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Business Management coaching Leadership Development Recruiting

Update your recruiting practices to attract the talent you need for your business

As someone who works extensively with small, medium-sized, and growing businesses, I can assure you that the difficulty you may be experiencing hiring great people for your business is real! There continues to be what feels like a huge disconnect between companies who want to hire, and people who want to work. Everyone is frustrated! Today, I’m speaking to the hire-ers (although job searches will do well to pay attention!).

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you probably have some assumptions about the hiring process, based on what has always worked. It goes something like, create a job description, assign a pay range, create a job post based on the job description, post it on the job board most appropriate to the level of job, sift through a bunch of resumes, interview the most likely of candidates, hire someone. You’re probably used to this taking anywhere from three to twelve weeks, and it probably ranks on the bottom ten things you like to do, including firing people.

If you’re like many business owners, you probably ALSO have noticed that the above system is not working as well lately. Maybe you’re getting a lot more unqualified people than you used to, or maybe you’re not getting anyone at all responding. Maybe you counter this with sponsoring jobs, paying more money for candidates, or reaching out to professional recruiting firms, which are expensive but hopefully THEY will have more luck than you.

Any of this sounding familiar?

Sanity check: If you’re experiencing any of the above…it’s not just you! This is what the majority of businesses I’m working with report, and it’s tough. I’ve noticed that most of the older way of doing things just aren’t reaping the results we’re used to, and I’ve seen some success with just a few changes. I’d like to share some of the things that have increased the effectiveness of the companies I work with.

Figure out who you are

Why would someone want to come work for you? Usually when companies are recruiting, they want to start with the candidate, but recruiting is marketing, and so it’s crucial to start with the features, advantages, and benefits of YOU. Every company I’ve ever worked with has said about itself that they value their employees, their customers, that they’re honest, and that they have fun, so let’s go beyond that. What’s it really like to work for you? What is quirky, special, or different about you? Do you hire people without much experience and give them sought-after training? Do you pay above market range? Do you have a fun or interesting product? Do you make a unique impact on your community? Spending time fleshing out the ‘why’ someone would want to work for you is the most important thing you can do in your recruiting.

Figure out who your ideal employee is

I’m NOT talking about demographics. In fact, the more diverse you can be in hiring your employees, the better you’ll be for it (assuming you have team-building skills and can cast a vision well enough to unite people from disparate backgrounds). Does your ideal employee love a challenge? Think outside the box? Excel in structure or regulated environments? Love communicating freely throughout the day? Prefer to accomplish work in relative solitude? Do NOT develop your ideal employee profile based on what others think it should be. You and your business are unique, so just because Big Company A has free food and a games room does not mean this would work for you or appeal to your ideal employees.

Be exclusive (sniper vs net-casting)

I’ve written about this before, but the recruiting game has changed, and I don’t think it serves you well to ‘cast a net’ to gather in a large number of applicants to sift through. Instead, spend some time figuring out the profile of the best possible candidate for your business and market directly to that person. To attract your ideal candidate, you should write a marketing piece that clearly defines the benefits of working for you, and clearly establishes the ideal profile.

Market accordingly

There is still something to be said for job boards. I’ve hired from them, as have many of the companies I work with. If you do market your position on a job board, make sure you’ve done the work above. I also think it’s worthwhile to ask your employees for referrals. It’s also a good barometer for you…if no one wants to refer their friends to work for you, maybe ask why. I hope it goes without saying, but don’t hire the friends of the bad employees. On that note, why do you have bad employees, anyway? Depending on your company, network events, social media, and schools may be excellent hunting grounds.

I’m not here today to make a case for or against recruiting agencies. If they’re a tool in your toolbox, I trust you know how to use them effectively. There are some amazing recruiters out there, and some horrible ones. If you’re going this route, talk to your recruiter to get a sense of whether you will work well with them and whether they ‘get’ you.

Hopefully this helps you think about hiring a bit differently, and points you in the right direction to building your dream team for growth and profitability. If you have any questions, or are interested in a pdf outlining recruiting best practices for small businesses, please feel free to email me at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com. You can also visit us on Twitter and Facebook.

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based mentoring and training company committed to equipping managers to overcome the typical tactical, strategic, and personal development challenges facing managers in growing companies. Will a full suite of mentoring, coaching, training, and on-call support available for managers and leaders, we’ve got you covered! For more information, visit our site or contact us for more information about how we help leaders and managers grow.

