Friday, 23 November 2007

Recruiting the right person – define your criteria first!

A survey last year by Right Management Consultants* found that almost 7 out of 10 employers say that it costs them between 2 and 3 times an employee’s annual salary to replace that worker if he or she doesn’t prove to be a good hire, with the higher the position, the more likely the costlier the mistake.

While the survey may have included a number of ‘subjective’ considerations such as recruitment, training, severance and reductions in productivity in the replacement cost estimates, the truth of the matter is that poor hires cost organisations time and money and so it is vital to get it right first time.

The first step in the process to ‘getting the right person’ is to identify a ‘specification’ for the ideal candidate. As a minimum this should be a description of the skills, qualifications, capabilities and experience that a candidate would need to fulfil the role successfully. However, it’s important not just to think about the current role, for example, you may also have a requirement to find someone who has the potential to take on a broader or more senior role.

The following questions are designed to help to prepare an appropriate person specification that can then be used to assess potential candidates against.

1. What technical skills are required for the role?
2. What qualifications are needed?
3. What level of intellect and thinking ability is needed? Does the role include resolving complex and challenging problems?
4.What specific behavioural traits are required? Does the role require big picture and long term thinking, or is it more about the day to day detail and completion of tasks? What type of behavioural profile is most successful in the organisation?
5. What experience is needed? Does the role require international experience, or experience of leading a team or specific sector experience?
6. What level of personal impact and credibility is needed for the role? Will the role holder need to interact with and influence customers, peers, other stakeholders?
7. What are the ideal candidate’s motivations and values? What are the organisations values? How important is it that the role holder can identify with these?

In addition, it is important to identify what ‘standard’ of ability is required. This could be in the form of minimum qualification levels or comparison to internal or external benchmarks.

The above is not meant to be an exhaustive list of selection criteria but a guide on the sorts of criteria that should be considered. Clearly, preparing a list of selection criteria is only half of the task of selecting the right candidate for a role. However, it is the vital first step in ensuring that the right candidate is selected first time.

* Lower Employee Morale & Decreased Productivity Are Biggest Consequences of Bad Hires & Promotions" [Right Management], press release, April 11, 2006

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So what are the benefits of Management Training?

Businesses that invest in management and leadership training and development will find that they are a range of financial and non financial benefits to be gained from it. For example recent research has demonstrated that:

- Firms with high levels of HR practices demonstrate up to 200% greater profit per employee (1, 2)
- Sustained management & leadership development improves organisational performance (3)

This arises from the fact that good leaders and managers have the skills to obtain ‘discretionary’ effort from their staff, which means that their staff will go the extra mile for example to win new business, give outstanding service to a customer, or to ensure that costs are properly controlled.

In addition, there are the real benefits in terms of reducing turnover of staff. People want to work for a good boss and are less likely to be tempted away by a few extra pounds if they feel that they get what they need from their work and their manager. The cost of a new hire can be anywhere between 1-3 times their annual salary by the time all of the associated costs are taken into account. These costs can include:

• The cost of training the organisation has invested in the leaver.
• The cost of lost productivity while the position is vacant.
• The cost of externally advertising the job.
• Recruitment agency costs. (these can be as high as 20-30% of annual compensation).
• Costs of internal or external assessments
• Costs associated with any external medicals, checks and other references.
• Costs associated with the time taken for a new employee to become ‘fully productive’.

There are also real benefits for the individual in terms of improving their own ability to manage conflicting demands on their time, improve performance of their team and as a consequence gain greater satisfaction from their work.

There is also evidence of less direct business benefits. Regular management training and development is seen as a sign of professionalism and helps to create a positive image for the business in its market place, which is an important selling point when recruiting new employees.

Whatever the benefits, it is important that an organisation is clear about the objectives of any management or leadership training and development. Ultimately they should ask themselves, ‘What is it that I want to see differently from this person or group of people?’ In this way it is possible to monitor the impact of training on individual performance and also on the company's bottom line.


(1) Smarter Ways of Working Professor D Guest. Sector Skills Development Agency 2006.
(2) Commonalities and Contradictions in HRM and Performance Research. Boselie, Dietz and Boon. Human Research Journal, 15, 3,67-94. 2005
(3) Management Development Works: The Evidence. Chartered Management Institute January 2005.

