Gwen Hayes Flower Photographs_2356

July Job Searches, Assessments, Little Assignments & Website Redesign

It’s a Full Time Job (and some of it’s actually fun)

These days job searches that last several months or even extend to a year or more are becoming increasingly common, particularly for those who are more advanced in their careers. There’s an article on BNet by Suzanne Lucas, the “Evil HR Lady” summing up five barriers to getting hired. These range from companies that stipulate an MBA requirement and employers that have a bias for hiring only people who already have a job, to hiring managers who hold stereotypes about why people are unemployed and how long that’s acceptable, or hold a view that because someone is unemployed their skills are not being used and thus deteriorate rapidly over time.

That last one is particularly interesting to me. If I can counsel anyone on what to do while looking for work, first and foremost is to make sure that you are using and enhancing your skills while you look. Hiring managers want people who bring true value to their team; people who are resourceful, current, and capable of being an immediate asset.

For me, using and enhancing my skills has meant undertaking several activities, such as

  • continuing education in the form of paid-for-on-my-own-dime, post-graduate certificate-level courses;
  • constant research about what’s new and relevant in leadership, marketing and digital strategies;
  • reading the latest business, leadership and marketing books;
  • taking subscriptions to online resources including leading journals such as Harvard Business Review
  • accessing white papers, case studies and articles available for free via corporate or association websites, such as Palgrave Macmillan Publishers free articles on marketing and branding
  • setting up information interviews;
  • bumping up my participation in the professional associations I do belong to;
  • volunteering in areas where I have expertise and where I’d like to learn and grow;
  • setting up and maintaining a personal website, and writing

Searching for work really is a full time job, so when people ask me what I’ve been doing – well, I’ve been really busy! And the above list sums it up nicely.

In addition to keeping my skills and knowledge current, I also research each potential opportunity thoroughly before I apply. Much time is spent culling through company websites, Linked in profiles and undertaking Google searches to get a true sense of culture, history and opportunity. These investigations also help me hone in on the “why now/why here/why this” for each potential role – questions that must be encapsulated in a covering letter or answered in an interview.

There are several factors that have made this job search much different than the last time (early 2007). Where I’m coming from and the use of assessments and small assignments for candidates.

I was following a discussion on Linked In HR Group. Not sure where this originated but someone (who wasn’t sure either) provided some stats that had been given to them around the effectiveness of various hiring procedures. Here they are: Typical Employment Interview 15%; Years’ Experience / Education  19%;  Reference Checks  22% ; Personality Tests 39%;  Structured Behavioural Interview 40% ; Ability Tests 52%;  ‘Job-Fit’ Assessment 75%;

Other mentions in that thread led me to some DDI World white papers and some excellent resources for HR folks and other leaders.

I’m a Fan, and One Perspective on Website Redesign

I’m a huge ‘fan’ of HubSpot. They are generous with their information, have a great product, and my interactions with their team, although limited, were fantastic. Their recent webinar, “The Science of Website Redesign” had some information you might find useful.

A recent survey indicated overwhelmingly that the idea for a website redesign is initiated by the marketing team or the CEO or Senior Exec. No surprises there.

The consensus amongst marketers surveyed was generally that a website should be redesigned every 13 to 24 months 40%, or 25 to 36 months 31%, or every 4 to 12-months 22%. 18 to 24 months seems right to me. My view, echoed in the HubSpot study is that your “website should be a living, breathing, changing being,” and our mutual advice, “Edit and improve constantly.” I’m of the view that the same thing goes for your business and marketing plans as well, but that’s a topic for another day.

The HubSpot study indicated that while the majority of companies undertake the projects themselves, at the end of the day only 25% are ‘extremely happy’ with the outcome, thus the takeaway that when you “leverage an expert to improve your website” you may be behaving like more of an expert than you think.

It’s important to have a clear purpose for your website, and a clear goal for the website redesign project.  Hubspot says that the most common goals for a website redesign are to sell products through e-commerce shopping carts, to drive page views in order to sell advertising, and to build an engaging user experience that enhances the brand. Website redesigns are often prompted because a website gets ‘old’ and needs to be refreshed or optimized for lead generation or sales or to improve branding or positioning.

They shared some interesting stats about the costs of website redesign (USD) – the average internal project $30,106/external $69,586 and the median $10,000 internal/$13,000 external, but this was from a notably small sample size. I found it shocking (irresponsible?) that 62% of in-house marketers had “no idea” what their website redesign cost! Although I do know how difficult it is to get people to track their time – and afterall time spent is a genuine consideration.

Thankfully, it’s no longer necessary to reinvent the wheel when you do a website redesign. It’s all so much easier than it was even 5 or 10-years ago. With billions of pages on the web and lots of easy places to start Marketing Managers can easily educate themselves on all things ‘digital’ – and do the research required to make decisions that will support organisational objectives. In other words, it’s not just about the marketing-promotions. Websites support all facets of brand integrity, and speaking of that, it’s a phrase I use a lot, as does Greg Lederman, who actually named his firm Brand Integrity. Just a small plug for Greg; I’ve heard him speak and am keen, under the right circumstances, to use the tools he’s developed.

As for executing a website redesign project, 49% of marketers surveyed by Hubspot launched their redesign on time and for 31% of those companies, it took 1-2 months longer than anticipated, but the average time to complete a redesign was 5.1 months – median 4 (sample size 116). In my experience, the larger the organization, the more complex and organisationally significant the website goals; thus the longer it takes.

