Minutes
HR
Published on
March 15, 2024

New dates added! Our HR events during spring 2024

New dates added! At Peops Relations, we are proud to present our spring event calendar, packed with opportunities to grow, network, and develop! Whether you're looking to sharpen your skills, network with colleagues in the industry, or discover the latest trends, we have something for you. Check out our calendar and plan your spring with us!
Contributors
Calle Engström
People Partner
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We are releasing a new update with more dates for our spring events. Register as soon as possible, as spaces can quickly fill up.

Inspiration After Work (24 April)

Line Thomson (Peops Relations) and Cecilia Hållner (People Value) will host an interactive round-table discussion on current HR topics. Our speakers will introduce the topic and then moderate the discussions. The goal is for you to take away new insights that you can utilize at your workplace.

Registration is made through this link - or via email to Calle@peopsrelations.se

Attracting Competence (22 May)

Our view of work is continuously changing, which also means that our view on rewards is constantly changing. If you want to find out what is important and how people want to be rewarded for their work, then you should not miss this seminar!

Peops Relations Celebrates 5 Years! Join us as we celebrate five successful years together! We´ll invite you personally to this event, stay tuned!

All events will be held at the Rådhuset in Uppsala. Hope to see you there!

- 7 lessons we should learn from Google

Culture, values, hiring the right people, motivating your employees, developing your employees, all these areas are hard to define and address within a company. To start of these processes it can be helpful to look how other companies have done it. So why not learn directly from the best? In this blog we will take a closer look at 7 essential HR lessons from Google set out in Laszlo Block’s book Work Rules! We will look at their successes and, maybe even more importantly, their failures. We will set apart these lessons and show you how they can help you into developing the right HR processes.

Lesson number 1: Vision, mission, transparency and voice are key to culture.

We keep repeating it and Laszlo confirms it, if you want to build a strong company culture, you need to start at the beginning. You need a clear vision, mission and connected values which describe why your company even exists. These need to be easy to identify with, ambitious and meaningful. The second aspect of their strong culture is their transparency and voice. Laszlo describes a corporate culture where everybody has access to everything in their internal systems from day one. Their CEO gives weekly Q&A sessions about what is going in in the company and they are even regularly running programs where employees can express complaints about internal policies, regulations and way of doing business (like the one in 2009 called ‘Bureaucracy Busters’).

Main takeaway: if you want to turn your departments with employees into teams with colleagues then you need a clear vision and mission, transparency and to let their voices be heard.

Lesson number 2: Hiring the best takes time, resources, (team) effort and high standards.

Within the recruitment department they’ve gone through many phases of what they perceived as the best way of hiring. First, they only admitted the candidates with the best qualifications, then they focussed more on mediocre candidates with better potential for development, in the end they are focussing now on a healthy mixture of both. Above all, they keep their standards high, which is key to the standards of their employees. Only 0,25% of all applicants gets the job. Laszlo compares that with the prestigious university of Harvard, which admits around 6,1% of all its applicants. Just so you understand how few candidates actually get the job. What’s more is that Google interviews new candidates in teams of four. These teams often consist of colleagues, managers, subordinates and one “cross functional interviewer” from an entire different department. He or she should ensure that the candidate is not solely being hired out of mere desperation.

Main takeaway: if you want to have the best teams, never lower your standard to speed up a hiring process. Hiring takes time, effort, resources and high standards. Start to improve your hiring process tomorrow by setting up hiring teams for function instead of ‘just a hiring manager and a recruiter’.

Lesson number 3: Promote autonomy and initiative by encouraging data usage and discouraging politics.

Google has a very flat internal hierarchical structure, in fact there are roughly four levels of hierarchy across all Google employees. Laszlo describes an internal culture where data trumps politics and promotion can only be made if the data shows that you are worthy of the promotion. So, for instance, you want more autonomy or you would like a promotion up the hierarchical ladder, then the data of your past performance must justify this. You must have shown in your work experience that you have a recorded history of making good decisions or leading teams/projects. Only then are you entitled to move up, the internal politics play less of a role. This also creates understanding amongst the rest of the employees why somebody is entitled to a better (paid) position within the company.

Main takeaway: hierarchical decisions need to made based upon transparent data. This has to be done in order to make the right decision, but also to gain support and understanding for the decision being made.

