Photo: Sharon McCutcheon

Promoting Diversity and Maintaining an Inclusive Culture

As the spotlight has brightened on racism. In response to recent miscarriages of justice, the emphasis on identifying racism within other aspects of life has also grown. As business leaders, it is vital to stand with the advocacy for change. Although oftentimes difficult, encouraging honest discussions around diversity and inclusivity in the workplace is crucial. 

For many, this conversation is not new. Dated ideologies and racist operations have influenced hiring practices regularly. Those out-of-date paradigms have also permitted a single race and gender to employ higher positions for decades. According to Fortune, high-ranking officials within 16 of the Fortune 500 companies are 80% men, and 72% of those men are white. In order to break this flawed mold and implement diversity, much work has to be done by industry leaders. 

The Advantages of Promoting Diversity and Inclusivity

Fostering a diverse and inclusive organization has many benefits such as increased profit, impressive talent acquisition, as well as the strengthening of employee bonds. Yes, conversations surrounding diversity and inclusivity can be difficult. However, this is the opportune time for leaders to disrupt archaic norms. And it is the perfect time to implement hiring practices that seek out brilliant talent from every background. 

So, what can business owners and leaders do to promote diversity and maintain an inclusive culture? With these advantages below, leaders across any industry can recognize the essential nature of workplace diversity. 

Financial Gain 

From a business standpoint, racial diversity in the workplace isn’t merely a perk. In fact, diversity is a necessity for competitiveness in corporate America. Not only do inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time, but many consumers actively seek out organizations with diverse decision-makers. Additionally, these brands can also build stronger audience connections. 

Further, it is no secret that marketing a business can be difficult. However, inclusive marketing can be a different beast altogether. Within marketing, there is a heavy lack of cultural intelligence from brands, and this void can result in minimized profits as some audiences won’t purchase from you due to a lack of acknowledgment. Campaigns without cultural intelligence run the risk of coming off as tone-deaf or insensitive. They perhaps then result in public outcry, concluding in a company apology with a promise to “do better.” 

By investing in employees with different perspectives, lived experiences, and understandings of diverse markets, you can promote your business from several unique standpoints and gain a competitive edge. This allows a separation from competitors, and perhaps engagement from consumers outside of initial target audiences. Subsequently, you can net greater profits, while exhibiting your care for people of different races, genders, ages, sexualities, and identities. 

Expanded Talent Pool 

 For most leaders in the highly competitive business world, acquiring the best talent is priority. Exclusively employing talent of a particular ethnicity, age, or gender minimizes the talent pool you can choose from. With that said, having an organization run by one race or gender can only reflect narrow perspectives. That scenario, perhaps inadvertently, also demonstrates to the public that you don’t recognize a necessity for diverse opinions.

Hiring with cultural diversity in mind — which encapsulates race, culture, age, religion, sexuality, and gender identity — expands your talent pool. This expansion permits your organization to solely focus on what candidates can bring to the table such as: skill sets, experience, and creativity. By eradicating those subconsciously biased candidate limitations, you can prioritize and encourage mind-expansion and exploration for your company. This can equate to bigger, brighter innovations that may not have been otherwise explored. This eradication also improves your brand’s attractiveness and invites new consumers. 

As your organization flourishes due to new minds with intersectional inputs, your brand has the opportunity to convey a modern attractiveness that invites more talent acquisition, fortuitous business opportunities and more financially prosperous avenues. 

Better Engagement and Satisfaction 

As one can probably imagine, being a “token” person of color in the workplace isn’t fun. When employees work amongst others who look like them or share lived experiences, a workplace confidence is bred, thus inspiring collaboration, innovation and creativity to take place. 

Employees need their ideas, opinions and perspectives to matter. Likewise, employees want to work for a company that entrusts people like them who also actively advocate for positive change. When employees feel respected and valued, especially if they may have endured ridicule in the past, aspects of work like productivity, engagement, and overall satisfaction within the workplace is improved. 

This is vital because boosts in company morale and workplace culture only benefit your organization. Happy employees equate to enhanced production, which equates to higher brand attractiveness and in turn, increased company profits. 

Maintaining an Understanding Organization and Prioritizing Inclusion

In efforts to promote diversity within your organization, below are a few strategies to help start off the process of consistently seeking to be more understanding and inclusive.

Take an Honest Internal Look

How do you assess the current state of diversity within your organization? Analyze how many people of color you currently employ, as well as previously hired and sought out for recruitment. This can provide insight on the level of (or lack of) diversity. This data can also show any discriminatory biases that occur within your company, unknowingly or otherwise. 

Consistently Educate Yourself and Your Staff

There are many misconceptions around what discrimination looks like. So it is important to outline what words and behaviors are unacceptable at work. Teach your staff about micro-aggressions and what discrimination may look like to people of various, intersecting backgrounds. In addition to this, be sure to emphasize the impacts of discrimination, big or small, and stress a no-tolerance policy. 

Promote an Open Dialogue

In efforts to grasp difficult topics, learn from each other and get to know each other on a personal level. Encourage employees to unpack biases and/or racist tendencies. Emphasize how harmful it is to act on those beliefs. During these discussions, tread lightly. After all, you don’t want to offend employees, Nor do you want to force someone to discuss personal adversity.  

As industry leaders, this is your chance to spearhead positive change by implementing workplace diversity and inclusivity. It is important to note that no one has all the “right” answers respective to ending discrimination in the workplace. No one can tell you exactly how to eradicate biases. Nonetheless, these issues are serious. And organizations must diligently protect those at risk of enduring injustices.

Overall, focus on harmonizing the workplace by creating a safe and welcoming environment for everyone — irrespective of race, gender, age, sexuality, disability, identity, and/or religion.

Photo: You X Ventures

Don’t Sacrifice Talent To Survive a Crisis

Nobody needs to tell you that we’re in hard times. A pandemic is sweeping the nation, a trail of personal and economic devastation behind it, and frightening uncertainty ahead. Businesses are struggling to figure out the best path to survival. For many leaders, the impulse is, understandably, to lessen their organizations’ financial load with layoffs.

The good news is that eventually, through the efforts of courageous health care workers and our technology, we will defeat the virus, and life and work will return to a version of normal. And many economists predict that when this happens, our mothballed world economy will snap back to life, unleashing a wave of pent-up demand.

Will your company survive and be ready for this?

After all, consider what happened post 9/11. After the attacks, the world economy reeled, oil prices surged, and the stock markets plunged as the world braced for war in the Middle East. Many companies, fearful about the future, indulged in a layoff binge, slashing their workforce without thought to who their top talent was, or what current and future skills the organization might need to remain viable and recover with the economy.

But then the economy quickly rebounded, and the downturn turned out to be what economists call a “V-shaped recession.” The sharp decline in GDP was followed by an almost equally sharp increase in business activity. At this point, companies found that the talent they let go was desperately needed. They scrambled, and the result was a massive hiring binge to fill the gap that they themselves created.

The fact is that fundamentally, there was nothing significantly wrong with the underlying economics on September 11th, 2001. The economic downturn was not caused by normal business cycle considerations, the firing binge was followed by a scramble to replenish a depleted workforce.

Today, the pandemic is cutting a swath through what otherwise had been a robust economy, so the mistakes of 9/11 are a cautionary tale.

If you are among the business leaders queuing up the pink slips in reaction to this unprecedented crisis, I urge you to stop, take a breath, and think your next steps through — lest you sacrifice valuable employees in your rush for short-term relief.

While I understand some companies are in crisis and don’t have the luxury of time to pause for analysis, most do have the wherewithal, and I would argue, a duty to their workforce and, if public, their shareholders to proceed with wisdom and caution.

So instead of rushing to throw off what might feel like human ballast, consult with your HR executives to put together a strategic workplace plan, or crisis plan, by performing a three-dimensional review of your current workforce, considering more than headcount and cost. Instead of responding in panic only to the here and now, look ahead, 6 to 18 months in the future, and decide:

  • What skills your people have today and what your organization will need
  • How to ensure you have an adequate supply of these skills and where to deploy them
  • Your succession plan for key leaders

Upon sober reflection of these needs, you probably will find that you can keep most of your workforce in place, and you will be ready to make clear decisions based on your data and forecasts. Additionally, doing a strategic workforce crisis plan will set you up for the future by seeing how you can maximize the productivity of the workforce you have. From this plan you will be in position to drive higher performance and workforce engagement, creating what I call “PEIP capability,” where PEIP = People Engagement, Innovation and Performance.

