A Structured Interview Process Brings in Top Performers
If you were inclined, you and your team could hold unstructured interviews and follow the process where it led you. You could, for example, simply sit back at the beginning of the session and give the candidate a prompt like “Tell me about yourself.” Then you could simply follow the conversation down a winding path wherever it took you, and you could glean unsolicited data about the candidate along the way. You might learn a bit about their personality, and you might gain insight into their approach to problem-solving or their questionable habit of blurting first and correcting later. You could use this unstructured method to identify red flags or allow your candidate to boast about their past without being prompted.
But here’s the problem: You also might not. Without structure, you simply don’t know what you’ll get out of the process before it starts, and while you may leave the session with volumes of data, you may also leave with no meaningful information at all. So to limit this possibility, maintain a few elements of solid framing, even if you conversation wanders slightly off the path. Here’s how.
Know what you’re looking for.
Long before your session begins, create a list of must-haves for this role. Know the difference between what you want to see (a positive attitude, a cheerful smile) and what you must see in order to make an offer (SQL certification, proposal writing experience). No matter what other topics come up, make sure you ask about each of the items on your list at some point and check them off as you go.
Know what won’t work for you.
Regardless of your personal feelings, your company culture is not ephemeral; it’s real, it changes slowly, and cultural fit is often non-negotiable. Even if your candidate excels at the job, a clear cultural mismatch will drive them away eventually, so find the alignment you need or keep looking. For example, if your teams are collaborative and your culture rewards teamwork and cooperation, don’t hire a competitive, solitary shark. They’ll find Their match elsewhere, and the sooner you spot the disconnect, the better.
Rely on testing.
For some quantitative, measurable skill sets, there’s only one clear way to gauge readiness: testing. Foreign language fluency, math, grammar, and certain software proficiencies can be easily put to the test with a few pointed questions or a structured exam. Don’t miss an opportunity to get out your measuring stick.
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Creating a structured process with assessments and metrics may come at a cost, but in the long run, the benefits will be worth it. Stay fair, clear, standardized, and consistent and you’ll come out ahead. For more on how to choose the right candidates during your hiring process, work with a top recruiter in Scottsdale and contact the ACCENT Hiring Group.
Need Talent? Prioritize This!
You need talent. And you need commitment. But above all, as you launch your candidate search for a critical open position, you need a clear and reliable match between the needs of the position and the candidate’s personality, abilities, and plans. Far too often, staffing managers focus exclusively on job specific skills, or ineffable personality traits (what exactly is a “hard worker”?), and as they pursue this area of single-minded focus, they target candidates who just won’t stay with the company, no matter how talented they may be.
To avoid this problem, open a wide and honest communication channel between the company and the candidate. Don’t be blinded by his or her programming or leadership abilities; keep personality and plans in the picture, no matter how tempting it may be to push them aside. Consider the guidelines below.
Just because they can doesn’t mean they will.
You need a candidate who speaks five specific languages, and lo and behold, you found your needle in the haystack and a brilliant linguist is sitting across from you at the interview table. Your first instinct may be to spin the nature of the job in a way that she might find appealing. You may feel the urge to blur the truth, hide the gritty daily realities, or make her role seem more prestigious than it is. Ignore this temptation. Why? Because if you bring her aboard on misleading pretenses, they’ll leave within a year and you’ll be restarting the search from square one — at great cost and expense. If their core skill set is rare, it’s even more important to stay honest and open from the first interaction to the last.
Signal honesty at every turn.
It’s great if you ARE honest and your statements are all perfectly above board and accurate. But you also need to SEEM honest from the start. Candidate interactions can be brief and fleeting, and just as you may make decisions based on quick impressions, your candidates are doing the same. An unreturned phone call, a long awkward pause before answering a question, or even a fleeting hint of rudeness during the session can send an oversized message.
Deal in good faith.
Of course, your offer and the salary you present will be based on your own needs and your own budget, not the candidate’s. You hope to gain maximum returns on your investment, and you’re paying the employee for their productivity, not for their dismal commute or their steep student loan payments. But at the same time, you’ll be more likely to attract and retain top candidates if you factor these things into the equation and treat the candidate like a human being with needs and requirements of her own. Listen closely to discern what they’re looking for (Flexible hours? A strong mentor?) and do what you can to offer these things. Seek common ground during the negation process; don’t just focus on your own interests.
