Saturday, December 5, 2009

Radical Clarity Tip #2

The Quest for Clear Communication

Over the next while we will explore the topic of communication in the workplace.

I am a firm believer in the quest for Radial Clarity which to me means that the intended message that you are sending is received in the way you had planned. Additionally, Radical Clarity means that communication is not avoided. Even if the message is tough, communicate openly and honestly. Your reputation rides on your ability to communicate. There are no perfect communication styles or ones that are better than the other. You need to find your own “voice”. There are, however, helpful tips which can help. I will be sharing some of the easy ones that have worked for me.

Tip #2:
Make Time for Employees.
Regular, one-on-one meetings with your team members are important; if employees work remotely, meet by phone. If you can't meet weekly, do it at least twice a month. And don't take phone calls during meetings, unless it is an emergency. Show your employees they have your full attention. Talk about their career paths and how you envision them growing in their jobs. On the flip side, employees need to be aware of bosses' time pressures.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Radical Clarity Tip # 1

The Quest for Clear Communication

Over the next while we will explore the topic of communication in the workplace.

I am a firm believer in the quest for Radial Clarity which to me means that the intended message that you are sending is received in the way you had planned. Additionally, Radical Clarity means that communication is not avoided. Even if the message is tough, communicate openly and honestly. Your reputation rides on your ability to communicate. There are no perfect communication styles or ones that are better than the other. You need to find your own “voice”. There are, however, helpful tips which can help. I will be sharing some of the easy ones that have worked for me.

Tip #1
Active Listening

Listening is divided into two main categories: passive and active. Passive listening is little more that hearing. It occurs when the receiver of the message has little motivation to listen carefully, such as when listening to music, television, or when being polite. Active listening means fully engaging in what the other person is saying and truly hearing what they have to say.

The following are a few traits of active listeners:
o Spend more time listening than talking.
o Do not finish the sentences of others.
o Do not answer questions with questions.
o Are aware of biases. We all have them. We need to control them.
o Let the other speakers talk. Do not dominate the conversations.
o Plan responses after the others have finished speaking, NOT while they are speaking.
o Provide feedback, but do not interrupt incessantly.
o Analyze by looking at all the relevant factors and asking open-ended questions. Walk others through by summarizing.
o Keep conversations on what others say, NOT on what interests them.
o Take brief notes. This forces them to concentrate on what is being said.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Turning Around a Problem Employee

by Toni Bowers
Takeaway: If you have an employee with a productivity or attitude problem, the temptation is often just to write that employee off and get back to business. But before you take such a drastic step, you need to identify the problem and try to solve it.

An employee with performance problems is not just a manager’s problem. It’s a problem for the whole staff. Staff members can resent taking up the slack for a poor performer, and rightly so. Hostility and anger from a problem employee can permeate and infect the whole environment. Ungrounded cynicism can also spread to the rest of your staff, even your good performers.

For these reasons, it’s important that you take action with an employee who is exhibiting problems with productivity and behavior as soon as you detect there is a problem. Here are some of the best ways to approach this tricky issue.

Dealing with the problem
Try this six-step process when helping employees improve their performance. The steps are:

1. Describe the employee's specific performance issues
• Talk about the issues, not about the employee's poor effort
• Describe the results of the employee's performance.

2. Describe the expected standards of employee performance
• Be specific. Don't say you have a “poor” attitude; instead list specific occurrences that illustrate problematic behavior.

3. Determine the cause of the performance issues
• Does the employee lack training, skills, knowledge?
• Is there a lack of motivation, incentive?
• Are there external factors involved (family, financial, etc.)?
• Are there factors beyond the employee's control affecting the performance?

4. Ask the employee for solution(s)
• What could the employee do to improve this situation?

5. Discuss each solution with the employee
• How will this solution help with the employee's problem?
• Discuss your solution(s).
• Try to jointly improve upon the solutions.

6. Agree on specific actions to be done and a time frame to implement them
• Arrange for another meeting in the future to track the progress/results of the solution.

