Friday, May 30, 2008

Poor Management

Happy Friday! With the weekend rapidly approaching, I wanted to bring your attention to an article I recently read regarding poor management. Thanks to Ronald Katz and, today's feature article analyzes how poor management can result in a great employee being let go. Now I know some of you are going to say that some cases are the result of a bad hire - and yes, I do agree with you. However, there a many an instance, where a manager fires a good employee because of their inability to effectively manage. I hope this doesn't ring too close to home, but I thought it valuable to share as we never know when we might find ourselves in a similar scenario. Enjoy -

You Didn't Pick Things Up Quickly Enough
Is it an employee's fault they didn't know what to do?
5/22/2008 by Ronald Katz

My friend was released after just 20 days on the job.

She was given work assignments to complete that had never been discussed in the interview. At her exit interview, her manager admitted he had overestimated her technical skills in the interview. She had not professed extensive technical skills in the interview. She was given no notice that she was to be terminated, just asked to come to the conference room at 3 pm on what turned out to be her last day.

Reflecting back, she realized that there had been virtually no communication with her manager over her last three days leading up to her termination. What's ironic is that she was actually getting a lot of work done then. She felt that she was finally just starting to get the hang of things.

This was during the time when her manager was probably meeting with HR to work out and finalize her termination. At the exit interview, she was told that she "didn't pick things up quickly enough."

My friend had asked lots of questions of her manager while employed there, particularly when given work that was beyond what had been discussed in the interview. But whenever she asked her boss about her assignments, he talked about other things and never really answered her questions.

When a manager says something like "you didn't pick things up quickly enough," this can also be seen to mean, "I didn't take the time to manage you well."

Especially with new hires, managers have to invest a lot of time in integrating the new employee. When a new piece of equipment is obtained for the office, there is often instruction in how to use that piece of equipment, at least for the person who is responsible for using it. We may even send the person to training in how to use the machine.

Sink or Swim?

We don't seem to do that consistently with people. We throw them into situations and expect them to "sink or swim." We cannot afford to have too many new hires sink. It just costs too much money.

It costs a manager something more than money to admit that he may not have managed the person in the way that they needed to be managed. He didn't take the time to figure out how to motivate the person. He didn't figure out how the new person learns best, through careful instruction or trial and error.

The cost is that the manager has to admit that he made a mistake. That he was wrong. It's much easier to blame the now-terminated new hire:

"You didn't pick things up fast enough."
"You weren't communicating enough."
"You didn't understand the culture here."
"You were a bad fit."

In all these cases, the common denominator may have been that the manager didn't do a good enough job in interviewing the person or integrating the new hire into the workforce in the first weeks or months. In every case, the manager blamed the employee for what may have been the manager's shortcoming.

Managing is hard work. It's not intuitive. No one is born a manager. Some people are born leaders, but managing requires training and it takes time.

Good managers can be developed, but only if they are given the time to learn, also the same way new hires need time to develop.

Managers need to master a broad skill set to be effective in all phases of the role:
Understanding how the department operates so that the right mix of jobs is created.
Interviewing (which is so much more than just talking to people) to effectively determine whether candidates have the correct skill-match for the position.

Orienting the new hire to the workplace and to the job and his or her colleagues. Integrating a new hire takes weeks, not hours. Too frequently, managers leave orientation up to HR. No offense to HR, but new hires are too valuable to be trusted only to HR. The HR team has a critical role to play in integrating new employees, but the new hire is going to listen far more to what their new manager tells them than anything HR has to say.

Setting performance objectives so that the new hire clearly understands what is expected of him or her.

Giving feedback on an ongoing basis, not just at the end of the year in an anxiety-ridden performance evaluation.

Recognizing and rewarding people for their effort as well as for their accomplishments.

When you look at all the expectations that we have of managers, it's easy to understand why we invest so much in management development and training. It takes time to become an effective manager. Anyone promoted to management generally figures this out in the first few days on the job.

