Happy Feet and Eggshells

Had a nice conversation with European recruiting professionals from WorkWonders, Shell, and Newell Rubbermaid in the exhibit hall at the ERE Global conference in Amsterdam.

The Netherlands, they say, is very short of construction employees, and they’re being brought in from Eastern Europe. This, however, is like “walking on eggshells,” because of the perception that it’s displacing local employees — much like the controversy in the U.S. over companies sending jobs to India.

Shell’s looking for experienced HR professionals. Rubbermaid’s trying to sell more products in Eastern Europe, and in turn needs to recruit more from Eastern Europe, though cultural and language differences are making this tough.

My notes from the conference speakers are below:


Rachel Denning, Executive Director, Recruitment — International


  • Happy Feet’s success is good news for TimeWarner; Feet is providing ample competition to Borat and Bond.
  • TimeWarner — with its 95,000 employees, 2 million resumes on its BrassRing system, $43.7 billion revenue, and $10.7 billion profit — is hoping to be #1 or #2 in all areas it does business, is selling parts of the business (like the Atlanta Braves baseball team) that don’t fit, and is buying back stock to show people that the company has confidence in the business.
  • It launched an in-house executive search firm in the United States in January of 2003, with the goal of saving money and with the sense that they’d understand the business better than outside firms. The 30-person team has completed 915 searches (with 35% internal applicants) and saved $50 million or more, she says.
  • A team of four started doing in-house search from London starting in 2004, handling international search assignments, starting in Europe, as well as ad campaigns and diversity initiatives. It has filled 108 senior level assignments (she says only two have failed), and saved $6 million or more.
  • It pays its in-house search staff on salary and with bonuses for personal performance and company performance. They’re not on commission, but successful searches obviously could affect their personal performance bonus.
  • TimeWarner tries to do searches in 10 weeks; they present four to six candidates; the client interviews between three and five.
  • Measurements they use: cost savings; completion rate; time to fill; internal mobility; the number of appropriate resumes they receive; diversity (something they haven’t fully defined outside the U.S.); and source of hire.
  • It does hiring manager surveys informally, but would like to make this process more systematic, to gauge manager satisfaction, over time, with searches.
  • Denning says that being in-house helps because they spend time in the business and are in the room as new products are discussed or unveiled, and otherwise spend a lot of time understanding the magazine-making, movie-making, and other parts of the business. “We’ve got quite sexy brands ? we are an attractive business,” she says, joking that George Clooney has something to do with it.


Stephen Carr, Manager of Recruitment Sourcing
T-Mobile UK

  • 62% of Britons have either referred somebody or been referred for a job, or both. 89% have not been rewarded for it.
  • Recruiters surveyed in the UK rank employee referrals as the best source of quality candidates, yet only 47% of larger UK companies have a referral award program.


Kevin Wheeler, Global Learning Resources

(presentation about Asia)

  • “We’re heading into a talent storm in Asia” with repercussions in Europe and the U.S. that are yet unknown. Asia will dominate the world economy by 2040.
  • Asia houses 1/3 of the world’s talent, many not well educated. The small number who are educated are in “tremendous and constant demand.”
  • China and the U.S. have a lot of similarities in terms of the percentage of jobs that are in manufacturing and mining, but China’s heavily agricultural, and the U.S. is heavily service-oriented. China’s future will include fewer ag jobs and more service jobs.
  • China and India have too few educated people, too high a savings rate, not enough jobs, and not enough people willing to relocate. Chinese leaders fear that “they can’t generate enough jobs.”
  • The highly talented and skilled — a tenth of a percent in China and India, Wheeler estimates — are paid a “tremendous amount of money.”
  • 1.24 million college students can’t find jobs in China; there are “incredible, incredible challenges economically.”
  • India’s pace is slow; China, as a totalitarian regime, can get things done (e.g. building a road).
  • It’s a myth that low-level work is being done in Asia; companies such as Motorola, Google, H-P, and Cisco are having Indian teams devise software systems.
  • The universities in China and India have loose standards as far as what constitutes an engineer; it could be an auto mechanic. “It’s very hard to know what you’re getting,” Wheeler says, unless you go to a handful of top universities to recruit.
  • Wheeler says “you’re going to have to have very good recruiters in those countries”; you can’t expect to send someone over there and expect them to be successful, and you can’t easily find a local person who’s going to be a successful recruiter.
  • “The best way to get talent in Asia,” he says, is probably to grow your own.” They work hard; they crave a better life (many are unhappy with it as is); are often very individualistic and motivated; want their families to feel their successful; are interested in other cultures; and women are equal to men and are “really sharp.”
  • Recruiters must redefine their jobs for Asia; they must provide mentoring and coaching as to how to be successful; they need to use travel, the Internet, and more to encourage interaction with the headquarters. Have people travel back to the home country.
  • “There’s so much energy, so much potential. You can almost feel it in the air there.”


