Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why Talent Management is NOT a Zero-Sum Game

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

Staffing is not a Zero-Sum Game
During the course of my regularly scheduled research last week I ran across an article that immediately got me fired-up from the title alone. Tim Sackett’s post ‘When It Comes to Talent Management, It’s Just a Zero Sum Game’ on TLNT, sent an all too familiar chill down my spine and had me looking for something on which I could inflict some damage. (Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that dramatic but you get the point.) The idea that talent management is simply taking someone from one place to fill an opening in another is so basic and archaic, that it really invokes that kind of passionate response every time I hear the sentiment.

After the dust settled and I read the rest of the article, I had calmed down and realized that Mr. Sackett had some valid points. I do agree organizations need to find a balance between funding with regard to attracting, succession planning and training of their workforce rather than spending the most money and effort on candidate attraction.

The problem is that I vehemently disagree that we have to convince hiring managers and whole organizations that the current market is a Zero-Sum Game. The idea devalues what a true workforce solutions team does.

Companies like Microsoft and Google sprung to being in an industry that was created out of garages, through innovation and a pioneering spirit. If talent management was Zero-Sum, they wouldn't exist as they both created a previously unknown talent pool need and filled it.

The majority of the people they initially employed were home grown talent because frankly there was no company doing what they did. It was an entirely new ‘thing’ created out of nothing. They may have taken some college kids out of a classroom to put them to work early, or stolen a drive-thru clerk passionate about BASIC and FORTRAN away from a fast food joint; it was hardly a Zero-Sum Game; it was a Human Development Game.

People can be developed, trained, motivated, and unmotivated.  We do need to convince hiring managers of the value in taking someone that can do 95-percent of what they need now and developing the other desired 5-percent in-house. We also need to convince them that they do not have the luxury of the 3-5 year IT wizard or engineer any longer. They will have to start hiring out of colleges again; investing time in developing curricula with educators to fill their needs. Some of our most successful candidates are those ‘95-percenters’ because they have a desire to learn the other 5-percent and have loyalty to the company that provides it.

It's not zero-sum.  It's not a shell game.  It's the game of life as it pertains to business and it's our job in recruiting to help companies realize the best talent to develop, and to help candidates find the next step in their path.  So much more can be gained working together; with hiring managers, HR, talent development, and candidates for a mutually beneficial outcome. There doesn’t have to be a clear cut winner and loser when it comes to talent management.

Here’s a simple analogy to demonstrate the point further:

The Biggest Loser, a popular US television reality series, is a competition whereby, in theory, everyone comes out a winner. The goal is to get healthier through weight loss, nutritional changes and exercise. At the shows close, there is ultimately a grand prize winner but, there was no cause to which they had to take from another to come out on top. Nearly every contestant seems to walk away from the program better for it, even the non-prize-winning losers. That's kind of how how I view talent management and recruitment.

If you're engaging a ‘passive’ candidate, chances are they aren't engaged with their current company for any number of reasons. They are likely dragging down their current company in some way because of this sense of disengagement. In hopes of a brighter future, they are willing to talk to you about a new position with growth potential either economically or professionally.

The losing company actually wins because they have offloaded someone who was probably producing at a level below their potential. The hiring company wins because they're getting an employee who is reinvigorated and engaged. The candidate wins for obvious reasons. The recruitment firm wins because they provided value to both customers of their services and were paid for the match.

To me, calling recruitment and talent management a Zero-Sum Game; that cynicism that removes the exact value from staffing that we bring; is simply inaccurate. If you are truly invested in the job at hand, then you’re looking to help the organization and the candidate grow. If you’re good at filling both customers’ new needs; creating a value proposition along the way; you simply cannot look at the game mathematically. There is so much to be gained from looking beyond the 'perfect' skill set to find out what real potential lies within a candidate or in an opportunity. Humans aren't dollars, or market share, and therefore can't be zero-sum. 
Just ask Microsoft and Google.

