A Holiday Survival Guide from the Hallmark Channel

During the holiday season, “good will to all” is an easy leadership reminder. Have you considered the Hallmark Channel for a few more?

This week begins my favorite television viewing time of the year. Early Fall is nice with the unveiling of new shows, and the sweeps months always offer excitement, but the holidays marks the Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas.” My excitement is not a hipster attempt at being ironical. I really like these made-for-television movies. I concede that they are cheesy, yet they are also fun, heartwarming, and a rare occasion when my wife and I can enjoy some quality TV time together.

In watching countless Hallmark holiday movies, I’ve noticed a few trends that will make you a better leader. I encourage you to view a few of these television gems, but before you do, here are three lessons to keep in mind as you enjoy this holiday tradition.

Santa isn’t the only one who is predictable

All of the Hallmark holiday movies tell the same basic story. The main character tends to be self-centered, ambitious, and/or has misaligned priorities. Through the course of two hours, they realize their shortcomings and make the right decision just in time for Christmas Eve or, if it’s a real nail-biter, Christmas Day.

Before you minimize the power of a fairly repetitive formula, let’s examine Google’s hiring criteria. In their tens of thousands of data points related to on-the-job success, Google determined that the most important character trait of a leader is predictability. This may not sound exciting, but Google’s evidence-based approach found that a predictable, consistent leader can more effectively remove roadblocks from their employees’ path. Employees are then able to grasp “that within certain parameters, they can do whatever they want.”

“If a leader is consistent, people on their teams experience tremendous freedom, [but if] your manager is all over the place, you’re never going to know what you can do, and you’re going to experience it as very restrictive.”—Laszlo Bock, SVP of People Operations at Google

Where are your fellow elves?

As our main character goes through their transformation, they are always surrounded by a core support system. There’s the sassy co-worker/best friend, the demanding but lovable boss, the cute kid (typically the child of the love interest or an orphan), and the seemingly irrelevant elderly wise person. Each plays a role in pushing our hero closer to the finish line—the best friend forces the workaholic to go to the “big party,” the boss provides focus, the kid brings heart, and the elder provides poignant advice when the main character loses his/her way (which always happens in the last 20 minutes of the movie).

Maintaining a solid support system is not just a holiday movie storytelling trope. A classic study suggests that for the “leadership dream” to be realized, we must construct and sustain a group of people who believe in, challenge, and encourage our success. These individuals are not “yes-men” or subordinates, but allies and peers who have the freedom to provide truthful but less-than-popular feedback.

Barrel through like a flying sleigh in Manhattan

The main character of every holiday movie always has some type of “last chance” performance on the line. This may be a sales pitch meeting to close a new account, an article deadline for their newspaper/magazine, or the big city council meeting to save the foster home. The stakes are high and one flub will be a calamity.  Spoiler alert: they always persevere and come out on top.

If you want the same outcomes as our hero, there are only two things to remember. One, you need inspiration. The first half of the movie delivers the motivation needed to re-prioritize, enthuse, and give focus. Then it takes work. The movies illustrate this through an angst-ridden montage of crumpled papers, debates in front of a chalkboard, and a late night marathon session of frantic labor all with a classic R&B soundtrack. You don’t need to be so dramatic, but when the pressure is on, you must be able to channel your anxiety into constructive energy.

Becoming a better leader does not need to rely on the miracles of the holiday season.  Sure, we could get into the different genres of Christmas movies—“Santa Claus is real and needs your help” or “I woke up as a younger/older version of myself”—but I recommend starting your holiday movie experience with a more grounded setting. Look for one starring Candace Cameron Bure, Lori Loughlin, or any one of your favorite 1980/90s sitcom legends. Then sit back with your hot cocoa, put your feet up, and let the leadership lessons flow.

This is How Google Redefines Performance Management

When it comes to unprecedented scale of success and growth, one company reigns supreme: Google. Started as a research project in 1996 by then PhD students Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Stanford University, Google has become a multinational technology company with industry leadership in Internet-related services and products. Between its foundation as a company in 1998 and now, Google has gone through many transformations (the most recent one of which is its reorganization as a holding company named (Alphabet Inc.). But one thing remained a constant at the Internet giant: Its commitment to employee satisfaction and engagement.

Google’s commitment to its employees can explain why the company has topped the Great Place to Work list in 2013 and 2014, and it has remained in the top five in the preceding years. A closer look reveals another important factor in this victory: Google’s carefully constructed and truly nurturing performance management system.