The best way to tackle performance issues early is to use a regular performance appraisal process. At the very least, conduct performance appraisals once a year. But it’s even better to conduct smaller evaluations every few months so that any information about performance problems doesn’t come as a surprise to the employee. Also, you can set performance goals at more frequent intervals and check more readily if they’re being met.

Effectively dealing with performance issues in an employee can be a long, intensive process. But it’s best to do it right.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Team Building and Delegation

Employee involvement is creating an environment in which people have an impact on decisions and actions that affect their jobs. Employee involvement is not the goal nor is it a tool, as practiced in many organizations. Rather, it is a management and leadership philosophy about how people are most enabled to contribute to continuous improvement and the ongoing success of their work organization.

Involve people as much as possible in all aspects of work decisions and planning. This involvement increases ownership and commitment, retains your best employees, and fosters an environment in which people choose to be motivated and contributing. It is also important for team building.

How to involve employees in decisionmaking and continuous improvement activities is the strategic aspect of involvement and can include such methods as suggestion systems, manufacturing cells, work teams, continuous improvement meetings, Kaizen (continuous improvement) events, corrective action processes and periodic discussions with the supervisor.

Intrinsic to most employee involvement processes is training in team effectiveness, communication, and problem solving; the development of reward and recognition systems; and frequently, the sharing of gains made through employee involvement efforts.

Employee Involvement Model

For people and organizations that desire a model to apply, the best I have discovered was developed from work by Tannenbaum and Schmidt (1958) and Sadler (1970). They provide a continuum for leadership and involvement that includes an increasing role for employees and a decreasing role for supervisors in the decision process. The continuum includes this progression.

Tell: the supervisor makes the decision and announces it to staff. The supervisor provides complete direction. Tell is useful when communicating about safety issues, government regulations and for decisions that neither require nor ask for employee input.
Sell: the supervisor makes the decision and then attempts to gain commitment from staff by "selling" the positive aspects of the decision. Sell is useful when employee commitment is needed, but the decision is not open to employee influence.

Consult: the supervisor invites input into a decision while retaining authority to make the final decision herself. The key to a successful consultation is to inform employees, on the front end of the discussion, that their input is needed, but that the supervisor is retaining the authority to make the final decision. This is the level of involvement that can create employee dissatisfaction most readily when this is not clear to the people providing input.

Join: the supervisor invites employees to make the decision with the supervisor. The supervisor considers his voice equal in the decision process. The key to a successful join is when the supervisor truly builds consensus around a decision and is willing to keep her influence equal to that of the others providing input.

Delegate: the supervisor turns the decision over to another party. The key to successful delegation is to always build a feedback loop and a timeline into the process. The supervisor must also share any "preconceived picture" he has of the anticipated outcome of the process.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Keeping Your Staff

Entrepreneurial companies are tough places to work. What's stopping staff from leaving your firm?

Finding the right answers could make the difference between achieving greatness and being profiled in More Lessons From the Edge, because the cost of staff turnover is disproportionately higher in smaller firms. If someone leaves a big company, management can transfer in an underused employee from another division or arrange for job sharing until a replacement is found. You don't have that luxury. The result is a loss of productivity and, potentially, of business opportunities — not to mention the expense of hiring and training the replacement. Once you have good people on board, it's much cheaper to keep them.

Once you've landed an employee, your job becomes retention. The most significant employment advantage of an entrepreneurial company is just that — its entrepreneurial culture. Play to your strengths. Create and maintain an environment that has the following characteristics:

Open communication: Start with communicating your vision and values, which, if you are doing a good job, everyone in the organization should be saying in their sleep. When your vision and values become a mantra, your company can use that mantra as a touchstone for all the decisions that are made. An open environment also means providing reinforcement and other forms of feedback to your employees. The flipside: adopt an open-door policy in which no idea is considered stupid. You can also offer rewards for ideas that are implemented in order to encourage a constant flow of creative juices.

While it sounds counterintuitive to private firms, I believe all companies should practise open-book management. When employees understand the finances of a firm and can see the impact of their work on the bottom line, they are far more likely to buy into your vision.

