Hung Lee on recruiting in the modern age, the brain, and living in an agile world

Hung Lee Recruiting Brainfood and Workshape

VtV Coalition

Garry Turner  0:00  

Morning, Garry, how are you doing? I’m very well so how are you?

Hung Lee  0:19  

I’m very well, thank you.

Garry Turner  0:22  

As we get going for those that don’t know you, in terms of my listeners, would you mind just giving a brief introduction to who you are, what you do for work.

What are you passionate about?

Yeah, I mean, firstly, I guess I’m still a recruiter. So I’ve always been a person who has gone into recruitment in some way. Now going back, you know, 15, 16 years or more, but started off as an agency recruiter, then went into consultancy, then went in house, then launched a recruiting tech product, and that’s Workshape. And now I’ve kind of launched a media business with Recruiting Brainfood, which is a newsletter focused on the talent community So, see, I’ve always been in and around the talent space now doing various things, wearing different hats and sitting in different seats.

Garry Turner  0:49  

That’s amazing. And how does that Recruiting Brainfood come about for you? There’s somebody asked if somebody asked you for it, or is it something you just thought, actually, this could be helpful?

Hung Lee  1:18  

You know what? I had a personal problem. I had a lot of personal problems. One personal problem I had was that I just could not deal with all of the noise of the internet, even though I encountered a lot of good content, great solid pieces and so on, but I found I couldn’t consume them all consistently, you know, identify them because the internet simply got too noisy too big. So Recruiting Brainfood is really my attempt to make the internet smaller. It’s me thinking, you know what, probably other people in the recruitment industry also have the same experience with being massively distracted, there’s no way we can actually find all the best stuff. 

What if I just collected it all together in a week and sent a weekly email to people? They might be interested in sharing what I’m reading right now? So that’s basically what Recruiting Brainfood is. It’s a curated newsletter 10 to 15 articles per week. And it goes out to people in the recruitment and HR worlds. And it’s, you know what I think the interesting things that you got to think about this week.

Garry Turner  2:25  

Well, look, I’m a subscriber to that. So again, thank you publicly for the work you do on this.

The internet is too noisy without a doubt. It’s a great tool, but it’s also a barrier at times.

Hung Lee  2:34  

It is and it’s an overwhelming one and we’re responsible for it. You know, I’m not one of these rail against big tech or whatever, the noise is created by us. You know, we’re the ones tweeting the posting, doing all this type of stuff. And it is hugely distracting and, you know, what we’ve got to do is to try and find some quiet spaces to do that. Which again, why you know, the reason why, you know,  Brainfood comes out at a regular cadence on a Sunday morning. It’s because that was my quiet time. You know, and I know on Sunday morning, generally speaking, I’m not going to be disturbed by anybody else. And that’s when I can do a little bit of reading. So it’s like identifying the gaps in the week that people have and then thinking, right, this is the right time for people to do a little bit more of the deep thinking than perhaps we do. We don’t do enough in this kind of distracted world that we’re in right now. 

Garry Turner  3:32  

And just to take you back to a little bit of your education if you may, so I’m really interested if you mentioned your sort of career recruiter now, own tech products, own curation. Where did that start from? So I’m really interested in your background, you have this sort of Master’s in Anthropology so that the people’s always been in your DNA?

‘I think culture has become really a mainstream term of the last 18 months or so, where companies are really thinking about values, thinking about the behaviours and so on, how do you build a culture, how do you grow it?’

Hung Lee

Hung Lee  3:47  

Yeah, I mean, I didn’t realise it at the time. So when I was studying, I was a bit like a teenage hippie really, and I kind of, you know, went into the world of academia with a very strong conviction of never getting a job. I was like, No, I want to check out of the market economy and go live in the jungle somewhere. That was a genuine idea. And I just said, right. I’m really interested in how organisations operate. You know, what is the operating system of an organisation? Why do certain groups of people behave in this way compared to others, and I was drawn to anthropology for that reason. 

