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Monday, 21 February 2011 13:38

Take your time

Brett Febus likes to take his time when he’s looking to hire someone at Insource Spend Management Group. If that means he has to put off making a final decision and can instead bring the person in on a temporary basis, he’ll do it.

“It’s a huge responsibility when you, as an employer, hire a person,” says Febus, founder and president at the 20-employee financial consulting company. “It’s a responsibility to their family, and it’s very important. You owe it to that potential employee to make a good decision. You start making reckless hiring decisions or thinking, ‘Oh, if this person doesn’t work out, I can just lay them off or fire them,’ that’s a recipe for disaster.”

The approach of bringing someone in on a temporary basis to better gauge their fit for an opening is one that has served Febus well over the years.

It has afforded him the opportunity to get to know prospective employees and assess whether a role exists that fits both their talents and his needs. His approach is not that much different from the process he would follow when making a permanent hire.

“We still believe that this is a person that with 99 percent certainty is a perfect fit for the job,” Febus says. “But on the off chance that it doesn’t work out, I just believe I don’t want them and they don’t want me. So why not put ourselves in a situation via being a contractor first where a separation can be clean and painless for both of us?”

When you present an opportunity to a prospective employee to get to know them better before making a final decision, you’re showing them that you respect the magnitude that a job has in a person’s life.

Febus is confident that someone who is really committed to working for you and for your company will be willing to go through a longer hiring process.

“Sometimes when an employee is looking for a job, they are going to sit across from you and say, ‘Yes, this is perfect; I love it,’” Febus says. “And really what they love is getting a paycheck every Friday. They wouldn’t care if they were pulling weeds. As long as they were getting a paycheck, they’re going to tell you it’s perfect. It’s important that everybody is honest with each other and that you set expectations.”

Go through your expectations with them and talk about what their role in your company would be.

“Write those expectations down,” Febus says. “Here’s what we expect the job is going to be. … The key is keeping it simple and making sure the expectations are really clear and that you’re being very honest with them.”

If you choose to bring someone in on a temporary basis, don’t treat him or her differently than you would a regular hire.

“We go through orientation, we give them business cards, we do all those things just like they are an employee,” Febus says.

Your goal is the same in either case. You’re trying to determine if this person is committed to your company. Without that commitment, they’re probably not a person you want to hire.

“I have to know you’re not still looking for another job,” Febus says. “I have to know that you are committing to this just like I am, and we have both represented everything to each other in its most true form and you have a desire to stay here for 10 or 20 or 30 years.”

How to reach: Insource Spend Management Group, (800) 397-6880 or www.insourcesmg.com

Keep your eyes open

When is the best time of year to think about hiring people into your business? How about any month on the calendar?

“Don’t just think about personnel moves every December or every April,” says Brett Febus, founder and president at Insource Spend Management Group. “Think about personnel moves all the time.”

Febus keeps a stack of resumes on his desk at the 20-employee company.

“There’s probably 30 of them, and periodically, I just flip through them,” Febus says. “This person was a good person. Do I have a spot? How about this person or this person? I’m constantly thinking about personnel moves.”

Encourage your employees to let you know about people who they think would be a good fit for your company. Talk about moves you’re thinking of making with your leadership team.

“I’ll just bring them in and say, ‘Listen, here’s what I’m thinking of doing. Shoot holes in it,’” Febus says. “They might say, ‘Brett, I know you’re thinking we don’t need that person today, but maybe we do for these reasons.’ You can’t talk about it too much with different people.”

If you have these discussions on a regular basis, you’ll be ready when action needs to be taken.

Published in Columbus

The sales landscape is changing. To succeed, businesses need to focus on three key drivers of profitable growth — customers, pricing and innovation.

“If you think about those three things, sales is the critical nexus through which they all flow,” says Jim Lane, director of RedBank Advisors at GBQ Partners LLC. “You can’t get a decent price if your sales people cave when they’re pressured. You can’t hear about innovative demands and needs from your customers if your sales people are not listening carefully. You can’t establish customer satisfaction with a sales force that is setting expectations that you cannot meet. Sales is a critical enabler of all three drivers of profitable growth.”

