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Erik Smetana

Erik Smetana is an HR and talent leader with extensive experience working in and fostering teams and innovation for an eclectic mix of dynamic organizations including Fortune 500 companies, international not-for-profit organizations, major market media outlets, and institutions of higher education and research among others. His thoughts and opinions related to all things human resources (and occasionally other topics) can be found online at

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This Tool Will Help You Rethink Talent Acquisition

by Jan 15, 2014, 12:49 am ET

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 1.43.52 PMRegardless of mission or vision statements, the ultimate goal of any high-performing HR function — and or its “talent fulfillment” group — is to provide the support, resources, and expertise to help their organization acquire, develop, and retain top talent — a responsibility that starts with strategy, focuses on acquisition, and never ends.

Talent fulfillment — the act of identifying, acquiring, and retaining top talent – can mean different things to different organizations and HR professionals. It could be hiring external recruitment agencies, temporary employees, contractors, or some combination thereof. That said, those organizations operating with that mindset, unless in the midst of a significant growth phase, aren’t likely to meet anyone’s definition of high performing. High performance means finding talent, growing talent, securing talent, and keeping talent — your organization’s own talent.

This is sort of like a short-order cook and a baker.  keep reading…

Recruiters: Be Your Own Therapist

by Oct 23, 2012, 5:00 am ET

Talent management and recruitment, or really any of HR’s core functions, can be one of the most rewarding professions out there. It comes ready with excitement, positive challenges, and constant opportunities to learn. It is this sense of fast-paced, interesting work (with people, you do enjoy working with people, right?) that appeals to so many young professionals and is a contributing factor as to why the field can often be a difficult career to break into. However, as with any profession, those already entrenched in the war for talent have their own share of difficulties.

Within the ranks, it can often seem that opportunities to advance are rare. Outside forces dictate the how and why of advancement and everything from market demands to internal perception of the function to closed-door politics can come into play. Outside of building a strong resume and giving the proverbial 110 percent, moving up the corporate ladder is an undertaking that falls outside most talent professional’s locus of control.

As difficult as it may be for established employees, those trying to break into the field are too often left with the feeling that they are just butting their head against a wall, looking for the well-kept secret that has prevented them from landing that first all-important gig. Establishing, building, and maintaining a career in the talent management arena can be without a doubt a frustrating endeavor.

A quick tete-a-tete over drinks, on a professional message board or at a networking event, will often show that talent management professionals, often reserved in the workplace, hold no qualms about airing their grievances off site amongst their peers. Whether in a classroom setting working toward a graduate degree, attending a professional certification prep class, or simply kicking back after a long day — those working in field, the people listening to and fixing problems all day long, have their own fair share of issues.

Some of the more commons complaints I’ve heard over the years from talent pros (and others in the HR field) include: keep reading…

The Key to Gathering Employee Referrals: Changing Employee Perceptions

by Jan 13, 2005

From the outside looking in, most people see the human resources function as a necessary corporate evil that slows down the business. Still referred to as the “personnel department” in many less-than-progressive organizations, human resources exists in the minds of many employees strictly for the purpose of dealing with administrative overflow and the tasks of “hiring and firing.” While the human resources function does typically deal with the responsibilities of recruitment and terminations within a company, these roles are not all encompassing, and they certainly do not cover the array of issues and jobs functions which fall under the list of responsibilities for most human resources (HR) departments. This image of HR has been etched in the forefront of our employees and co-workers; it would seem that everywhere we look an example of these inaccuracies exists. Television shows like the recently cancelled “Drew Carey Show,” the comic strip “Dilbert,” and the movie “Office Space” all paint human resources as inept or evil, often times both. News outlets reinforce this skewed version of HR; employee recognition programs and leadership training are not necessarily front page headlines, but the unfortunate announcement of a reduction in force (RIF, layoff) is the lead story on the evening news. Human resources departments across the country are engaged in a never-ending public relations battle not just with the outside world, but also internally with their employee base. Employees have taken the stance that HR is not their friend, and they have become afraid to approach those persons most equipped to assist them. The issue becomes scary when we consider the ramifications as related to issues like sexual harassment, ADA, labor relations, public perception of the organization, as well as the success of HR programs like employee referrals. The impact of disenchanted employees on the recruiting function has been detrimental when we consider that, on average, nearly one-third of all employees are hired as a direct result of an employee referral, according to New York-based MMC Group. If our employees do not trust HR, do we honestly believe that they will be willing to encourage their friends and family to come work for us? Possible solutions to this growing dilemma include the following:

  1. Unlock the door and keep it open. Human resources functions that have been able to build employee trust and respect have done so by their willingness to give employees straightforward information about company performance and the logic used by management and HR during their decision-making processes. These companies also strongly encourage participation in an open communication exchange. Under the most effective HR leadership, this process applies to both the good and the bad, giving employees a sense of being “in the loop.”
  2. keep reading…

