Tag Archives: Career Coach Brussels; Executive Search Brussels

When to ask for flexible working in the hiring process

There is much confusion about when to ask for flexible working in the hiring process. Karen Mattison MBE Joint CEO of Timewise writing about requests for flexible hours in the Guardian complains about the lack of transparency in recruitment processes and how asking for flex conditions as a candidate is “like playing poker.” She maintains that frequently the only jobs open for flexible or part-time working are more junior ones.

“Because there is a fundamental problem with how jobs are designed and how modern businesses recruit and retain talent. This growing mismatch between what candidates want and need and how businesses recruit is leaving skilled people trapped in roles they are overqualified for and navigating a jobs market where they don’t know the rules.”

She then goes on to say:

“Nine out of 10 managers say they would consider offering flexible working to hire the best person, yet none of them say that at the recruitment stage. Why?”

Can you afford not to?

Need vs want 

I am someone who genuinely believes that with today’s advanced  technology there is no reason why flexible conditions can’t be offered more widely.  Richard Branson tweeted:

“Give people the freedom of where to work & they will excel.”

Although flexible working conditions are on the increase, many companies don’t offer flexible conditions openly, but do give consideration to flex requests from successful candidates. This is challenging for the job seeker. When they are applying for a job they have to make a clear distinction between “needing” to ask for flexible working and “wanting” those conditions. Very often the way this works is a function of the individual, not the function of the role.

Flex business models

An increasing number of companies are shifting to different business models to accommodate the demands of a 21st century workforce. These companies will state clearly that flexible working, part-time working, and job sharing are possibilities and are part of their company culture. This could be in the ad itself or on the web site. Lists of such companies are being widely collated particularly in the press. There are also social proofing sites such as Glassdoor, Fairy Godboss and InherSight which give employee evaluations of working conditions, including flexible conditions.

So it makes sense if a job seeker “needs” flexible working, then they should target companies which meet that specific requirement. This has to be distinguished from candidates who “want” flexible working as a life style choice.

 

flexible working

Jobs are usually created to be full-time and if they are not, then they  will be clearly assigned a part-time status. They will often be stand alone or project type roles and rarely senior ones vital to the bottom line of any organisation.  Very often these are offered to freelancers which minimises the exposure for the employer. Long term part-time working at reduced rates can have a negative long-term financial impact on the worker. Women who make up the majority of this demographic are hardest hit. Many would advise women to negotiate flexible working before a part-time contract, me included.

Understanding how to process a request for flexible working, requires some insight into the system. It is very often more nuanced than it seems. Trying to shoe horn a full-time job into 80% time isn’t always feasible. If it was, it would be advertised as such and reduce the salary bill by 20%. Some organisations maybe willing for someone to work 4 x 10 hour days, but they may not always agree to that before the hiring process is completed.

Flexible working can depend on the individual not the role

# Flex and organisational structure

In the U.K. 73% of flexible working is by informal arrangement. In large organisations flexible conditions usually require a well oiled and functioning structure. This could involve remote server access, sophisticated IT systems and intranet, call forward systems, best practise guidelines, home office support, core hour commitments, hot desk facilities and so on. It is a  lot more than simply working with your lap top from home. If companies are well set up for flexible working, they will advertise that. It is a great benefit to attract top talent. I work for a number of companies with a presence culture, which is stated early in the hiring process to avoid wasting anyone’s time.  There is no doubt that this reduces the number of potential candidates, although so far is not at issue for my clients.

# The nature of the role

Some roles do not support part-time, reduced or flexible working on a wide scale. These are mainly operational roles (manufacturing, engineering come to mind) which involve a hands-on physical presence, perhaps involving leading teams. There could be elements of those jobs which are not directly involved in delivery (admin, report writing for example) and most organisations are flexible with people they know and trust. In customer facing roles, service could be impacted unless there is a sophisticated scheduling system.

# They don’t know you (yet)

Trust

Most companies set up an onboarding process during which the new hire is evaluated. For this to be effective the person usually has to experience a full role life-cycle.  During this time the new hire will be assessed, relationships will have developed and the level of discretionary effort observed. Flex requests are almost always granted to people who are valued and trusted. Much will depend on the skills they bring to the team and how that entity gels with the new hire. This takes time to evaluate.

