Posts Tagged ‘ Talent ’

Why can’t you fill my vacancies?

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We all hear about the politicians, The REC, the CBI and other commentators that have opinions talk about The Skills Shortage, as if it is a living thing, in generalised terms, yet does anyone actually know what this Skills Shortage is that they talk about? In the real world employers do not generally tend to have too much trouble finding staff to fill their vacancies, certainly not where I have worked. However there are times when filling a vacancy does prove difficult.

I think every recruiter whether working for an agency or doing it for real in-house, as well as most HR practitioners will have come up against a specific real world skills shortage every now and then. This is typical when there is a huge demand for skills required as a result of legislative or processing change. Examples of this might be the major changes in how programs were developed in the 80’s and 90’s from linear coding to OOD (what we take as pretty standard and has moved on to how programs are written today). Computer Operating Systems changed drastically in the 90’s from mainframe and centralised computing to distributed Windows and UNIX platforms. Then you have the business applications that required major process overhauls or innovation; changes to Pensions administration in the 80’s, Y2K (this was when the dates changed from 1999 to 2000 in case you didn’t notice), SOX and more recently Solvency II amongst a shed full of others. Technical skills (not necessarily IT skills) needed to address these business processes or requirements are varied but at the time tend to be either in high demand or non-existent in the job market. But is there ever really any need for it to be this way.

One thing that has been common over the last three decades and remains unchanged today is there always seems to be a lack of planning by business to accommodate these changes. Typically changes to legislation that affect business processes come with plenty of notice to allow businesses to prepare, train and deliver. Its common sense to realise that whenever significant changes need to be implemented there is always a drastic demand for specialist skills. Yet if every company in your market space wants the same limited resources, or the specific combination of requirements that just never existed before, what are you supposed to do, as recruiters and as businesses?

I suspect that many recruiters continue to try and find that elusive candidate or two to acquiesce a hiring manager that has a wish list of demands.

I also suspect that hiring managers hold out for the perfect candidate that can perform and deliver from day one.

Recruiters – Just saying we can’t find what you are looking for is not good enough.

Hiring Managers – Just asking for experience that is not available in the market and leaving a vacancy open for longer than 60 days or more is not good enough either.

Neither attitude helps though does it? It doesn’t get the job done!

Yet despite the fact that so many companies are chasing the limited resources, how many are thinking longer term and looking at ways to actually get the job done?

I can’t understand this. Consider the cost of an empty seat for 3 months, offering zero productivity and a zero prognosis on when it will be filled as well as the impact that empty seat has on other members of the team. Then consider taking a ‘not quite perfect’ candidate and training them over the same period. Not only have you got someone who is taking some of the work now, you will have someone who will fill the seat in 3 months. Surely it’s better to train someone to be productive in three months, than it is to wait for three months then still have no one to do the job.

Very simple logic.

Whilst the hiring managers own the process of business process delivery the recruiters are responsible to ensure that the right skills are acquired for the job. Typically recruiters will have a good feel for the market; if they are doing their job properly they will do anyway. They should have the information, confidence and the trust of their customer community to advise, consult and provide the information to the hiring managers. Be brave say it as it is. If a hiring manager can’t have what they want because of non-availability of and competition for skills or money or any other influencing factor then you need to tell them. It won’t be good enough to just say it, you will have to outline the potential implications along with the options available and how you would propose to ensure that their business plans stay on track.

And just engaging with more agencies won’t work either. If the skills don’t exists how are they going to find them?
The solution however lies in the advanced notice and planning, being aware of changes and the impact to resources both in-house and in the job market that these changes will demand. In the HR community we call this Talent Demand Planning. It should be taken seriously by the business leaders and planner, by the HRBP and by the Recruiters, planning potentially up to 18-24 months in advance, yet I suspect it is not.

Why not?

Who knows? Complacency, laziness, nativity, arrogance or worse ignorance of the job market and available talent pools. A combination of the above I suspect comes close.

There is no such thing as The Skills Shortage just poor planning and limited vision.


An old post: Will I Win? or I Will Win!

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Originally posted 23 September 2009

I read a very good article this morning, one that made me think hard about behaviour, rationale and the power and control of my own mind

In the article by Peter Bregman in the Harvard Business Blog showed how simple mind games can have a very adverse affect on our personality and our lives. It is a great article and really struck home how much control we give to our imagination and creating fantasies that can all to easily become reality.

