Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Get your networking right!

"It’s not what you know but who you know that makes the difference.” Any job seeker would know that! Networking remains the most effective job-search and self-marketing tool. The US Department of Labour states that only 5 percent of people find jobs through the open job market, while 48 percent, nearly half of all job seekers obtain jobs through referrals. Yet, many approach networking ineptly ruining their chances of being recruited.
“Networking is making links from people we know to people they know, in an organised way, for a specific purpose.” says Donna Fisher. Networking involves making connections, establishing relationships, obtaining referrals and building a support structure for personal and professional success.

Establishing a support network however can be a daunting task and most job seekers falter here. Of late, the process of networking is being packaged as an impersonal and manipulative technique leaving a bad taste with professional recruiters. Consequently, most them have stopped entertaining job seekers.

The problem begins
“Interpersonal relationships are today’s business currency.” Most jobs seekers fail to respond to the opportunity of building relationships. From then on begins the journey downhill! The basic principle of networking is respecting people you would like to network with. Understanding and appreciating the subtle nuances of relationships with regard to different people and the level of familiarity with them comes next.

Such an understanding can be got if the networker observes and understands a few basic networking rules. Networking isn’t a sales transaction, it is a way of building trust in individuals, gaining better visibility about the job market through interactions, gathering information about job vacancies and creating a favourable impression in the mind’s of potential recruiters.

While networking, a jobseeker should make the ‘contacts’ feel they are being heard and respected and that interacting with them is a value addition. Cavette Roberts, founder of the National Speakers Association rightly says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
In the process of networking, communication should be open and informal. Job seekers often commit the mistake of not giving others an opportunity to share their inputs. Talking too much or too little could be disadvantageous. A networker needs to remember that the networking meeting is a favour and he must make the most of it using the best of his interpersonal skills.

What not to do—The great agenda switch approach

Notice how a networker makes a sudden switch in his agenda.

Mehta, a networker requests for a low-stakes meeting over the phone stating that all he wants to do is exchange a few ideas. Once face-to-face with the contact, Mehta throws him off guard by badgering him for employment. Not only does Mehta lose face with the contact but the contact defames him, ruining further employment opportunities.

What to do--The direct approach

When a job seeker disguises the purpose of a meeting, the contact feels manipulated and avoids associating with such jobseekers. Asking a potential employer about a job directly either in writing or verbally is the most appropriate job-search tactic.

A savvy networker uses this approach while dealing with a contact:
“Mr.Tata, several people mention that the start-up of your new division might create a need for someone who can manage a full set of financial and accounting controls. If that’s true, I’d like to express my interest. If my friends have got it wrong and there is no employment prospect, we could informally network to talk about the market for controllers and CFO’s in your region.”

Clarity of purpose

A contact is naturally concerned about why the networker called, how he heard of him, the agenda of the meeting, and whether there are any associated risks. Failing to give contacts a frame of reference that explicitly defines his role is another common mistake networkers make. Networkers should remember to follow up on the contact.
A college student initiated contact with a guest speaker (a professional in the pharmaceutical industry). They kept in touch through the final semester. Even before she graduated she had a high paying job lined up.

Since networking is about people, it is but obvious that the best networking leads will come from people on the field. Networkers though have to be careful about providing authentic referrals and checking the referral’s accuracy. Often networkers use the clout of referrals (“Your friend

Mr. Tata asked me to give you a call.”) to fix meetings. The contact may oblige as a favour to the friend only to realise that the referral provided wrong or inaccurate information.

A networker can shape his presentation by testing a contact’s level of knowledge before or during a meeting. He must provide a clear profile and his objectives.

Clarity of message

What a networker says is as important as how he says it. Hard and soft self-sell techniques that sales personnel use to overcome defenses and objections should be avoided. Over-rehearsing a presentation robs it of its spontaneity giving the impression of made up conversation. A good networker formats his presentation on the three C’s-concise, casual and conversational.

A contact should be allotted ‘talk time’. It is important to be both interested and interesting. Actively listening to the contact gives the networker an insight into his calibre. Body language is vital here. A good networker demonstrates enthusiasm and professionalism at all times.

Networking niceties

A networker should pay attention to the amount of time he requests for the meeting. The meeting should be scheduled to allow sufficient time for covering the agenda without appearing to be rushed or lengthy. A good networker is discreet about his referrals. He doesn’t attribute information to a contact incase disclosure affects the person.

By conveying appreciation and gratitude, a networker leaves a lasting impression with contacts. Thoughtful and considerate networkers gain by creating inexhaustive sources of information, friendly ties and support that help them secure more than just employment.

With communication growing globally, a person’s career network can include people across geographical areas. Also the Internet offers tremendous opportunity for networking. Observing these niceties while networking will help a savvy job seeker.

Ref: TheManageMentor

The “Uncommon” Balance!

The issue of work-life balance gets a whiff of fresh perspective… .....

Key learnings:

  • Work-life imbalance can lead to high employee turnover, high employee-burnout and low employee productivity
  • Work-life balance can be attained through an integrated solution where programme quality, culture and individual responsibility complement each other.

Work-life balance is not as much about the “balance” as it is about the “imbalance”. Corporate burnout rate is rising at an alarming rate with employees feeling the pain more than ever before. Organisations are turning increasingly to wellness programmes and other such work-life balancing strategies, but are left wanting for more. Corporate psychologists believe that while organisations are putting in a great deal of effort to establish a fair balance between work and life, it is not enough. Analysing the issue of work-life balance and identifying the problems and possible solutions requires one to first search in the right place. While most believe that majority work-life issues can be sorted out focusing on the individual, experts believe that in reality it is the organisation and its approach to work-life balance that needs fine- tuning. Statistics indicating the plight of employees caught in an imbalanced work-life equation reveal some eye-popping facts. These include:

  • Employees under stress result in huge corporate spending by way of wellness programmes and counselling. The impact on corporate spending is almost fifty percent higher than in the case of employees who work in relatively relaxed conditions
  • Work-life imbalance is one of the most dominant reasons for ailments like heart attacks, depression, cancer and migraine. Hence, health benefits costs too rise considerably.
  • Workers who often take a break from work because of stress and pressure are more likely to leave the job as compared to their colleagues. In addition these workers begin to show a rather dismal attendance pattern with time.

The aforementioned findings reveal that work-life balance is as much about the role of the organisation as it is about the individual. Hence, to attain the right balance organisations need to focus both on the individual and the approach the organisation takes to tackle issues of work-life balance.

In addition, study on the subject has revealed that for best results there has to be coordination between three pillars of work-life balance. These include: organisational initiatives and programmes, corporate culture to support the initiatives and the role of the individual. These three factors play a critical role in determining the success of corporate work-life initiatives.

Building strength

Programmes and initiatives To begin with every work-life initiative should be screened first at the programmatic level. Organisations that pursue seriously the cause of work-life balance ideally have a series of programmes and initiatives catering to employee needs. These programmes help organisations channelise their energies in the right way, thereby lowering work-related stress and discomfort. The following is a programme menu that depicts the type of programmes that should be included in the work -life effort of every organisation:

  • Employee assistance programmes or EAPs that aim to provide employees with emotional and professional support in stressful times
  • Flexi time initiatives that allow employees to work long hours and take an extra day off in lieu of the extra hours
  • Day care centres and other children-friendly arrangements like an on-campus crèche
  • On-campus gymnasium and yoga classes that help employees unwind

Experts believe that programmes such as these work better as they are more precise and user-friendly. Interventions that discourage employees from working overtime in the name of work-life balance do not work well. For, employees finally end up taking extra work home without really getting rewarded for it.

Cultural sculpting Work-life initiatives like other initiatives can fail if corporate culture does not support them. By a supportive culture we mean the involvement of the CEO and other top management executives. Senior executives must demonstrate in their actions their concern for employee needs and the significance of work-life balance. Mere lip service may not yield the desired results. When leaders say that employees should not over- stress themselves and also pile up work for them then the whole campaign begins to look like a farce. Thus, support from senior management by way of practising ideas that reflect concern for work-life balance is important for the success of work-life programmes.

