Dedicated Personal Facilitation Needs to Scale

There’s an increasing number of workers who are miserable and hopelessly suffering because their ability is placed at poor-fit. In the United States alone worker satisfaction is at an all-time low where 70% are not engaged at work according to Gallup. Even 72% of workers with a degree report that they do not have an ideal job for them. Gallup estimates that within the U.S. workforce, this cost between $450 and $550 billion in lost productivity alone. Besides those economic costs, what also matters are the costs of lost joy and happiness in people’s lives outside of work.

Clearly, the Gallup research shows that staffing and headhunting firms do not service the market deeply and broadly enough. The human capital service industry is in need of a scalable solution to which the general population can have affordable access.

If you have a recruiting or placement decision that is important enough, you need help from another human being! The best help you could ever receive is from a person who is experienced, reputable, and who relies on relevant data to refer, coach, or agency to help you make that decision. There’s just no substitute for the advice and counsel of a credible and trusted human being who is motivated to look out for your best interest.

So, you need to use technology to save time identifying that person because speed is critical to gaining an advantage in a competitive selection process. This is to say, technology that reduces friction in the recruiting or placement process is critical to your success. Friction is everything that slows down making better decisions quicker. Examples of friction include voice mail, phone tag, travel, lack of information, etc. And then there’s email which, when you consider the necessary communications involved to make a great decision, is the worst collaboration tool ever used on a wide scale!

So, what can you do today? Start building a relationship with a likable and trusted individual in your industry. Someone already embedded in the talent-based community who can be your advocate. Someone who can close a deal because they are experienced, likable, and credible! If you can’t find that person then perhaps you should consider branding yourself as that “go to” person to help others who are in your position. The opportunity to do well by doing good is tremendous in the human capital service ecosystem in this day and age.

What do you think? Do you think the general population is need of an easy way to use dedicated personal facilitation to help get what they want?

External Referral Programs Beat Employee Referral Programs

Over time, external referral programs (XRP) will outperform employee referral programs (ERP). And that’s simply because XRPs have two distinct advantages:

  1. reputation
  2. diversity

Let’s examine these two reasons;


Intuitively, having a formal employee referral program (ERP) seems to makes sense. After all, who is more equipped to refer great people—and sell those people on why they should work in an organization—than passionate members of an organization? However, employees, by definition, are not able to operate as a ‘third-party facilitator’. They can’t be objective enough. This creates a “trade-off” dilemma in the mind of the employee that causes him to consider the risk and rewards of referring “wrongly” that is harder to overcome versus an external referrer.

That’s right. A motivated and confident external referrer will use the trust and credibility they have built with employers and workers to convince them to make a commitment. Even if it appears on paper that there isn’t a best-fit. An external referrer program (XRP) leverages a feedback system that makes referring reputation transparent. Prodding for a commitment and being motivated to strengthen reputation are advantages that external referrers have over employee referrers.


External referrers have a higher chance of interacting with others at the relevant edges of recruiting. They are able to reach out and connect into the rich referral flows which provides them with an information arbitrage of sorts that they can use to connect opportunity with ability that might not be obvious to employee referrers. This advantage puts the company in the best position to grow with diverse talent and be more adaptive as a result.

Don’t get me wrong. An ERP for the most part is a good idea. This post is not about beating up on them. And it is true that the vast majority of external referrers do none of the things that it takes to place ability at best-fit. But transparency weeds them out. The good ones rise to the top and bring their domain experience, tacit knowledge, and motivations to bear on processes to gain commitments at best-fit.

Ultimately utilizing an XRP will get a company closer to best-fit candidates by separating themselves from the herd. Where ERPs are structured around organizational “strong” ties via employees, XRPs open up opportunities to support encounters with “weak” ties via referrers outside of the organization and discover talent outside the reach of an ERP. This increases the likelihood of attracting talent with access to new insights, experiences, and capabilities. Over time, many of these edge connections become part of a core network, in the process transforming that core in deep yet unexpected ways to adapt in fast-changing business environments.

Has anyone heard of an external referrer program (XRP) or something similar before reading this?

The Jobs Churn Rate

Americans are quitting their jobs like crazy.

The latest monthly “Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey” (JOLTS) showed that in December, the total number of quits was 3.1 million, the highest level in a decade, while the quits rate was 2.1%, the highest since April 2008. The rate takes the number of quits divided by the number of employees who worked or were paid for work.

If people are quitting their jobs, it may suggest that they are confident in the labor market and are receiving better-paying opportunities elsewhere. However, it may suggest a higher level of mismatch between opportunity and ability.

The report also showed that there were 5.6 million job openings during December, the second-highest ever, and more than the expectation for 5.41 million. The hires rate was 3.7%, and the layoffs and discharges rate was 1.1%.

Higher Ed: An Underutilized Ability Placement Network

Recently, I read Michael Horn’s Forbes article titled “Disruptive Innovation and Education” in which he writes that the current higher education system is patterned after the once prevailing factory employment model of the industrial age. It’s no surprise that higher education systems have and will continue to adapt to employment models.