Alan Whitford, Abtech Parternship

(presentation on demographic issues) 

  • You “can’t find a plumber in Poland as all are in UK,” which is a significant turnaround from past years, where there was a shortage in the UK. Now, “if you need a plumber in Krakow, call someone in the UK.”
  • In the U.S., some people see the Mexican border as the answer to the baby-boom, labor-shortage issue.
  • In Europe, Ireland, the Netherlands, and France are growing in population/birthrates, unlike, for example, Italy.
  • “In Europe we don’t have any [interest] at all to keep working after 60.”
  • UK employers are dealing with a deluge of employment legislation.


Elizabeth McFarlan, Director, International Recruitment

UnitedHealth Group 

  • United’s a U.S.-based company, but some of its divisions are working overseas, doing such things as drug trials. In fact, it’s now operating in 42 different countries.
  • “I have no idea what’s going to happen six months ago,” she says. They may, for example, need nurses from the Philippines or they may acquire a company in Russia. “Who knows?” she asks.
  • United has operated very separately here in Europe, with little collaboration or connection to Corporate back in the U.S. She’s hoping that changes, and wants to make sure best practices from the U.S. are being considered here.
  • A sign of how removed she is from the headquarters: United’s using Jobster, though she was unaware of this until this week’s conference, when she heard Jobster CEO Jason Goldberg’s presentation here and inquired about it.
  • Back to the no-idea-of-what’s-happening-in-six-months, it’s trying to develop a pipeline to be ready for quick, large recruiting projects that could come at any time. United’s pipeline-flow-chart shows whether a certain job function is anticipated; whether the skill-set will be hard or easy to find; how likely it is that there’ll be a need; and what type of sourcing strategy will be deployed to fill the job.
  • As to the above mention of “what type of sourcing strategy will be deployed” — these are classified as A, B, and C, with A involving their company website, a referral campaign, job sites, agencies, newspapers, events, market research, and more. B would include only a portion of these; C would only include a smaller portion — just the company website. In an ideal world, she says, “recruiters would spend 75% of their time on pipelines.” United’s been trying to send emails to people quarterly, bi-monthly, or monthly, depending on the nature of the candidate. For example, people it just wants to stay in touch with may get a quarterly “hello” type of email, and those who it’s really trying to convert into candidates may get a monthly contact asking to meet up for coffee.



Double Your Money

Upstairs in the exhibit hall, Ross Henry, PwC recruiting manager, tells me that merger and acquisition experts are his toughest jobs to fill right now. He’s “doing everything,” he says, including a three-country (Canada, New Zealand, Australia) ad campaign and offering twice the previous amount for employee referrals. “Double Your Money,” he’s telling employees.

Other notes, soundbites, quotes, and thoughts from this week’s ERE conference in Amsterdam:

Kent Kirch, Global Recruiting Director, Deloitte:

  • Deloitte’s experiencing more cross-border recruitment.
  • Its HR is moving from transactional to strategic. HR is also “getting out of silos.”
  • He uses cost-per-hire and cost-of-open-position calculations to measure the business case of he work, something that’s necessary in his firm. “I work with consultants and accountants,” he says. “They tend to be very skeptical people.”
  • It has moved its technology to one global platform; Kirch suggests you start with some areas rather than a “big bang.” Says Kirch: “Once you get success with that core group, everybody else wants in.” In 41 countries, its Taleo system is deployed (such as Australia, China, and India) or in progress (Russia, Mexico).
  • It has tailored its careers site for local areas. “In China you don’t see pictures of North Americans.” Deloitte gets 4.3 million annual visits, 596,782 applications, and 20,000 newsletter registrations.
  • Formerly, Deloitte had various names, logos, and other brand-drift around the world; it has gotten a handle on that problem, but now it’s working on developing a standard “employer value proposition” (why you work here) that can be used around the world, tailored to local marketplaces. Universum Communications is helping Deloitte with this challenge.