Individual responsibility Work-life initiatives may fail to show the desired results in spite of an effective programme and a supportive culture . This experts say is because of lack of individual responsibility and accountability towards maintaining the desired balance. Employers can only provide the necessary benefits, but the option of using them lies with the individual. For instance, the employer may give an individual personal time –off from work , but if the employee chooses to catch up with work deadlines in that time then the responsibility of a tilted balance lies completely with the individual. Hence, individual responsibility plays a major part in creating a successful work-life balance.
Work-life balance is an essential aspect of a successful professional life and a satisfying personal life. Either one is incomplete without the other. Hence, organisations should strive towards attaining this balance and educate employees about their role in achieving the same. An integrated solution that blends programme quality, culture and individual accountability is thus the only way forward for success with work-life initiatives.

Ref: TheManageMentor

People Management

People Management

Cut, Yet Keep!Convincing employees to stay despite a bonus cut… ..

Key learnings:

  • Prudence has it that even the most stable of organisations take preventive measures to face recession
  • Not paying bonus is one such measure

With recession spreading to more and more countries, even the most stable of organisations will have to start taking anticipatory counter-measures. Of course, most of these measures will be in the form of monetary cuts since cost-cutting is taken as a synonym for survival! But if employees see that things are still OK with their company, and that recession will not hit their industry badly, the one thing that they will not graciously accept is being asked to forgo monetary rewards. In other words, they will still expect the annual or festival bonus.

During an economic downturn, smart organisations would rather not pay bonuses than cut training and recruiting budgets. “Once the economy gets back on track, the bonuses can be dished out. But reviving the functions of recruiting and training after a slump is not easy. Therefore, it is in the interest of every organisation to keep these functions going,” says an expert.

This stand may appear logical to business heads, but unfortunately employees suffer from a short-term vision. So how can organisations, which haven’t been hit hard by recession, convince employees that some counter-measures are imperative regardless of how they are doing during a downturn? This week’s mailer attempts to suggest a strategy on that.

Target talent
Not receiving the annual is the first sign of eventual doom, especially in small enterprises. This assumption, even in the worst of economic times can prompt employees to start looking out. One way to curb this is to form a nexus with top performers and employees with large influence circles, and share with them the real reason for holding back on bonus. Convincing this lot that the bonus cut is a temporary and preventive measure should help convey the message to the bottom-line in a more persuasive manner. Employees are likely to say, “So if they can go without the bonus for all they have done, so can we.” They may also think that if top performers are taking a bonus cut and not leaving, then things outside maybe pretty bad!

Being taken into confidence by the management makes the selected few feel special and they do a good job as spokespersons.

Do not compare
The typical approach to sharing the bad news is informing employees how badly the other industries have been hit, while they are still managing to sail. Then employees will ask, “If we are still posting profits then why penalise us for what others are experiencing?” From an employee’s perspective, if the annual bonus is a promised part of his package, then he should be receiving it whenever the organisation records profits.

Rhetorical speeches on how what is happening to others can also happen to us fall on deaf ears. It is not because the employees are unconcerned, only that they fail to appreciate the long-term measures. Therefore, an effective way to get them to see a bonus-cut as a preventive and temporary measure is to communicate the doom side of recession regularly and subtlety.

Newsletters that carry case studies of enterprises being hit by recession, managers referring to how a friend’s company had to layoff employees, C-level executives commenting on the recession in blogs and fewer organisation-sponsored social events should convey the message that all may not be well below the surface. While these efforts should prepare employees not to be shocked when a bonus cut is announced, the green balance sheet should keep them indoors!

The current volatility of the economy should serve as a warning to organisations structuring their bonus packages. In addition to promising realistic bonuses, a prudent move is to share bonuses on a biannual or quarterly basis. Employees who do not receive their Diwali bonus will still look forward to the quarter. Waiting an entire year in the hope of bonus is too long a wait for an employee, especially when the bonus is skipped.

Denying employees their bonus while the going is good is not easy. But with the economy ‘misbehaving’, even the best of businesses have to tread cautiously, and cutting bonuses is a step in that direction.

Ref: TheManageMentor

Strategic HRM

The Virtual Loop
Organisations can create rewarding interpersonal connections in a virtual setup….....

Key learnings:

  • Virtual workplace is fraught with staff management challenges
  • Organisations can introduce programmes like web conferencing and community events to create a sense of belonging among its virtual employees

Virtual workplace is an answer to the unreasonable demands of time and space. While organisations cannot help but take the load that comes with the pressures of competition, employees find it difficult to accommodate it in the given time span. Hence, to make things easier at both ends, the concept of virtual workplace emerged. However, alongside the benefits, it brings with it sizeable challenges. The challenges are largely embedded in the fabric of staff management and planning. HR leaders have a host of issues to combat before they set the virtual workplace to a rhythm. Of the many issues, the need to stay bonded with a feeling of belongingness for employees who are connected through nothing more than an intricate wiring is the most challenging.

Accenture, the software-solutions giant,that employs more than 170,000, empes an interesting example of how leaders, managers and employees can stay connected despite working in a virtual set up.

Dissecting the virtual wiring

Accenture may be a virtually-run organisation, but it puts in immense effort to maintain the esprit de corps among its employees. According to Jill Smart, chief human resources officer, the company’s virtual model helps keep employees in one loop and enables them to work effectively with the luxury of their own pace.

Like Accenture, there are many organisations that are increasingly opting for virtual workspaces, primarily because good talent is becoming a scarce resource and fuel is becoming an expensive commodity. People have started viewing commuting as a waste of time and therefore are opting for options like flexi-time and telecommuting. But this trend has also led to some serious staff management problems. Virtual organisations really have to work hard to develop a management model that gives a ‘community’ feeling to people working for it. In the absence of such a model the virtual set up can break away. Thus, it is important that organisations make a deliberate attempt to develop the community feeling among its employees.

At Accenture the effort to build an ‘Accenture community’ has been widely evident. The company recruits close to 60,000 people every year, and for it to ensure connectivity among employees scattered around the globe is a task that is at best complex. Nevertheless, the company has instituted a host of initiatives and programmes to create a sense of community among its employees. Of the many initiatives, use of web conferencing tools, quarterly community events, counsellor services and extensive employee orientation programmes are popular.

In addition to these, companies like Accenture also have to battle out the issue of talent drain at the client site. It is a very serious concern of consulting organisations as employees get to spend a significant amount of their work time at the client site. The employee turnover data at Accenture shows that the main reason for turnover is the stability that the client job offers To counter client lure Accenture has made some attractive changes in tts approach to wtaff management

Modus operandi

At Accenture employees work to meet client needs. To do so, they have to work on the client site, and therefore tend to get a little cosy with them. This closeness with the client works well most of the time, but can lead to talent drain if the clients manage to lure consultants with benefits which they think are not available to them. This, experts believe, stems largely from lack of information. Many times consultants had been known to leave Accenture for benefits that were already available to them because they were unaware of the privileges. This led the management team at Accenture to launch a series of initiatives aimed at educating employees about the various career progression opportunities available to them. Most Accenture consultants left the company for the need of stability, hence providing them with options that give them stability was important. The company, therefore, introduced manager training that could help employees access options within the organisation by using web-based tools.

The options include cross-functional shifts within the company with minimal need to shift base. Employees can bank on stability with these new options. For instance, in an HR outsourcing project, consultants work at the client site for periods as long as 10 years. Hence, shifting consultants who have been hopping around to projects like these can give them the stability they need. The company’s efforts seem to be working well. Till May 2008, 30 percent of the open positions were filled internally. Employees at Accenture have begun to look inside for the benefits and comforts they seek with the clients. This is a good trend for Accenture as losing talent can threaten not only growth but also its very survival, especially in times like these.

In addition, Accenture also provides training on how counsellors can be more sensitive to issues pertaining to a virtual workplace, particularly differences arising out of different time zones and cultures. Every employee goes through an employee joiner programme which is basically an orientation programme that educates employees about the ‘Accenture way’. The company then trains the new employees on its standardised delivery methods. All this is done under the supervision of counsellors assigned to employee. These counsellors are senior managers responsible for creating a sense of belonging among the scattered Accenture staff.

Accenture’s attempt to develop a sense of community among its staff is paying off well. Organisations working on a similar model need to learn a thing or two from the consulting giant. For those, who are still contemplating about adopting the virtual staff management model, the advice is that they should first weigh the challenges of a virtual model, and only if they have the resources to counter these challenges should they consider implementing it.

