Author Archives: Dorothy Dalton

Affinity bias and the recruitment process

Affinity bias and cultural fit plays safe and stifles diversity

Affinity bias is defined as:

preference for certain types of people for whom they have an affinity, such as respondents who are similar to them or that they find attractive, and including them in the sample at higher rates than others.

“The right fit” is a phrase I hear repeatedly in the hiring process. It’s a catchall term that covers a multitude of sins related to making sure that potential candidates will slide seamlessly into the prevailing corporate culture. This is supposed to guarantee onboarding success, but it also means that no boats will be rocked. It’s the safe and non disruptive option. Affinity bias occurs when hiring managers show a marked preference for candidates to whom they can relate which can play an over arching role in many selection decisions.

Affinity bias is a safe choice

Affinity bias is a safe choice

The role of trust 

Philippe is a French investment banker who joined a London-based outfit in 2014. Within 12 months the team had taken on a number of new hires all of whom were French-speaking, as either a first or second language. They were French, Belgian, Moroccan, and Québécois.  All without exception had attended a “Grandes Ecoles,” the French equivalent of a top Ivy League school. Although Philippe seemed open to interviewing and considering candidates with more diverse backgrounds, in the end the more familiar and dependable candidates prevailed. It was all about his perception of “fit.” They made him feel comfortable. He was confident about their rigorous academic backgrounds and knew he could count on them and trust them when needed.

Read: Top 5 videos that highlight and tackle unconscious bias

The role of chemistry

Threat to women's jobs conversation career

either on a personal or professional basis. You will frequently hear the phrase “the chemistry wasn’t right” as a reason for debriefing candidates. So if we all prefer working or having relationships with individuals who make us feel secure and feel we can trust, then the converse also applies. Why would we choose to be around people who make us feel insecure, ill at ease and as if we are not in reliable and trustworthy hands?

So in a personal setting it can make sense, even if it might be a little limiting. Affinity bias works. But in a professional sense it means we are restricting our hires or network contacts to PLU (People Like Us) or Mini-Mes based on affinity bias. Aren’t we repeatedly told that people do business with those they like and trust?

This bias can be based on race, age, religion, schools attended, or any other distinguishing demographic feature. But even within primary cultures there can be sub-groups. A German electronics company reported a logistics function where the team was comprised of hires from the Indian sub-continent because the EVP was Indian. So one of the major deciding components is the influence and power of  senior stakeholders on hiring decisions.

Read: OPINION: The business case for diversity is just offensive

Impact on diversity and inclusion

With affinity bias being so pervasive and embedded in different ways into corporate culture – how can we successfully achieve diverse and inclusive organisations? The absence of diversity at senior levels contributes to perpetuating the problem of exclusion especially women, older demographics and minority groups. This is why it’s so important to have women in decision-making roles.

The answer is to proceed with mindful intention. We have to have inbuilt systemic checks and balances to ensure that the diversity message prevails. This is not an easy process, as changing human behaviour long-term has only a 20% success rate. What we need is to create is a culture which is open to receiving feedback and which allows us to question any potential affinity bias influencing a key decision-making process. Organisations which are open to having this type fo dialogue are taking a step in the right direction.

Read: The value of Mindfulness in Recruitment

Most organisations are confused about what diversity and inclusion really means let alone making it happen. But any benefits gained in shifting to a truly diverse hiring culture fail very quickly if employees feel uncomfortable challenging the prevailing views.

For more information on unconsicous bias in the recruitment process contact us here

Post brexit language crisis

Post Brexit language crisis impacts talent pipeline

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.

Read: Post Brexit uncertainty starts a talent drain 

Can’t, shan’t, won’t thinking

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.

Read: Post Brexit recruitment from the pointy end 

Slow process

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

 

5 tips to communicate well with a hiring manager

Every head hunter wants to identify, attract and place the best candidates.  But how smoothly the whole process goes can depend on the personal relationship a head hunter or recruiter has with the hiring manager. It is it one that is too frequently overlooked. All parties have to work together to attract and hire the top talent for any specific role. This requires excellent communication between everyone involved to create the best possible synergy to deliver first class service. As early as possible, headhunters must set out to communicate well with a hiring manager,  whether this is the line manager or the HR representative who runs the show internally.

