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Top Talent 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 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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Offer rejected? 8 ways to increase your acceptance rate

By | Recruitment, Results

 

offer rejectedRecruiting successfully is not easy.  It can be time consuming, expensive, emotional, distracting from core business activities and ultimately hard work.  So imagine after weeks and weeks of searching, screening, calls, correspondence, interviews, follow-ups and difficult decision making, you finally decide to offer your preferred candidate.  You’re excited and relieved.  A decision has finally been made. You ring, make the offer, send out the paperwork and wait. 24 hours, 48 hours – why haven’t you heard? Where is their signed contract?

It is that moment when your candidate – the one that was meant to be starting in 4 weeks, calls (or worse sends an email or text) to say they are declining your offer. What? Where did it go wrong? It is an extremely frustrating situation as suddenly you’re back at the start of the process after months of hard work.  Now it’s time to back track, re-advertise or maybe try to re-engage the rejected short list.  How can you best avoid this situation altogether and increase your chances of an offer acceptance?

1. Employer value proposition – are you easily able to articulate why your company and this opportunity may appeal to potential candidates? Be clear on what the selling points are; describe the culture, career paths and opportunities.  Explain what top performance looks like and give examples of the values that people abide by. Competition for talent is always going to be there, no matter what the market conditions are, so make sure you can articulate your culture in an honest and compelling way.

2. Counter offer investigation – from the very first interview, check reasons for leaving their current employment. Don’t ask only once, try two or three times throughout the interview to ensure you are getting the REAL reason for leaving.  Are they fishing in the market for a higher salary to take to their boss to get their own pay increase? Also look for patterns of behaviour – you will often find that people consistently leave positions for similar reasons, so make sure your opportunity doesn’t fall into this similar category.

3. Salary & benefits – salary may not rate as the number one reason for taking another job these days.  In fact, the decision is usually more about culture, leadership and growth opportunities.  However, if the financial arrangements are too far below a candidate’s current situation, you are at risk of them declining your offer. Make sure this conversation is not left to the last minute and then realising that there is a problem.

4. Real motivation – one of the most important aspects to gain from an interview is someone’s motivation. This covers both emotional (challenge, job security etc) and rational (money, job title etc) motivators.  If your opportunity can’t satisfy both these aspects for a candidate, you are at high risk of them declining an eventual offer of employment or being successfully counter-offered. Don’t forget leaving or staying is primarily an emotional decision.

5. Job pipeline – how active is this candidate in the market? Do they have lots of interviews, have they just commenced or are they close to an offer of employment with someone else? You don’t need intimate details and of course this could be inappropriate to ask, but from where you stand, you need to know.  Don’t be left in the dark about their other activity in the job market to avoid being pipped at the post.

6. Trial close – don’t wait until the end of the process before making the only formal offer of employment. After a second interview, if you feel you are getting close to making an offer, try using a hypothetical.  “Hypothetically, if I offered you the role today, what would you say?” The beauty of this question is it will bring any hesitation or concerns to fore pretty quickly and addressing these before a formal offer, increases your chances of an acceptance.

7.Verbal offer – if possible, don’t send out a full contract or letter of employment until you have verbal acceptance.  Keep control of the process and don’t give the opportunity to played off with a current employer and enter a bidding war.

8. Resignation management – resigning can be a difficult process, especially if the candidate has a good relationship with their direct supervisor.  Talk to the candidate about when they think they might resign. Have they considered how they will approach it? Sharing a war story or giving some friendly advice at this stage can take some pressure off the candidate and give them confidence to deliver the news.  Always make sure the candidate rings you once they have resigned so you can be sure they are on board.

I will never forget the professional services firm who sent out a bottle of champagne with an offer of employment, only for it not to be signed and the candidate joined a competitor organisation!  Never ever celebrate a new hire until the ink is dry on the contract and they have resigned.

