I have had a really, really, really good year so far as an HR consultant. I have not been able to say that since 2007 and 2003 before that. In my opinion, one of the main reasons I have been so busy is because managers are consistently getting the wrong people on the bus (a Jim Collins term for the organization). I suspect it is because they don’t know what they don’t know and they are not putting the time and effort in the beginning of the process to get it right from the get go.
In order to be successful at interviewing and selection, I think it would benefit all managers if they read the book Good to Great, by Jim Collins. He refers to getting the right “who” (people/employees) on the “bus” (the organization) and making sure the “who” is going the right direction. Going the right direction is the “what” (the specific job) which ultimately means making sure they are doing the right things the right way. He says the first and most important thing is getting the right “who” aboard. You have to do a good job in recruiting and selection, getting the “right” people on the bus first. Then you worry about the what.
One of the main reasons I have been so busy this year is because many companies are just not focusing on the number one thing – they are not doing a good job of recruiting and selecting the right “who.” I don’t think it’s purposeful at all; I think perhaps they just don’t have the right tools in the interviewing toolbox, and in some cases never had them or don’t realize they are missing. Perhaps it’s one of those skills that everyone thinks they can do without any formalized training. Just like everyone thinks they can do HR — everyone thinks they recruit, interview and select.
They are WRONG!
Not everybody understands how to screen, probe, and research the who to make sure they are the right “who” to fit in the job and organization for which they are interviewing. Talent management is really and truly an art to perfect once the basic skills are learned. These skills are not ones that you are born with; you absolutely have to learn the best tips and techniques.
The result of assumimg you “got it when you don’t” is BAD Hires with BAD attitudes!
Here are just a few examples of problems I have been dealing with as a direct result of bad hires (“who’s” that have):
• Become disgruntled employees
• Sabotage the employer
• Do whatever they can to get back at the employer
• Call the attorneys to initiate a lawsuit against the employer and/or coworkers
• Call the federal agencies like the department of labor or EEOC
• Call the state human rights department
The list can go on and all this creates drama and takes a lot of time, energy, and money away from the success of the organization, and quite frankly away from the employees when you consider the bigger picture. The afterthought: “Had the management done a good job in the beginning they might not be in the place they are now – calling consultants, like myself, or an attorney to help bail them out of these kinds of problems.”
Additional skill is required to develop the right behavioral based questions to help more accurately predict the KASO’s needed for the “what.” Are the right questions being asked even once you do have the right who? The “what” interview questions determine prior training for the job and doing the right things the right way. Often interviewers will tend to ask questions around the topic but not specific enough to really determine whether the interviewee knows the job and can perform the job effectively. In some cases the “what” can be taught, and other cases you don’t really have time to train the person. Managers should seek the right training and not assume they have it. The cost of replacement can be up to a year’s worth of salary.
Learning how to effectively find the right ”who” and “what” need a formalized training program. Over the years I have use DDI’s Target Selection Program, which I was trained on early in my career and have used ever since. My training included not only how to use the program as an interviewer, but also how to train others on it. While I have not formally trained anyone using the program, I still feel it is one of the most effective tools available.
There are a number of books by William Byham, Ph.D. that are very good resources for both the interviewer and the interviewee focusing on the targeted selection process. I often recommend The Selection Solution: Solving the Mystery of Matching People to Jobs and Landing the Job You Want: How to Have the Best Job Interview of Your Life. The basis of both is looking at prior experience as a predictor of future success.
I know there are many other techniques available; what I would like to emphasize is there are preventative measures managers can and should take to ensure that they are interviewing the right way. Thus they need to look in the mirror and take responsibility for the bad hires they make instead of blaming the employee.
Get the right “who” and then determine if the right who knows the “what” and/or can be trained. You have to know what the “who” and “what” is in the first place to know how to ask for it in the right way. Turnover will go down, retention will go up, replacement costs will go down, and everybody will be happy, happy, happy!
