Author Archives: Dorothy Dalton

reject candidates

9 reasons to reject candidates after an interview

Many recruiters and hiring managers are plagued by skill set shortages, both hard and soft skills. There is a very strong temptation to compromise to fill an open assignment rather than reject candidates that “will do.”. But very often the wrong hiring decision can be more expensive than keeping the vacancy open and continuing with the interview process. However, we think we have some hard and fast guidelines but there are many anecdotal stories that suggest there are exceptions when rejecting candidates is not the best way to go.

I am not talking about searches for the elusive purple squirrel, or even development or stretch roles, but cases where realistic qualifications, experience and skills have been allocated for a position and the candidate is found lacking. Here, to compromise means hiring below the benchmark. Very often these red flags appear early in the interview and are legitimate reasons to reject a candidate, without further ado. They are generally associated with under-developed or completely missing soft skills or misrepresented hard skills morph from tailoring into lying.

Esther Perel said in a recent interview at the Unleash18 conference in Amsterdam:

“People are hired for skills but fired for behaviour.”

Here are 9 (mainly) good reasons and soft skill tells that should send alerts that the candidate is not of a high enough calibre. I agree that there are always exceptions and special circumstances. But how many of these boxes indicate you should reject candidates from the interview process?  Or is it a case of exceptions make the rule?

1. Poor time keeping

Not being on time, or even early for an interview is a major deal breaker. Excuses that will not hack it in my book are:

  • I overslept
  • I went to the wrong place
  • The train was late. If it was one 30 minutes before the interview – for sure.

Exceptions: There can be good reasons why someone can be late. I was in a cab on the way to a meeting last year and we hit a cyclist. I was detained by the police for a witness statement. I did phone ahead and the company was very understanding. A networked contact reported hiring a candidate on the spot when a car accident blocked the road and he jogged in the rain to get to the meeting! If the 6.00am train was derailed, then discretion can also be exercised – but that would probably be on the news. There are always exceptions so I agree, it’s OK to park that thought for now before checking off the other deal breakers.

2. Appearance

All candidates should be suited and booted and dressed according to industry norms. Some sectors are more relaxed than others. Generally I would expect candidates to be over-dressed in those circumstances. Jeans, sneakers or an unkempt appearance of any kind,  means that candidates should hit the reject pile. If this is how they are when they are trying to impress, then imagine how they will dress when they are not.

Exceptions:  I did have a situation of interviewing someone in an airport hotel. He was en route from the Maldives and his luggage was lost by the airline. The interviewee was dressed in Bermuda shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. He had bought a tie in the duty-free which was appreciated and added humour to the situation. One panel member felt he should have bought a whole new outfit or put the critical items of clothing in his hand luggage and it showed a lack of foresight. I thought that was a bit harsh. It was a mid-level role and we all know how expensive clothes are in airport stores  – so discretion was exercised.  He went on to receive an offer.

3. Poor non-verbal communication

Many candidates are very nervous before interviews which impacts their non-verbal communication. This is normal and the role of the skilled interviewer is to make the candidate feel at ease as quickly as possible. If this lack of confidence persists, it is usually a warning sign. There is very little to be gained by making an interviewee uncomfortable.

I pay particular attention to fidgeting, lack of eye contact, poor posture, weak handshake and other sloppy body language. If any of these are “off” then interviewers can legitimately reject a candidate.

Exceptions:  It could be because of a neurological difference: ADHD, ADD, anxiety disorders,  autism or other issues. Tact and empathy are really important. Many companies ask candidates if they want to declare any diversity situations, but some feel they will be discriminated against. This is one that could be examined in greater detail. Some people just get nervous in interviews but are great in their roles.

4. Poor Verbal Communication

If candidates are unable to respond to questions concisely, precisely and with relevance (what I call CPR) they tend to lose me.

“Upspeak”  is also something that is a deal breaker for me especially in a client facing situation. Everything they say sounds like a question?

Exceptions:  Look at other qualifications and  assess if these deficiencies are “trainable.” They could have excellent basic skills but need some polish.

5. Preparation

All candidates should be able to demonstrate interview readiness and preparation including at least superficial knowledge of the company and the role. Any candidate who is not reasonably familiar does not deserve to be progressed to the next level.

Exceptions: when the candidate has been given no information because the interview was called at short notice, or the search is confidential. This does happen, especially at a senior level.

6. Poor, no, or the wrong candidate questions

If the candidate cannot answer basic questions like the old chestnut “Why should I hire you?”  showing a strong level of self-awareness, they probably should not make it through to the next round.

Having no questions prepared is also a deal breaker and the candidate deserves to be cut. If you have interviewed thoroughly, even asking for clarification on career development  opportunities would highlight a high level of engagement.

If the only questions are centred around holiday entitlement, the Friday tab and Christmas party, that should send some alarm bells

Exceptions:  None  –  but maybe you have a party animal who could be great at his/her job Loop back and check the other credentials.

 7. Display of device addiction

If a candidate has not switched off their phone, takes a call or interacts in any way on a device during the interview, unless it is to show you something connected to the process,  it should be brought to an end immediately.

Exceptions:   Absolutely none unless a family member has died. It is not a sign of an ability to multi-task. There is no such thing.

8.  General courtesy and good manners

“Manners maketh the man” … and woman. You would be surprised how many candidates fail to engage correctly with those in the process from the receptionist, to secretaries, drivers.  Anyone who doesn’t say please and thank you or is rude in any way, to anyone at all, should be cut.

Exceptions:  None

9. Inattentive Listening

Candidates who don’t process information, follow instructions, flood, or interrupt, all show indications of inadequate listening skills. This has very strong implications for their role as a team member.

Exceptions:  None

So what do you think  – harsh or simply sensible? You may have to pass on a candidate who seems “good enough.” That’s OK. Don’t settle until you find the right candidate. While it may take more time to find the right fit for your business and someone who truly wants to work there, it’s worth the wait. Or is having hard lines missing a diversity opportunity? What do you think?

The real risk is that you could find yourself recruiting for the same position again in six months.

