Leading and Lagging

Posted in Brenda at 9:47 am by livefood

Employment numbers usually are a lag indicator for the economy in general. If that is true, then the economy will have already “turned the corner” by the time the unemployment numbers fall. Because the rise in unemployment numbers is not growing as fast as it was, it is possible that we are seeing the beginning of the end already.

Usually folks are looking at traditional leading indicators to predict when an event is going to occur…but in the case of a lag indicator you are able to see with that old syaing, “hindsight is always 20-20″ in mind.

Still too early to really say for sure, but we’re hearing a lot more positive energy in conversations with client companies over the last couple of weeks. Positive energy would be a good thing for all of us.

At one point just before Christmas, I was beginning to think I was living in a Country Western tune…the lyrics were something about the dog dying, the truck breaking down, the woman leaving, got no job, nobody loves me and on and on. It does seem to get a bit better. At least folks are feeling a little less depressed lately.

Speaking with a candidate yesterday, she was wondering if she was doing the correct things in her search. I told her that I thought that she was. She was doing the research, sending out the email to targeted firms and individuals and following up on a tight schedule. She was even customizing the email towards the firm and those individuals with first names. The only suggestion was to increase the numbers of her contacts. It takes a pretty good number of touches to run a job search. The candidate was only sending a dozen or so email a week. At that rate you might only get a reponse every week or two (heavier on the two side). But I assured her that her positive action would pay her with a positive result.

Back to the telephone. This is one process here in my office that is a lead indicator. Phone calls always lead our business. Sometimes I need to make more calls and sometimes a bit fewer, but action always leads the results.

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Low Adoption Leaves Room to Grow

Posted in Brenda at 10:50 am by livefood

This article came across my desk a little earlier…

Survey: Hospital EHR adoption rate is below 12 percent

By Nancy Ferris, November 12, 2008 Full Article

“A new survey of American hospitals has found that relatively few of them – between 2 percent and 12 percent — use electronic health records. ”

I’m not sure why this article is coming out now…or why it would be called a “new” survey when it is nearly 5 months old on this day, but it was new to me.

Basically,  the story is a mixed bag of signals. However, with a little upbeat spin, towards the middle of the article of the survey’s author is qouted saying, ““I do think we’ve got a good start” on automating hospitals’ medical record-keeping,”…but I have a slightly different take.

I see the number of hospitals that are fully integrated as being surprisingly low. There is a lot of ground to cover if we expect IT to become the backbone of healthcare that is invisioned by many. That’s good for sales folks…that’s good for employment folks and it’s good for those who take a leap and get into HIT.

The author also said, “However, as many as 78 percent of hospitals had certain functions on the list, such as recording patient demographics or viewing results of lab tests. “They just haven’t put the pieces together” to create a comprehensive EHR.”

So we’re looking at a massive number of puzzle pieces…some of which are working together and some of which are not linked up…yet. More good news for the sales folks.

The biggest headache I hear lately is that of the massive costs of a fully blown enterprise system and the challenges of installation of one…versus the difficulty of intetrating all of the smaller stand alone specialty tools…and then trying to get it all to work.

Of course if you are a person like me who knows that I won’t add bells and whistles down the road, you probably would opt to look at fully integrated enterprise solutions…then find, like our local county government, that the cos toverruns and customized tools within the package put you over budget (in the case of the county…something near $18M over…and counting).

Integrating several smaller tool sets…then you get into the war of the consultants and nobody wins that billable hour gig unless it’s the consultant’s and their handlers.

In any event, the drum keeps pounding for IT and healthcare reform.

By and large, I think the information in this “new” survey is encouraging. There is a base out there. There have been mistakes made from which everyone can build upon. There is a strong support being indicated by the government.

The employment scene should look pretty good as this whole HIT, EMR, (and all related acronyms) thing moves along.

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Timing IS everything (sometimes)

Posted in Brenda at 12:36 pm by livefood

They say that, “timing is everything.”