Ref: TheManageMentor

Hidden store - HR practices

Managing Human Resources successfully is the toughest challenge organisations encounter. HR encompasses a sum total of human intelligence, skills, talents and knowledge. Organisations rely on these resources of employees for their prosperity and success.

Out of the door

Organisations often perceive employees as cost investments rather than a knowledge investment. However, employees invest their intelligence and skills in the organisation and if any of their expectations are not fulfilled, they decide to leave for a better place. The reasons for an exit could be low compensation, domestic problems or change in goals.

Research reveals that knowledge workers generally quit because of the organisation's inability to leverage employees' talents.


The exit of the traits and skills of employees is a major concern of organisations. It creates a work gap. To fill-in this gap, organisations need employees with the same skill sets. 'Knowledge Management' comes to organisations' rescue here.

"Knowledge Management embodies organisational processes that seek synergistic combination of data and information processing capacity of information technologies, and the creative and innovative capacity of human beings ," said Yogesh Malhotra, CKO, Brint institute for Knowledge Management.

Hewlett Packard Laboratories has developed an employee directory of internal experts called Connex. It helps in locating subject experts.

Knowledge Management enables organisations to impart the required knowledge to the new recruits or the successors of the exiting employees. It facilitates the enhancement of capabilities and creativity of employees.

Fusion -New perspective

Exit interviews and Knowledge Management

Conventionally, HR used exit interviews as tools to strategise employee retention, ascertain job satisfaction and design reward strategies. Questionnaires reveal the reasons for leaving, comments on the work culture, job responsibilities and remarks of the employee. The information extracted is only about the organisation. But exit interviews may be used for 'determining the knowledge necessary for performing various tasks'.

The municipal authority of the city of Toronto for instance, employed an intern to develop its database. He developed it for forwarding invoices to all domestic animal owners of the city. The intern left on completion of his job.

The governing body faced problems. The permanent employees did not know the access and execution of the programme. The capital used to develop the database became a dead investment. The loss can be attributed to the absence of an exit interview. An exit interview would have enabled sharing of the information essential for the execution of the programme.

Knowledge management and knowledge sharing avert information gaps that result from employees exiting along with their expertise and ensure continuity of work.

Knowledge capture - the essence

Exit interviews must be designed to capture work knowledge. To encapsulate employees' work knowledge, the interview must be employee and organisational specific. It must satisfy the employee and the organisation. To capture knowledge organisations require:


The organisation should first determine the objective of interview. Its primary objective should be to enhance the employees' performance. Essentially, an exit interview should concentrate and highlight, 'what, how and why' of employees' work.

"The exit interview should focus on the achievements and performance of the employee. And we try to get insights about his learning, growth, reasons for leaving etc in the interview," said Joydeep Bose, then GM, (Corporate HR), Wipro.

MphasiS, the company that designs and builds IT architecture, applications and services, is one of the few companies where exit interviews are knowledge focussed. "It helps in identifying various training needs, opportunities for supervisory skill development and improving competitiveness. Besides, they identify legal issues and provide an excellent documentation process." said Vivek Dayal, Global head, Corporate Communications.

Issues related to compensation, communication, job satisfaction, employee morale, overall work environment and comfort level with technology provided form an important part of the interview. Employees' accomplishments, approach to work and working relationship with seniors and organisation are crucial to enhancing performance.


Exit interviews ought to be planned right from the inception of the organisation. It helps in handing over responsibilities and identifies the right employee to be entrusted with the job responsibilities of the departing employee. Consequently, an efficient employee replaces the exiting employee.


Employees' inputs at handing over stage before leaving the organisations are the most significant. Organisations and concerned authorities must let them concentrate on dispensing and gathering their knowledge. This is the most productive period for the organisation as the knowledge is passed on to the successors. Exiting employees must not be coerced to finish pending works.

2-D of knowledge

Working knowledge can be segregated into-explicit and implicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is the relevant material or content that employees use for routine work. Implicit knowledge is that which is hidden in the working pattern of the employee.

The interview should elicit the employee's explicit knowledge related to work.

Explicit knowledge

The material or content used during routine work may be manually written or compiled in folders in the employee's personal computer. These folders or files should be carefully transferred to the library or some secure destination of the organisation.

Helpful notes or educational tips may be appended to this information. This imparts better understanding and eases the new employee's workload.

Implicit knowledge

For implicit knowledge, organisations need to depute successors to the exiting employees prior to their departure. Capturing such knowledge needs regular interaction between the exiting employee and his successors.

Reviewing the important jobs performed by the employee is the first step. This reflects in their work plans or job descriptions. Discussing the working style and approach towards work of exiting employee is necessary. This may reveal the additional support required for perfect execution of the job.

Knowledge sources

Employees' work circuits are crucial information pools. Employees derive work knowledge from their peers and superiors. The interview should reveal these sources and their contribution. An organisation must maintain these learning relationships.

Model: questionnaire or e-mail?

Exit interviews are most effective when conducted face to face. Pre-formatted questionnaires are impersonal, exasperating and unproductive. In-person interviews help in understanding the mental, emotional and social concerns of the exiting employees better.

For effective and efficient interviews organisations need:

Interviewer: He is the soul of the interview. His skills determine the accomplishment of the interview's objectives. Outsourcing an interviewer is a viable option. Outsourced interviewers are trained and more objective and can understand and interpret the discussion with employees. Employees are more at ease to interact and part with their knowledge with an outsider.

Timing: For desired results interviews must be properly timed. The collection of information also should be timed. If the separation of the employee is not voluntary or employee is emotionally charged up at separation, the interview can be delayed. Postponement helps the employee settle down and brings out honest information. In regular cases exit interviews must be scheduled close to the separation date.

Atmosphere: An exit interview must be conducted in a congenial atmosphere. It must facilitate healthy interaction. This affects the employee's comfort levels and gives desired results.
Rapport: Organisations need to establish a 'parting relationship' with exiting employees. This is necessary as these employees might return, or the organisation might consider them for reemployment. Also the organisation may require the employees' services. Continuing relationships could help locate prospective recruits.

Follow-up: Follow-up has two tasks, documentation and analysis. Documentation is as important as the process. It aids and routes through the actual process of follow-up action. Analysis of the information gathered during the exit interview determines the necessary action to be taken. It gives a clear picture of on-the-job issues.

Employee input is in fact necessary at all stages of work. It ought not to be restricted to exit interviews only. Exit of employees cannot be anticipated. Thus, HR must encourage knowledge sharing and incorporate knowledge based exit interviews in the organisational culture and practices.

Effective exit interviews not only disclose employee related issues but also solve many business problems. They facilitate communication of employees' contributions to the organisation. Consequently, both employees and the organisation feel satisfied.

Organisations must realise the worth of their investment and the precautionary measures to be employed to retain invaluable knowledge workers and ensure profitability

How HR Professionals Can Play a Role in Protecting the Enterprise

The story that made headlines this past summer of the San Francisco IT administrator who locked top administrators out of the city's network for several days should spark some serious discussion among HR professionals. The incident was a classic example of what a disgruntled employee with elevated privileges can do to take down the enterprise, such as encrypting data or changing passwords to restrict access to business functions.

IT professionals perform invaluable functions – without their services, organizations could not function. On the flip side, disgruntled IT employees are generally recognized as the highest risk an organization has, as they can do irreparable damage by stealing, corrupting or restricting access to data. A recent study indicated that an incredible 88 percent of IT workers would take company secrets and remote access credentials with them if they were fired. To mitigate this staggering statistic and avoid situations similar to the one in the San Francisco lockout, HR needs to develop a close relationship with their information security staff.

Once a disgruntled IT employee gets into a position where there are red flags that he or she might be a risk to the organization, steps need to be taken to restrict that person's access to the network. Having regular contact between the HR and information security departments will help management stay informed of potential "problem" employees, which is key to approaching the entire issue of insider threats.

Keeping your organization's data secure requires the cooperation of every employee – but HR in particular should play a critical role, especially with IT professionals, starting with the hiring process. When putting together a job description for a position that will have access to the organization's information assets, such as a network or system administrator, HR needs to clearly understand the duties and responsibilities of that position. For example, how much authority is vested in a particular job? What sort of access control will be in place for this position? Effectively communicating job responsibilities requires a close relationship between HR and the information security department, yet security professionals are often left out of the process.

