Identify Top Performers, Part 2: Managing Self and Others
You’re screening and examining your final contenders for an open position, and based on the rounds they’ve made it through so far, you can say this of each applicant: they each hold the requisite education requirements and years of experience, they can handle the technical tasks the job requires, and they haven’t yet revealed any clear red flags. In other words, each of them can handle the core needs of the position. But what about leadership and management abilities? You need a candidate who can show self-direction while also coaching and organizing other people. So how can you review a profile for signs of this ability? Here are few ways to spot the candidates with management potential.
Ask about their ambitions.
Many excellent employees and top performers simply have no interest in managing others. Being a “boss” might be a dream for some, but it’s certainly not a dream for everyone, and it’s not unusual for a brilliant employee to reject the extra level of responsibility that comes with a management role, especially if they entered the field for other reasons. (Some people enjoy healing the sick, making bread, selling products, innovating, or fixing cars, but they don’t enjoy managing other employees and don’t see this as a career goal). So during your interview, just ask if they see this in their future. Take their answer at face value.
To get a sense of your candidate’s philosophical approach to management, present a few scenarios. Keep your hypotheticals simple enough to provide you with meaningful data. For example, ask your candidate how she might deal with a direct report who’s chronically late, or a how she might manage a conflict between an employee and a customer. If she has to choose between doing right by the employee and doing right by the company, how does she make the decision? What questions does she ask and what actions does she take as a result?
Estimate the personality match.
If your employees are extroverted, blunt, cheerful, and loud, will the candidate fit in? Will she speak their language? What if your workplace culture is reserved, quiet, and sincere? Think of your current teams, then assess her ability to adapt to their needs and the unique management challenges they present. Someone who can successfully manage the first group might struggle with the second, and vice versa.
Review the past.
Check her resume for signs of relevant experience, and ask her for stories frawn from her professional past. For example, ask her to describe a time when she just didn’t click with a direct report or a boss. What did she do to solve the problem and what were the results?
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For more on how to spot candidates who can take the lead and steer the team in a productive direction, turn to the staffing experts at the ACCENT Hiring Group.
Identify Top Performers — Part 1: Can they Do the Job?
When you begin your staffing and hiring process, you probably start with start with strategic sourcing, or targeting and posting your ads in places where top candidates are most likely to see them. You probably conduct keyword searches to find online resumes, solicit top students at local universities, or otherwise reach out to the best candidates hoping they’ll submit resumes.
But once you’ve collected these resumes, you’ll need to start screening, sifting interviewing and evaluating interested applicants so you can find the right person for the role, the company, and the team. First things first: Can the applicant in front of you successfully execute the daily requirements of the job? Here are a few positive signs.
They’ve done it before.
Most applicants will claim or list experience that’s pretty similar to what you need…more or less. Of course, nobody in the world has done exactly this job under exactly these circumstances (unless you’re interviewing a former employee), but the level of similarity matters. All “sales” roles are certainly not the same, nor are all marketing, analytical or customer service roles. Huge overlaps may exist between one form of experience and another, but before giving the broad-brush benefit of the doubt (“My tenure as a sales rep will make me a great teacher!” or “I’ll be a great ER nurse because it’s so similar to my role as a restaurant manager!” ) think twice.
They speak the language.
When it comes to empty buzzwords, turn on a fan and clear the fog. But when it comes to meaningful industry jargon, listen closely. If your applicant seems mystified by common acronyms or seems oblivious to recent news and developments in the field, this may suggest trouble. He or she should be able to fluently and informally talk the talk. If she can keep up with your existing team members, and even teach them things they don’t know, that’s great. But if he can’t use the right terms for equipment, processes, platforms, and events, that’s not great at all.
They can pass simple tests.
Present your interviewee with some hypothetical situations and ask how she would respond. Give him a pop quiz and see how he does. Remember that interviews can be nerve-wracking and the responses you get may not fully reflect a nervous applicant’s knowledge, but they’ll provide you with a ballpark.
They anticipate some of the challenges of the job without being told or warned.
Give high marks to candidates who can accurately complete sentences like these: “I imagine you probably deal with (insert common industry-specific hassle)? If so, I’m used to that and I can handle it.” “I expect that in this job I’ll probably be managing issues related to (insert a common challenge of the role). Correct?”
