Posts Tagged ‘recruitment practices’

Activity-Based Auditing and Workflow

October 14, 2013

In 2011, I was building an on-boarding plan for an innovative aftermarket logistics model at multinational electronics firm, and I needed to have a knowledge audit element.
Since auditing of knowledge, while not a fully mature science, is at least a very well trodden area of Knowledge Management (KM), I had no doubt that I would find a suitable auditing model within a few looks at the work of fellow KM practitioners, a glance in my bookshelf, or a few minutes browsing websites.
However, to my surprise, although there were indeed a great many knowledge audit templates, none fitted the level of detail required for a production line environment like the one I was facing.

As a result, I needed to build a knowledge audit model almost from the ground up that would match the workflow nature of the business environment in a highly complex and large electronics repair organization that was geographically spread across the world, and which included an integrated supply chain. The target was a reverse-logistics chain that included the customer, a call center, logistics partners, multiple repair centers, and the original equipment manufacturer.

Once the model was created, the basic methodology was published in the JKMRP as a position paper on critical activity knowledge auditing for other KM practitioners to use[1]. Although the intention was to solve a practical gap in a specific area of reverse-logistics, it was obvious in retrospect that the audit model was well suited to any environment in which there are specific goals served by a documented workflow, from clinical and surgical environment, to manufacturing and repair industries. In response to requests to expand on the paper, the Ark Group (a Wilmington company) published “Knowledge Auditing: an Activity-Based Method for Organisational Success” [2]. (Free intro and sample chapter available for download).

Like many long journeys, this one started with a very innocent-looking question: How does the person carrying out this task know how to do it?
Yet when I asked this in practice for repair activities, it became obvious that there was some uncertainty about something that was critical to success.
Laying out the flow sheets of how the repair process worked, it was clear to everyone what sequential steps were to be carried out, and there was reasonable agreement on whom the actor would be, but less clarity on how they knew how to execute.

You might ask why this is important to anyone, yourself in particular.
There are three market pressures and three areas of neglect that make this important, and if you don’t have a solution, you are going to be buried.

Firstly the market changes:

  1. The “Silver Tsunami
  2. Market Turbulence
  3. Globalization

Now the areas of neglect:

  1. Hiring is a mess: In most firms little better than flipping a coin, in many a horror of wasted talent and superstition that is exceeded only by the secrecy and invisibility of just how bad it is. Hiring is typically done with no regard to knowledge.
  2. Training is ineffective: Usually decoupled from the actual job and doing little more than putting “bums on seats” (however you would like to interpret that).
  3. Job instructions are useless: Mostly people have to interrupt each other or create their own “cheat sheets”, which are often out of date, faulty, or downright irrational.

The most knowledgeable people are going to be leaving, there are too few replacements, and those replacements don’t have nearly the training and knowledge of those leaving. The time taken to on-board or even fire up off shoring is excessively long, and efficiency is way down and matched only by worker disaffection.
The market changes rapidly and big players in the top 500 vanish so fast that one can scarcely keep up, while disruptive technologies and business models spring up as if from nowhere. In addition to new customers, new competition, and rapid changes in technology that demand very agile responses and planning, the share of market capitalization has shifted dramatically over the last fifty years. In figure 3 the asset components of the S&P 500 market value is broken down between tangible (standard) and intangible assets. Clearly what a firm knows has become far more important in most cases than what tangible assets like property, equipment, and even cash balance they have.

Figure 3. S&P Market value by asset type Courtesy Ocean Tomo

In a globalized world, new competition and new customers will spring up wherever the market is, not where traditionally located or preferred, and those firms who are unable to rally flexible knowledge application are at a strategic disadvantage to those who know what they know and know how to scale up or down to match market pressures.

If your business has a workflow, then the audit process is designed to identify, on-board, and support workers faster and better, and to result in improvements in the organizational objectives served by those workflows.
The audit does so by making hiring, training, and job aids closely tied to the actual task execution.