The organization must also place a relative value of importance upon the information in the database that is being protected. Until an organization classifies what the data is worth, it will never know how valuable it is. What would be the impact of the damage to the organization if certain data was lost? For instance, what if the company's intellectual property fell into a competitor's hands? It could put your company out of business.

Another important factor to consider in the IT hiring process is to know more about the type of person you're putting in charge of your information assets. Thorough background checks should be performed before any hiring decision is made. That means more than a simple credit check and 15-second phone call, which is all that transpires in many cases. You need to look into the past of those employees requiring elevated clearance levels to determine if there's a history of disruption or any sign of previous instability. In many instances, this type of information is not discovered until after the person has already been hired; you may then have to alter their job or even terminate them.

Once employees have been hired and put in place, the next point of consideration for HR should involve separation of duties. Giving any one position too much power is rarely a good idea. For the IT professional, there should be a clear separation of duties, whereby one person doesn't have complete network control or authority. It is advisable to divide network responsibilities between at least two people to prevent significant changes within the IT infrastructure. Even if the two positions are totally independent of one another, the position descriptions should be linked to communicate that no one person will have sole responsibility for a particular function, such as access to changing passwords across the entire network.

Companies need to be especially aware of employee behaviour during difficult times. Actions such as layoffs, lack of bonuses or pay increases, or turning an employee down for a promotion can prompt some people to want to 'make themselves more important' – escalating their privileges to give themselves additional responsibilities and control. Companies need to be aware of suspicious behaviour within their network. Therefore, an independent, knowledgeable party such as an information security professional should consistently review network logs to check who has accessed various portions of the database and network. Your company's network(s) and databases must also be segmented with access control best practices in place.

If bad company news, or even the rumour of bad news, is on the horizon, HR should alert the security person to be on the lookout for suspicious behaviour. For example, if there is a massive change of passwords by one individual, or someone suddenly has more authority than they had before, that individual needs to be closely monitored or even isolated until a sufficient investigation can occur. Enforced vacations and job rotations are sometimes necessary for those holding highly sensitive positions.

Any time an organization tries to cut corners with their security and doesn't have enough people in place to provide a separation of duties, the organization runs the risk of putting all their eggs in one basket. The days when it was satisfactory to perform a 'minimum' level of security are gone. Having a second person in place that can understand the technology and undo any damage – or prevent the damage from happening in the first place – is crucial to any organization's well-being.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Companies Miss the Mark on Leadership Development

Organizations' perceptions of and confidence in their leaders are at a 10-year low, according to the 2008-09 "Global Leadership Forecast," a study conducted by Development Dimensions International.

"The fact that satisfaction with leadership is declining says that organizations are not keeping up with the demand," said Ann Howard, chief scientist at DDI. "Part of that might be because leadership is hard, things are changing and it's hard to keep up, but our research said that's probably a minor part of the problem.

"Howard said organizations can do a lot better in employees' confidence in leadership, but it requires effort. There are several major issues. First, many organizations have a leadership development program, but that programming may not offer the right kinds of learning opportunities.

"When we asked leaders what are the most effective ways that you learn and enhance your skills, they pointed to on-the-job types of experiences, and organizations just aren't as forthcoming with that kind of thing: special projects either inside or outside your job, or moving to a different position specifically to enhance your skills," Howard explained.

"For multinational leaders, that's often an international assignment. Organizations will do online programs that teach you about various skills of leadership, they have a lot of workshops, coaching and so on, but that is really just an introduction to the subject.

"Real leadership development likely has to take place, at least in some form, in the actual workplace. Further, the greater the number of methods organizations use to develop leaders, the more effective their development will be. Howard said it's often not a matter of switching from one type of learning to another. It's about including those on-the-job elements to make the development real and offer leaders opportunities to practice their new skills.

Another issue impeding leaders' development is a lack of follow-up after a development program. Howard said the program in question might be a good one, but its potential impact is wasted if learning stops when leaders get back to the workplace and there is no real-time application or feedback.

"Senior management isn't held accountable in a great number of cases, and [development] may not be aligned with other systems in the organization," Howard said. "If you want a leader to be innovative; then you have to reward innovation. It needs to be in your performance management system, for example. Those kinds of things aren't done. Very often a leader will come back from a development experience, and the manager doesn't have the skills to reinforce that.

"But Howard said one of the biggest holes the DDI survey revealed was a lack of measurement."There's not very much monitoring of what's going on or calling on the carpet because this or that didn't get done," she said. "HR can put together a very nice development program, but it dies in the workplace if it doesn't get consistently reinforced. For example, 44 percent of leaders said they don't have an individual development plan.

"The companies that do have plans in place often lack specific objectives, undermining their usefulness, Howard said. Also, succession management often isn't systematic, and companies "don't identify high potentials early. They don't have programs to develop them, and they're not filling up a pipeline of qualified leaders."

"There's a lot of difficult challenges as you work your way up the leadership ladder. We asked leaders, for example, how difficult was it to make a transition from first-level to mid-level or from mid-level to a higher-level position, and it's very difficult. The higher you get the more difficult it is, and yet a lot of organizations don't have any program to help people through those transition periods.

"One group of leaders that is particularly neglected is those in multinational assignments, the survey revealed. These leaders might be expats going to work in another country, but also could include leaders advancing up the career ladder who supervise and coordinate global work efforts.

Howard said even if a leader will not live and work abroad, he or she still needs to understand different cultures and how people operate in those environments.

"You're dealing with ambiguous environments. It's more complex, and you may have to adapt your behavior if it's not acceptable somewhere else. These are tough jobs; yet, when we asked leaders who had those kinds of jobs what they thought of their preparation, over 60 percent said it was fair or poor. That's really bad.

"As the world gets smaller and more and more companies work internationally, this is becoming a bigger and bigger need, but organizations don't seem to be taking it seriously enough."

Ref: Kellye Whitney

A Culture of Learning: Turning Values Into Actions

Creating a culture of learning begins with emphasizing the value of workforce development. Sustaining it entails collaboration among learners, as well as alignment of programs to key organizational goals.

Learning cultures thrive in organizations that consistently reinforce the value of learning. These organizations encourage information- seekers, facilitate educational experiences and consistently demonstrate a commitment to learning by defining the culture in actions, not words.

Learning is not a one-time event. Effective and meaningful corporate cultures understand learning is an essential part of the fabric of the company, woven into all roles, functions, divisions and regions of the organization. Placing value on learning and creating an open environment creates an enduring organization and provides the ultimate source of sustainability.

Too often, education on corporate values and principles is addressed in silos. Corporate attitudes and behaviors are heavily influenced by an organization's culture, and the culture is shaped by the organization mission, core values and traditions. In a healthy learning culture, education is visible in all aspects of the business - so learning penetrates the entire organization to foster a culture of interactivity and engagement. In the case of a company's ethics and compliance education, a company's values come to life in actions that provide competitive advantage to the organization.

This holistic approach to learning - including the company's values, ethical decision making and business risks - is necessary in creating a learning culture. Yet, too often, education is applied to meet compliance standards or the minimums of the law and not necessarily designed to foster a values-based culture.

Evolving Into a Values-Based Learning Culture

Global businesses are faced with a number of new and more complex challenges than ever before regarding how people connect, collaborate and work cohesively and productively. Trend data from LRN's "2008 Ethics and Compliance Risk Management Practices Report," which surveyed more than 420 global companies, shows that one-quarter of organizations have a desire to engage employees in learning, but are challenged to put their corporate values and integrity into action.

When an organization seeks to transform its corporate culture through values-based learning, it is best to initiate the tone from the top and ask executives to define the overall culture to determine whether they consider it to be a learning culture. This assessment should touch a representative sample of organizational stakeholders, in addition to the leadership team - which may include customers, shareholders, suppliers, as well as employees.

Next, a thorough assessment of current programs assists in evaluating the attitudes and perceptions of the organization's learning culture. This assessment should reach employees across roles, functions and geographies to gather a balanced perspective of their educational experiences. The results should be compared to highlight any key commonalities that are important to maintain. However, it also is important to identify any discrepancies in perceptions of the overall culture, as well as the educational programs, to create an action plan that moves the company toward a truly aligned learning culture.

