Archive for January 2015

Have A Consistent Selection Approach In Your Organization

January 30, 2015

Consider this:  One of your hiring managers believes they are a good read of people; knowing in their gut whether or not a candidate is right for the position/organization and their candidates breeze through the selection activities.  Another of your managers has a rugged, structured, and consistent selection process and their candidates respect the organization’s thoroughness.  Additionally, their peers have an increased respect for the new hires knowing what it took to get hired.  How are the two managers viewed throughout the organization?  How are you viewed throughout the organization?

Though we strongly recommend a formal selection process, it’s just as important to have all hiring managers following the same approach to hiring. A consistent selection approach sends an important message to all candidates and new hires that your organization has structured people processes and you take your talent seriously.  Inconsistent and haphazard approaches to talent within the same organization lead to bitterness and animosity within the ranks of your team.

Develop a structured, challenging approach to selection, empower hiring managers to follow it and your organization will be more successful.

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Use Stories To Define Your Culture

January 23, 2015

When we ask executives if their organization has core values that define their culture, most proudly answer yes and either produce a laminated card they keep with them, or describe how they are prominently posted in their building.  We next ask the executive to tell us about their culture or core values and most will stumble, but passionately direct us to their card or wall so we can read all about them.

Every organization has it’s own culture whether it’s intended or not.  Smart executives define the culture they want, share it, live it, and hire for it.  One of the best ways to define and impart culture is to tell stories that reflect what an organization is all about.

Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, wanted to create a culture that embraced failure and making mistakes.  IBM executives love to tell the story of a 1940’s employee who made a mistake that cost the company $1 million. Knowing that he was about to be fired, the employee typed up his letter of resignation, and handed it to Watson. Watson responded: “Fire you? I’ve just invested $1 million in your education, and you think I’m going to fire you?”

Stories are a powerful way to communicate how things get done.  Encourage your team to share stories that reflect the culture you want, and you’ll empower success.

Kill Two Birds With One Stone Doing MBWA

January 18, 2015

It’s the beginning of the year and if you are like most people, you’ve committed to getting more exercise.  As a professional, one of your new year’s goals is likely to become a better leader.  Why not work on both goals at the same time?

MBWA is a common acronym which stands for Management By Walking Around, invented by Hewlett-Packard sometime in the 1970s, made famous by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman as one of the ‘Eight Basics’ in their book In Search of Excellence in 1982.  BusinessDictionary.com defines MBWA as:

Unstructured approach to hands-on, direct participation by the managers in the work-related affairs of their subordinates.  In MBWA practice, managers spend a significant amount of their time making informal visits to work areas and listening to the employees. The purpose of this exercise is to collect qualitative information, listen to suggestions and complaints, and keep a finger on the pulse of the organization.

The more a leader walks around, not only are they getting better connected with their organization, they are getting more exercise.  Doug Conant, former President and CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, went so far as to track his MBWA steps “by strapping on a pedometer and trying to walk 10,000 steps every day around our headquarters between meetings to check in with our people.”

Empower yourself to do more MBWA and you’ll be a successful and healthy leader.

In The Long Run Soft Skills Always Trump Hard Skills

January 9, 2015

Two IT managers need to make a hire.  Both are looking for a developer with three to five years experience coding in the current hot programming language.

One manager focuses on hard skills – he wants someone with this difficult to find skill who will be productive as soon as they are hired.  The manager hires a search firm and after six months finds the “ideal” person but needs to pay $100,000 and a $30,000 search fee.  The new hire, though technically sound is an okay culture fit and contributes shortly after being hired. Two years later, the difficult to find, “ideal” hire leaves the organization relieving the manager of a departmental headache.   That’s okay because the once coveted skill set is now obsolete.

The other manager within one month hires a person from a LinkedIn ad with little experience but who’s smart, energetic, and a great culture fit.  He pays the new hire $65,000 and trains them for six months.  Seven months after being hired, the same timeframe as the other manager, the employee is contributing.  Two years later this hire is a key member of the team and a superstar programmer adapting to new technologies and continuously honing their skills.

From the time they started their search, it took both managers seven months for their new hire to be productive.  Yet the manager focusing on the soft skills paid much less, found a better match, and still has a high-potential working for them.  Unfortunately, most hiring managers fall into the trap of hiring for hard skills.

Empower your hiring managers to hire for soft skills and you will be more successful in the long run.

Use A Quality Assessment Tool When Screening Candidates

January 4, 2015

Here are a few questions from an assessment a hiring manager used to evaluate a candidate:

     What is your favorite color? red / blue / green / black / yellow

     What pet are you most like? dog / cat / reptile / fish / rock

     What tree best describes you? maple / magnolia / pine / oak / citrus

Apparently the results of this questionnaire are supposed to describe one’s personality and help managers determine whether or not someone is a good fit for an organization.  Sadly, some hiring managers use this tool and, more concerning, some actually act on the results.

Assessment tools are becoming more and more common in the hiring process.  Unfortunately, poorly designed and misleading assessments also are becoming more common.  When evaluating assessment instruments consider the following:

  • Time to complete – don’t let a too lengthly questionnaire discourage candidates; very short questionnaires often are not comprehensive enough
  • Multi-dimensional – a good assessment should evaluate multiple aspects of human behaviors (personality, motivations, skill sets)
  • Reliable and valid – the assessment must measure what it is intended to evaluate with reasonable accuracy
  • Tied to job requirements – the assessment should measure characteristics required for a job
  • Expert interpretation – a good assessment requires certified interpretation
  • Invest $300 to $2,500 – the investment for quality assessments and interpretations varies but the adage “you get what you pay for” certainly applies

Empower your hiring managers with quality assessments and they will make more successful hires.