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Staff Turnover Archives | Underwood Executive | Executive Search & Talent Management

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.

 

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.

 

Is your job draining your spirit? 4 ways to see the light

By | Career, Recruitment

light“I hate my job”, “My boss is a control freak”, “I don’t feel valued”, “The moment I see my perfect job advertised, I’m out of here”……

The start of a new year can be an emotional time …. There has been the pressure of getting end of year work finished, the obligation and expectation of Christmas and families and then the burden of setting new goals and getting revved up for the year ahead. I find through our coaching practice, that January is actually one of the hardest months of the year for people to get their mojo back and feel inspired to make changes. It is usually easier to have a whinge, stay stuck in a rut and leave things the way they are.

So far, this year has been no different. We’ve had people in tears describing how much they hate their jobs and their boss, the frustration of there being limited opportunities in the market and we’ve heard every excuse under the sun of why this year will be no different!

Let me ask you this – are you unhappy in your job? Did you get emotional at the very thought of going to work today? Or does the concept of working for your boss for another 12 months make you want to crawl under a large boulder? Yes? Okay here’s the good news – you don’t have a problem. You have an opportunity.

You can A. stay and play the victim, continue to not take responsibility for your unfavourable employment situation and continue to bitch and complain to any person willing to listen or B. you can take charge and do something about it.

Step 1:  What’s really wrong?

Get crystal clear on what is really upsetting you. What is it specifically you don’t like? What are three examples in the past month where you haven’t got the outcome you were wanting at work? Did your boss or colleague rob you of an opportunity? Did you encounter a challenging conflict? Were you unsupported or feel like you your values were compromised? Until you can be really specific about the situations where you felt frustrated, angry or helpless, it is going to be difficult to work out a plan of attack.

Step 2:  Are you prepared to do something about it?

In my experience, the difference between successful people and those who just coast through with complacency is action. Successful people are prepared to take action and know the price – being uncomfortable. This week, I said to a coachee who is extremely unhappy in her job – “do you want this situation to change?”. “Of course!”, she pleaded. “But are you prepared to be outside your comfort zone to get there?”. She got clarity that the responsibility is hers and her’s alone and the journey of change is going to be uncomfortable and certainly at times difficult and emotional.

Step 3:  Knowing what it will take

Once you have accepted the challenge and ditched the ‘victim’ mentality, you will need a specific strategy on what you are going to do. Will you give your boss constructive feedback? Are you going to communicate directly and more effectively when you are feeling unhappy or unsupported? Will you brave enough to ask for what you want? Will you put a plan in place to get your desired outcome?

Step 4:  Action junkie

Just do it! Don’t over-think things, don’t make it harder that it needs to be, don’t get bogged down in the “what if’s”. Day in day out, give yourself the permission and commitment to do something about it. Wise words were once given to me that propelled me into action – life is too short to work with dickheads!

You only have one life! If you are consistently having those days where you are unfilled and wondering what you are doing, that you are not learning or growing in your current work situation or you find yourself dreading every interaction with your leader – it’s a sign that things could be better. When you’re brave enough to make that step, you will not only inspire yourself, but others around you to follow your lead and not accept the status quo. Sometimes it’s just time to move on – go on, do something about it, no-one else will do it for you!

 

Are you ignoring staff issues? 4 ways to get your head out of the sand

By | Communication, Leadership, Performance

ignoreThis week a friend of mine told me he quit his job after being head hunted for a new opportunity (closer to home, more money, leading a bigger team and better long-term career prospects). I was pleased for him and wondered why he didn’t seem that excited.  “What’s wrong?” I asked. “My current boss hasn’t spoken to me for over a week since I resigned”. Sorry? Your boss is ignoring you? Yep. Pretty much since the meeting where he resigned, his boss has been so ‘disappointed’ that he has decided to give him the “silent treatment”.  Not exactly your classic successful leadership technique!

It appears this “bury your head in the sand” technique is not isolated to just this leader either.

In another example, a client was telling me about a problem employee who despite ongoing feedback, remained unreceptive to improving his performance. Interestingly, he had not yet responded to a meeting request from this employee from a week ago, telling me he couldn’t be bothered and that he was over investing any more time and energy in the situation.

Now, I get it. I do. As a leader you can often spend hours coaching, supporting and providing advice to help develop your team members and there are days it can feel like a thankless job.  However, I challenge you to look at your own behaviour. Are you setting the tone? Are you leading by example? Are you perpetuating the undesired behaviour inadvertently?