Smart Business spoke with Lane about how to understand the changing sales atmosphere and make sure your sales force can accommodate the changes.

How has the sales environment changed?

If you rewind a little bit, a lot of businesses thought their sales guys were absolutely amazing in the 1990s, and many of those sales people are still in place. Early in this decade, business leaders looked at sales people a more little critically, but then the sales group seemed to recover and hit their feet again. That all changed with this last downturn, and now no one seems to know how to sell.

Have the sales people really been getting better and worse? No, but what’s been happening is that our feelings about sales people track with the economy. So in the mid to late 1990s, the economy was raging along, and all you had to do was show up with a sales book to get an order. In the early 2000s, there was a bit of a downturn, so we looked at sales people with a bit of a critical eye. But we recovered and started to make progress again, so business leaders thought that sales people knew what they were doing. But it wasn’t until this latest downturn when we figured out that they really don’t know it all, and in many cases, are not suited for sales or don’t have the knowledge or skills to be effective at sales. As a result, we’ve seen a bunch of sales managers and sales people who’ve been exposed as not good at what they’re doing.

What are some key things business leaders need to understand about the changing atmosphere of sales and growth?

The key difficulty that business owners have when looking at their sales force and growth curve is that, once they know what their own desires and goals are for growth, they don’t separate out what they’re accomplishing versus what’s being accomplished because of the business environment. In the 1990s, we all thought we were geniuses. But over the last 18 to 24 months, we all thought we were idiots. Have we really changed, or is it just the performance of the economy that’s driving the change in the business? You have to separate out what you can control versus what the economy controls. That will help you determine the difference between an opportunity to improve and factors beyond your control.

How do you work with your sales force to accommodate this change?

The first aspect is getting the right people in place with the right psychological makeup. The second part is making sure that they have the skills and training that they need.

That first part is really a price of entry, it’s really a go or no go. There are a couple of key characteristics of a good sales person’s psyche, which deal with a willingness and commitment to do whatever it takes to make oneself successful. The other one is fortitude and the ability to hear no, keep on going and keep your drive up. If someone is lacking in those two elements, it’s probably not a good idea for that person to remain in sales for a career. You have to evaluate each sales person with a rigorous assessment tool so you can determine his or her potential. Then you can track progress against their potential each year as you go along.

Then you can train your sales force on a whole series of different skills. You can definitely impact these and improve performance through some of these skills in a way that has a return associated with it. When you first look at your sales force, you need to determine if you receive a continued return on investment. You might as well just trade them out or eliminate those positions if you do not. If you have a group of sales people who have those core psyche elements, then you can determine what the return on investment will be for that group. That’s where you see an opportunity to continue to invest in and improve the performance of the existing sales group.

Once you’ve been through this analysis, and you know how to invest in your current talent pool, then you can look at the gaps. You look at what types of sales people that you do have, and what types of sales people that you need to drive growth.

What are the benefits and risks of focusing on the key drivers of profitable growth?

Business leadership is a balance of looking at drivers of growth and profitability and looking at efficiency, which is more cost focused. Drivers of growth tend to be revenue and top line oriented. Drivers of efficiency tend to be cost and bottom line oriented. As with anything, if you focus too much on the left hand, you forget what the right hand is doing. You need to keep a balanced outlook.

If you do focus on profitable growth, the key benefit is that you become a much stronger organization. Companies that did well over the last 18 to 24 months were ones that had already taken up the challenge of being profitable. They came into the downturn with the cash to take advantage of buying opportunities and were able to invest in new capabilities and talent at a time when they were relative bargains.

Being more profitable makes you a much stronger firm. When another company is trimming to survive, you can attack their customer base and introduce new products. That financial strength enables you to do a lot of things when there are competitive opportunities to move.

Jim Lane is the director of RedBank Advisors at GBQ Partners LLC. Reach him at (614) 947-5257 or jlane@gbq.com.

