Category Archives: Candidate management

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How to lose the disengaged employee tag

Employee engagement – or rather the lack of it, has been a hot HR topic for many years. Research from Deloitte indicates that the issues of “retention and engagement” have risen to No. 2 spot on the business agenda, “second only to the challenge of building global leadership.” This is rooted in compelling indications that a very high percentage of members of the workforce (as many as 66% ) would describe themselves as a disengaged employee.

It makes sense that organizations need to fine tune their career progression opportunities to attract top talent. It also means that with literally millions of employees potentially open to a move, candidates face stiffer competition to position themselves as an ideal hire when looking externally.  Employers frequently complain about difficulties finding the right kind of talent. In a recent survey Glassdoor suggests that 76% of organisations fail to find the right talent. So that must be you.

What can you do to shrug off the disengaged employee moniker if your current career progression has stalled and present yourself differently?

The job you have

Let’s kick off with the obvious. The job you are in is the one you have for the moment. Very often demotivated employees takes their foot off the career progression pedal. They check-out and do the bare minimum to coast by. It’s hard to convince any potential hiring manager who is looking for agile and dynamic talent that you will meet their criteria if you are stuck in your current role and above all look and act stuck. Anyone who is looking to boost their career needs to take charge of their personal development. This involves know-how, time and energy. For starters you need to ditch the disengaged employee tag.

How to lose the disengaged employee tag

Create a plan 

The first step is to have goals and a strategy. Those who leave things to chance and expect and organization to take care of them are the ones that come unstuck first. Communicate those ambitions to your manager. Do  a realistic assessment of your own performance. If anything needs addressing  – do just that.

Raise your visibility  

It’s important that people know who you are and you are perceived to be pro-active. Instead of whining about lack of opportunities create solutions and make yourself part of that initiative, showcasing how you can add value to the business. Participate in meetings and be willing to take on new challenges.

Up your game

Now is the time to do more, or at least something different, not less. Position yourself for the next role by learning as much about the next steps as possible and the skill set required.

Show flexibility

A disengaged employee tends to be stuck in a rut and gets caught up in old and frequently bad habits and work practices.  This can be accompanied by a negative attutude. Now is the time to be flexible and be willing to take on continuous learning and personal development, even if it means investing in yourself. You may have been in the same role for years but show you have updated your skills. Add these to your LinkedIn profile so other people can also see what you’ve been up to.

Test the market

A disengaged employee whose career progression has stalled will struggle to present themselves as the right kind of candidate. Make sure you maintain your external networking to stay in touch with developments in your market. You may have set backs but it’s important to build resilience. Stay positive and confident. You might change jobs but if you haven’t looked inwardly to figure out what is holding you back you will merely transport the issues to another location.

If you want to source ideal candidates  contact me now

structured interviews

Why don’t we use structured interviews more?

Most companies include interviews as part of their hiring process. Sometimes they are one to one, or perhaps with different members of the team or others involved in the hiring process. Interviews can be held in panels of two or more, but very often they are sequential with candidates meeting one person after another. They are  astonishingly informal given the significance of the decision. Research suggests that structured interviews are 50% more effective than unstructured ones, yet many organisations fail to change their procedures.

Companies still do not consistently follow a practise which will guarantee that the most qualified or potentially the better performers are offered jobs. Interviews are rarely carried out consistently for all candidates. Very often a candidate will have a series of one to one interviews with different people in the process, with no one to observe or give feedback on any discrepancies.  Considering the cost of a failed hire estimated at 3 x annual salary, the process is bewilderingly arbitrary. Yet we continue to follow a process we know is at best ineffective and inefficient.

Value of structured interviews

Although they may take longer to prepare, structured interviews increase the chances of making the right hiring decision. They are also more successful in managing unconscious bias in the recruitment process, allowing a system of inbuilt checks.  I have heard on a number of occasions hiring managers saying ”the fit wasn’t right” without being able to specifically identify why. Listening to “gut” instincts may work in life endangering situations, but in the workplace it is probably simply deep seated affinity or confirmation bias kicking in. We all have biases and they can only be managed. Structured interviews make a strong contribution to that process. Although a systemic approach can’t 100% predict future performance in the role, setting a framework for a thoughtful discussion will contribute to making hiring decisions more reliable.

Read: Do structured interviews overcome unconscious bias?

