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As a company leader, you are often confronted with nagging work-force-related questions.

First, are you prepared for your future work force? To prepare for the future, you must start with your current employees. To develop a solid work force and company, you must consistently re-evaluate your employees’ skills and make sure those skills are used properly.

Perhaps you’ve invested in talent management initiatives and training. But are the right people benefitting from those initiatives? If you want your company to continue to grow and be successful, you must retain and promote your best performers.

Size up new talent

When you hire employees, ask them how they heard about the company, where they received their degree and how long they were at previous jobs. This data will help you benchmark your best employees and predict how long your staff will stay with the organization.

If you start seeing turnover early within your new recruits, you can use this data to channel recruiting efforts toward employee profiles with longer staying power. Tracking and interpreting this data is crucial to effective recruitment.

Assess exiting workers

When people leave the organization, assess their demographic profile to enable you to better track trends. For example, employees who keep the same job title for more than three years have the highest rate of voluntary turnover. However, if the trends are skewing in a more unfavorable way, you’ll need to evaluate the situation and find the root of the problem.

You may find that your highest performers are leaving the company at a faster rate than your average or poor performers. If so, you should locate the red flags and take steps to improve unfavorable trends. You may discover that the feedback you provide isn’t enough to let them know they are appreciated.

Match skills to tasks

Make sure you always pay attention to the job attributes of those employees you consider key, high performers or high potentials. When you consider moving an employee into a different role or department, make sure your executives are aware of the job attributes of that employee to avoid shuffling poor performers on to a different department while hogging pet employees.

To show your top employees that there are opportunities for them to grow outside of their core function, break down the silos and allow them to grow elsewhere. Even when faced with uncertainty, the return typically outweighs the risk, and it’s a best practice that will benefit the entire organization and help you retain your skilled employees.

According to recent research (see DeVry University’s Career Advisory Board Job Preparedness Research at www.careeradvisoryboard.com), hiring managers at top U.S. companies perceive a large skills gap in job applicants who make it to the interview stage. Often all it takes is re-evaluation.

Challenge managers on why they have not developed those skills among current employees to fill the positions they have open. You may find that managers have not given employees the training time, or your managers may not even be aware of the possibilities the current work force brings to the table.

Promote your people

Movement across departments or job functions doesn’t have to be lateral. Managers can challenge the perspective that their staff should only be promoted within their chain of command.

Remember that an employee is an asset to the entire organization. A high-performing employee who seeks upward mobility may not have an available opportunity for promotion. Rather than risk losing the employee altogether, find a way to make upward movement available even if it’s outside their department.

Monitor mobility

You can only manage all of these areas through proper measurement of your talent pipeline. Monitor investments toward employee and manager development, employee retention, employee engagement, and better hiring.

With every development in your work force, it’s a best practice to see it through until the objective is met. After all, you’re dealing with your company’s most valuable asset.

Lois Melbourne is co-founder and CEO of Aquire, a work force planning and analytics solutions company based in Irving, Texas. Visit www.aquire.com for more information.

Published in Dallas

If you think your business may need to use a staffing firm at some point in the future, you should start doing something about it now.

Waiting until you actually need those services could prove to be a huge mistake, says George Thomas, senior vice president at EverStaff.

“Obviously, it’s always best to think about it before you need it,” says Thomas. “Often, by the time you have a need, it’s already too late. Planning ahead by establishing a relationship with a staffing agency can ensure that you have a partner that will be properly prepared to fulfill your staffing and placement needs when they arise.”

Smart Business spoke with Thomas about how to develop a relationship with a staffing firm so it can stay ahead of your needs.

Where should a business owner start when considering a partnership with a staffing firm?

Before you begin, recognize that there could very well be a disconnect between your operations, human resources and finance departments. In many cases, the finance department is going to look at staffing (as they should) based on a cost savings proposition focusing on liability, overall exposure of work force and the staffing company markup. The HR and operations departments will also be looking at cost and exposure, but will be more focused on the quality/reliability of candidates and the impact on production. As the CEO, you want to align all three departments and ensure that you are taking into account the full impact of what the service offers, focusing on the total value proposition. This means getting HR, finance and operations all in one room together to figure out what your company expects to gain from the use of a contingent labor work force. Second, it is key to determine a healthy percentage of contingent work force to permanent work force. Once you have determined this, you are now prepared to consult with a contingent staffing service to best determine how you will move forward.