How Google Works

In 2014, Google Executive Chairman and ex-CEO Eric Schmidt and former Senior Vice President of Products Jonathan Rosenberg wrote a book about how Google operates its organization. Titled “How Google Works,” the book provides great insights into corporate culture, strategy, talent, decision-making, communication, innovation, and dealing with disruption.

The authors admit that technology now defines and shapes almost every business sector. The influence of technology is causing massive changes across many businesses to a degree that the word “disruption” has become commonplace. These conditions in the world of work has created a new segment of professionals, named “smart creatives” by the authors. Here is how they are defined:

  • They are product professionals who bring together technical and business expertise with creativity.
  • They are not easily fooled by traditional motivators, such as compensation and bonuses.
  • They feel the need to care about their workplace and what they are doing.
  • They do not like formal business plans and strict schedules.

Attracting and hiring smart creatives is a skill in itself. The authors suggest that creating successful products and ideas based on unique technical insights is the first step. Having the focus on growth instead of revenue and keeping an eye on the competition are the other steps to maintaining a successful, original venture that would attract smart creatives.

However, the hardest part is retaining smart creatives once they are hired. Since they are not necessarily motivated by high salaries, smart creatives will not hesitate to quit a job that does not add value to their personal and professional growth. Google does this through its unique workplace culture and successful performance management system.

How Does Performance Management Work at Google?

Performance reviews are customized to provide great results for Google’s smart creatives. Senior Vice President of People Operations Laszlo Bock provides great learnings about their performance management in his book titled “Work Rules.” Googlers first identify a group of peer reviewers for each employee, which also includes co-workers that are junior to them. Google abolished numerical ratings in April 2014, so each Googler are now subjected to a five-point scale ranging from “needs improvement” to “superb.” Carried out semi-annually, peer reviewers are asked to state one thing the reviewee should do more of and one thing that they can do in a different way.

After the feedback cycle, managers come together to take a look at these peer reviews. The main aim is to prevent bias in feedback by asking each manager to justify their decisions to each other. Managers are informed about potential obstacles to objective feedback, one of which is the tendency to overemphasize an employee’s most recent performance.

By keeping these obstacles in mind, managers decide on the final evaluation of an employee. Summaries of these assessments are shared semi-annually and compared to a set of examples to justify the evaluation. Employees are then informed of their compensation, however compensation is decided separately from the evaluation taking place during the reviews. Google keeps pay discussions separate from and peer feedback with an aim to provide the right motivation to their employees, which is to grow and contribute to Google’s success.


Research done by Edward L. Deci, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, sheds light on the effects that two types of motivation have on achieving goals. Deci’s research indicate that when someone is motivated using an external reward such as money, their motivation tended to decrease. By contrast, when they are motivated by verbal reinforcement and positive feedback, their motivation increased.

This in line with what Google pursues with its performance management. Bock, et al. understand the importance of motivating their smart creatives with right initiatives and provide enough freedom for their ideas to flourish and become the next big thing at Google.

The ultimate goal of performance management systems should always be retaining talented employees by keeping them fulfilled and enabling their growth. Google seems to get it right with its carefully thought performance management. A vital part of why performance management works well at Google is its transparency. The company keeps performance data of everyone accessible—including the CEOs Page and Brin. This way, Google manages to increase credibility and keep employee engagement on track.

Apart from quarterly, semi-annually, and annually conducted performance reviews, Google’s next step should be enabling continuous feedback between peers. This way, managers can overcome evaluation bias much more easily as there will be hard proof of employee’s performance over a given period.

It’s a fact that employee Feedback apps are on the rise and leading companies are adopting them considering how cost effective they are. By just implementing a solution similar to Impraise, Google can engage its smart creatives much better by providing them with complete ownership of their own development.

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A Comprehensive Guide To Recruiting on Google+

One of the biggest advantages that Google+ has for recruiters is that the social media platform is run by Google. This means that any content being shared on that platform gets search engine optimised treatment in Google search results. It is also free to use, has more active users than LinkedIn, its profiles offer rich data regarding its users and it has access to highly valuable candidate niches. From a recruiting perspective, these features make Google+ a powerhouse for finding and engaging with talent. So, why are so many recruiters passing on the opportunity? This may well come down to a simple lack of knowledge about how to recruit on Google+.

In this article, we hope to inform you of the various ways that you can successfully use Google+ in your recruitment strategy.

