JOHN SIGMON ASKS THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

Who is John Sigmon?

John is a strategic business leader breathing life into the employee experience. Throughout his career, he’s fostered innovative business and human capital improvements across every sector of the economy. .
His topic at the conference will be “You Aren’t Very Good At Interviewing, And By The Way, Now You Have Multiple Employee Relations Issues.”

What will you be speaking about at Disrupt HR and why did you choose this topic over any other?

I’m going to ask what is the science behind interviewing? And why should we interview in different ways than we do currently. No matter how good a leader you are, no matter how much you incentivize people or recognize them for their work, there is no substitution for hiring the best candidate and placing them in the right role. That all begins with the interview process.

The primary change is creating a structured interview process. Interviewers ask these lame questions. “Tell me about yourself.” “Where do you see yourself in five years?” “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” “Why did you leave your last position?” Those types of questions.

I propose a more structured process involving not only the hiring manager and HR but more crowdsourcing. A cross-functional person, outside of your department, would come in and provide input. The questions would revolve around competencies, rather than mushy, uninformative questions.

Upwards of 80% of people are confident in their interviewing skills, and that they make good hiring decisions. But almost 50% of new hires are unsuccessful. They either don’t make it through their first year, don’t meet their objectives, or they don’t add value. So there’s a big disconnect.

This is due largely to confirmation bias. “You have to make a good impression in the first ten seconds,” that is what we are told. The reason to do this is on the other side of the table; the interviewer is subject to confirmation bias. So if you make a great impression in the first ten seconds, it’s not an interview after that. The rest of the meeting is an attempt to confirm a belief you’ve already formed about as a person, rather than focusing on the competencies needed to make this role successful.

Historically there was a bias in the classical music world that women couldn’t play in orchestras as well as men. Now obviously, that’s nonsense. But it’s common practice now to audition behind a curtain on a carpeted floor so judges can’t even hear footsteps. That practice needs to be somehow adapted to the hiring world.

 

What’s the most important shift in HR of the last five years?

As a profession, human resources is farther along than we think. There’s a lot of great work done by HR thought leaders, people like John Boudreau, Peter Cappelli, and Libby Sartain, who’ve been successful chiefs of HR in large organizations. They’ve been doing a lot of work in the background to try to propel the profession forward.

For me, the key message that I try to deliver to my organization and to everyone who will listen is: if HR is responsible for hiring the best talent, developing leaders, managing employee engagement, and all those things, then HR is part of the mission of your organization. HR is not a support function.

If you quickly Google mission statements from various HR organizations, you’ll see a lot of things like “support” mentioned. I think we need to move away from that and take a lesson from chief marketing executives.

Think back ten years ago, marketing was thought of as advertising, as the support for the product in the market. But now CMOs are key components within just about every successful organization out there. That’s where HR needs to drive.

 

In your opinion, where does the shift in HR need to occur?

One of the things that will continue to happen is that boards of directors will become more and more engaged with HR. Specifically asking questions about talent management. Ten years ago, boards were interested in just a couple of things: succession planning and executive compensation. That was primarily it.

Now they ask more and more questions about the state of talent within the organization. How is our workforce adapting to changes in the business environment? Why are employees leaving this organization? Why do employees want to stay here? What can we do with our workforce that will have the greatest impact on our business? Those are the thoughtful investigations that Boards and CEOs now expect out of HR.

 

If you could recommend a book for everyone in attendance to read before attending, what would it be?

I recently read The Engaged Leader by Charlene Li. It lays out a strategy for leadership engagement through social media channels. The thesis of the book is how can you leverage social media to scale communications?

If I could recommend a second book, it would be The Best Place to Work by Ron Friedman. It’s a bit of denser book, more data driven. It’s about the science of creating the best place to work, for example, office space, interviewing, whether people respond appropriately to monetary rewards versus other rewards. And it’s not a lot of platitudes; it’s backed up by science.

 

Last question, what’s your favorite David Bowie song?

“Young Americans” I remember when I was in high school. The album came out, and it was the talk of the school. I love that song to this very day.