PEIP is a strategic capability that not only creates higher performance, it creates a more engaged workplace, which naturally leads to greater productivity. Who doesn’t want to work in an organization that wants to optimize employees and work with their skills and their career aspirations? A workplace that tries to align people to what they do best? An engaged workplace is a fun place to work, but it is also a competitive advantage. Some of the highest performing companies, such as Google, Microsoft, Accenture, IBM, and SAP, have implemented PEIP strategies to create competitive advantage, and this is reflected in their people engagement scores as well as share-price performance.

PEIP can also help future-proof your organization. New smart technologies and AI perme.ating the workplace create another opportunity for the workforce and the organization to align the right people with the right skills to harness new technology. This creates a “turbo-charging” effect, driving more engagement, innovation, and productivity, as well as return on investment on IT spend.   

We are at the fork in the road — once again. It’s a scary time, but rife with opportunity for companies that respond with foresight. We can do as we have done for decades before and continue the hire/fire binge, or we can step back and be more strategic and thoughtful in addressing the current crisis, while at the same time positioning our businesses to thrive in the future — whatever it brings.

Photo: Tumisu

Recruit Top Talent With Tuition Assistance Programs

What do Apple, Disney, Verizon, Google, and Starbucks have in common? They’re all multi-billion dollar companies, and they all offer tuition reimbursement to their employees. And they’re showing that a company benefits by paying fees for their employees’ education. Tuition assistance is a win for both employers and employees.

A Growing Trend in Employee Benefits

Tuition assistance programs are a type of employee benefits in which the employer pays for a predetermined amount of continuing education costs for their employees. Assistance may come in the form of reimbursements for tuition, fees, and books.

Some employers may opt to cover the full cost associated with the education, while others may choose to pay a portion. Some might pay upfront; others per course/semester.

To protect themselves from employees taking advantage of the program and leaving the company, employers take various measures, such as requiring the beneficiaries of the program to remain in the company for a specified time — or be required to reimburse the company for part of the fees paid on their behalf.

The Benefit for Companies

As skilled talent becomes harder to find, many companies are looking to grow from within. As of 2018, 85% of US employers surveyed were offering tuition assistance to some or all employees, according to a study by WorldatWork. Here’s what companies gain:

1. Reduced Tax Burden

Companies with tuition assistance policies for their employees can benefit from tax breaks. That’s because money spent on paying employee education expenses is tax-deductible if it meets the IRS requirements.

Under section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code, an employer can deduct up to $5,250 per year for each employee that qualifies and participates in the employer’s education assistance plan.

With the US government facilitating the implementation and adoption of tuition assistance programs, there is no reason for an organization not to take advantage of this opportunity.   

2. Free Part-time Work (Depending on a Company’s Tuition Assistance Policy)

Besides the tax break, companies can also get free part-time work and increased brand awareness by offering tuition reimbursement.

For example, Finnegan, a Washington-based law firm that specializes in intellectual property law has an attractive reimbursement program that covers 100% of employee’s tuition fees.

To qualify for the program, staffers must work as “student associates” while they attend law school. This program is a win-win for all; the company gets part-time work from the student and the student gets free tuition. What’s not to like, especially if you’re going to a top law school like Harvard on someone else’s dime.

According to BLS, lawyers make $122,960 on average but can expect to pay anywhere from $12,000 to $70,000 for the LLM (Master of Law) program. But with a tuition reimbursement program, like the one for Finnegan, the cost can be reduced to nil.

3. Help Businesses Attract Top Talent

It’s no secret that every company wants to attract, recruit, and retain top talents.

To achieve this, many companies offer attractive benefits and perks. Some will opt for vacation days, others gym membership, and a few will stick to industry-standard salaries.

But when you look at the various generational cohorts in the workplace (Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z), you may come to realize that you’re not giving your employees what they actually want. For instance, millennials comprise a majority of the American workforce.

That means for a business to have the people it needs, it may need to fish from the millennials pond. And to attract and retain millennials, you’ll want to give them what motivates them most. And that is, you guessed right: tuition reimbursement.

Don’t take our word for it. In a recent Gallup’s survey on ‘The State of the American Workforce,’ 45% of millennials said they would change their current jobs for one that offers tuition reimbursement. By comparison, 24% of baby boomers and Gen Xers said they won’t change jobs on the basis of tuition reimbursement alone.

4. Helps Employers Reduce Turnover

Offering tuition assistance helps to reduce employee turnover and the associated costs.

And there is no better example to bring this point home than the case of Cigna, which was published by the Lumina Foundation.

From 2012 to 2014, Cigna Corporation invested millions of dollars in tuition assistance through its Education Reimbursement Program (ERP). By the end of 2014, ERP resulted in a staggering 129% increase in ROI as a result of the avoided talent management and recruitment costs.

When a company invests in its employees’ development and success, the employees feel obliged to reciprocate by helping the company grow. In a nutshell, a tuition reimbursement program fosters a sense of loyalty between the employee and the employer.

Wrapping Up

Tuition assistance provides an effective way for employers to nurture their employees’ skills through continuing education programs. 

But as businesses and schools around the world cancel physical meetings in response to COVID-19, in-class learning is emerging as one of the hardest-hit activities. However, businesses can’t afford to put capability building on hold. 

To foster employee development in the midst of COVID-19, employers can encourage their employees to do remote learning by offering tuition reimbursement programs. With remote learning, completions can be done from any location, and what better time than now when employees can’t do their normal jobs?

Photo: Jose Mizrahi

#WorkTrends: Building Trust In Uncertain Times

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast, so you don’t miss an episode.

It’s safe to say uncertainty is universal these days. But how do we get past it and stay engaged in our work? Remember the T-word: trust. So I invited Iain Moffat, Chief Global Officer of MHR International, to #WorkTrends to share his best practices for building workplace trust during these uncertain times.

Iain said we need to be better listeners to be better communicators. And organizations really need to step up their game on this, and “address and communicate aspects around safety, the relationship, and the connected aspects of work,” he added. I wanted to know what else companies can do to enable their employees to trust them and feel trusted. 

Iain’s answer: make a conscious effort. Managers must regularly communicate, actively listen, and continue to work through the kinks of being remote and virtual. You only learn by doing, so start now. Treat trust as a collaboration. 

Here’s another straightforward way to build trust between managers and employees:  invest time in really checking in. Don’t just run a checkup. Regular check-ins can help employees stay motivated. Plus, it’s an opportunity to tackle deeper questions about where your organization is heading and how that employee fits into it all. Creating this sense of belonging can even lead to better employee performance. And besides, it makes everyone feel better.

We covered a lot of ground in this discussion, so I encourage you to have a listen for yourself. Got feedback? Feel free to weigh in on Twitter or on LinkedIn. (And make sure to add the #WorkTrends hashtag so others in the TalentCulture community can follow along.)

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why do organizations struggle with building trust? #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies can boost trust and a sense of belonging remotely? #WorkTrends
Q3: How can leaders overcome uncertainty and promote a sense of trust? #WorkTrends

Find Iain Moffat on Linkedin and Twitter

This podcast is sponsored by MHR International.

(Editor’s note: In August we’ll be announcing upcoming changes to #WorkTrends podcasts and Twitter chats. To learn about these changes as they unfold, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.)

Photo: Ali Yahya

#WorkTrends: Going Gig: Freelancing in HR

Meghan invited both Chris Russell, the founder of HR Lancers, and Jim Stroud, VP of Marketing at Proactive Talent, to talk about the new trend in HR: hiring freelancers and consultants to fill in the gaps. 

COVID-19’s uncertainties are leaving no field untouched, including HR. As Jim said, “if employees hear the whiff of a rumor, or a layoff or have any kind of indication that their job might be in jeopardy or a furlough,” they might venture to freelance as a quick way to gain income and stay afloat. Further, freelancing is on the rise among millennials who are leaving the city. They can make their living at home — now more than ever before, noted Meghan. 

But not everyone’s cut out for the gig, Jim said. It takes self-discipline and the ability to self-structure, particularly now. Schedules may be more flexible, but kids and mounting responsibilities can add up. But the demand is there: Companies are hiring experts to help bridge the gaps, and sourcing out project-based, niched assignments like crafting job descriptions or writing a handbook. For smaller companies, this may be an effective solution. 

And if we see universal healthcare, said Chris, we’ll also see an explosion in freelancers. Meghan concurred: If benefits weren’t tied to employment, a lot more people would go independent. And that’s something companies need to think about, Jim added. Companies could be much more competitive at attracting top freelancers if they offered to cover healthcare expenses for the duration of a gig. And Meghan predicts we’ll see HR shifting along with the rest of the gig economy‚ and it’s going to be interesting to see how that changes our practices. 