Be confident, in control and clear throughout the hiring process.  This will ensure all parties are on the same page before any contracts are drafted and welcome emails sent.  Engaging the right talent from the very start will save embarrassment, frustration and ultimately re-work.

 

Are you struggling to find and hire the right people? At nicoleunderwood we specialise in executive search, recruitment and retention strategies. Contact us here to discuss how we can assist in finding and keeping the right talent for your organisation. 

 

Does your job spec answer the question “what’s in it for me?”

By | Attraction, Recruitment

When was the last time you read a job description that was fresh, dynamic, exciting and evoked an emotional response? Even better – it really made you want the job? Probably never is my guess. That’s because job descriptions are usually old, boring, outdated and too long. They are costing you candidates! In today’s market, the highest quality candidates – the talent that companies are finding so hard to attract, recruit and retain – have estimated drop off rates as high as 90% once they have read a job description.  Some of the reasons include:

  1. Doesn’t excite or engage them
  2. Work looks exactly the same as their current position
  3. Their skills don’t meet all the “essential” criteria
  4. Unclear, unprofessional and ‘reactive’ language
  5. Long documents that don’t capture their interest

What doesn’t work 

Imagine all that effort you have put into writing an advertisement, all that money you have spent using attraction strategies and all that time invested in the recruitment process wasted all because of one document.  The truth is that job descriptions have traditionally been a document kept on file by human resources as a ‘must have’ that outlines all tasks, skills, qualifications and experience required to do a certain job within an organisation.  These ineffective job descriptions often include spelling errors, use of internal jargon, are often way too long and wordy as well as being unclear and visually unappealing.

The reality today is that these documents are now being judged by commercially savvy job seekers who know what they want, will pick and choose the jobs they apply for and ultimately accept.  They don’t want just any job – they want an opportunity that presents a better challenge than the one they are currently doing.  Once they read a job description that essentially sounds like the job they are already doing – where is the incentive to change?

The opportunity

This is where the opportunity lies! Most organisations are missing this sales opportunity to entice, engage and excite candidates into their organisation through having an up-to-date, professional and different job description.   If used effectively, a job description can become a sales tool to showcase each opportunity within your organisation as a unique proposition that proves a commitment to investing in people, each role and a strategic recruitment strategy to find the best talent in the market.  One of the best examples I have seen this year was an Editor role with the on-line business community Flying Solo – it was a true sales document, pitching the best parts of the role and what outcomes you would be responsible for driving and how this position contributed to the overall direction of the organisation. In addition, came a values document which detailed ‘what mattered most’ to the organisation and explaination of their five core values and culture. It was inspiring! Needless to say they got a great response and did not have shortage of candidates to interview.

Tips to achieving effective job descriptions include:

  1. Short & simple (not more than 3 pages)
  2. Stating an overall purpose of the role (expressed as an outcome, not an action)
  3. Most exciting tasks and challenges (not all of them)
  4. Outcomes to be produced and key result areas
  5. Transferable skills required to be successful
  6. Current (reviewed every 12 months as a minimum)
  7. Visually appealing

Job descriptions should be used as an attraction tool to encourage candidates to investigate your opportunity further, not to dismiss it and decide on their own accord that it is not worth pursuing.  What are the most exciting parts of your role and how can that be expressed effectively? Is “seeking 5 years SAP experience” as exciting as saying “use your SAP knowledge to lead our system implementation team”?

Keeping job descriptions specific, up to date and focused on the most challenging aspects of a job will result in a wider and higher quality of candidates for you to choose from.  And remember people apply for the work that they will be doing, not the skills they possess – the tip is to write your job descriptions with this in mind.  Candidates in this market have one subconscious question they want answered “what’s in it for me?” and your job as the employer is to demonstrate how your opportunity is better than their current situation and to draw them into the possibility of something better.

nicoleunderwood.com delivers tailored solutions for recruiting and retaining top talent.  

Earth to CEO’s….are you missing the link between talent acquisition & HR process?