In describing the two scenarios; his own personal anxieties after being stung by a number of hornets and the behaviour and actions of his friend in the work place I am sure Peter has outlined situations that we can all see ourselves doing in our daily lives. I certainly can – it is only human nature surely.

Will I Win? or I Will Win! Exactly the same number of letters, the same number words. All that is different is the order they are in. The first has doubt and insecurity running all through it, whereas coming at the same words from a different perspective and using them slight differently they become full of certainty and confidence.

So by taking control of your imagination and reeling in the fantasy before you start living it you’ll have better options. Positive Mental Attitude is what it’s all about. And we can control that! I’m neither an evangelist nor an expert on the issues at all and don’t intend to preach but I read this article and it reminded me that by taking the positive “I Will Win!” stance is actually more enjoyable and relaxing than asking the question.

Job Hunting is About Making Right Choices for the Right Reasons – Day 27 #myjobhunt

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This is Wednesday and Day 27. I’ve been unemployed for 2 whole weeks now. Gone in a flash! Feels like the first push has come to a head now. For the last week this was always going to be a big day for #myjobhunt with two final, or at least that was how they had been billed, interviews.

So before I get into the events and thoughts of today, let’s have a quick look at yesterday. As you have read in this and other blogs a few friends had a camping expedition in Devon over the weekend. It was one of the most relaxing and fun filled weekends I have had in a long time, maybe because there was very little pressure and the only expectations that had to be realized, were we would laugh, have a lot to drink, get very wet surfing and not have nearly enough sleep. The big point of this for me was the laughter and the relaxation with friends that have cared and have supported me throughout #myjobhunt. Talk of work was avoided and only touched upon in general or lighthearted banter. With sixteen very noisy, confident and extrovert people in a reasonably close environment you would have thought that I wouldn’t have had time for serious reflection, yet this is exactly what I was able to do, albeit briefly.

On Monday of this week I had a long conversation with Mrs F about the progress of #myjobhunt. No concerns apart from making the right choice. It doesn’t necessarily come down to choice and in this particular case – I’ll get there in a moment – it wasn’t about choice.

Since Day 1 I have been pursuing a job with an American technology company and have had a number of interviews, all of which have been blogged about here. I had a supposed final interview last week which resulted in another final interview to be had this week, today in fact. At this point I didn’t have a choice. As I mentioned very early on in Day 1 or Day 2 a candidate needs to get an offer to make a choice. Well that is not entirely true. I had the choice to withdraw my application altogether, didn’t I?

And that is what I did; I withdrew my application after 6 interviews. Didn’t see that one coming did you?

Why? You may ask. There were number of reasons if I was being really picky and critical, however the key deciding factor was that I did not have a good feeling about it. I didn’t have a bad feeling either. This means I had no emotion attached to it and to pursue a job that, if I got it, would have meant a 130-mile round trip, which I was poorly motivated by would have been wrong; not only for me, but to them too. Also after 6 individual interviews for the same role I was pursing it, they were not pursing me. I don’t want that to sound arrogant but they hadn’t once called me after an interview to ask me for my feedback, nor had they given me any feedback or a compelling reason to want to work for them. It won’t therefore surprise you; it didn’t me, to know that all they said when I called to tell them was “thanks for letting us know”! (WTF???) I think that response justifies and verifies that I had made the right decision to pull out.

I know! I know! They may have had that response because I was not the person they wanted anyway. But please???!! They and we have to give a candidate a better experience than that. It wasn’t a bad one and it won’t change my views on their products, but it wasn’t good enough for my requirements as a candidate, or by my standards as a Recruitment Manager.

Dusted down and moving on.

I was also contacted directly by a couple of members of The FIRM who proposed ideas to me or wanted to explore my interest or availability. Another couple of online contacts had put resourcers at other companies in touch with me and these need to be followed up.

So whilst the pipeline is not as long as it was previously it is still there. But it needs me persecute it and not let the opportunities slip me by. It is important that I follow all of these up to be sure I am not overlooked, nor show anyone any disrespect. If I have done this to you already I apologise.

