Posts tagged: hiring mistakes

Are You Managing Talent Or Herding Squirrels?

The owner of a business with several hundred employees once told me, “If it wasn’t for all these people, my business would be easy!”   Heck, if we could just sit in a nice office and watch products and resources get moved around by computer-controlled forklifts while getting paid - and not deal with all these pesky people (who want to be paid and take time off) - managing a business would be a snap, right?   But in order to operate any business, we need people.   And then, we must make some difficult decisions.     

After 25+ years of observing businesses, I think there are two basic models of ’people management’:

  1. ‘Herding Squirrels’ - attempting to do business in what you believe to be unpredictable and unplanned circumstances, sometimes referred to as Managing Chaos   
  2. Managing Talent – an intelligent orderly planned process which ensures that your organization has enough of the right people in the right places doing the right things at all times

 Most organizations, if asked, would say that they operate their organization using  model #2.  (Of course, a survey has found that 64% of people think they’re ‘above average’ drivers, which is interesting).  In my humble observation, however, the organization that actually uses model #2 is the exception and not the rule.

Most organizations are managing chaos with model #1.  They spend significant (unnecessary) time  ‘herding squirrels.’   These organizations see themselves as victims rather than the controllers of their marketplace, circumstances, policies and planning (or more accurately, lack thereof).  There is a kind of, general, sort of plan but it’s mostly seat-of-the-pants flying.  Rather than building their house with a solid foundation on high ground, they live close to the river and keep a lot of sandbags on hand just in case, planning to call friends over when the flood comes.  And then surprise! it always comes.  Darn it all, they just can’t seem to avoid problems, keep things under control and make a profit!       

Is your organization 1) Herding Squirrels, or 2) Managing Talent?   Based on your responses to these 10 statements, you can determine which model is present where you work:

  1. Your organization is recognized for its great people,  just as much as its excellent products and services.  Your customers are loyal advocates and raving fans who express strong preference for your brand over your competitors.   Y  N
  2. Every key position in your organization has a clearly defined, written job description, and every person has read and understands their specific job description.  It is used as a major criteria of regular performance reviews, and compensation, promotions and rewards are adjusted based on the individual’s performance to its criteria.   Y  N
  3. Employee retention and performance in every key position is high.  Key employees seldom leave, and when they do, other employees who have already been identified and trained are ready to take their place.   Y  N
  4. Employee turnover is low, and key positions in critical areas  (i.e.; sales, executive, IT, etc.) are stabilized.  Recruiting, hiring and turnover costs are quantified and closely monitored at all times.   Y  N 
  5. All managers and supervisors are trained and have the information necessary to understand and effectively communicate with the people they manage.  They are actively involved in helping their people develop their skills in order to advance in their career with the organization.   Y  N
  6. The organization’s goals and values are clear, written, understandable and have been communicated to all employees and stakeholders.   The goals and values are regularly reviewed by all employees, from CEO to front-line, and they are the standards of accountability for every employee.   Y  N
  7. All employees understand and are committed to the organization’s goals and values.  Every employee understands how their particular job and individual performance impacts the achievement of the goals, and is rewarded appropriately for their contribution.   Y  N
  8. A hiring and employee development process is in place which attracts top talent and ensures that your organization has enough of the right people in the right places doing the right things at all times.  Only those people who ‘fit’ with the specific requirements of open positions and agree with your goals, values and organizational culture are hired.   Bad hires and under-performance rarely occur.  Y  N
  9. Your organization has a positive reputation in your community and industry, and is recognized as an employer of choice for top performers in your industry.    Y  N
  10. Levels of employee engagement are regularly monitored and are consistently high.  Employees are committed and overall morale is positive.  Problems with employee discipline or motivation (absenteeism, conflicts, poor performance, etc.) seldom occur.   Y  N

If you answered ‘Yes’ to 8 or more of these questions, you are managing talent.  It is likely that your brand is strong, your organization is a leader in your industry, you have very few major problems and your financials are healthy.  You’re on the right track! 

If you answered “No’ to 5 or more of these questions, your organization’s financial statements should probably have a line item for nuts.  It’s probably the way you’ve always done things.  There are a lot of squirrels, but it seems…normal.   Until something goes wrong, and things do go wrong, at the worst possible times, and you have a difficult time understanding why or fixing the problems.  If all of those darned people would just do their jobs…  

But seriously, there is a better, easier and far less costly way of doing business.  In my recent blog entitledThey Are Your People – Not Human Resources“, I discussed talent management – a different and better way of being successful with your people.   
http://www.onpurpose-ent.com/uncategorized/they-are-your-people-not-human-resources/  

Don’t get me wrong.  Squirrels are cute, but spending your time, money and energy trying to herd them can drive you nuts.  If there’s a squirrel problem at your organization, contact me for a confidential conversation.  We can help you implement a talent management process that will make your organization more successful and your life much easier.   

Reduce Turnover and Improve Hiring Success – Here’s How…

According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (4/19/2013 SHRM Bulletin), cost-per-hire in the Southwest Central region averages $2,829.  Annual turnover rates vary widely, but are in the 15-20% average range across all US industries.  Whatever the numbers are at your company, wouldn’t it be better to waste fewer dollars on turnover costs, and to be more effective at hiring the right person for the job every time?    

This article will provide you with specific ideas on how you can do it at your organization.

The Costs and Problems of Turnover

Let’s first look at the hard and soft costs of turnover. 

Hard costs are usually defined as recruiting and hiring; training and onboarding; salary and compensation; and other lost costs that can be quantified in terms of dollars spent on an employee who is hired and subsequently leaves your organization.  Hard costs are the simplest to quantify.

Soft costs are defined as: time spent by management trying to manage, discipline and motivate an employee who is hired and subsequently leaves your organization; the stress and headaches experienced by those who must manage the unsuccessful employee; lost employee or team productivity due to conflicts or underperformance issues; or lost customer opportunities or sales due to the non-performance of the employee who is hired and subsequently leaves your organization.  Soft costs are often hard to quantify, but still take a toll on the organization’s productivity and bottom line. 

