Category Archives: onboarding

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  

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!  



Post onboarding – when the honeymoon is over

There was a great post in the 3plus eGazine this week “How to disagree with your boss and not get fired” The guest author made a connection, which you don’t see very often in leadership posts. The writer linked the value of the interview and onboarding process to the presenting leadership issue. She (he?) referred to instances where these challenges can possibly be traced  to gaps in the onboarding and interview procedure.  A more thorough and strategic use of these processes could have avoided some of the outcomes or at least prepared all parties.

The interview and onboarding system can flag up a lot of tells regarding potential communication difficulties and cultural fit or misfit in an organisation. Oftentimes these are at the root of leadership stress and team conflict.

Hiring by numbers

Increasingly we are seeing hiring by numbers with recruitment processes taking longer than they used to.  It is becoming increasingly common to have a committee of decision makers which makes the hiring process protracted. Candidates complain that application, to offer, to start date can take six months. In many cases that would be considered speedy. During this time with everyone sticking to their agreed scripts and candidates overwhelmed by the volume of contact, very often key questions and observations are not made as a group.  Communication channels and observations can actually become blurred, not clearer.

Post hiring, during the first 90 days, every one is on their best behaviour. New hires are trying hard to fit in (usually.) Managers are open and being solicitous. But a bit like a marriage, after six months the honeymoon is over. Everyone relaxes and the reality is visible. Sometimes this comes with some surprises.

People start doing the professional equivalent of squeezing the toothpaste from the middle of the tube, leaving unwashed dishes in the sink and sending texts during meals. This is generally not deal breaking behaviour, but it can consume a disproportionate amount of time and energy working around or dealing with it, when it gets on everyone’s last nerve.

Ask the right questions

At this point, when those involved wonder if serious mistakes and oversights have been made, I ask the following questions of both sides:

  • How well did you cover or try to gain insight into any of these issues in the interview or onboarding process to manage expectations? In most cases when there is a problem, the answer is “not in-depth” or “not at all.”
  • Did you pursue references? Reference taking is a real skill, especially in litigious cultures where people are reluctant to say anything other than giving facts. The number of companies which send out pro forma questionnaires, instead of investing in a one hour interview with a professional reference seeker, is really high.
  • Did you do any research? In an era of social media it is completely possible to have some feel for the boss you could be working for, or the person you are about to hire. This might not give you the total picture, as many people are different from one situation or interaction to another. But it is possible to get some idea.

So going into any hiring situation there is no substitute for asking the right questions, whether as a candidate or hiring manager. This means really understanding your values and what is important to you.

Find the tells

Gillian was shocked to find out that although her company offered flex working, her boss discouraged it, seeing it as a “privilege not a right.” In a three-month hiring process she only posed the question to the H.R. department and not to her hiring manager, or even future colleagues. A very short coffee chit chat could have added some insight into the department culture. “How often do you work from home?”

Bruno is struggling to integrate Marc, in his early 40s, into a department of young engineers. He had asked him how he would feel about joining a young team in the interview. He naturally, and somewhat predictably, had said “Great!”  Bruno had not pursued the topic and later found that Marc had a very conservative mind-set,  which hadn’t been apparent to him during the interview. When pressed Bruno admitted that he hadn’t gone into any real depth. Even a basic check would have revealed that Marc had no online presence, except for a limited and incomplete LinkedIn profile.  That was a major tell.

All of this sounds easy, right? So then why do so many get it so wrong?

What questions would you have asked?

7 reasons to stop candidate bargain hunting

As the Euro teeters at the edge of a European toilet, businesses are observing nervously on the side-lines and moving into conservative mode. Hiring freezes and protracted recruitment processes seem to be the norm. Open positions are reportedly over subscribed and many employers have their choice of top talent. Reports of organisations trying to bring in excellent talent at budget, lower than market rate salaries seem to be on the increase. But how wise is this  decision to go candidate bargain hunting?