Onwards and Upwards – Day 27: I travelled into London with my usual tunes on my iPod – yup you guessed it Genesis, Suppers Ready – for an interview in the City. I love the City, as I do most of Central London, but the City is special and was looking forward to this one having had a great call with both the recruiter and the hiring manager last week.

(SIDE NOTE -Trouble was the Tube strike hangover today. Now do they think us stupid? “signal failures” crippling the network the day after a strike. Says much about the intelligence somewhere in that mix! The irony is that they are striking over the possibility of maybe 800 jobs being cut and yet their laziness and not going to work today was delaying me for an interview. Lazy work-shy b#@*&$+s)

Where was I? – oh yeah stuck at Baker Street. I got to the City in the end in plenty of time – my usual 30 minutes safety window intact. The interview seemed to go well, but I think they are always difficult to read. That is all I will say. I am very keen on this one and don’t want to tempt fate. True to their nature the recruiter called within 2 hours to ask me for my feedback; however that call turned into another interview of sorts. This recruiter is awesome and asked me questions about the questions I was asked in the interview proper. What a way to make sure I had been focused, paying attention to the key points and taking it all in. So now I have the wait to hear. This is the worst bit. I am tight with anticipation on this one.

Music of Day 26 – Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd
Music of Day 27 – Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones

The one big downer of the last few days is the news that Connaught, the housing facilities maintenance company has gone into administration. There are a few of their recruiters in The FIRM that are likely to be affected or at least left worrying in uncertain times. I mention it because it means that potentially a large number of people – 4500 reported – could be in the same boat as me soon. It is not nice and I wish them all success in finding replacement opportunities soon, should they need to. One of their number, a recruiter and a member of The FIRM contacted my directly on Twitter yesterday, thanking me for this blog! He has taken something from it and reported to me today that he has already arranged two interviews on his Day 1– so I have competition in #myjobhunt eh? Seriously this is great news and of course I am glad I help in a small way – who would be?

What was also interesting is that he has been able to do this using his network of contacts and not relaying on the traditional and “so last year” approach of calling the agencies.

So if anyone reading this is looking for a technical recruiter in the Thames Valley, Surrey, Hants or London please give Jon Harrison aka @jonnieboyh a Tweet. Let’s see if we can take this social media networking thing to the next level shall we?

I want a job and that is till my #1 priority but if I can help others find jobs and if I can help companies find candidates by Paying it Forward, then I will.

And NO NO NO I am not starting my own agency again!

It’s called Social Recruiting

Just in case you are wondering what my background is my LinkedIn profile is a click away

or at

in the About Me page above. My contact details can be found in the Contact Me page and am open to any type of conversation that will help me or help you.

Thanks for reading

End-to-End Recruitment Lifecycle Management – Customer Engagement

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One key function that differentiates an In-house Recruiter (IR) from a Talent Acquisition (TA) Business Partner (TABP) is the level of customer engagement. We are not just talking about the taking of a vacancy brief or getting feedback on an applicant, but getting entrenched into their management structure at which point you become part of their business planning thought process. I am sure the vast majority of IR’s will agree that this is not as easy to accomplish as it seems.

I won’t go into the challenges with the type of engagement but focus more on what to do when you get the ear of the Business Unit or Department leader. This is a big subject but I am going to deliberately keep it high-level for now.

Number 1 in the things that a TABP needs to have is credibility. Without it you won’t be given the time of day – twice! As we all know, every hiring manager is a recruiting expert – they all know the best agencies and know how to conduct proper and professional interviews (yeah right!). So why do they need you? Well you have to show them why and in doing so earn their respect and trust. You have to show that you are aware of issues both internal and external that could affect or impact their planning. This will come in many forms; understanding their dept structure, understanding their business model, knowing how they fit into the corporate structure; understanding the market forces they have to deal with and what their risks and challenges are,…..the list goes on.

The key though is to be sure you have something of value to take to that first and most important meeting.

Once you have the ear and mindshare, you do have to add value. The 2 biggest values you can bring to the table are information and candidates – both in a timely manner. Neither is necessarily easy.

Information – stats, stats and more stats.

