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Time poverty

Time poverty the latest corporate epidemic

Poor timekeeping and time poverty

Richard Branson wrote on LinkedIn telling us that if we wanted to be more productive, we should be more punctual. Yet poor time keeping seems to be a current and growing trend, as everyone claims to be overloaded and time poor.

Time poverty has become a corporate and cultural epidemic. Busy or stressed has become today’s standard response to a routine enquiry asking someone how they are. We ae constantly complaining about time poverty.

Time scarcity seems to have become a badge of success and an indicator of professional status.

Opportunity cost  

I confess to having been guilty of some erratic time keeping myself. I was very much “a one more thing before I go”  type of girl and a great subscriber to the phrase “fashionably late.” But, fortunately in my early career, I worked for a manager who monetized the communally wasted time whenever any of his team was late for a meeting. It was actually quite shocking. If we had all been held financially accountable, our pay cheques would have been significantly lighter.

When I transitioned into sales I had to replace  “better late than never ” with  “never late is better.”   Arriving late isn’t actually a recognised commercially winning strategy.

Running late

I have become acutely aware in recent times how erratic general timekeeping seems to have become and how easily  the phrase “running late”,  has slid into our daily business and social vernacular, including my own. Very often people apologise, (sometimes they don’t), explaining that either they, someone, or something else was “running late“, as though they were a bus service, entirely passive and had nothing to do with it at all. Clearly there are always unforeseen circumstances but these tend to be less common than imagined.

I ran a training session a few weeks ago when 50% of attendees were late. I was told this was quite usual. A contact mentioned that two of that same organisation’s account managers were late for a sales meeting with a senior director in his company. They went on to lose the account. A lack of respect for time, their own and others, has become embedded into their corporate culture.

Why are we all becoming more tolerant of  poor time keeping? Whatever happened to William Shakespeare’s “Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late?”

Consequences

Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management From the Inside Out,  tells us that the first step is to make promptness a conscious priority, but also we need to  gain an understanding into why we’re always late. Poor timekeeping can be very costly, both directly  but also via damage to our reputations suggesting we are unreliable,  untrustworthy and/or disorganised. The reasons she maintains tend to fall into two categories: technical or psychological.

1. Technical Difficulties

If we are always late but at different time then, the likelihood is that it is the result of  bad planning and under estimating how long things will take. Morgenstern advises establishing patterns by keeping a time log of all tasks and finding out exact how much time each task takes. Then factor in a margin for some unforeseen contingency.

2. Psychological

 – Inability to say no

Linda Sapadin, PhD, author of Master Your Fears believes there are deeper underlying implications of poor timekeeping,  which are linked to procrastination. Very often many of the difficulties come from lack of confidence and an inability to say no,  or even to tell another person we have another appointment in our diaries.

– Do you choose to be late?

If we are always late by the same amount of time, there could be a number of reasons – but no doubt, it’s about us!  We might be:

  • Rebellious   – not doing what’s expected
  • A crisis maker   – need an adrenalin rush to get going
  • Attention seeker  – which comes with being last through the door and going through the apology ritual.
  • Power playing  – I’m more important than you are,  sending a message of disrespect
  • Avoider – you don’t want to meet the person, or attend the meeting, so leave it until the very last-minute.

So next time instead of saying something  “ran late”, perhaps we should all just be honest and admit to being bad planners, power players, attention seekers or avoiders.

More importantly if we manage our own time, we will automatically respect the time of others. We should also stop thinking poor time management is worth emulating and follow Richard Branson’s lead.

“It means being an effective delegator, organiser and communicator.”

If you need support with your time management and planning which could impact your career – check out these coaching programmes.

Interviews with H.R. are the gatekeeping process

Meaningless interviews with H.R. Really?

Why do so many underestimate interviews with H.R?

I’ve heard some comments recently from candidates or job search clients related to interviews with H.R. I’ve selected two, because the others carried the same message, they were just phrased differently.