By | Leadership, Talent

The balance between utilising internal HR and external recruiters to find the right person for a vacancy is a fine line.  There is a time and place for both in my opinion. The key is having the CEO or Leader take an interest and making talent attraction and acquisition a priority rather than a process.

My first week back for 2012 turned out to be an exercise in frustration purely based on the fact that many leaders aren’t taking the topic of talent and recruitment as a serious priority in their business. I returned full of energy and excitement – specifically around some amazing people in my network who have decided to put their feelers out in the new year.  Not active talent scanning job boards and the paper – individuals who are happy for me, as someone in the game to keep an eye out, to represent them and to make a match. They want a recommendation of an employer of choice – to sell them an opportunity so they aren’t just randomly floating in the market hoping to get it right.

Let’s just remember for a moment that there is a skills shortage.  Top talent is hard to find. The BEST person for your vacancy is more than likely to still be sitting in 90% of the passive market completely unaware your position exists.  Greg Savage, Australia’s recruitment king said last week that it is time to “increase innovation and time on talent acquisition”.  I tend to think many businesses still have their head stuck in the sand running their administrative processes, convinced this will give them the right candidate.  I agree that often these processes will place the job, but will it deliver the very best the market has to offer? I doubt it.

So keeping all this in mind, when I was doing my market research last week, I noticed an opportunity with an organisation, who’s CEO I am connected to on LinkedIn. After reading their requirements, I instantly thought of someone in my talent network working in a similar organisation with the skill set required.  This person is highly motivated, a top performer and is only interested in hearing about real opportunities with organisations that value contributions and support ongoing learning.  He is not an active candidate. He does not read the job advertisements in the paper and he certainly doesn’t scan job sites.  Is he open to a new opportunity? Of course, everyone is available for a change.

I approached the CEO with good intent – to offer him the potential of someone who he won’t find through other methods.  I had a return call from the HR person.  The typical spiel goes “we are running our own process, we aren’t engaging any agencies and will not be accepting resumes from recruiters”.  We’ve all heard it.  So you’re not interested in seeing a high performing candidate who is doing a similar role in a competitor organisation? You’re not open to viewing the details of a candidate who could hit the ground running right now and potentially start delivering results for you in the next 3 months? You want to wait 4 – 6 weeks to run a process with a risk of finding no one of this calibre because “it’s policy”.  Pleeeassssee! Spare me.

This is where I think some leaders have it all wrong.  You don’t need to outsource your entire recruitment process.  If you have capable, forward thinking HR people in your team – great, utilise them, but don’t have tunnel vision that restricts opportunities and potentially the best individuals joining your organisation. There is a balance.  A balance between internal HR and using external consultants who specialise in finding the untapped potential in the market can be a winning combination.  This is the difference between just running a process and being innovative and getting ahead of the game, using all resources, networks, tools and connections to ensure your hire the best person every time.  After all, surely that’s the goal to have the very best people working for you in your organisation?

On the other side of the coin, I know a dynamic entrepreneur 3 years into his business and he is kicking some serious goals.  He is winning contracts here and overseas, hiring some of the best people in the market and has already had several offers from the big boys around town to buy-him out.  What is his approach? Not to palm off the process to HR that’s for sure.  He networks, he is open to opportunities, he speaks, he connects people and the results are he is winning the race for top talent.  He has hired 3 executives in the last 2 months that were not on the market, working for larger competitors and guess what? They weren’t reading advertisements in the paper and they certainly didn’t have seek alerts in their inbox.  He has advocates selling his story, he always makes time for a new introduction and he knows that the right people in the right jobs are the key to his business success.

There is a whole un-tapped market of passive candidates who are open to conversations.  They are open to new opportunities IF asked, IF engaged in a conversation and IF a forward-thinking leader is open to the possibility, without the fear of not sticking to process, standard advertisements and standard recruitment methodologies.  You don’t find passive candidates by your HR department running a standard process.

