From May, 2009

Team Building Is Not About Games

When most people see the words “Team Building” they immediately think of some ridiculous exercise where one person falls backwards while another person catches them. Or maybe you think about some ridiculous survival scenario (your plane crashes in the desert all you have is some motor oil, plastic sheets, and a candy bar what now) that you and your coworkers spent 2 hours trying to solve. That is not team building, it’s not even close.

A team is defined as the following:

  1. A number of persons forming one of the sides in a game or contest: a football team.
  2. A number of persons associated in some joint action: a team of advisers.
  3. Two or more horses, oxen, or other animals harnessed together to draw a vehicle, plow, or the like.
  4. One or more draft animals together with the harness and vehicle drawn.

Notice the common theme of all these definitions is a shared goal AND a shared workload. If you are not involved in the work, you are not part of the team. This means managers who are not directly involved in the work of the team should not be included in the team building activities. Trying to force the issue will only result in a weakening of the team as a whole.

The shared goal is core to the concept of team. In building a team it is very important that each team member recognize the same goal. Often people each have their own idea of what they are trying to accomplish. This is detrimental to the team as a whole. This is where management comes in. Managers are there to manage the teams, not participate in them. It is management’s job to determine the goal and focus the team on it.

Equally important is the shared workload. Team members who don’t pull their share of the load actually slow the whole team down. This happens in two ways. First as each team member completes their assignment they must wait on that last team member to finish before they move on to the next stage of the project. Second as team members see one person working at a much slower pace they tend to become frustrated and angry eventually deciding that if that person doesn’t have to work hard neither do they. Again this is where management needs to step in. If it becomes obvious one member of the team is not working to potential, they must be encouraged to work harder, or be replaced fairly quickly.

At the end of the day all of this comes down to communication and this can be the trickiest part of building an effective team. When choosing the people to form your team, you need to understand how each of them works and communicates. One of the most effective ways to gain insight on your potential team member is to give them all behavioral assessments. You can review their personality traits and quickly see possible areas of conflict. You should also assess the managers who will be supervising the team and council them on how to best interact with the team as a whole.

If this seems like a lot of work, it really isn’t. Tools like Hire-Intelligence can make the whole process quick and painless. Implementing these suggestions will make more effective teams and this will lead to better performance and greater employee satisfaction. At the end of the day, better performance means more revenue, and greater employee satisfaction leads to lower attrition. Isn’t that worth a little of your time?

The HR Manager Pulls A Fast One

Working with a new client, our first assignment was to create a behavioral benchmark of their highest performing sales professionals. This benchmark is used to determine whether a job candidate possess the behavioral traits necessary for success in the job and in the company as a whole.

Our contact, the HR Manager, provided the email addresses for 3 individuals. We set them up and conducted behavioral assessments of all three. Once the assessments were complete we ran a statistical analysis on the resulting personality profiles focusing specifically on common personality attributes.

Normally we see scoring trends on anywhere from 4 to a dozen traits. As more individuals are included in the benchmark, the number of shared traits declines. As a result we recommend including between 3 and 6 high performers in a benchmark study.

In reviewing the three assessments from our new client, our Workforce Management Consultant noticed an anomaly in the scores. Two of the individuals were quite well matched on a number of behavioral traits, but the third individual appeared to be an outlier, showing a markedly different profile. Two of the high performers matched our default sales benchmark by more than 70%. The outlier only scored a 43% match.

Our consultant discussed this inconsistency with the HR Manager. After some discussion the Manager finally admitted that she had decided to throw us a curve and added herself as the third individual in the benchmark. It was her way of testing our behavioral assessment tool.

Our behavioral assessment passed with flying colors, revealing the plant. The HR Manager was surprised and perhaps just a little bit embarrassed. Of course, we politely refrained from kidding her about her “fast one”.

Why Do Employees Quit?

An article in the Gallup Management Journal indicates that while about 50% of people leave for better pay or career advancement 37% left either because of bad management or a lack of job fit. That means over one third of your turnover is probably preventable.

What is the big deal?
“The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that the U.S. voluntary turnover rate is 23.4% annually. It’s generally estimated that replacing an employee costs a business one-half to five times that employee’s annual salary. So, if 25% of a business’ workforce leaves and the average pay is $35,000, it could cost a 100-person firm between $438,000 and $4 million a year to replace employees.” — Gallup Management Journal

How can I fix it?
First things first, if people are leaving because of poor management you need to invest in your managers. Send your managers to training, lead by example, and make sure when you promote or hire a new manager they have an experienced mentor they can learn from.

Once you have your management team in order take a look at employee satisfaction. There are lots of ways to gauge satisfaction, just make sure you are doing it frequently. So far the best process I have read about is a company that measures morale on a daily basis using red, yellow, and green marbles.

Make sure you understand your corporate culture and the culture of specific teams and departments within your organization. Make sure the new people you hire understand your culture and will fit in with the work and management styles of their coworkers. Use behavioral and cultural assessments to avoid personality conflicts between managers and employees.

I’m willing to bet if you implement these strategies you can lower your turnover and start being more productive within the first 3 months.

Resume Overload

With so many people on the hunt for jobs you would think a recruiters life would be easier, and in many ways it is. There is no shortage of qualified candidates applying for jobs. This creates an interesting situation for recruiters. Instead of picking through 10 or 15 resumes and finding the 2 or 3 good candidates, we are now searching through 100 resumes of which 20 or 30 look good.