  • Comment #1 – From a job seeking client:  “I’ve only attended a series of meaningless interviews with H.R.”
  • Comment #2 – From a candidate I was interviewing who was woefully unprepared: “Don’t worry, I will be better prepared for the decision-maker”   

Sadly for him, I was the decision maker. His process ended right there.

Gatekeepers

It is true that the calibre of some H.R. individuals, may not be high all the time. But regardless, they are the gate keepers to the process.  Candidates, this is your wake-up call. Interviews with H.R. are not meaningless, even if they seem that way. They are the first decision makers. If H.R. cut you, it rarely happens that the line or hiring managers go back and ask to see the thousands of CVs and telephone screening notes of unprocessed candidates. Many pundits encourage candidates to bypass H.R. totally and locate the hiring manager. That can work, but usually offers are made via H.R. so they can still nix your application. It is only very rarely you can leapfrog interviews with H.R.

And sometimes you don’t know you are encountering H.R., as one candidate found to his cost with #HRTechWorld colleague Matt Buckland

Attitude and aptitude

How you interact with H.R.,recruiters and anyone else in the process is measured, monitored and judged. You are then compared to other candidates or the benchmark  for the position for that company. An overview centred around cultural fit and expectations will be made. Your attitude matters as much as your hard skills. If you are rude and entitled then it’s factored in. I interviewed a senior manager for an executive role in a very conservative organisation.  Let’s be clear. It was not a junior coding role in a tech start-up.  He was not professionally attired.   I simply made a note of the facts and the company President commented on it as a sign of a certain attitude. He was processed further, but that same attitude surfaced in other ways further down the line. It was a red flag.

If the hiring manager trusts the H.R. Manager or the recruiter, he will rely on their judgement. She doesn’t have time to micro-manage the search process.  I can understand process fatigue setting in because candidates can go for many interviews. But somehow job seekers have to prepare and be courteous and remember everyone involved counts, especially those interactions and interviews with H.R.

That’s why the gentleman had so many “meaningless interviews with H.R.”  It’s the candidate who has to give those interviews meaning and make the right first impression. Because like the saying goes, there are rarely second chances.

Give those interviews with H.R. meaning:

  • be courteous and respond appropriately and in a timely way.
  • connect with the person on LinkedIn
  • prepare and research information about the company
  • prepare questions
  • thank them for their time
  • refer other candidates if you are not interested

If you have established a good rapport with the H.R. contact, you are more likely to be considered for another role if you are not successful and given performance feedback. That will help you reduce those meaningless interviews with H.R.

Do you want to improve your interview performance and job search strategy – contact me 

How a “slow no” damages your employer brand

What is  a “slow no?”

A “slow no” is a communication device used by hiring managers or recruiters for keeping short listed candidates warm as a back-up plan. It involves indirect and opaque communication, which is a death knell to any search carried out with integrity. It might involve no communication at all, or fluff about delays. Sometimes it’s intentional. Sometimes it’s about incompetence, lack of knowledge, training , experience and confidence.  Frequently, it’s about all of the above.

Either way the candidate knows that he or she is not the preferred candidate, but doesn’t know why. No direct feedback is given.

Three of  the most frustrating experiences candidates report relate to the quality and regularity of communication with the head hunter or hiring manager.

1. No updates

Candidates get more upset by not having a status update than being told they are unsuccessful or if there is a delay.  Avoidance strategies damage the employer brand. This is especially true if the candidate is aware of a prescribed process within a certain time frame and they are not included. If second stage interviews are to be held in London in March and it’s now April – they know there is a problem. This is a failed slow no.

Candidate feedback

“Lack of communication is a real problem. I get really annoyed when my emails and calls are unanswered, especially if the head hunter contacted me in the first instance.

2. Delays

Hiring processes are actually becoming slower and longer than ever. As the chain of decision-making becomes extended, multiple interviews are increasingly common. In senior level jobs, candidates commonly report 6 or even 10 interviews as the process (risk responsibility?) is diffused. Read: Why too many interviews is bad hiring practise. To deal with this, candidates need to take vacation days to meet all the necessary stakeholders. This makes the hiring manager seem indecisive and disorganised and clearly impacts the brand.

