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 Amateur Sports Family Advisor

At Placement Loop, we are intrigued by the growing demand in other amateur sports for trusted advisors. In ice hockey, they are commonly referred to as “family advisors” and they build relationships with coaches and players to help them get what they want. The type of advisor/customer relationship we support requires an understanding of customer intent, but in context that is relevant to surrounding conditions, limitations, and values. As we see it, trusted advisors don’t rely strictly on customer intents, rather, they proactively suggest actions that hadn’t occurred to their customers,  producing a more valuable result for them.

Coaches and players only have 24 hours in the day and one of their growing needs is to increase their ROI—return on investment. If coaches and players had a trusted advisor who knew their objectives and could help them sift through options available to them, they would get far more value per unit of investment (e.g. time, travel, and other expenses). With the advent of big data, sophisticated analytics, social software, and cloud computing (just to name a few of the enabling technologies) the “trusted advisor” value proposition is expanding into all levels of amateur sports to help place ability at best-fit.

In the future, the real winners in amateur sports will be those who are working with family advisors whose focus is on improving the player pursuit, not the outcome. The outcome is sufficiently unpredictable and therefore can not be foreseen accurately enough to make the outcome the focus. However, trusted advisors traveling down the path of helping others improve their pursuits, are truly going to earn trust and the deep collaboration that is necessary to help customers eventually end up with successful outcomes.

So, how is trust and collaboration built and preserved over time?

Trust comes in part from the realization that some advisors know coaches and players as an individual very broadly and deeply, not just as an acquaintance with an intent. That is the easy part, given the new technologies that are increasingly powerful and cost effective in capturing, compiling, and analyzing large amounts of data related to what coaches and players are looking for.

The real challenge is creating a collaboration experience that assures information and data is being used to serve the player’s best interest. The good news is that new technology is significantly reducing the cost of delivering advice-in-context and curating it. The result is that services are likely to be satisfaction-based and increasingly affordable to a growing segment of amateur sports participants that is below the line of “elite”. And that is good for all!

Do you have any experiences with athletic family advisors to share?

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.

Disrupting Human Capital Development and Placement (HCDP)

If you need any evidence that the world needs to rethink human capital development and placement (HCDP), look no further than the typical society in a free enterprise economic system.

Within these societies you tend to find three competing business models in the HCDP space, each with its own profit model. There’s the:

  • service-based “solution shops” meant to deliver learning quality via trained instructors (e.g. higher education)
  • outcome-based businesses meant to deliver employment quality via process (e.g. career services, job boards, agency)
  • member-based facilitated networks meant to deliver life quality via values (e.g. community involvement and interaction)

Developing and placing ability at best-fit is not complicated. We have proven methodologies that are effective. However, developing and placing ability at best fit at best-price at scale is impossible today.

HCDP problems can be boiled down to two key issues. Innovation has been sustaining as opposed to disruptive while business model designs remain largely centralized. For example, higher education offers the value of solving any learning problem for any student but the overhead of that complexity leads to tremendous costs.

The simple fact is that when viewed within the job-to-be-done framework human resources technology is 10 years behind health care technology which is 10 years behind investment technology.

Thankfully, the disruption in healthcare is already happening. For example, Iora Health pairs patients with health coaches who facilitate a care plan based around life goals, not just calling the doctor when they’re in pain. After all, once that happens, it’s typically too late for low-cost preventive care. To that end, Iora assigns its patients a “Worry Score.” The killer app is dedicated personal assistance. The killer API is the human API.

Coordinated collaboration among all stakeholders is a main tenet of reform. HR technology needs to catch up. We need equal parts interoperability, privacy, usability and human capital data infrastructure. Then and only then will we be able to integrate empirical development and intuitive placement to arrive at a satisfactory personalized life design.

We need a closed, interdependent, decentralized and integrated system, one in which different business models use a common platform that allows product and service suppliers to focus on doing a particular job very well for customers. Along the way, distributed facilitators (instructors and referrers) can be empowered to turn what is now expensive development and placement encounters into affordable ones. Again, a common platform is the mechanism by which we can meet the challenges.

It’s no surprise, then, that HCDP needs disruptive innovation to arrive at best-fit. What remains to be seen, though, is how soon that innovation will arrive and what kind of impact it will ultimately have.

Can we innovate soon and if we can what kind of impact do you want to see?