Read: Meaningless interviews with HR. Really? 

communicate well with a hiring manager

Here are 5 tips to communicate well with a hiring manager

#1 Communicate regularly

It doesn’t have to be face to face meetings, but regular Skype or conference calls are best. The greater insight the recruiter has to any developments within an organisation the better the service she will be able to provide. It’s vital that each party understands the challenges that the other is experiencing and regular updates are part of the conversation.

#2 Communicate openly

If contact between a hiring manager and recruiter is perfunctory, with minimal communication centred around the routine bureaucratic issuing of  hiring specs, reports or funnel stats, then the chances of things going adrift are higher. It’s important to have a thorough understanding of the company, the culture, the team, as well as the role. Listen generously but asking those critical questions until you are confident that you have a good insight is necessary. Sometimes it’s important to be persistent. It’s also useful to get an idea of the sub-text and the personalities involved. Companies have any number of unspoken work-around practises to deal with tricky situations. This might be a difficult boss, a specific policy, or market challenges.

Making sure that communication is open and constructive is the best way to avoid candidates sinking into the recruitment black hole.

Read: The CV black hole. One hiring manager says give me a break.

CV black hole

#3 Communicate realistic expectations

It is important to differentiate between what the hiring team thinks they want and the skills that are  really necessary for the role. Very often objectives get blurred. Vanity qualifications can slip in if a manager gets kudos for leading a team of MBAs  or rocket scientists. If the hiring manager is replacing himself, then very often they will look for a “mini-me”. It’s important to factor in a balance of skills and experience for the whole team. Do you need to make nudges around unconsicous bias or other protocols? Or at least make the proposal. You maybe over ruled, but you have made the best case. In a relationship of trust your opinion will carry weight.

It’s the role of the recruiter to update the hiring manager with any market trends. You may know of skill gaps in the region, but you are also armed with solutions such as the cost of bringing in someone from another geographic region. Would it be cheaper to pay relocation expenses than wait to identify the elusive “purple squirrel?” Could they offer some training, flex or a returnship? Sometimes the obvious solution is not always the best.

Read: A plea. Keep job profiles real

#4 Communicate continually

The recruitment process doesn’t stop on the first day of work but is extended well after the onboarding process is complete. Establishing how new hires are settling down and even better getting testimonials from them helps cement the employer brand as a place to work. As social proofing sites become increasingly important, candidates do check out how employers stack up on the market. If there are issues they will come to light. You should keep an eye on how your client is perceived on the market.

If you have provided a stellar service to their company ask them for endorsements, testimonials or recommendations to display on your web site or LinkedIn profile. This helps build up your brand and reputation.

Read: 6 sand traps that cause onboarding fails

relationship with a hiring manager

Feedback is vital for all involved

#5 Communicate feedback

If a hiring manager commits to embarking down a certain path, it is the role of the recruiter to let her know the potential outcomes. Will there be delays or additional costs associated with a specific decision? Equally it’s important that you know why candidates are being cut or there are delays in the process. Is it something you can remedy at your end or will it need careful candidate management? You will also need to establish the same relationship with candidates and be adept at dealing with any input they have to make about their candidate experience.

It’s also important to give candidate feedback. If the number of “not interested” candidates is high it’s important to establish why that is. It could be location, job title or another element of the profile.  This information is important to protecting an employer brand.

If all these communication hacks are in place the chances of you finding top talent in excellent time are going to be much higher! Your relationship with a hiring manager is going to be first class.

Strengthen your talent pipeline contact us  

When to ask for flexible working in the hiring process

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

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

She then goes on to say:

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

Can you afford not to?

Need vs want 

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

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

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

Flex business models

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

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

 

flexible working

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

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

Flexible working can depend on the individual not the role

# Flex and organisational structure

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

# The nature of the role

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

# They don’t know you (yet)

Trust

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

# It depends on your value

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

# Negative Impact on Communication

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

# Damages Company Culture

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

mindfulness in recruitment

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

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

# System abuse

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

# Poor time managers

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

# Increases isolation

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

So when to pitch? 