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode.

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why are more organizations hiring freelancers for HR? #WorkTrends
Q2: How is freelancing changing the nature of HR? #WorkTrends
Q3: How can leaders better attract top HR freelancers? #WorkTrends

Find Chris Russell on Linkedin and Twitter

Find Jim Stroud on Linkedin and Twitter

Photo: Ben Stern

#WorkTrends: Incorporating New Hires into Work Cultures

The big question: Can managers effectively integrate new hires into a company work culture when everyone is working from home? The answer is a resounding yes. But how?

To explore this question further, Meghan invited John Baldino to share strategies that can help businesses successfully hire and onboard top talent remotely. John is the president and founder of Humareso, an HR firm that’s helping organizations not only manage their talent, but better onboard new hires into the culture.

John stresses communication as a key component of any culture, but especially important for remote workplaces. Seasoned employees may have the advantage of familiarity, “but that’s not really fair to the new person coming in,” John said. Managers need to take an intentional approach to communication that isn’t just about the nuts and bolts of tasks at hand, as Meghan noted. It’s got to have plenty of room to be human and have real conversations. 

Where are the blind spots? Look at the camera, John said. Too many of us don’t know where to look, and that can make for very awkward meetings. And that’s as true for managers as for anyone. So we all have to make sure we’re comfortable with the tech. And don’t try to make eye contact, because it doesn’t translate on video. You’ll look like you’re not looking at the person you’re talking to. Just making sure the tech is up to date is important as well, and that’s every company’s responsibility. We all have to get more comfortable with the technology and being remote, Meghan said. It’s a steep learning curve, and we’re still on it. 

So much has changed in the process of hiring. Consider the old normal orientation schedules — which played an effective role in portraying a company’s culture. Now we need to deliver that via chat across managers and departments, said John. But you can’t glean the essence of a culture (let alone participate in it) in just a few days of Zoom calls, Meghan said. Build in the time to let it all sink in. And make sure your managers have the resources they need to support new hires, and can provide flexibility to accommodate the new work/life construct.  

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode.

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why do organizations struggle with onboarding? #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies help bring new hires into the work culture? #WorkTrends
Q3: How can leaders better shape an onboarding strategy? #WorkTrends

Find John Baldino on Linkedin and Twitter

How to Prove You Have the Skills Tech Recruiters Value Most

Recruitment in any industry is a difficult process. Finding staff that are not only qualified to the role, but fit into your company (and will stay with you) is important if you want the process to be sustainable and financially prudent.

In the tech industry, there are even more considerations and pitfalls when trying to attract the best talent. To find out what recruiters in the industry were looking for (and struggling to find), tech job recruitment specialists, Modis, spoke to 500 IT decision makers. So, what do they want, and how can candidates show it?

Teamwork and interpersonal skills

31 percent of recruiters said that teamwork and interpersonal skills were the most difficult skills to find. While so-called ‘soft skills’ may not be the most obvious requirement recruiters look for in tech roles, this highlights how important these skills are. While working in tech and IT does often require a mind with the ability to focus on and complete tasks without supervision, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to work with other people. When applying for roles in the industry, candidates should emphasize their ability to work harmoniously with others and give practical examples to support their claims.

Project management

While management of others is a specified role and doesn’t necessarily need to be a requirement of every tech job, the ability to manage your own projects is vital. Surprisingly, it seems to be lacking in many candidates, with 21 percent of decision makers saying it was the hardest skill to find when looking for appropriate staff. So, what do interviewers look for?

“They have to have a methodology,” Donna Farrugia, executive director of The Creative Group says. “Maybe they use software, or a book, or they just have years of experience.” Demonstrate your process when applying for roles and use real life examples when possible to give your experience a practical edge. You could even demonstrate a plan using your process with knowledge of the company you’re applying for to really show off your skills.

Security and infrastructure

You don’t have to look far in the news to find a story about hacking, leaked documents or a company’s website being compromised. So, it makes sense that recruiters see practical knowledge about security and infrastructure to be an important part of any tech recruit. However, 22 percent of those surveyed said it was still one skill area they struggled to find staff with.

Stay up to date with trends and news in the industry, mainly because this will help you do your job more effectively, and mean you can spot threats early. However, it will also demonstrate to an employer that the security of their business is a priority to you and make you seem like a safe pair of hands.

A loyal track record

A proven track record of employee loyalty is always a good sign of an employee’s intentions. Over half of recruiters surveyed (58 percent) said a candidate with five or more years at their previous post was a more attractive prospect to them. While this isn’t something job seekers can necessarily work on as a skill, it should factor in to your decision making when assessing job prospects and changes in role. If you’re thinking about changing your current role after only a short space of time, consider the reasons you’re doing it, and the ramifications of a patchy resume. Lots of short stints at different companies can appear inconsistent and ‘flighty’, so sticking out a job for a few extra months, even if it’s not your thing, can mean a stronger looking track record for the future.

There are some huge skill gaps when it comes to tech recruitment. While some of them, such as security and infrastructure, can be addressed with training, others such as social skills are often inherent. The tech industry, by its nature, does attract candidates with analytical minds. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t be analytical and social, but it means if you are, and you demonstrate loyalty and an ability to take control of project and drive it to the next level, you’ll have recruiters knocking down your door.

Photo Credit: primeprogressive Flickr via Compfight cc

Five Tips to Win the War for Talent in 2017

When you have a low unemployment rate and a growing economy, it’s a job seeker’s market. In fact, 63 percent of full-time employees are looking for a new job right now. In other words, the companies that offer the best employee value will attract not only those who are out of work but the best of the best who are seeking greener pastures but not necessarily in a rush to jump ship.

With 70 percent of Gen Y employees and 50 percent of Gen X workers planning to spend fewer than five years in their current roles, don’t you want your company to be the one that wins the war for their talents?

To stand out from the crowd of employers, here are five tips to implement now:

1. Make it all about the perks (well, almost). Don’t worry, you don’t have to install a giant slide or hire an on-site sushi chef to make a strong impression. Perks can encompass any benefit that lets your employees know they are appreciated. Some to consider are free food, a superior health care package, flex time, or even having a pet-friendly office. If you think these things are superficial, consider that 43 percent of millennials in a Met Life survey said they’d switch jobs if given more flexible hours elsewhere.

What to do: Survey your employees to get a sense of what type of perks they’d appreciate most. Are they more apt to enjoy a game room or half-day Fridays? Then, begin incorporating a couple of benefits that fit your budget and appeal to the majority of your staff. Even small efforts can go a long way.

2. Cough up the cash. Of course, no one wants to be underpaid for his or her hard work, so a competitive salary offering is key to recruiting survival. Unfortunately, there’s often a disconnect between what employers perceive to be fair compensation, and how staffers actually feel about their paychecks. The 2016 Payscale Compensation Best Practices found that 78 percent of employers believe their salaries were adequate, but only 45 percent of employees said they felt valued by their employer.

What to do: To ensure you’re offering a fair wage, consider doing a market study to get a better sense of what your competitors are paying their top talent. Then, offer at least that, and/or try to sweeten the pot with additional perks.

3. Create a culture of innovation. No one wants to feel like a cog in the wheel—today’s employees want the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to help their companies succeed. While removing the traditional hierarchy structure from your firm might be extreme, having more of an open-door policy that welcomes new ideas and opening up collaborative projects to a variety of team members is a good start.

What to do: Provide staffers with autonomy and professional engagement, but more important, give them permission to fail. Innovation cannot happen if everyone is worried about of making a mistake.

4. Give them room to grow. As I mentioned earlier, people don’t necessarily want to stick around in one company for an extended period, and that’s usually because they end up stuck in a rut. Businesses that find ways to keep their employees engaged and challenged will have more success attracting and retaining talent. In fact, a recent report found that 63 percent of workers rank training programs as one of the top drivers of culture.

What to do: Give your employees a reason to stay by offering training and development programs, promoting from within, and helping them advance their careers.

5. Be inclusive. When the same few people make all the hiring decisions, you can end up with a homogenized workforce—and a limited talent pool. Instead, leverage your entire network of employees to help source potential candidates, which can contribute to broadening your search for talent.

What to do: Begin using an employee referral program to include your workforce in the hunt for talent, and incentivize them. You might also bring different members of the organization beyond HR in on the candidate interviewing and vetting processes to get some new perspectives and help identify the best cultural fits for the company.