Quantifying Cost – An Example

What does turnover really cost?  Let’s look at an example of a 100 employee company with 15% turnover, using modest numbers:

  • Average employee base salary of $40,000.
  • Annual benefits = 20% of base salary
  • Vacant position is ‘covered’ by temps or other employees for 30 days until it is replaced
  • Hiring manager base salary is $80,000.
  • Cost of online or print advertising / posting is $1000.
  • 8 hours are allocated for 1st and 2nd screening/hiring interviews
  • Cost of candidate screening assessments used is $500.
  • Cost of background checks is $150.
  • Training manager or related employee base salary is $45,000.
  • New employee receives 15 days of training during their first ~90 work-days of employment

This company’s annual hard cost of turnover is about $209,000.  That’s about $2,100. per employee.  Every year, this amount is deducted from the bottom line.  Remember, this company makes ZERO return on investment on these dollars.   

Given the spiraling costs of benefits, healthcare, etc., it makes sense to look at every area for cost savings.  This hole in the bucket can be plugged (and we’ll get to that later).

The Benefits of a Better Hiring Process

Now, let’s look at the benefits of improving the hiring success.  An effective hiring process is the key to solving many problems and getting personnel costs under control.  It can prevent many problems before they occur. 

An effective hiring process leads to a high performance and should be part of an overall talent management strategy for any organization.  It prevents the wrong people from being hired, and ensures that the right people are hired.  It attracts top talent, and leverages the employer’s brand and reputation in the marketplace and the industry in which it competes.        

A poor hiring process can lead to increased hard costs in recruiting and hiring, training and onboarding, salary and compensation, turnover, legal liability, absenteeism, employee benefits, customer service and quality issues and other costs which can be quantified in terms of dollars spent on a employee who is hired, performs poorly and then is terminated or leaves your organization.  Soft costs associated with poor hiring include poor morale, opportunity loss, discipline issues, decreased engagement levels, workplace conflicts, lost management productivity, etc. 

How To Solve The Problem

Here are 9 basic steps to reducing turnover and creating a better hiring process:

1. Define what you want by writing a good job description. 

Ask yourself, “What would it look like if someone did this job ‘just right?’”  Take some time to carefully define the important and critical aspects of the job, rather than just finding a person who might do some job well.  This way, you’ll hire the person who 1) is right for the job and 2) is excited about doing the exact job that you want done.  

And since many of the people you’ll be recruiting are ‘passive’ candidates (currently employed and not looking for a job), a clear and exciting job description may be the reason they’ll initially consider a new or better position than they currently have.  

2. Develop an interview worksheet specific to the position and insist that every interviewer uses it with every candidate.  

Passive candidates often don’t have a current or updated resume’, so you’ll have to gather accurate information about them some other way.  Here’s how.  Each person who interviews the candidate, whether by phone or in person, should ask the questions on the interview worksheet, taking note of the candidate’s answers.  Immediately following the interview, each interviewer should use a standard “grading system” to rate the individual’s performance in the interview.  This ensures that interviews are conducted in a thorough, professional manner and helps you capture more of the critical information that will be useful in making your hiring decision later (see step 7). 

3. Require all applicants to respond in a pre-determined manner.  

You want to hire people who really want to work at your organization, right?  The job description should include a pre-determined ‘How To Respond’ process.  Here’s why.  Your ideal candidate should 1) really want the job, 2) be qualified and 3) go through some effort to get the job.  So here is a simple test.  If a candidate will not be diligent or follow directions prior to being hired, they certainly won’t behave differently after they’ve become your employee.  IF – the candidate is qualified based on the position description and responds in the manner you’ve specified – proceed to Step 4 

4. Do a brief (20-30 min.) phone interview first.

If the position will involve working with customers or routinely communicating with others, do this before meeting for a personal face-to-face interview.  Jobs that deal with people require effective communication skills.  A phone interview will quickly determine if your candidate can communicate verbally, listen, build rapport, think on their feet and stay on track.  Unless personal appearance is a critical aspect of the job, it shouldn’t matter what a person looks like at this stage in the process.  

If the initial phone interview is satisfactory, then proceed to a personal interview where you can get to know your candidate better and assess job-specific skills, presentation skills, personal appearance/dress (as required or appropriate); and pick up on any irritating quirks, mannerisms or other things that were not observable on your phone interview. 

When communication is critical to the job, do not waste time conducting personal interviews with a person who can’t communicate well enough to pass a brief phone interview first.   

5. ‘Inspect what you expect’ by performing pre-hire assessments and checking the candidate’s background and references very early in the process. 

This can prevent many employee problems before they occur.  As a stated pre-condition of employment, get the applicant’s written permission to perform any necessary reference-checks (i.e.; criminal background, credit checks, drug-testing, etc.) and a pre-hire assessment.  Always perform these steps early in the process, rather than as part of the final interview or hiring process and never after making the candidate a job offer.  This simple step can eliminate ‘problem’ candidates, and some will voluntarily withdraw from the application process.   

A brief, inexpensive pre-hire assessment can provide you with useful information about the candidate’s attitudes regarding integrity, reliability, substance abuse and authority – which could contribute to problems later in their career.  This assessment will give you valuable insights and specific questions to ask the candidate during their personal interview.

6. Use quality assessment tools to determine the applicant’s suitability for the position. 

New assessment technology can help you determine a candidate’s ‘job-fit.’   You can accurately determine a candidate’s match with specific job requirements, occupational interests, personality and behavior traits; promptness, integrity, customer service and sales skills; cognitive abilities (math and verbal skills; learning style, etc.), work ethic, fit with the team or supervisor; and other potential risk factors or contributors to job success – prior to conducting the first personal interview. 

Specialized assessments can help determine a potential candidate’s suitability to technical positions, sales, customer service, marketing, executive, financial, leadership, supervisory and a variety of other careers and positions – prior to final consideration.  

A word of caution: never use a single assessment as your only basis for selecting candidates.  Instead, use appropriate, valid and reliable assessment tools as part of a good interview and selection process, as described here. 

