Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hiring Managers Say The Craziest Things – Work Week!!

Since 1981, I have worked with over 3000 hiring managers across the United States. Most of whom have never been trained how to effectively interview. If they haven’t been taught how to interview, they certainly have not been taught how to select the best fit. Therefore, they bring their own unique interview techniques and questions to the interview party. Of course, the candidates bring their own special treats to the interviewing party; and I will share some of those also. Doesn’t it sometimes make you wonder how successful matches are ever made?

The setting was a nationally known fulfillment center where I contracted to help them find applications programmers. The manager was a well meaning manager who had never been taught how to effectively interview. The candidate was a very talented applications programmer who wanted to move out of the commotion of Baltimore into the quieter environs of small town Pennsylvania.

The manager wanted to portray the working environment as honestly as he could. When he was satisfied that the candidate had all of the technical skills he needed, he began to describe the work environment and the benefits of working there.

The candidate originally was very excited to interview with this company. When we debriefed after her interview, she said that she felt the interview went well while they discussed the technical environment. She felt she was a very good match for their technical needs. However when discussing the work environment, she said the manager asked a question that really concerned her.

When I asked her what the question was, she replied, “He asked me if I was willing to work 120 hour weeks?” She told him “I didn’t think so!” Shortly after that exchange, the interview was over without further explanation.

In my experience, sometimes candidates don’t really understand what is said by managers. I called the hiring manager and asked him how the interview went. He said that it went very well technically. Then suddenly the candidate seemed to lose interest. I asked him if that happened around the time that he asked her if she was willing to work 120 hour weeks? He replied that yes, it may have been around that time.

I asked if he could describe the structure of a 120 hour work week. His reply? “Well we do have to work some 80 hour weeks!” I said there was a week’s worth of time difference between 80 hours and 120 hours. It is far better to talk about the real environment than the perceived environment. He sometimes probably felt he was working 120 hours.

It also raised the question of his effectiveness as a manager if he had to schedule people regularly to work 80 or 120 hour weeks.

This is an example of a time when the lack of interview training cost the company a fine candidate. After he created the perception for her, she no longer was interested. All she could think of now was an environment where she would not be able to enjoy the satisfaction of working in a small town.

Recruiting is a sales process. The perceptions that we create are sometimes good impressions and sometimes bad impressions. It is important to remember that candidates are measuring us for fit while we are measuring them for fit.

Luck comes in two forms – good and bad. This time the bad luck raised its ugly head and the client lost a very qualified candidate who would have gladly relocated prior to picturing 120 hour weeks.

Don’t put your company at risk of losing well qualified candidates, especially when your company needs them to relocate. Teach your managers how to effectively interview and select the best candidate for each of their positions.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Memorial Day!

Please take time today to remember all of the people who have fought and are continuing to sacrifice themselves and sometimes their careers to keep the United States of America free. These include members of our armed forces and secret services who have died or were injured to keep us free.

Every Company Has A Recruiting Strategy (some just don’t know it!)

“Plan your work. Work your plan.” I’ve seen those words attributed to the great Green Bay Packer Football Coach, Vince Lombardi. Trainers have applied those words to all sorts of training exercises, generally in business. Why are they universally understood? The quote applies to all areas of our lives. It especially applies to successful recruitment programs.

What is the basic premise of Behavioral Interviewing? Once we find a way to be successful accomplishing a task, we will continue to attempt to perform the task the same way forever – or until it becomes too painful. This premise applies to recruiting also.

When a small retail store needs to recruit full or part time help, what do they do? Stick a Help Wanted sign in the window and by the cash register. Then they wait for someone to apply. That becomes their recruiting strategy. As they grow and need more employees, they stick the Help Wanted sign up more often. Generally they have enough success to continue to do so. Finally as they grow into a large enterprise, how do they recruit new employees? Well some actually kept their well worn Help Wanted signs and now place them on the fence or front entrance. Or if they feel really adventuresome, they begin to place their Help Wanted sign online – on corporate websites, job boards, etc.

This is called the “Just Recruit” recruitment strategy. Obviously it is working well enough that no one gets fired (yet). Is their company hiring the best candidates or only people who respond to Help Wanted signs? I think we know the answer to that. Occasionally at SHRM Human Resource meetings I hear, “Everyone knows you can’t recruit for this location!” When I ask why not, their response generally is “It’s a fact!” If I ask them what their recruiting strategy is, they say they posted the positions online and no one replied. As long as their employer accepts that logic, they will receive the quality of candidate that their Help Wanted sign attracts. However, that is not recruiting. It is shuffling electronic and paper resumes.