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Best Employees Have Quiet Personalities? Here’s How to Get Them to Lead
Quiet employees are often the ones with the best ideas (which may be the case with introverts) or the strongest work ethic (often the case with those who are not inclined to socialize), or they’re the easiest employees to get along with (quiet people often don’t like drama and conflict). Regardless of the reason for their reserved ways, quiet employees can be worth their weight in gold — as employees, and also as co-workers, friends, and people.
It would be great to see more quiet people in positions of leadership. But by nature, quiet people don’t often seek leadership roles without targeted support and encouragement. Here are a few ways to help reticent workers to step out of their comfort zones and into the spotlight.
Are they interested?
First, ask yourself one question: Shy Steve doesn’t want attention … but does he want the opportunity that typically comes with it? If you know that Steve (or Sally or Sam) would really like to overcome this hurdle and climb the management ladder, your help is warranted. But if Steve would genuinely rather not be placed in a position of authority, you’ll need to find ways to leverage his ideas, skills, and gifts without formally changing his social role.
Make speaking opportunities easy.
Give your shy employee opportunities to speak up, take the floor, field questions and demonstrate their expertise. But pave the way and make the process as easy as possible. If they’re scheduled to speak during a meeting, bring them on stage early. Don’t let them stew in anxiety for 30 minutes first. When they step down, lead the applause. If they’re facing pushback during the Q-and-A and getting uncomfortable, step in and end the session. Allow them to find their feet gradually and on their own terms.
Encourage whatever builds confidence.
If your employee seems to glow under public praise and thanks, lay it on. But if their rosy blush is actually the sting of genuine and painful embarrassment, offer your praise in private. Use your social skills to discern the subtle difference. Meanwhile, if they need to overdose on coffee, splash water on their face, or spend some time chatting in your office for a minute before a speaking session or moment of leadership, indulge them.
Set them up for success.
Give your shy employees projects that highlight and make use of their strengths. Allow them to change gradually; don’t just fire off a few pointers and then expect a magical transformation. And above all, give them a net — a safe place to land — as they begin taking new risks and trying new things.
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For more on how to manage each individual employee in ways that suit their strengths, weaknesses, and unique personality, contact the recruiters at the ACCENT Hiring Group.
Creating a Year-Round Culture of Thankfulness
During the Thanksgiving holiday season, it’s nice to hear others speak about what they appreciate in life, and it feels good to share in the ritual and take a moment to thank your employees and teams for their hard work. It feels easy and natural to watch the changing leaves, bundle up in sweaters, and share the joy of the season with those in the workplace. But how can you keep the spirit of generosity and gratitude awake in your teams all year long? How can you keep the warmth of the holiday going when February rolls around and the dark days take their toll and tempers get short? Keep these tips in mind.
Thank you notes may seem old-fashioned, but they certainly still have a place in the professional environment. Like resumes, they came into style generations ago and they just haven’t gone out, despite the rise of technology and shifts in cultural mores. Write thank you notes by hand and deliver them to your employees, and when they write similar letters to coworkers and clients, let them know that you approve.
Encourage outside friendship.
Make it easy for your teams to meet up and spend time together outside of work hours. Something as simple as a long lunch or a company sponsored happy hour can spark connections that can lead to weekend get-togethers. Employees feel more engaged and loyal to an employer when their boss and coworkers feel like friends and family.
Turn every day into Employee Appreciation Day
Every day, look for at least one or two opportunities to celebrate one employee’s personal victory or publicly praise another employee for a job well done. Show thanks and gratitude for those who show up and work hard, and show special appreciation for those who go the extra mile and produce above average results. If your budget allows, offer a general token of your appreciation on a regular basis, regardless of sales numbers or deals closed. For example, offer a pizza lunch in the break room once a month for no reason at all.
Always distribute credit
When praise, awards, new contracts or appreciation fall on the company in general or you personally, don’t take the credit for yourself. Immediately hand it off to those who support you by doing their jobs. Turn to the people who spend their days moving the company forward and making you look good; they’re the ones who make such successes possible, and they should know it.
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For help on bringing in the right employees to build the culture you want, turn to the top recruiters in Scottsdale and contact the ACCENT Hiring Group.