Josh Kaplan writes on various subjects including management, information technology breakthroughs, healthcare IT recruitment and innovations, big data, IT staffing and recruitment, and technical news and trends.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Three Things We Learned from the Instagram TOS Fiasco

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

Instagram's abrupt TOS changes may have lasting negative effects.
In December, users of the popular photo sharing site Instagram (now owned by Facebook) were treated to a proverbial piece of coal for the holidays. Based on media reports from Reuters, this is how it played out:

  • On December 17th reportedly, Instagram abruptly changed its Terms of Service (TOS) to note that it could use its members’ photos, likeness and username for advertisements without permission.
  • Users of the site didn’t notice at first but, rest assured, some did. News of the changes went viral.
  • National Geographic magazine reportedly announced they were leaving the site due to the new terms.
  • By New Year’s Eve, according to AppData reports, about 6 million of Instagram’s 16 million users who access it via Facebook left the site as well. (Although,Instagram disputes AppData’s numbers)
  • A class action lawsuit was launched in California shortly following the changes.
  • December 20th , according to Reuter’s,Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom apologizes and reinstates the old TOS via a blog, and added the thought that  some users had misinterpreted the intent of the new TOS.
  • Instagram users will reportedly be bound by a new TOS as of Jan 19th.
  • As of today, I cannot find out the true impact of the fiasco as ‘Facebook no longer reports new data for this application’ according to a new search I’ve conducted on the AppData site.

We all make mistakes.
Do I blame Instagram for the way it handled the changes? Absolutely; to mask such a large change in the TOS without pointing it out is simply wrong. Whether the intent was to work on ways to monetize Instagram in the future or to take Facebook’s already robust, intuitive advertising platform and put it into place on Instagram, it was wrong. In business, it’s better to be up front with ‘customers.’
Do I blame Instagram for attempting to monetize the business? Absolutely not; although some businesses are founded to serve a greater good, most are in business to make money. If you are signed up for a free service, make no mistake, it is not free. If there is no product being sold, no membership fee, no identifiable means to distinguish how it is making money, chances are, the product is you and your data.
Data is a valuable commodity these days given we are a largely consumer society.
Browsing habits, referring sites, demographic information like family size, your job, what school you graduated from, your birthday; even the titles and subjects of your pictures, can tell marketers something about you. Facebook and the multitude of free apps don’t care about when your birthday or anniversary is but, they do care how old you are and your marital status so they can use your demographic information to sell themselves to potential advertisers.
So what lessons have we learned from Instagram’s PR nightmare?
Buyer beware: Instagram is not the first business in the world to change its TOS (or a contract) to reduce your privacy or to get more data (in this case your pictures) from you. The problem with most TOS statements is that they are written by lawyers, for lawyers. They are also arduous to navigate through, often having 20 or more headings; each with 10-20 subheadings. How many times have you seen the little box on the screen, scrolled quickly to the bottom and clicked I agree? I’ve done it plenty of times.
Small print and multiple pages are not generated by accident. Not only does it reduce the chance that you will read it in full; it almost guarantees it, while indemnifying the company against potential legal action. Read the TOS every time you sign up for a service and when it changes to know what you’re agreeing to.  
Honesty is the best policy: It’s much harder to win a disgruntled customer back  than to be upfront with potentially bad news (anyone remember MCI WorldCom's 'delayed future billing' or Bank of America's debit card fees?). You can rely on the fact that many customers will not care or not take any action whatsoever. However, you lose credibility and relevance, even with the masses, when you anger your top customers. Maybe this was a case of anchoring to make a watered-down monetization scheme seem less ‘bad’ to users but I doubt it; a third of your users (your data) is too high of a price to pay.
Instagram will go away: Call this my first bold prediction of 2013 (although I don’t know how bold it really is). Instagram lost a third of its Facebook users in 10 days. I think the rest will eventually follow. Without a way to monetize its data without severe scrutiny now, it is virtually worthless to Facebook unless there is some proprietary code that is of value to them. Now the only way they’ll be able to realize the app’s full potential is to pawn it off on an unsuspecting suitor. If they can’t sell it, it will go away; sooner than later. Why invest in a product that is losing money that shows little chance that it will make money in the future?
Do you read the TOS statements of your favorite sites? Have you uncovered some shocking revelation when you read them that made you leave? I’d like to hear about it.

Josh Kaplan writes on various subjects including management, information technology breakthroughs, healthcare IT recruitment and innovations, big data, IT staffing and recruitment, and technical news and trends.