Published in Columbus

In the past, many employers have used a discretionary bonus system. However, the use of pay-for-performance compensation plans has become increasingly popular.

“The process is changing because boards of directors are getting more involved in setting corporate goals and want a mechanism by which those goals can be reinforced,” says Ted R. Ginsburg, CPA, JD, a principal with Skoda Minotti.

“The boards want to guide executive behavior. In that process, companies are tying the payment of bonuses to the achievement of distinct goals.”

Smart Business spoke with Ginsburg about how pay-for-performance plans work, and how to properly implement one.

What defines a pay-for-performance compensation plan?

A pay-for-performance compensation plan is a system by which annual and long-term bonuses are directly tied to the satisfaction of goals. If the executive does not satisfy the goals, then no bonus is awarded.

Pay-for-performance plans typically contain between three and five key milestones or tasks to be attained or completed throughout the year. These goals are typically measurable, quantifiable, and quite black and white so executives can see whether or not they met the goal and will receive the payment.

How does this system benefit employers?

This system benefits employers in three main ways:

No. 1: Clarity in explaining a bonus.

No. 2: Unless desired, the CEO/board doesn’t have to listen to other executives complaining about how they didn’t meet their goals but they still deserve a bonus. It’s not necessary, because all the goals are set in advance and are clearly explained.

No. 3: If the system works properly, the goals pay for themselves. If the company attains the goal — for example, stated earnings per share — it can afford to pay the bonus. The bonus is justified by the action.

The board of directors should be going to the company with input from management and saying, ‘Here are the goals we want to attain during the year.’ Of course, you should have long-term company goals, but usually these short-term goals fit into the long-term goals.

A pay-for-performance plan focuses the executive’s attention on attaining these short-term goals. So the company can tell its shareholders that it set these goals and attained them, so payment of the bonuses is justified.

Often, the perception of shareholders regarding discretionary bonuses is that the board just ‘rubberstamps’ them because they want to make sure their buddies are taken care of. Pay-for-performance eliminates that skepticism.

How does the system benefit executives?

To the executives, the main benefit is clarity. They know exactly what to do to earn the bonus. They know exactly what the board of directors wants from them. They don’t have to worry that if the boss is grumpy on bonus day, they won’t get anything.

The other issue that benefits executives and employers alike is clarity in the pay package. An executive looking for another job knows he or she might be giving up this bonus. An employer hiring an executive could say, ‘Here is your base pay, and you will get a bonus of this amount if you reach these specific goals.’ It adds clarity to the rules of the game in the job-seeking process.

What steps need to be taken to create a successful pay-for-performance program?

The first step is to get input from senior management. Determine short-term goals that are attainable, but that people have to stretch to reach. You should set up a series of three to five goals for the executives covered by the program. The goals have to be somewhat adjusted to make sure the person who will be striving to reach them has some impact in that process.

For example, you wouldn’t want to set a goal for the VP of sales to reduce waste in the manufacturing process. You want to set up goals that fit the executive’s role. If profitability is a goal, though, a goal for the VP of sales’ could be sales with an X percent margin. Or the VP of production’s goal could be keeping production costs low enough that the company makes money.

Once you have the goals, you conduct research to determine what the overall amount of the bonus should be. You can do that through market compensation data. Then, you should allocate that total amount of bonus between the goals. Are all goals rewarded in the same amount, or are some worth more than others? This gives the executives more guidance on the importance of their tasks.

Once that’s done, communicate with the executive to track his or her progress during the year, if possible. That’s motivational. We all want to know how we are doing.

How do employees react when the annual bonus program becomes pay-for-performance based?

Surprisingly, in my experience, the employees like this type of program because it does bring clarity. It eliminates the necessity to spend a lot of time praising oneself to generate payment.

You have to involve them in the process, because if they aren’t on board with the reasonableness of the goals, the program won’t work. If you set a goal of increasing profits by 40 percent this year and, over the last 10 years, you’ve never increased profits by more than three percent, the executives will say this goal is unattainable. That would serve to be a demotivator. But if you set a goal the board and the executives feel is reasonable and a bit of a stretch, it should be very well received.

