It’s All About the People

7 Steps to Turn Employee Potential into Performance

By Brad Wolff

Brad WolffImagine on Monday, you discover that your meticulous, rule-following accountant and creative, eccentric marketing person have switched positions. How’s this likely to work out? In truth, some variation of this misalignment is common in most organizations.

The Waybeloe Potential Corporation was operating at the breakeven point for the past five years. The CEO, Harvey Waybeloe was frustrated. Another CEO told him about an employee-alignment process that was delivering amazing results for other companies. Out of desperation he decided to try it. Within two years, profits increased from breakeven to 3.2 millior dollars! The fix? Putting the right people in the right seats!

Most business leaders say that 80 percent of the work is done by only 20 percent of the workforce. This 20 percent are the top performers. They usually produce three to four times more than the others. The main reason is due to job alignment rather than attitude or drive. Here’s evidence: It’s common for top performers to be moved or promoted and then become poor performers. Likewise, many poor performers become top performers when moved to appropriate roles. Bottom line: everyone can be a top or poor performer depending on how well the work aligns with their innate characteristics.

How do you deliberately create an organization where people’s work is aligned with their innate characteristics (abilities)? Here’s an overview of a proven process that was used above.Everyone can be a top or poor performer depending on how well the work aligns with their innate characteristics. Click To Tweet

1. Shift Your Mindset From Focusing On Skills, Experience, And Education To Innate Characteristics First

It’s common for people who are “great on paper” to get hired and become poor performers. In that same vein, many top performers started off lacking in the “required” skills experience and education. When people’s work aligns with their innate characteristics, they can utilize their natural abilities and unleash their passion for their work. Also, the best training and management will not turn poorly aligned employees into top performers.

2. Select The Right Assessment Tool

Many organizations use personality assessments in the hope of gaining more objective information about people to set them up for success. However, the results are usually disappointing due to four inherent pitfalls:

a. What you think of as personality is mostly surface-level, observable behaviors; not what’s underneath, driving these behaviors. The drivers of behavior are more accurate, predictive, and stable.

b. Assessment-takers usually provide different answers based on which of the following they consider: how they actually see themselves, how they believe others see them, and how they want to see themselves.

c. Assessment-takers use a specific context or situation to answer the questions. For example, answers to questions related to “extroversion” (sociability and talkativeness) may vary depending on context differences: small vs. large groups, familiar vs. unfamiliar people, level of interest in the topic of conversation, etc.

d. If an assessment is used for a job application, the applicant often has an opinion on what traits the employer is looking for and skews the answers accordingly.

What’s a better option? Select an assessment that delves beneath the personality into what is more core or innate with people. This eliminates the biases of personality assessments and provides more valid and reliable data.

3. Establish Trust With The Employees

Inform the employees about the company’s commitment to align their work with their natural gifts. Don’t hide things or surprise people. People want to do work they’re good at and enjoy.

4. Develop An Understanding Of The Innate Characteristics Being Measured

Before you can align people’s innate characteristics with their work, it’s essential to understand what these characteristics mean. In other words, how each one impacts the way people think and behave. Now you have the basis to identify which characteristics are needed for different types of positions within your organization.

5. Develop Clarity On The Job Duty Break-Down

It’s important to know what people will do on a day to day basis in each job. The hiring team (direct manager and others with a major stake in position success) meets to gain clarity on the percentage of time spent performing each job responsibility. Group together duties that are very similar in nature (family of duties). Estimate the percentage of time spent working on each job duty family.

6. Determine Which Innate Characteristics Are Critical And Where They Need To Measure

The hiring team determines which innate characteristic is critical for each job duty family. They also agree on the desired range for each characteristic. For example, on a one to ten scale the range for creative thinking should be between seven to nine. Now you can develop an optimal range for each critical characteristic.