How do you determine the right firm for your needs?

If your company has any chance of using a staffing firm, your HR employees probably hear from staffing services several times a week so there is no need to look in a phone book. Start by asking them what they know about the local services, as they should know who is out there and have an opinion.

An important consideration when choosing a firm is determining whether the company is merely happy to be a subordinate vendor and order taker to you, or if it wants to be a trusted partner. It’s not a question you can ask directly, but you can ask about relationships and the expectation of those relationships during fact-finding meetings. Also, listen to the questions the recruiter asks. If the staffing firm wants to be a trusted partner with you, the recruiter is going to try to learn about your business and get into your operating reality. He or she will use effective questioning to get to the root of your needs and learn everything he or she can about your facility and specific operating style. Then the recruiter will use that information to form a proposal about how the staffing firm can improve your operations with contingent staff.

It’s a matching process, not just order filling, and a staffing firm can’t make a proper match unless it can get into your operating reality and understand your company’s culture. It is very easy to find candidates with the proper hard skills, but much more challenging to find someone who is going to fit in with your company culture and be a long-term match. The difference between a good and great staffing company is that the great ones can make the match.

If a prospect staffing company simply walks in with a pricing sheet without first doing a proper analysis and says, ‘Whoever you’re doing business with, I can do it cheaper,’ that’s a good indication that that company has no interest in being a partner and is happy to be a vendor. That relationship never lasts long.

How can developing a partnership benefit a business?

Too many CEOs look at the staffing industry as a necessary evil, because they can’t carry all of the liability that comes with hiring and their HR departments are normally too small to recruit all positions internally. Because of that, they see staffing firms as disposable, something they can replace tomorrow if need be. As a result, they often throw out a job to several firms, and the first one to find a worker wins.

You can do that, but it’s not doing you any good because you’re not developing a key partner relationship. You need to think of your staffing firm as the third arm of your HR department, as an external recruiting department. Have them at your meetings so they understand your business from an operational standpoint. Keep them engaged to keep them out in front of your needs.

How can partnering with a staffing firm help with retention?

Statistics show approximately 60 to 70 percent of turnover occurs in the first two to three weeks at a new manufacturing job. People are experiencing many different things and moving in ways they’re not used to, so they may be sore, or not used to specific odors, environment, etc. If there is someone coaching them through those weeks and letting them know that it’s going to get better, there is a higher likelihood that they will stay and your retention will improve.

Proper orientation is a key to retention in contingent staffing and you need to ensure that you work with your staffing partner on orientation. Improper orientation always leads to misunderstandings. In the staffing industry,  much of our turnover is based on misunderstanding. For example, if someone shows up on day one and doesn’t know where to go, doesn’t have a proper orientation, or took a break in the wrong space and is disciplined, then they are likely to not return the next day. By partnering with a trusted staffing firm, you get more than just warm bodies on the job. You get the correct candidate and the right match, which is critical to your company’s operating success.

George Thomas is senior vice president at EverStaff. Reach him at (216) 369-2599 or gthomas@everstaff.com.

Insights Recruiting & Staffing is brought to you by EverStaff

Published in Cleveland

The last thing you want to do in a tight labor market is hire the wrong employees just to fill empty slots. Planning for staffing needs in advance is imperative to the process, however, in some labor markets, all the planning in the world won’t make a difference if growth explodes beyond expectations.

“That is what has happened here in Texas,” says Jacque Myers, senior recruiter, Engineering Services, with The Daniel Group. “Employers began planning for a tight labor market three to six months ago. But no one realized how rapid growth would take hold. There is extreme need in certain categories, especially in oil and gas.”

Myers says that the local job market should also brace for a very high percentage of turnover among professionals, engineers in particular, during 2012. “Now is definitely the time to get ready,” she notes.

Smart Business asked Myers for tips on how employers can deal with the tight labor market.

