Posts tagged: Sales Management

They Are Your People – NOT ‘Human Resources’

About 50-60 years ago, after WWII, the term ‘Human Resources’ came into popular useSince that time, the term has become widespread and acceptable, part of our workplace lexicon.  Universities offer degree programs, and entire organizations are dedicated to professional certification and skill enhancement in this field.  It’s now an acronym, just 2 letters: HR.‘  

After half a century, the world has changed and it’s time for something new.  My goal in this blog is to radically change your thinking; to introduce you to an all-new approach to talent management and brand development - rather than the conventional Human Resources approach. 

The term ‘human resources’ was used to describe and classify a certain thing; an asset of corporations; like buildings, equipment and financial resources.  It could be quantified and moved around by the accountants, shown in the numbers on financial statements and described glowingly in annual reports to the stockholders.

In the 50′s and 60′s, two major influences drove American business: the Cold War and Harvard MBA-style thinking.   

Harvard MBA’s were taught to manage corporations by focusing primarily on the bottom line, producing profits with efficient operations and processes.    Human Resources was a process, a line item, a department with ‘personnel’ that managed ’head count.’  You acquire some, you use it for its intended purpose and you divest yourself of it when it is no longer useful or capable of producing profit.     

The Cold War spawned the creation of many horrible weapons, including the neutron bomb.   A neutron bomb is a type of nuclear weapon specifically designed not to produce a massive explosion and significant infrastructure damage, but rather to completely irradiate an area with neutron radiation, killing all living things while leaving the infrastructure relatively intact. Though a neutron bomb does cause infrastructure damage and some long term radiation (it is still a nuclear weapon after all), they are specifically designed so that ~48 hours after the device is detonated, friendly troops can move into an area and utilize the infrastructure without fear of radiation.  Thus, neutron bombs are generally seen more as a tactical nuclear weapon than a strategic one.

Maybe it’s just me…but I think that the combination of Harvard MBA-style thinking and ‘old school’ Human Resources has created some situations in corporate America that bear a few unfortunate similarities to the effects of a neutron bomb. 

  • For the last 30+ years or so, many organizations have implemented policies (via Human Resources) that have killed all living things while leaving the infrastructure relatively intact.   
  • Mergers and acquisitions, lay-offs, down-sizing, consolidation, off-shoring, job-sharing, risk management, benefits administration and ‘strategic HR initiatives’ have all been implemented to help organizations manage corporations by focusing primarily on the bottom line, producing profits with efficient operations and processes.  The survivors, when there are any, are often in very poor shape.  
  • Wall Street executes mergers and acquisitions followed by ‘strategic HR initiatives,’ so that ~48 hours after the device is detonated, friendly troops can move into an area and utilize the infrastructure.  Out with the old employees, in with the new.  The customers are going to love them.  We think.  At least we can show a profit.  This quarter.
  • The real net impact of this thinking has generally been seen by employees more as a tactical nuclear weapon than a strategic one.  It worked in the short-term, but in the long term, things are not better.  Some skirmishes may have been won, but the war is going rather poorly. 

The results of this worldview and behavior can be illustrated in one word: DETROIT. 

Employee tenure, loyalty and engagement is now at an all-time low (or practically non-existent).  Some organizations experience 50-75% annual turnover.  Terms like ‘shrinkage’ are used instead of what it describes: employees who are so dis-engaged from their job and employer that they steal from them.  From CEO to the front-line, employees move from company to company for a better paycheck and benefits. 

Here is a statistic that I find truly baffling.  The unemployment rate is around 7.5% – YET - almost every organization is having a hard time finding qualified candidates for open positions.  If that many people need work, why aren’t they working for the employers who want them?  Maybe a different way of thinking, an entirely different approach would produce far better results!      

The sad truth is that a lot of organizations, from small to large, have forgotten what HR actually stands for.  A significant % employees think it means something different than HR professionals and executives at most organizations think it means, or would like it to mean. 

This thing - which is far more difficult to define or classify than buildings, equipment and financial resources creates every brand impression and delivers all of the products and services of the organization to the marketplace.   This thing – at every touchpoint and interaction - with customers, clients, constituents, vendors, other employees, potential employees, stakeholders, investors, partners, the community and the marketplace in which the organization resides creates the brand that the public really understands and remembers.