The bigger the company the more they love ‘em. You could try showing the recruiting trends over the last 6, 12, 24 months in terms of Seasonal Trends, i.e. when they open their Reqs; Time-to-Hire and Source-of-Hire. (I personally am not a fan of Time-to-Hire as a measurement of quality, but it is very useful as an indicator to levels of activity, engagement and decision on all sides). In the current economic climate cost optimisation is at the top of everyone’s thoughts and planning process and thus the Source-of-Hire and by association Cost-of-Hire can have a huge impact. And if you can discuss and agree on a plan to reduce these then you the platform on which to build your strategy and partnership

Whilst the use of stats from internal sources will have a bearing and relevance to your customer, you will also need to have a good understanding of the market and the influences it will have on the business and your ability to hire. Information from external sources could be more valuable to the business and your function than you think.

I give you an example. Recently I was talking to a friend of mine who works for a search firm. I was told that they’d been retained to search for sales people in various countries around the region and was targeting specific skills as well as other companies to fulfil their obligations. Initially I saw this as a potential risk to our headcount, but on reflection I saw it as valuable information for the regional leaders. The numbers being recruited by this other company indicated that they are likely to be making a big effort for sales across the region chasing the same revenue/spend my company is after. This kind of information delivered to a customer provides awareness to a potential new business threat in the region. It also gives an indication of the competition faced for acquiring similar skills and gives you greater credibility with your customer – a win-win-win situation!

Delivering the Candidates

The vast majority of IR teams deliver reactively and Just-In-Time. This is not necessarily the best way of finding the best talent. Let’s face it recruiting is all about timing and we have to accept that we can only hire the best people we can find at that time. But we can stack the odds in our favour.

By working closely with the BU leaders you will possibly become and essential part of their quarterly and yearly planning process. Different departments will have different critical points through the fiscal year; Sales will typically want to do most of their hiring at the beginning of the new financial year, whereas an R& D dept. will want to hire with sufficient time to be sure that a new product can be launched according to schedule, which will likely mean that the Technical Support teams might want to do theirs to coincide with a new product launch, and so it goes on across the business. If you as a TABP can be part of departmental planning you will be able qualify what skills are needed and when for, thus be able to put an advance plan in place to build a pipeline of credible candidates and if you are equipped to do so save your customer some precious budget in the process.

Having such advance notice will allow you to plan your sourcing strategy with the resources, both internal and external available to you. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can direct source now that you have the time to do it. You may not have be equipped with the skills or bandwidth to do it in your current structure, many don’t. So I guess what I am saying here is make sure that you manage the expectations of your customer and ensure you and you teams are equipped to deliver before you commit. It all sounds good but if you don’t have the mechanics or the know-how then it could backfire. Then you will lose any and all credibility that you have earned. It will then be difficult to nearly impossible to build it again.

To close this post it is vital to ensure that you, the TABP provide a constant flow of information to your customer; market intel, candidate market intel, campaign/sourcing progress, anything to keep them in the loop. Your goal is to make sure that when they think recruitment they think of you first. You become the trusted advisor.

End-to-End Recruitment Lifecycle Management – Brand Protection

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In the last posting End-to-End Recruitment Lifecycle Management – Brand Promotion I acknowledged that it was the responsibility of the corporate marketing and PR depts. to promote the corporate brand and also suggested that as Recruiters we have an equal responsibility for doing so. To take it a step further we can promote the brand with as much gusto and enthusiasm but if we forget some of the basics and lose focus we will fail to protect the brand. Some may even goes as far as severely damaging the corporate image and in some cases damning themselves and their company to infamy or worse. Good examples of this could include Gerald Ratner, who in 1991 openly said that the products his jewellery store chain sold were crap! and thus coined the phrase “doing a Ratner” and more recently, a story more closely related to recruiting first reported in the Daily Mail of Mr Karl Winn, boss of a web design company who I referred to previously Recruiters Brand Protection – shameful.

What have these two gentlemen in common? For starters they were probably both successful in promoting the products and services of their respective companies, and for generating different degrees of success. Secondly they both lost the focus of who they are and how they are responsible for continued protection of the corporate image and brand. They both forgot that what they say and do can and will have ramifications. Whilst Ratner’s mistake was meant in jest it still had a disastrous affect on him personally and on the company he founded and grew. As for Winn – well the less said about him the better, eh?