A version of this was first posted on

No is Not a Bad Word

There’s a saying in business: “If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person.” But is that fair to the busy person? It makes sense that organizations would want to give crucial work assignments to their most talented and productive employees. They know these workers will come through, having already proven themselves to be highly competent multi-taskers and the ultimate team players. These employees are great at just about everything—with the possible exception of saying “no.” But, “no” is not necessarily a bad word.

Is there a reason employees should be cultivating the fine art of saying no? As it turns out, there are several good reasons, but it’s often tough for employees to do. Some may feel the only way to advance is by taking on every work assignment the boss throws their way. Others may be reluctant to say no because of fear—fear they’ll lose their jobs or lose status in the workplace. They may also feel guilty about the potential of letting down a boss or a colleague. So, they hide their misgivings and take on the additional workload.

The Consequences of Saying Yes

HR executives should consider what the burden of such a workload would do to the prospect of keeping their best employees around for the long term. An organization’s most valued employees, because of their reluctance to say no, may find themselves buried under an avalanche of work. This could lead to burnout and ultimately may prompt them to leave for less stressful work environs.

So, how do organizations stave off this potential problem? The key is to cultivate a culture that eliminates the negative repercussions associated with employees saying no. Instead, companies should encourage employees, to be honest about their capacity for taking on new work assignments. HR executives should convey this message to employers and employees alike: Don’t just look at the repercussions of saying no; also, weigh the consequences of saying yes—namely poorer job performance and detrimental effects on employees’ job satisfaction—and possibly even their health.

The Benefits of Saying No

Saying no can have more benefits than people realize. Here are a few to consider:

It keeps employees from spreading themselves too thin. Employees who never turn down a work assignment may become overloaded to the point that they are no longer effective. Amy Morin, author of “13 Things Mentally Strong people Don’t Do,” captures this sentiment well in a video on the news website Business Insider: “Every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else that you could be doing with your time.”

It helps employees focus on what they are already working on. By limiting the number of work assignments, you enable your team to concentrate on bringing individual projects to fruition. This is far better than expecting an employee to juggle multiple work assignments at once, elongating the time it takes to complete any of them in a satisfactory manner.

It lets employees know you value their judgment. There’s no one in a better position to comment upon the advisability of taking on new work assignments than individual employees themselves. If you value their ability to take on a project, you should also value their judgment in assessing their capacity for doing the work. Hallie Crawford, a contributor to U.S. News & World Report, explains how this reflects well on an employee: “It takes emotional intelligence to not just react to a situation or a request, but take the time to step back, reflect on the best course of action, then act accordingly.”

It encourages employees to set appropriate boundaries. Even the most dedicated employee deserves to have a personal life without work obligations regularly encroaching about their weekends and evenings. Employees should be able to spend time with their families without feeling guilty or stressed out about work.

It leads to happier, more satisfied employees. An excessive workload is a leading contributor to work-related stress, business experts report. Having too much work leads to another stressor—the difficulty of juggling work and personal lives, which can detrimentally affect an employee’s level of health and happiness. Giving employees permission to say no to excessive work assignments is a way to relieve such stress and increase their positive engagement in the workplace, which ultimately determines an employee’s satisfaction, commitment, and enthusiasm for their work.

A version of this was first posted on Huffington

Photo Credit: gianghoàng2 Flickr via Compfight cc

It Takes Talent To Become A Top Recruiter

Job seekers these days have few advantages when applying for jobs if they don’t have an inside contact to smooth the path. The best recruiters make it easy to connect and make it possible to forge a working relationship with the brand. A recruiters job is to find top talent, yes, but a big part of that job is defending the brand against bad hires – think of Zappos’ practice of buying out employees who don’t “fit” quickly. And they continue to innovate. Zappos’ is currently doing a great job of spotlighting their recruiters. A brand win, win. This means, as with in-the-trenches HR, a large part of their job is risk management. It’s not that they’re against you, candidates; it’s more that they’re for the company and culture first. If you turn out to be the ideal candidate that’s a bonus, but it’s not job #1.

I think a lot of people – both recruiters and candidates – thought HR tech, in the form of job microsites, job boards, and HR technologies, would help rebuild the shaky bridge between employer brand, internal recruiter/external recruiter and the candidate experience. And for some companies it has done the job, principally because the brand awareness is so strong. (TOMS Shoes, Apple, and Google come to mind.) For these companies, candidates self-select before they enter the recruiting pipeline. This candidate-centric approach requires a very strong brand and equally strong recruiting practices.

For companies without a strong brand, or with a lot of heavyweight process in recruiting, the balance needs to shift back to a talent-centric focus, away from heavy process. How does that happen? One way is through brand visibility and online social learning.

Recruiting As A Social Reality Show

Thinking about training may send a shiver down your spine. Chain hotel ballrooms and meeting rooms; meh food; endless PowerPoint presentations given by tedious speakers. Anxious attendees, desperately networking. It’s hardly a recipe for learning, let alone success. Here, as elsewhere, we can learn a lot from technology, even 80-year-old technology.

So I encourage you to add a dose of reality (and fun) by watching the Top Recruiter Miami social show and competition. Executive Producer Chris Lavoie has done a great job borrowing the “top chef” model and applying it to the world of social and recruiting. This year’s event, scheduled for three weeks from now in Miami, will be more than entertaining TV (no Snooki, alas) – it’s a master class in how to be a top recruiter, one who puts the candidate and the brand first.

As Chris points out, an estimated $140 billion dollars are spent on recruiting every year. That is a huge amount of money, and some employers may question the ROI on the investment. Chris also notes a world-class recruiter has to have multiple skill sets, what he calls “the right combination of people, business and street smarts”.

So put the show on your radar, and in the meantime let’s think about what the top recruiter skill set really is.

Five Candidate and Brand-Centric Recruiting Skills:

Be Curious: this is table stakes but worth mentioning. For example, recruiters don’t have to be technologists, but they must be conversant with tech terminology if they hope to attract the best tech candidates. If you don’t know the difference between Java and C#, you won’t have much success lining up the right candidate. Be a student of the market for which you’re recruiting. Know the influencers, read the news, follow the investments.

Be Focused: more table stakes, but it’s been amazing to me, in my years as a recruiter, how many recruiters I meet who lack simple focus. They move from opportunity to opportunity; they neglect to build relationships with brands and candidates. They’re robo-recruiters, robo-calling or trolling LinkedIn with the most minimal level of commitment and effort. They aren’t candidate  or job seeker advocates: they are working on their retirement strategies. Don’t be this person, or if you are, rethink about your career calling as a recruiter.

Be Intuitive: intuition is pure gold. It will tell you when a candidate isn’t quite as presented in his or her resume, and when a CEO is really a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If you rely entirely on HR tech to recruit, your intuition muscle will atrophy and you’ll be at risk of making bad hires. Mix it up: use technology to make your life easier, and intuition to make the hiring process more effective.

Be People-focused: technology and process are necessary but not sufficient. You need to know and genuinely like people. Be a student of human nature, know how to read body language, how to catch little hesitations in speech and spot a too-quick shift of the eye. You need to be friendly and open to put people at ease, and savvy enough to know when you’re being played.

Be Brand-aware: don’t work for brands you don’t believe in. Don’t work for managers who are clearly toxic. Keep your ear tuned for dissonance when you speak to candidates: What worked at their last job? What were the barriers? What were the things, if changed, that would have kept them in the job? Why did they leave?

We need, as an industry, to restore the balance between classic, candidate-centric recruiting and technology-assisted, process-driven recruiting. We need to help the companies we work with improve candidate experience while hiring the right person. In some ways we have to be two things at the same time: a brand advocate, for sure, and a candidate advocate. It’s not a Jekyll-Hyde thing. You can do it. Just focus on people first, and the rest will follow.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

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The Manager’s Guide To Developing A Growth Mindset

A dramatic shift in the job market has led many companies to turn to feedback to improve employee retention rates. Unlike in the past, employees are feeling less tied to company loyalty and freer to take on new opportunities. Millennials in particular are notorious for their job-hopping tendencies, with most being expected to stick with each job for less than three years. Employee turnover can result in major costs for your company, and significantly impact company morale. Think about how much time you’re already spending recruiting new people to replace those who left.

Attracting top talent will also become more challenging as potential hires are not only looking at salaries, but also quality of the work environment. Rating based reviews on websites like Glassdoor are helping hires become more selective and raising concern amongst companies over the potential for disgruntled employees to scare off new talent. As companies focus more on trying to reverse this trend, feedback has emerged as a way to better engage employees.

To some, giving candid feedback more often may seem counter-productive, but a 2009 Gallup Inc. study shows that 98% of employees fail to be engaged when managers give little or no feedback. As a result, companies are investing more in new feedback technology to encourage the exchange of feedback between managers and employees. Faced with the challenge of satisfying a more demanding employee population, managers will be responsible for using this technology to infuse the workplace with a greater feedback culture.