Candidate feedback

“There are obviously always extenuating circumstances but the hiring process should have a  streamlined time effective process and milestones, which  wherever possible should be adhered to”

3. Evasive responses

Nothing makes candidates more annoyed than evasive responses from the head hunter. This could be because they don’t know the job or client well enough, or they don’t have the information themselves. At that point you have to say you don’t know, but will get back to them. Candidates appreciate transparency and see evasion as part of the “slow no” process.

Candidate feedback

I’m a grown up! Just tell me how it is and allow me to make a decision. You are more likely to lose me as a candidate by being evasive than by being straight”

At the root of this is also, and perhaps more worrying, is a lack of understanding of the cost of an open position to the business.

How to nail an international assignment

At about this time of the year companies start measuring employees against their KPIs and everyone is busy preparing next year’s plan. Set against the back drop of maybe a recent vacation and the onset of winter, life and work in another country becomes appealing.  People start considering an international assignment.

I have moved internationally myself, so have first hand experience of the challenges involved. Without company sponsorship it can be difficult.

So how do you go about it? Definitely not the way I did! This may surprise you, but I threw caution to the wind and just moved. It worked (in the end) but it was not without its downsides. So when my daughter was inclined to do the same, I strongly advised her to be more strategic. For once, somewhat surprisingly, she listened to me.

Want advice about planning an international assignment – contact me!

She and her now husband, decided that they wanted a lifestyle change from their life in London. They carefully researched target destinations to produce a strong favourite location. They took a week’s vacation and set up meetings at their own expense, with potential employers in the destination of choice, Dubai. Within days they had offers from their preferred firms. They are still there with blossoming careers.

An international assignment can be enormously fulfilling. For me it has been. But for some it can be the source of abject misery.

Goals 

Understand well why you want to move internationally and how this fits into your long term career goals. There are many permutations on an international assignment  –  as a singleton, with a partner and with and without kids. Factor in what this means for your partner and his/her career and your family if you have one. Jack Welch said that tomorrow’s leaders will have international backgrounds, but relocation experts say the international transfer of an executive can centre on how the family settles into the new home and schools, rather than the executive into a new job.

Research

Make a short list of the locations that are in line with your goals. Look into the employment laws of the targeted country with regard to non-national employees. It is getting increasingly difficult to just up sticks and pitch up somewhere new. Some geographies are notoriously difficult to enter, with rigorous immigration restrictions for all but specific key skill sets. Check out the professional restrictions. What sort of visa would you need? Investigate companies and any sector trends or insights to establish which areas might be open to international candidates. Language capabilities will be critical here. Many would-be movers simply give up their lives and relocate without knowing a word of the language of the country they are moving to.

Finances

Make sure you understand thoroughly your personal finances and how these translate into another country. It is common to inadequately cost the expenses involved in relocation, to maintain your desired standard of living.  Understanding the general cost of living, housing and education in your dream location is critical. Tax regimes and exchange rates also have to be factored in. I know Americans in Europe currently, who are really struggling as the Euro falls against the dollar, when they have to transfer money back to their home country and are paid in the local currency. Expatistan and Numbeo are good living cost comparison sites

Position

Re-construct your LinkedIn profile to include keywords related to your target destination. LinkedIn is heavily driven by the location field and many companies don’t want to pay relocation expenses. Check out the job boards and sign up for alerts. Some international assignment seekers relocate ahead of finding a job. At lower levels this can work, as sometimes being on the spot and having a local telephone number and address can help. But you do need deep pockets and savings to be able to stick it out. It can take 6-9 months to get a job. I have not seen this method succeed at a senior level.

In today’s regulated economies and employment markets, finding an international assignment can be harder than it appears, but rewarding and a great life and career experience.

So good luck – what is your story of an international assignment?

