Inspecht HR Futures Conference

A quick update on the conference idea from last week. Based on feedback and discussions it have been named “Inspecht HR Futures Conference” and will bring together speakers covering all areas of HR, Recruiting and Technology to discuss how social media, innovation, culture and technology empower, attract, engage and evolve employees. More information is below.

  • Conference site is at
  • HR Futures Conference that will be held on 26th February 2009 here in Melbourne.
  • Program is about 90% finalised and is available online, we have some great speakers.
  • Venue has been booked, Karstens at CQ 123 Queen St Melbourne CBD.
  • The event will be fully catered.
  • I have 6 logos up for review which I need to decide on before the formal marketing begins. You can give me feedback on the logos.
  • Being a blog reader you can register, if you like, before the public marketing. I have tried to keep the price at a reasonable level, A$350 for the day before 15 Jan 2009 and A$400 after 15 Jan 2009.


Social networking sites increase employee productivity

An interesting piece by David Quach on the ABC News site (Hat Tip @aussienick) about how more people should use Facebook to improve worker productivity. Here is the summary:

Well, while any adverse effect of Facebook on productivity is detrimental to the economy, economic theory also suggests that the economy could be improved if there were more users. In other words, as long as Facebook isn’t used at work too much, everyone would be better off if more people used it.

The basic idea is that each user of Facebook not only gains individual benefits from using the social networking site, but also provides (network) benefits to other people. And since people generally do not take into account the benefits to other people when deciding whether or not to join Facebook, there are fewer users than is ideal for society.

Allow me to explain.

In the language of economics, Facebook is said to exhibit network effects; it is a technology that becomes more valuable as more people use it (and the network gets larger), like mobile telephones or fax machines, for example.

The network effect is real and does increase productivity. But what really got me interested was the comments being left by readers which ranged from full support to a complete lack of support. The comments could be classified into four major themes:

  • What about your privacy
  • Facebook is the best thing
  • Facebook is a complete waste of time
  • People with real social lives don’t use Facebook

Here are a few.


27 Nov 2008 2:22:02pm

Concur. I take singular delight in not being registered on any of these social networking sites. People with REAL social lives don’t have the time to waste on them.


28 Nov 2008 12:13:05am

Nobody forces you to post every detail of your life on facebook. If you consider it a public place and only post things you’d be happy posting in public then you have nothing to worry about.

Merlin 23:

27 Nov 2008 2:11:48pm

The statement “Concerns about Facebook’s negative effect on the economy – especially an economy on the verge of recession – were raised just recently when 13 Virgin Atlantic staff were sacked for criticising the airline online” is proposterous.

‘Facebook’ is an application and didn’t do anything – the people using it did. The same result would have occurred if they done the same thing using the any other form of media and their boss heard about it.


27 Nov 2008 3:25:12pm

We are all selfish for not joining face book! I can’t believe this guy wrote such an article! It is amazing the space that he took up saying so little.
I agree with the statements in the comments regarding fraud, identity theft, and invasion of privacy! It does happen and as much as it may be stated that its safe and ok, personally I won’t take the risk. I have plenty of ways to communicate with friends without reducing myself to that level. So go ahead – call me selfish!

From a business point of view Merlin 23 is correct Facebook/MySpace/etc is not the problem, management is. What would you do if someone was always late to work, spent too long at lunch or on a smoking break (do they still have them)? Same thing should be done if people are wasting time on Facebook.

Privacy is an issue but it needs to be managed. Jeremy is right, no one is forcing you to put all your details on the site, remember The Mother Test?

Cricket seems confused. While claiming to be a real person with a social life they seem to have the time to hang out commenting online ;-). Which brings me to my final point, usage of social media is growing in Australia and growing quickly.

In the 2007 Q1 Forrester Technographics Survey of Australian Adults online found 11% were Creators of content, 23% Critics on content, 5% Collectors of content, 14% Joiners to social networks, 38% Spectators reading what other said and 56% Inactives ignoring social media. 12 months on these figures had changed dramatically 2008 Q1 Forrester Technographics Survey showed:

  • 26% Creators
  • 35% Critics
  • 16% Collectors
  • 45% Joiners
  • 63% Spectators
  • 24% Inactives 

With this sort of growth David Quach will get his wish, but businesses out there who do not know how to manage employees within this new world will have a lot of trouble.

UPDATE: Minutes after hitting post I found a story from Financial Times blogs on time clock watching bosses discussing the “Japanese concept of ba: a hard-to-translate notion that, in this context, appears to describe an elevated state of knowledge-sharing between colleagues.”