This thing that I’ve been describing is YOUR PEOPLE.   They are not an asset like buildings, equipment and financial resources.  They are human beings, not human resources

Every employee, each individual person at your organization, comes to the workplace (whether physically or virtually); performs tasks; creates value; generates every idea; manufactures every widget; engineers every assembly and structure; maintains every system; oversees the management of every dollar (costs and revenues); sells every product and service; attends every meeting; and serves and supports every customer. 

I close with 4 recommendations/challenges for every executive, manager or owner:

  1. Your people are THE key differentiator in a marketplace full of identical competitors.
  2. A new approach is required for change to occur.  Conventional thinking will produce ’normal’ results.  
  3. Talent management is the missing ingredient in brand development. 
  4. The organization with the best talent (people) will tend to dominate its marketspace.

If you’re ready to implement a radical change in thinking at your organization, contact Brand+People today.     



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.       

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.”

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…        

Humility Is WAY Under-Rated

The silent, humble producers who really make things happen don’t usually get a lot of recognition.   Hopefully, you know who they are.  They just keep doing their job and cranking it out, day after day.  They’re dependable and our organizations couldn’t do without them.  Have you told them you love them lately?   

But whoever brags the most, yells the loudest, struts around with pride claims credit and pumps their fists in the air grabs the headlines and gets the coverage on the news.  Complainers get the attention and take a lot of management time.  Seems like a lot of people have a bad case of “I” disease these days, doesn’t it?   There’s an epidemic among celebrities and politicians!

But in a recent excellent HBR Blog from Harvard Business Review, Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic makes the case that less confident people are more successful.

Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic cites 3 reasons that the advantage goes to the modest, humble person over the cocky, over-confident one, as follows:

  1. Lower self-confidence makes you pay attention to negative feedback and be self-critical
  2. Lower self-confidence can motivate you to work harder and prepare more
  3. Lower self-confidence reduces the chances of coming across as arrogant or being deluded

After hiring a lot of people, and assessing many more, I can confirm Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic’s data.  I’ll take the solid, hard-working producer over the demanding, prima donna any day.  Please note that humility, creativity - and intelligence – are not mutually exclusive.  There are plenty of really bright, creative people who are very nice and easy to work with out there.  If you build your team with people like that, you and your customers will love it. 

On the other hand, build your team with a bunch of intelligent, arrogant, temperamental, demanding crybabies – and you’ll spend a lot of time and money just trying to keep them happy and managing turnover - instead of keeping your customers happy and making money

One last thought.  A mentor once told me the formula for hiring great customer service people, as follows: “It’s easier to train nice people to be good at their job than it is to train people who are good at something to be nice.  So be sure that you hire people who are nice and like to work with people.”   Self-centered, over-confident people seldom care about helping others when things get difficult.  People who are a little less confident, however, will often go the extra mile to solve a problem, give some personal attention and show they care about others.  And that will make all the difference. 

Remember, your People ARE Your Brand. 

If you need some help identifying who your silent producers are; implementing this strategy at your organization; or creating a more engaged workforce, give me a call for a free consultation. 


Discover the Hidden Talents in Your Workforce

In the most recent newsletter from Profiles International, a brief case study of IBM’s Tom Watson, Jr. is presented.  Read it here:

Tom Watson, Jr. became president of IBM in 1952. He recruited electronics experts and invested billions of dollars to develop new technology and planning. As a result, IBM was one of the most successful, innovative corporations during the up-and-coming computer age.  To this day, IBM is one of the most recognized and admired brands in the world.

So what made Tom Watson Jr. so successful?  He focused on the development of research, technology and, most importantly, talent.

In light of Tom Watson Jr.’s exceptional focus on talent development, there are four steps to develop your employees to reach their full potential and succeed:

  • Assess
  • Find Gaps
  • Challenge
  • Mentor

Read this excellent article for more info.  Employee assessments are excellent tools for helping you make the most of your people by discovering their hidden talents.  Need some help?  Give us a call for a free consultation.   Let us show you how talent development and management can make all the difference in creating an exceptional organization and a market-dominating brand.

