The UK is forging ahead with Brexit. Not only that, the amendment to protect EU citizens residing in the UK was not approved. As the UK takes it place outside the EU, headhunters and recruiters are now trying to project skill set gaps in the coming years for British organisations. The one gap that screams for urgent attention is the British skill set deficiency in language capabilities, which is estimated will lose the UK 3.5% of economic performance per year. Unless some immediate and urgent steps are taken, there will certainly be a post Brexit language crisis.
Post Brexit language crisis and recruitment
EU nationals are currently “plugging the gap” says an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Modern Languages. But with projected restrictions on EU migrants and the future of current European residents unclear, someone needs to come up with a plan. Modern languages are considered “vital for our exports, education, public services and diplomacy.” but the national situation is said to be “parlous.”
Yet it seems that very little is being done about it. With a dramatic decline in students studying modern languages in university, the pipeline is drying up.
The British attitude to languages has always been of the “can’t/shan’t/won’t” thinking, backed up by the fact that “everyone speaks English.” This is a mix of low-confidence, low competence, low need and Colonial arrogance, which puts British candidates and businesses at an immediate disadvantage. Although improving, the cartoon stereotype of Brits talking loudly in mumbled English to bemused foreigners, is not far from reality. It is true that in many cases, their counterparts will probably speak English, but even a moderate knowledge of a foreign language helps bridge the cross cultural divide to give greater insight. And business is all about relationships after all.
A study from CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey indicates that at least 66% of UK businesses need foreign language skills. The problem is many UK businesses have given up on home-grown talent and recruit abroad. Now they may be unable to pursue that strategy to the same degree,which is going to present problems in recruitment processes.
In the last year in any of the senior pan-European executive searches I have been involved in, where UK candidates were ranked against their European counterparts of equal calibre, the Brits fell well behind in language skills. Most European senior executives, will generally speak a minimum of two languages and more often than not three, or even four. That means the UK candidates fell short overall, and were de-briefed. Nul points.
So although the number of students taking languages to the age of 16 is increasing, even if they carry on to further education, that demographic will not hit the workforce for some time perhaps another 5 years. That means that home-grown candidates seeking executive roles, who do speak languages will be in high demand and should see excellent opportunities on the market. For those without languages, they will need to up-skill as fast as possible, or miss out on career opportunities, unless they have a very specific high-value, niche-market skill where language skills are irrelevant. For anyone only speaking one language, training will be imperative. Enrol in a class now!
To avoid a post Brexit language crisis, businesses are going to have to offer in-house langauge training to avoid falling behind in their international markets.
If you want to recruit top talent for your organisation – contact us
As someone who is notoriously mind-less (I am the person who opens the refrigerator door and has forgotten why,) it has taken a lot of work for me to become attuned to my own biases. In that process I have become especially aware of the value of the process of mindfulness in recruitment. It was heartening to hear Katrien Goossens, Global Head of Diversity and Wellness at Euroclear recently advocate the same. Getting individuals to understand that bias isn’t only found in others, is not easy. We all have unconscious biases. It’s about all of us.
These biases are so deeply embedded in who we are, our values and belief systems that we barely notice they are there. Unconscious bias is there to protect us and to enable us to sort through the millions of thoughts that go through our heads every day and make sense of them. It is exactly the same as a Twitter hashtag system. A filing system to sort out the things that are important to us and effectively blocks out content that we don’t agree with, is dangerous, offensive or upsetting. In social anthropological terms life threatening people and situations.
3 types of workplace bias
The workplace is no different to our wider cultures. We all make decisions under pressure in the workplace and especially in the recruitment process. This is not efficient and at times illegal and especially frequently not rational. These biases relate to a number of assumptions around gender, age, race, disabilities, sexuality, appearance, BMI, height, social class, accent, nationality, schools and universities attended, political affiliation, postal codes or body art. The list is endless.
Affinity bias – where we ignore negative traits of people we like and focus on the faults of those we don’t
Social bias – exhibiting preference to P.L.U. – People Like Us – our own social group
Confirmation bias – where we justify our existing perceptions
For many years, employers have used diversity training as a way to overcome biases and make their organisations less homogenous. Millions are spent. Increasingly those involved in bias awareness training report resistance and even hostility from their programmes and workshops. Harvard Business Review suggests that traditional strategies are not only ineffective, they can have a negative impact and even reduce diversity. Even pioneering companies like Google have barely moved the needle in terms of the composition of their workforce.
