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23 May 2007

HR woes in the outside world

We often spend a great deal of time and energy considering the eternal dance of human resources within the intelligence community. Our previous ruminations on these issues have led to some interesting feedback and cause for greater reflection – none of it positive for the long term future of the community absent major and rapid change.

It is interesting therefore to note that even some of the biggest and brightest in the world outside the vault are having similar troubles. This recent account of the dysfunctional hiring process at Google mirrors other narratives that have been surfacing over the past few years.

We are personally aware of the case of one very talented, exceptionally qualified intelligence professional (with technological specialization in some areas Google was rapidly seeking to expand into), who liked the idea of trading in all of the black world for sunny California instead. This individual, whose particular expertise and background was more than simply unique, found out that the schizophrenia of the Googleplex in many ways mirrored that found in some of the worst community agencies.

In the end, Google lost a talented prospect based only on a few simple things:

  • institutional arrogance (and when someone raised in the worst of all arrogant cultures in one of the biggest three letter buildings comments on this, you know it has to be bad)
  • lack of coherence and cohesiveness in interactions with the individual. (To be sure, HR has many candidates to deal with. But from the perspective of the recruit prospect, each and every interaction matters, and matters a lot – especially given the uncertainty involved in waiting between contacts.)
  • inability to distinguish relevant areas of emphasis. (They assumed they knew what they needed- and those assumptions were based on a mental model that may have matched their core search business but had nothing to do with the position under discussion - rather than looking at the individual in order to see
  • inability to recognize the value of the individual’s existing intellectual capital. (Too often, big organizations assume that they are the sole creators and arbiters of the “good ideas” – even when practical and concrete evidence of executed innovation is staring them in the face.)

The intelligence community also suffers from all of these woes in its own way, but one expects better from a major player such as a Google. It is hard to hold up the example of the outside corporate world as a model for reform when even those entities are failing in this most basic, but most essential, of all organizational functions.

h/t Scoble

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