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’:  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. 


Exploding The Myth of ‘Practice Makes Perfect’

We’ve all heard it a million times: ‘Practice makes perfect.’  It is repeated so often that we don’t question it.

In this blog, I intend to question it, squarely.  Does practice really make something perfect?   Let’s take a look at some practical examples.

  • If I break and scramble 20 eggs (including the shells) into a skillet on a red hot stove, add 3 teaspoons of black pepper, cook for 20 minutes and serve on a plate – 100 times over and over – does that produce the perfect omelette?  Do you want me to fix you breakfast? 
  • If I have never played the piano before, and sit down by myself at the keyboard of the finest Steinway with the sheet music for Beethoven’s Fifth - and play it 100 times to the best of my ability - does that produce beautiful perfect music on my 101st attempt?  How would you like to buy my latest music CD?
  • If I am really bad at math (I am), and I perform a series of math calculations over and over – only making errors 20-30% of the time – but doing those calculations over and over – does my math ability improve to the level of perfection?   Do you trust me to balance the books at your company?

I use these somewhat absurd examples to illustrate a point.   It is not the practice which makes something perfect.  In fact, practice can make something imperfect an even greater problem.  

Habits, for instance, are the practice of something on a regular basis.  The practice of smoking can make a healthy person very unhealthy indeed.  The practice of exercise can make one fit and trim.  One person’s practice of  an inefficient method, costly process or accounting error can be magnified across an entire organization.  Take a look at Congress or the Federal budget for a good example of this.   

At the risk of offending my friends and associates in education, let me address a problem in schools.  Incompetent teachers tend to produce incompetent students, and the cycle repeats itself.  Mabe this is wy Jonny kant spel and is hukt on fonix.

I submit that it is far more important to examine the practices, processes and attitudes which underlie an organization in order to understand how to make it better.  

As leaders, we must occasionally question our most basic assumptions.  There should be no ‘sacred cows’ in a business or organization.  How we think about things is often the first and most important step in creating a more effective organization.   Here are some questions we should ask to stimulate our thinking about key processes:

  • Why do we do this?
  • Is there a different or better way to do this?
  • Could we streamline, outsource, or eliminate this entirely?
  • If we stopped doing this, what is the worst/best thing that would happen?
  • If a competitor started doing this better (and differently) than us tomorrow, what would we do?
  • If someone outside our organization saw this, what they think?
  • What do our customers say about this, and how could we improve it for them?

Here’s a better way to think about practice: In the effective organization, EXCELLENCE is the standard and its practice resides with the individual.  It must be present at every level, and will be delivered to the customer at all times.

Practice does not make perfect.  But practicing excellence can make something that is imperfect a lot better.  And that is a big step in the right direction.

Need some help with creating excellence and employee engagement at your company or organization?  Give me a call.  I’d love to 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, 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.      


Lessons I Learned From Clients In 2011- The Good, Bad and Ugly

One of the best parts of being a business advisor is that I get to ‘see inside’ the business of my clients.  My client base is quite diverse, with clients in many different industries and locales.  One common thread: they have people problems, and they’ve tried to solve them in a variety of ways - to no avail – before contacting me.  Here are FIVE LESSONS I learned from clients in 2011.  I hope they help you overcome challenges and succeed in 2012. 

 LESSON ONE: People are the ‘black box’ in most organizations.  

 I deal primarily with the people, as opposed to the operations or the financials or the machinery or the technology of the organization.  And PEOPLE, not that other stuff that other advisors work with , are the key ingredient of any organization – small, mid-sized or gigantic; for profit or non-profit. 

When you get right down to it, the majority of business owners and managers don’t really understand what makes their best people tick.  They say they do, but they really don’t. 

Most organizations accept a certain level of dysfunction as ‘normal’, like “X% of turnover is just part of doing business!”  If you ask them to identify the specific differences between their top and bottom performers, most managers talk around it, but it always comes down to actual results.  So, let me see if I understand this correctly.  In order to tell if someone will be right in the job, we need to see if they will sink or swim, right?  So, failure is built right into the system.  Along with low performance, turnover cost and opportunity loss.  Hmmm.  Is it just me, or does this seem absurd?