Who internally should be involved with identifying the best candidates?

The first answer that usually comes to mind is HR. However, keep in mind that the HR staff is busy with HR functions such as employee benefits, payroll, keeping up with labor laws, etc. It takes time and expertise to source candidates. Your HR personnel may be adept at certain functions of recruiting, however performing a search encompasses much more than that and can be very resource intensive.

How can companies identify highly qualified candidates?

There is no better way than to receive a referral from an existing employee. A trusted employee is not going to give you a bad referral — they don’t want to tarnish their name unless they are positive about the person. Networking is another way to meet good candidates. It’s also an opportunity to observe how candidates interact with others on a professional basis.

Another way to identify candidates is to have a recruiter approach individuals that may be working for one of your competitors or working in an industry closely related to yours. Staffing agencies work with internal databases and have access to many other avenues, such as multiple job boards, and attend expos and after-hour functions, which can be helpful for some of our national searches. Our firm employs individuals that pre-screen candidates every day, all day to keep our database fresh with qualified individuals.

In what situations might it make sense to work with a recruiting firm?

In addition to the most common reason, which is to get good qualified candidates in front of the hiring manager quickly, there are other instances where it can make sense. Perhaps there is a specific person you want to reach out to and a third-party recruiter would be the best person to handle that. This is true especially if the potential candidate is working for a competitor.

What if there is a very specific hiring need?

In that case, you may want to consider a retained search, which is a highly specialized search, mostly for C-level positions. Or maybe you need to locate a job candidate in a very specific region. These types of searches are fairly intensive because the outside firm will devote one person exclusively to your search. The firm will usually ask for a deposit in advance to cover the recruiter’s time. In this situation, the recruiter should report back to you every day, or every other day, regarding their progress.  In most cases, this particular scenario has been very effective in finding a qualified candidate for the client.

How can a company narrow down to the most attractive candidates?

You have to determine if there will be a good cultural fit. It’s easy to devise a written job description, but that’s only 50 percent of the equation. Are you a small group? Do you need someone who will be self-motivated sitting off in a corner? Or do you want a type-A personality? Often the hiring manager is the only person who can accurately answer these questions. Other important factors to consider are job tenure, education and location. The recruiter will often know you and your culture extremely well by the end of a placement.

Any tips for ‘closing the deal’?

Try to get to know the candidate as well as you can before you make the offer. If they are working, why do they want to leave their current job? What are their motivating factors? Do they want more money, more job satisfaction, a better location? What is important to them? What do they want? If it’s more money, you can usually provide for that. But what about their family — will they need help relocating? Does the candidate want to go back to school? Are they pursuing other interests? Ask if the candidate is entertaining other offers. If so, ask ‘what can that company give you that I can’t?’ There are all kinds of things you can offer, such as more vacation time, tuition reimbursement, or a flexible schedule. You can even adjust job titles. Make sure to rule out any barriers before any negotiations or offer letters may be on the table.

JACQUE MYERS is senior recruiter, Engineering Services, with The Daniel Group. Reach her at jacquemyers@danielgroupus.com or (713) 932-9313.

Insights Staffing is brought to you by The Daniel Group

Published in Houston
Saturday, 31 March 2012 20:01

SDLC Partners is in growth mode

Chris Simchick and Scott Barnyak must have missed the memo that companies are supposed to hunker down and not hire while times are tough. The two principal partners of SDLC Partners LP, a 230-employee business and technology consulting firm, hired 100 employees last year and have big growth goals planned for the company.

Founded in 2004, SDLC saw 2011 revenue of more than $24 million, which Simchick hopes to turn into $120 million by 2020. With a focus on strategic planning, cultural values and hiring top-level talent, Simchick and Barnyak are well on the way to making that goal a reality.

“That kind of growth creates tremendous opportunity, but it also creates those challenges for people to step up in a time frame that is meaningful to the business,” Simchick says. “It’s the expectation if you’re going to be a partner at SDLC Partners that you are responsible to challenge ideas, challenge thinking and come up with opportunities.”

It’s this type of mentality that has put SDLC in growth mode. To take full advantage of the opportunities that present themselves, the company plans for the future.

