Looking to Hire? Make the Sale.

top talentI was asked recently about how to put your company’s best foot forward when hiring in a competitive market. The first thing to think about is why someone would want to work for you.

Recruiting and hiring is a sales process. We usually think that it’s the candidate doing the selling. You and your company need to be selling, too. The best candidates have options so you have to show them why your opportunity is a great one. Show your candidates the WIIFM — what’s in it for me.

Position yourself as a top choice by having the answers to these frequent questions from top performers. They may not always ask them but they are thinking about them.

  • Why would someone want to work here? If you can’t answer this question, how can your possibly attract great people?
  • What’s different about your organization versus where the person is now? How does this opportunity give him more of what he’s looking for and less of what he doesn’t want?
  • What is the culture like and how is it unique? Top performers want to be part of something special. What’s special about your culture?
  • Who works here? People want to work with people they like and respect. Strong performers want to work with other strong performers.
  • What’s it like to work for you? Do you involve people in interesting work? Do you coach and provide feedback? Do you provide development opportunities? Do you help increase people’s visibility in the organization?
  • What will my day look like at work? This is where realism is key.
  • What might my career look like? Is this job the end of the road or are there opportunities to grow with and within the organization?

Spring Cleaning Your Priorities

Happy Spring CollageSpring is that time of year when everything is new again. The winter cold and drab is finally receding. It’s a good time to think about what needs some sprucing up in your company.

Take a look back at the achievements and new opportunities presented in the first months of the year. What’s been achieved? How are you progressing? What new opportunities are presenting themselves in your market? What’s going on with your people – what talent do you have and what talent do you need? Are development plans moving forward?

It’s also a good time to clean things up. What’s no longer relevant? How have priorities shifted? What can fall off of your (or someone else’s) plate? What processes just aren’t working anymore and need to be revamped? What talent is not working out and may need to be reallocated inside or outside the company?

Don’t just save spring cleaning for the yard or your home. Do some spring cleaning at work, too.

30 Minutes That Will Change the Way You Hire

30 Minutes That Will Change the Way You Hire

We’ve all made bad hires. There was the candidate who sounded so good in the interview who we very quickly discovered was completely unqualified for the job. There was the person who had great technical expertise who brought chaos to the group because they were impossible to work with.

As I’ve worked with leaders and companies over the past several years to help them hire the best talent, one common problem I see is how little time hiring managers spend defining what skills and competencies a candidate needs to have to be successful in the job they are being hired to do. Sure, many will have a job description but the job description defines the activities of the job, not what it takes to be successful.
By spending 30 minutes defining the success factors for the job, you will greatly increase the likelihood of finding the right candidate. There are three components you need to define:

Goals/Outcomes: Where is the business going? What goals does your group need to meet in the next year or two? What goals or outcomes will the individual be expected to achieve within the first 12 – 18 months of being hired? Write these down. They form the foundation for the next two components.

Technical/Professional Skills and Experience: These are usually the easiest success factors to define. They are what the person does in the job (e.g., write press releases, manage projects, develop software,) What technical/professional skills does someone need to be successful in this role? What educational or work experiences should they have that will demonstrate the development or use of these skills?

Competencies: These success factors are often what differentiates someone who can do the job from someone who will be successful in the job. Competencies are how the individual goes about doing their work (i.e., influencing others, collaborating, handling conflict effectively, creating positive change). They are also the success factors that usually go undefined before we start interviewing . It’s the lack of these success factors that often causes someone to become a ‘problem employee’. One way to identify these success factors is to think about a team member who is very successful in a similar role. How do they go about doing their work that makes them successful?

This entire exercise should take about 30 minutes to complete. It will save you significant time, money and resources that you may have otherwise spent on candidates who are a poor fit or, worse, on employees who become a problem instead of the solution.

What Storytellers Can Teach Leaders

StorytellingPicture this scene.  We come into work on Monday morning and everyone is gathered around the coffee station, talking about their weekends.  Several people share the litany of activities they were involved in — ‘we went to Home Depot, watched my daughter play soccer and caught a movie.’  You start to think, “I really need to get to my desk and get to work.”  Then someone says, “Let me tell you what happened at this event I attended Saturday night.  We were all sitting down to dinner when…”. Your ears perk up, you really start listening and that work you needed to get to can wait.  You’re pretty sure you’re about to hear a great story.  Odds are that story will be repeated by everyone in the group to at least one other person.  On the other hand, very few people will remember the trip to Home Depot.