The trend where HR Managers are issuing ” plenty more fish in the sea” type statements,  playing on candidates’ market insecurities without offering anything in return to buy in longer term commitment are on the rise.  Strategic  carrots which might be offered could  include:  a later salary review based on results or performance, training or development possibilities or longer term career benefits, a mentor, luncheon vouchers, an extra-days holiday, telecommuting, flexi-time.  Anything! Where is the imagination?

A recent MBA graduate , who has just invested €50K in his professional development told me that an HR Manager had given him a ” take it ir leave it” option over a €1000 per annum salary differential (€2.7 per day), after receiving a salary offer which was already 10% below the market rate,  as well as being 10% below his stated minimum requirement. The company wants to see how he might “settle in“.  Message: they’re not that bothered if he joins or not!

This development is a short-sighted, ill-advised HR practise. Win/lose negotiations damage relationships in any arena and will almost always be doomed from the outset. The hiring process is no exception to this general rule.

  • Suggestions that an organisation needs to see a candidate “settle in”  sends signals about the lack of trust in their own hiring process and lack of belief in the recruitment decision. Probationary periods are normal,  but  if the  recruitment procedure is top-notch,  they are generally a formality.   Organisations need to convey excitement about their prospective hires, not doubt. Doubt does not inspire or motivate!
  •  HR practitioners should  think long-term and with business vision leaving room for negotiation, despite seemingly pressing budget needs. With the value of onboarding estimated at around 3 times annual salary,  this attitude is short-sighted and ultimately expensive. Salary  benchmarking differentials can also be found in the public domain so an increasing number of candidates know  their market value  (especially MBA candidates)
  • Candidates may  indeed accept this discounted offer and then shop around for a better one, only to withdraw at the last moment. The company is then left high and dry. I have seen this happen far too often when organisations under-pitch their offers. The cost of an open position has to be factored in.
  • Word gets round and damages the company brand. Playing hard ball for €2.7 per day sends out a bad message about all involved in the process.
  • Companies which are cheap at the beginning with low-cost salary policies may not change.  Candidates understand that well.
  • The new cheap hire will leave as soon as the economy picks up.
  • The new cheap hire will not go the extra distance nor be totally committed unless there happens to be a visionary manager in the process or the HR Manager who took this obdurate position has moved on.  Either way, from a company perspective that leaves too much to chance.

Times are indeed hard, but companies have many options to foster a positive attitude with a creative and flexible talent management strategy. If €2.7 per day is a deal breaker then there is something wrong somewhere.

Why reference seeking is a key skill

Resume / CV fraud has  always been around,  but  the recent case of Scott Thompson,  named Yahoo’s chief executive in January, illustrates how easy it is for even senior appointments to slip through the net without thorough due diligence.

Everyone assumes that the previous company has done the necessary work especially when the candidate has a strong market reputation.  The former president of PayPal graduated from Stonehill College in Massachusetts with a degree in accounting,  but his claim to a degree in computer science  turned out to be factually inaccurate.

Critical skill
Obtaining references is a valuable tool in the executive search box and a real skill,   one that is under rated and sadly too frequently inadequately utilised.  It is  more critical than ever to the hiring process, not simply to weed out blatant lies. Today,  job seekers  are becoming more sophisticated,  especially at a senior level.  Top level candidates are now encouraged to orientate their CVs towards each specific opening,  sometimes employing skilled resume writers to perfect them to showcase their talents and career histories. A polished, perhaps even coached interview performance will seal the deal.

What it is not!
Reference seeking is not a chat or quick call with a nominated person or business associate from the candidate’s previous career or a substitute for other forms of rigorous assessment. Nor should it be based on idle network gossip. If there is smoke then the fire should be systematically tracked down!  Very often market whispering can provide valuable feedback if processed correctly.

Many companies  will no longer give written references for fear of litigation and will only state any facts such as the candidate’s dates of employment and job title. Obviously the candidate should be informed that contact will be made which is now generally by telephone.  Preparation  for the call should be as strategic as the job interview itself. It is important that the reference seeker understands the key requirements and qualities needed for the position.

