Thursday, March 7, 2013

Guest Post: David Ducheyne's HR Books

This month's book recommendations are provided by a first-class HR pro called David Ducheyne. 

David is Chief People Officer at Securex. He is nominated as the Belgian HR Manager of the year, and I think he'll win the title! Please do me a favour and vote for him, by following this link  before mid-March 2013.

Inspiration from the past for a better future

These are dire times. Since 2008 Europe has been going through one crisis after another. The basis of this crisis is human behaviour and leadership. The problem is that we could have known where it would end. And we haven’t learnt much. The NY stock exchange is doing great (date: 5 march 2013) and so we can go back to business as usual.

But let’s look back and see what some people warned us about what could happen and which hints they gave us. So I picked to review three ancient books that are still inspiring.

The first one is The Human Side of Enterprise by Douglas McGregor (1960). He hoped that social sciences could help to create a good society. He predicted the coming of evidence-based management and saw a direct positive impact of research. In that he was a little naive, comparing social sciences to exact sciences, but still. He hoped that companies would move from a “carrot-and-stick” approach (Theory X) towards a higher form of management (Theory Y) that relies on self-control and self-direction. McGregor described 50 years ago elements of what we call today the new way of work and modern leadership. We can ask ourselves what we’ve done with that positive view on management?

A second book is Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, written in 1970. Toffler said that the increasing speed of change would cause enormous distress, what he called future shock. In this massive book he describes in detail the changes that occur, many of which have come true. Two special elements merit some attention: decision stress and information overload. In a changing environment people will have to make more decisions, which causes stress. Toffler launched the word information overload to illustrate that people need to process more information than they can handle. In 1970 the world was turning at a slower pace and the digitilisation had just begun.

A third book is “Small is beautiful: Economics as if People mattered”. This book by Schumacher in which he criticizes Western economics. The context of this book is the Oil crisis. Schumacher argues that our economic model is not sustainable. He talks about enoughness and stresses the need to balance human desires and technology. He attacks the notion of growth, and pleads for a focus on well-being with less consumption.

Many of the ideas from these three books could have been written today. You can find those ideas in Tim Jackson’s “Prosperity without Growth” (2009) or Sennet’s “Culture of a new Capitalism” (2006), Gratton’s “The Shift” (2011). Reviewing old books is more than just a curiosity. We should be aware of what historical figures have written and suggested and see them as inspiration from the past for a better future. They make us also humble in the sense that most problems have already found a solution. But something stopped us from listening to these (and other) thought leaders. Instead our society went bezerk, focussing on greed and consumption.

There is hopefully a time of a sustainable way of working coming: doing business as if people mattered. I strongly believe that the HR profession can and will play an important role in this evolution. And if not, someone might read this blog and say how wrong or how right I was and regret that nothing has happened since 2013.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Enneagram In Love & Work, by Helen Palmer

I recently attended a fascinating seminar at the Halin Prémont Enneagram Institute. I thought I should read a book or two about the enneagram and share it with you here.

The enneagram is a personality model describing nine types and their relationships.

Compared to the famous MBTI, the enneagram is a little less pragmatic and has been less validated scientifically, but it's also more profound and more spiritual, describing the deep motivations of each type. I would say that the MBTI describes how you behave while the enneagram explains why you behave like that.

The 9 personality types

Each type has a nickname:
  1. The Perfectionist
  2. The Giver
  3. The Performer
  4. The Romantic
  5. The Observer
  6. The Trooper (or the Devil's Advocate)
  7. The Epicure
  8. The Boss
  9. The Mediator

If you have 45 minutes, watch this video: it describes the enneagram model and each one of its types:

If you'd like a quicker and funnier sample, here's a description of Type 9 (which happens to be mine):

What's In It For HR?

The book titled “The Enneagram” offers an in-depth description of each type. You want to read it if you 'd like to understand each type in detail and where the theory comes from.

“The Enneagram In Love And Work” is more practical. After a more synthetic description of each type, it offers a directory of relationships to show how a type interacts with each of the other eight. It can be useful from an HR perspective: it brings keys to decode work relationships so it can be used in conflict resolution, negotiation, team building, mentoring...

Book data


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Who - by Geoff Smart & Randy Street

“Who – The A Method for Hiring” was written by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. Smart and Street manage ghSMART, a management assessment company that helps corporations and big investors hire CEO’s and senior managers.

The book starts by two features that I found particularly engaging. One is this quote of Jim Collins, author of Good to Great: “The most important decisions that businesspeople make are not what decisions, but who decisions”.