Lesson number 4: Study the top to improve the bottom.

Many companies look at their employees through a performance ranking system called the Bell Curve method (you can read more on that here). They use this system to decide who gets a bonus and who should be let go. Google uses this method too, but uses its results differently. They study their top performers and see what makes their performance so great. They use these results to create similar environments for their bottom performers in order to increase their performance. Project Oxygen showed that an exceptional manager is essential for a top performer. Engineers under an exceptional manager performed 5 to 18 times better than their peers. Google often evaluates the bottom 5% and offers them support to increase their performance.

Main takeaway: try and understand what makes your top performers so good and try and create similar environments for your bottom performers to improve them. Exceptional managers create top performers.

Lesson number 5: Stop looking for external teachers, use your own internal teachers.

Whenever companies feel the need to develop their employees, they often refer to external training agencies. They provide lengthy training sessions and workshops in all forms and ways. Even though this is a billion-dollar industry, the effects are often underwhelming. Laszlo notes that this is often due to ill design, lack of specific information, incorrect teachers or even that the trainings are not analysed for their effectiveness. Within Google they therefore mostly stopped with external development agencies, but are now looking inwards for qualified teachers. That means that if they need to increase sales, or address bugs faster, or find better candidates, they will look for their best sales person, bug squasher or recruiter to teach the rest of the department their tips and tricks. This reduces the training costs and brings their employees closer together in a common goal.

Main takeaway: if you want to develop your employees, look for internal teachers first before reaching out to external teachers.

Lesson number 6: Pay unequal based upon performance, award victories with experiences and encourage failures.

In a world where there are still big discrepancies in pay between gender and race, Google still chooses to pay different people in a similar position different salaries. So how do they justify this? Simple, their solution is to pay fair. If an employee out-performs their colleague by an extra 20%, then this employee will be often entitled to more benefits (in terms of stock options, bonusses and salaries). Although this in and of its own sounds fair, it does not mean that Google handles each situation as well as it ought to, which leads to the occasional salary scandal. Google often tries to increase happiness and performance as well, one of the ways of doing so is to hand out bonusses to well-performing employees. However, an internal survey showed that the employees did not necessarily became happier because if it. To address this Google started to award well-performing teams with experiences instead of individuals with money. This created a stronger sense of team and belonging amongst employees.

Finally, Google also tries to encourage all calculated risks. Google Wave in 2009 failed, but Google rewarded the team working on it anyway. Why? Because Google wants to encourage calculated risks and innovation. Even if the innovation might not turn out to be the next award-winning functionality this time, it could be just that the next time, so you need to keep your team motivated towards innovation.

Main takeaway(s): pay unequally based upon performance supported by data. Celebrate team performance instead of individual performance with experiences. Encourage calculated risks and innovation, even if the possibility exists that it could fail.

Lesson number 7: Face cultural problems, altering behaviour and the power of nudging.

Google has a company culture of transparency, as discussed under lesson number one, and even if that sounds great and has a lot of benefits, it can also backfire. One of the ways it backfires is that Google suffers one significant leak almost every year. When that happens Google announces in the entire company what has been leaked and what has happened to the employee that has caused the leak. Even though this might sounds devastating, Laszlo argues that the benefits of transparency outweigh these disadvantages. The same can be said for when Google tried to decrease some perks and benefits which was met by entitled behaviour such as scolding of and throwing food at cafeteria staff. Google published the entitled behaviour via surveys which led to staff-wide embarrassment and a drop in the level of entitlement. Google also had to deal with the fact that they wanted to change certain behaviours, such as keeping doors open for strangers, eating unhealthy food on lunchbreaks and leaving unlocked computers unattended. From their experiments it shows that restrictions and information about a better choice do not work. It is often met with anger and frustration. Their solution is to keep the freedom of choice, but nudge towards the right behaviour. For example, keep healthy and unhealthy food in the cafeteria, but keep the healthy food widely on display and easily to access while unhealthy food is more hidden and harder to access.

Main takeaway: the only way of facing cultural problems is head on and if you want to change behaviour then you should keep the freedom of choice but nudge towards the right choice.

