Archive for human resources

Harness the knowledge of your workers

Before a company thinks about redundancies, it is worth remembering this: a century ago, the most valuable US corporation was US Steel, whose primary assets were smokestack factories. Today’s most valuable corporation is Microsoft, whose most precious assets go home every night. Your organisation is the same – your key assets walk out that door every night.

Companies that want those assets to return every morning must pay attention to the workplace. To quote former GE CEO, Jack Welch, “We spend all our time on people – the day we screw up the people thing, it’s over”. 

A Delphi Group survey revealed 42 per cent of corporate knowledge was unmanaged – in other words, within employees’ heads – while the rest was spread across paper and electronic repositories.

Other estimates place this figure as high as 80 per cent.

Yet, no matter how high the percentage is within your company, odds are that it’s too high. This is simply because knowledge that’s only available to one person only benefits that one person. And if that person leaves the company, his or her knowledge benefits your competitors.

So, right now is a good time to review the process for managing information that is critical to your organisation.

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Managers get half of hiring decisions wrong

Half of hiring decisions are mistake, according to a new survey out of the UK. This is interesting in the current recession where employers are putting potential employees through longer and more interviews than they have in the past.

The Recruiting Roundtable has found bad hiring costing firms millions of dollars in lower performance, less engaged workers and higher staff turnover.

The researchers, who analysed data from more than 8,500 hiring managers and 19,000 of their most recent hires, found that a similar number of new employees are disenchanted with their working environment, colleagues and managers.

In fact, four out of 10 new employees polled complained that the information they received about the job when they were applying was less than accurate.

Given the high cost of early career turnover, organisations cannot afford to make the wrong hiring decisions.  The Recruiting Roundtable says it had identified the three most important reasons organisation failed consistently to hire high-quality candidates:

  • over-relying on candidates to describe themselves rather than having them demonstrate what they can do
  • failing to follow a consistent, evidence-based selection decision process
  • failing to provide the candidate with enough information and “experience” about what the job was really like.

Providing candidates with an ‘on-the-job’ experience can help organisations observe a candidate’s capabilities and provide the candidate with a better sense of what the job is really like.

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Start a conversation

There are many models for implementing performance management systems, but they all have one thing in common – a recognition that managing people and their performance is a daily activity, not an annual one.

So, start a conversation with each of your employees.  Smart managers hold regular performance reviews, linked to key company goals and a mixture of measurable qualitative and quantitative KPIs that includes training and feedback. Managers must feel confident and trained to provide feedback in a constructive manner and in the appropriate place. They must also look for opportunities to reinforce, reward and celebrate accomplishments and, most importantly, provide the role models for the behaviours that build success and trust among team members.

A word of warning, however: if you ask for suggestions or comments be prepared to listen. Workers these days will get tired of employers who pay lip service to their ideas.

The things that engage your people on an on-going basis can be different to the things that made them join you in the first place. Securing their appointment is like a sprint race; continuing to keep them and get the most from them is like a marathon.

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Finding square holes for square pegs

Often, when there are people in your organisation who aren’t performing as you’d like, the problem can be in know-how and training, which is quite easily fixed.

However, it becomes more complex if they are a “round peg in a square hole”, or a “square peg in a round hole”, or their work environment is not positive.

The solutions for someone who is in the wrong position can include finding a better fitting position for them in your company – or finding them a better fitting position for them outside your company.

If you do nothing and you elect to tolerate mediocrity, you will end up with a problem you wish you didn’t have.  You will lose credibility, trust and respect as a leader – and you will likely experience productivity, quality and morale challenges… and the list could go on.

Research shows around 25 per cent of Australian employees change jobs each year. And when you consider staff turnover costs are up to 150 per cent of a person’s annual salary, this represents a significant cost to business.

The cost of replacing even a B performer, let alone an A (if you can find one in today’s environment) is incredibly high – downtime, impacts on existing team members, management distraction in re-hiring, cost of recruitment, lost sales relationships – all these things have a massive impact on your business.

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The happiness factor

Creating wellbeing at work is not as easy as it seams. This is partly because not everyone has the same idea of happiness. Even the Macquarie Dictionary is a bit vague, defining wellbeing as “a good or satisfactory condition of existence; welfare”.

A lot of focus is on physical health as an aspect of wellbeing, in particular the costs of “lifestyle” diseases such as cancer, heart disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. One employee with a serious health problem can cost up to $12,000 a year in lost productivity.

With a significant proportion of corporate Australia demonstrating multiple poor health indicators such as obesity, smoking and high blood pressure (much of it due to an aging workforce), the cost to business can easily be extrapolated to be millions of dollars annually.

Managers tend to define wellbeing in terms of productivity, where as employees define it in other ways – such as satisfaction with their life and their perception of their health. It’s less about the physical things such as a nice working environment, or good relationships with people; these things are essential, but at the end of the day it comes down to how they feel about themselves.