4 ways to turn it around:

1.    Don’t bury your head in the stand

Like my client, there are many days where as a leader you probably feel like mimicking my 4-year-old by putting your fingers in your ears saying “I can’t hear you …. La la la”. But ignoring something or pretending that a situation with your staff member is going to improve, disappear or fix itself is just plain stupid.

Ignoring what’s happening will never make a situation better. A real leader will address the situation head on, openly discuss the problem (without blame or emotion) and together encourage a solution.

2.    Make a decision – imagine the perfect scenario

When I was frustrated with employee issues it always became worse or the problem was enhanced when I thought about it, talked about it with others, analysed it, worried about it – but things only ever changed or improved when I actually made a decision.

A great way to obtain clarity is to imagine in 3 months time that the person has improved and the performance problem is solved – how does it make you feel? Positive? Then you can commit to moving things in the right direction. Can’t image that situation or it still feels ‘off’? Chances are you have a cultural mis-alignment and even if the performance improves, this person is not the right match for you and your team.

3.    Manage the performance up or out  

Once you have committed to addressing the problem head on, it’s time for the conversation where you discuss where the employee’s current level of performance is and where you would like it to be.  This discussion should highlight several areas as to where the employee needs to improve and the action steps they are going to take to develop. Ultimately, this should result in someone stepping up or off – either way; it’s a better result than the current situation of non-performance.

4.    Communicate with good intent

To give the employee (and you) the best chance of success, you need to operate and speak with good intent. You can’t fake this. Be authentic. Demonstrate  that you want to see this person succeed in their role and that you are here to support them in reaching the desired behaviours/objectives.  This means showing strong belief and using positive language in your conversations.

Don’t forget as the leader, you are always on show and every interaction – positive, negative or otherwise is being observed and often recreated somewhere else in the business. If you are not feeling “in the zone” or you can’t project the vibe you want to create – best to take some time out, close the door or reschedule that team meeting – people can spot a fake a mile away! Whether you like it or not – the leader sets the tone.

 

 

 

 

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.

Someone not playing by the rules? How consistency governs success

By | Results, Strategy

In my blog post “People leave leaders – the uncomfortable truth” I discussed how changing business culture and my leadership style were two contributing factors to increased business results and overall success.  In this journey, there was another significant milestone that made business easier, more enjoyable and more profitable – consistency of service.

Our company had a large banking client who had high expectations, rarely used recruiters and was quite vocal about his frustration with the turnover of Consultants in the recruitment industry.  When we finally won an opportunity to recruit, he developed a relationship with one of the more experienced Consultants on my team.

When she got pregnant and was preparing for maternity leave, I knew her replacement on this account was critical to get right or I would risk losing them.  The new account manager was introduced and not long after, there was another new assignment for her to work on.  At the same time, this client was on the board of another organisation and was dealing with another one of our Consultants on that opportunity.  In the space of several months, he had exposure to three Consultants, plus his existing relationship with me.  I’ll never forget the day he called me to give me some feedback.  I remember thinking “oh no, what’s gone wrong, he doesn’t like that he is dealing with so many different Consultants”.  It was the opposite. He was ringing to tell me how impressed he was with the consistency of our process, our approach, our service and methodology. He said regardless of whether he was dealing with Tom, Dick, Harry or myself it was the same. We had the same vision, the same way of doing things and a real consistency of service delivery.

This was no accident. We filtered this “sameness” through the organisation from the vision and values, to dress code, to being on time, how we answered our phone, our report writing and how we presented at meetings. We wanted every interaction with our company  to represent and reinforce what we stood for. It was a highlight for me to see this being recognised by an external customer who had noticed and was experiencing the benefits.

It wasn’t a walk in the park to get to this point.  It took discipline, persistence and holding people accountable to uphold these standards. Often new Consultants who joined us from other firms didn’t like ‘our way’ and would try to “buck the system”, take a short cut or revert to their old habits.  As a leader, it was tempting to let these behaviours go, especially when they were producing results. Ignoring it never worked. It always backfired. It always turned ugly and became more difficult for me, the team and the Consultant in question.

I remember going out on a client visit with a new, but industry experienced Consultant to observe our service in action.  We got in the car and I asked about the organisation, who we were seeing, what the history was etc. She knew nothing. There was no preparation, no research or knowledge. Gulp! It pretty much went down hill from there including no street directory or directions to get there, making us late, no apology to the client, no setting of the agenda, no use of our presentation folder and no closure or follow-up.  Everything from her training and induction had been thrown out the window. She liked to do it her way and couldn’t see the problem. Doing it her own way wasn’t going to work in our culture. There were two choices – embrace the proven strategies that deliver results and consistency of client service or conclude we weren’t right for each other.