Australian Online tools for HR

I have been watching the growth in non recruiting SaaS tools for HR professionals in Australia with great interest.  We have had payroll and time tracking services for a while, and a few full fledged HRIS tools floating around but most have grown out of the old bureau offerings and not really built with the Internet in mind. 

An area of continual change is in Employee Relations. Australian legislation, like most countries, is complex and continually changing means you need to be an employment legal expert to operate in the area. Making services such as PeopleInsite, People In Small Biz and Workforce Guardian of value. All three are offering compliance documentation services to customers on a subscription basis, but seem to be approaching to from different directions.

People In Small Biz is an older style offering with a range of HR and employment services such as HR documents, onsite HR Health Checks, Outsourced HR, and AWA and Employee Collective Agreements. The cost $399/year. They also offer onsite health checks, outsourced HR services and recruitment.

PeopleInsite promotes itself as a full service employment records management operation. Allowing you to move all of your paper based employment documentation online. You can create new documents, leverage their templates, store them against employees and report on document status. They have also built integration services with payroll and HR tools.

Workforce Guardian takes these previous models a little further. Being an employee management system, employment contract generation tool, process, forms and letter guidance all supported verified by Clayton Utz an Australian employment law firm. Like PeopleInSite documents are stored against employees, reports can be run for analysis. Where Workforce Guardian is a little different is they don’t want to talk with you, well they will if you need to but also operate fully online, unlike the other services. After speaking today with Hans de Kraker their Business Development Manager they have clients who have signed up without any interaction with Workforce Guardian. They are also on Twitter which makes them even cooler in my books.

I am sure there are other services in the market place like these but I like where this is heading.

Violence in the workplace

Violence in general is terrible and should never be in the workplace. But when it happens HR is usually involved. Years ago I remember talking to a senior HR executive who had an employee come into his office and sit down. The employee calmly announced that he had just murdered his family. I have known HR managers who have flown into war torn countries to help evacuate employees, who have had to assist the children of an executive from a large multinational who had a heart attack while holidaying in Australia, counselled employees after the Melbourne CBD murders last year. 

Over the last week I have seen several articles that once again raise the issue of violence in the workplace.

An HR managers job can be tough.

Meet Jobs in HR founder Kevin Howard

Last month I posted an interview with an internal recruiter from Oracle Australia, David Talamelli, and decided this will become a regular feature. I have always wanted to profile interviews on the blog however up until nowI did not feel Australia had enough of a local online market to generate interesting posts. That has changed.

Today’s interview with with Kevin Howard founder of Jobs in HR, an email jobs list for HR professionals. I have known Kevin for about four years now, but only meet him once in person just after I started Inspecht, and felt it would be good to get an understanding of how Jobs in HR operates. I thank Kevin for the time he took to get through the interview, I hope you all enjoy it.

Tell us a bit about your background, you have a recruitment background correct?

I have a technical background originally. I worked on radar systems for 8 years, followed by a couple of years with a specialist computer systems company when I first came to Australia. Like a lot of people in recruitment I got into by chance in 1989, when a company I was using to recruit staff offer me a job!. I started off servicing the electronics industry initially, mainly in communications and then the large IT companies as networking technology really took off. I worked in recruitment for 12 years, ending up as CEO and part owner of a recruitment agency with offices in three states, which we sold to a large UK firm in ’97. I stayed on as CEO after the sale and left at the end of 99 after merging our company with another IT recruitment that the group had purchased.

When did you setup the Jobs in HR email list?

We launched Jobs in HR in August 2004.

Who or what was your inspiration to start the email list?

I was advising an environmental consulting firm on their recruitment strategy and discovered that there were a couple of recruitment advertising products based on the subscriber mail list concept. I wanted to do something a little different to recruiting but utilise my knowledge of recruitment, so I decided to start developing similar targeted advertising products for other disciplines. Building a product for HR profession was a no brainer from a strategic perspective.

Why did you choose an email list as the delivery vehicle when everything was going on to the web?

Precisely because email is a delivery system – it’s ‘push’ advertising, rather than ‘pull’, so it doesn’t rely upon people visiting a passive job board on the web. The copy is delivered directly to the audience’s desktop.

How does you service work from an advertisers point of view as you do not seem to run jobs more than once, unlike many job boards?

It’s important to note that we are not trying to be like the typical job boards – our goal is to complement the big job boards, by reaching the people they don’t usually reach. This means reaching passive and senior job seekers who rarely visit job boards, if at all.