The next time your phone rings, you get a LinkedIn request or an email recommending someone who is interested in your business – count yourself lucky, be open to the opportunity and for goodness sake clear 20 minutes in your diary to at least consider the possibility. As highlighted by Ross Clennett, the PWC global CEO survey supports my concern by stating that two-thirds of CEOs believing they’re facing a limited supply of skilled candidates, but what action are leaders taking? Make it a priority! After all what could be more important than growing and improving your business through recruiting talented high performers?

 

Who will carry your vision? Tips to develop your successor

By | Leadership, Retention

60% of companies don’t have succession plans in place and yet this article suggests “the most successful CEO’s come from within”.  It signals that many businesses take the approach that it’s hard work to build internal leaders and still relatively easy to go to market to find top executive talent.

This topic sparked my interest this week due to the sad passing of Steve Jobs and how Tim Cook, his right hand man has taken over the reigns as CEO at Apple. I also immediately connected with this article as I too, was in this position several months ago when I announced my successor.  In my opinion, hiring an external candidate to take over from my role, as General Manager would have been a disaster.  To learn the internal workings of what makes the business significantly different and gives it a competitive advantage is not easy to put into words or in the training manual. To groom and promote an internal leader was a long-term process and necessary investment to ensure a smooth transition.

My 2IC Megan Nicholson had worked with me for over 8 years and we had been working towards the goal of her taking over for a long time. When she asked me ‘where are you going’? I would brush it aside saying it didn’t matter, we had to make sure she was ready regardless of circumstances.  I didn’t know when or where I was going, the important thing was the plan to ensure that the business would continue as she prepared to take the reigns.

This process of identifying and developing a natural predecessor was a big investment.  Finding the right talent in the first place is always tricky! The goal is to match skills and experience, competencies and motivational fit which is rare to find in an individual, but to then try and determine it from an interview process is another skill altogether.  In my case, it proved to be the right hire and our journey of development happened over many years and had the following ingredients:

  1. Core values must match – working with someone or an organisation that doesn’t mirror your core values can be an exercise in frustration at the best of times.  It is critical that your potential successor demonstrates the necessary behaviours to lead from the front and execute the vision (not just the experience and results). In this case, Megan didn’t have the recruitment industry experience, however, she did display coachability, a strong desire to achieve and a dedication to making a difference.
  2. “Shop floor” experience – gaining experience from all areas of a business gives a holistic view of the organisation and a deep understanding of the competitive advantage of the business.  It’s easier and often perceived as more genuine to sell the message if you’ve been there.  Again, Megan started in an entry-level role that proved to be an essential step her development as she gained deep knowledge of candidate interactions essential for the business to succeed.
  3. High performance – your replacement must be a top performer. Being able to gain the respect of fellow colleagues and staff will be faster if there are consistent runs on the board.  Of course, results without leadership isn’t going to work either, but quantifiable results is a solid platform to lead from.  In one of my first leadership roles, I was running a team of 7 that included people all older than me.  The night before my official first day, I remember great words of wisdom from my father telling me to show them the results I had achieved and how I could help them generate the same success. It worked – I’ve always taken the philosophy that age is irrelevant; numbers don’t guarantee attitude, commitment and desire.
  4. Key clients – introducing your successor to key clients and stakeholders gives them the opportunity to build these relationships without your constant presence, assistance and approval.  I had clients that had only dealt with me for over 6 years and handing over that opportunity to account manage was a big step for everyone involved. It proved to be an essential step in building trust and credibility for future interactions.
  5. Leadership opportunity – about 4 years in and already one promotion, I gave Megan a Team Manager role where she would have overall responsibility for a team of Consultants and their performance.  This stepping-stone was critical in her leadership development for the top job.
  6. Increase responsibility – like Tim Cook was given opportunities to lead the helm of Apple when Steve Jobs was absent, I gave Megan responsibility for the acting General Manager role on two separate occasions when I was on parental leave. These situations gave her full responsibility for the business and the opportunity to ‘test drive’ the role.  This was an invaluable developmental step in the long-term investment.
  7. Make mistakes – all leaders in their rise to the top have to make mistakes, feel the pain and resolve the issue. Often, mentors/those higher up the ranks can see the writing on the wall, but without wanting to interfere and restrict a learning opportunity, you have to watch from the sidelines and be there to support in the fallout.
  8. Coaching and Feedback – absolutely essential for grooming a successor is honest and straight talking feedback on what’s working so they can keep doing it and what’s not working so stop doing it.  This was a courageous process for me as having a stand-out performer  for so long made it fresh territory to be back coaching on areas to improve.
  9. Timing and execution – when is the right time to hand over the reigns? Sometimes, it will come without warning, other times it will be a finite date in the future.  The best strategy here is to be clear in the communication around the opportunity and it will happen.  So often I interview candidates who say, “they’ll never leave” or “I’ll never get that opportunity”.  It demonstrates the importance of communicating well in advance your intentions for someone to take over.