If you need contact sourcing top talent –  get in touch NOW!

post-Brexit skill shortage

Post Brexit skills shortage – Personal Stories

Twenty-six months ago I wrote a post on the start of the Brexit talent drain and the potential impact this would have on a post Brexit skills shortage. We have been living in an age of uncertainty ever since the June 2016 referendum. As everyone  knows, uncertainty and instability are not good for business. So I’m sad to report that this trend has continued. In 2016 the CIPD reported that in general, 44% of working adults said they felt pessimistic about the future, as a result of the UK’s vote to leave the EU. 20% felt their job is less secure. Today only 25% feel the economy works for them. 

Research from the job site Indeed suggests that in the run up to Brexit, there has been a sharp decrease in job seeker interest in the UK. This is notable from Irish candidates (a drop of 44%) as well as other parts of Europe, with Polish interest in the UK job market reducing by 26%. Ironically after centuries of emigration, Ireland is now a top job seeker destination. The conclusion from Indeed is “The specific effects on the UK’s workforce will depend on what type of Brexit is finally settled upon, but our analysis, which includes Norway and Canada as non-EU countries, suggests that leaving the EU will likely impact the UK supply of labour for the long-term.”

Brand Britain taking a hit

Sectors such as finance and roles requiring languages are reported to be remaining positive, at least for now. Many candidates I have spoken to express concern about the climate of uncertainty and specifically an increase in hate crime which has risen by 30% since the Referendum. One Polish connection told me “many cases are not covered in the UK press or even reported to the police, but they do get picked up by Polish media. Obviously experiences filter back home in the usual ways especially via social media.” A Spanish woman was recently brutally attacked for speaking Spanish on a London train.

Senior post Brexit skills shortage

However, research from the Open University published in September 2018 indicates that senior roles are proving the most challenging. 56% of survey participants indicate difficulties filling management positions. Lack of clarity around future visa arrangements and the “right to remain” for EU citizens leaves many companies concerned about international talent and how it can play a role in their organisations. 48% expect further restrictions to come into force and 53% expect the post Brexit skill shortage to deteriorate further. In the tech sector there are 600000 open vacancies.

Brain drain underway  

I re-contacted the people I spoke to two years ago to find out what was going on for them today.These are personal stories, but it’s clear that the Brexit talent drain is well under way. My contacts are all highly educated multi-lingual professionals, for whom the transition was easier than it would be for many. But the decisions were not made lightly and impacted their families in may ways.

These stories are only a small slice of a much bigger pattern. Net EU migration has continued to decline from a peak of 189000 in 2016 seeing both a reduction in EU immigration numbers and an increase in EU nationals moving out. I am also seeing an increase in British nationals enquiring about a move to Europe. Berlin is a top choice destination. There is always the long-standing problem of Brits not learning languages, but even those who are bi-lingual or multi-lingual, EU countries are starting to announce specific conditions for the rights of British nationals to work in their geographies. Much will depend on how the UK treats EU nationals I think and many are watching anxiously. Me included!

The ultimate irony is that foreign nationals are even being recruited for the British Army.

Post Brexit skills shortage – personalised

Here are the updates from the people  I spoke to two years ago. My experience is a micro one, but reflects what colleagues are sharing in my network.

Spanish Commodities Analyst

  • 2016 – Uncertainty: “the U.K. is showing a post Brexit slow down. Uncertainty and a lack of confidence are damaging for everyone in the short-term. For my career, it would be better to move to another European financial services centre. I speak German and French so could move to Paris or Frankfurt. Dublin would also be a possibility. It’s anticipated that some Banks will move their whole operations so I may wait a while and see what happens , but I have sent my CV out. The current atmosphere is depressing and gloomy.”
  • 2018 – left UK: “Frankfurt has been the top destination post Brexit and 10 foreign banks have chosen to move operations and staff from London to Frankfurt. Because of my language skills I actually had 3 offers which was great. I moved in the summer of 2017. Frankfurt isn’t London in terms of buzz and culture but economically and for my career its sound. My wife doesn’t speak German so can’t work yet but she is taking classes. I’m 35 and have two small kids now I can’t afford to take risks and play a waiting game to see what happens.

French Strategy Manager Global Logistics Company

  • 2016 Xenophobia: “there is definite backlash against foreigners now, which was whipped up hysterically before the vote and is being fuelled even now by a partisan press. I can handle it fine, but the kids are being targeted in school for their French accents and that’s not O.K. It’s not just against low paid Poles.” 
  • 2018 left UK: I relocated to The Hague at the end of 2017. The whole family is learning Dutch. My oldest daughter didn’t want to move and has taken out dual nationality. After 15 years as expats in the US and UK, it’s been challenging, but we feel we are in a more buoyant political and social environment. Brexit is damaging the British badly.

German Account Manager

  • 2016 Abusive comments: and being told to “go home.”   This is apparently rife.  
  • 2018 Left UK:  I moved to Dublin in 2017 with my husband who is American. The US wasn’t an option for us. He is self- employed and can work from anywhere. It was a hard move, but feeling uncomfortable every day gets you down. In contrast Dublin is a very vibrant, welcoming and cosmopolitan city.You feel the change in atmosphere immediately.

Dutch Business Development Director

  • 2016 Fear of housing market collapse: others who have bought property in the U.K. particularly the South East at premium prices are concerned about a possible fall in house prices, leaving them in a negative equity situation, especially as the pound has fallen to the lowest it’s been in years. They see an early departure as vital.
  • 2018 Left UK – We had invested in remodelling our house in the Midlands but it was clear that prices were going to fall.  I risked not being able to cover my investment. Those fears have been realised. In April 2017 I tested the market with a local estate agent and had a cash offer within days. My family and I moved into rented accommodation temporarily and we transferred  back to Amsterdam this summer. We were sad. It meant leaving friends behind. We felt very settled, but that changed.” 

Swedish Marketing Director

  • 2016 Concern about reduced conditions:  indicated concerns about employment conditions deteriorating “The only way the U.K can offer advantages to international organisations is to offer greater tax breaks (already happening) and greater flexibility with employment conditions. This will work in favour of the employer. I anticipate a loss of employment protection similar to the type of systems in place in the U.S. which would be negotiated with a T.T.I.P. deal. We could see a shift to very exploitive employment practises I fear.” 
  • 2018 Left UK: My organisation closed the London office and relocated to Paris. My husband doesn’t speak French so it would have been a difficult transition for him  so we returned to Stockholm. I come from one of the best cultures in Europe and even though it has challenges too, the toxic atmosphere in the UK it not good for people or business. I hope Sweden learns from the British.  