Review the current situation

Making a brutal assessment of your current process is vital. Very often interview techniques vary from one manager to another within the same company. I have even seen hiring managers who haven’t read a candidate’s CV before the interview and have done no preparation at all. Many managers have no interview training, approaching an interview like a “chat.” Large numbers will not have had unconcious bias training, while insisting they are competely neutral in their thinking. They will then go on to select someone just like themselves. This leaves the processing of candidates’ responses to be very fluid, which can lead to misunderstandings and even miscommunication. Structured interviews rule out the possibility of illegal or discriminatory interview questions, which are much more common than we all think.

What are structured interviews?

Structured interviews are set up with a list of prepared questions which all candidates are asked in the same order. Candidates’ responses are recorded against a pre-determined set of skills, experience, qualifications and expectations around performance in the job. For an interview panel, an agreement is reached about the role of each panel member will play and an order in which the questions should be asked. One will observe, others engage. It allows a “sweeper” function to identify any loose ends and monitor non-verbal communication.

This process is proven to be more reliable and fairer, with all candidates being given the same opportunities to showcase their experience. Their performance is evaluated in a systematic way against a scorecard linked to the prepared questions.

How to create structured interviews

#1: Job evaluation

Each role needs a clearly crafted job profile with realistic qualifications and experience identified. This will include a mix of hard and soft skills related to the tasks involved. A job profile is usually written by the hiring manager, although care has to be taken that some of the qualifications are not inflated. This happens frequently.  Sometimes experts are brought in and can be part of a headhunting service.

# 2: Define skills and qualifications

It is also helpful to have the level of skill required. What that means needs to be precisely defined. Generic use of terms such as people skills, leadership qualities, communication styles are abstract and an understanding of what they mean in real terms for each role needs to be laid out in advance. This is vital when it comes to the assessment part of the process. It is useful to have about 6 core attributes as well as  the key hard and soft skills listed. A senior Director will need to score more highly on leadership skills, than a junior supervisor.

# 3: Design interview questions

Interview questions should be designed to examine the key skills and qualifications. Situational and behavioural questions should be job-related. Preparing questions which require responses to typical situations that the job holder would encounter included  in the process is valuable. They will also help guide the level of skill required.

Desrcribe a commercial situation which required you to use a high level of diplomacy

When was the last time you had to give negative feedback. How did you approach the issue and what was the outcome?

#4:  Create the score card

A neutral scoring system is necessary to reach objective decisions. A scale of 1-5 is very common with 1 being low and 5 high..

#5: Interview and unconscious bias training

For managers used to informal interviews this change can be a challenge and there can be resistance. Training maybe necessary to familiarize everyone with a new process.  Making clear and concise notes on a pre-constructed template is a helpful way to collate and refer to answers. Any scoring should be done at the end. Unconscious bias training should be compulsory for anyone involved in any hiring decisions. Creating an atmosphere where comments, evaluations and decisions can be challenged should be integrated into the process.

Read:  Why too many interviews is bad selection practise. 

Disadvantages and limitations

Many managers are not keen on structured interviews because they interfere with the natural flow of a conversation. Just as they control digression, they can impede spontaneity. Interviewers can also appear aloof and disengaged sticking to questions by rote. It’s important that the interviewers are relaxed and sociable, despite the structured element and convey friendliness and openness via non-verbal communication. But even then, structured interviews don’t eliminate bias totally. What they do is create an atmosphere where viewpoints can be challenged in discussions around the evaluations. They have an inbuilt possibility of allowing bias to be called out.

Structured interviews can effectively contribute to managing unconscious bias in the hiring process, especially when combined with other forms of assessment such as testing and behavioural exercises.

For support creating structured interviews

contact Dorothy Dalton 

Graduate recruitment tips for SMEs in 2017

Graduate recruitment can be expensive and not always successful, with heavy investment needed at the upstream identification end.  There is a high risk of low return on that investment if the downstream end isn’t tightly managed. Large corporations have huge budgets to invest on job fair stands and online campaigns.They make scores of offers. But all is not lost for SMEs if they go about the exercise in a structured and strategic way. They will still be able to attract the best candidates for their organisation, if their graduate recruitment process is sharp.

Best as we know, is a very nuanced word.

I started my early career running graduate recruitment programmes and in 2017 I observed improvements, contradictions, some changes and the same old. Some things that you would think would have changed, simply haven’t. Graduates are pretty much the way they have always been. Some are open, others arrogant. Some get it, others don’t. Some are focused others are not.