How do you build a corporate recruitment strategy? Obviously it requires work and a couple of years of effort, especially if your company does not know its cost per hire or where the successful candidates/employees come from. It is also important to keep in mind that recruitment is a sales process. If the mindset is to screen out candidates from the beginning, the company will lose the attractive passive candidates. It is like throwing the baby out with the bath water.

The corporate recruitment strategy needs to be developed in conjunction with the corporate budget. While creating the strategy, it is important to keep in mind the employment market. Today in the United States, we have a market where companies feel they have many choices of candidates (and yet somehow still have difficulty attracting the right candidates). Therefore the supply of available candidates outstrips the need. This employment market will eventually change and there will be fewer qualified candidates to choose from. The employment market impacts a recruitment strategy that is dynamic. While developing a recruitment strategy it is important to have the same “long view” that a CFO has while working on the budget.

Working hand in hand with the executive staff and contributing to their efforts to become more profitable is the best way a Human Resource professional may be perceived to be a business partner. A recruitment budget that nearly always overspends is broken. Generally recruitment goes over budget either when the business decides it needs to add headcount mid-year or there was not enough thought in the recruitment strategy. If the strategy is the “Just Recruit” strategy, it will cost a company that valuable income.

While developing a recruitment strategy, review what worked well in recruiting for your company last year and so far this year. How is your qualified candidate flow? Does it appear to be trending up or down? Are you happy with the flow? What is your cost per hire (include job board fees, 3rd party recruitment fees, salary of staff recruiters, advertising, new Help Wanted signs, applicant tracking software, social media, relocation, promotion items for career fairs, office supplies, manager interview training, etc). Obviously if your company has a year where you are expanding your executive staff, your recruitment costs will be higher because of the relocation costs and potential retained search fees.

Working with your executive staff, determine what positions will be added in the coming year. Then look at current open positions to determine if they may carry over into the new year as open positions. Ask the following questions:

1) How many of those candidates do you forecast will need to be relocated?

2) How many of those candidates will be sourced through contingent or retained search?

3) How many positions does your company currently have in a job board package? Will the package need to be renegotiated?

4) Does your company have a .jobs Top Level Domain (www.goto.jobs) to draw candidates directly to your list of open positions?

5) Based on your employee retention rate, how many employees will you have to replace in the next year and typically at what level? This enables you to better determine your resource allocation and costs.

6) When during the year are the new positions planned to be filled? For instance, if the executives expect positions to be filled in the first month of the new fiscal year, you now know to begin recruiting for them during the last quarter. This question also helps in resource allocation and to determine if your company needs outside resources during peak recruiting periods. It’s better to include the costs in the budget now than surprise executives later.

Obviously budget discussions will help your company better determine a recruitment budget and strategy. As a result of those discussions, the executives may decide to postpone the targeted start date of one or more of the positions. Once the positions and targeted start dates are established (and they can very well change in the dynamic world of recruitment!), the Human Resource department may now determine how to allocate staff resources to best fill those positions.

If the enterprise has more than one recruiter, each recruiter should develop a proposed plan how they will recruit for each of the positions they are responsible to fill. It may be helpful to develop a template to simplify the process for them. This is a good career development exercise to help them think more strategically. In order to create a partnership with the hiring managers, it is important for the recruiters to meet with the hiring managers for their thoughts on sourcing these candidates.

While meeting with the hiring managers, it is critical to discuss the 3 month, 6 month, 9 month and 12 month goals for the position. If these goals are not required in the job description, they should be because they are the foundation to the successful recruitment process. Once those goals are determined, the skills and experience required to be successful the first year become crystal clear. Then the sourcing becomes more successful, interview creation is focused on the right skills and experience, and the selection of the best candidate is based on an important set of metrics. Once the new employee starts, the goals are discussed to ensure the manager and new employee are on the same page. During the employee/manager meetings through the year the goals are discussed. Now you have engaged managers and employees. At the end of the year, the goals are attained – or not. Most importantly, the annual review should not contain any surprises for either side.

After the meeting with the hiring manager, the recruiter completes their plan to recruit for that position. What sourcing or relocation costs are expected for each position? The costs are reviewed against the budget. Then the recruiter returns to the hiring manager to discuss the proposed recruitment plan and ask for any additional suggestions. Now the manager is a partner in the recruiting process.

Once the recruiter develops a plan for all of their responsible positions, the recruitment strategy begins to come together. Review expected costs against those projected in the budget. Add in the expected costs for replacement of employees who may leave during the year (and the expected recruitment staff resource). Now your company has a much more viable plan for your recruiting in the next year.