The other is a funny and pertinent critic of the avatars of incompetent interviewers:
  • The Art Critic, who goes on gut instinct
  • The Sponge, that lets as many people as possible interview the candidate, and gathers tons of mostly irrelevant information
  • The Prosecutor, aggressively asking tricky questions
  • The Suitor, who spends all the time selling the job and forgets to ask questions
  • The Trickster, who will throw a paper on the floor to see which candidate cleans it up
  • The Animal Lover, stubbornly sticking to his or her pet questions
  • The Chatterbox,who manages a conversation rather than a selection interview
  • The Psychological Tester – I'm afraid I don't agree with Smart and Street on this one because I believe in the interest of psychometric and personality tests as long as they are built and used rigorously.
  • The Aptitude Tester, who makes tests the only determinant of the hiring decision
  • The Fortune-Teller who likes to ask candidates questions about a hypothetical future, like “What would you do if...”. This one is the most common in my personal experience.

Those poor hiring methods continue to be very widely spread: a recent Forbes article commented a scientific study showing that hiring managers select people who they think could be their friends instead of the most qualified applicants.

In contrast, Smart and Street use a rigorous method to select “A players”. They define an A player as “a candidate who has at least 90% chance of achieving a set of outcomes that only the top 10% of possible candidates could achieve”.

The “ghSMART A Method for Hiring” includes four steps:
  • Scorecard: It's a concise document describing the mission, the exact outcomes that should be achieved, and the competencies needed. The scorecard is the link between your strategy and the people you want to hire.
  • Source: The book explains how to generate a continuous flow of good candidates. Smart and Street are convinced that referrals by your employees or your professional network are by far the best sourcing method. They also give practical advice about other sourcing canals: external recruiters, recruiting researchers and sourcing systems.
  • Select: In my humble opinion, the most practical and useful part of “Who” is the chapter that describes ghSMART's interviewing method. It describes a series of four interviews:
    • The screening interview should be short, phone-based, and structured. It's mainly about the candidate's career goals, interests, and strengths and weaknesses.
    • The Topgrading Interview® goes into more details in order to uncover the patterns of somebody's career history. It doesn't focus only on the candidate's opinions, but also on hard facts and on the views of former bosses, peers and reports.
    • The focused interview is used to gather more information about a particular outcome or competency listed in the scorecard.
    • The reference interview is a phone call to the candidate's references. Smart and Street think you should call seven of them: three past bosses, two peers or customers and two subordinates. They explain how to structure the conversation and how to read between the lines, as people generally don't like to give a negative reference.
  • Sell: To convince the best candidate to join your organization, you shouldn't focus on the comp and ben package only. There are other elements you can use to sell the position, that the book calls the five F's of selling:
    • Fit
    • Family
    • Freedom
    • Fortune
    • Fun
The book offers many anecdotes about successful or unsuccessful recruiting experiences. It is very practical, going into many details about the way to organize a day of interviews, to ask questions, to interrupt a candidate, to gather more precise facts about a candidate's accomplishments, etc.

It has been immediately useful to me, giving me several new ideas on how to strengthen my recruiting process.

If you are interested in books about recruiting, you might also be interested in:

Book data

  • Who: The A Method for Hiring - Solve Your #1 Problem
  • By Geoff Smart and Randy Street, from ghSMART
  • Ballantine Books
  • 188 pages
  • Available on Who: The A Method for Hiring

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Conversation Company, by Steven Van Belleghem

Social media are a powerful communication tool, only if used as part of a broader strategy focusing on your culture and your people.

From the Checklist Mentality to the Conversation Company

At the end of 2012, who doesn't know that social media are a must for every company that is serious about its communication?

Many company leaders create a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a mobile app, and think they are done. That's what Van Belleghem calls the “checklist mentality”. It's useless.

Social media are just a place, among others, to manage conversations.

Managing conversations is about much more than a good old marketing campaign with a Facebook logo on it. It means:

  • Paying attention to what people say online about your brand and responding in a positive and appropriate manner.
  • Uncovering your unused conversation potential: what do you do to help your very satisfied customers spread the word?
  • Building a conversation-worthy experience at every phase of the purchase process.
  • Innovating in the use of a wide range of media: this includes your monthly invoices and out-of-office messages.
  • Using conversations with the customer to nurture every step of your production process, starting with R&D.
  • Transforming your employees into ambassadors: they are probably proud of your company (if they aren't, you've got a serious HR problem...).

Culture, People and Social Media

Van Belleghem also explains that your corporate culture, including its core values, will determine the content and the style of your conversations.

And only your employees can make your culture tangible.

An authentic culture, a strong and positive identity: here's the link between internal and external communication, with social media as a powerful lever.

In another book, somewhat more academic, Graeme MARTIN and Susan HETRICK also emphasized the need for consistency between brand reputation and corporate identity. (See my November 2011 post about “Corporate Reputations, Branding and People Management“).