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Business Management coaching Leadership Development management systems New Managers organizational development Recruiting Training

Why growing businesses NEED a management selection and training process

When you’re the owner or senior leader of a growing business, one of the hallmarks of growth is the need to elevate managers to help oversee your operations. I think we tend to underestimate the difficulty of this step. Managers change the blueprint of your company instantly and irrevocably, and yet so often a selection and training process is overlooked. What should  leadership development program look like and how can you implement this amidst the chaos of rapid growth?

In a perfect world, you will have anticipated your growth and will have these plans in place well before you need them. But we all know that things rarely go according to plan. All too often, it looks more like this: You experience a dramatic increase in business and revenue. At first it’s fantastic, and you’re excited (and relieved) that all your hard work looks like it’s paying off. All the fear and anxiety you’ve had about whether this business is really viable, and/or if you’ve got what it takes, is alleviated and it’s a wonderful feeling.

Before long, though, you start understanding the term ‘growing pains’ in a whole new way. You just aren’t able to keep track of things by yourself. There have always been facets of your job that you know aren’t your strengths (maybe it’s administrative, maybe it’s managing day-to-day tasks, maybe it’s dealing with angry customers) but before you were able to stay on top of things. Now, the sheer volume of things to do means you’re spending a much greater amount of time doing things you don’t like, and aren’t that good at. You start dropping balls, and realize that you can’t keep going this way and maintain the service and quality that led to your growth in the first place.

So you hire or promote managers.

If you’re like most owners, you may assume that your managers are on the same page as you regarding their role, and how to perform it, and what’s really important in your company. This is your first mistake. The second most common mistake is to underestimate the importance of a strong proficiency in management and business basics. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this can make or break your culture and ultimately your business. As a management and leadership consultant, I am frequently called in after the problems have started, and each and every time prevention would have been much easier and more cost effective than problem-solving. This is accomplished by a leadership development program that allows you to select and train your managers to ensure you are putting the best people in the roles, and providing them the support necessary to gain proficiency in the foundational skills.

The foundational areas are: Basic legal compliance, employee relations (leadership), and performance management. Before you can begin training your managers in these areas, you first have to determine who should be in these roles. Some foundational skills are rather easily trained, and some take longer and are more challenging. Here are the skills to look for and/or train in order of difficulty, from MOST to LEAST difficult (approximately).

  • Ability to inspire and lead others by casting a vision of the bigger picture and articulating each person’s contribution to the whole.
  • High emotional intelligence, with the ability to manage perceptions, exhibit self-control, and communicate consistently, respectfully, and optimistically in times of intense pressure. Must be able to represent your company professionally and courteously to employees, stakeholders, and vendors, regardless of the circumstances.
  • Strong communication skills, with the ability to convey complex and abstract ideas clearly and concisely in a written and verbal format, to a variety of audiences.
  • Thorough understanding of your product and service, with the ability to train and coach every aspect of the operational role.
  • Proven ability to identify and utilize performance metrics to help individuals perform to their highest and best level.
  • Ability to address and resolve performance issues while reinforcing each employee’s intrinsic value and value to the team.
  • Understanding of business basics, such as profit and loss statements, revenue drivers, and profitability drivers.
  • An understanding of protected classes, basic employment law (FLSA status, wage and hour laws, ADA, and HIPAA protections).
  • Legal and effective coaching skills and the ability to dress behavioral problems in the workplace.
  • Legal and effective interviewing skills.

A good leadership selection protocol will identify these areas behaviorally and allow you to score applicants as objectively as possible to ensure you are being fair and consistent in selecting your future leaders. You need to take into account the urgent needs of your business while considering the long-term implications of selecting a candidate lacking an important, hard-to-train skill. Regardless of the experience and skillset of your manager-to-be, it’s important to train them in the basics before fully endorsing them as managers. There’s a legal benefit to conducting and documenting training. Not only that, a basic tenant of management is to treat each employee the same. Bypassing training on a ‘highly qualified’ candidate sets the tone right out of the gate that they’re above common protocol.

When conducting your leadership training, I think the best approach is a combination of low-hanging fruit, and impact to operations. Therefore, I recommend a quick and thorough review of legal compliance. First, because it’s easy to create standardized training – whether it’s an orientation webinar, or pre-recorded training of some sort. This is a great preventative measure right out the gate.

The business and performance management piece also lends itself well to group or virtual training. The specifics of your business are unique, but profit and loss concepts are universal, as are the fundamentals of performance management. You can often standardize quite a bit of this training, and have individualized training as a second or third step.