Referees  are usually proposed by the candidate so he/she obviously expects to be spoken about in glowing terms.  Quite often they will also have been specifically briefed. It’s therefore necessary to get behind the story with prepared questions relating to the open position and the skills and qualities required that are as penetrating as the candidate job interview.  Each interview usually takes about an hour.  It is probably a good idea to seek referees in possibly 3 previous companies, dependent on the experience level of the candidate. One excellent reference from the last employer could simply mean they want to get rid of a troublesome employee!

References can also be helpful in the onboarding process. If a candidate comes with outstanding references from a number of sources and suddenly under performs in the new role, then that might suggest that some internal questions need to be asked about cultural fit, onboarding programmes etc. facilitating early intervention.

And finally, before the start date, copies of any academic or professional certificates should be supplied. That one simple step would have helped Yahoo save face, not to mention a  lot of money.

How fast is too fast? Speed interviewing.

Speed interviewing

Would you move in with someone you’d only just met?

I was recently asked by a local journalist for a soundbite on speed interviewing. This is apparently one of the latest job hiring strategies to hit the job market and is seemingly being adopted by an increasing number of companies. The process, pretty much like speed dating, allows both the interviewee and hiring company to assess their potential match. It also exposes the applicant to a large number of hiring companies in a short space of time, as they rotate within a pre-arranged group of recruiters and hiring managers.

All of this supposedly maximizes the candidate’s chance of receiving an offer. Speed interviewing is also a great money saver for any employers who want to meet as many candidates as possible in the least amount of time.

Déjà vu
Because I’ve been around for a while, this type of interview process seems to me to be new speak for job fair, a system which was, and still is, commonly used to identify graduate potential at universities. I have attended many myself, on both sides of the counter. Typically, interviews last between 5 -15 minutes and allows large numbers of both candidates and employers to check each other out. At the higher end of the scale the hiring managers and employers are as much under scrutiny by the very top candidates, who usually have their pick of the best offers. As a student, I have vivid memories of the organisations getting the highest numbers, were the ones providing the best food. Apparently even today – pizza works.

I would say that the process has value to the extent that it gives a preliminary overview to both parties, based as it is, on first impression criteria only – such as physical presentation, body language, oral communication skills and so on. Any suggestion that this could be used as a substitute for an in-depth and thorough selection process – fills me with total horror. That was my sound bite! Do I think this is a valuable solution for busy people in today’s world? No I don’t. We spend about 2000 hours a year in the workplace. I think it’s a decision that should be made after careful consideration by both parties.

My sound bite: This process fills me with total horror.

The thought that this process might be drifting off campus into mainstream recruitment is worrying and I spoke only the other day to a professional person in their early 30s, who recounted an interview experience which was not far removed from what I have just outlined. He described the process as “dehumanising”.

The major weakness of this process, is that a little like it’s namesake ” speed dating“, it’s based on the chemistry between the individuals involved on the day, in that 15 minutes. So in a romantic context, it is highly unlikely that a couple would opt to move in together on the basis of a 15 minute conversation, no matter how well they hit it off. If the duo do get on, a second date would probably be the next step to progress the relationship. One would hope that corporations would exercise the same degree of caution. The risk of making a poor hiring decision leading to low retention rates and ineffective onboarding could be significantly increased. For any candidate, forced under pressure to make a hasty decision, the downsides can also be notable.

Nevertheless, if the system leads to a second interview, it should be taken seriously by all concerned. If it doesn’t, the organisation in my book has question mark on it.

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Candidate Preparation

  • Appearance First impressions do count, especially when it comes to speed interviews. Candidates should dress as if they were going to a full interview.
  • Research the companies you wish to target and ask meaningful questions. It could save time later and getting caught up in low value processes or missing a great opportunity.
  • Get the recruiters contact details so you can send your CV by email. Connect with them online afterwards on a professional platform such as LinkedIn.
  • Bring a supply of copies of your resume for anyone who might want one, more than the number of people you have signed up to see. You just never know. And always store an updated version on your phone – you can send it immediately.
  • Prepare and practise your Elevator Soundbites – you may need several different versions depending on the number of companies you are meeting.

If you are offered a job on the spot, treat this like you would a date. Be flattered, but extremely cautious. You simply don’t know each other well enough to make any committment.

