Step 4 or 4: High Performance Teams

Give employees a career instead of a job

“That’s just not fair!”

Whether it is true or not, this is not something you want employees to say.  Often is beyond a company’s power to control how employees feel.  However, company’s can avoid creating situations that might cause an employee to think or say this.  Companies DO have a great deal of control in which they hire and promote.

In my executive search business we often hear from executives who feel this way.  Either they have been passed over for a promotion or they have seen others passed over multiple times.  Sometimes their company never considered an insider for an open position. Whatever the reason, these people feel like a commodity instead of a valued contributor.  If this kind of perception starts to permeate the workforce the company is doomed – especially now that top talent is harder to find.

There are many reasons why a company would go outside to hire top talent; they don’t have a qualified person internally, they want fresh perspectives, they want competitor intelligence, etc…  Hiring outside is expensive, time intensive, and dangerous (see steps 1 & 2)! Often it can be avoided if companies have a career development culture instead of an open seat culture.

Hiring from your current employees only works if you diligently practice Step 3.  It also means a huge ROI on your labor expense.  When employees believe they have the opportunity to grow and advance they don’t spend time looking elsewhere.  When they enjoy a company development program they have greater confidence to take on more responsibility.  Employees will take their performance more seriously and pursue self-development agendas.  Giving an employee a career is a long-term investment strategy, one that every company must follow.

This is the final installment of the four steps to building a high performance team.  Putting these steps into practice will have tremendous impact on company profitability and competitive edge.  Don’t wait until your competition has all the top talent, beat them to the best people now!

Step 1 of 4: High Performance Teams

Farmer plowing in Fahrenwalde, Mecklenburg-Vor...

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Make recruiting a process that is structure and tracked

What would you think of a farmer who decided to skip all the plowing and sowing and jump right into harvesting?   You’d think the farmer was deluded and crazy?  How can a crop be harvested if the seeds were never sown?  How can crops grow if the soil isn’t plowed and watered?  It would be insanity to think a farmer could go straight to harvest without doing all the things necessary to cultivate their crop.

This is how many organizations approach recruiting.  They have a critical opening and suddenly they want to harvest top talent.  Like the farmer they too need to cultivate the talent pool and sow their employment brand long before they start to harvest.  This means that recruiting has to be a process that is incorporated into the overall company culture .  It has to be an ongoing activity that is measured and tuned.

Here are some simple ways high performing organizations sow seeds and cultivate a healthy crop of top talent:

  • Promote their company as a highly desired place to work
  • Create relationships with potential employees as early as high school
  • Advertise their jobs to attract top talent rather than screen out applicants
  • Profile key jobs
  • Establish an ongoing relationship with a niche search firm

Of course, there are variables specific to every organization.  But the faster companies begin to cultivate their talent pool, the faster they’ll have the right people to hire.


Do you have a Hiring Combine?

Do you have a Hiring Combine?

“Speed, strength, and the inability to register pain immediately.”  ~Reggie Williams, when asked his greatest strengths as a football player

Each year the NFL hosts its annual combine.  It is the annual job fair for prospective new NFL players.  For six days, players are put through a series of drills, tests and interviews with more than 600 NFL staff including head coaches, general managers and scouts.  These coaches and scouts assess every aspect of athletic performance.  They measure the hopefuls in strength, speed, aptitude, and position specific skills.  Teams will make multi-million dollar investments and they want to know what they are getting.  There is more at stake than just winning games. Superstar players drive team licensing, merchandising, and advertising revenue.  Management doesn’t make players into household names out of the goodness of their hearts.  This is an important business decision. If not assessed correctly the first time,  it could become extremely costly.

What would you think of an NFL team if they had a short telephone interview with the young player, making up the “probing” questions a few minutes before the call?  Maybe, on the basis of that call, they will “like” the athlete and fly him in to visit them at the team offices.   Suppose the player meets with the coach and a few assistant coaches.  But since everyone is so busy they have the towel boy to take him to lunch and then on to the airport afterwards.  The next day a few of the coaches swap some email comments about the player  or maybe stop in the hall to ask the highly inquisitive question “What did you think of so and so?”  Based on this exhaustive process, the coach calls the player, makes a multi-year, multi-million dollar offer and the player accepts.  Later they are astonished to see the player fail. I wonder why the NFL doesn’t do it this way.

You wouldn’t think much of an NFL team who hired players like that.  Yet companies make multi-million dollar hiring decisions every day in just the same way.  Maybe if companies approach hiring top talent with the same rigor as the NFL they’d find more “superstars” – and profits.

Over The Past Couple of Years, Did You Hire Top Talent?