Ted R. Ginsburg, CPA, JD, is a principal with Skoda Minotti. Reach him at (440) 449-6800 or tginsburg@skodaminotti.com.

Published in Cleveland

Despite a rebounding economy and renewed hope, the national unemployment rate is still around 9.7 percent. In Georgia, the unemployment rate is 10.5 percent, and April 2010 is the 29th consecutive month that the state’s rate has been higher than the national average.

Needless to say, this has created a very large labor pool. Add in the fact that more and more qualified professionals are being added to that labor pool every day due to budget cuts and layoffs, and you’ve got a lot of good people looking for work.

“More and more, people are willing to take jobs that they maybe wouldn’t have in the past, and they’re definitely willing to take less money or fewer benefits,” says Melissa Hulsey, president and CEO of Ashton Staffing. “This gives companies great opportunities to get more bang for their buck when hiring.”

Still, these skilled people are hard to find. Many of them turn to staffing firms, which means now is the time to take advantage of the people and services a quality staffing firm can offer.

Smart Business spoke with Hulsey about temporary labor, how it can benefit your organization and the common misperceptions that come with hiring “temps.”

Why is now a good time to utilize temporary labor?

The long-term cost of employment is uncertain at best. Companies are often less willing to commit to a person full time because they can’t plan long term what the total cost of that employee will be. Among other things, there are questions about the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax. Will it stay at 7.65 percent, or will it go up?

Temporary labor doesn’t have those concerns; there’s no commitment and you’ll know exactly what the cost is upfront. You get the staffing you need without the headaches and the hassles.

What benefits come with temporary labor?

No. 1, the company saves money. Employers have to cover taxes, unemployment, health care and workers’ compensation, just to name a few. And all of those costs are projected to go up in the near future. Temporary labor helps alleviate that, since the staffing agency is the one that takes on those costs. Also, if you’ve got a lot of employees working overtime, you can hire temps to fill in, without the added cost of overtime wages.

Temporary labor also saves you time. The staffing firm does all the interviewing, screening, skills testing and advertising. You just call up the firm, tell them what you need and they find the right person for the job.

Another benefit is increased flexibility. You can hire more people at peak times and pare your staff down when business is slower. Nowadays, you can bring in highly skilled temps to replace key positions that may have been eliminated or downsized. For instance, you can find a temporary director of HR to come in a few days a week to take care of any administrative tasks you may have.

Finally, temporary labor reduces a company’s risk. Bringing in help takes the pressure off of your full-time employees, reducing accidents and absenteeism and preventing burnout. With companies paring down and employees taking on increasing workloads, burnout has become an unfortunate trend. It’s true that your staff is your greatest cost, but it’s also your greatest asset. It makes sense to do whatever you can to protect that asset.

What potential pitfalls should companies be aware of when using temporary labor?

First of all, don’t just look online and call the first staffing agency you find. Compare and interview staffing agencies just like you would potential employees. Make sure that the staffing agency matches your culture, understands your needs and goals and will represent your company the way you want it to.

Also, make sure you know all of the costs involved upfront, particularly the ones that come when you want to hire the person after their temporary trial is up; sometimes a conversion fee applies.

Finally, make sure you have a system in place to measure the performance of the temporary employees. Find out whether or not the temp fits in as soon as possible. The sooner you let the staffing agency know about issues, the sooner it can get you another worker.

So, how can you ensure that you’re getting the right talent?

The key is communication. Clearly define your needs upfront. Give the staffing agency as much information as possible: what specific skills you need, how your company culture works, what kind of personality you’re looking for, the goals of the position, how long the temp will be employed, if it will be a temp-to-hire situation, etc. The more the staffing agency knows, the better it will be at finding you the people you need.

What are the common myths of temporary staffing?

There’s a stigma attached to temporary labor that it’s only unskilled, unhireable people. But the fact is there are thousands of highly skilled, highly trained people looking for work. Not only that, more and more people, particularly younger ones, only want to work on a temporary basis, as it offers them a better work-life balance.