In conclusion

The biggest insight of ‘Work Rules!’ is that data is key to many HR problems. It should be the key driver behind decision making, culture and many other aspects of HR, not only to do the right thing, but also to create understanding for why you do things. In this blog we have given you a very small taste of a must-read for any HR employee. We therefore strongly recommend that you read Laszlo’s full book, make your own analysis of what might work for your organisation and start making implementation plans to improve your business. Or you can get in touch with us and we can help you to with skipping the first two steps and directly move towards solutions to improve your organization.

Line Thomson
September 16, 2022
What Work Samples are and why you should use them in recruitment processes

Research has time and time again shown that the best way to asses a candidate is through multiple assessment methods. A combination of different forms of assessment methods with will give you the highest probability of hiring the right candidate. Some forms of assessment methods are quite straight forward, such as structured interviews, behavioural interviews, and personality assessments, but there are others which are a bit harder to understand.

One that consistently shows up in research as being one of the best predicators of whether or not somebody fits the job is a knowledge exam or ability test or "work sample". A work sample is quite simply an example of your skills in a work-related environment. In this blog, we will dig in a bit deeper in work samples, their advantages and disadvantages.

Two types of work samples

In general, there are two types of work samples. The first type focusses on the developmental potential of candidates and in how far they are fit to learn the job at hand. This type of test is often part of the recruitment process for a traineeship or apprenticeship, after which the hired candidate first goes through a trial period where he/she learns the job at hand. Here you can think of examples such as military fitness tests, where potential cadets get tested for their physical and mental condition, or even an auditioning for a role within the music or theatre industry. In both cases potential candidates are not being tested for their current experience or skill but are mostly assessed for their potential to develop.

The second type is a more general work sample and are focussed on testing the prior experience and skillset of the candidate for the job at hand. These are more common and widespread throughout companies. Examples include, a coding work sample for a software engineering job, a use case regarding market expansion for a business development role, a logical puzzle for an analyst position, the list of different roles and work samples can go on and on.

Although the distinction is interesting, it is often so that the two categories are intertwined in the same process: both the present skillset and prior experience as well as the development potential are addressed.

Advantages

Assessing Skills

The first and foremost advantage of work samples is that the result gives an indication on how well a candidate would perform at the job. This is one of the most crucial assessments within a recruitment process. It has been proven that this work samples are crucial to assess whether a candidate possesses the right skills or the ability to train for the right skills. According to Robertson and Downs (1989), and Roth, Bobko and McFarland (2005), work samples increase the accuracy by which recruitment processes can predict whether somebody is fit for the job or fit for learning the job. This alone should be enough of an argument to start using work samples, but there are more arguments which make the case for work samples.

Validation

The second argument for work samples is that it provides validation within the recruitment process. This is not only true for the company, that, of course, needs the validation whether a candidate is truly a good fit for the role, but also for the candidates themselves to get a better understanding of the role, responsibilities, tasks, and their own fit for the role. The work sample exemplifies the competence of the candidate for the company while it also clarifies some aspects of the role for the candidate.

Overcoming Bias

The third advantage of work samples is that the results can be assessed by other members of the team, overcoming subjective opinions or individual biases of the interviewers. The work sample can give an objective answer to one of the most important questions of whether the candidate has the necessary skills to work within the company. Read more about the six most common recruitment biases here.

Contributing to CSR and Inclusion

Corporate Social Responsibility is a quite encompassing field, but basically boils down to that companies should behave socially responsible with regards to people, society, and our environment. Recruitment is also a part of CSR and work samples can contribute to the sense that they are not biased towards ethnicity or gender. Therefore, work samples should be utilized by companies that aim to be an equal opportunity employer as these are a step closer to unbiased recruitment.

Quantifying Results

In recruitment it is difficult to measure how well one candidate would fit versus another. Quantifiable results therefore make it easier to choose with whom to proceed, but also to whom to decline. Quantifiable results allow for informed decisions rather than just trusting your instincts and basing your judgement on individual interviews. According to Gilliland (1995), applicants that receive work samples perceive them as a very fair part of the recruitment process. Therefore, feedback based upon work samples is also perceived as such.