Respect and trust: Show that you respect and trust your employees by standing back and letting them do their thing. If you sense they need assistance, then be a coach rather than a micromanager. As long as they deliver results, let them come and go as they please. After all, growing companies demand flexibility from their workforce; you should be willing to pay it back. Allowing employees to achieve more balance in their lives through flexible schedules, job sharing, telecommuting and reduced summer hours can make that shiny office tower across the street look like the Death Star.

Continuous learning: Employees who can develop new skills through formal education and on-the-job training tend to be more loyal and, of course, more effective.

Lots of fun: A casual, enjoyable environment goes a long way to building employee loyalty. Create bonding experiences for your team through regular group activities, whether they're educational or just for fun.

Results-based compensation: Build compensation packages that are transparent, consistent and fair across the organization. They should include a modest base salary with plenty of opportunity for upside through commissions, profit-sharing and equity. This will align your employees' interests with the goals of the company. By offering equity, they will truly feel like your partners. Just be sure to impose mid- to long-term vesting periods so that the employee must stay with the company for a fixed period of time before they can cash in.

Celebrations: Recognition is very important to people. Although something as simple as an Employee of the Month trophy can be motivating, I suggest you try to be more creative. I have seen one company provide the best parking spot and the use of a top-of-the-line Mercedes to its best-performing salesperson each month. It is also important to celebrate as a company. Since you've opened your books, everyone will know when you exceed your targets. Make a big deal about it. Have a party. Do something big that will be a constant reminder to your team of their success and the part that they all played in it. Heck — why not ride in on an elephant?

Your most important assets walk out the door every night. To make sure they come back the next morning, give your people your time and full attention. Need a mantra to help you achieve this? How about this one: "The most important customer is my employee."

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Virtual Assistance for Small Business

With over 70% of the economic experts expecting a last quarter uptick in the economy, now is the perfect time to start preparing for the extra business. I am a big fan of using virtual assistants to help build out my team during peak seasons. This is an especially useful business strategy in today’s market place. One of the best lessons a recession can teach us is that in many circumstances variable costs beat fixed costs any day. To survive the feast or famine rollercoaster of entrepreneurship, you need to make sure your expenses mimic those same ups and downs.

Benefits of Virtual Assistants

Adding virtual assistants to your workforce is a terrific way to turn a traditionally “fixed” expense, like payroll, into a more cash flow friendly variable expense. Let me explain how it would work. For example, most business advisers suggest that payroll expenses should average 20-30% of your sales. This would mean that when sales are flush at $250,000/month that translates into payroll expenses of $50-75,000. When sales hit a downturn at only $50,000/month, your payroll would then move back to a more manageable, $10-15,000. As a business owner, how closely you adhere to this ratio means the difference between bleeding red and staying in the black.

Additional Benefits Include:

1. No payroll taxes or employee benefit expenses
2. No “on site” office space requirements
3. No costly training programs when hiring experienced VA’s
4. No long term commitment
5. No morale draining lay offs during slow seasons

Understanding the Relationship

When considering virtual assistants to help manage business tasks, there are a couple considerations to keep in mind. For starters, they are not your employee but independent contactors. This means they will most likely have other tasks and deadlines on their schedule while they are working for you. READ: They are on their clock- not yours. Make sure you are respectful of time constraints and provide as much advanced notice of tasks, deadlines, and special circumstances as possible. As with many business relationships, communication is critical. You can’t blame a virtual assistant for not living up to your expectations if you never made those expectations clear. In other words, don’t just say you need something “right away”, make sure you define “right away” as within two hours.

Getting Started

I also think it is wise to start slowly when building a new relationship with a virtual assistant. For example, instead of requesting that they create a new website for you, start by having them update your blog template first. As each task is completed satisfactorily, and communication strengthens, you can then proceed to larger and more complex tasks. Also, be sure to discuss with potential VA’s their strengths and weaknesses to ensure the best experience possible. If you are in the real estate field, consider searching for VA’s with backgrounds in real estate. If you an entrepreneur looking for marketing help, be sure to search for VA’s with a background in marketing or who are currently active in social media.

