Tenacity – Never Give Up

I blog on another site (http://www.facebook.com/SomeonesGonnaGetHired) addressing issues for people seeking jobs or to reinvigorate their careers. One of those posts was picked up by another blogger for a site with a specific focus. I was asked if I could modify the post and was happy to do so. The message is directed at one profession but resonates with anyone who has dealt with fear, false starts, and frustration.

Here’s “Never Give Up” with a special twist for writers. http://focusmatters.tumblr.com/post/22864268961/ronkatz



Staffing: The Musical!

In the classic Broadway musical “Guys & Dolls” the two female leads share a wonderful duet called, “Marry the Man Today”. They commiserate over having fallen for two incorrigible gamblers and determine the solution is to marry the man today and, as they end the song, vow “to change his ways tomorrow!”

This, unfortunately, is an approach many recruiters use. They hire someone for his or her technical skills thinking that they can change the way the candidate achieves results to fit within the corporate culture of the organization.

Unfortunately the new hire is singing a song from an entirely different musical. The stirring anthem, “I Am What I Am”, from “La Cage Aux Folles”.  “Don’t try to change me,” says the new hire. “This is how I worked before and have been successful and that’s why you hired me so leave me alone to do the job you hired me for.”

Hmm. And this is generally when HR gets involved. Trying desperately to get everyone singing from the same score. Cue “Putting it Together” from Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park With George”. But how?

The key is to have HR involved much earlier in the process. Most managers are great at assessing if the candidate has the right technical skills. When it comes to assessing work styles and preferences, not so much. Partnering with HR early in the recruiting process, preferably before you’ve seen a single candidate, is the best way to avoid this disharmony. Clearly identify the skills candidates need as well as the behavioral competencies required to be successful in your environment. Just because the candidate filled this role in their last job with your competition doesn’t mean that the candidate will work as well in your workplace. Remember, it’s not just what they do, just as important is how they do it.

Putting on a musical takes tremendous collaboration. Assembling a productive staff that doesn’t fight for the limelight can be as daunting and as critical a task. Creating a team of the hiring manager and HR and then adding in the proper candidates ensures that by the final curtain we’ll all be singing that great number from “Dick Tracy,” “Back in Business!”

How can I be of service?

I have heard from at least three people in the past week who are afraid they may lose their job. Rumors fly round their companies, cuts are coming, productivity is down as people spend as much time on LinkedIn as on their work, motivation and engagement are so low they could slide under a sleeping snake without waking it. Lots of people are scared.

I’m scared that the service I get from these companies is going to suffer. Customer service comes from people and I am not confident that there will be enough people skilled in customer service to provide the quality service to which I’ve become accustomed. I love GoDaddy because the people I speak with there, and I always get a person not a recording, are like pit bulls with a bone. They will not let me off the phone or the chat until they are satisfied that I am satisfied. And they invariably follow up a day or so later to make sure the solution is working as I’d hoped. Please note that none of the people I’ve heard from work at GoDaddy and I’ve no reason to believe their customer service will flag.

Because they get it. The Wall Street Journal today said that customer service is the best PR a company can have. Because inevitably people talk about good customer service simply because it is so rare these days. (See, I just did it in the paragraph above!) Good customer service comes from good people who are secure in their abilities and the ability to do their jobs. Can you reasonably expect good service from someone who has seen 40% of her colleagues leave and is now doing the work of two or more people? I doubt it.

Cutting people is not a long term solution. Keeping customers is. Companies will retain customers through outstanding customer service that can only be achieved when there are enough people to get the job done right. And it costs way more to replace a customer than to retain one. Contrary to current thinking, cutting people cuts profits rather than make a lasting contribution to the bottom line. Senior leaders can’t afford such short term thinking.


Is this any way to treat your future CEO?

What does my daughter, who graduates from college in 2012, have in common with my grandfather who arrived in this country exactly a century earlier? Looks like they’re both going to wind up working a few months for no pay at the start of their careers. Allow me to explain.

When my grandfather, a tailor, arrived here from Europe he set out to find work in a sweatshop. You may question his career choice, but this was about all he could hope for upon his arrival in America.  He was informed that in order to work in the shop he had to “buy” his machine. Not that he was going to get to keep it, but he was buying his seat at the machine. And the cost of this seat equaled exactly the amount they would pay him for his first three months in the shop. Questionable business practice? Probably. Illegal? Possibly. Immoral? No doubt about it. But he did it because he had no choice.

