Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Working with the Hiring Manager

As a recruiter, one of the most important conversations I have is with the Hiring Manager regarding their open position. However, many Hiring Managers would prefer to give you a job description and have you run along to identify viable candidates from this rather incomplete profile. In order to successfully identify, recruit, sell, and onboard a potential candidate for a new opportunity requires a partnership, between the Hiring Manager, HR, and the Recruiter.

Today's posting comes from and Ronald Katz. Mr. Katz identifies commonly heard objections Hiring Managers provide for being inactive during the search process, and provides guidance as to how to handle these situations. I deal in this world each and every week, and I believe Mr. Katz provides an insightful perspective and one that everyone could walk away with some value. I hope you enjoy today's article and I look forward to hearing some of your thoughts.

Jul 14, 2008, 4:27 pm ET

How many times have you heard a manager complain, “I don’t have time to interview people! I’m swamped and understaffed and have to spend every minute and then some just to get my real work done!”

This is the one of the classic responses we get when we try to partner with managers to fill their positions. Filling jobs is HR’s job. “Can’t you just find me someone?” the manager will say. “And better ones than you found last time? The last one didn’t stick around very long. I don’t think he even lasted a year. Left after eight or nine months.” Sound familiar?

To effectively fill jobs today, we can’t just keep “throwing spaghetti at the wall” hoping that it will stick. We need to establish a partnership and a process for working with the managers we support to insure that we are finding the people with the correct skills mix who will be successful in our organization’s environment.

Many organizations have clear, well-defined processes for both recruiters and hiring managers to use when staffing. Whether it means using a sophisticated applicant tracking system or some homegrown system using e-mails and online requisitions, the process involved in getting new staff on board is usually well defined. All too often, the hard part is getting our managers to work with us to achieve the mutual goal.

Too many managers are unwilling or unable to actively participate in the hiring process, thereby dooming it to fail. Hiring new staff is too important a task to leave to human resources. This is not to demean HR. But to really make sure we are bringing in the staff with the skills and talent we need, who will be able to get the job done in our organization, we need the involvement, the support, and the active participation of the hiring managers. The first thing to do is to try to figure out why the manager is reluctant to commit their energy to partnering with the recruiter in this crucial process.

Why don’t managers get involved in hiring? How much time have you got? The reasons I’ve heard are as numerous as the excuses terminated staff give for why they were fired. But the majority seem to fall into five categories.

• The insecure manager who is unsure how to hire (”I don’t know how.”)
• Managers who have been burnt in their hiring efforts before (”I’m not good at this.”)
• Managers who are constantly fighting the clock (”I don’t have time.”)
• Managers who think its HR’s responsibility (”It’s not my job.”)
• Managers who are unfamiliar with the software (”I don’t know your system and don’t have time to learn it.”)

Each of these require us to take a different approach to resolve the problem, reassure, and engage the manager, and find a way to make the hiring manager our partner.

“I don’t know how.”

When dealing with the insecure manager we need to draw him out to find out why he feels that this is a skill he can’t master. One of the first things to do is reassure him. Use lots of questions to get him to open up.

• What will the new hire be expected to accomplish?
• Why does this need to get done? Why is it important?
• What are the skills that the new person must have?
• What circumstances exist under which they will be expected to work? Lots of deadlines? Little clear direction? What’s the workplace like?

Use this line of questioning to help the insecure manager better understand what it is that he’s looking for and what results he’s going to get from hiring someone. Lots of people are promoted to manager for their technical or business-related skills. Now he has to learn how to do the more challenging part of the manager’s job: selecting and managing people.

This is where a lot of the insecurity comes from. When faced with the challenge of interviewing and hiring someone new, very often it may seem easier to just do it yourself rather than learn how to select new staff. Our job is to remind him that he got promoted to manager because he did a good job but also because he’s smart enough to do this. Interviewing and hiring staff is a skill, just like any other. It’s not intuitive and it can be learned. We need to help the insecure manager to relax and work more openly with us. Give him a roadmap to follow when hiring and he’ll be able to find the right person.

“I’m not good at this.”

Sometimes a greater challenge is reassuring managers who have been burnt in their hiring efforts before. When working with this manager, you will again ask lots of questions, but in a different direction.

• What went wrong last time?
• How can we prevent it this time?
• What’s the same and can’t be changed?
• What can be changed?
• How should it be changed?

