Saturday, February 28, 2009

Get the Right guy on board

The tight labour market prevailing in the economy today compels companies to optimise attempts to retain their best employees. Efficient and structured interviewing is essential to keep turnover rates low. Unstructured interview techniques result in high attrition.

Take a closer look at any interview process. Sometimes, time constraints prompt the interviewer to cut short the interview process. It pays to know a few techniques that would maximise the effectiveness of interviews.

At the beginning of the interview, the interviewer needs to be relaxed. Prior to a face-to-face interview, e-mails and telephone interviews helps the employer find a good cultural fit.

A detailed report should be made based on the telephone interview and the face- to- face interview that follows. At this stage, the interviewer cracks down on skills and potential weaknesses of the candidate.

The next step is to conduct an on the spot skill test. Besides checking for basic skills and performance under pressure, the tests measure the ability to respond quickly to new instructions.

It is also very important to base your decision on the candidate’s past records. An interesting technique to pick the right candidate is to analyse the candidate’s handwriting. Many character traits are revealed by the way a person writes. It will be a help to the HR manager to be able to isolate the character traits suitable for the job he is recruiting for so that he can ensure exact fitment.

An interview should always be conducted in a place where there are no distractions from other employees. It is a difficult task to make a decision about the candidate, when people interrupt the interview. The interviewer needs to focus entirely on the applicant and his responses.

The success of interviews is dependent on the way HR managers process or conduct the interview to get the right candidate on board.

Ref: TheManageMentor

Restructuring recruitment

Cost cutting measures, massive layoffs, and reduction in jobs have left organisations with fewer talented employees. Organisations are being compelled to recruit from the best available rather than those best suited for the job. This is resulting in bad hires. Ultimately it is the organisation's performance that is affected.

Though organisations are implementing innovative strategies to attract the right talent, they are finding it difficult to retain them for long. This demands a restructuring of the recruiting process.
Structuring the recruitment process by automating it has helped organisations. They can invest in systems, which give recruiters sufficient time to assess soft skills. Recruiters will also have the opportunity to evaluate people for factors such as motivation, aspiration and potential, and not just the skills for the job.

How does it help?

Automating recruitment process can help HR:

  • Bring in objectivity and rule out bias in assessing potential employees
  • Track an individual's data
  • Provide information to set standards for performance
  • Understand personal interests
  • Match future organisational needs with individual development plans
  • Use resources effectively

While online recruiting saves the organisation both time and resources, it should be ensured that the time saved is spent on the key issues of the recruitment process. The recruitment stage should thus include:

  • Identifying the motivating factors of the employees to help them perform better
  • Understanding their long-term goals and aspirations to draw their career plans with the organisation
  • Tracing their lifestyle and family needs to make them feel cared for, to help retain employees for a longer time.

Doing Business Across Cultures: Cross Cultural Training That Works

Working across cultures is usually more interesting, if not always more enjoyable, than if we were just doing business with our own nationality.

It is most likely that 60 to 70 percent of "the ways we like to do business" are quite familiar - if not always fully understood - among our cross cultural colleagues and clients.

Conversely, there are several extremely important areas of interaction between culturally diverse people which can probably never be standardized. And these are the areas which provide major surprises - and costly pitfalls. How can we anticipate these differences and work effectively?

As people from different cultural groups take on the challenge of working together, cultural values sometimes conflict. We can misunderstand each other, and react in ways that can hinder our partnerships. More often than not we are not even aware that our cultural filters or assumptions are different from others.

At a minimum, there are three vital areas to take into account when it comes to culturally differing business attitudes and behavior:

• Attitudes Toward Conflict. Some cultures view conflict as a positive dynamic while others see conflict as something to be avoided. While in the U.S. conflict is not usually desirable, people are encouraged to deal directly with conflicts that arise. In contrast, in many Asian cultures, where relationships and harmony are the basis for effective communication, open conflict is avoided. Conflict is seen as embarrassing or demeaning and is best worked out quietly. Written exchanges, indirect communication or using a third person as a message bearer might be the favored way to address conflict.

• Approaches to Completing Tasks. When it comes to working together effectively on a task, cultures differ with respect to relationships and task completion. Asian and Hispanic cultures tend to attach more value to developing relationships at the beginning of a shared project and more emphasis on task completion toward the end compared to Europeans and Americans. In general, European and American culture tends to focus immediately on the task at hand, and let relationships develop as they work on the task. This does not mean that people from any one of these cultural backgrounds are more or less committed to accomplishing tasks, or value relationships more or less; it simply means they may pursue them differently.

• Communication Styles. When doing business across cultures, you may believe you are communicating clearly, but you are probably headed for big trouble. Most executives claim they try to adjust their English language in a foreign business situation. The facts show that there are still problems. After one recent meeting of a Management Committee, we asked a senior Chinese executive how much he got from the discussion. He said, "Not more than 50 percent." Take the time to check whether you are actually understood; avoid using slang and hire professional translators and interpreters.

Cut Costs Without Cutting Head Count

When money is tight and budgets constrict, many organizations turn to downsizing to cut costs. That's certainly the case currently. U.S. planned layoffs were up a whopping 275 percent in December compared to last year, according to Reuters.

Yet job cuts aren't the only way for companies to reduce spending - and many times they're not the best way, either. According to a 1995 study by William McKinley, Carol Sanchez and Allen Schick in the Academy of Management Journal, "[T]here is considerable evidence that downsizing does not reduce expenses as much as desired, and that sometimes expenses may actually increase."

The authors cited a Wyatt Co. survey that found that fewer than half of respondents who were using restructuring for cost reduction actually met their targets and that only 22 percent of restructuring companies managed to increase productivity to their satisfaction. This likely is still the case today.

The bottom line is that while layoffs are sometimes an unpleasant but necessary reality, they don't have to be the only reality. There are ways for companies to cut costs without resorting to cutting head count in hourly workforces, according to John Anderson, director of retail marketing at Kronos, a workforce and employee management software company.

Anderson offered five alternative steps companies can take to control costs:

1. Align labor budgeting process with strategic goals.

Many budgeting processes don't consider the hidden costs associated with managing a workforce. Companies should ensure their labor budgeting is linked with established business objectives and productivity models.

2. Confirm the proper head count mix.

The right ratio of full-time to part-time workers will keep productivity at the maximum and costs at the minimum. Anderson said companies should be open to the idea that they can reduce spending by actually adding head count in the form of part-time labor.

3. Ensure proper labor allocation.

A lack of understanding of employees' day-to-day work can lead companies to improperly allot spending. Thus, talent managers should ensure job descriptions match up with the actual work done and are in alignment with strategic objectives. They also should examine periods of productivity across the organization and spend less labor money on slower times.

4. Remove the waste.

Companies should look closely at their labor-tracking processes and identify areas for savings. For example, employees with benefits might currently be paid for time they're not working or employees may be working during unscheduled times.

5. Maximize efficiencies

According to Anderson, every company has inefficiencies, and the more they're identified and reduced, the more money can be saved. He said companies should consider using technology to maximize efficiency in areas such as employee engagement, leave requests or shift availability preferences.

Ref: Agatha Gilmore

Boost Morale in Minutes Without Going Broke

Would you like to boost morale without spending a buck? I've interviewed thousands of child care professionals and have learned what motivates them to stay in the profession, what motivates them to excel in the profession, and on the other hand, why they leave their places of employment and sometimes, the profession.Today I'm sharing with you eleven strategies that you can implement immediately to help you boost staff morale (without spending a buck!).

1) Unite your team through establishing a common goal that can be worked on and obtained in the next several months. Set a time frame for this goal and get everyone excited about accomplishing it. Break the goal down into small achievable steps and celebrate when small accomplishments are made.

2) Close all communication gaps. Make sure staff are aware of the things they need to know in order to perform their jobs successfully - such as a co-worker or child calling in sick or a change in procedures.

3) Break down communication barriers (break the gossip chain -- morale will never be high if gossip and other destructive communication patterns persist!).

4) Follow through on your commitments and promises.

5) Be consistent in modeling and enforcing policies and procedures.

6) Visit classrooms and make note of the wonderful things team members are implementing. Save criticisms for one-on-one meetings.

