting :)

Jun 30, 2014

How to become a Billionaire by Selling Nothing by Aditya Magal @jhunjhunwala : Book Review



how to become a billionaire by selling nothing
I have "known" Aditya Magal for many years - in a strange way. We are blogging and later Twitter buddies. But till a year or so ago I only knew him by his online personal "The Fake Jhunjhunwala" (Blog, Twitter) - where he took on the persona of the famed stockbroker Rakesh Jhunjhunwala. With that hilarious take on not just the capital markets but current affairs too, the blog and then the twitter account were runaway hit (currently he has 81k followers on Twitter) In fact the Forbes India magazine was confused if the man and the persona were indeed different.

And then two years ago, the cat was out of the blog. The blog was started by my friend Mark Fidelman who after he left India handed over the blog to Aditya to run. And Aditya got to meet the real RJ as well :)



With that context (and disclaimer that Aditya is an online friend) - when Aditya said he was writing a book and wanted to send me a copy I readily agreed.

The premise of the book is that a seemingly crazy person approached Rakesh Jhunjhunwala saying he wants investment to create a company that will manufacture and sell "Nothing". Convinced that the fellow is mad Jhunjhunwala writes him a cheque of Rs. 1 lakh to see a good psychiatrist. However the entrepreneur says that Rakesh Jhunjhunwala has invested in his company and then lists the company - and everyone wants to buy shares in the company making the entrepreneur a billionaire.

What happens after that is the crux of the story and Aditya uses "Nothing" as a metaphor to make acerbic and insightful comments from the state of marketing and sales, our preoccupation with greed and material wealth, the politician-business nexus, the way pricing is done to manipulate sales, how customers are hoodwinked, how meaningless movies are made, how litigation is manipulated etc.

Which is not to say the book is great. There are passages that get repititive include Jhunjhunwala repeating how awesome he is (the persona being brought from the blog), a foray into Davos which could have been shorter and some others. These make the book painful to read sometimes. There are also some passages that are in Hindi and might be irritating to read for non-Hindi speakers.

But overall, a great first attempt - transitioning from writing a blog to a book is never easy - and I think Aditya's next book is going to be way better.

Jun 12, 2014

Using Talent Communities #socialmedia for Employer Branding



Organizations face two big challenges in the context of two ever-changing realities -  key talent is hard to find and job seekers look to peers and the collective wisdom of the social web to decide on what firm to join.

The two objectives organizations will need to start thinking about are:
1.       How to Build an employment brand that is relevant to the needs of the key talented people and to monitor the conversations on the social web to understand how to join in the conversation
2.       Understand where these talented prospective employees are, what they talk about and how to engage them to attract them to consider you an employer.

Organizations will need to move away from building their presence from social networks and integrate them to build online communities for their talent pool.
When a person joins a talent community owned/ stewarded by an organization - he or she gives permission to the organization to have a conversation with him/her - and it is up to the organization to either mess it up by "pushing" its message or to take it to the next level by active engagement.

As this becomes more and more common - recruiters and hiring managers will move more and more into "community manager" roles and need to build and take on newer skills to augment their existing skill sets. The ability that will count will not be to tell their own stories, but encouraging participants to tell their stories.



Tomorrow’s organization needs to tap into the talent pool will need to move from step 1 to 5:

1.Listening & interpreting what your prospective talent desires –
1.       The employer brand is no longer in the organization’s control. Everyday, people are asking information about and reviewing what others have said about employers’ cultures, roles, career prospects – in sites like Glassdoor.com or even Google Places.
2.       What do your prospective employees really look for in their ideal workplace ?
3.       What’s the perception in the market about your company and it’s culture?
4.       What’s the perception about your competitors?
5.       Use “listening” tools (Radian6, Alterian SM2, Buzzstream). This will identify the social places where they “hang out”. Which will lead to step 2.