Leaders can learn a lot from great storytellers.  Leaders need to influence people to move in a particular direction, to buy into a vision, to join you in tackling a challenge.    Great storytellers know how to convey information so that we respond both emotionally and intellectually. In a post from American Economist Olivia Mitchell, she shares tips on how to tell stories like one of the great storytellers, Malcolm Gladwell (author of Outliers, Blink, The Tipping Point).  She uses examples from a chapter in Gladwell’s book Outliers to illustrate her points.

1.  He starts with one subject

Gladwell’s book explores why certain people are exceptionally successful.
We hear personal stories and detailed statistics – but Gladwell always starts with a story about one particular person.

2.  He paints word-pictures

Before he starts his story, we get a description of the main character. So as Gladwell tells his story, we can visualize the person in our minds.

3.  He gives us detail

He describes in vivid detail the circumstances that the character faced.
He gives examples that bring it to life.

4.  His characters speak

Gladwell doesn’t just narrate a story – he has his subjects tell the story in
their own words:

5.   He makes us curious

Gladwell tells the character’s story without revealing exactly why it’s
important.  He creates a bit of a mystery and promises to unravel it.

6.   He multiplies the story

He uses more than one example.  He uses an example of one person and
then shows how it is a story shared by many, many people.

7.  The clincher

Gladwell adds the clincher to prove his point.

The power of stories is real.  A large part of my work is facilitating teams and groups.  One thing I’ve noticed is the impact of stories on involvement and engagement.   When I start a sentence with “Let me tell you about a time when..” or “let me tell you a the story of…” The heads in the room pop up, people lean forward, IPhones they were looking at under the table are put away.

We all are looking for that emotional connection in the sea of facts and information we’re exposed to at work every day. Stories from leaders make them more human, help people identify with the what and why of a situation and to take action.  How have you used stories today?

Five Reasons Why Good Leaders Fail

Why Good Leaders Fail

 

Jessica had been on the high potential list every year since she started with her biotechnology company.  She was moved into a variety of roles, taking on different responsibilities and succeeding each time. She was known as a strong leader because of her ability to get results. When she moved into the Director of Operations role things began to change. Within 6 months of taking the role she wasn’t delivering the results everyone thought she was capable of delivering.  Her team was contentious and morale was wavering.  What was going on?  Had Jessica topped out her potential, a living example of the Peter Principle?  Had she lost her ability to lead?

Of course she didn’t lose her ability to lead.  Her abilities and skills had not just simply vanished but other parts of the situation had changed.

I’ve seen five common reasons why a leader who has been effective in the past is now failing.

1. Some critical skills were overlooked before. Let’s talk about the obvious reason first.  Some leaders have not developed key skills that they need to be successful.  Just like brilliant students who breeze through school, sometimes people climb to positions of leadership because they are brilliant marketers, brilliant scientists, or brilliant (put your profession here). But along the road to success, the people around this leader choose to overlook a key skill (or two or three) until it can’t be overlooked any more and causes huge issues.  For example, if we go back to Jessica, throughout her career it was noted in talent reviews that she could be abrasive and often got things done through force of will rather than by building relationships and coalitions.  She thought of herself as ‘results-focused.’  When she moved into her Operations role, it became imperative for her to build relationship with peers in other parts of the organization to get results.  Interestingly, her ‘results-focus’ is what got in the way.

2. Cultural mismatch. This is a common reason why leaders who have been wildly successful in one environment for a long time, fail miserably in a very short time in another.  The way a person operates and becomes successful in one culture can be very different from another.  For example, a leader may have been very successful in a culture that a valued quick decision making and risk taking.  Put that same leader in an environment driven by consensus and a desire to explore issues from every angle before moving forward and wait for the results.

3. Process and system mismatch. In the 1800’s, some people did very well in the wild, wild west and others went back home to the security of their established communities.  Some leaders are very adept at working in environments with less defined processes and systems.  They either work without them or really enjoy putting them in place.  Others thrive in environments where processes and systems are clearly defined.  Think of the serial entrepreneur who is put into a large, complex organization that has acquired his firm.  Change was a way of life in his entrepreneurial firm but isn’t in this large organization.  Leading change in the former was easy; everyone thrived on it.  In the new organization it takes real work. The processes that exist are meant to maintain the status quo not change it and people in his new organization wonder why he was once perceived as someone who drove change.

4. Lack of management support. Even the most seasoned executive needs people in her corner.  She needs people who support her success.  She may need coaching and mentoring to navigate the new role.  Even the best CEO won’t succeed if the Chairman of the Board decides she is not the person for the job and needs to go.

