Archive Page 2

Manage the Hiring Process for Win-Win Outcomes

It may seem strange to think of the hiring process as a win-win.  After all, one candidate gets the job (the “winner”) and everyone else doesn’t (the “losers”).  However, if you manage the process well, you can get both a present and future return.  The current return is a great hire.  The future return is the ability to identify additional candidates that might be a good fit for similar positions, or even new ventures that play to their strengths.

But if you don’t manage the hiring process well, you risk losing both present and future return.  I recently chatted with someone who was a finalist for a position as a COO in a medium-sized company.  The company brought him in for the final interview and promised that he would hear back within 24 hours whether or not he had been chosen.  They also asked him to submit his travel expenses to be reimbursed within a week.  Well…six weeks later, after repeated phone calls and e-mails, he has heard nothing and has not been reimbursed for his expenses.

This company has lost in several ways:  if they were to decide at a later date to make an offer, he would most likely turn them down.  Additionally, he is telling his story to others who might have considered the company but now will hesitate to do so.  Bottom line:  treat all applicants with courtesy and follow through on your promises.  If you do, even the person who does not get the job may be more inclined to consider you in the future and recommend you to others.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440.

Why Should I Share Critical Business Information with my Employees?

You’ve worked very hard to build your business and finally your hard work is starting to pay off in terms of income and profit.  But, unless you are a sole proprietor with no employees or contractors, is that success just the result of your work?  What about your employees?  What have they contributed?  And how could you get them to contribute more?

Rather than hiding information about business outcomes, try putting them out there for everyone to see. Here are some ideas:

• Create a display highlighting key results that support your business goals.  Depending on the type of business, this could be total sales dollars by month or quarter,  number of customers acquired, productivity/ number of defects per widget or any other key indicator.  Whatever you choose needs to be easily visible to all employees, so put it where they can see it.

• Incorporate these key indicators into employee communications and challenge them to do better.  For example “Our defect rate last month was X per widget.  In order to keep ahead of our competition, we need to reduce that by 50% over the next 3 months.”

• This is the hard part:  when an employee says “I have an idea that will reduce our defect rate” LISTEN.  Then work with any willing party to assess, refine, and implement the idea.

• Finally, recognize and communicate successes.  Be transparent about the resulting cost and time savings.  If an idea results in significant improvement, perhaps a bonus is in order.  After all, it’s not all about you, right?

Sharing business information for the purpose of improving the business can encourage your employees to think critically and creatively about their contribution.   In so doing, they move beyond the “employee” role into a “partner” role for the benefit of all.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440.

Are Your People Employees or Business Partners?

Does it seem like you are taking on more and more of what you hired people to do?  Are you handing out paychecks and wondering what value you are getting?  If so, you need to help your staff move from an “employee” mentality to a “business partner”  who is engaged in improving the business.

The first step in this process is to step back and look at what you (yes you!) are doing that allows your employees to stop doing things they were hired to do.    Here are some questions to ask yourself:

• Are you a perfectionist for whom nothing is ever good enough so you are the only one who can do the job right?

• Do you always clarify why you are asking an employee to do something and what the expected outcome is?

• Are you quick to correct mistakes but slow to praise when someone goes “above and beyond?”

If any of these apply to you, you will need to modify your behavior before you expect your employees to modify theirs.

The next step is to share business plans and challenges with your employees on a regular basis.  And, ask them for their help in creating solutions to the challenges.  Even if you don’t fully implement a suggestion, the employee knows they have been heard and will be more likely to step up to the plate next time.

The final step is to be transparent about what is costs to run your business and engage employees in a conversation about how they can reduce costs and increase profits.  More about that next time.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. Sharon helps businesses hire, train and retain outstanding employees and create workplaces where everyone can do their best work.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440

What Your Employees Can Tell You About Your Business – But You Have to Ask

As a business owner or manager, you have final responsibility for decision-making.  Are you sure that your decisions are based on facts, or are they based on how you see things?  If you want to find out what is really going on in your business, a good place to start is with your customer-facing employees.  Here are some questions to ask:

  • What’s the most difficult customer challenge you’ve dealt with in the past month?  How did you handle it?  Was the customer satisfied with the result?
  • What helps you help customers?  What hinders you from helping customers?
  • What’s the most positive comment you have heard from a customer in the past month?

Now comes the most difficult part – you must listen to the answers without judging them.  If you immediately jump on the employee for not doing what you think they should, they will never again give you any useful information.  Thank them for their honesty and even if you disagree with their perspective, look for the kernel of truth.  And, if you make changes based on what they say, involve them in the process so that in future, they will start alerting you to issues before you ask.  That is a win for everyone in the business.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. Sharon helps businesses hire, train and retain outstanding employees and create workplaces where everyone can do their best work.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440

What is Employee Engagement? Why Should I Care?

Put very simply, employee engagement is the level at which your employees are willing to “go to bat” for you.   A “highly engaged” employee feels a connection to the company and consciously works to meet company goals.  A “disengaged” employee feels little connection to the company and in fact, may consciously try to sabotage company goals.

How can you tell if your employees are engaged?  Ask yourself the following questions:
• How often does work get done faster than I expected?
• How often does the quality of work exceed my expectations?
• If I were to observe my employees outside of the office, what would they be saying about the company?
If your answer to the first two questions is “never” and the third is “they would be complaining” you have a problem.

So,  what can you do to increase their level of engagement?    Here are a few suggestions:
• Make sure they know why their job is important and how it contributes to company goals.
• Be clear about your expectations for quality performance and what that looks like.
• Model the behavior you wish to see in your employees.

The success of your business depends on your employees’ willingness to fully participate in the work.  This is a shared responsibility – you need to do your part to make it happen.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440.