Why is feedback important for me as a manager?

While the entrance of Millennials into the workplace will present new opportunities, it will also require adjustments to your management style. The top two most commonly cited reasons for employee turnover are problems with management and a lack of opportunities for professional development. In fact, a 2014 study by Deloitte University revealed that two-thirds of Millennials believe managers are responsible for providing them with further development opportunities. In other words, managers must become more open and engaged in their employees’ career growth to meet their expectations.

When given effectively, providing your employees with more feedback is one of the best ways to demonstrate your involvement in their professional development. Giving your employees’ advice on how to enhance their skills and helping them to develop career goals is a powerful way to motivate your team. Even if you don’t have any constructive feedback to give, giving positive feedback is a great way to acknowledge an employee’s work and make them feel valued within the team. In the long term, feedback can significantly boost team spirit and productivity.

Feedback is not only helpful for improving your employees’ performance, but also allows you to pinpoint adjustments that need to be made to your management style. Employees might be reluctant to voice concerns about your performance as a manager until it’s too late. Creating an open environment in which employees are encouraged to give you feedback in return will foster greater trust between you and your team, and alert you to potential conflicts before they heat up.

Changing your mindset

To realize the benefits of a feedback culture, you and your employees will need to overcome common misconceptions about feedback. As a manager you may be hesitant to give constructive feedback to your employees and risk hurting or offending them. When it comes to your top performers, you may stick to showering them exclusively with praise as a way to demonstrate how satisfied you are with their work. When it comes to receiving feedback from your reports, you may feel uncomfortable or even defensive when given constructive criticism. You may question whether opening yourself up to feedback will undermine your position as a manager.

If this sounds familiar you may have what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck terms a “fixed mindset” towards feedback. People with a fixed mindset see their intelligence and personality as static features. Constructive feedback is therefore taken personally and can elicit a more emotional response. People with a “growth mindset”, on the other hand, see their abilities as learned traits which must be exercised and enhanced to develop over time. People with growth-centered mindsets will view feedback as a way to re-assess and hone their skills.

Remember that employees with fixed and growth mindsets may react differently to your feedback. If an employee becomes defensive or emotional when you review their performance, this may be a sign that they have a fixed mindset. To create a positive feedback culture, it’s essential that you coach your employees on how to open themselves up to and benefit from feedback.

How to create a feedback culture in the workplace:

  1. It starts with you

Become a role model for open communication by asking for more feedback. Creating an open environment in which employees feel comfortable reviewing your performance will help you to improve your management skills and encourage them to see feedback from a different perspective. It is likely that some of your reports will be hesitant at first to give you honest feedback. Here are some ways you can break down these barriers.

  1. Encourage employees to come to you for feedback

Be sure to make yourself available when employees seek feedback and follow up with them after giving it. Giving your employees feedback more often will motivate them to come back to you for advice when they need it. The most important part is to learn how to give a mix of positive and constructive feedback and work on delivery. Communicating feedback in a clear and constructive way will ensure that it’s received well and taken into consideration. The following guides will go into greater detail on how to deliver effective feedback.

  1. Promote peer to peer feedback

Getting used to giving and receiving feedback from each other will help employees improve their interpersonal communication skills and build a greater sense of team spirit. There may be some employees who continually take on an informal mentorship role. Help them to develop their potential leadership skills by providing extra training on how to give effective positive and constructive feedback. See our series of feedback guides for employees to get some inspiration.

  1. Identify and coach employees with fixed mindsets

Employees with fixed mindsets will need extra coaching to overcome their defensive tendencies. Consider holding one-on-one sessions where you can discuss their reactions to feedback, and come up with a plan to overcome their inhibitions. For tips on how to hold effective one-on-ones see here.

Summary and take-aways:

When given and received effectively, feedback can be a powerful tool to not only improve professional skills, but also to motivate, increase productivity and raise the profile of your company’s work culture. However, as a manager you will not only need to adjust your mindset towards giving and receiving feedback, but also that of your employees’.

  • Ask for more feedback from your employees
  • Encourage employees to come to you for feedback
  • Promote peer to peer feedback
  • Coach employees on how to achieve a growth mindset

A version of this post was first published on the Impraise blog.

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5 Ways To Use Mobile To Recruit Top Talent

These days, desktops and laptops are starting to seem like relics from an earlier age. Mobile rules. Any company that isn’t using mobile for recruitment and referrals is in real danger of losing out on top talent.

Here’re a few quick stats to give you a clearer picture:

77 percent of job seekers use mobile job search apps in their job search;

81 percent of employees use their personal mobile devices for work;

23 percent of keyword searches that contain the word “job” come from mobile devices.

It’s clear that mobile is the new HR frontier. Mobile is where top talent goes when it’s looking for a gig. And it’s where smart companies are increasing their presence, including Intel,, and Pepsi. The imperative is clear: up your mobile recruiting and referral presence or risk being an also-ran in the talent hunt.

Here Are 5 Ways To Fully Exploit The Mobile Marketplace In Your Recruiting Efforts:

1) Invest in a great interface. Your career site must be designed to be mobile friendly from start to finish. Remember, your mobile interface is the first thing many applicants see — it’s a reflection of your company and culture. You want it to be appealing, honest and easy to navigate. This not only ups the number of top-flight applicants, it ups referrals. People who may not be right for a current opening may well refer someone who is.

2) Streamline the career application process. Mobile lends itself to action. Especially for the initial phase of recruiting and filtering candidates, make the application process fun. Don’t force this, and always stay true to your workplace culture, but within those parameters make the process easy and engaging.

3) Use social networks. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks are HR powerhouses. Fully 70 percent of iPhone and Android users visitFacebook on their devices and there are over 2 million jobs listed on Facebook’s Social Job Partnership application. Twitter can spread word of a great job like wildfire. LinkedIn, of course, is the ultimate mobile recruiting tool. It’s a great marketplace where talent and HR meet, assess each other, and if the match is right, partner.

4) Use the mobile tools. Mobile is the perfect platform for gamification, videos, and rewards. It’s all about engagement and personalization. Get the people who will be working with the new recruit involved in the hiring process. Videos are a great way to do this – a potential coworker talking about your organization and what the job entails is worth a thousand words of description.

5) Know mobile’s limits. Mobile is a priceless recruiting and referral tool, but to seal the deal you need personal contact. HR is about filtering and attracting top people, so once mobile has connected your enterprise with talent, pick up the phone and make human-to-human contact. There is no bigger booster of HR technology than me, but there is a danger in over-reliance on it. You want to meet people in person and bring them into your organization before you hire them.

Mobile is only going to grow in the years to come. It’s exciting technology – there’s a reason billions of people use mobile every day. Be savvy in exploiting it for your recruiting and referral process when hiring new talent. Bring in outside if you need to. Get this right and talent will flow your way.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes

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Screening For Toxic Qualities In Candidates

You did it — you found your unicorn. You found the perfect candidate with the skills and experience you need. Their resume looks great, and they seem like a good fit in their interview, so you bring them on board.

After their first few weeks on the job, you fear you made a mistake. Your unicorn is conquering deadlines and turning in awesome work, but at the expense of the rest of the team. They’re toxic, and you don’t know what went wrong.

In a May 2014 survey of 2,978 job seekers and HR professionals by Millennial Branding and, 43 percent of hiring managers rank “cultural fit” as the most important thing when hiring a candidate. And when assessing cultural fit, 84 percent are looking for a positive attitude.

Although a candidate looks great on paper and is pleasant in an interview, it doesn’t mean they’re the right person for the job. The best skills and experience can be accompanied by a negative attitude and toxic qualities that applicants can easily hide.

If you find a professional who seems too good to be true, use the interview to screen for these toxic qualities:


The toxic attitude: Skilled employees come to work each day, they do their jobs, and they do them well. But some top performers may be unwilling to help others who need it simply because it’s not their job.

Toxic professionals may think that if they are excelling in their role and bringing value to the company, they don’t need to spend their time doing work for other people — if other people are struggling to do their jobs, it’s not their problem.

What to ask: What has been your greatest accomplishment so far? How did you achieve it and what lessons have you learned?

What to listen for: When interviewing promising candidates, watch out for those who overly brag about their skills and achievements. If they only talk about their success in terms of “I,” not “we,” that’s a sign that your star candidate might not be a team player.


The toxic attitude: Professionals with in-demand skills and a good track record know the value they bring to employers and that they are needed. But those who think they are the best can be blind to their own mistakes.

