Tag Archives: Executive Search Brussels

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 

career transition

9 stages of career transition

Over the years I have coached probably thousands of men and women through career transition. And although each case is always unique, (everyone likes to think they are special) I have observed 9 common stages in the process which each career changer or transformer makes.

1.Detached and dissatisfied 

Most people seek out professional career support when they are desperate or lost. They have usually tried to change jobs on their own and have met obstacles. This can be extremely disheartening and frustrating.  They read my web site and say:

“You wrote that for me! That is exactly where I am”

They are filled with conflicting emotions which can include anxiety about the future or financial issues, concern about lack of status and self-worth and even depression. They might have enjoyed their old jobs at some point and either change has been forced upon them or they have simply fallen out of love with their old profession. This will involve an element of grieving and a lot of chest beating and “what ifs” and “if onlies.”  It can be a very challenging place.

A smaller number focus on change in a strategic and structured way and they usually get stuck in this particular sand trap less frequently. They are happy to consign their old career to the past, but are then caught up in another bind. This group frequently want to disown their previous life and skills. This presents a whole other set of problems.

2. Identity limbo

As we struggle to understand who we are, what is important to us and how we want to add value in the next phase of our careers we can fall into identify limbo. Benchmarks about our achievements may no longer be valid and in some cases we may even reject the values that were once important to us and the people around us. But when we do that we frequently miss the recognition and endorsements we all seek at some level associated with that.

Aaron decided he wanted to leave private legal practice and join an NGO which was more in line with the values he now held. This created a significant gap in income and outlook with his previous colleagues which he described as being

“insurmountable. They just didn’t get the person I’d become. It wasn’t something they could deal with and pretty much dropped me. We were in different places. ”

That happens, but there are new kindred spirits on the horizon.

Read: How to manage your career in times of uncertainty 

3. Confusion

Many people say they “feel all over the place” at this point They seem to have too many choices but at the same time none of them feel totally right. They flounder and become overwhelmed and get bogged down in analysis paralysis and make no headway. They feel insecure and lack confidence. This is the point when most seek professional support. It’s important to hold yourself accountable for decisions and paths taken in the past, without beating yourself up. You can’t change what happened historically.

4. Commitment to the process

Most career changers expect an epiphany or “ah-ha” moment. In reality although that can happen, it rarely does. What usually takes place is through painstaking hard work. If you commit 100% to the career transition process, being open to support and willing to change, a myriad of inter-connecting switches flicker on, causing a slow and gradual internal illumination. Those that don’t commit totally to the process in terms of time and energy will not make the same progress. Getting a job is now your job. Anyone who can’t get into that zone, gets into trouble.

5. Danger zone

Spending time doing the inner work, anchoring strengths, identifying personal development plans and finding and owning their “why” is really key at this point. It’s not uncommon to meet resistance as old habits, inner critics and negative thinking hold career changers back. Backsliding can kick in at this point until complete clarity about goals, vision and action is achieved. I hear a lot of “yes-but,” at this point, which is a massive tell that there is deep-seated resistance. The message here is “yes I want to move forward” but old habits and influences are still getting in the way as clients struggle to let go of what they usually do or did before.

It takes persistence and resilience to get beyond this and can be a danger zone for some. It’s important to work with your coach to get through the fog during this phase of your career transition.

6. Picking up the pace

Emerging from a misty tunnel and making progress is a huge energy booster. It’s common to see a flurry of activity at this point. Plans and strategies are drafted, CVs updated and online profiles professionalized. It’s all systems go! Networking is well underway, job applications in the pipeline and even interviews lined up. Remember to stay focused and on plan.  It’s easy to drift and get sidetracked by online “busyness.”  There is a lot of nonsense around job search and career advice which can be distracting and a big time eater especially on the internet. It’s not uncommon to see a loss of focus after a period of intense activity.

Read: White noise nonsense on job search and recruitment  

7. Cohesion and synergy

As all the different threads seem to come together and fall into place. The potential and possibilities of a new career and maybe even a new life are on the horizon. Success breeds success. The career changer gets a buzz. Success seems on the horizon and within their grasp.