Now, after four years of studying various tribes in Papua New Guinea and South America and so on, I became kind of really less interested in the Exotica and more interested in the anthropology that was happening in big cities, urban anthropology, because it became clear to me that actually a lot of the things that we go out, to study out there are actually processes that occur in here in the world we’re in and anthropology is really fantastic for me to just take that skill set and apply it to the modern world, the city world that that I’m part of So that’s basically, you know, maybe there’s a dotted line somewhere from there to the world of recruiting because, you know, it is about finding the right organisation, the right fit, why do certain businesses or groups of people within those businesses behave in this way? And that’s an enduring fascination for me, I think.

What were the particular aspects of your studies that you could transfer, since you looked at those tribes in Papua New Guinea?

Hung Lee  5:35  

So, one of the main things is how do you create community? You know, how are community bonds actually made and maintained? And this actually applies directly, I think, in company culture. Like, I think culture has become really a mainstream term of the last 18 months or so, where companies are really thinking about values, thinking about the behaviours and so on, how do you build a culture, how do you grow it? And also, how do you create a sort of brand agnostic cultures, cultures that kind of go across companies, and these kind of mini social movements that that are there, which, in fact, I apply, I understand Brainfood to be part of that, you know, this is kind of an agnostic culture of people that consume this content.

So, you know, I don’t want to come out and say, oh, here’s how you create culture. But there are certain principles and certain rules that seem to be universal. And some of them might not be too happy listening for us, you know, the kind of tough to kind of think about sometimes and tough to articulate, but one of the things that anthropology does give us the moral obligation to articulate these things because the things are unsaid and then kind of incubate the wrong way.

And they can express themselves in a way that perhaps is not intelligent or not nuanced enough. So a quick example before we lose the listeners into abstraction is okay, how do you create community. Number one, sadly enough communities are actually made at the boundary. Like you need to actually exclude people in order for the community to exist. Now, that’s a very tough thing to think about. And instinctively, you know, with my moral values, my moral code and so on, I immediately think wow, that’s that’s actually quite bad, isn’t it? 

Hung Lee Recruiting Brainfood Workshape

But when you think about how cultures actually evolve, they’re really there as a defence mechanism, they’re there to basically get a group of people together in usually a hostile environment, usually an environment where threats from the environment directly and also from other groups and other communities and so on. And the way in which you kind of create this community and keep it strong is to say, here are our rules, this is what we do. And this is how we survive, and all the members of that community need to demonstrate these rules and demonstrate these values. Otherwise, are you really with us?

Now, you can see these expressed in a really negative way, whenever you get to the political level, at national level. You know, for instance, when you saw, let’s say, 911, one of the classic examples of that terrible incident was when George Bush came out and he very quickly said, Look, are you with us are you against this? And that was an attempt really to eliminate any kind of nuance, but to draw a very clear line to say, who is out and who is in and that is, community-creating technique. Now, you do that for good or ill. But that is how you create community.

Garry Turner  9:04  

That’s really fascinating. So one of the one of the aspects of this podcast where we get back to, I want to explore your business a bit more as well. But part of the  background of this podcast is actually around inclusion. Actually, there’s a big push on inclusion and diversity.

What’s your take on inclusion, diversity as a theme of work right now, based on what you’ve just described?

Hung Lee  9:45  

I personally think these things are not necessarily in conflict. Because the truth is, the world is messy. And one of the things that I’ve certainly learned whether it’s from anthropology or elsewhere, is that absolutism is the enemy.

Anybody who gets an idea and then absolutely must say, No, there’s no conditions around that. There’s no exceptions to this rule. They’re the people that actually become fanatics, because they can’t deal with the messy world. They can’t deal with the reality. That it isn’t perfect. So I would say, inclusion is a hugely important idea, I’m very pleased that it’s now become the dominant partner of the diversity and inclusion sort of duo. As I think it’s very important, we create environments where people genuinely feel included as default, rather than, you know, potentially excluded as default. But if we think about the inclusivity, it isn’t complete or comprehensive. There are people that we decide to exclude. For instance, let’s say I don’t want to include Nazis into my company.

‘How do you create a sort of brand agnostic cultures, cultures that kind of go across companies, and these kind of mini social movements?’