The key is to get the manager over her fear of making another bad hire. Is she concerned about her reputation? Is she afraid to upset the chemistry of her current department? Everyone agrees that they are overworked, and that bringing in some reinforcements would alleviate some of the workload. But the manager sees a cohesive well-functioning team and she’s afraid of the impact that introducing someone new may have. Further, if the last new hire left in a messy termination, this could make the manager gun-shy to bring on anyone new. We all know how time-consuming and ugly (if not downright painful) some terminations can be. Find out if this manager is laboring under the “What if I have to fire this person someday?” cloud. If you’re worrying about firing someone someday, it’s practically impossible to hire anyone.

“I don’t have time.”

One of the most difficult managers to pin down is the manager who is working under unrealistic time constraints. Your approach will be a little different this time. You’ll still use questions, but the manager may not think he even has time to answer your questions, much less interview anyone. A few ways for you to find out what you need to know to find the right candidates are:

• Go to him on his schedule, whenever you can; don’t expect him to make time for you.
• If he won’t give you the time to work out the specs of the job, shadow him, or his staff, to learn about the job.
• Can he delegate the first interview to a senior staff person?

To make it clear that you understand the kind of environment in this group, the intense time pressure under which they work, be sure to make “working under extreme time constraints” one of the strategic skills you’ll seek in candidates for the job. This will make it clear to the manager that you do understand what he’s going through and will increase his confidence in your ability to work with him. Further, if he feels that you really do understand, he’ll be more likely to cooperate with you to insure that you get the right person. Another way to gain the manager’s confidence is to speak his language. Link strategic hiring to performance management. This is a bottom-line, results-focused manager. Show him that you can operate the same way.

“It’s not my job.”

Some managers will still tell you that hiring people is HR’s job. The bottom line is, HR can’t do it alone. We have to convince this manager that filling jobs effectively is a collaborative effort.

• We need her input if we are going to find and hire the best person for the job.
• Without it we’ll just keep churning and churning.
• We can fill jobs quickly, but we’d rather fill them only once.
• Our goal and her need is to be effective, not simply efficient.
• Speed is not the answer, quality is.

If you are questioned or challenged by this manager (”Can’t you do your job? Why do I have to hire people?”) your response must be that “Yes, I certainly can hire someone. But I want to hire the right someone, not just anyone.” Again, find out what is at the root of this manager’s reluctance to collaborate. Is there really an insecure manager under the surface or someone who’s been burned before? Remind this manager that she deserves the best person out there.
Working in partnership with you in the planning phase is the best way to insure that she’ll get that person.

“I don’t know your system and don’t have time to learn it.”

The manager who claims to be unfamiliar with the applicant software is becoming more and more rare, but there are still a few out there who hide behind this excuse. I have found that usually this is just a mask for the real issue, and part of working with this manager is getting to the bottom of his reluctance. In a nice way we need to make it clear that the technology is here to stay and technological advances in human resources are no different than advances in any other line of business. We simply aren’t going back to paper applications and snail-mail resumes.
The business and the market won’t let us. Approaches to take with this manager are:

• Explain that hiding away from the software is no excuse in today’s environment.
• Tell them it’s easier than they think.• Work with the manager to get to the real issue.
• Offer to go through the software again to familiarize the manager with the system, but do not let it become standard operating procedure. You have your job to do, and using the software is part of the manager’s job.

Bluntly put, blaming it on the software is probably the lamest excuse out there. It usually means that the manager is challenged on time, past history, or lack of experience. Our job is to find out what’s really going on so we can use the right tools or the right line of questioning to get to the right solution.

The key to creating a partnership with our managers is not to demand that they accommodate our requests. We need to sell them on the benefits of working with us and the value of their input. We really are trying to find them the best person out there, but we can’t do it alone. Jobs keep changing and the needs of the organization keep evolving. To be effective in meeting the needs of our managers, keep the lines of communication open so we know what they need and can anticipate when they’ll need it. The better we get at predicting what we can do to help their business run smoothly, the more they will see us as the partners we strive to be. Then we won’t have to go chasing after them; they’ll be soliciting our input because they fully understand the value and benefit to them of working more closely with us.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

More Job Losses

A half-year of job losses
As the unemployment rate holds at 5.5%, the outlook isn't especially bright.
By Chris Isidore, senior writer
Last Updated: July 3, 2008: 10:30 AM EDT

NEW YORK ( -- Employers trimmed jobs from their payrolls in June for the sixth straight month, as the government's closely watched report Thursday showed continued weakness in the labor market.