If you have never considered hiring a virtual assistant to build out your team, I strongly suggest taking a second look. As technology continues to advance and better networking platforms are built, virtual work relationships will only become even easier. A couple great places to start your search for virtual help include,,, or a simple “virtual assistant” search on Google.
Written by: Heather Nolte

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Starting Your New Business

It is important to make the right decisions when starting a small business in order for it to become a success.

When you start your own business, you will get advice from just about every person you encounter. Some of that advice will be valid and some of it will be a complete waste.

Often the advice you get will have no merit to the business you are starting. There are a number of business startup tips for small businesses that are valid regardless of the business you are starting.

Let's take a look at the five best starting a business tips for becoming successful.

Business Startup Tip #1
Making sure you have a financial plan is key to succeeding in small business.

When you develop a financial plan along with a budget that you stick to you are giving yourself more control over your success. This gives you the ability to better track your success and dictate your short-term and long-term financial goals realistically.

Without a financial plan you are really trusting fate to make your small business a success. That’s not very smart.

Business Startup Tip #2
Networking is another important aspect when it comes to small business success.

Regardless of whether you operate your business from a home office or you have an actual office you need a support structure. Having industry related contacts can help motivate and inspire you.

In addition, networking helps keep you updated and current within your industry. Networking for small business success can be done online and through local associations and groups.

Business Startup Tip #3
Many people who start a small business successfully do so with the help of a mentor. When you are just starting out it is good to have someone within the industry that is already successful.

When you have a mentor to help you start a small business you can bounce ideas off of them and get their input on critical business decisions you do not have experience with.

Business Startup Tip #4
It is also important to take care of yourself when you are starting a small business.

Starting a small business can be very time consuming - and if you are not careful, you can overwork yourself and burn out.

Balancing the responsibilities of your small business with your personal life will not only enable you to recharge your batteries from time to time, but it will also help you to maintain an objective and fresh perspective.

Business Startup Tip #5
By far the most important tip for starting a small business successfully would be to do something that you love.

If your small business is just a means to an end and you get no enjoyment from what you do, your chances for success are slim. Figure out what you are good at or what you have a talent for and take advantage of that skill or talent.

If you do this and succeed, your success will only be sweeter - but if you don't and you fail, your failure will only sting more.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Time Management

This is the best time management perspective I have seen! Even the most busy small business owner should take "time" to watch this one.

Summary of points: (but watch the video)

Time must be explicitly managed, like money:
If you find money being important, you have to start viewing time as being more important than money. He did tell his students and urge them not to invest time on irrelevant details, it does not matter how well you polish the underside of the banister.

I believe many of us understand this, just that not many people are doing it.

You can always change your plan, but only if you have one:
He is a big big believer in to-do lists. So am I. I wasn’t one and I started on it only recently. My favourite phrase now is “What’s the plan?”. Randy stated that a to-do list is to help us break life into small steps. He also mentioned that a to-do list is only useful when you break tasks into smaller steps. You would not want to write tidying up my room in your to-do list and most likely you would not tidy it up. Most of us just have it for the sake of writing.

The trick here is to be really specific. Break it down into like. Tidy the bed, vacuum the floor,…etc. You get what I mean.

Ask yourself, are you spending time on the right things?:
You may have causes, goals, interests. Are they even worth pursing? He talked about a news showing a photo of a pregnant woman who lodged a against a local construction site. She worried that the sound of jackhammers was injuring her unborn child. But in the photo, the woman is holding a cigarette. If she really cared about her unborn child, she would have spent the time putting out that cigarette.

Develop a good filing system:
Simple as it is, it helps you to save time when you search for the documents you want. A little time spent on filing them, helps you long in the future.

Rethink the telephone:
Like to mention some techniques he shared and they are very interesting. To keep unnecessary calls short. It is better to stand when you’re on the phone. You are more apt to speed things along. Also have something in view on the desk that you want to do (to-do list), so You have the urge to wrap things up with the caller.