Hung Lee

If you want to dive into inclusivity there’s a paradox of tolerance, right? So ultimately, I need to make a rule somewhere, I need to draw the line somewhere and I do draw that line, and therefore that community’s inclusive culture is still built on the boundary. Like who comes in and who doesn’t. You know what, no Nazis in my company, sorry. And also if you’re a terrorist sympathiser, also, no, no, no, no, no truck in my business or anything I do kind of excluded them really. But you know what, I’m confident that’s the right thing to do. So inclusivity is not absolute. It is a set of values where you want to say, look, here’s where I think we want to be as a business. And these could be any types of values that you might see that you want to believe in. And then you kind of create a culture where as many people that you want to adhere to those values feel welcome in that.

‘I think that the error that a lot of companies have is there’s been a kind of a gap between the rhetoric and the reality of it (inclusion).’

hung Lee

I think that the error that a lot of companies have is there’s been a kind of a gap between the rhetoric and the reality of it. You know, most companies, we’ve previously thought, of course we are inclusive, because you know what, we’re not judging people in terms of their gender. We’re not judging people in terms of their race. We don’t care about their religious beliefs and so on. But they’re not inclusive, because they’ll do things, they’ll also be rituals within their business that actually kind of don’t include those people.

Great example would be, oh, let’s go on a golf weekend, Gary. Right. Who the hell plays golf? Basically, middle class white men, right? So it’s an example of where there’s a gap between rhetoric and reality, where if you do a corporate event or something of that type. And are you thinking about all of the population in your business? Or you are just thinking about people who look and seem like you? And that’s a great example of an unconsciously non-inclusive culture. So yeah, I think I value inclusivity because we do need to close the gap between rhetoric and reality, but at a deeper level, there is a tension between absolute inclusivity. And you know, how the real world works.

Garry Turner  13:06  

That’s wonderful. That’s so succinct. Now I can see where you get the time to do Recruiting Brainfood and do your day job. I love it. I love it. It’s really interesting. I want to pick up on that sort of behaviour piece, actually. So you gave a fantastic talk last year at one of the recruitment, expos. And he spoke when he was introducing your product workshop, and we’ll talk a bit more about that one. Yeah, the tools change the way we behave. I’m really, really interested. Do you mind expanding on that a little bit for the listeners?

Hung Lee  13:39  

Yeah. So I think it was the talk like, let’s, let’s talk about the toolmakers in the sense that basically, there’s a dynamic between the tooling we use and how our minds work. You know, that when we invented writing, for instance, as a very early technology, that reprogrammed how our brains operated, because suddenly you had a way to record stuff that you previously had to remember in your mind. But actually, you could outsource it into a tablet or a papyrus or something like that. And it altered the ways in which we think. And even to this day, when people do MRI scans of people who are writing compared to when they’re talking, they’re actually activating different parts of their brain. 

‘…the more you use one part basically creates greater density in that area of the brain and actually does alter a lot of the skills that you previously have…There is this dynamic between the tech and the man, or to use more inclusive language, the person. And  yeah, it’s under explored.’

Hung Lee

So from what we know about neuroscience and how the brain works, and how networks and synapses fire, the more you use one part basically creates greater density in that area of the brain and actually does alter a lot of the skills that you previously have, or sort of also alter some of the behaviours perhaps you weren’t aware of. So when we’re looking at things in the modern world, for instance, mobile phones and notifications popping into your inbox, you know, all the social media stuff, the likes that I get on Instagram, all these types of things. Of course, these things are influencing me and influencing my brain in ways in which I probably didn’t design engineer, and no question that it’s doing that. And in fact, if it didn’t do it, then why am I doing any of these things? Right. There is this dynamic between the tech and the man, or to use more inclusive language, the person. And  yeah, it’s under explored.

My own view is that we should embrace it. I know, there’s a lot of people that are intolerant of technology or are kind of disturbed by where technology has taken us at this point. But I do think that these are also people that have removed their own agency from this. You know, we are the ones that are using the tools and we together with technology have got us here. Technology didn’t deliver us to this point. You know, Facebook did not deliver Brexit. Twitter did not deliver Trump. You know, they probably amplified those effects. But you know what? We went out and voted for that. 

So at the end of the day, my position is we need to obviously be more careful about the massively significant effects of technology, let’s be conscious of how it does affect us as individuals and the wider society? Well, let’s take that back. And let’s take that control back in, you know, to use the language of, of some of the more unpleasant folks out there.  Let’s take some of the control back. But let’s own the fact that we made these decisions. We are agents in this as much as we are victims, we can also be those things simultaneously, which I think we are right now.

