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It is better
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Generation Gap?
(May 28, 1999) Remember the "Generation Gap"? In the sixties, some white kids and their parents lost the ability to communicate with each other. Driven by fundamental demographics (the baby boom was taking control of its purchasing power), the culture felt charged and changing. Between fashion, music, the Civil Rights movement and anti-war protests and changing hairstyles, things got squirrelly to the point that the military was used to maintain order.

In those days, culture was pretty monolithic. Three television networks, two political parties, one kind of bread, three car companies, clear racial boundaries, low divorce rates, factory jobs and no computers or Internet. A broad based Generation Gap was easy to see because, outside a very limited range of possibility, a thing was either mainstream or it wasn't.

It's not so easy to describe the situation today. The media is fractured and audiences are smaller. Commonality and the sense of national community are under constant assault. Talking about the characteristics of a "generation" doesn't really make a lot of sense just yet.

The good news is that the confrontational violence of the 60's generation gap will probably never manifest itself in today's culture. Although the Generation Y group is roughly the same size as the Boomer group, they are a significantly smaller percentage of the population. Coupled with the growth in cultural diversity, youth movements are liable to be too diffuse to gain enough traction to make the news.

That's not to say that there isn't a crisis of equal or greater proportion. It just means that the energy seems to be staying below the "radar". We're coming to the conclusion that the Gap is actually larger this time around. The implications for a Recruiter working the entry level (and first move) end of the spectrum are enormous.

Spike Lee, the young black movie director, is responsible for the latest round of Recruiting commercials for the US Navy. With a couple of years of 15% staffing shortfalls under their belts, the Navy is motivated to try almost anything. The new spots feature surprising takes on military service designed to really sell to an extremely targeted demographic.

The current number one song on the Billboard Charts is a Latin dance tune.

Jon Katz' stories on Slashdot.org (including The Price of Being Different) cover this gap from the perspective of the groups of kids who are seen as "different" (geeks and Goths). Unfortunately for businesses in need of a constant supply of technical help, current social pressures are moving intelligent, technically oriented kids away from the technical career track. The frontlines in the 21st Century Generation Gap are teachers, parents and school systems who are ill prepared to manage the breadth of diversity enabled by Internet access and multimedia communications.

Without offering much in the way of solutions, we suggest that you read the stories on Slashdot.

Here's a small sample:

Geeks, perhaps more accustomed to free expression than their non-wired peers, increasingly and disturbingly refer to schools as "fascistic" environments in which they are censored and oppressed. All kids can't have absolute freedom all the time but many kids, especially older ones raised in the Digital Age, need more than they're getting. Without it, they will become increasingly alienated.

A gaming website like PlanetQuake gets more than 70,000 visitors a day; Planet Halflife gets about 30,000. GameSpy, which helps gamers connect to local games, draws between 60,000 and 80,000. Estimates of online gamers in the United States alone run as high as 15 to 20 million people. The half-baked notion that this activity sparks kids to grab lethal weapons and murder their peers sends a particular kind of message to the millions of kids gaming on and off-line -- that the people responsible for educating and protecting them (politicians, therapists, journalists, educators - have no idea what they are talking about, and are posturing in the most ignorant and self-serving ways. It's hard to imagine a more alienating lesson for the young than that.

From The Price of Being Different by Jon Katz on Slashdot.org

In the near term, this generational dissonance will be the determining factor in the war for talent.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Fighting The Tide II

(May 27, 1999) We've formed a small chapter of the Bob Mhoon fan club here in Mill Valley. Bob is the founder of the Manx Group and a long term veteran of Online Recruiting. (The Manx Group offers useful hands on training and consulting in Direct Sourcing and has a great book on online Recruiting Techniques). It's always fun to get Bob's take on the state of the net.

As part of the preparation for a training session, Bob was doing some research about a client. As he scanned the web, he came across a set of postings that seemed to be from one of the company's VPs in Chicago. The postings were pornographic and involved young boys. It turned out that the VP was a real monster of a boss and that one of his employees "got revenge by either using a fictitious post or posting from his workstation while he was away".

Interestingly, Bob spent time telling them how to eliminate the postings but the company never bothered.

We are fascinated by the fact that old school managers will huff and puff about information control. But, when the techniques for actually controlling information are delivered, they are often not acted on. In a psychotherapeutic setting, this is the kind of behavior that makes a therapist utter a very meaningful (eyebrows raised) "Hmmm".

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Fighting The Tide

(May 26, 1999) In recent weeks, we've been entertained by recurring stories of old school managers who want to control the detailed timing, content and flow of information about their companies. Somehow, they think that the only good news about their operations (as they define it) should be circulated. They harass and bully their vendors and employees looking to blame someone when the bad news creeps out of the closet. They clamp down and threaten. They issue ultimatums and new policies. They're fighting a losing battle. The mindset is antiquated and Industrial (the most derogative term we know for describing inappropriate management styles).

The destruction of old style monolithic images of a company is the essence of digital communications. On the web, every employee is the PR and Marketing department. Every action in the workplace is public and accountable. Every strategic decision is open for assessment in public. A company's culture is subject to visible critique. Published information is subject to ridicule. Unpublished information is subject to collection and distribution. Corporate privacy is a thing of the past. Attempts to manage the truth take on an overwhelming feel of dysfunctional denial.

The real quandary is that isolated incidents, transmitted over the web to potentially large audiences, shape a company's image. The problem is that for many companies the attention to quality was placed on products and services, not employee relations. Customers could fight by switching vendors. It wasn't as easy for employees. The continued labor shortage is rapidly changing that dynamic.

Imagine being a Recruiter for xxxxx. The company, a large industrial giant, is in transition and is moving slowly towards the 21st century. Unfortunately, the internal strife associated with big company life now has a visible public outlet.

I haven't learned one thing at xxxxx. The only reason I am staying here for more than a year is 1. so I don't have to pay back the 2,000 they shelled out for my move 2. they require little work because everyone sits around and bullshits about the work they are supposed to be doing, so that lets you work on more important things.. like reading up on Java or writing some c++ code for your own use!I code at home all the time, and have learned a lot.. at home!!! BAHAHAHAHA!!!

(from the message boards at VaultReports)

Another insider says:
The unwillingness to retain skilled employees has led to extreme attrition rates at most sites among the engineering staff. and generally low morale. Also, typical of large companies, xxxxx is slow to accomplish things (lots of talk and little action), lots of office politics and lots of dead wood. Recent obsessions with ISO, six sigma, and SEI CMM have also led to increased paperwork duties among the engineering staff and loss of productivity. The new CEO is sacrificing long term improvements for short term stock price increases, so watch out for sporadic, seemingly illogical layoff spasms as well as low pay increase budgets.

(from the message boards at VaultReports)

The message boards include pointers to a website that chronicles the "misdeeds" of the company.

VaultReports always includes a disclaimer that reads:

The xxxxx Employee Message Board is not affiliated with or endorsed by xxxxx. Needless to say, the opinions expressed on VaultReports.com Message Boards reflect the opinions of the participants and not of VaultReports.com. These messages are only the opinion of the poster, are no substitute for your own research, and should not be relied upon to make a career decision or any other purpose.

You can imagine, however, the fury on Mahogany Row during the meeting in which these comments first graced a weekly PowerPoint presentation. More than a few large companies have begun suing the posters. But, they are swimming against the tide.

Seen in the right light, broad public disclosure of information and opinion is good for companies, their investors and their employees. It's an admittedly tough pill to swallow at first; it seems like things would be easier if the only story that needed to be told was a rosy one cooked up by a PR firm. But that era, and its simplistic view of information, has ended. The fussing and bullying of Industrial era managers will ultimately be the reason that their Boards replace them with newer, younger players who are more adept at functioning in an information rich environment.

Recruiters, who have always had to fight a one to one battle with corporate PR, are on the frontlines of the change. Learning to present a company as a rich mix of diverse players is a growing challenge. If you are not tracking the VaultReports message boards about your company, it's time to start. (You might also want to track several of the investor message boards.) The truth about your company, which is always going to be a mix of varying opinions, is being published. That truth will become an indispensable component of the Recruiter's toolkit.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Ride The Tiger

(May 25, 1999) Finally. Yesterday, Microsoft made an investment in CareerBuilder buying $17 Million of stock in the company. They join General Electric and ADP as holders of large chunks of equity in the company. The agreement includes the development of a career site on the Microsoft Network. If Microsoft meets its traffic goals, CareerBuilder pays like an advertiser.

It's a good sign for the entire industry. Credible financial entities are beginning a round of serious investment. With the big boys clearly stepping into the game, the stakes are about to change. CareerBuilder has stepped into a position that has been occupied, over time, by a variety of players in a variety of industries. Microsoft's first look into a sector is almost always followed by an internal venture which is in turn followed by a grumping contest between the initial vendor and the Microsoft team. We call it "riding the tiger".

The survivors of the ride almost always have deep technology. This will be one of the big tests of CareerBuilder's management team. It's extremely important to note that the agreement included traffic targets for the Microsoft team. While there are serious technical investments to be made before the industry fully matures, the battle is on for market share. CareerBuilder's priority has to be improvement of their inbound traffic.

It will take some doing to compete on the playing field with Monster. The media buying team at TMP seems to be getting a strong handle on precision targeting and message delivery. We're encountering their television commercials with increasing frequency in small slots that make sense. The message is increasingly honed towards the notion of converting non-job hunters into job hunters. The current message? There's a better job out there.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Employee Referrals

(May 24, 1999) Today's newswires are literally crammed with stories about the labor shortage. The latest Manpower hiring survey forecasts continued strength in job creation. Companies from Lucent and Dialogic in New Jersey to Bell Atlantic in South Carolina are cited as having hiring difficulties. The Southeastern McDonald's franchises now feature job applications on their bags. Now that Spring break is history, Florida companies are courting college placement officials in an arrangement with Fortune Magazine. "The jobs are growing faster than the availability of the work force," says a Florida official. You have to be innovative in this hiring market.

We are somewhat surprised that the employee referral project developed by ITTA hasn't spread like a virus. The idea is simple and revolutionary...every employee with a web page is a potential passive recruiter. ITTA's small software package allows employees to post all or part of the company's job offerings to their website. The service features candidate tracking and the necessary accounting required to make the idea work. Imagine being able to reach all of the traffic that visits all of the websites of all of your employees.

The trouble with most referral programs is that participation is limited to motivated, gregarious members of the workforce. The ITTA Referral Program makes broad expansion possible. Rather than motivating employees to get involved in a hard sell, a company can simply let the employee build traffic or make verbal referrals to the website. It's an extremely clever idea that foreshadows an era of hundreds of millions of tiny little niche employment websites.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

We Deliver

(May 17, 1999) Another hot deadline, another late night, another package shipped to production. Earlier this year, we let you know a little bit about our forthcoming product: Seminar In A Box. Some of our discussion about the state of video technology was wrapped up in the final delivery. Well, early this morning, we finished the package. It's a beaut.

Seminar In A Box takes our Advanced Searching and Sourcing Techniques Seminar and puts it squarely on 5 CDs. Full audio, video, interactivity and a regular Recruiting Software mine. Four of the five CDs include:

  • A Full Video Presentation
  • A Full Audio Presentation
  • An Interactive, Narrated, Web-Linked, Self-Paced Seminar
  • Hot Linked Handouts
  • An MP3 Audio Version (for RIO players)
The Fifth CD is a treasure trove of software and IBN Newsletters.

We've organized the material to take a Recruiter from cradle to grave, from basic terminology to the fundamentals of online Recruiting Strategy.

As the week progresses, we will be filling out our marketing materials. In the meantime, we're still offering our prepublication price until June 1, 1999: $295. (After we start shipping, the price goes to $395.) If you'd like to order a copy, call our offices at 415.377.2255 or click here for more details.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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