The Five Horsemen and you

A rambling post of thoughts for you.

For a few years there has been talk of the “five horsemen” of tech – Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. The opinion of having Microsoft included has varied over time the final number doesn’t matter, these five organisations are massive – in terms of impact, revenue, employees and valuation.

In fact they are the largest in the US stock market! What a change. In 1996 (20 years ago) the five largest companies were – General Motors, Ford Motor, Exxon Mobile, Wal-Mart Stores and AT&T. Even ten years ago the list had not changed a lot – Exxon Mobile, Wal-Mart Stores, General Motors, Chevron Corporation and Ford Motor. Today the top spots are filled with technology based companies.

(It is not just US companies – Alibaab is a valuation of $210b with approximately $16b in cash.)

Today I was listening to TWIT’s episode “Headless Body in Topless Bar” where the discussion continued and what struck me was the impact these five companies are (and will in the next decade) have on our lives and the workplace.

The impact is and will be profound  – they are all shaping today’s workforce and tomorrow’s. Be it through smartphones, collaboration, social media, retail, search, machine learning, logistics and artificial intelligence. Yes Microsoft might be replaced by a Telsa/SolarCity (or another) but the fact still remains technology and the companies that create it are defining the modern era.

Some initial thoughts – What is the impact of these technologies on your workplace? Are you embracing them?

It must of been the recent earnings announcements from many of the five, as Jason Calacanis today published an interesting piece on what the five could be also doing on the M&A front. As he states it is pure speculation based on a tweet, but the results are interesting.

Jason talks about how poker players act differently depending on the size of their stack. When you have a lot of money the game you play is very different to when you don’t. Just look at the “stack size” of the “five horseman” and then their M&A activity compared to some “traditional” companies:

Tech companies that are wildly deep-stacked right now:

1. Apple $200b+ in cash/equivalents, $593B valuation
2. Google $75b+ in cash/equivalents, $551B valuation
3. Amazon $16b+ in cash/equivalents, $366B valuation
4. Facebook $23b+ in cash/equivalents, $362B valuation
5. Microsoft $105b+ in cash/equivalents, $457B valuation
6. Cisco $60b+ in cash/equivalents, $157B valuation

Those six companies have $470b+ in cash/equivalents and $2.5t in market cap.

Zuckerberg has been the master of acquisitions in the past couple of years, having the audacity to pay $22b for WhatsApp and $2b for a *pre-customer* Oculus. Think about that for a moment. Zuck paid $2b for a company without a market, and that may take a decade to have 100m users — if that ever happens!

And look what just happened. Unilever, GM and Walmart just sat down at the big game and shot the locks off their wallets:

1. Unilever bought Dollar Shave Club for $1b
2. GM bought Cruise for a rumored $1b+
3. Walmart is buying Jet.com for $3b
4. Verizon is buying Yahoo for $4.83b

Jason goes on to review a few companies who are the most desirable to deep staked players aka “five horseman” and some companies “wanting” to sell.

Interesting in both lists are two enterprise software vendors – Slack (desirable), and Zenefits (“wanting” to be sold).

Finally have a think about your workforce. Is your talent pool deep-stacked? Can you use that talent to out maneuver your competition? Can you make bets like Facebook’s $22b for WhatsApp or are your stuck with buying Jet.com for $3b?

What’s next with social recruiting

If you have been following this blog for a while you would know that I am always looking for the next thing. I have been doing the same thing with using social media in business.
I Want You
Social Recruiting has a lot of  buzz at the moment. How do I know there is a buzz, well 200+ people attended the Social Recruiting Summit in New York City last week, we have almost a full house at the ATC Social Media event, RecruitTech 2009 had social media as a primary theme.

But let us take a step back, for most social recruiting is just about using social media as another marketing channel. A terrible waste in my eyes.