The basic auditing principle is not all that hard when one looks at it coldly. The firm comes about to having an actor with the right knowledge, in the right place, and at the right time by some combination of:

  • They were hired to have that knowledge already;
  • The actor was trained in some way; or
  • A job aid would be provided to them at the time of execution.

Precisely which knowledge and what it pertains to would require a bit more granularity, and that hides in the diagram in figure 1 below.

Figure 1. Workflow Sub-Structures

However, this obviously entails a lot of analysis, so another core component of the audit is to focus only on the knowledge that is individually necessary and also collectively sufficient to achieve the organization’s critical goals. After all, organizations have a lot of knowledge that really isn’t on that critical path between work and their main organizational aims. Figure 2 traces the path from the organizational objectives to the individual tasks that lead to their achievement.

Figure 2. Critical Path

So what should you do?
Here’s my suggested shortlist:

  • Gather a team to perform an audit to identify the critical workflows and to audit the knowledge needs
  • Update hiring practices to match the actual knowledge needs at an activity level, and throw out vague and wishful role-based hiring methods
  • Refactor training to align with work activity knowledge needs
  • Build a knowledge base of job aids suited to the activities in the critical knowledge value chains, and that will deliver job aids in a fashion appropriate to the working conditions
  • Build an audit practice that monitors for deviation and applies Lean principles to fixing wasteful workflow

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

References

1.    Loxton, M.H., A simplified integrated critical activity-based knowledge audit template. Knowl Manage Res Prac, 2013.

2.    Loxton, M.H., Knowledge Auditing: an Activity-Based Method for Organisational Success. 2013, London: Ark Group.

Matthew Loxton is a certified Knowledge Management practitioner, and is a peer reviewer for the Journal of Knowledge Management Research & Practice. Matthew works at WBB as a senior analyst applying KM principles to Health IT implementation. Matthew holds a Master’s degree in Knowledge Management from the University of Canberra, and provides pro-bono consulting in Knowledge Management and IT Governance to various medical institutions.

Interview Questions – A way to get better performers, or get sued?

January 20, 2011

I was going to post a nice article on a fashion game-show and what it can teach us about business, and my stand-in article was on how to get value out of all that ubiquitous company gossip and rumor.
… but then I got into another long exchange with several recruiters and HR professionals about interview questions, and I decided to talk about that instead.

Besides, I love yapping on about statistics and also came to realize that this was a subject that is a foreign area to many HR people – apparently and according to three HR Professionals, statistics and questionnaire design are not typically in the training for HR staff and recruiters.

Status Quo

Here’s the situation:

Many recruiters have lists of their favorite questions to ask candidates, and there are more blogs and articles online than you can shake a stick at with lists of “best questions”, “favorite questions”, and “most common questions”. Some recruiters have their own lists, some draw from those blogs and articles, and others make up new questions as they go, or even do it on the fly during an interview.
What gets my giddy-goat is that while they all wax lyrical about how wonderful their questions are and how happy they are with the results, almost none volunteer how they determine that their questions do anything whatsoever other than make them happy and take time.

The articles tend to be empty when it comes to explaining the reasoning behind the “top ten/twenty/forty-two” list, and can’t point to results other than (at best) a few hand-picked and probably fictitious anecdotes. Many recruiters also espouse questions to “throw” the candidate, catch them off-guard, or startle them, which is supposedly going to reveal a “true character” or do something else that is simply marvelous but undisclosed.
… and of course there are many examples of those “why is a manhole cover round” sort of question which are spoken of in hushed and reverent terms.

My question is why is one asking these questions at all.
I mean, it takes time, effort, and presumably one needs to take notes and then compare answers, and time is money.
The answer is that the questions are going to give insight into the applicant’s personality and abilities.

Fair enough, I say.

… but this is hiring and we are presumably trying to get a better performer than those of our competition, and whose performance translates into achievement of corporate objectives – EBITDA, for example.
In which case, I am not so sure that we are trying to discover “true character” as much as simply trying to match applicants to a role in such a way that we are more likely to achieve operational goals – in other words, performance.

