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Retention Archives | Underwood Executive | Executive Search & Talent Management

Employees aren’t mind readers – 6 tips for early performance intervention

By | Recruitment, Retention

ic-stock-image-432176378245429887_7392189-300x300A prospective new client told me last week that they may need our services as the person they have recently hired is a “dud” and they may need to let him go. This jolted my curiosity, as after 6 weeks in the role it sounded like they had already made their decision. This must be major. What had he done? Stolen the petty cash, spoken inappropriately to other staff, upset a client, given a false referee?

There were lots of wishy washy comments about him not being ‘strategic’, delivering a report that wasn’t up to standard, he was keeping very much to himself and overall “just not fitting in”. In all honesty, it was a verbal dump – the client was clearly letting off steam and venting frustration because they thought they had hired a star and where was the star performance they expected?

The realist in me kicked in – it’s been 6 weeks! It takes time to learn a new way of doing things. It takes time to get to know people. It takes time to build confidence in a new environment and depending on people’s personalities, it can appear to take even longer. But more than this, it takes a good leader to communicate expectations and give effective feedback.

“So how did he respond when you gave him this feedback?” I enquired, “is he willing to change his behaviour?”. This was received with more woffle and side stepping explaining that he hasn’t had a formal review as yet and what’s the point, we can see that it isn’t working! Agghh! People are not mind readers. People don’t know what you are thinking or feeling, unless you tell him! Bitching and whinging about what you are not getting is not going to change their behaviour or improve their performance. The only chance you have to improve performance is by giving feedback.

In this case, the client appeared resistant to give this feedback, as a lot of people don’t like giving bad news, especially to a new recruit. The flip side of this is actually a worse problem – having to let someone go, telling the team, the impact on morale, the headache of having to re-recruit, the time and emotional investment … the list goes on and on. Instead, having a 20-minute conversation discussing expectations and progress could turn the whole situation around. Imagine feeling clear, delighted and that you are both on the same page after all.

Quick tips for early performance intervention:

  1. Set a regular meeting to review expectations and performance
  2. Give specific examples where behaviour isn’t where you want it to be and be clear about how it needs to look next time
  3. Give specific examples of where things are going well
  4. Ask the employee how they think they are going?
  5. Agree to required actions to review at next meeting
  6. Ask the employee what is their understanding of what is now required (this is a communication check to ensure you have been clear in your expectations)

I rang the client today to see if he needed my services to replace his ‘dud’. Funny thing is that after having a chat, it seems that things are better and he might just work out after all……

Are you worried about someone’s performance? Are you feeling frustrated a leader isn’t delivering to your expectations? Ask yourself, when was the last time you ‘checked in’ and clarified your expectations and gave specific feedback?

 

How to have leadership impact in under a minute

By | Leadership, Retention

I am in the process of coaching an emerging leader in a large service based organisation and this week he had a break through.  Leading a team of people, he has been met with the typical frustrations and challenges of motivating staff, keeping them engaged and reducing their stress levels with workloads at their peak.

One staff member in particular has been noticeably stressed and difficult to manage in terms of keeping her engaged and focused on the big picture – stuck in the detail and showing signs of stress through facial expressions, shortness in communication and working longer hours. Through our coaching we have been discussing the different ways he can tackle this and the one technique that has delivered the biggest result was the easiest to execute. Instead of focusing on everything that was wrong, could be improved or fixed, he put on his “positive glasses” and focused on those things that she was doing well and he wanted her to continue doing.

Giving people praise is the easiest way to let people know they are appreciated.

In my experience, leaders can be very good at saying thank you for a job well done. However, this is not enough to ensure that people stay engaged and continue to produce the same high-level results. For feedback to be effective and to ensure the same effective behaviour continues, it requires a little more than a simple thank you and well done.

In this case, the leader decided to ensure it was on his daily to do list to be giving specific praise and recognition. For example, he observed an overflowing inbox that was cleared and congratulated his team member for being organised and getting on top of this backlog. He explained how it made a difference to the management team to get their deadlines met and they didn’t have to chase the status of the projects. He then asked how she achieved this and reinforced her system in place and thanked her again for a great result.

His technique was this:

  1. Observe a job well done (something effective)
  2. Praise the team member specifically (what did they do)
  3. Explain the impact to the business (how it helps the business)
  4. Reinforce / thank you (keep doing it)

This technique could be executive in less than 1 minute and the impact to the team member, to him and the overall business has been significant. In 3 weeks, he has gone from feeling frustrated to feeling inspiring. The team member has gone from feeling stressed to feeling empowered. The power of this technique is in the specific delivery of what the team member has done and how it impacts and helps the greater business goals and others in the team. If people understand what they do and why they do it, it will help them think for themselves and continue doing these things because they understand the ‘why’.