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

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

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

 

reputation management

Social media a danger zone for HR professionals

Career coaches are constantly exhorting candidates to take care of their cyber foot print, especially at entry-level. All recruiters and headhunters usually check out applicants online before meeting them. Line managers have been warned to pay attention when liking and sharing inappropriate content on LinkedIn. Many are unaware it all goes out to an individual’s whole network and can potentially damage their personal brand. Direct reports say that it looks creepy!  But social media is now becoming an unforseen danger zone for HR Managers. They too have to be mindful of their social media activity.  Social media posting is now part of the daily routine for those working in the function, but it can have a downside.  Any ill-considered content could be not just be damaging to their reputations, but can also be used in legal action.

Social media activity reflects our belief systems 

There is a new discussion around posting and tweeting  on issues which are important to us personally. They reflect our views, values, our belief systems. But to counter that, they are they also an indication of deeply embedded biases and attitudes. The question is whether they are going to follow us into the workplace and impact our decision-making.  Or are they  a form of authentic expression separate from our professional lives? Adding a disclaimer may be enough for any organisation, but what about a legal process?

Clearly I could never get a job in UKIP or any European Fascist Party. Needless to say I don’t lose sleep over that. Or I might, if there is a populist takeover and all dissenters are rounded up. That has happened before.

Shifting culture

We are seeing increasing cultural and political shifts, with strong feelings and rhetoric on all sides.  Is it possible to separate what we see posted in the public domain, from the person’s ability to do an unbiased, neutral and professional job? The lines are actually very blurred.

Here are two stories that have been shared with me only this week. The names have been changed for obvious reasons.

Aliyha is a research chemist with an international company based near Birmingham, U.K. She has received what she experiences as unconstructive and even obstructive communication from her HR Manager, Alison, regarding her career progression. Aliyha is seeing her peers’ careers developing at a different (i.e. more advantageous) pace.  Last week she discovered quite accidentally that Alison has been very energetically re-tweeting Katie Hopkins over a long period.

I checked out the account and the profile is the usual benign HR blurb: “HR Management, CIPD, mother and wife etc.” She also endorses Katie Hopkins and her opinions somewhat enthusiastically  – at least once a day.  Depending on your point of view, Hopkins will be a “controversial columnist” or a provocative hate generating commentator. She has caused outrage and legal action associated with her comments on immigration, overweight people and even children’s names, as well as personal vindictive attacks resulting in libel suits.  Aliyha asked

“I have no reason to believe that my performance is lower than that of my colleagues. My annual appraisals have always been excellent.  I have never had any problems at all until Alison became my HR Manager.  Is it because I am the daughter of immigrants, a bit on the chubby side and have an Arabic name  – could this be what is coming into play now?”

The answer is we will never know for sure, but there is no doubt that if Aliyha’s complaint becomes a case, her lawyer confirmed he intends to reference Alison’s online and social media activity and support of a racist, as an indicator or her inherent bias and prejudice.

Backlash 

At the other end of the scale Michael is a Trump voter. An HR Director in a security company in San Diego,  he believed his social media activity was minimal. However, he  has openly supported Trump on his Facebook page and posted pro-Trump comments on LinkedIn. Since the November election he has been surprised danger zone for HR professionalsto encounter negative undercurrents from colleagues, who now question his commitment to building a diverse and inclusive workforce for the company.

He has been called a racist and misogynist. His peers and team have told him that even if these are not his personal views, it is clear that he tacitly approves the stance of  President Trump. Michael feels that he has unfairly lost the trust of colleagues and employees and he is the victim of bias and prejudice.

I asked Annabel Kaye, Managing Director Irenicon a UK-based employment law specialist if there is a case.  She agrees social media is a danger zone for HR.

HR Managers should be and always are careful of their online posts. It is entirely possible that Twitter support of Katie Hopkins for example could indicate unconscious racial bias if not active racial prejudice. Whilst it is not definitive proof either way, certainly in the UK it would allow the ‘inference’ to be drawn that any decisions made by the HR person who made those tweets might be influenced by bias and thus put their employer at increased risk of losing a discrimination case.

For this reason most HR people who tweet use things like  “my opinions only – nothing to do with my employer”   on their bio as disclaimers.

But as discrimination cases are often about what people think (consciously or unconsciously) this would still be evidence as to their state of mind. Of course in the UK individuals who make discriminatory decisions are potentially liable as well as the organisation. So all in all, not a good plan to publicly support racists, sexists, or other discriminatory tweeters or characters if you don’t want this coming to an employment tribunal near you.