Steven's strong data

As a Managing Partner at InSitesConsulting, an online market research agency, Van Belleghem was in a position to conduct serious research supporting the book, including:
  • The analysis of one million conversations on Twitter and Facebook fan pages
  • Two quantitative surveys
  • 25 in-depth interviews with company leaders
The book includes several case studies in every chapter and ends with a practical guide titled “How to Become a Conversation Company in Three Easy Steps”.


What's in It for HR?

I was personally planning an important recruitment campaign while reading the book. (I'm hiring 100 nurses). It gave me several new ideas and helped me find how to enlist my own employees as ambassadors for this campaign.

You'll also find the book useful if you are writing your organization's social media policy, or trying to convince your CEO to open her mind about social media in the workplace.

The book also illustrates very convincingly how HR is gradually blending with Marketing and Corporate Culture.

Book Data

Some months ago, HR Consultancy SD Worx invited me to an event in Brussels. I took a boat to a little island in the middle of a park. A bunch of white geese greeted me on arrival, scaring my little HR self. I wondered if I was at the right place. Then, Steven Van Belleghem took the microphone and made his point about the Conversation Company, and everything started to make sense in my little HR brain...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer

Developing a world-class selection process. Surviving cancer. What do these two accomplishments have in common?

Throughout the book, Jim Roddy doesn't talk a lot about his past illness. The point, in his own history, at which his personal and professional life collided is revealed only in one of the last chapters.

But his recruitment recruitment method requires a personality trait that is obviously necessary when you fight cancer: tenacity.

Only beginners and amateurish recruiters think that selection is primarily a matter of instinct and gut feelings. Real HR pros know that hiring the best requires rigorous, focused and repeated efforts.

As an executive in the publishing industry, the author draws the lessons from several years of recruiting. He explains in many details how to organize the recruitment process and how to ask questions. He shares his methods, stories, and even 258 interview questions.

Among his most original tools and useful ideas, are the following:

Focusing on aversions

Aversions are potential problems the interviewer thinks he could have with the candidate. In his hiring process, Jim Roddy reveals them transparently to the candidate and asks as many questions as necessary to discard any risk.

The questions are “behavioral”, based on the candidate's actual behavior in past circumstances.

Hiring for bench-strength

The author recommends to hire a person who has the potential to perform not only in the position you are filling at the moment, but also in positions one or two levels up. If you are looking for a salesman, ask yourself if he could one day be a good sales manager or sales director.

The emotional outcomes of an interview process

You don't want a candidate to leave the interview or the whole selection process with bad feelings about your company. The author explains how to make sure all potential hires find your organization professional and exciting.

Managing expectations

Many interviewees promise a lot during the selection phase, but might soon “forget” what they told you. The book shows how to transform vague promises into clear formal commitments.

The dinner interview

I'm really not sure this one would be well received in Europe, where we have a different culture, but I found it very interesting. At the end of the selection process, the recruiter invites the candidate and his or her spouse or “significant other” to the restaurant.

The decision to join a company will have consequences for the candidate's family. It is thus fair, and pragmatic, to recognize that the spouse should take part in the decision.

More interviews, more questions

One of Jim Roddy's motto's is: “A candidate who is not a definite 'no' is a 'yes' to bring back for another interview”. Each step of the selection process is a chance to discard aversions, or to discover new ones.

Where the usual interviewer asks one question, Jim Roddy asks two or three, just to be certain. One of his favorite is: “Can you give me another example?”.

Why? Because he doesn't want to take a risk. He recognizes selection as the key to his company's success. He hires like his company's life depended on it. This is the sense of “hiring like you just beat cancer”.  

Book Data

  • Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer - Hiring lessons, interview best practices, and recruiting strategies for managers from a cancer-surviving executive
  • By Jim RODDY, President of Jameson Publishing
  • Dog Ear Publishing
  • 163 pages
  • Available on Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer

Jim also posts great articles about recruiting on HR website

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Business Model Generation, by Osterwalder and Pigneur

Business Model Generation (cover)

Business Model Generation was recommended to me by Kate Griffiths-Lambe. An experienced HR professional based in London, Kate is currently the Head of Global HR at Stonehage. 

Business Model Generation teaches you how to analyze and create business models. A business model 'describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value'.
The authors present a business model canvas made of nine building blocks:
  • Customer segments
  • Value propositions
  • Channels
  • Customer relationships
  • Revenue streams
  • Key resources
  • Key activities
  • Key partnerships
  • Cost structure

A Tool For Business Innovation

The book first helps you understand the model:
  • It defines each building block.
  • It explains the relationships between these blocks.
  • It illustrates it with numerous business cases and graphics.
Then, it describes five business model examples called 'patterns':
  • Unbundled business models
  • The long tail
  • Multi-sided platforms
  • FREE as business model
  • Open business models
But the main part of the book consists in a methodology to design business models. It is packed with tools about how to analyze strategic information, draw ideas, imagine scenarios, test prototypes and tell stories to sell them.

