Monthly Archives

July 2011

Are you green and growing or ripe and rotten?

By | Change, Retention

Green and ripe or rottenEarlier this year I attended a 2-day conference with Dale Beaumont in  Melbourne. Apart from an inspiring couple of days that made me think of at least 100 new business ideas – there was one phrase that really struck a chord with me.  He asked “Are you green and growing or are you ripe and rotten?” It was those words that made me sit up and listen. Intently. He continued saying that in life some things are certain – death, taxes and change.  Some people like to live comfortably and accept the daily rhythm of routines and knowing what’s ahead by doing the same thing day in, day out. Others like to flick the switch, take action and move forward with fresh ideas to feel continually inspired while growing and learning.

I immediately made the link to retaining top talent and why some companies struggle to keep high performing staff.  It’s easy to assume with top performers that all is fine and dandy. They are achieving, secure; earning good money, have work/life balance – why would they leave?

Consider though the nature of the beast – top performers like to be constantly challenged and learning new things.  They tend to dislike comfort and become unmotivated with the same tasks, routines and the status quo.

A client told me last week they have identified 30 high potentials in their organisation – great – but now they don’t know what to do with them. They are stretched with resources and there is no capacity for HR to take them on, nor their immediate leaders to coach, mentor and challenge them to greater levels of performance and job satisfaction. This is a major risk – without continually challenging and rewarding these people – they will either become bored, fed up, comfortable or disillusioned. Ultimately they will look elsewhere or they will be head hunted – not for more money, but for greater challenges and opportunities to stretch themselves to be “green and growing”.

A leading engineering firm recently told me one of their engineers who is also a partner, was feeling unfulfilled and considering leaving the firm.  Not wanting to lose this person, but still wanting the best result for him professionally and personally, they engaged a business coach to assist him work through his thoughts.  The result was very surprising to the HR Director and other partners – he was actually craving challenging work.   He could do his job inside out, back to front and upside down – but missed the hands on aspects of design and working with clients on complex projects. Problem solved – he has gone back to taking on 1- 2 major projects and is re-living the ‘buzz’ of what made him love his job in the first place.  And in the process – they have retained him.

Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? But how many times do we just float along and go about our everyday tasks and wake up years later wondering why we aren’t satisfied?  Whereas to an outsider looking in it may be perceived “we have it all”.

Going back to your core and working out what gives you the buzz, the butterflies, the energy that makes you think “I love my job!” and “I had a great day today!” may involve re-assessing your strengths and what you love to do most vs. what you have just ended up doing through promotion, circumstance or business needs.

To truly perform, feel satisfied and achieve success, may actually mean putting yourself out there again, making a change and getting outside your comfort zone.  So what are you going to do? Stay on the vine or push yourself onward and upward?

I’m all ears…..a retention strategy that works

By | Retention

Over the past few months, I’ve been speaking to clients about staff retention and specifically what strategies they implement to keep top talent.

What I’ve learnt is that there is so much focus, time, effort and money being spent sourcing, selecting and recruiting the right people upfront, but rarely is the same amount of time being spent on keeping new recruits engaged and retained.

I met a new client last month – a consultancy that has a strong focus on getting things right – people, technology and systems.  I haven’t seen an organisation with such a fresh approach in a long time.  All staff can work remotely at least one day a week, they are committed to achieving work/life balance and they actually want their staff to contribute to the business – regardless of their position. For example, their Finance Manager aspires long term to be in front of clients so she is going on joint visits with some of the Consultants to help her progress in the future. How refreshing! The Director was explaining his recruitment needs and the type of people he was on the look out for over the coming months.  I was surprised to learn that every new employee, yes even the administration staff,   are assigned an external business coach.  This investment is made from day 1 – not when new recruits have proven their commitment, delivered the results or climbed their way to an executive position.  The Director explained his belief in ongoing learning and investing in people upfront to increase engagement and long-term retention – and it’s working.

Over the past few weeks, I have made a point of asking to see what other clients are doing in this area and the truth is “not much”.  Sadly, once people are hired there is often a sink or swim approach – especially for senior executives who are expected to know what to do, arriving in their new positions with strong experience, expertise and high salaries.  What a misconception! These people, sometimes more than anyone need ‘someone to talk to’ – especially in the first 120 days when they are learning the culture, systems and politics, all while trying to impress and make an early impact.  Talking to the CEO or Board about concerns, thoughts and feelings is not something new executives feel entirely comfortable doing, not wanting to appear incompetent or a flight risk. It seems having an external party engaged to assist is becoming a popular choice.