7) Greet staff in the morning.

8) Integrate new staff members effectively. Never let people wonder: who is "this new person?"

9) Appreciate and acknowledge team members when they exhibit the behaviors you would like them to display more often.

10) Train your team on how to resolve conflicts and communicate constructively. Role-play or analyze case scenarios as a team.

11) Facilitate team-building activities at your staff meetings. (And have staff meetings on a consistent basis.)

Ref: Julie Bartkus

Manage, Motivate and Retain Great Staff

Have you ever wondered what is takes to create a dynamic,motivated, high-functioning child care team? If you've answered yes, you are not alone. My office receives emails from all over the world from child care leaders who are on a mission; a mission to figure out the key elements in managing, motivating, and retaining great staff. Some of the leaders I've consulted with have spent their entire professional career trying to figure out the answer to this question. Some admit to giving up because the challenges involved in creating a dynamic, motivated team are exhausting.

The wonderful news is that there is a specific plan of action that you can implement immediately to help you manage, motivate, and retain great staff. This plan of action is not a quick fix, but rather a long-term solution to the motivational challenges child care leaders face (including the four case scenarios presented at the beginning of this article). Before I share with you this transformational plan of action, let me ask you:

If you could motivate your staff to do 5 things this year, whatwould they be? Would you like your staff to function as a dynamic team? Would you like your staff to communicate more constructively with each other, their leaders and the parents? Would you like your staff to refrain from destructive communication such as gossip? Would you like your staff to come to work full of energy and excitement about the lives that they're about to impact? Would you like your staff to resolve conflicts and issues on their own? Would you like your staff to value the contribution each individual staff member can make in accomplishing new team goals? Rest assured,whatever it is that you would like to accomplish, the following5-step plan of action will help you.

Let's begin this journey in learning what it takes to manage,motivate and retain great staff with step 1 of your motivational plan of action. The 5 steps I'm sharing this week are the foundation of my Leadership Retreats.

Step 1: Possess a strong, positive belief in your team. This is acritically important first step. Without a positive belief, thereis no hope, without hope there is no vision of the greatness you can accomplish within your program. When a program lacks a vision, it also lacks motivation.

As crucial as this step is, it can be one of the toughest toimplement. Why? Well, it all boils down to the thoughts you, the leader, think and the actions you take as an end result. So it starts with you and what you truly believe about your team. That's right -- what you believe and what you feel - not just what you say to appease others.

Do you possess a strong, positive belief in your team? When Iconsult with leaders about the changes they would like to see happening in their working and learning environments some have stated: "Good luck in working with my staff -- they're just really not capable of accomplishing much." I've also heard worse comments than this, but I think you get the idea.

It may be a true perception that one's team is simply not capable of accomplishing much, it's still not the thought or the vision that a leader who would like to create a motivated, dynamic, high-functioning team should hang on to. A leader must create a vision beyond present circumstances and help team members aspire to it. And if current team members are not on board and don't share your vision, it may be time to seek employees who do.

To help you develop your vision, imagine for a moment that your staff functions as a dynamic team. Imagine that everyone is a team player. Imagine that each employee is motivated. What does that mean to you personally and professionally? Many leaders share with me that if their staff was more motivated and functioned as a team, their stress levels would be reduced. The parents and children would be happier. Positive word of mouth advertising would spread far and fast. Your program will be the program where parents want to send their children and where top-notch child care professionalswant to work. You will have more time and funds available to invest in what you value most. You and your staff will experience less burnout.

Visualize this several times each day. Visualize that you and your team have more energy as the workday ends and visualize everyone returning to work with smiles on their faces. It's a great start.

Step 2: Create an environment where direct and open communication is a priority.

During leadership retreats we spend hours talking about this step because it's such an important element in creating a positive, productive and dynamic environment for working and learning. With each organization I work with, I find that when direct and open communication does not exist, gossip and other destructive communication patterns persist.

There are three main components from a leadership perspective in creating an environment where direct and open communication is a priority. They include getting direct and open communication, giving direct and open communication, and facilitating direct and open communication among staff.

As crucial as each of these three components are, there are communication barriers present in many child care programs preventing leaders from getting it, giving it, and facilitating it. It's very important to realize that when communication barriers are present they most often lead to turnover and unmotivated staff. Thus an important step in managing, motivating and retaining great staff is to identify what communication barriers are present in your working and learning environment and then put a workable plan of action in place to break them down.

Step 3: Challenge your team.

Help your staff understand your vision, your program's mission statement and how their efforts contribute to the big picture. Many times staff members simply focus on their immediate responsibilities as opposed to a broad-spectrum view of what they can accomplish within your program and in the child care profession. When this happens staff may be reluctant to do more than their fair share of the work. They may feel unimportant and undervalued.

A major element of this step is to help your staff understand their role in making the big picture happen through extending their focus beyond their immediate responsibilities. Help them focus daily on how: their successes will make a positive impact on the lives of the children, the parents, the community and your child care program.

Another important element is to coach your staff to set and achieve new goals; goals that will help them truly become a top-notch child care professional.

Before we move on to step 4, it's important to understand that the steps presented in this plan of action are cumulative, beginning with step 1. The common mistake many leaders make in implementing their plan of action is to implement step 4 or step 5 before implementing step 1 and step 2. To achieve optimal results from implementing this plan of action, it's important to implement the steps in order 1 through 5. Steps 1 and 2 are the toughest, yet the most important.

Step 4: Appreciate your staff.

Most child care leaders are very good at offering gifts to express their appreciation to their staff. However, please be aware that there are staff appreciation pitfalls that must be avoided to make your staff appreciation efforts effective. Staff appreciation pitfalls include routine appreciation, general appreciation, and undeserved appreciation. Additionally, if you have not put into practice steps 1 and 2, your appreciation efforts can be very ineffective.

When your staff appreciation methods are ineffective and pitfalls are present, you may hear staff complain about the type of cake they got for their birthday and how another co-worker got something better than they did. One leader shared with me how she purchased beautiful gifts for each staff person. Unfortunately, all she got in return were complaints.

Step 5: Make working for your program fun.

Find ways to make the mundane, stressful tasks fun. Incorporate fun into your staff meetings. Use music to transition from the end of the day craziness to an energizing, informative staff meeting. Incorporate a humorous attitude in your dealings with staff and parents. Of course this doesn't mean make fun of others but lighten up a bit.

When you're ready to implement this step, facilitate a fun team building activity with your staff. The objective is to list all the tasks that are mundane or stressful and then brainstorm with your staff on how to make them more fun.

Make a point in ending the day by helping each staff member leave with a smile. Here's what one teacher told me how she ends her day with a smile. "One of the things that keeps me motivated to stay in the teaching profession is all the humorous moments I encounter through the day. When my workday comes to an end, I reflect on all the funny stuff. Then I laugh and end my day with a huge smile on my face and I bring home a smile and share my humorous moments with my family so they can all end their day with a smile."

Wow! What a great thing -- to end the day with a smile. Not utter exhaustion and stress limits pushed to the max, but a smile to relish in and share with our loved ones. Smiles and laughter - two things that children naturally share and pass on to others. And boy, don't you love it when they do!

In addition to the 5 steps presented in this article, there are two important elements that go hand in hand with each step. They are coaching and modeling. It's important to view yourself as your team's coach. Often leaders in the child care profession can easily be mistaken for another stressed out member of the staff. You have to rise above personal issues and focus on facts, benefits, and solutions in order to help your team accomplish great things.

Modeling the behaviors that you would like your team to display on a daily basis is just as important. If you're constantly showing up late for work and meetings, don't be surprised if your team follows suit. Undoubtedly, you set the protocol for how your staff behaves.

Implement this step-by-step plan of action, model the behaviors you would like your team to display and coach your team to accomplish great things and your child care program will be the program with a motivated, dynamic, high-functioning team.

Ref: Julie Bartkus

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tips to Keep Your Job during a Recession

The state of our economy is in demise. People’s current financial situation is unpredictable and tentative. Every time one watches the news or looks at the headlines in the newspaper, it seems as though there is more and more bad news concerning the recession. Even large, prosperous companies have experienced serious downturn. Employees suddenly find themselves jobless or with reduced hours without inviting the situation. People who previously considered their jobs secure are now faced with possible lay-offs.