“About 2.5 years ago we embarked on a strategic planning process,” Simchick says. “We engaged an outside firm … not just to facilitate but to bring a process to the table that we then implemented and institutionalized within the company which links both the growth and culture.”

The management team meets once every quarter with the outside strategic steering partner to drive the plan forward.

“No. 1, our team walks out of that room very aligned around the most important things we believe will have the greatest impact for the company this business year. No. 2, we have a plan of attack and an owner of each of those initiatives for the next 90 days.”

Utilizing an outside party helped SDLC see things they might have otherwise missed.

“If you’re not using some outside objective help to do that, you’re probably missing an opportunity,” Simchick says. “The guys that we’ve engaged and worked closely with have gotten to know our business, have gotten to know our people and have held our feet to the fire in terms of being honest and challenging ourselves.”

It is also critical to keep an open mind and listen to other perspectives.

“You have to admit that you don’t know it all and use that as a theme for when you engage both outside help and when you’re looking to hire into the company,” Barnyak says. “One of the challenges that leaders need to be aware of is it’s real easy to hire people like us. You have to make a conscious effort to hire complementary people who bring different skills, techniques and personalities to the table to help you think differently.”

The hiring process is often the most difficult part about running a growing business. Simchick and Barnyak make sure they are always looking for potential new hires.

“One of the biggest challenges is identifying and hiring enough of the right type of people that fit well into the firm,” Simchick says. “If there’s one thing that we’ve continually talked about, it’s how do we accelerate that hiring curve.”

As SDLC has grown and hired new people, Simchick and Barnyak have made sure to keep one thing constant: the company’s culture.

“As the company continues to grow, holding true to that culture that we’ve built is front and center,” Barnyak says. “It’s culture first, skills second. As hard as it may seem at times, particularly while you’re growing fast and you need that technical skill in the company today, hiring to the culture and growing that person in the long-run tends to have the better impact, particularly if culture and core values and those things are important to your organization.”

HOW TO REACH: SDLC Partners LP, (412) 373-1950 or www.sdlcpartners.com  

Diversify your services

While strategic planning and hiring the right talent have played a big role in the growth of SDLC Partners LP, principal partners Chris Simchick and Scott Barnyak look to diversify the company’s services to create new opportunities.

“We looked at horizontal offerings that would apply to almost any industry in a generic sense,” Barnyak says. “It’s leveraging your core and seeing what could be transferable. The trick is finding the right amount of domain expertise to blend with that to lend you some credibility in that area.”

You have to challenge your people to think differently to find ways to leverage the investments that you’ve already made.

“Those become the differentiators that both clients recognize and are where we gain big wins internally because someone stepped forward and identified an opportunity,” Simchick says.

No matter how appealing an opportunity may seem, you have to keep focused on what you’re best at.

“It takes discipline because it’s real easy to get distracted from your core and the things that you do well,” Barnyak says. “If you’re doing something really well and it’s within the core business, extending that core to another industry is viable, but you have to be careful that you don’t get easily distracted and take yourself away from the things you do really well.”

Published in Pittsburgh
Saturday, 31 March 2012 20:01

Cleveland Movers & Shakers

RPM International Inc., a holding company that owns subsidiaries in specialty coatings, sealants and building materials, announced that it has elected Russell L. Gordon, currently vice president — corporate planning, as vice president and CFO effective April 10, 2012. Gordon is replacing Robert L. Matejka, RPM’s current senior vice president and CFO, who will be retiring at the company’s fiscal year end. 

Gordon will oversee all of RPM’s finance functions, including corporate accounting, financial reporting, global tax administration and investor relations. He joined the company in 1995 and has held prior financial positions in corporate treasury and control, as well as in the specialty chemicals division at Goodrich Corp.