The Labor Department reported a net loss of 62,000 jobs in the month. That matched the job loss figure for May, which was revised higher from 49,000. Economists surveyed by had forecast a loss of 60,000 jobs.

The June number brought to 438,000 the number of jobs lost by the U.S. economy so far this year.

The unemployment rate stayed at 5.5%. Economists had forecast the rate would come in at 5.4% in the latest reading.

In a separate report, the department said initial claims for unemployment insurance rose 16,000 to 404,000 in the latest week. Economist Robert Brusca of FAO Economics said the reading over 400,000 is a "classic recession signal."

And the even more closely watched four-week moving average for initial claims neared that worrisome 400,000 benchmark, reaching 390,500 - the highest level since the four weeks after 2005's Hurricane Katrina.

The four-week average hasn't been at or above the 400,000 mark since 2003.

The job losses in the monthly report were concentrated in manufacturing and construction, two sectors that have been badly battered in the current economic downturn.

Manufacturing lost 33,000 jobs, even as the troubled auto and auto parts makers posted a modest gain. Construction lost 43,000, with about half of that coming from contractors and subcontractors in the home building segment of the market.

But the job losses were not limited to those areas. Retailers trimmed 7,500 jobs, while business and professional services cutting 51,000 jobs.

Mitigating the decline were government employers, who added 29,000 jobs, education and health services, which also added 29,000, and leisure and hospitality, which saw a 24,000-job increase.

Still the report showed a worrisome spreading of economic weakness, according to Lakshman Achuthan, managing director of the Economic Cycle Research Institute. He said this report is further proof that the nation has fallen into a recession.

"This is pretty much as expected, but expected isn't good news these days," he said. "What it boils down to is a drip, drip, drip of ominous information."

The seasonally adjusted average hourly wage edged up 6 cents to $18.01, which was in line with forecasts, while the average hourly work week stayed unchanged.

Wages are not keeping pace with inflation, as the average wage is now up 3.4% over the last 12 months, less than the 4.5% rise in prices over the 12 months ended in May as reported by the government.

Obama, McCain react
The presidential campaigns of John McCain and Barack Obama both issued statements saying that the current problems in the labor market justified immediate action from Congress, with each arguing he had the right solution for the economy.

"The American people cannot afford an economic agenda that will take our country in the wrong direction and cost jobs," said the statement from McCain, the presumptive Republican candidate. "At a time when our small businesses need support from Washington, we cannot raise taxes, increase regulation and isolate ourselves from foreign markets."

But Obama said McCain was endorsing economic policies of the Bush administration that had led to the current problems.

"The American people are paying the price for the failed economic policies of the past eight years, and we can't afford four more years of more of the same," said his statement.

Neither candidate gave much in the way of specifics about the immediate action they are proposing.

McCain called for immediate tax relief for families, a plan to help those facing foreclosure, lower health care costs, investment in innovation, a move toward energy independence and opening more foreign markets to U.S. exports.

Obama proposed immediate relief with energy rebates for working families this summer, a fund to help families avoid foreclosure, extended benefits for the long-term jobless, and assistance to states that have been hard-hit by the economic downturn.

First Published: July 3, 2008: 8:38 AM EDT

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Pressure at the Pump

The sticker shock at gas prices is enough to have me consider purchasing a Prius or a KIA. Well, maybe not but we all can agree that these inflated gas prices need to stop. For me, I drive 35 miles one way so my commute is a little taxing, despite the satellite radio. So every four to five days I visit my local Texaco and drop $70 into the tank of my Toyota 4-Runner. Now don't get me wrong, when I purchased the truck a year and a half ago, I fully realized that gas would be a significant expense. But that was at $2.60 a gallon...not $4 and an arm and a leg.
With gas prices climbing daily, the daily commute can be an added pressure to many Americans. However, some companies are stepping in to help alleviate that strain on their staff. Dr. John Sullivan recently wrote a great article highlighting this new trend. I would like to thank Dr. Sullivan and for today's article and I hope you find it as valuable as I did.
And by the way....Have a great 4th of July holiday!

Jun 30, 2008, 6:00 am ET

Corporations around the world are missing an opportunity both to help their employees during their economic struggles and to build their employment brand image as an employer that cares.

The foundation of this opportunity is the current surge in gas prices and other economic factors that are heavily impacting almost every corporation’s workforce.

It’s almost impossible to pick up a newspaper or magazine and not read about the economic conditions that are putting a strain on almost everyone’s budget and way of life.