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With social media, what you don’t know can seriously hurt your organization. One 2010 survey found that employees estimate spending roughly four hours every day checking multiple email accounts, with up to two hours spent on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. A 2012 Salary.com survey found that 64 percent of employees visit non-work related websites daily. And don’t think blocking employee access to social media on company networks is the answer; personal smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous, and easily fill the gap.
The rub for today’s organizations is that while social media use at work has definite risks, it also is one of the best ways to empower and engage employees. Increasingly, in our connected 24/7 businesses, the line between work and personal time is blurring. This is especially true for Generation Y employees; as long as they meet deadlines and deliver, these employees don’t feel that it’s particularly useful to distinguish between time spent updating Twitter or engaged in team meetings. Organizations may beg to differ, especially when an offensive or inappropriate blog post or tweet can damage their brand, lower employee morale, and even lead to workplace lawsuits.
Yet, most organizations don’t really know how their employees are using social media, either personally or professionally, let alone what impact it’s having on employees’ overall levels of productivity.
That’s why it’s so important, before you set policy, to know how your managers currently handle social media use at work, as well as how its use by employees is effecting their management. Get at these fundamental issues by asking managers five key questions:
- Have your employees’ use of social media ever triggered a workplace lawsuit or regulatory investigation?
- What impact have your employees’ personal use of social media during work hours had, if any, on their productivity?
- How do you use social media, if at all, to help manage your projects and employees?
- Have you reviewed all applicable federal and state laws governing electronic data content, usage, monitoring, privacy, e-discovery, data encryption, business records and other legal issues in all jurisdictions in which you operate, have employees or serve customers?
- Could you comply with a court-ordered “social media audit”, by producing legally compliant business blog posts, email messages, text messages and other electronically stored information (ESI) within 990 days?
Social media can speed innovation and collaboration, but ONLY if your employees know how to both use it as well as steer clear of its many pitfalls. Start by asking managers these simple questions; they often surface extremely important information that, especially in larger organizations, you may not have been aware of. Finally, remember that for reasons of both confidentiality and fear, getting access to this sort of information is not always easy. It’s therefore important that organizations create mechanisms by which examples of social media use (and abuse!) can be regularly shared with the broader employee base.
Photo credit iStockphoto
About the author: Steve Miranda is Managing Director of Cornell University’s Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies (CAHRS), a leading partnership between industry and academia devoted to the field of global human resource management. He is also a faculty author of the new eCornell certificate program,Social Media in HR: From Policy to Practice. Prior to CAHRS, Miranda was Chief Human Resource and Strategic Planning Officer for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the world’s largest professional HR association, serving over 260,000 members in over 100 countries.
The other day I happened upon the Fast Company article 12 Trends That Will Rule Products In 2013. The article was focused on consumer goods like phones and washing machines, but you know what? The trends listed made sense in the context of the workplace too and here’s why: your employees are consumers. It’s inevitable that their consumer purchasing behavior will shape their attitudes at work as well.
Here are four trends Fast Company listed that have implications for those of us in the human resources and management functions of our companies. These trends are driving employee expectations; a wise organizational leader pays attention to these inclinations and responds accordingly.
Customer-facing employees are your brain and your backbone. The article states, “The crucial element in any customer experience is still people, no matter how much technology has transformed the landscape.” Do not be seduced by what your company’s latest technology can do. The “gee whiz!” factor gets old fast – for both employees and your organization’s external customers.
Worth is determined by philosophy, not price. Can you say “intense, endless salary negotiations?” The Fast Company authors ask, “How do you determine a product’s intrinsic worth?” They say that rather than focusing on price, focus on alignment in values. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Then why is it that when the “product” is a talented job candidate, we often get mired in “nickel-and-diming” during the negotiation process? Either an employee will bring a talent set and corresponding values alignment, or s/he won’t. Are you willing to pay for that? If not, quit wasting your time and theirs.