Or putting it another way: would you move in with someone you’d only known for 15 minutes?  I didn’t think so!

Additional discretionary duties as required

Can you be too flexible?

A contact of mine has recently started a new job. Everything went smoothly, the whole search process completed in record time, a contract was presented and signed, a draft job description included in the on boarding programme, a corporate manual and workplace ethics booklet 2cm thick, were all courriered over in advance of the start date. So far, so super. No detail was left uncovered.

However, several days after he had arrived, he was asked to sign his job description and in the small print he noticed for the first time the phrase ” for operational reasons the job holder may be asked to undertake additional discretionary duties as required

Was he being foolish he asked me? How flexible could he be expected to be? Could he end up mopping floors or cleaning bathrooms?

As with many things the answer is that depends!

Company size
Earlier in my career I joined a start-up. My official title was Administration Manager which covered a multitude of sins. My primary function was HR and recruitment for the fledgling organisation, but if a delivery had to be made and it was on my way home, I did it. The MD vacuumed the carpet if a customer was coming in. No one said it’s not my job, because the organisation was too small for anyone to be precious. If they did the business would have folded. One day the Sales Director was hospitalised unexpectedly for a month. I was the only person available who could fill the gap, even though at that point I barely spoke French. That month changed the direction of my whole career. I loved it, was successful and I never went back to straight HR.

Is that scenario likely to take place in a Fortune 500 company? Will P & G ask employees who are not hired in the delivery function, to sling a few boxes of Pantene or Dash into the back of their cars and whip them to Carrefour or Tesco before close of business. I think not.

Reasonable requests
However, it would not be unreasonable expect an employee to participate in projects or support other functions with specific personal expertise. Businesses cannot be run with rigidly defined job descriptions where everyone acts like robots. In knowledge based jobs employees don’t even want that. Flexibility can offer opportunity for personal growth as well as satisfying business needs and should certainly be considered and embraced. If the job morphs into something for which a candidate was not recruited and is not acceptable, then this obviously has to be taken through the appropriate channels. I have known job functions change so significantly that candidates have decided to leave either at the end of the on boarding process, or shortly after. It can be as a result of genuinely unforseen economic imperatives and organisational shift, or sadly a result of poor hiring processes, where there should be no shocks at all.

Entry level
It also depends on the level of the position in question. Entry level personnel quite often complain that they are asked to carry out what they perceive to be menial tasks, not found in their job descriptions. Photocopying, making coffee, answering the phone. That’s something they need to get over, in the short-term at least.

Gender stereotyping
Women are frequently expected to take on extra responsibilities because of an unspoken gender stereotype association: making / serving coffee, organising birthday gifts and parties for staff, attending after work drinks events with a senior manager. That is something they should definitely not get over and very politely decline. Even as interns they should try to make sure that these duties are shared equally with their male co-workers.

Extra miles
Some organisations pull the “flexibility” card and walking the “extra-mile” to the point where contractual or even statutory obligations are ignored and exploitation kicks in. This reflects mismanagement or even organisational chaos, which is clearly very different. Resentment builds up and job satisfaction and performance levels are severely reduced.

These situations are not dictated by specific responses to exceptional circumstances or even related only to the type of duties required, but to hours worked, team numbers, travel levels, geographic location and other changes to previously agreed contractual arrangements. I spoke to a young City lawyer who told me that in her firm :

Marcus recounted how he had been asked to fulfill many of the duties as departmental manager, without any official recompense. Peter said in his company anyone leaving the office on time is perceived as a “slacker”. In all cases normal negotiation strategies should kick in. If they are rejected, then depending on the job market, 2 words come to mind: voting and feet.

So although the phrase ” additional discretionary duties to meet operational requirements” is unlikely to be synonymous with floor or bathroom cleaning ( unless you are hired as a cleaner) it definitely merits clarification and amplification with the hiring manager. Flexibility is an equal opportunity employer for both development and exploitation.

So no, definitely not a silly question.

When is lunch with a STUD not a hot date?