If the company you work for is slipping significantly, there is not too much you can do to alter the situation. However, many companies, although they have to make cuts, will survive and endure. If you want to be amongst those chosen to keep the boat afloat, then there are several things you can do to help your chances.

Go through extra effort at work. With many companies, layoffs are unavoidable. However, some companies can use the occasion to eliminate difficult or under-performing employees.Here are a few things you can do to improve your chances of keeping your job during a recession: (The resources for these tips can be found at the end of this article)

1) Take Credit For Your Accomplishments.

This does not mean that you have to brag to let management know that you are doing a good job. It simply means that you should keep them in the loop. You can do this by creating a paper trail. CC your boss on appropriate emails that relate to the progress of specific projects and important deadlines. Also, make sure to forward short updates and summaries of ongoing projects to your supervisor intermittently.

2) Avoid Asking For a Raise.

If you are aware that your company is making cuts and know that their budget is tight, do not ask for a pay increase. By asking for a raise in such times, you can put yourself at the top of the lay-off list.

3) Do Extra Work.

Stay busy. If you have some free time, ask your boss if there is any way you can help out and if there is additional work to be done. This will increase your visibility and value to the company. Although volunteering to do extra tasks is a great way to keep your job, do so only if you can complete it in a timely manner and if it does not deter you from your original tasks.

4) Be Visible.

Enhance your visibility by attending and participating in meetings, offering creative, new ideas and taking part in company outings. Be sure to let people (preferably those in higher positions) within your organization are aware of your existence. Moreover, do not make your boss have to look for you. This is the wrong time to take an extended vacation. When you return, your position could be eliminated. Also, do not come into work late, that is negative visibility as people will notice.

5) Build Up a Relationship With Your Boss.

Talk to your boss, your boss’s boss, and their boss. Get to know your boss, preferably on a work-related basis. Build up and maintain a strong relationship with them, and make sure they know about all your contributions to the company and the valuable work that you do.

6) Be Conscious of the Company.

Make sure you know what and how your company is doing. Keep your eyes and ears open. It is important for you to stay abreast of events within your company, your industry and nationally. By being well informed, you will advance your personal worth.

7) Avoid Gossip.

Gossiping can possibly end up getting you into trouble. Make sure to stay happy and positive. At times like these, people can become unhappy and despondent. Misery loves company and you can generally find huddles of groups talking themselves into a group melancholy. It is best to avoid them as nothing good can come from it. Keep your sunny and positive attitude and boost the morale of others.

8) Come Up With New Ideas.

Be creative and conjure up new ideas on ways your company can make money or be more efficient. Become a part of the solution by helping your company develop ways to cut costs. Furthermore, possibly mentor someone in the organization who may be experiencing difficulties. Your time will not be in vain.

9) Update Your Skills.

Keep up-to-date of all the latest technologies, trends, and other skills related to your work. Educate yourself. Think of ways to complement and enhance your current degree. If you do not have a degree, strive to get a degree or at least a certification of some sort. Make sure your boss is aware of your intent to continue or develop your education. Companies dispose of people whose skills are outdated and replace them with people who have more relevant and modern training. The benefits of enhancing your education and skill set are two fold. Firstly, it can make you indispensible at your current job. You may even be asked to take on more responsibility. Secondly, if you lose your current job, it will be easier to find a new one.

10) Observe The Job Market.

You should always have a backup plan. Passively look for jobs so that you have a head start if you are laid off. Network with previous employers or colleagues so that you can contact them in you ever need to. Update your resume, return agency' phone calls, and start picturing where else you might like to work just to be on the safe side.

11) Become Indispensable.

Become a specialist at some aspect of your companies business. If you have acquired knowledge or skills that your colleagues do not possess, it makes you more valuable, important and irreplaceable to your company. Be an asset to your company.

12) Become a "Can Do" Employee.

Employers like it when they can give you a problem or task and know that it will be undertaken promptly and resourcefully. Your bosses will notice this, and your value within the company will grow.

13) Stay Put.

Evade the thought of moving to a new employer unless you are totally confident that your present company has no future. No matter how good the job is or may sound, being the new member of the team makes you highly vulnerable in these economic slumps.

14) Stay Smart.

Make extra efforts to go into the office smartly dressed. Do not let your standards drop. It may sound hard to believe, but being a smart individual could mean the difference between keeping and losing your job.

15) Don’t Be a High Maintenance Employee.

Be easy to work with. Avoid complaining. Make sure to uphold your professionalism at all times. Furthermore, avoid taking too many sick days, arriving late to work, or taking excessive vacations. Be as efficient and accessible to your boss and coworkers as possible.

16) Get to Work Early & Stay Late

This does not mean that you have to work until midnight. However, try to avoid being the first one out the door when the clock strikes five. With the current economic storm, putting in a few extra hours is an investment in your future.

17) Minimize Personal Activity.

Keep personal calls, emails and text messaging to a minimum during the workday.

18) Give Your Leaders a Break.

As much as we may find objectionable certain actions of bosses, it is important to realize that they really do not take pleasure in having to lay off their people. Endeavour to ease the leader’s load and help them protect and preserve your department.

19) Stop Complaining.

A good attitude goes a long way. At times like these, management is looking people who can boost morale. In addition, happy, positive workers are less likely to get laid off than people who seem to have an aversion to what they do.

20) Be Likable.

It is not easy to be light-hearted when financial situations are rocky. However, research by Tiziana Casciaro and Miguel Sousa Lobo published in a 2005 HBR article, "Competent Jerks, Lovable Fools, and the Formation of Social Networks," found that when people need help with getting a job done, they would typically opt for a friendly and pleasant co-worker rather than a more competent one.


Friday, February 20, 2009

What Lies Beneath Low Performance

We know them well - employees whose work never seems to be up to par. They don't take direction well and may need constant hand-holding. Tasks are completed late and the quality of their work often is poor. Sometimes, a bad attitude and disruptive work habits are also present: They come in late, leave early and generally are difficult to deal with. At first glance, the best course of action for these individuals' performance management plans would be to weed them out. But perhaps not. Showing low-performing employees the door may be the right decision in certain circumstances, but an alternative may be better for the individual and the organization.

Before making a final judgment about a low performer, talent managers need to take a close look at the specific root causes of the subpar performance.

Is it due to lack of engagement with tasks, skill gaps in critical areas or perhaps a focus on the wrong priorities? In the vast majority of cases, some kind of talent management failure by the organization contributes to an employee's poor performance. Consider, for example, an employee who has been hard at work on a key project, operating on guidance from his manager that he should "drop everything" and focus on project delivery. However, several months later, realizing that critical deliverables were left unfinished, the manager identifies this employee as a low performer. But are they? Or were they just placed in a difficult position that limited their opportunity for success?

By identifying the root causes of low performance, talent managers have the opportunity to call upon solutions and best practices to remedy the situation. In the aforementioned example, perhaps the problem was a breakdown in communication between employee and manager. Or perhaps this manager expects all of her employees to proactively handle multiple tasks at once, and this employee lacks that particular skill.Once these root causes are identified, the right solutions can be employed to transform a low performer into a strong contributor to organizational goals.

Leading Causes of Low Performance

A closer examination of low performance reveals a number of common causes. They include:

a) Lack of engagement: Employees may become disengaged for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they're confused by their roles in the company or by specific tasks they're expected to handle. They may not have a clear idea of what's expected of them or feel that they are part of a team. Consequently, they may either work on the wrong activities or simply not work hard because they don't see the point in making the extra effort.

b) Skill gaps: Another type of low performance is caused by skill gaps. An employee may try to do the right thing, but can't because he or she is missing core or task-specific skills. This often is the case when a new manager who was a top performer in a previous position is promoted but not properly coached on the leadership skills needed to successfully manage a team.

c) Wrong focus or wrong tasks: This is slightly different from the disengaged employee example. In some cases, talent managers may find employees are working really hard and putting in the extra time and effort to achieve excellence. But due to lack of guidance or the wrong direction, they work on projects or activities that do not relate directly or indirectly to the goals and objectives of the business.Inevitably, there are going to be instances in which poor performance results from a lack of fit with the organization or culture. In these cases, management out of the organization may be the right decision, but it is important to do more than just show low performers the door. Instead, talent managers need to provide comprehensive feedback to recruiters so similar mistakes can be avoided in the future. This approach enables the organization to turn a hiring mistake into a process that will improve success rates for new hires.

