Sweatshop or Not?

WorkHarderIn my recent weekly email blast, I talked about employee retention and some of the things Google and Facebook do.  One of my readers replied and asked some great questions: Has anyone written about what is expected of the associates?  Are project managers (and management) reasonable in their expectations?  What are “normal work weeks” 50-60-70 hours?  Could these two companies merely be sweatshops with gourmet food and Starbucks?

Here is part of my reply back: The best source for unbiased information is Glassdoor.  I have put some links below where you can do some further research.  You will need a login to get far, but its free and easy.  If you sort on the reviews you can see two sides of each coin.  The one star ratings have a lot of interesting comments.  The 4.5 star ratings do too.  My opinion is that it boils down to the individual managers.  I’m sure we have both seen some good ones and not so good ones.
You can check out both Facebook and Google on Glassdoor by clicking on these links to draw your own conclusions:

https://www.glassdoor.com/facebook

https://www.glassdoor.com/Overview/Working-at-Google-EI_IE9079.11,17.htm

 

Never, Ever

NeverEverOne of my favorite Jeffism’s is Never seems to happen quite a bit.  I have talked about Never before Here in the context of disaster recovery.  Never ever this time happened a couple of times last week.
Sales cycles can sometimes take a couple of years in our business.  I have been routinely calling on this person for probably that long.  Last week, timing was everything and I got an appointment to meet with this person.   He knows what we do based upon the past 2 years of calling and emailing, so face to face I was able to learn more about his business.  Almost all of their software is custom developed, so that is a perfect fit for us.  One of the questions raised was about our engagement process.  I explained how we use a two part agreement and we could get the 1st part out of the way at any time.  He asked to take a look at our agreement, so I sent him one when I returned to the office.  I was getting ready to leave at the end of the day, when I got an email from this person with a fully signed copy of the agreement back and he asked if we had a developer that could help.   I have never, ever had a one day close.  It was great to have the one day close, but now the hard part starts.  The .net developer market is very tight in the Cincinnati / Dayton market and I try not to have people in the office just sitting around.
The good news is we actively recruit and had a person that was qualified and lived only about 15 minutes away from this new customer.  Should be a slam dunk, right?  This is the second part of the never ever.  This developer wants to go to the customer and look at their code and interview them to see if he wants to take the gig.  Sure we have had plenty of interviews and those certainly can be dialogs back and forth, but we have never, ever had a reverse interview.  Well the customer agreed, knowing how tight things are.   The person ended up not taking the assignment for other reasons, but the good news is we did get someone.  Never seems to happen quite a bit.

The Real Me?

the-real-meCan you see the real me? Can ya, can ya? Ok, I’m not talking about a song from The Who. Nearly everything you ever wanted to know can be found on the internet. This includes common interview questions asked at major companies, along with the most successful answers. To get a true feel for your candidate, as well as to get them out of “interview mode”, going beyond the standard interview questions could be your best bet. For example:
Rapid fire questions such as: “What is your favorite book/movie/musician?” “Where do you like to travel?” “What is your favorite city?” “Why?” Quick questions show you how the candidate thinks on their feet. The questions are meant to be simple and not related to the position. However, it reveals how the candidate reacts to this form of questioning. It also can show the genuineness of the candidate and their responses to other questions. Be sure, however, to make it a conversation and not an inquisition.
Ask the candidate to organize a group of objects. The objects could be random files, different sizes and color of paper clips, or a deck of cards (or list of potential clients, engineering drawings, etc.). The best response would be a candidate that asks questions about how you prefer the objects to be organized. Should the deck of cards be organized by suit or by matching up all the aces, twos, jacks, etc. Should a list of potential clients be organized by revenue, stock price, SIC code, etc. The questions will show their thought process. By telling them to organize them, the way they see fit will show you how they work through the task.
Ask the candidate to solve a problem that is directly related to the position and company. This type of question can show the candidate’s ability to innovate, adapt, learn, and use their resources. It can also help to show how they work through challenges within the position.
If the candidate says, “I went back to the doctor to get another shrink. I sit and tell him about my weekend, But he never betrays what he thinks. Can you see the real me, doctor?”…..Run

I’m Certified!

