Archive for category: Social Web

User Centricity as Driver of Digital Transformation

10 Nov
10. November 2017

Based on the nine pillars of digital transformation and the product transformation framework that I developed a while ago, I thought how to make this more operative and applicable for companies and transformation managers.

Digital transformation is not a trend or a specific phase of a company’s evolution. Much more a clear understanding of the meaning and an implementation into the company’s DNA is an essential premise to make relevant business in the future.

Since 2005, I am working in environments of permanent and ongoing transformation: Transformation from offline software to online services, transformation of digital products to the next level, transformation of business models and complete industries.

In the last three years I had the luck to be active part of a huge transformation journey that is including products, organization and brand of a German media company called WELT. At the same time the whole media industry is facing massive challenges through changes in media consumption behavior driven by free online news content, instant access via mobile devices and domination of Facebook and Google in user’s time spent. That is accelerating a need for transformation especially for those media company that are still depending on a successful, but shrinking offline business. Ten years ago online business was somehow seen as a nice add-on for the classical offline business such as newspapers. Today the challenge is how to finance a whole media organization primary with digital revenues while the revenues from offline business are under pressure.

Axel Springer is a great example how to drive radical digital change successfully without leaving the core values of their brands and organization. In 2007, below 10% of Axel Springer’s revenues came from digital businesses, in 2013, the share of digital revenues exceeded 50% for the first time. In 2016, the share of digital revenues was 67%.

It is always helpful to take a look at some of the famous US success stories. How did Netflix and Amazon Prime successfully take over the business from classical video rental shops?

First of all, online video isn’t new. YouTube started in 2005. In May 2011, already 48 hours of videos were uploaded every minute to the platform. In February 2017, this increased to 400 hours and 1 billion hours were watched every day. YouTube started as free platform for user generated content, in 2010, they begun free streaming of certain premium content. In 2013, YouTube offered the ability to charge a $0,99 subscription fee/month for channel providers. But the most video content on YouTube was and is still free and there was only a very limited amount of premium movie content available. Netflix, founded in 1997 and Lovefilms, founded in 2003 (in 2011 acquired by Amazon and later merged into Amazon Prime Video) were both starting with an online DVD rental service. Building up a large online customer base it was more a technical challenge how and when to switch the business to a video-on-demand streaming service.

The key driver of their success was the changing user behavior and user preferences combined with high-speed internet availability and “cheap” devices with the technological abilities to play streaming content. So an online streaming service was addressing a need that conventional video rental shops couldn’t serve: Easy instant access to premium movie content with the freedom to decide when to watch what. And the offer had a reasonable pricing compared to the offline model including a monthly subscription fee.

When user behavior and preferences are changing, new competitors rise and might address the change better as established companies from that specific market. If this happens whole industries and businesses can be disrupted, e.g. the music industry (from CD to MP3 to streaming) or even the small butchery around the corner in the late 80s when the big supermarket chains rose.

So companies’ user centricity as a clear understanding how preferences of their customers evolve and change is core to drive any business transformation. Based on my experience I identified nine important tasks that help to implement a customer centric strategy as driver seat of a digital transformation process.

The nine tasks are related to three areas: (1) people, (2) organization and (3) tools. People means the employees and managers that are going through the transformation and are shaping the process. The organization is giving the evolving frame for the ongoing transformation process, the tools are supporting and accelerating the successful realization of each single transformation step.

Create a vision based JOINT MINDSET

Similar to what I have described as “mindset of change” in my article about digital evolution you need in all product related departments a similar understanding about vision, mission and goals of customer centricity. Without such a joint mindset there is no chance to establish a working process for a customer centric transformation. Many revolutions started at the base, but to get change fast implemented in the organization the top level management has to be committed from the beginning. Ideally the creation of a joint mindset for change is happening parallel at the top and the bottom of an organization. But the vision and mission statement need already to include a strong message that is signaling change. Anyway a clear understandable and trustable vision is the key to spread the joint mindset.

Add NEW SKILLS to the teams

Based on a joint mindset it is important to add new skills to the teams via trainings, coaching or even by getting new employees with complementary skills into the teams. Such additional skill investments are very positive signals for change and might stimulate employees’ motivation to support the change process.

Create an environment of TRUST

Trust is the key for a successful implementation of a change pipeline. You need trust from the management in the workforce and also trust from the employees in the management and the organization’s vision.

EMPOWER your teams and owners

Trust is also the premise to empower product owners and teams to make decisions. The top management is more taking the role of frame keepers and frame expanders: They provide the strategic objectives, information transparency and the analytical and organizational setup for the teams and owners to make reasonable decisions and prioritize with value.