# It depends on your value

If you have a specifically unique and valuable skill set, then employers will usually go to great lengths to attract and hire you. An extreme example is when Megyn Kelly left Fox News for NBC, they asked her what it would take to make her change. She wanted a day time show and a later start.  She got it. I have known companies accommodate all kinds of flexible working benefits for their top pick candidates. If they are not responsive to your flex request, then sadly it means they can find someone like you easily, elsewhere, who will fit into their system.

# Negative Impact on Communication

Scheduling meetings, and getting prompt answers to calls and emails can suffer when employees are on varying work hours. This can slow down the progress on important projects. It can also lengthen the communication and decision-making process of having to mail or call someone who could be on a different schedule.

# Damages Company Culture

Company culture can take a hit if leaders are perceived to be absent or unavailable.The problems is accentuated if the senior manager travels as part of the job. Face time with staff is reduced with the risk of missing collision points or moments of creativity, which can come from informal exchanges commonly found in any workplace.

mindfulness in recruitment

Morgan, a Strategy and Innovation Director at an international NGO said

“Our CEO works between 1000-1600 and two days a week from home. Combined with her travel and off-site commitments we struggled to see her. It makes life difficult and slows down the decision-making as she still wants to be consulted even though she isn’t widely available”

# System abuse

There are always bad apples in any barrel who game the system. They do so deliberately, or they get distracted and are not as productive.

# Poor time managers

Many employees are not great time managers and find that working outside a structured environment impacts their personal productivity.

# Increases isolation

In functions where team interaction is important having employees working remotely or on different schedule can increase a sense of isolation which impacts team motivation. Frequently employees prefer to be office based;

So when to pitch? 

For a job in an organisation which has no official flex policy, any job seekers who want flexible conditions would be best advised to make their flex requests after they have received the job offer. Then it can be part of  any negotiation process, although I have known companies withdraw offers from candidates who have asked for flex conditions at this point.  If it is turned down, depending if it is a deal breaker, try to get it incorporated after successfully onboarding when the company knows you and the value you can add. Stepping up with a well-thought out proposal within an organisation that trusts you, will carry more weight than a petulant candidate stating a requirement with no inside knowledge of the company, its structure or the people involved.

The alternatives are to become a freelance, self-employed contractor which is not without downsides. Or target companies with a published flex policy. When companies start missing out on the level talent they need, market-forces will kick in and they will be obliged to respond to flex requests more generously. That is already happening, but possibly not fast enough for some candidates.

If your organisation wants to attract and retain the right talent contact me now! 

 

10 Steps to Onboarding Success

New hires perform best when they feel integrated into a company and are relaxed, stimulated and having fun.  Onboarding success occurs when new arrivals are in a supportive but structured background. All research indicates that employees who are successfully onboarded are likely to be more highly engaged and stay with an organization for longer periods. Effective onboarding saves companies as much as 3 x the annual employee salary as well as hiring costs.

Read “Why onboarding is vital”

The first 90 days are critical to your success in a new role. Here are some exercise to complete to help you or your employees succeed.

1. Attentive listening

The number one tip from any HR professional or coach for the first 90 days is to listen and observe and ask the right questions.

2. Create solid relationships

Building new relationships is also key to success in a new organization. While there are various relationships that are important to build, the priority focus should be on:

  • Bosses
  • PeersAttentive listening
  • Direct Reports
  • Colleagues

These relationships are critical to anchoring the foundations for success especially for anyone joining a new organisation in a leadership role.  It is particularly important to establish the preferred communication style of the people around you in today’s working environment of complex and multiple communication channels. Do they like F2F, text, intranet, IM, phone, weekly report?

3.Learn about the existing culture 

You might have been hired as a disruptor but before you can make any changes you have to understand the existing culture. Showing respect for existing systems will be important to getting everyone on side. Talk to people to see what they think works and what they would tweak and what they would throw away all together. Lose the words “in my old company….” from your vocabulary. Use the traffic light exercise to structure your questions. traffic lights

4. Be open and approachable

It’s important to be open and accessible from the outset. In the early days introductions communicate how excited you are to be joining the company and suggest meeting people for coffee. If you inherit a team you will want to meet them individually as well as together as a group. Prepare your introduction in advance so you keep it short and to the point.

5. Manage expectations

From the beginning it’s important to set and receive clear ideas, both for your team and your boss. See the previous questions so you know what questions to ask.