7.  If a candidate interviews well, and has a close match to the position based on the assessment data, the candidate can advance further through the hiring process to the offer. 

Quality assessments will provide relevant interview questions based on the candidate’s match with the performance model (see Step 8) for the Hiring Manager who is not trained in interviewing.  Interviews are an important part of a hiring process, but are a notoriously poor method of determining a candidate’s actual job-fit  for a specific position.   

NOTE: Conduct multiple interviews (see steps 2 and 4 above) – using peers, team-members or other employees – in addition to the hiring manager or supervisor.  Every interviewer will gain valuable insights about a candidate, both positive and negative.  A good candidate should give clear, consistent answers in every interview.  When your ‘hiring team’ agrees on the candidate, proceed to step 9.  If not, see step 8.

8. Identify key critical positions within your organization for which there are either open positions or predicted growth and demand.  

Perform studies of the current top, middle and low performers in those positions in order to determine their specific differences.  This data can then be used to create ‘performance models’ in order to help you identify what specific characteristics are common to your top performers.  

9. When your performance models have been created, candidates should be assessed early in the recruiting/interview process. 

Accelerate the interview/hire process for those who match the performance model criteria and characteristics of your best performers.  Consider passing on those candidates who match the performance model criteria and characteristics of your low performers.    Our ultimate goal is to hire only the candidates who have attributes similar to your current top performers in each of your critical positions.       

The Potential Positive Impact On Your Bottom Line

Why assume that any % of turnover is acceptable?  The goal should always be to reduce it to the lowest level possible.  Our example company has 100 employees with 15% average annual turnover, costing $209,000. every year.  If we reduce this just 12% (by replacing only 11-12 employees per year, rather than the ‘normal’ 15) the results are dramatic:

  • By reducing turnover at this company by only 25% – they ADD $52,250. to the company’s bottom line.
  • For each employee the company hires right and retains in the future, the company saves $13,933. in recruiting, hiring and replacement costs, each subsequent year.  ($209,000. ÷ 15 = $13,933.)

 There are other benefits to reducing turnover and improving the hiring process.  By improving the hiring process and hiring only employees who match the performance model criteria and characteristics of current top performers in key positions, we will see an overall increase in per-employee productivity, each subsequent year.  Here are some striking numbers to consider:

  • Let’s assume that this company has revenues of $100,000 per employee, resulting in annual revenues of $10,000,000. 
  • Our target is an initial 5% increase in average per-employee productivity in the first year.
  • In the first year, company revenues increase to $10,500,000. (10,000,000 x 5% = $500,000.) without a single additional employee.
  • 3-4 employees in the previous year performed at sub-par levels and were replaced.  Each of those positions now are filled with employees who perform at levels similar to top performers.  Due to ‘natural turnover’ levels at this company, more positions will be filled by employees who perform at or near the level of the company’s current top performers – each subsequent year.
  • Since turnover was 15%, this means that 85% of the company’s employees delivered 100% of the company’s results prior to implementation of the new hiring process.  The actual per-employee revenue was $117,647.  ($10,000,000. ÷ 85 = $117,647.)  Note: some will point out a flaw in calculation here, but remember, employee turnover is a cost, and does not produce revenue.  Lost productivity and opportunity for under-performing employees also can never be recaptured.
  • If all 100 employees were performing at acceptable/goal levels of per-employee revenue of $117,647., annual company revenues would increase to $11,764,700. ($117,647. X 100 = $11,764,700.)

This dramatic increase in overall company productivity and revenues is achieved without a single additional employee.          

There Is A Cost To Inaction

By not taking action to reduce turnover and improve hiring processes, costs continue to pile up.   Productivity and sales revenues continue to be lost.  Turnover and management headaches continue  unabated.  And competitors have the opportunity to snatch your top talent away.

Remember how much time, money and productivity was wasted when you made that last hiring mistake?    Given the high costs and negative consequences of poor hiring like turnover and employee problems, it’s worth the time and effort to find the right person for the job.  Think about the impact that your best employees make on your organization’s bottom line and success.  Wouldn’t you like to find more people that look just like them?   Don’t settle for less. 

This article began by discussing the real costs of turnover.  It closes with the prospect of a return on investment by eliminating the problem, and improving your hiring process.  If you’d like some help, contact On Purpose Enterprises for a confidential discussion today.       

Wrath, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy and Gluttony…and other common problems of family-owned and privately-held businesses

We’ve all heard of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins.’  They’re a laundry list of ‘no-no’s’ for people; behaviors that are sure to lead to trouble.  In every business, we deal with people; and with people, we can have all kinds of problems.  In family-owned or privately-held businesses, however, we deal with some especially sensitive and unique complications and ‘people problems.’      

 As an advisor to a number of family-owned or privately-held business clients, I’ve seen the following unusually tough and difficult problems.  Do you recognize any of these situations at your company?