Wellbeing is the responsibility of the individual. However, corporations must set an environment which is conducive to wellbeing. Pay, promotion and career development are important – but they’re not everything to everybody. Things like being part of a winning team, a company that has the ability to compete and win the lion’s share of the business it contests, and has high morale as a result, are often more important than being paid the right amount or where the next promotion might be coming from.  As Sigmund Freud said, the elements of a fulfilling life are “love and work… work and love, that’s all there is”.  Of course, in the workplace, ‘caring’ may be a more appropriate term, but the sentiment is still the same.

Martin Seligman – the author of Authentic Happiness – says we need to remind ourselves each day or the good things that happened that day. People who go to sleep in a positive state are more likely to be contented and productive. 

All workers want to have fun. And when managers are in a good mood, research tells us that they elicit more laughter from staff, which helps them absorb even bad news more effectively and respond more nimbly and creatively. In other words, laughter is a serious business.

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Social Recruitment: The New Spy Catcher

When the British Secret Intelligence Service starts using Facebook to find its next James Bond, anyone doubting the power of social recruitment needs to rethink their scepticism.

And that’s exactly what MI6 is doing – hunting for its next generation of spies through a series of Facebook advertisements launched in late September.

One of three pop-up advertisements says: “Time for a career change? MI6 can use your skills. Join us as an operational officer collecting and analysing global intelligence to protect the UK.”

MI6’s strategy is a smart one.  With more than 100 million active users, Facebook has increased by 153 per cent in the last year to become the fourth most trafficked website in the world. 

And with its membership growing at light speed – particularly among those 25 years and older – MI6’s recruiters have recognised that Facebook’s profiling and targeting capabilities can connect them with a vast pool of potential candidates.

MI6 is not alone.  A recent survey from the US revealed that 64 per cent of companies are making contact with potential employees through online social networks, predominantly LinkedIn (80%) and Facebook (36%). 

On the other side of the Atlantic, it’s clear that both employers and job seekers are extracting value from social media.  According to the Aquent Orange Book 2008-2009, a salary survey and industry monitor, candidates in Germany (39 per cent), France (34 per cent), Poland (30 per cent) and the Netherlands (23 per cent) rated social networking sites as their preferred method of job seeking, as did 13 to 18 per cent of employers as a tool for sourcing talent.

Meanwhile, only a handful of employers across Australia and New Zealand are leveraging social networking sites to source new talent.  Why?  Partly because social recruitment is still an untested strategy in Australia, and partly because employers and recruiters don’t know where to begin.

So, how can you integrate social recruitment into your broader recruitment strategy?  Here are six simple ways to get started.

  1. Create a ‘group’ for your company on Facebook.  Call it something like “XYZ Company is Hiring” and post information on how to apply for positions in your company, list your latest jobs and use the growing network as a marketing tool.  And add the ‘My Company’s Hiring’ application to enter currently jobs available in your organisation.  These will be displayed on your company page.
  2. If your company has a Facebook Workplace Network (a closed network for individual companies), use it as a recruitment and retention tool.  To establish one, ask Facebook to add your company to the list.  Only employees with a company sponsored email address can join and participate.
  3. Encourage ex-employees to rejoin your company with a Facebook group for your company’s ‘alumni’.  Promote the group among your current employees, who will soon share the site with their former colleagues.
  4. Use the search function as a sourcing tool.  Try searching for a particular position title in the ‘profile’ section, for example.
  5. Tap into the regional networks, and scour workplace and university groups.  Target these areas by posting jobs and listing job fairs.
  6. Stimulate conversations using ‘Discussion Boards’ and ‘The Wall’ – both features can attract members of your targeted community by showcasing what your company has to offer them.

But will the British Secret Intelligence Service’s recruitment strategy really work?  With a new James Bond movie, Quantum Of Solace, out now, MI6’s attraction problems are undoubtedly over.  But it may well face another recruitment challenge – who will sort all the applications of these would-be spies?

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Join the conversation

Hello world and welcome to my new blog, Skilling Time.

The term ‘skills shortage’ has dominated Australia’s business landscape for a number of years.  But what does it mean for Australia during an economic downturn?  While the economic conditions may mean some companies place skills development on the backburner, once the economy recovers, the age-old issues of skills shortages will return.

A skills shortage, in plain and simple terms, means that businesses are struggling to fill vacancies.  Despite the current economic crisis, skills shortages are occurring across Australia’s economy – both in the trades and the professions.  We simply don’t have enough architects, plumbers, engineers, nurses, computer programmers, teachers and electricians to go around.

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations notes that the occupations showing the biggest increase in vacancies are medical and science technical officers (including radiologists, hospital pharmacists, sonographers and dental technicians), organisation and information professionals (such as project managers and specialists in Java, Internet Security and PeopleSoft) and accountants and auditors. But almost every industry is affected in some way, particularly in regional areas.

According to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Survey of Investor Confidence, skills shortages are the number one constraint on small and medium business investment.

In knowledge economies such as Australia, where skills are fundamental to competitiveness, skills shortages can reduce productivity and increase inflation.  As the pool of available workers dries up, salaries skyrocket and so do the prices of the associated products and services.

So, what’s the solution?  Over the next few months, Skilling Time will explore ideas and options to secure Australia’s talent base.  And I invite you to join the conversation.

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