  • What is your day-to-day role?
  • What are your objectives short, medium and long-term.
  • How will they measure success? Who will do that and when?signpost

This is especially important if it is linked to your compensation.

7. Be relaxed and yourself

Starting a new job is always stressful and you can be nervous. It’s always best to be your best confident self. If you don’t feel that and can’t fake it ‘til you make it (within reason) invest in a coach. There is a difference between feeling the fear and doing it anyway and coming over as false and inauthentic. Creating an atmosphere of trust is important and being true to yourself will play a key role.

8. Create alliances

Creating strategic alliances is key to any onboarding process. Finding your way around the sub text of any new organisational culture is important. Very often there are back door ways of doing things that as a newbie you won’t know. So whether it’s how to get a jump on office supplies,  IT issues solved quickly, or key decisions made, then forming alliances with others will be useful. This can be from knowing who the janitor is to accepting help and support from Businessman-introducing-t-007reports and colleagues.

Additionally cultivate a mentor either officially or unofficially, someone who can show you the ropes. Maybe invest in a coach which can be privately supported or by your company. This will depend on your seniority. Some new hires have strong support networks in their sector or general friendship groups or networks. Others rely on family members.

8. Go for small early wins

In the movies new hires come up with dramatic solutions early on.  My experience suggests that this rarely happens in the real world. When you are in onboarding mode the listening element is vital. If you can address some minor but highly visible niggles to give you some early wins, that would be a good place to start.  At this stage building trust is more important than dramatic show boating which may carry risk.

9. Build or strengthen your team

Building your team or strengthening it will be important. Here are some questions you can ask your reports to cement those relationships.

  • What does success look like to them?
  • What do they expect from a manager?
  • What do they expect from team members?
  • What do they want their colleagues to think about them? Name 3 qualities or characteristics.
  • What are their key 5 strengths with a story to illustrate and an object that show cases each team leaderone?
  • Who is their Chief Doubting Officer – the little voice in your head that holds them back? Who does he or she look like? When is he or she present?
  • What do they need to work on for their personal development?
  • What value do people get from working with them?
  • What are the top 5 experiences they feel when working with them?
  • What makes them special?
  • How do they prefer to handle conflict?

10. Create a mission statement

Many new hires they need to arrive at a company with a vision already in mind or compelled to make a big announcement quickly following their arrival. Generally new hires who indicate their first role will be to listen make the greatest progress. You can’t always promise to implement what the people around you want, but you can guarantee to give thoughtful consideration to their input. At that point you can make a collaborative mission statement in line with departmental objectives against which you will all be measured.

To produce a mission statement that truly motivates and excites all stakeholders take time to get full buy-in.

 

 

Why your candidate experience is good for business

The link between candidate experience and your talent pipeline

Fuelled by decreased unemployment, retiring baby boomers and different workforce expectations and behaviour, the skirmish for the very best top talent is intensifying. Many organisations pay no or very little attention, to their candidate experience process. It’s either outsourced or automated, with varying degrees of success and efficiency. Ads frequently display clauses “If you haven’t heard from us in 6 weeks, you are not successful”. 

Clearly that side of outsourced automation passed them by. But what that line flags up, is that the company needs to place an ad.

They don’t have a talent pipeline.

Succession planning is critical yet the reality is that apart from the largest organisations, many companies have only the vaguest idea who should cover the gaps when they arise. Oftentimes it’s based on workaround solution which are far from ideal.  They look for the “right now” candidate, rather than the right one.  This is when all companies need to have a strong talent pipeline in place.

Shorter time to hire

Guaranteeing the shortest time to hire has assumed a new significance. Companies need reserves of potential and good candidates, who can be brought in at short notice. That process relies on a flawless candidate experience history offered by your company, which should be second to none, and certainly better than your competitors. Poor candidate experience is now just bad for business.

Research from Career Builder shows that it is “high-touch, not high-tech” that guarantees a successful experience: 61% of job seekers reported speed of response as being critical, while another 58% cited regular updates  No news  a.k.a. the “slow no”  is now old school. Read: How a slow no damages your employer brand

Recruitment specialist Bill Boorman references a talent tipping point which is “the number of connections an organisation needs to reach the point of having all the message points they need to fill all of their future hiring needs.”  This doesn’t have to be formal recruitment contact, but could any other network interaction, including social media. When forums such as Glassdoor gives employees the opportunity to make comments about their experiences, companies are easy to search. See the comments on Shopify.