Rather than ignoring it or hoping it will go away, look upon it as a chance to “turn lemons into lemonade” and to further strengthen your employment brand image.

It has been common for corporations to offer benefits to their employees to ease their commutes or to help save the environment. However, the recent dramatic rise in gas prices provides corporations with an opportunity to really amp up their offerings, and to demonstrate to those they wish to attract and retain that the organization “cares” about them.

In fact, one study by Dr. Wayne Hochwarter, of Florida State University, found that high gas prices led to more stress on the job, thus impacting employee performance. In his research, Dr. Hochwarter found that one-third of the employees surveyed said they would quit their job for a comparable one closer to home.

Research by outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that 34% of employers had potential candidates who turned down jobs because of long commutes and added nearly 8% of employers report turnover caused by high transportation costs.

Acting now provides an opportunity to build your employment brand because the combined topics of gas prices, food prices, and the mortgage crisis are hot in the media. As a result, any bold action by a corporation is likely not just to be viewed positively by employees and potential applicants but also by those covering consumer confidence and spending in the media.

Efforts by employers to help workers cope with these economic factors will likely be written up in the press and in business publications. Not only would you be helping your workers, but you will also be building employee loyalty while getting free PR to further strengthen your employment brand image. It’s an opportunity that won’t last long, so it shouldn’t be missed.

Many firms have already been recognized for excellence in these areas, including Google, Intel, Oracle, Microsoft, Cisco, Nike, and HP. There are many actions to consider, and I’ve separated the various options into broad categories below.

Promoting Drive-Less Options

The first group of options is relatively cheap, but they can have a significant impact on the amount of money your employees need to pay in commute costs. 12 “drive-less” options include:

Compressed workweek options. Offer schedules that allow commuters to reduce the number of days they come in to work. A 4-day, 10-hour workweek is the most popular, but some professions also use 3-day, 12-hour weeks. The key is to not just offer these programs, but to encourage individual managers to allow their employees to actually take advantage of them. If coverage is an issue, consider allowing employees to alternate on/off alternative schedules.

Work at home. A related option is to allow employees to choose on their own to work one or more days at home. In addition to saving commute costs, firms like Best Buy have found that telecommuting can generate up to a 35% increase in employee productivity, and research by the Gartner Group found up to a 40% improvement. Allowing employees to take periodic “planning” or innovation days where they spend their time thinking and planning for the future can also be an effective option. Benchmark firms in this area include Best Buy, Sun, IBM, Agilent, and HP.

Satellite offices. By establishing satellite offices closer to where employees live, firms can offer opportunities for employees to use restricted computer and communications networks that cannot be accessed remotely while reducing the mileage employees drive to and from work. Employees that need to use company equipment (but do not necessarily need to meet with coworkers) can decide on which days they will work from these remote corporate locations. Microsoft’s touchdown space is an excellent example of this practice; however, Sun is the benchmark firm in this area, locating offices on all major access routes into major metropolitan areas.

Bike/walk to work. This can both improve health (reducing benefit costs) and help employees save on gas. Companies can facilitate this practice by offering maps that highlight the flattest and quickest routes. They can also help by providing relaxed dress codes that allow employees to wear athletic clothes, as well as providing bike storage space and showers for their peddling employees. Walk to work or walk to mass transit location programs can have similar positive impacts.

Make all-day meetings remote. Rather than requiring everyone to commute to all-day meetings, use conference calls and Web-based tools to allow some workers to attend meetings from home. These options can also save airline travel costs. HP and Cisco are the benchmark leaders in this area.

On-site services. Dry cleaning, concierge, flowers, and take-out food can reduce the need for employees to run errands during lunch and after work. Also, consider vendor-provided gas-saving services like engine tune-ups and tire inflation. Google is a leader in this area.

Offer online training. This can save on travel costs. Also, consider offering university classes on-site, so that your employees can improve themselves without the increased costs associated with driving to a local university.

Reduce lunchtime and snack travel. For firms with few on-site lunch options, consider inviting lunch wagons that can sit in the parking lot. Other options include providing box lunches and snacks on site, as well as menus from local restaurants that deliver, shifting the cost of ordering out to the food provider.

Increase company car usage. Firms can help their employees reduce their personal gas costs by liberalizing or expanding the number of opportunities for employees to use company cars.

