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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 organizational development

Entrepreneurs – Keep your eyes on the goal!

I’ve got a passion for small businesses and always have. When I look back over my life it’s obvious now that I was always meant to have my own business, and to help other like-minded people be successful. I come by it honestly, too. When I was eight years old, my parents (both pharmacists) took a huge risk and left their safe and secure jobs with big chain pharmacies to open a mom and pop (literally) store. My first job was dusting and facing shelves, and learning that you always put down whatever you’re doing to make sure the customer is treated like an honored guest. I didn’t know it then, but my parents went through the expected lean and scary years only to build a thriving business catering some unique niches, enabling them to sell and enjoy their retirement years exactly as they wanted to. Growing up, our livelihood was continuously being threatened by the ‘big guys’ – those large grocery store chains that tucked pharmacies inside as a loss leader, and we prevailed by offering something they didn’t – professional excellence, caring, and an unparalleled passion for service.

And on the other hand was my grandfather. He came to Canada from Russia as a young boy, and his farmer-parents contributed all their resources to send him to school to become an engineer. He spent his life working for a large company, and retired at age 60 with a full pension. Grandpa always wanted to start his own business, but as sole provider of a family of five, never felt confident enough to make the transition. He spent the last ten years at his job bored, unchallenged, and increasingly miserable. When he did retire, he sank into a depression that never lifted. One of his biggest regrets was settling for the sure thing instead of taking a chance on his dream.

So the entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in me, as does the fear of wasting my potential.

I personally never thought I’d end up in business. I was planning on being a writer – or maybe a psychologist or teacher. I wanted to write and I wanted to help people and I did NOT want to work a 9-5, with a boss, and somewhere someone said I had to be every day. Which naturally led me to managing HR (just kidding…there was nothing natural about it). But those desires did lend themselves very well to coaching, organizational behavior management, and eventually organizational development consulting. Throughout the course of a meandering, 20-year journey, I learned from experts in their field some tools, systems, and practices that help companies become as profitable as possible.

One thing I learned is that although there’s a lot of things large companies do that don’t apply to smaller businesses (nor would they probably want them to, to be honest), there are also things that can transform these smaller businesses in all the right ways! Streamlined hiring processes, managers who are able to bring out the best in people, the sky-high morale that comes from shared purpose, an understanding of metrics and how to use them to increase top and bottom line, HR best practices, and on and on. All these are incredible tools, that when placed in the hands of willing business owners change their business from a source of stress and burden to an exciting, profitable, thriving endeavor.

Of course, the problem is that even though the tools work just as well  (if not better) for smaller and medium sized businesses, they’re not as accessible. Full-scale, turnkey consulting implementations can be prohibitively expensive, and off the shelf solutions are often one-size-fits-all bandaids. Even if they do help, they’re a lot like a diet: Fast results that are never maintained. Because of my background, this has bugged me. Part of my DNA is championing the underdog and it just never seemed fair that the people who would most benefit from these solutions don’t have the access to them that their large competitors do.

Like any entrepreneur, I struggled for a while to figure out how to provide the solutions I wanted to, to the people I wanted to serve, and how to package them so that it was accessible and easy to implement. One thing life has taught me personally is how to get back up again after a right cross to the chin, so I was prepared to tough this one out. I kept looking at it from different angles, trying to figure out how to provide the best value to my clients without selling solutions they didn’t need, or adding in so many layers that either they couldn’t afford it, or I couldn’t afford to provide the service!

One phrase kept asserting itself into my mind, that I couldn’t shake. Some of you may recognize this, but it’s ‘and they shall know the truth and the truth shall set them free’. Another way you might have heard this concept presented is that ‘admitting there’s a problem is the first step’. Finally, it all crystallized for me, and it was so obvious, I couldn’t believe it.

You see, my smaller clients have always approached me asking for help solving the problems they know about! Usually it’s to help recruit for a tough to fill position, or audit their HR practices, or train their managers. Because of my customer service mentality, my response has been of course to solve the problem that my clients are asking me to solve. But what I learned in my epiphany is that what my clients REALLY need is to know how they’re REALLY doing. This is the information that they’re never going to get by diagnosing and treating their own problems!

This opened my eyes to a whole new way that I needed to be offering and delivering my service. As a highly educated and trained Business Coach, Organizational Development Consultant, and HR Practitioner, I am uniquely positioned to provide my clients with an overview of their organizational landscape, strengths, and vulnerabilities. This information is hardly ever made available to organizations of this size, and the benefit is that it puts the business owner in the driver’s seat. By seeing the whole picture, and understanding the steps required to align correctly, the business owner can then choose whether/how to address the issues. This has allowed me to develop solutions, and partnerships to provide solutions, on various levels to ensure they are flexible, scale-able and cost effective. If you want to learn more about how this works, check out my site www.todaysleadershipsolutions.com or email me at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com n

One thing my journey as an entrepreneur has taught me is that it’s not easy, and you rarely end up exactly where you thought you’d be, in the time frame you thought it would take. The ability to keep trying in the face of failure, think of different solutions to recurring problems, and a desire to provide value to a client base who you deeply respect and care about are critical if you want to keep at it and enjoy what you’re doing. Most important for me is to listen to my gut and focus on what I love AND am good at, not just what I’m good at. This can be an act of faith, as a lot of people will tell you that it’s not possible, but I think if you stay true to yourself and your dream, you’ll eventually see the results you want to see!