Harsh? Too blunt? Not flexible enough? You could certainly argue that revenue and results from an experienced recruiter is not something to walk away from so quickly.  But what’s the long-term impact? What are the consequences for the brand, culture, team approach, reputation and ultimately the client experience? It was a risk I wasn’t prepared to take. We parted ways and I learnt a very important lesson to stick to what you know works, be consistent in every detail and don’t apologise for reinforcing processes that deliver. Your team members are either on the bus, or they’re not.

Deliver consistently to your customers and you will enjoy consistent success.

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

 

People leave leaders…..the uncomfortable truth

By | Change, Empowerment, Leadership

Last week I went to a Women in Leadership lunch hosted by CEDA.  One of the speakers (Jane Caro) said, “we only change when it is too uncomfortable to stay the same”.  It really struck a chord with me.  It reminded me of several stages in my career, where this was the final straw and my catalyst for change.

One was a reminder, when this week, 12 months ago, I left my corporate role to start my own business.  The other was highlighted when one of my clients’ celebrated her 5th birthday in business this week.  In our session, I was genuinely excited for her. What a fabulous milestone! As a high achiever, she is still focused on being better and reaching her goals.

In that discussion, she asked me what were the major points for me in growing my last business that turned it from being a good business to that breakthrough moment when things were easier and it “just happens”.

I said there were 4 key things in my experience:

  1. Business Culture
  2. Empowering Leadership
  3. Retaining Key People
  4. Consistency of Service

BUT it was only when things were too uncomfortable to stay the same that things changed.

I remember that point like it was yesterday. I wrote two pages of frustrations (which I still have!) and all the concerns I had in the business at the time.  I felt completely overwhelmed looking at that list thinking where do I start?

One of the biggest issues that were causing emotional and financial pain was the turnover of staff. I have mentioned this before in previous posts, that in the recruitment industry this can be up to 45% and new Recruiters only last 8 months on average! I was certainly experiencing my fair share of turnover in the first few years and it was agonizing.

The impact to the bottom line is significant in terms of re-recruitment, re-training, lost revenue etc, but for me it was also the emotional cost. I remember sitting down with the owner and he said to me “Nicole, people leave leaders, not jobs”.  It was cutting.  It hurt my ego more than anything. My internal story went something like I’m a good leader, I believe in my people, I want the best for them – I just have high expectations.”  So, I decided to put together a spreadsheet of all the people who had left and look at the reasons they gave.  Now of course, some people never tell you the REAL reason for leaving so I decided to be really honest with myself and acknowledge what deep down I already knew to be true.  There was a combination of culture and leadership reasons – that was consistent.

It was at that point, I realised it was too uncomfortable to continue as things were.  Things needed to change, and fast.

Business culture – to change a culture overnight is impossible.  To move from a traditional recruitment culture of “client is king”, “core hours are 8am – 6pm”, “you are available 24/7”, “you always eat lunch at your desk (if at all)” and “taking calls before and after work is normal” was going be a big shift.  It required small steps starting from the top including a shift in mindset.  I remember when I first started coming in late on Friday morning so I could attend a pilates class, how uncomfortable it felt. I would creep back in the office hoping no one would notice.  Ridiculous in hindsight – I should have been promoting it.  This was my in-built belief that hours = work ethic.  I learnt to accept that my commitment and dedication wouldn’t be any less just because my actual number of hours were less. This was a big mindset shift that had to start at the top and was slowly filtered through. (I will be presenting at the RCSA conference in Fiji in 2 weeks on how I implemented this).

Empowering leadership – the statistics prove the theory that people leave leaders.  Not all the time, but it is certainly a contributing factor in a lot of cases and it was in mine.  I engaged a business coach and learnt that people’s perception of my leadership style and their experience of working for me was reality, not what I thought I was doing.  I had to embrace their reality and move to an empowering leadership style where my fundamental values and principles were still the same around performance, expectations and outcomes, but my delivery become more cohesive, consultative and empowering.

These two changes had significant positive impact on bottom line results and other performance indicators. But just as importantly (or more importantly) the effect on my job satisfaction, the enjoyment for the team, the transparency of our communication and a re-invigorated approach.  This allowed us to achieve two things that I often find companies struggle to accomplish.  We achieved employee’s desire for flexibility, work/life blend and career satisfaction with the company’s objective of a high performing team, revenue results and profitability.