Shifting attitudes and transforming behavior do not happen overnight, but leveraging multiple learning channels within an organization is an excellent avenue to engage the workforce through awareness building and activities that can slowly shift the tide. The focus of any initiative cannot begin and end with awareness, but should repeat consistent bits of information, facilitate forums for informal learning and create a sandbox for learners to test and socialize information, shift attitudes and, ultimately, increase knowledge retention. This type of collaborative learning takes education from the individual development approach and creates a connected environment that builds the foundation of a learning culture.

The work of Judith Harris, author of The Nurture Assumption, challenges the whole way we look at teaching. Her work showed that, historically, the perspective on teaching overestimates the influence of parents and teachers, and underestimates the role of peer pressure. There are some real and practical steps to enhance learning by working with peers in team environments.

As companies work to create a more engaging educational program, they should not lose sight of how best to educate their workforces on mission-critical information in meaningful and sustainable ways. Organizations need to avoid implementing learning initiatives as a one-way communication, risking information overload. Pushing out content onto a corporate intranet, in the hopes that learners read and absorb the information, satisfies a "check the box" approach to education but does not represent a culture of learning.

For example, if an organization is launching a new environmental, health and safety policy, posting a set of compliance rules communicates to the enterprise that leadership is taking a passive approach to education, whereas some organizations take an additional step, requiring their workforces to electronically certify that they have read, understand and agree to abide by the policy. This sends a message that leadership deems these policies critical to the business.

Yet, posting a policy and successfully obtaining certification is only the first step to raise awareness. Where most organizations assume their work is done, a true learning culture believes the education has just begun. The next step is to ensure the workforce understands how to apply the policy in real-life situations it faces in daily work life. We know that recall is enhanced by learning in the context in which one is expected to perform. Yet, most teaching is done in alien environments such as classrooms, training centers or in bland online formats. So create an ideal blended approach that incorporates awareness building, knowledge building and skill building through peer interactions.

Enabling the workforce to translate rules into actions empower the business, mitigates risk and builds a cohesive corporate culture that ideally becomes a self-governing one. Once the awareness around a topic is achieved, it is important to foster a rich learning culture in order to educate, not just inform. This can be achieved by designing a suite of learning experiences that trigger the learner's personal relevance in the equation of the compliance topic.

Learning experiences can take on many shapes and forms, such as interactive modules that enhance the learning experience - to help the learner connect the dots from policy awareness to application. As noted by the Peer Research Laboratory at the Graduate School of the City University of New York, adults retain 10 percent of what is read, 20 percent of what is heard and 80 percent of what is experienced, so it is important to consider experiential learning, which can be facilitated through a variety of learning tools such as live workshops, virtual worlds or interactive gaming. These are all extremely effective ways to turn awareness into knowledge. In a global environment, these learning experiences should be localized to align with regional guidelines.

After awareness building, a guided application of the policies can empower learners to see their ownership in the experience and facilitate greater understanding and relevance. This results in a more compelling and meaningful learning experience and sends a message about the value the organization places on knowledge building. From William James and John Dewey through to David Kolb and Roger Schank, there has been a torrent of theory showing that we learn more by doing; yet, much teaching and training is locked into theoretical knowledge and not a skills-based model. There is hardly a training subject that would not benefit from a boost in experiential learning.

Learner Expertise and Knowledge Sharing

Global audiences today thrive in forums of personalized learning and creative expression. They are self-authoring content and emerging as amateur filmmakers and photographers. Innovations to connect and build knowledge have arrived through collaborative tools such as blogs, wikis, photo streams and machinima clips (animated movies created with gaming technology).

High-impact learning cultures recognize the value in user-generated content and embrace this next generation of tools. Perhaps the easiest and simplest piece of learning theory to put into practice is chunking, which means being sensitive to the limitation of working memory.

Less is more in learning, and it is important to distill information for the adult learner, rather than enhancing, elaborating and creating distracting noise. Additionally, a lack of understanding about how memory works leads to a lack of preparation of material in terms of size of content, order and engagement, which leads to weak encoding, a lack of deep processing and, ultimately, poor retention and recall. In creating a learning culture, it is essential to engage and educate the workforce often with small interactions and incorporate peer and direct manager discussions into the program.

As the workforce continues to grow through globalization, we must remember the value of relationships and the connection between people as an essential element to consider throughout the enterprise. The fabric of any organization's culture is built upon relationships that evolve over time through communication and connections. In a global culture, the core is strengthened by fostering a learning environment that supports relationship building through activities, such as peer collaboration, or particular platforms that allow colleagues to have a dialogue around successes and failures.

Tomorrow's Leaders

Preserving a learning culture requires keeping the learner population at the forefront of the company's strategy. When there are marketplace changes or competitive challenges, it is critical that an organization's learning environment is flexible and prepared to augment its program to support the business.

Today, organizations are challenged to maximize operational performance while increasing retention and driving workforce productivity. Sustained learning cultures build strategies and processes that give them visibility into how talent allocation best aligns with organizational goals and needs. This includes alignment on the cultures, values and mission of organizations. Mature learning organizations recognize this and focus on talent-driven initiatives through performance management processes that integrate values into career development and succession planning.

Taking a strategic approach to succession planning is a powerful catalyst for organizational transformation, growth and development, and ultimately drives cultural sustainability. Developing the skills and talents of the next generation of leaders and transferring institutional knowledge into practical business applications will contribute to ongoing business success and a sustainable advantage.

Ref: Marsha Ershaghi

Accountability for Talent Management

New research finds talent-management processes are in place, but underused. Plans don't translate to reality because too few organizations hold managers or executives accountable or to compensation packages to drive the strategy.
First, the good news from a new study from Hewitt Associates and the Human Capital Institute: Most companies now have a talent-management strategy in place.
The bad news? Very few of those companies are executing that strategy successfully.
So says the newly released research that identified lack of accountability for talent management as a key reason companies have difficulty executing talent-management practices. In short, plans on paper don't translate to reality in the workplace when it comes to developing and retaining talent.
"Most organizations have the fundamentals in place," says Bob Campbell, leader of Hewitt's North American Talent Management practice in the Norwalk, Conn., office. "The question is where do we go from here?
"What we saw emerging as a key issue," he says, "is developing manager capability to carry out the practices in place. Despite the distractions, it has never been more important than in these challenging times that managers have a steady hand on the tiller to coach employees and guide brighter future prospects.
"The research, entitled The State of Talent Management: Today's Challenges, Tomorrow's Opportunities, included input from 700 senior-level talent leaders across a wide spectrum of companies.
Among the findings:
a) 92 percent of business leaders recognize superior talent as providing a vital competitive advantage.
b) Only 7 percent of organizations consistently hold managers accountable for developing their direct reports through performance- management processes.
c) Just 17 percent of respondents indicate their workforce strategy is consistently aligned with their business strategy across the organization.
d) Only 10 percent of companies consistently measure the effectiveness of talent-management programs.
The survey largely confirms the challenges that have long vexed many HR professionals, says Carl Robinson, managing principal of Advanced Leadership Consulting in Seattle.
"Even though many companies say that people are their most important asset, they often don't build in the systems and processes to develop their people," Robinson says. "While the findings here are common sense, I think they are useful. The reality is that talent management is so low on the priority list that surveys like this can remind senior executives to pay attention."
In his work with corporate leaders and companies, Robinson has found several repeating themes as to why talent-management processes are not adhered to and strategies are not executed.
Among them:
a) Not enough time.
b) Compensation systems that do not incent managers to develop people.
c) CEOs rarely model behavior consistent with talent-management strategies.
d) Inadequate funding for talent-management execution.
"The reality is that organizations have to build accountability for talent management into managers' and executives' compensation packages," Robinson said. "It has to be part of the compensation review and people need to dinged for not developing their people effectively.
"The companies Hewitt and HCI, a Washington-based membership organization focuses on talent research and strategies, found that made significant strides in managing talent have effectively institutionalized specific talent-management programs, such as conducting talent reviews, performing succession planning and improving manager ability to further develop employees, according to the researchers.
For HR leaders aiming to beef up execution of talent-management strategies, Campbell of Hewitt suggests focusing on three steps.
1. Determine the most critical areas of the business to support. Ask what aspects of talent management are most closely aligned with the company's top business priorities.
2. Position HR to be the internal experts on talent management. Present the HR department as a professional consulting team, equipped to provide guidance to managers and insights to company leaders.
3. Measure the results. Use predictive analytics and metrics to determine if talent-management initiatives are being implemented and are effective.
Katherine Jones, president of San Mateo, Calif.-based Independent Consulting Services who worked on the research with HCI, said talent-management measurement is essential particularly in "times of belt-tightening."
"In the past, many company had no way to assess where there top talent was," Jones says. "Today, in the current economic environment, it becomes incumbent for a company to look closely at the talent they have now what they will need in a year or two years.
"When dealing with turbulent times you can't have a slash-and-burn mentality," she says. "You have to know who your top talent is and keep those people."