Additionally, RPM announced the following changes within its finance department, all of which will take effect April 10, 2012:

·         Keith R. Smiley, currently vice president — treasurer and assistant secretary, will assume duties of vice president — finance and controller

·         Matthew T. Ratajczak, currently vice president — global taxes, will assume additional treasury responsibilities as vice president — global taxes and treasurer

·         Barry M. Slifstein, currently vice president and controller, will assume duties of vice president — investor relations and planning

USI Insurance Midwest, a provider of employee benefits consulting and brokerage services, has announced the promotion of Kate (Kelly) Bang to the role of president, employee benefits for the Cleveland office. Bang brings a wealth of experience to her new position, as she

becomes the only female office president within USI. She has been with the company for eight years and has most recently served as vice president and senior account executive.

In conjunction with this change, former office president, Bill Ryan will be promoted to the role of chair of the Cleveland office. Ryan has served as president of this office for 20 years and will continue to lend his talents and experience to the organization in his new role as chair.

CyGem Integrated Technology Solutions, an IT firm, has named Lisa Caudill director of operations. She will be responsible for the development and implementation of internal procedures to improve operations and client-related processes.

Caudill has 12 years of related experience, most recently with investment firms ValMark Securities and Bosshard Investment Management.


Cedar Fair, a leader in regional amusement parks, water parks and active entertainment, announced Kelley Semmelroth as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, a newly created executive role.

The company is adding additional marketing talent to ensure its marketing communications deliver breakthrough growth and its brands are elevated to compete in an ever-changing marketplace. Semmelroth has a deep background in customer relationship management, brand management, advertising and strategic planning.

Semmelroth comes most recently from TD Bank where she served as senior vice president of marketing and previously, Bank of America and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. 

KeyBank has announced that Alfred Carpetto has joined the bank as executive vice president and head of its Enterprise Commercial Payments Group.

As head of enterprise commercial payments, Carpetto will oversee Key’s treasury management, international foreign exchange and institutional asset services businesses. In this role, he will work closely with Key’s Community and Corporate Bank to implement the bank’s commercial payments strategy. Additionally, he will play a vital role in the development of the bank’s healthcare payments capabilities.

Carpetto is a banking and financial markets industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience. He most recently served as head of global transaction services for the Americas at Royal Bank of Scotland.

PartsSource, the world’s leading provider of biomedical and imaging replacement parts and software solutions for parts procurement and management, is pleased to announce the promotion of Jeff Dalton to COO.

Dalton was one of the original founders of PartsSource in 2001 and has held numerous leadership positions during his time with the firm. During his tenure, Dalton has successfully led sales, training and operations, most recently holding the title of vice president of operations prior to his taking the role of COO.

Published in Cleveland

There aren’t many companies that are able to do what George Young and his team at Kalypso LP can do. That lack of competition and the abilities of the firm have put Kalypso, a 120-employee management consulting firm focused on innovation, product development and product lifecycle management technology, in growth mode and looking to keep that growth going.

Young, co-founder, founding partner, and CEO at Kalypso, plans to grow by 400 percent over the next four years. To accomplish this goal, which they call the four-by-four plan, Kalypso puts a lot of emphasis on hiring talent that fits the company.

“We think that’s realistic based on the demand we see and what we think is possible, because we don’t really have a head-to-head competitor,” Young says. “We want to do four by four, but we’re going to do it while maintaining the values of the firm and that’s the challenge. It’s getting the right people and making sure that the core values of the company don’t change while we have this explosive growth.”

Smart Business spoke to Young about how he finds and maintains top-notch talent to grow his business.

What are the challenges of Kalypso’s growth?

One of our challenges is growing people at the right pace and creating new partners so we have increased delivery capabilities so we can keep up with the demand. Consulting at its core is an apprenticeship model. People come in and they learn the trade by working with senior practitioners, they grow professionally, they’re promoted and eventually they become partners. That career path takes most practitioners seven to 10 years to get there. Kalypso has managed this pretty amazing growth and we’ve only existed for seven years, and you’ve got this apprenticeship model where it takes seven to 10 years for your people to become partners.

Do you promote from within or look outside the company for talent?

There are senior people that might be working in other consulting firms, but they haven’t grown up in our firm. They don’t understand how we work and they don’t understand our core values or how we deliver projects. It is much harder to have those people join and be successful than if you grow those people internally. Our biggest challenge is all around people and getting the people with the right attitude and skill set to do the projects we do. You’ve got to have people that are highly credible. I spend a lot of my time looking for talent, recruiting talent and maintaining the talent that we have because that is the determinant.