7. Administer Assessment & Align Employees With Job Functions

Assess both current employees and potential new hires and compare to the desired ranges. Take the appropriate action based on how strong the level of alignment is. Top performers almost always fit into desired ranges for each critical innate characteristic. If this is not the case, you need to adjust your desired ranges based on the data. Here’s more information on aligning employees:

  • When current employees don’t align with their jobs evaluate other positions within the company that do align well.
  • Openly discuss available options with employees who are misaligned. Develop a plan to shift roles or tweak job descriptions when this is feasible. Frequently, there are other employees who’d be thrilled to trade positions or some duties that better match with their own innate characteristics.
  • For applicants applying to open positions, only interview the people who align well with the desired innate characteristics. When you interview people who don’t align, you may be tempted to discount the assessment results. This rarely ends well.

In the end, the most important job of management is to maximize the ROI of its workforce. Peter Drucker said “The task of a manager is to make people’s strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant. The most important thing you can ever do as a leader is to put people in a position to excel rather than get by or fail. How are you doing in your most important task?

 

Brad Wolff specializes in workforce and personal optimization. He’s a speaker and author of, People Problems? How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage. As the managing partner for Atlanta-based PeopleMax, Brad specializes in helping companies maximize the potential and results of their people to make more money with less stress. His passion is empowering people to create the business success they desire, in a deep and lasting way. For more information on Brad Wolff, please visit: www.PeopleMaximizers.com.

How Human Are You?

Prioritizing People over Profits

By John Waid

John WaidHow human are you? At work do you care more about profits or people? In sales, are you and the company more interested in making quota than taking care of the customer?

If you’re being honest, business today is about profits over people and quotas over customers. So what is missing in people that keeps them from striking a balance to make companies and sales more human? Have we lost our humanity? If so, how do we regain it?

The intense pressure in companies for short term gains leads to a focus on profits over people. That focus on profits leads to selecting people that will generate them. Managers generate profits in the short term so they’re placed in leadership positions. These results-oriented managers squeeze the people to generate profits which can lead to the dehumanization of organizations. Be more conscious that you are human for a reason and remember that this very humanity is at the core of what makes your company and salesforce great. Click To Tweet

It’s estimated that 95 percent of businesses would experience huge advantages by injecting some humanity in their operations. Take for example a company that was doing really well with its employees and profits and decided it needed to undergo a higher rate of growth. The top decision makers installed a tyrannical micro manager to lead the business with a finance person as second in charge. The decisions the company made started to change. They started to cut benefits like Christmas parties, incentive trips and began to see people as numbers in a spreadsheet instead of creators of value. This led to the best people leaving, and instead of viewing this as a warning sign they saw it as a great gift as they could replace these people with others that were younger and cheaper. People became expendable. What has this change for the sake of growth caused? The company is now half the size it was in profits, earnings and people, with previously valued employees departing in droves. This company went from great to mediocre by bleeding out the humanity. The lesson learned should be that if you remove the humanity out of a company the humanity will leave, literally; and by the way, so will the profits.

Here are a few practical ways to bring the humanity and profits into balance.

  1. Live the people-first mentality. Understand that no matter what business you are in you are really in the people business. Focus on employees first, customers second and profits third for more profits.
  2. Focus on the values and behaviors (culture) of your people and hire and fire for it. Select people for attitude and train for aptitude. Become a Culture-Driven Company.
  3. Remember that business success is all about people and how they behave. Provide a transcendent purpose (other than money) and let this and your culture drive you. Your employees will serve your customers and your customers will buy more.

How human are salespeople? There is a classic joke that goes like this, “How can you tell when a salesperson is lying? His/her lips are moving.” Salespeople have gained one of the most inhuman reputations out there. The barrage of unsolicited phone calls these days continues to erode the reputation of the sales profession. One of the Noble Prize Winners of 2018 in Economics did not answer the phone call from the Nobel Committee that called to congratulate him because he thought it was a sales call and did not want to answer it.