A CareerBuilder survey of U.S. workers ranging from managers to entry-level employees conducted in May and June of 2014 found that 41 percent of respondents had felt bullied at work when someone ignored or dismissed their comments.

Skilled professionals may be too proud to take corrections, advice, and criticisms from co-workers and managers. In addition, they may fail to ask for help when they need it, which wastes everyone’s time.

What to ask: Tell me about a stressful or challenging time at work? How did you handle the situation?

What to listen for: Arrogant candidates will have a hard time admitting they needed help from others. The candidate you want will have no problem talking about the team members who helped them, how they asked their managers for help, or how the team worked together in times of crisis.


The toxic attitude: Professionals who are already at the top may not feel motivated to improve their performance. They’re good at what they do and can finish tasks quickly, so they can become bored easily — yet they won’t take the initiative to do more.

These professionals might not enjoy the meaning behind their work and the impact it has. Instead, they work with a clock-in, clock-out mentality, putting in minimal effort while on the job because their minimum might be someone else’s best.

What to ask: Tell me about your favorite or most rewarding moments from your current or previous job. What made them so special?

What to listen for: It’s a red flag if a candidate only talks about the superficial aspects of their work experience. Those who speak about awards they’ve won or recognition they’ve received may only be motivated by tangible awards, not by the work itself. Look for the candidate who finds joy in their work and its deeper impact.


The toxic attitude: Highly skilled professionals may expect special treatment and those who don’t get it might start complaining. They turn in quality work, but whine the whole way.

They complain about tasks they feel are beneath them, clients, their pay, or their team member’s work. While it’s OK to negotiate for a higher salary or bring up serious problems in the workplace, toxic employees can only see the negative in every situation, dragging the rest of the team down into their Eeyore mindset.

Every top performer doesn’t have a bad attitude, but those who do can sneak their way through your hiring process. Screen high quality candidates to find toxic traits before they infect your workplace.
Have you ever found toxic qualities in skilled professionals? How did you handle it?

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How To Train The “Mr Know It All” Type

Some recruiters avoid hiring the “over-qualified” employee in fear they will lose interest in the position they are given, demand high wages or leave the company soon after being hired. Usually these common recruitment fears don’t prove true.. In fact, A-players can make or break a company and talent acquisition and management are fast becoming the true harbingers of organizational change.

Many professionals advise recruiters to take the leap and hire those over-qualified candidates. There are four distinct reasons why it’s a great idea to hire overqualified candidates:

Contrary to popular belief, the Harvard Business Review notes that overqualified candidates are typically very highly motivated. Not only does this allow them to complete outstanding work, they’re also able to encourage other team members to perform at their full potential.
While doing anything out of your comfort zone can feel like a risk, hiring a new candidate out of your regular talent pool doesn’t have to be.

Here are the common myths [busted], training methods and additional tips on what to expect with your newly hired, highly-qualified candidate:

Spotting The Candidate

Hiring the overqualified could result in onboarding a “Mr. Know It All” onto the team. If this situation occurs after hiring this new candidate, consider the following:

  • Think before you speak: sometimes working with a “Know it All” can be frustrating. Before speaking, think about what you’re going to say and say it with confidence and kindness.
  • Gain a sense of understanding: Step aside with the employee and fully communicate what you’d like to be heard and completed. Maintain your managerial demeanor and be firm and polite.
  • Don’t allow any abuse of other workers. While the overqualified might feel they took a position beneath them, do your best to focus on what they are bringing to the table and help them to see others’ contributions just as clearly.
  • Offer solutions: When a problem presents itself with the new hire, define the issue and offer solutions instead of stepping away. For example: Other employees are becoming frustrated and feeling belittled. Explain to all workers involved that work needs to come first and to avoid air opinions that have little to do with the project at hand.
  • During onboarding, focus on cultural norms and company specific information. In this way, you give the over qualified employee a great start to understanding the culture around them and the opportunity to avoid awkward work situations.

Placing The Overqualified

Not all overqualified employees are going to be “Know it All’s”. Whether they are or not, properly placing them in the appropriate position post hire is important to consider. The following are top tips in handling this process:

  • Place them as trainers once they’ve gone through company onboarding: A higher level of knowledge can be used to enlighten other employees to processes outside of the company while also allowing the overqualified employee a chance to contribute almost immediately.
  • Provide a variety of options: Some overqualified employees may have aimed for jobs below their skill level in attempt to slow down their workflow. Just because they were a manager at their last company, doesn’t mean they were good at it or even wanted to be in management. Shoot for quick, easily trackable assignments while you assess their strengths and goals.
  • Empower: In the case the overqualified wants to excel in your corporation, allow them higher positions and stretch assignments that can fluctuate in responsibility. The fear of hiring overqualified employees is often that they will become bored, and what isn’t commonly considered is potentially burning the employee out by giving them too many responsibilities. Assigning flex duties will give them the authority they need while not being fully pressured into higher-up positions at all times.
  • Train: So they are overqualified in one department, what about others? Many companies are facing a skills gap that can create frustrations in the upper echelons. Smart organizations are recognizing where transferable skills can be used to fill those gaps and training smart and capable workers from one place to another.

Common fears about hiring the overqualified can easily be busted by fully communicating with your candidates/new hires and applying their needs and goals accordingly. Once you gain an understanding of what the candidate wants from you, work through managing and training them properly; maintain a balance between keeping them on their toes without burning them out.

While it’s currently a candidate-driven market, there are still many overqualified workers looking for a place to land. Cultural acceptance has become even more important to the emerging generation and building a strong and talented workforce with qualified workers is nothing to turn your nose at.

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How to Attract Top Interns

The key to any successful business is developing and retaining top talent, but do you want top interns?  For any business, bringing in fresh eyes and creative personalities can spark life into an organization. One of the easiest ways to do this is through a strong internship program, allowing employers to increase staff and ideas but at a lower price and without long term commitments.  However, it’s not as easy as it may sound, creating a mutually beneficial program and acquiring top talent will take time and effort.

The Program

To receive the greatest benefit and value it is best to create a well-structured program that has clarity and effective communication channels before you make your first hire.  The first step is assigning a direct intern manager, this provides clarity and structure for both the interns and upper level managers.  This individual is responsible for ensuring the internship is mutually beneficial. Students do not want to run coffee and file papers all day and will only decrease the value of your program and make it more difficult to attract the top talent. The greatest source of learning comes from a mentor mentee relationship and working together in real world situations, this is what top talent want to be doing. Tasking interns with real world projects or putting them on a team of employees, providing intrinsic motivation as they can see the progress and value they bring to the organization.

In addition to assignments it is very important to be flexible with time.  Top talent are likely to be devoted students who are widely involved on and off campus. This may make a typical 9-5 internship commitment unrealistic.  Situations vary case by case but an applicants inability to commit to 30 “traditional” hours should not rule them out.  Lastly, provide them with a tangible portfolio of all their work.  Internship programs vary dramatically and the word “intern” on a resume can mean many different things in terms of value.  By having a portfolio of work and accomplishments, you enable the now entry-level worker to visibly express the value he can bring to an organization.  This will not only help your prior employee but help your programs reputation.  The success and professional growth of prior interns will motivate other aspiring students to work for you.

The People

You may have created the greatest internship program imaginable, but without the right people it means nothing.  Most important is the program manager, this should not be an entry level worker or simply extra paperwork for another employee.  Students want a knowledgeable professional who can relate to their challenges, but most importantly, someone who allows the interns to learn from what the manager has done and experienced.  With a strong leader in place we must now find the talent, ideally at your local universities.  You might think that going into an entry level class will achieve the task, but it will not.  A lower level required class will only have a few highly motivated individuals.  Look more into industry relevant clubs and organizations on campus, such as the business fraternity or public speaking club.  Students with self-motivation and drive join these clubs, it is these individuals you want representing your company both in the office and on campus.  When you find an applicant pool it is important to treat their interview and hire process as you would a full time employee.  Make sure to keep in mind, however, that their resumes may not be fully developed and the greater focus should on their work ethic, motivation, and character.  After you have established the program manager and hired your first intern, or team of interns,  it is important to develop a relationship with free flowing ideas but remember, this may be a student’s first glance at the professional world and you’re setting the precedent.