Garry Turner  16:49  

It’s really interesting actually hearing that you mentioned consciousness. So I think there’s, I think for me so nicely with this amplification of technology, Hung, that it almost releases one of their responsibility and accountability. It’s just easier to be that troll or to hide behind the rhetoric at the moment, for example, for Matt Haig, who’s an author, and he’s been coming out talking about challenging the sort of toxic masculinity and the number of trolls have honestly, none of them have got a face, none of them have got a message.

It’s really interesting to me this lack of accountability behind social media sometimes.

Hung Lee  17:23  

It’s completely lacking in accountability. It’s really quite sophisticated fakery. You know, a lot of these accounts are actually connected to each other. A professional troll will not troll with his own account. He or she and sadly enough, it usually is a he is which again, a fascinating phenomena. You know, why is it gendered? When you think about sort of trolling, these people usually have multiple fake accounts. Now, it is very difficult. But you then extrapolate further, how do you remove trolling? And right now, we’re putting the responsibility on the platform to do that. 

How do you and then suddenly they’re infringing on free speech rights? Because who determines what is acceptable to say? And the way I see it is, you know, the only other alternative to do this is to connect the identity of the person absolutely to the things that that person is saying. But then, we were in Beijing, right? Suddenly, we’re in China. And do we want a scenario where actually, yes, everything I say is absolutely connected to who I am. And there’s all sorts of implications there, which maybe we don’t find welcome either. So yeah, it’s imperfect. And I don’t profess to have the answers. But I think that the first thing you have to do is to control our own behaviour as best we can, and to make sure that, you know we do the right thing.

Good example actually was, and by the way, it’s an interesting example I’m guilty of but I raised this simply because it happened in the last 24 hours. But a friend of mine shared something online, which was definitely fake news. Now, because he came at it, it was quite a strong political opinion, it was definitely there to damage a certain political party, etc. And that’s probably because he strongly believes that this party is a negative thing. So he was happy to then share it without any due diligence on his side. And he’s actually called out on it quite publicly by several people online, and who addressed his sharing with the fake news.

Now, I saw that as progress. I saw that as progress because I would hope that this fellow probably would be more careful about sharing stuff next time and also the fact that other people looked at it and immediately saw, you know what, that’s a little bit suspicious. And then we’re able to counter argue with information, say, look, this image happened from five years ago. It’s actually been doctored in this way you shouldn’t be sending that other lapse. We’re starting to learn how to deal with the fakery with better behaviour. So I think we’re getting there. We’ve just been slapped a little bit over the last three, four years or so. been manipulated, no question. But I think we’re getting wiser to the fact and I do have hope that it’s on us the people that are going to turn this around. It’s not going to be on big tech, definitely is not going to come from government regulation.

Garry Turner  20:42  

A lot of this though, this is really human. Yeah. It is us that created the machines as you said, you know, it is us that use the machines. And I just love that message because the tech is speeding up here, you know, I look at my organization’s implementing Salesforce right now. You know, it’s just getting faster and faster.

I really see that to be more distinctly human and more vulnerable, more aware, more empathetic. I truly see those as like the skills of the future. Is that something you share?

Hung Lee  21:11  

I do share it 100%. I’m very much aligned with Jack Ma on this, you know, where he gave a very famous, it wasn’t even a speech. I think it was an excerpt of a conversation he was recorded doing but he said, You know what we should do? Absolutely, we should accept that the computers are going to out computers, do it better. So what we need to do and really focus on is developing the skills that computers can never do. And this is the empathy This is about the kind of EQ plus IQ combo. This is the idea of having this nuanced thinking that isn’t absolute, you know, dealing with the messiness, which computers can’t really do. They want to compute and apps, you get an equation at the end of it with the results. You know, let the computers do that. 

‘How can we construct a society that isn’t built around productivity, right? It isn’t built around that metric. It’s built instead around, you know, how do we get all of the talents to the optimal capacity.’