Oh, just how true this can be. We are frequently told by potential candidates that the position and the firm we are speaking to them about sounds terrific but now is not a good time to leave their current opportunity. We also frequently get calls from folks we may have had that conversation with several years previously. Timing from this perspective is very important. We can all probably respect that idea.

So the timing I want to blather about just a bit has less to do with the above and more about the process timing of hiring.

It happens just too often to ignore. A candidate comes to light from whatever source and is presented to a firm (either by themselves or a recruiter) and then the clock ticks and tocks for days, weeks and then…well, it sometimes goes “too long”…whatever length of time that might be. Too long is sometimes a week and sometimes it’s longer…but the end result is a frustrated candidate and almost never ending positively for the firm. What a waste of time.

I can remember a time when a client flew an executive across the country to meet with another C level and a candidate whom they also were flying in and it didn’t go well. We tried to tell them that the deal was going the wrong direction, but the client was firm in their position. They thought the candidate was well suited and well placed in the process…what they seemed to be in denial about was that the process had been in the works for almost two months. The candidate had time to nurture some other opportunities, develop an entire encyclopedia of new questions and quite frankly, lost the star dust of wonder in the eyes because of the clients’ assumed lack of interest. A week earlier and it would have been better…two weeks earlier and they would have been able to hire the candidate. Time can be a very negative influence is not managed properly.

It’s difficult to keep excited about any opportunity when the time is in terms of moon cycles.

If you start the process the day you plant the tomato vine and it’s not over as you are picking the resulting fruit, perhaps it’s gone too long.

The other day, a candidate was speaking with my partner and mentioned that they had an offer from another firm that was pending…from four months ago. Like the company (also a client) was going to be excited about that offer any longer. The candidate was still thinking the offer was “live”…how excited could a firm possibly get about a candidate (unemployed by the way) who takes four months to “think about it.”

So sometimes, when “timing is everything” is thrown into a conversation, we should think about moon cycles and tomatoes…too much time?

I’m not suggesting that everything needs to be rushed to completion. Another metaphor: I like to grill…not too hot about that BBQ stuff…I don’t want to wait 8 hours to eat that stuff…20 minutes tops…throw it on the grill, time it, test it, turn it, test it and let’s eat. On the other hand, I love pulled pork. So sometimes long is good and for others, short is perfect. Timing isn’t about the length of time as much as it is about the appropriateness of the time to get the results one is seeking.

So if you are reading this and think you read that I’m talking about speeding the process up…maybe. But what I think should be considered is a self-examination of the timing of the process and to look for reasons for receiving unintended results…like the disinterest of the client flown in to meet with the two executives from above.

Timing is everything in the proper context…you can wear a watch, but that might not help within a particular context…the tomato grows and the moon moves and pulled pork takes time. But sometimes you just want a burger and that’s about 15 minutes.

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Posted in Brenda at 2:10 pm by livefood


Feel like your being

treated like cattle?

Ever wondered what happens to your resume after you have talked with a recruiter? Well I’m not in a position to tell you exactly what goes on in every case but I can talk at you about a couple situations.

My partner, Jim, who functions as our sourcer and our principal recruiter, receives the bulk of the new email into the shop. He receives most of the resumes, all of the research support material and all of the spam and junk (thank goodness it’s not me receiving it). He gets a ton of email as you might imagine. About 1/3 of it is from recruiters shopping resumes. Not shopping FOR resumes but rather pushing paper at us.

Absolutely none of these “recruiters” have any sort of established relationship with us. We have no idea who they are, where they are located or about their reliability/credibility other than what they might type into their emails. Jim has tried the return email as they suggest and then gets MORE email from other “recruiters” with the same URL. He has tried calling some and that is even more frustrating as they all (THREE separate shops) claimed not to have known how to stop the email…and one suggested that his group wouldn’t be sending unsolicited email…HA!

But think about it…who’s resume are they sending? Yours? Do you know where your resume is?