  1. The company founder was competent when he first started the company.  It has grown and become successful and complicated, and he now lacks the skills or abilities necessary to lead the company, but he either can’t see it or is unwilling to admit it.  Every one of his employees can see it.  He knows there’s a problem but is afraid to ask for help.  None of his employees is willing to risk discussing with him what is obvious to everyone.  Both communication and growth at this company are at a stand-still.   
  2.  The company founder was a competent entrepreneur and ‘people person’ who loved people and created fierce loyalty among her employees as she grew a successful company.  She is planning to retire and turn control of the firm over to a son who has been working at the firm.  The son lacks experience and is widely disliked by the employees.  No one has the heart to tell her.  Many key managers are making plans to leave…right after the founder leaves.  Some of her most loyal customers are entertaining proposals from competitors, in anticipation of her exit.    
  3. The founder continues to do business the same way he always has, in a rapidly changing marketplace.  He refuses to change, persists in his ways and the business is failing.  He has surrounded himself with a management team which is subservient rather than competent.  He has become angry, abusive and manipulative, blaming everyone except himself for the company’s poor performance.  He is unable to recruit and hire top talent for key positions at the company, losing them to competitors.  Key employees have left the company, taking other employees, customers and intellectual property with them.
  4. The company owner expects high performance from all employees, except for a family member (spouse, sibling, child, relative), who holds a position at the company but consistently ‘slacks’ and under-performs.  The owner overlooks the under-performance and keeps the family member on the payroll, while expecting high performance from every other employee.  Resentment is building, productivity is lagging, turnover is increasing and key employees are leaving. 
  5. The company owner/founder created a unique product that became very popular and became a leader in its market space.  In order to grow the business, the owner hired talented people in key positions.  The company has experienced aggressive growth and profits for the last several years.  Despite the key employees’ stake in the company’s success, the founder will not give credit to them, reward them for performance, or delegate important decisions or duties to them.  Lately, the company’s results are becoming stagnant, and productivity is lagging.  Key employees are leaving for positions with competitors or to start their own companies to compete against their former employer. 
  6. The founder/owner takes lavish compensation, lives in a beautiful home, drives expensive cars and is frequently absent from the business; while compensating their management team and employees at very modest or below market levels.  This owner thinks that ‘just having a job’ is a good deal for anyone who works at their company.  The company owner believes they should be able to take any compensation and perks they wish, despite the needs of employees or local/economic market conditions.  Turnover is high at the company and several senior managers have left.
  7. Family members of this 3rd generation company owner feel entitled to jobs, promotions and compensation.  They are waiting for the day when the President hands over control of the company to the next generation.  The President plans to retire but has not officially named or trained a successor.  In-fighting, rumor-mongering, ‘turf wars’, personal conflicts and jockeying for position are taking place at the management/leadership level of the company.  Rifts in family relationships and long-time friendships have begun.  The negative activity is increasing as the imminent retirement of the President approaches.  Word is on the street, competitors are beginning to poach their best employees and some of the top managers are considering leaving, rather than dealing with the continuing drama. 
  8. The founder has family members in many key leadership or management positions in the company.  A few of these family members are either 1) qualified only by genetics rather than experience, skills or competencies for the position, or 2) delivering poor results when compared to another non-family employee who would be more qualified in their position.  The founder refuses to acknowledge or deal with the problem.  Turnover and productivity issues are occurring.  No employee is willing to confront the family member, or to discuss the problem with the founder, fearing for their job security or repercussions from other family members employed at the company.  Key employees are leaving, because they see the lack of opportunity and upward mobility for those who are not family members or friends of the family.
  9. The company owner is a sales pro who has created a sales culture and aggressively grown the company.  She wants her daughter who has graduated from college with a Marketing degree to also succeed in a sales career, to ‘follow in her footsteps.’  She has placed her daughter in the Sales department and despite her nice personality, she struggles and is unable to perform in the Sales position.  The young lady complains to her parent (the owner) about the high expectations (performance to goals) of the Sales Manager.  The Sales Manager tries to coach and develop the owner’s daughter, but is unsuccessful.  The owner incorrectly blames the Sales Manager for her daughter’s under-performance, rather than recognizing her own mistake of placing her daughter in the wrong position in the company.  The Sales Manager has no criteria by which to determine and prove the daughter’s basic unsuitability for the Sales position to the owner.  The Sales Manager is in a ‘no-win’ position and leaves to take a position with a competitor.  The daughter cannot meet expectations and is also considering leaving the company.       
  10. The company founder has a key employee (C-Suite, Sales Exec, etc.) whose performance has become horribly unsatisfactory, far below expectations.  The company’s bottom line is suffering as a result.  To compound their under-performance, the employee arrives late, treats their fellow employees with disrespect, disregards company policies, has mishandled vendor relationships and shows open disrespect for the founder.  Every employee sees the problem and so does the boss.  By any reasonable standard, the employee should be terminated for under-performance.  The problem: the employee is the founder’s son, who was hand-picked and groomed’ to take control of the company upon the founder’s retirement.  The founder lacks the emotional strength and courage necessary to make the decision and terminate their son.  Key employees are leaving and the company’s reputation is suffering.      
  11. The company owner is a hands-on, competent, hard-charging leader who purchasing the company from the founder.  They’ve been successful through hard work, perseverance, good decisions and leading by example.  They have hired good, hard-working people who have performed well in their positions.  But now, the owner is getting tired – due to age and some health issues.  The owner wants to either sell the business or turn day-to-day management duties over to key employees or family members and work a little less.  The problem: no one except the owner knows ‘the big picture,’ or has command of what is necessary to run the company.  The owner has not delegated any of their key duties, nor trained, nor shared any of the key information with any employees or family members.  The owner is stuck in place; no one with whom to share the load of leadership, no time to rest and no one prepared to take their place.  It is truly lonely at the top of this company.        

Do any of these situations sound familiar?  If so, all is not lost.  They are common problems which can happen in any family-owned or privately-held business. 

PLEASE NOTE: doing nothing is not a good thing.  If left ‘untreated,’ they are like an infection and can lead to very bad things sooner or later.  And, they seldom go away by themselves. 

Now, the good news: every one of these problems is a ‘people ‘problem’ which can be solved by making the right decisions and putting the right (or different) people in the right places. 

It won’t be easy, but there are solutions to every one of these problems for the business owner who is willing to solve them.  And most of these problems are avoidable, or can be dealt with in a manner that will

  • allow the business owner to overcome their challenges;
  • have more productive, lower-maintenance employees;
  • succeed in business and be more profitable;
  • enjoy coming to work every day (again);
  • and (perhaps) retire or sell their business. 

 Those are the objectives that most founders and owners whom I’ve met have in mind.  How about you?    

Whether you’re just starting your business, considering retirement, thinking about a successor or contemplating the sale of your business – now is a good time to create an action plan and make some moves.  A wise man once shared what he referred to as ‘The Great Statistic’ with me: “One out of every one people dies.”  In other words, as a company founder or owner, YOU WILL eventually retire or leave the business…one way or another.  I promise.  Even Methuselah and Sons has closed its doors.  And they had a really long run. 

Why not get ahead of the curve?  On Purpose provides information to executives and business owners which enables them to:

  • make more intelligent and informed decisions about their people and their business;
  • put a “people strategy” in place that works to attract the best talent and keep employees engaged, motivated and productive;
  • build a strong brand which attracts customers and talent; and creates high visibility in their marketplace for increased sales.