Belgian Institutional Relationship Manager Financial Services

  • 2016 Citizenship: with the question of the right to work under investigation, perhaps requiring British citizenship or special permits the uncertainty around this issue is a concern for some. They would want to maintain dual citizenship so they could work in the U.K. and Europe.
  • 2018 Leaving UK: After the Home Office’s confusing announcements about the right of EU citizens to work, my financée and I are actively trying to relocate to Brussels or Luxembourg. The political tension and uncertainty here is unpleasant.

As we see the countdown to the final deadline tick slowly away, it is clear that no one has a real handle on what the potential outcomes will be. Or a plan.

If you need career transition coaching get in touch now! 

 

 

 

Tinder for talent

Tinder for Talent

At a very entertaining session run by Liz Mackay, Global Head of Talent Acquisition for DSM at #Unleash18 last week, I was introduced to the concept of Tinder for Talent.  As you might imagine I am not in the Tinder demographic, so was expecting eye watering revelations.

Indeed the language has changed, some of the perceptions have shifted, but anyone who has been in HR and recruitment for as long as I have will recognise that the behaviour probably hasn’t.

Glossary of  Tinder for Talent Terms 

Essentially she described the way candidates are interacting with employers on job search which is also found on the dating site Tinder. For the uninitiated here is a glossary of terms.

Ghosting

Now I did know this one. This is when a candidate just disappears without a word. No text, mail, What’s App, call. Nada.  They are just not that into you!  But don’t like to say.

The thinking behind ghosting is that the person who is being “ghosted” will pick up the vibe and realise their romantic interest wants out, but doesn’t want to say so directly. Ghosting is a gender neutral, passive aggressive behaviour pattern and probably a  telling commentary on the person’s communication style.  Some perceive it as a way of not hurting anyone’s feelings.

What happens is that the ghostee feels let down, confused and even betrayed

Benching 

Benching is apparently very different to ghosting. This happens when the person you’re dating (or believe you are in a relationship with) gradually starts disappearing from your life and distancing themselves. You don’t realise your relationship is over until you hear they are with someone else. I’ve known marriages end that way. The bencher strings the benchee along with  cute messages, just enough to keep them interested, but never anything meaningful. You probably only hear from them when they are bored and out of other options.

For the benchee this is very distressing, humiliating and even annoying. You have no idea if you are single or not and can’t make plans. This strategy is older than even my hills.

Ever thus 

The reality is that this has always gone on to some degree. Ghosting and benching have always happened but were called other things. Ghosting used to be called the “slow no” or MIA to cover a candidate who had formally expressed interest, it could be up to the point of talking compensation and benefits and then… a big fat nothing. I  have heard a whole host of reasons after the event from personal and family issues, to counter offers from their exiting employer. I have sent out any number of final mails giving deadlines requesting an answer, saying that no response would be received as negative.    

Benching manifests itself in many forms. You think you have the ideal candidate and they come up with little negotiation strategies related to benefits (I’ve even had requests for golf club fees) vanity job titles, reporting relationship and location changes, all of which had been clearly stated in any offer and profile and seemingly agreed. Quite often the individual was testing the market and never had any intention of moving.

Sometimes they bench and then ghost.

Candidate driven market

Liz Mackay describes the very positive counter action DSM took to balance these worrying trends in the recruitment cycle. This included an action packed employer branding video called ” Push your limits” with a female super hero, which I was very pleased to see.

So what has changed?  Quite simply, the market.

Today, probably after10 years of being in an employer driven market, the tide has turned and  we are in a period of low unemployment, top talent is in the driving seat.

Hiring managers and recruiters alike have for years been guilty of, and criticised for, ghosting and benching.

Market forces

You have heard of the CV black hole to describe a situation where companies couldn’t be bothered setting up an automated response on their ATS. No news is worse than bad news for candidates. Ghosting for job seekers has been chronic for years.

Candidate reported being called for seven or more interviews, taking time off work and incurring expenses, only to be dumped on the altar, were common place. One client calculated 40 hours of interview and assessments, then the organisation offered her 10% less than her current salary.

Many believed they were about to receive an offer only to hear nothing for months.  They then saw a sector peer change their LinkedIn profile with an update about the role they were interviewing and hoping for.

In a candidate driven market high potential talent is also able to leverage scarcity in salary negotiations. 

Karma finds its way 

Whether candidate or employer, there is no substitute for creating or participating in an effective recruitment process which is respectful. Candidates are currently in the power positions, but like any economic cycle that will change and the balance will shift again.

Remember, karma has a tendency to bite you in the bum.

If you need to attract top talent – get in touch now! 

 

fellings in the world of AI

Feelings in the world of AI – UNLEASH18

One of the main paradoxes of any HR conference focusing on digital and tech, is there is always  as much discussion around the human element as the technical stuff. This year at UNLEASH18 I felt it was even more pronounced than usual. Threaded through the event was a strong emphasis on soft skills, emotions, relationships, psychological safety, trust, sustainability, wellness, inclusion and ethics.

Whoever can put this onto an App will be a multi-millionaire.

For me there was one word that stood out and somewhat ironically for a tech setting talking about AI, it was “feelings.”   Not just how we feel personally but also understanding how others feel and experience their working lives. The quality of our interactions with each other featured large.

Feelings in the world of AI

No matter how sophisticated A1 becomes, there is one undeniable fact. It can’t feel anything whether joy, stress, anger, excitement, love, happiness or empathy. Feelings in the world of AI and digital are the ultimate paradox.

Anyone who attends an Unleash conference will be familiar with the sensory overload. There’s noise, movement, visual effects and great food. You can’t beat a Dutch Bitterballen. And not forgetting the 4500 people. It’s impossible to go to everything. So I have selected only three areas that highlight for me what seems to be a growing concern that we need to stop neglecting feelings in our increasingly digital worlds. There were many more.