Some companies are trying to change procedures and practises to deal with these challenges and produce better results. These include:
However, unwittingly we can continue to disadvantage others, even when at a conscious level we reject those biases. These biases interfere with our rational decision-making, which impact our organisations. It was never more apparent than when I was recently trying to arrange to interview candidates on a Wednesday afternoon. In Belgium the schools are closed. One male candidate was unable to meet because he had to pick up his kids. Another female candidate also had the same commitment. I noted my own reactions to both.
In emoji terms one earned
The other was:
My immediate reaction was for the guy “too cute.” The daddy factor. For the woman “she could miss an opportunity. What a shame.” It was very fleeting, but there nevertheless. Using mindfulness in recruitment allowed me to catch and manage that one. I caught myself watching Conchita a few years ago at the Eurovision song contest and caught a definite bias then.
The practise of Mindfulness can help make us aware of our hidden assumptions. It is about being present, paying attention with intention and not judging. It helps us focus on the experience we are in at that moment in time and creating an awareness of our reactions and making the unconscious conscious.
Becoming aware of my underlying assumptions has allowed me to observe and monitor my reactions and then to change my response if required. This is supported by research from Social Psychological and Personality Science, which suggests that mindfulness can reduce implicit bias and the subsequent negative behaviors follows. Do I succeed every time? No. Yesterday I was called out by a colleague for a slip. The most important thing is to be open and accepting of feedback. A senior recruiter became defensive with me when I suggested his language choice was sexist.
Essentially you can’t take the bias out of recruitment until the people involved in the recruitment process become bias conscious. If we all started to note and to become aware of why and how we react to people and ultimately judge them, then we might start to see better results.
The process starts with self. It’s just about getting started.
If you are struggling with unconscious bias in recruitment,contact me.
“Start as you mean to go on” is one of those timeless great quotes and one that resonates over and over again. Working with executives in transition, I have pulled together a list of 6 major sand traps causing onboarding fails. They are the main stumbling blocks which new hires or newly promoted or transferred individuals regularly fall into. These situations are not irredeemable, but a poor start doesn’t support a successful transition and can plague the person for months or even years. Effective ramp-up time is significantly reduced when these sand taps are avoided.
Often times it’s about the company’s failure to follow through which leads to onboarding fails. But some times it can be about you.
Arrogance is consistently identified as the number one self-sabotaging transitioning traps that a high number of new hires fall into when joining a new organizations. Many onboarding fails are rooted in arrogance. You don’t have all the answers and if you think you do, it means you have neglected the listening and collaborative part of the process, which is vital to onboarding success. Listening and observing is critical in the early days.
Failure to understand the new culture
Your new organisation is not your old one. Referencing “this is what we did in x” with the implication it was better, will not win you friends and help you build those strategic alliances.
Bull in a china shop
Not paying attention to what is different about your new environment will lead to poor understanding, which impacts business decisions and relationship building.
If you come into a new organisation like a bull in a china shop and try to fix everything that you think is broken, that attitude will only serve to alienate those around you.
The phrase “my old company” should leave your vocabulary. This is one of the major onboarding fails.
Lack of authenticity
It’s very unusual for a new hire not to feel overwhelmed. Most organizations bombard the new recruit with information on people, processes, systems and protocols. But if there is any feeling that you are not who you say you are, then that is the sand trap that is the most difficult dig yourself out of, because it is based on trust. It is likely to dog you throughout. A certain amount of “fake it until you make it” will work, but if there is a real lack of confidence, ask for a mentor or look for a coach.
Lack of openness
Very often executives who want to make a great first impression throw themselves into their work, shut themselves off from outside input. This means they are cut off from shared insights and opportunities that will contribute to their success. Being open to conversations, ideas and communication is essential in the early days.
Failure to make decisions
This is the onboarding fail counter point to the arrogant new hire who rides rough shod over everyone. It is the new recruit who fails to launch. They might be so concerned with making a mistake, of getting something wrong, or feeling a need to collaborate and consult the whole world, they prevaricate and fail to take any decisions at all. This damages confidence and trust. That’s why it’s a good idea to go for the low-level, low-risk early fixes. How do you know what they are? By listening to the people around you.
Not looking after yourself
Many new hires immerse themselves in their new roles so deeply that they forget to take care of themselves. Striving to make that great first impression, they adopt work practises that exclude exercise and poor eating habits. Perhaps they start becoming available 24/7. This sets a precedent which is difficult to back-track on and sets a poor example for reports. It can lead to the creation of a damaging and resentful work culture.