Other phone tips like quickly dispatching telemarketers is mentioned too. “I like this!” Here is the trick. It is to hang up while you are doing the talking and they are listening. They will assume your connection went bad and they will move on to their next call.

Want to have a short phone call with someone? Call them at 11:55a.m., right before lunch. They will talk fast. You can’t be more interesting than their lunch.

You can’t do everything by yourself and to make things to be done more efficiently, it is to delegate. People will be more satisfied if you delegate the task to him/her. Because at the same time, they are learning too. As Randy is a professor, he trust his students with the key to his kingdom, and “most of the time, they were responsible and impressive”, he said.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Job Descriptions

Important for small business folks to focus on job descriptions. This is not a "minor task" as it sets the direction for your employees.

Some quick tips:

Job descriptions are imperative to your small business because they define job responsibilities and expectation.

Job descriptions can be used in a number of ways in your business. First, a description will help a candidate decide if the job is of interest. Second, the description will help you interview the candidate to decide if the candidate is right for the position. The job description can help you in training new employees. Finally, the description forms the backbone of your evaluation and review process.

Many people will be tempted to skip this step. It's too difficult; all of my employees know what they are supposed to do; I don't have time; it's a waste of time. The excuses go on and on. Don't fall into this trap! Job descriptions are an absolutely necessary part of your business. As the business owner or manager, you are the one responsible to create them.

The job description should be as clear and precise as possible. Start by listing the major tasks an employee in that position will be responsible for. It could be customer satisfaction, follow-up, or administration.

Next, list the activities necessary to do each task. Be as detailed and precise as possible. If you aren't specific and meticulous in describing every important aspect of the job, federal regulators and courts can assume that the employee can perform the job any way he or she wants, regardless of whether it complies with the company's policy. This is important if you ever have issues with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Labor Department or just a disgruntled employee.

Do this for each task involved with this job. You may have a very long list. That's ok!
Job descriptions that contain detailed statements of the employee's job pass the accountability for that action to the employee. Pretty quickly you will stop hearing excuses. "I didn't know I was supposed to do that" or "that's not my job" are familiar ways for employees to pass the buck to someone else. With a precise statement, each employee knows exactly what is expected and there is little room not to be accountable.

Clear, precise job descriptions will help you to both hire and manage your employees.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Let's Share Your Small Business HR Experiences

I believe that there are unique issues related to Small Business and there is often very little support. You don't need to be on your own. What are your experiences? Let's share with one another and make Small Business stronger!

I will on a regular basis search specific Small Business HR information and post. Please share your info, with the vision of having this Blog as your own personal source for Small Business HR.

Business Partner Succession Question

Q. My business partner is not physically well but will not consider any discussion on succession planning. I am very angry and frustrated. What should I do?

A. It is a sad thing to note that most of us don't like to look at our own mortality and it is especially hard for business owners whose whole life is intricately involved with their work. One strategy is to try to soften "the blow" by ask your business partner to consider and identify individuals within your company who could take on responsibilities if either of you decided to take a three-month vacation. This is often successful in getting the individual thinking along the right lines. If possible, you can than draw up something more formal in terms of succession and present it to the individual for discussion.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

7 HR Tips for an Economic Downturn

Getting the best from existing staff and managing the opportunities and threats recessions bring in terms of employment and recruitment will prove vital to small businesses.

Key survival tactics for the current economic downturn will be achieving financial savings while retaining an engaged workforce with the skills to steer your organisation through the tough times and successfully out the other side.

Adapting HR activities in response to these pressures will contribute to your organisation remaining cost effective, competitive and in a position to exploit opportunities presented by adjustments to labour markets.

As human behaviour generally becomes more risk averse in turbulent times it is likely fewer people will consider a voluntary job move. Review the impact of this change on your planned recruitment and training budgets/activities for 2009/10.

Attendance Management
If you have a higher than average level of sickness absence reinvigorate your attendance management practices, typically this will reduce absence by up to 20%.

Employee Engagement
Maintain through these tough times to retain your competitive edge. Provide clear leadership and direction and engage with your people in periods of change, if making redundancies devise a strategy to ensure survivors remain engaged.