Of course, this is not definitive proof of discrimination or bias, but it is another item that is going to be used in tribunal.

Separate personal and professional

So what does this mean for HR and our social media activity and how it relates to personal branding and reputation management?  Should HR or even all professionals go back to the old school way of keeping our views on sex, religion and politics separate to our professional personas?  At what point do they decide that social media can be a danger zone for HR managers? And  then what happens if what we tweet is out of alignment with the values of our organization even with a disclaimer?

So where do you stand in the danger zone for HR professionals?

 

 

 

Post Brexit Recruitment

Post Brexit recruitment from the pointy end

As a Brit who embraced the European experience I am having a bit of an existential crisis. Post Brexit has been traumatic for many, but none more so than those Brits who live in the E.U.  I feel as if I am living in a parallel universe as every value I held dear is being changed out, reneged on, obliterated, and evaded. I read that a new disorder has been identified as Political Anxiety Disorder. I’m sure I have it! Post Brexit recruitment is already being impacted and I’m not sure how evident this is yet to decision makers. But at the pointy end – we are already seeing a shift.

Disconnect

The disconnect between the powers that be and what’s really going on is a major stand out issue for me. There was an expectation that life as many of us knows it would stop after June 23rd 2016 and there would be a tsunami of devastation. But anyone with half a brain knows that unless it is a tsunami or other meteorological disaster, negative change tends be a corrosive slow drip effect over time, rather than a sea change swell. It has a slow build up and like the 2008 recession, the impact is lasting. Many of us could feel the rumbles of down turn months before Lehman Brothers folded. We just didn’t know why. Now we do.

Anyone on the ground dealing with E.U. candidates, whether at home or in the U.K., knows that fall-out is building up.  Not only is there a reduction in job postings in many sectors in the UK, but it’s also getting harder to attract skilled  E.U. nationals as candidates for British based openings.

After talking to fellow headhunters and recruiters who work internationally, we are all making the same observations about the post Brexit recruitment situation. It obviously varies from sector to sector and the level of seniority. But for mid to senior levels of executive search this is the feedback we are encountering.

  • Brand Britain is damaged  

The reputation of the U.K. as a quirky and diverse career destination has been dented. The U.K. press may not report all the issues that have happened to E.U. citizens, but their stories of harassment and abuse are being recounted to the media in their home countries and getting traction. Based in Brussels, I had heard of the ill-treatment of  Eastern Europeans in the U.K via European media sources, long before my British colleagues had the faintest inkling.  One Czech candidate told me “I wouldn’t want to be stuck on that island post Brexit.”  

There is no doubt that Britain is developing a reputation as a culture where racism is embedded.  Some say it has always been there. Others believe that the xenophobic nature of the Brexit campaign has fuelled it. This does not only apply to Eastern Europeans or blue-collar workers. Senior executives of all nationalities report negative reactions and some express concerns for their children in school.

The fall out will be particularly felt In sectors where there is a skill set shortage with a reliance on non-U.K nationals to fill the gaps.

Read: Post Brexit Talent Drain 

  • Hard Brexit protection

One  of the concerns of candidates contemplating a transfer or applying for a new job in the UK is what will happen if a hard Brexit impacts them. Will they have to pay for a visa or even have to repatriate?  Recruiters are starting to be asked for clauses in their contracts to cover negative contingencies such as a visa support and repatriation.

  •  Salary protection 

Another concern is the current drop in the value of the pound, but also other volatile currency shifts. Many candidates have financial commitments in currencies other than they one they maybe paid in and are looking for salary hedging clauses. Candidates currently paid in sterling with commitments in Euro have seen a recent negative impact on net income.

  • Protection of other rights  

Prof Alan Vaughan Lowe QC a leading barrister who specialises in international public law told a House of Lords panel last month that it was “inconceivable” that the employment laws would survive entirely intact. He maintains that there is  “zero chance EU citizens in UK will keep same rights post-Brexit”  This massive level of uncertainty makes candidates wonder what they should be looking for from employers if they transfer internally within an organistion to the U.K. and where they stand longer term. The lack of clarity is creating a culture of uncertainty, which always  deals a damaging blow to any business or economy.

