Tag Archives: human resources

How to Hire Top Candidates with Storytelling

By Henry DeVries

Henry DeVriesA tough challenge for many executives is convincing top talent to join their company. A second challenge is training newcomers to understand the company’s core values.

To become better at hiring and training, it pays to know how humans are hardwired for stories. If you want the prospective employees to think it over, give them lots of facts and figures. If you want them to decide to join your company for the right reasons, then tell them the right story.

Now any executive can easily use proven techniques of telling a great story employed by Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and Wall Street by employing six simple steps to storytelling to attract the right candidates and properly train them on your company culture.

These stories must be true case studies but told in a certain way. The process starts with understanding your core values.

Core Values are Key

Top candidates don’t want to work just anywhere. They want an organization where they align with the core values.

Every business has core values, although some have not formally stated what they are. Basically, core values are the guiding principles that drive and organization’s conduct both internally with employees and externally with customers. Here are a few examples of core values of small to medium-sized businesses:

  • We go the extra mile for customers
  • We do whatever it takes to get the job done
  • We value integrity, which means doing what you say you are going to do
  • We are honest and transparent with employees and customers
  • We value quality as job number one

The list of possibilities is mighty long. Core values are a decision that company leaders make. But just naming a core value is not enough.To become better at hiring and training, it pays to know how humans are hardwired for stories. Click To Tweet

The Core Value Storytelling Formula

For every core value, the company should capture a true story of that core value in action. Here is a quick overview of the core value storytelling formula:

  1. Start with a main character. Every story starts with the name of a character who wants something. This is your client. Make your main characters likable so the listeners will root for them. To make them likable, describe some of their good qualities or attributes. Generally, three attributes work best: “Marie was smart, tough, and fair” or “Johan was hardworking, caring and passionate.” For privacy reasons you do not need to use their real names (“this is a true story, but the names have been changed to protect confidentiality”).
  2. Have a nemesis character. Stories need conflict to be interesting. What person, institution, or condition stands in the character’s way? The villain in the story might be a challenge in the business environment, such as the recession of 2008 or the Affordable Care Act (the government is always a classic nemesis character).
  3. Bring in a mentor character. Heroes need help on their journey. They need to work with a wise person. This is where you come in. Be the voice of wisdom and experience. The hero does not succeed alone; they succeed because of the help you provided.
  4. Know what story you are telling. Human brains are programmed to relate to one of eight great meta-stories. These are: monster, underdog, comedy, tragedy, mystery, quest, rebirth, and escape. If the story is about overcoming a huge problem, that is a monster problem story. If the company was like a David that overcame an industry Goliath, that is an underdog story.
  5. Have the hero succeed. Typically, the main character needs to succeed, with one exception: tragedy. The tragic story is told as a cautionary tale. Great for teaching lessons, but not great for attracting clients. Have the hero go from mess to success (it was a struggle, and they couldn’t have done it without you).
  6. Give the listeners the moral of the story, which is the core value. Take a cue from Aesop, the man who gave us fables like The Tortoise and the Hare (the moral: slow and steady wins the race). Don’t count on the listeners to get the message. The storyteller’s final job is to tell them what the story means.

Six Ways to Put Stories into Action

After you build an inventory of stories that demonstrate your core values in action, you are then ready to deploy the stories. In storytelling, context is everything. You should never randomly tell stories, but instead use stories at the right strategic times.

Here are six perfect opportunities to persuade with a story:

  1. During a job interview. No, don’t start the interview telling stories. However, once the candidate has shared about themselves, then the interviewer can share stories about the core values of the organization.
  2. During a training class. Core values should be taught during training. First, state the core value and then explain what that means. For them to really get the point, tell a story about that core value in action.
  3. At weekly staff meetings. One executive boasted that his organization had 22 core values, and they were on posters throughout the office. Asked if he had any stories to illustrate, a little red faced he said “No.” Now every week at staff meeting they tell a story to illustrate one of the twenty-two core values.
  4. At company-wide meetings. Is it time to assemble all the troops? Maybe for a change in direction or for recognition? This is a perfect time for core value selling.
  5. On the company website. Promote core value stories on your website to detail for clients and potential clients the power of story.
  6. In company brochures and collateral material. Since stories connect on an emotional level, doesn’t it make sense to put them down in writing?