The piece that too often gets overlooked is training our managers in people management. How to interview candidates, how to select the right ones who can be most productive in their environment, and how to continue to get the most out of them on the job. Managers need to learn how to engage their staff so they give their best effort on the job as opposed to just doing enough not to get fired.

The good news is we usually give new managers the time to figure out how to do their new job, in part because of all the time and money invested in developing this person to the point of promotion.

No doubt, this new manager would certainly be annoyed if after a few weeks in the new position, their manager called them into a conference room and started in with, "You're not picking things up quickly enough."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Building a Strong Recruiter/Candidate Relationship

In today's posting, Bret Pyle discusses the importance of a strong recruiter/candidate relationship, founded on open and honest communication. I am sharing this article because there have been times when individuals have not shared the complete story with me, leaving my client high and dry after an offer has been made. These have been few and far between, knock on wood, but they still happen. My goal with this article is to minimize even the infrequent occurences. Thanks to Bret and for today's article and I hope it sheds light as to why it is so important to have an open and honest dialogue with your recruiter.

How to Set Expectations with Your Candidates
Stay in the driver's seat to maintain control of the recruiting process
5/27/2008 by Bret Pyle

We've all heard of the perfect candidate flaking out at the 11th hour. Reasons can vary from the infamous counteroffer, a surprise month-long vacation, or the candidate accepting another offer you never knew they had.

Like it or not, any time you are blindsided by your candidate, you've lost control of the recruiting process. This negatively impacts your client, your organization, and it directly reflects on you as a recruiter.

You can't afford to lose control when credibility is the currency to all recruiting transactions.
We will never be able to completely eliminate these types of situations; however, the goal of a best-in-class recruiter is to minimize them as much as possible by maintaining candidate control. This control refers to the partnership and relationship that the recruiter drives. The recruiter should always remain in the driver's seat, making the candidate the passenger. Control does not mean forcefully restricting what the candidate can and can't do. Remember, you want to build the relationship.

To help maintain control of the recruiting process, the recruiter should set the tone of the relationship from the very first conversation with the candidate. This includes verbally setting clear expectations as to what each party needs to bring to the table.

At times, this practice can be challenging for new recruiters who may question its value, but the first conversation is the foundation upon which your candidate relationship will be built. The right conversation will positively affect all future conversations and will help ensure a positive final outcome in the recruiting process.

Setting expectations is not just for the recruiter's benefit. The recruiter should clearly communicate the purpose of the conversation to the candidate so both parties understand what is required to ensure success.

During the initial conversation the recruiter should always:
Provide full disclosure of the job requirements, duties, and full responsibilities of the position. At this time, the recruiter should also nail down the expected compensation and benefits. Do not end the conversation without clear expectations about what the candidate needs to make and what you can offer.

Be available to answer the candidate's questions in an open and transparent manner.

Keep in close contact with the candidate through the qualification, interview and offer processes.

Let the candidate know where they stand in the hiring process and provide constructive feedback when necessary.

On the flip side, the candidate should always:
Provide you with full disclosure of their job search status. This will include, if possible, the companies or agencies that they have submitted their resumes to, the companies they are actively engaged with and the status of each of those engagements.

Provide you with a well-written resume, examples of their work when applicable and being available to answer in-depth questions about their background.

Keep you well-informed of any changes in their availability to interview or anything that would prevent them from starting a new role, including vacations that may conflict with your company's or client's schedule.

This is not a one-way or a one-time process. This should be the standard for each and every initial candidate conversation.

As a recruiter, ask your candidate: "Has anything changed in your search status?" on a recurring basis. I've seen more "back outs" in my career due to the recruiter not having a 360-degree view of the candidate, their motivations, and all opportunities they are exploring.

The goal of the first conversation is for the candidate to leave with a clear understanding that you're a professional, an expert in your industry, and a partner in the process. Also, that an open and honest line of communication is a critical component to the recruiting process.