What do you look for when hiring new people?

There isn’t a prototypical Kalypso consultant. We have a couple of core values that are really important to how we deliver projects, but they are also really important for when we are looking for talent and recruiting. The first is our diversity statement; characters with character. We don’t hire the traditional consulting automaton. You’re working with creative and innovative types: scientists, engineers, marketing people, advertising and creative services people. All of those people are extremely talented and a little bit weird in a good way. We have to have people like that. There are certain things you can look for on the resumes or certain schools you can go to, but a lot of the interviews have to be around fit. We look for diversity, fit and good weirdness.

How can people make sure new hires are a good fit in their company?

Try to spend as much time with that person as you can. In my experience fit has won more times than strength of resume. The intuitive side of the interview and the intuitive side of how you feel about the person is a strong aspect. Many times you get a resume that just pops out at you. The person has tremendous test scores and tremendous GPA and things like that, but they may not work out as well as someone who maybe doesn’t have those things but turns out to be a more rounded individual. The only way you can assess that is to spend a lot of time with them and do interviews that are nontraditional. I like to take people to Steak ‘n Shake. I don’t take them to a fancy dinner or to a coffee house, I take them to a place that is pretty plebian and we just sit there and we have a conversation. You have to try to do as much as you can to understand their background.

HOW TO REACH: Kalypso LP, (216) 378-4290 or www.kalypso.com

Published in Cleveland
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 19:01

Beyond the Basics: Making good hires

Mitch Lowe found himself in an enviable position when Redbox Automated Retail LLC really began to take off. But the popularity also came with a few challenges. Namely, how do you sort through all the people who suddenly want to come and work for you?

“You start to have a lot of folks who are trying to get jobs there who are really good at presenting themselves, but are not so good at fitting in with the culture or the style of the company,” says Lowe, president at Redbox.

Lowe decided major changes were needed. In the end, he came up with a system that involves more people in the hiring process at Redbox. Here’s what other leaders we’ve spoken to recently said about what they look for when hiring. 

“We hire people who are bright, inquisitive, have high energy and high integrity, and one of the most important things is what I call intellectual curiosity. They are interested in what’s going on around them.”

-- Richard A. Chaifetz, chairman and CEO, ComPsych Corp. 

“We don’t care how much money somebody’s going to make us; if they’re going to make all of us miserable, we don’t want them here.”

-- Raj Fernando, CEO, Chopper Trading 

“People do business with people that they like, trust and then ultimately respect. That goes whether you’re a customer, a supplier or an employee.”

-- Tim Jahnke, president and CEO, Elkay Manufacturing Co. 

Summary: Look for people who are interested in what you do. Don’t underestimate character in prospective employees. Treat people the way you would like to be treated.

Published in Chicago
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 19:01

Cleveland Movers and Shakers

Moen Inc., the No. 1 faucet brand in North America, has promoted Tim Bitterman to director of marketing and new product development, Creative Specialties International.

In his new role, Bitterman will lead and direct the marketing, new product development and U.S. quality teams for the Moen accessory business. Since starting at Moen in 2000, Bitterman has advanced quickly through the company. His previous role was group marketing manager for Creative Specialties International.

Positively Cleveland has announced that Michael E. Mulhall has joined the organization as director of partnerships.

Mulhall has worked for more than 20 years in different facets of the tourism industry. He spent 11 seasons with the Cleveland Indians and more than 10 years in the theme park industry.

As the director of partnerships for Positively Cleveland, Mulhall is overseeing a team that is responsible for engaging stakeholders and companies interested in promoting Cleveland as a visitor destination through membership and partnership opportunities.

Cleveland Clinic officials have named Joanne Zeroske as the new president of Marymount Hospital.

Zeroske, a registered nurse with 30 years of experience at Cleveland Clinic, has served as Euclid Hospital’s president for the last three years. Under Zeroske’s leadership, Euclid Hospital earned recognition as a top-performing hospital in The Joint Commission’s new “Top Performer on Key Quality Measures” program.