Storytelling helps persuade on an emotional level. Maybe that is why so many Fortune 500 companies are honing in on storytelling techniques and imparting that wisdom on their sales and business development professionals to tell relatable stories that will convince prospects.

Henry DeVries, CEO of Indie Books International, works with consultants to attract high-paying clients by marketing with a book and speech. As a professional speaker, he teaches sales and business development professionals how to build an inventory of persuasive stories. He is the author of “Marketing with a Book” and “Persuade with a Story!” For more information, visit www.indiebooksintl.com.

Satisfying a Demand for Dialog: Routine Employee Feedback is No Longer Optional

By Kate Zabriskie

Kate ZabriskieNot so long ago, most people in the workplace received feedback once-a-year during a performance review. An employee didn’t expect a development plan, a career track, or anyone to take an interest in his or her professional growth. That responsibility was often a solo activity. In fact, as recently as a couple of decades ago, there wasn’t a great deal of help on the road to career success, and most people didn’t complain. It simply was what it was.

But times change, and norms evolve. The practice of once-a-year feedback is fast becoming an anachronism and as out of place in the modern office as the fashions people once wore when holding those annual reviews.

The reason the average worker has evolved to expect a steady diet of attention and conversation is debatable and perhaps worth scholarly inquiry. In the meantime, however, a demand for dialog exists and must be answered.

So, why should managers take action, what does it take to establish and maintain an ongoing give-and-take, and how can managers balance the constant conversation with their own workplace responsibilities?

Why Bother to Give Regular Feedback

For some, accepting the new reality means moving past the fact that they came along when life was hard. Sorry, it’s time to get with the times, and get over it. Practices have evolved. If you don’t expect employees to accomplish their work with a typewriter and rotary-dial desk phone, then it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out that in addition to advances in technology, management practices have also improved.

First-class organizations have career paths, they invest in employee development, and their managers engage in regular dialog with their direct reports. Bottom line: If you want a top-notch worker, you better start acting like you know what to do with one.If you want a top-notch worker, you better start acting like you know what to do with one. Click To Tweet

How to Establish and Maintain a Dialog

Once you’ve bought into the notion that routine conversation is a must, the next step is knowing how to guide interactions.

1. Take an interest. Very little builds engagement as well as a manager who seems to genuinely care for people, promotes their success, and has the ability to develop them. This is not an annual affair. Rather, you’ve got to have a range of formal and informal conversations throughout the year. To get started, ask questions, and pay attention to the answers.

  • “What are you working on that’s exciting to you?”
  • “What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?”
  • “If you could eliminate parts of your work, what would you stop doing?”
  • “What used to be interesting to you that’s now become mundane or boring?”
  • “If you could try something professionally with limited chance of failure, what risks would you take?”
  • “Tell me a little about what first attracted you to this organization. Has anything changed about how you feel about your work here?”
  • “How do you feel about our interactions? Do I give your development the right amount of attention, and do you receive the right amount of feedback?”

There is no limit to the questions you could ask. The key is showing a sincere interest in the answers, withholding judgement about what you’re told, and taking action when you can.

2. Be observant. As a manager, your job is to focus on the work that gets done and how it gets done. When you pay attention and are specific with your feedback, you show you’ve spent time to notice what’s working and where opportunities exist. In other words, it’s important to communicate to people they matter to you.