We have teamed up with TalentCulture to help inform recruiters about the essentials of recruiting on Google+. Both our companies are social recruiting advocates and we wanted to help accelerate the adoption of Google+ by recruiters. Once you’re up and running on Google+ do follow us for more insights like these! (Social-Hire here and TalentCulture here)

How To Recruit on Google+ by in partnership with TalentCulture

An Overlooked Goldmine of Talent

Contributing to the slow uptake of Google+ is the question from recruiters as to whether it can help them hit their recruiting targets. Let’s start off by addressing this concern.

Google+’s potential reach is second only to Facebook, with a total user base of over 1 billion people. There is more of a chance that candidates will respond to your approaches or updates in a prompt manner on Google+ rather than LinkedIn because its active user base is considerably greater – and users receive their Google+ notifications whenever they visit a Google-owned site, including Google Search, Gmail, YouTube, etc.

By using Google+, recruiters have access to some extremely valuable candidate niches. As you can see by using the CircleCount tool to research user demographics, Google+ has been strongly adopted by IT professionals and students, to name just a couple prominent audiences on the platform.

Not all users have filled out their social media profiles as thoroughly as they have done on job boards or LinkedIn, but a recruiter can still garner a lot of information about these candidates. Recruiters can see the content they have shared, look at the communities they are active in and then find ways to engage candidates most effectively.

Is recruiting on Google+ starting to sound more appealing, but you have become drawn to LinkedIn’s enterprise tools? It’s true that Google+ will seem arduous and time consuming by comparison, if you just want to research a long list of candidates to approach and then quickly fire off messages to target candidates. However, adding Google+ to your recruiting toolset is absolutely essential if your company’s success depends on reaching a higher proportion of those targets, and on reaching candidates who are absent from – or overlooked – on LinkedIn.

There two main approaches that you can take here:

      • Building Your Recruiting Brand on Google+
      • Sourcing Candidates on Google+

I will be concentrating on the first of these and suggesting articles that cover the sourcing angle. But first, you must set up your Google+ profile.

Setting Up Your Google+ Profiles

Managing a presence on Google+ is similar to managing one on LinkedIn. Individual recruiters can manage their own profiles and be active on the site in their own right. Company brands can also manage their own company profiles and recruiting presence on Google+.

Company profiles on Google+ can do almost everything that individual profiles can do. As a company or recruiting brand, you can be active in communities (similar to “groups”), you can circle other people (similar to “following”), comment on their posts and +1 them (similar to giving something a ‘like’).

As we will talk about in a later section, this allows you to be build your recruiting brand’s following. On LinkedIn, this can only be done through paid advertising. This difference is particularly significant for any recruiters who are operating on a limited budget. Since company profiles elicit a different reaction from people than a personal recruiter profile, it is well worth investing the time to create and maintain both.

The first course of action to take here is to set up both your individual and your company recruiting profiles. After that initial set up, we will want to better understand how Google+ works so that we can leverage these profiles to attract and win over new candidates and clients.

There have been many fantastic posts written about how to create a visually appealing, keyword optimised and targeted profile. Therefore, in the interest of brevity, I would direct those who need help with setting up profiles to the following excellent resources:

>> For individual recruiters: How to create a Google+ profile

– see the excellent step-by-step walkthrough on Google+ and further ideas in this Google+ profile tips post by Hallam Internet

>> For recruiting or employer brands: How to create a Google+ company page

– again the company page walkthrough on Google+ is a great place to start and you will also find this video by Google+ expert Martin Shervington a helpful resource.

For now, let’s turn our attention to some of the basics you’ll need to know once you’ve created your profiles.

Recruiting on Google+: The Basics

Get organised. Google+ gives you the ability to follow people in a manner that allows you to be hyper targeted (in Google terminology, this is called “circling” someone…). On your profile (under ‘People’) you can create an unlimited number of circles and name them in the manner you choose. Other people on Google+ know when you have circled them, but they don’t know the name of the circle or circles you put them into.

Recruiters can therefore group contacts into circles by client, job title… or indeed in any other way that will help you to most productively organise and engage with your contacts.

Once you have categorized your contacts into circles, then you can view your homepage and filter to show only updates from a certain circle. When you share updates, you can choose to share them only with certain circles. This is one way to tailor Google+ to your business’s needs at any point in time.

Be smart. Like LinkedIn or Twitter, the majority of profiles you will visit on Google+ are not “active” users of the site. As with all social platforms, you always have to be monitoring what you’re doing to see if you are reaching real engaged users or simply disappearing into the Google+ abyss.