Not unsurprisingly the reverse situation does not seem to apply, in my experience at least. To date I can report no concerns from candidates contacted to relocate to Europe and even an increase in numbers open to international assignments.

If your company struggles to identify and attract the right candidates,for all executive search requirements contact me.

 

HRTech World – Managing the messages

Fresh back from HRtechWorld in Paris, I am trying to work out the best way of managing the messages for HR which were at times complex and conflicting. The over-riding theme of any tech conference is clearly the tech. The conference/expo central area literally hums with the vibe of complete confidence in our futures. They have it covered. No question. The pace of change is palpable as new apps, games and processes being designed by the brightest and best in tech companies are shared with an enthusiasm which is hard to beat.

In the Disrupt HR section newcomers and hopefuls pitch for the €15,000 cheque under Faye Hollands watchful eye. Read her blog posts on that process.

In the Influencers stream where I spent most of my time, Jean-François Manzoni, President of IMD, put the current pace of change into perspective on the Influencers stage. “Change in 30 linear steps is 30 metres. 30 exponential steps is a billion metres, which translates into more than 20 times around the world. “  Leighanne Levensaler, SVP Products at work day confirmed that “change was coming whether we liked it or were even ready for it” in her session.  Costas Markides on the main stage showed us exactly how unprepared for change most organisations are.

Mixed and sombre

Here, on the main stages the messages were more than slightly mixed and definitely more sombre. The recurring rallying call was the usual “putting the human back into HR” with employee engagement still way down in  the doldrums. To Gary Hamel’s exuberant point, we need to unclog our organisational arteries of bureaucracy to empower employees and increase engagement.

Bureacracy free zone

Photo Annemie Marien

He goes onto say that “people turn up to work physically, but leave their humanity at home”  which is always a problem when you want to put the human back into the workplace. He suggests that organisations are suffering from ambition deficit disorder which he calls #bureausclerosis.

His call was for all to become organisational intrapreneurs and to rail against bureaucracy; He illustrated his point with a story of crowd sourced grass-roots initiative within the NHS, to improve patient care, without a sign off form in sight. Within 3 years the movement had reached 800,000 people. He also talked about the cost effectiveness of getting rid of the bureaucratic infrastructures which are sapping our organisations of their energy.

“Eradicating that bureaucratic overhead would save the OECD $9 trillion and more than double productivity within a decade”

Future of work

network of teams

Photo Robin Erickson

Josh Bersin developed this line of thinking further. 92% of organisations are not structured efficiently and he believes we need a  shift from linear organisations to systems where individuals have an opportunity to become more entrepreneurial to move forward. An ideal model is an environment where people thrive as part of a network of interlocking teams with shared values and culture, transparency and rewards based on skills rather than position. Although hedging his bets about future trends, he felt the next generation of software would be focused on health and wellness.

It’s not them – it’s us

I’m loving all of this, until I attend the sessions of Jean-Francois Manzoni and Costas Markides.  Here the conflicting signals were strong and unequivocal to make managing the messages even more complicated.The greatest challenge to effecting real change is not the tech. It’s people and their behaviour. It’s us.

In an interview with Thinkers 50  Costas said:

Business today must deal not only with marketplace competition but also with a severe economic downturn and companies failing due to excessive greed and corruption. I would like to see a change of orientation about the role of business in society and more emphasis on underlying values.

Set against this background, it is hardly surprising that we struggle to change our behaviour and then sustain that change.  All evidence suggests that not only are we resistant to change in the first place, but according to Costas, 90% of us back slide within 6 months to our default learned and biased settings.  If that wasn’t enough, we all over-estimate our own capabilities and sense of integrity. So managing the messages in HR and the doing something about them, is never going to be easy, especially as Jean-François suggests:

Reshaping behaviour for enough people, for long enough, requires triggering enough levers to send a coherent and powerful signal to reshape the culture of an organisation. This is a top down process. Problems are further compounded by organisations only responding to change when they are in crisis says Costas, with everyone assuming “someone else” is dealing with any response to external shifts. Given that cultural change can take as long as 20 years, many organisations are predestined to lurch from one short-term crisis to the next.