5. Organization structure. We all have been in situations where roles aren’t clear, responsibilities are redundant, unnecessary internal competition is the norm, resources aren’t available or decision making is lost in layers of management morass.  Leaders can find themselves in the same situations.  I worked for an organization once that routinely pitted leaders against each other by giving them the same issue to address or initiative to lead in different parts of the organization without each leader knowing about the other’s charge.  There could only be one winner in this situation so one of them automatically was going to fail.

Why have you seen leaders fail?

 

Leadership Is A Relationship

Several years ago, I was in a meeting with leadership expert Michael Maccoby when he was asked the difference between leadership and management. He gave very simple, elegant response. “Management,” he said, “is a role. Leadership is a relationship.” Leaders are not leaders without followers. People don’t follow because someone has a title. They follow because a leader has created a connection to something in which they want to participate.

As we know, leaders’ relationships with their people are somewhat strained these days. Trust, a key part of any relationship, has been damaged by the financial crisis, the recession, corporate responses to the recession that were often necessary, but also very difficult. Rebuilding leadership trust and our relationships with those we work with is a critical component of engagement and for moving our companies forward in 2015.

If leadership is a relationship, how do we build real relationships at work? Not transactional relationships where we are focused on the tasks and activities needed to get work done but relationships where we are creating a work environment where the sum is greater than the parts.

In his book, The Trusted Advisor, David Maister discusses the trust equation, a formula for building sustained partnership with others. While he discusses the equation’s importance to business advisors, it describes the elements of trust that are key to real leadership.

The trust equation is:

Trust = C + R + I
        S


C is credibility. Leadership credibility has two components. The first is how much your team believes your words and actions. The second is to what degree you have the know-how, experience or background to know what you are talking about. On the one hand it’s objective — do you have the ‘qualifications’ to be a leader. On the other hand it’s an emotional response. Do I perceive you as being believable? Do your actions reflect truthfulness? Do you have truthful intent? How many experiences have we all had over the past 18 months that made us question the truthfulness of those we considered leaders? What’s the lingering impact on our workplaces?

R is reliability. People need to know they can count on leaders, that the leader will walk the walk and talk the talk. Leaders need to follow- through on promises and follow-up on commitments. There needs to be a sense of predictability and fairness in the way a leader approaches situations and people every single day. Otherwise, the relational bank account that funds trust goes into the red.

In the Trust Equation, I is intimacy or the ability create a personal connection. This does not mean that as a leader you need to share your private life or dwell on the private lives of your people. It means recognizing that work is a personal place and issues like career development, promotions, compensation, reorganizations, hiring and firing are intensely personal. As a leader, the willingness to have emotional honesty about these and other issues in the workplace increases the trust your team has in you and the commitment they have to your agenda.

Credibility, reliability and intimacy’s additive effect is mitigated by how much others perceive a leader is acting primarily out of self-concern. If others believe a leader building a ‘relationship’ primarily to serve his or her own interests — i.e., to advance his or her career, to manipulate a situation for advantage without regard to the goals, needs and struggles of others, to push off responsibility and blame others– trust is destroyed, the relationship is seen as disingenuous and engagement and commitment plummet.

As you look at engagement and commitment in your organizations this year, think about your own trust equation. To what degree have you developed a real relationship with your people?

 

What Millennials Want

What Millennials WantPricewaterhouseCooper’s 2011 Global CEO Survey says that money is not going to buy  you love with the brightest of GenY/Millennials.   According to the survey, the Millennials biggest retention drivers are training and development and the ability to work in communities of mutual interest and passion.

As a generation who grew up using the internet and social media, they want to connect with other bright people to work on challenges and business problems that are meaningful and important.  They also understand they are being hired for a job, not for a lifetime.  They are keen on building and refining their skills so that they are able to take advantage of opportunities inside the company, and when and if the time comes, outside the company. They have a strong desire for coaching and mentoring.

This reinforces the findings we published last October about leadership in the next decade.  In order to successfully lead this workforce, leaders will need to be highly skilled at:

  • Creating and communicating a compelling vision that will attract the best Millennial talent by connecting with what they find meaningful.
  • Creating collaboration by breaking down silos and utilizing social media and collaboration technologies.
  • Leveraging resources from across the organization to address significant business issues.
  • Managing talent by providing them with cultures that focus on developing talent and careers, building capabilities and capacity through formal and informal development opportunities.

What’s your organization doing to attract and retain the best Millennial talent?