Hung Lee

We’ve got to be building those, working on the skills and working on the work that really keeps us human. The question is, how does that then affect the political economy? Because the political economy we currently have or have had for the last couple of hundred years has always been about productivity, meaning, you know, how much hours in compared to value out, value meaning the monetary monetization, right? Monetary value. Now, we might be getting to a point where actually, machines can definitely outwork us and produce a hell of a lot more productivity than any human being. Okay. Well, that’s very, very interesting. So what does that mean for us as human beings? And how can we construct a society that isn’t built around productivity, right? It isn’t built around that metric. It’s built instead around, you know, how do we get all of the talents to the optimal capacity.

You know, I think if everyone can do what they’re meant to do at the optimal level, that’s probably where we need to be, hopefully, we’ll find a way in which we could cater for our basic needs as well as our social needs. Another thing I’ve learned from anthropology actually, is that a lot of the things that drive human behaviour is actually status competition. It’s not necessarily about accumulating material resources, because resources are all methods of communicating status. Now, what happens when actually all of those resources are freely available for everyone?

How then do we create a society where status competition can ensue in a controlled manner or do we accept that maybe we need to get rid of the idea of competing on status and you know, find another way to to procreate, I guess, it comes down to that. There’s some really deep animalistic drivers. Because we are part of the animal kingdom, one of the major flaws of psychology in my mind as a discipline and indeed, all of those social sciences, in many respects, economics and so forth, is that it kind of has been built on a fallacy that we are not part of the natural world. We are absolutely part of the natural world, there’s no distinction between man or beast. And there’s no we are kind of just operating some evolutionary impulses, even though we might rationalise it away in a different manner. So, you know, we need to kind of understand that and then figure out how we can continue to evolve and progress society in such a way that is, you know, least destructive to the most amount of people.

Garry Turner  24:53  

A few things going through my mind actually, as you talk, one is around this, there’s a lot more noise and I think it’s good noise around the evaluation of universal basic income, as a way of actually how do we allow everyone to actually do the work they love, and that drives them they’re passionate about and get away from this rewarding, excuse me, any lawyers out there or bankers, but you know, those roles that don’t actually necessarily give the most to society, and those that are nurses or doctors or, you know, firemen or fire, women tend to get paid much less. So this is something in that model, I think, structurally, that could be a solution, then if that’s something that, that you sort of see as well.

Hung Lee  25:32  

Yeah. UBI, I think is definitely worth the experiment. And I know some people might get going to say, look, that Finland did a limited experiment, and they abandon it and so on. But the idea of UBI is that you don’t abandon it. It can’t ever be an experiment with the timeframe, you simply got to commit. So I think it’s perfectly possible that we do produce enough resources for that. And I think the main critics of UBI are the ones that think over that it leads to people, to fail to do any work. Why would anybody do any work? If you were simply, you know, provisioned with an income. But I think we need to experiment with that. You know, I think most people would do something. Because indolence is not particularly a happy circumstance, I don’t think that’s where joy comes from. You know, the happiest people I see aren’t like sitting on a sofa. In fact, the people sitting on the sofa are some of the most depressed people I know. And I include rich people. Right. So the indolence, I think that the lack of purpose is is actually one of the forcing factors towards people going towards a depressive state.

So I don’t think that’s a risk really, I think it’s a little bit of a little bit of a fake fear really. I’d love to see UBI really rolled out in a in a committed way, and then see how how it might work out. Thankfully, it’s coming into the mainstream, like this would have been even three years ago, a completely far-out idea to say, look, why don’t we just give everyone a stipend every month to make sure that they can survive? That would be completely nuts. Now we’re seeing politicians talk about it. We’ve got a guy called Andrew Yang, who a friend of mine interviewed on his podcast, is going to be Democratic candidate 2020 in the US presidential election, and UBI is one of his platforms. So I think it’s an obvious vote winner as well, right?

So you can see that a lot of people might embrace this particularly as economic insecurity for many parts of the population is becoming more pronounced with tech unemployment. It sort of chips away at the value that humans can potentially provide to the economy. So I think it’s gonna very quickly become a mainstream idea and then let’s see what happens. And I’d be happy to be part of that experiment actually. So, so yeah, let’s bring it on. I think it’s something that is worth the experiment for sure.