We all too frequently speak with a corporate recruiter who discovers that the candidate we are speaking with them about is in their database…as an unsolicited piece of paper sent by a recruiter. And as we have just gotten off the phone with the candidate, we are pretty sure that the candidate does not know that the resume has been forwarded to anyone in the particular firm. We have confirmed this 100s of times over the years. We know that there have been candidates with whom we have shared this experience who should have been hired by our clients…but we’re still waiting to see when that might happen. The result is usually unfavorable for the candidate. The company is reluctant to open a conversation with the offending recruiter with whom they have no relationship and is generally nervous about speaking with and pursuing the candidate through us because the “fee” would then become a disputed item…and who wants to deal with that? The client doesn’t…and generally the conversation moves to the next candidate.

Recruiters are frequently guided by quotas and metric driven managers that all too frequently rip into the quality of their performance. Pushing unsolicited paper will usually bite the candidate in the beef.

End of ranting…I obviously have strong feeling against the practice of pushing paper.

We do not send resumes to any client unless a candidate has given us express permission to do that. The candidate knows where the resume is going and how it routed. We follow up on each resume. We don’t loose resumes into any sort of cattle call.

We recently reviewed a candidate who had only a couple of minor requirements listed on their resume. After I had talked with the individual I determined that the candidate had the aptitude and enough exposure to more of the requirements and decided to reach back and talk about a particular client. Long story…the candidate and the client got along wonderfully, they talked about the short comings and some attributes and skills that would be valuable (but over looked on the resume). All went well, the candidate was hired, the client is extremely pleased and the candidate is welcoming the new opportunity.

If this candidates resume had been forwarded to the client they probably would not have taken the time to touch base by telephone. The resume didn’t sell the candidate very well. In all probability the candidate would not have had the opportunity. Doesn’t it just make sense for a firm such as ours to speak with the client about a candidate prior to sending the resume…and then to follow up to check on the progress of the process?

It is a wild open space out there. Sometimes it’s referred to as a meat market. But as wild as it is, it’s not the Wild Wild West. And just because it can be a meat market, you don’t have to be the cattle supplying the beef.

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Late Night Blogging

Posted in Brenda at 10:08 am by livefood

I looked down at my calendar and once again saw that I was a little behind on my blog content…oh well.

If you haven’t figured it out, my job is not as a blogger. I am a recruiter. Blogging keeps me looking and thinking of new material. The looking is important as it keeps me up to date (at least a little bit) on the new “stuff” that is happening in my field.

So I do apologize for the occasional lapses in Blog posting, but when the recruiting gets extremely busy there does seem to be a priority to my work. But rest assured, the keeping up with information regarding my fields of interest still continues, I just might not have the time to write about it.

I do most of my Blog work late at night. The puppy, Montana, is usually lying on her back sleeping. When she was still with us, SuzieQ the cat would be on her perch curled up with one eye on the puppy. I sit here reading on the screen or tearing material from various magazines and newspapers. Sometimes I will actually get some sort of validation from my children or the television. It is a truly amazing trick to keep oneself tuned in to hearing, seeing and putting into perspective all of the data coming into the brain.

Lately, we have been conducting a number of searches in the BI genre. Related to that somewhat are several searches in the marketing arena. What has been fascinating is that in both of the groups of searches, the internet has become a key ingredient. Where just several years ago, a similar group of searches might have suggested that WWW experiences would be helpful…that experience is now required…and if not specifically noted in a job description it is implied by the very nature of business in this time. Just a couple of years ago, Blogs didn’t drive anything other than “cool.” We actually have a couple of searches requiring experiences in Blogging.

Just the other day we wrote a job description and used the term “viral marketing” for the first time. The term is fairly new (the technique dates back a decade or so), but it was the first time we wrote it down on a description as it was used by the hiring manager to describe the job requirements. Late the same evening, while watching an episode of “CSI, Miami” out of the corner of my eye, I heard the same term used on TV for the first time.

This same hiring manager talked about their desire to hire from companies who are involved in “social web sites” and went on to list a number of them, including the famous (or infamous) “myspace.com.” Of course…you could be a “twitterer”…and “tweet” all through the day. I think that some folks are becoming addicted to some of these, what are somewhat loosing referred to as “tools.”