Another myth is that it’s more expensive to utilize a staffing firm than just hiring on your own. With a staffing firm you know what the costs are upfront and you can always control those costs. That cannot be said about hiring an employee yourself.

Melissa Hulsey is president and CEO of Ashton Staffing. Reach her at (770) 419-1776 or mhulsey@ashtonstaffing.com.

Published in Atlanta
Friday, 18 February 2011 14:53

Talent scorecard

Companies worldwide are struggling to find and retain the caliber of leaders their businesses need. The increased market intensity and demand for top-shelf, experienced leaders arrive at a time when our population of potential leaders is declining. Stagnant hiring in the early 1980s has resulted in fewer experienced leaders available. On top of that, U.S. census data indicates that the population of potential leaders is shrinking.

In short, we have a challenging business environment and fewer experienced leaders to navigate it.

These challenges represent opportunities to fundamentally change and measurably improve how talent is managed. We must treat talent management as a business imperative and bring it to the strategic planning table — where it belongs.

Whether starting new companies or preparing the leaders of tomorrow, the most successful companies hire great talent, make sure that talent is aligned with the company’s strategy and culture, develop that talent aggressively and reward that talent well, in alignment with their desired culture and future strategy.

To manage talent strategically, organizations must do three things:

Align business and talent strategies.

Every aspect of the talent strategy should link directly to the business strategy and its execution. Anything not directly linked is probably working against the core strategy by consuming time and resources and confusing managers about what is most important. Once the business plan is formulated, the first question to ask is, “Are the current people processes ready to hire, develop and manage leaders to support this business plan for the next three to five years?” Make sure that the competencies for which you are hiring match the skills that leaders will need to execute the business plan. Ensure that leadership development is based upon values that support where the company is headed.

Look ahead, not behind.

Develop tomorrow’s leaders for tomorrow’s challenges. Talent management should be based on where the company is going, not where it has been. Most performance management effort is oriented toward evaluating past performance. While understanding how a person has just performed against current expectations is important, it is equally important to ensure that leaders are assessed against the future demands of the business — three to five years down the road — not just the challenges being faced today.

Track the talent profile.

Talent metrics should be established, tracked and acted upon as part of the business portfolio. They should garner the same attention as other bottom-line metrics. Talent metrics are not second-class measures — they are a vital part of your business portfolio and the best indicator of your future capacity to execute.

Ignoring or ascribing second-class status to talent metrics is a good way to be caught off-guard in midstream. Decision-makers should have a “talent scorecard” to monitor the quality of available talent and track gaps in key talent pools. These data can be used to adjust hiring and development practices and to drive individual accountability for enabling the business strategy.

No matter how brilliant the strategy, it takes people to execute it. It is too easy to be captivated by plans to secure additional market share or tap new markets but fail to ask, “Do we have the people to get the job done?” and “What will it take to ensure we have the talent we need?” Require each business in the enterprise to provide a talent strategy commensurate with the operating plan for executing their business strategy. Without an equivalent talent plan, the business strategy becomes a false promise. Do not approve business plans that fail to address finding, developing and managing talent to execute the strategy.

Leslie W. Braksick, Ph.D., is co-founder of CLG Inc. (www.clg.com) and author of “Preparing CEOs for Success: What I Wish I Knew” and “Unlock Behavior, Unleash Profits.” Braksick consults with top executives and their boards on issues of executive leadership succession and effectiveness and strategy execution, including merger integration. Reach her at lbraksick@clg.com.

Published in Pittsburgh
Monday, 21 February 2011 14:27

People connection

When Alan P. Shor co-founded The Retail Connection LP in 2004 with Steve Lieberman, they had six employees and one too-large office. But within just a few years, the company has filled that space, growing to about 70 people and three offices today.

One of the keys to building a strong organization has been making sure he gets the right people into the real estate services and investment firm.

Smart Business spoke with Shor, who serves as co-chairman and president, about how to successfully grow an open organization by bringing in the right people.