We work on the premise that if you deliver quality content, you attract a quality audience. This means don’t ‘spam’ your audience with repeated, cross posted and irrelevant job ads. People don’t want to see the same jobs again and again, nor do they want to receive jobs in Perth, when they’re looking in Melbourne. We also exclude jobs for commercial (agency) recruitment consultants because we know most career HR people are not interested in these sales oriented roles.

We know for a fact that this quality approach works. Within a few months of launching Jobs in HR, feedback from our regular advertisers (HR recruitment specialists) was that they were receiving applications from passive and senior candidates whom they would not expect to be browsing the usual job boards.

Some of Australia’s leading HR recruitment specialists have advertised all their jobs with us from the outset. But even after 4 years of operation there are other recruiters who still don’t “get it”.

How do you feel this approach benefits the advertisers and candidates?

Our value proposition is very simple.

Advertisers reach a targeted audience whom they are very unlikely to reach through other advertising channels, particularly the big job boards.

Candidates get fresh HR jobs delivered directly to their desktop without having to trawl through thousands of jobs on a job board.

There is however added value for recruitment agencies who advertise their jobs with us – they are putting their brand in front of over 8000 HR people every week.

You have over 8,000 subscribers to your list, what do you feel has been the key to the success?

Word of mouth and the quality of product has certainly been a big factor. We also spend a lot of money each year on promoting Jobs in HR to HR people.

With over 8,000 subscribers do you track how many times the email is forwarded to others?

No we don’t, and although we know people do forward our email bulletins, we don’t count that in our audience numbers because it’s impossible to quantify. Without using questionable means it’s not possible to track this anyway.

We also know that there are other people who don’t subscribe but simply treat our as a normal job board and simply browse the site from time to time. Again, we don’t count those in our audience.

8,000 subscribers is just under 10% HR practitioner’s in Australia, do you feel this means they are all active candidates?

There isn’t really much reason to subscribe to Jobs in HR unless you are at least moderately interested in a new job, so I would say they are all potential ‘candidates’.

Around 35% of our audience subscribe to daily email updates. These people are obviously “active” job seekers. The other 65% will range from people who are reasonably active through to very passive candidates, who are only likely to make a move if something really special comes along.

I should mention that there is also constant ‘churn’ – people unsubscribing and new people subscribing every day. In the region of 50-100 new people per week.

You have an RSS feed on your site, is this method used by many people, if so why?

We adopted RSS at your suggestion. Although we were happy to do so it hasn’t proven to be very attractive to HR people. Less that 2% of our audience use it as far as we are aware. I don’t think RSS is used much by people who are not involved in technology in some shape or form. I thought this might change when IE7 came along (with it’s ability to read feeds) but it didn’t make much difference.

Email is still the killer application as far as communication is concerned.

What do you see as the current trends for recruiting in Australia?

If, as some economists are predicting, we are heading for a deep global recession in 2009, then the recruiting landscape will change markedly.

Some big employers have already frozen recruitment, others have announced significant job cuts and I suspect there is much more similar news to come.

I believe we will see a reversal of the trend for large employers to build in-house recruitment services. As an employer you really need to be doing a lot of recruitment to warrant employing dedicated in-house recruiters.

If companies shed their internal recruiters this may result in more opportunity for the RPO suppliers or a return to using external recruitment agencies on an ‘as needs’ basis.

I think we will see an increase in the use of contractors instead of hiring permanent staff.

I believe some employers in the private sector will use the downturn as an excuse to shed non performing staff but some may also be quietly doing some recruiting shortly afterwards.

Having the right people on board becomes even more important in a tough economic climate but hiring them doesn’t necessarily get any easier. Companies don’t usually lay off their best performers and good people are less likely to change jobs if they think they are secure where they are. Smart companies will be keen to retain the talent they worked so hard to recruit and develop in the last couple of years.

Despite the fact that there are few positives there for external recruiters, I do believe the recruitment industry will contract significantly. Jan is a notoriously quiet month in recruitment so we may start to see some lay offs before Christmas.

As for recruitment advertising, the market has become increasingly fragmented with a plethora of new job boards large and small. Although many recruiters and employers have actively sought out alternative ways to reach prospective candidates, my belief is that only those products that reach a different audience to the large established job boards will survive.

These are of course only my personal (pessimistic) views and it could all pan out very differently!

You have expanded into vertical areas other than HR recently how did you decide on which areas to focus?

One of our products, Jobs in Planning existed before Jobs in HR. The planning profession (town/urban, environmental, social, economic) is small and easily identifiable so we chose that as a pilot product.