Measuring Recruitment Process

The advantage of quantifiable results is also that it allows for measuring the performance of the different stages of your recruitment process. Again, these results are not based upon the individual impressions of the interviewers, and the results are therefore quite reliable. The results of the measurement can give an indication about the required standards for the role, if you are attracting the right candidates, and about how well your interviewers are filtering out candidates who are not fit for the role. For example, if most candidates easily pass the interviews, but seem to keep dropping off at the work sample, then this might say something about the required standards of the role which perhaps require adjustment or the quality of your interviewers who perhaps must be more attentive.

High Return On Investment

This argument is more applicable to more specific functions which require more specific skills than less specific functions requiring fewer specific skills. The idea is that, although it takes time, money and effort to develop these work samples, it produces clear data by which decisions can be made, saving more time, money and effort on multiple interviews, meetings and other methods which aim to achieve the same results. It is also important to highlight that work samples save you from hiring the wrong candidates, which could end up being the costliest mistake that you can make, in terms of time, money and effort.

Now let’s turn to the disadvantages of work samples, most of which I have briefly highlighted above.

Disadvantages

Time & Effort

The first disadvantage is quite obvious in that it takes time and effort into developing a proper work sample. Time and effort are often not a resource of abundance within a company, especially not when a new position opens up. Most departments would like to see their new employee up and running as soon as possible. Therefore, time and effort should both be minimal, and work sample require both time and effort to create and tailor according to your recruitment profile.

Cost

The argument that often follows behind time and effort is the argument of cost. This is not surprising as both time and effort cost money, in one way or another. Keeping costs low to create operational value should be one of the main objectives of a financial sustainable company. Still, here I would argue it is a matter of perspective. Hiring an employee is an investment. The better you have assessed who the right candidate is, the more sustainable your relationship will be with your future employee. So, whether we are talking time, effort, or money, we would argue that the benefits outweigh the costs, and, we, as Peops Relations, can make them cost-effective.

In conclusion

Work samples have grown out to be a necessary part of every recruitment process. Work samples give an indication on how skilled candidates are, validate the candidate’s competences as well as the candidate’s perception of the role, overcome biases, lead to more inclusive hiring, and have a high return on investment. There is really no good reason not to include work samples in your hiring process, they are vital for a successful process. The only reasons to not include work samples are time, effort and cost, however, we would argue that it is more expensive, and a waste of time and effort, to search aimlessly without any result, or even worse: to hire the wrong candidate. Read more about considerations of work samples here or get in touch with us if you need help setting up your own work samples and overcoming excessive expenses.  

Line Thomson
August 18, 2022
Different teams work on branding and culture, however they are two sides of the same coin

Branding and culture are two separated dimensions often run by separated teams. This is problematic because many companies do not realise that branding and culture are part of the same process. So why are branding and culture part of the same process?

In most organisations branding is driven by the marketing department whereas cultural projects are driven by the People (HR) department. Often these two continuous projects (and participants) communicate little or not at all with one another, and that is because they are perceived as separate projects. This goes against our vision of what branding and culture is and how they can reinforce each other. We believe that a brand is determined by culture and that the correct display of a brand will reinforce internal culture. In this blog I will assess the two topics and show you how they intertwine.


Branding


Branding is an integral part of marketing. Branding is a way to steer how the outside world perceives your company and how they interact with your company. Brands can be very personal, very classy, very edgy, very transformative, you name it - and it is out there. The flavours of different brands are endless, which is not surprising as each company is trying to stick out from the crowd by creating their own unique identity. That is why it is not surprising that marketing departments focus on creating an own “brand identity” complete with own colours, values, story lines, slogans, and other components to make an own distinctive brand.


While creating a distinctive brand is important, it is almost similarly important to communicate this brand to the outside world. You can have a beautiful brand identity, but if nobody knows about it, then it is practically useless. In other words, you need to make consumers/potential clients aware of your brand. This part of marketing is, not surprisingly, called “brand awareness” which basically focusses on all the different channels through which you are trying to inform the world out there about your brand identity.


As you can imagine, these are enormous tasks, not only to define a strong brand which really stands out and persuades consumers/potential clients, but also to then get your message out there. It is up to your marketing department to properly formulate and distribute the message that your brand wants to convey.