Build a Culture of Performance Improvement

With a firm understanding of these root causes for low performance, organizations also need to build a true performance culture that sets up all employees for success. This approach has two important components: the proactive changes talent managers can make to organizational culture to avoid poor performance before it starts, and reactive steps to rehabilitate poor performance once it happens. Organizations can do a lot to avoid poor performance if they understand how to align individual and group productivity with overall goals and objectives; foster a sense of teamwork, even when teams are geographically dispersed; and ensure measuring progress and performance are a seamless part of employees' daily work activities. For example, if low performers suffer from a lack of engagement, perhaps they need to be integrated more effectively into connected corporate communities that provide support and assistance when needed.

Many employees underperform when they feel they are working in isolation. Innovative technology solutions can enable employees to tap into community-based knowledge and experiences that are relevant to their job functions and activities. People can connect, exchange ideas and insights, and learn in formal or informal environments using wikis, blogs, discussion forums and team spaces, as well as real-time e-learning and online collaboration tools. If employees are confused about what they should be working on or are working diligently but on the wrong tasks, perhaps talent managers need better alignment between strategic goals and objectives and day-to-day job functions and activities. Leaders need a process that can be easily and efficiently refined, adjusted and used to align employee activities across traditional and cross-functional hierarchies.The communication process is incredibly important. Consider the example of an employee identified as a high potential in the organization. This individual was asked to take on a new role in the organization, and a year later he was transferred again. These moves were only vaguely explained as, "We'd like you to get some experience with different roles," and the employee began to feel like he wasn't seen as successful because his responsibilities kept changing. His performance declined as he became less engaged, and only in the exit interview did the employee discover the various changes in role were not due to his failure to perform. In fact, he was in a formal development program for high potentials focused on creating well-rounded leaders by assigning them job rotations.Proactive approaches to close individual skill gaps also are key. Employees need a better understanding of the specific competencies required for particular job roles and a way to proactively close those gaps. Whether the plan involves formal training or more informal experiences such as coaching or mentoring, this process is essential to grow the talent needed to manage a company and respond to market opportunities and customer requirements now and in the future.

Talent managers might be surprised how often a low performer's attitude or motivation is not the problem, but lack of preparation and efficient access to knowledge and expertise is.Reactive ApproachesIn many organizations, a formal performance improvement plan (PIP) is the favored response to low performance. Unfortunately, too many organizations have used the PIP as a way to formally document an employee's failures and justify dismissal. To be effective, rather than just punitive, PIPs need to focus on performance improvement.PIPs can be incredibly effective to clearly communicate what needs improvement. But while today's PIPs work just fine when there is a behavior that needs to be corrected - such as tardiness - they don't work as well in cases such as the overextended employee discussed earlier. This employee - the one who dropped everything to complete the important project - will just repeat history if placed on a standard PIP that lists tasks that should be accomplished. Instead, the PIP should place emphasis on improved and regular communication between the employee and manager. Instead of just stating, "Complete projects X, Y and Z by this date," the PIP also should include a commitment to regular check-ins with the manager to discuss prioritization and re-prioritization when new demands emerge, definition of a new notification process when projects fall behind or other changes that will help mitigate employee pitfalls.

A Unified Approach to Performance Improvement In the past, talent managers might have been inclined to say the big issue with low performers is not so much individual accountability; rather, it is about establishing the right processes at the organizational level to guide and support employees across the life cycle. People management processes should be presented to the employee in a unified way to effectively manage employees from the moment they are hired, through promotions or job changes, until they leave the company.In addition to managing formal performance reviews and PIPs, the most effective solutions also will include ways to support the proactive culture change discussed above. This includes the ability to seamlessly incorporate learning and skill development, facilitate teamwork and encourage alignment and communication between employees and managers. That way, performance problems are avoided before they surface. If talent managers try to correct low performers after they become low performers, it may be too late.

Ref: Susan Tonkin [About the Author: Susan Tonkin is a senior product marketing manager at Saba, a talent management solutions provider.]

Referral Blues - HR practices

Employee referral programme has always proved to be an efficient recruiting tool. However, for consistent performance output it is important to work through a checklist...

Key learnings:

  • Design and execution are two critical parameters for gauging the success of employee referral programmes
  • An insight into the attributes of a world class referral programme can help frame an effective employee referral programme

Employee referrals have been touted as one of the most efficient recruiting tools. The efficacy of the programmes can be gauged by the percentage successes of recruiting deals made through employee referrals. In addition to the efficiency factor, employee referral programmes (ERP) offer a number of other advantages also. The time and cost-effectiveness of employee referral programmes figure among the most attractive benefits of the tool. This apart, better use of recruiter and management time, insight into moral and ethical stand of individual employees and better quality of talent are other benefits of ERPs.

Since ERPs impact a host of organisational factors, their efficacy can also take a beating when one or more these factors become less favourable. Hence, to offset adversity of any kind recruiting managers must focus on the design and execution of ERPs. Most referral programmes have been known to succumb to their own internal flaws in programme design or execution.

ERPs have shown a recruitment rate of 50%-70% . To attain this level of efficiency organisations have to work hard on the design and execution aspects of the programme.


As mentioned earlier, design of employee referral programmes makes all the difference between success and failure of the initiative. Hence, to attain impeccable design and immaculate referral plan , recruiting managers should incorporate the following attributes in the design component:

  • The entire process should be web-based making it a completely paperless effort, saving both time and effort
  • Provision to gauge satisfaction levels of referred employees
  • Provision to recruit referrals from non-employees
  • Rewarding employees who get referrals from competitors, especially for senior level positions
  • The programme should allow employees to send emails to friends regarding job openings
  • A successful referral in a position that seemed difficult to fill should be given extra bonus and rewards

Organisations could add more design components to make the programme more customised.


Even when the design components are in place, referral programmes could fail because of poor execution. Execution issues are often related to the workability of the design. The following execution problems are encountered most commonly:

  • Lack of constant monitoring by authorities
  • Referrals get turned down because of redundant rules and policies
  • Lack of control on the quality of referrals can make the entire exercise ineffective
  • Undue stress on diversity can take the steam off referral schemes
  • Bonuses and rewards may lose their sheen over a period of time
  • There is no distinction between referral bonus/reward for junior and senior positions
  • Lack of disciplinary measures to tackle referral misuse and abuse

After ascertaining the right design and execution process , organisations should institute the right measures to scale the efficacy of referral programmes.


The measures to determine and assess the effectiveness of ERPs include:

  • Cost per recruit
  • Time saved in reaching out to potential recruits, identifying them and processing their job requests
  • Manager satisfaction levels with the referee performance
  • Rise in employee participation in ERPs
  • Percentage of diversity referrals
  • Success rate of referrals made by employees
  • Number of senior level positions filled through ERPs

Referral programmes are undoubtedly one of the best tools for accomplishing corporate recruiting needs. However, there is enough evidence to suggest that more than 70 pc of organisations using the programme for filling up job positions have shown only mediocre results. This is primarily because corporates fail to take ERPs seriously and use it as a subordinate recruiting technique. However, for organisations that value employee referrals truly and announce attractive rewards for every job that gets filled through it have indeed shown that ERPs are at least twice as effective as the traditional approach to recruiting.

Organisations that wish to leverage the real potential of ERPs need to begin their efforts at the deign stage. The design for employee referral programme must be competitive enough to meet world class standards. Using this design , then leaders can move forward with execution of the programme . Thus, by ensuring the right design and execution measures organisations can aim at enhancing the success rate of their recruiting efforts significantly.

Worthy Disabilities!-Recruitment and Retention

Disability has no bearing on individual competence and talent , hence exploring this latent talent pool can make the difference between corporate success and failure...