Also recently, I listened to Brandon Busteed’s case for the “Educonomy”  in which he points out that the market clearly understands a college education as a pathway to get a “good job”. That should not come as a surprise either. After all, the learner’s (i.e. higher ed’s customer) greatest pain point is to find a best-fit opportunity to utilize what has been learned.

As a Global Career Development Facilitator and entrepreneur in the human services industry what is particularly interesting to me is that both authors can relate to the challenges facing higher ed today but each misses the deeper critical problem in the industry. Michael sheds light on innovation; that is online learning. Brandon sheds light on causation; that is the link between education and long-term success in life and work. However, each seems to miss the critical baked-in assumption in the higher ed business model; that learning quality should be the value proposition delivered to the mass market. In my view, it should not.

The following is my attempt at explaining why placement quality should replace learning quality as the value proposition in higher education.

First, using the job-to-be-done (JTBD) framework , the learner’s JTBD can be labeled as placement quality or as Busteed says “to get a good job”Education then is the learner’s related job-to-be-done (rJTBD) and can be labeled as learning quality in support of reducing/eliminating the learner’s greatest pain point; placement at best-fit.

Considering the long-tail of the market, if we design for learning quality as a key activity (rather than a value proposition) within a larger placement ecosystem THEN the seed for innovative disruption can be planted. I think that higher education disruption will come from an innovative business model utilizing #hrtech to better deliver a value proposition of placement quality and NOT #edtech to better deliver a value proposition of learning quality.

Today, higher education seems to be stuck in a legacy business model that stubbornly keeps learning quality as the JTBD. Therefore, leaders and academics continue to see it as the value proposition. However, the great recession dried up subsidies of an always nonviable value proposition and the error in the business model design is surfacing. As the idiom goes, “the chickens are coming home to roost”.

Let me be clear, learning quality in higher education IS NOT a viable value proposition to serve the masses, the long-tail, those “below-the-line” of elite. The time is now for placement quality to be the value proposition. It is highly monetizable and can subsidize learning quality better than any alternative.

In the coming “talent wars”, which will be fought in the long-tail of markets as well as in the short-head, we need business models that treat higher education institutions as aggregators with distribution-capable nodes in a much larger network; the placement ecosystem. Then and only then, in my opinion, will we be able to define learning quality that integrates purpose (vocational guidance and life-design) with competency (career education and mastery learning) for the masses. We can get back to the personalized academy experience before the industrial age and we can provide it for the masses but it’s going to take a distributed solution to solve what we are failing at–the distribution of dedicated personal assistance to develop and place ability at best-fit.

Again, learning quality unsurprisingly adapts to the prevailing employment model. In the future work will be performed by independent workers (freelancers, independent contractors, consultants and solopreneurs), highly distributed across communities and domains. In fact, independents represented 17.7 million workers in 2013 and are expected to reach 24 million in 2018, a 40% increase. Nearly 10 million households receive at least half of their income from independents today. Based on existing trends, there is expected to be 65 to 70 million independent workers (over 50% of the workforce) by 2022 in the U.S. alone.

As a result, you are starting to see the distribution of learning quality to the relevant edges of pedagogy. If higher ed leaders fail to adapt to a value proposition that is placement quality then, it is my view, they’ll go down as leaders of the most underutilized ability placement network ever created by man.

College Athletics: A Blue Print for Change

A few years ago ESPN used television and the internet to engage in a discussion about the state of college athletics. Below is my contribution to that discussion via their internet forum. As college athletics seems to be in the news more and more these days, I thought I would copy and post my suggestion to “fix” college athletics for what it’s worth. 

Here it is…

Problem: Educational values have been at odds with athletic values for well over 100 years in this country. College athletics has lowered educational values and influenced educational leaders in unfortunate ways.

Solution: Separate education and athletics! Convert athletic programs to not-for-profit entities in the communities they serve. Write not-for-profit by-laws to work out the details of athlete eligibility to include academic pursuits. Adopt a community 2 board structure as such: a Board of Directors to vote on strategic agenda only (think Executive Branch), an Officer Board for operational (i.e. “day-to-day” management) agenda only (think Legislative Branch). Now, if you’re wondering about the Judicial Branch, think IRS scrutiny! The IRS is very clear regarding violations and punishment for the leaders of not-for-profit organizations.

Benefits and Advantages: Educational leaders can better concentrate on the educational mission. If each not-for-profit athletic entity cannot get the support from a community to survive with adequate funding, leadership, and compliance then the whole program, or a certain sport, will fail. In other words, the community or “market”, if you will, will decide what it values enough to sustain. Again, the educational leaders are left to concentrate on the educational mission.

Third-party influence for amateur athletes:  Individuals such as “street” agents, advisers and the like CAN NOT be eliminated nor should they be! Athletes and their families are busy and DO NOT understand the nuances of roster decisions, depth charts, head and assistant coach contracts, etc. on top of evaluating other relevant values, like academics. Basically, third-party influence is present because there is a demand from athletes and their families for personal dedicated assistance to make a decision that they feel is in their best interest. Furthermore, let us not forget the inherent conflicts of interest that coaches have. The notion that a coach can give unbiased advice to an athlete he/she is recruiting is not realistic.