It also means that other relationships are being neglected. A common sand trap for an onboarding fail is not seeing that family members are also going through their own transition, especially if the process involves relocation. This can mean a change of school for kids and new schedules for partners too. Don’t make the mistake of leaving them out of the equation.
If you take work home it means that you are “absent while present” which has a negative impact on your whole life. Stress in one area of life almost always impacts another. At this point you should make sure you have re-evaluated your personal and professional goals.
There is no shortage of career advice, with any number of people giving tips on what and not what to do. There is even advice on what career advice to ignore. Everyone has careers, so we all believe we know what everyone else should do. But as with anything, these bumper sticker type homilies are much more nuanced than we ever imagined. Times and workplaces change. Circumstances change. Heaven forbid – you change. These golden tips and nuggets of wisdom need to be revisited and always put into context. Context is everything when it comes to career advice. Without that – any career advice is meaningless.
4 common pieces of career advice without context
#1 You have to follow your passion
This is the most regularly doled out of all career tips. If it was a movie or a song it would get an award. Of course you should all be advised to do something you love and which satisfies you. Otherwise you will be condemned to a life of frustration and misery. But there are some caveats. The first is to be strategic. Do you have the skills or can you acquire them? The next question is will that passion pay the bills? At the age of 14, I was passionate about tennis, but there was no way I could make a living at it. Or had the skills. That is something that very often people misunderstand. I know one woman who was an excellent home cook and passionate about food. But she was unable to turn that passion into something that paid her bills. Some things like my tennis, are best kept as hobbies.
The other thing is that your passion can change over the years. So something that you might be passionate about in your 20s, can be the source of unremitting boredom in later life.
You can also develop new passions. It’s not inconceivable that you might find two or even more passions in a working life which is extending all the time.
Core advice: maintain a path of life-long learning. Be open to possibilities and be sure to do your inner work regularly. Assess and prioritize your goals. In our careers we will be passionate about many things at various times. At different stages of our lives we have a range of commitments and constraints. There is nothing wrong with having to defer to those in the short-term. As life goes on compromises are made as we factor other people’s needs into our planning. The question is do you feel compromised? If you do, then it’s time for a re-evaulation. The pace of change is also so great in our workplaces, that we have no idea what jobs will exist in 10 years that we may become passionate about.
Passion isn’t static for most people. It’s misleading to suggest it might be.
Martin Luther King had a dream. Some athletes, movie-stars, musicians have dreams. Other more regular people also have them. But unless that vision is backed up by a strategy, goals and a plan then it is worthless. Relate this to your passion. The same criteria apply.
Core advice: See above
#3. There is no substitute for hard work
Actually there is. I prefer the advice to work smart. In an era of 24/7 availability the pressure to work incredibly long hours is high. In some sectors it’s a badge of honour and status symbol, particularly for men. Burnout, breakdowns and depression are now normal. There are times when hard work is necessary. But it’s not just about the hours clocked – it’s about the quality of those hours and their strategic value.
A bedfellow to this piece of advice is that you are judged by your work, so you should allow that work “to speak for itself.” That isn’t necessarily true. People tend to be judged by their results and they need to be able to develop a message that people are aware of. Find a mentor or a sponsor to help you share that message. This is a very female trap to wait for recognition. It frequently doesn’t call. We all have poor, lazy colleagues who still manage to do well.
Core advice: work smart and strategically, have a plan. Network effectively, work with a sponsor who will act as your door opener and find balance. Don’t be afraid to communicate your achievements. Done properly, with some humility, it is not bragging.
Today with the cost of education sky rocketing and many graduates leaving university to depressed job markets with huge debts, the further education argument is now under discussion. It is no longer the golden conveyor to career success. So the career advice in this area should be tempered. Clearly there are certain professions which require higher education. In medicine, engineering, architecture and so on, minimum academic professional standards are not optional. But a number of organisations are starting to drop the focus on degree qualifications and look at other skills. The accounting firm Ernst and Young says that there is
‘No evidence’ that success at university is linked to achievement in professional assessments”
The World Economic Forum list the following as vital skills in the future of work: literacy, numeracy, financial knowledge, technology, soft skills (see list below)
Core advice: The workplace is changing at a terrific pace and currently there is a massive disconnect with our education systems. There is no doubt that the value of traditional educational paths is coming under question. I would definitely think long and hard before taking a liberal arts or soft degree and relate that carefully to longer term career projections. This brings us back again to life long learning. No one can afford not to update their skills on an ongoing basis. Failure to do so will be a problem. So you can have as many qualifications as you like, but if they are out of date, or redundant – they are of no value
Success means different things to each of us. The important element is to be clear what it means to you and to check regularly if those factors are consistent and constant. Career advice is not a one of one size fits all. The advice we need, will evolve as we and our circumstances do.