To some, salespeople are viewed as not just inhuman, but subhuman. To make this worse, most of the sales training that salespeople receive is based on processes that make the whole thing feel “robotic.” So where has the trust and humanity gone? By squeezing salespeople with sky high quotas that force them to do everything under the sun (including even unethical things) that further erodes their reputation. Wouldn’t it be nice for the entire sales industry to undergo a transformation based on humanity, and for customers to once more see sales associates as friends not foes?

In order for this to occur, salespeople should be trained based on values and behaviors (a sales culture) that makes them pay attention to being human beings first and of helping people to buy (not sell) second. Stop the sales process trainings that further erase the humanity out of an already highly dehumanized profession. On top of that, you should train the sales managers to also coach and lead their Culture-Driven salesforce. The leaders of a salesforce at a large company decided it would be a good idea to yell and scream at their salespeople to meet objectives that were set way too high. The lack of humanity in the managers led to the best people leaving the company. The politics also started to get out of control as less qualified people were promoted to fill the spaces of the excellent salespeople which had left. Today, this company is suffering from a profit and morale problem that will not be solved until they retrain or fire the inhuman managers, bring back the humanity, and focus on people first and profits second.

Here are some tips for salesforces to become more human and also produce more growth and profits.

  1. Sales managers (who are already good at holding people accountable) should also focus on leading and coaching. Focus on creating a sales culture vs. just sales processes and strategies which do not necessarily create best practice habits. Become a Culture-Driven Salesforce to instill best practice habits in your salesforce.
  2. Focus on coaching your salespeople and encouraging them with specific praise and dramatically minimize the urge to just talk quotas. Focus on efforts to get better results. The more you praise effort and result, the less you will have to reprimand.
  3. Salespeople are humans. Treat them that way and emphasize that they treat their customers that way. Customers want to buy from salespeople they like and care about them. Respect, trust, support, fun and other values should be emphasized and practiced.

So how human are you? Be honest and see if you too have lost humanity and need to bring life back in to balance your business and salesforce. Become more conscious that you are human for a reason and remember that this very humanity is at the core of what makes your company and salesforce great. Start focusing on culture as much as you do on strategy, structure and processes for better results with people and profits.

John Waid is the founder of C-3 Corporate Culture Consulting, a keynote speaker and author of the book, Reinventing Ralph. With a specialty and passion for corporate culture, sales and global business, John believes culture is the engine that drives companies to better results, higher morale, and increased profitability. An active speaker, trainer and subject matter expert, John Waid holds an enduring belief that corporate culture is the key to success for companies. For more information on John Waid, please visit: www.CorporateCultureConsulting.com.

From Blunder to Wonder: How Companies Successfully Bounce Back from Mistakes

Emily Safrin

Emily Safrin1993 was a terrible year for a particular major national fast food chain. It was an even worse year for four families who suffered unimaginable losses after their children ate contaminated meat at the establishment. Unsurprisingly, the chain found itself on the verge of bankruptcy. However, in a matter of years, it had not only recovered, but doubled its number of locations—a feat that is now considered one of the most impressive comebacks in contemporary business history.

If this is the first time you’ve heard this story, you may be shocked that a company responsible for something so horrific was able to salvage its sales at all, let alone become the fifth-largest burger chain in the US just years thereafter—but that’s exactly what happened.

The reality is that no enterprise can escape at least some degree of error. And while there is certainly a vital difference between an erroneous invoice and unintentionally causing the unthinkable, certain damage-control strategies have proven successful time and again, no matter the blunder.Remember the importance of accepting blame and saying you’re sorry. Click To Tweet

Own The Gaffe—And Fast

Especially in today’s well-connected world, official statements get around fast. So does radio silence.

As soon as possible after disaster strikes, offer a firm and heartfelt apology. However, refrain from being overly apologetic or defensive. Instead, focus on action. The old adage “Actions speak louder than words” has stood the test of time for a reason.