Narrative is a delivery vehicle to make information stick. The Heath brothers made this point with Made to Stick many years ago, but it bears repeating, because, some of us still haven’t figured it out. For example, company policies and procedures are D.U.L.L. but they’re important to efficient business operation. Where’s the “story” behind why you must implement the new policy? If there’s no compelling narrative, maybe you don’t need that policy after all.
Human interaction has never been more precious. “Look for places to act more human.” We’re all fatigued with automated everything. Sure, we love the convenience, but sometimes we just crave an interactive experience with a real person. Like the Discover TV ad that features a customer who is surprised when an actual human answers her call, as leaders and HR managers, we must remember to value the power of a conversation.
Everyone is a specialist. The other day a colleague told me that they were consolidating job functions in the sales division; their sales reps would move from selling three lines of very complex business to eight. That’s insanity. The Fast Company article states “trying to be everything to everyone is a losing proposition.” I agree. People love to “show what they know” and that’s pretty tough when they must “know” everything.
Taking a seemingly unrelated topic like consumer behavior and applying it to workplace issues can help offer insights we might otherwise overlook. As leaders in our respective functions we can glean new insights on bringing out the best in our employees with a slight tweak in perspective.
What say you? How do you see consumer behavior outside the office influencing the way employees act in the workplace?
About the author: For 20+ years, Jennifer V. Miller has been helping professionals “master the people equation” to maximize their personal influence. A former HR generalist and training manager, she now advises executives on how to create positive, productive workplace environments. She is the founder and Managing Partner of SkillSource and blogs at The People Equation. You can connect with Jennifer on Twitter as @JenniferVMiller.
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“”My relationship with the office bully is strained and unproductive. Whenever we interact I get a knot in my stomach.”
If you have experienced something similar, you’re not alone. In 2013, The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) reported that “35% of the US workforce has experienced workplace bullying” (http://www.workplacebullying.org/individuals/problem/being-bullied/).
Bullies yell, spread rumors, roll their eyes or “forget” to invite you to meetings. According to WBI, workplace bullying is “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons, by one or more perpetrators in the form of verbal abuse, offensive conduct/behavior and work interference.”
Rakesh Malhotra, founder of Five Global Values, writes “most bullies portray themselves … as polite and respectful, as they are charming in public …” Gretchen, from the movie, Mean Girls, says: “I'm sorry that people are so jealous of me … but I can't help it that I’m popular.” Bullies often see themselves as the victim and don’t get or care how they make others feel. Says one bully, “The biggest problem I have at work is that I don’t get respect from others.”
When bullies run amok in the workplace, they can cause emotional and psychological turmoil. Dr. Gary Namie, who is leading a campaign to enact the Healthy Workplace Bill, which requires employers to implement policies and procedures to prevent workplace bullying, says victims can have “hypertension, auto-immune disorders, depression, anxiety and … have their work and career disrupted.” One victim reports, “I did not go to the satellite office for months because I did not want to see the bully.”
To learn more about workplace bullying, The Lindenberger Group, a New Jersey-based, award-winning human resources firm, conducted written surveys and interviews in 2012. 121 people participated, from age 20 – 65, from companies with 50 – 5,000 + employees, and from a variety of industries.
Over 80% of respondents believe that bullying is a serious problem but fewer than 25% of companies do anything about it.
Bullying includes swearing, shouting, humiliation, and unwarranted criticism and blame. One victim reports, “I had to make a bank deposit so I left the office and locked the door. When the bully could not get in, she called me, screamed, and threatened to have me fired. The next day another employee showed her the office key on her key chain. She never apologized. Her response was just ‘Oh, silly me.’”
ur study, over 50% witnessed or were victims of bullying in their current workplace (60% at a previous company).
Over 95% of victims report increased stress and 90% report lower job satisfaction. Other effects include health complaints (65.4%) and lower productivity (57.9%).
Men are bullies more often (55%) and women are victims most of the time (77.1%). Most victims (59.3%) and bullies (68.6%) are ages 41 – 60 which leads to an interesting question … will Millennials (born 1977 – 1992), reputed to “play well with others”, be less prone to bully?
