From CorpBlawg, October 19, 2006

Telling it to the mountain

The mountain, in the following example, being a corporation.I’ve been meaning to write a quick review of Honeywell’s corporate blog for quite a while now. The manufacturing giant’s bloggy side is represented by a trio: Tamara N. (HR), Kara R. (Marketing) and Jon K. (Integrated Supply Chain). Strangely, the three aren’t confident enough to share their last names with us, though on the plus side they have been blogging for well over a year.Tamara, Kara and Jon obviously have other duties apart from blogging, and I’m sure they do their best to keep it up, but it shows that they (or, more precisely, Honeywell) consider the blog a peripheral activity. Jon hasn’t posted in a month and the other two often leave comments unanswered for many days. Comments questions are left without any follow-up relatively often.Take this one from a recent post by Tamara:on Tuesday, October 10, Jason Vagnozzi said


Hey Tamara, it is great to hear you are having a positive experience at honeywell. Do you have any recommendations on how to best pursue a job within Honeywell? I applied on the website but never heard back.

He hasn’t heard back this time either (unless they contacted him through email).

Instead advice is often untargeted, addressing applicants in general. Tamara writes:

One of the key things about applying and getting in to a company such as Honeywell strongly depends on your ability to market yourself. I think sometimes we as individuals do not really look at ourselves as our key product that we need to make attractive to the company.

While obviously the ability to market yourself well is extremely valuable, the tone makes the music here. Let’s pretend I’m interested in working for Honeywell. How could this sound to me?

a) A company “such as Honeywell” – i.e. a large and very profitable business – surely does not need to do anything do attract skilled and innovative people.

The most dedicated, hard-working and motivated people in question will flock to us because we’re great. We don’t have to move, you do.

b) When Honeywell hires me, they’re looking to make a deal.

Should I be honest about my strengths and weaknesses?
No, after all I’m supposed to “make myself attractive”.

Do I need to be loyal? Can I expect loyalty from the company?
Hardly, after all I’m an asset and not a person, thus I can and will be replaced if something better comes along.

Note that is neither what I’m thinking, nor is it what Tamara intended to say. But how hard is it for a college grad to read it that way? Will someone genuinely interested in working for Honeywell find this helpful? Perhaps my view is subjective here, but I assume most people know that a company hires them for their ability to contribute to increasing the company’s revenue. But spelling it out like that is a lot like telling the widow that her husband is dead.

From the same post:

Technology has helped many companies to add another screening process to decrease the non-value added transactional element of HR and to quickly determine whether or not a candidate is a good fit for both the company culture and job.

The exchange with an applicant – granted, perhaps one who isn’t suitable, has a horrific criminal record, can’t read or write etc – is the non-value added transactional element of HR. This may sound just perfect in business school. But if you’re the non-value added element you might consider bothering someone else and saving Honeywell the trouble of reading your application.

Again, I am being deliberately touchy here. But as anecdotal evidence, I present the spontaneous judgment of a friend who works for a major software company:

“It basically says that the HR person’s job is bunk”.

Touché.

Another example:

on Wednesday, October 04, Jani said

Hi Tamara!
I applied for an Admin. Assistant position at Honeywell via website last week Tuesday. A week later, I have not heard back. In your experience, in HR, do you recommend calling the company at this point to follow up and schedule an interview? If so, what is the best way to approach this?
Looking forward to your advice.
Best regards,
Jani

on Monday, October 09, Tamara said

Hi Jani,

With the way companies use technology these days, calling to follow up is not a good way to make contact about your application these days as you may be sent to a call center, general number, etc. Here at Honeywell, we generally have a posting deadline for our open positions, after which you may be contacted by someone from Staffing/Recruiting based on whether or not you meet the basic qualifications of the position. For critical positions there might be a faster response time than other positions – so my recommendation would be to just be patient and you will get a response shortly after the posting deadline has expired. Good luck and also if there are other positions which meet your requirements on the website, there is nothing preventing you from applying to some more.

Hmmm, is it companies these days that are rerouting job applicants to Indian call centers or is that specifically Honeywell’s approach? If yes, the honesty is appreciated but needless to say, it doesn’t look good. The way companies use technology suggests to me they use it mostly to insulate themselves, which is probably accurate but not terribly flattering.

Now, you might come to the conclusion that my goal is to chastise Tamara or her employer for their aloof attitude towards potential employees with this. It isn’t. Because I have absolutely no reason to believe that this has anything to do with their attitude, but instead everything to do with communicative competence. People who visit corporate blogs will read a post and attached comments and interpret it as an exchange. What happens when you hang up on someone on the phone? What would happen if you asked a salesperson about his product and he turned around to talk to someone else? Comment questions without responses are the equivalent of that high school play where you forgot your lines, only that someone has taped this play and put it on YouTube for all the world to see.

Perhaps this was less relevant in previous times. I’d argue that it has always been relevant, but maybe less so when labor was cheaper, simpler and more plentiful. But it seems that talent is becoming a scarce and embattled resource and companies can absolutely not afford to appear aloof, insulated and indifferent to people’s concerns if they want to get the best professionals on board.

They will have to get up on that stage, forget their lines and learn to improvise.

Edit: I just realized that I know a blogging HR expert. Any thoughts on this, Heather?