Key learnings:

  • Disability recruitment is an effective talent- recruiting strategy. The threats of dwindling performance or escalating costs are irrelevant
  • Reverse recruiting is a logical step towards disability recruitment and hence recruiters have to make a deliberate attempt at it.

Talent is oblivious to caste, creed, gender or state of physical well-being. Hence, it is omnipresent. Because it is not in the traditional "pool" can deprive organisations of the huge talent lying in seemingly less promising pockets.

The disabled section of the worker population represents one such pocket of talent that rarely attracts the attention of talent- seekers. Most talent managers do not even consider the disabled population of workers as a potential source of talent. Therefore a very significant chunk of talent remains underutilised. Increasing evidence on the subject indicates that people with disabilities can be as effective as their physically fit colleagues. Disabilities are extremely job-specific and do not hold universal relevance.

In defence

The case of Northrop Grumman, a Los Angeles-based defence contractor, demonstrates how organisations can benefit from the disabled. Northrop, like other companies did not have a disability recruitment programme . The initiative took off when Karen Stang, an employee at Northrop, recommended a friend's son for a job. His gesture to help a friend's son injured in war proved to be a milestone for the company's employer proposition. The company appreciated Stang's concern and launched "Operation Impact". The initiative was aimed at employing war -wounded soldiers as the company catered catered to the clothing needs of the armed forces. From its initial placement agenda for disabled soldiers, Operation Impact has expanded its horizon and is now seeking disabled workers from all quarters. This has served both the philanthropic as well as the business needs of the organisation.

Northrop Grumman has set an example for other corporates to follow. Stalwarts like General Electric Co and Raytheon Co. have incorporated disability recruitment in corporate recrfuiting strategy. According to Mathew Ross, the human resources chief at XL4 Software Solutions, organisations are on a constant lookout for new and unexplored talent pools. And the disabled segment of worker population remains fairly unexposed . Thus, organisations have to broaden their horizon and take a more open view of bolstering their staff by integrating the unfortunate but extremely talented pool of disabled workers.

It is rather astonishing to see that even the world's most progressive economy. the US, reports an unemployment rate as high as 65 percent among its disabled population. This apart, a survey of employers across the globe revealed that only two percent of the surveyed population mentioned "disabled population" in the category of groups pertaining to the "equal opportunity" rights. The level of awareness and empathy is rather dismal. Therefore organisations have to work towards clearing the misconceptions that people hold about the disabled and treat them like any other source of talent.

A corporate treasure

A survey of employers employing a significant chunk of disabled worker population has shown that the performance output of these workers is the same or better than that of their physically fit colleagues. The issue of inferior performance is a mere hallucination Apart from performance concerns, a few employers also believe that accommodating workers with disabilities can prove to be more expensive for employers. The cost factor, experts say. is a mindset since it does not in effect cost much to accommodate employee disabilities. Employees with disabilities seldom need assistance at the work place. It is only in the case of certain exceptional disabilities or work requirements that call for special provisions on the part of the employer. Hence, both cost and performance concerns hold little relevance in the context of disability recruitment.

For organisations that are pursuing the cause of disability recruitment the concept of "reverse recruitment" is becoming increasingly popular. The term underscores the need to work backwards on the job-talent graph. Typically recruiting managers have a job in mind with a clear set of skills and competencies that are specific to the given job . This job sketch is then used to recruit talent . However in the case of disability recruitment, the job and skills take a backseat and recruiting managers look for a job based on the skills available to them. While the concept of reverse recruiting makes the job more challenging for recruiters as the pressure to recruit "a given skill set " is huge , the task is not as daunting as it sounds. Recruiters need to educate themselves about the need to integrate the disabled worker population into the mainstream and work towards achieving the same.

Disability recruitment needs concerted and well-intended effort on the part of employers. The task is gravely challenging and therefore may be self-limiting in case of small organisations. However, seeking external help from consultants can prove to be a profitable proposition for organisations seeking talent.

Ref: TheManageMentor.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How Recruiters and HR Can Work Together

In the business world we have a short list of traditional sources of interdepartmental friction. One of these “hot zones” is the intersection of HR and third-party recruiters, who can easily find themselves at odds.

HR departments often view third-party recruiters as obstacles, while recruiters know that if they can get their best résumés in front of a hiring manager, they’ve got a shot at making a placement. If recruiters are held up by HR bureaucrats whose own need to control the candidate flow overshadows their desire to bring talent in the door, headhunters are sunk. As a result, it’s common to find tension between internal HR people and outside recruiters. Is there a path that allows internal HR and external recruiters to work together for maximum gain?

The Recruiter’s Role

In my experience, the greatest service a third-party search partner provides to the organization, besides the strength of his or her candidate database and relationships, is the intermediary role a search pro performs during offer negotiation. I pride myself on good listening and negotiating skills, but if I’m inside the company, I won’t have the same credibility with a candidate that his ally, the outside recruiter, has.

So it makes sense to let the recruiter handle the delicate job of negotiating between the employer (“our offer is good enough already!”) and the candidate (“they’re dreaming if they think I’ll take this job for that salary”) when the stakes are high. We do it when we buy or sell a house. We know that our trusted Realtor won’t be as emotionally bound up in the negotiation as we very well may be. It’s the same in a high-level offer negotiation process—a place where the middleman can get us more quickly to a handshake and save egos in the process.

As a CEO, managing partner, or division president beginning a high-level search in your organization, it’s critical to sit down with your chosen search partner and your HR chief and work through the common issues that divide these two players. What can easily happen in the absence of such a kickoff meeting is that the search consultant creates a tight one-on-one communication bond with the business leader so that the HR person feels left in the dust.

A Profitable Partnership

Feelings are one thing, but the bigger issue is that without the input of your organization’s Minister of Culture—a/k/a HR chief—your search will be hampered by a lack of a critical perspective. At every stage of the process—initial screening of candidates, the interview process, or the delicate negotiation phase—the quality of the hire you end up with will be affected by the level of participation of your HR chief, the one person most likely to know more than anyone else (including top management) about how things work on the human side of the business.

When I was a corporate HR person, I learned to invite my search partners into the office once every six months or so for a check-in meeting. In this way I learned that partnering with trusted search colleagues is one of the highest-yield moves an HR leader can make. Search pros will tell you things that candidates never would (e.g., “no one will work for Jane Smith any more—she’s a terrible manager”) and will fill you in on the state of the local job market with a level of detail you’d never have time to acquire on your own.

To cultivate a partnership, however, an HR chief has to let go of many an HR leader’s favorite office tool: the presumption of control over the process. The fact is that in a typical, intense, high-level search, the HR chief won’t be the conduit for much or most of the information that is exchanged. If your No. 1 candidate is suddenly presented with a competing offer, your search pro is going to reach whomever he can reach first—whether that’s the HR leader, the CEO, or the CEO’s assistant.

Cooperation is Key

In an effective senior-level search, the time-honored paradigm, “all information passes through HR on its way to the hiring manager,” won’t hold. Communication has to take place instantly, and important decisions may happen on the fly. With a high level of coordination and respect for individual talents, this can work to an employer’s advantage. When hierarchy and bureaucracy creep in, typical responses run along the lines of, “I don’t care what you and our CEO discussed. All new VPs get three weeks vacation, and we’re not budging for this candidate.” And believe it or not, negotiations with candidates can fall apart over things as seemingly small as a week or two of vacation.

HR chiefs and recruiters can be pivotal in one another’s success. As one executive recruiter said to me, “Like most HR people, you chat with candidates maybe one or two hours a day. The rest of the time you work on other things, like executive comp or performance management or employee communications. All I do is cultivate talent and sell your company and my other clients to the talent marketplace. Isn’t that worth my fee?” With the right partner, it is worth the fee—and more

Ref: Liz Ryan / Business Week

Working With Headhunters

I remember the first time I heard the word “headhunter” in connection with employment. I had visions of some wild-eyed, wild-haired person running around with a spear in one hand and a cooking pot in the other, looking for unsuspecting job candidates to have for lunch.

Of course, after decades of writing about the workplace I use the term “headhunter” without worrying about shrunken heads and boiling water, but there still needs to be some education about what headhunters do, and how they can help those looking for work.