Online Networking: Is It a Monster or a Messiah?

by Oct 5, 2004

Networking has long been an essential part of business. More importantly for some, it’s also been a part of a successful career. According to recent statistics released by the MMC Group, nearly 30% of all external hires are a product of an employee referral, a rate that has steadily climbed since 2000. When one considers that roughly one-third of all the positions filled annually in the U.S. are a direct result of a candidates using professional networks to their advantage, the true value of networking is evident. Historically, the process of networking has been socially enjoyable but frequently tedious, involving luncheons, cocktail parties, and association meetings. While the benefits of such functions are real, they often fall in the middle of a business day and have the ability to sap your productivity for the remainder of that day. Not to dismiss networking in the traditional sense (I am attending one such function later this week), but it has not always been the most effective means of gathering valuable contacts. Anyone who has attended these types of events has certainly met with the dreaded “card-tossers,” attendees who hand out their business cards and credentials in such a flurry that they have no idea whom they have just met and are unable to match a name with a face at the end of the day. In recent months, though, the tide of change has rolled in. Many professionals have now modified their approach to networking and even given up on the traditional method. More and more people are taking their networking online. Websites with names like Ryze, Spoke Software, AlwaysOn, BizTribe, and LinkedIn are taking the desktops of corporate America by storm. These online destinations (I say destinations due to the sheer amount of information available on their pages) have taken networking to the next level by allowing their users to network outside the local business community and on a national, if not global, scale. While most of these websites contain more or less the same nuts and bolts, two of the most popular ó LinkedIn and Spoke Software ó stand out from the pack for numerous reasons. LinkedIn and Spoke Software both enable you to create a vast network of professional and personal connections based on the email addresses saved in your inbox and archived files. Where the two begin to diverge drastically is in how each system uses those addresses. LinkedIn is primarily a web-based application that allows you to select which contacts to invite into your network (by manually entering information or downloading it), with an interface that’s as friendly for a tech novice as it is for an IT guru. Where LinkedIn gets interesting is in the site’s ability to allow you to request contact with connections outside of your own inner circle but still within your network of connections. The whole process is based loosely on the idea of “Six Degrees of Separation” (or for the Generation X readers out there, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”). LinkedIn shines in its ability to allow you to provide and share as much or as little information as you like, even providing the option to “not accept” new contacts. On the flip side, we have Spoke Software. Spoke is a much more robust interface with capabilities that seem to go on forever. Using Spoke, however, requires you to download the application to your PC, which in itself can pose a concern for many users whose company’s have strict computer user policies forbidding the download or installation of software not authorized by the company. If you do decide to go for it and install Spoke onto your system, the program troves your email and collects addresses much like the optional component available with LinkedIn. This is where Spoke takes the process to a whole other level though. Once you have activated your connections list, you can elect to contact your potential connections. The email generated by Spoke implores recipients to reply with their most recent contact information. Up to this point, it all seems harmless, right? Well, recently a colleague of mine installed Spoke Software onto her PC. Within a week, I had personally received at least eight emails requesting my updated contact info, even after I replied to the first email. Unfortunately, mine was not the only inbox barraged with the invitation, which resembled “spam” or the “phishing” schemes I often hear about on the news. It seemed as if everyone she had ever traded emails with ó in addition to everyone in her company, from the president on down to the guy in the mailroom ó had received the same email on multiple occasions as well. The situation escalated to the point where her corporate communications department volunteered to distribute a communication informing the company that the email was related to a technical difficulty currently being addressed and corrected by their IS department. While this incident should be chalked up to a less-than-tech-savvy user, the most alarming and intriguing aspect of Spoke Software is the sheer power of the application. Based on the current version available at the time of this article, a well-versed user has the capability to dig deep into an organization ó even going so far as accessing another user’s archived emails. At a recent seminar regarding this very topic, one user of Spoke boasted at her ability to pull up the names of executives and organizational charts within companies outside of her own, namely her competitors. While this could be seen as a valuable tool to users in the staffing industry, we need to consider the ethical ramifications of such use. If we can pull up this information, what is to stop our competition from doing the same? Networking is a valuable tool, but a tool we need to respect, we need to protect our Rolodex and the impact it could have on our business in the wrong hands. Some important things to consider when making the jump to online networking include:

  • What is the reputation of the website or program? Making the leap from traditional networking into the world of connecting online is not something to take lightly. As with most any type of product, some of the available goods are better than others. You wouldn’t buy a car without at least conducting some basic research on the models available. You should do the same when choosing which online networking tool to use.
  • keep reading…