Garry Turner  28:12  

Yeah, no, it’s certainly something that resonates, I chatted  with Scott Santens quite quite recently around this topic. And yeah, it just makes so much sense really. And I want to get onto your product a little bit if I may, around Workshape.

What was the seed that was planted in you that made you drive towards Workshape?

Hung Lee  28:40  

You know what, it’s gonna come back to the fact that the world was too noisy again, so there’s probably a general theme that I probably should be a hermit somewhere on an island. But yeah, I was speaking to a friend of mine and we realised that okay, so Workshape is all about helping employees connect with software engineers. This population of people that’s in massively high demand, but they’re so difficult to talk to. And we kind of thought, you know, why are these people so hard to engage with, and it turned out, not because they didn’t care about job discovery. And because you know, like any human being, cared about opportunities that might progress their careers, or making progress and their skills or so forth, it was simply that there was so overwhelmed by them the amount of recruitment messaging they were getting, because the demand was so high, that they literally had just white noise, everything, even at the extent of missing out from opportunities that would they would otherwise embrace. 

‘What if it’s such a noisy environment for this population, is it possible for us to create a platform where we can remove that noise? And could we create a place where all of the noise is gone and only the signal goes through to these people who are actually interested in opportunity?’

Hung Lee

And we just thought to ourselves, you know, what if it’s such a noisy environment for this population, is it possible for us to create a platform where we can remove that noise? And could we create a place where all of the noise is gone and only the signal goes through to these people who are actually interested in opportunity? And that’s where the concept of Workshape came from. It’s actually kind of two innovations. And then number one is the idea of making it quiet, which we do by eliminating search. So very simply, if you provide a searchable database that equals noise, and that equals disengagement, simple as that. So you have to protect the community. Again, we’re talking about barriers here.

You have to protect the community by putting friction in there. Friction on entry, and friction in terms of this in terms of messaging, you can’t message the database. You can only message people that you’ll be matched to and the way in which we do the matching is where we put the visualisation in, because we realised another problem in recruiting is that the artifacts that we use to consider fit are all text based documents in some way. Their CV, their online profiles, their words, basically. Now words are super problematic, Garry, because they have to write and write in a way that your meaning is accurately communicated. And they’re hard to read. Because remember, we’re in a distracted economy, we’re not spending time reading anymore. Read a post in times so gullible. So the amount of time some recruiters spend looking at a CV is anywhere between three and seven seconds depending on what study that you read, that or you probably scan in three seconds, right?
Workshape uses visual prompts to help candidates and employers find a good match

But it occurred to us that this recruiter is not reading really, they’re scanning and they’re looking for patterns real quick, and then making a yes no decision based on that scan. And they do it because it’s a more efficient way of doing it than reading line by line. If you imagine you had to recruit a new force that person’s to read line by line, he or she would be the slowest, most inefficient recruiter ever, they’d get fired. So yes, we have forced this person to scan read this, let’s go quickly, let’s use our intuition, whatever, let’s go get to the person you want to speak to. And then we realise, you know what? A busy person on the other side, a candidate that isn’t an active job seeker. Now, how long is that person spending reading job ads or job copy? I don’t think any more than three, seven seconds view, Garry. If that they’re also making scanning decisions, such decisions really before you do any kind of information processing. So then that occurred to us, you know what, what we’re trying to do here, we’re trying to basically ask people to do things we know they don’t do, you know, read this job ad, read this email, read this CV. No one’s doing any of that. But what if we could actually get rid of the words? You know what, if people aren’t reading words, let’s not use them.

And if people are making decisions based on three seconds or less, that’s our window to communicate fit. And how do we communicate fit in three seconds or less? And the idea of Workshape came about because we realised, you know what? Why don’t we just kind of ask people what it is that they’re most passionate about, based on a diagram, they can model, they could chart the work shape in this visual way. Now, I want to do less of this, more of that, they could do that and then drag and drop the interface and get through that process in 60 seconds or less. They then produce this work shape, the employer does the same. So we’re not asking them to write a job ad. We’re saying, Look, what do you need this person to do? Less of that more of this. And then again, they can draw a shape. And then we use the shape to algorithmically match the two together. And when we do the match, we do some very simple, Garry, we simply overlay the two shapes and create a unified image. And then we communicate that unified shape to both sides and say, Look, you’d be matched. Go have a chat and back. By having the overlay and this combined image, you can see where the alignment is or isn’t and where you need to talk about. And that’s something that people can get in three seconds or less.

