Archive for the ‘Tactics’ Category

The office candy bowl has been replaced with fruit.  Yay!  One of the many reasons I like where I work is that we actually walk the talk in Wellness – and are pushing the envelope all of the time.  The common snack food has been upgraded.

"Call any vegetable. Call it by name" - F. Zappa


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I watch for certain indicators that the economy is turning around.  The lines are longer at Starbucks.  Customer service is getting worse in retail stores (a reverse indicator.  When they were more desperate for our business, they were nicer). 

Organizational folklore says that one of the first things cut in a downturn is training.  One of the harbingers of spring is, therefore, the return of training.  Here it comes…read this in today’s Wall Street Journal.

I will also check the overall rates of industrial accidents and worker’s compensation claims – with cuts in safety training, combined with longer work hours for the work crew that remains, I’ll bet we’re seeing more injuries.  I’ll let you know.

A classic workplace safety moment. Not my photo, but oh my...

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Common sense is, well, uncommon these days.  I just read a new survey that showed where we could save $2 trillion in health care $$$ in 10 years by doing some simple things with our drugs…you can read the report on the survey here.

Granted, the survey was done by Express Scripts, who clearly have a dog in the fight, but I thought the main points were valid.  

They found the basic human habits of  forgetfulness, procrastination and how we take our medications has an annual tab at $163 billion. With conservative estimates for inflation, this waste would total more than $2 trillion when projected over 10 years.  That alone would more than pay for health insurance reform.  This is good.

The authors  propose some basic approaches in dealing with these behaviors, with the  common thread that they preserve individual choice as they trigger significant improvements in behavior. I’m big on that, and like approaches that are voluntary at the patient level, yet drive decisions that are more cost-effective.

Working with my friends in the CFO community, it is clear that we have to do anything possible for common sense health care reform…our economic competitiveness as a capitalistic economy depends on it.  personally, I have several medications I take, and have been able to make it a habit.  A good habit.

On a secondary note, I am wearing a nifty pedometer and am involved in our company’s health improvement and wellness challenge.  The doc says that if I drop 20 pounds, I can probably cut back on some of my medications.  I’ll keep you posted.  My short term goal?  7000 steps a day.  Yesterday?  4000.  Grr.

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An interesting conundrum. 

In the arms race of hiring, we have always looked for any clue that could reliably predict success.  Good scores in an assessment?  Do they use their napkin properly at lunch?  Do they have executive hair? 

Which brings me to credit reports. 

I feel guilty.   When I speak on the subject of Luck in the Workplace, I have mentioned the rationale of using credit scores to predict behaviors in applicants.  I have worked with several organizations that, on my advice,  implemented credit report checking along with other screening methodologies.  I felt good about it at the time, but that was before the cratering of our economy that began in the early afternoon of October 13, 2009. Our world has changed, and it has changed my outlook on the usefulness of credit report numbers in the hiring process.

Simply put, a huge number of good, productive workers now have poor credit histories, and the usefulness of the report has fallen away.  There is an excellent news story on the subject here.  Maybe in a few years it will return as a useful predictor, but it is causing more problems that  it is worth.

Get back to solid behavioral interviewing, use valid pre-hire assessments, and a good set of application questions.  Leave the credit history alone until we all recover…

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That this time, the job market is different.  Normal job search methods are not working well, yet nobody seems to be offering new ideas that might respond to the modern marketplaces.  In our session at New York SHRM, we emerged with some clever new ideas…

If you want a list of the problems, read my original post here.  While they are targeted to some specifics in the HR profession, they fit anywhere.

Let’s apply some fresh ideas.  I have made the following recommendation to several people – and most of them just edge away from me with a scared look in their eyes.  Whatever.  As Ashleigh Brilliant, the English cartoonist said – “Good ideas are common – what is uncommon are people willing to work hard enough to bring them about.”

First, use LinkedIn in a proper way – research and introductions.  Simply put, posting a resume and sending a vague posting does not work.  Ever.  If you know of an organization of interest, use the search and research functions in LinkedIn to find people inside the firm, then use the power of LinkedIn to see which of your friends in your network knows someone inside the firm.  Ask them for an introduction, and you are knocking at the door with a warm call, not a cold call.  Warm is better.

Second, and this is the big one  –  use benchmarking and research instead of what people call networking.  What most people are currently doing is just plain wrong.  You ask for a brief meeting to get advice on the market and job opportunities, promising to only need 20 minutes.  When you show up, it is a show all about you.  You review your background, then bug them for job leads, then ask if you can bug their friends.  What benefit is in this for the person who is opening up their calendar and rolodex?  A warm feeling from being altruistic, perhaps.  You will probably not be welcome for a second meeting, as there was nothing in it for them.

Let’s agree that people in leadership roles are under time pressure, and they are feeling out of touch with the world because of business pressures.  They have a hunger for current information from the front lines of business.  Use this in your job search.  Offer them fresh information.  Offer something they value, and do it in a meeting that is worth their time.

How? First, select a hot topic of interest to you and to the type of person you are approaching.  Something current.   If the audience is COO, make it operational.  If CFO, make it financial.  If CEO, make it an issue focused on strategic advantage.  If HR, look at workforce planning or performance management.  Want ideas?  Read CFO Magazine, or Fortune, or Forbes, or The Economist.   Then, select 20 or so organizations that are of interest to you as possible employers.  Do a direct approach to the leadership team of those organizations, offering them the chance to participate in a benchmarking of this topic, and all who participate will get to share in the results.