Managing expectations

The World Economic Forum report lists the 5 things that Millennials look for in a job .Holidays, working with great people and flexible hours are important factors, with money and job security listed at the top. Research from Deloitte indicates work life balance, professional development, sense of meaning, the impact on society and high quality products are also key drivers.

My own experience would be in line with the Deloitte research, although work-life balance was not mentioned once by any one of the hundreds of graduates I talked to this year. The focus was more on lifestyle in general. I found that the connection to family seemed stronger than I had encountered in other years.  They key mentions to me were: career advancement (very important) ethical products and leaders and meaningful, impactful work.

Here are 6 graduate recruitment tips for SMEs

But what do SMEs have to do to get the right talent for their organisations?

1. Career Services

University Careers services continue to be mixed. Their web sites are easier to navigate than I remember and they do seem to be more in touch with what’s going on in the market than before. In general I found the level of CVs higher than in previous years, so they are obviously working with their students to produce better results, which is always a positive. Some use their job boards as revenue generating operations and charge for their service. Others have fees for a placement. I didn’t use these options, which was a good decision. I found like any job board the results were generally poor and it was direct approach via my network and digital sourcing worked best. LinkedIn Recruiter was helpful to a point. The quality of contact varied between universities with some acting as if they were doing me a favour connecting me to “their graduates”.  I bypassed their system and used general sourcing methodologies.

2. Values and Vision

Looking for employment in line with their values and vision seems to be a key motivator for 2017 graduates. Many are open to working for SMES especially those that replicate their own beliefs. So although hiring managers from SMEs fear competition from the top players, many students are looking for smaller more flexible environments. Some of the big name employers are perceived to be working with, or have strong links with top ranked universities, giving preferential treatment to graduates from those establishments. A strong big name employer brand isn’t necessarily always going to win the day. In October 2016 budget supermarket Aldi out-positioned Google in the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers. 

Lifestyle decisions seem to be critical. I observed larger numbers than usual being very specific about their general needs with regard to friendship groups, relationships, family commitments and geographic location. There was no mention of work life balance with regard to time, even those new graduates who are already parents. And there where some. I saw little evidence of graduates yearning for independence and desperate to escape the nest. Rather the reverse. Family commitments seemed more significant and many had lived at home to save money during university to reduce student debt. We looked for indications of independence in other ways. A high number openly referenced the influence of their parents. Almost all had worked to support themselves through university and workplace exposure was an added bonus. There seemed to be a higher number of mature students.

3. Speed is of the essence

Today the recruitment process needs to be speeded up. Graduates expect rapid responses and high levels of engagement. Corporates are frequently not set up to reach decisions as fast as they need to be for this demographic. Expect high levels of fall out if you are not running a smooth operation with a clear timeline  to manage expectations. Very often final year students have exams and dissertations well into July of the academic year. Making your application process as seamless as possible is important without asking them to jump through too many selection hoops.  Regular communication is vital even if you have nothing to say. They like to be kept in the loop. Many will not read emails for days – agree in advance what platform you are using and advise them to monitor communication channels frequently. This is where smaller companies may have an edge with fewer approval layers. I advise you to use it.

4. Online presence

This generation is digitally savvy and will research your company online. Skilled and experienced at picking up digital anomalies, all online communication needs to be on point. Any detail no matter how small will be picked up. Because I focused on online sourcing, I tapped into students who had a reasonable professional presence. Anecdotally I would say that this had increased in the last year. Employers need to have compelling web sites with some space dedicated to the career advancement featuring younger employees.

5. Long short lists

Graduates will agree to participate in a process and do accept alternative offers if they receive something better or just something quicker. It’s important to have longer than usual short lists and to move swiftly on final decisions. This is where ongoing communication is imperative.

6. Everyone makes the pitch

Graduates need to see enthusiasm from everyone in the process. They are looking for work as a life experience which is a major shift. Many are saddled with significant debt and commitment to future training and  career development needs to be spelled out. They have expectations of corporate life gleaned from TV and the movies. Very often the office on a plant or some industrial site is a far cry from what they have in their heads. Your brand needs to be sold convincingly by everyone. I used researchers nearer to the demographic in age than I am and they provided invaluable insights and could put expectations into perspective. One researcher was well versed on where the best music scenes could be found in relation to the hiring locations. This proved to be invaluable information, clearly something I might struggle to do.