Install an open and AGILE CULTURE

Scrum and Kanban are known as an agile framework for software development based on empirical process control by transparency, inspection and adaption. But the basic principles behind Scrum can be used also outside of software development in any other department. The idea of an agile culture is so much more than scrum. It is about how things get done and about human interaction in a working environment. Agile culture means that change is a part of the company’s DNA as an ongoing and repeating renewal. It is also a commitment for an open, transparent and honest communication from management to the teams and backwards. Also failing is an important part of an agile culture. The operative team should never be afraid to fail as it is part of a learning and improvement process to succeed in the end. But it is also important to fail fast and to have a lean setup making sure to waste as less money and time as possible. Fail fast and learn even faster!

Implement ANALYTIC PROCESSES for decision making

How to make product related decisions is also something that defines a part of the company culture. Those decisions should not be made by “gut feeling” of single persons, but are also not the result of a grass-roots democratic process. Product related decisions should be mainly based on data and an established analytic process. You will need tools e.g. for tracking, testing and segmentation (or market data), but also need to make the decision process transparent showing numbers that support the results. Of course there might be sometimes strategic decision (also product related ones) that you cannot verify directly with data, but that are based on the company’s vision, mission and core goals.

Use TESTING to prove and optimize

Testing is an important quantitative tool to support the analytic decision process. E.g. simple A/B tests can bring significant improvements in conversion and revenues. But also testing needs an elaborate setup, a transparent workflow process and experienced analytical professionals. A scruffy setup can easily generate wrong data and misinterpretation. The consequence are wrong decisions.

Create PERSONAS to visualize your target groups

Personas are fictitious individuals that are representing typical users of a specific target group. A persona should illustrate core attributes and attitudes of that target group and helps to get a visual perception of users and better understanding of their needs. The tool was developed “offline” in the 80s, but shave great benefit especially for online target groups as the relationship to users and customers is mostly virtual. To give a target group representative a name, age, education, salary and specific user behavior makes it easier to gain understanding for users’ needs and changing needs in the whole organization. Although personas are a qualitative tool, the creation of those is mostly based on deep analysis of existing data from users and customers.

Use COLLABORATION to distribute knowledge and to create joint responsibility

Collaboration between teams and departments is an important part of agile culture. Somehow it is the consequence of applied empowerment and lived trust in organizations with well-balanced digital maturity. All participants in the collaboration activities need to have a similar joint mindset.

These nine tasks do not claim to comprehensively address all important aspects of digital transformation or to be completed. More they hopefully can inspire managers with similar transformation challenges and support as checklist or orientation for user centricity.

Digital Transformation has to become Digital Evolution

19 Okt
19. Oktober 2015

The term „digital transformation“ is a buzzword that is used and abused with multiple meanings. Since 2005 the usage of digital technologies and its potentials have changed markets and industries fundamentally, especially as these technologies give users the choice how to satisfy specific needs. Some call this the „digital revolution“ according to a Kondratiev wave analog to the industrial revolution in the late 18th and 19th century. Digital transformation refers to these changes with a modification of companies‘ existing technologies and business models. Digital transformation is based on people, processes and technologies and is relevant for any company that offers services or products online.
You can split digital transformation in four different dimensions that can apply parallel, shifted or sequential: product transformation, company transformation, industry transformation and society transformation (see Figure 1). Product transformation can be internal related to a companie’s products and services or external related to a specific product category.

Why is digital transformation so important?
Digital transformation should be part of any digital strategy. Clearly spoken, a company without any digital strategy has no future strategy and risk its existence. If companies miss to transform their strategy into digital and leave the market you can call it „digital Darwinism„.

According to a Gartner study in 2020 there will be more than 25 billion connected „things“ such as devices, cars, homes and wearables. So who will buy unconnected things in the future if nearly everything will be connected? Also in 2020 about 80% of revenues will be related to additional services and only 20% to the core product itself, similar as we know it already from existing app and widget ecosystems.

I collected nine pillars that could help companies to prepare and drive digital transformation in their organization (see Figure 2).

1. Mindset of Change
To be able to transform existing and established models you need to install a „mindset of change“. This is not only related to technologies or development, but to whole organization. It should start with an impulse on top management level driven top-down and parallel in specific teams driven sideways and bottom-up. Specific teams means groups that are more open to change and that are less hierarchical organized anyway. Change is often creating resistance as some employees might understand it as a threat for status, role or even their job. It will take time, patience and some distinguished supporters to Establish such a different mindset. Mostly it makes sense to start in one department creating first positive signals of change.

2. New Talents
It is impossible to get everybody convinced and there are often also new skill sets required to transform products, services and organizations. Beside an investment in employees‘ training and coaching you need some new talents that already have some of the necessary new or modified skills to support the process of change. It is very important to have the HR team committed and involved in the whole initiative from the very first beginning.

3. Customer Centricity
The idea to put users of a product or service in the center of concept and development is not new at all. Many product managers might say: „We already do this for years“. But such an approach needs an organizational form and the understanding of all involved teams that is based on a continuous user dialog.  There are multiple methods how to discover what are the most important user needs and what creates user stickiness. All these methods are based on iterative testing and adaption according to user input/feedback and created (digital) value. Customer integration is a clear commitment to focus on existing and future needs of users and supports the process to discover successful disruptive innovation.