The most recent product is Jobs in Safety. We knew there was increasing demand for safety people, it overlaps with HR where we are already well established and we also felt Safety was not very well serviced by the big job boards.

What blogs do you read and why do you recommend them?

I read yours of course, because it’s one of the few local blogs which is directly related to HR, recruitment and related technology and is reasonably unbiased.

I read TechCrunch regularly, because it’s probably the world’s most influential web 2.0 blog, and Vitamin (, because we build web sites. The Nowhiring blog was good fun but it’s replacement, Jobadder, is pretty quiet nowadays.

There are heaps of other blogs that I read regularly, usually because I’ve seen an article in an email newsletter. I subscribe to several email newsletters, one of the best being a daily email from an NZ recruitment advertising company called the Haines Morning Report.

Have you ever considered blogging?

Considered it yes, but I just don’t have the time with all the other projects I have in the pipeline. If I can find some spare time I will likely spend it contributing towards which is a forum we run.

What other social media tools, if any, do you use?

I joined Facebook just to see if it was worthwhile – it wasn’t. I’m on Linkedin, although I don’t really ‘use it’ much (but that’s a serious recruitment tool). I spend more time on forums, such as Whirlpool and a few obscure ones relating to personal interests. I prefer forums to blogs because anyone can post on a forum (usually) and they also usually have more functionality.

Any final comments or words of wisdom?

I think I have said enough already 🙂

A small but important clarification

A couple of days ago an anonymous blog, The Didge, here in Australia posted a fairly length review of the job referral service 2Vouch during which they stated that I am the owner. This is incorrect I have no ownership in the business. 2Vouch are a client of mine and that is all. I did suggest to the writers that after reviewing Hoojano they should also review 2Vouch. (UPDATE: The Didge have updated their post while I was writing this clarification.)

I will say I also disagree with some of their analysis of the site, and not just because 2Vouch have been a client. Here is a summary of my thoughts:

  1. They are not too late, when there are more candidates in the market finding the right candidate is still difficult. A referral has the personal reputation benefit that the candidate is of high quality.
  2. Financial rewards are not going to pressure poor referrals. A referrer’s reputation is the most important attribute. If recruiters/hiring managers see poor referrals from someone that will reflect badly on their own personal reputation. 
  3. Referrals have been found to actually decrease the time to hire. For example Vodafone in Europe found that by focusing recruiting activities on employment brand management and employee referral, the average recruiting cycle time per hire was reduced by more than two-thirds. Further the CareerXRoads 7th “Source of Hire” survey found that the efficiency or yield of the referral process is second to none; in 20% of the time it took 2 referrals to make the hire, 16% for 3 referrals.
  4. The points on registration, branding of recruiters etc are reasonable points to some degree. I’m not convinced they are issues for 2Vouch given the business model and their go to market strategy.
But analysing the analysis was not the point of this post.

Your help is needed

About a week ago I had one of my wild ideas, organise an HR and Enterprise 2.0 conference in Melbourne at the beginning of 2009. Over the last week I have been pulling together some figures and making contact with people to see if they would be interested in speaking or attending. The response so far has been positive.

So the day is a go.

The target audience will be HR/Recruiting professionals looking at HR in the Knowledge Economy, specifically focusing on the impact of technology. Some of the topics we will be covering are:

  • Keynote by Stephen Collins who will have just returned from TED 2009
  • Case Study on Informal Learning
  • Web 2.0 in recruitment
  • Case study into the use of Enterprise 2.0 tools to enhance collaboration & improve business operations
  • Knowledge worker productivity and performance management
  • Strategy/workforce planning session, focusing on how HR adds value to the business in a knowledge economy and a focus on “head content” and managing organisational risk
  • The legal issues of social networking tools
  • Panel discussion on Branding & Social Media a recruiting perspective
  • Panel discussion on the future of Recruiting

The only issue now is what to call this event? I have some ideas but not 100% sold on any of them. So I created a short survey (Update: The survey is closed.) to see if my readers have any better ideas. So go forth and name the event!

Cloud/Grid/Utility Computing what is it & must you have it?

Today I want to discuss the latest hype in the HR technology space, Cloud/Grid/Utility Computing. Now the terms utility computing and grid computing have been around for a while now, however cloud computing is areasonable new term.

First up they are not the same thing! They can be related but they are not the same.

Let me start with utility computing. According to Wikipedia the first real reference of utility computing goes back to 1961!