For career advice, context is not just critical, it’s everything.
Make sure you contact me for any career advice and coaching!
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.
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.
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?”
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.
– Inability to say no
Linda Sapadin, PhD, author of Master Your Fearsbelieves 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.
My email box has been flooded over the weekend with enquiries from clients asking how “Brexshit” as I call it, will impact them. The answer is noone knows at this point, but eventually some type of calm and compromise will emerge as it always does. Official statements will be made about any impact this will have on the free movement of labour and employee rights. There are unlikely to be any significant changes in the short term. Already some players have made statements to project calm. But there is always collateral damage and it’s important in times of uncertainty to be prepared and in the best position to face whatever may hit us. There can also be opportunity.
It is clear that uncertainty and panic damages business confidence which impacts stability. Those two elements feed off each other. This situation may cause hiring and investment freezes, as companies wait for guidance from government departments head offices and even lawyers.
Unwelcome change is a hall-mark of our workplaces, whatever the circumstances. We have all seen many excellent people blindsided and ill-equipped to make an emergency landing which causes us to flail around in search of life-vests and oxygen masks. Under normal circumstances, this can be because of redundancy, a merger, a take- over or any other unforeseen business circumstance. The fallout from Brexshit had been predicted by most main economic and business experts, but sadly not taken seriously.
So now will be a good time to make sure you are prepared for that emergency professional landing because these times of uncertainty are going to be around for a while. They can be corrosiveand damaging
Here are tips that you can apply immediately while the dust settles:
Update your online presence and CV: if you do not do this routinely, and keep a copy ready to send off immediately, now is a good time to do that. Start straight away.
Audit your professional skills – it’s important to be current in this area. Many people take their feet off the pedal in terms of professional development , quite often in mid-career and find themselves lacking particularly in relation to newer (read cheaper) employees. It’s important not to become complacent and to view education as an ongoing exercise. Book a career audit Check that you can deliver your elevator soundbites and you have your A game at your finger tips.
Work on your network – many job seekers tap into their networks only when they have a need, by which time it’s too late. Strategic networking should be an ongoing effort. Make sure you are doing this now. If you are in a job and don’t think you need to network – re-examine that thought. Read: Do you have a Go-To Top 10
Pay it forward – the more you can do for other people when you are in a position to do so makes it easier to ask for reciprocation at a critical time.
Monitor your budget – the last thing Economists want to hear is people being advised not to spend, as this boosts the economy. It’s hard to define in precise terms how long it could take to find another job. You could be lucky – but generally executive searches take about 3-6 months. Today the suggestion is that it can be as much as 9 months. So although it is hard in today’s economic climate, sound advice would be for all of us to have a reserve “disaster fund“ of a minimum of 6 months to cover critical expenses. One of the most terrifying aspects of job loss is the gnawing anxiety of how to meet fixed overheads. It’s a good idea to make sure that key financial contact details are in your address book. How well do you know your bank manager?
Invest in professional support – many individuals seek career support when they are desperate: it might be when they have already lost their jobs or are facing any other sort of career blip. It is important to treat a career with the same strategic analysis as one might any other housekeeping exercise. In the words of John F. Kennedy “ The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining”.
Look after you –It’s normal to worry about your family and your ability to support your nearest and dearest. But just as a cabin attendant will exhort passengers to put on their own life jackets and oxygen masks first and then look after their dependents, the same is true for you. Putting your own needs first, will ultimately be in the best interests of the people who rely on you.
Leave your luggage behind – this is always one I imagine I might struggle with if tested, but the logic resonates nevertheless. Sometimes our baggage gets in the way and we have to let it go and take that step into the unknown to protect ourselves. This is another area where professional help can be a good idea. Make sure you understand fully what is holding you back.
If you need support to protect your career in times of uncertainty – contact me.