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Don’t Overlook Your Female Leaders
No responsible manager overlooks a female candidate for overtly sexist reasons. In a well-run company, you’re unlikely to find a manager who confesses to passing over a qualified candidate for a promotion simply because the candidate identifies as female. These kinds of unabashed sexist decisions and actions are holdovers from another era, and even if motivations are rooted in subtle sexist assumptions, most managerial training programs, and HR directives are designed to root out ingrained forms of bias that can undermine the workforce and harm the company. But despite surface-level societal changes, these forms of bias can be stubborn, and women are still not promoted at a rate that reflects their contributions to the workforce.
So in order to advance your own success and that of your organization, shine a light into your own deeply held, unexamined beliefs the next time you’re called upon to make a promotion decision. Keep these thoughts in mind.
If not, why not?
If you’re not inclined to promote a female candidate, ask yourself hard questions, and don’t seek escape in easy answers. Your first thought may be something like “Well, she just doesn’t have the numbers,” or “She doesn’t strike me as a leader.” Double check these numbers, and if you’re wrong, have the courage to admit it and change course. If she doesn’t strike you as a leader, ask yourself why not. Maybe you aren’t actually watching her or taking her actions and decisions at face value. Assume your decisions are motivated by ingrained bias and see if your perspective shifts.
“Her voice is too high.”
Write down your criticisms. Generate a list of statements that you assume preclude your candidate from a leadership role. Then go down the list and cross off every metric or assessment that you wouldn’t or haven’t applied to your male candidates. Chances are, her mistakes are similar to — not greater than — those of her male counterparts. And her voice, mannerisms, clothing, gestures, or shoe style are holding far more influence over your decision than they should.
Factor in every detail.
Recognize that fairness doesn’t come naturally to most of us; our fairest assessments of others are still influenced by unrecognized racial, gender, and other biases that we can’t root out of ourselves via a simple act of will. If you recognize a natural deficit within yourself (we all have them), and recalibrate to compensate for it, where does that leave you? And where does it leave your female candidate? You aren’t doing her a favor by making this internal adjustment; she’s earned the right to a fair and honest evaluation. And you owe it to your company to appropriately leverage her talents and leadership skills. If you overlook or disregard them, she’s likely to redirect her energies and search for opportunity elsewhere.
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Not Giving Feedback to Female Employees Can Hurt Their Careers
According to a joint study by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org, members of both genders ask for workplace feedback at equal rates, but managers are 20 percent less likely to provide “difficult” feedback to women than to men.
There may be several possible reasons behind a decision to withhold feedback from female employees, from a fear of seeming gender-biased to concerns about being disliked by the employee; Managers cited both reasons as concerns and some also reported a fear of seeming too harsh.
But as it happens, withholding criticism and withholding constructive feedback aren’t the same, and they don’t lead to similar results. Women who don’t receive honest feedback and coaching from their managers often report being left out and left behind and may miss out on opportunities for growth.
What does this mean for managers who — consciously or unconsciously — provide limited corrective or insightful comments to their female employees? If you feel you may fall into this category (regardless of your gender), keep these thoughts in mind.
Criticism isn’t coaching
Simply nitpicking female employees, criticizing them unfairly, or holding them to higher standards than their male peers won’t do the trick. Misogyny and bias often appear in the form of unwarranted criticism, so piling on more negativity won’t win the day. Instead, after an employee mistake or a performance that could use a few improvements, think about your words. Ask yourself three questions before you speak them: Will my words help her improve? Am I hesitating to share feedback because I fear her reaction? Is my criticism justified and fair? If you answer yes to all three, gather your courage and speak your mind.
If you hesitate to provide feedback because you believe your employee might have an emotional meltdown or run crying for the ladies’ room, stop and think. Is this imaginary scenario realistic? Or is it just the product of your own gender-related assumptions? Since it’s probably the second, take this opportunity to correct some faulty wiring and cultural biases within yourself, not your employee. Recognize that despite your assumptions, she probably won’t react this way at all, then deliver your feedback with dignity and confidence.
If you genuinely fear that your criticisms will be poorly received, be honest and open with your employee about this fact. You can simply say “I hesitate to give you negative feedback because I want you to like me, but some things are more important than being liked.” You can also say: “I’m afraid of hurting your feelings, but I believe my feedback can support your growth.”
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How Can an Incentive Program Reward Your “B” Players?
Too often, the rewards provided by incentive programs are disproportionately granted to a group of strong performers who don’t need incentives to maintain the status quo. If you imagine the team as athletes — runners, for example — these are the performers who were born with long legs and typically stride at a faster gait and cover more ground than their peers, without necessarily exerting more effort. They may enjoy receiving rewards and incentives, but at a certain point, these runners should be rewarded for growth, not for consistently maintaining the same above-average numbers.