So although SMEs have concerns that the big corporates will cream off the best talent, a strategic, targeted, flexible search which taps into core values of the graduating demographic will prove to be a big bonus. SMEs still have the opportunity to attract the best talent for them.

If your organisation wants support for graduate recruitment now or in 2018. Contact us.   

 

professionalisation of the recruitment industry

Professionalisation of the recruitment industry is urgent

The demand for the professionalisation of the recruitment industry seems to be at an all-time high. LinkedIn in particular is regularly filled with complaints about the way individuals have been treated by a recruiter in some part of the globe. There are also complaints from recruiters about the comportment of candidates. Often times many of these complaints are justified.  As I have written before, one of the major reasons that such poor quality exists is that the barriers to entry in recruitment are non-existent and miscommunication about their role is rife. The reality is that anyone who can read, write, hustle, has a lap top and a phone can set themselves up as a recruiter.

A recruiter or head hunter is dealing with people, their lives and livelihoods. A poor recruitment decision impacts the profitability of any organisation. The hiring process is an important professional activity, so why do we not pay enough attention to make sure it is done properly?

Professionalisation of the recruitment industry  – raising the bar

It was never more clearly highlighted than today when I spoke to a network contact who talked to me about her new job in a recruitment agency. Her experiences signal everything that is inherently wrong with the recruitment industry culture and system. The bottom line is that it needs a serious upgrade. Although a highly qualified, multi-lingual professional herself, she has been tossed onto the market with no training at all. This is the responsibility of the agency director.

The two places to start with the professionalisation of the recruitment industry are here:

Agency owners or managers need to train their staff

Would you ask a barista to work behind the bar without showing them how to pull a pint and them not knowing the differences between beer, wine and gin? Didn’t think so.

To become a recruiter, no certification is necessary even though recruiters are handling information that can be technically complex and requires an understanding of sophisticated organisational structure and behaviour. Without this knowledge most recruiting practitioners will not be able to glean an accurate idea of the role nor properly pitch the organisation and the job on the market. It is really important that recruiters have the necessary information and insight to ask both the client or the candidate for the information needed to make an informed assessment.

All this leads to an unproductive use of time and resources in “spray and pray” practises that sometimes work, but mainly don’t. So for agency owners or managers, the lack of professionalism in recruiting is in your hands. It is your fault. The bar needs to be raised.

Hiring company commitments

Hiring companies frequently state how committed they are to their company talent. For many it is superficial lip service only. They need to commit to professional standards in their hiring processes by stopping contingency recruitment, especially on a first past the post basis. For those not in the know this situation is “no placement, no fee”  and multiple companies placed in competition to get the first placement. They are in part responsible for the lack of professionalisation of the recruitment industry by an unwillingness to pay for full professional services.

Greg Savage,  business advisor to recruitment agencies, running Recruiter Master Classes internationally, cites this as being a highly dysfunctional business model which is damaging the industry.

Multi-listed, contingent job-orders benefit no-one. Clients, naively thinking they get a better service because they get agencies to compete, actually get a far worse service because they are actively encouraging recruiters to work on speed, instead of quality.

The hiring manager thinks this is efficient way of doing business, but all it means is that they get the first and the fastest, not necessarily the best. The reality is that top talent is turned off by this uninformed, lazy methodology and hiring managers need to understand that. Only recently I was bewilderingly approached by a recruiter for an Account Manager role in a Canadian Insurance company.  I know nothing about insurance or Canada, but my name had obviously appeared in a search and all targets had been sent a generic mail. The guy just looked stupid.

The important thing is that both agency recruiters and hiring managers have to understand and as quickly as possible, it’s the hi-po, in demand talent that holds the upper hand. Recruiters will not consistently reach and convert those sought after candidates, unless the business model is changed and upgraded.

Recommendations

  • Agencies have to be accredited and meet minimum requirements to become operational.
  • The licence holder should be qualified in a related field or have a required number of years experience. There have to be barriers to entry with proven qualifications in the field some sort of qualification achieved after a period of study followed by examination. This is common in many professions such as accounting. Just because someone has worked in corporate H.R. for example, does not mean they can assume the role without any training.