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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Some very basic basics: HR issues for first time employers

Lately, I’ve encountered several entrepreneurs who have recently started companies and are successful enough to need to hire employees.  I am definitely seeing trends in terms of the questions, concerns and trials that these entrepreneurs are facing so will devote the next few posts to the top issues and vulnerabilities I’m seeing and some basics to cover when you bring aboard your first employees.  For seasoned managers, HR professionals and employment attorneys, this is not going to be new information, but that doesn’t mean everyone is familiar with the ins and outs of our professions.   As with many areas of HR, there is a great deal of crossover between issues appropriate for a human resources professional and an labor attorney.  I have always considered a good labor attorney to be the most powerful and necessary resources at my disposal as an HR service provider and put great stock in verifying policies and contracts with a reputable labor law attorney if I am unsure about anything.  

1)    If you are telling them what to do, they’re probably not independent contractors
Almost every business owner I’ve met wants at some point to categorize his/her labor force as independent contractors.  The reasons for doing this tend to be so that the employer can ‘try out’ the employee before committing to full time employment, because they cannot be sure there is a long term need, or because they can’t afford employee benefits.  These are all valid concerns but are not legitimate qualifications to classify someone as a contractor.  A legitimate independent contractor should have their own business, other customers, a business license and insurance.  You should not direct their day to day activities.  The IRS’ determining factors are here, but your state may have additional requirements. 

2)    Probationary Period
Actually, this isn’t just restricted to small businesses but there still is a tendency to want to have a probationary period.  The intent is to indicate that the employer and employee are in a ‘try out’ phase and to indicate a lack of commitment.  There is really no value to a probationary period and in fact, it usually negates any kind of at-will agreement the employer may wish to have.  In an at-will employment agreement, either the employer or employee can terminate employment at any time for any reason.  If you have a probation period you are implicitly stating that employment is secure after a designated window has passed.  This is not a good idea.

3)    Progressive Discipline
This is another policy that seems like a good idea but will could potentially give you headaches down the road if you’re not careful.  Progressive discipline policies state the progression of consequences for performance infractions.  For example, the first time an employee is late they may get a verbal warning, then a written warning, then a suspension and then terminated.  The intent behind them is to ensure management deals with issues in a consistent manner and this is not only a very good idea, it’s crucial. The problem with progressive discipline plans is that you really don’t want to tie your hands as far as consequences go.  If you are set on having a written progressive discipline policy, make sure you include wording to the effect that the employer reserves the right to impose discipline up to and including termination.

4)    Non-Competes
Many employers work with proprietary information, trade secrets and client lists that they want to protect.  In an effort to do so, there are often non-compete agreements drafted and provided to employees.  The reality is that these are unenforceable in almost every state.  California, for example, is a right to work states, and it is illegal to try to prevent someone from working in an industry of their choice for any amount of time.  You are much better off putting in place a non-solicitation/non-disclosure agreement.  These agreement prevent employees from soliciting employees or customers away if they leave your employ and/or from disclosing anything they have learned during their tenure with you.  The best part is, these are enforceable.  

5)    Applications
It’s a good idea to have an employment application.  These are legal documents that candidates fill out and they usually have wording indicating that falsifying information is grounds for termination.  You can download these almost anywhere.  You should be aware that if you solicit applications (such as from a job ad) you are obligated to keep applications for two years.  As well, in many states and jurisdictions (such as the state of California, or the city of Seattle) it is illegal to ask if someone has been convicted of a crime at the initial stages of the selection process, unless you have a valid, job related, reason for doing so.

At the end of the day, if you have started your own business, and have employees, it’s a good idea to start with an employee handbook and make sure your policies are in accordance with your handbook.  Labor law attorneys will review your documents to make sure they are legal and enforceable and a good HR person (or consultant) can give you some best practices tips to make sure you are on the right track. 

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Recruiting for your business

So your business has grown the extent that you need to grow your employee base. Congratulations!  This is wonderful, and also not so wonderful. You are now entering the world of ‘why are good people so hard to find’?  If you are on a tight budget, or new to the game, chances are you started with a help wanted ad on Craig’s List or some other relatively inexpensive job board.  You may have even broken out the big bucks and posted on Monster. The results were probably that you got about two hundred resumes in two or three days which fell into two categories: ‘Did they even READ the ad?’, and ‘They’re all equally qualified, how do I decide?’  You probably have no problem weeding out the ‘no way, not even if you were the only applicant’ applicants, and are left with the few who appear to be absolutely perfect, and the bigger pile of people who seem ‘fine’ but nothing really stands out about them.  You then start scheduling interviews and find that of your perfect people, some have already found jobs, and the rest must have paid a lot of money for their resume but it is clearly bogus.  So now you stare with sinking stomach at the fifty or so ‘pretty goods’ on your desk.  Then you get busy.  Then it’s a week later and you can’t even stand the thought of starting to make all these calls.  Ugh.  Did you just waste your time and money even posting the ad?

If this sounds familiar, believe me, you are NOT alone!  Recruiting can be the most overwhelming and discouraging part of management.  Here are a few tips that can help, and we’ll be posting some additional articles on this since it’s such a big topic.  First is resume screening.  Before you even post your ad, make sure you are very, very clear about what the person will be actually DOING.  This should form the basis of your job description as well.  Don’t skip this step no matter what.  Besides the job description, make this a checklist.  It should contain things like, for example, create spreadsheets, call customers, greet clients, send out newsletter or whatever you will have the person be doing.  Then make a second checklist about the traits you’d like the person to have.  Is sense of humor important?  Put it on.  Does punctuality matter?  Get it on there.  What should NEVER be on your list is anything to do with protected characteristics such as age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, national origin.  Incorporate both these lists into your ad and make it easy on yourself by asking the candidates to include a cover letter explaining how they meet your requirements.  When you’re screening the resumes, only people who comply make the shortlist.  This also can form the basis of your interviews.  For more on interviewing, check our next blog;  Interviewing’