 One final thought: the time to fix the leaking roof is a few days before it rains.  Have you noticed any ‘drips’ in your company?

On Purpose Enterprises is a talent management consulting firm dedicated to helping you make the most of your most important asset: your people.  If you’re struggling with any of the situations described above, we can help.   Contact us today for a free 30 minute phone consultation.

A College Education Is Not Necessarily The Key To Success….

Job-seekers frequently ask me for career advice.  In this challenging economy and job market, a lot of career counselors and coaches (especially those associated with educational institutions) give young people and career-changers the same advice.  It goes something like this: “Gotta go to college, gotta go to college, gotta go to college!”  

To this, I reply, “Poppycock and horsefeathers!”  About 50% of people – those who are launching careers, under-employed or unemployed - will find no monetary value in further education whatsoever.  Really. 

The fact is that many people who earned college degrees are in a career that is completely unrelated to their college degree.  So, forgive my impudence, but given that inconvenient truth, of what monetary value was their post-secondary matriculation?  My conclusion: a college degree does not necessarily equal success or high earnings.

In the process of watching how the world actually works over the past 30 years or so, I have noticed that some pretty successful people do not possess college degrees.  Take for instance – Steve Jobs (Apple), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Michael Dell (Dell Computer) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) as Hall of Fame ultra-successful drop-out entrepreneurs.  I would also include lots of other successful people like auto mechanics, carpenters, heavy equipment operators, salespeople, welders, homebuilders, plumbers, small business owners and miscellaneous entrepreneurs and tradesmen.    

That said, a person who is well-suited to the rigors of the college-level academic environment; who has the intellectual capacity, ability, drive and desire to succeed; and who has taken the time to determine the right major/career direction for themselves can certainly benefit from a college degree.  Companies need people like that.   There don’t seem to be enough of  them, whether the economy is booming or busting.   

Of course, there aren’t enough highly competent auto mechanics, carpenters, heavy equipment operators, salespeople, welders, homebuilders, plumbers, small business owners and miscellaneous entrepreneurs and tradesmen to go around, either!  And not one of these fairly high-paying jobs require a college education.   

I live in Boulder County, CO, a spectacularly beautiful area with one of the most highly educated populations in the US, and home of the University of Colorado.  I’ve lived here for ~36 yrs. now.  There’s a long-standing joke about college graduates here:  Q: ‘What does the MBA say to the other person at the drive-up window of McDonalds?  A: Do you want fries with that?’   In this market, where college degrees are plentiful and high-paying jobs are scarce, many people have much education and technical knowledge in their field – while working for minimum wage.  At many retailers and restaurants in this area, the person helping you is likely to have an advanced degree – and fading dreams of hitting the big-time.  This is sad but true in many college towns and major metropolitan areas across the nation. 

So, before you invest $40-100,000. and the next 4-6 years in a college education, consider a recent article in Yahoo! EDUCATION by Terrence Loose entitled “Don’t Bother Earning These Five Degrees.”   

http://education.yahoo.net/articles/degrees_to_avoid2.htm?kid=1NQM0&goback=%2Egde_42596_member_196004032

It completely busts the myth that every college degree is worth big bucks.   It just ain’t so.  (Please excuse my inarticulate prose, as I attended and dropped out of the U. of Nebraska, where people talk like that…).

So, here’s my advice for about half of all job-seekers and career-changers: consider the alternative degrees listed in the article - instead of these five dead-end degrees (if you still choose to attend college).  Consider some technical training or some courses at a community/junior college to sharpen up your skills.  Or instead, consider just learning how to do a job in some boring industry, or owning a business.   Really.   Chances are that your grandparents or parents (the people who make money, save up and actually pay for many worthless college degrees) worked for a living.  It’s not so bad.  And you just might make a good living while your friends with the fancy-sounding college degrees are at the unemployment office, figuring out how to pay off those college loans.  Hey, maybe you can hire a few of them, too!

At this point, some of you are asking yourself, “Should I go back to school, or just find a nice job?”  A new Profiles assessment called the Pathway Planner can provide you with some very specific answers to that question.  If you’d like more info, contact me.

Think about it.  When the world zigs, it can make a lot of sense to zag.   

Hey Boss, YOU Set The Tone…

While completing a few assignments for clients, I’ve had the opportunity to see how the boss really treated his employees – and it wasn’t pretty.  

A recent incident caught my attention.   A very qualified candidate, a top performer, one who would have changed the entire fortunes of the company, also saw how that boss treated his employees: belittling them, criticizing them, yelling at them, showing them disrespect and subjecting them to indignity.  As a result, this candidate decided to look for another opportunity rather than accepting an offer from the company.

It’s been said that people don’t leave companies, they leave bosses.  But some bosses are actually barriers to entry for many high-potential candidates.  They see that the person who is in control of the place is not someone who will help them be successful, show them respect or treat them with dignity. 

In many cases, the boss – not the employee – is a major cause of employee under-performance and turnover at the company.  The sad reality is that many executives, bosses, company owners and managers will look everywhere for the cause of employee turnover and under-performance  - except for the ONE place where they could find the answer: the mirror. 

In these organizations, everyone else is the problem.  

You usually hear them saying, “I can’t seem to find good people!”   These bosses complain about ‘lazy’, ‘un-motivated’ or ‘incompetent’ employees.  But not a single manager or employee will dare tell them that something is wrong, and that they could use a little help.  Not on your life.  THAT is a career-ending move and a quick route to the unemployment office. 

But isn’t it strange that in the very same market or very same city, another company seems to find and keep good people, and out-perform their competition?  There is a war for talent, and you may be losing it, whether you know it or not.  And the company with the best people wins.  Unless your company motto is “We’re #2!”, that’s not the best position to be in, is it? 

Admit it.  Does this ever happen at YOUR company?  Believe me, as an entrepreneur, I’ve made the same mistakes and I understand that it’s lonely at the top. 