What to Do

Firstly, don’t ask illegal questions, it can get your employer into a whole heap of pain.
I say this because over the years I have been asked about my religion, my age, my national origin, and even my political affiliations, and each time I made a mental note to eradicate that if I joined the firm.
There is silly, and then there is just plain ridiculously silly – Don’t ask questions that expose your employer to legal action for improper discrimination. It costs money, it harms the reputation, and it just isn’t necessary.
Simple rule, if you aren’t sure of the legality of a question, leave it out!

Secondly, get a book on questionnaire design and interviewing (Scheaffer, Mendenhall Iii et al. ; Oppenheim 1998; Van Bennekom 2002; Swanson 2005), and maybe one on qualitative analysis (Ezzy 2002)

Here are some basic points before we get to my recommendations on designing a process for interview questions:

  1. Getting experts for technical or specialized tasks is a good idea, and you shouldn’t stop when you reach staffing – IO Psychology was founded precisely to address staffing issues.
  2. Don’t fret unnecessarily about sample size – a sample is used to predict a feature of a population to which it belongs and you aren’t trying to tell what is going on in the general population by using your sample of applicants, so sample size is not as relevant.
  3. There are robust statistical methods to deal with non-parametric situations in which sample sizes are small, such as Kolmogorov-Smirnov, Willcoxon, Kendall, and other tests
  4. Statistical tests are pretty much always going to be better than gut-feel and guessing since that is precisely what they have been designed to do. They exist because of the many and various biases and errors that come factory-installed in our Neolithic brains.

I often encounter this chestnut – “Past performance is a better predictor of success than chance.”

Yes it is a better predictor than chance, but that doesn’t mean that the question or the specific past behavior selected are better than chance.
While it is true that amongst the myriad past behaviors there are those that would predict specific future behavior, there is no reason to believe that we have selected the right predictors or that what we believe to have been a predictive behavior is going to be so.
In addition, don’t forget that people learn, and learning is exactly the opposite of past predicting future.

Dr.Shepell the EAP expert has suggested a regimen of measuring the predictive power of your questions over time. He suggested 2yr tenure as a performance measure, and that the scores from recruitment questions be correlated to whether the person is still employed at the 2yr anniversary to see if the questions had higher predictive power than chance. This is a simple task that can be done with standard features in Excel.

My suggestion is more complex and involves (a) post-diction to see if a question would have predicted known performers and (b) for prediction I choose the regular performance review scores. Predictive questions should correlate strongly with performance evaluation scores (unless the appraisals are rubbish).

An additional suggestion is to code the probationary outcome and either produce a dummy Boolean variable to correlate against the questions, or to expand the probationary result into a Likert scale with negative values if the person was released and positive values if they were retained. That allows a “no thanks” or “ok,sure” to be distinguished from a “Hell, No!” and a “Hell, YES” evaluation.

Here’s what I am recommending:

  1. Derive interview questions from four sources:
    1. previous critical events in the company’s history
    2. desired operational outcomes or goals
    3. the characteristics of known performers
    4. Industry-specific authorities (but make sure you understand the heritage of the questions)
    5. Like unpackaged drugs, do not get them from anyone without solid credentials
  2. Test them before use
    1. Examine them for Content Validity and Construct Validity i.e. do they test the things they are meant to and do they do so exhaustively and exclusively – the whole truth and nothing but the truth
    2. Check with simple correlation that currently known high performers answer the questions as you would have expected. If you have a top-gun Software engineer and want to get another, make sure the questions would be answered by them in the way you expected – if they don’t then modify your question or drop it.
    3. Check that the answers by existing staff correlate to their performance reviews – unless you are making a pig’s ear of the regular performance reviews, you should have simple numerical ratings that can be correlated to the answers to your questions. If there isn’t a strong positive relationship between the appraisal scores and your questions, then one or both are a mess.
    4. Take your questions to the company lawyer who knows employment law in your locality. This is not a DIY step, get legal advice before you put the company’s neck on the block.
    5. Take them to the Marketing department and get them to give you a feel for whether you are damaging the brand in any way. You shouldn’t have many questions so they should be able to give you a feel in a few breaths.
  3. Use them in a consistent manner
    1. Don’t ad lib and don’t change the wording or delivery
    2. Explain how long the questioning will take, who will use the answers and for what purpose, and how long they will be kept on record
    3. Keep records – this is company property, not yours to discard or lose
  4. Test them over time
    1. Use Dr.Shepell’s criterion – if the results don’t predict tenure, then something is wrong, probably the question itself.
    2. At each performance review, run correlations again and see how the questions are doing at predicting performance – if the correlation isn’t higher than 0.5 then you might as well be flipping a coin! You should be refining the question battery to give you an overall predictive power of 0.85 or above.
    3. Once you have a few years of data, get a good statistician in to do some fancier tests like Discriminant and Factor analysis.
  5. Be Sneaky Observant
    1. See if you can get people at other companies and particularly your competitors to answer the questions – the objective is to get a competitive edge over other firms in your market space by hiring better people than they are.
    2. Put some of the questions online in forums where SMEs that you typically hire would congregate, and see if they correlate to how senior the respondents appear to be in their area of expertise
    3. Approach known experts in the field to answer some of your questions and check those correlations

… but Why?

So why all this bother, after all stats is hard, and isn’t this going to take a lot of effort and time?

If you are keeping records of the answers people gave and how you scored those answers (and please tell me you are keeping scrupulous records), and if you have six-monthly or annual performance reviews that include numerical scores for various categories of performance (and please tell me you are doing this and keeping records), then all you need is to spare a few paltry minutes on extracting the values and running a correlation between the scores from the questions and the performance scores.

The IT folks can write a script to do all that automatically if your appraisal system doesn’t already have that functionality.

The effort is therefore not all that great since you should be doing most of it anyway.

The benefit is that you …

  1. Don’t waste time and effort asking, coding, and using questions that don’t do anything – if the question is as effective as flipping a coin, leave it off the list
  2. Get a solid basis for a defense if your hiring practices wind up being challenged in court – it is a whole lot easier to defend if you can show statistical tracking over time for questions used than standing there looking earnest and saying how you really really believe they are good questions.
  3. You get to demonstrate in real and tangible terms the value of your profession – you can show in hard numbers how the hiring processes lead to competitive advantage and shareholder value. Not a bad thing to be able to show these days!

Conclusion

Building interview and selection questions in a methodical way and tracking their predictive power eliminates many of the inbuilt biases that come with the standard-issue human brain, and creates intellectual capital that moves the questioning process from a smoke & mirror charade to a solid foundation and translates into real operational advantage.
The costs of doing it are lower than simply carrying on a status quo based on belief and opinion, and the additional effort involved in running basic statistical correlations is negligible.