 

 

Elder care – an HR crisis in the wings

With aging populations in many developed economies, elder care looms on the horizon for a high number, making it an HR crisis waiting in the wings. An increasing number of employees will have to balance caring responsibilities with paid work in the not to distant future. Many are already experiencing the challenge.

I recently had an elder care crisis myself. My active and independent, 90 year old mum had a very negative experience, to what should have been a routine surgery. I am self employed so could eventually re-work my schedule, but I live in another country. It was my sister who shouldered the brunt of the immediate responsibility, reliant on the goodwill of her line manager.

While most  organisations now offer support for working parents and new mothers, carers frequently get overlooked.

Sandwich generation

In some cases many individuals, known as the “Sandwich Generation” fulfil both roles.  These people balance their own lives and work, parent their own children and reverse parent at the same time. That is, they parent their own parents. We are already seeing inadequate retirement provision made by many Boomers, and pension poverty forecast for many women, who live longer. This is set against a reduction in state funded care services in some geographies, or none at all in others, so the full extent of the problem can only be estimated.

But there is no doubt it is significant.

Unofficial support

The question is does the workplace need to play a stronger role in building carer-friendly communities?  The answer is yes, or face skill set shortages. UK businesses are already suggesting that the risk of losing key talent from the workplace is increasing, because of a lack of support for those employees with caring responsibilities. In joint research from the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (enei) and My Family Care it was revealed that only 38% of employers monitor the caring responsibilities of their workforce, despite the fact that 10% of UK workers now combine paid work with caring for family members.

In a survey of 1,000 consumers and 100 employers, although 33% of HR managers said they had introduced specific policies or communications for carers at work 35% of the respondents surveyed indicated  that they have minimal support  available to them. This is in contrast to new parents who have direct support and tend to build a network of people experiencing the same life and professional challenges. Although there is now a growing plethora of commercial organisations filling the service gap,  in what is going to be a big growth business in the future.

In a separate survey of more than 4,500 carers by Carers UK, more than 50% of those surveyed said workplace issues made looking after the person they cared for more difficult, with 75% reporting a negative impact on their productivity, physical or mental health.

Line Managers

Employees said their line managers were key to helping them balance work and family, and many called for greater flexibility at work although concerns were expressed about the impact this would have on career progression. 75% of employees said a lack of support from their employer made it more difficult to work full time and fulfil their caring responsibilities, with many not even informing their employers of their private obligations.  Further studies have shown that this is more likely to be an issue in a larger organisation where lost  time and interruptions are more frequently recorded than in an SME.

The biggest challenge, however, is cost. Elder care benefits are claimed to be too expensive for many organisations.

Employee benefit

Introducing elder care as an employee benefit need not necessarily be costly.  Even the provision of access to helplines and specialists who can advise on and manage needs generated by caring for elderly relatives. The time spent liaising with different bodies involved in any care process is high, as I found out personally. This can include: hospitals, dieticians, physiotherapists, pharmacists, doctors  and other stakeholders that are needed before residential elder care is considered. These schemes are comprehensive and look after major issues from support in the home, to advice on residential care.

Elder care services can also provide access to qualified financial and legal advisors, specialising in care fees planning and the financial affairs of older people, as well as hands-on support when dealing with property and personal possessions. Having these resources available will minimise the time needed to independently seek professional advice from very often unreliable sources.

With a record number of people in the 60+ demographic (this is why they are called Boomers, because there was a baby boom) as with any other wider cultural change, the work place will be impacted. It will then become an HR issue.

What is your experience of elder care?

Pitchcraft: The 3Ps – Prepare, Practise, Perform

A number of people claim responsibility for creating the term Pitchcraft so I can’t source it exactly. It’s a term I’ve used myself for many years, thinking I was being very creative, although not in the context of baseball, which I find incomprehensible. This is on par with its equally mystifying UK counterpart cricket  – but “bowlcraft” doesn’t have quite the same ring.

However, like any sport the aim is the same. To deliver a winning performance.