While we may tend to think of web sites that provide simple information as being cost centers and not profit centers, and we could go on and think of the information as “free” and therefore the web site might not have a value to the company…the truth is that many informative sites are creating revenue streams from those sites. Retail content purchases continue to rise (it’s a business that was valued at $1.8 billion way back in 2004 according to the Online Publishers Association) and smart companies are tapping that market.

The bad news for me…when we find new terms or technologies I send the information over to Jim, my trusty researcher-sourcer, so that he can gather more information for us. I just know that as he works on “viral marketing” I’m going to be interrupted all day long with new tidbits of info. He usually blurts exclamations like, “Wow…did you know…?” But the result is that we continue to learn more and can provide more for our clients and candidates…so I have learned to live with the interruptions (more-or-less).

One of these late nights I’ll try to explain how terms like “boondocking” and “astroturfing” play a role in my life.

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How Uptight Can You Be

Posted in Brenda at 7:47 am by livefood

The other day I recieved an proposed contract from a perpective client. Proposed because it was their idea and not a finished document from our point of view. Perspective client because we were still working on that arrangement. We were still working on it at the time, but that status has ended.

There are certain types of “headsets” that we can not work with. We are not really interested in litigating anything. If we screw up something, we will make it as right as we can. If a firm screws it up, we would expect the same effort. The attitude of mistrust at the beginning of a relationship more-or-less tells us that the compnay is expecting the worst and not the best. It’s not a good thing to start a relationship with the assumption that it will go poorly. Of course having the contract end with the option of arbitration taken off the table and mandating litigation doesn’t help.

If didn’t help that the company wanted us to do drug testing on candidates and track the use of drugs over the life of their work for the firm. Of course because we only do permanent placements and not contract, that life of employment could be something more like “forever.” The contract also specified that the employement agency (us in this case) would be responsible for monitoring any felony or misdemeanors the candidate and/or employee was involved in…again, “forever.” We just can work that way.

Once upon a time, my partner was offerred a job and then handed an “honesty test” to take and return immediately. One of the questions was something along the lines of asking what one would do if one observed a fellow employee taking $1 dollar from a cash register till. All of the available answers on the “multiple-guess” test involved responses like, call he police, beat them to a pulp, shoot them, maim them (okay…a little stretch)…but none of the answers were along the line, of tell them to put the money back. The questions on the test all involved the worst in people rather than the best in people and cornered the respondent into responding with that same expectation of looking at people with the worst in mind. Not a good way to start a relationship…my partner didn’t finish the test, handed it back to the receptionist, told her that they were perhaps not the type of firm he could work for and left. We really could have used the money in those early days…but we really never needed to think the worst in people.

The firm with the interesting twist of a contract will not be a client of ours. I’m not sure if the candidates we come in contact with are uptight enough to work within the binding threats of litigation. One can only guess as to the content of the employment contract…most candidates we work with have a softer edge to their lives.

The firm  can continue to be the client of the law firm who wrote the contact for them…just not us.

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Real Service for Everyday Folks

Posted in Brenda at 10:08 am by livefood

In an online article titles, “Online Records Get Patients Involved in Care” and in the Wall Street Journal there is some really interesting and practical “real time” examples of what EMR and related technologies ARE doing. Not that techno speak and the sales pitch about what the technology CAN do, this article relates what is happening on a patient level.

Not we don’t take all this too personally around our house of course. We are in the recruting side of the medical technology industry (mostly on theinformatics side of business), but on a more personal level, we are members of Kaiser. We enjoy the service very much. My partner is diabetic and the help that he is able to get because of the “Healthcare Connct” softwares is just amazing. Liek is relayed in the article, his interaciton with the doctors is much better, the information is much more easily accesses (and the deliver is as fast to him as it is to the doctors). It’s a very good thing for us.