We are finding that many companies have hired below their standards over the past several years and need to upgrade people in their organizations. While this might sound harsh, it is a disservice to any employee to keep them in a job for which they cannot, or will not, excel.  Other employees suffer as well when they see underperformance tolerated, or worse, when they have to take up the slack.  As things tighten on businesses your competitive advantage will be the people you employ.

When you look at your employee pool what do you see?  To you see a flock of eagles or a pond of ducks?   How do you even know?  Most businesses are too weighed down by bureaucratic momentum, lack of time, or lack of resources to objectively analyze their workforce.  It is tough to say if you have eagles if you don’t know what one looks like.  If you are still interviewing to validate a resume then you aren’t making objective decisions about who you hire.  There is, however, one simple step any business leader, department manager, or supervisor can take that will help you determine which roles need some upgrading.

To understand what an eagle looks like you must profile your key jobs; those that have the most impact on your productivity, profitability, and quality.  Job Profiling is a systematic way to analyze the needs and competencies that the A-level, player, the eagle, must have in the job.  You want to objectively understand what an eagle should look like in any key position.  Once you have the Job Profile you can establish a performance-based interviewing process that more accurately predicts success of a candidate.

If you need to upgrade now is the time to do it.  Health Care Reform will likely be a reality in 2010 and its impact will be felt across all industries.  Your business can’t afford to wait to put the right people in the right roles.  Start upgrading and looking for your eagles today.

83% of People Say…

It’s common knowledge that referrals are the best way to build a successful business.  An online survey at Financial Advisor Magazine found that client referrals were cited by 43% of practitioners as the source of their best new clients. On-line networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook as well as blog sites like Word Press see an influx of individuals seeking adivce, connections, and referrals on a daily basis.

People feel more comfortable going into a business relationship with an unknown party if a friend or colleague has already begun to bridge the gap. In a study conducted by Forrester Research in 2008, they found that 83% of people would trust the opinion of a friend or acquaintance who has used the product or service. This statistic can transfer very easily into client referrals.

Health Career Professionals has recently launched the new Client Referral Program. This program is designed to encourage and reward those individuals who offer client referrals. Is there someone in your network we should be speaking with about jobs at their company? Has someone told you about a hard to fill position they are responsible for? Do you have a colleague in a new management position who is trying to build their team?

When you refer a new client and a person is successfully placed in a job at their company, Health Career Professionals will award you a $500 gift certificate or donate $500 to your favorite charity in your name.

Visit site for more details and to refer someone today!

Most Job Descriptions are Turn-Offs

Have you read any of the jobs posted on job boards or company career pages?  Most of what I see doesn’t really describe the job at all.  What is does is describe the person the company wants to hire.  There is a real problem with this in that often times the person you really want to hire won’t fit the description!

Strategic Employers need to set a goal of only hiring high performance employees.  To maintain competitive edge and profitability they have to attract, select, and retain the best people.   With or without a recession, it will be getting harder to find these people.  One reason is the labor pool of top talent is shrinking.  Another is that top talent is rarely looking for your jobs.  They will not see your job description and, if it is like most of the stuff posted, it will not entice them to respond.

A Strategic Employer attracts superior people by defining superior performance – not a set of selection criteria.  Results, which should be the main concern of a Strategic Employer, comes from performance, not skills and qualifications.  You want to find people who are competent and motivated to get the results you want.  They may not always match the skills and qualifications you list.  Ask yourself if you’d rather have a person who can get the job done with superior results or would you rather have a person who matched a set of skills and qualifications?  If you must compromise, do so with the skill match not on the performance.

When you write a job description to attract top performers, write about what they get to do.  Write about the performance expected.  Don’t focus so much on what they need to “have”, focus on the “results” they need to get.  Top performers will not want your job because they match the qualifying criteria.  They want the job because they get to do new and challenging things and achieve a higher level of results.

Strategic Employers know that they can’t attract, select, and retain the old way.  Attracting top talent means being focused on performance instead of qualifications. When you change to this approach you’ll increase the quality of talent you attract.

Retention Starts with Selection

Our firm is often called in when there is a hiring or turnover crisis.  Key positions in the company are going unfilled.  The domino impact of unfilled, key positions leads to lower productivity and to higher cost.  As productivity drops and costs start to increase, managers become more desperate to find a solution.  Unfortunately this desperation leads to making hasty and uninformed hiring decisions.  They will settle for “good enough” instead of the best.  This, then, starts the cycle all over again.  Poor hiring decisions lead to employee dissatisfaction.  This results in another vacancy in the job and on and on.

Too many employers look to recruiting as the sole response to retention.  “If only we could recruit better people then we wouldn’t have this turnover” or so the logic suggests.  I say – WRONG!  The solution is not always better recruiting, the solution is better selecting.  Only after you have a solid process to select the best will you then begin to address your retention problem.