Want to be a more inspiring leader? Look for a job well done and take 1 minute a day to tell your team how what they do makes a difference. It’s easy, effective and will have everyone more engaged, empowered and energised.

 

How to reduce staff turnover and to ensure top talent stays

By | Leadership, Recruitment, Retention

businessman-mirror12 years ago, I was asked by my business coach to write down a list of all my frustrations in business and in life. I wrote a solid two pages of whinges. It was the permission I needed to have my own little pity parade with on orchestra of violins. It was effective. It gave me several views – an opportunity to offload, an opportunity to get clear, an opportunity to look at patterns and the light bulb moment I needed …….. it was all within my control to change.

There were no concerns about market conditions, the economy, my competitors or external impacts – everything on that list was about people, culture or leadership. There was staff turnover, there were problems attracting talent and issues with keeping people engaged, motivated and performing. The impact on me as the leader was overwhelming. I felt helpless, burnt out, tired, emotional and frustrated.

Here’s what I did to turn it around:

  1. Ask for feedback

When things are not going the way you want, be brave and ask for feedback. Give your team permission to tell you what they love and loathe, without fear of retribution. If that is too scary or you don’t feel you will get the honesty you need, engage a Consultant or do a 360 degree survey. I discovered that our culture was one of high expectations and high pressure, where the client was king and the team didn’t feel they could achieve a healthy work life blend. This was the number one factor why they were leaving – it was impacting their relationships, health and personal time.

  1. Analyse real reasons for leaving

We all know that when people resign that don’t always tell you the real reason they are leaving. They start with the polite reason such as career development or it’s time for a change. I did an analysis on the past 3 years of all the reasons why people had left – not the reason they necessarily told me – but what I knew deep down was the real reason. That was a game changer. All reasons, apart from a handful of genuine interstate transfers and family reasons, there was a consistent theme related to leadership and culture.

  1. Leaders look in the mirror

Retaining talent and reducing staff turnover is not necessarily about more money or perks such as days off or free yoga classes. Although nice and staff will appreciate it, it isn’t what gets them out of bed in the morning, excited to go to work and to stay long-term. It’s about you, your leadership style and your ability to engage, inspire and create an environment that is motivating where they can contribute and feel valued. I found out that I was inspiring about 30% of the time and the other 70% I was pushing my high expectations, which resulted in feelings of pressure and an inability to please me. This doesn’t make anyone feel good and inspired does it? Looking in the mirror and seeing the impact this leadership style was having on my team was the wake up call I needed to reduce staff turnover and increase retention rates.

  1. Culture review

Leadership is culture. Culture is leadership. A leader sets the tone and culture is caught, not taught. Write a list of the type of people you want to attract into your business – what qualities and competencies do they have, what do they want out of an employment relationship and what will make them stay? This is your clue about what you may need to change, adapt, develop or build into your culture. It was for me. I created an environment where flexibility was introduced, people were empowered to make their own decisions and own the consequences, there were ongoing learning opportunities and success was celebrated and recognised.

  1. Action delivers results

There is no point doing all this pre-work, if you aren’t prepared to take action. Losing your people headaches, reducing frustration and ultimately getting your life back involves taking different action – implementing and trying new things. Don’t look at it like you are losing control (yes you control freaks out there), I know it will feel foreign and little uncomfortable – that’s good. You need to feel this to get a different result. For me this was the hardest step. We stopped having meetings at 8am, people left early to go to gym or to pick up kids, we hired part-timers, we set different expectations and had to let go of what others would think (we weren’t slackers or losing our drive or ambition!). It took time, but the change was just what we all needed. The results spoke for themselves – retention rates skyrocketed to an average length of service of 6 years, we didn’t advertise our vacancies – people knocked on our door to work for us and as for the impact on our financial results, they doubled.

At the core of what make successful companies great are people, culture and leadership. Become a better leader, develop a great culture and only then can you attract top talent that will stay. Getting this right is the sweet spot in business. Your leadership will feel natural, your stress levels will float away and this empowerment will bring you work life blend, confidence and profit. Get great people and great stuff happens.