8. Set backs

But….career transformers rarely get the first job they apply for. They are dismayed at the speed of the procedures (slow) and lack of positive response (variable.) Recruiters take time to respond or don’t respond at all. It’s all frustrating. It can take 6-9 months to start a new job. Patience is vital to maintaining sanity. There may be some set backs, perhaps several. It’s important to learn from the experience and be flexible, adapt and dig deep. Every situation even the negative ones, give great feedback, so it’s important not to let it damage your confidence. You have to hang on,  flex the resilience muscles and power through the adversity. It’s only temporary.

9. Score

Finally, after what seemed at times like an impossible journey, goals have been achieved. Dreams have become a reality!  Your new life is about to start!!

If you would like to re-invent your career – contact Dorothy Dalton  

Is the the automated interview the future?

More and more organizations use video as an integrated part of their recruitment process. But a new step is the automated interview also called the on-demand interview. This is a structured interview where candidates answer a series of predetermined questions which are recorded to camera. There are a number of platforms that deal with this and the process can vary.

Benefits of an automated interview

Marketed as a way to overcome unconscious bias, primarily they serve to cut manpower costs of labour intensive recruitment processes. An automated interview process offers the possibility to reduce the admin costs associated with preliminary interviews. This can be around scheduling and all the time-consuming to-ing and fro-ing with diaries, time zone differences, no shows and candidates who are not on target or unsuitable in another way.  Focused questions specific to the opening allow interviewers to assess candidates at their own convenience and call only the most suitable for a face-to-face interview.

For candidates they also give flexibility, reducing the time needed off from a current job or trying to find a quiet space in today’s open plan offices.

Read: 15 ways to finesse an online interview

The automatic automated interview  

Yep, that’s right… it wasn’t a mistake.  In this model all candidates receive an email access link to the video interview which can come as soon as they have submitted their CV.  Candidates can decide when they want record their responses. That gives them flexibility to complete their recording to meet the deadline  Questions may be posted as captions on the video link, or come by text and audio questions.

Recorded Answers 

The interview starts the second the open link is clicked. Sometimes there is a welcome and housekeeping message or an organisation mission statement. Candidates should complete a tech check and then are usually asked questions specific the opening. They might have 3 questions to answer in 15 minutes. They need to pace themselves and check the available answering time as well as  the number of  re-recordings (if any) they are allowed.

Once the recording is submitted the interviewer will revert to let the candidate know if they have been successful.

Live streaming generation 

Maya is a senior executive in a Brussels based international organisation and just completed her first automated interview. She had applied all the basic tips relevant to any other video interview and was well prepared.  However, she felt some discomfort without human interaction.

“With interview questions posted as captions on the screen, it felt strange delivering a monologue. I felt the process would work better for younger generations who are used to posting and recording themselves and might feel more comfortable in that situation. It’s very different from a video interview taking place in real-time. it was also strange talking live to myself on the screen”

The feedback I’ve had has been mixed. Both interviewers and candidates comment negatively on the impersonal elements with interviewerss coming our more strongly than candidates on the cost effectiveness of the process. Candidates who are confident and comfortable performing to camera tend to do better and nervous candidates tend to underperform. With limited time for answers, preparation is key with an abiltiy to be succinct more important than ever. All believed that an automated interview by video was a huge improvement on its counterpart the auotmated telephone screening.

Read: Brevity the secret to a good interview

Recruiting skill

Regular face-to face interviews are considered to be one of the least effective ways of hiring talent and lead to signficiant errors. So care is needed to make sure the questions are designed and appropriate for each role. There were some doubts around their effectiveness on managing unconscious bias. Many felt that it was simply being deferred and judgements were being made especially on appearance and voice.

One HR Manager suggested:

Despite the automation of the process it is still possible for bias to kick in around gender, appearance, accent, voice, ethnicity etc. so it doesn’t go away completely. The “performer” quite, often an indivudalist alpha male personality will tend to do better. So that’s not a change for the better.

There was a consensus that an automated interview is useful for preliminary triage especially for lower levels positions where there is a high number of applicants. It is also useful for technical roles or to assess a specific skill. it would also be helpful if a performer personality is needed for a role.