Another finding is that most bullies (77.6%) are at a level above the victim. In the movie, The Devil Wears Prada, Andy says about her boss, “She's not happy unless everyone around her is panicked, nauseous or suicidal.”
The majority (78.2%) state that no actions were taken to correct bullying. However, when action is taken, coaching is the preferred strategy (50%) followed by termination (38.9%).
Most believe that bullies have psychological issues (88.1%) while others see bullying as career-driven: to weed out competition (60.3%) or get ahead (52.4%). One victim states, “Our office bully needs to listen and manage her temper. She needs to stop throwing people under the bus.”
80% favor laws to prevent workplace bullying but believe that laws have not been passed because employers worry about lawsuits (63%) or don’t understand differences between bullying and harassment (59.7%). Bullying can be directed at anyone regardless of race, religion, nationality, gender, age, disability or skin color. Harassment is treating someone differently because of those differences.
Over 90% think that discipline is the best course of action, 88.8% favor policies, 86.4% want to know how to report bullying, and 84.8% favor training. Says one executive, “It’s important to take complaints seriously and handle things quickly.”
The course of action for human resource professionals is clear: develop policies, provide training, let employees know how to report bullying, offer coaching, and create exit strategies. The course of action for managers is also clear – take complaints seriously and follow through with disciplinary action. Leaders must create a culture to prevent workplace bullying. And if that doesn’t happen, remember Ralphie from A Christmas Story? His best line in the movie? “Say Uncle. Say it!”
About the authors: By Judy Lindenberger and Travis Johnson. The Lindenberger Group is an award-winning human resources consulting firm located near Princeton, New Jersey with experience in developing policies, conducting training and providing coaching on all types of workplace issues, including bullying. You can learn more about The Lindenberger Group at www.lindenbergergroup.com.
Do women think and behave differently than men when making ethical decisions? Are we really the exemplars of good decisions and good deeds when we occupy leadership positions?
Women aren’t ethical simply because they are female. Carol Gilligan, psychologist, asserts that women do operate with a unique ethical perspective because of cultural conditioning. She states that men are more concerned with issues of rules and justice, while women focus more on caring relationships and are less likely to judge others. Such concern does not in itself lead to ethical (wise) decisions. The practice of ethics takes a lifetime of learning and we are only as good at it as our history indicates. Those striving to be ethical start over every day, hoping to do it right.
Both genders share some common misconceptions about how to activate ethics in the workplace. Whether a decision is ethical or not is not defined by expressed beliefs or a values statement, but by behavior—what is actually said and done—and its impact on others. Women should prepare to maintain an ethical perspective backed by actions once in the midst of corporate demands. Understand that “good people” can do the wrong thing. One slips down an ethical slope one small step at a time. Understanding the laws of behavior make that slip less likely. Here are a few practical steps to help you maintain your balance:
Step 1: Learn about behavior.
Once you begin to see ethical behavior as a function of the consequences that have surrounded that pattern over many years, you see how much you can do to help a person learn new ways to demonstrate values. To increase ethical behavior, don’t look to what people say they do, rather, look at what they do and the impact of their behavior. Learn how to pinpoint, measure, and reinforce the patterns that count.
Step 2: Make open dialogue possible.
As women, we tend to think that we are great listeners and conversationalists. But we, too, may be guilty of closing the door on dialogue when we’re in charge. To sustain ethical patterns of behavior at work, telling the truth is essential for all employees. Therefore, leaders at all levels must understand their role in promoting, not punishing, truth telling. That is where ethical leadership does the most good—you must always be ready to influence the ethical conditions, or lack, in your workplace. The freedom to discuss issues without negative repercussions is a sign of an ethical workplace.
Step 3: Live the example.