What have been the keys to your success?

There are just a handful of basic keys to good, strong, successful leadership. One is building the right culture in your organization. Before you can do that, you have to be clear in your own mind of what you want to do and how you want to do it, and then you have to communicate that in a clear way. If you have a plan and a way to achieve that plan and you communicate it right, then you start building your team, and that’s where the cultural part comes in.

First and foremost, it’s hiring the right people. Once you get the right people in the door, then it’s making sure they understand what our goals and objectives are.

How do you hire the right people?

We try to combine experience with entry-level. We look for people who are smart and entrepreneurial and want to work hard and become students of the business. You can accomplish that by hiring experienced people based on what they’ve done, and you can accomplish that by hopefully putting people through a good interview process, particularly the entry-level program.

We have an analysts program where we hire kids out of school that want to have a career in what we do. Then we put them in a six- to eight-month program where we move them around the company to different parts and they see how we interact and work with different teams and see different aspects of the business. At the end of that time, we make an assessment of whether they’re ready to become a full-time employee. Our success rate has been really strong. We have a good feeling going into the hiring. Then we have a much better read coming out of the analyst program as to who can make it and who can’t.

What tips can you provide for making better hires?

Make sure you have a pretty good understanding of what you’re looking for, have a specific job description, and you want to make sure that you articulate the type of person you’re looking to hire and then be very diligent in the hiring process.

The people we bring in will see multiple people here — it could be upwards of six or eight people from different parts of the business — and then we talk about how that interview went. Then we give them an aptitude test. It’s a 20-minute test that really will give us some guidance. It’s not the barometer, but it’s one of the factors. We look at it as to how they’ll be in our business.

Be diligent about it. Call references. Make sure enough people spend time with that person, because you’re making a decision that not only impacts your company but, more importantly, is impacting the life of somebody.

How can you get beyond the interview front to know who people really are?

If they’re in Dallas, it’s easier because we try to get our people together as much as possible. One of the things we do a lot of is we get our guys together and have a basketball game. We invite our recruits to play, and when you get them in a setting like that, where it’s very much a social and competitive atmosphere, you can learn a lot that you can’t learn in an interview.

How to reach: The Retail Connection LP, (214) 572-0777 or www.theretailconnection.net

Published in Dallas
Thursday, 17 February 2011 15:24

From HR nightmare to competitive advantage

Misunderstandings. Conflicts. Even outright fights.

Today’s companies are becoming multigenerational battlefields, where baby boomers and millennials duke it out. Each generation features its own work style, learning methods, means of communication and reward system. As a result, too many businesses are finding a generationally diverse work force to be a liability.

But what happens when the baby boomers retire and walk away with the business’s corporate intelligence? They will leave behind a tech-savvy and entitled generation that doesn’t know the meaning of the word “no.” Will that spell the end of your company?

It doesn’t have to. In fact, by embracing the strengths of each generation, savvy companies can transform age differences into a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

By following a clear plan, companies can not only be ready to handle generational differences but can make the most of each and every age group in the work force.

Give your top human resources executive a seat in the boardroom. People are a company’s most important asset. By making your HR executive part of the company’s leadership team, it ensures that work force planning and generational issues can be tied to the company’s strategic plan and mission. A seat at the table also keeps HR issues top-of-mind with the executive team, which is more important than ever as you face the generational divide.

Make succession planning a priority. Conduct a work force age analysis, which will identify coming knowledge gaps. For example, the average engineer is 55 years old. Does the company have a way to identify top young talent to replace these employees?

Understand what it takes to attract and motivate the younger work force. I fired my own daughter three times. Only then did I understand that the younger generation isn’t lazy. They’re simply more efficient and better multitaskers. As a result, they need to be constantly challenged. In that same vein, younger workers are not always recruited the same old ways. You are more likely to find your best new candidates via social media than at a traditional networking breakfast.