As professional Recruiters we too have a responsibility for ensuring that the employer image we and our colleagues have striven to create is protected. There are many reasons for this, reasons we don’t all think of all of the time, however we need to be mindful that what we say or do – or what we don’t say or don’t do – how we say things and do things can cost your employer money. One thing to be aware of, you cannot create a brand; your customers, your market does that for you, but you can protect it.

I’d like to use the FMCG or Consumer market to provide one example of what I mean. Picture the company has spent millions of dollars developing, launching, marketing and supporting a product that when used is a global market leader, whether it be a washing power, a computer product, a confectionary item or a soft drink. Then think of all of the people, candidates, you speak with on a daily basis and how anyone of them could be a consumer of your company’s product and what decisions they may make based on their interaction with you and your team members.

It all comes down to candidate experience. Each candidate who applies and is considered needs to be made to feel unique by the in-house recruiters and by any agency staff engaged in the process. This all comes down to the levels, timeliness and quality of communications between all parties, how much information is given, how much assistance is given and how much time is spent with them. One objective I speak about a lot is the fact that we need to ensure that every candidate who comes through our process leaves at the end of their journey with a positive feeling about my company, regardless of the result and their success in securing employment with you. We aim to ensure that they will speak highly of us and reapply for another role at another time because they had a good feeling by us.

A word to the wise here – Don’t forget it is our job to process applications and fill Reqs, but please don’t forget that a job application and the prospect of the job with your company could have a significant impact on the life of a candidate, for all kinds of reasons, especially in today’s economic climate. Put yourself in their shoes.

Take the candidate experience into the reference to the FMCG or Consumer Market above and think how a candidate who has been poorly managed and becomes dissatisfied and frustrated by how the application process has gone. It is human nature to associate one experience with another and to generalise. Thus it is not too much of a leap to think that if a candidate has had a poor experience when applying for a job with you he or she may very well have or create a similar opinion about your products. Not only that they are likely to tell their friends and word will get around. It won’t go far in a market context but give enough candidates poor experiences and a reputation can very easily be created. Not only are you likely to alienate some people and put them off applying for jobs with your company but they may chose not to use your products. Don’t forget people are fickle and perception is everything.

As recruiters we can’t do much about the quality or flavour of a soft drink or the performance of a software product, but we can influence the perception of a large portion of the market with our professionalism and by the attention we give to them during a job application process. Our goal is to give someone such a strong and favourable experience that if we are able to offer them a job they will be hungry to accept. If on the other hand we cannot offer them a job we would like to have done such a good job with as much sensitivity as possible, that they will feel confident that they can apply again in the future or at least refer a friend to us.

Simple tips:

• Be honest – do not over sell but feel free to impress
• When telephoning, discuss what they want to do, what they want to achieve, make it about them
• Confirm everything in writing, preferable by email rather than IM or Twitter DM etc
• Provide thorough detailed job descriptions
• Set accurate expectations and with regard to the process and the timelines
• Be clear with interview arrangements and confirm in writing, with a map and directions
• Don’t hide behind the anonymity of your ATS front-end
• Be available to answer any questions they may have in follow up
• Provide details of interviews structure, who interviewers are and their functions
• Follow up for feedback – but make it about them, their opinions, concerns and questions
• Give them feedback
• Be polite at all times
• SMILE! It does come across over the phone I promise you


Sorry it is a bit 101 but I know from many candidates, as well as from reading concerns and complaints many have with their application process and experience, that many of us don’t adhere to basic principals all of the time. There is so much more that you can do and possibly should do. There is much that you will think cant be done for one reason or another, but don’t forget that even as professional recruiters we have all been candidates at some point and chances are we will be so again. How you like would to be treated and what would impress you?

End-to-End Recruitment Lifecycle Management – Brand promotion

When it comes to the priorities that an In-house Recruiter (IR) must always keep at the forefront of conscious thought the promotion of their corporate brand and then protecting it must be at the top.

I have spoken to many many recruiters over the last 18 months and am surprised I meet some that seem to just go through the motions without consideration of what it all means to the candidate and to the company for whom you work.

Let’s take a look at promoting the brand.

We all know that Marketing and PR depts. are responsible for promoting the corporate messages to the target communities in the market, but how many of those same departments take ownership and responsibility for marketing the corporate message vision and culture to future potential employees? I would argue very few, sadly.