I don’t have time to phone screen 30 candidates so instead I send them instructions to take a behavioral assessment. When we accept a search for a client, the first thing we do is test two or three of their best employees already in the job. We use the results of their assessments to create a behavioral profile specific to the job and the company. Once the candidates complete the assessment I can quickly rank the candidates against the behavioral profile and choose the top 5 to call and screen over the phone.

The side benefit of all this is that when we get a new search, I have a database of candidates I can immediately rank against the new profile we create. This saves me time and also gives the candidates a better chance of being seen for positions they will really be happy in.

Retain your recession Hires!

Keep ‘em Happy!

In February 4.8 million people lost their jobs. However, 4.3 million people secured new ones. Despite the recent recession, companies are still hiring. Because so many are looking for work, hiring managers discover that finding candidates is easy. Having an ample pool of candidates from which to choose does have a drawback though. Howard Glickberg, the principal owner of Fairway Market in Manhattan, brought up an interesting point in an article I read recently: “What you have to be afraid of is hiring someone who can’t find something better at the time, and when they find something better they leave you.” (See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/06/business/economy/06hire.html?_r=1&emc=eta1)

This statement is true all the time but holds greater concern when more candidates will settle for a less desirable position they are likely to abandon. How do you hold on to employees who are just settling until greener pastures open up elsewhere?

As a search consultant I’ve learned this basic truth: Happy employees stay longer!

The question is how do companies ensure their candidates will be happy?

The answer is actually pretty simple. Hire employees who will be a cultural fit with your managers! Hire employees who will exist in harmony with their colleagues! Often hiring managers mistakenly hire based solely on the skills presented in the candidate’s resume.

I recently worked with a manufacturing company who struggled with underperforming and unhappy employees. I behaviorally assessed all the employees, both top and bottom performers, across different shifts.

I discovered that the under-performing employees’ personalities were vastly different than the top performers. I also discovered that the under-performing employees could easily be moved to a shift and a manager that better suited their behaviors.

For example, I discovered that very outgoing and sociable employees did not work well in night shifts when fewer colleagues were present. Their personality didn’t suit it. The very self-sufficient, independent, quiet employees, those who didn’t require social interaction, however thrived on this shift. Shifting the more extroverted candidates to managers and shifts that better matched their personality solved the problem.

My fees are contingent upon the candidate remaining at an organization for a set length of time. Obviously then I want my candidates to be a good cultural fit or else I don’t get paid! Utilizing behavioral assessments to ensure my candidates match well with the company culture, greatly improved my retention rating.

Recession A Wake-Up Call For Gen Y-ers?

Recently I read an article about the workforce problems with Generation Y and the sense of entitlement they often carry as a chip on their shoulder when entering your organization. Gen Y-ers, those born between 1978 and 1993, are quickly discovering in this economic downturn that youth is less valuable than hard work and ambition. Gen Y-ers who have been content to sit back and allow their companies to care for them, are quickly losing their jobs to employees who actively seek to care for their companies.

I have worked for years as a recruiter and interviewer. I have made many contacts, both personal and professional in numerous fields and at varying work levels. I have discovered success does not come entirely from education rather it comes from work ethic and professionalism. But hard work and a professional demeanor are often lacking in the college educated ranks of Generation Y (or even my Generation X).

I recently completed a recruiting assignment for an entry level sales position. Many of the applicants were young people (Generation Y) looking to get their feet wet in sales. I perform most of our interviews over the web using video conferencing and I looked forward to interviewing a crop of young candidates who knew their way around a computer. I could not have been more disappointed by the results. Two of the candidates did not take the time to install the conferencing program or the camera needed to conduct the interview. Two other candidates failed to research the company to which they were applying and knew very little about the product they were to sell. A fifth candidate twice stood me up for an interview we had scheduled despite her assurances she would attend. I was astounded by the lack of professionalism!

I assess all my candidates with the appropriate behavioral assessment before I interview them. It gives me a good snapshot of the candidate’s personality and provides me with targeted interview questions. After the interviews I reviewed all the candidates’ results and found a correlation for several behavior traits. The candidates who took the interview process less seriously were assessed as “Easy Going” rather than “Achieving” and “Accommodating” rather than “Assertive.” Historically my experience shows that successful senior level candidates tested highly for the attributes Assertive and Achieving. Based on this past experience, plus the recent Generation Y interviews, my client now understands what attributes he needs to look for in his entry-level candidates.

Right now you are probably hiring from the Generation Y job pool. How will you know which candidates are going to ask not what your company can do for them but what they can do for your company?

Culture misfit results in high attrition

In a blog over at harvardbusiness.org Marshall Goldsmith discusses the high rate of executive turnover in today’s business environment.

“Over 64% of new CEO’s (whose data is most readily available) fail to make it through their fourth year in their job, while 40% are gone in 18 months.” –Marshall Goldsmith

Marshall makes some excellent points about company culture and job fit. He maintains that these executive “casualties” are not incompetent, rather they have a different set of core values from the company as a whole. Employees will not trust someone who doesn’t share their values, and they will not follow someone they don’t trust.

Marshall urges for everyone considering a promotion or move to do three things.

  1. Understand your own personality by taking behavioral assessments.
  2. Observe the culture of the team or organization you are looking into.
  3. Verify your observations with contacts who have experience with the team or organization.