It is simply the art of delivering your message in the way that is most appropriate for the situation. This can range from a subtle message to a full on sales drive.  It should be something we can deliver smoothly and succinctly to meet every occasion. Clearly you are not going to produce the same pitch on a hot date as you would in a networking event, unless of course you didn’t want a second date, in which case it would be a sure-fire tactic.

You would be surprised how many people fail to prepare to pitch in their careers. By doing so as Benjamin Franklin said, in reality they are preparing to fail. Opportunities come and go, many times when they are least expected.  We know that if a lot of famous, successful people, many of whom are no longer with us,  are oft quoted on any subject, then there will be truisms involved.  And there are indeed lots of quotes on preparation and being prepared. But a high number of people are not prepared to pitch themselves, whether in a formal interview, in a meeting, with their clients, their boss or in a networking situation. Very often not only are they unprepared, they might even be reluctant to do so.

In the words of another late American President

The 3Ps of Pitchcraft are:

1. Prepare  

  • Have you carried out a review of personal and career goals –  are they aligned?
  • Do you know your strengths and development needs?
  •  When was the last time you did an audit of your CV and online profile?  Have you identified your hard and soft skills? Can you articulate your success stories?
  • Do you have an up to date, ready to send CV?

2. Practise

  • How fluent is your 30 second commercial?
  • How is your non-verbal communication?
  • What about responses to typical interview questions.  Do you have any prepared?  What about the old chestnut  “Tell me about yourself” It is a trick question!

3. Perform

  • How smooth is your delivery? Can you deliver your USP in any circumstances –  a cocktail party, networking event or other business occasion. Or do you make even yourself cringe it sounds so awkward
  • Have you ever recorded yourself either online or on your own answer machine? How do you sound?

And finally another truism on the subject

8 ways companies can put the “inter” back in interview

interview (n.) 1510s, “face-to-face meeting, formal conference,” from Middle French entrevue, verbal noun from s’entrevoir “to see each other, visit each other briefly, have a glimpse of,” from entre- “between” (see inter-) + Old French voir “to see” (from Latin videre;).

After six years of deep recession and demand driven hiring processes, interviews have been about candidates making super human efforts to make the cut. During this time we have let the notion of interviews being a two-way street be side lined. Candidates desperate to create the right impression repressed nagging concerns about hiring managers and some companies simply became complacent. What they forgot is this whole process  to see “each other”  is integral to their employer brand.

Many employers hope that the concept of an employer brand will go away. The reverse is probably true and it will become more important as economies move into recovery. Companies will need to start flexing those brand muscles to attract and retain the best talent for their organisations. A pristine employer brand will be key in any upcoming war for talent.

The interview process can be critical to building up or destroying any employer brand.

Flexing brand muscles

Bad news goes viral faster than Spanish Flu and poor candidate experiences do the rounds at high velocity. So when they complain about bad interviews, it’s not a case of “if” these problems seep onto the wider market – but when.

I hear candidate nightmares every week. None quite as bad as the classic Monty Python sketch with John Cleese. But some come close.  They are mainly small things, but cumulatively they become compounded to form an overall negative impression, especially when the competitor’s hiring team is on point.  Now, in an economic upturn candidates are starting to have choice.

Candidate interview experience

Companies pour millions into product marketing promotions but forget that every interface an outsider has with the company can strengthen the company and therefore product brand. In the recruitment process every level of engagement should be “on brand” and convey the essential message of the key values of the organisation. For many organisations it’s time to put the “inter” back into interview.

Is your company struggling with your candidates’ experiences? Check out services and training to create a strong employer brand

How to put the “inter” back into interview:

  1. Communication – should be timely, positive and effective for keeping the candidate informed and motivated.  Candidates say that the worst part of any process is no news.
  2. Screening – should be thorough, professional, open. Many companies cut corners on low quality VOIP platforms or hurried phone calls on mobile phones with poor signals.
  3. Preparation – everyone from the receptionist to the hiring manager should be aware of the brand image that they convey and should be well prepared
  4. Location –  should be in an appropriate place where all parties can be focused. Interviews frequently take place in bars, restaurants, hotels, airport lounges. At some point they should be in the company’s offices with dedicated time
  5. Trained – all players in the process should be trained in interviewing and selection skills and have an assigned role in the process. Avoiding duplication of interviews and keeping the number of interviews to a reasonable level is also key. Anything more than four or five and the decision-making process of the hiring company is called into question
  6. Interaction –  should be timely, effective, professional.
  7. Use of technology – should be demographic appropriate. Text and social media can be invaluable for entry-level recruitment particularly  – perhaps less so with other generations.
  8. Rejection –  should be empathetic and encouraging paving a way for the future. Unsuccessful candidates can be turned into top brand evangelists if they sing a company’s praises even after being rejected.

An employer brand is intrinsic to the whole spectrum of the recruitment process. It is not just about what companies do that sends resonating messages, but what they fail to that will set warning bells clanging.

As economies show signs of recovery, it could be time for many companies to go through a thorough self-assessment to establish the condition of their employer brands and to remember the “inter” in interview.

The Carnival of H.R. Changing Times & H.R.

We are seeing change in all aspects of our daily lives at a phenomenal pace.  I am fascinated by the impact this has on the workplace and even more so on organisational response. Whether cultural, economic or technological each shift eventually has some sort of effect on and H.R. policies and practises and leadership input.  The need to adjust, cope with or harness those developments seems to become stronger with each passing year. This week’s Carnival of H.R. looks at some of the impact of some of these trends.

In the 2014 Report on Human Capital Trends   the international consulting organisation Deloitte, identify a number of key areas for attention. Most significant is the measurement of H.R readiness for some of the major shifts.

Here is the input of our international commentators:  

Amit Bhagria, on Young H.R. Manager  writes from India about the arrival of Gen Z in the workplace and  Future challenges in Human Resource management .

With a focus on “Business Bullshit, Corporate Crap and other stuff from the World of Work” in Flip Chart Fairy Tales, Steve Toft in his post Work in 2030: even more precarious than it is now , examines projections for our future workplace, where the organisational values are shaped by Gen Y.  Flexibility, transparency and employee engagement are widely adopted by business, but he maintains their application is effectively limited to the highly skilled.  But what does this mean for the rest of the workforce?

Ian Welsh, based in Toronto, Canada, focuses on providing creative solutions to meet H.R. needs asks How Must HR Adapt to Changing Times?  He considers specific ways and areas the H.R. function can try to reposition itself  “to be ready and adaptable to business needs as they change”

Chris Fields  in eSkills Blog  examines the downside of our current corporate culture with an emphasis on “presenteeism”  when sick employees continue to come to work with a significant impact on productivity and therefore hidden costs to the organisation.  Sick but Still at Work – What’s the Real Cost of “Presenteeism”?

Australian recruitment leader, Greg Savage, founder of leading recruitment companies Firebrand Talent Search, People2People and Recruitment Solutions exhorts recruiters in his blog the Savage Truth  to get up to date in a  world where recruitment practises have been overturned by technology. In the post Dead recruiter walking,  he argues how consultants who fail to adapt,  will go under.

Employee Conditions & Benefits

It is estimated that by 2020, 60 million Americans will be working as freelance contractors. It is a growth sector in most geographies. Annabel Kaye, UK-based employment law specialist and CEO of Irenicon, flags up the impact of  this shift from traditional corporate contracts on H.R. functions in her post Is freelancing the way to bypass HR?. Many companies she maintains are not  equipped to deal with and manage the growing numbers who effectively work for themselves not the organisation.

The impact of the changes to the nuclear family are filtering into our organisations. I explore how these trends are creating significant challenges for organisations in Why parenting is an H.R. issue

Communication

Jesse Lyn Stoner  Founder of the Seapoint Center, looks at how technology has opened up communication to encompass the globe in fraction of  a minute. Online meetings  and communication are becoming the norm in today’s fast paced hi-tech world.  In her post Tips for Cross Cultural Communication she gives useful insight to help us all navigate cross cultural differences especially in the growing virtual workplace.