You'll find one of two things when you discuss these mutually beneficial expectations with your candidate:

The candidate is amenable with the expectations set and it is clear based on their active participation with you during the conversation that they are engaged and committed to the role and interested in partnering with you throughout the process.

Or, your candidate will not be completely engaged with the process even after you talk through their objections and have presented the benefits associated with each of the aforementioned expectations. For example, the candidate may not be open to sharing their past salary history or their desired rate with you, they may not be open to keeping you informed on their search status, or unwilling to confirm changes with you in a timely manner. These are the candidates you potentially will want to pass on. I say potentially as I've been in this business long enough to know that the recruiting process requires us to be flexible (especially when working with top-notch candidates). Make this decision with one caveat: a candidate who is unwilling to conform to simple parameters will be more likely to throw you for a loop at some point in your recruiting process.

Know what category your candidate fits into and resolve any red flags before proceeding. After the initial conversation, touch base with your active candidates often. Determine whether anything has changed in their status and uncover and resolve any additional concerns.
Reconfirm their ongoing commitment to the opportunity. Many of us have learned the hard way that things change quickly, at time daily! Reconnecting with candidates often will minimize being caught off guard.

You must drive the recruiting process; the recruiting process should not drive you. To keep your candidates as partners in the process, do your part to proactively and routinely reach out, engage, and set mutually beneficial expectations with them. By driving the process, you will stay in control, help your candidates land an amazing job, and achieve record placement results.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Will Unemployment Rise? Some Economists Think So

A recent article from the Associated Press on indicated that while the housing crisis may be turning the corner, our economy and unemployment may worsen. Not a feel good story for a Monday morning - but one I thought pertinent to share. Let me know your thoughts and have a great week!

Forecasters See Weak Economy, But Housing Rebound
Monday, May 19, 2008
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — First the good news: The worst of the painful housing slump and the credit crunch might come to an end this year. Now the bad: The economy will weaken further and unemployment will rise.

That's the latest outlook from forecasters in a survey to be released Monday by the National Association for Business Economics, also known by its acronym NABE. It will take time for any rays of light to poke through the economic clouds, though.

A growing number of economists believe the country is on the brink of a recession or in one already, dragged down by all the problems in housing, credit and financial markets. Now 56 percent of the economists think the economy has started or will enter a recession this year. That's up from 45 percent in a survey in February. If there is a recession, it probably will be short and shallow, economists said.

Forecasters downgraded their projections for economic growth. They now predict the economy, which grew by 2.2 percent last year, will slow to 1.4 percent this year. That's lower than the 1.8 percent growth projected in February. If the new figure proves correct, it would mark the weakest growth since the last recession in 2001.

Next year, the economy should grow by 2.3 percent, less than previously forecast and a pace that is still considered subpar.

"Although housing and credit markets will gradually loosen their grip, U.S economic growth is expected to only slowly return to health," said Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, president of NABE and chief economist at Ford Motor Co.

Given the outlook for sluggish overall economic activity, companies are likely to remain cautious in their spending and hiring.

The unemployment rate, which averaged 4.6 percent last year, will move higher. Forecasters predict the jobless rate will hit 5.3 percent this year and 5.6 percent next year.

Forecasters are hopeful that the housing slump — in terms of home sales — will hit bottom this year. However, economists were divided over whether the low point would be reached in the second, third or fourth quarters of this year. House prices, though, are still expected to drop this year and next.

On the credit front, economists predict conditions will improve in the second half of this year.
"The economy is still going to be weak in the very near term, but the worst is likely to end this year with respect to the housing decline and the credit crunch," said Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Bank of America's Investment Strategies Group, who was involved in the NABE survey. The survey of 52 forecasters was conducted April 17 through May 1.

Weakness in housing was cited as the factor most responsible for the economy's troubles. That was closely followed by credit problems and high energy, food and commodity prices.