Learning & Development
When evaluating L&D ask if all activities remain current, what new skills & competencies are required for next 12-24 months and consider more cost effective forms of delivery such as developing in-house trainers or e-learning.

Pay & Benefits
Are they affordable and in-line with your employment market competitors? Many employers are reviewing occupational sick pay entitlement, contractual hours and annual increase mechanisms.

Ensure your procedure and selection criteria enable you to retain employees with the skills to deal with the challenges over the next 12-18 months. Consider alternatives such as sabbaticals, secondments and part-time working.

If you have vacancies pursue and exploit the current labour market adjustments. There are big pockets of redundant workers with excellent transferable skills and competencies

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Top 10 Small Business HR Tips

For many businesses, people are the most important asset;'s Top Ten HR Tips provide advice on how to find and keep the best employees and offer hints on helping them develop.

1. Draw up a job description, no matter how simple or low-level the job.The more information you put down, the better your chances are of getting the right person for the right job. Cover areas such as the level of skill needed, whether training is necessary, and how much experience or responsibility the job requires.

2. Use specialist or trade publications to target your ads. If you are looking to fill a particular position, consider advertising in specialist or trade publications. Find out from people who work in that area what publications they read. If the job is not that specialised, consider advertising in a local newspaper, which will be cheaper. Word-of-mouth can also be useful and cost-effective.

3. Always take up . someone joins your company, ensure you get references. It can be a good idea to contact a referee direct on the phone as they are often more responsive than in a letter. Ask questions such as: ‘Would you re-employ this person?’

4. Get help from your friends and family. Recruiting employees is a costly exercise, both in terms of time and money. Think about whether you need someone full time. Help from your friends and family is also an option, and it won’t cost you a penny to advertise. If you need someone specialised for the short-term, it’s worth paying that bit extra for contract or temporary staff.

5. Make your employees feel welcome. First impressions count and the first three months of employment with a new company are important. Make your new employees feel welcome. Consider setting up an induction into the company with on-the-job training and a buddy system to help a new recruit with any questions.

6. A business is only as good as the people who work for it. As a small business, you can be closer to your staff, suppliers and customers than larger ones. Involve your employees in the work culture from day one and keep them up to date with the progress of the company and any developments that may take place in the near future.

7. Use incentives other than money. A competitive package need not only be about money – flexible working such as job-share and flexi-hours can give you the opportunity to tailor benefits more suited to the individual. Look carefully at what motivates each employees – some may be driven by security, others by ambition. Group days out, or brainstorming sessions combined with a fun activity can also work well.

8. Appraise your staff regularly. An effective appraisal system should allow for realistic, but challenging objectives. There should also be interim reviews to ensure objectives have not changed and to give an opportunity to identify training and development. Consider who is best placed to carry out the reviews – in some cases it may be more appropriate to use a middle manager.

9. Enforce strict ‘absence’ procedures. In order to deal effectively with absenteeism, staff should be very clear about the company policy. A staff handbook is an ideal way to state policies clearly. Areas such as holidays, sickness and absenteeism should be included and clearly outlined.

10. Create a culture of good leavers. Hold exit interviews, particularly for key staff, which will help you identify any problems going forward. The aim is to create a culture of ‘good leavers’: this is the type of person who will flag up any problems beforehand, tell you about concerns with work, and once they’ve left, will not say negative things about the company.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Effective Hiring for Small Business

Effective Hiring for Smaller Businesses
By Julie King
Published February 2008
Is the candidate you are considering the right person for your job? Due to haphazard hiring procedures many small businesses have a 20% chance of hiring the best person. Considering how expensive and time consuming it is to hire employees, those are not good odds.