4. Business Model
Does the current business model still fit to the existing demand and customer needs? Is there any growth in users and revenues? Are there any new technologies on the horizon that could change user behavior and demand?

A good example is how the way people buy and consume music has changed in the last 20 years. First CD sales shifted from offline stores to online shops in the late 90s, than people started to download music. As there was no common infrastructure and no simple standardized solution in place to buy and download music online, many users shared songs online for free illegally. The music industry tried to protect the existing business model instead of innovating and transforming. Apple’s iTunes was the breakthrough for legal paid music downloads. Currently users switch to subscription based music streaming services such as Apple Music or Spotify. The music CD is already dead and music downloads are riding into sunset.

It is always tough to change existing business models and revenue streams as long as they seem to work „somehow“. It is even more difficult, if the change requires a modification of an established value chain. That is why companies from other industries or even small startups often step successfully into existing markets with a different or totally new approach.

In 2014 Airbnb, a marketplace for renting lodgings founded in 2012, sold more accommodations as the whole Hilton Group, founded in 1919.

5. Agility
Agile concepts are a common toolkit to drive change and serve as a framework for customer centricity. Scrum is an agile framework for software development based on empirical process control by transparency, inspection and adaption. Many of Scrum’s agile principles can be used outside of software development in any department or project. These are cross-functional collaboration in teams, self-organization inside the teams, a prioritization based on (digital) value and an iterative realization process instead of a static long term planning. Agility means for companies and teams also the acceptance to make mistakes and to understand those as a part of their leaning process.

6. Data driven Business
This pilar adds data to the commitment for customer centricity. Any new product idea, feature or potentially improvement of a product or service can be tested with users. There are multiple methods to validate ideas, concepts or prototypes with users or even to discover and create a best-practice option in collaboration with users. Such an approach reduces the risk to fail with an idea or product as the design is based on „measured“ existing or future needs of real users.

General speaking, data does not only help to save money, it is money. Data is a key driver of the mentioned digital revolution. The succes of some of today’s most valuable companies such as Apple, Google (Alphabet), Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon is build on data. These companies produce, collect and analyze data to make decisions and to create (digital) value for their users and their company.

7. Digital Value
Digital value is the validated positive outcome of data driven decisions. Any prioritization of functionality and features has to be driven by its digital value. Digital value means an online driven, measurable direct impact for a company’s value chain such as business value (e.g. direct or indirect monetarization) or user experience value (e.g. engagement) or internal process value (e.g. huge improvements of the velocity of specific tasks). The value is created because a specific new user need was satisfied or an already existing user need was satisfied better or more efficient than before.

8. Reboot Technology
This pilar refers to the fact that digital transformation often includes something radical and disruptive that mostly cannot be realized based on implemented and established technology. How would you build a technology set-up for your company if you could start from scratch today? What is the key difference in such an approach and what is the key USP compared to existing competitors today? The idea of „re-coding“ sounds expensive, but can help to identify the most weak parts in the current technology. Today, a main requirement to software architecture is changebility what means a modular lean structure is preferred over monolithic „all-in-one“ solutions we know from the past. That does not include a kind of total technological flexibility what could be much too complex and expensive. Modularity means to create a core and to build modules around it, to use APIs and also 3rd party modules. The microservice architecture follows these paradigms. Not every feature or service has to be developed from an internal team, especially if there are standard solutions already available on the market, that could be integrated in such a modular architecture.

Simplicity is a second requirement for technology. This could be rated as inconsistent with the requirement of changbility, but it is not. Only a good balance between both is necessary.

9. Collaboration
Collaboration is the connector between mindset of change, customer centricity, agility and digital value and the enabler of a successful digital transformation. Somehow collaboration is a consequence if a companie’s change strategy is supported by the main operative stake holders in key departments. Collaboration inside the company means also to share responsibilities and to work in cross-functional teams. You need to build expert teams with the most skilled people to solve a specific task or create a specific solution, independent from boundaries of departments. Boundaries of departments should be understood as lines, not walls.

Collaboration means also to integrate external partners, suppliers and users to creat the best possible solution. There are many examples of a successful user integration into companies‘ innovation process or even of product innovation communities, stimulating user driven innovations for specific brands or products.

How long is the process of digital transformation?
The time frame of a digital transformation is depending on the specific existing business and the size of the company. It seems more that digital transformation is tending to be a permanent process that is morphing from one wave to the next.

DigIT 2015

HP Managing Director Germany, Heiko Meyer

At the DigIT Conference in Berlin 2015 Heiko Meyer, Managing Director HP Germany, has explained the 5 years plan of HP’s digital transformation journey. Also after 5 years the real journey will rather start than end. Axel Springer SE, a traditional German publisher, has started its digitalization in 2006. In the first half of 2015 more than 60% of revenues are related to digital business models. The whole process was and still is digital transformation. Also companies that have alreday a 100% digital business model need to transform to the next digital level as markets and user requirements are evolving. So digital transformation is only a first step of a continuous change process that could be better described as digital evolution.