The workplace is not a democracy, but a venue in which some are reported to and others report. This hierarchal structure can create situations in which those in charge forgo common courtesies. If it is unacceptable for your employees to slam doors, yell, or make derisive remarks, then don’t do so yourself. When you use negative techniques to get what you want, employees are afraid to tell the truth about things that matter. Such aversive tactics are doubly unethical when you are in a position to control the consequences for another person.
Step 4: Be accountable.
Currently, there are now more discussions of caps for executive compensation—a pay for performance notion. Imposed regulations will escalate if individuals don’t stand up for reason and fairness on this issue. Watch the perks of the office. Be alert to who got you there and take care in how you exercise your ‘rights’. Male or female, we learn to justify inequities that are in our favor one step at a time. If you ask your employees to make sacrifices, make those sacrifices yourself; that may not be the rule, but it is the ethical choice.
Step 5: Reward yourself and others.
Employees need to know what you value. People aren’t all alike and don’t want the same types of recognition. Some people love public hoopla; others hate it and might just appreciate a sincere thank you. Find out the differences and let people know what is important to you as well.
Treat yourself the way you want to be treated. Make decisions seeking a balance between the rights of others, justice, the common good and self-interest.
Gilligan concluded that women are not inferior (or superior) in their moral development, but different, because we focus on connections with others and lean toward exercising an “ethic of care” over an ethic of mere justice. It is this unique difference that we should use and integrate into our workplace interactions.
About the author: As internationally known consultant and president and chief executive officer of Aubrey Daniels International, Darnell Lattal designs and implements behavior-based business strategies to achieve core initiatives. In partnership with her clients, Darnell has expertly contributed to organizational redesign and change management and other core business processes. Darnell has authored several books.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
Company executives often appear to be Jekyll and Hyde to regular employees. What do I mean by that? Take the current trend to include “entrepreneurial mindset” on job descriptions.
By including this item, executives are saying they want people who don’t just “do.” They want people who ask meaningful questions, look across disciplines for better opportunities, identify and manage risk, and work hard, oftentimes with long hours. It’s not uncommon to hear, “create an ownership feeling with the employees.”
The problem with this desire is that most employees don’t have any ownership in the business. Their efforts may be rewarded with a bump in pay or a bonus, but those things are not normally directly related to profit. They’re calculated by many different means, but in the end it often comes down to a subjective measure by management about how well they felt individual employees performed.
So what employees hear is that they should work long, hard hours, question the status quo, and take risks. Questioning and taking risks means there will be failure. This fact is inevitable. When an employee fails, he is not rewarded. In fact, he is often punished. His potential raise or bonus is decreased or eliminated.
To add to the confusion, managers often criticize employees for asking questions or offering alternatives to the task at hand. It takes a very strong manager to create an environment in which employees feel safe asking questions or offering suggestions.
Most companies would benefit if all their employees had an entrepreneurial mindset, and felt safe enough to exercise it. When you find yourself including this item on job descriptions, perhaps you might take a step back and look at the management staff in place. Are they strong enough to allow people to question them?
About the author: April Kunzelman spends her days working with the non-profit organization Chemo Cargo, aimed at assisting first-time chemotherapy patients. Connect with April on Twitter as @akunzel and @chemocargo.
If your boss has just passed on you for a promotion, or your manager or employer keeps you under a constant fear of being fired, it’s time to evaluate yourself, and bring significant change in your job attitude. You might be hitting some career obstacles that have been preventing you from climbing the ladder of success.
Even highly skilled and hardworking ladies face these kinds of career hitches time and again. Why? Because women suffer from some visceral averseness that hamper their career growth in many ways.
Here are my tips that may help you improve your work efficiency and let you experience exponential growth at your workplace.
Never avoid taking on new things
Usually, women prefer to remain in their comfort zone. But, this attitude might bring damage to their job. So, until and unless you’re doing a highly specialized job, you should not avoid or show lack of interest for new assignments. Working in a different domain brings you an opportunity to enhance your job skills. The learning of new skills makes you marketable while help increasing your job efficiency. Plus, your enthusiasm for new tasks will also increase your professional worth before your employer, which, in turn, result in an upgraded evaluation report for you.
