Friday, May 30, 2008

Developing a Job Description

Developing a meaningful job description is the foundation to finding the right person to do the job. If the description of duties is too vague, it will be too difficult to identify the skills needed to be successful in the position. If the description is too tight in terms of previous experience (not transferable skills), identifying the right person may take a long time. However, just as in construction where the foundation determines the success of the building, your job description foundation will determine the success of your search; and the employee’s success after they are hired.

Many managers just want to move to the search and hire someone who’s a “fit”. After all, developing a good, effective job description takes time and thought. Managers are being pulled in many directions. Taking the time to think about a position and its goals seems like too much work. Just call HR and get a job description is the mantra of most hiring managers.

Is retention a problem at your company? Take a look at your job descriptions. You are probably hiring the wrong people over and over again.

The benefits far outweigh the time taken to create this foundation.

1) An effective job description will make the skills necessary to succeed crystal clear. This benefits the manager, the candidate, and the recruiter. Why waste your time on candidates who either don’t have the right skills (despite what seems to be the right experience) or who are not interested in some of the required duties? A candidate may look at the description and tell you they are not interested because of this responsibility or that one. Let’s get the objections up front.
2) An effective job description becomes the foundation of the interview, not the candidate’s resume. Sure, you use the resume to ask questions about the candidate’s experience, but what is important is that you are focused on whether this person will be successful in the position (not “can do the job”!).
3) The effective job description will be used after the best person is hired on their first day. The manager will sit down and discuss the position again with the candidate – “Remember during the interview, we discussed the responsibilities and goals of this position?”
4) Then it can be used as a basis of discussion during the one on ones between the manager and the employee after the person has begun working. I am convinced some managers are reluctant to have those discussions with their people because they don’t know what to discuss. The strong job description has quarterly goals listed that provide the foundation for these discussions.
5) Finally, at the end of the year there is no surprise during the annual review. The goals were met or not met; and both the employee and manager have discussed them throughout the year. The annual review is also the time when the manager and employee discuss the quarterly goals for the next year. Hopefully the employee will have met most of their goals and now more challenges are laid out, many by the employee. One of the foundations of LEAN office and manufacturing systems and Six Sigma is to go to the people doing the work for suggestions on how to improve the process.

How do you build a strong job description foundation? Remember it is worth the time to get the fundamentals down. That’s how sports teams win championships. They have the fundamentals so well ingrained that they can do the fun things that help them win competitions.

1) List the day to day responsibilities. Every job has some tactical responsibilities. This list is the foundation of the tactical work that has to be successfully accomplished in order to be successful. Sometimes this is an eye opener all by itself. When you are done you may either ask yourself why you are hiring someone to do this job; or you may realize this position really requires two people. “No wonder the other three people left this position…”
2) List the special project responsibilities. These may or may not be tactical duties depending on the position. Sometimes they are projects that need to be done during certain periods of the year (for instance: year end for accounting and finance, harvest time for a food manufacturing company, beginning of the school year for school administrators, etc.)
3) List the people with whom this position needs to interface in order to be successful. What are their personalities and communications styles? This is very important because depending on the candidate, their communication style may or may not be successful communicating will some or all of the people. (Usually a big retention issue).
4) What are the strategic duties for this position? Typically these duties require vision, goal setting, and problem solving skills. If you are a hiring manager, this is very important to your success, not just the new employee’s success.

Once you have these duties and communication requirements laid out, you are ready for the next very important step - Developing the goals for this position.

1) List the 3 month goals for this new employee. These goals may be a little different for an internal candidate than an external candidate. These goals may also be different depending on the time of the year the person starts. Generally these goals will be more tactical than strategic. If you are ranking the employee on their success in their first three months (and you should), what will you use to determine if they are successful so far? The candidate also needs to understand these requirements. Success in the first three months is important if you want to retain the new employee. This is the time they are learning their position, the corporate culture, the people with whom they interface, and your management style. This is also the time when it is important for the manager to protect the new employee from the sniping from jealous co-workers, some of whom may have felt they deserved this opportunity.
2) List the 6 month goals. By the end of 6 months of performance in this position, the new employee should be better prepared to make some more strategic contributions in their role. Therefore, your 6 month goals should reflect some success in achieving strategic goals. Remember the goals need to be challenging And they need to be attainable.
3) List the 9 month goals. At the end of 9 months, the new employee should have a near total understanding of the position. They should be performing their day to day tasks and working on their strategic and special project goals. They should also be preparing discussions on process improvement for their position because this is when they are looking at everything with fresh eyes and not have the “that’s just how we do it” attitude.
4) List the 12 month goals. One of these goals needs to be developing the 3 month, 6 month, 9 month, and 12 month goals for the next year. This keeps a person fresh in their position. It also provides the manager with the information they need to develop their goals for the next year.

If you follow this process to develop job descriptions:
1) Your employees will be happier and more productive;
2) Your retention will improve;
3) Your company will be more successful;
4) And you will be happier.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Best Qualified Candidate Rarely Gets Hired (Update 2008)

That may get your attention. Generally when I present to groups on the topic of interviewing, people ask about the interviewing process.

How many times have you sat in an interview and wondered, “How will this person (the hiring manager) be able to determine if I am the best qualified candidate? Instead of probing my experience, capabilities, and motivations, he/she just asked me what kind of tree I would choose to be.”

Let’s examine the process in most companies. A person excels in their current position and gets management’s attention. They are promoted. What happens next? They need to learn their new position and fill the position in their organization that they just vacated. A replacement employee requisition is requested and now the Human Resource Department and Recruiters are sourcing candidates. Candidates are produced and given to the new Hiring Manager to interview.