Employee experience

“If people don’t feel that they can use these technologies during their work experience to contribute and improve their work experience, they going to find them less useful than ever.”


 

Josh Bersin kicked off strongly as usual with the latest updates on HR trends. He told us that with $6 billion of investments in tech start-ups, technology is now way ahead of the workplace. Although there is full employment and increased technology application, he reported that productivity is actually at an all time low. So something is skewed. Bersin emphasised that the success of technology was at risk if employees did not feel it to be valuable or if it did not enhance their individual contribution in the workplace. 

Morné Swart, VP Global Product Strategy, SumTotal Systems identified the three top digital initiatives implemented by CHROs in organisations. 60% are using digital technology to enhance the employee experience, 53% are using digital technology to increase employee productivity.  Bersin sees employee experience and productivity as one and the same and all tech vendors are now “employee experience vendors.”

Relationships

“We are hired for our skills but let go because of the way we handle our relationships.”   

Esther Perel is a leading relationship therapist, author and world renown keynote speaker who offers compelling insights into modern relationships. Bestselling author of books Mating in Captivity and The State of Affairs, she is a veritable powerhouse on stage. She cited a need for a CRO (Chief Relationship Officer) in our businesses. She gave compelling examples of how we bring our personal relationship history into the workplace and explained the way in which these impact a group dynamic. She illustrated how our need for independence, adventure and security can be as mismatched in the workplace as in our private lives.

Perel believes that the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives and careers and the same also applies to organisations. Effective relationships grease the wheels of any organisation and make them function successfully. Highly performing organisations are more profitable. Poor relationships can create a toxic corporate culture, where employees feel psychologically insecure with significant fall out. This can include absenteeism, mental health problems, increased errors and reduced creativity.

These are all factors which impact employee engagement, ultimately hitting productivity and therefore profitability. Soft skills and the way leaders make people feel are the new P & L drivers.  People leave organisations because they don’t feel recognised. “We want a sense of belonging at work otherwise we will leave.”

Happiness, compassion, altruism

“Happiness is a skill, emotional balance is a skill, compassion and altruism are skills, and like any skill they need to be developed. That’s what education is about.”

Matthieu Ricard, Buddhist monk closed the event, talking about the importance of compassion and altruism. By embracing these concepts we can continue to live next to each other and with each other in greater happiness. With a Ph.D. in cell genetics at the Pasteur Institute in 1972, he moved to the Himalayan region to follow a spiritual path of Tibetan Buddhism. He is actively involved in neuroscientific research on the effects of meditation. 

Ricard suggests  that altruism, that is having more consideration for others, “is the only unifying concept that allows us to answer the main challenges of the 21st century.”  He believes that in this way we can make the world of work and our wider world  a kinder and happier place. He urges us to understand that altruism is a necessity not a luxury needed for our long-term sustainability, By committing to transforming ourselves to these principles we will thrive not flounder. The development of altruistic love, compassion and other fundamental human qualities we can help us increase our contribution to society and improve our own feeling of well-being.

The price of AI

I couldn’t help but wonder as David Green the MC encouraged us to lift our heads from our smart phones to talk to the person sitting next to us if we will eventually have an app for that too.

Ding: Message to self….talk.

There is a clear risk that the quality of our interactions will impact our feelings in the world of AI if we let it drive us. We will pay the price and be less effectiveIt’s important to find the balance and learn that we manage tech and not the other way round. Tech should liberate us from routine processes so we can spend more time on the “feeling” work.

Feelings it would seem are a business issue.

Attract the right talent – get in touch!

cultural fit

Cultural fit under the microscope

Devising little tests such as a hiring lunch and other tricks have always been around to test job seekers for cultural fit. Thomas Edison is famously reported to have served candidates a bowl of soup when he was interviewing for research assistants. He seemingly wanted to see whether they added salt or pepper to the soup before they tasted it. Candidates who did were automatically cut. Edison didn’t want to hire anyone who made assumptions. Assumptions apparently are the killers of innovative thinking. In some ways Edison was ahead of the bias curve.

Trial by sherry

Some companies have weekend long processes once euphemistically called “trial by sherry;” where candidates are subjected to two days of evaluation including cocktail parties, teas, dinners and golf outings. These social events are interspersed with highly useful team building exercises such as fence building and presentations. All are designed to identify which candidates demonstrate the best skills, while at the same time juggling a canapé, a glass of wine or a hammer. I heard one story of a candidate who had imbibed a few too many sherries and jumped fully dressed into the hotel pool. She wasn’t shortlisted. Other companies talk to their receptionists before making a final decision, or ask for a lift in the candidate’s car to see the state of their vehicle. This is perhaps “tidy car/tidy mind” thinking. I suspect the latter would make me unemployable in the eyes of some.

Diversity new global mindset 

Research from LinkedIn suggests that diversity is one of the four trends shaping the future of hiring in 2018 with 78% of talent professionals and hiring managers say that it is the top trend impacting how they hire.  There are after all compelling statistics substantiating the diversity correlation with employee experience and engagement, innovation, customer satisfaction and overall business success.

The days of rejecting a candidate because he or she added salt to their soup before tasting it should be long gone.But the notions about assumptions are not incorrect. Cultural fit is still a significant driver in hiring, assessment and job search processes for all involved. For recruiters and hiring managers it’s a pre-condition for selection and is seen as a key indicator of a successful hire.  On the other side, job seekers are encouraged and coached into persuading employers that they would “fit” in beautifully. They research the organisation, use corporate language and adopt a style that they believe will be convincing. People are hired specifically because of their potential to be a great cultural fit and organisations reject candidates because they won’t.

I have never heard of anyone receiving an offer because no one liked them.

Today, the notion of cultural fit is being redefined and re-evaluated. It is increasingly under the microscope, now seen as short-cut thinking, interfering with diversity, which is considered critical to innovation, collaboration and growth. The real struggle is to recruit people with a different mindset, who challenge the existing culture and shake it up but can work together.

We should now be talking about cultural value rather than cultural fit.

Cultural value rather than cultural fit

How do we get there?