I know Workshape targets software developers. Parallels for the whole recruitment market are huge.

Hung Lee  34:24  

No doubt, no doubt. We’re in a vertical. And there’s no question. This could be applied to many other verticals. And in fact, that’s something we’re very open to try and do. So you know, if anybody’s listening here right now, we’re definitely looking for partners in different industries and different segments that may want to use this idea and push it forward. Because one of the things we recognise is that to do a matching product, typically, you can’t do it universally. You can’t do it across the entire universe of people or practical reasons rather than technical reasons, it’s simply going to require too much engineering to do. But what we’ve been able to do is to do it within one segment, but why can’t it be ported to others? But that’s where, you know, I’d love to have a conversation with someone who does have a data set of graduates, let’s say I have a data set of mechanics or nurses or something, or whatever it is, and we could apply the concept to what is probably more of a tech space data right now, and actually transform that into something that actually is a product that can do matching. Maybe also, is a product that can really transform the experience of job discovery for candidates.

Garry Turner  35:44  

It resonates a lot and I’ll actually link you to someone shortly. I was having a conversation literally yesterday around these very topics, because when I see it not only transferring to other sectors and other verticals, there’s such a push myself including many people in my network who are looking for more purpose, more meaning, more impact, more, whatever you want to call it. But so far away from the traditional job spec, the job spec is that it is dead for me, Hung, completely dead. And it’s like, you know what you’re doing? I think is Next Gen. And he’s totally what the world needs and not just tech really, I really mean that.

Hung Lee  36:17  

I really appreciate you saying that Garry, and I agree with you the job spec is to just a hard document to write. And we’ve all tried to write them and it’s not data that we can trust anymore. The problem is that the  writing is hard, Garry. This is why we have professional writers, we have journalists, copywriters, and so on. And yet we’re assuming that hiring managers know how to write or we’re assuming that recruiters know how to write, you don’t which is why we copy paste. You know, copy, paste, replace if you know what, those two functions if you remove them from the universe, I wonder how many job descriptions will actually still exist and that would probably eliminate 99% of them, because most of them are copy pasted. And, again, a big thing for us is that we realise, you know what, what that means is, is that we’re just putting bad information into a system that isn’t accurate. And suddenly, we’re expecting good outcomes from bad information and any engineer would tell you, that’s not gonna happen.

Garry Turner  37:24  

Fascinating. What I really like to do, I’m conscious of time again, talk to you all day, Hung. But I know you’ve got a day job to do or two. So one of the fascinating things which links back to your products, but I really want to touch on this for the listener. You did a wonderful comparison of traditional corporate job specification versus what software engineers and technical sort of specialist for this permanent versus project on site versus remote. Yes. How helpful has that been in sort of developing your business? Is that been a really pivotal part of that sort of having that language and that clarity or maybe. But what are you focusing on?

Hung Lee  38:01  

Honestly, no, Garry. And the reason why is because the defaults on those two parties are actually in opposition.

So the Default is always permanent on site full time. And when we do recruit, or when someone’s putting a hiring plan together, which a lot of your listeners are probably doing now they’re planning for 2019. I assure you, they’re defaulting to or who are permanent hires, you know, who are the full time permanent people we need in our business, they’re building their recruitment strategies around that. And anybody who doesn’t fall into you know, this, this schema is not afforded the same degree of thought and care. They’re considered to be fill-ins or you know, last ditch type per parachuted in contractors or whatever it might be.

But then you speak to the in demand labour force again, we need to be careful because the labour force itself is not a unified group of people. There’s different populations that have different needs and different skills and different kinds of optimal outcomes. But looking at the software engineers  as a population, these are people that are highly skilled and in demand. And in fact, their default is the opposite of what the employers want. They want flexi time, they want to actually know what permanent work means? Does it mean to have to give up my side projects? Does it mean I can’t work for anybody else? Big questions right? On site. Does that mean I have to turn up every day? You know, what does this mean? Why?