With food prices marching upward, gasoline prices closing in on $4 a gallon nationwide and oil hitting a record high near $128 a barrel, inflation should rise. Consumer prices will increase 3.6 percent this year, up from a previous forecast of a 3 percent rise. Next year, prices should calm down a bit, with the inflation rate clocking in at 2.4 percent.

To bolster the economy, the Federal Reserve has been cutting a key interest rate since last September. However, when the Fed last lowered rates, in April to 2 percent, policymakers signaled that their rate-cutting campaign may be drawing to a close. Fed policymakers are concerned that moving rates lower could aggravate inflation. At the same time, they are hopeful that their powerful rate cuts plus the government's $168 billion stimulus package of tax rebates for people and tax breaks for businesses will lift the country out of its slump.

The forecasters believe the Fed will hold its key rate steady at 2 percent though the rest of this year. However, they predict the Fed will start bumping up rates next year to ward off inflation. They believe the Fed's key rate will rise to 3 percent by the end of 2009.

Economists, meanwhile, had mixed thoughts about the extent to which tax rebates will be spent this year. The more spent, the more energizing effect they will have on the economy. Roughly 35 percent thought households will spend 26 to 50 percent of the rebates, while a quarter believe 25 percent or less would be spent. Thirty-one percent thought 51 to 75 percent would be spent.
"We're likely to see the boost from tax rebates fading later in the year," Reaser predicted. "The recovery is expected to be quite muted."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Organizational Branding

Our recruiting firm recently executed a branding change, including changing our organization name from Management Recruiters of Lancaster County to The Q Works Group. There exists a plethora of reasons why we undertook such an endeavor, but amongst them was an underlying theme of branding. As Harry Griendling highlights in his recent article, organizational branding has become a hot topic and one that many companies are dumping serious dollars into, and many case to no avail.

When I look at myself and the recruiting I do for my clients, I know that I am only as good as the level of service and caliber of candidate I provide. That's my brand - and I don't spend a dime!

Organizations are only as good as the product or service they provide and the staff they employ. Bad product - poor service, you can spend millions of dollars in branding but if those products and services aren't addressed, all that branding money just went right down the drain. So my two cents, for what it's worth, direct all that branding money towards improving the product and service you deliver to your customers, and your brand will fall into place.

I am off my soapbox - Enjoy todays article.

The Most Effective Way to Change Your Brand
It doesn't even require a designated branding budget
Harry Griendling
DoubleStar, Inc.

One of my favorite recent hot topics in recruiting is employer branding.

The concept goes like this: All employers have a brand for the product or service they provide. So, too, they can develop a brand as a place to work. Everyone in the recruitment advertising world stands ready to help us build employer brands, including job boards (delivery vehicles for electronic employment advertising). Some firms have even devised ways to measure employer brand awareness and incorporate these results into targeted branding campaigns.

There's only one catch to all of this brand happiness: Most employers really don't have employer brands. At least not in the way the term is currently used.

The Branding Illusion

I recently attended a conference where a newly appointed recruiting manager proudly presented his new branding campaign. The company needed to promote its employer brand, he explained, because the company was a solid place to work but a well-kept secret in its industry. This was hurting recruiting results at a time when they were growing aggressively.

His recruitment advertising firm had created a new set of ads with new messaging, new artwork, a new internal referral program, and new external media placement. All in, the campaign cost a little over $200,000.

This manager was happy to report that as a result of his campaign, resume intake had risen and the company's brand awareness was on the rise. His applicant tracking system was abuzz with newfound talent.

I found this hard to believe, so for fun, I tested this claim. One day at lunch, I stood outside of this firm's offices in downtown Philadelphia with a clipboard and asked random pedestrians three questions about the company:

Do you know what the company does?

Can you name any of its products?

Do you know what it's like to work there?

For all questions, less than 10% of the respondents had anything close to the correct answer. Over 60% of all respondents answered with a plain "don't know." And remember, this unscientific survey was taken right outside of the company's main office.