Tours of Duty

The AllianceReid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn has a new book, The Alliance. In the book, he and his co-authors, Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh suggest we need to think of employment, engagement and retention in a whole new way.

Since lifetime employment not even a thought in people’s minds, Hoffman and his co-authors suggest that rather than thinking about employment as this open ended agreement that, in reality, can be terminated by either the employer or employee at any time, engage employees in tours of duty. The tour of duty is a ‘mutually beneficial deal, with explicit terms between independent players.’ The book outlines three levels of tours.

Reed argues that the current employee and employer contract only contributes to a continued lack of trust. You can quit on me and I can let you go at any time. Tours of duty, on the other hand, set out explicit expectations and benefits (including helping to find a job elsewhere) for both the company and employee. This agreement promotes engagement because both sides are engaged in the agreement and both expect benefit from it.

It’s a thought provoking way to think about engagement. What do you think?

 

 

 

 

About Edith Onderick-Harvey

Edith Onderick-Harvey is a highly regarded consultant, leadership and talent expert, and speaker. Edith is frequently quoted in the media including The New York Times, CNN.com, HR Executive, and American Executive. As the President of Factor In Talent, Edith works with leaders to take performance — their own, their team’s and their organization’s — to the next level.

Another Common Misconception

working guy over 40

I saw a recent example of hiring decisions based assumptions not reality today. It seems that Silicon Valley has a major issue with hiring people over the age of 40. The common thinking is that anyone over 40 has lost their edge, aren’t innovative and stuck in a paradigm. Based on some research by Vivek Wadhwa, the news of the over-40’s creative demise seems to be drastically overstated.

Here are a few innovators and their over-40 inventions:

 

    • Ben Franklin invented the lightning rod when he was 44. He discovered electricity at 46.
      He helped draft the Declaration of Independence at 70, and he invented bifocals after that.
    • Henry Ford introduced the Model T when he was 45. 
    • Sam Walton built Walmart in his mid-40s. 
    • Ray Kroc built McDonald’s in his early 50s. 
    • Ray Kurzweil published The Singularity Is Near in his 50s.
    • Alfred Hitchcock directed Vertigo when he was 59.
    • Frank Lloyd Wright built his architectural masterpiece, Fallingwater, when he was 68. 
    • Steve Jobs’ most significant innovations-iMac, iTunes, iPod, iPhone, and iPad-came after he was 45.

Instead of making the assumption when you’re hiring and cutting out a significant sector of your possible candidate pool, ask some questions that will let you know just how creative that gray-haired guy with few wrinkles really is.

What Do You Have to Offer Top Talent?

Hiring is ramping up and as always, highly talented, successful job candidates are in high demand. There never seem to be enough. Even in the depths of the recession we heard that companies had openings they couldn’t fill because they couldn’t find the right candidates.

What if it wasn’t the candidates but the companies? What if those candidates stayed away because they couldn’t see value in what the company had to offer?

When we hire, we tend to look at hiring as a one way street, i.e. I have a need and I need someone who meets my specifications. That’s a problem. Hiring is a two way street. We have a need for someone to meet our specifications. As we should, we always want the best. The most talented candidates also have needs and specifications that they want companies to meet. Top talent has the upper hand in the hiring scenario. They know that what they have is in demand in the marketplace. They can be selective about where they will work.

To attract and hire the best you need to know what you have to offer that’s attractive to a top tier candidate. While money is important to them it is by no means the only thing that’s important. For many, it ranks third or fourth most important.

In order to compete for top talent, define an employer brand. Ask yourself:

  • What are the values, mission and purpose of your organization? Top talent want to be part of a company that is going somewhere that resonates with them. They want to work for a company whose values align with their own. 
     
  • What’s the culture? How do people talk about what it’s like to work for you or your company? Is it a family? Are you at war? Do you work hard, play hard? Cultural fit is a key indicator of a candidate’s long term success. Top talent look for a sense of community. If they can’t identify with your culture or if you can’t define your culture in ways that speaks to them, they don’t want to be part of it.
     
  • What opportunities will they have to grow and develop? Top talent doesn’t want to stagnate. Even if they’re in the same role for five years, they want to know that there is opportunity to grow within that role, to take on new challenges and build their capabilities. 

During the interview process, candidates will ask “what’s the best thing about working here?” Don’t let your answer be just ‘the money’ or some vague answer like ‘the opportunity.’ Be able to articulate a strong brand and provide examples that can bring the brand to life. Show top talent why working for you and your company is the best decision they can make.