In my experience, active users on Google+ typically respond or react in a matter of hours which is a huge advantage for the platform. This is a true breath of fresh air for anyone who has become tired of waiting for a response on LinkedIn, only to get one months later!

Notifications play a major factor in this. A logged in Google+ user sees their notifications flag every time they visit Google, YouTube, Gmail … or any of Google’s other web services. This makes it hard, for most business people, to go through a day’s work without seeing these notifications at various points in the day.

Get Noticed on Google+

The notifications feature is an important part of the user’s experience on G+. If we want to be noticed, we must understand what triggers our activities appearing in someone else’s notifications stream, in a way that’s natural and appealing – rather than too eager or spammy.

The following are worth taking note of:

  • When you add someone to your circles or add them back (reciprocating them having added you), it will appear in notifications.
  • Commenting on someone’s post, resharing their content or +1’ing a post will appear in notifications – of these, comments are most likely to be noticed.
  • +1’ing a comment that someone has made will appear in notifications and is also a great way of acknowledging those whom are giving life to a discussion. This is also good for acknowledging that you have seen a comment someone has left you.
  • Inviting your circles to join a community or to attend an event or live video broadcast (hangout on air) will appear in notifications.
  • A summary of all new posts into a community will appear in community members’ notifications
  • Sharing a post with specific circles (rather than just publicly) results in your introduction to the post appearing in the notifications of those you targeted.

In this last point, I want to stress that many of the people who have circled you will see your publicly shared posts, as active users tend to check their homepage frequently. Sharing with specific circles, thereby bringing the post into someone’s notifications, can become tiresome if done too frequently. Because of that, we recommend only doing this for your most valuable posts (by which I mean “valuable” for your audience rather than valuable for yourself) or you risk losing or tuning out your followers.

Now that we have established how you can increase visibility with your profiles, let’s focus next on how you can leverage this to grow a strong candidate following – for either yourself as an individual recruiter, or for your employer brand page.

Build A Compelling Recruiting Brand on Google

It is possible to grow a following – and generate engagement – on Google+ quickly. This interactive chart (thanks again Circlecount) shows how my own profile grew at a phenomenal rate in the 10 months after I embarked on building a Google+ presence. Once I began to put the right approach in place, you will notice that both my follower count and the engagement on my posts accelerated dramatically.

On any social platform, my recipe for success is generally as follows:

  1. Build profiles that are filled with valuable insights and quality content which give the people who come across them a compelling reason to follow you.
  2. Figure out ways to identify the users on that social platform who are 1) active, 2) interested in the things your profile will become known for and, ideally, 3) already demonstrating that they like to share and comment on other people’s posts.
  3. Take the time to interact with your followers and fellow group / community members so that you give your profiles a real sense of personality and your followers feel that they “belong” to a community.

Creating profiles that are valuable to your target audience (1) is not specific to Google+. If you need help understanding this – and it should be part of your overall social media recruiting strategy – I suggest that you read through a recent guest post I wrote for Totaljobs.

Engaging with followers once you have won them (3) is also not specific to Google+. However, the essential principle on any social platform is that the more personal interactions someone has with your recruiting brand (or with you as an individual recruiter), the more inclined they will be to look out for – and engage with – your future updates.

Identifying the right people to try and engage with (2) is the crucial part. This is true on all social platforms, but particularly so on Google+ where the overwhelming majority of users are only on the network occasionally. (Google+ and Twitter are similar in this respect).

My suggestion for Google+ is the same I have for Twitter: begin searching Google+ for the type of content that you plan on sharing and any related hashtags. For example, a search for the URL on Google+ will return links of content from that website – and all the people who have +1’d the content, re-shared it, or commented on it. By taking this approach, we learn valuable information about our audience. We know the kinds of content these people are interested in, we know they are active on Google+ and we know that they are the types of users who will engage with other people’s content. You will soon be circling people whom are likely to circle you back, be interested in the content that you are sharing and inclined to re-share your posts.

Be Visual and Show Your Human Side

A good way to keep up with the types of content that are users are responding to the most is to follow the “What’s Hot” section of Google+. The posts that are generating strong reactions (at the time of writing this) incorporate striking or entertaining visuals. Similarly, occasional posts that reveal your personality or that show that your brand has a human side are also strong performers. Here’s a recent example from my own profile which combines both these points and has attracted a lot of shares and interest.