#1 Define your culture 

Frequently no one in the process understands what cultural fit for their organisation really means. Cultural fit should be about slotting people into places and roles where both the individual and the environment benefit. In my early career I worked in television and was involved in a hiring process for a Graphic Artist. He was cut because he looked like an accountant and wouldn’t “fit in.” He was wearing a suit. He went on to have a very successful career in Hollywood.

If an organisation wants to recruit candidates that fit in with their culture, they need to define what their culture is exactly and more importantly if it’s a culture worth holding onto or needs shaping into something new, diverse and dynamic.

#2 Leadership commitment

Cultural change requires leadership commitment backed up by systemic changes to move away from in-built group-think. Team leaders and hiring managers need to be encouraged and motivated to bring people who are not cookie-cutter templates of existing employees. This leads to systemic changes where technology can be harnessed to extend the reach of any hiring process. Adopting blind reviews where certain fields are masked to eliminate bias triggers such as graduation year, name, gender etc. Appointing diverse hiring teams with checks and balances embedded in the system and taking steps to deal with unconscious bias is all part of creating a culture of inclusion.

#3 Employee referrals

31% of open positions are filled by employee referrals. Unless employees have diverse networks it is inevitable that Mini-Me hiring will follow. It’s important to encourage and motivate those involved or contacted in the process, not so much to think outside the box but to lose the box altogether.

#4 Employer Branding

Growing an employer brand that is transparent and open to a new type of hiring can be reflected in all the touch points that candidates encounter. Whether this is related to neuro-diversity, physical ability, race or gender the commitment to a diverse and inclusive workforce can be highlighted in an organisation’s outreach activities, on the web site and careers pages as well as social media platforms. The brand has to reflect a new style and thinking.

#5 Difference isn’t negative

Letting go of the notion of cultural fit instills deep fear into the hearts and minds of hiring managers. But it isn’t about hiring someone who will disrupt a team in a negative way but switching to seeing difference and diversity as value adding. Carrying out a box ticking exercise to increase numbers of diversity hires for its own sake won’t work. To be most effective businesses need to build inclusive cultures which optimise their employees’ experience so they can do their best work. They need to feel welcomed and valued. Diversity is a fact, but inclusion is a feeling. If employees do not feel welcome this leads to churn further down the pipeline. Put simply. They leave.

Who knows what would have happened if the woman who had jumped into the pool fully dressed had been hired.

If your organisations needs to get beyond recruitment stereotypes contact me NOW

 

Why LinkedIn needs a civility button

There is much discussion around civility in the workplace and social media. On the one hand you have a demographic quoting from Orwell’s 1984  railing against “thought police” and insisting on the right to free speech. On the other a group that wants to agree a code of conduct that sets out guidelines for some basic etiquette. I am firmly in that number which is why I feel strongly that LinkedIn needs a civility button.  I don’t have a problem with people expressing their opinions, just how they do it. It’s all about respect. 

Why LinkedIn civility button?

My concerns are with individuals attacking the person rather than the content. I think name calling should be outlawed. When some of our most high profile leaders do not hesitate to hector and bully, insulting individuals live and on social media, they have created a culture of acceptance. You know who they are, I don’t even have to name them. This in turn filters into the workplace and social media platforms.

It is possible to report an offence on LinkedIn but the range of options is limited. You can block a LinkedIn member and you can report a post. I understand we are getting into difficult territory here when you talk about incivility because it varies from one person to another and between cultures. If you are used to disrespectful behaviour this is your normal.

Don’t feed the trolls

In general the guidelines should be:

  • Avoid direct attacks for personal opinions.
  • No insults
  • Do not post offensive images
  • Beware swearing or vulgarity – this can be a debate subject. Standards can change between demographics.
  • Keep content professional

There are ranges of abuse from the downright offensive to mildly upsetting. The first group are extreme and clearly identifiable. For them the ground rules are clear. Block, report and move on. But there is a second more sophisticated group who cross the line in a less flagrant way, but are no less pernicious. LinkedIn needs a civility button more than ever for these people.

I posted the same question on a LinkedIn discussion started by Judi Fox a LinkedIn strategist on general comportment on LinkedIn. Her message was that if you wouldn’t say something in a F2F meeting, don’t post it on LinkedIn. But the fact is that people do, because they can. I invited some other LinkedIn experts to share their views.

Expert input

Some tips for LinkedIn

  • Create a membership experience survey to establish what boundaries are most important.
  • Create a code of conduct based on that research and include it in the terms and conditions which members accept when they join.
  • Circulate that code of conduct to existing members when they log in. Everyone’s done it anyway for GDPR.
  • Add a wider range of behaviours other than “inappropriate” to the report options. Include personally insulting, bullying, harassment, abusive.
  • Weed out fake and troll profiles then remove them.
  • Don’t allow the creation of profiles without photos or full names. It’s a professional networking site – it holds members to account if they are visible.

It seems that I maybe a minority of 1! For me LinkedIn needs a civility button or better options for dealing with trolling, offensive and abusive behaviour. What do you think?

 

For all your executive search and research needs contact me here.

 

 

Digitally savvy candidates expose “Hire-zillas”

Employer branding has always been important to attract top talent, but today it is more significant than ever. The emergence of a generation of super digitally savvy candidates means that the standard ways of building a strong employer brand are no longer sufficient. These candidates are smart enough to lift the curtain and dig deeper.

Research from the job the UK website “Indeed” which collaborated with Censuswide found that 70% of job seekers would not apply for a role until they had researched their would-be employer’s online reputation. More than 56% said they would not apply to a company that lacked an online presence.

Strong web site not enough

Many organisations think that having an attractive careers page ,on a good web site with a strong message is enough to create a strong message.  But is it? As the competition for talent hots up the need for a pristine online presence and  an impeccable digital reputation also increases. Today’s digitally savvy candidates are now coming of age where they are applying for mid-level and even senior jobs. Millennials now have kids and mortgages. There are even more ways they can check out potential hiring companies to see if there is anything going on under the surface. And they know what they are and where to look. Some time I wrote that social proofing was here to stay. Now it is taking over in importance to regular branding.