At the same time, incentive programs should offer more rewards and focus more attention on the “B” players, the second-place achievers who contribute only slightly less, on average, but at a far greater cost to themselves. These runners with slightly shorter legs should be the primary beneficiaries of an incentive program since their contributions are directly linked to effort and active engagement. As you develop your program, keep these considerations in mind.
Before distributing an award, provide data that reveals the metrics used to make the decision. If the reward is non-competitive (for example, a recognition of a unique achievement), this data isn’t so important. But if multiple employees have been asked to compete for one award, be ready to show how and why the winner was chosen.
Keep recognition flowing
Rewards and recognition should happen on an almost-daily basis, and opportunities for success should be readily and constantly available to those who strive for them. An effort to excel, no matter how recent, sustained, or fruitful should be acknowledged in some capacity by the organization. Missing an opportunity for a reward should in no way justify giving up the effort; if one reward passes by, the next one should immediately appear on the horizon.
Rewards should be tailored
Again, faster runners and naturally high achievers should be rewarded for growth, not sustained high performance. Slightly slower runners should be rewarded for accomplishment and effort, and slower runners should be rewarded for improvement.
Rewards should be meaningful and proportional
Vast improvement merits a more impressive reward then mild improvement. Long term success merits a greater reward than a short burst of brilliance. As you distribute competitive rewards, don’t compare apples and oranges and recognize that not all victories take place within the same context.
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Employees First, Customers Second – Why You Need to Do This
In a perfect world, CEOs and managers could wave a magic wand and easily keep both employees and customers happy. Give the members of both categories exactly what they need to feel appreciated, and voila! Turnover stays low, sales stay high, and the company thrives. As far as possible, this is the goal that most managers strive to achieve; in fact, if you occupy a leadership role, you may notice that most of your late nights and early mornings are absorbed in the process of pleasing, educating, training, satisfying or motivating one group or the other.
But what happens when the needs of these groups conflict? What should you do when taking care of one group means taking something away from the other? If you need to put a customer on ice to support an employee, should you do it? Yes, you should. Here’s why.
Your employees interact with your customers more than you do.
Employees are your brand ambassadors and hands-on agents, and though you may hold more power and make higher-level decisions, your employees speak and interact with your customers directly and daily. If you take care of your teams, your teams will absorb that positive energy and redirect it. If they feel appreciated and respected, they’ll give others the same consideration.
When a conflict arises, think a few moves ahead.
If a customer argues with an employee, your first instincts should involve protecting and educating your employee, not throwing them under the bus to salvage a single sale. You have two relationships at stake when such conflicts occur, and in almost every case, one is more important and offers more long-term value to the company than the other. Let the customer go. Listen to both side of the story, but stand up for your employee and you’ll receive a loyalty boost that can’t be bought. Use the encounter as a teaching moment.
The customer isn’t always right.
This is an outdated old saying, and if you apply it literally, you can put your employees in an impossible position. Sometimes the customer is wrong, and sometimes the employee must say no, walk away, hang up the phone, or abandon the sale in order to succeed. Train your employees properly, and then step back and give them the freedom to exercise their own judgment when they can’t meet a customer’s needs.
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Keep in mind that a loyal, experienced employee can be worth more than gold. Don’t tarnish or tax this valuable relationship for a fleeting customer interaction that may or may not yield long-term value. For more on how to keep your employees onboard, thriving and engaged, turn to the top recruiters in Scottsdale and contact the ACCENT Hiring Group today!
Workers Want Better Communication: Four Ways to Make It Happen
According to a recent study conducted by Survata, seven out of ten workers are interested in more frequent and meaningful communication from their employers, and it’s not hard to see why; these are complicated times for both employers and employees, and concerns about healthcare options and long term financial plans are taking center stage. Workers want to know what the future holds for their insurance, their pensions, their workplace benefits, and the growth of their careers. And they appreciate and respect employers who can provide clear answers. Here are four ways to build loyalty and improve retention by communicating more effectively with your teams.
Don’t drop news bombs on them.
When you have an unexpected announcement to make regarding, for example, the surprise departure of a respected company leader or a downward swerve in the company’s financial prospects, make the announcement quickly. Don’t sit with the information and let it stew while you spend days crafting the perfect message. This only feeds the rumor mill, which can undermine the strength of your message once it’s released. Make your announcements with strategy and diplomacy in mind, but make them quickly.
Know what “need to know” means.
If you have a message to release, but you’d like to keep it among insiders and essential personnel until you’re ready, do these “essential personnel” know who they are? If you rely on an information hierarchy, make sure the structure of this hierarchy is clear and consistent. Everyone in your inner circle should know where they stand. And everyone who radiates out from this inner circle should recognize and respect the way the lines are drawn.