Headhunters – also known as job recruiters – spend their days looking for people to fill empty job positions. They stake their reputations (and their income) on finding the perfect employee for an employer. If they don’t deliver, then they don’t collect any money, and down the road, they may be looking for new employment themselves.

But the really good headhunters are able to match the the great employee with the right job, and everyone is happy. The employer has a good fit, the job candidate has a new job and the headhunter makes money.

But there are times when the headhunting process can go wrong. Sometimes it’s the job seeker’s fault, believing the headhunter works for them (nope…the headhunter works for the employer, much like realtors work for the home seller), or it can be the headhunter’s fault, because he or she isn’t familiar with the specific industry and doesn’t communicate well with the job candidate.

I’ve interviewed several headhunters over the years, and here are some tips they’ve provided:-

Be honest. Don’t try and exaggerate your accomplishments or fudge on your background.

Headhunters are pretty savvy — they’ll ferret out your lies and move on to someone else.-

Trust your gut. If the headhunter seems a little vague on your industry or doesn’t have a proven track record, then you may want to move on yourself. Don’t tie your reputation or future to a job recruiter that doesn’t seem like the real deal.

Communicate. E-mail the recruiter at least once a week for an update. A recruiter is more likely to keep you in mind for different positions if you are a little bit of a (nice) squeaky wheel.

While there are concerns about the job market getting tougher, most headhunters agree that employers are still looking for key workers. As long as you can make yourself appealing by understanding what your industry is looking for and how your skills and abilities can help an employer’s bottom line, then you will probably be appealing to a headhunter (unless they have salt in one hand and a fork in the other…then you should run.)

How To Keep A Job In This Economy - Eliminate Bad Habits

Have you been working hard all year only to find yourself passed up for that coveted promotion? Do you feel like your boss doesn’t appreciate your contributions? Are you not getting the recognition at work that you think you deserve? If you are doing any of the following things below, you may be preventing yourself from moving up the corporate ladder.

Taking-Off Early On Fridays

If your Friday afternoon at the office consists of lunch and sending a few emails before you’re out the door, you’re sending the message that work is not a priority. While not I’m not advocating that work be your #1 priority, if you want to achieve your career goals it is important to build up your credibility around the office.

Managers want to promote motivated, happy employees who are willing to go the extra-mile when necessary. Someone who makes a habit of scheduling doctor’s appointments in the middle of the day or taking long personal lunches will never fall into this category. Work does get done on Friday afternoons, and if you’re not there, someone will notice.

Spending More Time At Home Than At The Office

If you think that sending out a few emails and periodically checking your inbox is enough to fool people into thinking you’re really working at home, think again. Everybody knows you’re not, because they do the same thing. It’s hard to focus when there are dishes in the sink and Oprah on TV, so if you are working from home more than once a month, you aren’t being as productive as you can be.

When you do work from home, assign yourself a specific project or goal and communicate this to your boss. This will prove to your boss that you are a responsible and thoughtful employee, and will help keep you accountable for the work you do at home.

Passing On The Company Happy Hour

Attending stuffy cocktail hours where you have to make small talk with people you barely know is not really appealing to anyone. However, skipping out on company-sponsored events means you are missing out on valuable networking time that will help you build up a group of contacts which can aid you at your current position and beyond.

Spending time with your co-workers out of the office allows you to get to know people in a new light and can be surprisingly enjoyable. I make it a point to attend all events my company sponsors. At one lunch I got to talking with a co-worker who ended up giving me his old stereo and speaker set—for free! Another time I ended up seated next to the CFO and found out her daughter and I had the same food allergy. She directed me to a great blog about living gluten-free.

Even if you don’t make tons of new friends and expand your network of business contacts, at the very least you’ll get to enjoy some free food and drink and garner personal favor with the people you work with.

Showing Too Much Initiative

As a young person just starting out, I realize that it’s hard to get people to listen to your great ideas. I have an entire folder full of scribbled-on “napkins” with ideas and diagrams on how to improve the business. It’s great that you’re paying attention and thinking big, however if you’re spending more time brainstorming new projects than working on your assigned ones, then you are doing yourself a disservice.

I spend a lot of my time working with and training new employees. I find that new employees love to share with me their grand ideas on how to revolutionize the way we do things. Believe me, if you thought of it, chances are someone else has too.

If you’re spending most of your time brainstorming, it probably means you’re neglecting your official job duties and that is not the way to win at work.

Dressing Like You Did Five Years Ago

How you are perceived by your boss and your co-workers is a lot more important than how you actually are. This may be unfair, but it’s true nonetheless. This is why it’s important to always put your best face forward in the office.

If you’re still wearing the same sweatshirt and jeans that you did in college, maybe it’s time to consider upgrading your wardrobe. Even if your workplace is laid-back, it’s still essential to project a professional image.

If you’re trying a promotion, you should learn the rules of your office and play by them. Identify one or two successful people in your office who have had a string of promotions and observe how they act in the office. Are they always prepared? Do they always go the extra-mile to please the boss? If so, you should too. Just a few simple things can mean the difference between an entry-level position and a mid-level one.

Ref: Jacqui Tom

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How To Get A Job In This Economy - Interviewing

Interviewing is often compared to dating—and for good reason. Just like a first date, an interview is a forum for you to look your best, highlight your attributes, and convince the other person that they should pursue a long-term relationship with you. While these are all important aspects of successful interviewing, don’t forget that it’s important to interview the company as well to make they’re as a good a fit for you as you are for them.
This process is very similar to visiting a date’s apartment for the very first time. The way a person lives is very telling. Your date may look and seem well put together in public but their apartment could be filled with dirty magazines, old food and a futon mattress. If you always use coasters and like having everything in its place then no matter how wonderful this person is you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle.

Here are a few pointers to help you evaluate whether a potential employer is right for you:

Before The Interview

When you arrive at the interview, which will hopefully be the same location at which you will be working, observe the exterior and interior of the building. Ask yourself the following:

1. Can you imagine yourself walking through the halls of the interior?
2. What is the mood of the workers? Friendly? Busy? Deflated?
3. What is the dress code? Will you be comfortable conforming to it?
4. Is this a location I would be comfortable commuting to everyday?
5. Is the exterior of the building in good condition?

Don’t underestimate the impact a long commute or uncomfortable working conditions can play in your job satisfaction. A 45-minute drive to an interview may seem like no big deal, but having to make that trip twice a day, five days a week in traffic can really be a big drain not only on your time but also on your stress level. Also, working in an office that’s poorly maintained or poorly laid out can also have negative effects. Leaky ceilings, broken air conditioning, smelly bathrooms—these are not things most people want to deal with eight hours a day.

During The Interview

Most interviews allow at least some time for answering questions—make sure you use it! Not only will you look thoughtful and prepared to an interviewer, you will be gaining valuable information that will help you asses whether or not the position is a good fit for you. A few questions to ask each interviewer:

1. What would a typical day in my position be like?
2. Are there opportunities for personal and career development such as tuition reimbursement, mentoring programs or training seminars?
3. What do you like best and worst about your job?
4. Why do you like working at this company?
5. How would you describe the corporate culture?

Having spent more time as an interviewer than an interviewee, the most impressive candidate I have had the pleasure of interviewing came to the interview with an entire notebook page full of questions. Not just a tiny, pocket-size notebook but a large, 8 × 10 sheet with notes on every line and in the margins. I went straight from the interview to the hiring manager to beg them to hire this person.

The answers to any of the above questions can be extremely telling. If your interviewer gushes on and on about how wonderful everyone is, how well the company treats people and seems genuine, then you know that the company must be a great place to work. If the interviewer seems guarded or unsure of how to answer questions about their personal job satisfaction then maybe there are some internal personnel issues and you might want to keep looking for something better.

Remember that the employer-employee relationship is a lot like a marriage. Each one takes care of the other so that each can be happy and successful. Make your ‘marriage’ a solid one by first choosing the right mate.

Ref: Jacqui Tom

How To Get A Job In This Economy - Resumes

Here are some tips I learned from a hiring manager about what you can do to vastly improve the quality of your résumé and improve your chances of getting a job:

1. Ditch the Objective
Obviously your objective is to get a job at my company (and if it’s not, it should be!), so why waste valuable white space telling me something I already know? Your résumé is there to tell me what I don’t know: your unique skills, past experience, education, etc. So focus on selling yourself and forget about outlining your objectives.