Killer question: Where's the brand?

A Real Brand

To understand the power of a brand, let's look at a product that rates high on anyone's brand awareness chart: Coca-Cola.

Here's a simple way to rate the power of that brand:

What colors comprise this brand's logo?
What is the shape and feel of this product's bottle?
What is this brand's tagline, advertising theme, or jingle?
What is the price of a 12-ounce can of Coke from the typical vending machine?

Chances are that everyone you know will answer these questions correctly. And chances are that you could ask these questions to anyone in any developed country (and many under-developed ones, too) and still nearly everyone will get them right.

That's a brand: universal recognition fueled by relentless promotion; strong consumer opinion shaped by first-hand customer experience; the promise of something to meet a consumer's need; and the consistent, predictable delivery of that something.

Coke spends more than $1 billion annually on advertising, and more on overall marketing activities. That's about $115,000 per hour, all day, every day, to maintain a brand that is already the strongest in the world.

How much branding mileage do you think the rookie recruiting manager really received from his $200,000 campaign?

The Real Corporate Employment Brand

The simple fact is that, in recruitment, we don't have the budget to brand anything. If you eliminate ineffective mass-marketing jargon from the employment-branding discussion, things get really simple and very clear.

All companies already have a company brand: it's their earned reputation for how they treat their employees. This "brand" is not built through clever ads on job posting sites, nor through multi-channel 'branding' campaigns, nor any other promotional method. A corporate brand is shaped primarily by three things:

How a company actually treats its employees.
What those employees say to other people about how they are being treated.
What the company's ex-workers say about how they were treated while they were employees.

A select number of larger employers (Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Kellogg's, SAS, etc) can have employer brands that are shaped my national media coverage, but this is a rarified breed.

For most companies, employer brands are simply earned reputations. Those reputations usually exist narrowly in industry niches, occupational specialties, or in multiple slices of demographic clusters that are either geographically or occupationally close to the company.

Some Examples

A large pharmaceutical firm advertises that its cutting-edge research offers accelerated career opportunities. Its reputation is that it is a slow, risk-adverse, old-school corporation offering a rich benefits package, easy nine-to-five jobs, and a preponderance of highly paid, mediocre talent.

A large community hospital launches a branding campaign directed at RNs about its quality-of-care mission, hoping to appeal to nurses driven to provide the best patient care and remind them why they got into nursing in the first place. The hospital's reputation is that it is a poorly run institution with lots of turnover, unreasonable overtime expectations, and a mediocre-to-above-average salary structure.

An energy company launches a campaign to lure women into non-traditional jobs as line workers, cable-stringers, and tree-limb removers. The word on the street is that the company favors referrals and relatives of current employees. But it is worth trying to break into because its union-avoidance strategy is to offer excellent salaries, a generous benefits package, a pension plan, and nearly guaranteed employment for life.

In all three cases, and countless others that we could recite, these "branding" campaigns affect no chance in the employers' marketplace reputations. We need to stop kidding ourselves.

Another killer question: How much of a "branding" budget would you need to change these earned reputations? Corollary question: How long would it take?

The most effective way to change your brand is to change your practices around people. The answer to the question of "How do I become known as a great employer?" is simple: Be a great employer. Word will spread. And it's free.

Final killer question: Could it be that all this happy talk about building employer brands is actually good branding by the recruitment advertising industry to promote their services?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Becoming a Great Recruiter

Let me begin today's posting by apologizing for the lack of communication and postings over the last 5 weeks. As some of you know, my wife has been pregnant with our first child and was due April 19th. Due to severe complications, I took an extended leave to take care of my wife and newborn son. Both my wife and son are healthy and home recovering now, and I am very appreciative of the thoughts and prayers many of you sent our way. I am back in the office now so the postings will resume with renewed vigor.