Job transfers. In organizations with many outlets (like retail), reduce employee gas usage by offering a one-time option to facilitate transfers to locations closer to the employee’s home. Consider offering internal “save on gas” job fairs where workers can meet with managers from other locations to see if relocation is a viable option that provides mutual benefits.

Shift the organization’s start time. In congested areas, starting your commute an hour earlier or later can result in significant gas savings as a result of fewer backups and less congestion.

Live close to work facilitation. Firms can offer services or work with local Realtors in order to make it easy for their employees to find apartments and housing close to the workplace. The leading firm in this area is Facebook, which offers an astonishing $700 per month salary supplement for employees who live within a mile of their headquarters. University Hospitals in Cleveland is also a benchmark organization.

Share the Commute

Coordinate shared commuting. Firms can help their employees to both save on gas and tolls by facilitating employee carpools, van pools, or a company shuttle. In many large cities, tax breaks encourage corporate van-pooling programs. An additional benefit is the reduced need for employee parking. Microsoft, Yahoo, and HP are benchmark firms. Also, offer a company-sponsored shuttle bus from transit stations close to work or from strategic locations.

Coordinate schedules. More individuals would share rides if they could share similar schedules with individuals who live close to them. This option requires you to work with individual managers to ensure that they make commuting part of their scheduling decision criteria.

Facilitate Opportunities for Cheaper Gas

Negotiate group discounts. Because corporations with many employees have significant buying power, work with local fuel suppliers and individual gas stations to negotiate volume discounts for employees who use targeted stations. Incidentally, try similar options for bulk food items to help employees deal with the rising cost of food.

Buy “company” gas. Some organizations have their own fueling facilities and these firms might be able to find a way to offer that gas to employees. By buying “gas futures,” firms can successfully hedge against future price increases (i.e., Southwest Airlines has successfully done this for its aviation fuel).

Allow employees access to “fleet” stations. Some firms utilize gas stations that provide gasoline for fleet cars. Negotiate with their vendors to identify opportunities where employees can get gas at these low-priced fleet stations.

Negotiate “buy” options. Use the company’s volume buying power to help negotiate lower-cost deals with vendors that allow your employees to lease or buy more gas-efficient vehicles. Vehicles might include scooters, electric segues, bikes, and compact or hybrid cars. (Note: there federal and in some cases state tax advantages associated with purchasing hybrid cars.)

Subsidize mass transit. Offer subsidies to individuals who use mass transit. Some government agencies provide tax advantages to firms that facilitate the use of mass transit (others provide penalties to those that don’t).

Increase Manager and Employee Participation

Corporations can take specific steps to encourage both individual managers and employees to participate in gas-saving options:

Measure and reward managers. Recognize those who are “commute cost” friendly; conduct an employee survey to identify the best.

Executive participation. Have the CEO and senior executives actively participate in company programs (i.e., participating in car pools, biking to work, or occasionally driving the company shuttle).

Gas incentives. Provide gas cards as incentives and rewards for top-performing employees and managers.

Miscellaneous Options

Conduct a survey and ask employees what they think you should be doing.

Benchmark other firms to see what else is possible.

Allow compacts, hybrids, and scooters to park closer to the building to send a message that you care about the environment.

Help them sell their gas-guzzler car or subsidize the purchase of fuel-efficient vehicles.

Add saving gas as a criterion for selecting new facility sites.

Consider reducing nepotism restrictions so that family members can work together and thus, commute together.

Provide Employees with Opportunities to Earn More Money

Because rising costs are essentially lowering your employees’ “real” standard of living, provide your employees with more opportunities to earn more money during these tough economic times:

Opportunity for overtime. Encourage managers to develop more opportunities for employees to work overtime to help them offset the rising cost of living.

Pay for performance. Offer increased opportunities for performance-based pay. Although giving employees “more money” is always a high-cost item, if any additional pay is based strictly on improved performance, both firms and employees can come out ahead.

Increase mileage allowance. The IRS has recently recognized a higher cost of gasoline by increasing the amount of reimbursement that it allows per mile traveled. Companies can help their employees by not waiting and increasing their mileage allotment immediately.

COLA. A final option to consider is offering your employees periodic cost-of-living adjustments. Sometimes this is necessary in order to decrease your employees’ need to look for a second job (or even a job at another firm) in order to meet their family needs.

Final Thoughts
As you can see, there are many options available to corporations. For the best impact, implement a comprehensive program with many elements. Not only will this approach have a larger impact on employees, but it also increases the odds of your effort receiving positive exposure.