What's In It For HR Pros?

Like many of this blog's 'HR Books of The Month', this one isn't strictly about HR. However, HR pros will find it useful to enhance their management and business strategy skills.

When asked how this book was useful to our profession, Kate Griffiths-Lambe says:
"It's a good tool for determining how a business should operate and hence enabling HR focus on key areas to enhance performance. The book describes itself as "A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers" - all things that HR can and should be".

As strategic partners, HR leaders need to understand how their organization creates value. As change agents, they need to understand how business model innovation brings radical transformations to the way their company operates.

The book provides HR pros with the conceptual tools to understand how businesses will operate in the future.

Book Data

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Influencer - The Power To Change Anything

This book is recommended by Jason LAURITSEN, a former human resources executive turned consultant and keynote speaker.

In a July 2012 post about Tranforming HR, Jason wrote :
"The fourth rule of transforming human resources is to study sales.  If I had one wish for human resources as a profession, it would be that every human resources professional would get some sales training.  The skills of influence, negotiation and relationship building that are commonplace in sales would truly transform the effectiveness of HR within our organizations."
I couldn't agree more. HR people manage very tiny departments, frequently amounting to 1% or less of an organization's workforce. Obviously then, we can't rely only on hierarchical power to have a significant impact across the company. If we want to be change agents, we need to master influence.

Here's a short video illustrating the importance of combining several sources of influence to fix a single problem.

Not Just Verbal Persuasion

In the authors' view, you can fix every human problem if you manage to (a) identify and (b) change a set of vital behaviors.

The authors insist that Influence requires much more than verbal persuasion. For people to change their behavior, they need ability and motivation. As ability and motivation can each be fostered at the personal, social and structural level, there are six sources of influence you should make use of:

  1. Personal Motivation
You want people to change the way they behave. However, the expected new behavior isn't necessarily one they find desirable. How do you lead them to change their mind?
  • Get people to try the new behavior: they might find they like it although they thought they wouldn't.
  • Make it a game: they'll find pleasure in the mastery of ever-more challenging goals.
  • Help them connect the behavior with their moral values.
  • Spotlight the human consequences of their behavior.

  1. Personal Ability
  • Abilities are much less innate than we commonly imagine. Even willpower, or the ability to delay gratification, can be learned.
  • Elite performers of just about any field stand out not because of their genetic abilities, but by deliberate practice.
  • Simple practice is not enough to improve one's abilities. For example, when it comes to elite status, there is no correlation between time in the profession and performance levels. (A proposition many HR professionals will certainly find challenging.) The book offers several tips about how to make practice efficient.
  • Emotional intelligence is an important aspect of personal ability. Like other types of skills, it is learnable.
  • Complex interpersonal abilities, like leadership skills, can also be learned through deliberate practice.

    1. Social Motivation
    • The presence and behaviour of others plays a great role in one's behavior. Even the presence of just one peer makes a difference.
    • Formal and informal leaders are obviously those you need to reach first if you want to have an influence on a larger group.
    • This is also true when you are trying to change your own behavior. If you make a commitment and then share it with friends or colleagues, you will be much more likely to keep it.

    1. Social Ability
    • Social capital is “the profound enabling power of an essential network of relationships”.
    • Social capital is a powerful lever you can use in a number of cases, like :
      • When bad behavior is reinforced by a web of players
      • When you need to innovate
      • When you need real-time feedback from an expert (a powerful way to learn)

    1. Structural Motivation
    • Structural motivation refers to how you set up the system, the organizational rules, to motivate people.
    • Extrinsic rewards come third: intrinsic satisfaction and peer pressure are much more powerful. (See Daniel Pink's “DRIVE” for a more detailed analysis on the topic of motivation.)
    • Rewards can backfire: you need to use them wisely.
    • Symbolic rewards can be just as powerful as material ones.
    • It's important to reward vital behaviors, not just results. Reward effort, not outcome.
    • Punish only when all else fails. 

      1. Structural Ability
      • You can use things, the physical environment, to facilitate good behaviors and to make the wrong behaviors more difficult to enact.
      • Propinquity is the impact of space on relationships. For example, the frequency and quality of human interaction is largely a function of physical distance. Bad news if your desk is miles away from your manager's.

      Jason LAURITSEN says that “Influencer” is one of the books that have shaped his abilities and thinking around sales. I think it can also be very useful to HR professionals: among other things, it teaches a lot about learning, motivation, and teamwork.

      Book Data