Apps and platforms that tackle workplace bias in job search and recruitment
Tech is considered to be one of the least gender balanced sectors. Women are difficult to identify, attract and when that does happen, the churn levels are especially high. But it is also an area which is well placed to offer support to organisations wanting to monitor or highlight their own unconscious biases for gender and other workplace bias.
Some of the apps coming out of the tech sector offer ingenious ways to identify situations where workplace bias exist. It’s clear that although they all can’t tackle the bias directly – they do expose it and highlight it.
Apps and platforms that tackle workplace bias
Doxascore.com is an online dating style site, with data driven tools to match women with companies that best fit them. Doxa helps women job seekers glean how various tech start-up companies treat their female employees. Using employee sourced survey data, the software develops a view what it is like to work at various companies, and how women fare in these workplaces. The profiles examine compensation, hours worked and schedules, pay gap, hours spend in meetings, the number of women on the leadership team and maternity-leave policies.
This is a recruiting software which supports companies wanting to create more diverse teams by targeting specific demographics that are under represented in their current organisations. The algorithm reviews the online profiles of potential candidates—using data from Twitter, GitHub and other sites. “Since this information is layered on top of a candidate’s skills and qualifications, the solution provides a level of objectivity as it relates to your hiring practices. It also helps organizations demonstrate good faith efforts and comply with regulations”
FairyGodboss is a data crowd sourcing platform to rank companies for the professional experiences and conditions they offer women. They have identified top industries for “gender equality, women’s job satisfaction, and the ones women would recommend to other women.” PR, Cosmetics and Hospitality are apparently the leading industries when it comes to women’s perceptions of gender equality at work. This gives women an opportunity to research organisations and make informed decisions based on comments of other women.
Blind CVs don’t tackle the root of the problem
GapJumpers is the “Voice” for business offering what they call blind auditions. The app offers companies a platform on which they can test the abilities of job applicants without knowing their gender or race , identifiers which lie at the root of bias. I would love to hear from anyone who has experienced this process to understand how it works in practise. Blind CVs tend not to deal with the real problem, simply defer it to late in the process. But they do get candidates through the first stages which is at least a step in the right direction.
Gender decoder Kat Matfield
Gender Decoder is an app similar to Textio, it highlights linguistic gender-coding which appears in job adverts and other documents. Research has shown that language cause women to self-deselect from applying for jobs that are advertised with masculine-coded language.This site is a quick way to check whether a job advert has the kind of subtle linguistic gender-coding that has this discouraging effect. It’s a free app and one that works well.
I’ve used it myself. My only comment would be that some of the words that are considered to be male coded such as “confident” and “business acumen” are more of a commentary on our culture. To replace with words which are considered to be “female” is simply patronising.
Gendertimer is an app that monitors the amount of “meeting air time” participants take up. Here you can track who hogs the floor to create greater gender awareness in meetings and other social situations. Research shows that the dominant group is men! Users can manually record any speaker’s gender chart the data. This leads to self-regulation for any extroverts or “mansplainers” and the possibility of holding more inclusive meetings.
I saw the pitch for this software diversity dashboard at an #HRTech conference in Paris 2015. Launching in 2016 Founder Sandrine Cina says “Includeed is an online platform which brings together employees, customers and companies around the topics of diversity and equal opportunities. Includeed allows employees and customers to review companies on their efforts towards equal opportunities, letting them know what is really needed and which solutions would be beneficial for all.”
Inhersight.com . Users rank their workplace across 14 criteria including maternity leave, salary satisfaction and wellness. The platform’s rating system is similar to sites such as Glassdoor, TripAdvisor Inc. and other crowd sourced feedback sites. It aggregate anonymous user-generated data to guide women to make “smarter decisions”.
Just not sorry
Just not sorry is a chrome extension app which produced an international furore in the sorry/not sorry debate. This is designed to help women neutralise their emails from “girl speak” along the lines of “I’m sorry to disturb you, but I’m just trying to confirm our arrangements and could you possibly let me know your plans for xx. I know this is short notice but would you mind getting back to me by xx”
My own view is that some women (and men) may find it helpful and emails should be succinct because no one will read them!
Textio is a spell check for job adverts, highlighting word choices that show gender bias or hackneyed phrases. It suggests alternative phrasing to stop self-de-selection by certain categories of job seekers. The program discourages corporate buzz words such as “ ninja” or “guru” which appeal to male applicants. Once again, my concern is words which are listed as male coded need to adapt with the culture rather than the other way around.