If the goal of networking is to build high quality business relationships in a non-threatening environment, this will give you just that.  You have to be a good communicator, interviewing them about how their organization handles your topic.  You will then write a white paper from all of the information gathered from all of the organizations, and share it with your participants.  This will elevate you in their minds as an expert in your field, will give them fresh, local insight on a current topic.  Best of all, they now know you and they will help you on your next steps, or perhaps they may need you in their organization to fix a problem or two…

For extra credit, have your white paper published in the business press to elevate your brand or status in the community. 

In all of this, you, the job seeker, are acting as a high quality consultant and professional, not a time-wasting job seeker.  Best of all, you are making the job search process more of a “LEAN” process, and advancing your own knowledge as you do it.  A win-win-win.

Best of luck as you implement this.  Don’t hesitate to ask for my guidance on making it work.  Happy to help.

Happy new decade!

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I got several phone calls yesterday about my rant on the USA Today survey.  The calls weren’t about something I misspelled or mis-interpreted, it was about the remark on how social networking and free job sites were hurting CareerBuilder and Monster, the big job posting boards.

The calls were not to pick apart something I said, or to defend the big job boards.  The callers wanted to find out how to it.

Specifically, they wanted to know how to use new tools to get good candidates without having to pay the onerous rates of the big job boards.  It’s not easy, but it can pay off.  Here is what I told them:

First, get working on your employment brand. Get your marketing people (or pay one if you don’t have one in house) to build your employment brand.  Tell the truth, loudly.  Brag.

Next, get online. The people you want to hire are out there, not in the conventional job lines.  With lots of people in the system, you need to use technology in a way that sets you apart.

Then, build a cloud of people around your web portal of high quality people that might want to work for you.  That’s where the branding pays off, and the proper use of social networking is the “game changer” that will do it.

Finally, have an Applicant Management System that asks better questions and helps the low performers self-select out of the system.  This system will work with the free job boards and get your message out.

…that’s the secret to getting  better candidiates for free.

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So, we hire poorly, screen poorly and then are surprised when the last line of defense – performance management – fails?

I spent quite a bit of time at SHRM National listening to the full range of topics, all themed on improving productivity and getting the “HR Thing” right.  Much of it was spent on the administrative side of our world.  Why?  Because it is safe, and it is what we see as the “bedrock” of our world.

It’s wrong.  We should be looking at a better bedrock.  We should be spending our time evenly split on workforce planning and helping guide the organization to a higher level of performance and profitability, and management development, helping guide the individuals inside the organization to higher levels of personal performance.

I’m writing this during the monthly meeting of the Human Resource Professional Development Association.  Elizabeth Stahl is presenting, and she gets this point.  She is pushing people to have courage, take risks, and gain influence.  All of which is true, especially as my data shows that we in HR have a very slow decision cycle and are cautious, and want to protect our paychecks. It is also clear that for this group of mostly senior HR people that we, as a group, think higher levels of risk taking is a good idea…within reason.

Within reason?  Hey, we’re in a “seige mentality”.  We’re under attack, and everyone is hunkered down, protecting their paycheck.  This is a lousy time to take risks.  At the same time, our organizations MUST take risks to survive.  Our CEOs need to have us taking good risks, and helping the organization survive.

Maslow got it right.  First we are focused on survival, then on safety, then on community.

Focus on survival.  Take some appropriate risks.  And accept that these are mutually exclusive.

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You don’t have to be high tech to “get it.”

Thinking about Hank’s comment to my last post as I drove by a car wash a minute ago.  The staff was out front in neckties and white shirts, waving in a line of cars and selling the service of a clean car.   Me?  I’m cheap and I use a discount gas station.  It’s $3 cheaper.

The local car wash chain ran an interesting series of advertisements a while ago.  They weren’t selling their service directly.  They spent their advertising dollars to have their hourly staff talk about the high quality of their bosses and how much they enjoyed the opportunity for personal development and what motivates them on the job.  They talked about how tough it was to get a job there and what they thought of having to wear a necktie.  They were clearly proud of it all.

And, they clearly think we have more intelligence than the average terrier or sheepdog or whatever breed it was that I recently saw in a parked car.

Seen on the street near my house...

Seen on the street near my house...

They never talked about washing cars or coming to Mike’s Car Wash.

My takeaway was that they are clearly a group of high performers at the bottom of the corporate food chain, and that I get more than $3 of additional service at their place. Also, I am impressed that the leadership team is proud enough of their culture to spend advertising $$$ to sell HR, not coupons.

To me, it is proof that good performance management and communication and high standards for hiring all pay off.  I’m going back there this afternoon for a wash…and I’m expecting a good experience.

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From a session –

Why do dissatisfied employees stay and make us crazy?

1. Fear of the unknown

2. Some people are underacheivers and have found a place to hide

3. Golden handcuffs – medical or personal issues

4. Demographics – a child in school or close to retirement

5. Love the work.  They just aren’t good at it.

6. Work is a social club and they’re a member.

7. They have a personal bond with their boss, and they’re boss isn’t holding them accountable

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