During the year, track and measure where sourcing worked and did not work as well. “Where did you learn about us?” should be a question asked of every candidate where it is not obvious (i.e. your corporate website). What were your recruiting costs? How many people did your company hire? Now you have a cost per hire.

This plan gives your company a strategy to recruit that is tied to your budget. It breaks down the silos between Management and Human Resources. The more effective job description and follow up should improve the quality of hire, employee/manager engagement and retention.

Maybe Coach Lombardi had a good idea – “Plan your work. Work your plan.”

Friday, May 04, 2012

Let’s Call “Diversity” a Different Word - “Blending”

A whole industry has been built around diversity. Is that good or bad?

Obviously when the Diversity industry was formed inside and outside of recruitment, it was critically needed. Laws were written to make it illegal to discriminate against the protected classes of race, color, gender, religious beliefs, national origin, disability, genetic information, pregnancy or veteran status. These laws need to stay in place because old habits are hard to break. However, isn’t it time we consider evolving to a different word? Since our world today is one where we focus on collaboration, wouldn’t a better name be “Blending”?

According to Dictionary.com the definition of Diversity is: “the state or quality of being different or varied.” Therefore the focus tends to be on the silos of difference. You see the following descriptions of: Native Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans, even Italian Americans, Irish Americans, Jewish Americans, and the list goes on. Unfortunately when such descriptors are used, the focus tends to be on the difference not on the sameness. If we all live in the United States of America, shouldn’t we all be Americans? Isn’t it funny that I just described the people of one country? Possibly we should all be “Earthians”? Of course, yet to be introduced “aliens” (there’s that descriptor of difference again) may feel they are the best.

It is natural for humans to feel that their cave/family/belief/school/country/planet is the best one. Sociologists and psychologists can probably address this tendency better than a Human Resource consultant. It may simply be hardwired in us in order for humans to succeed as a community since our early times as cavemen and cavewomen. Look at high school and college sports and the passion of the followers of their sports teams. Look at the concept of nationalism. Look at the passion of following a specific religion: Hebrew, Muslim, Christian, Buddhism, Atheism, Hare Krishna, Hinduism, and the list of great religions continues. The followers of each may be very passionate that their religion and set of beliefs are the one and only religion and set of beliefs. Then we may look at political beliefs: Democrats, Republicans, Communists, Socialists, Libertarians, etc. The people who only vote for candidates of their political party generally are not very interested in collaboration. They may even demonize good people who are members of another party. Men believe they are smarter and stronger; and women believe they are smarter and stronger. The young believe they are better (remember “Don’t trust anyone over 30”?). People who are seasoned believe their experience is more valuable (“What’s wrong with young people today?” – and members of every generation have asked that question).

Therefore when people say “diversity” what happens? We naturally think “different”. It is the definition of the word. If we are trying to build a society where everyone lives and works in harmony, shouldn’t we think “blending?”

Instead of focusing on the differences among us, would it not be better to focus on the sameness? Instead of driving wedges between us, shouldn’t we blend?

Societies and companies that understand that every human being in their community may develop a unique and important contribution to their community are the societies and companies that evolve into stronger and more competitive societies and businesses. Those societies and businesses that attempt to only follow the conventions of one school of thought within that community are doomed to fall behind because everyone will think alike. The United States used to be called a melting pot because waves of immigrants seemed to come from one place at the same time. And that is continuing.

Obviously we need to do a better job blending than we did even in the 1970’s; and I am guessing that we are doing a better job blending than many countries.

Diversity is not limited to race but that gets most of the attention. There are companies and even industries that tend to be dominated by people of one religion or another. There are companies where most of the people are younger or older and seek people who look like them. Obviously professional sports teams tend to be “staffed” by younger professionals on the field, court or pool. There is something about age and physical ability. However, look who coaches them.

When a company is trying to solve a problem and everyone comes from the same background, they all tend to look at the problem from the same angle. Can they solve the problem? Probably. However, when they have people from many different backgrounds, some older and some younger, can they find a better solution? Much more likely.

Have you stopped to watch children play with children from other backgrounds? Are they concerned about anything other than their play? No. They are focused on their game of tag or hide and seek or video game. It is only as they grow older that they are taught that there are differences.

Instead of being focused on our differences as the diversity industry tends to do, let’s focus on our sameness. Companies that blend employees will sprint forward. Companies that value only people who look like them will fall far behind.

Let’s improve our blending and all become Americans again, without the differentiation.