Monday, January 30, 2012

Candidate has great skills, ideal experience and strong references? Well done, you’re half way there.

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.
If you made a new hire today, there is a 46% chance that they will be gone in 18 months. This statistic, which is alarming enough in itself, is compounded by the fact that 89% of these failures will be attributed to attitudinal factors. Put simply, half the people you hire will not survive in the job you gave them, mostly because they have bad attitudes.

Now a bad attitude may conjure up images of laziness or insubordination, but there are other more common faults that fit into this area, including a lack of coachability, emotional intelligence or motivation.

Turnover in the modern workplace is a major problem for productivity and where failure occurs, it is only occasionally due to a lack of hard skill.

Ask anybody with hiring experience, in any sector, anywhere in the world and they will tell you that the best way to lower turnover and increase tenure is to hire the right people in the first place.

What this recent study (the basis of Hiring for Attitude - a new book from business coach Mark Murphy) suggests is that far too many employers are basing their hiring practices on simple check lists of hard skills, at the expense of a genuine assessment of a person’s suitability. The result? A short term success that spells long term disaster.

Talascend hires thousands of people every year, for our own staff and for our customers. What everyone here will tell you first and foremost is this…

The interview is the most important part of the entire hiring process.

Here are our five tips for getting it right.

1.       Don’t duplicate the role of the resume and references.
Let the resume and references establish the candidate’s skills and credibility. If they claim to be academically qualified, capable of a specific role technically and that they have worked in the role for five years at these two companies, then – If it all checks out via transcripts and references – it’s a safe assumption that they can do the job, so you don’t need to focus too much time on their hard skills.

2.       Move quickly to the important part
You’ll want to spend a short time satisfying yourself that their track record is deserved, but once you have, move quickly on to the soft skills that are going to determine whether they succeed or fail with you. How will they behave within a team? (and most importantly your team.) What motivates them? (and are their needs consistent with what you can offer?) How are they likely to respond to pressure?

3.       Don’t be awkward asking personal questions
 It’s easy to understand why interviews tend to focus heavily on hard skills; it’s much safer territory for the interviewer and interviewee. Tell me about your experience using the new ABC software. How much time have you spent conducting site reviews?  These are a lot less awkward to ask than questions that drive at emotional intelligence and very few hiring managers have had the training they need to conduct a rounded interview. 

4.       Get Help
There are a number of great resources available to navigate this terrain. There are templates available online, your HR department is likely to be very helpful. There are also external devices like psychometric profiles, which some employers swear by. Staffing agencies that you work with will be happy to help you; it's in their interest for your interviews to go well – ask them what they can offer.

5.       Act now, before the next 46% doomed hire joins you
Whatever you do to address this issue, do it sooner rather than later. We all understand what 46% turnover means for our teams, projects and businesses. 

We can all do better than this; we simply have to do better if our operations are to thrive and grow. Your next coin-toss hire could be sitting in your building right now. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Education, not legislation, is the key to lower healthcare spending.

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.
In 2005, the British chef and media personality Jamie Oliver launched a highly successful campaign to raise awareness of the poor quality of food being served in British schools. The result was to transform the way Britain thinks about school food, delivering healthier, balanced meals and most importantly, educating children early about the benefits of eating properly. Oliver himself was awarded an MBE by the Queen (a civilian medal of honor for service to the country.) His approach has been used with great success across Europe.

Then he came to America.

You can watch the details of Oliver’s treatment at the hands of US school employees he met and the US media in general on YouTube (‘We don’t want to eat lettuce all day, who made you king?’) sufficed to say he was shot down in flames from minute one, and he returned home having failed completely.

Recent discussion about the growing cost of healthcare delivery remains focused on the level of investment necessary to keep the nation healthy, but to endlessly debate legislation and government investment misses the long term issue entirely.

The spiraling cost of healthcare in the US may be the direct result of defensive medicine, malpractice and government mandated programs like EHR, but there is no question where the real answer to reduced health care spending lays – healthier people.

It is education and not legislation that is the real answer.

The British chef and campaigner for healthy food 
in schools suffered a series of media beatings.
When Jamie Oliver was sent packing so emphatically by a firmly united front of American education workers, local media and national TV personalities, this country missed a major opportunity to start the move toward lower healthcare costs. 

Regular exercise, healthy eating and the limitation of obviously dangerous practices like smoking and heavy drinking are the keys to lower spending. This begins and ends with personal choices. The earlier we begin to encourage these choices the better.

One of the many reasons David Letterman gave Jamie Oliver (a long time friend of his incidentally) for why he would fail was the power of fast food chains. They’re not going anywhere, he says.

A typical McDonalds in London
McDonalds is not going away, but it can be forced to evolve. In the UK, it has. Gone are the gaudy red signs and plastic furniture, in favor of subtle dark green and high-spec leather chairs. Salads are not an after thought, they are a key part of the menu, as are many other healthy choices. You can still get a Big Mac if you want one, but McDonalds knows its future success depends on delivering more healthy options because they are simply what the consumer wants.