The Joint Commission recognized Euclid Hospital for achieving excellence in performance on its accountability measures for heart failure, pneumonia and surgical care. Zeroske began her career at Cleveland Clinic in 1982 as a staff nurse in the cardiology post-operative unit.

Incept, a Canton-based conversational marketing firm, has appointed Sam Falletta to president and CEO. The appointment culminates a 15-year career at the company during which Falletta helped grow Incept from 10 employees to 250.

He previously served as president at Incept and led the company to average annual growth of greater than 40 percent. Under Falletta’s leadership, the organization was recognized as one of Northeast Ohio’s top workplaces and the No. 1 midsized company to work for in Canton.

Falletta began at the company in 1997 and has held various leadership positions including vice president/general manager and COO.

GrafTech International Holdings Inc. announced that it has promoted Lionel Batty to the position of president of graphite electrodes and Julian Norley to the position of vice president of corporate research and development.

Batty joined the company in 1983 and has worked across many functions, including operations, customer technical service and quality assurance in both the graphite electrode and the advanced graphite materials businesses.

Batty has been GrafTech’s vice president of corporate R&D since 1999. In this role, he led the development of many of the company’s innovations in recent years. 

Stepping into Batty’s previous role is 14-year GrafTech R&D veteran Julian Norley. As the vice president of corporate R&D, he is tasked with directing GrafTech’s global R&D organization.

Previously Norley served as senior corporate fellow. Prior to joining GrafTech, Norley was a materials research scientist at Aircraft Braking Systems and British Petroleum.

Scott Rickert, president and CEO of Nanofilm, was recently named to the Most Influential Nanotechnology Leaders List for 2011 by the NanoBusiness Commercialization Association, a group dedicated to promoting the commercialization of nanotechnology and helping companies bring affordable, life-improving nanotech products to the market.

The honorees include 25 business executives, researchers and government leaders. Nanofilm is a leader in nanofilm technology and self-assembling thin films for a variety of substrates and surfaces.

Published in Cleveland

Juuhi Ahuja knows uses a simple phrase to describe what it takes to find the talent that has helped her company, Wise Men Consultants, earn a spot on recent lists of Houston area fast-growing companies multiple times.

“We are a fast-paced, aggressively growing company, so getting the people who have the required level of ‘fire in the belly’ to grow both professionally and financially is my biggest challenge,” says Ahuja, founder, president and CEO of the $29 million business, which has grown since 1997 from a staffing company to a provider of international full-range solutions.

“It’s about attracting and keeping the good talent who can be the right mentor to the company’s younger talent and be interested in growing.”

Smart Business spoke with Ahuja on how she finds employees with an inner glow that guides them to success.

Q. What initial approach should a company take in finding the right talent?

I have made a lot of mistakes along the way, not that the talent was wrong, but the fit was not right. But I would say that more than anything else, when you look for a person, look for similarities in attitude. That is an important key because that will make or break the person.

You may not even mind hiring people who have less talent and less experience as long as they portray the right attitude, which resonates with your philosophy.

Putting a candidate through several interviews takes time but it is better than making mistakes. We've had to fire people because they did not have the ‘fire in the belly’ that we were looking for. So take your time. It also proves that the candidate is genuinely interested if he will wait to go through your process. Weed out the people who are just looking to make a jump for the sake of a jump.

Q. What other qualities should an interviewer look for in a candidate?

Look for people who are good solution providers ? somebody who should be able to take no for an answer and be persistent but at the same time know that knocking on this door is not going to bear any fruit.

You want somebody who believes in intuition, or a gut feeling. You want somebody who is a person who believes in data, but backs it up with 20 percent intuition. The way I define intuition is a good feeling, or bad feeling, in the gut, combined with market intelligence and hard data of some success stories with clients ? and just an inside feeling that yes, this will work.

Q. While an interviewer can’t spot ‘fire in the belly’ by looking at a candidate, are there any outward signs, such as body language, that are helpful in evaluating a job seeker?

It is in the person’s best interest to find something (that) he is passionate about, and it is also in your best interests to find a passionate person for the job. Passion is what you really look for in people ? that they should run to work.