My definition of social recruiting is:

  • Using social media tools as part of the recruiting process
  • Building a community of potential candidates
  • Engaging with candidates as people not numbers

From an employer’s perspective recruitment is about fueling organisational growth, renewal, building the most efficient and sustainable business. This can only be done through personal relationships and cultural fit. (Yes there is a bit of sales and marketing in the mix but that is just attraction, the rest of the process is all personal.)

This brings me to Doc Searls’s recent blog post “Beyond Social Media“. If you do not know Doc Searls you should, also you should read the book he co-authors 10 years ago, Cluetrain. In the post Doc raises several very good points.

  • Twitter is now as necessary to tweeting as Google is to search. It’s a public activity under private control.
  • Most other popular activities online are not owned by anyone, they are public.
  • Personal and social go hand-in-hand, but the latter builds on the former.
  • Today in the digital world we still have very few personal tools that work only for us, are under personal control
  • Individually-empowered customers are the ultimate greenfield for business and culture.
  • What we’re not doing because “social” everything is such a bubble of buzz right now

Are we really finally about to enter the age of Brand You or is it another 10 years away? If the individual is now the key to business and culture what does that mean for:

  • The recruitment process?
  • The HR Management practices in your average corporation?

I hear recruiters complaining they do not have time to develop relationships with candidates or use Twitter etc.  But what happens when the candidates are developing that relationship with a potential hiring manager or potential peer? Where do recruiters add value in this transaction?

For HR the issue is just as difficult. When employees view themselves as individuals who own the ideas, conversation and intentions to create the “business”. How do structured learning and development programs remain valid in an era of so much open information? How do you keep employees engaged? How does that traditional compensation plan survive?

I could go on, but I hope you get the picture. So if what Doc Searls is saying, “individually-empowered customers are the ultimate greenfield for business and culture”, is true then the companies who first leverage these concepts will be the ones we are talking about in 5 years time. Just as recruiters now marvel at Microsoft and the like who all started on their paths in around 2005.

Some unrelated thoughts

The famous Web 2.0 Summit wrapped up late last week with lots and lots of product announcements and more news stories than I could ever hope to digest. (Not helped by the fact that I have been sick for about 4 days now.)

Anyway here are a few summary items:

“Many people use it for professional purposes — keeping connected with industry contacts and following news,” said Evan Williams, Twitter’s co-founder and chief executive. “Because it’s a one-to-many network and most of the content is public, it works for this better than a social network that’s optimized for friend communication.”


Yes all of these announcements and trends are great except the most interesting thing for me happened before the conference even started.

Web Squared.

With both Read Write Web and ZD Net providing some good coverage. Basically Web Squared is about the intersection of social web technologies with the emerging trend of real world objects connected to the Internet in some fashion, aka Internet of Things and with “Shadow Information“.

To quote Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle:

Collective intelligence applications are no longer being driven solely by humans typing on keyboards but, increasingly, by sensors. Our phones and cameras are being turned into eyes and ears for applications; motion and location sensors tell where we are, what we’re looking at, and how fast we’re moving. Data is being collected, presented, and acted upon in real time. The scale of participation has increased by orders of magnitude.

So to pull this rambling post to an end I ask this simple question.

Given corporations missed Web 2.0, will they miss Web Squared (or what ever it is called)?

I suspect there will be more on this topic.

Succession planning a critical process

Managing your talent is one of the most critical activities an HR professional undertakes. Starting with the workforce plan, the right mix of hires, supporting performance and development, to planning succession which feeds back into your workforce plan. Of these steps succession planning, and workforce planning tend to be overlooked by many organisations.

For many HR professionals one of the challenges is having the time and money to develop and execute these plans. Succession planning can be viewed by senior management as not adding value to the organisation due to the long lead time it takes before the benefits are realised.

The events over the last two weeks should be a rude awakening to all business leaders who have not supported their HR team’s efforts around succession planning.

Which brings me to Apple.