However, the article hints at something even more magnificent. That is the issue of patients having a tool that they can use to become more active in their own care. Not that everyone will want to that, everyone should have the tools to do so. We also believe that if patients can help take care of themselves (at even the most basic levels) there will be a bit of relief in the healthcare system in general. People need to take some ownership of their own health and well being. The electronic and digital world can help do that.

Sometimes it’s hard to see where the practical application of digital technologies will come to play in the “real world.” The article helps to put some of applications into perspective.

From a business perspective, you get a glimpse at why the healthcare world is so exciting for techno folks…not only is the technology new and innovative (and staying that way) it’s creating real solutions to help people with real needs (like maybe my partner)…not so with many technologies. This is a good reason to want to play in the healthcare sandbox.

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Don’t Work, Play

Posted in Brenda at 9:19 am by livefood

I haven’t been reading about any Earth Chattering employment stories lately. It’s just back into the grind of work. Well it’s really not a grind and we don’t consider what we do to be work. Everyday I have fun, so I think of the more traditional “going to work” more like going off to have some fun.

Sort of sounds silly sometimes to think that a small change in words or their use will evoke a different attitude. It really does work that way. We do a couple of things around the office that seem to have the same positive effects on our performance. One really small thing…one that you can not see…but I’m pretty sure you hear it and feel it coming though the phone.

When I talk on the telephone, and I do a lot of that, I smile. I have been doing that since the beginning of my work as a recruiter. I have no idea what started it, but I just smile a lot.

Maybe it’s because I don’t take myself “too seriously.” Not taking me too seriously is very different from not taking what I do seriously. We take our non-work extremely seriously. But it just seems to me that life is way too short to waste any of it or to become burdened with it.

The other evening, I was having dinner with some friends and we were just chatting about this and that…no business thank goodness…just memories and stories. As I was thinking about some of the stories I shared I remember my mother-in-law and her love of life. I’m sure if she could communicate that love with me today, she would. However, she is one of the millions of folks who have Alzheimer’s. She does not call any of the family by name and we do not know what she is trying to say. But, our memories of her and the way she has lived in the past are vivid…just as her life has been.

Now my mother-in-law didn’t do anything half way. She woke up in the morning with her hand on the go button…pedal to the metal…full throttle. She was the epitome of “go for it.” She loved everything she did. When she made cookies it was for all the friends. When she sewed teddy bears, it was dozens of them…and never did she do anything with second rate materials of tools. She had the best sewing machine, the newest mixers, and the best mohair teddy bear fur. She is not a wealthy person but she has lived a very rich life. Why? Because she loves life…and everything she did in it. Perhaps the best thing about this love of life, is that she encouraged folks around her to live the same way.

Most of her life was spent as an elementary school teacher. She was good at it. Maybe I should say she was excellent at it. Her students loved her too. When they became older and had children of their own, they frequently requested her to be the teacher of their children. Like other passionate teachers she put in long hours…showing up early and leaving late. Other teachers wanted the rooms next to hers because they new the rich resources and energy that flowed from my mother-in-law. She didn’t just like that job…she loved that job.

I suppose in that way, I am much like my mother-in-law. I love what I do and I think I’m pretty good at it. I have tried to pass this passion through to my children. I also hope that some of the passion will pass through to candidates and clients. I hope that everyone can have the same love for their daytime occupation that I do. If I do my job well enough, the matches between candidates and clients will allow everyone to have a passion for their work.

If you and I get an opportunity to speak with each other…you will feel the smile through the phone. It’s the passion I have for what I do…smile back.

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Metrics versus Effective

Posted in Brenda at 5:16 pm by livefood

We are so fortunate. Because we are privately owned with an average tenure of over 20 years in the industry, we are able to approach our goals from a different perspective.

Many firms take a numbers dominated approach to the goal setting exercise. You know the system…it’s where a manager tells you to do such and such every day. It’s a process driven approach. Typically it comes down to corporate interests and that is about the sum total of the purpose. If a consultant does not or can not make their assigned metrics happen, the revolving door will spin a bit faster as they leave the building. Little, if any, meaningful thought is applied to how the firm can help their clients reach the client’s goals. Less, if ever, will any thought be applied to how a firm might help their individual consultants. By and large it’s about the firms corporate interests. We think metric driven businesses, when applied as described are poor models. Of course, one should analyze production and make adjustments accordingly, so numbers are important, but…

we think that numbers are better used to analyze production rather than to prescribe it.

