Step 3 of 4: High Performance Teams


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Align training with business priorities and coming trends.

Why do high performance sports teams film their games and practices?  Why do they scout their opponents at other games?  Why do they watch film of their opponents?   It’s because they want to be prepared for the future.  They want to know what to expect in an upcoming game.  Team practice is not about coaching the fundamentals; it is about adjusting their game plan. Teams use the visual feedback from film to spot weaknesses of their opponents to exploit.  All of the practice and film work is so they can do the right things, make adjustments, and win the game.

Employee training should serve the same purpose.  Building a high performance corporate team requires ongoing improvement because business is a world of ongoing change.  Companies must articulate and value a culture of continuous employee development.  Employees should be encouraged through programs like tuition assistance and in-house training to take charge of their own professional development.

Training, however, just for the sake of training, is wrong!  Employee training must support the core business mission and strategy.  The training companies develop, offer, and support must also prepare employees for the future.  Few corporate leaders believe that today’s talent needs will be the same in the future.  Therefore companies must create a culture and partnership with employees to prepare for what it ahead.  Just as high performance sports team practice and develop to win the next game, corporate teams train and develop to accomplish their mission and beat tomorrow’s competition.

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.


Hot in the Shade

Have you ever experienced a day of 115 degree temperatures?  That’s how I spend the past weekend while at a national lacrosse tournament in Towson, MD.  The combined heat and humidity created a heat index in excess of 115 degrees!  To say it was miserable would be an understatement.  It’s a wonder more players didn’t collapse on the field.

The experience taught me two things; 1) the human body’s ability to produce perspiration is endless and, 2) no matter how many tents, shade trees, umbrellas, misters, etc…. you can’t escape that kind of heat!  As the day wore on the heat began to impact the quality of play on the field.  Players started to make decisions out of expedience and fatigue rather than skill and experience.

This is also how a lot of hiring managers approach their open positions.  The heat of the open seat becomes so hot that they make poor decisions.  If their bench strength is shallow or if they don’t practice the habit of always looking for top talent, the heat will beat them down.  The hotter it gets the more likely they will compromise their judgment and instinct.   This is exactly how “miss-hires” happen.  The overheated urgency to find a body, anybody, causes short circuits in the hiring process.

Managers can provide some always present shade when they approach recruiting as a process and not as an event.  This is especially important today as the search, and need, for top talent is getting hotter.  Managers who have a system to constantly identify and attract top talent will avoid the oppressive heat caused by open seats.

Three Important Steps for Corporate Recruiting

In the article linked below, the writer discusses investments corporate recruiting should make today.  Investment #2, Invest time in thinking through how you recruit people today is the most significant on his list. The other two are dependent upon the conclusions reached after this time is spent.

Here’s some ideas to consider if a company invests this time:

  • If your interview questions are based on the candidate’s resume, you are missing the real questions.
  • If you are still using a “job description” to attract and then validate candidates, you are making the wrong decisions about people.
  • If your jobs have not been benchmarked, you don’t really know what the expectations should be.
  • If your interviewing team is still asking different questions from each other, you are missing great people.

Rethinking these issues, and coming to the right conclusions,  will guide corporate recruiting to create an effective attraction, selection, and retention strategy.

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.

The Strategic Value of Employee Empowerment (Part 2)

Strategic Employers give more than just lip service to employee empowerment.  They know that the best people are looking for this, particularly workers in Generation X and the Millennials.  Last week I wrote about the first five of ten employee empowerment tips.  Here are the rest….

6) Glory through delegation – don’t just give your employees the “grunt” work, give them an opportunity to shine with important tasks and jobs as well.

7) Demonstrate that problems are caused by faults in the system, not by faults in  people.  Let your employees solve the problems by changing the systems, not their co-workers.

8) Feedback, feedback, feedback – do yourself a favor and tell your people how they are doing and tell them often.

9) Recognize and reward your people when they do something  through their empowerment.

10) Provide direction by asking lots of questions.

The Strategic Value of Employee Empowerment

As the Boomers retire from the workforce, Strategic Employers must rely more and more on the upcoming generations.  Both Generation X and the Millennials value work and
work/life issues very differently than their Boomer managers.  There are also much fewer of them willing to devote the same degree of corporate loyalty as does the Boomer and
the Veteran generation.

One easy, inexpensive, and smart move Strategic Employers can make is to appeal to these generations in a way that motivates them to stay.  Employee Empowerment is valued by
both of these generations, but not in the same way it was used to influence and generally coerce their predecessors.  If you truly want your employees to be empowered, and enjoy the benefits of an empowered workforce, you should begin with these ten principles:

1)    Show that you really do value them.
2)    Don’t keep your Vision a secret, tell them about it.
3)    Let them know your company’s, your group’s, or your team’s objectives.
4)    Give them the information they need to make good decisions.
5)    Show your trust and believe in their ability to do the right things.

Next week I’ll add the other five…

“Show Me the Money” – Really?

This memorable line from Jerry McGuire is often used as a refrain to “seal the deal.” In every business transaction and employment relationship it always comes down to the money… or does it? The money is important to every business transaction. It is the basis on which most business relationships are established. For businesses it almost always comes down to the money. But is this always true of employees? Do people only go to work and stay for just the highest salary?

Most research indicates that salary is not the top motivator of employees. In fact, it consistently ranks lower than several other factors. If this is true, then why do employees seem to emphasize salary so often? It is because in most organizations salary is the only means of recognition given to employees.

Recently we conducted a poll on our website. Our site has a large audience of people actively seeking new positions in health care. We asked visitors the following question…

Which of the following is most important to you when evaluating a new job?

The possible answers were Challenge of job, Location, Company Stability, Advancement Opportunity, and Salary. Only 27% of those responding selected Salary as the most important factor when evaluating a new job. Yet for many organizations salary remains the most significant retention and motivational tool in use. Unfortunately this strategy is flawed. It does not address the more significant issues that attract, or repel, the best people.

Employees consistently say they want a “fair salary” and they rank other job factors higher. Employees who will only consider “top dollar” are essentially mercenaries and will yield little long-term impact on a business. They could be useful for short-term, high growth needs, but this attitude is actually detrimental to developing a company culture of sustained growth, low turnover, and high employee productivity and satisfaction. Today employees want to do work that is meaningful and they want to be compensated fairly. And while the evidence of this is very recognizable, the multi-generational aspect of our modern workforce makes this very hard to implement.

Motivating employees today is more complex than ever before. This is one impact of the unprecedented atmosphere of four generations working together – each with its own unique definition of meaningful work. Boomers need one set of values out of work, Millennials another and the Gen X’s and Veterans need yet another set of meaningful principles. This is a dangerous situation since most business leaders don’t understand how to manage a multi-generational workforce. It requires a new approach and a new strategy to employee motivation, a strategy in which salary will play an even smaller role.

Businesses and organizations need to re-think salary as their most significant attraction and retention tool. There is no question that income will remain very important to employees. Fair wages will always be a key driver. Businesses must examine their search, selection, and retention strategies and process. They must align and integrate them with the needs of each generation. Those businesses who continue to use pay as their most significant motivating force will soon find they are paying too much for too many of the wrong kinds of employees.

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.