Last is the vision, communication, and emotional intelligence quotient of the job. Hopefully you haven’t hired anyone for a significant leadership position who is lacking emotional intelligence or communication skills, but it’s not uncommon to need to work on these skills when promoting from within. If you’re promoting your top performing individual contributors, there may be a great deal of leadership training and coaching you need to invest in. Ideally, this will be done as part of a succession plan, and not on-the-job. Similarly, the tribal and product knowledge specific to your company will not be present in candidates from outside your company. You’ll need to decide how important this is. It can be a deal-breaker for some companies, and simple enough to overcome in others.

To wrap it up, you’re doing yourself, your managers, your employees, and your company a huge disservice if you neglect to create a management selection and training process. True, you can hire and promote managers without it, but dollars to doughnuts you’ll spend a lot more time putting out fires if you go that route.

If you enjoyed this, please share the love…and sign up for a freebie…Quick tips for legal and effective interviewing…right here! Come hang out with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Performance Management experts, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

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Recruiting Uncategorized

How to have the worst phone interview in the history of phone interviews. A true story.

Wow! Just conducted the worst phone interview in my career…to date. So bad that I took a second and asked myself if it was better to just end it, or to give the candidate some free career searching advice. I hate giving unsolicited advice,  so I did ask him if he was interested in hearing some constructive criticism that may help him get further with future employers than he was getting with me. He somewhat reluctantly acquiesced.

Here’s what I told him:

  • When on a phone interview, try to sound friendly and enthusiastic. Avoid monotone voice and one word answers (it sounds surly to the interviewer). For example called me, without an appointment, didn’t tell me his full name, and mumbled so much I had to ask him to repeat himself four time.
  • When asked why you are interested in the job, avoid answers like “I’m unemployed now, so anything is better than nothing.”
  • Avoid whining (seriously, whining) about how hard it’s been on you being let go from your previous roles.
  • Do not say things like “I’m a XXX pro-advisor, so doing all that is no problem. It’s easy.
  • When I tell you that providing exceptional and professional customer service is a requirement, do not argue with me that it’s not, and that the requirement is being accurate and if I want good customer service, I need to provide you an allowance to take clients out to lunch, and that’s why the clients at your last job never liked you, because the last place wouldn’t do this for you.
  • Avoid assuming a job requirement that is not in the job description (professional designation for a role that doesn’t require one) and go on a long tangent about how hard the designation is to obtain, but that that is your sole focus in life and all you really want to accomplish so you will never, ever, have to look for work again.

What it boils down to, I told the candidate, is this:

  • Apply for roles and companies you’re interested in and convey that interest to the people you talk to.
  • Read the requirements, and if you possess them, have examples in mind of how you do. If you don’t think the requirements are important, this might not be the best role. They are important to the employer, and you are not likely to talk them out of it on your initial phone screen.
  • Focus on what you can do for them first, and don’t spend an inordinate amount of time talking about outside commitments…ON THE FIRST CALL.
  • Yes, employment is a two-way street, and yes, your needs as an employee are important. But first impressions count a lot and if you alienate your phone interviewer by being rude, uncommunicative, dismissive, and complain-y, you’ll never get the chance to showcase your skills.

You may be wondering what the client’s response was…guess! Leave a comment below and I’ll tell you if you’re right!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, come hang out with me on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, and please share the love.

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

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Business Management Organizational Behavior Management organizational development Recruiting Uncategorized

How smaller companies can gain a true advantage over their larger competitors

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that there has never been a better time to be a smaller and growing business. There have been numerous shifts in the marketplace, culture, and worker mindset in the last decade that combined make it possible now more than ever from business owners to achieve their vision and grow profitable, prosperous companies that serve a greater purpose. In the past, only large companies with staggering overheads had access to the professional caliber programs that gave them such an advantage in the competition for customers and employees. That’s not the case anymore.

Outsourcing part or all of different business functions has evolved to the point where in many cases it is not just a financial necessity, but a true strategic advantage to do so. And the best part is that because so many professionals are opting out of their corporate day jobs into a gig economy, companies no longer need to feel burdened with guilt about reducing their reliance on traditional employees. This allows small companies to retain their nimbleness, family feel, and flexibility without sacrificing strategic muscle.

Take Human Resources (please, ba dum dum). When I started my career a hundred years ago, an HR Department was like a right of passage for growing organizations. First you had an ‘admin’ do it, and then maybe an Office Manager, but when you grew up you got your very own HR Person. That’s when you’d learn all the things you were doing wrong hopefully in time to stop doing them and avoid fines and penalties. No longer would anyone scramble to complete 5500 audits (what?) or freak out when the DOL audit came (actually, you still need to freak out about that), or wonder if it was okay for an employee to see her file, and what should be in it anyway.