Nicole Underwood recently spoke at Elders Real Estate National Conference on Talent Management – How to Crack the Code. You can watch a snippet of her presentation

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Don’t keep your candidate waiting… the only 3 questions to ask before you hire

By | Recruitment, Results

Top talent can be hard to find and enticing them to consider your role may be even harder. Even though our unemployment rate is at 6.3%, A-class super stars are almost always gainfully employed and are rarely actively on the job seeking market. Finding them is tough enough, so this means that when you engage them in a recruitment process, it is critical you move quickly to ensure you ‘close the deal’, don’t miss out and get them on your team as soon as possible.

Easy in theory, yet I see so many employers drag out recruitment processes and hesitate to make employment decisions.  So what makes employers stall? Why do these processes drag out? Why can’t an employment decision be made? It can be one of the most frustrating aspects for an internal or external Recruiter who is facilitating this ‘courting’ process.

Consider this – the candidate’s ego is at an all time high as they have been approached or picked from a large pool of candidates to meet face to face – getting this far is not to be underestimated when you look at the large number of people looking for work. They are excited. They are engaged. They have done their research. They’ve asked around, they’ve googled, they’ve potentially rejected other approaches and they are ready to impress.  The first interview goes well. There is quick follow up, feedback within 24 hours and everyone is on the same page. Well so it seems…then suddenly booking a second interview meeting time gets tricky as there are several decision makers involved and schedules to coordinate, the boss is away, there is a board meeting, there is an internal referral at the last minute or someone on the hiring team starts questioning the role purpose or the candidate’s suitability.  These delays take the ‘shine’ off of things. The candidate goes back to their normal day to day, they take on new projects, their boss might even give them some recognition and you, the new potential employer are at the risk of taking a back seat.

Prolonged or unnecessary process delays are dangerous. You have now entered a zone where your chances of an offer acceptance have started to decrease and you are on slippery slope to achieve hiring success.

Don’t delay! Ensure you ask yourself these 3 questions and then decide!

  1. Can the candidate do the job? That is, do they have skills and competencies to perform the job successfully?
  1. Will they love the job? This refers to their motivation – what is driving them towards your opportunity? In what circumstances do they experience job satisfaction and will your role satisfy this desire?
  1. Can you work with them? Will they fit in to your culture and will your team genuinely enjoy working with them?

That’s it. If you are experiencing hesitation, recruitment delay or decision making avoidance – just ask these three questions to find your answer. If you have positive answers to all three, please don’t delay. Make an offer and fast. Delight the candidate – make them feel special and worthy. The consequence is a return to the drawing board which not only is frustrating for all involved, but costs more time and money and may affect your reputation as an employer of choice in the market.

 

At Underwood Executive we specialise in sourcing talent where we partner with organisations that value the importance of recruiting and retaining high performing employees. Our up-to-date research and progressive sourcing strategies ensure that we unearth the best talent, giving our clients access to the nicoleunderwood talent community, which reaches beyond the active market. To discuss how we can source talent for your organisation, contact us here.

 

Starting a new leadership role? 4 ways to gain respect quickly

By | Leadership

SuperKidI was talking to a leader this week about starting in a new role and how they were winning over their new team. It all sounded like it was going to plan until she explained an exercise where her team were all given a task and a deadline.   The outcome was that only 50% of the team completed the task on time and only one person completed the task successfully and on time. What did you do? I asked. “Oh I just moved the deadline and gave them some extra time to complete the task” she said.  Warning! This is dangerous ground for any leader and especially for a new leader. It speaks volumes about the teams understanding (or lack of) accountability and also could be the beginning of the end, in terms of gaining respect for their leader.

Quickly gaining the respect of a new team is critical to leadership success and very few leaders consistently achieve it through an ultimate desire to please, or reverting to management by fear, or by having unclear boundaries and expectations.

To earn respect and create clear accountability a leader needs to:

  1. Communicate clearly – how have you communicated your requests? Verbally, via email, in a group meeting or one on one? Have you been clear about what the task is, what the outcome looks like and the timeframe you expect? Often employees miss deadlines not because they disrespect their manager, but because the manager has not been clear in communicating the task upfront. A good technique here is to “check back” with your staff – ‘what is your understanding of this request?’. Always walk away being clear that you have the same understanding and agreement about the what, why and when.  This way there can be no excuses or misunderstandings when deadlines aren’t met.
  1. Stick to the original plan – like the new leader I mentioned, how many times have you diverted from an original deadline with your team because it’s just easier to do so? You can’t be bothered having the conversation and hearing the excuses about why they haven’t done what they said they would do. Easier right? Wrong! You are actually making it harder for yourself and creating future problems as you are essentially saying ‘don’t worry, ignore my deadlines as I will just give you an extension and it will be okay”. This response will guarantee that your team won’t ever take your deadlines seriously as they know you won’t hold them to account and are ok for things to slide.
  1. Consequences – are your team clear what happens if they do miss a deadline you have set? What are the consequences? Are there any? You are in very dangerous territory in terms of gaining respect and developing accountability if there isn’t any. Do they need to stay back late, do they miss out on the opportunity to be involved, do you lock the door once a meeting starts? I had a client last month who needed a 1 page contribution from every team member for a presentation. She continued to chase, nag and demand from the one team member who missed the deadline and finally got it the night before, which meant she had to stay up late and collate and modify the presentation to ensure it was included. I challenged her – why did you do this? Why didn’t you just leave his contribution out? She stared at me shocked – I couldn’t do that she said. Why not? Then he would be left out – exactly! A consequence! How would that make him feel I asked? She considered this – embarrassed and left out. Sometimes, people need to feel the consequences and cost of their behavior to change and you as the leader need to be strong enough to enforce it.
  1. Coaching – my preference is to coach people ‘up’ to gain the desired behaviour rather than the big stick approach of when something goes wrong. This means taking the time as a leader to address the situation and behaviour i.e.: deadlines being missed or ignored. Sit down with your employee and really explore, with good intent, the HOW they missed the deadline. This can be a very interesting conversation where you will learn where their system of meeting deadlines is actually ineffective. Did they not understand the original request (a communication check for you)? Did they not know what to do? Did they not have the skills or knowledge to complete the request ie: is it a training issue? Or was it that they aren’t using a to do list to prioritise their workload? In my experience, people don’t miss deadlines on purpose. Ultimately people want to perform and do a good job, so it is an opportunity for you as a leader to help improve their performance and lift the bar of their success. A powerful conversation where you both benefit – they gain a new system to help improve their performance and you are the inspiring leader who is assisting them to get there (added benefit for you is no more nagging!).

There is no easy road to gaining respect – you can’t demand it, and you can’t ask for it.  You can only create it through clear communication, discipline and holding people to account.  This does not make you a nag, nor does it mean you are demanding  – you are simply being clear in your expectations and being consistent with what you say  – a true leader. Don’t miss such a valuable opportunity as when you are starting a new role with a new team – get it right from day one and you will create a team of high achieving and engaged employees who know where they stand.

“Leaders get the team they deserve”

Rejected because of your email address …….. the harsh reality of selection criteria

By | Recruitment, Retention, Talent

SelectionIt seems everything I read this month features Ruslan Kogan …… At age 31, a ‘rich lister’ worth more than $300 million. He sparked my interest in a recent Financial Review article and now again as I read the Virgin Australia Voyeur magazine on my way over to the RCSA conference in New Zealand. It seems Kogan and I have a few things in common – we both started businesses at age 23, we believe in recruiting for culture, openly giving people feedback and that you need stringent selection criteria to hire the best people.

Kogan was interviewed by the Fin Review on his “hiring secrets” and what criteria he uses to screen “in” or “out” new innovators into his technology business, where he employs 150 staff.  Now, anyone who has built a successful business like his, I like to think must have learnt a thing or two about hiring ‘A’ players and retaining talent to ensure long-term and sustainable results.

It turns out one of Kogan’s biggest selection criteria is dependent on the email address you use. Yes, your email address! If it is Hotmail and not Gmail, you will get a “no thanks” letter based on that alone. Too harsh? His justification is around the technology his company uses and he wants to attract people who are just as passionate and savvy about technology as they are – which means Gmail’s functionality and speed is superior to Hotmail and as a “technology boffin” you would know this. In a market where we are becoming flooded with responses and he is quoted as saying they get over 250 applications per role, is it no wonder that such criteria is being used? Fair? Maybe not. Efficient? Absolutely. Proven to be a precise assessment? Well that’s debatable. He admits it isn’t 100% accurate, but it’s pretty close.