Managing Contract Workers Requires Specific Feedback
When regular employees are brought on board, the terms of their employment are understood at the outset and the relationship between employer and employee is defined and — unless otherwise stated — permanent. Expectations, job descriptions, and standards for performance are typically part of the equation.
But relationships with contractors and contingent workers aren’t as defined. Contract workers tend to join the company on an independent or project-by-project basis, and they aren’t governed or protected by the rules and guidelines that serve this purpose for regular employees.
So, if you’re managing a team of contract workers, your methods for coaching and incentivizing may be limited. You can’t offer the same rewards, punishments, privileges, or warnings that apply to regular team members. How can you motivate them to give their all and correct them when they go astray? Here are a few simple tips that can help.
Don’t be afraid to give feedback.
Feedback — as with regular employees — should be frequent, low-drama, honest, and clear. But too often, employers withhold difficult feedback because they fear they may be misunderstood or they may drive contractors away. But if problems persist, they may eventually reach a breaking point, and at that time it may be too late to salvage the project or the relationship or both. Polite silence helps no one, so if you aren’t getting what you need, speak up.
It goes without saying that compassion and respect should influence all of your interactions with everyone, both inside and outside of the workplace. But contingent workers require extra consideration when it comes to criticism. Help them feel like part of the team, and trust that they understand the nature of their jobs. Before attempting to change an aspect of their personality or their work, make sure you’re asking for something that’s reasonable and necessary.
If something goes wrong and your contingency employee simply isn’t a fit, the arrangement can be severed much more easily than an employment relationship. So there’s no need to panic or become heated; just get to the heart of the matter (or speak with the person’s agency/manager/supervisor), and explain the issue. The next time you engage with a contractor, remember what went wrong and be extra clear about your needs and expectations.
Provide a quick but formal training program.
Before you send your contract off on an independent project, provide them with at least one paid training session so their questions can be identified and addressed.
Pay them fully and promptly.
There’s no faster way to undermine a contingency relationship then by allowing hassles, disputes, and hold-ups regarding payment. Set clear payment terms at the outset when it comes to rates, methods and payment frequency, and stick to these terms.
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An experienced and established staffing agency can help you navigate every one of the items above. To learn more, contact one of the top staffing agencies in Scottsdale and work with the experts at the ACCENT Hiring Group.
Variable Compensation for Employees: What Does the Data Say?
If you’ve ever managed a team — or spent time working as an exempt employee — you know that a salary offer doesn’t always provide a complete picture of an employee’s total annual compensation. In addition to base annual salary for exempt employees and hourly rates for non-exempt workers, by the end of a given year a typical employee may receive compensation in the form of insurance benefits, a hiring bonus, a performance-based bonus, or team incentives that have yet to be determined as the year begins. Variable compensation means two employees who make the same amount on paper can take home wildly different amounts of money by the end of the year.
Is this a good thing for the company? Anecdotal responses are mixed; some say variable pay generates motivation and increases productivity, while others believe the practice inhibits transparency, perpetuates bias, and undermines company culture. If incentives are offered for subjective or undocumented reasons, if they’re offered unfairly, or if they’re offered and then withdrawn, the concept of variable pay can easily become a source of resentment and a driver of turnover.
In an effort to see past opinions and gather clear data on the subject, Payscale conducted research and published its 2017 Compensation and Best Practices Report, and the results were revealing in some areas. Here are a few key takeaways from the report.
Variable pay is a prominent aspect of modern compensation. 74 percent of the companies that participated in the survey report offer some form of variable pay.
Variable pay practices are more likely to take place in larger companies and less likely among small companies and start-ups.
Variable pay trends show increasing frequency during the year. Instead of one end-of-year bonus, companies are more likely than they were a year ago to offer quarterly or monthly bonuses.
Among surveyed companies, 64 percent offer individual bonuses, the most common form of variable pay. 25 percent offer team incentives, and 46 percent offer spot or discretionary bonuses.
A growing number of companies are providing bonuses and performance-based incentives to non-exempt workers. Top-performing companies are more likely to do this.
Individuals and non-exempt workers often don’t recognize their impact on team goals. Variable pay based on team performance can help these individuals align their goals with those of the company.