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Management Training – The Essentials

Most people think that they are a good driver, whether they are or not, and the same can be said for many managers. Too many managers think that they are good at their job and able to motivate and get the best from their staff, when the reality is often very different.

Unlike driving, where you have to take a test to demonstrate your competence before being allowed to drive, anyone can be appointed to a management position without any formal management training or development.
So what are the essentials for success? The following is a guide to the types of skills needed to be an effective manager:

1) Communicate where the business is going. If you want your staff to be committed to
your organization, they need to know where they are going and why. People need to understand how their work contributes to the company's success. After all, having meaning and purpose in your work is highly motivating and rewarding. The ability to communicate effectively is one of the essential skills that all managers need.

2) Set clear expectations. Be clear with your staff both in terms of ‘what’ needs to be achieved and ‘how’ it should be achieved. Setting clear goals and targets with staff can help them understand what needs to be done and keep them focused. However, it is also important to talk to them about ‘how’ they should go about achieving their goals. For example it is not acceptable to achieve a target at any cost.

3) Regularly review performance. Employees need regular feedback about their performance to improve their skills and grow professionally. Make sure you regularly sit down with your staff (at least 6/7 times per year), to discuss with them what they do will and identify with them what they should do differently.

4) Deal with problems immediately. Stay in tune to your staff so you can be proactive and resolve situations before they escalate. If you notice a change in an employee's work habits, performance or behaviour, try to get to resolve the problem before it starts affecting the rest of your team.

5) Recognize people’s efforts. Everybody appreciates being recognized for a job well done. Monetary rewards aren't the only way to thank employees for a job well done. In fact the easiest way to recognize someone’s contribution is simply saying "thank you" — simple words but too often overlooked.

6) Delegate work. Don’t over control your staff’s work. The more you control others work it will only encourage behavior that necessitates control. Most people want the freedom to complete a task in the way that they think is best.

7) Be a coach and mentor. As a manager, one of the greatest things that you can give an employee is by sharing your knowledge and experience. Showing your employees firsthand how you deal a task, what works and what doesn’t is far more effective than just talking them through it.

8) Be firm but fair. For example, family emergencies other unplanned events will always arise, and its part of a managers role to show compassion by being flexible with work hours and time off so their staff can tend to important matters. Employees always appreciate a sympathetic boss, and as long as your work and business doesn’t suffer, make every effort to accommodate workers who have special needs.

Getting the ‘basics’ or ‘essentials’ right are critical to the success of any manager, and these elements should also provide the basic framework for all management training.

At the end of the day – you have to put in time an effort to be a manager. Too often managers forget their ‘management duties’ and concentrate on completing their own tasks. However, employees depend on their manager’s strength, guidance and support especially during tough times and this takes time, time to listen, time to discuss and time to coach.

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Managing the Performance of Someone with a ‘Bad Attitude’

‘I have just had it with Fred’, said the Manager, ‘He has a terrible attitude to time keeping, he is always late, and I told him so! The problem is we have now fallen out. He claimed he has a good attitude to his work and time keeping, I told him that he hadn’t and it degenerated into an argument, what the heck do I do now?’

This scenario is all too familiar. Managers ‘know’ that a member of staff has a bad attitude towards some aspect of their work. They then decide to sit down with the individual either formally (as part of a performance management or appraisal process) or informally and tell it like it is.

The problem with this approach is that a Manager cannot prove whether someone has a bad (or even good attitude) towards something, any more than the individual can prove their own attitude towards it. The consequence of this is that people become offended (because their attitudes have been criticised), and they immediately defend themselves. The issue therefore doesn’t get resolved and the individual continues with their ‘poor attitude’.

To avoid performance management discussions degenerating into a farce, focus on behaviour, results or approach and not on an individual’s attitude. You might not be able to prove someone’s attitude; but you can prove their behaviour, their approach and the results they achieve.

Do not therefore use phrases such as ‘you have a poor attitude to time keeping or towards meetings.’ Translate your views into specific examples of their behaviour. For example, say, ‘You turned up 20 minutes late to meeting xyz on Thursday, and then 30 minutes late to meeting abc, on the following Tuesday. The consequence of this was that both meetings finished late which impacted on all the other attendees, and the work they had to do that day. It is important that we start our meetings on time – is there anything that might prevent you from attending meetings on time in the future?’