A female executive this week told me that she didn’t know if her CEO thought she was doing a good job or not.  Even though they do have a good relationship and she enjoys her job, he is very busy and never gives feedback, leaving her development entirely up to her. This approach has both pros and cons.  On the plus side, she has been able to spend the money to join an executive networking group to share ideas, discuss problems and gain different perspectives. On the con side, she was head hunted for another executive role within her first 12 months and she actually considered it.  She was unsure if she was valued and considered to be a top performer in the eyes of those who matter (see previous blog post on  leadership and culture as key retention strategies “How to retain top talent”).

I also learned that one of her managers was struggling with leading a team of people and she instantly engaged an external mentor to assist in his development.  She explained that she doesn’t have all the answers, its great for him to have an external ear and truthfully she doesn’t feel she has the time to spend with him.

It tells me that in many organisations there just isn’t the time or internal resources to dedicate to one on one support and development. To pay a professional to just listen or be an external confidante can seem excessive when there isn’t necessarily a quantifiable outcome.  I beg to differ, that by investing upfront in new talent it can prevent staff turnover, reduce unnecessary replacement and re-recruitment costs as well as increase engagement levels and ultimately assists in retaining key people.

Don’t leave it too late to invest in people and only take action when there is a performance issue by sending them to a training course or hiring external help.  Too often I see companies making rash decisions when someone goes to resign through counter offers of more money, bigger titles, a larger office, better clients, a promotion or increased bonus payments.  Why wait until someone is already dis-engaged? Spending time and resources in those first 3 – 6 months, could be the most effective retention strategy you implement.

Taking the ‘sales’ out of salesperson…10 ways to increase performance

By | Performance, Results, Sales

“I’m not a sales person” “I don’t like cold calling” “I can’t sell” “sales is not a strength of mine”…are all typical to hear around the Entrée Recruitment office. My Consultants don’t see themselves as sales people, yet we have just achieved our most successful financial year in our 10-year history.  They think sales is a dirty word associated with the image of a used car salesman – someone who is annoying, not particularly helpful and is just trying to make a quick buck! I roll my eyes and mostly just laugh because my team can think they aren’t sales people, but they are and they do it without reallising they are doing it.  So how does a team of non-sales people achieve such high sales results?

Observing the behaviours of these Consultants, I have consistently found the following:

  1. Action – the Consultants making the most sales are always taking action. They are never wondering what to do next, who to call or procrastinating the day away. They just do it. They get on the phone; they get face to face and make decisions quickly.
  2. Feedback – I’ve got a Consultant who has worked in the industry longer than me and she is still consistently wanting to know how she is going, what could she do differently and is welcoming of joint visits and interview observations.  The benefits to her far outweigh the possibility of her feeling uncomfortable. She tells me it is a small price to pay to gain one extra piece of advice that may increase her sales and bring her more success in the long term.
  3. Referrals – my team use an effective face-to-face technique that involves asking existing clients to recommend other people that they think we would enjoy working with. It takes courage to ask and discipline to follow up. Much easier than making a cold call!
  4. Relationships – building longstanding relationships results in repeat purchase clients.  When you have a huge number of clients and are always seeking new ones, you can often forget about existing ones.  Our strategy is fewer clients – stronger relationships.
  5. Curiosity in people – one of my team members says “I hate the sales stuff…but I do like meeting new people and finding out what they do”.  She has a natural desire to ask questions and learn about businesses and people, so the end result is that she is building relationships and selling without realising that she is even doing it!
  6. Listening skills – the best ‘sales people’ at Entrée are the best listeners. They usually have a ratio of 80/20 of listening and talking. They understand they get the best information when they actually shut up. The worst performing Consultants I’ve had over the years like talking mostly about themselves and clients don’t buy!
  7. Reasons to call – you will rarely hear a top performer at Entrée saying “I’m just calling to touch base”.  No client has time for this, we certainly don’t! What is the purpose of the call? Get to the point as quickly as you can as not to annoy the other person with irrelevant chitchat.
  8. Belief & confidence– top sales people have a natural self-confidence. They don’t have huge egos and can articulate their value proposition without being overly pushy.
  9. Organisation – people who are naturally good at sales always know what they need to do, write it down and work from 1 daily to do list. These tasks are very specific and the hardest things are done first as not to distract them from their day. For example, one of my consultants the other day seemed a bit off her game. By 11am, she was noticeably irritable and when I checked in, she hadn’t ticked anything of her list and she was feeling unproductive.  It turned out that she had to make a difficult call to a client and was putting it off.   As soon as she had made the call, she felt clear and didn’t have this hanging over her head, clouding the rest of her day.
  10. Deliver quality – you can’t be a top sales person without delivering what you promise at the pitch.  High performing Consultants at Entrée consistently deliver what they say they will. If they say they will call back in 24 hours, they do. If they say they will be back in 3 weeks with a shortlist, they are.  Some sales people can talk the talk, but fall down in the actual promise of walking the walk.