Contact the team at the ACCENT Hiring Group to learn more about the study and find out if variable pay is the right move for your growing company.
Your Workplace Culture: Create More Innovators and Entrepreneurs
Could your workplace culture use a boost? When you look at your divisions and teams, would you like to see an increase in engagement, ambition, and idea-sharing? Even if your teams generally get along and enjoy their jobs, you may still see room for improvement and you may still benefit in looking for ways to cultivate your employees’ self-drive and sense of investment.
According to workplace science experts at Gallup, the primary difference between mediocre workplace cultures and strong, engaged cultures can be found in the knowledge and skills of team leaders. So if you focus your efforts on honing your existing leaders, you’ll begin an upward spiral; better leaders will mean more engaged employees, who will develop their own leadership skills, and eventually all the boats in your workplace will rise with the tide. Even those who have no official authority or direct reports (entry-level workers and those in support roles) will become leaders, innovators, and self-driven forward thinkers.
So what can you do to spark this spiral of improvement and this pervasive sense of ownership and leadership? Start with these three concepts.
Development matters. While most talented employees are interested in improving their knowledge and skills, they’re also occupied by the tasks of the moment. And without guidance and direction, even the best intentions might not result in practical learning and skill development. So take control, provide structured growth opportunities, and encourage your employees to take advantage of them. Establish classes and training courses in specific, measurable and practical skills that can be applied to the company mission. Then make it easy for employees to take advantage of these courses. Hold them during regular work hours and offer incentives for course completion (or simply makes training and development sessions mandatory).
At any given moment, any person in your workplace should be able to answer these questions, if asked: What are you doing? Why are you doing it? How does this small action support larger actions which support the company as a whole? Too often, employees can’t really answer these questions or they don’t know exactly why they’ve been tasked with various assignments, and this can undermine their sense of purpose. Bring everyone into the loop whenever possible, stay transparent, and make sure everyone knows how their contributions support the enterprise.
Strength Based Coaching
Every employee steps into your workplace with a certain set of strengths, which include hard-earned skills, natural talents, or just positive ingrained personality traits they’ve possessed since birth. These “strengths”, if cultivated and encouraged, can help employees unlock the full power of their innovation and self-drive. Focus on finding the inherent strengths in every employee and bringing them forward for all to see.
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Workplace Friendships Make it Harder for Employees to Leave
As a manager, you may or may not decide to invest heavily in the shifting tides of employee relationships and workplace gossip. You may decide that these fluctuations have nothing to do with you, and if bonds form between friends or misunderstandings strain once strong relationships, these events don’t involve you in any way. If the work gets done, your employees are adults and they can sort out their own affairs…right?
Maybe. Friendships come and go, and the workplace is simply a microcosm of life in general. But if you do decide to invest in what’s happening around you, you may be surprised by the benefits that come your way. Encouraging employee friendships can elevate the culture and quality of your workplace and it can reduce turnover by strengthening ties between your workers and the company. And if you help employees resolve their differences and see the best in each other, they’ll respond with respect and goodwill. Here are few moves to try.
Just pay attention.
Two friends were on the outs last week, but now they’ve patched things up. Steve admires the new guy and his best work friend is a little jealous. Sally ignored Sarah’s contribution during the status meeting and accidentally hurt her feelings. Sam and Amy disagree on the direction of the project, but they don’t want to argue in front of the rest of the team. You don’t have to act on any of these things if you choose, but it’s a good idea to take mental notes and keep up.
Encourage personal time together.
Organized events (mini-golf tournaments, company-sponsored banquets, formal happy hours, etc.) may be fun, but they aren’t always the best way to foster friendships outside of the workplace. In addition to these things, encourage your teams to talk to each other elsewhere. Allow and encourage them to hold meetings at coffee shops, call each other at home, meet on the weekends, and get to know each other.
Be a “therapist” when called upon.
When two friends have a difference to resolve and they turn to you, don’t immediately extricate yourself. Encourage them to see each other’s point of view and give each other the benefit of the doubt. You don’t need to license to practice couples counseling; you just need some patience and good intentions.
With permission, share announcements of good news like weddings, births, and non-work-related accomplishments. Make personal events into community events.
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Where Can You Learn About a Job Candidate Outside of Your Work Environment?