Forgive my lack of diplomacy here, but I would describe the average Six-Step Hiring Process of these organizations as: 1) hire a bunch of people who we’ve interviewed and really think can do the job, 2) train ‘em, send ‘em out into the workplace and inflict them onto co-workers and customers, 3) after a certain period, tell your managers 4) to keep the ones who can do the job, or 5) to fire those who can’t do the job, and 6) repeat the process, over and over.

The good news is there IS a better way.  But there is usually a cost, and it will require doing things differently.  And it will mean that certain people in key positions of leadership will need to admit that they could do some things better, that they don’t have all the answers and that change – even for them – is good.  After a decade or two of paying change management consultants without much of a positive change, perhaps it’s time to pay attention to your people – your most important asset. 

LESSON TWO: The “A-word’ and ‘D-word’ are critical to your organization’s success.

No, these are not curse words.  But to some who hold roles of responsibility and leadership in organizations, they are bitter in the mouth, and close to unspeakable.  The ‘A-word’ is ACCOUNTABILITY and the ‘D-word’ is DISCIPLINE.

I am consistently amazed at the vague and non-specific job descriptions that are used by organizations.  Even top national organizations.  They describe motivational, warm and fuzzy things, and identify ‘deliverables’ and other things, but they so often miss the mark.  This puts the unfortunate employee in the position of trying very hard to deliver what is undefined for a company or manager that is not capable of clearly defining what is expected from the employee.  At these organizations, things are ‘fine’ until they’re not ‘fine.’  Then we have a difficult performance review, and much unpleasantness.

Perhaps this is why ~50% of currently employed people are dis-satisfied in their current job, and would consider taking another job of equal pay and benefits.  How can I give you ‘just right’ if I don’t know exactly what that looks like?

So, the lesson here is to first define what every employee – from top to bottom – is supposed to do.  And then, to measure their performance against that definition on a regular basis.  And then to hold each individual accountable to perform to those standards.   And then – this is the hard part – to be willing to either reward success or punish failure.   That means that some of the people who work at your organization will either be getting raises…or finding employment elsewhere…based upon their performance.

But wait, didn’t I just say in Lesson One that you shouldn’t just hire and fire people if they don’t perform?  Yes.

Here is the difference, my friends.  The organizations in Lesson One lack the kind of hiring or placement process which uses the best methods and technology to put the right/best people in the right jobs for all the right reasons.  They haven’t clearly defined the jobs and the expectations for those who perform those jobs.   How can I reasonably expect most people to succeed in this hit-or-miss system?

The organizations in Lesson Two hire and place the right/best people in jobs for the right reasons, and exercise accountability and discipline in their culture and all of their processes.  As an employee, I know what is required for success; I am able to deliver it because I have been given the tools, training and opportunity; and I can do what is necessary to succeed.  I know that my performance - if it is better than someone else’s - will be rewarded at a higher level at that other person’s.   People expect to succeed in this type of system, and require little or no motivation or ‘management.’   Slacking is easily identified and is not tolerated.  People who don’t like the rules tend to go away, all by themselves.  It’s WAY more fun to work at an organization like this, too. 

LESSON THREE: You must have a plan and clearly defined goals.    

There are two old sayings which apply here: 1) ‘In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king’, and 2) ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.’

Most organizations expect high performance from their people.   Yet a significant percentage of them have no specific plan for their people to follow, and no goals or objectives against which their people can be measured.   Leaders of these organizations usually have plausible, well-reasoned excuses for why they don’t have a plan and clearly defined goals, such as:

  • It’s too hard to predict the future in this challenging economy, so we just take things as they come
  • Things change so rapidly in our industry that we haven’t been able to identify our goals, so we just take things as they come
  • Our leadership team can’t agree on a plan or the organization’s goals, so we just take things as they come
  • We’re just too busy around here to take the time to create our plan and clearly define our goals, so we just take things as they come 
  • Our competitors have been attacking us unmercifully, taking our marketshare and our best employeees, and we don’t know how to respond, so we just take things as they come

This can be defined as the ‘We’re losing more and more every day, but we’re planning to make it up in volume’ school of management.  I try to avoid sports analogies whenever possible, but this one just begs for a football example. 