Ref: Scott Westcott

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Technology-Over the Top!!

Technology may have made things easier for recruiting managers, but it s beginning to show its evil side as managers go overboard with it... .....

  • Technology is a tool that can be used to aid the recruiting process
  • Technology cannot replace human touch and therefore cannot be used to build relationships

Technology has indeed been a blessing. The reaction time to any problem has been slashed over a hundred times and leaders, managers and the worker fraternity in general is more connected now than ever before. However , like all good things, the positive streak of technology too can fade if it's taken too far. Critics who play down the role of technology, have always condemned the way technology has eroded the personal touch among people. In addition, they blame it for the way managers use it for the sake of speed and not quality. Amidst the brickbats, technology has emerged as a force to reckon with and has undoubtedly redefined the way business is done.

Technology is secular. It has touched every aspect of business however little it may be. And the human resources function is no exception. In fact the role of technology in the arena of staff management has been incredible and today the function has become completely technology-driven. The function right from the recruiring stage to the exit interview and everything that comes in between is largely driven by technology. While this may be seen as a revolution of sorts by some, for many such aggressive takeover is beginning to take its toll on the efficiency with which the function is meant to be executed. And according to analysts the first casualty is the recruiting function.

Impersonal recruiting

A recent forum on "Technology and Its Application in the Human Resources Function", conducted at the Town's hall , at Vancouver , presented a rather scary picture of what awaits us in the near future . A few speakers at the forum unintentionally spelt horror for the recruiting function. They were rather candid about the way they recruit and the role of technology in their recruiting process. One of the speakers went to the extent of saying that thanks to technology there is no real need of meeting the candidate or even speaking to him. Recruiting managers can make their decision by simply exchanging mails !

The trend is indeed horrifying. How can one replace personal relationships that we by virtue of being humans share with everything that we come in contact with? Reducing the potency of a relationship to a mere click of a button can be damaging to the very basis on which an organisation is built . If every recruiting manager were to select recruits on the basis of the mails exchanged then the concept of a "competitive edge" or a "differentiating factor" will not be there at all since everybody would be doing exactly the same thing. Moreover in such a technologically- intensive scenario , the need for any other staff management initiative too would seem redundant as people would barely interact personally and even if they did it would only happen in case of a system crash.

The scenario can be nerve- wrecking and therefore it's time recruiting managers wake up and understand that technology is only a tool and it can by no standards be used to replace relationships.


Do not stray. When recruiting managers lose perspective of the core issue , the entire exercise fails. In this case, recruiting managers must understand that recruitment is like sales, and they are the salesmen. Their main job therefore is to sell the job And sales is a process that needs human interaction. Hence handing over this process to technology can sabotage the defining purpose of the activity and therefore may not give the desired outcome. Understanding that technology is a mere tool to accomplish the objectives of the sales activity, which is recruiting in this case would help recruiting managers keep technology in its right place.

A typical sales activity needs four basic pre-requisites for its success. These include:

  • Establish and nurture a relationship
  • Identify customer needs
  • Strategies to overcome difficulties in meeting the needs
  • Complete the sale

Each of these factors is relevant even as we see recruiting as a sales strategy. Hence recruiting managers must use technology in the third stage where difficulties hampering the activity need to be overcome by use of means that are both time and cost-effective.

Understanding how technology can aid the process of recruiting will help recruiting managers maximise their efficiencies. However, if they let technology drive the process then the intended benefit may fizzle out and the process efficiency would be affected adversely. The best solution therefore would be to integrate the benefits of technology with the recruiting process in a way that helps maximise its efficiency.


Friday, December 26, 2008

A to Z of Motivation

Avoid Negative Thoughts, People, Things and Habits.

Believe in yourself.

Consider things from every angle and others points of view.

Dare to Dream and Dream Big

Energy, Excitement and Enthusiaism is in your blood.

Family and Friends are hidden treasures; enjoy these riches.

Give more than you planned to.

Have a good sense of humour.

Ignore Critisism, Ridicule and Discouragement from others.

Jump on Problems because they are Opportunities in disguise.

Keep up the good work however hard it may seem.

Love yourself, just as you are.

Make Impossibility a Possibility.

Never lie, cheat or steal, always strike a fair deal.

Open your eyes and see things as they really are.

Prefect Practice makes you perfect.

Quitters never Win and Winners never Quit.

Reward yourself for every small success and achievement.

Stop Wasting your Time and Procrastinating important Goals.

Take control of your Life and your Goals.

Understand so that you could Understood.

Visualize your Goals and Dreams everyday.

Win over your own weaknesses and make them as your Strengths.

Xccelerate your efforts

Yes Yes Yes, Yes you Can and You Will…!

Zap your Stress and Enjoy your Life..

The Benefits of Talent-Pool Succession Plans

In most organizations, HR professionals and executives readily admit they need to better understand the potential talent in their companies and do a better job of rewarding competent, loyal leaders. Succession planning, when integrated into the overall employee performance and talent management strategy, can provide organizations with valuable insight into their leadership pipelines. But a well-managed succession planning process should seek to not only prime leaders for the future, but reward them today as part of a bigger drive for retention.

There are many approaches to succession planning. One of the more common has been the org-chart replacement model in which employees are groomed for a specific position. Ideally, however, succession planning should focus on developing people rather than merely naming them as replacements.

With this premise at its core, the talent-pool approach to succession planning recently has emerged as a best practice that establishes a larger number of employees for promotion. This larger group is more likely to stay loyal and possess skills that are easily aligned with the organization's strategic plan.

In this model, high-potential candidates are placed in talent pools and then receive development -which may include specific types of training and education - in preparation for possible promotion. The organization commits to helping these individuals prepare to qualify for greater responsibilities, but ultimately, it is up to the individuals to perform well in their jobs while simultaneously equipping themselves to meet the new challenges of more senior positions.

The talent-pool approach to succession planning can be a great first step in rewarding loyal leaders, as they are not promised a specific position, but rather are recognized over time for their skills development, day-to-day performance and ongoing achievements. This approach provides a powerful tool set talent managers can use to recognize key leadership candidates and plan long-term bench strength.

Further, with talent pool-based succession planning, organizations are better able to get an ongoing snapshot of their workforces' potential and areas of retention risk while creating a larger pool of capable employees poised to take on leadership positions.

Capital District Physicians Health Plan (CDPHP) - an Albany-based, nonprofit, individual practice association HMO - introduced talent pool - based succession planning linked to its employee performance management to better address its strategic plans. With this approach, CDPHP can cultivate the necessary skills and competencies in high-potential employees by focusing on career and development planning.

The organization began the process by asking five questions to gauge which of their managers were at high risk to leave the organization and which were high potential. Of the organization's 100 managers, approximately 77 were rated as high potential. From there, three talent pools within management levels - entry, mid and executive - were identified. CDPHP is taking steps to reward the 77 high potentials by building a customized development plan for each manager.

As in the CDPHP example, by moving beyond the org-chart replacement methodology and working closely with high-potential leaders, talent managers can take development and succession planning to the next level. Organizations also are better equipped to manage retention risk and build employee loyalty.