We proved that flexible arrangements and productivity can co-exist and don’t have to be at the cost of the other. It was one of the biggest lessons in becoming a high performing and profitable firm where people wanted to work and stayed long-term.

To achieve this requires being uncomfortable and only then are we truly learning and becoming better than we currently are.

*My next post will discuss the other two areas of retaining key people and consistency of service. 

Reward & recognition – the secret to reducing staff turnover

By | Leadership, Retention

When one of my Consultants resigned after 7 years I was excited for her. She was taking a leap of faith and pursuing her life long dream of becoming a paramedic. It was at her farewell when it hit me how important it is to reward staff. In her speech, she mentioned the time I invested $500 for each staff member to pursue a personal goal outside of work.  Funny isn’t it – but as she was talking I was struggling to recall the exact detail of the initiative. On the other hand, she was describing it in vivid detail and the impact it had on her in terms of pursuing a hobby (share trading), which helped her develop her relationship with her husband (he is a day trader).  She loved that I had shown an interest in her as a person beyond what she delivered at work.  Notice she didn’t rave on about her base salary or the significant monthly bonus cheques she got – she talked about several small random rewards that I gave her over the years to recognise her achievements, loyalty and contribution.

It was when I engaged a business coach to help me develop my leadership skills that I learnt the importance of praise, recognition and random reward in attracting and retaining talent.  It sounds simple in theory doesn’t it? Of course staff love to be told they are doing a great job, of course they love a gift voucher for achieving a target or getting a group email saying how wonderful they are. BUT in reality how often does this happen? And randomly? Perhaps when an important milestone comes around or someone lands a big deal, but the day-to-day successes are rarely recognised, let alone rewarded.  I was guilty as charged.

To assist me in taking action in this area and making sure I actually delivered what I knew to be right in theory, I kept a reward and recognition book.  It made me consciously recognise and record what someone did and how I rewarded it.  This could range from a personal email, to a company wide announcement, to a lunch, to a specific gift or even time off.  It didn’t matter, as long as I was consistently rewarding the desired behaviours for individuals to consistently achieve top performance. The book was an easy idea and it kept the importance front of mind as well as myself accountable to take action.

Quick ideas to take action:

  1. Public acknowledgement – giving someone praise in a public forum (team meeting, group email etc) is a great way to pump someone up in front of their teammates.  It is also an opportunity to reinforce company-desired behaviours. I would always share positive client feedback in our sales meeting on a Monday, with any five star ratings receiving a Freddo Frog.
  2. Small rewards, big impact – I know you are thinking chocolate – come on Nicole, no one is going to be aiming for that! Small rewards can often have a big impact – it is often not the gift itself, but the acknowledgement of the performance.
  3. Be specific – how often have you been given something as a thank you that you didn’t like? Maybe you got red wine and you don’t drink red wine, maybe it was flowers that make your sneeze or a subscription to a magazine you don’t read? I developed a $5 – $500 chart for each staff member where they listed rewards in that range that they would value and appreciate. This way the reward was personal to them and well received rather than a generic gift.
  4. All staff recognised – don’t forget non-revenue generating roles! Administration staff were always included in recognising their contribution to the team.  This could be the way they resolve a client query through to their phone manner or going beyond the call of duty.
  5. Random – don’t wait for only the big milestones to say well done and don’t reward the same people and actions all the time.  Your team will get pretty sick of seeing the same rewards, you will lose impact and you could be accused of playing favourites.

Overall, my aim was to be specific with the reward.  What was the behaviour they demonstrated that I wanted to see demonstrated again in the future? Don’t lose the meaning of recognition by just saying well done. Be specific about what the reward is for.  This is important not only for the individual, but also for the rest of the team to hear the right message.

Don’t wait for someone to crack their budget or out-perform last’s year’s record – reward people now for the action they take, the small steps they make and the lessons they learn.  It’s never to late to let your staff know that you appreciate what they do, to say thank you or to publicly reward action and effort rather than just outcomes and revenue.  Random recognition and rewards will win you loyalty and trust as well as assisting to reduce unnecessary staff turnover due to feeling valued and acknowledged.  Human nature tells us we like to feel appreciated and we want to do a good job – so go on, look for the successes, go and say thank you, be specific and randomly reward a team member today.

Nicole Underwood understands what it takes to create, build and grow a successful business. As a previous finalist in the prestigious Telstra Business Women Awards, Nicole consults and coaches individuals and organisations to improve their results through effective leadership and attracting and retaining top talent.

 This article was written for Lifestyle Elements – a great way to reward your staff with their own personal concierge.