Digital Recruiting – What is Next?

15 Mai
15. Mai 2015

In Febrauary 2015 I left MonsterWorldwide after 3.5 years and also the online recruiting industry. It was a great time with great learnings. If you never worked in that area you might think even the online part is still old-fashioned, slow and boring, but this is not the case. It is a dynamic and innovative industry that is currently in a dramatical change process.
In opposite to other classified segments such as online travel or online real estate, technology is not the main driver of change and innovation. The object itself – jobs and the working force – are changing and forcing the innovation process in this industry.
Even today jobs are demanding different and new skill sets compared to a similar position ten years ago. And this is oynly the beginning. Transdisciplinarity, cross-cultural understanding, a design mindset and social intelligence are just a few of the new skills that are required in general beside a specific job qualification no matter if it is a  marketing, product, sales, HR or IT position. Additionally there is an increasing demand in companies for highly specialized skills and very specific working experience.

The demographic change is driving new challenges.

On the other hand the workforce is changing with the generations Y (in 2020 35% of the workforce), Z  (in 2020 12% of the workforce) and alpha (born after 2010 – still some time for us to prepare). Classical job boards are getting less important because already 50% of employees do not want to search for a new job anymore actively. Those want to be found, to be recommended or to get a job recommended by a personal contact. In the decision process to chose a specific job offer are parameters like flexible office hours, work-life-balance, company culture and non work-related benefits more important than in generations before. The time employees are staying in one company will be reduced below 2 years. So change is more a part of the DNA of such next generation employees. It is much more organic driven than forced by dissatisfaction with a current job. This type of employee is highly skilled, active in social networks and well connected. 54% even use social networks for work or skill related activities.
So the future workforce seems to become in a majority a kind of passive job seekers. Employers need to build a new recruiting philosophy in their HR departments.
How does the current online recruiting market match these changing requirements?
Companies like Careerbuilder, Monster Worldwide or Stepstone did not really manage to reinvent their business models so far, even job aggregators such as Indeed smell a little bit outdated in such a scenario. Professional networks like LinkedIn and even the German local player Xing seem to have better preconditions, but their member profiles do not all have the required details on very specific skill sets e.g. for potential IT candidates. Profile aggregation providers such as TalentBin or Dice have at least a partly answer to reach specific rare candidates in groups that are very active in work-related communities, e.g. developers.

Technological innovations need an organizational foundation of change.

Not surprisingly disruptive approaches are coming more from start-ups while the big online recruitment players are struggling with decreasing revenues and internal structural problems. Change needs to be driven from inside to outside, but this is difficult if key stakeholders are not pushing and supporting that approach and tend to protect the „old“ business and a given internal status quo. Change should also ideally be driven top down, what is getting difficult escpecially in companies with multiple hierarchical levels. To realize a technological shift companies need an innovation friendly organizational structure and climate.

So what is close or even has started?

1. All employees are passive candidates.
It will become even more difficult to reach high potentials and specialized experts via job boards and career pages. Active sourcing will be the much more active way to find the right people. Companies need to use their employees, build candidate networks and establish active sourcing directly in their HR departments. Still there is lack of knowledge and sensitivity how to contact potential candidates.

2. Social profiles keep to gain relevance.
To scan social profiles and activities is getting more and more important especially as the number of passive candidates is rising. Companies need intelligent tools to scan all relevant profiles and to analyze data.

3. Companies need to invest much more in employer branding.
Highly skilled candidates might have multiple options and are looking critical on potential new employers. Companies need to create a transparent view on company culture, benefits and career perspectives. Happy and satisfied employees are one of the best arguments.

4. Candidates are becoming highly specialized alrounders.
The new workforce is getting much more specialized than any generation before, but brings also a set of cross functional skills from other disciplines.

5. Video, video, video
The role of videos is increasing in every part of the recruiting process. Companies are presenting roles, workspace and colleagues in company videos, candidates are sending videos as application or example of their work, interviews are done via Skype or other video phone applications.

Sources: recruiting trends 2015, bewerberpraxis 2015, mccrindle blog, business news, Forbes, horizont, institute of the future