For future leaders and the organizations that need them, opportunities that go beyond regular succession planning processes - such as highly individualized leadership training geared to their specific competencies or interests - will go a long way to build a robust, long-term talent pipeline.
Ref: Sean Conrad

How Do We Effectively Recruit Top Executives

Q: What are the steps in developing an effective executive selection process?-

A: Finding superior performers is a challenge for any organization, especially at the executive level. There are many factors to consider, so we have highlighted some key steps to take when engaging in an executive-level candidate search:

  1. Define and understand both the organization and the job. Talk with members of the executive team to define the organization and identify the company's strategic direction. Be sure you fully understand the job's requirements by implementing a benchmarking process that uses assessments to "let the job talk" and remove personal biases. You also need to know the details about the working environment, expectations, requirements and objectives of the position.
  2. Seek out resources to use in your candidate search. In addition to networking and word-of-mouth, there are many great online tools to source candidates. Create a plan of action that covers all bases, from posting online job ads to using popular networking sites.
  3. Screen your candidates. It is important to gather information about your candidate that they may not convey to you in an interview scenario. Consider a pre-employment assessment that coordinates with the job assessment and allows you to compare the job and talent in the same areas. Also, conduct an initial phone screening with each applicant to ensure interest in the position, confirm salary requirements and ask questions that validate their resume. After you screen the candidates, create a short list of "prime candidates" to pursue further.
  4. Meet with the prime candidates for an in-depth interview. It is best to meet with prime candidates in person, but at the very least, schedule an hour long phone interview. Allow time to explain in their background and experience in their own spoken words and ask behavior-based questions that require them to share examples from past experiences.
  5. Choose the best candidate for the position. After all of the screening and interviewing, you should be ready to select your new hire. Be sure you consider all the information, including resumes, interview notes, assessment results, and so on.

Once all of these steps have been completed, you can feel confident that you have found the most qualified, best-suited candidate for the position and the organization. However, your process shouldn't end there. Be sure you have a concrete onboarding and development plan to build employee engagement to secure retention.

Exit Champions - Organizational Behaviour

Organisations often find it difficult to shelve projects that aren't viable. The initial enthusiasm that keeps the interest of the project team members doesn't allow them to kill the project, thereby crippling organisational success. Is it loyalty or obsession?

Faith and belief

Well, whatever the reason, it is definitely not because of poor management or bossy lethargy! According to Isabelle Royer, University of Paris, it is the undaunting faith and belief in the likely success of the project.

Belief and the cost of the organisation? A million dollar question! Logically speaking, the answer would be negative. So, does reason take over blind faith?

Collective belief

True, and quite contrarily, beliefs could be collective! A collective belief is a strong conviction based on the affective component of the mind not on the cognitive. Implying thereby that feelings, rather than evidence that a project can actually succeed, support collective beliefs. The belief originates basically from a project manager who champions the cause of defending the project, and it percolates throughout the organisation.

A collective belief system could lead an otherwise rational organisation into an irrational one. While the strongly held conviction peps up employees' enthusiasm, it obviously has a darker side to it. This overshadows the negative feedback received from vendors and customers. Negative feedback could, in the long run, be disastrous to the organisation.

At Essilor...

Essilor, the world's largest maker of corrective lenses for eyeglasses, abandoned its innovative product after shelling out millions of dollars in initial investment. The initial demand for the new lens that Essilor had created was lukewarm. However, managers ruled out the consequences of the problem as the 'soon-to-be-solved' technical problem, unmindful that the market was unaware of the problem.

Collective belief of the managers at Essilor diluted the normal organisation procedures and safeguards. Managers at Essilor resorted to a go-error, quite an unviable option in times of calamity. Essilor substituted the two-year durability tests with that of the shorter, less reliable ones of just six months to adhere to the aggressive development schedule. Though the lens company had clear procedures for testing the lens during development these were never followed. The other tests produced negative results and were ignored. As one Essilor manager averred: "The decision to launch was implicit. It was just a question of when".

At Lafarge...

Lafarge, the largest producer of building materials, had plans to build a plant for an industrial additive. The test results for the product were unfavourable and the decision to build the plant premature. However, the manager anticipated success in carrying forward the project. He did so only to realise that his faith in the project took his company into the doldrums.

Cost of conviction

When the belief in a task is strong, the situation is the gravest. Collective belief inhibits project members from identifying problems. Even though acknowledged, those problems cannot be identified as symptoms of failure. Collective belief overshadows regular organisational policies in safeguarding the interests of the organisation.

A common reason for collective belief is the inherent initial enthusiasm that could lead to unrealistic goal setting. Widespread enthusiasm might also lead to the formation of a cognitively diverse project team. Fulfilling team goals therefore becomes hard. Many a time, the decision makers' faith in the project results in lack of clear decision criteria. Unclear decisions lead to ambiguous information, in turn resulting in a stronger belief in the project's success.

Counteracting distortions

Ideally, two types of safeguards could be built before pushing forward a project. These, along with the dynamic role of the project champions and the exit champions, will help kill the unviable project.

The enthusiasts

Project teams have members who share the initial enthusiasm. Since the members volunteer to work, they could be considered self-selected teams. The expertise of the team members helps them develop the intelligence system to anticipate others' moves. However, warning signals are invariably ignored owing to the deep-rooted belief in the success of the project. Therefore, it would be ideal to include dissenters of the project along with a group of believers in forming a project team.

Warning systems

Avoiding the go-error requires the companies to impose strict control procedures to evaluate the project viability in the initial stages. Essilor and Lafarge have effective internal controls called "stage gates" that act as entry barriers to impracticable projects.

Killers aboard- the exit champions

Championing the cause of killing doomed projects are the "Exit Champions". They stop the failing projects from being carried further. They look into lenient procedures and shatter the blind faith and belief of the project members in the interest of the organisation. Exit champions initialise the cause of defending the exit from an unviable project. They convince the believers that it is better to shelve a dead project. The process however involves a thorough evaluation.

The first and foremost job of any exit champion is to rectify the collective belief of the team members.

Project champions vs. exit champions?

Unlike a project champion who sustains the collective belief, an exit champion takes the initiative to support the exit from a doomed project. While project champions are believers, exit champions are dissenters. Believers credit the dissenters with lack of competence. Exit champions remove the ambiguity in which the project champions work, in a foolproof manner. The former restores procedures that the latter overrides.

However, both have the unassuming quality to take up unassigned critical roles and have the determination to overcome obstacles. Therefore, a blend of both is essential in a project team to back up the initial enthusiasm with logic and reason.

Out of the maze

To avoid collective belief from strengthening its roots, it would do well if the top management formed the project team with a diverse section of employees who are sceptical about the potential problems. Exit champions need to be viewed as 'supporters of the organisation ' and 'not as dissenters of the project '. Differentiating exit champions from the naysayers, who always voice negative opinions is like rewarding them for their credibility. Encouraging sceptics in a team would lead to constructive conflict, which helps in better evaluations and decisions. And not to forget, challenges to the popular project must be rewarded.

Therefore, matching personal expectations with those of the organisation to accumulate success must be the prime objective of the team members. Employees must however practice the principle that is ritualistically followed by an exit champion of a company: " When I work, I need to believe in what I do. I don't want to waste time on something that is worthless."

Ref: TheManageMentor.

The Economic Downturn Means That Hiring Freezes Will Soon Decimate Recruiting

Whenever there is a downturn in economic conditions, one of the first knee-jerk reactions that many CFOs and senior managers take is placing a freeze on all hiring, pay raises, budgets, and promotions.

The effect of long-term hiring freezes is particularly damaging to the recruiting function, because "no hiring" generally means that a majority of recruiters will be laid off. Historically, budgets for recruiting have been cut so low that the function is literally decimated, making it rather difficult for companies to resurrect a decent function when the economy swings up.

Many executives think that the decision to institute some sort of resource freeze is one that helps the organization because it contains costs; however, the opposite is more often the case.

Poorly thought-out freezes that impact talent acquisition and other talent-management activities may actually harm the organization by:

  • Driving increases or vacancies in revenue producing/impacting roles that decrease revenues beyond any cost savings.
  • Driving increases in employee burnout/turnover.
  • Missing out on new talent opportunities (i.e., not be able to hire a superstar that becomes available).
  • Decreasing an organization' s capability/capacity to innovate.
  • Damaging the employer brand making hiring more difficult when the economy returns.

Rather than waiting for the inevitable announcement of a freeze, recruiters need to be proactive and preempt any such silliness long before it occurs by making the business case for leveraging this time to re-architect the talent acquisition function, upgrade its strategic programs, and trade up the talent population while salaries and vendor costs can be negotiated down significantly.
(Incidentally, you can tell when a hiring freeze is imminent because they are almost always preceded by the infamous "paper clip memo" from the CFO, which limits the purchase of office supplies, magazine subscriptions, and travel).