Trailing spouse

When it’s a Spouse Trailing Under Duress
I’ve just had lunch with a STUD. No, this was not a hot date, but a perfectly correct meeting with a Spouse Trailing Under Duress aka …STUD. This is an affectionately humerous moniker given in Brussels to male partners following the careers of their female counterparts.

Jim is blissfully married to the beautiful and successful Angela and has 2 wonderful children. They moved to Brussels from the US 9 months ago with Angela’s job as a senior VP with an international fmcg company. Jim and Angela were a two career family, so considerable discussion was needed before Jim finally decided to put his own career as a Sales Director in a B2B construction company on hold.

It was apparently not as agonising a process as I had imagined. ” There really was no duress! The opportunity, not just for Angela, but the whole family, was too great to turn down. The construction industry was badly hit last year in the US and although I still had my job, the company had been forced to make many lay offs. I wasn’t sure how much longer things could go on. Career wise Angela’s sector is buoyant and is pretty recession proof. The girls will get a wonderful education at a top international school. We are here for 3 years and intend to maximise the opportunity.

But what about his own career and professional challenges? ” What I missed most initially, was the structure of a working environment and the basic interaction and collaboration with colleagues. I struggled with not being able to define myself by my profession, thinking I would be perceived negatively – but I got over that pretty quickly. I’m setting up my own internet based business , so I just say that if anyone really pushes and I’m also taking an online MBA. So combined with being a “House Dad ” I’m pretty busy.

I asked Jim if he was afraid that those 3 years might impact his career long-term? “ I don’t think anyone can tell any more what will happen in 3 years. The economies are too uncertain. I intend to go back with additional skills and hopefully an understanding of international business. I think the experience is changing me and I may decide to do something completely different. I think people imagine we guys play golf and poker all day! But it’s not true. It’s also about how you sell it when you get back. I’ve read your blogs! ”

Aaah thank you! Someone reads!

I have trailed as a spouse, not once, but twice. Both occasions involved significant decisions impacting every part of my life and were not taken lightly. This was many years ago, long before global and mobility had morphed into biz speak and were simply two disconnected words in the dictionary. Facebook, email, Twitter, Skype and texts were just twinkles in a cyber geek’s eye and those were the days when I would almost knock the postman off his moped in my rush to get my letters! Remember those? Paper!

Back then it was regrettably mainly women who trailed with a multitude of organisations set up to support their assimilation. Now in dual income households where both partners have career parity and happily there are more women occupying senior roles, that is changing, but no less challenging. It’s becoming yet another interesting career transition.

Spouses and onboarding
In executive search when placing anyone internationally, I always hope that strong support arrangements are in hand for any trailing partners. Today, this can be either the man or the woman. The working partner tends to slip into an existing business structure and support network, which is quite often the same one they left behind in the previous country. All they do is go into a different office very day. This is not to diminish their challenges, but they are rarely completely isolated. So our mantra is that if the trailing spouse is happy – everyone is happy.

Each move will be unique and the success will depend on the destination country and culture, combined with the backgrounds and personalities not just of the working partner, but the whole family. I have seen many executives ask to be repatriated or even leave their companies altogether, because their partners or perhaps kids could not make the transition into an adopted country. Many marraiges end in divorce. Many organisations will provide either relocation or cross cultural support for the trailing spouse, because all research indicates that effective onboarding of the employee can be negatively impacted by an unhappy trailing partner. Some companies also provide allowances for language lessons, re-training and even coaching. Most countries have expat support organisations and very often national communities overseas have groups supporting incoming families.

What advice would Jim give to anyone in the same position? ” Consider it all from every angle. Financial, the kids, both careers, the shift in dynamics within relationships when one person who is used to working, stops, with the other one shouldering the burden exclusively. The whole family has to be committed and on board. It’s definitely not something to do if your partnership isn’t 100% sound. There are lots of challenges which you don’t have if you’d stayed at home and there is very limited network to call upon especially in the early stages. Otherwise – just go for it!”

In Brussels, the Belgian STUDS organisation is set up to deal with trailing male spouses trailing successfully under duress