Skip the long emails.
Don’t send out long emails laden with impenetrable blocks of text when you need to announce a change to the company health plan or business structure. Most employees don’t read long emails from HR, no matter how important the content may be. In fact, most employees won’t even read short emails, and they tend to get their information from other employees during face-to-face conversations. Engage your information hierarchy and make sure each person receives the message by word of mouth from a manager, HR pro, or trusted source.
Don’t just accept feedback; solicit it.
Request feedback from both employees and senior managers, and make sure every person in the company knows where to go and who to speak to make their voice heard. Make sure everyone feels comfortable airing greivances, reporting problems, requesting additional information, and registering opinions.
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Making a Counteroffer to a Departing Employee
One of your most talented employees and valuable contributors just delivered some unfortunate news: They’ve decided to pursue an offer elsewhere and they’re ready to submit her notice. You’re approaching a busy season and you’re not sure how you’re going to manage without their presence and their efforts…So what should you do? Should you say goodbye gracefully and let them go, or should you scramble to present a counter offer that might encourage them to change their mind? Before you decide, take these considerations into account.
Counteroffers are not a permanent fix.
More than 90 percent of employees who accept a counteroffer will be gone within 18 months. There’s a simple reason for this: A departing employee isn’t just looking for more money. A salary bump may sweeten the deal, but money or no money, the employee is ready to move on. You can lure them back to the fold temporarily, but you won’t be resolving the larger issue. They need growth, change, and new challenges. They may settle for the status quo for now, but don’t expect to see them around the office in five years.
Consider the value of the next 18 months.
Again, you can lure the employee back on board for the next 18 months (on average), but will they be happy during this time? Will you? Will you trust them as much as you have in the past, knowing that their interest lies beyond these walls? And more important, will they spend this period of time phoning in their efforts while they contemplate their next move? Put yourself in their shoes and imagine what you might do during this period. Chances are, you’d lean out, not in.
Team cohesion may suffer.
When their teammates know that the employee’s future plans lie elsewhere, they may not trust them with shared responsibilities and they may not connect as deeply with them on a social level. People don’t typically invest as much emotional energy in work relationships when their teammate has one foot out the door.
Money is powerful, but its power has limits.
Research shows that counter to common wisdom, money really CAN buy happiness…but only within certain limits. Over time, the happiness boost that comes from a raise begins to fade and previous levels of reported happiness return. Your departing employee may be pleased by your offer and may feel genuinely mollified and energized by this new level of income and new acknowledgment of respect and appreciation. But again, if they aren’t happy here, more money won’t permanently solve the problem. It may be wise to let them go and make this inevitable personnel transition sooner rather than later.
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The Real Way to Delegate Decisions and Empower Your Team
There’s an old saying that goes, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” But there’s another, more accurate old saying that goes, “If you want to become an effective leader and truly help your team succeed, delegate.” As often as possible, include teams in decision making, execution, and the completion of meaningful work. If you have knowledge, share it. If you have a plan, bring others on board. Instead of powering through on your own, turn your growth and success into a true team effort. Here’s how.
Harness the power of consulting.
Encourage your teams to bring you questions, not problems. Don’t let them simply dump problems in your lap and leave them for you to solve. Allow the problem—whatever it may be—to stay in the employee’s purview, but make yourself available when the employee needs information and guidance. Take responsibility for the suggestions and insights you provide, and if they don’t pan out, share in both the cleanup and the learning process. But when they do pan out, make sure the employee played a fundamental role in the victory.
Provide the tools.
If the employee needs information that can be drawn directly from the company’s institutional knowledge, records, or resources, provide these tools and point the way. If your employee needs insights that are rooted in your own personal experience or training, share what you have. Just try to stop short of providing ready-made answers and clear-cut step-by-step instructions. The less hand-holding you do now, the less you’ll do in the future as your employee gains knowledge and independence.
Set a goal.
When a newer or younger employee comes to you with an issue, you’ll start small. Over time, you’ll provide fewer supports as he or she begins to rely on her own experience and the lessons of her own mistakes. As your delegation skills improve and strengthen, your employee’s skills will improve and strengthen as well. So how will you know when you’ve reached a goal or truly helped an employee grow? Keep an eye out for the day in which your employee knows what you’ll say before you have a chance to say it. When your employee can predict your answers, then place them into a context of personal knowledge and experience, you’ll know that you’ve done your job. You’ll also know that you can trust your teams to handle the crises and issues that arise when you aren’t there.
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