The Challenges

There are many challenges associated with interns that must be overcome, such as pay.  This may be the toughest consideration when deciding to bring interns onboard and the answer may vary.  If your organization is well known and a strong industry leader with a developed internship program then top talent may be willing to work for free. Otherwise, top talent will require a competitive wage.  Another challenge when hiring students with little to no experience is that the risk can be high.  They may miss shifts regularly, quit unexpectedly, or simply not fit in to the company, culture or industry. Internships are an exploratory exercise for students and their “real-life” experience may not be what either of you hoped. Additionally, for some complex industries with a steep learning curve, the semester could be over by the time an intern becomes proficient in the business processes of the organization.

Every organization will experience different challenges and each requires a unique response. Developing a great program and finding top talent will be challenging but your organization will see great benefits over time. Hiring interns can completely change an organization or an office dynamic.  Don’t be locked in the past, lead your organization confidently into the business world of tomorrow with the students of today.

Apply Now

(About the Author: Kevin is a marketing and sales team member at DATIS, a leading provider of position control human resource (HR) and payroll software-as-a-service (SaaS) for behavioral health and human services agencies. Their best-in-class, cloud-based software is a complete solution, covering HRPosition ControlPayrollTimekeepingBenefits AdministrationRecruitingTalentCredential Management and Workforce Analytics. By leveraging a complete administrative services solution from a single service provider, their customers reduce expenses and risks, increase compliance and revenue, maximize the resources directly devoted to their missions and enjoy a superior customer service experience.)

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Tech Recruiting: Skilling Up to Fill the Middle #TChat Recap

(Editor’s Note: Looking for details of this week’s #TChat Events? See the Storify slideshow and resource links at the end of this post. And to learn how you can win this week’s Pebble Smartwatch giveaway, visit Dice.)

I remember when I was choosing the cover art for my book, Tech Job Hunt Handbook. I couldn’t help thinking, “How am I going to fill-in the middle?”

That’s the toughest part. Filling the middle. Developing coherent career guidance for technical professionals – from the job search, to the interview, to the hire.

But I did it. And in the process, I learned so much about how technology touches every facet of our lives, how rapidly the world of work is changing, and how important it is to stay relevant while competing for specialized jobs in areas like cloud computing, big data and mobile application development.

Retooling your skills and re-branding yourself is essential, whether you’re trying to be more effective in your current tech job — or seeking a new professional challenge — or recruiting to fill those specialized technical roles. And of course, retooling can’t be a one-shot deal. It has to be an ongoing process.

Continuous Commitment Counts

As the economy inches back, millions of people are quitting their jobs, confident they can find an attractive career next-step. These professionals are open to competent help. But even with today’s fluid, open-for-business talent pool, “filling the middle” is no easy task.

In a recent hiring survey of recruiters and hiring managers, Dice found that 5 of the 12 most challenging cities for tech recruiting are in the Midwest. Why? They’re “tough recruiting locations based on a combination of supply and demand issues.”

Frontline recruiting reports like that are a call-to-action for anyone located in “the middle,” as well as those on both coasts. Whatever your location, a winning hiring strategy takes marketing savvy, selling skills and “in the know” awareness of the technical positions you’re trying to close.

This week’s #TChat Events with Shravan Goli, President of Dice, and Sara Fleischman, Senior Technical Recruiter at Concur reinforced my conviction that “filling the middle” requires ongoing commitment, at two levels:

1) Keep Skilling Up. In today’s workplace, tech industry recruiters may feel more secure than others. But the pace of innovation is relentless — it challenging us all to stay ahead of the curve. It’s not just about matching job candidates step-for-step. It’s about proving your strength in your  role, and out-pacing other recruiters who are determined to stay “in the know.”

2) Keep Filling Up. As a tech-savvy recruiter, you may have an edge. But tech lingo isn’t the whole package. You add value by staying aware of salary trends and specifics about how your company, city and regional amenities compare. You’ll also build stronger relationships if you’re always up-to-date with practical guidance, tools and recommendations that help candidates assess new opportunities, get noticed by the right people, ace interviews and negotiate successfully.

Over time, recruiters with that kind of commitment build a reputation as resourceful “go to” career advisors. A talent pipeline eventually follows. And that’s what I call filling the middle with the right stuff.

Dice smartwatch giveaway for #TChat participantsShare Your Ideas — Win a Smartwatch!

Thanks to everyone who joined this week’s #TChat Events. We value your ideas. In fact, Dice is so interested in your input that they’re giving away a cool Pebble Smartwatch to a lucky participant!

Entering is easy. Just share your tech recruiting ideas or questions with Dice by Friday, February 7th. Then find out who wins at #TChat on Wednesday February 12th! (See details and enter now.)

#TChat Week-In-Review: How to Find Top Tech Talent

Shravan Goli Sara Fleischman (2)

See the Preview Post now

SAT 1/25:
#TChat Preview:
TalentCulture Community Manager, Tim McDonald, framed the week’s topic in a post featuring two “sneak peek” hangouts with guests, Shravan Goli and Sara Fleischman. See the #TChat Preview now: “Finding Tech Talent to Fuel the Future

SUN 1/26: Post:
In her weekly Forbes column, TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro, offered guidance based on her personal experience as a tech industry talent strategist. Read “How Leaders Hire Top Tech Talent.


What Makes Tech Talent Tick?” — by Dr. Nancy Rubin
Tech Pros’ Salaries, Confidence Rise” — January Trend Report by Dice


Listen to the #TChat Radio replay

WED 1/29:
#TChat Radio: Host Meghan M. Biro talked with Shravan Goli, and Sara Fleischman about what it takes to recruit tech talent in today’s competitive environment. Listen to the #TChat Radio replay now

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Shravan, and Sara joined the TalentCulture community on the #TChat Twitter stream for a dynamic open conversation, centered on 5 related questions.

See highlights in the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Insights: Finding Tech Talent to Fuel the Future

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Shravan Goli, and Sara Fleischman for sharing your perspectives on tech recruiting tools, techniques and trends. We value your time and your expertise!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about tech recruiting issues? We welcome your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week at #TChat Events, we’ll look at how each of us can be more effective at managing our careers, with one of the nation’s best known career coaches, Maggie Mistal, and one of her clients, Laura Rolands. So save the date, Wednesday, February 5, and prepare to raise your professional game!

Meanwhile, the TalentCulture conversation continues daily on the #TChat Twitter stream, our NEW Google+ community, and elsewhere on social media.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Image Credit: Top Student Challenges

Finding Tech Talent to Fuel the Future #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Looking for full highlights and resource links from this week’s #TChat Events? Read the #TChat Recap: “Tech Recruiting: Skilling Up to Fill the Middle.“)

Recently, we’ve seen the rise of the “digital detox” — when individuals temporarily go “off the grid” to reconnect with life apart from technology.

But of course, it’s impossible to escape fully anymore. Technology is now deeply embedded in daily life — its pervasiveness reaches far and wide. And not surprisingly, as innovation continues at full speed, competition for skilled technical talent is more fierce than ever.

How can employers stay ahead of that curve? And what should recruiters do to help lead the way in attracting technology rockstars?

That’s the topic we’re tackling at #TChat Events this week, with Shravan Goli, President of Dice, The Career Hub For Tech, and Sara Fleischman, Senior Technical Recruiter at Concur.

Sneak Peeks: Facing Tech Recruiting Challenges

To frame this week’s events, I spoke briefly with both Shravan and Sara about how businesses can recruit effectively in today’s environment. Shravan suggested three success factors in an audio hangout:

And Sara added her perspective as a technology recruiter:

Is your organization feeling the impact of the tech talent shortage? How are you addressing this? What does this trend mean for business innovation, overall? Join us this week to discuss your ideas and opinions with the #TChat crowd.

Publication1Share Your Insights, Win a Smartwatch!

As extra incentive to submit your best ideas, everyone who participates in #TChat Events this week will be eligible to win a cool Pebble Smartwatch from Dice! After the the #TChat Radio Show and #TChat Twitter Dice shared details about how to enter before the Feb 7th deadline. See details now!

#TChat Events: Tech Recruiting In a World of Pervasive Technology

#TChat Radio — Wed, Jan 29 — 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT


Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with Shravan Goli and Sara Fleischman about critical tech recruiting issues and trends. Tune-in LIVE online this Wednesday!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Jan 29 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and our guests will move to the #TChat Twitter stream, for a live discussion with the entire TalentCulture community.

Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we address these 5 related questions:

Q1: How do tech recruiters stay skilled up and “in the know”?
Q2: Why is finding tech talent so difficult?
Q3: How do recruiters tap into high-tech hot spots to find tech talent?
Q4: How do employers create a culture that attracts skilled tech talent?
Q5: What recruiting technologies appeal to high-tech professionals?

We look forward to hearing your ideas and opinions, as talent-minded professionals who care about recruiting issues and trends.