Nevertheless, judicious and impactful action takes time to implement. So, while you get to planning, make sure from the get-go that your words reflect a sense of accountability and the intention to fix the problem.

Watch Your Words

Word choice is paramount when delivering a public statement.

If your company serves an international market or consumers who speak a language other than English (as is the case of most businesses in the social media age, whether by design or not), take extra care that your mea culpa reaches your audience unscathed. The last thing you want is to create another mess when you’re already in damage-control mode.

For example, an international bank fell victim to a simple yet costly translation slip-up in 2009 when its catchphrase, “Assume Nothing,” was infamously mistranslated as “Do Nothing.” The mishap cost the company 10 million dollars for a new ad campaign alone.

Be aware of variants in widespread languages like Spanish and English that can make or break how your message is construed. Avoid embarrassment by hiring a professional translator who’s well versed not only in English, but the language and culture you aim to reach. Imagine, for example, how confused American consumers would be if a fast food restaurant referred to its french fries as “chips” (the British variant).

Furthermore, if there were ever a time to avoid using machine translation services, this would be it. There’s no room for error when it comes to cleaning up after a misstep, so make sure human translators—who are able to adequately interpret nuance and impact—craft the message in the new language before it reaches the public.

Make It Right

Words are vital when it comes to apologies, but they must be backed by tangible actions that illustrate genuine concern.

In the case of the fast food chain, the company offered to cover victims’ medical expenses, settling for amounts of up to 15.6 million dollars. The COO and chairman-cum-CEO attended mediation hearings to show their concern. The chain also opened a question hotline and made a generous donation to research efforts seeking treatment for infections caused by the bacterium behind the outbreak.

This demonstration of remorse and accountability in actions big and small communicated the company’s commitment to doing better.

Establish Long-Lasting Change

Once apologies have been made in both words and deeds, it’s crucial to ensure the mistake isn’t repeated. It may be tempting to make the blemish disappear from sight, but finding a long-term solution is an indispensable step.

The fast food chain began cooking its burgers at temperatures guaranteed to kill the guilty bacteria. It also implemented additional safety measures to ensure the food was handled properly from producer to consumer. In fact, this system was so successful that it was later endorsed by the US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration and came to be considered the gold standard among fast food chains.

The company didn’t stop there: it became so invested in harm-free dining that it continues to receive honors for its leadership in food safety to this day.

Turn Lemons into Lemonade

Believe it or not, mistakes can be a blessing in disguise. For this to be true, decision makers must think glass half full. Slip-ups present an opportunity to demonstrate your brand’s leadership, transparency, and trustworthiness—and all of this at a time when you’re already in the spotlight. Just make sure it’s for better, not for worse.

A well-known pizza chain faced a rude awakening when one of its employees shared a video of himself tarnishing food in the kitchen. When the video went viral, it turned out the company had an even bigger problem on its hands: they admitted that customers had been complaining of pizza that tasted “like cardboard” and sauce that tasted “like ketchup.”

Instead of succumbing to an apparently imminent downfall, the company’s leaders decided to come clean and promised to improve their product. Shortly thereafter, they introduced a new pizza recipe, as well as a novel online ordering system designed to appeal to the younger generation. Their shares increased sixty-fold and the company is now worth 60 billion dollars.

Next Time You’re Caught in a Mistake, Stay Calm and Innovate

Businesses are no more perfect than humans. Every organization will face its day of reckoning, big or small. Luckily, history demonstrates that it’s not the mistake itself, but the response, that leaves a lasting impression. And as in the case of the fast food chain, if addressed properly, a foul-up can even be turned into an asset.

So, next time your business finds itself in a rough spot, remember the importance of accepting blame and saying you’re sorry. Then roll up your sleeves, fill your metaphorical glass, and turn the blunder into your next wonder.

