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Work Rules - turning the rules on their heads for a productive workplace

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Work Rules - turning the rules on their heads for a productive workplace

Laszlo Bock, former head of People Operations at Google, has been named Human Resources Executive of the Year by Human Resources Executive magazine and cultivated an atmosphere within the tech giant that got it named best company to work for and employer of choice many times worldwide. In his book Work Rules, he discusses how the company grew into the world leader of its field and argued that economics was not its development’s primary driver.

Bock’s account turns on its head the traditional top-down business model of financial incentive which employers use as their standard fare to mobilize and motivate employees in pursuit of corporate goals. While the market is flooded with tomes on Silicon Valley management methods, Work Rules stands out in the field because it offers internal views into the operations and processes behind the iconic organization’s HR efforts and policy development, with take-away guidance to apply the concepts to the HR functions of any company large or small, tech or non-tech.

One of the best books I've ever read in the subgenre of people management and Human Resources organization, it's filled with anecdotes about life at Google but that's not all - I closed the book in the end with a deeper understanding of performance management, what drives people and brings results, and how to be data-driven in my HR approaches. What stood out to me was the argument to be shaped by data and numbers without letting that shape experiences with each individual - bell curves are for groups but not for each person in the group.

Also helpful to me personally was the insight about constant feedback; as an employer my view of feedback is a bit different than that of the employee, but as a business owner I actually find myself in both roles. The employer becomes rushed and doesn't always have time to discuss concerns, so situations become quietly monitored until they blow up - if feedback isn't controlled. What causes much less time waste and helps quality control of work product is to keep the feedback flowing regardless of how time-pressed one is. Without that communication, work redos and overstressed confrontations lead to avoidable chaos. Google doesn't have time for that, and neither does your company with under ten staffers. More importantly than your company overall, if we’re being honest, your staff doesn't deserve that.

Work Rules is a manual on leadership above all else and guides HR executives to cultivate healthy and successful work cultures from within an organization - how to hire the best from the beginning and how to keep them productive and satisfied with their position. If you feel overwhelmed hiring a couple of people a few times a year, imagine how Google does it, hiring thousands a year and likely mining those candidates from many more. Google pioneers HR while many other companies stick with toxic formulas that being in subpar candidates and manage them into being even less so.

As head of HR at Google, Bock brazenly brought in unconventional recruiting concepts that built the team into one of the most impressive on the planet. Success isn't from a resume - the resume just tells you how to get in touch with someone interested in the work. Instead, the best candidates should be given a (compensated) work test. See the candidate in the work environment - keeping in mind of course they don't know what you're looking for, so don't rule out a candidate that misses the mark a bit. Go for work quality, creativity, and timeliness.

It's not the only great place to walk into work every day and the approach can be replicated. Here's a very quick overview as to how:

  1. Set goals. We talk about that a lot at Talented Recruiting (here, and here, and here for starters). To properly develop and monitor them, rate performances using calibrations that disconnect rewards from development.

  2. Give people more freedom than you're comfortable with - if YOU are comfortable, you need to go further. This is actually my favorite piece of advice from the book. I've learned to set my staff free and monitor at a distance, jump in where I need to, quickly and quietly see my way back out, and let them develop their talents on their own.

  3. Hire the best. Hire better than you. Managers don't make the decisions alone - they are sometimes too close to see what they really need to strengthen the team and may make hiring decisions using flawed criteria. It's a group effort.

  4. Be open. Be transparent. Seek feedback.

  5. Don't trust your gut. Your gut is often wrong and even healthy ones are parasitic. Use data.

Bock’s Work Rules is an innovative work that not only opens up ideas for the recruitment and hiring process, but helps companies both small and large transform their work atmosphere to increase production and satisfaction while reducing toxicity and wastefulness. Whether a garage start-up or a corporate giant, HR people need to read this book and get started implementing the guidance to transform their workplace.

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Sticky products, the "hook", and a TR book review

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Sticky products, the "hook", and a TR book review

At Talented Recruiting, we look for product designers. We care about products and we recruit the designers and product managers who care about sticky products. So Hooked is a book about a subject that probably won’t surprise you - getting hooked on products. Author Nir Eyal is the author of the blog Nir And Far, and an educator and entrepreneur who writes on the intersections of psychology and technology with business.

While of course we suggest you read the book, here is the quickly digestible version:

Nir creates a Hook Model, four steps that companies use to encourage customer dependence and use of a product. Through consecutive cycles, the products bring users back multiple times without aggressive advertising and messaging. In the book, he tells readers how to create habits we’ll stick with - helping us personally and professionally, even if we don’t have a concept for a genius business idea in the back of our brains.

