Thursday, October 26, 2006

Boo! Scary stuff just in time for Halloween

Halloween. Time for demons, ghosts and things that "go bump in the night"...and scariest of all - Acquisitions! Mergers, acquisitions, layoffs, etc..... all can be just as scary as all the usual terrifying things we associate with Halloween, but unlike the hordes of zombies that chase us in our nightmares, we CAN control our situation and the outcome of business changes.

This post takes a more personal approach than most because my company is in now in transition. I work for a Joint Venture between two parent companies, and one parent is buying the other out. From a business perspective, it makes sense and creates a whole slew of new opportunities for the business, but this comes at the price of change. Many times such acquisitions force people to change the way the work, where they work, or even IF they work. This is scarier than Freddie Kruger on his worst day!

The trick here is to overcome fear with fact, hysteria with reason and panic with patience and understanding. While most people fear such changes with good reason, the fact is that you can impact the outcome, or at least how well you manage it.

As individual players, we can control how we respond to such changes - the best respected players don't trade in rumor, slander or fear-mongering - they just step up and get it done! Stay focused on the job you do, and look for opportunities to help in the transition. If you just pull into your shell you will miss opportunities to show the organization all the value you can deliver.

As leaders (yes, every one of us can be a leader) we can impact the outcome of the acquisition by stepping up and addressing issues head-on. Communicate the FACTS, squash the rumors, talk with your team and peers to help them see how they can positively influence the outcome.

Be clear, even if you are the ideal team play in this, you may end up out of a job, but would you rather be a victor or a victim?

Look across your network - do you know anyone who is undergoing such transition? If so, pass this post along to them. Otherwise just e-mail this post to yourself for a rainy day.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Picking winners for your winning team

From your earliest childhood memories, you can always recall wanting to be on the winning team. When you were standing in the crowd waiting to be picked for whichever side of the kickball game, you longed to be picked by that team with all the cool kids / best kickballers, etc... You dreaded being picked by the weaker side as strongly as you desired joining the good side.

On the other side of the equation, when you were the one doing the picking, you tried your best to pick the best players for your team - deciding your next pick based on who could kick the farthest, or run the fastest, or who was so wiry they never got tagged out.

It's funny how the best teams in business seem to do the same thing. The best managers among us don't just open up a staffing requisition and leave it in the hands of the HR weasels... oh no, the best managers take a very active role in finding the best players for their team - they hire folks they know can get the job done. They hire someone that either they or their other players know and can vouch for. In HR speak - this is an employee referral.

The concept of employee referrals is not new, but it is getting a lot more attention because the statistics about the relative costs and effectiveness of employee referrals make it appear to be a very attractive way to go. My company has taken a very proactive approach to employee referral. We have an employee referral program called "Star Search" and we've gotten over 20% of our new hires YTD through this program - that's a 6.something percent increase over prior years! We're pretty proud of that accomplishment and are driving for an ultimate number of 35% in 3 years because we believe all the statistics are right and so far, our employee referral hires are performing at least as well as most of the high cost agency hires.

Now while I firmly believe that the "kickball" analogy above is the way the world is - I found an interesting perspective in the blog of a Microsoft employee and while the HR Geek in me loves his devotion (however motivated), I have to worry that Don Dodge has taken this to a new high (or low depending on your view).

Now matter how far some take it, I believe that you will get better results with less cost and effort by hiring those great players that you and your team already know.

Sit down with your team and have a very open discussion about the kind of players you believe you need to help your team win. Brainstorm with your team to paint a mental picture of the type of player you want - then get your team out there in the world to talk to the colleagues, friends and even the competitors they think have the right stuff - even if you don't have a job to fill today you need to start identifying and building a better relationship with these folks.
Happy Hunting!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Technology - the great enabler?

If you are reading this post, you are the intended audience for this post. My guess about you is that you pride yourself on your relative command of all things technical. You probably have a 1 (or more) mobile phones, blackberry, etc.... Now let me ask you a question - does all the tech at your command really make you any more productive?

This article while a little dated, shines a light just how bad our situation is becomming. We become so connected to our devices that we forget to connect to PEOPLE. Honestly, how many of you can honestly say that our ubiquitous technology has not diverted your attention away at times. Heck, I confess here that part of this blog was authored during a meeting! C'mon, admit it - you have done this sort of thing too. You probably sat in at least one meeting today fiddling with your crackberry, texting someone or reading e-mail on some other device. Worse yet, many of you probably did these things at home and instead of connecting withyour family, you connected to everything else.... that is really sad.

The way we are living isn't living at all. Yes, I know that the pace of work is what presses us to be so connected, but perhaps this is more the case of us failing to manage expectations than failing to manage our work. What if we all just stopped being connected all the time. What if we turned off the crackberry, the cell phone and the pc and actually listened to the people around us for a change?


Disconnect from all of your devices during every meeting today. Dont check e-mail, dont answer your phone, dont do anything but listen and actively participate in whatever meetings you have today. You'll get more out of the meeting, and so will those you meet with!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

They love me, they love me not.......

Do you remember that little time-waster we used to do when we were kids. We'd think of the person who we fancied, pick a daisy and pluck out the petals one by one, reciting "(s)he loves me" with the first petal and "(s)he loves me not" with the next... this would go on till the last petal and we'd have our answer - unless it was the wrong answer, in which case we'd keep picking daises till we got it right. That way, we knew how the object of our affection felt about us. Too bad we don't have any daises to tell us how that job you have applied for feels about us!

The unfortunate thing is that most recruiters get it wrong when it comes to candidate feedback. We all use the same excuses - too many candidates, too little time to get back to all of them. But we all need to wake up - this ain't the heady 1990's! Candidates are becoming all to scarce and if we don't start treating them better, they are going to take their talents and go find someplace else to play -like our competitors. I found a really great post on the Recruiting Animal blog which spells this all out pretty clearly but I will give you my own prescription on how to cure this problem: COMMUNICATE with EVERY CANDIDATE! With the state of Technology today, there is no reason we cannot migrate from that ancient response of "we will only contact candidates of interest" to an automated e-mail reply that tells a candidate that "love them" or "love them not". Even smaller organizations can now afford automated Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Systems to track applicants used to cost zillions, now you can get one on an ASP basis for under 15k. My company recently launched a great system from HRMDirect. While no system is a cure for all your recruitment sins, one can give you a great start toward getting better at communicating with your candidates. Trust me on this one, you cannot afford to risk letting talent slip through your fingers.

Talk to your HR department about how you manage candidates and insist that prompt and candid feedback to EVERY applicant become the norm.