Read: Do structured interviews overcome unconsicous bias?

So where are we going with thi?  Will they ever eliminate the human element no matter how flawed? Would you hire a candidate you had never met or accept a role without meeting the hiring manager?

To take it to the next phase. Would you work for a bot?  What are your thoughts?

Ask for a call regarding executive search services for your organisation.

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Social proofing is key to the recruitment process

Social proofing is here to stay  –  so be prepared

Brendan O’Brien Partner – Technology Recruiting posted a LinkedIn update about comments on the social proofing site Glassdoor.com.

Wow! Just had another candidate cancel an onsite interview based on a Glassdoor review. Pulling out of an interview based on a Glassdoor review is the equivalent to making a critical life decision based on what a Kardashian said…rant over

What surprised me was that he was surprised. The development of social proofing as part of a corporate branding strategy, whether it’s AirBnB, Trip Advisor, Hotels.com, Rentalcars.com or Uber is a key part of the way we make consumer decisions today. We wouldn’t even think of going out for dinner, making a hotel or theatre reservation without checking the online reviews. It was only a question of time before it was going to be applied to the workplace on a wider scale. Glassdoor.com and PayScale.com have been around for a decade (the former) and even longer now for the latter. They have also been recently joined by sites such as InHerSight and FairyGodBoss which are active in the gender equity space.

social proofing

Read: 7 tells you are on the brink of losing your team

Candidate experience

Employers check out candidates online, it should therefore be expected that they will do likewise for the employer, the hiring and line manager and even the recruiters. Social proofing is considered by companies to be a prime marketing opportunity for their products. We are all invited to leave reviews and “likes” at every available opportunity

But part of the process is a need to be mindful of, and prepare for, potential negative comments. If a pattern does emerge, any organisation would investigate, whether it’s the state of the bedrooms, the taxi experience, the quality of the mashed potatoes or the holiday rental Fiat.

In the recruitment process less than positive feedback is an automatic and immediate heads up to any candidate, that they should start checking the voracity of the comments. If we would consult social proofing platforms for a dinner date which lasts 3 hours, we would be mad not to be as thorough, if not more so, for our careers. This can be done via actual networking, as well as other online platforms. As a career coach I would strongly recommend my clients pick up a phone if they could, to someone in the organisation or the sector, to investigate the detail and the sub text.

The words smoke and fire come to mind.

For the employer, it’s a great opportunity to address specifically flagged up issues, which impact employee engagement and retention. That is, the issues that cause people to quit.The candidate can then decide if the comments from ex-employees are significant enough to be deal breakers for them, or the superficial rant of a disgruntled quitter.

Read: 6 sandtraps that cause onboarding fails

Part of the routine

I routinely check for any comments about my clients on social proofing sites to see if there is anything out there in the ether we should know about. I’m a great believer in no surprises. One client had retention problems at a manufacturing site in rural USA and the realisation that these comments were gaining traction in cyber space and impacting their global brand, made them sit up, pay attention and take action. It also flags up that the exit interview process is not functioning properly. None of this should come as a shock if correctly carried out. If no systems are in place to track employee engagement and attrition then it will be horrifying.  The issues could be about onboarding, salaries, general conditions and benefits, the culture or even one specific manager.

Bill Boorman suggests in the New Rules of Recruiting  that real candidates track an organisation via multiple channels, for up to 7 months before making a decision to join.

Applicants apply for jobs or a specific role, but candidates are attracted by the company: they go on LinkedIn, Facebook and investigate the company and interact with it.

Social proofing is here to stay. Recruiters and hiring managers have to accept that and prepare to leverage good feedback and tackle the negative. It’s a perfect opportunity to identify where any problems lie.

For top-level, savvy executive search services arrange a call

Diversity and Inclusion Recruitment – Beyond the Hype

Diversity and Inclusion recruitment processes and workforces are the buzz words right now. If the level of white noise was a benchmark, we should be there and all sorted. But we’re not. So  what’s going on behind the hype?

Why aren’t diversity and inclusion recruitment initiatives working?