It got me thinking about the other selection criteria used to “screen down” the volume of applications to roles and you may be surprised to know some of the other criteria that is going on behind the scenes including:

  1. Calling before you apply – anyone who calls prior to applying for a job gets a big tick in my book. It shows me that you are keen, see the process as a two-way street and aren’t just applying for any old job out there. You may want more information to ensure we aren’t wasting each other’s time or you may be opportunistic and get your 5 minutes to make a great first impression. Either way – it takes effort to pick up the phone these days and have a phone conversation vs. flicking off an email and resume.
  1. Initiative – sometimes recruiter’s advertisements don’t reveal who the employer is, which I acknowledge makes it harder to write a specific cover letter saying why you want to work for that company.  Again get creative – call, ask some questions, try and obtain any extra information that is going to allow you to tailor your cover letter and stand out from the crowd.  The generic “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir” will likely see your application automatically in the ‘no’ pile.
  1. Social media presence – there are more and more roles that require you to be a ‘thought leader’ in your field, to be the ‘face’ of the organisation, or to be a successful networker and influencer.  When this criteria is high on the agenda, don’t think it is only your application being reviewed. Google searches, LinkedIn profiles, Twitter feeds and Facebook searches are all being utilised to present a three-dimensional view. If your on-line presence isn’t projecting the level of influence and credibility required for the role, you may be screened out before a face-to-face interview opportunity, over other candidates who do.
  1. No cover letter – if a job advertisement asks for a cover letter and all you do is click ‘apply’ and send your resume, this could be the criteria that knocks you out.  It shows that you aren’t following instructions and potentially tells the hiring company that you aren’t that interested in their specific opportunity, more that you are happy to flick your CV for any role you see advertised and hope for the best.
  1. Motivation – if your cover letter does not clearly articulate why you are passionate about this role and this company and it becomes more a sales statement about how great you are in general, it might be the criteria that tips you over to the “no” edge.  Companies want to see a link and a real connection to their opportunity.
  1. Location – if you are ever applying for a role that is different from your home base or local area, please be clear and address this in your cover letter and email.  Why are you attracted to work in this area? How did you hear about the role? What connection do you have to this location? Will you relocate? It is much better to address this up front rather than letting the hiring manager make up their own mind, which might be an incorrect assumption and one that again lands you in the ‘no’ pile.
  1. Voicemail messages – I have been known to count someone out purely based on their voicemail message. I detest those leave a 10 second message and it will be sent as a text….do they actually work? Will you receive my message accurately? Or the voicemails with the funny music over the top, or the ones that just say “yeh you missed me, leave your number”. All of these examples do not create a great first professional impression and will be considered in the selection process.
  1. Phone manner – the way you answer the phone, the way you hold a conversation and the way you answer particular questions are all factors helping us to assess applications.  The other week, I was screening candidates via the phone and I said to this one person “can you talk freely right now?”, he asked me to hang on and after a minute of silence as he walked out of his open plan area, he then returned to the phone and simply said “shoot!”. This wasn’t exactly the most professional response I was expecting.

It’s a friendly reminder that every step in a selection and recruitment process is a test.  A test to determine long-term suitability and cultural fit for the job role and company.  I don’t believe anyone should apologise for having harsh or restricting criteria to find the best people for their organisation. Decisions need to be made and you don’t always get it right. I am sure some will read Kogan’s approach and think it is unrealistic, but you know what? It doesn’t actually matter. What matters is that he gets his formula right, is consistent in his approach and he knows the best people that fit his organisation and the method to find them. I don’t necessarily agree with all his theories, but I will give him the kudos for knowing how to recruit the best people for his business. That in itself is one of the hardest lessons to learn in any successful business.

 

 

Fear, Lies & Leadership….How to have honest conversations

By | Communication, Leadership

UntitledWouldn’t leadership be easy if you could just have a frank conversation? Just say what you think and not worry too much about the delivery or consequences? Here it is – this is what I think – take it or leave it.

I met with a new business owner this week who reflected on a culture he had created in the early 90’s where candid conversations were the norm – none of this skirting around the issues and constant worry about upsetting people or legal consequences.  He reflected on the types of conversations that he’d had, “James, it’s just not working out. Not for you. Not for me. We can go through performance plans and recording these conversations or we can just agree it isn’t a fit for either of us”. He saw this as refreshing, effortless and talking straight.

This frankness and boldness is not the norm in what I observe in most organisations today.  I see many leaders through our coaching programs avoiding difficult conversations, making them harder than they need to be or avoiding the real issues, so  team members walk away feeling more confused and unsure about what they need to do to keep the boss happy.  The answer? Leaders need to let go of the lies and embrace the fear of having an honest and direct conversation.

I did this today, as I had to tell a candidate they were unsuccessful for a Chief Executive role. I could have said the other candidate had more experience, that you performed well, but you were just pipped at the post. I could have softened the blow to make them feel better and avoid upsetting their feelings. But in this case, it wouldn’t have been honest or direct. And it certainly wouldn’t have helped that person move forward and achieve their career goals. Instead, I told the candidate where they performed well and was straight in explaining it was his limited examples demonstrating strategic thinking and developing teams, which let him down in the process. Yes he was disappointed, but he was thankful for the feedback to improve his interview performance for next time.