At some point, a company might even grow to the point where even the HR Person is hard-pressed to meet all the personnel needs. Once the growth engine is in high gear you suddenly have a whole new set of issues that you never had before. You’re bringing on more people than you can train the way you’re used to training. You have different compliance requirements. You are losing touch with your employees. You need more managers, and you need to make sure your managers are doing things legally and representing you the way you need to be represented. You might have a lot more revenue, but far less visibility into where it’s coming from or where it’s going and if all that revenue is getting billed for and collected in a timely manner.

At this point, in the past, the logical next step was to keep investing internally. You’d add to the HR team. Hopefully the HR Person was as good a leader as an administrator, and able to think strategically as well as tactically because now you’d like them to manage a team of people. Maybe you add a recruiter, maybe additional administrative support, possibly a trainer and if you were really progressive there would be some sort of performance management component in there. If you had an HR person who was not capable of transitioning from tactical to strategic it was probably a very painful transition. If you got a strategic HR person capable of overseeing that, you then had the issue of ensuring that the rest of your team had the capacity and bandwidth to support the strategic endeavors.

A lot of the times, the best case scenario was some stellar corporate goals and strategic plans that if you were lucky got mostly implemented before the next wave of growth or change happened and it was all hands on deck (or in the weeds, as the metaphor may be). And then when tides and revenue turned or the dust cleared, and you realized that the shrinking margins were not a blip but a trend and you had to start cutting overhead, the first to go was the ‘cost-centers’ of training and employee development.

Anyway, that was life, but not anymore.

Business process outsourcing just may be the not-so-secret weapon that allows smaller companies to take advantage of all the benefits of full scale support functions without the overhead, while allowing the service provider the benefit of working exclusively in their greatest talent while enjoying flexibility and variety. For quite some time now, businesses have had the option to outsource functions like payroll or HR paperwork administration. The playing field has expanded dramatically and is now exploding with opportunity!

I am fortunate enough to be networked with some amazing CFOs who offer their services to businesses who could never afford a six-figure Finance specialist, nor do they have a need of one full time, but who definitely need expert advice and counsel on a regular basis. I uncovered a similar need from an HR perspective in that businesses under 100 people don’t really need a high powered strategic HR leader on staff full time. But you better believe they need access to one. And they can also keep costs way down if they hire someone like me to set up their HR processes and then train someone on their staff to run things, knowing I’m available for tough questions.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! With an ever-growing demand to not only get more efficient and profitable but also to be a destination employer in a tough marketplace, companies need to have strategic workforce management plans in place to survive, let alone thrive. There are too many choices for both employees and for customers to not hit on all cylinders here. There’s a couple schools of thought on how best to accomplish this. Most commonly, I hear advice to outsource all the tactical and keep the strategic in house. I think that makes perfect sense in some cases, but probably not for smaller businesses.

What I’ve observed is that if you have less than 75 employees, hiring someone to do the strategic work is not as viable as it sounds. First, these people tend to be a lot more expensive. Second, and I speak from experience, is that if you bring in a strategic person when there is a lot of tactical work to be done, it’s going to be really hard to get people on board with why they’re there.

So how does outsourcing help? Again, I speak from experience. I have run OBM projects AND leadership training as both a consultant and as an employee and I can say hands down commitment to and compliance with the programs run much higher when they’re done from outside. Where this model as fallen short in the past (in my opinion) is the lack of customization and follow through that really drives success. I got more traction from my leadership training as an employee because I could talk to people more regularly and reinforce it, and also because I could tailor the training to the company and their issues specifically. When I work with companies on training, sometimes they’ll just ask for a canned “time management’ course and I’ll usually decline because I don’t think that brings the best value. Far more effective is something tailored to this group’s problems, even if takes a bit more time to prepare it

And don’t even get me started on recruiting! That is one of the best opportunities to outsource. I know of several companies that will outsource some or all of your hiring, allowing recruiting to be completely scaleable and flexible. And not only that, there are providers who will actually manage all your vendors, or even work internally to oversee interviewing and onboarding. This can make all the difference in providing a professional brand when recruiting to attract the best candidates.

There are so many options available now that it’s no so much a matter of if you should outsource, it’s where first. And no, it doesn’t mean you don’t need employees by any means, but it probably does mean your employees will be freed up to do the things they’re best at, and your outsource providers will similarly be doing the same. Like I said, win-win.