All of these contribute to a positive candidate experience and expectations, even indirectly.

Opportunity Cost

Many hiring managers don’t understand the real cost to their company of an open assignment and what that means in daily lost revenue, which can be calculated per employee. Unless the open assignment is a cost center role (and even they add some value), then there is direct revenue loss associated with it being open for a lengthy period. With P & L positions such as senior management roles, sales, cash collection, and production, the costs will be even higher.

The recruitment process then becomes part of the company’s marketing process and the pipeline takes on increased significance.

Why is that?

Your recruitment process is marketing

Every candidate who interacts with your organisation has a first hand experience of how you do business and the quality and professionalism of your employees. It’s a bird’s-eye view of the culture. Getting that right, will spill over to your marketing feedback. Although some companies get away with it, especially in  any “cool” sector or function,  great product, crappy company can come back to bite, as we saw with Amazon.

Candidates are your brand evangelists 

If the candidate loves you and your company, even though she was not successful, she will sing your praises. Candidates will forgive rejection, if you treat them with integrity. Think of the companies who have candidates lining up at their doors just to get a chance of joining.

Reaching passive candidates

Top candidates, are busy people. If they are happy in their jobs, they are not active on the job market, casting around for new opportunities. What they do is network strategically to drive traffic to them, especially from the hidden job market. Letting them know they that they are on your radar is good policy, so that when an opening does arise, all it takes is a quick phone call.

Candidates today have increased power and reach

The ability to share information is available with the click of a mouse or the swipe of a Smart Phone. The slightest doubt shared by any candidate in his/her network, is likely to be seen by more people than the recipient.

Recruitment develops relationships

A transparent process, conducted correctly, creates long-term relationships for your talent pipeline. If the candidate is not on target this time, perhaps it will work in the future. If they are not right at all, maybe they can refer you to someone in their network.

Reject with empathy

No one likes to be cut from a job search process, especially if they are almost “at the altar.”  How this is handled will be their last memory of you and your company. Make sure it’s a positive one.

You would be surprised how many hiring managers do not know the basic maths underlying their own processes. Do you?

If your company needs to strengthen its talent pipeline contact DDTM Now

Hire for both attitude AND aptitude

Finding the balance between attitude and aptitude

The adage “Hire for attitude, train for skill” is frequently bandied around social media. Yet the reality is that this doesn’t frequently happen as part of a conscious, strategic hiring decision-making process, at least in ones that I’ve ever seen.

The question is would it be the right move anyway?

New hire failure

Research from the Leadership IQ’s Global Talent Management Survey, reports a very low percentage (19%) of new hires onboard successfully into their new positions. The study confirms what most head hunters already know.  81% fail. Researching 5,000 hiring managers, it indicated that interviews tend to focus on hard skills, even though a deficit of the necessary hard skills accounts for a lack of success in only 11% of cases.

So the success rate rests on a failure to correctly match the soft skills required to do the job or the fit with organisational culture.

Impact

With only 19% of new hires going on to achieve success, companies see high turnover of personnel which leads to low morale and engagement. In senior leadership roles, high levels of churn, impact whole teams or companies, with a huge impact on shareholder value.

Cultural fit tends to be assessed on interview performance, with a “hire the smile” approach often winning out. We also see PLU decisions (People Like Us) coming to the fore, as the benchmark for defining fit. Same school, same background, same gender or ethnicity, same economic demographic and even same golf club, can all be part of the final decision-making process, especially at a subconscious level. Read: PLU, who do you judge?

Research from Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy tells us that first impressions are centred around trust. This means that:

“If someone you’re trying to influence doesn’t trust you, you’re not going to get very far; in fact, you might even elicit suspicion because you come across as manipulative,”   

The high achieving specialist, who lacks soft skills can easily be overlooked. We are also more likely to trust someone in the PLU category, because they seem familiar, but they may not have the necessary hard skills. Although it might  at the time, that they have the right attitude, more often than not, that attitude lacks longevity and they don’t last the course.

Balance between attitude and aptitude

Hiring managers need to find a balance between hiring for both attitude and aptitude. Yet at the same time we have seen a corresponding decrease in skill availability. This means that companies need to search for indications of fast learning, flexibility and coach-ability.

This brings us to another sand trap. The demographic that fits the bill nicely are the portfolio careerists. Although there is a shift, many hiring managers are not open to candidates with a non-linear career path, seeing this as synonymous with restlessness and lack of commitment.

The growth of the gig economy is opening minds somewhat. But the role of any organisation and HR function is surely to foster that engagement and commitment and not expect it to come in-built.

If you need to identify and attract the best candidates for your company – contact Dorothy Dalton

 

 

 

 

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.

Unlisted LinkedIn Groups risk creating online cliques

LinkedIn Groups changes disadvantage job seekers

LinkedIn Groups was one of the first ways LinkedIn attempted to connect its membership, offering like-minded professionals an opportunity to have open and transparent conversations.  It was a great place for job seekers, especially career changers, to get a feel for the career paths and backgrounds of people already in their target company, or information on a job or career to which they aspired. I have tapped into this facility regularly over the years.

Importantly, Job seekers could join any group and enter a conversation with people perhaps they previously might have had difficulties reaching. It was a democratic and open system, very different to the real world, where networking can be very elitist and “clique-ish.”  No big fees were involved and the chances to interact with a key sector player were much more achievable.

Now with recent changes I can’t help but wonder if LinkedIn is risking creating online cliques, with hidden listings and member, invitation-only groups.

transparent-linkedinDeterioration of quality

LinkedIn claim to have responded to changes requested by users and other general feedback. The major shift is that all Groups are being made private. Only Group members will be able to view conversations (re-styled discussions) , and only members can contribute. The ability to be searchable via search engines will also disappear, facilitating private discussions between  group members.

As the owner of the 3Plus LinkedIn group, some years ago I asked members if they wanted to remain private or go “open”. The vote was to become an open group in the interests of inclusion. Afterwards I could see this was not necessarily a good idea. We were flooded primarily with self promotion, which impacted the quality of the conversation and created a lot of admin triage work, reviewing it all.  So there is one person at least who is glad to see this backward move as necessary to going forward. I’m not against this element of the changes.

LinkedIn’s help center says. “Members-only groups have created significantly more participation and conversations than others (up to five times more), indicating that members feel more confident contributing in these types of groups.”

Hidden network

The next issue is whether a group is a Standard or Unlisted Group, the two available classifications. 

. The main difference between the two is control and visibility. Unlisted Groups are well….not listed. They don’t appear in the LinkedIn directory of Groups, Group badges cannot be displayed on members’ profiles, and only owners and managers can invite and approve new members.

They are therefore hidden and not a great benefit to job seekers, especially career changers, who usually look for groups as part of their research and strategic networking.

 It also makes it difficult for job seekers who very often won’t know what undisclosed groups are out there. The concept of a hidden network, now has an additional component.

Standard Groups 

In Standard Groups however, members can invite first-degree LinkedIn connections to join and can also approve requests to join from their first level connections. These will be more readily accessible to job seekers.

The other changes have facilitated:

  • Improved Content:  LinkedIn has improved its filters to strip out spam and other low-quality content. The Promotions tab has disappeared, which currently moves such posts to  moderation.  Job posting will be automatically shifted from the main conversation feed to a Jobs tab. The knock on from this is we are seeing more low quality content via updates. Bring back LinkedIn signal!
  • Moderation: To speed up conversation flow comments and conversation posting will be automatic for members. Group managers and moderators will be able to remove dubious content and place problem members under moderation. This is added work for moderators as the self promoters continue unabated, in my group at least
  • Photos And @Mentions In Conversations: People starting a new conversation will be able to upload an image. Members will be able to @mention other members in conversation postings or when commenting, which signals to the connection they have been “tagged.” à la Twitter or Facebook
  •  Subgroups eliminated:  any sub groups will become independent groups.

Obviously only a few weeks into this change it’s hard to say how it’s all going to work out. What are your experiences?

Are we also undoing the social aspect of social networking?

 

Overwhelmed by a culture of overwork

Culture of overwork

The advancement of employment conditions was very much a characteristic of the 19th and 20th centuries to improve the lot of the working person. In 1926 the Ford Motor Company became one of the first companies in America to adopt a five-day, 40-hour week for workers in its automotive factories.