To develop your internal talent takes time, investment and patience.  In my experience, a combination of recruiting, coaching and mentoring, in addition to ongoing opportunities was the right recipe for success. The fact that Megan and I only needed a week’s hand-over is testament to our relationship, open communication and shared vision and ethos for the business. I am completely confident that I left the business in the most capable hands…could you say the same thing if you left tomorrow?

“It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.” – Steve Jobs

The search for talent is evolving ….are you considering the bigger picture?

By | Recruitment

Over the past few weeks I have met some amazing talent through my networks.  These people are not active job seekers trawling the papers and websites looking for their next move – they are successful business people in their own disciplines who are open to being “shoulder tapped” for the right opportunity with the right organisation.

What are they looking for and why the move? I believe it is what most people are seeking in their work – at the very core of what motivates us to be at work and ultimately achieve and be happy is finding a value match.  When that value alignment is out of whack, it makes it very hard to continue as a high performer, being invigorated at work everyday.  In just about all cases, there was nothing major or significant happening (or not happening) that was making them feel negative or unloved. It’s only through circumstance, change or internal motivators, they can see the end of the road, the next challenge calling or a craving to fulfill a greater need or purpose.

The Dream Employers list was released a few weeks ago which also supports these conversations.  In short, the survey concludes that “people-centric organisations are gaining a competitive advantage in the employment market”.  I am yet to meet a candidate who at interview tells me they will compromise their values and cultural match for a bigger pay packet.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand remuneration is an important piece of the overall value proposition, but in my interactions it is rarely number one.

For example, a senior executive this week told me of her desire to move out of big corporates to find the right opportunity in the not for profit sector. She feels the integrity match is critical and finding an organisation that treats others with honesty and respect is paramount in her next career move. Although we agreed on a minimum salary target, it is significantly lower than at her previous peak earnings.

Through our conversations, I asked her to consider a professional services role – which she was reluctant to do.  She felt that perhaps their values may not be in alignment (just her market perception). My experience with the people I know in the organisation through to Partner level, I thought it was quite the contrary.  She agreed to investigate, giving me permission to present her details as available passive talent in the market, knowing there was a vacancy in her field.

In my previous business, whether I had a vacancy or not, I was always interested in top talent.  Who wouldn’t want to know who is available in the market? Who they know, what they are considering, what experience they can bring – it can lead to hundreds of other things – new opportunities, other talent, new business etc. It’s not what you know; it’s who you know is still very much the case in all facets of life.  The person in charge of talent, leadership and direction was my approach.  Surely, like me, that person is the most interested in getting the people piece right throughout the entire organisation, from attraction through to recruitment, engagement and retention?

Sadly I was wrong.  My approach was palmed off to HR where I got a lovely email explaining that they don’t engage “Recruiters”.  It continued that they do all recruitment internally themselves and if they did on the off-chance outsource it, they have a list of national preferred suppliers to use……

Well what can I say? You missed out.  My candidate was not surprised by the response and said she felt that no matter who you are or what you do, there has to be mutual respect……this example only validated her pre-conceived thoughts.