In any business, being able to sell is an essential skill to achieving long-term financial success. Being able to communicate your value effectively for people to buy your product or service is critical.  In the early days of my career, it was a long hard road and  some days seemed impossible.  The turnaround for me was being persistent, consistent and determined.  I made my sales activity an every day task that I incorporated in my daily agenda rather than it being a one off event when business was quiet.

At the end of the day, successful sales is about building rapport initially and then establishing long term relationships with people.  Let’s not complicate this…. if people like you; they will spend money with you. Ask great questions, listen, deliver and your sales will sky rocket.

On reflection, maybe I should be happy in the fact that my team don’t think of themselves as ‘sales people’ – with this mindset they are focused on what really works – building relationships, delivering a quality service and being passionate about what they do. The outcome…increased sales!

Relationship on the rocks? How to get what you expect….

By | Leadership, Results

This week, a senior HR Manager was telling me about her current job search and about a situation that caught her off guard, unprepared and quite frankly a little cranky.  I was surprised, because HR people are generally quite relaxed at interviews –as they are usually the ones on the other side of the table asking the questions. She was called by an organisation after sending in her resume to attend an interview, excited, she asked what she should prepare? “oh nothing, this really is just an ‘eye balling’ exercise” …. The conversation continued in a joking manner “to make sure you have two arms, two legs” etc.  My candidate didn’t think too much more about it, as an eye balling surely suggested a quick meet and greet, maybe a coffee, nothing more. You know what happened don’t you? She arrived 15 minutes early and the PA said “oh they are actually ready, you can go on through”. She looked through the door and saw a panel of 3 people – immediately she thought they were just finishing up their meeting and she would be just be meeting with the 1 person like she was told on the phone. No, there were 3 people on the panel with structured interview sheets and questions ready to go.  She broke out in a mild panic of sweat and went on to ‘wing it’. At the end she shook hands and left thinking she had blown it completely. She was clearly fired up about it when I spoke to her – how could they do this? How could they be so unclear with candidates about their approach?

It comes down to expectations – setting expectations to get what you expect.  This story reinforced to me the importance of doing this from the very start to ensure relationships get off on the right foot. When recruiting and retaining top talent in any organisation, you need to be crystal clear when communicating expectations to avoid performance problems, staff turnover and general frustrations.

Just today I interviewed a potential Consultant and at the end of the interview I gave her a rundown of what we expect around behaviours and performance. I know what works and what doesn’t – so it is only fair that I communicate that. If she runs for the hills scared by what I have said, great because she’s not for us – but if she feels her values are in alignment, we could have a fantastic new recruit! Nobody wins by being unclear or untruthful from the get go – it will either result in underperformance, unhappiness or a general resentment of ‘this isn’t what I signed up for’.

It starts from the moment you pick up the phone to bring that new candidate in for a potential job – don’t say “come in for a chat” and then expect to see someone in a slick matching suit to succinctly answer all your behavioural based questions.  From your very first interaction is an opportunity to communicate your culture, values and expectations.

Quick tips to setting expectations:

  • Be clear on what top performance looks like
  • Communicate how they will be accountable and measured
  • Give examples of the types of behaviour that is and isn’t acceptable eg: can you text your boss when you are sick and not coming in?
  • Tell people what the consequences are of undesirable behaviour eg: continually late from meetings will result in not being invited anymore?
  • Lead by example – walk the talk and behave the way you want your team to behave
  • Consistently reinforce these messages at interview, induction, training, staff meetings, reviews etc.

The benefits of setting expectations are that when things go wrong – you always have something to go back to. Remember at interview when I said….Remember during your induction we showed you….Remember in the training manual we explained…..there is no room for misinterpretation or “I didn’t know”  when your messages are clear and consistent.

Setting expectations at the start of recruitment campaigns, interviews, meetings, employment relationships and even at home, create a solid platform to return to when things go pear shaped. Remember – you get what you expect.

By the way, the HR candidate I mentioned got a strange phone call this morning….she got the job!