The Agile Recruiting Framework

09 Jan
9. Januar 2015

As already discussed in my articles “companies and recruiters need to learn how to ‘apply for candidates’” Part 1 and Part 2 the recruiting market is in a change process. Social technologies, mobile devices and diversification in job requirements and candidate expectations are transforming the working world. HR managers face multiple new and changing challenges when they are hiring. The time-to-hire is getting more and more critical, while many recruiting processes are still too complex and long-winded. They need to build a good understanding for new technologies and tools as this is the only way to answer requests for differentiated analytics of more complex profiles and candidate requirements. On the other hand it is a candidate market and top candidates have a clear expectation for the next job but also for the application process.
From company perspective HR managers are changing their role from an internal service provider into a business partner for all departments of the company. In a transforming environment they have not only to manage the effects of change inside a company, they have to be an active part of the whole change management process itself. HR managers need to act as agile change agents and to drive transformation. They have to shape the hiring process into a leaner, faster and more effective process, increase transparency and improve communication with candidates. It is very important to include also core future skills such as social intelligence, trans-disciplinarity, cross cultural competency or new media literacy (source: Institute for the Future) into search profiles to prepare the organization for the next challenges. Parallel the organization needs to be prepared for the next generations. In 2020 35% of the working force will be the Generation Y and already 12% the Generation Z (source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics). The next generations have a higher demand for liquid structures and working models, away from static hierarchies and old-school matrix organizations. This is another good reason for HR to become real agile.
The graphic shows a first conceptual Agile Recruiting Framework I developed based on my digital product transformation framework.
The framework includes:
• 4 influencing business and technology trends (social, mobile, analytics, cloud)
• 2 internal enablers (transparency, agility)
• 2 poles (profile & requirements of company, expectations & requirements of candidates)
• Attributes related to one of the poles
• 2 internal enablers (transparency, agility) with influence on both poles
• 4 influencing variables (tools, knowledge, time, process)
• 1 external frame (market), 1 internal frame (company culture)
In the center of the process are not the profile or company requirements – it is the candidate.

Part II: Companies and recruiters need to learn “how to apply for candidates”

12 Okt
12. Oktober 2014

Some companies such as law firms in Germany rate candidates still by their final marks mainly. Even if candidates seem to have a good fit in experience and already worked some years in the same legal field they are not considered for an interview below a specific mark. This is raising the question which are today’s relevant quality criteria for a candidate selection?

As a scientific research recently found out recruiters spend an average of six seconds to scan a resume and to decide if a candidate fits or not – recruiters self-reported they would spend four to five minutes per resume (source: TheLadders). This is not a surprise as time is always critical in recruiting projects. On the other hand quality is critical too. It just makes the resume to the deciding admission ticket. Well, today everybody can write everything in his profile and even resume. So how to verify information are correct? And how to find passive talents that did not pimp their profile or resume? Maybe here are new social tools like TalentBin the future. TalentBin for example tries to aggregate and combine public available social information from multiple sources in the net to create an information profile.

In my interviews some candidates also for executive positions reported about a very complex recruiting process. After they have been contacted they had up to four telephone interviews with different recruiters and ended up on a shortlist with a high number of candidates (up to 10) that was prepared for the client company. Unfortunately such processes are mostly not explained in the first interview otherwise many candidates might abandon the application. How much time would an experienced professional who is not desperately searching for a job invest in such a process with a 1:10 chance of success even after several interviews? Thinking of the Generation Y it is hard to believe that anyone would be interested – and this generation will represent 35% of the workforce in 2020. The Generation Y expects that companies apply for candidates and they demand a very personal and lean recruiting process.

For sure process and selection criteria are often set by the client company and recruiters might be “only” the executing part. On the other hand external (and internal) recruiters should understand themselves also as consultant of the client (or internal business partner) how to build a modern and fitting recruiting process with appropriate quality criteria. They have to act as change agent in a changing external and internal environment.

I made myself a lot of positive experience with external recruiters and also how I was contacted in active sourcing projects. Also there were reported many positive experiences in my interviews. But overall it still seems that a transformation of the recruitment process has often not started neither in the HR department of companies nor at executive search consultants or agencies. In consideration of the HR top trends 2014 (demographic change, shortage of qualified stuff and social media) this sounds surprisingly (source: Recruiting Trends 2014). Technology is already changing how we work and requiring different and new skill sets (source: Deloitte 2014). That means also that recruitment needs a shift, new HR skills, new HR technologies and a new approach for talent acquisition. In a global study only 13% of asked HR leaders claimed to be ready for the new challenges in their department (source: Deloitte 2014).

Finally there are some simple recommendations for recruiters based on the input from my interviews:

  1. Apply for a candidate
  2. Scan the candidate, not only the profile or CV
  3. Consult your client (or internal business partners) to choose a smart and lean selection process and discuss the quality criteria

Companies and recruiters need to learn “how to apply for candidates” (Part I)

21 Jul
21. Juli 2014

Apply for Candidates!

Since nearly ten years we are talking about Web 2.0, Social Web and how new technologies have changed our daily live and business. Today we face four digital mega trends that are catalysts of change: mobile internet usage, cloud computing, social communication and analytics / big data (Source: PWC, Gartner). Product management and development paradigms have massively evolved into an agile, dynamic and user and customer centric approach. Organization forms of companies are getting leaner and smarter to be able to act, react and execute in a much more competitive and dynamic market environment. If the implementation of “change” is successful and sustainable the positive effects are visible in mostly all parts of a company, no matter if marketing department, service or sales team. How about the recruitment department? In the last twelve month I talked to candidates and companies, but also to friends and colleagues in semi-structured interviews about their experience with “active sourcing” and companies’ recruiting processes.