Several years ago I worked on a website and e-marketing initiative that applied a world-wide approach to a Canadian site. In my role as copywriter/editor, I collaborated with a corporate product manager and designers here (Thinkhouse), and the corporation’s internet project manager from the Netherlands who was managing the technical effort for 25 websites worldwide. That was a lengthy (and entirely excellent project), with 20 newsletters in the program, each with a recommended theme, the title or subject of the newsletter, and the first newsletter received by the subscriber containing a welcome message reflective of the person’s profile, derived from six questions they answered during a registration process.

From an implementation perspective the program encompassed home/centre and landing pages, a subscription page and thank you/confirmation page, double opt-in email, subscribed confirmation page, forgot your password pop-up window, unsubscribe/confirmation pages, the html newsletters themselves and the corresponding text-based versions, archives, links to articles of interest to the particular profile, profile updates, links to national/regional clinics, and so forth.

By contrast, I recently collaborated with Thinkhouse Design on a website redevelopment for Prison Fellowship Canada that was turned very quickly. Regardless of size and scope, both of these projects were all about the brand, customer/donor or volunteer engagement, and each built a scalable communications framework that contributes to developing the “social authority,” that can only be earned by sharing valuable perspectives, knowledge and expertise.

The duration was largely a function of complexity and availability of all the players at the right time in the process — and great project management. I’ve been involved in several website projects and love that I’ve worked on both sides of the fence – agency-side and client-side, so understand the opportunities and constraints from both perspectives.

In my view, the single most important factor in website redesign is to make it easy to find the information visitors are looking for. In other words, make the site simple, easy and user-friendly. It’s not about the “flash”, the design or the artwork.  It’s about whether your message is coming across clearly and whether people can easily do what they want to do (and what you want them to do) when they get there.

There are some awesome usability testing tools available. Here’s Hubspot’s list

You’ll want to supplement that list with the experiences of friends, colleagues and customers who use your site. As a marketer I want to know that my design firm uses tools such as these to gauge the memorability and distinctiveness of various aspects of website design because one of the challenges website developers often face is Execs who forget that not everyone responds “just like me.” Research helps everyone take a step back and be more objective.

Sometimes the biggest hurdles to a speedy and efficient re-design are

  • stretched-to-the-limit marketing managers, particularly in small to medium-sized enterprises who haven’t done enough research about what-they-really-need and haven’t spent the time to put together a comprehensive project/creative briefing
  • internal bickering between marketing/communications staffers with IT over technology and security constraints, and
  • lack of full-fledged support from a GM or CEO who may be harbouring fears that stepping up full force in a redesign, whether it was there idea or not, will merely open the door to a host of other resources-and-investment-required initiatives (projects) that could detract from reaching the more immediate revenue or profit goals. Short term thinking versus long term thinking?

As with any project, it really helps if objectives are in place in the first place, the brand is strong, the voice is clear, and the priorities have been set out, and someone with a stellar strategic-creative communications/design background gets to draw the appropriate lines in the sand. So one person gets both accountability and authority, lucky them. Redesign projects can run off the rails for so many reasons. Strong project management is paramount, and that leads to measurement.

In order to properly assess the impact of a redesign, you need to understand your website’s purpose, have some benchmarks in place, set goals for the redesign, and create metrics for those goals based on your benchmarks. Marketers, product/services teams, sales teams and the CEO are all going to have their own assessments and metrics around the value of a redesign, which is a good thing because measuring gives better results. But there are good metrics and bad ones; the best are unique visitors, leads, sales and conversations because these are business metrics. “Hits” are virtually useless, time on site, page views and bounce rate aren’t quite so meaningful either.

You’ll find that when you do a redesign your web stats will change. They’ll improve more or less than you expect, which is normal. A website is never fully cooked; you’re never ‘done,’ you know. HubSpot suggests benchmarking versus competitors and I’ve found that can be useful if you can get the data, but I believe that you need to focus on creating your own benchmarks. You need to develop an in-depth understanding of history and trending for your own website stats, and as they relate to key promotion periods and business events at certain points in time, and document your starting points.

They suggest auditing your website assets to protect them, noting some pitfalls that I’ve certainly experienced and learned from. You want to ensure that valuable content isn’t lost in the redesign and that you don’t change some of your best conversion points. (Hint: if a prospective design firm can’t explain exactly what a 301 redirect does for you, stay clear)

HubSpot and other optimisation tools provide link analysis tools, so you can find your assets, measure sources (organic search, referrals, paid search, direct traffic, e-mail, social media and other campaigns) – and this mix is all part of your digital strategy. You can use HubSpot when you blog to track your articles (posts) and the number of comments, page views and inbound links you get. You can track your conversations, build landing pages and continue to test and optimize your website. The key is to keep building your website with more content and offers and to keep measuring your marketing efforts against the various sources of traffic.

What I love most about a website redesign project is that it’s an opportunity to put forward a strong value proposition; to really stand for something; to put forward an identity and to create an authentic, compelling voice for an organisation. It’s an excellent opportunity to work cross-functionally to help an organisation position and use their website as a foundation for the “next step” in their business evolution and an opportunity, for example to

  • build the commitment and structure for meeting HR goals – web as recruiting tool, web as training and development tool, web as employee engagement and recognition too – and to
  • understand how the web can be used to support the evolution of more profitable business models

Other Interesting Finds This Month

That’s all for now. Until next month, adieu.