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Tails You Lose

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White


At a recent interview for a fairly senior position, the MD of the company left me speechless when he said “it doesn’t really matter who we employ.” Come to think of it, it was just as well I didn’t open my mouth and put my foot in it because this was an MD who really didn’t get it.   Essentially he was saying that managing is easy except the people part so we might just as well flip a coin to decide who to hire.


In 2006 The Economist reported that finding the right people is the single biggest problem in business today and a decade later it’s no different. Note that their report did not say finding people but stressed the right people. 


Its tricky for a number of reasons and the biggest one, I fear, is that companies tend to hire based on the information contained in a CV; but if we have to be frank all a CV is, is  a record of a person’s career with all of the accomplishments embellished and highlighted and all the failures deleted. Many companies shortlist, based solely on the CV information and then hold a one-hour interview and make their decision based on this, but is it enough?


Saying we don’t care who we employ is wrong on every level, as is a 60-minute interview to make a hiring decision. Firstly it does matter and we know this because we have all witnessed the damage that a wrong hire can have and the mayhem which ensues.


Surely when we are recruiting, our intention and focus we must be on getting the very best person into the job? It’s a no-brainer. Unless you are looking to finish in the bottom half of the standings, you would never assemble a football team composed largely of B and C player – you want an ‘A  Team’ and your chances of spotting the cream of the crop can be almost guaranteed using the correct calculation of statistics and percentages


According to the book ‘Who’, the A method of Hiring an A player is a candidate who has at least a 90% chance of achieving a set of outcomes that only the top 10 percent of possible candidates could achieve.  That requires you to stack the odds in your favour by hiring the people who have at least 90% chance of succeeding in the role.


But of course you don’t want to just hire somebody who has a 90% chance of achieving a set of outcomes that just about anybody could accomplish. You want “A players”- those who have a 90% chance of accomplishing what only 10% of possible hires could accomplish. It may sound mathematical, complicated   and laborious and therein lies the problem.


Managers will pour over budgets for hours and days but rarely invest the same amount of time in the search and selection process. Due diligence in recruitment takes time and time is one commodity most lacking in busy managers. If you want to get your hiring right just how far are you prepared to go to make sure you achieve a good result?


A job applicant going in for an interview at a world-famous beer brewing company might expect the interview to be a little different from the traditional corporate evaluation. But the young go-getters interviewing for an internship position at Dutch brewer Heineken had no idea how off-piste it was going to get.


There were combative questions and forced hand-holding; they had to deal with the interviewer's suffering a medical episode; things culminated with a fire alarm and an emergency situation with a person possibly jumping off a building (you might want to watch ‘Innovative hiring’ on YouTube).


It was all part of a Heineken campaign called The Candidate, crafted not only to energize employees in regard to the company's culture, but also to give YouTube viewers and blog fans a different view of the company. "At a time when it's very tough to catch a career break, Heineken wanted to encourage young adults to stand out from the crowd by being inventive, resourceful, and innovative," a Heineken spokeswoman said.


The Candidate was planned over a period of months, with the goal of reinforcing Heineken's identity of being "inventive and resourceful," the spokeswoman says. "It broadens horizons and inspires consumers to be inventive about their career options,"  The interviewers narrowed the initial 1,734 applicants down to three, but then enabled the Heineken Brand Team to vote using an internal portal for the last three candidates. 


It might as well have been named The Eurovision Beer-Brewing Contest!  One Guy Luchting was announced as the winner in a huge event at Juventus Stadium in Turin, Italy and when the video of the process went up on YouTube, it drew nearly 2.8 million views.


Though it puts Heineken's employee culture on display, the company said it was a great way to show how it is different from other brands, not just in taste but in corporate culture which is fun, with a ‘work hard and don’t take yourself too seriously’ attitude.


Perhaps their Apprentice-style production was overkill but they did embrace the need to do more than just interview.  In ‘The Most Common Hiring Mistakes – and How to Prevent Them’, Peter Gilbert states, "In a University of Michigan study titled 'The Validity and Utility of Alternative Predictors of Job Performance,' John and Rhonda Hunter analysed how well job interviews accurately predict success on the job. 


And the almost unbelievable finding:  “The typical interview increases your chances of choosing the best candidate by less than 2 percent. In other words, flipping a coin to choose between two candidates would be only 2 percent less reliable than basing your decision on an interview."


Meanwhile, the Heineken experiment certainly put a new twist on that old adage about organising an …er ‘piste-up in a brewery’  – pilsner, anyone?


STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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