Hiring and HR tips from the worst year ever (2016)

Hiring and HR tips from the worst year ever (2016)

For many, 2016 was the worst year ever. Whether or not that stands up to historical scrutiny (spoiler alert: it doesn’t hold a candle to 1342), it was undoubtedly a dramatic, often shocking (if not outright scary) year, wikth high-profile terrorist attacks, an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria, an Olympic Games that threatened the spread of the Zika virus, political upheaval in the US and UK, and a number of sudden celebrity deaths.

The important thing is that 2016 is done, and while you may want to just forget it, we’d encourage you to take a good long look instead. No, we’re not being sadistic. There’s actually a lot we can learn.

Here are some hiring and HR tips from the year that was.

Automation is important, but it’s still a work in progress

In August of last year, Facebook fired its entire editorial staff, replacing them with an algorithm that promotes stories based entirely on what users are talking about. The idea was this algorithm would eliminate bias from their content curation. It didn’t exactly work out that way, and over the next few months, “news” stories like these started to spread on Facebook:

  • The pope (and Denzel Washington) had endorsed Donald Trump
  • An FBI agent suspected for leaking Hillary Clinton’s emails was found dead
  • George Soros planned to fund black hate groups
  • Germany approved child marriages under pressure to respect Shariah Law
  • Bill Clinton and Fox News journalist Megan Kelly were having an affair

None of these are true, but that didn’t stop these articles from being shared thousands of times. This, of course, was the heart of the problem. Facebook’s algorithm prioritized “engagement,” which meant that outrageous articles got the most attention and exposure.

The lesson here? Talent acquisition and job ad software can help get around common recruitment roadblocks, much the same way that automation tools can centralize communication and organization, but there is still a lot to be said for analog interaction, to say nothing of good old-fashioned human intuition. Taking the time to get to know a candidate – and the way they fit with your team – remains your first line of defence against a bad hire.

You don’t know what’s out there, unless you look

In May, NASA announced it had discovered 1,284 new planets in distant solar systems. Pretty cool, and only possible with the launch of the Kepler space telescope, which captures signals of distant planets (that is, the decreases in brightness that occur when planets pass their stars).

“Before the Kepler space telescope launched, we did not know whether exoplanets were rare or common in the galaxy. Thanks to Kepler and the research community, we now know there could be more planets than stars,” said Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters. “This knowledge informs the future missions that are needed to take us ever-closer to finding out whether we are alone in the universe.”

Launching a space telescope is out of the budgetary range for most companies not called Apple, but this kind of bold exploration does have an important message: you don’t know what’s out there unless you look. From getting the perspective of staff, to attending conferences, career events, and hackathons, your recruitment process (and employer brand) can only benefit from boldly going where you haven’t been before.

You can compete with anyone

From the performances of Iceland and Wales in this year’s Euro Cup tournament, to Leicester City’s miraculous Premier League win in England, it was definitely the year of the underdog in sports. And if all those stories prove anything, it’s that solid management and a committed, unified team can give you a chance against the big boys, no matter how many high-priced superstars they have in their lineup.

That and having a viking war chant is awesome:

And if you ever feel discouraged, remember: the Cubs won the world series in 2016. If that can happen, anything is possible.

People will follow confidence

We can’t mention 2016 without reminding you that Donald Trump is the President-Elect of the United States of America. There have been many reasons given to explain the Donald’s unexpected victory, including: Facebook’s aforementioned fake news dissemination; low voter turnout; Russian hacking; Jill Stein; a desire for change; and white male resentment. Rarely mentioned, however, is Trump’s incredible self-esteem and confidence. Even when it seems like the man has no idea what he’s talking about, he doesn’t miss a beat, bragging about past successes and boasting about his abilities. Clearly, this resonated with voters, and that kind of confidence can also have an impact on employees.

We’re not suggesting you become a braggart for the sake of it, but that kind of self-belief with these tips on how to be a good boss can be a potent mix, ensuring that your team is always motivated and happy to work for you.

The numbers can’t always be trusted

If Trump’s victory wasn’t enough, 2016 also gave us the UK’s unexpected decision to leave the Euro zone. Much like the Donald’s election, the No campaign’s victory surprised pollsters and oddmakers, and has led many to start rethinking the way polls are conducted (in the case of Brexit, graduates were over-represented, with polls undercounting hard-to-reach voters, and failing to add “attitudinal weights,” among other issues).

The lesson here? We can’t always trust the numbers. Yes, that’s a difficult thing to say. The point of your business is to improve the bottom line, and we often use data to guide our decision-making. Sometimes, though, we have to look past the numbers to get a broader sense of perspective. A decision might look good on a spreadsheet, but does it make sense for your operations? Will a cost-saving measure have a negative impact on staff morale and performance? We’re blessed with untold amounts of data these days, but as 2016 reminds us, it sometimes does not tell the whole story.

Good luck in 2017!

See also:
5 tips for more productive brainstorming sessions
The Revenge of Analog’s David Sax on analog in the workplace
8 things Euro 2016 teaches us about talent management and recruiting


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