If computers of the kind I have advocated become the computers of the future, then computing may someday be organized as a public utility just as the telephone system is a public utility… The computer utility could become the basis of a new and important industry. – John McCarthy, MIT Centennial in 1961

So utility computing is:
  • Pre-packaged resources
  • Low or no initial cost for hardware
  • Typically rented
  • Rapid growth of capacity
  • Always on like electricity or water

Grid computing on the other hand is completely different:

  • Applying the resources of many computers in a network to a single problem at the same time
  • A form of distributed computing
  • Usually based on open standards
  • High levels of reliability

Finally we get to cloud computing, again from Wikipedia we get this quote:

According to a 2008  paper published by IEEE Internet Computing “Cloud Computing is a paradigm in which information is permanently stored in servers on the Internet and cached temporarily on clients that include desktops, entertainment centers, table computers, notebooks, wall computers, handhelds, sensors, monitors, etc.”

So attributes of cloud computing are:

  • Customer do not own the infrastructure
  • Access is usually based on rental
  • Can be based on the utilitiy model
  • Delivered as a service with data stored in the cloud

Now this is very confusing as how do all these terms different from “Software as a Service” (SaaS) or Application Service Provider (ASP) models for software delivery?

I see things in a rather simple fashion. To some degree ASP has become SaaS with some addtional features, which is now moving towardds cloud computing but not always as there are other pieces to cloud computing. All can be done with a grid or utility model again not always. Now some technology architects will disagree with this simplified model but I feel it works.

Marketing folks will repackaging existing tools to use the new buzz words. For example Taleo back in September at Taleo World annouced “The Talent Grid, built on Taleo’s on-demand application platform, will deliver the infrastructure and resources to power organizations’ future talent needs”. Based on the press release it is not a grid computing model but using the name gives the average person the wrong sort of messages. They are certainly moving towards a cloud model but if they are not really doing grid are they really doing cloud or is it just marketing? To be honest I have not seen the details of all their products so I cannot answer the question.

I would suggest Taleo are not doing cloud 100%. Why? Review these 15 items by James Governor from MonkChips to get the general idea, some are a bit tongue in cheek but should give you a starting point.

If you peel back the label and its says “Grid” or “OGSA” underneath… its not a cloud.

If you need to send a 40 page requirements document to the vendor then… it is not cloud.

If you can’t buy it on your personal credit card… it is not a cloud

If they are trying to sell you hardware… its not a cloud.

If there is no API… its not a cloud.

If you need to rearchitect your systems for it… Its not a cloud.

If it takes more than ten minutes to provision… its not a cloud.

If you can’t deprovision in less than ten minutes… its not a cloud.

If you know where the machines are… its not a cloud.

If there is a consultant in the room… its not a cloud.

If you need to specify the number of machines you want upfront… its not a cloud.

If it only runs one operating system… its not a cloud.

If you can’t connect to it from your own machine… its not a cloud.

If you need to install software to use it… its not a cloud.

If you own all the hardware… its not a cloud.

Am I wrong? Thoughts, comments?

Background checking as part of your hiring decision

Warning a Michael rant coming.

While regular background checkinf is a standard part of most recruitment processes, using search engines and social networks to background check candidates still seems to be the exception. I find this amazing that a quick 5 minute search online to learn about a candidate is still not part of standard recruitment workflows!  I Google anyone who I am going to meet or speak to for the first time, regardless of who they are.

I first wrote about background checking and search engines over 3 years during a week where I focused on background checking, identity, reputation and Google. Which is why finding the following story is disturbing, sad, and laughable.

A simple Google search could have saved the NSW Government the embarrassment of hiring Labor Party kingpin Joe Scimone, a State Government committee has heard.

This comes from an article today where the NSW Government hired Joe Scimone into a $200k per year role only to have to let him go 3 weeks later once his background came out.  I wonder what that has costs the NSW Government?

Mr Scimone was appointed on January 14, 10 months after he quit his job as a Wollongong City Council manager and almost a year after the Mercury reported he was facing a harassment complaint from a female employee at the council.

Now it seems things have got worse for Mr Scimone.

In February this year, Mr Scimone became embroiled in Wollongong’s corruption scandal. The Independent Commission Against Corruption later found Mr Scimone to be corrupt and recommended that criminal charges be considered against him.

Here are a couple of the news articles I found from back in 2007 that would have easily been uncovered by a simple background search. (I will note it took me 5 minutes to find these as I had to sift through the current documentation.)

  1. Sex harassment claims shock council general manager – 14 Feb 2007
  2. Councillors unaware of Scimone payout

To quote Steve Dunn Chief Executive of the NSW Maritime who hired Joe “Googling does not form part of the public sector recruitment process“. Well maybe it should!