For a long time there has been speculation over Steve Jobs’s health. With even rumours of his death circulating every few months. In September 2008 Steve joked about these reports in a presentation to the Apple faithful.

Steve Jobs Health

Source: AP

Which brings us to 2009. On January 5th Steve Jobs admitted to some minor health issues, caused by a “hormone imbalance”.

Then 2 weeks later, Jobs takes medical leave until June 2009. Sending the technology world into a spin and Apple stocks dive 7%. Now there are talks of investors suing Apple over the health issues. Ouch, costly.

Time for the board to execute the succession plan.

Who will step in for one of the world’s greatest visionaries? Tim Cook. Tim has stepped in before to run Apple, during 2004 when Steve Jobs was recovering from surgery. Or could it be Philip Schiller who delivered the recent MacWorld Keynote? It seems Apple’s board has been thinking about succession. But more needs to be done, most people do not know who they are, a fact highlighted by a recent Knowledge@Wharton article on the issue.

Apple has a strong bench of executives who could succeed Jobs, but major stakeholders, such as investors, customers and partners, don’t know much about them, according to Wharton faculty. The first step in any succession plan may be illustrating that Apple is more than Jobs.

But if Steve does not come back from medical leave is Tim or Philip the visionary leader to replace Steve Jobs? Or is there another solution, like the Microsoft process with replacing Bill Gates. Business guy as CEO, Steve Ballmer and technical guy Ray Ozzie.

Succession planning matters.

Microsoft Tag a not so new tool for marketing

Last week Microsoft launched a new service/tool/technology called Microsoft Tag. In simple terms it allows you to take a photo of an image with your internet-enabled phone and the related content is displayed on your phone. Very similar technology to the QR Code. But implemented very differently.

The QR Code stores all of the data in the image, for example the QR Code below actually stores the data of the URL for Inspecht. So when you take a photo of the image using your phone, the data is processed on the phone and then you are redirected to the Inspecht web site.

QR Code Inspecht

Microsoft’s tag service does not store the data in the image. Instead after taking a photo of the image the Microsoft Tag application on your phone communicates, via the Internet, with the Microsoft servers to figure out what to do next. The image is based on technology our of Microsoft Research called High Capcity Colour Barcode or HCCB for short. Microsoft has released reader applications for many different phones, head to http://gettag.mobi to find out more.

Microsoft Tag Inspecht

Both provide very similar functionality.

Pros

  • Microsoft Tag allows you to create much smaller images than QR Codes
  • Microsoft Tag has significant in built error correction for partial or blurry images
  • Microsoft Tag is reportable a better user experience, personally I am not sure about that as I have found QR Codes very easy to use
  • Microsoft Tag makes it easy to get a reader application on your phone, I had to search to find a QR Code reader for my Treo
  • Microsoft Tags can be set to expire after a certain period, great for marketing
  • Based on my limited testing it seems you can change the data (URL, vCard etc) that the tag points to without needing to change the tag image
  • Microsoft Tag is support by the Microsoft marketing machine

Cons

  • Microsoft Tag requires full colour over QR Codes minimum requirement of black and white.
  • Microsoft Tag requires an Internet connection to work
  • Microsoft Tag requires Microsoft to store all of the data about the code and resulting data
  • Microsoft Tag is proprietary and after the beta period you will likely charged for using the service
  • QR Codes are very popular in Asia and have growing support in other locations, such as Australia

From a mobile recruiting point of view there is not a lot of difference. However the dynamic time driven content of the tag service makes the Microsoft offering a better choice for job ads or career fairs. For example here is a tag to a Seek job ad that will expire on 11th Feb 2009.

Seek Ad Tag

In Australia Telstra has been pushing QR Codes, under their own brand Telstra Mobile Codes marketed to only work on the Telstra Next G phone, which of course is not true as they are standard QR Codes. It will be interesting to see if Telstra drop the QR Code for Microsoft Tag.

Update: Anothy from Aussie startup QMCodes mentioned in the comments that the pro’s are all covered by their existing service Q-Lytics http://m.qmcodes.com/qlytics good to see a local company ahead of the big players.

Meet Australian Oracle Recruiter David Talamelli

When it comes to corporates’ who blog the typical names mentioned have been Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, and IBM. One company who has been quietly working away at their social media strategy is Oracle. Globally they have hundreds of blogs, a customer focused wiki, employees on Twitter and in general tackling social media on all fronts.

In Australia Oracle has been working hard to engage with bloggers and social media, with several employees having blogs, such as The Red Room, interacting on Twitter and Facebook. What interests me more is Oracle Australia has one of the very few internal recruiters in Australia, David Talamelli, who blog. I have caught up with David for coffee, interacted on Twitter and on our blogs and very impressed with the things he is doing so I felt it would be good to sit down with him and learn a bit more. 

Without anymore introduction below is my short interview with David, I hope you enjoy it.

How long have you been a recruiter?

I have been in IT Recruitment since 1999 my initial focus has been on recruiting in Australia over the past few years this has expanded to the APAC region.

Tell us about your work experience?

My first role was working in an Agency Environment with a company called GAP IT, this was a very sales focused role and I was responsible for meeting my monthly sales targets, I was in this role from 1999-2002. In 2002 I moved into an onsite role at Hewlett Packard where I was responsible for sourcing and managing HP’s Contract Workforce. The recruitment at HP was a combination of high volume recruitment and sourcing for specialist roles. In early 2006 I joined Oracle’s growing APAC Recruitment Team as it expanded its presence in the region. I am coming up to 3 years in Oracle and am quite proud of some of the successes we have been able to achieve.

How about your education, formal, informal?

I graduated from Laurentian University (Canada) in 1996 with a Bachelor Degree (honours) in Psychology. Since that time I have also completed a Graduate Degree in HR Management at Monash University. I have attended many Recruitment Training Events and Seminars – the two presenters who I have found most beneficial/influential are 1) David Carman from CarmanWhite Training and 2) Shally Steckerl who is a Web 2.0 Recruiting Specialist from the US. I also enjoyed hearing from Kevin Wheeler when he was in AU recently.

How long have you been blogging?

I set up http://oraclerecruiter.blogspot.com in January this year and had posted a few posts here and there, but I really started blogging regularly about 6 months ago.

Who or what was your inspiration to start blogging?

I am always open to new ideas to recruit/identify people and actually tried blogging in 2007 to help me in filling a role I had to recruit for. At the time I did not get the response I was looking for via the blog, but it did get me thinking about blogging for my role. I set up this blog in January this year and after talking to my management a few months later they really sparked an interest in me in getting this going. At first it was hard to see the return or value in blogging but I am now seeing it become an important part of our sourcing strategy.

What approvals did you have to go through internally to Oracle before starting the blog?

Oracle has a Blogging Policy that all employees must abide by. I had to ensure that I worked within these guidelines. My management has been very supportive and helpful with regards to my blog.

Given Oracle is a large publically listed company did they provide you media training before starting the blog?

No, I have not had any media training, however our PR/Marketing Team are always there for assistance when I need to run something past them or make sure that my commentary is correct.

Does Oracle have guidelines on what you can or cannot blog about?

Yes we do, there are a number of items that we are not able to disclose information about.

Do you feel blogging has helped with your role at Oracle?

At first, I was not sure if blogging was assisting me in my role, as the viewers and subscribers was relatively low (I was thinking is anyone actually reading this?). However over the past 6 months I have seen my daily blog viewers and subscribers increase dramatically. I find blogging a great forum to reach out to and connect to people and give them an overview of some of the interesting things that we are doing. I think people reading my blog get value in the blog entries I write but it also gives people the opportunity and avenue to explore roles with us that they otherwise may not be aware of.