Emily Safrin is a certified Spanish-to-English translator and editor specializing in the medical sector. She is also an active member of the American Translators Association (ATA), which represents over 10,000 translators and interpreters across 103 countries. For more information on ATA and to hire a translation or interpreting professional, please visit www.atanet.org.

False Assumptions

Peter DeHaan: Author, Blogger, Publisher, EditorBy Peter DeHaan

When people ask what I do for a living, I reply that “I publish magazines and websites for the call center industry.” Their responses are varied, as well as interesting. For some people, their eyes immediately glaze over, and they change the subject.

Others key in on the word “publish,” offering to submit their writing, regardless of suitability. Incredibly, I have been asked to publish short stories, poems, and even song lyrics in my trade magazines! Another group focuses on the word “website” and enthusiastically shares their latest triumph, as in, “Yea, I’m uniquely tapping Java to develop scalable websites guaranteed to revolutionize the vertical widget industry.” That’s when I change the subject.

The Call Center Industry

For those who zero in on the phrase “call center,” their queries predictably fall into one of four areas. The first is an unthinking reaction from those who wish to blame me for the dinnertime interruptions they receive via the telephone. This provides a chance to engage in some one-on-one industry PR work.

Unsolicited Calls

First, I agree with them that unsolicited calls are annoying. Then I assure them that I don’t encourage the calling of people who wish not to be contacted. These pronouncements surprise them. From that vantage, I can then attempt to educate them about the laws and their rights. Soon they’re nodding in agreement—though perhaps just to get me to stop talking.

Voice Mail

The second category of responses is from those who associate a particular call center technology with the industry. They may interject, saying, “Well, I just keep pressing zero until I get a real person,” or “Why do I have to enter my account number and then give it again when the person answers?” Again, I have an opportunity to educate.

Do Not Call

The next group wants to grill me about the “Do-Not-Call” (DNC) legislation. This response is especially prevalent after a deluge of automated political calls being made as a prelude to elections.

My inquisitors snicker with resigned acquiescence as I share that the politicians exempted themselves from the calling restrictions that they foisted upon everyone else. I am able to explain about “existing business relationships” and inform them that they can request to be added to the company’s internal “do not call” list. At this point, I’m not sure that they’re listening, perhaps they just want to vent—and I am the handy target.

Accents

The fourth response is the most common and perplexing. They make a statement along the lines of “I never can understand those people in other countries.”

“How do you know that the agent was in another country?” I probe. “Did you ask them?”

“Well, no, but I can tell ’cause they have an accent,” is their emphatic retort.

Their false assumption has snared them. They think that if an agent has an accent, they must be offshore; conversely an agent with no discernible accent must be in the United States. Ergo only offshore agents have hard to understand accents. I have never talked with an offshore agent without an accent— apparently if someone has no accent, I subconsciously assume that they're US-based! Click To Tweet

I have conversed with heavily accented agents who are US-based—some I understood and others were a struggle. Conversely, I have talked to accented offshore agents—some I acceptably communicated with, while others were a futile effort.

However, I have never talked with an offshore agent without an accent—apparently if someone has no accent, I subconsciously assume that they’re US-based!

Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit www.peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

Five Ways to Leverage Your Talent Brand to Attract Great Candidates

How your company can leverage what employees and candidates say about you to attract top talent

By Jeremy Eskenazi

Have you ever struggled to hire the right people? Do most of the people you interview seem like a questionable fit at your company? It might be a symptom of not using your employer brand to your best advantage. An employer brand is what employees and candidates say about your company and the work experience when you’re not in the room. It’s not something you can go out and buy, or have a fancy branding exercise to develop and replace if you don’t like the one you have. Much like branding a product, your employer brand takes on elevated meaning and a predisposition to buy or join. In what is currently a competitive talent market, effective branding creates a sustainable competitive advantage and can make a huge difference in who is interested in working for you.Your employer brand takes on elevated meaning and a predisposition to buy or join. Click To Tweet

If you’re not sure what your employer brand is today, think about employer review websites online that are popular in North America and many parts of Europe. If you’re not familiar with the concept of these sites, they’re user-driven platforms that encourage people to anonymously record their experiences with a company as a candidate or employee. They can write whatever they want, even if it’s negative, and they can encourage people to run in the opposite direction. The flip side is that reviewers can also sing your praises and wax lyrical about you. Unfortunately, much like any user-driven site, anonymous contributors are usually either delighted with something, or were very upset; so you tend to see wild swings of positive or negative comments.