Imagine a football team.  They’re pretty good, lots of talented athletes, a good quarterback, big strong linemen, etc.   But they can’t figure out why they keep losing games.  And their coach tells them, “Guys, as long as we just show up at every game, play hard and have a strong defense, we’ll win the championship!”  Really?  I think a game plan, incorporating info about the competition’s tendencies, strengths and weaknesses; practiced prior to every game in the season; combined with proper training; with the goal of winning every game by scoring more points than the other team in every game - in addition to a strong defense - would drastically increase this team’s chances of success.  Wouldn’t you agree?

An organization with a plan and clearly defined objectives, which is communicated and understood by every person in the organization from top to bottom – will win almost every time, despite the economic conditions, marketplace, competition or industry trends.  Simply put, expecting your employees to perform at a high level or to succeed at their work without a plan and clear objectives is unrealistic, or worse, a failure of leadership.   Most situations where underperformance is the issue can be traced to this cause.  

LESSON FOUR: Your People ARE Your Brand.

There are lots of companies out there doing ‘brand development.’  They charge big bucks to make pretty pictures and generate copy, develop websites, print collateral, produce commercials and purchase marketshare for companies.  But in the end, it’s THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE BRAND that either makes or breaks the brand.  Think not?  I’ve got 3 words for you: Netflix, Google and Chipotle.  

Netflix.  Last year, in a moment of hubris at the demise of their main competitor Blockbuster Video, the CEO of Netflix decided to change the pricing structure and brand identity before checking in with his customers first.   In only one year, their stock has fallen from $176 to $69/share and they are losing customer like rats from a sinking ship.  Blockbuster, once all but dead, is considering re-entry into the video business.  One person in leadership who didn’t listen – made a decision that cost this organization billions of dollars and its reputation.

Next Google.  The myth is that they are THE hot company.  The reality is that their reputation is suffering because of how they treat people.  Google is the subject of Congressional investigations because of their marketing practices; is disliked by programmers and web developers world-wide; and is becoming one of the most hated brands in technology - gaining on Microsoft.  They operate with a secretive, ivory tower mentality, ignoring their customers and those who have helped them become a technology superpower.  And while they treat employees very well, it has been reported that 1500-2000 open positions remain unfilled at Google at any given moment.  In other words, the best and brightest are not going to work for them anymore.  To slightly mangle a saying from the Clinton administration, ‘It’s the people, stupid.’   People, like customers, current and former employees, vendors and the surrounding community talk to each other.  And they create your brand perception. 

Last, I submit Chipotle.  In this challenging US economy with high unemployment, lack of capital and businesses dropping like flies all around us..Chipotle stock rose from $221 to $341/share in the last 12 months.  This fast-food chain which started in Boulder, CO serves up tasty, healthy Mexican food at value pricing in funky surroundings.  What are they doing right?  Their people – wherever I go in the US – are the best.  They greet you when you enter, they smile, they look you in the eye, they talk to you, they say ’thank you’, they make your food just like you want it.   The food is always good and so is the service.   

Mexican fast food is not hard to find.  Haven’t been to one of their competitors for about a year now.  I don’t like the surly, disengaged people who toss the food at me and generally don’t even say ‘thanks’ when I pay them.  Don’t plan to go, either.   

The food is good, but the staff at Chipotle IS the Chipotle brand.   And I’m not a customer, I’m a raving fan, an evangelistDo your customers feel the same way about your brand because of how they are treated by your people?  If not, it’s time to fix that. 

LESSON FIVE: When you learn something, put it into action – NOW!

Knowledge is not necessarily power.  Having knowledge and being able to do something with it is power.  Chances are pretty good that one of your competitors has learned at least four of these lessons in the last year, too.   He who implements best, wins.  Remember, a wise man once said, ‘Get moving.  The light at the end of the tunnel might just be an oncoming train.’  

Here’s to a successful 2012!  Oh, and if you need some help, please give me a call. 

© 2011 On Purpose Enterprises, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
Brand Development by Garrison Everest