I see regular, but superficial posts about the way to get it right. But despite the social media fanfare and the business case for D & I being incontrovertible, the needle isn’t moving at the rate it should. In some cases it’s regressing. These are the stats from McKinsey,  but if you go with Deloitte, Mercer, the World Bank or W.E.F. the indications are all similar.diversity and inclusion recruitment

Now companies like Microsoft and Google who seemingly go to great lengths to do everything right are struggling to shift the status quo. They are making D & I KPIs for senior management and part of their personal objectives. Essentially the message is that people can’t be relied on to do the “right” thing, they must have incentives and be rewarded for achieving specific objectives when it comes to diversity and inclusion recruitment.

Tackling bias 

To tackle this, many organisations have thrown big budgets and people at unconscious bias training and awareness coaching, but without creating a safe culture where biases can be called out.  Not unsurprisingly there is push back against generic programmes as employees resent the idea that they need to be “fixed.” Unconscious bias can only ever be managed in any of us. Candidates are placed because they conform to pre-conceived ideas around “cultural” fit (affinity or confirmation bias) and conversely rejected because they may not. The concept of hire for attitude rather than aptitude beyond entry-level, is something mainly seen in Twitter memes and quoted by LinkedIn influencers.

Read: Affinity bias and the recruitment process

Defining diversity

Organisations need to have a clear vision of how they define a diverse workforce, what it means for them and then clarity on the strategy they need to achieve those goals. Then there needs to be an impactful  message related to the company mission statement and employee benefits that would attract that diverse workforce. These conditions need to be openly stated as this demographic self-deselect. This can be flexi-time, welcome bonuses, job sharing, disabled facilities, carer support, retirement support, mentoring programmes and education and study support. So whether diversity comes from hiring on the basis of gender, ethnicity, age, physical ability or even mental health issues, there has to be clarity on which demographics are being targeted.

Promote an employer brand based on diversity

diversity and inclusion recruitment

Diversity and Inclusion recruitment drives can’t succeed in a vacuum.  A positive employer branding message has to focus on the benefits of working in an organisation that supports diversity. Building relationships at grass-roots level to create a feeder talent pipeline,  whether via alternative schools, community centres, colleges, NGOs, charities or women’s organisations etc;, or offering returnships to early retirees or parents. This involves having role models to act as brand and diversity ambassadors going directly into those communities to do a full-on PR job.

Spread the word

Once created this message needs to be strategically communicated where the target demographics are likely to be found.  85% of jobs are secured via networking so you can see why hiring results in “mini-mes” being selected. Many recruiters pursue low hanging, visible fruit. It means a fast, problem-free placement and easier fee. Identifying potential candidates easily tracked on LinkedIn is the quick fix option which will not support diversity. Many young recruiters don’t have the skills to do anything more imaginative and will need training on what is needed to encourage successful diversity and inclusion recruitment drives

Positions should be advertised in a wide variety of places and platforms. It is well-known that women cannot be found on STEM courses, so it’s a waste of time looking there. Yet most companies continue to do exactly that and then complain loudly they can’t find the talent. They should try looking at liberal arts courses and conducting numeracy testing at the interview stage.

Neutral selection processes

At this point the selection process should be as neutral as possible.

  1. Empathetic application forms – some companies still list learning differences as disabilities.
  2. Neutral profiles – making sure that the text usually written in an alpha male tone will not cause candidates to self-deselect.
  3. Blind CVs  – these are useless on their own without 3,4 and 5.
  4. Structured interviews with open feedback and a culture of calling out and naming bias
  5. Short lists of 3 for the target demographic. A token minority will end up getting cut.
  6. Interview panels with a diverse composition.

Read: Do structured interviews overcome unconscious bias? 

Organisations with a real interest in diversifying their workforce will make more concerted efforts to test new ways to identify and attract a new type of potential candidate. Unless that happens then diversity and inclusion needle will continue to stick.