What would be your one greatest success story from your blogging?

I get people from around the world contacting me to comment on my blog, or send me their resume, or just getting touch with me from my blog. I think the biggest success is that this gives me an opportunity to reach a large audience and share with them my thoughts, ideas which people are enjoying. From a recruitment perspective – I recently advertised and searched for a number of developers in Australia for a project I was recruiting for. The blog address was listed on our advertising and as candidates clicked on the blog link there was a story about the roles and the project in full detail. This gave candidates a full overview of what was expected and helped streamline the process for me as when I connected with these candidates they already had a good idea of what we were doing. I think this separated and differentiated us from the rest of the companies advertising.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge about writing a blog?

At first I thought I would not have enough to talk about, however after 6 months I have found that this is not the case at all. Blogging also took up a considerable amount of my time in the initial stages as I was getting the layout correct, the coding right, still getting my creative thoughts flowing, etc…. However now that it is up and running it has become a much more time-effective tool.

If someone was thinking about starting a recruitment related blog, what advice would you want to give them?

If someone is going to start a recruitment blog, I would recommend that they do it for the right reasons, I think a blog is a means to help you interact with your audience not to sell to them. Recruiters can tend to focus only on filling the role(s) they are recruiting for, however a blog is a long term investment and it is not necessarily just there to collect resumes. Use it as a means to talk to people and be honest in your communication – you should treat your online relationships with people the same way you treat people in person.

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

Most of the blogs I read are either Recruitment or Oracle focused. I have 9 Blogs listed on my Blog they are: ERE.net, IT Brief, iTNews Australia, The Red Room, Michael Specht – discussions on HR, enterprise …, PR 2.0 (Brian Solis Blog), Shally Steckerl’s Blog, Six Figures Blog

What other social media tools do you use?

I am listed on many of the social media tools available however there are so many social media tools/websites available I mainly use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and my Blog.

Any final comments or words of wisdom?

I think with blogging just like anything else, you only get out of blogging what you put in. It is a lot of work to set up and get running and to maintain but it is also very rewarding as well.

Thoughts of Australia university graduates

At the beginning of July Graduate Careers Australia released a series of reports on what university graduates are thinking and how these thoughts match those of employers. The survey had 32,000 responses over a 9 week period in mid 2007.

The highlights of the report are available in the press release however I have reproduced some of the findings below.

Firstly graduates want what all generations have wanted “good training and development and interesting, challenging work”, also students are presenting to employers very well and indicate that they plan to remain in their ‘ideal’ job. However the question of if their graduate job was their ‘ideal’ job was not clearly answered, and I suspect not. Over 75% want a job the gives the work life balance over with a higher salary. A third of graduates said they would remain in their ‘ideal’ job for 5 or more years, while over 50% of employers felt graduates would leave within the first 3 years.

However there are also some differences in perception between the graduates and employers:-

  • ‘Opportunities for advancement’ was ranked first by employers, but fifth by students;
  • job security was ranked important by over 80 per cent of students, relative to just over 20 per cent of employers;
  • ‘Making a contribution to society’ was important to over 80 per cent of students compared with just under 50 per cent of employers believing this was important;
  • students were more willing to work additional unpaid hours to progress their careers than employers believed they would be;
  • company-paid training and development was clearly the most attractive non-cash benefit to students, followed by additional leave and performance-related bonuses

There are some other very interesting results in the survey. For example Generation Y was lower than both Generation X and Baby Boomers when is came to “Working for an ethically responsible, or
environmentally sound company”. Further employer and graduate expectations around benefits were slightly different. While both agreed that training and development was important, graduates rated superannuation as important, whereas employers felt this was the least attractive benefit they could offer. The least attractive non-cash benefit a mobile phone, and the least expected benefit was a car allowance.

The mobile phone item is interesting as the Microsoft sponsored survey I refered to last week had 48% of students wanting company paid for mobile or smart phones.