  • “Tim, I thought the graphics you used on those PowerPoint slides were very strong. You chose the unexpected, stayed away from heavy text, and did something a little different than what we are used to seeing. I think your approach answered the challenge Roger gave us to think outside the box.”
  • “Gina, I’d like to talk with you about the report submitted this morning. Specifically, I want to discuss the proofreading process you’re following. I noticed a few errors, and I want to see if there is a way we can reduce the mistakes. If we could increase the accuracy of the reporting, I think we would improve our department’s credibility. Is now a good time for you, or should I schedule something for this afternoon?”

Finding the Time for Planned Dialog

There is no clock fairy or magic solution to time management and fitting feedback and development conversations into a regular workload. It’s an effort that requires discipline. To ensure planned dialog happens, you need to put formal meetings on a calendar, schedule them at regular intervals, show up on time, and put the smartphone away.

The Payoff

While increased levels of informal feedback and scheduled conversation can seem overwhelming at first, the more often a manager engages, the easier it is, the franker the discussions become, and the greater the understanding between the employee and the manager grows.

With whom should you be having conversations?

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.

10 High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Drive Higher Levels of Employee Engagement and Help Your Customers Love You!

By Curt Redden

We all seem to get it by now—more engaged employees perform at a higher level. The organizations that get their strategy right in this area provide a superior customer experience; have lower levels of employee churn, higher morale, and ultimately much higher financial performance. Their customers love them more! What are some things you can easily implement that will give you big lift in your levels of employee engagement with the lowest investment?

First, hire right. Making the right hire is well over half of the battle in your employee engagement levels. Hire people who believe what you believe, and have the attitude you want. Get that right, and the following ten ideas can help them thrive.

1. Embrace and Adopt a Strengths-Focused Culture. People excel in their areas of talent and strengths. You can find many assessments to help you in this area. But the key is focusing on people’s strengths first. Identify them, and then figure out how you can stretch them in those areas. Once it takes hold, it impacts decision-making, structuring project teams, and the particular talents are required for a specific project. It does not mean you ignore their weaknesses, but your people become more engaged when doing what they naturally do best.

2. Volunteerism and Company Support from Top-Down. It’s important to help the communities in which you serve. You cannot underestimate the impact of allowing your people to volunteer (yes, even on company time). It is beyond giving back, it is team building, networking, and uniting around a common problem to overcome obstacles. In regards to engagement levels, this is one of the highest-rated items on many Employee Engagement surveys, and it is a multiplier in terms of return on happier and more satisfied employees.

3. Make Friends At Work. Some of you may be skeptical, but according to the 2017 Gallup Study of the American Workplace, having a best friend at work has a high correlation with engagement and higher productivity. But how can your organizations help support this? Formally, you can embrace deeper mentoring programs and relationships. This should be aligned in initial onboarding so the mentor can assist and facilitate introductions, networking, and group activities. Informally, the more in and out of work activities that you can schedule aids in bonding, networking, and ultimately friendships.

4. Establish “Fun” Committees! Whatever you call or brand your internal efforts to schedule fun stuff, give it to the people who are passionate, and let them run. Never underestimate the impact of happy hours, food trucks, bowling and other fun activities to help your people get to know each other better on a personal level, and perform better in teams.

5. Flexibility. Wherever possible, err on the side of providing more flexibility for your people. You hired them so hopefully you trust them, and if you don’t you probably should not keep paying them. It is about the “job to be done” and not where it gets done from. Working from home a day or two a week or extending flex time goes a long way in helping people better balance their lives.

6. Contact with Senior Management. Leadership by simply walking around is a really big deal. Have your senior staff pop in on random employees to just see what they’re most excited about working on. Top organizations in engagement consistently show that access and informality with senior staff drives employees to feel more comfortable, enjoy their work more, and provide more discretionary effort.

7. Really Celebrate Successes and Wins. When someone does something awesome, find ways to recognize and reward the behavior you want. It is amazing how many employees still only get feedback primarily when they have done something wrong. So many leaders simply expect great performance, and then think they are providing fantastic coaching and leadership when they rip apart someone’s performance that screwed up. That management style is already going the way of the dinosaur if you are really looking to attract and retain the top employees of tomorrow.