 

CPSAE I FB Logo R

CPSR I FB Logo RAccording to Merriam-Webster the definition of Certified is:
: having met the official requirements that are needed to do particular type of work
: officially approved as having met a standard
: real or genuine

I think all three fit me. Not only do I think I know what I’m doing, someone else does too!  I am happy to announce that I am a CPSAE (Certified Professional Services Account Executive) and a CPSR (Certified Professional Services Recruiter).  This is a certification given by TechServe Alliance.

The TechServe Alliance Certification Program recognizes mastery of industry best practices as well as knowledge of employment law and other legal issues encountered by account executives and recruiters in the professional services industry. It is the only professional certification program in the U.S. that focuses on recruiting and sales practices relating to technical services. The credential is awarded based upon strict adherence to a professional code of ethics, education, experience and passing a rigorous examination that provides an objective measure of an individual’s broad-based knowledge and competency in either recruiting or account management. Ongoing professional development is required in order to maintain the credential.

Its been almost 6 months of work it get these certifications and I will need to have 24 continuing education credits over the next three years. I have written about certifications before and you can check that out here.

TSA Certified Professionals

Nine Ideas to Help You Prepare for an Interview

Plan Practice Prepare - 3 Arrow WheelThere are no excuses not to be prepared for an interview.  Here are some ideas that can make the difference between getting the job and going home to continue the search.

1. Provide Specific Examples
Take time to write down why you were better, faster or more efficient than others who have your experience. Write down what you did and more importantly the impact of your actions on past employers. Some of the best examples should show how you either saved your company time, money, increased revenues or profits.

If your interviewing for an advertised position, write down the key words used in the advertisement. Next to each keyword, list specific examples where you demonstrated these skills. Always keep in mind that your job during an interview is to have the hiring authority begin to envision you as the best fit for their opportunity.

2. Role Play Interview Questions
There are questions that are almost always asked during the interview process. You need to role play your answers with anyone willing to role play with you. It’s amazing how many job seekers are eliminated from consideration when they can’t answer “Tell me about yourself?”  I once had an interviewee not be able to answer the question “What motivates you to be successful?”  The person looked like they had never been asked that before.

Keep in mind that the interviewer is going to hire the individual who will provide the greatest return on their investment (your compensation package). They will also determine who fits in best with their current team and company culture.

Never forget the interviewer will only pass you on to the next step in the process or extend a job offer if you focus on their WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). They must be confident you have the credentials needed, possess a high level of interest and are confident in your abilities.

3. Conduct Thorough Research
Your competition will review the employers’ website. You need to conduct much more thorough research including reading all the press and media about the employer. You gain great insight by reading what others are saying about an employer. When you understand current challenges being faced by a potential employer, you can position yourself as part of the solution.

4. Research the Industry or Profession
You need to read what employers in your industry or profession are reading to stay abreast of trends. Subscribe to Trade Publications and review the websites of the Professional Associations of your target market. It is their job to keep members informed of trends. If possible, attend association events as a guest to keep your knowledge and network current.

5. Prepare Questions in Advance
When you are being asked questions, the interviewer is in control of the interview process. When you ask questions, you are in control and have the ability to turn around an interview that may not be going well.

It is your job to uncover what is most important to each person in the interview process by asking questions like:

  • “What is most important to you in the person you hire?”
  • “What is the greatest challenge the person you hire will face?”
  • “If you could have improved the performance of the last person who held this position, what would you have improved?”

6. Dress Appropriately
If possible, go to the employer and observe how their employees are dressed and dress one level better. Interviewers assume that the best you will look is when you arrive for an interview.

7. Master your Thirty Second Pitch and Handshake
You only have a few seconds to make a great first impression.

8. Eliminate other Distractions
Once you have conducted your research you will have insight in to the company culture, values, and core competencies. The dress code in an advertising agency is much different from that in a bank.

9. Remember to ask for the Job
Hiring authorities will react positively to someone who shows a high level of enthusiasm and interest. Obviously, you need to also possess the required credentials.

For more ideas and great information visit our IT Career portal at HTTP://www.mySTARBASE.com

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

SweetSorrowChange is inevitable; acceptance is optional. Even companies with the strongest talent management programs have employee resignations. It is simply a part of life in a business. How a company handles the resignation can deeply impact employee retention. Lets look at best practices when faced with the dreaded two week notice.