Unitive leads to is a data driven hiring decisions and monitors job applicants and the hiring process, allowing hiring managers to visualize the information behind their decisions. The platform reminds hiring managers throughout the process when they are most likely to exhibit bias. This can be when drafting job descriptions, adverts, reviewing resumes or other written documents to recognize and avoid workplace bias. Candidates compete anonymously to solve problems related to the job.
What other apps or platforms would you recommend to tackle workplace bias? I would be happy to include them.
If your organisation needs unconscious bias training – contact me.
Structured interviews with data driven questioning and assessment are being touted as the “new” way forward in selection processes to avoid unconscious bias, especially in relation to gender bias. Today, most interviewers adopt a fairly relaxed approach to interviewing. There is a strong preference for what seems like casual questioning about the candidate’s background and experience. But although unstructured interviews are perceived to be the most effective from a hiring manager perspective, research suggests that they are one of the worst predictors of on-the-job performance. They are considered to be less reliable than general psychometric testing and personality tests which can be as much as 85% reliable.
So why do we continue to do it?
There is a long standing reliance on the ability to identify “cultural fit.” Many managers and leaders pride themselves on having the gut instinct to recruit the best talent. It’s possibly true that some do. But most don’t. What they do is follow the tried and tested P.L.U. method of hiring – People Like Us. As most of the decision makers are male, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the 3M approach applies: Mini- Male- Mes. An interviewer’s perception of a candidate in an unstructured interview (a normal interview to you and me) is the over riding factor.
Removing human perception
Somewhat cynically I think it’s an unlikely and unrealistic expectation that we will be able to remove human assessment from hiring decisions. A candidate maybe considered to be the best via testing, but may struggle to fit in with the team. I have seen situations where candidates come into the 98 percentile on testing scores and still are not hired because the hiring manager just didn’t like him. Is this based on a bias? Of course. One that is very hard to define. His boss decided that the relationship between the manager and job holder would have been the key driver and the candidate was cut.
Unconscious bias is set up in our DNA to protect ourselves. This is why we hire and surround ourselves with P.L.U., from backgrounds similar to our own or that don’t cause us discomfort.
What are structured interviews?
Rather than relying on ad hoc questions, where the bias of an interviewer can be imbued into both the question itself and also how she receives the answer, it is believed that interviews should be set up so that all candidates are asked questions, in the same order and responses noted down at the time. There is usually a half way point where an anlysis of the candidates performance is assessed. Interviewers are also held accountable for any perceptions and required to defend them.
The objections to structured interviews are that the communication flow is less organic and possibly stilted, but the results are likely to be more neutral. Response can then be compared systematically.
Candidate Score cards
Candidate scorecards from structured interviews are a more objective method of evaluation in which candidates’ responses are assessed against a predefined benchmarks. Hiring managers can allocate a weight for each answer based on the requirements of the job in terms of skills and experience, company values,
Will data based questions really overcome unconscious bias? Google identifies certain characteristics that guarantee on-the-job success and structure questions around that. Laslo Bock, VP HR in his book Work Rules identifies questions that “are behavioral, dealing with past scenarios, and situational, dealing with hypothetical scenarios.”
Psychometric or other testing
Many companies combine testing and an interview process. Frequently candidates are asked to complete behavioural interviews with a specific assignment in line with the requirements of the job. A practical skill test also allows employers to assess the quality of a candidate’s work versus unconsciously judging them based on appearance, gender, age and even personality. Some companies do hiring weekends of “trial by sherry” when they go through a gamut of social events and behavioural assessments. This does not necessarily eliminate bias. There is that urban legend where a candidate was supposedly cut for putting salt on his food before tasting it.
The reality is that it is not just the nature of the hiring process and whether structured interviews become the norm. The interview procedure can be as neutral as you like, but if the rest of process is riddled with bias and coded messages then the system is set up to fail. This can be in adverts, job descriptions, self- de-selection of female candidates, and other subliminal messages projected at candidate touch points.
One issue is the number of minority candidates short listed for each open assignment. Research from University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business, although not conclusive, suggests that the key is to have 2 or even 3 female candidates (or other discriminated group) on the short list to level the odds. Psychologically it deflects the black/white approach of “do I want this candidate or not” to either or thinking.
Companies can insist that the executive search company or the in-house recruiter meet those requirements. If they don’t have the skills to go beyond the highly visible, low hanging fruit type of candidate identification, and many don’t, they should use specialist organisations which do. Check out 3Plus International
“A female candidate’s chances of being hired are statistically zero if she is the only woman in a pool of finalists“
The most effective way to manage unconscious bias is to make hiring managers aware of their own biases. Then start managing them at every stage of the process.