In my experience, when leaders think they are being clear, often the team member hears a completely different message. Why? Because the manager is trying to ‘soften’ the blow, rather than being straight. I’m sure you have seen it, tried it or been on the receiving end of it.

If you really care about your people and want them to perform, succeed and grow, you owe it to them to deliver feedback (no matter how difficult) in a straight manner. Most people can handle constructive criticism as long as it is honest, delivered straight and comes from a place of good intent.

Tackling tough conversations is one of the most feared things to deal with by many leaders. At a recent CEO panel interview, we asked a candidate to discuss one of the most difficult negotiations he had been involved in. We didn’t hear about a contract negotiation, a legal dispute or a financial matter – it was the ‘people stuff’ that he admitted to still getting ‘butterflies’ in his stomach when addressing difficult situations. It’s not easy, but these conversations are critical to ensure that you are on the same page and communication is clear and direct.

Quick reminders to deliver honest conversations effectively:

  1. Good intent – you are doing the right thing by an individual to share constructive feedback that will assist them to improve, grow and perform.
  2. Direct communication – be straight and don’t ‘soften’ or confuse your message with more words and dialogue than is necessary. Deliver your message and then stop. Don’t be afraid of the pause.
  3. Avoid personalisation and emotion – this is not about someone’s personality or traits, this is about behaviours.
  4. Be specific – use real and immediate observations, not what you’ve heard second-hand on the grapevine.
  5. Action – what is the behaviour you want to see, or a system put in place, to ensure the desired behaviour is implemented going forward?

One of the greatest things I have learnt as a leader and as a coach is to have open, straight, frank and often difficult conversations face to face. It is never easy when dealing with people and their emotions – but you can really change someone’s experience and perspective in a positive way when you deliver your message succinctly and with good intent.

Be tough on performance, never on the person and don’t hang on to things – openness and honesty is the basis for long-term leadership success.

 

nicoleunderwood pty ltd is an executive search and consulting firm with a holistic approach to talent management. We deliver executive coaching programs where we work one on one with leaders and leadership teams to further improve leadership and communication skills. You can find out more here.

 

STOP! Why you shouldn’t make a counter offer

By | Recruitment, Results, Retention

downloadIn the current economic climate – just about every candidate we make an offer of employment to is being counter-offered by their current employer.  This enticement to stay takes many forms including more money, job title change, better projects, company cars, larger offices, bonus offers and extended leave.  The list goes on and on. But stop right there. Don’t do it. Let me tell you why.

They don’t work. They never have. They never will.

An employee who hands you their resignation has already emotionally left the building. They made a decision some time ago that the role, position, company, culture or leadership was not for them. Whatever those reasons may be. Let them go.

Your reasons for making a counter-offer probably feel valid including:

(a)  It is easier to get them to stay than to even think about the time, cost and effort in trying to recruit and replace them.

(b)  You don’t want to deal with the unpleasantness of telling the rest of the team. It will hurt the morale.

(c)  They are a top performer and you can’t possibly continue without them. (Rubbish! Everyone is replaceable).

(d)  It’s a quick fix – you need time to plan how you are going to deal with this

(e)  It’s cheaper to pay them $10K more vs. time lost in productivity, clients, training and replacement costs

All valid. I get it. I’ve been there.  The first time one of my staff resigned, I was in my early 20’s and invincible….ha! I had to go to the coffee shop to pull myself together and work out my ‘strategy’ on how I was going to keep her.  I tried more money, I tried a change of duties, a change of title…anything, please don’t go.  My attempts were clearly unsuccessful.  It wasn’t about me. It was about her – her career ambition and her desire that we were unable to fulfill at the time.

It is that immediate, but, band-aid attempt to keep someone. We’ve all done it.

Once someone has resigned, there are genuine reasons and needs that are going to be met elsewhere. You are prolonging the inevitable pain that will be felt by both of you over the next 6 months if you do go down the counter-offer path and they accept.

To the company last month that tried offering more money; to the company the month before who offered a bonus plan on the largest account and to the company who said they would finally come through with the company car they had promised a year ago.  It’s too late. Let them go. Counter-offers don’t work.

Next time someone hands you his or her resignation, accept it with grace. This is business – don’t use guilt or persuasion. Stay professional and listen to their feedback – is there anything you could have done differently? Yes? Great – learn it for next time.  Instead, implemented “stay strategies” that will retain your remaining performers.