8. Extend Trust to Get Trust. Play a game of “What Rule or Outdated Process Can We Kill?” Once a quarter, include in any regular scheduled meetings, “Keep it, or Kill” it as an exercise. Employees get to nominate rules or processes they believe do not add value. Leadership still has veto authority, but the goal should be able to kill at least one (and you can’t add one to replace it). There are so many areas you can see this have impact. Often times, entire rules and procedures are put in place to avoid a few exceptions. Again, if you trusted them enough to hire them…

9. Extend Trust to Get Trust (Part 2). Your people are on social media. While there are some specific instances of needed prohibition of access to some sites and/or personal devices, the best companies are moving towards the understanding that people are increasingly not separating their work and personal lives. Embrace this! Regarding social media specifically, encourage and help your people to be brand ambassadors on all platforms, not just the ones you think are for business.

10. Let Your People be Authentic and They Will be Their Best for You. We have finally reached a tipping point where the vast majority of organizations understand the value of diversity in their teams. They not only get it, they strive to leverage it for a competitive advantage. Appearance standards have shifted drastically of late, as many companies are now not only allowing, but encouraging, unique looks and individuality in their employees. Some companies are hesitant to permit their staff to work with visible tattoos, facial hair, or body piercings—especially if they are seeking to maintain a carefully curated brand—but where possible allow your people do be themselves. The key is getting and keeping the best talent, not the talent you thinks looks the best (unless that’s your goal). You should seek employees who are passionate, talented and believe in what you believe. Those are the ones who become truly engaged and deliver the ultimate customer experience and help build the brand you deserve.

All ten of these tips can help you immediately in your employee engagement efforts at a relatively low cost. The key differentiator for organizations moving forward will be in how they become an employer of choice for pool of top talent. It is not just about happy and satisfied employees—it is about those who are able to bring their best effort and energy to work each day. Those are the ones who become truly engaged and deliver the ultimate customer experience and help you build the loyalty you deserve.

Curt Redden is a speaker, talent-development expert, and co-author of Going PRIMAL, A Layered Approach to Creating the Life You Desire. Curt has spent more than twenty-five years working to support and encourage employees as they strive for success. He currently is the head of global talent development for a Fortune 50 company. He is also certified by the Association for Talent Development as a master trainer and performance-improvement consultant. For more information on Curt Redden, please visit: www.primalsuccess.com.

Five Secrets to be a Great Interviewer

By Magi Graziano

Magi Graziano

Five Secrets to be a Great Interviewer

With the generational and workforce demographic challenges adversely impacting everybody’s ability to attract, hire, engage, develop and retain people, you need a leg up on ensuring that you are putting your best foot forward in the employee selection process. Gallup reports that, on average, 30 percent of all hires feel mismatched to their role, and almost 70 percent of all working people feel somewhat disengaged either in their role or in their organization. The reality about these statistics is that is all begins with the hire.

There are five secrets to being a great interviewer.  Learning about and mastering these keys empower you to maximize your effectiveness in hiring the right people, for the right roles, for the right reasons.

The first secret: Consciously prepare yourself: By following Stephen Covey’s advice and beginning with the end in mind you provide the most value to your company and candidates. There are three types of preparation: role needs preparation, interviewing preparation, and self-preparation. Make sure you know and understand specifically what you want to come away with before you start the interview.  Ultimately, you are interviewing to make a hiring recommendation, and it is your responsibility to fully understand the role you are hiring for as well as thoroughly understand the person you are considering matching to it.

Role. Ground yourself thoroughly in the needs of the role. Find out why it exists, its impact to the overall business strategy, as well as its success indicators.  Understand the role’s core functions and what it will take in terms of people, leadership, and decision-making competencies.  Be clear about the required technical skills, and the mandatory must haves (in that order).

Interview. During the interview it is your job to determine the answer to these very important questions. Can the candidate really do the job? How long will the candidate be happy and productive? How will the candidate impact others?