The most professional and efficient way to assess your candidate’s readiness for the job is trusted and traditional: Schedule a formal job interview. But unfortunately, the job interview format comes with a few limits. Candidates are often intimidated by the setting, and they may have a hard time showing their true personalities. Some candidates may be so nervous they fail to highlight key points that could help them make their case. And some interviewers also come across the wrong way in this context: too rigid, too impersonal, and not willing to share the downsides of the job (which can mislead the candidate into accepting a job that isn’t right for them.)
As a result of these limitations, some managers like to extend the getting-to-know-you process beyond the boundaries of the workplace. If you’d like to invite your candidate for a few drinks, an offsite lunch, or even an afternoon of ice cream and mini-golf, keep these tips in mind.
Don’t go alone.
Once you exit the office, you leave some of its formal protections and policies behind. For example, dress codes and behavior restrictions don’t apply when you’re meeting elsewhere as independent adults. So don’t risk a potentially awkward conversation or misunderstanding that might negatively impact your job or your company. Bring along at least one co-worker or supervisor in order to maintain a social tie to the workplace. Ideally, invite your entire team so they can also get to know the candidate who may work side-by-side with them later on.
Take advantage of your non-professional setting.
You may feel inclined to police your questions and conversation as if you’re conducting an interview, but if you’re offsite, there’s no need. Allow the conversation to become as personal as you like — WITHOUT crossing dubious boundaries by asking about the candidate’s protected status, which may include their ethnicity, religion, family status, or sexual orientation. Ask about favorite activities, food, movies, or travel experiences. Feel free to joke and connect with the candidate as long as your conversation does not stray into these inappropriate areas. (Again, having co-workers and managers present can prevent this from happening while still cultivating a warm and relaxed interaction.)
Write down what you learn.
Immediately after your interaction ends, write down the important details that surfaced during the evening or afternoon. You may not remember them reliably later, and taking notes in the moment can change the tone of an otherwise casual conversation.
Be clear and honest.
If you invite your candidates out for a relaxed social event, don’t let them assume that the selection process is complete — You haven’t yet made your decision and you’re likely to be observing their words and behavior with the job in mind. Don’t suggest otherwise.
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Build Goodwill with the Candidates You Don’t Hire
During your interview process, you may become exhausted and frustrated with a lack of quality candidates…But if you’re like most hiring managers, you’re more likely to experience the opposite: more great candidates than you can ever reasonably bring on board. If you only have one open position, you’re probably going to face at least two applicants—and possibly several more — who you’ll have to turn away, even if you’re impressed with their qualifications and personalities. So, what can you do to make the rejection process a little easier — for both of you? How can you say goodbye but still leave your excellent applicant with a feeling of positivity and goodwill that might carry over into a potential working relationship at some point in the future? Keep these considerations in mind.
Cut quickly through paperwork bottlenecks, HR hassles, overlapping vacations, and other workplace priorities to reach your hiring decision quickly. An efficient, expedient process and a timely decision demonstrate respect for the candidate. Drawing things out will breed resentment, and rightly so. Your candidate has important decisions and plans riding on this outcome, just like you.
Provide feedback if you can.
If an applicant asks for an explanation, it’s okay to keep your cards close to the vest, since too much sharing can open your decision to scrutiny and your company to potential legal action. But if you have harmless, positive feedback to offer, the benefits of sharing can outweigh the risks. For example, if your candidate was highly qualified but the next in line had an additional degree and a few more years of relevant experience, explaining this can put potential resentment and self-doubt to rest.
If you’d like to keep the relationship open, say so.
If you have no further interest in maintaining a relationship, that’s fine. But if you’d like the rejected applicant to keep checking your website and applying for future opportunities, make this clear. Most applicants won’t do this unless they’re invited. Open lines of communication are a two-way responsibility, and after applying in good faith and being turned away, potential employees will typically close the door. If you’d prefer to stay in contact or you’d like to keep the candidate’s resume on file, let them know.
Give them something.
The strongest possible gesture of goodwill may come from the offer of a small gift or token that shows genuine interest, appreciation, and respect. Providing a discount on the company’s products can sow positive seeds, and so can signing the applicant up for a subscription or service that supports their job search, like a series of online interview tutorials.
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