An employer brand is not necessarily changed overnight, but every time you interact with a candidate, you create an impression. Now multiply these impressions dozens or even hundreds of times. This is a powerful force. This is your professional brand and your opportunity to create (or start to re-create!) the first experience.

The people, symbols, and meaning we try to attribute to the company can be a powerful tool in communicating where the organization is headed. The brand management process helps you to unearth the organizations’ brand expression in the marketplace. The five ways to leverage your employer brand are:

1. Asset Assessment. Be honest: what are your strengths and weaknesses? How large is your company¾do you need people who thrive in an intense corporate environment or do you want people who are happy to have a more stable career? What benefits do you offer? Is there opportunity for advancement? Knowing this and being able to clearly articulate it is so important.

2. Employee Involvement. What is your organizational culture? Is it vertical, with top-down direction and little front-line input, or are decisions made on a broad collaborative basis? Is there opportunity for creative thinking? Knowing how your employees interact today and empowering them to tell the story of how they contribute is powerful.

3. Competitive Assessment. What other organizations can your candidates work for? You need to know who your competitors are and what they offer. If another company offers higher wages, can you compensate with profit sharing or better benefits? Are there opportunities for you to be creative about your offering based on what your competitors are packaging for candidates?

4. Brand Positioning. You need to know where your organization fits in the overall market. Does your company compete on price, or are you targeting the upscale market? Are you known for promoting from within? Does your company have a reputation for treating women and minorities fairly? The comments left online are a good starting point for this, as are any internal surveys you run.

5. Brand Expression. This is the combined result of all of the ‘brand signals’ that are present in the marketplace and are picked up by consumers and candidates. Every element of your employer brand needs to be in alignment. For example, if you claim to care about the environment and candidates are offered Styrofoam cups when they come in for an interview, you’d be surprised how much that can alter perceptions of your company and what you stand for.

In today’s competitive global economy, these five steps can help you find the candidates you need. Remember that candidates can be both internal and external. If you bring the right talent into your team, they may be interested and have versatile skills that could allow them to try new jobs at your company. They may be ready to take on a new role and be promoted, or they may be excellent at their current job. The point being: there is active work required to engage your current employees as brand ambassadors as well—they too represent and can carry your employer brand far and wide.

Remember, you can’t “make” an employer brand. An advertising agency can’t help you create a brand. They can help create a brand message. Whether or not you know what your brand is isn’t the issue. It’s knowing the what the themes are that people use to talk about your organization. Then you can manage the expression of the brand—and how people receive it—as part of your brand as an employer. You can do this through your goals, vision, and values, and the taglines that best explain what your company is about.

It’s easy for someone to throw out “we aspire to be the best place to work”. Your employer brand cannot be solely aspirational—it has to be accurate for where your organization is today. When your position is too aspirational, people will likely be unhappy when they encounter you—both candidates and employees. If you were in their position, don’t you think you’d feel let down too?

Jeremy Eskenazi is an internationally recognized speaker, author of RecruitConsult! Leadership, and founder of Riviera Advisors, a boutique Recruitment/Talent Acquisition Management and Optimization Consulting Firm. Jeremy is not a headhunter, but a specialized training and consulting professional, helping global HR leaders transform how they attract top talent at some of the world’s most recognized companies. For more information on Jeremy Eskenazi, please visit: www.RivieraAdvisors.com.

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