There is simply no reason not to do so.

~~~


Matthew Loxton is a Knowledge Management expert and holds a Master’s degree in Knowledge Management from the University of Canberra. Mr. Loxton has extensive international experience and is currently available as a Knowledge Management consultant or as a permanent employee at an organization that wishes to put knowledge assets to work.

Bibliography

Ezzy, D. (2002). Qualitative Analysis: Practice and Innovation (New South Wales, Allen & Unwin.

Oppenheim, A. N. (1998). Questionnaire design, interviewing and attitude measurement, Pinter Pub Ltd.

Scheaffer, R. L., W. Mendenhall Iii, et al. “Elementary survey sampling. USA: IPT, 1996.” Links: 126-195.

Swanson, R. A. (2005). Research in organizations: Foundations and methods of inquiry, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Van Bennekom, F. C. (2002). Customer surveying: A guidebook for service managers, Customer Service Press.

 

Does Your Firm Score As Badly As BAH?

December 14, 2010

In between pro bono consulting, contracting, and research, I am also job-hunting for a permanent position and I thought I would give a specific example of bad Knowledge Management practices that I come across typically from  HR departments.

Since Booz Allen Hamilton have over the years never responded to any job application or job query I have sent them, I feel quite safe in discussing them by name as a good example of a really stupid practice.
They obviously aren’t very self-aware, so this post should comfortably escape their attention, but if they did suddenly wake up and want to talk, maybe I could get them to pay for some basic education on prudent knowledge management practices – as I have said before, Knowledge Management isn’t something you buy, it is something you already do, just either well or badly.

… but maybe buying some education might be a start.

To survive in a competitive commercial terrain, a firm needs to provide copious signaling to various parties that it is a serious contender and getting this wrong – being off-key, deaf, or imperious, can spell the difference between long-term survival and not.
This includes inter alia getting the behavior and messaging right in respect of three distinct groups of people, and to give …:

  1. … existing and potential investors the distinct impression that you are master of a domain
  2. … current and potential customers tangible evidence that you are alert, responsive, and reliable
  3. … current and potential employees that you are awake, in-tune, and believable

In case this post was tempted to wander off into a strictly theoretical discussion, what follows is a verbatim response to a job application that illustrates in lurid detail the kinds of things that people do hundreds of times a month and which do damage to the corporate image and branding, and which makes the highly-skilled and desirable applicants think your organization must be staffed with morons.

I have highlighted some specific strings for comment, but as a general observation the whole response is unworthy of a serious company that is aware that job applications may come from current or future customers, investors, suppliers, and employees, and which makes an effort to get this right.

Example

The following text (my italics) is a verbatim response to a specific job application:

Dear Matthew H Loxton(1),

Thank you for taking the time to submit your profile for the position Knowledge Management Strategist (01098857)(2) at Booz Allen Hamilton(3).

We are eager to review your qualifications in terms of the requirements for this position.  If our recruiters believe you may be a fit for this role, someone from our staff will contact you(4).

We encourage you to continue to check our web site(5) for new opportunities.  As you add to your credentials, we encourage you to click here(6) to update your profile.

Again, thank you for submitting your profile and for expressing an interest in our firm(7, 8).

Best regards,

Recruiting Services Team
Booz Allen Hamilton(9)
http://www.boozallen.com

Replies to this message are undeliverable and will not reach the Recruiting Services Team. Please do not reply.(10)


ce_message_en_html.htm(11)

Comments

  1. Well ok, they got my name right, which is a plus because most don’t even get this bit right, score 1
  2. Score a point here for saying what the role was and the number, because frankly, after seven different submissions I can’t remember what your role was, and typically a job-seeker will submit hundreds of applications. Subtract the point for not hyper-linking the job – I mean really guys, you list it but then don’t link to it, how lame is that?
  3. Score a point for reminding me who you are, subtract it again for not hyper-linking it
  4. OK, so how condescending could you possibly get for starters and why aren’t you telling me when and how? Explain your process, put some commitment in regarding timeframes, and be specific! Deduct 5 points
  5. What sort of lame anchor text to your web site is “web site”? – use a meaningful anchor text so you don’t look like utter newbs. Deduct 1 point for newb factor that makes the company look foolish and clumsy.