Yes. Not walk to work. I think it is very true that people who walk fast think fast and tend to act fast. People who have a sluggish gait or ... I can’t say talk very slowly because I have had very, very good luck with people who talk slowly and measured, but I have very accurate insight into intuition and gut feelings. I have found that somebody who is open, gregarious, walks fast and enjoys a fast pace is more successful.

Q: What also increases your odds of getting a good fit?

It is also about letting a person flourish. If the environment is not to the employee’s liking, he is not going to be as excited. I think excitement and enthusiasm are keys to life. Life is really beautiful. You don't want to go into an environment that irritates you and irks you on a daily basis.

I mean life is so beautiful; it can’t be wasted. I have had employees say this is the best place I have worked for, and I know they are protecting themselves. We may still let them go after giving them two or three notices. They are not doing themselves a service or realizing that they need not be in this environment but need to be in a different one, which will make them come alive.

How to reach: Wise Men Consultants, (281) 679-6740 or www.wisemen.net

Published in Houston

Bob Funk says a company is only as great as the quality of people it hires. As chairman and CEO of Express Employment Professionals and affiliated franchises, Funk is a hiring expert.

“I've seen many companies fail; I've seen many companies grow,” Funk says. “And usually, they grow because of their people – not because of the products that are involved.”

His staffing agency, headquartered in Oklahoma City, Okla., provides full-time and temporary job placement, human resources services and consulting. Express has put more than 5 million people to work worldwide, and last year generated more than $2.1 billion in sales.

Funk’s focus on hiring employees for loyalty within his own company has helped him expand Express’ staff to almost 5,000 associates nationally.

To ensure a good fit, identify whether a hiring candidate’s core values match those you prioritize. Funk says to look for loyalty and integrity before education level or skill.

“You can teach a loyal person skills, but you can't teach a skilled person loyalty,” Funk says. “If you lack the skills, you can always get the training and skills for them if they have the other personal factors that are important.”

To get a personalized feel for a candidate, the interview should be in person, one-on-one. Have a list of questions that prompt value-related answers.

Start by asking candidates what their motivation is for working every day. Find out if it’s financial, work environment or recognition.

“If you're looking for a sales-type person, you're looking for somebody that recognition is very important to, because they would like to be at the top of the recognition file," he says. "And of course, they're always looking for a good work environment.”

“The next question is, ‘If you had anything to do over again in your life, what would you do over again?’ That usually gives you an idea of what lessons they've learned in life as far as their other jobs are concerned.”

Also communicate your own values and company vision.

“They need to know where we're going to go, and then they need to understand how we're going to get there,” Funk says. “That has to be planned out for them so that it is in easy terms for them to understand where the company wants to go and help them to buy into our visionary process.”

Funk ensures his expectations and vision are clear to potential hires by interviewing all headquarters staff and developers (national sales managers) himself, as well as many new franchisees.

“They have an opportunity to hear where my heart comes from personally, and I think that does help them to understand that I really do care about them as a person,” Funk says.

Also ask for potential hires’ goals. By aligning them with the goals of your company, you foster buy-in for your visionary process, provide motivation and set the foundation for a long-term commitment from the employee. If hired, refresh goals during annual reviews.

“Hire the type of person that does want upward mobility, and then design a program for them on how they can achieve that,” Funk says. “That's what franchising is all about, is finding people that want to learn this business and you’re transferring your years of experience into them.”

Also motivate employee productivity and commitment by showing company loyalty in return.

“Loyalty is a two-way street, not a one-way street,” Funk says. “If you identify the person that has the loyalty and they do stick with you and are loyal to your purpose, which is helping other people, then it's your responsibility to be loyal back to them – which means that they should have more responsibility and more financial income than the norm.

Express offers a variety of reward programs to encourage and recognize employees. In addition to profit sharing, employees can earn bonuses on top of base salaries and vacation trips based on productivity.

“It gives them a sense that they have really contributed when they hit different bonus levels,” Funk says. “They're building a business to last, hopefully for the rest of their lives.”

How to Reach: Express Employment Professionals, (800) 222-4057 or www.expresspros.com

Published in National