Keith Robinson, from EngageLearning:

  • “A huge amount of people go to job boards, go to job sites, and never hear a thing. To me, that is offensive. We have a huge responsibility to deliver on the hope that people have, even if it’s just saying, ‘no thank you, you’re not quite right for us right now.'”
  • Corporations can hardly imagine ignoring 90-some-odd percent of consumers who asked them a consumer-product question through the corporate website, but “in recruitment we deliver this experience to people who are potential consumers of our product and service.”
  • “A talent pool is a medium” — he says. It’s not a list of names of people you may want to hire someday. It’s a process of communicating with these people, of providing them content.
  • “We’ve made it all too easy to apply to anything, because we’re afraid we might just lose them if we make it more difficult.” Job-seekers will put in a little more effort if they’re treated a little better.
  • Candidates want to know that you “care about them, think about them, and respect them. ?  Job-seekers are consumers; consumers are job-seekers.”

Marc Drees, from MatchSupport:

“Everybody likes job boards. Or they hate them, but they still come back to them.” 

Peter Went, WCC Smart Search & Match and Gunnar Wass, Swedish National Labour Market Board:

  • Went: It’s easy to post a job and very expensive to show decency and respect when handling applications.
  • Went: Many of Europe’s largest job sites are run by governments. This is particularly true in Sweden, for example, where the largest public job site is far larger than the largest commercial site.
  • Wass: New, more conservative government wants to “let private market in” more.
  • Went: “Technology will have a very hard time matching culture and soft skills.”

Alexandra Schwarz, Degussa (a multinational chemical company) and Harald Herzog, Degussa:

  • Degussa needed to have a global employment brand that would work in America, Europe, and elsewhere. It asked three questions: What is unique about Degussa? What parts of the employment experience differentiate it from competitors? What can Degussa offer besides pay and career development?
  • In working on its employer branding program, it considered all people who have an interest in the brand: applicants, business units, employees, HR, R&D, universities, associations, students, shareholders, and customers.
  • In China, they’ve had 20,000 applicants for one job!
  • Among the headlines it has used to advertise jobs:

Seen the world yet?

Stop dreaming, do it now!

Santiago or Shanghai?

Michael Hernandey, Global eStaffing Program Manager, Agilent (19,000 employees, 2,500 hiring managers)

  • When selecting technology, it looked for usability, performance, quality, functionality, future direction, and price.
  • It asked recruiters what they liked about the current product, and looked for gaps. It did external benchmarking — asked the same question of other firms. These processes took four to six months, and all took place before contacting any vendors. It wanted to make sure recruiters worldwide had one place to go to in order to find candidates — a “global applicant pool.”
  • Agilent contacted eight to nine vendors, it did two-hour sessions with each. It asked for pricing information. It put together the business case and asked for executive sponsorship. All the while, it had a hiring freeze, but Hernandey felt his team had a “rock-solid ROI.” It cut it down to four quite easily, as some vendors weren’t prepared to handle a truly global implementation. IT and Procurement did a “scrub-down.” IT helped eliminate a vendor because the system, IT felt, wasn’t easily configurable. It held a focus group of most vocal hiring managers, and also with new hires. It had recruiters help in process; recruiters favored VirtualEdge.They got down to two vendors, and IT and Procurement took another look at those. It ended with VirtualEdge.
  • Customer satisfaction was a major issue — they wanted customers to get the same sense they get when they visit the Ritz-Carlton (where questions are greeted with the response “it would be my pleasure”). It wasn’t concerned with “bells and whistles” as much as whether it was configurable, with a good search, good reporting, good metrics. “We were focused on the basics,” he says.
  • He emphasizes that users’ opinions need to drive the choice of a system, rather than relying on C-level, VP-level input. “Get down to the user level,” he says. “Try before you buy.”
  • They implemented the system in April 2005; the process took six months. It rolled it out around the world at the same time, rather than what some companies do, region by region. However, it did do a phased approach, starting with the more basic parts of the system. Moving over existing data was the toughest part.
  • It held weekly open forums for people to dial in from around the world and ask questions about the new system’s implementation. It trained people remotely via webex, but he recommends training in person if you can. People from around the world are sharing best practices with each other.
  • User satisfaction increased 20%; costs decreased 50%; two full-time employees were eliminated; and “excellent” performance from Palo Alto to Penang, he says. It’s now eyeing on-boarding as an add-on.