So all of the defaults and what was interesting on Workshape for us is that basically all the developers choose the agnostic choice, they say, either or, I want to see all the options. But I’m definitely not committing to a full time permanent on site role straight away. I want to see what other options are out there. And does this company provide me with the flexibility to at least learn something a bit more about it before I make this life changing decision, and actually, Garry, I’ll leave you with this. Basically, a lot of the problems in recruiting tech people is because it’s not about employee branding, per se, although we could improve on that. It’s not about outreach per se, in terms of the message structure, although I guess we can improve on that. It is the fact that we’re asking for something that’s so hard to say yes to. We’re saying, come and work with us permanent full time on site. That’s life changing. Garry.

If you asked me that question, you decided to hire me and said Hmm, I really like your channel when you work with me as a full-time permanent role on site. That’s a life changing decision. Do I need to speak to my partner about that? Do I need to think about my commute? Do I need to speak to a mortgage broker? What lots of things this is huge. Wait and chances are I’m going to say no, no offence, I’ll say no very quickly using 30 seconds, right? Because I’m thinking, you know what, I’m reasonably happy where I am. Now I don’t need to get involved in a circumstance where potentially is life-changing, because I think my life is pretty okay at this point. And so we’re asking for too much too soon. Whereas I think the better way to communicate with the hard to hire, the in demand hard to hire, is to have an incremental approach to it. Think about something smaller, you could both be interested in, that could help you build a little bit of trust, build a little social capital, and actually get to know each other a little bit better before you take the next step. And again, I’ll throw in yet another idea. And I appreciate your time, Garry, if you’ve got to kick me offline anytime soon. But engineers live in the agile world of working, right? And basically one of the fundamental principles of agile is that you do small packets of work to see whether it’s worth continuing to do it, right. It’s not committing to everything straightaway.

Whereas recruiting is waterfall. We go out, don’t we go out and we go and spec it out, then we don’t we capture requirements, we write it out, then we launch a plan. And then we want people to immediately come and join us full time on site. That’s a huge commitment. It’s a waterfall approach of recruiting. And it’s a clash of philosophies. There’s very few engineers now that would commit to waterfall over agile, even though agile, of course, has got all of its associated problems. But in fact, recruiters and employers generally very few of them genuinely work in an agile way, even though they may have you know the accoutrements of agile. They have a Kanban board somewhere, they do daily stand ups and do all of that stuff. But you know what, they’re still asking for something that reads like an enterprise sale. You know, it’s like, if I hired someone full time on sites like the bank, like buying Oracle and committing 10 years with contracts and all.

Who in their right mind does that anymore? You know, I want freemium. I want a free trial for a month, and I need a monthly subscription service that I can turn off anytime I want. And then if I really like it, then maybe I’d do an annual subscription, or maybe a two or three year contract. I’m really sure. Have a think about how we do recruiting right now. We’re asking people to make huge decisions way too early way too soon. And a lot of these people, particularly if they’re technical, they instinctively reject this because then they don’t build software like this anymore.

Hung Lee  44:23  

Garry Turner  43:28  

Yes, I mean, that’s a wonderful way to wrap up those that parallel those two plus I’ve never seen, traditional corporate life, let’s call it as the waterfall method versus agile till now. That’s a really interesting parallel. So thank you for that. Really, really interesting. How can people reach out to you if they want to follow up the conversation or or get in contact?

Hung Lee  43:46  

Yes. So basically get hold of me on Twitter. I’m at @HungLee, so follow me on here if Twitter is not your thing, that’s totally fine. You probably best follow me on the newsletter, I send that once a week. And I do communicate on that as well. If you want to get in touch, that’s not a bad place to do it. LinkedIn, I would say, but I’m kind of hitting my 30 k limit now. So I don’t think I’ll be able to accept too many more people there. So those two areas are probably the best way.

Garry Turner  44:18  

That’s great. Well, I’ll add these to the show notes anyway, and look, you’ve been an absolute joy. Appreciate your time today. Have a great day,

Garry. My pleasure. Take care.

Garry Turner  44:24  

Yes. Bye bye.

This podcast was recorded in 2019.

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Garry Turner

With over 20 years of international sales, business development and relationship-building experience combined with a deep understanding of people, team and culture dynamics, Garry Turner serves individuals, teams and leaders as a strategic advisor and interpersonal catalyst.