  6. Same as above, “click here” isn’t something people need to be told in order to comprehend the implication of a hyperlink – show that you “get it” and make the anchor text meaningful. Deduct another point for making people think you probably do the same stupid stuff on your web page too.
  7. You have a name, use it, your firm’s name isn’t “our firm” and this needs to be hyperlinked as well. Branding guys, branding! Deduct 1 point
  8. This was your shot at providing a hook from the Marketing guys to say something sticky and meaningful about what you do and who you are, and you flubbed it so badly I want to deduct several hundred points, but one will suffice. Try to make the reader get a little frisson of emotional entanglement with your mission and vision.
  9. Again you could hyperlink and again you had a shot at branding, and again you undermine the brand. -1
  10. This deserves a public flogging at least – besides being incredibly insulting and condescending, it is just plain moronic. No other department in a firm other than HR thinks it makes sense to have one-way communication with the public. You are dealing with people who might wind up at customers or investors or analysts, do you really want to stick your thumb in their eye. … but that’s not all, having insulted the public, you then also remove any hope that the person could help you learn. They can’t even say “hey, your job add has errors in it”! See my previous blog on departments that undermine corporate branding
  11. Well attaching the same email was, …um…, interesting, but you know what would have made more sense? – sending me a copy of my application and the job details. Now that would be useful when you call in three months and I can’t remember what it was about. -1

Discussion

Getting -11 is not a good score and should be a sign that things are wrong – Either staff are running around without a due degree of management oversight, or (even worse) the managers are running a shop that is deliberately out of alignment with the Marketing and Sales part of the company.
In which case, it might be better if the recruitment side of Booz Allen Hamilton worked for the competition instead.

Why a firm’s recruiters should behave so radically differently to how other departments behave that touch the public is a source of mystification to me.
I do know that the common trope will be that they are very busy, that they get hundreds (if not thousands) of emails, and that nobody has ever complained before, so let’s look at that for a moment.

We are too Busy

Not too busy to undermine the corporate branding though, just too busy to be like any other customer-facing department and be polite and have coherent and consistent practices.
Customer Service and Sales go to the ends of the earth to be polite and to maintain branding and messaging, and none of them would in their wildest nightmares imagine that ignoring the public is a clever or even remotely sane thing to do. Let’s not beat around the bush on this, making the HR return email address an invalid one is like a receptionist that refuses to listen to anybody calling or arriving on the premises.

HR should no more supply an invalid email address to the public than should Sales, Support, or the receptionist, and nobody is too busy to adhere to good knowledge management practices or protect the brand.

But we get so many emails

So what? – That’s your job, figure it out.
Throwing them in the bin is not a valid option

This is the public talking back to you and if you don’t like that then get another profession that doesn’t deal with the public.
Amongst those emails could easily (very likely) be one from somebody whose other job opportunity will be as the chief purchasing officer of your biggest customer, and they might easily take this experience with them in their next role. In fact the research shows that they do.
Being rude to the public is stupid, ask Marie Antoinette.

Nobody Ever Complained Before

How would you know if you don’t let them email you, your phone number isn’t listed, and you don’t invite comment.

It is truly amazing how many firms are deliberately and systematically deaf, and how this eventually leads to corporate death.
Preventing people from telling you that you are full of it or that what you are doing is wrong, irritating, or stupid is not a clever approach to survival and does nothing to foster a Learning Organization.
Being incurious is bad enough, but actually preventing feedback is stupendously stupid.

Conclusion

This really should not be something anyone needs to point out or explain – never be rude or dismissive to the public, and yet HR departments across the globe do this on a routine and ongoing fashion, apparently exempt from the kind of oversight that we conspicuously apply to sales, marketing, and customer service teams.
I am not singling Booz Allen Hamilton out for criticism, this is a widespread and pernicious pattern of behavior – and one that needs to be stamped out across the board.