The 40 hour week became over time, a workplace norm in most developed countries over the course of the century, as a benchmark for employment organisation, with still further reductions in maximum working hours in some geographies. Education was seen as a way out of this type of treadmill. The more successful worked fewer hours than the average working person.

Twofold regression

Yet in the last decades, we have seen a regression, with some sectors gaining notoriety for boiler room pressure and cultures of overwork. In October 2014 Goldman Sachs introduced the concept of “Protect Saturday” insisting that junior analysts take Saturdays off (except when they were working on live deals.)  This was considered on Wall Street as almost revolutionary, but seems Dickensian in its thinking.

Further shifts

The arrival of technology, particularly the  smart phone, has produced what Josh Bersin of Deloitte calls the “overwhelmed employee.” Now we have an expectation of 24/7 connectivity, instant gratification and responsiveness as well as availability. We are seeing a blurring between personal and professional, and in work and out of it.

Ironically there has been another shift. 3 decades ago more highly qualified employees were less likely to work longer hours compared to lower paid and less qualified. A 2008 Harvard Business School survey of a thousand professionals found that 94% per cent worked 50 hours or more a week, and almost half worked in excess of 65 hours a week. Attributed to the Boomer work ethics  characterizing workplace culture, with their work centric focus on hierarchy, power and prestige, successful people now work longer hours than ever. But this doesn’t explain similar overwork cultures found in Silicon Valley.

The notion of the idle rich seems to have gone out of the window.

Education and upward mobility

Education has always been seen as the path to upward mobility. This is no longer always the case.  The flood of graduates onto the market has created a glut, which is not being matched by career opportunities. The arrival of zero hour contracts and the gig economy, is leaving many people  running a number of jobs simply to pay the bills. Marianne, a recent English graduate who is still looking for a job post graduation, works in a bar, a shop and a theatre, all on either a short- term, part-time or zero hours contracts.It’s exhausting, I never know if my hours are going to be cut, so I take all the work I can get to make sure I don’t have to move back to live with my parents. I’m not committed to overwork – I have to do it”  

New status symbol

. Time scarcity seems to have become a  corporate and cultural badge of success and an indicator of professional status. It is very much gender driven with overwork being intrinsic to male dominated corporate cultures.  Yet this is set against a backdrop of a chronic fall in employee engagement. Reports of a reduction in productivity, decreases in creativity and corresponding increases in days lost because of health issues are commonplace.

In some sectors where services offered are based on billable hours, such as consulting or law, there are few incentives to make people more effective and to work shorter hours. The productivity of knowledge workers is also much harder to evaluate. Martin an ex-corporate lawyer in a Magic Circle firm in London says “the culture of overwork is institutionalized and the only way to find any balance is to leave. The first document I had to sign when I started, was a waiver of the European Time Directive regulating upper hours working limits (48)”

He left aged 32, at a time when 80 hour weeks and working 48 hours without a break were his norm. He took a 30% drop in salary knowing that there would be a line of others queuing for his job, with the lure of partnership as the carrot. “Many are prepared to put in long hours just to stand a chance of making Partner and a 7 figure salary. This impacts family life and relationships because you have to do this from usually 28-40 which is a critical time in your life. For me the sacrifice wasn’t worth it”

Cultural change

What has to change is the cultural commitment to overwork which indeed penalizes anyone who wants to have some sort of family life. It particularly impacts women who leave organizations such as these, in their droves, or opt to stay in lower level jobs.  Some businesses compensate by providing corporate mindfulness training and concierge services and even sleeping pods.

But the question is, are they band aids which treat only the symptoms, rather than addressing the core cultural malaise? There is a reason the company does your laundry.

Initiatives to chip away at this regressive mind-set seem to be working. Employee engagement is a hot topic. Sweden is introducing 6 hour days to increase employee satisfaction and productivity. Goldman Sachs has even reported promoting a record number of women to Managing Director status, which might reflect a further sea change in thinking, as their senior echelons achieve greater gender balance.

What is needed is a corporate culture where people can thrive, both in the workplace and outside it. This is one area where gender balanced leadership teams would surely have an impact.

Are you caught up in the culture of overwork?

 

 

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?

 

 

Small decisions can create BIG changes

How good is your best?

We all think we do absolutely the best we can to resolve issues that challenge us. Losing weight, getting fit, looking for a job. But do we really?