Practice to communicate effectively
Professional success is directly proportional to the effective communication. If your job calls have declined, or your clients and co-workers now do not care of what you’re saying, your career is in serious trouble! You are going through a communication obstacle. Professionalism requires communication that must be concise and polite to be effective on people. To learn better communication skills for workplace, you can go through the book “Mastering Communication at Work: How to Lead, Manage, and Influence” written by Ethan F. Becker and Jon Wortmann. From leaders of countries to leaders of companies to people just starting out in their career, Becker and Wortmann teach techniques that start with the essential wisdom of Aristotle and include the best practices in today’s global organizations.
Don’t afraid to ask questions or hesitate to ask for help
It’s always comforting when you know what you have to do on the job. If you don’t have queries about your work or what’s current in your job, you’re definitely out of your career track. This is a sign of lacking erudition, indicating you’re no longer acquiring new job skills. Yes, you’re missing out on productive career opportunities.
No matter what your position in your company, there always come times when you need to seek help from other knowledgeable colleague/persons. There’s no individual on this earth who has all the answers. It’s always better to ask some well-informed professionals than to attempt to bluff or formulate answers with trifling base, which makes nothing but fool out of you. Sooner or later, asking for help will actually contribute greatly in your career growth as this will reflect your dedication to problem solving as well as your influential communication skills.
Remain updated with ‘what’s new’ in your profession
Having knowledge of what is going on in your field not only works for knowledgeable conversation, but also allows you to reap from the new development and opportunities in your industry for your personal career growth.
Invest in yourself
Although looking good is the part and parcel of professionalism, that isn’t all you need for your well-groomed professional appearance. For your impressive professional image, your appearance must be supported by your attitude and your skills. So, invest on your own knowledge base and be confident and articulate. Even if you’re looking for a new position, you’ll have to have enough career resources so that you and your skills would be welcomed by a new organization with open arms.
Last but not the least, be positive and take action. Women tend to be hyper sensitive to personality conflicts, as well as to gender-role stereotypes. To overcome this adverseness, they need to work with calming voice for conflict resolution. Stop asking yourself off-putting questions like ‘Why me?’ and ‘What if?’ Rather, focus on affirmative questions like, “What can I learn from this incident?” and “How can I exploit this event?’ Then, proceed to take action. Instead of self-pitying, get involved in the soul-searching that begins with a positive attitude, and that will help propel you forward.
Proceed to grow exponentially!
About the author: Gloria Tesch is a passionate blogger and Internet marketer who loves to impart her knowledge and ideas on various topics with others. She works as an SEO professional for Printsasia.com, an online bookstore. She is also an avid reader and, therefore, suggests some good and economical books through her blog or article.
Personal development is incredibly important for both employees and employers, yet few take it as seriously as they should. However, by making personal development a part of your office culture, you can create a company staffed with a well-trained, knowledgeable workforce eager to further their career with you. To help you increase your employees’ interest in personal development, consider the following:
One of the best ways for you to get employees interest in training or making personal development a part of your company culture is by taking your own personal development seriously. Attend trainings yourself, and be actively involved in finding your own development events and helping those around you find trainings beneficial to them. Another great way is by acknowledging that others are taking their personal development seriously. Thank employees for attending trainings or point out their accomplishment during the next staff meeting.
While it may seem like a no-brainer, many employers and managers actually overlook marketing their own training opportunities. Don’t just post a flyer on the community board briefly listing any training opportunities. Be sure to send out emails, let employees know about such opportunities during meetings, and also be sure to pull employees aside that you believe would most benefit from such trainings and give them a heads up. The more aware employees are of the trainings available to them, they more inclined they will be to attend them.
Cross-trainings are not only good for your employees, but they are good for your business too. When you have employees that can competently perform other jobs within your business, it makes promoting from within easier, and also makes the need to temp staff during an absence unnecessary. Offer opportunities for cross-trainings in both inter- and intra-department settings so that employees truly feel like they have the ability to move both laterally and upwards in your company.