Donna Svei,  Avid Careerist, Resume and LinkedIn profile writer tells us  how hiring and HR managers can amplify the generic term “communications skills” and drill down to ask for specific competencies  which will help job seekers focus more precisely.   10 Better Ways to Communicate Your Communications Skills

Work-Life & Employee engagement

With references to the  perhaps not so new term ” the overwhelmed employee,”  Mark Morford, columnist and culture critic, takes a look at  the new and much discussed concept of work-life balance as technology makes us all contactable 24/7. With Millennials committed to not working as hard as their parents, he asks us Is work-life balance a lie?  and should we really be talking about work-life synergy?

Employee engagement  is being seen as key to the success of any business and Katie Richard and Sarah Clarke at ChangeBoard Blog  consider the implications of a disengaged workforce in  How to make your employees happy on International Happiness Day

Dr. Anne Perschel  of Germane Consulting and Co-Founder 3Plus International  tells us that Employee Engagement Starts with Leadership Engagement.  She gives six questions to test  leadership engagement.

Leadership 

As we hope to emerge from the grips of a savage global recession many writers are reflecting on the type of leadership and organisational values to take our businesses and cultures forward. Is is business as usual or does it require a different approach?

Lolly Daskal, Founder of Lead from Within, a global leadership and consulting firm advocates for Tough minded leadership with tender hearted skills  to achieve business success.

Susan Mazza,  Random Acts of Leadership, challenges the  “unspoken belief for many that, if you get to a certain level or position, you will have to change who you are.”  A leadership coach and organizational change consultant, she suggests that the best leaders are the ones who  Be their own brand of leader

 What other trends would you add?

 

 

 

Do you have a “Go-To” Top 10?

Who are your Go-To Top 10?

Who are your Go-To Top 10?

All of us have situations which are problematic. They can range from  minor irritations and something irksome, to outright  emergencies.    To get out of a hole we might need repairmen, baby sitters or service providers in a wide range of fields.  But one area which we woefully neglect  is the development of strategic alliances to support an emergency in our careers.

We all need a ‘Go-To” Top 10.

These will be your top 10 top professional connections to whom you can turn in a crisis or even with a problem or a question.

All our requirements are different when we assess who should be included on that list.  Broadly speaking there are some general guidelines that apply to us all.  There will be variations according to the severity of the situation:  whether it’s a little situational glitch, a specific question or something more major requiring a full  emergency landing.

  • Go-To Top 1 : Do you have a mentor?  This would be the senior or elder states person in your professional life who can share their deep experience and wisdom.  This will be immediately calming and informative as appropriate,  or both.
  • Go-To Top 2 :  Do you have an internal sponsor?   This role will be filled by a  confidante,  a door opener,  someone whose  professional status and standing will be sufficiently significant to catalyze responses to calls and emails,  or even better to effect introductions to contacts beyond your reach .
  • Go-To  Top 3, 4 and 5: Do you have external sponsors?  See above,  but with a wider reach in your geographic region or functional or market sector.  Having one for each segment of activity would be even more beneficial. If you have connections in line with your longer term goals so much the better.
  • Go-To  Top 6: Do you know a super-connector?  This will be different for all of us.  I count on my super connectors,  but in turn fulfill that function for others. They are the ones who say  ” Let me think… have you tried …????.”
  • Go-To Top 7  Do you know a curator? We all come across the person whose catch phrases are ” have you seen? or ” have you read?” These individuals will be veritable gold mines of information, sometimes obscure, sometimes less so. They will know where to look for any key information on and  in the latest emergency and can send you there quickly, thus saving you hours of valuable time.
  • Go-To  Top 8:  Do you have a port in a storm? We all need a sympathetic shoulder to lean on,  some one who will be there only for us. Their role is not to advise  but perhaps put the kettle on,  open a bottle of something cold and white (or warm and red) and just listen neutrally.   Very often this role is best  fulfilled outside an intimate relationship,  although  not always.
  • Go-To Top 9:  Do you have a devil’s advocate?   Their role in any Go-To Top 10 is to give you the viewpoint from the other side. Their skill in constructive communication will be peerless as they force us to examine our own roles and responsibilities in any debacle and communicate that to us in a way we can hear .  They risk our moods, wrath and petulance or even worse. They are people who know us well.
  • Go-To  Top 10:  Do you have a  list of specialists  Whether this includes doctors, lawyers, coaches, bank managers   accountants or any other type of professional  or technical specialist, it’s always useful to have a full,  up to date list of people you can call on.  If anyone in a network has no problem being contacted out of the blue after years of neglect, it’s usually because they are charging a significant fee.