Because every organization is unique, there is no one magic way to structure the business case, but I have put together a list of arguments that you can select from:

A) Negative impacts on revenue and costs

Obviously, not expanding your staff or keeping open positions vacant can save payroll dollars in the short term. However, such savings may actually present a false reality because freezes have many other unintended consequences that CFOs often fail to account for:

  1. Lost revenue. Across-the-board hiring freezes mean that critical revenue-generating and revenue-impact positions go unfilled. Obviously, when there is no one in a revenue-generating position, there is a lost opportunity to generate revenue every day that the position remains vacant.
  2. Customer impacts. Frozen budgets and understaffing can stretch your employees. This means that other employees must now do double duty because replacements can't be hired. This may also impact quality and send a message to your customers that your firm is slipping as constrained employees sidestep process elements and cut corners. Both can negatively impact your product brand and future sales.
  3. A limit on growth. Within most large firms, even during tough times some businesses units are growing, while others are shrinking. By freezing hiring "across the board," you negatively impact your rapid growth and top revenue generating divisions. This limits their ability to continue to grow. In global firms, some regions are likely to be growing despite the downturn and an overall freeze will threaten your competitive position.
  4. Headcount replacements are expensive. In the end, few hiring freezes actually end up saving money because budgeted headcount employees are often just replaced with consultants, temps, interns, and other "off the book" spending. In some cases, these alternative consultants and workers are actually more expensive than regular employees, leading to a situation where overall "labor costs" don't go down at all. Facing employee shortages, some managers increase the use of overtime in order to get the work done, but at time and a half, this solution is relatively expensive.

B) Retention impacts

  1. Frustrated employee turnover. Freezing resources means stagnation, and when opportunities are limited, they are likely to seek employment elsewhere. Freezing pay, promotions, travel, and/or training can also limit employee growth and learning, which will also increase turnover, if not immediately, at the first sign of opportunity.
  2. It encourages your competitors. Hiring freezes are visible to outsiders on your website and the news of their existence spreads rapidly. These freezes send a message to your competitors that you are "weak" and struggling. This may cause them to increase their efforts to recruit away your employees and more often than not, your customers.
  3. Freezing deadwood. Unfortunately, not being able to fill vacant positions causes managers to slow down or even cease their efforts to get rid of their deadwood employees. "Carrying" these low performers leads to lower productivity overall, but also weakens your managers by not forcing them to confront low performers. It gives managers an excuse not to make tough people decisions, which may also eventually weaken their decision making in product areas also.
  4. Freezes frustrate "idle" recruiters. The best recruiters you are able to keep on your staff will invariably get rusty during hiring freezes. Having idle recruiters is a waste of money but it can also foster turnover among your recruiters who love action.

C) Missing out on talent opportunities

  1. Exceptional talent. Across-the-board hiring freezes mean that when a few exceptional individuals like "Tiger Woods" enter the talent market, you will not be able to consider them. As a result, you'll miss out on exceptional talent who could really make an impact. If your firm doesn't capture this exceptional talent, other firms will.
  2. Off-cycle recruiting. During tough economic times, both the amount and the quality of available talent will greatly exceed the available talent during boom times. Because during lean times, few firms are hiring, there is minimal competition. Together this means that a firm can now successfully attract experienced and college hires that their weak employment brand, pay rates or location wouldn't normally allow.
  3. Weakened recruiting capability. Extended hiring freezes invariably weaken the recruiting function. This loss of recruiting capability can impact the business because the remaining recruiting staff won't have the ability to successfully recruit and land "in demand" candidates for the few positions that do become open.

D) Reduced innovation and technological capability

  1. Reduced innovation. Budget freezes in particular can rob your innovators of the resources that they need to innovate, just as hiring freezes prevent you from recruiting new innovators. As a result, the rate of process and product innovation may decrease significantly during hiring freeze. In addition, freezing promotions and pay increases may limit your innovators motivation and willingness to be creative.
  2. Impacts on technology. Because technology is constantly evolving and improving, hiring and budget freezes will directly limit your ability to attract new technologists and the needed new technologies.

E) Additional negative impacts of freezes

  1. Employment brand impact. It signals a stoppage in a firm's growth, which can impact your firm's employment brand as a great place to work. This can make future recruiting more difficult and expensive.
  2. Stock price impact. A freeze sends a message to analysts, customers, suppliers, and employees that your firm is not in a growth mode. Long or frequent "pauses" in recruiting may also send a stronger message that the company is in trouble, which could further hurt the stock price, which is likely lower anyway as a result of the weak economy.
  3. Recovery time. Hiring freezes often mean that the recruiting function will be decimated. The function cannot be rebuilt overnight after the freezes are lifted. Many managers wrongfully assume that recruiting is a pure production function, one which you can put money into today and get results out tomorrow. While recruiting truly is a production function, it often requires significant ramp-up time, which many organizations fail to plan for. Refilling the "talent pipeline" with candidates after a freeze might take months, which can end up making the freeze last even longer than intended. In addition, "exploding out of the box" when the economy improves will also be more difficult.
  4. Excessive early spending. Anticipating freezes often encourages hiring managers to hire "a bunch" of people early (whether they are needed or not). They do this in order to avoid "losing" the positions later in the year when hiring and budget freezes are generally introduced. In the same light, rumors of possible freezes can make managers and HR paranoid and to do "immediate panic" hiring the moment they hear a rumor about an upcoming freeze. They might also make rush decisions during a current hiring process, in order to complete it prior to the institution of a forthcoming hiring freeze.
  5. Lower referral rates. Freezes may cause employees to hesitate before making referrals. They are hesitant partly because budget, promotion and pay freezes make the organization a less desirable place to work but also because a freeze may make their efforts fruitless because it diminishes the chances that their referrals will soon be hired.
  6. More time spent on administration. Most across-the-board freezes are really not true freezes. Top managers almost always leave "exceptions" open. As a result, they don't really "stop" hiring, they just slow requisition approvals and make them more painful to get approved. A large amount of a managers (and HR's) time is wasted "getting around" these freezes and justifying "exceptions. " It can also give managers a bad taste for hiring of any kind, which may result in managers not devoting much time to the hiring process once the regular hiring process returns.

Action Steps
Rather than instituting across-the-board freezes, educate managers about the different options they have for cutting costs and increasing revenues:

  • Focus on budget dollars. When it is important to slow down expenditures, it is often better to do it through budget control (controlling dollars) rather than through a hiring freeze or headcount tracking. In addition, always look at the revenue impacts whenever costs are cut.
  • Increase internal movement. Managers need to increase the impact of their current employees by developing plans to transfer people internally from low return areas to those with higher return.
  • Use incentives. Managers should consider offering short-term incentives to employees for increasing productivity or for reducing costs. Employees are often better equipped to judge where costs can be cut with minimal impact on productivity.
  • Prioritize positions. If a manager decides to use a hiring freeze, they should limit the freeze to pre-identified non-key positions. Otherwise, a vacancy in a critical job can cause a significant loss in revenue and negate the projected cost savings from the hiring freeze.
  • Demand metrics. If freezes are used, track metrics to determine whether overall costs are actually reduced by the freeze.
  • Performance management. Managers should be encouraged to periodically fire low performing employees first, before seeking replacements.
  • Rapid growth divisions. These critical regions or business units should be exempt from across-the-board freezes.
  • Continuous churn. The new realities of talent management and business are that the old pattern of resource freezes and then layoffs needs to be broken. In a global economy, where firms need to be fast and agile, the new model is for firms to simultaneously hire and release workers in different areas. Smart managers must learn to continually add workers in areas of growth and innovation, while continually redeploying or releasing workers in areas of low ROI.

Final Thoughts

Any review of history will reveal that the majority of wealth in modern civilizations is more often than not created during times of significant economic crisis.

Opportunities abound for those organizations that are truly strategic, but as we all know, lots of people talk about being strategic but few really are. Now is the time for talent management to step up and proactively re-engineer antiquated practices and programs, and to embed talent management activities throughout core business processes while the organization can accommodate change.

If you wait until things are moving fast once again, you won't have time to be strategic; you'll be too busy catching up!

Ref: John Sullivan