What a missed opportunity for everyone! The bigger picture here is that she has a network, an executive network that does require services from professional services firms just like this one.  Not only in business, but also in life, we all need to take a big picture perspective that today’s email could be tomorrow’s client, new talent or referral to others in our network.  After all, if you aren’t taking time to at least consider new talent, you can be sure your competitors are. So…..don’t burn your bridges….don’t have tunnel vision….and never, ever cut off your nose to spite your face…it’s an ugly look.

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Are you green and growing or ripe and rotten?

By | Change, Retention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By | Performance, Results, Sales

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re-igniting the employment spark….or is it time to break up?

By | Recruitment, Retention

Re-igniting the employment spark….or is it time to break up?This week I caught up with a friend and old colleague who is incredibility dedicated, loyal, hard working and keen to contribute to an organisation.  She is a real gem, a selfless employee who always wants the best for others and is always willing to do what is needed to achieve results.  So I was surprised to hear that she is feeling disconnected with her current employer and she is lacking in drive, energy and enthusiasm that she usually exuberates. At a recent strategy meeting one of her efficiency ideas was cut down, she felt a lack of acknowledgement and now feels there is a real mismatch with her personal values and the company values.  She is feeling unsupported, demotivated and is now considering a career move.

As I listened to the story unfold, I found myself in her employers shoes…..I  bet they have no idea that she feels this way and that they are on the verge of losing a highly talented individual (who is on her third promotion with the company). How can these situations be prevented and resolved? I understand they can’t all be saved – but there are better ways to maximise the retention of top talent in the long term.

Consider the stats that 20% of the Australian workforce will change jobs each year and 82% of Aussies are always on the lookout for new opportunities  – it becomes critical that the same effort that goes into sourcing, selecting and recruiting someone, goes into communicating, challenging and retaining them.  But sadly this is not often the case – companies tend to spend mega bucks on their recruitment budgets and very little on their retention strategies.

Of course it got me thinking from her point of view – what can you do when you fall out of love with your job?

In my experience recruiting and placing candidates with clients across a wide range of roles, industries and disciplines, it is quite common for this to happen at various stages in an employment life cycle – especially in the first 12 months.  In this early stage, it is easy to feel that perhaps you made the wrong decision, or the grass isn’t greener on the other side  – you can jump to conclusions, don’t speak up and ‘hope’ that things improve.  Recently a senior marketing executive told me that she had come close several times to throwing it all in during her probation period.   This was due to her frustration over a range of issues.  What solved it was having a conversation with a CEO that opened up communication where both parties were able to clear the air and re-set their expectations. Outcome – happy, engaged and productive employee.

It is becoming harder and harder for organisations to retain their top talent from entry level roles through to executives.  This week’s conversations just highlight what is happening to many top performers in a range of organisations right now – so what can you do as the person in this situation? I see that there are 3 options:

  1. Resign and look for a new role
  2. Change your reactions – if something happens that you don’t like, tell them and move on ie: put up with it
  3. Give the employer the opportunity to discuss, change or explain

Ultimately my friend wants what most people want from their work– to be happy, to feel listened to, to be able to contribute and feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction at work.  In my experience, too often employers aren’t given the opportunity to fix problems, clarify communications or explain their position.  Responsibility needs to be taken by employees to discuss their concerns with their direct manager and confront the fear of the reaction and stop worrying about being seen as a troublemaker.  Problems won’t just disappear or get better in time. They don’t.  The longer you leave things, the worse they get, the more frustrated you will become, with the end result being irreparable and likely you will start looking for a new job.  Give yourself and the employer every opportunity to make things work by having a conversation about what’s working and what’s not and seeing what falls out. At the end of the day, we all have choices and the best choice might just be to find another job to fall in love with.