Self. Bring your best self to the interview. The interview is not something you do to a candidate, is it something you go through together.  Prepare yourself for interviewing with a balanced perspective. Consider the perspective of the role, the candidate, and the company during the interview.  Take the time to review the candidate’s resume and the role requirements before you step in to the interview. Check in with yourself and make sure you are distraction free and that you are willing and able to be fully present during the interview. This means to turn off your phone and email, clear your desk and be ready.

The second secret:  Bring structure: Avoid the pitfall of interviewing on autopilot. Get yourself mentally prepped to be in an interview. With how busy a day around the office can be, it’s not unheard of to conduct interviews on the run or in a less than optimal setting. It’s important to use an agenda and an interviewing guide to get the most out of the interview.

Use a formal work history interviewing guide that gives you all the questions that you need answered. Be specific about the time and the duration of the interview.  It is important that you plan time blocks for each section of the interview.  A specific time block should be set for the beginning of the interview, where you gather insights and an overview of the candidate, their interests and why they think it is a fit.  Block another time limit for the actual deep dive of the work history, and another for discovering the candidate’s goals and aspirations.

The third & fourth secret: Active listening & being curious: Being present is something many working professionals struggle with.  The ability to multi-task often comes at the cost of truly listening. The problem is when that happens in an interview, and you’re not actively listening, you are downloading and only hearing what you want to hear or only listening to validate your assumptions.  The first level of listening in an interview causes you to miss major clues that very well could enlighten you on the candidate’s compatibility with the company and in the role.Great interviews start with great interviewers. Click To Tweet

Active listening allows you to come out of an interview with some new data points that you weren’t aware of before. During this interview you allow yourself to challenge some of your own assumptions, and when that happens that’s a good indicator that you have been exposed to some new realities out there that you weren’t aware of.

Paying attention, listening, and curiosity at higher levels—specifically during the career aspiration portion of the interview—is a major factor for successful long-term hires. Active listening at this level allows you to see reality through the candidate’s perspective—through their pair of eyes.

Active listening allows you to ask open ended questions in an interview and come out of a conversation with a new perspective, not just new data points. That’s key when evaluating how long a candidate will stay with the company and if the company can deliver on what the candidate wants and needs in a role.

Overall listening to what the candidate says and does not say illuminates their qualifications, interest, and potential red flags. Listening to how the candidate words their answers, and watching their facial expressions and body language also gives you access to how they feel and the attitude they have about the work they do.

The fifth secret: Mindful conclusions: Take the time to debrief and evaluate the match fit for the candidate in the role. Go through your role requirements, and the candidates’ abilities and skills, as well as who they are and what needs and desires they want for their career. Lastly, bring all of it together and evaluate it this match makes sense. If it does not make sense, be honest and transparent and tell the candidate. If it does make sense for the candidate, the role, and the company, tell the candidate and arrange for next steps.

Great interviews start with great interviewers, and the best in the business conduct the process with five distinct secrets. They prepare diligently, they ensure a structured setting with an interviewing guide, they listen actively and curiously, and form mindful conclusions about a candidate to foster future success.

The next time you find a new candidate on your interview calendar, utilize these secrets to achieve more effective hires.

Magi Graziano, as seen on NBC, is the CEO of Conscious Hiring® and Development, a speaker, employee recruitment and engagement expert and author of The Wealth of Talent. Through her expansive knowledge and captivating presentations, Magi provides her customers with actionable, practical ideas to maximize their effectiveness and ability to create high-performing teams. With more than twenty years’ experience as a top producer in the Recruitment and Search industry, she empowers and enables leaders to bring transformational thinking to the day-to-day operation. For more information on Magi please visit www.KeenAlignment.com.

Going International from the Inside Out

Making the Most of Multilingual and Multicultural Staff

By Martin Cross

Last year, a mid-sized manufacturer took their brand international with a multilingual campaign that opened the company to orders from rapidly growing markets in Asia. In the process, their accounting department saved them a great deal of money, but not in the way you would expect.