Read: A big danger for big data  – the human element

Gender Balance in Tech

Women in Tech image

This has been apparent to me for some time. Nowhere is it more evident than in the case for gender balance in organisations. Kim Wylie Change and Transformation Lead at Google, facilitating the Women in Tech panel segment, gave some disturbing statistics. Empirical data overwhelmingly supports the value of diverse teams. Yet we’re still not effecting those changes that makes this possible, culturally or organizationally. It seems crazy to ignore that data. But we do. Costas says this is because we need emotional rather than rational imperatives to push us to adapt. The business case is simply not working.

Many of these points were neatly and soberingly brought together by Daniel Thorniley, an authority on global emerging markets. Served with a side dish of black humour, his projection was that the present recession,  which he described as chronic and the worst since 1933, will persist for another 5 years or even longer. Austerity has debased the value of wages in real terms to all time historical lows. This is one stat I tweeted. 

The polarisation of rewards to favour a tiny minority and resistance to globalisation, is producing a populist backlash. As people struggle to maintain a decent standard of living they are becoming protectionist and inward looking, reacting negatively to immigration.  Agile organisations and platform companies are creating the gig economy which favours employers, are met with scepticism by both Jean-François Manzoni and Daniel Thorniley. Increasing swathes of the population struggle with economic insecurity and instability.

Daniel’s final point and the conference footnote, and also the final conflicting message, was that moving forward out of these difficult times will require steadfast input from HR practitioners. How HR will sustain that, will be the real challenge going forward. Managing the messages for HR is not going to be a breeze.  But the result is that process innovation on the technology side will not be as effective if the people running and using them don’t change and advance too.

This tweet which went through my stream from @HRCurator resonated:

RT @kevincharef: @Atlassian “a fool with a tool is still a fool” #hrtechworld pic.twitter.com/mNrcQniio8

So what’s the solution?

mindfulness in recruitment

The Value of Mindfulness in Recruitment

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.

  1. Affinity bias   where we ignore negative traits of people we like and focus on the faults of those we don’t
  2. Social bias  –   exhibiting preference to P.L.U. – People Like Us  – our own social group
  3. Confirmation bias  – where we justify our existing perceptions

Even within the organisation, biases play an ongoing role in career advancement. Employees can be offered different levels of career opportunities based on any of these biases.

Backlash 

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:

  • Blind CVs
  • Skill based adverts and job descriptions
  • Structured and behavioural interviews
  • A bias facilitator at interviews
  • Wide range and background of interviewers
  • Interview by text (saw that this week)

My own unconscious bias

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

smiling_face_emoji_with_blushed_cheeks

The other was: Unconscious Bias

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.

Read: Conchita – Overcoming unconscious Bias  

But how many have I missed? How many do we all miss?

Creating awarenessmindfulness in recruitment

The fact that we have these biases does not mean we need fixing.  When I took the Harvard-designed IAT, or implicit association test I discovered I had gender bias.

A contact discovered that she associated sciences as a male activity, which as a school counsellor she needed to be very aware of.

Another described a man with natural ethnic hair as “sloppy.”

I heard young HR woman reference an older male candidate as a “past his prime.”  Whatever that is.

Our cultures are embedded in gender expectations. This really great video from Kristen Pressner Global Head Human Resources Diagnostics Division Roche covers this point perfectly. Here she acknowledged her own gender biases. It’s a game changer for HR, heavily populated with women and one of the most important HR videos in a long time.

Mindfulness in Recruitment

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.

6 sand traps that cause onboarding fails

“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.

Read: Why onboarding is vital 

6 personal sand traps that cause onboarding fails

  1. Lack of humility

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.

  1. 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.

onboarding success

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 Executive-Presence-Rulessomething 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.

  1. 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.

woman and clockIt 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.

Also Read:  10 steps to Onboarding success

If you need any support making the first 90 days a success for your new hires – contact me!

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10 Steps to Onboarding Success

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

Read “Why onboarding is vital”

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

1. Attentive listening

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

2. Create solid relationships

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

  • Bosses
  • PeersAttentive listening
  • Direct Reports
  • Colleagues

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

3.Learn about the existing culture 

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

4. Be open and approachable

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

5. Manage expectations

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

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

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

7. Be relaxed and yourself

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

8. Create alliances

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

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

8. Go for small early wins

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

9. Build or strengthen your team

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

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

10. Create a mission statement

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

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

Identify attract and Retain top talent  – contact us now!