Who would you put on your list?

Employers – are YOU interview ready?

Although top-level  candidates are investing increasingly in their employee brands and interview readiness, I’ve heard many stories that would suggest that some organisations are  getting complacent.  Mistakenly they believe that either being a good manager  automatically makes them good interviewers,  or with the market awash with candidates they don’t have to make an effort. They have basically let their interview readiness slip.

So for many companies it is perhaps time to carry out an audit of  interview processes:

  •  Have priorities been set and agreed?   It’s no good labelling the process urgent if the interviewers have operational commitments  (year-end closure, sales conference etc) within that timescale and have no availability. If they are called away unexpectedly –  who is the number 2?
  • Empower the interviewer  – ensure that at least one player in the process is authorised to make the hiring decision.  Delays for rubber stamping higher up the organisation chart increases the chance of  top candidates being snapped up by other companies or being able to leverage their situation with their current employer in the hope of a counter offer.
  • Timely, clear and courteous communication by all company members to create the best possible impression. Candidates lose interest if the process is unnecessarily extended and they are not kept in the loop.  They should be treated  immediately and correctly by all involved in the process, even secretaries and receptionists.
  • Avoid ” trial by interview”:   Candidates withdraw if they are called back multiple times to talk to different managers involved in the process, only to be asked the same questions by each. For many this will mean taking several days vacation and could jeopardise their  position with their current employer.
  • Environment  – candidates should be interviewed in a location that is appropriate for the position. They will notice if the office is untidy, the furniture old and scruffy, the computers outdated and the bathrooms inadequate.  Be mindful that small things send out big messages.
  • Professional grooming:  Interviewers should be appropriately  groomed for the sector.
  • Inappropriate or discourteous treatment: I have seen interviewers cancel appointments with 30 minutes notice,  take telephone calls during the interview,  invite candidates for dates,  raise their voices at them,  be fuzzy and unprepared about their own opening, with no job profile to hand and not having given the CV an even cursory glance,  forgetting the candidate’s name. I could go on!  This creates a bad impression.
  • Careless talk   – casual throw away remarks particularly around work/ life balance, corporate values,  management style, career development and salary structure can also cause concern. Just as employers would expect candidates to be well rehearsed with their responses , employers also have to be mindful of the fall out of ill-considered statements. Body language is also important.
  • Inappropriate or even illegal questions.   The widely publicised need for political correctness seems to have passed many by, especially when  interviewing women.
  • Time wasting  – searches are quite often conducted externally to benchmark internal candidates. If any process is for form’s sake only,  be mindful to keep the time demanded of candidates to a minimum.
  • Record keeping. It’s important to keep neutral and factual notes of all candidates seen in the process, even ones who don’t make the cut. You may want to call them back  at some time in the future. Research carried out by Start Wire suggests that only 33% of Fortune 500 companies  are willing to give feedback despite evidence that failure to do so  damages not just their employer brand but their product branding as well.

 Many companies assume that people skills come naturally and interviewing is only about ” having a chat”  with a candidate. Clearly personal chemistry is important,  but  sadly some interviewers have been found lacking, with not even minimal investment in  basic training.

In this case success isn’t just about showing up!

Damage to an employer brand in today’s hi-tech culture  is only one click away. Word does get round professional bodies, alumni associations and the market sector.

If any of this sounds cringingly familiar – now is the time to do an audit.