Why Should I Train my Employees? They’ll Just Leave!

Many business owners view training as a cost rather than an  investment.  They see the time away from  work, and often are disappointed with the results because there is little or no change.  And sometimes, employees do leave shortly after the owner has made a major investment in training.

So why should you train? And, more importantly, how do you ensure that the training “sticks” and is applied on the job?  Consider the following points:

  • If the worker is not properly trained to do the job, performance will be less than optimal. This is especially true of new hires. Yes, they may have the requisite skills, but do they know what your expectations are, and what outstanding performance looks like?  They may not need formal classroom training, but they most certainly need on-the-job coaching and information.
  • Ask yourself, what is the cost of not training?  Are you willing to accept mediocre performance?  How will that impact your business?
  • While some employees are perfectly content to do the same job the same way year after year, routine also breeds mediocrity.  What are you doing to make sure your employees are able to deal with a challenging business environment and make a real contribution?  (If you need an example of the changed business landscape, just think Social Media.)

Thus, the wise business owner works with employees to identify  gaps and opportunities for growth.  When the employee understands why they are receiving training and how they are expected to apply it on the job they will be more invested and less likely to leave.    And, consider training for yourself.  If you are eager to learn and apply what you learn, your employees will be too.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440.

Progressive Discipline – a Good Approach to Improving Employee Performance?

Consider the following scenario:

Your administrative assistant compiles a month-end report for you on critical business data.  The report due date is three business days after the end of the month, but recently this has been slipping to four, then five days or even later.  Frustrated, you follow company procedure and give her a verbal warning, telling her that you expect the report to be ready on the due date next month.  She promises that it will be…and once again, the report is three days late.  So, you give her a written warning, and explain that the consequence of continuing to miss the date will be termination.  Once again, the report is not ready on time, so you fire her.

Ask yourself, would you do your best work under threat of termination?  Probably not.  Are there better alternatives to helping an employee improve performance?  Definitely.  Consider the following:
• Lateness is the symptom, not the problem.  Why is the report late?  Is critical data not available timely?  Are there other priorities that get in the way of completing the report?
• Why do you need the report three business days after month end?  Just because it’s always been that way?  What is the actual need and by when?
• Are there unique circumstances over the past few months that have contributed to the issue?  Will they continue?  If not, the issue will likely resolve itself with no intervention.

In a few cases, you may not be successful with these strategies. But if you need to terminate, it’s at least with a good understanding of why things are not working and what you need to look for in the next candidate.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440.

The Job Description: How to Ensure You Hire the Right Person

When I read job ads in the paper or online I often see the following phrases:
• Need energetic go-getter! (Sales)
• Partner with the Best! (Accounting)
• Unlimited Opportunity! (Retail)

Or the following:
• (Company Name) is a Management Consulting firm, specializing in distribution design and implementation with the purpose of solving our client’s business problems… (IT Company.)

If you were applying for a job with any of the above companies, would you have an accurate idea of what is required?  Probably not.  So, as an employer,  in 25 words or less, how do you convey what you are looking for and how you will know you have found it?  Here are some suggestions:
• Define your terms in relation to the position.  What does “energetic go-getter” mean?  Someone who will browbeat customers until they buy?  Probably not…more likely you are looking for a salesperson who can build customer relationships and generate repeat sales.  Asking for specific skill sets and experience may prevent applications from every “Go-Getter” in town who thinks they want to go into sales.
• Distinguish between needs and wants for the position.  If your best producers all have at least 5 years experience in the position, then that is most likely a need.  A want might be a college degree.
• Finally, and most importantly, be clear about the impact you expect the employee’s work will have for the company.  Hiring someone to work without understanding what the expected outcomes are doesn’t  benefit the company or the employee.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440.

Three Critical Interview Questions to Identify the Best Candidate

Do you ask any of the following questions in an interview:

• Tell me about yourself.
• What is your greatest strength/weakness?
• Why do you want to work here?

If so, you will almost always get the answer the candidate thinks you want to hear, rather than information that will help you make a decision about whether he or she is a good fit for the position. So what can you do to ensure you get good information? In her book A Manager’s Guide to Hiring the Best Person for Every Job Deanne Rosenberg discusses three question types that will help you get a clear picture of what the candidate really is capable of:

• What if … ? (the candidate is asked to respond to a problem that exists in your organization.)
• What has been your experience with … ? (the candidate is asked to describe specific situations in past work situations.)
• What has been the most challenging situation you faced related to … ? (the candidate is asked to describe the issue and how they resolved it.)

All of these questions force the candidate to answer based on knowledge and experience, not what they think you want to hear. But, to ask these types of questions, you need to know exactly what the position requires in terms of objectives and outcomes, not just skills and tasks. More about that in a future column.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440.

“Onboarding” Can Make or Break Your Next New Hire

If you are a small or medium sized business, you may not bring new people on board that often. But when you do hire someone, what process do you have in place to help them be successful? Do you just give them the company handbook to read and say “we’re glad you’re here?” If so you are missing a great opportunity to integrate them into your business for the long term. Here are some suggestions to make a new hire “stick”:

• Have all of the tools they need to do their job in place before they start. I know salespeople who did not have business cards for several weeks after starting a new job. What kind of impression does that make, both for the employee and the business?
• It’s important to know company policies, but it’s even more important to know how your job supports company goals and objectives and what quality work looks like. No one works well in a vacuum. Create a clear picture of goals and expectations for the new employee.
• Facilitate connections with others both inside and outside the business. Your introduction to a key internal or external customer will help the new person see the larger picture of where they fit in.

If you make it clear that you are investing in your new hire, it’s much more likely that they will invest in you and help achieve your goals. That’s a win-win outcome!

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440.