So, how can YOU, THE BOSS, get some realistic feedback and coaching in order to help you become more effective at working with your people?

If you are sincerely interested in being more effective with your people, you need three things:

  • First, you need a way to look at yourself accurately, realistically and transparently – in a safe and positive environment.  Assessments are an excellent way to get a good look at yourself from a third-party perspective.  
  • Second, you need some time-proven recommendations and goals for changing your behavior, and an action plan for getting it done.  Lots of people are willing to tell you what you should do.  And most will be wrong.  The truth is that most people are just as ‘stuck’ as you are.  So, if you were lost, why would you ask another lost person for directions?   
  • Third, you need a coach or a mentor to help you change; one who will give you honest feedback and tell you the truth – even if it hurts a little – in order to help you.  Changing behavior can be really uncomfortable.  But remember, what is comfortable to you is not working.  If you’re the type of person who doesn’t take feedback well (re-read this blog if you’re still not sure), you’ll need a coach who can work with a person like you.   

So Boss, do I have your attention now?  Are you feeling burned out, under-appreciated, over-worked; and sick and tired of being sick and tired?   Then, why not try something else?  At OnPurpose Enterprises, we help you make the most of your most important asset: your people.  After all, didn’t you hire those people to help you?   

If you’re ready for some positive change around your organization, let’s begin WITH YOU.  Remember, Boss, YOU set the tone…        

Are Your Employees ‘Engaged But Dating Around?’

The classic sad song by Hank Williams entitled ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’ is about a man whose woman done left him, as they say in country music.  He says she’s gonna regret it someday.  From what I hear, Hank ‘got around’ and was a real handful himself so we don’t need to heed his relationship advice. 

My point here is that love, like employee engagement, is a two-way street.  If either party neglects the relationship, or begins to take things for granted, things can get a little…cold, distant and uncomfortable – which often leads to a costly, painful break-up.  And nobody wins in that event. 

Employees, like your beloved, must be cared for, loved, rewarded and shown some affection from time to time.  They gotta feel the love.   Treating your employees right is not that hard.  Of course, some of us could use a little relationship coaching.  But that’s another blog.  Stick with me here. 

Dis-engaged employees don’t always go away mad.  They often just go away.  It’s a fact.  With social media like LinkedIN, your BEST employees – the ones who quietly and faithfully do the heavy lifting while you take them for granted - are looking for hot job opportunities without giving you a hint of infidelity.  Some of those dis-engaged employees used to be your best, most engaged employees.  But they’ve been ignored, over-worked, taken for granted, underpaid and under-appreciated.   So they’ve gone lookin’ for love – at a competitor’s office.  You had ‘em, but you lost ‘em.   And they’re not planning to come back – once they’re gone.   

But all is not lost, dear reader.  You can keep your best people.  But you may need to make a few changes.

In June 2011, I wrote a blog entitled ‘You Don’t Miss Your Water ‘Til The Well Runs Dry’: http://www.onpurpose-ent.com/uncategorized/you-dont-miss-your-water-til-the-well-runs-dry/  It discusses the need to pay attention to your best employees BEFORE they feel under-appreciated and go away.   The latest data supports that blog.

According to the 2012 Employee Engagement Trends Report  (3/9/12, Quantam Workplace), the 3 most important factors associated with strong engagement levels were: 1) feeling valued, 2) teamwork and 3) trust in senior leadership.  (Those are the elements of any good relationship, aren’t they?!) 

Here’s a really interesting data point from an Aon Hewitt study: executive and senior management level workers were far more engaged than employees at other levels. Notably, those working in professional level positions were least engaged, even when compared to those who often have the least autonomy and variety in their work: front-line employees.  Let me see now.   The executives, the folks at the top who well paid but aren’t listening, are feeling really happy and engaged.  And the professionals – the MD’s, PhD’s, JD’s, CPA’s and MBA’s  who are counseling and treating the rest of the employees for depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts; handling their divorces and employee harassment and wrongful termination lawsuits and trying to help them get out of debt - are the least engaged of all.  Yes, I see…. 

Do things look a little ‘broken’ in the American workplace?  I’m thinking…YES!

So, what’s an organization to do?  The Aon Hewitt report lists 4 workplace activities and programs most likely to postively impact engagement.  They are:

  • Career Opportunities.  Do you like being stuck in a dead-end job?  Neither do your employees.  They have to get out of the house, experience something different and have a little fun once in awhile.  A little job rotation, career development, training, etc. will go a long way. 
  • Recognition.  Absence of criticism is NOT praise.  Catch your people doing something right and tell them they’re doing a good job.  Find something positive to say.  Reward good behavior and results.   The occasional ‘Good job!’ is just like the occasional ‘I love you!’  If it is sincere, it warms the heart, creates a bond and lasts for awhile.
  • Organizational Reputation.  The same study says ‘Employees join organizations that have a reputation as a best employer…’   And how do companies gain a reputation as a best employer?  By BEING a best employer.   You can fool a lot of people about who you are, but you can’t fool your spouse.  They know what you look like in your underwear, and they love you anyway.   Employees know the real you, and they tell other people the truth, whether you like it or not.
  • Communication.  I’d be a great communicator if my wife would just listen to me!  But seriously, when two-way communication is taking place, and everyone – from top to bottom – understands and agrees on the organization’s objectives and what is required for success, things tend to work better.  If you’re able to speak freely and handle conflict, it’s the sign of a healthy relationship.     

Engaged employees are your top performers, your most valuable assets, the ones who produce your best results.  Wayne Hochwarter, the Jim Moran Professor of Business Administration in the Florida State University College of Business surveyed 1,000 people in blue- and white-collar occupations and concluded that engaged employees work harder and are more creative and committed than disengaged employees.  But his study found that those highly engaged employees required some TLC in order to stay engaged.  If they were ignored and not cultivated, the study noted that they began to display characteristics including:

  • Increased stress
  • Lower overall productivity
  • Reduced helpfulness
  • Increased anger at supervisors

After almost 40 years of marriage, that sounds like an unhappy wife who probably deserves an apology, a hug and some extra attention.  And it sounds like an employee who’s not feelin’ the love.  Maybe they could use a little TLC and appreciation.  Or a raise?