~~~

Matthew Loxton is a Knowledge Management expert and holds a Master’s degree in Knowledge Management from the University of Canberra. Mr. Loxton has extensive international experience and is currently available as a Knowledge Management consultant or as a permanent employee at an organization that wishes to put knowledge assets to work.

Are some departments undermining your branding?

August 26, 2010

Knowledge Management Issues: Branding and Bad Communication Memes

Let’s presume that you are the Vice President of Marketing for your organization and Brand Management is something you are naturally quite passionate about. You have spent several million dollars over the last few years carefully building brand recognition in the marketplace, and at last you can see the signs of these efforts – customers associate the logo, color schemes, and fonts with the company name and products. You have also tested brand recognition out in the market, and prospective clients show good brand recognition. The investment analysts have the brand on their radar, and you are slowly moving up and right on the magic-quadrants graph.

You are naturally very focused on brand recognition, but equally on what the brand evokes – you want recognition to trigger positive, dare I say, buying emotions. You keep a close watch on whether people refer to your brand positively.

Part of this effort involves a shiny new website, and on it you have a teaser that offers a white-paper and some product information, and then collects respondent information and sends an acknowledgment email.
Look at the following three scenarios:

1. Which of the following taglines would you have at the end of the email?

  1. “Please DO NOT respond to this email, this is an unattended mailbox.”

  2. This is an automatically generated email, please do not reply.

  3. This is an auto-generated email. Please do not reply to this message.

2. Which of the following email addresses would you provide?

  1. donotreply@invalidemail.com;

  2. noreply @invalidemail.com;

  3. do_not_reply@invalidemail.com;

3. Which of the following font, color scheme, and logo combinations would you use?

  1. Plain ASCII text, no logo, no color scheme

  2. Same as #1 but with really tiny font

  3. Same as #1 but with no actual company information at all

Well by now you are thinking that nobody would ever do any of these things.

However, let me assure you that I collected these and many more from real emails collected over the last year. The only facts that I have changed is that these are not from a marketing department, but from HR departments.

I have also measured people’s affective response to receiving these emails, and there is pretty much uniform feeling of irritation and displeasure with substantial skew towards negativity.
One person summed it up thus: “[the emails] are downright insulting, rude, offensive … I wind up steaming and irritable and in no mood to buy from them, ever”

People hate them, and they have residual dislike for the associated company that rubs off both in terms of their purchasing patronage as well as their willingness to volunteer positive references for the products and services.
I have no data on how many bad references they volunteer to acquaintances, but I would bet it far exceeds both positive and neutral references put together, and I also bet that they will volunteer the bad experience enthusiastically.

Now consider for a moment that these emails that I collected are all in response to people who submitted applications to job vacancies at director and VP level, and that the people being anatagonized are likely to find jobs elsewhere at places you might care about and where they may exercise significant influence over decisions that affect your firm – customers, prospective customers, business partners, suppliers, your bank, and so on.

Here’s an odd paradox though – as much as the emails are probably an affront to many thousands of people, the fact that they are unbranded means that there is actually a weakened link to your branding. The effect is not universal nor very strong, but for the moment the fact that they are not using the same branding is a slight protection – imagine if they were experienced as rude, offensive, antagonizing and they also had very high brand recognition!
I can’t imagine a better outcome for your competitors

The flip side is that your HR department is touching thousands of people regularly and with a bit of help from Marketing, could turn this into a positive branding exercise – leave those people not only with high brand recognition, but also a feeling that they have been treated with respect, listened to, and heard.

It may be a good idea for the Marketing and PR side of the firm to keep an eye on how other departments are communicating with the public, whether that is the customer support teams, the receptionists, the accounts receivable team, or your HR department.

The first step is to clean up communications – there just is no good that can come from irritating thousands of people, some of whom might soon be in positions of power over your costs or revenue.

Second step needs to be a complete overhaul of the communication format and styling that recruiters use, it makes no sense to spend tons of effort on the website, letterheads, and all those other communications to the public, only to have some departments send out thousands of “no-name brand” emails.

Your HR department can be a positive branding force, but you have to include them in the process and support them so they don’t need to employ utilitarian techniques  that are the polar opposite to the rest of your branding.

Please contribute to my self-knowledge and take this 1-minute survey that tells me what my blog tells you about me. – Completely anonymous.

~~~

Matthew Loxton is a Knowledge Management professional and holds a Master’s degree in Knowledge Management from the University of Canberra. Mr. Loxton has extensive international experience and is currently available as a Knowledge Management consultant or as a permanent employee at an organization that wishes to put knowledge to work.


%d bloggers like this: