Making the Hiring Process more personal

ciel blog - recruiting needs to be more personalArtificial intelligence has made headlines around the world in the last few years. Recruiting has naturally been impacted by these technology changes. Bots and machines claim greater efficiency than human recruiters in picking out the best matches from millions of profiles in a large database of candidates. Companies have been advertising their vacancies on several platforms – online as well as offline, spreading the word about their open positions in the talent market using many recruitment agencies and involving their own employees to seek referrals. Yet they find it a challenge to reach the right person. And sometimes when they do reach, they cannot attract the best talent. Why is it so?

Attracting Talent is not same as Advertising

For any marketing campaign to reach its target audience successfully, we put together a message and advertise it using the right media. Similarly for recruitment, we should be able to copy-paste the same practice and catch the right talent. We have to write a message to attract talent, define our target audience and reach them using the media that is frequented by our target pool of talent. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Recruiters create a document called job description. They leverage all the sources they can command to identify the target talent pool using various search methods and automated tools. Then the long-list of potential talent are reached by emails, texts, automated phone calls, display notifications and adverts. This approach seems pretty robust. Yet, companies fail to attract the best.

The problem lies in all three components here : the message, the media used and the tenor of the message. In order to standardise the communication, companies define a job description. This is a piece of lifeless art which does not talk to the target audience. What is the motivation for someone who is already doing well on his job to evaluate a new opportunity? Active job-seekers will be happy to grab an opportunity, however an employer is looking to hire the best. What if an active job seeker is not the best?

Secondly, the technology tools carrying this piece of lifeless message are impersonal and do not make it a compelling proposition before a human. Last but not the least, the targeted person is asked to apply for the job by clicking a few buttons and gets no human contact. After he or she applies, the application often gets into a black hole. Most often, there is just an automated response sent out to the applicant and that’s it!

Job change is one among the three most significant transitions in one’s life. If I am not desperate, can such a major change be kick-started in my life by a non-human interface?

We must have a story to tell

Job descriptions were intended to help define a job and create a shared understanding about the job in an enterprise. This was never intended for talent attraction. Unfortunately, over a period of time, its purpose has been diluted.

The line manager and the recruiter have to collaboratively define the ideal person they are looking to hire. They have to craft a message creatively to attract the best-fit candidate. Job description can be an attachment but cannot be the main tool to communicate. The message has to be a story that helps a prospective candidate visualise a future. This has to be done by human intelligence, insights and intuition. Technology can help in identifying potential choices but cannot build the story on its own. That’s really the value that a Recruiter needs to bring to the process.

Who delivers the story and how?

It is important that the story takes into account what we are looking for, what we are offering, what a potential candidate is looking for and hence, why should he or she pick this up. The story has to be compelling so that we are able to hold the attention of the listener and make a promise that matters to him or her. Once the message is crafted, technology can carry it to the right audience.

We have technology tools that create the freedom and flexibility for a potential candidate to review the opportunity and decide if he or she should pursue this further. These tools do come handy in the backdrop of the demanding schedules all of us have. We can send a curtain-raiser first and then, take the next step of a meeting or conversation in person.

The recruiter who speaks to the candidate needs to not only provide information but also build credibility, seek information, judge suitability, sense the state of mind of the candidate and empathise with him or her. This calls for not only knowledge about the opportunity, the industry sector and the job market but also the social skills and personality traits to relate with a variety of people, care for their ambitions and help them shape their future. Technology is not yet there. We need humans to do this!

We need high order personal interactions to make the hiring process holistic and successful.



Care about Candidate Experience?

ciel blog - candidate experience

Organizations focus on customer experience and the moment of truth. They invest substantially to deliver superior experience to a customer – prospective as well as existing. It is the employees of the organization who make the difference right from the stage of design to delivery of the product or the service. Attracting the right-fit employees is the first challenge and then, keeping them motivated for a long time is the next challenge. That brings us to the topic of Employer Brand. The stronger this brand is, the easier and economical it is, to attract and retain talent. Like reputation and credibility, employer brand takes time to build. Top leaders of the organization wrestle with all long-term issues and hence, this is one such topic that ought to find time in the Board room. Today, it is yet to find a place on the table because not enough has been done to measure the lost opportunity and the hidden treasure.

Are we attracting the best?

Place an advertisement for an open job and check the response. In most parts of India across sectors, we find many applications. But, are they the best that we can get? More often than not, the best talent doesn’t come forward to apply for a job unless you or the hiring manager is a talent magnet.

Organizations have hiring plans and they have to fill the vacant roles within a certain period of time. The recruiters within the company and the agency partners muster all energies to get people on board. The question remains if we are getting the best. Is the hiring engine well-tuned to pick the best?

One of the recent works of research, CIELWorks 2018 shows that employer brand is the 2nd most important challenge before the recruiters while attracting talent. Given the growth of an economy, talent is the competitive advantage that can potentially differentiate the performance of an organization from another. So, the best efforts must be done to attract the best!

Do your top employees receive many headhunting calls? Do you find a very few people in your industry to be better than your employees? Do your customers offer great reviews about your employees? If it’s YES all the way, you are doing well!

Devil lies in the details

Like we are concerned about the moments of truth with our customers, we need to be thinking of the moments of truth with the candidates. Their journey starts right from the time someone speaks or emails them about an opportunity. The candidate does some background work before he or she decides to pursue the opportunity. If it is a top talent, one is likely to deep-dive to understand more about the opportunity. The information about our organization, our top leaders, our plans, our ex-employees, vendors, clients and current employees are all available on the internet. The conversations that we are having with the others and vice versa leave behind trails which are moments of truth for a potential hire. Do we know if they are reflective of who we are? If not, do we do anything about it?

Does the hiring manager take the interest to brief the recruiters who are going to look for candidates? If the recruiters are going to the talent market with a generic job description, we cannot attract the best. Neither can we provide a realistic idea of who we are, what the job is and how the career is likely to shape. Job description document is something created by the HR team sometime in the past to comply with some requirements. That doesn’t describe fully what the line manager is looking for. Most organizations make the mistake of sending out a sample job description to many recruiting agencies. As a result, recruiters play the game of ‘fastest finger first‘ to churn out a few candidates. Naturally, candidates get half-baked or incomplete information about the opportunity. The best-fit might decline it and the organization makes a compromise hire!

Similarly, the way a candidate is received, interacted with, communicated and engaged are all moments of truth. They determine what he or she is going to speak about us in his or her circle. Given the power of social media, the experience gets amplified fast.

These minor details determine the quality of candidates we attract not only today but also in the future. Do we really care about these details of how a vacancy in our organization gets communicated and a candidate is engaged with?

Drive it right from the very top

Perception about an organization’s culture, norms and future prospects sum up its employer brand. It takes time to build. Hence, one needs a long-term approach to define what this employer brand is and what actions must be taken to realize its full potential.

While talking about employer branding, often experts talk about technology and standardised methods such as Application Tracking System, Website, Social Media presence, asynchronous video interviews, rewards for internal referral, Apps to engage with candidates and training recruiters. While these are useful and need to be done, the main hurdle to overcome is to treat this subject as a long-term strategic agenda and paying attention to it as much a strategic topic deserves.



Introvert or Extrovert – doesn’t matter

Introvert ExtrovertOur society celebrates extraversion, the tendency to be outgoing, expressive, assertive and sociable. Schools and families tend to show disdain towards children who are reserved and tend to be quiet. We are told, human beings are gregarious and hence, we must improve our sociability quotient. Organizations achieve results by working in teams, influencing one another and inspiring groups of people. Hence, it is important to be expressive and connecting with others. Introverts are labelled as shy, anxious and under-confident. For leadership roles, most interviewers tend to prefer people who exude confidence and are articulate.

Is this fair to judge someone by one’s preference to live life in a certain way? Are all leaders extraverted? Is it necessary to be an extrovert to be a good leader? Is introversion a handicap to emerge as a leader? Answer to all these questions is a ‘NO’.

Understanding people who they are

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking tells us how we have narrowed our world-view and started promoting a certain kind of personality trait. As mobile technology has been engulfing us, an increasing number of people are either not developing their social skills or losing whatever they had. Our organizations have young employees who normally prefer engaging with others through chats, emojis, emails, blogs, status updates and comments rather than face to face conversations and physical meetings. They need quiet corners to work rather than the traditional din and bustle of an office space.

Introvert or extrovert, it doesn’t matter, everyone has a preference for the way they want to accomplish a task and the way they discuss and deliberate a topic. The peers, seniors and subordinates need to understand the person’s style and work accordingly. Some people may like to respond instinctively while some others might want to think through it and form their opinions. So, we shouldn’t push everyone to react instantaneously on an issue. Deliberations on an issue have to be held in such a way that personalities of either type get the right environment to contribute. One has to invest energies in understanding the other as a person and engage accordingly. It calls for empathy and genuine care for the others.

Leaders play an important role

Extroverts are naturally expressive about their feelings and thoughts. They bring spontaneity, energy, candour and articulation to any interaction. In situations where the group has a large number of introverts, conversations become dominated by the extroverts and nobody listens deeply. The introverts could quietly switch off and feel discouraged to express their opinions. And at the same time, the extrovert loses the opportunity of listening to other perspectives.

Similarly, introverts prefer conversations to be focused and planned. They would like to think about the topic in advance and present their views. They do not like to react on the fly. At Amazon, they start meetings with quiet reading time of a memo that spells out the agenda. This is an ideal scenario for either type of executives to contribute meaningfully.

Leaders plan conversations and drive an agenda in a discussion. It is their skill to guide the conversation in such a way that all the team members are able to contribute meaningfully. They delegate tasks and responsibilities to their people such that the strengths of their people are leveraged appropriately.

Many Successful leaders in the world are introverts

Introverts are not necessarily shy people. Neither they are anxious. Shyness is a state of mind that makes one awkward or uncomfortable in interactions with others. Normally such a feeling creeps in when one is apprehensive or fearful of the situation, either due to lack of knowledge, expertise or preparedness or an anxiety that stems from past experiences or an ego-driven issue. Extroverts could also feel under-prepared and shaky; they tend to express their state of mind in other forms of emotions too. Though many tend to link introversion with shyness, they are different phenomena. When someone is shy, it is not possible to communicate meaningfully. However, shyness is not a direct result of introversion.

Introversion is the preference to stay away from a crowd, interacting with a large number of people and so on. Introverts may prefer one-on-one meetings and small group meetings to public meetings and large stages. Hence, it is unlikely that an introvert will like to take on roles such as a movie actor, a stage performer, a public speaker, a preacher, a coach of a football team and so on. However, we have had legendary leaders like Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, al Gore, Mark Zuckerberg, Mahatma Gandhi, Warren Buffet, Elon Musk, Barack Obama and many more who are believed to be introverts. Some of them have openly talked about their styles and preferences of introversion.

Introverts and extroverts, both have their unique preferences and strengths. Organizations need to combine them and produce something meaningful and powerful.


Age is just a number

ciel blog - age is just a number

Roger Federer became the first man to win 20 Grand Slams and quoted this old adage. It describes his situation beautifully. Yet there is a paradox here, especially in the world of sports. Age determines a lot about the performance levels because of the physical development of the body, the number of hours one engages in the sport and the opportunities to learn. We all know, the performance curve follows the path of diminishing returns after a certain point. What is that point?

For professional tennis players, it is normally 30 years of age. Roger was a sensation in the first few years of his career and won many Grand Slams. He dominated the world of tennis for five years. Then came a big lull in his career in 2013-16 and a big line-up of great competitors at the same time. By historical evidences and common wisdom, he should have faded away a few years ago. That was the time he has come back strongly again! He is clearly the oldest of the top players in the global stage and going strong. Is there a tail wind for him or really a secret sauce that makes him stand apart?

Fortune favours the brave!

After winning the game, he said, it is his schedule and staying hungry. Easier said than done! I wonder what one can learn from this surreal story to drive one’s way to success.

Many of us do not know what a good schedule is. We are too lazy to make a plan for the day, the week and so on. We do not know how to prioritize; do not invest the energies to make plans. Hence, we let ourselves stay afloat on the stream of time and hope that we will stay safe and make progress.

All actions do not materialize as per our plan. The brave do not worry when their plans do not come true; they adapt and do their best to stay the course. If it doesn’t work, they make alternate plans. They do not brood over the failures.

If we think about Roger Federer’s statements again, we can see that he has been brave to take the lull of his career in his stride, adapted his schedule and kept his ambitions burning. Luck has been on his side. Let’s be brave to plan and adapt our course!

We need to gather the Resources

Resources are required for any activity to be done well. We may need finances, emotional support, guidance from a coach, the right machinery, technology, team and so on. Organizing all of them at right time is essential. Half-hearted efforts, assumptions or willingness to work with the second-grade choices do not make the secret sauce to success.

Experience in any field gives us the opportunity to gain insight, learn and adapt. Not all of us squeeze the optimum value out of our experiences. Opportunity is the first step to success; the biggest of enablers for success. Our Age and experience gives us the platform for success but does not guarantee it. We have to make the most of it!

A coach can guide us, raise the bar and encourage us to succeed, but the disciple has to find the harmony with the coach, absorb the inputs, ask the right questions and explore new vistas. Like a coach is a valuable resource, there are many such resources needed for success and all of them need to be in perfect cohesion.

Staying the course

Often success is elusive and it is temporary. Each time, we have to prove our mettle to hold on to success. It is to be earned every day and week. The journey is arduous. Many of us do not persevere at the same path. We see many people interested in healthy lifestyle, regular exercise, running a marathon, learning a new hobby and so on. New Year resolutions are aplenty. Only a few are able to do it. Some of us keep procrastinating, explore alternative paths and eventually lose interest in the cause. This is the most common reason why we fail in crossing the line.

China has developed itself as the manufacturing hub for the world. Behind this success, it is not the years of experience in manufacturing. Rather, it is the ecosystem of government policy, availability of labour, technology adaptation, vocational training, social norms of working together and so on. It is their consistent and disciplined approach of staying the course. Can another country replicate it? Difficult, but not impossible!

Age is just a number. Make it work for you!


Showing Emotions at work

ciel blog - emotions at work

Workplaces are microcosms of our society. Humans work there and they are not machines. It is natural that we will bring our emotions while working. It is unfair to expect that employees will bring with them the positive emotions such as love, happiness, high spirits, respectfulness, patience, pride, modesty and so on. Similarly, it is not realistic to expect that employees will leave behind the negative emotions such as anger, sadness, contempt, disgust, anxiety, fear and many such. As a student in school or college, we learn about the norms in the society and a workplace. Should we show emotions or not? If we show them, what are the do’s and don’ts?

Acceptance of self and everything around

Organizations study employee satisfaction and tend to do a few things to win over the hearts of their employees. There are various theories explaining the factors to enhance employee satisfaction and engagement. One of these theories attracts me – help the employee to be successful; we will see a direct impact on employee satisfaction and company’s financials. If we go by this theory, we have to focus on helping each employee find success.

The first and foremost thing to success is to accept the person with all his strengths and limitations. Often we do not accept our environment in its totality. We have strong likes and dislikes about various aspects of our environment; we rue over the shortcomings. Most often, our remorse takes us nowhere. Moreover, we hold ourselves in a surreal way rather than accepting our own self as a mosaic of positives and negatives.

The root causes behind fear, insecurities, hatred, anger and so on lie in lack of acceptance. Once we sort this out in our mind, life becomes easy, stress-free and enjoyable. The paradigm changes from ‘what I do not have’ to ‘what I have’.

Organizations and leaders must invest their energies on building the culture of acceptance of each other and acceptance of factors beyond one’s control. This makes the ride smooth and joyful because people look at the bright side of things and are motivated to make the most out of a given situation. The people who are uncomfortable with the environment of acceptance will leave for good. Such an environment of acceptance takes away fear and various such insecurities; thus, people show positive emotions such as ambitiousness, drive, joy and concern for others. These emotions are welcome at work!

There is a bad day. Recognize it!

All of us do have a bad day. Things do not go right. Client is not happy with our work, a colleague falls sick and a pile of his work has landed on your desk, people need you at home urgently to attend to something serious, your boss is in a bad mood and gets angry with you seeking permission to leave early, your car breaks down, you lose your mobile phone and wallet somewhere.

People will advise you to calm down, take a few deep breaths, pray God, be objective, not be judgemental, not blame it on stars of the day, not to be reactive and so on.

It’s okay to tell people that you are having a bad day and seek their understanding. It doesn’t make sense to fake a smile, put up a brave face and prove to the others that you are a strong human. It doesn’t help anyone; rather it wears us down and builds a lot of tension and stress which are completely avoidable!

Adapt and Communicate

Every place has its own norm and it changes over a period of time. The way our parliamentarians behave inside the parliament these days is very different from the way they did 3-4 decades ago. The norms of expressing oneself have been changing. Hence, it is important that we learn the norms fast and follow them.

Communicating one’s feelings, positive or negative, in an appropriate manner lightens the burden and sets one free to do one’s routine. It is a good idea to confide in someone trustworthy if you are not sure how to deal with the emotions running through the body and mind.

Finally, there is no reason why you should torture yourself bearing the burden of pent-up feelings and hurt. In spite of one’s best attempts, if you are unable to let them go and keep your sight on a better and brighter tomorrow, there is no point bearing the pain. Be authentic and move on!


AI Bias

ciel blog - AI bias

A lot has been written about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how it is changing the world. Many thinkers have already raised alerts about the disruptive potential of AI. Elon Musk has recently warned that AI could result in World War III. Stephen Hawking has said that AI could spell the end of the human race. Bill Gates said recently, we should be concerned about AI and the day when the machines will become super-intelligent and could outsmart the humans. At the same time, there is another camp that doesn’t subscribe to the views of the doomsayers.

AI is going to be here, for sure!

It has been a part of our lives for years in various forms. For example, the brightness of visual displays gets auto-adjusted based on ambient light conditions; auto-schedulers carry out a set of predetermined tasks on a variety of machines; when macros are invoked, a set of tasks get done by robots. Siri, Google Now and Cortana have been able to understand our speech and carry out a few tasks based on our voice-based instructions. Video Games have been using AI for quite some time. Based on the behaviour of a player, the computer decides its move. Self-driving cars use tonnes of AI already. Recommendations of music, movies, books, clothes and so on are already getting automated.

Large enterprises have started using AI-based tools while procuring goods and services. The tool helps them carry out e-auctions and help choosing the best suppliers. Chat-bots for customer service have been commonplace. Tasks such as fraud detection, credit scoring and approving loans are getting codified and the machines ae learning fast to make the decision rather than interventions by a human.

How far can we go?

Computer-assisted surgery, drone-based surveillance, accessing places which are hard to reach or risky for living beings have been possible due to robots and intelligent machines. It wouldn’t have been possible for a human being to carry out such tasks with the speed and accuracy that a robot shows; moreover, the mission becomes possible with no risk to human life. How far can we go?

Seeing and moving things have become pretty much possible by robots. It is a matter of time that the machines which require an operator to see and move a few things mechanically, will run by its own intelligence.

Engineers and Scientists are building intelligence in a machine around the other senses of a human being such as hearing, speaking, tasting and smelling. While this research will continue for a few more years, we see Personal Assistants with improved capabilities to interpret speech, speak a few words and make recommendations.

Trying too hard!

Human emotions and behaviours have so far been difficult for fellow humans to understand fully. Hence, it will take time to teach a machine, for sure. However, some data scientists have been over-zealous and based on a half-baked world view, they build models for a machine to take actions.

Machine-recommended actions such as watching a TV show, listening to a song, watching a Youtube video, buying a pair of shoes, reading a piece of news or liking a friend’s post on Facebook could be risk-free. However, let us think of a situation where one builds a model to predict criminal behaviour based on partial understanding of motives behind a crime. Such a system could prompt the police to start surveillance and an enquiry. Will this be helpful? May be, may not be! One can similarly estimate the damage potential if such half-baked information gets into an AI system which is evaluating exam papers, interpreting statements recorded by witnesses in a police investigation, writing the prescription for a patient, emergency response to fire alarms and so on.

AI is our reality, however we need to use it for the right purposes. Most importantly, we must develop a thorough understanding of all possible scenarios connected to an event and build the intelligence in the machine accordingly. Else, the fear of the doomsayers is not far away!



Should we be tailor-making stuff?

Customer Service Support Assistance Service Help Guide Concept

It has been nearly a century since the era of industrial revolution popularized mass production, assembly line manufacturing and standardisation. The world saw a socio-economic upheaval where many jobs of craftsmanship vanished, machines took over manufacturing processes, and standards were developed for tools, machines, products, processes and quality. Economies of scale brought down the time to manufacture, cycle time to bring an idea into fruition; defects in the final product reduced; accidents and hazards could be prevented. Also, the cost of manufacturing came down. As the world economy has improved, there are discerning customers who have unique needs and high involvement with the requirements. We tailor-make the offerings – a product or a service for that discerning customer!

Numerous opportunities to Tailor-make:

As a result of standardisation, we have a little to differentiate between products and their features, whether it is a cola, a laptop, an ice-cream, health insurance, credit card or a cab hailing app.  So, marketing techniques are coming of age to identify a target set of customers, build a positive draw among them towards the offering and help the brand position itself in a manner appealing to the target audience. Often the unique value proposition is not in terms of product features but in the way the company delivers the offering, engages with the customer and builds an ecosystem to accentuate the impact of the purchase.

Henry Ford spoke about Model T, “You can have any colour you like, so long as it’s black”. That was assembly line manufacturing and the world has lapped it up. A century later, more and more companies are experimenting customised offering for the discerning customer.

Can I have a laptop from Dell that meets my requirement, a smart phone from Apple that’s made just for me, a pair of glasses from Ray Ban that suits my lifestyle, a car from Volkswagen with a set of features that I need, cosmetics from L’Oreal just for me, a watch from Rolex just for me, medicine from Pfizer made to treat my physical condition, lessons in Harvard that suits my level of intellect and interest, my preferred breakfast at any Taj Hotel I go to? Opportunities are endless!

Are we ready?

Levi’s has carried out experiments to customize jeans for their customers, once in late nineties and second time in early 2000’s. Dell has mass customised its laptops very successfully in the past. There are many more examples where the customer picks and chooses items from a long list of possibilities and designs something unique for himself or herself. The possibilities run into thousands and hence, it is not very easy for all customers to make the right choices. Hence, companies have to design methods to deliver a wow experience to the customer. The methods have to keep pace with what a typical customer of theirs looks for, such as convenience, un-intrusiveness, expertise, history, track record, brand image, speed of action, responsiveness and so on. It’s clearly a tall order.

The organization trying to offer customized stuff needs a certain kind of human resources who are passionate about customer experience, knowledgeable in the domain and can engage with the customers meaningfully. Secondly, it needs to have the culture of engaging customers to discover their needs and developing a solution that delivers value. Top leaders in the company have to demonstrate this commitment by personal examples. Moreover, the organization has to build systems and processes to listen to customers, act on those voices and continuously develop its value delivery.

Technology isn’t the panacea.

Often we hear technology such as artificial intelligence can help in offering personalized services to customers, gathering their voice and analysing the results. Many companies have deployed bots and automation tools to improve user experience. All of these help but they are not the silver bullet to achieve the goal. The real value is created when one is able to meaningfully engage with a customer. As technology has become an integrated part of our lives, many customers are tired of automation and dehumanization. They look for a human interface rather than talking to a faceless system or a black box.

Secondly, the cost of delivering a personalized product or service is huge compared to mass production. An organization has to be sure that the customer recognizes the value delivered by such an offering and is willing to pay for the same. Else, you launch the product or service ahead of its time, weaken yourself by exhausting your resources too soon, expose your idea to be improvised by the others at a later date and risk losing the first-mover advantage.

Right time and Right place are essential for the customized economy to take off for your organization!