Where does the talent lie?

talentI was working once for a pretty big organisation, who wanted to start a blog. This was about ten years ago, so for a lot of people blogging was kind of new.

Despite the fact that I was working there, and had been blogging for a while, and actually had a bit of a reputation (admittedly outside the organisation), the decision was made to pay a communications consultant to come in and set the blog up, write the posts and so on.

The money spent on this project could have been saved by getting me to do it. It also might have been done better by me. It certainly would have cheered me up to be doing something I found genuinely exciting and engaging as part of my day job.

How many times does this happen in your organisation? The problem is that nobody knows what anyone knows. People finder tools on the intranet rarely tell you what skills and interests people have. You just know their job title and which team they work in.

There are lots of ways around this problem, but here are two.

First, have a more networky way of finding people in the organisation. Get people talking about their interests and passions, and to list the stuff they are good at. That will surface talents and skills you never knew your people had.

Second, when you need help with something, ask for it. Have a way of communicating across the whole organisation to say (to use my example above) “we want to start a blog, who can help?”.

So often a new project is handed to a manager to run, who then looks for someone in their but of the org chart to deliver it, regardless of whether they have the attributes to do it well or not. Easier, surely, to broadcast a request throughout the organisation to identify the best person for the job?

What I’ve been reading

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Pinboard.

More on recruitment and talent management

GeeknRollaFollowing up on my earlier post on good things to look for in people when you are hiring – Recruit the internet-savvy – I picked up on some useful notes whilst at TechCrunch‘s GeeknRolla on recruiting into startups, which I think are useful for pretty much any organisation. I also think it’s interesting to think how public services can learn from the culture of startup businesses, including around recruitment.

The talk was by Pete Smith from Songkick, which is a service that lets you track all sorts of information about your favourite live music acts, such as upcoming concerts, videos and recordings.

Here’s the notes:

  • Hiring is a top challenge for a startup and getting it wrong can serious affect momentum
  • Always be hiring
  • Better not to hire though, rather than to compromise on talent and drive
  • Very inefficient to hire from outside your network – plan for this
  • Grow your network as it’s the best way to hire good people
  • Have a hiring roadmap, build it into other choices: buildings, perks, and the tech you use
  • Risk taking in hiring comes later in a startup’s life, not early on
  • Vet applications ruthlessly before even meeting people
  • Spend as much time growing your network as you do looking at ‘non-network’ candidates
  • Hiring devs – use coding exercises then phone interview, then tech interview, then a ‘pairing session’ (not sure what that is)
  • Everyone you hire initially is vital to establishing the culture of your startup
  • How to recover from hiring errors: make sure you leave things on a good note. Don’t let people leave under a cloud. Make decision quickly but manage the exit – don’t let it drag on. Better to leave work undone than allow the wrong people to keep going.

These thoughts chime in with some activity coming out of the IDeA with regard to talent management, recruit and workforce planning. In the current financial climate, there is a lot of talk of cuts and redundancies which has the potential to be incredibly damaging.

So, the IDeA have launched an online resource, on ‘organisational redesign‘ with some useful case studies and guidance. A thriving community of practice also exists too (with various layers of sign-up required).

I honestly believe that local authorities could make massive improvements to their efficiency and levels of service if they recruited better, and made better use of the talent they already have. I consider myself to be a great example of the failings of local government workforce management. Some of the things that are important, I think, are:

  • To get people to do a good job, they need a good job to do
  • Innovators and the enthusiastic should not be treated as troublemakers or weirdos, but be treasured and made to feel special
  • Staff should be trusted. If you genuinely can’t trust all of them, give the good ones leeway
  • Give people the tools they need to be able to do their job well
  • Value things like curiosity, generosity, cooperation and openness
  • Allow the good people in your organisation to find each other
  • Have proper systems and processes in place for inventive people to be able to suggest and progress good ideas

The IDeA are also organising an event in Birmingham on 19th May, called ‘Designing a fit for the future organisation‘. I’m going, because it sounds pretty interesting. Hope to see others there.

Bookmarks for March 30th through April 5th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

  • The Collapse of Complex Business Models « Clay Shirky – Awesome stuff from Shirky.
  •   Reflecting on my MSc research by Michele Ide-Smith – "By researching the attitudes and perceptions of authorities and citizens I hope to gain a better understanding of perceived barriers, threats and opportunities of using social media for community engagement"
  • Cinch – "Cinch is a free and easy way to create and share audio, text and photo updates using your phone or computer. Cinch enables you to capture and report on your experiences in a way that simple text just can't do. Using a simple interface, you can make and broadcast your content creations through Facebook, Twitter, CinchCast.com and more."
  • The State of the Internet Operating System – O’Reilly Radar – "Ask yourself for a moment, what is the operating system of a Google or Bing search? What is the operating system of a mobile phone call? What is the operating system of maps and directions on your phone? What is the operating system of a tweet?"
  • Penval’s Digital Inclusion Manifesto – Well done Paul Nash. This is what the digital inclusion debate needs – proper, thought through ideas. Genuinely constructive contributions. Not just people bleating about the problems.
  • tecosystems » Forking, The Future of Open Source, and Github – Is the future of open source going to be based on communities such as Apache and Eclipse or will it be based on companies that sell open source? Neither.
  • Dr Dennis Kimbro & his views on recruitment – Really interesting and thought provoking piece on talent management, and attitudes to it, in local government.
  • In quest of simplicty – "We expect IT to be complex and costly, but the lesson of the past 5 years in IT – where we’ve seen the consumerization of enterprise IT (“enterprise” is often a coy way of saying “this has to be complex and expensive – no questions!”) – is that IT can be both simple and cheap."
  • Law and social media – dull but important – "Social media throws up issues of privacy and identity which are far more complex when you have a complete record of someone’s time online and a also a need to balance the personal with the professional roles of an individual. "
  • Powerful petitions with real teeth set to bite – "Local people can now demand their councils take action on underperforming schools and hospitals, drink disorder, anti-social behaviour and other concerns under new rules giving real power to local petitions, announced Communities Secretary John Denham today."

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.