We the people are in charge of what fast food chains serve. We have the power in the long term to reduce the cost of healthcare in this country through the way we live. It’s happening in other countries, we could make it happen here.  

This would dramatically shift the debate about healthcare spending. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wagging the PhoneDog: Why your business needs a Social Media policy now.

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.
“We weren’t equipped to have a policy on this stuff.  It was all brand new. The lines were blurred.”

This is not a phrase any corporate HR department wants to hear. In a world where new technology is constantly redrawing the boundaries between employer and employee, blurred lines and an absence of policy spell trouble for everyone.

The words belong to Noah Kravitz, the employee at the center of the now infamous PhoneDog situation. 

You can read the Mashable article for background, but the Cliff notes read as follows: While employed by PhoneDog, Kravitz built a 17,000 strong Twitter following under the name ‘PhoneDog_Noah’. When he left PhoneDog he took the account with him. He maintains that the account belongs to him; PhoneDog disagree and are suing him for $2.50 per follower. 

To say that opinion is divided on the subject would be putting it mildly. Debates have erupted across online and offline media and there are certainly convincing arguments on both sides.

What is still occurring to most people is that we need to jump out in front of this issue and work out what we can do today to limit our exposure to similar cases involving our own businesses.

Here are some questions to ask yourself about your company and social media, along with some lessons already available from PhoneDog’s predicament. 

Who is using Social Media within your business? And what happens if they leave?
It may not be enough to know the ‘who’. PhoneDog knew they were paying the guy to do it, they just hadn’t thought it through. There was no exit strategy.

What are they using it for?
Is it personal use that references the corporate brand, or is it corporate use that has a personal touch? This will be the essence of the PhoneDog case.

Why are they using it?
If you don’t see a business value in an instance where your brand is referenced by an employee in social media, you should ask for it to be removed immediately.

Is there any success you could take advantage of?
17,000 followers is a major asset. You can bet that if PhoneDog weren’t concerned enough to cover the downside, then they surely hadn’t fully appreciated the positive possibilities.

What steps can you take to iron out any ambiguity?
Anything you can do to create clarity will protect you. Formal agreements signed at the point of hire will make things clear for everyone. You have far more leverage early on than you do further down the line when an employee realizes the value of what they have created.

Naming conventions for your company on Social Media will also be advantageous. ‘JohnSmith’ will unequivocally point to John Smith’s ownership. ‘ABC_Inc’ will be equally clear. ‘ABC_John’ will be problematic.

Regardless of which view ultimately wins through in the legal battle – the message for employers is clear enough already: Roll out a clear policy that leaves as little room for ambiguity as possible; you will be in a much stronger position when it’s your turn. And your turn is coming.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Thinking about moonlighting in 2012? Here are five questions to test your ethics

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.
by Josh Kaplan

Last year, Microsoft relaxed their rules governing employees developing products outside work. This very popular change allowed staff to develop applications for Windows products and enjoy the financial benefits. The result? Through 2011, 840 employee designed apps were published to the marketplace. That’s value added for Microsoft’s offering, value delivered to the customer and extra money made by committed staff with good ideas.

Moonlighting has always been an ethical gray area. Opinion remains hugely divided as to what is and isn’t ethical when it comes to making money on the side of a full time job. Here are five things to ask yourself before you pursue outside opportunities.

Does it feel right?
The simplest test is probably the best one. Look in the mirror. Would you want your favorite schoolteacher to see you do this? When you explain this to your teenage nephew, are you going to be able to tell the absolute truth and be comfortable? If you find yourself trying to justify something that most people would think was disingenuous, it probably is. And if there’s a real ethical issue, you’re going to find a load of other issues attached to it.

Do you know where you stand legally?
It’s not all ethics. There is a lot of legislation and it varies from country to country and from state to state. Ultimately you could have problems over ownership of the ideas you have while you’re employed. If it comes down to a legal battle, you may lose what you’ve developed. 

Are there mutual benefits?
As with the Microsoft example, if you’re benefiting your employer and their customers, you’re likely to find yourself on firm ground. Why wouldn’t they bless your efforts if it’s in their interests as well?

Are there opportunities you haven’t thought of?
Your employer may have more than a blessing to offer. They might be prepared to invest if they can see the benefits. Think about opportunities to get funding and support for your ideas. It may be best for everyone.

Will it be worth it overall?
You need to balance the various risks and rewards and consider every aspect of what you’re planning. Are you looking to replace your day job or just supplement your income? Imagine what success would look like and decide if the things It will take to get there are worth it. If you jump without looking you could find yourself working very hard and not seeing a return on your investment of time and resources. Ultimately, you’ll be starting your own business. The vast majority of new businesses fail because entrepreneurs get carried away with a vision and don’t look at the daily reality before they start. That includes finding small ways to test the market as you go along so that you're not wasting time pursuing an idea that the market simply didn't want, or that someone else already tried.

When all is said and done, a great idea will benefit someone. If you think you’ve got one, pursue it with all the effort and commitment it deserves. Just make sure you’re setting yourself up to succeed before you start.