Strictly speaking active sourcing is not a new concept. External recruiting-consultants have been sourcing actively for potential candidates since more than 60 years, but mostly focused on executive search. So what is new since Web 2.0 emerged? Professional social networks, blogs and other online communities make it easy for “everybody” to search for talents online. Many employees show skills and professional experience in their social profiles as a kind of reduced resume or release knowledge related articles in personal blogs and special interest communities. So active sourcing is not a tool only to search candidates for executive positions anymore, but for any role that is hard to fill. This is in line with expectations of potential candidates as 40% would prefer “to be found” instead to search themselves for a job (source: Recruiting Trends 2014). The passive job hunter is on the rise.

So, it is easy to search for candidates in the web. The flipside of this coin is a low average quality of how candidates are contacted. In some cases recruiters send superficial personalized messages on LinkedIn (or Xing in Germany) that sound like a kind of bulk mails with job offers. Often candidates seem to be selected by a few fitting keywords without accurate research on current job title, skills, education or career level. This is a very impersonal and superficial active sourcing approach and it creates a negative perception on the candidate site. Some other recruiters contact candidates directly via phone without sending an email or message before – obviously with the principle “give it a try”. It seems to be faster to make three minutes a cold call instead of reading five minutes more carefully the profile or to search for additional information about the candidate on blogs or a personal website. Those that act here as “recruiters” are of course not always experienced professionals. In some cases even students or interns without any recruitment experience make the first contact.

As a scientific research recently found out recruiters spend an average of six seconds to scan a resume and to decide if a candidate fits or not. Recruiters self-reported they would spend four to five minutes per resume (source: TheLadders).

Even at executive search it is obviously not always common to be well prepared before talking to potential candidates. More than 40% of targeted candidates reported that they felt the recruiters were not well prepared in the interviews (referring to an interview stage after agreement on a general interest from both sides). Although those candidates were contacted by the recruiter they found themselves after reflecting some interest already in a one-sided applicant position. Today we have a candidate market in many industries. An application process needs to be bilateral. Companies (and also recruiters) have to understand that they must apply for a candidate too.

What are the most important requirements candidates expect from recruiters?

I collected and structured the following items from candidates:

  1. Transparency about the recruiting process & timing
  2. Clear Communication & Feedback
    • Communicating the right expectations
    • Listening to the candidate’s expectation
    • Fast and honest feedback
      • About fit from the recruiter even before direct company contact
      • 1-2 working days after a direct interview with the company (even if it is just a status update, no decision)
    • Clear briefing before first company contact
    • Honest reflection of company’s situation and culture
  1. Well prepared recruiters beyond reading a candidate’s resume
  2. Respect for the time invest of a candidate

So transparency and communication are most important to set the right expectations and build trust. Without feedback there is no base for trust. It was often reported by candidates that after reaching a specific stage such as being presented from the recruiter to the company or having the first interview with the company, there was no feedback at all. In some cases it took weeks, in some months and in some cases the candidate never heard anything again from the recruiter. Of course that is the worst case. But after a candidate invested time in a recruiting process, it is naturally that he expects this his time invest is respected. And to get at least a short feedback about the main reasons for rejection is a fair expectation.

TO BE CONTINUED….

A Digital Product Transformation Framework

13 Mai
13. Mai 2014

Digital product transformation is one of the biggest challenges for any company with a Web related business model. No matter how established and successful a company and its digital products and services are, it is crucial to implement rethinking as part of the daily routine. Transformation is based on radical innovations followed by a disruptive change of the company’s business model or/and product portfolio. In some cases product transformation of one company is causing a game change for a whole industry. A framework for digital product transformation can support companies to understand, organize and monitor the individual internal requirements for a continuous process of radical product innovation.

The framework includes:

  • 4 influencing trends (social, mobile, analytics, cloud)
  • 2 enablers (team, technology)
  • Attributes and principles related to an enabler
  • 4 influencing variables (people, process, network, knowledge)
  • 1 external frame (market), 1 internal frame (company culture)

The four most important trends that influence the digital business ecosystem are social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC, source: PwC). Driven by a user-centric vision the core elements and principles of digital product transformation are related to the enabler “Team” and/or the enabler “Technology”.

User integration, agility, collaboration and cross-functionality are attributes of the enabler “Team”. Transparency and bi-values are principles related to the team. Bi-values underlines that values should be always related to the company and the user. User integration can create a bi-value as it is fun for the user and the chance for a more valuable product or service on one side.  Important market research and the chance for a better marketable product or service are values for a company on the other site. There are many examples for successful user integration via online communities such as mystarbucksidea from Starbucks that includes more than 200.000 discussed and voted user ideas – many of those with a bi-value.