For support on innovative recruitment processes contact 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

 

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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Career advice needs context

Why career advice is meaningless without context

There is no shortage of career advice, with any number of people giving tips on what and not what to do. There is even advice on what career advice to ignore. Everyone has careers, so we all believe we know what everyone else should do. But as with anything, these bumper sticker type homilies are much more nuanced than we ever imagined. Times and workplaces change. Circumstances change. Heaven forbid – you change. These golden tips and nuggets of wisdom need to be revisited and always put into context. Context is everything when it comes to career advice. Without that – any career advice is meaningless.

4 common pieces of career advice without context

#1 You have to follow your passion

This is the most regularly doled out of all career tips. If it was a movie or a song it would get an award. Of course you should all be advised to do something you love and which satisfies you. Otherwise you will be condemned to a life of frustration and misery. But there are some caveats. The first is to be strategic. Do you have the skills or can you acquire them? The next question is will that passion pay the bills? At the age of 14, I was passionate about tennis, but there was no way I could make a living at it. Or had the skills. That is something that very often people misunderstand. I know one woman who was an excellent home cook and passionate about food. But she was unable to turn that passion into something that paid her bills. Some things like my tennis, are best kept as hobbies.

The other thing is that your passion can change over the years. So something that you might be passionate about in your 20s,  can be the source of unremitting boredom in later life.

You can also develop new passions. It’s not inconceivable that you might find two or even more passions in a working life which is extending all the time.

Core advice: maintain a path of life-long learning. Be open to possibilities and be sure to do your inner work regularly. Assess and prioritize your goals.  In our careers we will be passionate about many things at various times. At different stages of our lives we have a range of commitments and constraints. There is nothing wrong with having to defer to those in the short-term. As life goes on compromises are made as we factor other people’s needs into our planning. The question is do you feel compromised? If you do, then it’s time for a re-evaulation. The pace of change is also so great in our workplaces, that we have no idea what jobs will exist in 10 years that we may become passionate about.

Passion isn’t static for most people. It’s misleading to suggest it might be.

Read: Knowing yourself in the beginning of all wisdom 

#2. You should have a dream

Martin Luther King had a dream.  Some athletes, movie-stars, musicians have dreams. Other more regular people also have them. But unless that vision is backed up by a strategy, goals and a plan then it is worthless.  Relate this to your passion. The same criteria apply.

Core advice: See above

#3. There is no substitute for hard work

Actually there is. I prefer the advice to work smart. In an era of 24/7 availability the pressure to work incredibly long hours is high. In some sectors it’s a badge of honour and status symbol, particularly for men.  Burnout, breakdowns and depression are now normal. There are times when hard work is necessary. But it’s not just about the hours clocked  – it’s about the quality of those hours and their strategic value.

A bedfellow to this piece of advice is that you are judged by your work, so you should allow that work “to speak for itself.” That isn’t necessarily true. People tend to be judged by their results and they need to be able to develop a message that people are aware of. Find a mentor or a sponsor to help you share that message. This is a very female trap to wait for recognition. It frequently doesn’t call. We all have poor, lazy colleagues who still manage to do well.

Core advice: work smart and strategically, have a plan. Network effectively, work with a sponsor who will act as your door opener and find balance. Don’t be afraid to communicate your achievements. Done properly, with some humility, it is not bragging.

Read; Overwhelmed by a culture of overwork

#4. Get as many qualifications as you can 

Today with the cost of education sky rocketing and many graduates leaving university to depressed job markets with huge debts, the further education argument is now under discussion. It is no longer the golden conveyor to career success. So the career advice in this area should be tempered. Clearly there are certain professions which require higher education. In medicine, engineering, architecture and so on, minimum academic professional standards are not optional. But a number of organisations are starting to drop the focus on degree qualifications and look at other skills. The accounting firm Ernst and Young says that there is

‘No evidence’ that success at university is linked to achievement in professional assessments”

The World Economic Forum list the following as vital skills in the future of work:  literacy,  numeracy,  financial knowledge, technology, soft skills (see list below)

wef -skills

 Core advice: The workplace is changing at a terrific pace and currently there is a massive disconnect with our education systems. There is no doubt that the value of traditional educational paths is coming under question. I would definitely think long and hard before taking a liberal arts or soft degree and relate that carefully to longer term career projections. This brings us back again to life long learning. No one can afford not to update their skills on an ongoing basis. Failure to do so will be a problem. So you can have as many qualifications as you like, but if they are out of date, or redundant – they are of no value

Success means different things to each of us. The important element is to be clear what it means to you and to check regularly if those factors are consistent and constant. Career advice is not a one of one size fits all. The advice we need, will evolve as we and our circumstances do.