How are resignations and retention related? How the resignation is handled directly affects retention. No one wants to work for a company that treats a departing team member poorly. The tone used when announcing the departure is the key. By announcing to the group that “John or Jane is moving on and the company wishes them well” is a very good for employee morale. The remaining team members feel that the company is amicable and open to change. It also gives piece of mind that if or when they decide to move on, for whatever reason, that there will be no ill will against them in the workplace.

How the resignation, two-week timeline and final day are approached can also impact a company’s brand and image. Big companies are keenly aware of this phenomenon. When an Apple Genius leaves for the next stage of their career, the entire staff on duty stops what they are doing and clap for the departing team member as they leave on their final day. This shows the customers, employees and leaving team member that Apple values their employees. It also leaves the departing employee with a good final impression of their time at Apple.

Even more important than maintaining the company’s image is maintaining the manager’s image. Treating an employee poorly during their notice period can come back to haunt a manager. People change positions now more than ever. The individual who left the company might be the person interviewing that manager when they decide to move on. Remember, it is an increasingly small world these days.

There are times, however, when an employee needs to be walked out of the building immediately following resignation. This unfortunate event should be avoided at all costs, but if necessary there are ways to keep employee morale intact. Transparency is the best means of retaining employee morale. By announcing the departure straight away and explaining that the situation was unique can help maintain morale. Being prepared for questions and dispelling rumors will ensure that the resignation and walk out are quickly put in the past so everyone can move on.

Employees leave for many, many reasons…family, relocation, more money, etc. Regardless of the reason, an employee departure gives the manager and the company an opportunity to learn more about themselves. Performing an exit interview is the only way to truly learn from the experience. Proactive companies will then take that information to implement changes or enhancements to current programs.

While resignations are never fun to deal with, it is in a company’s best interest to remain upbeat. How you react to a resignation can directly influence employee morale, loyalty, and retention.

Take Five

take5How often have you looked up and realized that you missed lunch? Maybe even missed dinner? Today’s “work…work…work” mentality has taken a toll on employees performance, job satisfaction and health.  This can be especially true for IT workers!

The average American worker spends 9.2 hours per day at work–30% are skipping lunch or eating at their desk. The vast majority of workers can access their email and desktops on their smartphones. This has now become “normal”. Furthermore, it has become expected in many companies that key team members make themselves available anytime, anywhere. This change in work structure and expectations is linked to increased stress and employee dissatisfaction. This then snowballs into increased absenteeism, increased health insurance costs, loss of productivity, and staff turnover.

There are some simple changes that can be made to reverse what ails the modern workplace. The easiest solution is to take breaks throughout the day. Here is a breakdown on how breaks can increase productivity and decrease healthcare costs:

  • 15 seconds – decrease mental fatigue and preserve eyesight by looking away from the computer for 15 seconds every ten minutes.
  • 30 seconds to 5 minutes – can increase mental acuity by 13%, increase focus and productivity.
  • 2 minutes – stand up and stretch for 2 minutes every hour to increase circulation, decrease muscle tension and overall fatigue
  • 5 minutes – away from typing on a keyboard or clicking a mouse can combat hand, wrist and forearm pain.
  • 6 minutes – the optimal amount of time spent every 80 minutes taking a break from all types of work to increase productivity and mental acuity.
  • 20 minutes – while not always an option, a 20 minute nap can provide more rest, physical and mental recovery than 20 minutes of deep sleep.  Alertness can increase over 30%.

The average manager spends 2 days per week in meetings, many longer than they need to be. In addition to taking breaks, the structure of meetings can also be changed to increase productivity, participation and efficiency. Conducting standing meetings, by standing we mean physically standing, will increase focus on the agenda, garner full attention of the attendees and perhaps allow for less time in the boardroom, more time implementing what was discussed.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

No one wants to lose their best performers.  They are the most productive, the people you lean on, and the foundation you build your organization on.  In spite of these facts, we sometimes take them for granted.  The easiest way to decrease hiring costs is to increase the retention rate of those who perform best!  Keep reading for some ideas on how to do this.