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed, and on our LinkedIn Discussion Group. So feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Employee Referral Programs: How To Expand Your Circle

Written by Ziv Eliraz, CEO, Zao

There’s a reason why employee referrals are touted as the #1 hiring source. Each referral is a credible thumbs-up from a trusted member of your organization, confirming that the candidate is qualified for the job and will fit-in with your culture. Plus, when tons of people are responding to your job postings, referrals can be an effective way to separate the good from the bad, while accelerating time-to-hire.

It’s all good. So, why not expand that model?

Traditionally, referral programs have been built around an organization’s internal network, with employees identifying likely prospects. However, smart companies understand that their external network is filled with potential sourcing allies — business partners, vendors, professional peers, college connections, even former employees. It just takes a different approach to get them on board.

Four ways to extend your referral program reach:

1) Incorporate Rewards

Relevant rewards can be a powerful incentive. Plus, they work. Research shows that when companies offered rewards to trusted members of their external network, 41% of referral hires came from those non-employees. As a result, referral hires were 69% higher than through employee channels, alone.

Tip:  Make sure the value of the reward is calibrated to the business result. For example, a token gift card or social recognition could be given to acknowledge a hot lead — while cash compensation would be more appropriate when a referral is interviewed or hired.

2) Go Mobile

Consider contractors and other virtual contributors members of your workforce. Although they may not be employees, they can still provide value through referrals. However, because many operate from remote locations, your referral program should be accessible on-the-go — through smartphones, tablets, or other mobile devices. This lets your external network easily refer candidates wherever and whenever the opportunity strikes.

Tip:  Create an employee referral app or a mobile-accessible portal that is tailored specifically for external network members. This helps them feel like they’re part of the program, and makes it convenient to participate.

3) Automate The Process
While your external network can make a significant contribution to your referral pipeline, recommending candidates is an added duty they must perform without immediate reinforcement. Try to make the referral process as quick and easy as possible by automating the process. New technologies can automatically compile jobs, sending relevant reminders to the correct people at the right time, and recommending appropriate next-step actions. Automation not only keeps the referral program continuously active, but also guides your external stakeholders in their role.

Tip:  Rolling “push” communication is a smart idea. For example, you can automatically share job updates every Wednesday at 3 p.m., or whenever your network is most active. That way, your program participants learn when to expect information. Also, it’s wise to personalize message content — sending relevant messages to the right people. This avoids frustration for participants, who would otherwise have to search for information they need.

4) Incorporate Game Dynamics

Gamification uses game-based strategy, learning and mechanics to increase engagement in non-game systems. While it may seem like an uncommon strategy, 70% of the world’s top 2,000 public companies will have integrated gamification into at least one business application by 2014. In this case, it can be a fun way to involve external parties in your referral process, using quick feedback, creating friendly competitive challenges and other methods that keep your participants engaged.

Tip:  A great way to introduce game dynamics is through a leaderboard or a point-based tracking system. Members of your network can see how they’re contributing to the overall referral process, and see how they compare with top performers. This not only creates a sense of friendly rivalry, but also offers ongoing feedback that helps remind participants that their recommendations are not being ignored.

Tap Into Your Full Sourcing Potential

Of course, employee-only referral programs aren’t a bad idea. However, at some point, there is a limit to how many people an individual employee knows directly. While your internal network can provide some excellent referrals, your external network can amp up the quality and diversity of potential hires. Although you may not think of external allies first, they can be a great referral resource because they understand your organization’s culture, they know your business needs, and they often have a vested interest in your success.

What do you think? Do you involve your external network in the employee referral process? What kind of results have you seen?

Ziv Eliraz-001 (About the Author: Ziv Eliraz is Founder and CEO of Zao, social employee referral platform. Connect with Ziv on LinkedIn and Zao on Twitter and Facebook.)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome to participate; or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Pixabay

How To Help Top Talent Thrive

Written by Mona Berberich

Back in college economics class, I discovered a common assumption about economies of scale — actually about returns to scale. In business, we assume that if we increase factors of input by a given amount, the output will increase by that much or more. This concept seems intuitive, and we rely on it to simplify the management process and maximize profits.

Recently however, while researching how companies treat their top talent, I’ve found that many organizations apply this “returns to scale” theory to their most valuable asset — their smartest, most creative people. In other words, leaders often think that, by doubling the number people with creative abilities, the organization will be at least twice as creative. But if innovation is the goal, this theory isn’t sufficient.

Finding More Of The Right Stuff

What really matters in this equation? It’s ultimately about organizational culture. When managers create an environment that inspires the brightest and most talented people to thrive to their fullest potential, that’s when business performance increases proportionately (or more).

That said, to foster a scalable creative culture, it’s important to understand the smartest and most creative among us. What motivates the top 2 to 5% of the workforce with genius in software design, molecular engineering, and other areas of specialized expertise? Better knowledge of this will lead to a more supportive environment for top talent.

Portrait Of An Innovation Star

I’m not saying that clever people are all alike, but they do follow similar paths and tend to share multiple characteristics. For example, unlike most of us, top contributors know what they’re worth. In today’s more mobile, global world, they have more opportunities. They know their value, and they expect employers to know it, too.

They also tend to share a single defining characteristic — they don’t want to be “managed.” This requirement can be quite a challenge for business leaders. Very talented individuals often are adept at accomplishing great things on their own. They tend to have no special bond with their employer, but they know how to behave to gain funding and support. On the other hand, they’re aware that their employer relies upon them. They generate the ideas that no one else brings to the table, and often they go the extra mile to breathe life into their vision.

Often high flyers demand organizational protection and ignore corporate hierarchy. Quite frankly, they despise titles and promotions, at least in the way that most people perceive those business conventions. Being part of an organization chart is often a thorn in their side. Meetings tend to be seen as waste of time — a by-product of bureaucracy. Bottom line: They prefer immunity from organizational activities because administration is what keeps them from doing what really matters — creating change.

The smartest people often have unconventional expectations. They’re likely to assume managers don’t understand what they are doing, but they want respect for what they do. They want managers to recognize their ideas, and reward them with access to corporate leadership, information and resources. They want freedom to explore new territory, and permission to fail, because failure ultimately can lead to better outcomes. The fact is, they tend not to speak the same language as others in an organization, and often they don’t even want a public voice in the organization’s discussions. What to do? Here are several suggestions…

How Can Your Culture Support Extraordinary Creativity?

1) Be a Guardian

The most talented contributors don’t need a boss, they need a guardian — a sponsor who opens doors on their behalf. Focus on helping to facilitate their work. Give them appropriate guidelines, but eliminate rigid rules.

2) Offer Praise

Create company-wide visibility and demonstrate appreciation by showcasing your rockstars’ projects at company meetings, and in other internal communications. In addition, provide opportunities for them to meet informally with senior leadership. For example, organize lunch with your CEO or top executives (but don’t force rockstars to wear business suits).

3) Grant Operational Immunity

Exempt your top performers from unnecessary meetings and departmental administrative activities. Streamline monitoring and reporting mechanisms, and minimize structural and procedural requirements. Above all, encourage trial and error. Be prepared to recognize failure (or even celebrate it) as an integral part of learning and progress.

4) Provide Freedom to Explore

Encourage your brightest stars to use 20% of their time to drive independent projects. Grant leave of absence for professional development or participation in industry conferences. Consider providing discretionary budgets to fund exploration and ideation — whatever may sparks fresh thinking. For example, a user experience designer might expand his frame-of-reference by operating as a “visiting fellow” at multiple leading-edge customer sites. Or a biotech product developer might “connect the dots” by creating a private virtual forum where life science incubators can share insights about basic research projects.

5) Acknowledge Achievement Beyond The Organization

Rather than evaluating rockstars on typical performance criteria, consider their role in the industry at-large. Perhaps replace classic one-over-one performance appraisals with peer-to-peer evaluations. And consider metrics based on industry awards and rankings, progress in securing patents, volume and quality of articles published or presented, and other indicators of innovation leadership.

How Do You Encourage Top Talent to Thrive?

Do you have extraordinary people in your organization who need to be led in a special way? What have you done to accommodate them? What kind of issues and results have you seen? Please comment — we’re interested in your thoughts!

Mona Berberich2(Editor’s Note: Mona Berberich is a Digital Marketing Manager at Better Weekdays, a Chicago-based company that has developed a platform to help HR leaders source, screen and develop talent based on job compatibility. She is a researcher and writer covering HR, career growth, talent management and leadership development. Contact Mona on Google+ or LinkedIn or Twitter.)


Image Credit: Pixabay