The stats on the level of engagement in all organizations come out overwhelmingly against the boss. 66% seems to be a standard figure for disengaged employees, so let’s work around that. It starts with the top employee who can bail fastest and more easily than the others. Then it trickles downwards, so that means losing your team will be the next step.
The top performer’s departure can blind side you. They are the best for a reason. Part of that is they are tapped into the market and bring their best selves to every situation. Very often their exit will be discreet and sudden. You can rightly be shocked, although some would say that even that might indicate that you are not in touch as you might be. But for the others, there are a multitude of tells that let you know you are losing your team, they are restless and out there testing the market. This might be as active candidates, or actively passive candidates, driving traffic to themselves and raising their visibility.
Whether you have your head in the sand or the clouds, unless you get on the ball, it will trickle down the ranks, until eventually you will be stuck with a team that will not be top calibre.
Multiple departures is a sign that you have a cultural issue which needs addressing urgently. Becoming tuned into the tell tale signs that you are on the brink of losing your team can help you take pre-emptive action.
So how do you know you are losing your team?
LinkedIn not Facebook activity: Lots of it. Maybe a professional head shot or a pimped profile that’s been written with a career coach or by a resume writer. There will be some sensible updates going out on matters relating to your sector, not “likes” of a mate’s posts or selfies. The smart ones will do this on an on-going basis, but most don’t. So this is tell number one for sure. They will connect with recruiters or contacts in other companies and will have forgotten to adjust their privacy settings. Some companies try to limit social media usage, thinking that is the solution to employee retention. But creating a firewall around your employees, isn’t going to stop them leaving. You have to make them want to stay.
Improved professional image: gone is the faintly rumpled shirt or nondescript trousers which have had only passing contact with an iron. Suddenly the workplace outfits are going up a notch with some statement jewellery and jackets on hangers, instead of a puffa anorak on the back of the chair. Shirts are crisp and starched. Shoes polished and make-up touched up. She is dressed to impress and warning tell… it’s not for you.
Looking for metrics: watch out for a deeper interest in budgets, KPIs, targets and numbers, as he embeds his activities with metrics using the Be FABulous approach to prepare his USP or elevator pitch or soundbites.
Loss of interest in next year: Interest in next years’ activity will fall off. When there is barely a murmur about the bonus situation or summer party, you know you are in trouble. Your employees have opted out of even medium term thinking. Maybe you will see some passive aggressive behaviour, not meeting deadlines or poor time keeping. These are not necessarily signs that your disengaged employee is checking out the job search market. This is even worse news – they are so demotivated they can’t or won’t be able to leave.
Networking: Instead of piling down to the pub, your team will be heading for after work professional drinks and events, clutching newly ordered business cards to pass around the room.
Absenteeism: You will see an increase in requests for a few hours off, only one day’s vacation or recuperated overtime. The unscrupulous will take sick days.
If you see any or all of these tells, you should wake up and acknowledge you are losing your team. Don’t leave it until you have a high number of open vacancies to understand that you need to do something and fast.
Many think it is not is possible to cultivate gravitas, central to executive presence, that elusive quality said to contribute by 25% towards career success. It can be acquired by anyone, at any age. It’s about presenting your best self, all the time, even when you may not be prepared. Gravitas and charisma are not necessarily the domain of the older and usually more experienced, male, professional.
For lazy managers the lack of executive presence, has become a catch all phrase to avoid constructive and thoughtful feedback and emphasizes an inability to create a strong coaching environment. It lets the manager easily off the leadership hook. This sloppy opt-out, helps fuel a lack of diversity at senior levels, as those not fitting a cultural template based on age, gender or ethnicity, are excluded. It is a failure to understand that it is possible to cultivate gravitas and therefore executive presence.
More people believe they have these characteristics than actually do. The reality is that gravitas is both bestowed and earned. So there is both a self-perception and self-assessment problem, which can lie at the heart of the issue.
The 3 pillars of Executive Presence: gravitas, communication and appearance.
3 pillars of executive presence
According to more than two-thirds of the executives (268) surveyed, in the Center for Talent Innovation research, gravitas seems to be the core quality of executive presence. This is a word that is less used today, but it is perceived to be a combination of behaviours and characteristics that convey confidence.