It’s good to have goals. We have them too. But because we don’t apply the metric model to our goals, the numbers on the paper are not prescriptive. We can take a more “big picture” and strategic approach to our work. We like to think of our approach being a results dominated approach as opposed to a prescriptive one. We can look at everything a bit differently when we are truly seeking a specific result rather than a process. No two projects we work on are every the same…so why would we want to treat them as if they were? There is no one on our team that is every chastised for not having made enough calls during a day or for not bringing in enough resumes or enough “orders.” The quantity driven metrics are bypassed and the quality driven results prevail.

By not driving the business with process metrics we are able to also stay more nimble. We are able to approach each client and each candidate with the time and the energy to develop appropriate solutions because none of these conversations will result in a number. We do not have to hurry through any of our conversations so that we can engage another quickly. We are able to respond to new directions as they are revealed and can customize our recruiting for future needs rather than simply responding to a call of desperation. We have found that the need for driving business through a process metric model diminishes with the maturity of the team.

It has been proven to us that our rather relaxed and conversational approach to both recruiting and our clients development is much more effective for us than the “fire, load, fire, load” approach…we think that a little “aiming” before the fire and load is a good thing. Thinking between the load-fire cycles is also a good thing and makes the aim meaningful and not just because a manager is trying to justify a process. Even the military abandoned the notion of troops standing in lines as a way of looking good, but perhaps not being too effective.

Numbers don’t mean as much to us as effectiveness.

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Should a Healthcare Plan Need Translation?

Posted in Brenda at 10:53 am by livefood

…and into what fine example of the English language will this be translated…or will there be a miriad of various languages and dialects spoken out of the sides of the mouths? Why should something like this need to be translated so that we can understand what is being said…do they really want us to understand the meaning…then say it in plain and simple words.

This whole healthcare situation is so big, so complex and so important, I would feel a whole lot more comfortable if the language was just plain and simple.

But here’s the story to think about (an excerpt and link)…

Obama’s health principles, translated

Complete Article


When it comes to health care reform, details are key, but it seems that President Barack Obama plans to avoid the minutiae and let eight vague principles speak for him. As written into the budget delivered to Congress last month, these delicately worded principles were crafted to appeal to the broadest possible audience, but behind each lies hints about Obama’s intentions — and the polarizing debates over taxes, mandates and government-run insurance plans on the horizon.”

Some of the challenge gets into policy decisions of the past 30+ years. An example of decisions made a long time ago would be…when the schools dropped physical education (for the most part) because of funding. Like music and arts programs…along with library funding…schools tried to slice the portions of the pie thin and we ended up with fat and lazy people…and the health issues that go along with lack of decent health. Basically when the money ran low, we stopped running much at all. Of course with the pressures of teaching “to standards” and using metrics to judge performance, the basic health education in schools went out the window in the trade off for reading and math (et al)…so those kids who don’t run around and eat better foods don’t know they’re creating issues for themselves until they are much older (and lazier)…and now expect the governemtn to bail them out along with AIG.

Some heathcare issues should be addressed on an individual basis. Taking care of oneself is where it starts.

So beyond the IT issues that we all talk about, there are some fundamental health issues that create a larger than nessesary burden on healthcare. If you you pour money down the healthcare hole and don’t stop the reasons that more and more folks are seeking healthcare you are just feeding a swirling vortex of problem. If you have ever watched “Pirates of the Carribean, A World’s End” you can picture that scene with the dueling ships in the whirlpool. If you haven’t seen the movie, just think really really bad and scary whirlpool and you are on the right track.

This entire healthcare issue should not be spoken in political language. The dialog needs to be spoken in a human language that we can understand and appreciate.

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