We're Never Going Back to the Soviet Union, he says

I’m in
Moscow (Gerry Crispin is also) at a conference put on by HR Digest, a Russian magazine, and Nextep, a conference company.�

ERE will have an in-depth look at Russia coming up in the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership.

Meanwhile, HR Digest’s editor, on Russia in the early 1990s:”After Perestroika, companies would do something crazy for a couple of years and be gone. Now they’re hear to stay.”

Also, on the confidence of some Russian companies, he says that in 10 years, they see themselves “bigger, strong, fatter, meaner,” and he says, “we’re never going back to the Soviet Union.”

Arina Bondarenko, who heads up HR for footwear company Ralf Ringer: [Some] company owners don’t give a damn about corporate culture” ? I “plead with you [Russian HR directors in audience] to tell owners the value of corporate culture.”

A company selling parts to mobile phones tells me about the difficulty finding IT people. She says that only 15% of the country is online — with citizens outside Moscow the most disconnected.

Olga Tulmanova, HR Director at the Converce Group, says that employees are leaving Russian jobs for reasons other than money. Another speaker mentions Bloomberg,�which�he�visited�in�London,�as a company that has been successful creating a compelling workplace and mission.

The cops pull people over in their cars to make sure they’re in the city legitimately, and sometimes pull over pedestrians. A couple of Russian HR directors tell me this isn’t such a bad thing, as they need to crack down on people working without papers.

The driver from the airport describes to me the Russian economic progression. “First we had better clothes. Then we have better cars. Hopefully soon, better flats [apartments].” He notes that the traffic in Moscow is a double-edge sword — not pleasant to drive in, but a sign that they city’s on the move.

We pass a McDonald’s, and then one of Stalin’s buildings.

, , ,

Roger Herman

A mutual colleague and friend called today to tell me that Roger Herman died at age 62 (bio). Though this is a bit hard to believe, apparently it is true.

Roger was a personal friend and I’ve been a long-time fan of his
“Trend Alert” newsletter that offers predictions, forwarding them around to people regularly and telling people to subscribe because they are always so on target. I spent one airplane flight reading his book “Impending Crisis” in its entirety. He was a speaker for ERE and a regular contributor at Workforce Management.

I had lunch with Roger and his wife on the Queen Mary in Long Beach; on a later trip, he came by to visit myself and others, a bit over a year ago. He was always as concerned about you personally as he was professionally.

Roger was extremely passionate about his views (that employers were ignoring the coming labor shortage) to the point where if you wanted him to stop talking about it, you had to make up an excuse (I’ve got a meeting). I found that most all the time, his views were right.

I hope I’m not botching this story too much, but he and his wife told me a story I thought was pretty cool. They got married and were looking for somewhere to live. They each had ties to different places — Ohio (where Roger was very involved in Hiram College), New York, etc. — but weren’t sure where. They took an assessment that tells you where you should live based upon your interests and preferences. It told them to move to Greensboro, North Carolina — so they did, and loved it.

Horsing Around at Google

That horse in the photo is actually Todd Carlisle, who heads up Google’s staffing analytics group and was getting ready for the company’s Halloween party yesterday.
John Sullivan once said that Google’s “dragging its feet” on metrics. Carlisle’s changing that.
He was originally doing staffing-analytics consulting for the company, and came on board about 2 1/2 years ago as a full-timer. He and about a half-dozen others handle requests from everyone from the top brass to business-unit managers, who are asking such questions as “How many female engineers do we have in the pipeline in Canada?” to “Are you having as much trouble filling xyz job in the Bay Area as we are here in Switzerland?”
Executives at Google are “very hungry for data,” Carlisle says, some of which his team gives out as regular reports (attrition, headcount, pipeline, and more) and some of which comes as responses to requests as mentioned above.
He, HR Director Stacy Sullivan, and others are in charge of keeping Google the way it is as it changes from fast-growing startup to fast-growing big public company. Sullivan’s trying to maintain the infamous culture, but part of that means Carlisle’s got to provide information to recruiters and hiring managers worldwide that will help them figure out who’s going to fit in. 
He’ll be looking at what traits successful current employees have, and what lessons can be learned from those people (Did they attend Purdue and work at Microsoft for at least five years? Did they major in music?) that will help Google select new ones.
“We have more jobs, more locations,” Carlisle says. “How do you know if they fit?”
That’s the question he’s hoping to help recruiters and hiring managers answer. More jobs is right: 9,651, to be exact, about 60 to 70% of whom, according to informal Google metrics, were in costume yesterday.