P.S. I’ve got a great list of providers for HR, Finance, Training, Purchasing, OD…the list goes on. Please reach out at any time for more information carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

 

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

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Recruiting Uncategorized

How to hate recruiting less

I’ve noticed a significant upswing of emotional posts (rants) on the part of recruiters, hiring managers, candidates, and CEOs all on the subject of recruiting. Having been in all of these roles at one point or another, I can easily understand why. There is a strong perception of a general lack of professional courtesy from all sides that stems from a system that was broken to begin with and only gets worse with a reliance on technology. I recently spoke on the subject of recruiting and hiring best practices to a group of small business owners and entrepreneurs, so I’ve been giving this quite some thought.

There are really two camps an employer can fall into. Those who see employees as valued partners in growing and running a business, and those who think people are expendable commodities not deserving of respect or timely communication. I’ve certainly run into my share of both but actually refuse to work with the latter anymore (and don’t suggest you do, either) so I’ll focus on the former.

Unfortunately, an employer can value employees very highly but come across as though they don’t due to broken or damaged processes. Here’s my experience of how the recruiting process tends to work in small to medium sized businesses. Either an employee leaves, or the volume of work becomes overwhelming and the hiring manager and his/her supervisor(s) agree that another employee or two is needed. A job description is unearthed (or created), which is then copied and pasted onto job boards, and HR (or the hiring manager) begins receiving resumes. These folks typically look mainly at previous titles and tenures, ‘weeding out’ folks based on lack of meeting the criteria.

Then either an HR person, or hiring manager conducts a phone screen or in person interview with a candidate. Not always, but usually this falls to either a hiring manager with no interviewing training, or an HR person with no technical understanding of the job (and sometimes no interviewing training either). This allows for the possibility (probability if we’re being realistic) of illegal questions and improper screening. Candidates who are not selected are rarely contacted again. Candidates who are selected are not always given the time and attention they need during the first month to effectively acclimate to their new environment in order to become as effective as possible.

Frustrating (to say the least), but for most companies, that’s the only way they know.

Often companies and candidates choose the recruiter route. Unfortunately, this often just creates another layer for potential miscommunication, and added expense. Before all the recruiters get mad at me (and I often do serve as recruiter for my clients, so I’m not taking shots at you) it’s very difficult for them to provide service when clients don’t communicate changes in their needs, feedback on candidates, or don’t make decisions.

In all cases, the problems are reduced significantly by instituting formalized hiring processes, holding all parties accountable for professional communication, and ensuring adequate interviewing training is provided.

But I think it goes deeper than that.

The problem with this whole system is that it often starts with when the hiring need is recognized. This means that right out of the gate, everybody’s acting more reactively than proactively. Not many people are able to make good decisions when they’re rushed, fearful, or otherwise under the gun, and hiring is a major decision. A perception of scarcity encourages companies to rush through creating the job description, posting, interviews, etc. Candidates who similarly feel desperate apply for jobs they don’t want or aren’t qualified for just to get ‘something’.

We all know that activity reduces anxiety, regardless of the value of the activity. With both parties in the process doing ‘something’ to alleviate their fear, good decisions don’t happen.

To get out of the rat trap, companies can take the first step by taking time when there aren’t urgent hiring needs to craft their hiring strategy (for more information on this, see Bonus 3 – Designing your Hiring Process, in the Leadership Toolbox on my site).

During this stage, companies should take a thorough look at the current structure with an eye for not only today, but also towards what will be needed in one and five years’ time if anticipated revenue goals are hit. If you’re company is in ‘the zone’ of transitioning from $5 million to $25 million, or from $55 million to $100 million over the next few years, you need to be especially vigilant about creating structures that allow for the communication and handoffs that will be required with the added volume, as well as the need to develop more formalized systems and processes. This likely means that the current positions need to be re-examined.

As a result, companies should emerge with an idea of the responsibilities and skillsets that will be required in the future. This will allow for a proactive building of a pipeline in anticipation of future needs.

At the end of the day, this isn’t ‘science’ or processes. It’s people talking to people. If your employees love working for you, they’ll tell other people. If you love your company, you’ll be excited about it. There’s no shame in meeting people now even if you don’t have a hiring need. If you know who you’re looking for, you can start meeting them. Build a network, make friends, and keep in touch. That way, when it is time to hire someone, you’ll know exactly what it will take to fill the position and hopefully you’ll already know someone. And, if you don’t have the perfect person already in your network, and need to search, at least you’ll be calm and prepared, as will your hiring managers and HR team to competently assess the perfect candidate.

And make sure to let everyone you interview know when you’ve made a choice. That’s just good manners.

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com