Culture

Turning now to culture. In its core, culture is the combination of all individual values and behaviours of the people within your company. This is in part influenced by your organisational values, but also by individual beliefs. Culture is therefore not something that you can completely control, you can only partly steer it. With every new person that joins your team, or every person that leaves your team, your culture partly changes. So, in some sense culture is something you cannot control. However, you can stimulate certain behaviours and demotivate others. This way you can move culture in the right direction.


Your culture determines a lot on how your employees communicate and behave internally, but also how they communicate and behave towards the outside world. In part, your culture therefore determines what how the outside world perceives your company and your brand. This hints towards how culture and branding are very intertwined.


The same coin


So how are culture and branding part of the same process? Well, in simple terms branding is a process which determines how you are perceived in the outside world and culture determines how your employees interact with the outside world. In essence they are therefore both part of the same process: interactions with the outside world.


An organisation is its people. I believe that branding should start with assessing your internal culture. You need to know first what your internal culture stands for before you can create a brand accordingly. Why? Simple: consistency. For example: you can create a beautiful brand identity talking about how customer-focussed your organisation is, but let’s assume that your employees are rather more focussed on creating the best products (product-focussed). If your customer interacts with your representatives, which have a different attitude than your brand advertises, this might disappoint or upset them, or even worse; it will make your brand identity questionable, unconvincing, or even unbelievable.


On the flip side, having a brand identity which does not align with the internal culture also causes some problems. You will soon find that your employees do not believe any more about the message you convey to your customers/clients and that they become unhappy about the fact that the company seems to become more and more out of touch with their own employees and the internal culture. This can lead to unhappiness, unproductivity and even with people calling in sick or ultimately leaving the company.


So, what to do?


1. Find out what your culture is.

As with all cultural projects, the first step of assessing your current culture is key. Try to use employee surveys to question your employees what they value in their work, how they feel connected to their colleagues and what motivates them to come to work. Ask them how they communicate towards one-another, if they feel free to speak up during meetings, if they value creativity, how they experience the leadership; and many other questions. Try to find out how they work (together) and what motivates them to work (together).


(optional) 2. Motivate desired behaviours/demotivate undesired behaviours

In case you notice that there are many unwanted behaviours, then you should try and motivate desired behaviours and demotivate undesired behaviours. Use workshops, brainstorming sessions and early adopters to help people see how individual and group behaviour affect the brand in a positive (or negative) way. Bring out their desire to build a strong unique culture and brand. During these sessions you should get a better uniform image of what behaviours everybody wants to motivate. This is also the moment to take the leading role and move people in the right direction to start adopting the desired behaviours.


From these sessions you should also be able to bring organisational values to life. Working bottom-up: individual behaviours can be generalized in a couple of shared attitudes, which in turn can be generalized and highlighted in organizational values.


Don’t forget that organisational values prescribe behaviours. These are things you do. Therefore, your organizational values should be actionable.


3. Create a brand identity that aligns with your culture and promote it.

Now that you have found out what your internal culture stands for, it is time to create a brand identity around it. This is the job of your marketing department, but they need to keep connecting their messaging with the internal culture. If that does not align, then you are saying one thing while doing another. Once your brand identity is established and aligned with your internal culture, feel free to promote it any way you see fit.


4. Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate!

I do not understand why companies keep forgetting this step. Once you have created the right culture, the right brand identity, and you have started promoting it, then celebrate this with everybody involved! Present the results, show of the new polished brand, and how you are promoting it towards the outside world. While you are presenting this to your employees, remind them of how essential their contribution was into the cultural assessment and how they too have created their brand. It is just as much their achievement as it is the achievement of your marketing department. After all, your brand is your company, and your company is your brand. Everyone contributes to that, so every individual is key. Make your employees feel part of this journey and make them feel that they have contributed to this process. This will improve your overall culture, internal atmosphere, and connectivity amongst your employees.


In conclusion


Branding and culture are part of the same process. Culture is an integral part of branding, and you cannot create a solid brand without understanding your culture first. Therefore, I would argue that every brand project should align itself with the internal culture. If your brand does not align with your culture, then it becomes unconvincing and uncredible in the long run. Do you want to change your brand? Or do you want to fine-tune your brand identity? Start looking towards your internal culture and you will find your guidance towards how to change your brand and the overall perception of your company for the better.

Line Thomson
August 30, 2022

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