If you think that someone you manage has a ‘bad attitude’ towards an aspect of their work, stop and think before you confront them. Ask yourself, ‘what did they do that caused me to believe their attitude was poor? When and where was it? How can I be specific? What were the consequences? Following these simple guidelines will hopefully prevent your discussions from degenerating into a ‘tit for tat’ argument, and secure a change in the individual’s behaviour.

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Want to recruit the right person – define your assessment process first!

It is well known that the interview is a very unreliable means of selecting the best candidate for a job. The main reason for this is that interviewers tend to make subjective judgements about candidates without having the necessary evidence to back it up. For example, Walt Disney is reputed to have asked actresses to read passages from Snow White from behind a screen so that the decision he made was based on the actress’s voice and character and would not biased by their age or looks.

So can a selection process be truly objective? Clearly subjectivity can never be completely eliminated, however, it can be minimised by adopting the following steps.

1) Candidate Specification. It is essential to first set out a clear candidate specification to enable objective assessments to be made. The specification should contain the essential minimum selection criteria associated required for the role. It is important to note that these minimum must not bias selection against a person with a disability, unless the reason can be justified because of the nature of the work.

2) Company Information. The selection process is a two way and it is equally important for candidates to be able to make the right selection as well as the employer. To this end the selection process should be designed that the candidates have as much opportunity as possible to find out what they need to know about the organisation and role. For example, it is good practice to provide all applicants will a copy of the job description, terms and conditions, a brief history of the organisation, any further relevant information such as values, key behaviours, strategic intent, and a brief on how the role holder is expected to contribute to the business.

3) Initial screening. Ask all applicants to complete a standard application form to enable initial assessment of their capabilities against the job role’s essential minimum criteria, as well as provide proof of any relevant qualifications. This is the easiest way of initially screening candidates.

4) Second screening – At this point it is useful to subject the candidates to a series of assessments: tests, psychometrics and business problems*. For example if the role requires individuals to solve complex problems, or manipulate data, then tests such as numerical and critical thinking should be used. A personality profile will provide information about how a candidate is likely to behave and interact with others, while giving the candidates a particular business or organisational problem to solve will provide information about their business awareness.

5) Interview and meeting – A short list of candidates should then attend a competency based interview with the recruiting line manager and a peer (e.g. HR Manager). This could be followed by an informal meeting with their potential peers to determine fit with organisation’s principles and culture, as well as test other skills such as impact and influence.

6) Final interview and presentation – A final interview with the Line Manager and the Head of the Function or Business should be held with the final one or two candidates. At the interview the candidate(s) should deliver a presentation which demonstrates their capability for the role and a plan for what they will do in their first 6-12 months in role. This provides a final check to determine which candidate is most appropriate for the role.

Adopting some or all of the above principles will reduce the about of subjectivity inherent in an interview process. In addition, as the wrong recruiting decision can cost between 2-3 times the job role’s annual salary, time and effort spent up front to design an assessment process that will enable the right person to be selected will be a wise investment.

* Note - All methods of assessment must be reliable, objective and guard against bias.

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How important is it to establish current reality for a Coachee?

Establishing current reality in the mind of the coachee is where all good coaching sessions start or should arrive at early on in a coaching session. Whilst it is very helpful for the coach to understand where the coachee is at mentally, situationally and emotionally - it is absolutely crucial for the coachee to develop this understanding. It provides a stable base for the coachee’s thinking and ensures that they start off in a realistic place – even if they start to think innovatively or dream of new possibilities later on in the coaching session.
If you want to go from A to B it is imperative to know where A is first, in real concrete terms if you are to be able to progress effectively on your journey towards achieving or arriving at B.
Establishing this stable base of understanding current reality is one of the first parts of the coaching discussion - as well as establishing the necessary rapport and relationship for them to feel comfortable in disclosing and their real issues openly with you. This can be done as part of the same introductory process or these two critical phases could be sequential.
You and your coachee need to judge and feel for this as the session gets underway. Later on I shall look at the equally important aspect for successful coaching of establishing the necessary rapport and empathy.

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