The attributes for the enabler “Technology” are an open architecture, modularity, multi-platform and a focus on UX. Iterative thinking is a principle related to the enabler “Technology”, while openness is a principle related to both, technology and team

Influencing variables within the company are the (1) involved people, the (2) disposable knowledge, the (3) established and used processes and the (4) network inside and outside the company (source: TMCnet). The general frame is set by the market (external: e.g. competition, market phase) and the company culture (internal).

Pillars of Product Transformation

07 Apr
7. April 2014

Product transformation means to make a disruptive move for the existing product portfolio into something new. For the music industry their product transformed from vinly to CD to download. While the first transformation went well for the industry, the second one killed half of the established record companies. They have not been prepared, did never understand the request for the transformation and resisted until a lot of those disappeared. Especially the digital product transformation is happening in very short circles today.

In definition transformation is the successful result of a change strategy and a transition plan based on the three elements product, people and process. In reality the three most important elements are people, people, people. Any change starts in the head of the people. Without the initial first move to get the “right stakeholders” on board nothing can change and there will never be a product transformation into anything new. It all starts with an idea and the understanding that change is something natural and part of the daily business. And this is independent from the economic situation of a company. In reality it is of course not as the most managers start thinking when they identified that they have a problem with the current product, service or business model. Anyway, when the CEO or the senior management understood that there is need for a transformation, the hardest work is to establish the idea through the organization. Product transformation means to change the whole company, the nature of the firm. It can be a market or user driven change and is in line with the over-all company vision. In some case product transformation can even modify or change the company vision.

The software culture of a company is deciding how fast and easy the transformation process can start. The CTO and his team should always ask: “Are we still using the most valuable technologies to serve our customers?” New technologies can change the way of working completely, not only in the product and tech department. But if the software culture supports such a process smooth and clean is again related to people. People build and live the software culture of a company.

The organization’s culture is the enabler to transfer change through all departments of the company. Mindset, believe systems, norms and values are influencing how successful change will be. And again it is related to the people that implemented that culture and how it is adopted and lived by all employees. The structure of the company determines the speed of change through the organization. Flat hierarchical levels would be ideal. But it is all about people. Change is often resisted as many people are afraid to change status quo and working environment. So again, it starts all in the head of the people and the start has to signal that change is something good and positive. That is at least the base to start product transformation.

The unknown company: How to attract job seekers?

17 Mrz
17. März 2014

In the so called “war for talents” big brands such as Hugo Boss, Audi or Google have an unbeatable advantage. They are also employer brands and get often enough applicants because potential talents have already a passion for their products or company. How can an unknown mid-size company compete in such a race?  Many companies look desperately for very rare profile candidates, e.g. in the IT or engineering segment and several of them have a lot to offer: Great workspace, free fruits and drinks, leisure offers (fitness club, table soccer), child care, free language trainings, health care or life insurance or pensions (especially UK)… But how can companies better reach potential talents and make such benefits more visible? To build an employer brand is a long term strategy that will take time. A first step is a more creative usage of a simple job posting. The posting is a direct contact point with potential candidates. Many companies still do not understand that they have also to apply for candidates and that it is not enough to post a job and pray for getting the right applicants. A posting should not be a simple text ad with a logo, it could be advertsing for the company showing real people, products, workspace and office. To apply and be ready to change a job is also a very emotional moment. You have to gain trust even to make the candidate send his application. Trust is based on transparency and positive emotions.

A scientific study of the Goethe-University of Frankfurt/Main (Germany) compared a plain text job posting (standard ad) with a designed job posting (employer branding ad) that includes multiple pictures, a company video, interactive elements and was structured like a website with a simple navigation. The study was based on a multi-method experiment design combining pre-survey, laboratory experiment including eyetracking and post-survey with 180 persons. The research was conducted with two groups, each 90 persons that have seen only one type of posting, the standard ad or the employer branding ad. Both ads were for the same position and company (midsize, no top 100 brand) and had the same text description. The participants had to answer the same questions before and after they have seen the specific posting (rating on five point Likert scale). They did all not know the company before the test.

The study had two main findings:

1.) The residence time on the employer branding posting was with 3.7 minutes nearly the double of the residence time on the standard positing (1.9 minutes).

2.) All image related evaluations shown a significant uplift after the participants have seen the employer branding posting, while there was no real change for the standard ad.

For example the company was rated as more likeable, more authentic, more reliable and even more successful (compared to the standard posting). While the first two are explainable through the pictures of employees and the company video, the last two are definitely a subjective impression. The results show that such a designed posting with company insight can bring a candidate in a very positive emotional mood. Finally another result was that the willingness to apply for a job at the specific company increases with an employer branding ad.

The employer branding job posting was created and invented in late 2012 by my team and me at Monster Worldwide Germany. It is including full compatibility also on mobile devices (responsive design). Still it is not used by enough companies. Some firms do not understand the need for such an approach, some are still afraid to create a transparent picture of their company. But it is an opportunity, not a risk, especially as the current Generations Y or Z expect more transparency and authenticity than past generations. In times of social media it is difficult to hide something for a company, on the other hand there might a lot positive to show if communicated proactively. The employer branding job posting is no universal remedy against too less applicants, but an interesting and important tool for recruiters, especially for companies with not well known brands.