As a recruiter and coach I play an active part in professional networks and also LinkedIn discussion groups. I hear and see individual cries of frustration and anger every day: confused posts in group discussions or I take part in anxious telephone conversations or meetings. There is always the same underlying theme. Individuals are sending out their CVs to all and sundry, networking flat out, and are doing absolutely everything they possibly can to get a job. But something simply isn’t working. The economy, recruiters and HR are all working against them. Their pain is palpable.

There are a few that specifically catch my attention and I always check out their LinkedIn profiles or look at their web sites and when I do, I can immediately see, as most career transition coaches could, where some difficulties might be rooted. It can be any number of things, incomplete profiles, spelling mistakes, poor lay out on CVs and confusing web sites, a low number of connections and so on. So although these are tough times, there are still ways to improve those job searching odds of at least participating in the process.

It may just mean you have to do something different, something very small.  Do this before anything more serious such as depression kicks in. This is clearly going to lead to general health issues, as well as being a barrier to career  and general success. Activity produces results. So does being open to change.

You have to identify what big changes you want to see.

So I suggest looking at the following as a first step:disruptive_innovation-300x2251

1. Log your results: Keep a log of all your job search efforts by date and detail each part of the search process . Each call, each CV you send out. Each networking event. What were the results? Is there an underlying pattern? If you are not making it out of the CV reject pile then you should consider examining the early part of your search- what can you change there? If you are falling down after an interview, evaluate that part of the process. Sometimes people lose track of exactly what they’re doing and especially when we’re stressed, our memories play tricks. We also fool ourselves into thinking we’re doing things in a certain way, when we’re not. Keeping a log gives an incontestable factual record, where no one can be fooled, not even ourselves.

2.How well are you communicating your message? Make sure your message is clear and strong. We tend to think what we’re doing is perfectly obviously to everyone else, but sometimes it isn’t, especially if you have a hybrid or highly technical function. I frequently see documents where what the individual is doing or has achieved, is not really clear, or sometimes not even stated at all. I don’t have time to search through a rambling 3 page CV trying to figure it out. Ask someone neutral from outside your function to review your web site, CV or elevator speech. If it’s clear to them, then it should be clear to everyone else.

3. Is your message powerful enough? I recently coached someone who had trebled the turnover of his business unit in his last job,but that wasn’t even mentioned on his CV. Another guy had closed a $ 0.5 billion ( yes billion) deal at head of state level and he hadn’t stated that fact in those exact words. So use strong vocabulary to market your skills and qualify all achievements with numbers. Don’t worry about boasting. Stating a fact isn’t bragging. It’s all in the delivery and manner and it is possible to recount your achievements without seeming egotistical .

4. Networking: Are you effectively tapping into your direct network and maximising all your contacts? The more people who know about your job search efforts the better. If you struggle with this as many do because being in transition isn’t easy, take steps to build up your resilience and confidence.

5. Connectivity: How well connected are you? Look at the number of connections you have on LinkedIn. If you are not widely connected you will appear on a limited number of searches.  Remember this is a global database for recruiters and it’s all about the maths. Numbers count. If you pride yourself on only being connected to people you know – now might be a good time to re-think your strategy. People who don’t know you could be searching for you. But you don’t know that. I am not an open networker, but 26000 people joined my network in the past 3 days. Your direct network will of course be extremely useful – but it would still be very unwise to rule out indirect networking.

6. Visbility: Raise your professional visibility both on line and off. On your LinkedIn home page you can monitor the number of times you appear in searches – check that out on a regular basis. Change key words and see if that makes a difference. Join groups. Participate in discussions. Answer questions. All of these things help raise your profile. Off line, volunteer for any sort of activity that will raise your visibility in your community, sector or profession. Attend networking events, write professional articles, join professional associations. Once again anything to raise your profile. Do you have business cards? How many do you give out a week?

7. Ask for feedback: Ask for feedback from any or all of the players in the recruitment process. If that’s not possible, many say they can’t get past gatekeepers or only get indifferent and unhelpful neutral answers, brainstorm with a trusted friend, peer , coach or mentor who can communicate constructively possible areas needed for improvement.

If any of this fails consider enlisting professional help.

Socrates said that ” Only the extremely ignorant or the extremely intelligent can resist change

As all of us fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum – so give change a whirl.  Register for a Career Audit to take your career to the next level.