By using the Profiles Workplace Engagement Survey and other employee assessment tools, you can get to know your best employees again.   They don’t really want to leave.  They just want  a little attention from you.  We can help. 

     

The Real Bottom-Line Value of Mentors

Top performers want to work for organizations that will give them a little ‘extra.’  They want a guide in the organization, an experienced person who will help them excel in their position and navigate around the pitfalls that might cause them to fail in their career.  They want mentors.

So, why do your BEST employees – your top performers - stay with your organization?  Or more importantly, why would certain people – top performers – want to go to work at your company, and why would those same certain people continue to work at your organization for a long time?

In many organizations, mentoring is scoffed at as a waste of time.  They say, “With employee tenure at an all-time low, why go to the time and expense of developing a new employee?”   It’s a good question.  After all, why would you take a high value, productive, experienced employee away from productive work in order to mentor a new, unproven employee?  They’re just going to leave as soon as they’re fully trained, right?  Not so fast there, my old school management style friends.

In the 2011  SHRM Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey Report, the top 26 factors related to job satisfaction among American workers are listed.  Now, we ALL know the top factors, especially among young under-35 workers are pay and benefits, right?  Wrong.  The most important factors identified in the most recent survey were: 1) ‘job security’ and 2)  ’opportunities to use your skills and abilities in your work.’  But here’s the gold nugget.   Number 3 on the job satisfaction list:  Relationship with immediate supervisor. 

The takeaway: providing high potential employees with an opportunity to work with a mentor or manager who will give them the best possible opportunity to succeed is critically important for hiring and retaining top talent in this ultra-competitive market. 

But what about your current top performers?  Are you paying attention to the good people who are already making things happen for you?  Are they feelin’ the love? 

Study after study shows that people don’t leave companies; they leave bosses.  Most people have a horror story to tell about working for a jerk in some previous job.  A mis-match between a high potential employee and and their manager is a costly mistake just waiting to happen.  When a high potential employee walks away to join a competitor, the opportunity loss, recruiting and replacement cost and management headaches are great.  So, remind me again.  Why is it that we don’t manage our managers, expect high performance from them – and remove those who have unacceptable turnover rates?   

I apologize for using so many sports analogies, but please bear with me on this one.  Teams with lots of talented players tend to win, right?  However – if the coach is incompetent – that’s another story.  The best players poorly coached will not win games.  But, put talented, proven players with a brilliant, experienced coach and you have a winning combination.  Great coaches understand their players, they build personal chemistry with each one of them, and they help them play to their absolute peak performance.           

The lesson here is quite simple.  First, pick employees carefully.  Then, match the employee with the right manager.  Then, once the employee has proven themselves, provide them with a capable mentor to help them develop to their full potential.

By the way, only top performers who have proven themselves qualify for this ‘perk.’  It must be earned. 

In a recent article (Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Mentor Match) in workforce.com, Gary Kranz described a mentoring program at Covance which employs about 10,000 people.  In order to receive mentoring, employees “must meet three main criteria: they must have worked at Covance for a specified period of time; achieved a ‘meets performance’ rating; and have a well-defined objective in mind.”    Kranz also says that, “Managers also must give their approval before an employee is able to participate.”  These are reasonable criteria for any organization to use.

At the beginning of this blog, I asked why your top performers stay with your organization.  My bet is that they stay with your organization for 3 reasons:

  1. They have a good relationship with their supervisor and don’t feel the need to look for another boss who will make them feel good about themselves
  2. They have a good ‘fit’ with their job and use their skills and abilities frequently in their work in a way that is significant to them, they like that, and as a result they are productive and feel engaged and committed
  3. They produce results, are low maintenance and you like having them around – which equals job security for everybody at your organization

Good mentors are just like good coaches.  They’ll build a winning team and a winning organization.  They’ll help your best people create extraordinary results.  They’ll make your organization more attractive to the best people.  They’ll duplicate themselves by modeling the kind of attitudes and behaviors you want in every employee.  And they’ll help you retain the best people – your top performers – longer. 

If you’d like some help in identifying your mentors or coaches, or in building a mentoring/coaching program at your organization, just give me a call.      

  

Always Bet On The Optimist

“You will hear the word “No” 116,000 times in your lifetime. (Maybe more.) Try converting just 1,000 of them to “Yes!” and the world is your oyster.”   – Jeffrey Gitomer

We’re in the midst of a difficult economy, full of uncertainty.  Our government (and others around the world) seems to be run by clowns bent on engaging in fistfights with one another, rather than helping us little people make a living and simply enjoy our freedoms.  One of my financial advisor friends tells me that there are potential investment strategies for both boom and bust cycles, but the one thing that the market can’t deal with is uncertainty. 

There are very few things in this world you can choose.  You can’t choose the world economy; your health (we all know the person who ate right and exercised like crazy - but dropped dead one day); how long you’ll live; your racial, cultural or intellectual status, your mother, father and siblings; the time in history at which you were born, etc.  Not a single one of  these things is within your control.  Yet sadly, many suffer angst about these things and live life ‘through the rear-view mirror.’ 

So, here is my advice.  Stop the whining and worrying.  The most important thing you can do right now is this: choose your attitude and be an optimist.   

One of my heroes was the late Jim Sirbasku, co-founder of Profiles International.  He once said, ‘The world begins at my front door, and ends at my back door.’   This is a truly profound statement, at least to me.  It means that we can control certain things, and that we shouldn’t worry about all the other stuff.  We should set goals and get about achieving them right now.  We should love those we care about, spend time doing the things we want to do, and live a life that we’ll be truly proud of – every day.

Think positive, and keep smiling.  It confounds your enemies and makes your face feel better. 

Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos was criticized for his awkward style of throwing and not-ready-for-prime-time quarterback skills.  The guy just went out on the field, did whatever he could with the skills he had, played his heart out – and won football games.  The wins were ugly, true, but they were wins.  His teammates started to believe.  He didn’t listen to the critics.  He played his game, stayed humble and kept his eyes on the prize.  His teammates are playing their hearts out, too.  This is how optimists do it.      