Keep Opportunities Available
Trainings don’t have to only be off-site or on the employee’s personal time. Remember that while the training may be benefiting your employees professionally, in doing so it is also benefitting the productivity of your company. So provide learning opportunities throughout the office and do so on a regular basis. Create a multimedia library with relevant CDs, DVDs, and workbooks; offer in-office trainings that employees can attend on company time; and bring in guest speakers during lunch hours that employees can glean information from. The more accessible training is the more inclined your employees with be to take advantage of it.
Take Development Seriously
Many employees don’t take advantage of personal development because they often don’t know where to begin. To help employees focus on their strengths and weaknesses and how they can improve upon them, turn regular reviews into development sessions. Don’t just tell them where they can improve. Ask employees to pick out areas in which they would like to improve, and then coach them how to get there. Become a mentor to your employees or find another employee that would be better suited to do so. Also be sure to set timelines together so that employees understand that you take their development seriously.
If you want a motivated and loyal workforce, you need to make it obvious that you are interested and invested in their personal development. Provide them with frequent and adequate opportunities, demonstrate your own eagerness to improve yourself, and offer extra support where needed. Most people are eager to better themselves, especially professionally, but often get overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin. Take the time to develop your staff, and they will be more inclined to work harder and longer for you – which will ultimately, make your company more profitable. It’s a win-win for everyone.
About the author: Amanda Andrade, SPHR, CCP, GRP is the Chief People Officer for Veterans United Home Loans – Fortune magazine’s 21st best medium workplace and one the fastest growing companies in the United States according to INC magazine. Amanda has led human resource organizations in both public and private sectors, serving employees in diverse work settings, focusing on environment and behavior in the workplace. Connect with Amanda on Google+.
Photo credit: iStockPhoto
As women in business, we’re accustomed to seizing opportunities when they present themselves. One opportunity that is consistently under-utilized and undervalued is competitive synergy, working with your competition instead of against them. In today’s economy, if you want to succeed, you may have to put to rest that old “them or me” spirit and view your competitors not as enemies but as potential allies.
Think about it: five fingers alone don’t cause much damage in a fight but when you bring them together to form a fist, well, you can pack a pretty mean punch. Now imagine those fingers are five women on their own in the business arena and consider how much damage they could do if they came together.
That is the essence of competitive synergy: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. By working together, you and your “competition” can both be more successful and gain that market edge that neither one of you seem to be able to reach on your own. By communicating with those around you, you can turn a potential negative into a positive and start working smarter, not harder.
Onward and Upward
It’s no secret that one of the driving forces behind striking out on your own in the business world is to be your own boss. You want to be in charge of your schedule and in control of your own success. A great benefit to partnering with other like-minded business women is that you can maintain your autonomy while drawing from each other’s strengths. You can work with each other instead of working for each other. And those are always the best partnerships – ones where both members are on equal footing.
Even though you are on the same level, you both have something unique to bring to the table. Start by reaching out to those in your “circle.” Identify those professionals, both women and men, who offer the same or related goods or services as you. For example, if you are a wedding planner, your circle consists of other wedding planners, as well as caterers, florists, musicians, bridal shop owners, party suppliers, hotel and restaurant managers, etc. Pay them a visit and introduce yourself, leave some business cards and take some of theirs. Ask them to hand yours out and offer to do the same.
Chances are they will be receptive to you because they recognize that by teaming up, they extend their reach into your resources and now have access to your customers and clients that they might not have had otherwise.
To the Victor Goes the Spoils…and so much more
One of the keys to a successful business endeavor is minimizing risk and maximizing returns. If you combine the time, energy, effort, expertise, and finances of others, think of how much more you can accomplish than on your resources alone. By joining forces with those in your circle, you not only share the glory when your efforts succeed, but you also share the losses, the upfront costs, and the responsibility.