Develop programs for baby boomers to transfer their knowledge to the younger generations before they retire. Both formal and informal methods should be used to ensure corporate intelligence is not lost. Remember to address both hard and soft skills. The older generations have maturity and work force knowledge, plus they are highly networked and offer good communications skills. Partner them with the younger generation for knowledge transfer and mentorship. At the same time, boomers will benefit from learning new technology skills from their younger peers.

Reward and motivate each generation accordingly. Older employees still enjoy earning a trophy for their desk, a bigger office or a fancy title. Younger generations prefer a flexible schedule, a gift card to a restaurant or some extra time off for family. Millennials also tend to change jobs — frequently. Keep them engaged and interested by offering projects and other opportunities to learn and grow.

Harness the power of all four generations. Remember, each of the four work force generations has strengths to be leveraged. Discriminate against gray hair or body piercings at your own peril. The key is to find ways for employees of different generations to communicate, learn and work with one another. Appreciate and point out the benefits of their differences. That attitude — and the positive effects of learning from one another — will become part of your culture.

Sherri Elliott-Yeary is the founder of Gen InsYght, the CEO of Optimance Workforce Strategies, and the author of “Ties to Tattoos.” Her clients include La Quinta Hotels, Minyard Foods and The Chickasaw Nation, among many others. Contact her at (214) 802-2345 or at sherri@geninsyght.com.

Published in Dallas
Tuesday, 01 March 2011 14:06

Talent management

As a child, Lois Melbourne watched her mother run her business with a focus on people.

That lesson stays with her as an adult at her own business, Aquire Inc., a work force planning and management solutions company. As co-founder and CEO of the 64-person company, she uses those people skills to help business owners develop succession plans and work through mergers and reorganizations.

Smart Business spoke with Melbourne about how to effectively manage your talent.

How do you create metrics for talent management?

Every organization has different drivers, but looking at the measurement, some of them are subjective, yet they still need to be ranked — like readiness for another position. It has to still be a human intervention to say, ‘Is an individual ready for a particular role?’ But that decision is also hopefully based on measurements that have been going on throughout the year or throughout someone’s career as you look at what experience have they been through, what value have they brought to the organization, do they have the necessary training or hands-on experience with components in the company? Then, sometimes it’s very easy to check off the list and say maybe they’ve been to a university or they haven’t, they’ve gotten a certain certification or they haven’t. Those kinds of things are often part of the measurements, as well.

How do you prevent bias from creeping in with subjective measurements?

An important part of avoiding bias is there isn’t one individual making a decision about another person’s career. … Organizations will put in 360-degree reviews. That kind of quantification is there, and it gets a lot easier in a business to avoid bias if the organization is driven by results, and the goals are set for any given individual or position or department, so you can measure if someone has actually met the goal.

Let’s say a goal is 80 percent of the employees will have been through a global training experience in two years, because we want them to either do a global job or to have been through certain types of classes about global awareness. If that’s a departmental or corporate goal, then you start driving the goals down to the individual, so then it’s less subjective — that HR person who was in charge of getting people properly trained, did they do a good job? Well, did they reach the goal? Was the goal properly established? Those types of things help take out the bias.

How do you set goals that are challenging but achievable?

Part of it is looking at historical data. What has been done in the past? We’ll use the previous example — let’s say the goal is, ‘We want 80 percent of the people to go through training in two years,’ but we never could reach more than 50 percent. So why would we, this year, crank it up 15 percent? Look at some of the historical factors and see what’s been achievable in the past. Come up with a logical number for the future, as well.

How do you know when you need to lower a goal versus it’s a performance issue?

It requires a discussion with sometimes a lot of people — the stakeholders, the individuals involved — to figure out why have we not been reaching this goal? Is it because of the performance of individuals, or is it because of budget constraints? Why did we set the goal at 80 percent to begin with? Was that wishful thinking? Did we have to have that many for some reason, like compliance issues?

It’s finding out why the goal was set and finding out is there a consensus on why the goal hasn’t been reached. Are there conflicts as to why the goal hasn’t been reached? Is there finger-pointing? … It might have been something out of their control, and that might need to be notated.