The Latin root of gravitas suggests “weight” and the word gravitate, its cousin, means moving towards. So gravitas conveys a depth of personality, reliability, respect, and trust, which draws people.
Think of the leaders you are drawn to. Why is that?
Add to those mentioned qualities, gravitas also requires a demonstration of moral integrity, a burnishing reputation, vision, an ability to show poise under pressure (bringing your best self to every situation) and credibility. People with gravitas are able to lead and develop relationships more effectively, are promoted earlier and are believed to get better results. This concept is especially confusing when so many of our leaders today do not seem to possess some, or all of these qualities.
Yet many people are uncertain how they can cultivate gravitas that and think there’s some magic formula.
Self awareness needed
Executive Presence essentially starts with an inside out process. Anyone who bypasses this key element (and many try) will de facto not have achieved it, unless you are in the tiny minority for whom gravitas is a totally innate gift and you know instinctively when to present your best self. Developing gravitas is highly individual and everyone will have a different journey and response. Read: 10 Executive Presence Rules
It is difficult to standardise a learning process to cultivate gravitas. Yet many organisations try, with a one size fits all coaching or training programmes. Group exercises with prescribed prompts relating to values or personal qualities are often carried out. In a like and click internet culture, these can be less effective than they were in the 50s when Jahari’s Window for example was originally designed. They can interfere with the real work you need to present your best self. Thinking. Not clicking. This inner work can be really challenging.
Too often we… enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. J.F. Kennedy
I would suggest only using these exercises if you are really stuck.
Ask the right questions
if you wrote your own speech for your leaving party what would you say? Ask yourself the questions: what do you want to be known for? What do you regularly achieve? Are you the person who respects people’s time, communicates courteously and effectively, asks the right questions, listens attentively and smiles hello in the corridor? Do people come to you to ask for your opinion or feedback? Are you open to feedback?
Or are you always late, poor at listening and responding, or bring your stress to the office? Distracted or unwilling to engage. In many ways some of this is common sense and old school courtesy. Like many things, executive presence can be built up by small daily habits built upon from self- insight, that eventually become who you are. Trust is rooted in a reliability to make the right choices and decisions.
“We become what we repeatedly do.” Sean Covey
I ran a training programme for an international company last year, where for some reason 70% of the group had not done the pre-course work, despite the best efforts of the organiser. The group clearly under performed and their lack of innate skills was exposed and they were vulnerable. Some embraced the learning experience. Others became defensive.
Executive Presence is an “E” concept, so preparation is critical for introverts. Without it they will get left behind in the promotion process. This is the group which is more frequently told they have no EP or charisma.
Inside Out Work
How does the inside out process work? It’s about:
Knowing yourself, your values and passions and what you stand for and against.
Creating a powerful, passionate, impactful message, preferably with humour. People love to smile. This can be a major stumbling block for many, but can be learned.
Sharing your great message whenever you can. The ability to weave your story into any situation in an appropriate way, conveying a benefit, shows mental agility and flexibility.
Developing strong people skills. Treating everyone with warmth, respect and consideration. Every day. Asking questions, listening and being present.
Making a great first impression. Make sure people remember you. Presenting your best self whenever you can. Pay attention to your professional image and finding the right balance between compliance and authenticity. Remember women are judged more harshly than men in this area.
Getting comfortable with the right kind of discomfort – by that I mean a willingness to step out of your comfort zone. Anyone who displays that kind of openness, is able to embrace change and will stop trying to control the conditions that make them feel secure. Whatever they are. This allows you to step up when you might have held back. If you hold back on something because you are nervous – this means you need training or coaching. Make sure you get it.
When you have completed your inside out work you will have the skills and tools that will give you mental agility to present your best self even under pressure. You will have the presence of mind to take advantage of spontaneous opportunities to advance your career. It also makes you a great brand ambassador for your company.
This is about how you present yourself to the world. It is about trainable skills around communication and appearance. It covers professional image, voice, smile, eye contact, and posture. This comes easily to people who have done their inside out work and is the easy part. Many great leaders have had coaching for presentation skills or voice.
Gravitas is not necessarily about age, as you can see from the video below. Malala Yousafzai was only 16 when she addressed the United Nations.
Companies encouraging employees to do their inside out work early on, will have a greater chance of grooming higher numbers for senior management roles and strengthening their talent pipeline much earlier. Quite often this is left to leadership training when for some it can already be too late.
For any information on executive search, coaching and training services contact me here.