For career advice, context is not just critical, it’s everything.

Make sure you contact me for any career advice and coaching! [contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

Time poverty

Time poverty the latest corporate epidemic

Poor timekeeping and time poverty

Richard Branson wrote on LinkedIn telling us that if we wanted to be more productive, we should be more punctual. Yet poor time keeping seems to be a current and growing trend, as everyone claims to be overloaded and time poor.

Time poverty has become a corporate and cultural epidemic. Busy or stressed has become today’s standard response to a routine enquiry asking someone how they are. We ae constantly complaining about time poverty.

Time scarcity seems to have become a badge of success and an indicator of professional status.

Opportunity cost  

I confess to having been guilty of some erratic time keeping myself. I was very much “a one more thing before I go”  type of girl and a great subscriber to the phrase “fashionably late.” But, fortunately in my early career, I worked for a manager who monetized the communally wasted time whenever any of his team was late for a meeting. It was actually quite shocking. If we had all been held financially accountable, our pay cheques would have been significantly lighter.

When I transitioned into sales I had to replace  “better late than never ” with  “never late is better.”   Arriving late isn’t actually a recognised commercially winning strategy.

Running late

I have become acutely aware in recent times how erratic general timekeeping seems to have become and how easily  the phrase “running late”,  has slid into our daily business and social vernacular, including my own. Very often people apologise, (sometimes they don’t), explaining that either they, someone, or something else was “running late“, as though they were a bus service, entirely passive and had nothing to do with it at all. Clearly there are always unforeseen circumstances but these tend to be less common than imagined.

I ran a training session a few weeks ago when 50% of attendees were late. I was told this was quite usual. A contact mentioned that two of that same organisation’s account managers were late for a sales meeting with a senior director in his company. They went on to lose the account. A lack of respect for time, their own and others, has become embedded into their corporate culture.

Why are we all becoming more tolerant of  poor time keeping? Whatever happened to William Shakespeare’s “Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late?”

Consequences

Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management From the Inside Out,  tells us that the first step is to make promptness a conscious priority, but also we need to  gain an understanding into why we’re always late. Poor timekeeping can be very costly, both directly  but also via damage to our reputations suggesting we are unreliable,  untrustworthy and/or disorganised. The reasons she maintains tend to fall into two categories: technical or psychological.

1. Technical Difficulties

If we are always late but at different time then, the likelihood is that it is the result of  bad planning and under estimating how long things will take. Morgenstern advises establishing patterns by keeping a time log of all tasks and finding out exact how much time each task takes. Then factor in a margin for some unforeseen contingency.

2. Psychological

 – Inability to say no

Linda Sapadin, PhD, author of Master Your Fears believes there are deeper underlying implications of poor timekeeping,  which are linked to procrastination. Very often many of the difficulties come from lack of confidence and an inability to say no,  or even to tell another person we have another appointment in our diaries.

– Do you choose to be late?

If we are always late by the same amount of time, there could be a number of reasons – but no doubt, it’s about us!  We might be:

  • Rebellious   – not doing what’s expected
  • A crisis maker   – need an adrenalin rush to get going
  • Attention seeker  – which comes with being last through the door and going through the apology ritual.
  • Power playing  – I’m more important than you are,  sending a message of disrespect
  • Avoider – you don’t want to meet the person, or attend the meeting, so leave it until the very last-minute.

So next time instead of saying something  “ran late”, perhaps we should all just be honest and admit to being bad planners, power players, attention seekers or avoiders.

More importantly if we manage our own time, we will automatically respect the time of others. We should also stop thinking poor time management is worth emulating and follow Richard Branson’s lead.

“It means being an effective delegator, organiser and communicator.”

If you need support with your time management and planning which could impact your career – check out these coaching programmes.