For example, one way to engage your new alliance might be to offer your brides (in keeping with the wedding planner example above) a package deal. Go in with a caterer, a photographer, a bakery and an entertainment company and promote yourselves as a “one-stop shop” for brides. Each of you can market the deal separately, and divide the costs for a large radio or television spot, and you have now reached five distinct pools where you would have only hit one before.
Alternatively, you could co-host a party or co-sponsor a benefit with your new ally. Divide duties and costs between yourselves and each of you can invite your respective rolodexes. The end result is a great time and new connections for all, with each of you only bearing half of the brunt.
It’s a Win-Win for Everyone
Not only will you increase the bottom line for both of your businesses by what you save, but you will also increase your professional goodwill in your community for what you give. For example, if you are not so fixated on how to beat your competition, you can focus more on customer service. This includes the security to send your patrons down the street to your new partner when she can better meet their needs. Not only will your customers thank you for saving them time, but they will also appreciate your integrity and are more likely to return to you in the future and direct others your way. Moreover, your new business buddy will pay it forward when she can send her people your way. Everybody wins.
What are some of the ways you have teamed up with would-be competitors? How else do you see partnering up with others in your field as a good thing?
About the author: Erin Schwartz is the marketing and social media manager at 123Print.com. 123Print is a leading provider of a high variety of quality items for small businesses like custom business cards, address labels, and other materials for small businesses and solo practitioners.
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The glass ceiling is a very real challenge that many professional women face at some point in their careers. Long described as an invisible cap on women’s earning potential in the workforce, it’s been a headline-making topic since the mid-50s – and for good reason. With the current shift in HR toward objective, automated assessments, the gender-based playing field may really start to level out.
Despite high-powered women taking on major executive roles – Marissa Mayer of Yahoo!, Meg Whitman of HP, Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup – roughly 97% of publicly traded US firms are still run by male CEOs. Does this mean that men are naturally better cut out for executive leadership? Not at all. But it does indicate that men have the upper hand.
There is currently a major shift taking place in HR that may very well move our hiring process away from such male-preferential hiring, as well as from other prejudices. While in the past HR has been heavily reliant on conventional wisdom, gut feeling and personal references, recruiters and hiring managers are now interjecting behavioral science and job-relevant benchmarks into their assessment processes. Not only does this improve the efficiency of their hiring, but it also allows them to more accurately assess candidates’ competencies and overall job fit in an objective manner.
What’s more, automated assessments generate candidate reports in a way that cannot be manipulated. In other words, hiring managers end up with validated hard data on each candidate’s potential rather than mere notes compiled from a recruiters chicken scratch on multicolored Post It Notes. Information gathered through the latter method is much easier to undermine or ignore, especially for bias-motivated reasons.
Let’s consider a more explicit example of how this change can and will help break down a significant hurdle for women in the workforce.
Ten years ago when Susan applied for a position, she submitted her resume to a highly subjective resume scanning process. Recruiters would often peruse the document for a mere 10-60 seconds before making a judgment call. Naturally, many of the keywords and qualifiers that the recruiter was using offered little in the way of job-relevance. Likewise, this sort of system left the door wide open for bias at the very top of the hiring funnel. In other words, Susan, who was often a potential top performer for the jobs she applied for, would be nixed before she was really ever even in the running – and for subjective or unsubstantiated reasoning.
While automated assessments are unable to completely eliminate gender-based bias in the hiring process, they can significantly mitigate its impact. When a female candidate like Susan comes to the table with a strong job fit and high quality references, and a hiring manager is shown hard data to prove it, it will be that much harder to simply discredit her potential because of her sex.
About the Author: Greg Moran is the President and CEO of Chequed.com, an Employee Selection and Automated Reference Checking technology suite as well as a respected author on Human Capital Management with published works including Hire, Fire & The Walking Dead and Building the Talent Edge. Greg can be found blogging at disrupthr.com or on Twitter as @CEOofChequed.
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