Essentially, to engage and keep a user of your product, you have to understand their motivators - is it pleasure or pain, safety or fear, acceptability or loneliness, or something else? Identify that and you can understand their triggers, replicating them in the product. The motivator is an internal trigger, replicated as an external trigger. Then what is the simplest behavior one can do to anticipate a reward, and does it fulfill them just enough but leave them wanting more? Then comes the investment - the work they put in for the reward to continue.

The best understanding of this concept will come from your own experience - watching yourself and your companions, how they interact with their environments and how they form or replace their habits. The best example for me personally is the fidget cube. The bane of existence for many teachers, I’ve had to ban them from everywhere but my children’s bedrooms, but in my situation, they save my day. I have ADHD and when I’m stressed, I have to have something in my hands. A fidget cube keeps me from reaching for something unhealthy like snacks or cigarettes, or something annoying to my officemates, like a noisy pen to click or drumming my fingers on the desk. My motivator is the stress, the external trigger is whatever the stressor is for the moment, while the behavior is playing with something in my hands. My reward is the satisfaction of the clicks and other repetitive sensations that lower my stress and keep me focused - which is where the investment comes in. I will continue clicking and rolling and flicking if it means my stress level stays low. I stay at my desk and get my work done, and I stay calm and focused.

This is an extremely useful concept for product managers who want to develop the sticky products that people keep coming back for, but it’s useful in life too. How do we replace bad habits and how do we develop good ones? While the book benefits designers, consider it self-help too!

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Is Your Hiring Bias Cutting Out the Best Candidate?

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Is Your Hiring Bias Cutting Out the Best Candidate?

Have you ever come across ideas that radically change all the things you’ve thought you were doing right? Lou Adler’s Hire With Your Head did that for me early in my career. A long-time recruiter with two bestselling hiring guides under his belt - one for the hirers and one for the hirees - Adler has been teaching workshops on his hiring methods for more than two decades, improving the processes of more than 40,000 recruiters. He is most famously known for his way of rewriting Job Descriptions in the form of Performance Profiles.

In Hire With Your Head, Adler describes a repeatable scenario in which the most suitable person for a position is beaten out by the candidate with the best presentation and interview skills. This makes us wonder. Is your best candidate the HBS grad looking to upgrade after an unsuccessful run at a hot new upstart?  Or could it be a college dropout with the most amazing portfolio you’ve ever seen. (Fun fact, Zuckerberg, Gates, and Jobs all were college dropouts!)  Indicators for success aren’t the candidate who carries themselves the same as you, wears a power color, or speaks on your level - those are social distractions that distract from solid substance. At Talented Recruiting, of course  we fully learn your culture and aim to present candidates who match up. We also measure drive and tenacity and uncover experiences and skills that make even tighter fits under the surface. Where did the candidate start versus where they are now, and was that by being handed every tool possible or was it through their own self-motivation, hard work and determination? What is their vision and how do they demonstrate leadership?

Adler describes snap judgements hiring managers make and warns against them. Some interviewers appreciate an affable chatty candidate who easily asks questions. They ignore negatives and overestimate strengths, making a sales pitch instead of evaluating competency - all because they “clicked” with someone.

Funny enough, research shows there isn’t a correlation between interview skills and on-the-job performance. A candidate’s nervousness, which may lead to poor eye contact, lack of composure, and rather unimpressive answers, affects first impression. Unfortunately this performance anxiety might just be the deal breaker in terms of landing a dream job! You want to see confidence in your candidates but the truth is that confidence isn’t always the right indicator. The interview is to collect more information. Adler says the biggest secret to success in hiring is to avoid our natural judgment tendencies and refuse to make a hiring decision within the first thirty minutes of an interview.

To get started on hiring with YOUR head, the first step is to rewrite the job description so that it describes the projects and work that needs to be done, instead of a laundry list of skills gathered from multiple job postings on the internet. (I see you out there!) The interview should be designed to map the candidate’s experiences and to show challenges and successes. Adler admonishes hiring partners to put personal feelings aside when analyzing, and RESIST MAKING A JUDGEMENT FOR 30 MINUTES. I have tried this method out myself -  it works!

If you like what Adler has to say in Hire With Your Head, follow him on LinkedIn, where he posts a few times a month with articles for job seekers and hiring managers alike. He’s one of our favorite resources!

 

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