A “Hire-zilla”

Jason was recently in a recruitment process for a mid-level role. “The web site  was very professional and showed the company had great benefits and what looked like a good working atmosphere. There was generous holiday entitlement, a gym, a Friday tab. They featured interviews with employees just like me all claiming to be really satisfied! It sounded perfect  so I was really excited. But there were some small red flags from the start which I didn’t pay enough attention to. We had communication delays and the interview time was changed several times. I rationalized this by thinking that stuff happens.

There were some veiled remarks about the manager expecting a strong work ethic and emails coming in at 02.00 a.m.  When I finally met him after taking 2 half days off work and seeing multiple other people who told me that the job was pretty much mine, he hadn’t read my CV, or discussed my salary expectations. He was aggressive, almost rude and dismissive of my experience.

Jason has created a great word! Hire-zilla. A big destructive monster in the hiring process. It can be a recruiter or a hiring manager. In this case it was the hiring manager. He continued:

He was a real “Hire-zilla.” It was a terrible candidate experience and there was no way I would ever work at that company, even if they made an offer. When I checked on Glassdoor the reviews were terrible and reflected my experience. There were over 40 testimonials, more than 50% negative. No one had stayed there more than a year and the words “sweat shop” were used more than once. The management had contested some of the comments but in a very hectoring and dismissive way that seemed to be the accepted tone. It was all indicative of a toxic workplace”

Short of putting an NDA  and a non-disparagement clause in employment contracts limiting disclosure then any employer should take this situation seriously. It might not be a brand issue now but it will only be a question of time.

How to handle negative reviews

So what if you are getting negative online comments. One or two are not important. Companies cannot be all things to all people. But over 20? That is a significant message that something is not right.

  • Reflect on the feedback. It’s important to take a step back and reflect before taking action.
  • Respond professionally.  You are only allowed one response, so it’s important to make sure that the tone is direct and correct.  If there are any inaccuracies or false details you can contact the website administrators and they may agree to reviewing and addressing the situation.
  • Value constructive feedback. Negative reviews should be used as constructive criticism of your company’s activities, hiring processes and more. You should view this as an opportunity to discuss  the area or areas receiving criticism and take appropriate action.
  • Evaluate thoroughly.  One negative review can happen, but over 20? That is a strong message. If it is the same criticism multiple times you have a problem.
  • Frame the feedback. Is it one department or team where there is a  single”Hire-zilla” or does it indicate a wider cultural tolerance of toxic behaviours? If it’s one person you need to deal with it. If it’s wider and deeper then a more profound assessment and audit could be necessary including an anonymous employee engagement survey.
  • Encourage positive reviews.  Satisified employees are less likely to post reviews of an organisation on sites such as Glassdoor. Encourage your top performers to add their positive comments. If they are reluctant to do that….. once again you have a problem.
  • Carry out exit interviews. These have different levels of popularity but if an organisation is in touch with its employees then these reviews should not come as a surprise. If you have a NDA or a non-disparagement clause in the contract that is the point at which to remind them of that fact.

There is no doubt that employers can’t pay attention to every negative comment about their organisation. But if you have a high number of  online reviews or comments which reflect badly on you it will lead to higher levels of churn and lower productivity. Eventually your customers will find out and your business will suffer. Today, it is only a question of time before all job seekers will fall under the heading of digitally savvy candidates.

 If your organisation needs support with its employer brand contact us here.
Resistance to Unconscious Bias Training

Lessons in resistance to Unconscious Bias Training

What we can learn from the resistance to Unconscious Bias Training

If you asked any corporate leader if they wanted their workplaces to be respectful, open-minded and psychologically secure for their employees most would say immediately “yes.” There would be a few who couldn’t care less but they are unlikely to admit that publicly. The strong leader knows that providing a positive employee experience leads to strong engagement which impacts creativity, collaboration, reduces churn and increases profitability. The path to behaviours that helps us do this tends to comes under the umbrella of inclusive leadership and unconscious bias training. Given the known positive outcomes of training associated with creating inclusive workplaces, what could go wrong?  But resistance to unconscious bias training is widespread.

What is less clear is why training sessions that help leaders achieve respectful and open-minded profitable corporate cultures get this type of pushback. It’s also less obvious why organisations are afraid to deal with it.

The answers are possibly rooted in the fact that it’s a lot of work. It means introspection and self-reflection, something else that doesn’t come easily to most. But it also involves personal behavioural change which is even more challenging. None of us like to change. Especially ourselves.

Nudge Theory

The resistance to unconscious bias training is so common that it has generated widespread discussion. Appealing to the rational mind to make specific changes on its own is not moving the gender parity needle. The nudge theory has been developed to try and deal with this push back.  Nudges interrupt and outsmart unconscious gender bias and expectations in a practical way by encouraging our unconscious minds away from our short-cut gender stereotype thinking, to considering alternative decisions and perceptions. In everyday language it’s comparable to a way of convincing toddlers to eat their vegetables without telling them what they are doing.  Nudges drive people towards a desired behaviour so gently that they don’t notice they are doing it.

Nudge is a concept in behavioral science, political theory and economics which proposes positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions as ways to influence the behavior and decision making of groups or individuals. Nudging contrasts with other ways to achieve compliance, such as education, legislation or enforcement.

Inclusion Nudges

Successfully employed in marketing and other areas where behavioural change is desired, nudges are now being used in many diversity and inclusion initiatives, especially gender balance. Business language and behaviour as well as definitions of corporate success tend to be male coded. When both men and women draw a picture of a leader it is usually a man.  Gender balanced visuals are small “nudges” to balance out employer and product branding material and away from gender stereotyping. They convey a message that an organisation is “friendly” towards women. It’s important to include photos and testimonials of female employees, especially those who work outside stereotypical female functions to send more positive signals. Showcasing the profiles and successes of senior women as brand ambassadors is another nudge that helps overcome the unconscious bias that leadership is a male activity. The use of male only icons, and images on web sites and infographics is commonplace and needs to stop!

