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