Today's article, from and author Bret Pyle, highlight the importance of recruiters picking up the phone and facilitating conversations. Inundated with technology, many recruiters shy from the phone to rely on email and texting to communicate. Like Bret, I believe that recruiters need to continue to pick up the phone to develop relationships. So the next time you pick up the phone and I'm on the other end, know that all I want is to have a conversation....

Dialing Into Success: Using the Phone to Win
No method to becoming a best-in-class recruiter is more effective than picking up the phone
5/7/2008 by Bret Pyle

Most thoughtful and intelligent recruiters will tell you that in order to be a good recruiter, you have to be good at sales, to be willing to takes chances, and to have the ability to build networks through referrals. All of these are true.

However, one thing often overlooked in this day and age of the Web, virtual worlds, chat, IM, and email is relationships. There is an absence of one-on-one exchanges of information and true conversations.

As a recruiter, you can become too dependent on email and technology, which is a dangerous course to take. You should not underestimate the power of a one-on-one conversation. Candidates can't truly determine your level of confidence over email, and you can't properly portray your tone or easily reassure someone that you've "got what it takes" to find them a new career.

Do not use technology to build your relationships; use technology to make connections.
In fact, do yourself a favor this week�put down your mouse and pick up the phone! You'll find that your output to success rate will climb by getting off email and getting back to live conversations.

I've talked with recruiters in the past 30 days who do everything they can to avoid calling candidates directly. They tell me that they don't have the time or that email is more efficient. In reality, they are afraid. Afraid of taking a chance, making a mistake, taking the risk. And they are simply not prepared.

Recruiters have to realize that if they approach a candidate with professionalism and with something of benefit (a new career, an opportunity to grow, a better work/life balance), the candidate will not bite their head off. We must stop being afraid.

Prepare for the call and pick up the phone. No method to becoming a best-in-class recruiter is more effective than picking up the phone, making the call, and taking the chance.

Look at your current organization. Identify the top performers. I bet you will find one common theme: they are building relationships. They are always on the phone. They use technology as a tool, not as their primary method of correspondence.

Again, technology can help you make the connection so you can build the relationship; it won't build the relationship for you.

No amount of slick or well-rehearsed conversation can buy you trust. It must be earned (by you) over time. Here are four simple but often overlooked things that you can do to earn someone's trust and build lasting relationships over time:

Be confident but not overbearing. It's important to portray confidence in yourself, your opportunity, and your recruiting abilities when speaking with a candidate. How many times have we talked with someone who came across as arrogant? Maybe a salesperson at your local mall or the car dealership? You need to know the difference between confidence and arrogance and how people perceive you. Remember this simple fact: perception is reality.

Be professional. That sounds simple, right? It's not simple for everyone. Remember, don't get off-topic, and stay focused when speaking with your candidates. Don't make the call until you are prepared. And don't make things up. It's ok to say, "I'm not sure. Let me get back to you on that."

Follow through. Show the same commitment level as your candidate. Do not expect them to be fully committed if you are not. If you tell them you're going to call them back, call them back. If they interview with one of your clients and are not selected for the position, don't tell them via email! Pick up the phone and have an honest, transparent conversation about why they were not selected. Also, proactively reach out to your candidate to check in, to let them know that you are still actively looking for work for them, and that they have not been forgotten.

Create surprise. Today customer service is about self-service, fast "checkout," and cost-cutting. Make yourself stand out from the crowd. What separates you from other recruiters? When is the last time you met with a candidate in person? When is the last time you sent a candidate a hand-written congratulations card or flowers when they received the offer from your client? When is the last time you took one of your candidates to lunch or to coffee? Do simple things to surprise them; it doesn't take a lot of effort to really make yourself stand out!

One missed conversation, one missed message, one missed opportunity to be different all means one missed relationship. Recruiting has become overly complicated. We must stop and take stock of what really matters and what sets us apart from the masses. It will always boil down to your ability to build lasting relationships with your clients and candidates.