 Nudges are used in attracting women to apply for jobs. Research shows that men and women approach career advancement differently. Many women self-de-select from career opportunities when faced with ambiguity and when they don’t meet 80% of the requirements(  (Mohr 2014).)  Changing the language of job adverts and profiles to become more gender neutral is a nudge that leads to an increase in female applicants. If women can see that they can accomplish the tasks set out in the job description, and have an understanding of the support which is available to help them achieve future success, they are also more likely to be attracted to the role. (Gaucher et al 2011) Interestingly men are not put off from responding to gender neutral adverts or even female friendly ones.

Resistance to Unconscious Bias Training  

In all the years I have been involved in corporate training and coaching, one of the few areas where I have observed resistance is in unconscious training. Training involving knowledge transfer tends to be less problematic, but any process that aims at behavioural change is usually more nuanced and the results difficult to measure.  Over time I have come to understand that senior leaders should be able to decode some of the unstated messages  revealed by any push-back. Resistance to unconsicous bias training comes in many forms and ironically this is the very type of behaviour which would also be charaterised as non-inclusive.

  • Non-attendance: The unconvinced unapologetic non-inclusive leader will find any excuse not to attend a session. If their boss makes the training mandatory they will find other passive aggressive ways to make their displeasure felt.
  • Poor time keeping:  late arrival and early departure, perhaps frequent sorties to take “urgent” calls. Not returning from breaks on time.
  • Lack of engagement: significant time spent on their devices, not participating in breakout sessions, even physically isolating themselves in the room.
  • Disruption: talking over, interrupting
  • Distraction: side tracking their neighbours with running negative commentary or other converersations.
  • Either/or thinking: aggressive attack of the validitity of the content, staying in defensive rather than discovery mode, unwilling to discuss constructively.
  • Criticism: of just about everything else. The coffee, food, room tempertature layout or position.

Learning bonuses

Organisers can usually identify the key players who show resistance to unconscious bias training by their non-inclusive, uncivil or even disrespectful behaviour. I advise them to sit where they can have visibility on the room. It can be helpful to observe the proceedings as well as participating.  Leaders can try to understand the reasons behind the negativity and take steps to deal with it. This can be via one- to-one follow-up with an executive coach or diversity and inclusion champion. Senior managers who stand out as toxic participants in one area are highly likely to apply the same beliefs and strategies to their other interactions. I have never been in a situation where the training organiser has been surprised at which participants were not engaging. Some even try to warn in advance which executives will be difficult although I prefer to go in with an open unbiased mind.

There is another added learning bonus. When organisers fail to notice any non-inclusive behaviours in the resistance to unconscious bias training, that also contains a message. Very often these behaviours are so embedded in an organisation’s culture –  poor time keeping, interruption, lack of engagement, that they have become the cultural norm.  Noone notices. It needs outside input to flag it up.

On the plus side over the years I have been doing this type of training the number of unwilling and disruptive particpants per session is reducing.

So instead of being concerned about any resistance to unconscious bias training, we should use it as a basis for learning about the culture of the organisation and take the lessons learned for moving forward.

For more information on unconscious bias training – contact me here.

 

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political correctness

When did political correctness become incorrect?

And when did respect become political correctness?

Have you ever noticed how people apologise for political correctness or pour scorn on it as somehow  it’s something we have to justify. We frequently hear sentences starting with “I know this is politically incorrect but…..”  They then go on to say something mildly or even extremely offensive.

Others say that they are simply tired of it and feel it inhibits their right to express themselves freely. They say they “loathe obsessive political correctness.” The reality is that political correctness was politically imposed on us because as individuals and groups we fail to treat all people with respect and dignity they deserve of our accord. We seem to need outside guidelines to be respectful.

Political correctness is defined as:

the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.

What is happening is that certain layers of our communities look back to a time when they didn’t have to think before they spoke or took action without reflecting on the potential negative impact on others. It might have been at a time when as a dominant group, their life view was the one that prevailed and they could share opinions and use language that was racist, sexist, homophobic, or held prejudicial views against a specific group which was offensive in its nature. We see it now on social media in an extreme form and amongst some leaders who are offensive and abusive. They share their biases and prejudices openly about specific demographics  with few, if any, repercussions.

Incivility on the rise

According to research from Christine Porath of Georgetown University incivility is on the rise. There has been an increase of 13% since 1998. She also notes that 66% of these instances of incivility occurred between a manager and an employee. Incivility impacts employee engagement with all the downsides. Two-thirds of those employees who experienced incivility, “intentionally give less to their organization as the result. 25% take it out on the customer.” More than 50% of employee don’t report  incivility for fear of repercussions.

The reality is that most organisations don’t realise that their culture might be toxic until their employee engagement survey gives bad news. Most managers would be horrified to find they would be considered to be a toxic boss. 

How does workplace incivility manifest itself?

Workplace incivility has been defined as low-intensity deviant behavior with ambiguous intent to harm the target. Uncivil behaviors are characteristically rude and discourteous, displaying a lack of regard for others.”

Here is a check list of areas where incivility and lack of respect can appear in the workplace:

  • rudeness – this is complex and can be difficult to define precisely because cross cultural differences have to be factored in as well as personal levels of tolerance and bias. It can be conveyed in writing, verbally and through body language.
  • unfairness  – playing favorites, inconsistent treatment of colleagues, facilitating gossip, withholding information, exclusion
  • poor time keeping – late for meetings or missing deadlines. It implies that you think you are more important than everyone else.
  • distracted or not giving full attention. Smart phone usage is rampant in this group. See above.
  • interrupting
  • talking over someone
  • dismissing a colleague’s view-point
  • name calling
  • attacking the person not the argument
  • adopting an either/or position rather than also/and
  • use of bad language
  • jokes and banter with racist, sexist or comments that belittle a person or a demographic
  • invading someone’s personal space
  • emoting – yelling, slamming doors, throwing things
  • lack of courtesy and good manners. No please or thank yous.
  • bullying  – this can be verbal, physical or emotional. The result is the employee feels psychologically unsafe in the workplace and is likely to be disengaged with all that implies for business success.
  • Exhibiting bias in a way that favours one demographic over an other

Impact on business of incivility

The impact on employee engagement of a lack of political correctness and increased incivility is significant.