Fast forward a century and here comes my daughter with her newly minted BA from a well regarded university into an economy with an unemployment rate of over 13% for 20 to 24 year olds. Even though the percentage of students who have jobs lined up following graduation is expected to be higher this year than any of the past five, finding a job today, even with a college degree, will be daunting. According to an article that appeared in the NY Times, the competition for the most desirable positions may be so intense that the organizations feel they can simply dangle internships and still get some of the best talent. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/06/business/unpaid-internships-dont-always-deliver.html?pagewanted=1)

Internships used to be for undergrads. With profit margins so thin some organizations, even those that used to offer jobs to graduates, are offering three or six month internships as a means of reducing costs. And the promise of a position at the end of the internship, though not guaranteed, is too good to pass up.

So my daughter fills out applications, e-mails, tweets, and makes phone calls to prospective employers and those offering internships. Maybe if I tell her that she is carrying on a family tradition she’ll feel better about her situation. But I think this is a dangerous trend for businesses, to devalue the contributions of their potential future leaders and most importantly, their future customers.




Planning for the jobs of the future

Recently I saw a piece on Workforce.com (a wonderful site, IMHO) on “succession planning.” It was a thorough and well-thought out piece by Patricia Duarte that outlined the traditional definition and aspects of a succession planning process. It stated, “Succession planning is a systematic approach to professional development with the express purpose of ensuring that selected (typically senior) staff is trained, experienced and ready to assume future leadership positions. Succession planning also focuses on individual and team transition needs and effectively guides implementation.”

It went on to detail some of the phases of succession planning, and I’ll paraphrase them here:

  1. Identify anticipated vacancies and resources for management and leadership.
  2. Redefine management profiles to include competencies, success criteria and behavior traits.
  3. Accurately assess the readiness of senior staff and middle managers to assume greater responsibilities.
  4. Assess organizational culture and the leaders within.
  5. Develop individualized training, development and mentoring opportunities to reduce gaps in skills and experience.
  6. Focus on individual and team transition to ensure a successful transition and performance in the new or expanded roles.

Respectfully, Patricia may have defined “succession planning” but far more important today is “succession management”. This includes all the reactive (to the current situation) steps that Patricia ably outlines and goes further. Succession management includes determining what are the positions that do not yet exist that organizations need to prepare to fill. It’s been said that the jobs that students entering high school today will fill when they enter the workforce have not yet been invented. In that vein, we need to prepare staff at all levels, not just the managers, for the jobs they will need to be doing in the near future.

Succession management includes providing the support new managers need as they assume their role. We all know that too many people are promoted to managerial positions for their technical, not managerial, expertise. To ensure their success we need to see that their training continues after they are in the position so that we can continue to monitor and manage their succession through the organization.

At least that’s how I see it. How about you?
Only the best,

The way you see people

I recently saw a post on LinkedIn titled, “Three Things That Will Get You Hired”. Several of the responses talked about “getting around HR”, and how obstructionist HR can be.  One even questioned the validity of having people more skilled in downsizing and eliminations involved in hiring at all.  The fact that it is very often the same skill set involved, deciding who would be best for the job, aside, I continue to be perturbed by how HR is perceived by candidates and managers alike.

As a 20+ year HR veteran (recruiting, comp, training and employee relations) I always went out of my way to find ways to partner with the managers I supported and the candidates who would make them successful. Here’s a tip from the other side. If you see HR as an obstruction or incompetent, they will respond to you that way. As Goethe put it, “The way you see people is the way you treat people.  And the way you treat them is what they become.”

When you’re trying to get hired, you and HR have the same goal. You are both trying to fill a position with the best person. The HR person needs to get that position filled to satisfy the needs of their client (the manager) and you need to collaborate with HR if you want to have the opportunity convince HR that you are that person and get the job. If HR feels like you are trying to get around them, I guarantee that you will not. HR professionals are very skilled at deflecting candidates. Especially those whom they feel are trying to put something over on them. Work with HR, reach out to the hiring manager, use every LinkedIn connection you can find in the target company and make a concerted effort to get the job.

So I don’t have “Three Things That Will Get You Hired” but there’s a nugget that can help you at least get an interview.