Optimists don’t always win.  But I’ll bet on ‘em every time. 

Could ALL Of Your Employees Be As Good As Your BEST Employees?

 No matter what product or service your organization provides, there’s another organization that provides an alternative, similar or identical product or service.   With the internet, customers have more control than ever over pricing and every other part of the vendor selection and purchasing process. 

Your people are the only real differentiator in this hyper-competitive marketplace. 

In this challenging economy, it’s tough to win market share.  And once you have it, it can be even tougher to keep it.  So, it’s always important to keep the right people ‘in front of the customer.   It’s critical in a competitive marketplace to make the best first impression possible, and then to deliver the best service possible – every time to every customer.  Most often, the person who is ‘in front of the customer’ is your salesperson or customer service rep. 

Now comes the real challenge.  Some of our people are really good at this customer stuff and some are…not so good.  And as most experienced managers know, some of your people should not be allowed anywhere near a customer

Suppose that you could hire only people who looked just like your best employees?  Suppose you didn’t need to make those costly hiring or employee placement mistakes anymore?    The ideal situation could be described as having employees who are all ‘assets’ instead of ‘average.’

Eventually all of your employees can look like your best employees.  Imagine the impact that would have on your organization: 

  • What would your annual sales, growth and profitability look like if every salesperson sold like your best salesperson?
  • What would your teams and productivity levels look like if every manager and supervisor was as effective as your most effective manager or supervisor?
  • What would your organization’s employee engagement level be if every employee was as happy and motivated as your most engaged and motivated employee? 
  • What would happen to your customer satisfaction rating if every one of your customer service reps was as effective as your best customer service rep?

You may be thinking, ‘We’ve tried everything and the law of averages always applies.  A certain percent of people we hire just don’t work out.  It’s part of doing business.’   The reality is that if you keep doing the same things, you’ll keep getting the same results.  So, how about trying something different?

The real problem for most organizations occurs and can be solved in two areas: hiring and employee placement.  We must first question the ‘traditional process’ of hiring and employee placement that leads to several problems.

We recruit and hire people with the best of intentions, but some employees just don’t perform to expectations.  Some don’t work out at all, and they either leave voluntarily or they must be terminated.  No one hires people thinking that they won’t succeed on the job, right?  Hiring and turnover costs can be the biggest costs in some organizations.

When placing employees in jobs, hiring managers have good intentions and do their best to interview, select and make the right decisions.  But we have all made bad mistakes.  When that happens, we’ve taken a productive person out of a job, promoted them or put them in another job where they didn’t perform to expectations.  And we’ve all seen the disastrous results.  The person became bitter, de-motivated, negative and probably left the organization.  In this situation, no one wins and the costs are high.      

What you don’t know, the information you’re not getting with your current hiring or employee placement process is costing you money.  It eats away at your profits.  Accepting the status quo of the ‘traditional process’ is like a hole in the bottom a bucket.  You can 1) continue to work hard as you leak more and more water – or 2) you can plug the hole and become far more efficient.  . 

By using Profiles International’s highly advanced, valid and reliable assessment technology, we can perform a concurrent study of any group of your employees (sales, customer service, managers, supervisors, etc.) to assess the specific traits and characteristics of the best, most productive, high-performers (as well as the average and under-performers in the group).   Then, we’ll identify the specific differences between these 3 sub-groups.  Based upon that critical information, we’ll create a ‘performance model’ for you that can be used to identify people – before they are hired or placed in a position – who look just like your best people.

Now ask yourself two more questions:

  • What would your turnover and retention rate be if every employee was good at their job and loved what they do?
  • How much easier would your life be if you never hired – or had to terminate – another unproductive salesperson, employee or manager?

This is not rocket science, nor is it impossible or too expensive.  We’ve helped over 50,000 organizations, large and small, in 122 countries around the world.  We’d love the opportunity to help your organization, too.   Let’s talk!   

Law Firms Sue Companies For Discrimination – But Practice It Themselves

It’s always interesting to ‘see what’s behind the curtain’ in businesses.  Seems that law firms have a dirty little secret. 

For the last 10-20 years, many law firms have made a handsome living suing employers, large and small, for both real and perceived discrimination.  When a job candidate feels they were passed over in a hiring situation due to a diversity issue, or when an employee feels they have been wronged over a diversity issue – a lawyer is always available to save the day!  And the employer must pay, even to avoid a lawsuit.  Litigation is costly and bad for the reputation.  So, in most cases, the law firm will happily negotiate an out of court settlement.

But let the record show, your honor, that the very people who are busy litigating against American employers for discrimination are guilty of the same thing. 

The majority of law associates and attorneys “of counsel” who make partner at U.S.-based law firms are white men, despite the growing presence of women and minorities within the law firm population, according to Vault/Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) Law Firm diversity data released Sept. 27, 2011.  White men continue to dominate the partnership ranks, representing more than 76 percent of partners and 79 percent of equity partners, according to Vault.

But don’t think your company is off the hook, just because the the legal industry is having a few issues.  They’ll still be looking for new and better ways to make your life difficult.  It’s what they do. 

But seriously, knowing how costly diversity and discrimination issues can be to your business, have you considered how your hiring and HR policies can be improved to avoid costly problems like this?  Do you really want to spend more time with lawyers discussing how to extricate yourself from employee problems?   

Consider: it is far easier to hire the right person for the job than it is to get rid of a problem employee who never should have been hired in the first place.  Many problems can be avoided in the hiring process – before they ever happen.  And it’s also easier to promote the right person into an open position, than it is to remove a person later for bad attitude, underperformance, incompetence – or your own failure to make a good decision about that employee’s future with your company.  No one wins in that situation.      

There is a better way.  Check out my resource ‘How To Hire Right – Every Time’ http://www.onpurpose-ent.com/pdfs/Hire_Right_Every_Time.pdf  and call me for a free consultation if you need help finding and hiring great people who are just right – for your job, your team, your corporate culture and your customers.   


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Brand Development by Garrison Everest