Salli Tanner who works with me now is a great example of this strategy working effectively.  Early in 2010, Salli worked for me in another organisation, when she resigned. I was sad to be losing her as a valuable member of my team, but I accepted the move being the right one for her and her career at the time. As much as I didn’t want her to leave, I genuinely wished her well and joked, “You never know where we might work together again in the future!” The strategy does work.

Sure, you can be disappointed that someone is leaving, but acknowledging their contribution and wishing them well will go a long way in a market where people talk and employer brand awareness is critical for future hiring. See the opportunity to improve your retention plans, gain some constructive feedback and always leave the employment relationship on a positive note.

 

Have you been conned? 5 ways to avoid a bad hire!

By | Recruitment

How many times have you hired a dud? How many times have you kicked yourself for not following your gut and made a poor recruitment decision? Was it that they were 5 minutes late for their interview, did they have a sweaty handshake, were they reluctant to provide relevant referees or was it that unexplained gap in their CV when they were taking a ‘career break’?

After a recent conversation with an employer, they told me about a senior executive they had to let go after they failed to deliver the agreed outcomes and how their dictatorial leadership style nearly destroyed the organisation’s culture.  I was curious – how did you hire this candidate in the first place? Where did the recruitment process go wrong? It seems it was just one mistake after another.

Here are my 5 key tips to avoid making a decision you may regret:

1.     First impressions

There’s a lot to be said about first impressions.  Tell me, was the cover letter a generic template? Did they address your name and title correctly? Did you receive their application within 5 minutes of you posting the vacancy online? What about their LinkedIn profile? Don’t ignore first impressions – no matter how great their experience and skills appear on paper.  Sure, sometimes the right candidate might be late for your interview for a genuine reason and they may apply immediately on-line due to being in the right place at the right time. However and this is a big however, when things don’t start adding up or you have a ‘feeling’ – stop, take a look back and you may see a pattern of question marks or incidents that might make you reconsider the consistency and quality of the applicant.

2.     Interview attire

I’ve written previously is the business suit dead? In my experience, candidates who are making the effort and really going all out to impress – which often include wearing a suit, do tend to be the ones who make it to a shortlist. Recently, I was recruiting a Business Development Manager and every male applicant I interviewed wore a full matching suit and tie. In the past, when I have had candidates come to interview for executive roles in more informal attire and I have ignored this or given them a ‘pass’, it seems that they then slip up later in the process. Don’t ignore first impressions – they count.

3.     Gut feeling

You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach that is screaming something is not quite right here? Don’t ignore it. Don’t bury it, flush it out.  If you can’t identify exactly what it is, my advice is having another meeting in a more casual environment when someone is more likely to relax and be themselves. You can take someone else with you from the organisation for a second opinion or you may wish to ask them some scenario questions such as what would you do in the first 30 days if you win this job? Finally, you can conduct reference checking.  End of the day, if you can’t qualify what you feel in your gut, my advice is don’t hire because when something eventually doesn’t go to plan or pan out, you will kick yourself for not listening to your intuition.

4.     Referees

This is where a lot of recruitment processes fail.  You only have to look at serial applicants or non-performers who are continually re-hired – how did that happen? They weren’t reference checked at all or they were referenced with the wrong people.  Speaking to the right referee is a skill and then asking the right questions to get the answers you are after can be the difference between hiring a star vs. hiring a dud.  Are you accepting mobile phone numbers? Are you qualifying the person is who they say they are? Or are you just asking closed questions and fact checking? Don’t delegate this task as an administrative process as even the best con man, who can blitz an interview, can be “found out” at this stage.

5.     Theory vs. examples

Throughout the interview, make sure you are listening for real examples.  These are situations and examples the candidate has been in where they can easily describe the situation, what they did and what the outcome was.  If they are regurgitating theory or telling you what they would do vs what they have actually done – you should immediately visualise a neon warning sign flashing above their head.  When someone is out of their depth and hasn’t performed the tasks or been in the situations before, they won’t be able to be specific. If you can’t visualise the example – keep probing and get very specific.

Hiring a dud is an expensive, painful and emotional mistake. Getting the recruitment decision wrong can impact culture, destroy morale and consume your time, thoughts and energy.  The devils in the detail! Don’t short-cut processes just because you know someone who would be perfect or they have worked for some high profile brands, so they must be good. Rubbish. Running a thorough, consistent and vigorous process where you listen to facts, intuition and behaviours could save you a lot of time, heartache and pain.  Don’t ignore the warning signs…..there are red flags, there always are, you just need to know where to look.