How mobile devices change recruitment (Wie mobile Geräte die Rekrutierung verändern)

02 Jul
2. Juli 2013

How mobile and social Web change the recruiting world (Part 2)

Beside the social factor there is a second important variable that drives change in recruitment.

The MOBILE-factor

Around 40% of Germans already use the Internet via mobile devices (D21, 2013) and more than 50% of the German Internet users go mobile online (Accenture, 2012, D21, 2013). After all, 28% of Germans have already started looking for a job mobile (Recruiting Trends, 2013), while most German companies’ career and recruitment activities are mostly unprepared for mobile seekers. Nearly 80% of mobile users complain that career opportunities are insufficiently optimized for mobile. Only between 7 and 10% (Recruiting Trends, 2013 / Internal Study monsters 2013) of companies declared to be prepared for mobile users in the field of career and recruitment. Over 40% of companies do not know e.g. if their website is technical “mobile ready” or have even not thought about it yet. Job and career sites should be designed „responsive“ or „liquid“ to ensure a consistent and legible image on all browser sizes. Ideally, the career page and the company’s website are designed following the principles of „mobile first“. Although only a few candidates actually apply via mobile devices in Germany, the search and selection of information on mobile devices is an important part on the application path of potential candidates. In Germany nearly every application is including an individual cover letter, what create an additional obstacle to apply mobile.

The Internet itself is becoming a kind of mobile content. The mobile usability is not an aspect of the web offer, but the web itself is a part of the mobile offering and mobile devices are the primary target of use.

Technology is a necessary base, but simplicity and direct benefit of use are the key to make mobile application successful. The most powerful and comprehensive application will not win automatically the most users, but the one that is most easy to use and that creates the highest value.

Due to the different mobile ecosystems such as Android, iOS and Windows Mobile so-called “web apps” are becoming more attractive because these work on all mobile platforms. Only one system has to be developed and maintained. Often here is a subdomain „m.domainname“ used.

Wie das mobile und soziale Netz die Rekrutierungswelt verändern (Teil 2)

Neben dem sozialen Faktor existiert eine zweite wesentliche Variable, die Veränderungen in der Rekrutierung vorantreibt.

Der MOBILE-Faktor

Rund 40% der Deutschen nutzen das Internet bereits über mobile Endgeräte (D21 2013), bei den Deutschen Internetnutzern geht mehr als jeder zweite mobil online (Accenture 2012, D21 2013). Immerhin 28% der Deutschen suchen bereits mobil nach einem Job (Recruiting Trends 2013), während die meisten Unternehmen im Bereich Karriere und Rekrutierung überwiegend unzureichend auf zunehmende mobile Zugriffe vorbereitet sind. Rund 80% der mobilen Nutzer bemängeln, dass Karriereangebote nur unzureichend mobil optimiert sind. Nur 10% (Recruiting Trends 2013) bzw. 7% (Interne Studie Monster 2013) der Unternehmen geben an, auf mobile Nutzer im Bereich Karriere und Rekrutierung vorbereitet zu sein, über 40% wissen es nicht genau oder haben noch keine Planung dazu. Stellenanzeigen und Karriereseite sollten „responsive“ oder „liquid“ gestaltet sein, um ein einheitliches und lesbares Bild über sämtlich Browsergrößen zu gewährleisten. Im Idealfall ist der Karrierebereich und die Webseite des Unternehmens nach den Prinzipien von „mobile first“ aufgebaut. Auch wenn sich noch wenige Kandidaten tatsächlich über mobile Geräte in Deutschland bewerben, was unter anderem der Deutschen „Anschreibe-Kultur“ zuzuschreiben ist, wird die Suche und Informationsselektion über mobile Geräte ein wichtiger Teilfaktor des Bewerbungspfads für aktive und passive Kandidaten. Das Internet selbst wird zunehmend zu einem mobilen Inhalt. Dh. nicht die mobile Nutzbarkeit ist ein Teilaspekt des Webangebots, sondern das Web selbst ist ein Teilbereich des Mobilangebots und die mobilen Geräte sind das primäre Nutzungsszenario.

Dabei ist die Technologie die notwendige Basis, im Vordergrund stehen aber die Einfachheit der Nutzung und der eindeutige Mehrwert für den Anwender. Nicht die kompletteste und funktionsreichste Applikation gewinnt die meisten Anwender, sondern diejenige, die am einfachsten zu bedienen ist und den höchsten Nutzen spendet. Aufgrund der unterschiedlichen mobilen Ökosysteme wie Android, iOS und Windows Mobile werden dabei so genannte Web-Apps immer attraktiver, da diese Plattform übergreifend arbeiten – man pflegt und entwickelt nur ein System. Oftmals wird hierfür im Web eine „m.“ Subdomain genutzt.

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