2. Forget Fancy Formatting
Unless you’re applying for a graphic design or other artistic position, don’t worry about using sophisticated templates for your résumé. Most HR reps about 2 minutes scanning each résumé and don’t really pay much attention to how pretty it looks. Not to mention the fact that people have different versions of word processing software and sometimes fancy formatting doesn’t always appear the way it was intended. Hiring managers are a lot more interested in whether you have the right skill set and experience for the position than if you can use all the template features in Microsoft word.

3. Bullet Points Are Your Friend
I’ve seen many different résumé formats and have decided that my favorite is the bulleted list. Follow each job title by a list of 3 – 5 bullet points about specific duties or accomplishments you had at that position. I keep a “master résumé” with 10 – 12 bullet points under each job title, 5 of which I then cut and paste into a new document customized to match the criteria of each specific position I’m applying for.

4. Always Include Dates
Recruiters pay attention to gaps in work history. Not including dates of employment makes it seem like you have something to hide and most likely it will come up in an interview anyway. It’s better to just be up front about gaps in employment. Put accurate dates on your résumé and address any issues in your cover letter.

5. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
I recently had to listen to a friend complain for a full 30 minutes about typos in a potential candidate’s résumé so I thought I’d reiterate the importance of proofing your résumé as well as cover letter. Typos and misspellings can show a lack of attention to detail, casts doubt on your intelligence level and can cause some hiring managers to infer a lack of respect and interest in their company (the thought being that if you really wanted the job, you’d take the time to proof your work instead of rushing through a stack of 50 résumés that need to be sent to 50 different companies).

The purpose of a résumé is to sell yourself to a potential company. If you just stick to the facts and forgo the fancy stuff you’ll save yourself as well as the people who are reading it both time and effort. Something I think both parties can appreciate.

Ref: Jacqui Tom

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

To Tell or Not to Tell: Grooming High Potentials

"To tell or not to tell, that is the question; Whether 'tis better to be forthright And tell high potentials of their status, Or to be silent and let them know nothing."

Just as Hamlet faced a critical decision, this parody on his soliloquy illustrates that talent managers do, too. The state of the economy has made organizations more introspective as they look for ways to develop and retain top talent. Informing - or not informing - high potentials of their status can impact whether they stay or go. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this controversial question: Tell or don't tell?"

This notion of transparency continues to be a complicated issue," said Lynne Morton, co-founder and chief operating office of TalentScope, a provider of talent management solutions. "It is important to tell people they have been identified as high potentials. However, it requires a corporate culture that supports and manages the expectations of people."

A lot of [companies] have said to me, 'It's opening up Pandora's Box; we don't want to do it.' The reason is because they're afraid of their inability to manage the expectation[ s]," she explained.

If it's not done right, telling can be harmful to an organization's health. But if talent managers can manage the expectations that come along with telling, the end result is not only better retention of top talent, it also sends a clear message to the workforce about which qualities make good leaders."

When you're looking to identify and develop high-potential employees, you're [letting those] individual[s] know how important they are to the organization, how you recognize their unique abilities [and how] you want them stay and grow with the company," said Patrick Sweeney, executive vice president of Caliper, an international management consulting firm that developed the Caliper Profile, a personality assessment tool."

It also allows the rest of the individuals in the organization to see not just the individual you value but the qualities you value. It really brings to life the values of the organization and what you stand for when you identify and recognize people."

Should Every Organization Tell?

Telling is not the right decision for every organization, as doing so depends on corporate culture.

Even though Ken Driscoll, the director of the talent management group at Navistar Inc., an international truck and engine corporation, believes high potentials should be told, his organization does not embrace the practice, and some employees have quit without knowing they were identified as high potential.

Because there are differences of opinion across the four business units, the leaders of each unit make their own decisions about whether to tell or not, which Driscoll said can lead to problems."

As people transfer from one business unit to another, it can create confusion," he explained. "But for us, to mandate that in our organization or say we're going to adopt that [wouldn't] be wise either. Leadership has to believe that's the right approach.

Driscoll said if there is a policy to tell, there must be buy-in from the organization at-large, and the organization should prepare the employees for the change."

It's something that has to grow organically in an organization," he said. "You can't say, 'We're going to be a transparent organization' if you don't help people understand why it's important, why we communicate it and then give them tools to actually carry it out."

If Navistar ever implements this policy, Driscoll said his organization would be carefull how it constructed and voiced that message."

People need to understand how the organization views them," he said. "But you can't set up any kind of expectation or imply promise. Once you work through all of that, you sit down with someone and just tell them, 'Based on the evidence, we believe you have the potential to step into some higher leadership roles, and we want to provide you with some development opportunities.' That's a powerful message to send to people."

Morton said there are two challenges in telling high potentials of their status, how to manage their expectations once identified and how to manage those who are not identified. These challenges often are a deterrent to telling, she said.

To manage a high potential's expectations, organizations first need to define what a high potential is before informing an employee he or she is one. Does it mean the employee is going to assume a leadership position within the next two years? Does it means he or she will receive more development? Or does it mean something entirely different?"

Everyone likes to be praised," Morton said. "But in a business context, I want to know what does it mean to me? Otherwise, it could just be thanks for a job well done. But if it means I'm on the road toward something or I'm going to fit into the organization in a different way, it becomes important."

To determine what high potential means at your organization, talent managers should sit down and discuss it in terms of the organization's business strategy, culture and leadership model, Morton said. Once the definition is crafted, it can be a guiding principle in what managers tell employees, thereby avoiding any implied promise."

You're not high potential forever," Morton said. "The potential has to materialize. You could be considered a high potential, the company works with you and tries to develop you, but you're not getting there. Then you fall out of the high-potential pool."

Part of being clear is to tell people, 'You're not in this forever, and you need to maintain standards and the quality of work to remain in our high-potential group.' You have to be up-front. This is why it's complicated and some companies don't want to tell because then you get into this challenge of managing expectation and managing the dilemma of someone [who] falls out of the group. It's not easy."

If it's not handled right, telling high potentials also can create a negative dynamic in the workforce, as some people are highlighted and others are not."

If you have good data to support how you make your decisions, you should be able to say, 'Jane, you didn't make the cut this year, but as you can see from this information, here are the things you need to do. And we will help you work on those. We expect that if you continue the way you have been and you work a little harder, you'll make it,'" Morton said. "You need to show people that you have made informed decisions, and you are supporting and helping them."

Telling Is Central at Central Maine Medical Family

The leaders at Central Maine Medical Family recently created the Accelerated Development Group, a pool of talent that will be readied to assume key leadership roles in the future. The organization and its top leaders made the strategic decision to tell these employees they are high potential to set an example for the rest of the organization as to what a leader should be."

We see them as the people with whom and for whom we'd like to provide future challenges that are growth-oriented and rewarding career opportunities," said Joyce McPhetres, vice president of HR and organizational development. "Our identification of the group is our opportunity to say, 'These are the people with the qualities and practices of leaders who will help us get to our future.'"

Central Maine began the Accelerated Development Group by developing key leadership competencies critical to organizational success. When selecting the first group of individuals, Central Maine looked at the competencies, performance assessments, patient satisfaction surveys, employee engagement surveys and the Caliper Profile to determine which of the organization's 125 managers fit the bill. In the end, nine were chosen."

I strongly believe they should be made aware of the role they're going to play," McPhetres said. "By notifying them and others of their role, you create a standard, and you set a standard for development of other people within the organization."It's important for both the group and [the] larger organization to understand that we will not be operating as usual. It's very important that we're holding up a new model [and] new ways of behavior. And it's important others understand that alignment with that model and those behaviors are critical."

The way Central Maine tells the Accelerated Development Group is significant because the CEO, COO and president of the organization are the ones to do it."

I work in an exemplary environment, somewhat of a dream environment, in that each of the leaders of our organization are critically involved in defining and structuring the future success of this organization. And they would have had it be no one else who would inform these people than themselves," McPhetres said."