6 Lessons to Introduce Flexibility in Your Workforce

By | Culture, Flexibility

I have recently returned from speaking at the International Recruitment Conference in Fiji where the theme was “Recruitment at the Speed of Tomorrow”.  It was an inspiring couple of days learning about innovative ideas that are driving companies forward. In my session, I shared some of the key lessons I learnt whilst building a recruitment business and combating two of the biggest challenges in our industry – staff turnover and attracting top talent.  The recruitment industry doesn’t have a good record in this area and I met several companies who had appalling staff turnover! One company has an average staff turnover of 60%! The owner openly admitted that he doesn’t incorporate any flexible arrangements in his business. I have a feeling that this might not be the only issue, but let’s hope he might take on a few of the following ideas:

Lesson 1: Business culture enables flexibility or kills it

I learnt the hard way that the traditional recruitment culture of long hours, where client is king and being available 24/7 makes it pretty difficult to attract and keep the best talent long-term.  It doesn’t take long for people to get fed up from inflexible conditions. They  suffer from burn out or pressure from loved ones ultimately deciding they can’t successfully integrate a work life blend. The recruitment culture typically demands 8am meetings, expects after hours commitments and compulsory candidate calling nights. It doesn’t genuinely embrace flexible arrangements successfully. It wasn’t an overnight fix – changing culture, implementing innovative ways of doing things and getting staff to trust that the new way is okay takes time.

Lesson 2: A leader’s support and mindset makes it possible (or not)

During the conference discussions, there were many leaders who have identified this is as the biggest area that is holding them back from being a truly flexible employer – their own bias, trust issues and the way they have always done things. If a leader can’t successfully change their mindset to trust, support and believe that flexibility will work, it won’t. Forget it. Don’t bother trying to implement, it will fail. Part-timers will feel constantly watched, guilty and that they have to constantly justify their arrangement. Leading from the front is critical.

Lesson 3: Flexibility isn’t a fad that will go away…….learn to incorporate it

Work/life balance, flexibility, part-time, working from home…are increasingly being demanded. The show of hands during my presentation suggested that nearly everyone had experienced some type of request in the past 12 months. As a business leader, being on the front foot and being prepared for these requests can ensure a higher success rate.  Meet face to face, be open to new suggestions, and probe to find out the “real” reason for the request and a trial period might be a good starting point.  I remember setting up structures to help make it easier for me to accept a request eg: abolishing 8am weekly meetings and moving to daily meetings to ensure all staff had the opportunity to contribute.

Lesson 4: Productivity and performance won’t suffer, it will thrive

A quick survey of recruitment owners via rossclennett.com, showed me that the biggest concern they had in regards to implementing flexible arrangements was loss of productivity.   The thought of Consultants reducing their core hours, leads to an immediate concern for a reduction in billings.  In my experience, through the implementation of team structures and providing tools of trade, it actually had the opposite effect.  When given the autonomy, clear expectations and support, part-time Consultants proved that they could actually be just as or even more productive than their full-time counterparts.

Lesson 5: Essential ingredients for flexibility to work – teamwork & communication

Part-time successful Recruitment Consultants can’t exist or achieve significant results as a solo effort.  Through trial and error, it became apparent to avoid full-time resentment and other’s ‘picking up the slack’; team structures and communication systems were essential.  We moved from individual responsibility and accountability to team’s responsible for clients, jobs and candidates. It was the shared goals, offering full-time staff flexibility through buddy systems and days off, sharing of fees and rewarding team participation that proved that part-time ‘client facing’ roles did work.

Lesson 6: Take Action!

None of this is relevant, unless you are prepared to take action.  So many companies talk about flexibility, put in their employer value proposition and hope that things will change.  The best thing I ever did was jump in and give it a go. Our systems, structure and approach certainly weren’t perfect – I had to keep adapting and solving issues as they arose. But I can tell you that the outcomes and results were worth the sometimes-painful journey.  I was able to say goodbye to thinking about people issues 24/7, retention rates soared to 5 – 6 years per Consultant, succession plans were developed, new consultants called us to join our business and the financial results increased.

Organisations who value workplace flexibility and embrace it will stand out from the crowd. You’ll not only start attracting more and better performing Consultants, you will actually start retaining them too! Don’t miss the opportunity to gain an edge on the competition to build a more productive and sustainable consultant workforce through fostering a positive and flexible culture.

A flexible workplace culture WILL create high performing and productive Consultants who stay (AND attract others just like them)

Some fav pics from the RCSA Conference, Fiji and please visit here for video footage

Me, Greg Savage & Jacqui Cotterill