2. Find & attract good talent. Monitoring content that they create and queries they answer. Holding talent contests around the content they are looking in prospective candidates is a great way to finding talented people. If the organization builds virality in the contest it’s a great way to spread the word and engage a larger talent pool

3. Engage with active prospects. Engaging needs to be done in two places – the niche social networks they converse in – and the organization’s own branded social community – which could be a blog or a full fledged social network. It can be used to showcase organizational culture, with rich multimedia content like photographs, videos. Firms should encourage employees to participate in such forums – specially employees who are considered experts in their field. Both the employees and the organization benefit as both brands get built.
1.       Content can be curated on the corporate site from the social web around different axes : product, market, industry.
2.       Content can be created by the organizational employees on the organizational site too.
3.       Prospective employees could also be invited to contribute content and showcased in a leaderboard.
4.       Employee/ Team blogs serve two purposes specially for large organization – they act as communication vehicles with the media as well as engaging niche talent.
5.       HR and recruitment focused community platform like Microsoft’s http://www.microspotting.com/ also help give tips and tricks to prospective employees

4.Onboarding new recruits – While this is done offline, I feel a part of making initial connection could be done virtually even before people “sign up” and strengthen bonds between future employees.

Learning: Social technology can make learning more of a continuous process than the 2-3 day event it currently is. These tools can also be used by trainers to add more to the classroom and create a community of learners who can continue to share experiences and be a support group as they implement learnings in their workplace. Marcia Conner’s book “The New Social Learning” shows how various firms are using tools to augment employee training.
Recognition : Companies like Rypple, Globoforce have started the concept of social peer recognition and it can be a powerful factor to increase employee engagement. In the future look out for predictive analytics about engagement and attrition by analyzing how employees are being recognized by their peers.
Knowledge Sharing: Forget the idea of databases acting as “repositories” of knowledge, internal social networks can capture employees work activity as social intranets connect deeper into business applications – and team members can follow what others are doing on their activity streams. Newer tools like Opzi and MindQuilt can also emerge as a enterprise version of Quora, the popular Q&A site.

5. Alumni connect – Today’s employees can be tomorrow’s ambassadors if an alumni program is managed well and alumni see value being a part of the community.

In Conclusion

The vast majority of organizations and job seekers are stuck at the “salary” discussions as they don't think about the desire of an individual to make a difference and meaning to others. And unless you can connect with that innately human desire which are discoverable and engaged via social technologies  - recruiters and organizations will continue to judge a person by their current and future salary levels and they in turn will treat each firm as a mercenary would.

It’s about time organizations and job seekers got to know the human side of each other.

Jun 9, 2014

Gender stereotyping in Indian recruitment advertising



Thought I'd share this article in the DNA that I came across: 

Research confirmed 77% of the total ads that had a gender specific term recruited only females (Anand, 2013). Least gender stereotyping was observed in jobs that required specialised skills and technical education like IT, engineering and medicine.Secretary/front office assistant, telecaller, sales(man) and manager claimed the top spot in gender stereotyping.
Gender stereotyping in recruitment ads for receptionists ranged from the benign ‘Receptionist only – Female’ to comments regarding age and attractiveness ‘beautiful and broad minded(F) office assistant and personal secretary’, ‘up to 25’ (Anand, 2013).
Receptionist has not just been relegated as a women’s only zone. Recruitment advertisements have objectified the kind of women recruiters prefer. Ads have portrayed receptionist as decorative pieces in the lobby, behind the front desk of corporate offices, young beautiful and easy on the eyes.
A similar sort of story was depicted by the data on recruitment advertisements for telecaller and data entry operator position. Next to the ‘FEMALE TELECALLERS’ rubric was the image of a girl talking on the hands free. Now, even though there wasn’t any mention of the age or physical attributes, but the picture certainly said everything the recruiters wanted to convey. Sales and field jobs were earmarked as the boys-only section, with keywords like ‘field boys’ and ‘sales boys’. 

What do you think as recruiters in India do we need to eliminate such blantant stereotyping?

May 28, 2014

Big embrace of #SocialRecruiting and Talent Communities by @InsideZappos



I have often blogged about the need for organizations to create talent communities to really embrace "social". You can read my thoughts hereherehere, here and here.  

So I was delighted to learn today that Zappos has embraced "social recruiting" in the way I envisaged, in toto!

Zappos has been a favorite company of mine after I read their CEO Tony Hseih's book. I have blogged about them also.

So what is +Zappos.com going to do? According to the WSJ

Zappos, based in Las Vegas, plans to hire at least 450 people this year, but candidates won't find out about those jobs on LinkedIn.com, Monster.com or the company website. Instead, they will have to join a social network, called Zappos Insiders, where they will network with current employees and demonstrate their passion for the company—in some cases publicly—in hopes that recruiters will tap them when jobs come open.
The retailer is attempting to fix a common problem, recruitment experts say: how to make the hiring process faster and easier by keeping a pool of willing and able candidates at the ready.