Here’s an example.  I met with the senior executive at a medium size hospital system.  The executive easily recognized a retention problem, citing more than a 50% annual turnover in their hospitals C-level ranks.  A quick calculation found that this was likely costing the hospital system approximately $8 million annually in both hard and soft costs.  They were already throwing twelve separate recruiting firms at the problem, finding more people was not solving the problem.  Their recruiting contracts are such that they actually discourage firms from referring the best candidates.  Still they were able to attract some “good enough” people.   The retention problem could have been reduced somewhat  IF the company knew how to assess the candidates.  Although their recruiting strategy could use some work, the more immediate issue was in how they selected people to fill the ever-rotating positions.

Their selection process went something like this: After receiving a resume of a presumed “fit”, a quick telephone screen was conducted by member of the senior management team.  If the candidate sounded good, they were flown to company headquarters and met several other members of the senior executive team.  Afterwards the candidate returned home.  The top executive then asked those who met with the candidate what they thought.  As long as these five minute conversations were generally positive the company made a decision to hire the person!  Given the total costs involved, the impact of this decision was probably $400,000.

Each person who met the candidate had their own set of pet questions to ask.  Interviewers had likely first viewed the resume only a few minutes before the meeting.  Feedback from these interviews was anecdotal at best.  Does this sound familiar?  I’ll bet there was more consideration given to choosing a paper supplier than in hiring a new hospital CEO.

Structured selection does not have to be an onerous, over-engineered process.  What it does need to be is a consistent process, benchmarked against a standard set of criteria, and strictly followed by all involved.  The selection process must include, at a minimum, the following three elements — Objective Assessment, Credential Validation, and Cultural Consideration.
The Objective Assessment should be first benchmarked before any interviewing starts.  Only against an established benchmark does any objectivity enter the process. Either there is an objective fit or there isn’t.  Behavioral interviewing and assessment testing are tremendously powerful tools to create an Objective Assessment.

Credential Validation proves the resume and checks for candidate integrity.  This involves standardized reference checking, background screens, and other forms of validation.

Finally, Cultural Consideration allows the interview team to assess whether the person will blend into the organization.  Remember, you never want to blur someone onto the team.  They must understand the culture of the team and the company and it must be one that allows them to thrive.

Don’t throw resumes at your retention problems.  It is important to have a solid recruiting strategy, but that is not the only way to attack chronic turnover.  It is equally important to have a selection process that identifies the right person who is best for the job.  This will eliminate hiring desperation and introduce objectivity into the process.  If properly structured and implemented a selection strategy means fewer positions will need to be filled.  Begin to examine your selection process.  Is it objective?  Is it structured?  Does everyone on the interview team use the same methods?  Is your assessments bench-marked against a standard? If the answer is ‘no’ to any of these questions then you’ve got some work to do.

Richard Yadon, CPC, CERS, is the President and CEO of Health Career Professionals, LLC, a health care executive search, selection, and retention firm. To implement any of these strategies, please contact Richard at 866.371.0687 x.110.

What was AIG thinking?

The recent executive bonus flap at AIG reveals more than just inept public relations — why, in today’s political climate, would AIG pay these bonuses?

There are, of course, several reasons why this might have happened; 1) they were contractually obligated to the employees to pay these bonuses, 2) it was a function of a large corporate bureaucracy and simply got processed under the noses of their leadership, 3) leadership felt that in this time of their corporate crisis they needed to pay this money to retain key employees.  I suspect it has more to do with possibility #3 than any of the others.  It is hard to believe that AIG’s senior leadership is so insensitive to the political and public scrutiny of their company that they did not weigh the consequences of paying these bonuses vs losing good people.  Likely they felt they would roll the dice, pay the bonuses to keep good people, and hope that whatever public or political fallout occurred it would not be as harmful as it would be to lose the employees they were paying.

Granted, this is speculation on my part, but I suspect I am not far from the truth.  Many companies believe that their payroll is their retention strategy.   Although compensation is important to any company’s retention strategy, it is not the only ingredient.  Employees, across the board, consistently rate other aspects of their job higher than compensation when asked why they work for any particular company.  Companies who solely rely on compensation as their retention strategy are like a person trying to sit on a one-legged stool — they are going to be more focused on trying to stay off the floor then sitting comfortably.  Employees stay at companies because they are fairly compensation and their other job needs are met.  We see this everyday in our practice when speaking with executives about their career goals.  Compensation is always part of  our interview with them, but they very often place more emphasis on challenge, location, advancement opportunity, and company stability.  A true Strategic Employer understands how their key people prioritize and define each of these job elements.

At least AIG recognized the value their key people bring to their business.  Perhaps they understood that their long-term profitability and competitive edge will be defined and secured by the quality and retention of their top people.  This acknowledgement  is the first step in becoming a Strategic Employer.