We look to our leaders to understand the next step, to understand how we might be moving toward particular goals and toward our future, and it's very key for the top leaders to be intricately involved and actually communicate the programs and the developmental opportunities for the leaders within an organization."

Telling high potentials of their status can set an example for others that there are specific values an organization embraces."

The organization has to live and breathe these values," Sweeney said. "It's not like you can send out an e-mail and say 'OK, here are our three high potentials this year.' It has to be very thorough, very comprehensive, recognized at the highest levels within the organization, and it has to permeate the organization so the people who are identified are recognized in very real and meaningful ways."

[About the Author: Lindsay Edmonds Wickman is an associate editor for Talent Management magazine.]

Friday, February 13, 2009

Exit Interviews Help in Retention Efforts

In today’s virtual corporate world, companies are turning more toward exit interviews in order to retain good workers.

Exit interviews give an opportunity for a company to find out why there is a problem and fix it. Companies can also learn a tonne of information if they conduct the exit interviews correctly. Further, they can also be used as a catalyst for change. Interestingly, a growing number of HR professionals in India are acting on the information gathered during exit interviews and also responding to the feedback from exit interviews.

According to a study, larger companies, in India and abroad, tend to do a better job than smaller companies do with exit interviews. Because, they have HR departments who take it more seriously. The HR practitioners are schooled in how to do the exit interviews. In the case of smaller companies, they either know what is going on and don't want to fix it. Or, they can't.

An exit interview is a very good opportunity to find out how to recruit and retain employees. At some companies exit interviews are done for two reasons: One is to communicate information to an employee about what happens to their benefits and checking account. The other reason is to get information about the experience they had working for the company. These companies try to separate on a good note.

To make an exit interview successful, the trick is to make the exiting employee comfortable. An effective exit interview can be done by:

  • Making it clear that the information will not be used against exiting workers.
  • Explain that their insight can help improve the organisation.
  • Bosses should consider using a third party to conduct the exit interview. Even an employee who is leaving may feel uncomfortable discussing certain topics, such as office politics, with his or her current supervisor.
  • The company should never ignore an exiting employee's claim of mistreatment or discrimination. The bosses should ask the right questions, which are open-ended and general at first, but specific later.

Studies have found that some companies don't follow through with the information gleaned from exit interviews. The information that the organisations get may never end up as data. They never look for trends. To avoid this, it's important to think systematically with exit interviews. Conduct exit surveys, exit interviews, and in some cases, do follow-up interviews.

There is strategic value in exit interviews, as companies can better understand as to why employees leave. This helps them to become good employers in future.

Ref: TheManageMentor

Exit Interview - A Tool

Employees who intend to leave their present company are by and large satisfied with their jobs. They, often leave only because they feel they are not valued. A majority of the employees who feel this way say it is demonstrated by the fact that management fails to either ask for or listen to their opinions.

There are a variety of ways that management can choose to convince employees that they are genuinely listening and most importantly responding. However, the critical factor is that management must actually use this information.

Many companies use exit surveys and interviews as a tool to enhance organisational effectiveness. Robert Hoffman, the principal, chief executive officer of HR Advice, which helps guide employees and employers on HR issues, says several factors influence the positive impact of exit information. These include:

Goal of the process - Companies should have a clear idea of what they hope to accomplish by implementing a formalised exit assessment process. The primary objective should be to foster an environment of open communications, which will continually improve behaviours within an organisation. Secondary agendas, including identification of performance issues, reasons for poor morale or changes needed in job content, should be recognised before the employee leaves the organisation.

Organisational readiness - The best HR tools are wasted, if introduced at the wrong time in an organisation. Employers should be aware of the receptivity of the company when introducing the exit process. Environments with mistrust, changing cultures or excessive management turnover may strain the usefulness of exit information. Departing employees may be unwilling to disclose information, or provide misleading information as an attempt to disguise true feelings about the company.

Timing, documentation and responsibility - Companies should decide how to conduct the exit interviews. Should you conduct an in-person interview or just hand out a form? When should the information be collected? When it is fresh in the minds of the departing employee or weeks later when they have reflected on their experience? Should an outside firm be used to maintain confidentiality or can the HR department be trusted with the information? The answers to these questions should be based upon your objectives and the resources available within the company.

Application of results - Possibly the most critical factor in the assessment of exit information is the use of the results. A mechanism to communicate and summarise the results to managers and key employees is recommended. The company should use the information to influence job content, policies, training programmes, feedback mechanisms and operating structure consistent with the objective of continuous improvement.

The positive impact of these factors can be seen when organisations implement them for better performance.

Ref: TheManageMentor

Friday, February 6, 2009

Effective HR practices

Change is an ongoing phenomenon in every organisation. Organisational change promotes activity in a work place and is a sign of positive growth. Why should HR practices be evaluated? HR practices need to be evaluated to know how effective they are and if the objectives of implementing that practice is achieved. If there is a significant improvement in employee’s performances and organisational performance, then such a practice is effective

Reasons for evaluating the HR function:

Marketing the HR function

  • Providing accountability
  • Promoting change and developing the current state of the organisation
  • Assessing the financial impact on implementing HR practices

Primarily there are two approaches to evaluating HR effectiveness:

The audit approach focuses on reviewing the various results of HR functional areas. Emphasis is on Key performance indicators and customer satisfaction measures.

The analytic approach focuses on either determining:

  • Whether the introduction of a program or practice has objectives and results defined
  • Estimating the financial implications towards implementing a practice
  • Benefits to employees and organisation as a whole, on implementing such practices.

Perspectives to improving the effectiveness of HR programmes

The change model perspective: For new HR practices to be successfully implemented, acceptance by customers, managers, top management, and employees is essential. This will determine the success or failure of the HR practice. The process of change is based upon the interaction among employees, formal organisational arrangements, and the informal organisation.

What are the change related problems that might arise when such programmes are implemented?

  • Resistance to change from employees or external members
  • Control of the whole programme
  • Owners responsible for monitoring change
  • Task redefinition

Benchmarking: Benchmarking is another practice to improve organisational performance standards. The practice of finding examples of excellent products, services, or systems is called "best practices." This technique can help companies learn form one another and compare one another’s standards.

Managers need to consider several things when benchmarking:

  • Information about internal processes should be collected to compare with best practices of other companies.
  • The purpose of benchmarking must be clearly identified, as must the practice to be benchmarked.
  • Top management must be committed to the project.
  • Descriptive and quantitative data should be collected to implement benchmarking.
  • To ensure broad coverage, managers should gather data from companies within and outside of their industry.

What is the best way to implement HR practices?

  • Overcome resistance to change by involving employees as much as possible.
  • Manage the transition using effective communication
  • Shape the political dynamics by seeking support of key, powerful people.
  • Redefining tasks by using training


Coaching And Therapy

Coaching, an important aspect of employee development helps employees to enhance their performance. Coaching and therapy as terms ought not to be used synonymously. Many coaches, especially the new ones, are either unaware or simply ignore the differences between coaching and therapy.


Coaching enhances an employee’s performance by systematically transforming the individual actions or behaviours into a learning experience under the able guidance of a coach. Therapy on the other hand is treatment aimed to improve the undesirable symptoms to the point of being curative.

The differences

  • Therapy, principally deals with changing a client’s behavioural patterns, whereas coaching assumes that the client is already functioning well but needs to enhance his performance.
  • Therapy works on the client’s past that reflects on his present and tries to correct it. Coaching is oriented towards the future goals of the individual and helps him achieve them.
  • While therapy aims to remove the emotional pain of the client coaching emphasises on overcoming obstacles and acquiring new skills.
  • A therapist tries to find the causes or symptoms of a problem whereas coaches emphasise on problem solving techniques.

A coach should be very careful while dealing with his clients. The clients might show symptoms of a psychological problem, which need a therapist. These symptoms help him decide whether the client needs therapy or coaching.

Coaches should refer the client to a therapist immediately after determining that he needs therapy. This has to be done carefully as it is a sensitive issue. While appointing coaches, organisations should ensure that they are efficient. Appointing their own managers, as coaches would help because they are aware of organisational and employee needs.

Ref: TheManageMentor