  • Increased employee turnover
  • A high level of employee grievances and complaints.
  • Absenteesim and sick leave increased
  • Increased customer complaints
  • Drop in productivity
  • Conflict caused by miscommunication
  • Disconnect with leadership
  • Resistance to change
  • Reduced collaboration
  • Reduced innovation
  • Low levels of accountabilty

The very same managers who will think they are thoughtful and decent people will tick many of those boxes you see above. So next time you have negative feedback from your team, or the employee engagement survey gives a lower than expected rating, it’s think long and hard about our own behaviour and whether we are uncivil at a very basic level. Leadership language and behaviour matters and political correctness helps keep us on track. It’s about being mindful of others.

Now might be a good to to apply some political correctness if it doesn’t come naturally and spontaneously.

If you need support with your talent pipeline contact us now.

toxic boss

7 tips to avoid being a toxic boss

Last week I wrote a post “5 ways to avoid a toxic workplace culture.” This took a macro view of workplace culture. I have been asked by many readers to give practical tips to avoid being or becoming a toxic boss.

There is an old adage that says people leave bosses not organisations so all managers are responsible to some degree for employee engagement. But it can be easy for a leader to slip into becoming a toxic boss under pressure from an unrelenting  corporate world especially if no training is given. It is the seemingly unimportant, imperceptible daily actions which can have the greatest impact on employee engagement.

Dealing with adversity and ambiguity

External factors such as sector, financial or senior leadership crises occur, but it is how the boss responds in these circumstances that counts. I have worked with countless individuals who have been laid off and even when they are firing people,  they still respect good bosses. Without exception the best leaders are the ones that can sustain employee engagement despite ambiguity and adversity, even when they are making redundancies.

Many very well known and established businesses have pockets where individual bosses do not know how to manage their teams and create a toxic atmosphere. On an every-day level it’s the first line supervisor who has the greatest impact on employee motivation and commitment. Lack of employee engagement has a significant impact on the bottom line and with 81% of employees reported to be potentially open for a move and the cost in terms of innovation, customer service, creativity, mental well-being and overall productivity is high.

The toxic boss

Individual managers are rarely held accountable for employee engagement unless there is a crisis in their department or division. If the manager is responsible for generating revenue the fact that his/her employees show signs of demotivation is frequently overlooked. This also applies to more serious cases of sexism, harassment, bullying and unethical practises. Sometimes leaders and shareholders just want results with no questions asked. They are less concerned with the how until there are issues. A high percentage of the career transition coaching I do is rooted in poor leadership and lack of employee engagement, although they may not be the visible presenting issues. All of these negatively impact any employer brand.

Greatest asset

Business success might have nothing to do with a great corporate culture but about market conditions. The real test is what happens when business is challenging.  It is the same leaders who say that their employees are their greatest asset, but their behaviour is not consistent with their so-called mission or values statement.

Highly engaged and motivated employees should be any organisations greatest assets. But very often they get the least attention. At one time the people part of the business was even designated “human capital” which sounds more like “human cattle.”

Old school managerial style

There are many managers in post who subscribe to what would be considered a more old school style of management. This is a “command and control” approach rather than influence and persuade. It’s not necessarily always older generations who subscribe to this philosophy either. As millennials dominate the workforce they are looking for a more inclusive leadership style which is about transparency, flexibility and influence. Good barometers are not just in your employee engagement survey but comments placed on social proofing sites when people have left. These are frequently dismissed as the rantings of disgruntled ex-employees, but  if there is a consistent theme then it’s worth paying attention to the message.

Many pundits also dismiss the exit interview. These can add value if done correctly and there is transparency. Many employees are reluctant to be open for fear of reprisals and poor references looping back to the point about transparency. If fear replaces respect then any manager is in trouble.

7 tips to avoid being a toxic boss

Many managers have no idea that they have moved into the toxic zone where they are alienating their employees and not engaging them. In tri-partite discussions there are some who take a hard-line “this is how I am .. get over it” but others are genuinely shocked, upset even and open to change. Here are some simple every day  tips to bring that change about.

  1. Walk the talk – all leaders should embody their message and do as they want others to do. This means engaging regularly with your team and not sitting in an ivory tower sending out directional emails. You need to be out there seeing what goes on and being visible.
  2. Exhibit empathy – this doesn’t mean that you have to agree with everything your employees say or do, but if they have a problem or a concern try to walk in their shoes and experience a situation from their point of view. It’s also about respecting their boundaries in terms of time and communication.
  3. Listen and be inquisitive – the most motivating bosses are the ones that listen and communicate openly and transparently. If a topic is not for discussion for any reason you can say that and let them know that as soon as you can you will involve them. Find out what is going on for them. Be up front that you may not always be able to act on what they want but you will always be willing to listen. Understanding your employees and being open with them is key to motivation. They won’t be open with you if you are closed with them.
  4. Be ethical – conduct yourself with integrity and with the values you subscribe to. Don’t play favourites and always be neutral and just. In an era where there seems to be a pronounced absence of leadership values it’s important to align yourself with values that employees trust and respect.
  5. Give responsibilities – empowerment and accountability are great motivators. Make sure your team have the proper skills and tools to do their jobs properly. Give credit, thanks and recognition when it is due and support them all the way even if the team comes under scrutiny.  All of these practises lead to increase confidence which benefits the employer and enhances the employer brand. This is the time when there is an I in team. Above all do not micro-manage. This is a consistent reported characteristic of a toxic boss and one of the single most damaging management flaws. It implies lack of trust, and is stifling and demotivating.
  6. Develop their careers – offer training and personal development opportunities. Sponsor and mentor as appropriate. Promote them where possible and give constructive feedback when their career goals are not being met. If promotion isn’t realistically feasible maintain their personal development and learning. Long serving solid employees offer as much value as the whizz kid hot shot.
  7. Create a team charter – one of the simplest ways of empowering any team is to agree guidelines on the things that are important to them, communicating goals and agreeing norms and values. This could be about communication style, the way meetings are run, dress code or protocols for the resolution of disagreements and conflict. An inclusive management style will have an immediate impact on employee engagement.

A strong highly motivated team will be more creative, productive and committed to the organisational mission. Make sure that you are on the right side of the line to avoid being a toxic boss.

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