Having made this generalisation, be sure to monitor your activity in order to identify what is working well for you and what is not. Also understand that each Google+ Community has its own personality. Some are particularly vibrant, while others are subdued. Manage and nurture them by always trying to adjust your approach to reflect what’s producing results. If you would like some Google+ Communities to get you started, I recommend TalentCulture’s World of Work community for those working in Recruiting / Talent / HR; our Social-Hire Job Search Advice + Recruiter Contacts community; Andy Headworth’s Recruiting with Google+ community as a specialist recruiter help forum and the Plus Your Business! community for broader Google+ help and insights.

It is only by monitoring reactions to what you are posting – and where you are posting it – that you will be in a position to adjust your strategy and maximise your effectiveness. You cannot assume that you can just replicate what is working well on LinkedIn. Your strategy must be tailor-made for each platform and target audience.

Finding Talent on Google+

The topic of sourcing candidates on Google+ has been discussed by those in the recruitment industry thoroughly and since others have more expertise in this topic than I do, I will simply guide you to some recommended resources. To get a feel for the types of candidates you could reach out to on Google+, it is certainly worth taking a few minutes to have a play with Social-Hire’s candidate search tool.

For those who are serious about sourcing and want to take this to the next level, I recommend that you take a look at SourceCon’s brilliant Everything You Need to Know to Source Candidates on Google+. For a shorter read, you could turn to point 3 of Andy Headworth’s 10 Ways To Use Google Plus For Recruitment.

Concluding Remarks

In sharing these experiences and insights, I hope to have encouraged you to seriously consider using Google+ as a recruiting tool. With the information in this article, I also hope that I have made it easier for you to get started and to figure out how to make Google+ a powerful part of your wider recruitment branding (and sourcing) strategy. If you need more help getting your social strategy worked out, you are always welcome to schedule a call with us to walk through the things that you could be doing differently and more effectively as a recruiting team or recruitment business. Otherwise, I look forward to engaging with you on Google+ in the coming weeks!


photo credit: ePublicist via photopin cc

10 Reasons Why Your Business Should Be On Google+

Editor’s Note: Google+ Is in the news today due to its most vocal internal champion leaving Google. Many tech pundits are wondering what will happen to the social network, with most postulating it will shift to more of a platform for Android devices and less of a social network. It is an interesting time to be using the service and TalentCulture will continue to watch its evolution closely. Read more here and join our Google+ Community.

1. Be Discovered. Google is the most used search engine in the world. In 2013 Google search averaged 5,922,000,000 searches per day. Google helps people find what they’re looking for.

2. Be Seen. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world averaging three billion searches every month. Google owns YouTube. G+ Hangouts On Air stream on G+ and YouTube at the same time.

3. Be Friendly. G+ has 540 million active users and 1.15 billion users. (Don’t think that the active users to actual accounts ratio is way off. Twitter has 883 million accounts with 232 million active users. ) You can use G+ to post, plus one, instant message and video chat.

4. Be Found. Google Maps is the most popular smart phone app in the world A verified G+ local business page insures that you show up on Google Maps, along with photos, reviews and ratings. Showcase your business with a virtual interior and exterior tour and connect your customers to your G+ page and your website.

5. Be Widgeted. Gmail is the most widely-used email provider. Ever. If you enable the G+ Gmail Widget, your clients/customers can follow you on G+ and engage with your brand/business there as well.

6. Be Strategic. G+ Local Business Pages can connect their Adwords Express account to their G+ page. Your business will be marked with a blue pin on Google Maps and your ad can connect to your G+ business page or your website. Adwords Express is truly designed for local brick and mortars such as restaurants, service providers, hotels and retail outlets.

7. Be Authoritative. Activating Google Authorship confirms that you are the originator of your post content. Authorship grabs your G+ profile photo, includes a portion of your post, and displays how many people have you in their G+ circles.

8. Be Plussed. Add a Google plus one button to your business website. As those plus ones add up so does your visibility. Remember, Google favors Google. Having your business website plus-oned can facilitate your spot on the coveted Google Local Carousel.

9. Be Charismatic. Use the Hangouts On Air to provide content for your YouTube channel, all your social media channels, and your website. You get a shareable link. You can display your logo, list your website and answer questions from those watching the event live. You can even edit and repurpose the video. Plus, you can advertise your HOA within G+ as an event and events are now searchable.

10. Be Patient. You aren’t going to know every nuance of G+ overnight. If you think you can post on The Plus in the same manner you post on all your other social media, you can’t. G+ requires finesse. It is a game changer.

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