There are really two key challenges to the hiring process: getting access to people and then evaluating those people. The latter is something that small businesses often don`t do very well.
I spoke with a successful recruitment professional, off the record, to learn the secrets to hiring successfully. At the end of the interview I had an outline of a structured, highly effective five step process that can double the likelihood of success in the small business hiring process. Here is how it works.
Step 1: Write an effective job description.
It takes time to write a job description, but this step in the hiring process must not be skipped. You are making a significant finanical investment in the person you hire; it is well worth it to take the time to establish a position-specific job description that outlines the scope and parameters of the job.
A good job description will clearly state what you are looking for. It will also attract the best candidates, so acts as a marketing tool. Your job description should include position responsibilities, background and skills as a minimum standard. Some companies also include a company description to help attact candidates.
The job description is particularly important if more than one person will be involved in the interview. However, even if there is only one person doing the interview the job description forces you to evaluate each candidate to a constant standard.
Ideally you will use a grid to evaluate candidates against your hiring criteria. This helps you maintain your objectivity and will help you back-up your hiring decision if anyone ever claims that you discriminated against them during the hiring process.
A job description continues to have value once a person is hired, as it can be used in an HR capacity by providing a clear and documented outline of what is expected of the hiree.
Step 2: Conduct a structured, effective interview
When a candidate arrives for an interview, there are three things you need to address.
The candidate's career background.
The candidate's skill as they relate to the skills you are looking for.
The reasons a good candidate should want to accept a position at your firm.
Too often question one is the whole interview in smaller companies, when it should only take up a small part. Ideally, you would structure a one hour interview to spend 15 minutes on question one, 30 minutes on question two and 15 minutes on the promotion of the company. Leave an extra fifteen minutes at the end to make notes after the candidate has left.
Here are some questions and considerations for each stage of the interview.
First 15 minutes:Your goal is to understand the candidate's career background and some of their career motivations. Questions are broad in scope and touch on key aspects of the resume.
"Take me through the context of your career.""Why did you make this career shift?""Why did you decide to pursue [this particular education]?""Why did you leave [company name]?"
Next 30 minutes:Here you want to focus on the skills you are looking for. Your goal is to find out if the candidate has the skills needed to be successfull in the position. Ideally, you will look for concrete examples from their past work that demonstrate their capabilities.
"Give me an example of how you grew revenue at the company you currently work for.""Your resume shows that you have strong project management skills. Tell me about a project that you think best demonstrates how you were able to use those skills in your current position.""Give me an example of how you responded to a client who was angry about [a relevant problem]."
Clearly the questions need to be tailored to the specifics of the job you are interviewing for, but this type of open ended questioning really gives the candidates the opportunity to shine – or to let you find out if they really don't have the skills they included on their resume. Some candidates may not have direct experience, but will provide another example from a similar situation, which gives you the opportunity to evaluate them against their next best example.
Don't be afraid to ask really tough or honest questions. Candidates who have been through this tough process will be more motivated, because it will make them feel that your company takes its recruiting seriously. People are attracted to a challenge and will value a position when they have had to prove they deserve it. However, avoid questions that are too "out of the box".
The final 15 minutesIn a small business, if you like what you heard from the candidate in the first two parts of the interview then you need to use the final part to sell. This is the time for you to explain why your company is great and why the person should be interested in accepting the position. It is better to leave this to the end, because then you can target your information and answers to the candidate.
For example, you may have heard that the candidate is looking for a new job that will cut his or her commute time. You can then emphasise this during the final fifteen minutes.
Step 3: Hold a decision meeting
Let's face it, in many smaller companies the decision meeting consists of the company founder saying "This is how it's going to be." While that is not unusual, neither is it ideal.
A grid is great for discussion. You can have everyone involved with the interview fill in a grid in advance and then compare them. This should never be done in front of the candidate. Discuss the candidates, considering their skills, needs and how they would fit into the culture of your organization. At the end of the meeting you should have a short list of possible hires.
Step 4: Check out your short listed candidates
Never assume that the information a candidate put down on his or her resume is correct. Check their education credentials. Check past employment (but not their current employer) and check their references. Some employers will call the current employer to confirm the person's title and email, but that is a bit sneaky and may be a warning flag to the current employer in a smaller company.
A much better way to check references than relying on two or three names submitted by the candidate, is to ask for a list of the candidate's bosses, peers and direct reports. Keep in mind that you cannot call the current employer, so this assumes that the candidate had other jobs. You can ask if there is someone you can speak with from the current company.
You would then select randomly from that list to conduct your reference check. The key thing is that you want choice in who you ask about the candidate. References should be viewed not as a disaster check, but rather an opportunity to gather valuable information on someone.
The reason this approach works so well is that you get third party confirmation of the candidate's abilities. Keep in mind that this approach tells you about both the positive and negative aspects of the candidate. Look for references to be balanced, but none are perfect. Comments on the person's development needs can help you turn a strong candidate into a fantastic employee. What you want to be cautious of are negatives that become thematic and look like they could be a serious issue if you hire the person.
When you do a reference call, you need a script that lists the 4 to 5 things you want to focus on. These should come from the job description, considering both the hard and soft skills that you need for the position. This approach takes time. If you are not willing to do it properly, don't do it at all.
Step 5: Making the offer
The first part of the offer should be verbal. Before you speak to the person, you should know what they are currently earning. Most candidates will provide this information during the interview.
When you speak with your choice candidate, explain your reasons for the offer. This is an opportunity to put the offer in context with what the position means to your company.
Try to get a verbal understanding before you put the offer on paper. Paper is just the formality. If things are all good you can send the written offer with the start date and get a signature back. Congratulation; if the process worked well you will have just added an excellent person to your team.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Goal Setting