In case you were not aware, the total cost of losing an employee can equal two times or more of that employee’s salary.  These costs include:

  • Loss of productivity
  • Hiring costs
  • On-boarding
  • Training
  • Potential errors during transitional period, especially in healthcare and customer service industries

The top two reasons top talent leave their current companies for others is their management and a perceived lack of empowerment in their roles. No one wants to work in a negative environment. Many times their direct report is to blame for the working environment. Having a boss that they believe is inflexible, doesn’t listen, etc., is the number one reason the best talent leaves an organization.A lack of empowerment is cited as the second most common reason for a job change. Even great bosses can trigger a job change if they do not empower their team to solve problems or influence decisions.

Internal politics is the third reason why top talent leaves their current positions. The feeling that new opportunities in their current role or ways to climb the corporate ladder are inaccessible is a huge turn off. Top talent will passively or actively seek out a new position with a new company to navigate their way to a higher position within their industry.What about compensation? You might think this is the final reason for turnover, but it is not. Recognition is the fourth most common reason the best talent leave their organizations. Money talks, but often just a simple “good job” or lunch with members of your team will do more for employee morale than most think. Giving credit where credit is due shows team members that they are respected. Invest some time to find people doing something “right” and reinforce that behavior by recognizing it. This takes very little time and the returns are phenomenal!When a company acknowledges their weaknesses in these areas and that they are reasons why your best people might leave, employee retention will increase, often significantly. Implementing a simple talent management system will decrease hiring costs while increasing employee satisfaction.

Social Media Etiquette 101

101Social media is not the Holy Grail of recruitment, but done well, can be a wonderful supplement to a company’s recruiting program.

Candidates are more technologically savvy than ever. Smartphone and tablet apps have revolutionized how people interact. They have also changed how people look for jobs. Social media brings another layer to this phenomenon. Regardless of a candidate’s current job satisfaction, companies are engaging potential talent around the clock in a variety of ways on several different social media platforms.

The key to effectively using social media, on any of the platforms, is to be thoughtful and engaging. Social media should be thought of as a 24/7/365 networking event. Posts should portray the best company image, without feeling forced or stuffy. Humor is permitted and highly recommended. The goal is to get the potential candidate interested in the company message and engaged in a conversation. These conversations will have that candidate coming back for more.

The ability to engage many at once is great. The ability to reach out to a potential candidate on a personal level is even better. Private messaging within LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ allows a much more directed conversation to occur. These messages can be a great icebreaker, especially with a candidate that is not actively seeking new employment, and may lead to a more in-depth conversation.

Researching the candidate prior to privately messaging them is extremely important. Reading through their social media profiles, yes all of their profiles on all sites that they use, will give insight on that person and allow a more personalized message to be sent. Skipping this step and only going by the information seen at a quick glance will make that communication feel like a form letter. Injecting information found by combing through their profile will create a more personalized approach and open up the conversation.

Social media can be exhausting if not managed properly. Since social media does not replace recruiting as we know it; it can easily cut into time spent on other, important recruitment activities. By scheduling time each day for social media and utilizing tools such as HootSuite, which uploads posts to several sites at once, social media can be a great supplement that remains thoughtful and easy.

There is much debate on the ROI with social media. Many companies invest in advertising and have dedicated staff for social media engagement. Smaller companies find cost savings in hiring with increased employee referrals. While Facebook has great metrics to show a company’s reach on the site, there is still little concrete data on social media’s true effectiveness across the board.

The consensus on social media is that it is a great way to engage candidates and employees. However, it does not replace tried and true recruiting activities, such as face to face and phone interactions. Social media is definitely a trend to watch as more and more companies use it in their recruiting efforts.

23 Year Anniversary

23 Year AnniversaryThanks to everyone that posted best wishes on LinkedIn. I can’t believe its been 23 years! This anniversary reminded me about an event when I had been in business 3 years. Even though it has been 20 years, I can remember it like it was yesterday. A new business owner invited me to lunch. I will never forget one of the questions asked was, “You have been in business 3 years, when does it get easier?”. I laughed and replied, “I don’t know, its not yet.” If I were asked the same question today, I would to give the same answer. Things have certainly changed and the challenges are different, but it never gets any easier!

When asked about how I do it, I am also reminded about a blog post that I wrote a while back. you can read part one here and part two here.