This task seems to fall to the teams of Talent Attraction professionals and unless you work in a large enough forward thinking organisation this will typically fall the IR’s, thankfully. Every time an IR places an advert on a job board or briefs an agency or approaches a candidate they are 100% responsible for promoting the corporate brand and values.

When placing an advert on a job board, branding is vital and so is how you write and present the advert. Studies by most of the leading job boards state that branded adverts tend to yield better results. Yes I know they would say that because they are trying to up-sell, but it makes so much sense. Think about it. Define an image, structure your ads with clear messages and create a consistent brand and it will get recognised time and again; maybe even searched for!

When briefing an agency an IR needs and must invest the time to give a thorough briefing. Anything less than 10 minutes just isn’t sufficient. Once the decision has been made to use an agency or a search firm you are effectively setting up a sales channel and delegating the responsibility of representing your company on your behalf to someone else. You need to be sure that they are equipped to represent you and your company to the best of your ability. Yes your ability. They are acting on your behalf. Give them the time and information they need to sell your company and your job to a potential candidate. I would advocate testing them on their understanding and knowledge too; see how well they are representing you. They will get better results if they have the right tools and the right pitch. It’ll also make you look good to your internal clients and not only that the candidate will think better of the agency and the whole recruitment process as a result. It’ll make the “close” easier.

When speaking to the candidate, make sure you give them so much information about the company, and while you are at it make it sound exciting. It is important from a candidate’s perspective to hear from a IR and hear all about the great things that the company does, has done and where it sits in the world and what it can offer them and what it could mean to them to be part of it. This isn’t about selling them a product; it is about selling them a career – a lifestyle, if you like! You need to give them the attention and priority throughout your discussions with them so that they consider you first when they are ready to move, whenver that may be.

We need to also discuss brand protection. Next time

End-to-End Recruitment Lifecycle Managment

I was having conversations with a couple of people this week and was asked questions in respect to the processes that need to be followed and considerations that an in-house recruiter (IR) needs to keep in mind. It was in answering these and having a full conversation around the subject ,that it made me think further about many of the things we have to do on a regular basis, that tend to get taken for granted; how much of a challenge we have and why the role of the in house is such a mystery to many.

I recognise that not all companies have in-house recruiting or resourcing teams. I also recognise that not all in-house teams work in the same way. Take the membership of The FIRM for example. There are over 900 companies represented across 41 countries, each has their own set of processes and corporate politics and peculiarities to respect. I expect the focus and priorities and therefore the models that are adopted vary from company to company, from country to country and event internal business unit to business unit. So I will continue based on some firsthand understandings and some assumed generalisations.

I know for a fact that many an agency and customer does not and probably cannot understand the scale, pace and intensity that an IR lives with. I have even heard agency staff disrespect IR’s claiming them to be failed agency staff or gatekeepers – that’s a good business tactic if ever I heard one!

The fundamental role of the IR is to hire the best people possible to meet the business needs of their employer. Simple, yes? However if we start to think of the IR in terms of managing the end-to-end recruitment lifecycle we start to understand where the hours in the days go when time and consideration needs to be given to :-

• Resource and budget planning – reports, trends , market analysis

• Attraction strategies which would include Campaign/Marketing strategies – short-, medium- , longer-term

• Acquisition strategies- direct source/search, job boards, online medium options, agencies, search

• Interview planning – attendees, structure, schedules

• Internal Customer management – an IR cannot hide from or ignore customers, they will hunt you down through the corridors

• Candidate Management – sourcing, CVs, Interviewing, feedback, follow up, experience and expectation management

• Brand Protection and candidate experience

…and these are just the high level ones. Add in our general love for speaking with people and you have all of the networking and interaction with our internal and external contacts, all of whom can have a direct impact on how the job is performed and what results you might be able to achieve.

Two primary concerns for all IR’s must be projection and protection of the corporate brand and the provision of a first class candidate experience. We must ensure all that we do ensures that every candidate that goes through the application process is managed in such a way that at the end of their journey they feel good about the experience, whether the result for them is positive or not.

Each of the above points could have many words written about it and I intend to explore some of them in a bit more detail in future posting.

Do consider this as a taster – a prelude if you will.