Where in this process is this new Hiring Manager taught how to interview? If they have not been trained how to interview, they certainly have not been trained how to select the best qualified candidate. How does that lack of training impact most companies?

1) The Hiring Manager may not hire the person who will make the key contribution that will propel a company forward;
2) The candidate they do hire may be a good tactical hire but not a good strategic hire – and will leave when they no longer are able to make impacts;
3) Worse yet, they may stay and no longer make significant contributions;
4) Employee retention will become an increasing problem. The wrong person is hired and that impacts the performance of the entire team.

If you hear a Hiring Manager say that an offer should be made to Mr./Ms. Candidate because it feels good in their gut, remember that guts are really good for storing and processing food, not selecting candidates.

And what about reference checks? Has your company resigned itself to the “fact” that meaningful reference checks cannot be done any longer? The reference checks that I do for my clients generally last close to an hour. One reference recently said, “Wow that was like an interview!” I responded that in order to determine if the candidate is the right candidate for a position; shouldn’t we spend the time asking the right questions? It is best for both the candidate and the company.

This will take it one more step, if you trust managers to make critical legal decisions for the company; shouldn’t they be the ones conducting the reference checks? After all, a recruiter or Human Resource manager may know a little about a lot of positions. If this position does not report to them, they may not pick up on the nuances that the references can give.

One time when I encouraged a hiring manager to conduct references on an auditor, she consented with some reservations. She had just completed her third and last reference. When she was thanking the reference for their time, another question literally popped into her head. The response was such that she changed her mind and did not extend an offer to the candidate.

Recently when I asked “What areas does John (not the candidate’s real name) need to improve?” all three references pointed out the same area. It was enough of a concern that I sat down with the Vice President (hiring manager) and CEO and we discussed it. In this case, we extended the offer. The Vice President knows to be aware of the situation and how to coach the new employee.

If companies expect to hire better performers without training the decision makers on the selection process, it sounds suspiciously like doing the same things and expecting different results, doesn’t it?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Successful Home Office Worker Tips

Have you decided that you want to work in your home office? Has your company suggested that you work out of your home? Do you want to be successful working in your home?

This is easier than you may think. With the exception of a year and a half when I was the Recruiting Manager of a start up telecom firm, I have worked out of my home since 1990.

First of all, When you have a home office make sure the business phone only rings in your office space - not your dining room or kitchen or bedroom. At the end of the day, shut the lights in your office and announce that you are closed for the day. I like to say that “the world headquarters of is now closed.” Otherwise you never leave work.

Secondly, Never bring work out of your office into your living area. That area then becomes your office.

Thirdly, You may have a wireless network and be tempted to do email in your living space. Do it only in your office.

Fourth, Don't worry if your company decides that the arrangement isn't working out. That's one of those things you can't control outside of being productive (which you can control).

Fifth, Stay in touch through conference calls or use Skype for video conference calls. If you were in the office and now are working from your home, over communicate rather than under communicate. Schedule office visits as required. There is a need to reconnect personally.

Sixth, If other people or family are living with you, ask them not to interrupt you when you are in your office. Don’t be tempted to wash the dishes or do house work. You are at work.

Seventh, Don’t work at home for the “tax advantages”. There are few tax advantages, unless you count meeting your tax auditor as one of them.

Eighth, Dress for work. If you dress for work, it is easier to act like you are at work and to be productive.

Ninth, Set up your office so everything – computer, phone, printer/scanner/fax (everything you need) is within reach of your chair.

Tenth, Focus on task. It can be easy to listen on others' conversations within your home. Close the door. Be at work. Turn on some white noise like light classical music or John Tesh’s music (sorry John).

If you follow these ten rules, you will be on the right track. Good Luck!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Focus Friday – Sales Management – Private Label Snack Foods

The Vice President of Sales position is with a growing $150 million snack food business based in the Midwest. This CPG Company has a large private label component, a branded component, and is developing a direct to consumer component. This is a new position to lead our sales force and specifically to grow our sales volume profitably.

This position is a new and highly visible position leading a group of seven to ten sales professionals and reports directly to the Sr. Vice President of Sales and Commodities.

We are seeking a Private Label National Sales Vice President to lead our national corporate business development with grocery, big box and alternative channels through direct and broker-managed accounts.

Responsibilities include but are not limited to:
• National sales management and development of private label and corporate brands across all competitive segments.
• Private label big box relationship building, resulting in exceeding sales goals.
• Demonstrated success reading and interpreting clients’ inventory software as it relates to our product distribution.
• Build profitable volume/mix with both existing and new accounts maximizing return on investment. Monitor sales professional’s quotes to ensure profitable margins.
• Effective and results oriented professional sales management of direct selling accounts as well as account management through a broker network. Meet personal and corporate sales goals.
• Mentor account managers by accompanying them on sales calls and developing their sales and business skills.
• Use client experience and feedback to co-develop private label product/pricing initiatives to deliver on strategic branded/private label category leadership role.
• Analysis and business application of internal shipment data as well as external data in daily business management to identify market/sales opportunities and trends
• Provide accurate sales forecasting monthly/annually. Communicate forecasts with business operations.
• Effective communication with internal team members and customers.

• 8-10 years sales experience with consumer packaged food company, preferably focused on private label sales.
• Demonstrated successful headquarter sales experience in supermarket, big box, dollar, c-stores, and drug stores.
• Private label food sales and sales management experience
• Direct sales and broker CPG sales management
• Competent in Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook Microsoft Office applications. Solid presentation skills required.
• BS/BA required EOE

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