Caring Winds in the Ocean of Social

As a result of the Industrial Revolution people moved to cities for jobs creating large centralized communities. Then, we started to decentralize by moving out of close knit neighborhoods into a sprawling suburbia. People worked more and generally got busier trying to make money, spend money, pay the bills, etc. as we transitioned to a consumer-based economy. The “porch-to-porch” sharing decreased proportionately. Simply, it became more difficult for communities and even families and friends to share in a decentralized environment. So, sharing was building demand for decades like a beach ball held under water ready to explode to the surface by some catalyst or mechanism. Facebook designed that mechanism. The sharing beach ball exploded to the surface with viral growth and landed on the surface in the Ocean of Social. For we, as a race, have always been and will always be social. Sharing among each other is at the top of our survival instincts. I suppose our brains are hard wired to search for others to share with; to solve problems, to advance solutions, to be empathetic, to survive.

Like fish swimming in the Ocean of Social, we’ve witnessed the powerful rise of beach balls exploding to the surface and we are impressed. We look up and see these beach balls floating above us.  They make it easier to share. While gathering in the shadow of a beach ball we socialize. However, are these floating beach balls being pushed by social winds that lack purpose? Are the beach balls floating aimlessly? Is the wind pushing us, as we stay in the shadow of the beach ball, into shallow waters of engagement?

There are dependencies as to what motivates us to share with others at any given time and there are patterns that seem to govern these dependencies relating to how and why we are social. These patterns lead to designed mechanisms that release stored up demand in the marketplace, again, like a beach ball held under water, ready to explode to the surface.

The mechanisms to release purposed sharing (i.e. collaboration) for people who care about something enough are already being developed for niche communities. Just like Facebook had its predecessors, collaboration platforms are being tested and used in niche communities. They are increasingly sharing to solve problems, niche problems. These beach balls are directed by purposed winds towards deeper waters of interactions (actions, reactions, and transactions).

I believe that we are at the dawn of an era of collaboration like we’ve never seen before. We are at the dawn of caring enough to help each other survive better. The demand is increasing because we are becoming more aware that we are in this together, as one, and what is good for you is good for me. We are learning to sell “win-lose” and buy “win-win” business models! Say good-bye to sharing for sharing’s sake and say hello to sharing for caring’s sake.

Have you noticed any designs that are making it easier to share and contribute to solve niche problems?

The Higher Ed – HR Paradox

According to Gallup’s Brandon Busteed, “barely one in 10 (11%) business leaders strongly agree that college graduates have the skills and competencies that their workplaces need”. However, he continues, “A whopping 96% of chief academic officers at higher education institutions say their institution is ‘very or somewhat’ effective at preparing students for the world of work”. Clearly, there’s a disconnect.

Furthermore, according to Gallup’s findings the vast majority of Americans think that the purpose of going to college is to get a good job (i.e. one that is best-fit).  Accepting that the collective will of the market is accurate and honest then it is so. The business of developing ability (the higher education imperative) is to enable people to be happy while they are being productive. The business of hiring ability (the human resource imperative) is to provide an acceptable return on investment.

Unfortunately, according to Gallup, “The vast majority of U.S. workers, 70%, are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ at work, meaning they are emotionally disconnected from their workplace and are less likely to be productive. Actively disengaged employees alone cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity, and are more likely than engaged employees to steal from their companies, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays, and drive customers away”.

So, there’s a “chicken or egg” paradox which is this: Is learning quality being delivered to the population not valuable enough or are employer’s evaluation of ability developed disconnected with higher education’s learning quality? Whatever the answer it’s clear there’s a disconnect; a failure to communicate where both higher ed institutions and employers play the role of “boss man” at different times. 

Asking Better Questions

Modern society has been conditioned to measure things so that we can manage them. It seems to pervade everything in our lives. In turn, as we attempt to solve “big” problems the more important or valuable measurement becomes. As great a management principle as that is I do NOT think “What is my value?” is the right question to ask. The better question to ask is, “Why am I important?” because I believe that we are at the cusp of an improved understanding that we are here to help each other. Better questions improve that understanding.

I think that solution providers should consider designs that focus on us, as individuals, as benevolent rather than themselves as such. Jim Clifton writes in The Coming Jobs War, “The will of every person on earth is to have a good job”. Can new designs change how we develop and place ability that encourage a life well-lived

Winner Takes All

The development and placement of ability that serves us, as individuals, can be provided by higher education institutions or employers. Higher education is getting more efficient and effective at developing ability and employers are getting more efficient and effective at hiring ability. However, if they switched imperatives and higher education got very good at placing ability then they could subsidize development with placement revenue. On the flip side, if employers got very good at developing ability for themselves then they could be even more productive.

Okay, now you might be thinking that it’s unrealistic to expect higher education and employment leaders to create and scale solutions that push ability development and placement from 1.0 to 2.0 then towards 3.0. For each is too busy focused on eliminating their greatest pain point of today, that is viability. I agree. Neither will be the winner as a result.

The winner will most likely be a 3rd party solution that enables interactions that place ability at best-fit for us, as individuals.

Have you experienced a disconnect between higher education and employers in your own life?