This is a very quick tip for those of you who are setting Goals - useful for performance reviews department goals and general setting of personal goals.

SMART Goals:A useful way of making goals more powerful is to use the SMART mnemonic. While there are plenty of variants, SMART usually stands for:

S Specific
M Measurable
A Attainable
R Relevant
T Time-bound
For example, instead of having “to sail around the world” as a goal, it is more powerful to say “To have completed my trip around the world by December 31, 2015.” Obviously, this will only be attainable if a lot of preparation has been completed beforehand!

Common Appraisal Errors

Apart from the strengths and weaknesses inherent in the nature of a given performance appraisal system and the relative dislike or distrust that may be felt by the appraisees and/or appraisers as we have discovered, there are errors of implementation that can be made no matter what techniques you use. In fact, the way that a performance appraisal system is administered and the training given to the managers using it, probably has more to do with the effectiveness of the appraisal than any other factor. Some performance appraisal systems prevent or even encourage these errors more than others.
The most common appraisal errors are:
1. Inadequately defined standards of performance
2. Over-emphasis on recent performance
3. Reliance on gut feelings
4. Miscomprehension of performance standards by the employee
5. Insufficient or unclear performance documents
6. Inadequate time allocation for the discussion
7. Too much talking by the manager/supervisor
8. Lack of follow-up planning/action(Except: Taking the Performance Initiative)

Bully Boss or Victim?

We've frequently talked about bullying in the workplace - including research on the topic and discussions of how the bully boss takes a toll. Now, a new study by an Australian researcher looks at the topic of bullying from the perspective of the accused, finding that alleged bullies were just as affected by the experience as people she had interviewed for an earlier study on victims of workplace bullying.
Moira Jenkins, a clinical psychologist in Australia, is interviewing managers accused of workplace bullying. Jenkins found performance or behavioral issues with subordinates often appeared to trigger a bullying complaint against managers, sometimes giving rise to something that one accused called "upwards bullying." Jenkins notes:
"Bullying, when it does occur, is a serious problem. But some workers might be too quick to frame conflict as bullying. Human resources takes more notice when the word 'bullying' is used." She defines bullying as repeated, targeted behaviour towards somebody that is likely to humiliate them and undermine their confidence."
Does the term "bullying" get thrown around too lightly? Certainly, as with any other problem employment practice, such as harassment or discrimination, bullying accusations against managers may be unfair or mislabeled. Managers who were interviewed by Jenkins seemed to think that they were just doing their jobs in enforcing company policies. In some of the cited examples, it appeared that there was no suitable internal system of organizational conflict resolution or grievance procedures for the accused to address the charges against them. While some work cultures seem to actively foster bully managers, it may more often be the result of poor management skills or a lack of management training.