If we have a goal of watching what kind of turnover we have in our employee base and we lose a whole lot of people, why does that happen? Did we lose people because we stopped a benefits program, and people had to leave because they needed to find health insurance? That insurance impact then affects other goals. Get down to why did we miss the target.

How to reach: Aquire Inc., (888) 674-2427 or www.aquire.com

Published in Dallas
Wednesday, 26 December 2007 19:00

The orientation advantage

When initiating an employee into a corporation, it’s ideal for the new hire to begin contributing as soon as possible. But, is the corporation giving its new hire the resources needed to effectively bring his or her skills to the table? Amidst simple introductions and training, there’s an opportunity for a company to provide a formal orientation on its procedures, policies and culture that can more seamlessly let a new employee hit the ground running.

“Orientation helps new employees become more comfortable in their new environment, which, in the long run, is going to lead to them contributing more quickly,” says Jennifer Wilson, St. Louis regional vice president of Robert Half International.

Robert Half developed a survey in which 87 percent of respondents who received a formal orientation said that it helped them to prepare for success within that corporation.

Smart Business asked Wilson about the steps businesses can take to develop an orientation program and what benefits this kind of training may provide.

What can employees gain from an orientation program?

The more comfortable employees are — knowing more about their position, the organization’s policies, administrative information — the better it allows them to focus on their role versus having to worry about extraneous details. Most importantly, I think it helps employees feel a sense of camaraderie. They feel as if they belong more quickly when they’ve been orientated to their new work environment.

What benefits might an employer see from an orientation program?

Employees who go through orientation can become productive more quickly because they understand what is expected of them and have been given a foundation for success. A formal orientation program also helps boost recruiting efforts. When people are given tools to succeed, they’re going to have a positive impression of the company, which distinguishes the company among job candidates and, in the long run, leads to better employee retention. When members of a company feel as if they’re supported with professional development and goals, they’re more compelled to want to stay with that organization. This, again, leads to a more positive reputation that helps when recruiting.

Who within the company should be responsible for orientation?

An effective orientation program includes contributions from multiple contacts within the company. Representation from senior management is always powerful and shows that professional development is valued at all levels. The direct supervisor of the employee should explain performance expectations and the job description. A human resources representative should be involved with presenting benefits, compensation and company policies. You may also want to have top performers within the company there to share some of their successes.

Why doesn’t every company have a formal orientation program in place?

Some employers might feel as though they’re not able to dedicate the time or resources to develop this type of program. I’ve seen many companies that have a very informal program in place and feel that it’s effective. The more structured an orientation program, the more beneficial it will be.

What expenses can be expected?

It’s a case-by-case scenario. Some companies may have a large global operation where flights and hotel expenses are involved. For a smaller corporation, it may be a once-a-week training session on-site. It’s really dependent on the company’s size and resources.

What are some components of an effective program?

Start off by sharing the company’s mission statement and core values. Talk about the organization’s structure, the industry and its competitors. Discuss job description and performance expectations. The employee handbook and general policies should be covered, as well as anything regarding benefits, vacation time and compensation. Some companies have security clearance issues to explain or even reporting procedures. There should also be an introduction to the company’s key contacts so that if employees need access to information they know whom to approach.

Should orientation cover company culture? the

Absolutely. Some of that may be covered in the mission statement or in a discussion of company’s values. But if your company has large numbers of satellite offices, the culture could be a little different everywhere, and that needs to be covered.

Should orientation be a one-time occurrence or an ongoing process?

The most successful orientation programs are ongoing. The first couple of days may be more of an informational approach, but that should be followed up by a more extensive, formal program that includes ongoing training, perhaps with a mentor or manager. Supervisors need to find a way for employees to receive ongoing guidance — the process

doesn’t end the first week on the job. Spacing things out also prevents staff from becoming overwhelmed with information and helps from a retention and learning standpoint.

JENNIFER WILSON is St. Louis regional vice president of Robert Half International. Reach her at (314) 621-5260 or jennifer.wilson@rhi.com

Published in St. Louis
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