You would be surprised how many people conduct interviews and make selection decisions with even no basic training at all, let alone more sophisticated knowledge around unconscious bias or interview techniques. They may have industry and functional insights, but the specifics of conducting multiple searches simultaneously will be new to many. Sometimes they will have none of the above.

Read: If you are not bias conscious you shouldn’t be a recruiter 

  • When they are operational they should be legally mandated to provide minimum training levels for any staff. Candidate sourcing, development and attraction require specific skills. Interviewing and assessment require additional areas of more sophisticated competence. They are not divine gifts but can be learned, so therefore need to be taught by someone who knows what they are doing. Having remote employees working in isolation without supervision is also a recipe for disaster.
  • There should be a regulatory body to monitor complaints and performance. Persistent complaints should result in detailed investigation. Penalties should be imposed and if necessary they should not be allowed to operate and their license suspended or revoked.

At the moment we rely on the natural economic justice of the business world to make dodgy companies bankrupt. Transline Group, one of the employment agencies at the centre of the Sports Direct scandal, lost a contract supplying temporary  staff to Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer for failing to pay minimum wage. The company may now be headed for administration. Social proofing or old-fashioned word of mouth will also play a part to produce accountability.

But what is needed for improved professionalisation of the recruitment industry is increased regulation.  I am not sure how likely to happen that is.

But would you want to put your career into the hands of someone who didn’t know what they were doing? Me neither.

If you are looking for a high level head hunter to market your employer brand to identify and attract top talent – book a call now.  

 

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

 

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! 

 

How a “slow no” damages your employer brand

What is  a “slow no?”

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

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

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

1. No updates

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

Candidate feedback

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

2. Delays

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

Candidate feedback

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

3. Evasive responses

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

Candidate feedback

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

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

Are we seeing a resurgence of candidate power?

Candidate power

Top candidates making greater demands
As the worst of the recession seems to have bottomed out and economies are hopefully experiencing an upward turn, I have noticed a slight, but perceptible shift in the executive search process. Organisations had their pick of top talent for probably 3 years, the challenge during that period was being able to sift through the sheer numbers of applications to identify the best candidates. Hiring managers who could during this period, choose their terms of engagement, are currently meeting candidates who are more demanding. Top candidates are now involved in multiple processes, very often with their existing companies being prepared to enter a bidding game and making counter offers to retain key employees.

Normal candidates
I’m not talking about corporate prima donnas, who are playing one company off against another, or leveraging their current employer with empty threats to move. These are genuinely top class individuals who have probably been held back by the lack of opportunities, caused by the economic downturn. In the intervening years we have been exhorting candidates to research and prepare to create good impressions with potential employers. But now is it organisations which are found wanting and not making the correct impression on candidates?

Internal audit
Perhaps now is the time for hiring companies to carry out internal audits to check that they are operating to best practises: They should be satisfied that:

All stages of the recruitment process from sourcing, interviewing, offer and onboarding, especially candidate communication and management, is efficient and timely. Any hiccoughs or delays in any part of these processes will result in losing the preferred candidate. Lost candidates = lost revenue, as positions remain open for even longer.

Salary and benefit levels are in line with the market. If hiring managers don’t know what market rates are – now is the time to find out.

Development and training programmes are in place to guarantee employee engagement in terms of future career opportunities.

Tomos, a recently graduating MBA suggests ” After a period of stagnation candidates need to know that companies are offering career development opportunities. For me this is as important as the salary package.”

Employer branding and reputation are strong. Just as employers can research candidates on-line, the reverse is also true. It is becoming increasingly easy for candidates to establish the corporate culture of any company by asking well placed connections, a few carefully constructed sentences about hours worked, vacation times, bonus systems, management style and so on. Glowing references from existing employees are a huge boost to the recruitment process. However, even a well-intentioned comment can send the wrong signals. One contact decided not to apply for a position when an internal connection within the company mentioned that he had a closer relationship with his Blackberry than his girlfriend.

First impressions count
Organisations which are complacent about any aspect of their hiring systems might be in for a wake up call. As Matteo, a Business Development Manager actively looking for a new opportunity confirmed, the recruitment process is the first encounter with the overall corporate image. If that isn’t strong, other areas of the company can be brought into question. “I was involved in 3 different search processes. All opportunities were attractive in different ways. The offer I accepted came from the company with the most professional hiring procedure. I felt it was one indication of how the company was managed from the top down

First impressions cut both ways.