The owner had found a translation agency with a strong track record in mainland China to produce a Chinese-language version of their website and promotional materials. When the work was done, she asked several Chinese speakers on her staff to review the translation. One person in accounting noticed that the translation of the company’s name had an awful connotation in the region where she grew up. By catching the problem early, they were able to have the agency change the translation so that it sounded appropriate in all the regions where Chinese is spoken, before the materials were printed and the website went live. In the end, they not only avoided the high costs of making changes later or creating separate materials for that regional market, they also prevented permanent damage to the brand.

As business becomes increasingly global, there is a growing need to communicate in multiple languages and understand multiple cultures. The question is: are you making the most of your human resources? Your multilingual and multicultural staff are great assets when it comes to marketing in other countries, product development, B2B relationships and translation quality assurance. But when working from the inside out, it is important to avoid some common pitfalls.

You don’t know until you ask: Modern managers have better sense than to assume an employee can speak a language based on their last name or their ethnicity, but it’s easy to let ourselves make opposite assumptions. In an increasingly international world, where it is easier than ever to live and study abroad, Tim O’Brien from Milwaukee may be your best Japanese speaker, and Gloriana Rodriguez may have grown up in France.

When looking internally for employees with language abilities, make sure that everybody gets the memo. Consider asking your human resources people to include linguistic skills in your database for easy reference.

Keep it simple: Just as being tall does not make you a basketball player, being able to speak two languages does not make you a translator. Many bilingual people will be able to read something for you and tell you what it says, or help out with some basic business correspondence. But being able to produce a complete written translation that is stylistically note-perfect and faithful to the original requires a special skill set and years of training. Asking an untrained employee to take on the role of a professional translator is unlikely to be cost-effective. You not only risk receiving subpar quality, but the unfamiliar task will require considerable time. Cultural awareness is not just about avoiding accidentally offending people. Click To Tweet

When tapping into your bilingual assets, be sure you know their limits. Use them to get the gist of foreign documents, help you decide what needs to be professionally translated, and review the translations that you have sourced externally.

Direction matters: Few people are as fluent in their second language as they are in their mother tongue. That’s the reason why most professional translators only translate into their native language. You simply understand the nuances of the language you grew up speaking better than a language you learned in school or as an adult. A bilingual employee may do a great job helping you to understand things written in their second language, but that does not mean that they can write in that language at a level that is suitable for business. And keep in mind that you have no way of judging the quality of that writing.

As a rule of thumb, it is best not to ask a staff member to write a letter to a foreign associate or client if that employee did not at least complete high school in a country where the language was spoken.

Culture is key: Cultural awareness is not just about avoiding accidentally offending people. Understanding how your campaigns, products and services will fit another culture is key. Providing you with this insight is one of the greatest contributions your multilingual and multicultural staff members can make. Your employees understand your product and what you are trying to achieve, making them ideally positioned to give feedback around cultural expectations. A knowledgeable employee may even help you discover marketing advantages that your product may have in the target culture, which you might otherwise miss.

The trick is to involve them in the entire process, from the early planning stages to the final review before a campaign is launched. And because culture is all about nuance, try to meet with them in person. You’d be surprised how much more insightful and productive it is.

If you’re looking to grow your business, venturing into the global marketplace is a big step, and it’s not without risks. Understanding the importance of language and culture reduces the risk and helps you avoid unnecessary pitfalls. Take inventory of your existing human resources and involve your multilingual and multicultural staff in planning and executing your international ventures. By making the most of their assets, you’ll be in a stronger position right from the start.

Martin Cross is the president of Patent Translations Inc., serving law firms and patent departments in the US and abroad, and an active corporate member of the American Translators Association. The American Translators Association represents over 10,000 translators and interpreters across 91 countries. Along with advancing the translation and interpreting professions, ATA promotes the education and development of language services providers and consumers alike. For more information on ATA or translation and interpreting professionals, please visit www.atanet.org.