Tag Archives: human resources

Avoiding Days of the Living Dead

Addressing Workplace Zombies and Promoting Engagement One Person at a Time

By Kate Zabriskie

Kate Zabriskie-zombi sotry

Zombies in the workplace are soul-sucking, money-draining, productivity-killing entities that chip away at an organization’s spirit and its engagement levels one convert at a time.

These creatures often look like the rest of us, but deep down they’re cancerous beasts that can potentially drive a business to ruin.

So what’s a manager to do? Recognize the problem, know its source, understand why action is essential, and then do the work required to create a zombie-free workplace.

Knowing Your Zombies

Although zombies come in many varieties, most resemble one or more of the following:

Zombies in the workplace look like the rest of us, but deep down they’re cancerous beasts that can potentially drive a business to ruin. Click To Tweet
  1. Negative zombies—Often the easiest to spot, they complain, moan, and express their dissatisfaction regularly. Some will use humor to disguise their disgust, but they are nevertheless contagious and a threat to the uninfected.
  2. Minimum-contributor zombies—They do the basics but nothing more. You will never see them looking for work or volunteering for projects. Furthermore, many act as if they are doing you a favor when you ask them to perform a task they get paid for doing.
  3. Status-quo zombies—These change-averse creatures dig in their heels and fight the future. They are happy with everything the way it is and take no initiative to implement new ideas. The most dangerous of this variety will even resort to sabotage if they feel threatened.
  4. Shortcut zombies—They find ways to cut corners and circumvent processes. Their choices frequently expose the organization to unneeded risk. Worse still, when these zombies are in charge of training others, they pass on bad habits and poor practices.

Identifying the Source

To rid an organization of zombies, you must understand how you got them. Each zombie has a creation story. These are the most common:

  1. The ready-made zombie story: People who were really zombies when someone interviewed them, and they got the job anyway.
  2. The we-did-it-here zombie story: Unlike the ready-made zombies, these zombies were created after they joined the organization. They were discouraged, taught to fear, or worse.
  3. The retired-on-the-job zombie story: These zombies should be long retired, but because of a need to complete a certain number of years of employment before receiving some financial reward or other benefit, they’re still in the workplace and just going through the motions.
  4. The abandoned zombie: Abandoned zombies are employees who could perform well if they didn’t feel as if they were the only ones who cared. After struggling alone, these poor creatures eventually succumbed and now just try to survive.

Making the Choice Before It’s Too Late

When left unchecked, zombies can take over a department, division, or even an entire organization with relative ease. For that reason, it is essential that organizations are focused and vigilant in their approach to zombie management.

Organizations that fail to take the problem seriously may find that it’s too late. To escape havoc when zombies gain a foothold, good employees will often leave for safer territory.

Then, by the time management recognizes its predicament, a lot of talent has walked out the door, and what remains is not sufficient to do great work.

Taking Action

Implementing an anti-zombie initiative is no easy task, but it can be done and done well if you take the process seriously and stay dedicated to invigorating your workforce.

Step One:Be candid about your numbers. High turnover is a strong sign that there is a zombie problem. High absenteeism, poor output, and substandard financial performance are other clues. Think about what you would see if your organization were-zombie free and what numbers would be associated with that vision. Next, compare those statistics to the current reality and set some performance goals.

Step Two:Once you understand your global numbers, you should measure employee engagement. You can run a formal survey with a company that specializes in engagement or create one on your own. As with step one, the goal here is to get a sense of what’s working, what isn’t, and the breadth of your zombie problem.

Step Three: Next, ask yourself what are you seeing and hearing that you don’t want to see, and what are you not seeing and hearing that you do? After you know where the gaps are, think about solutions to address those shortcomings. If your zombies belong to the status-quo category, for example, consider putting in a process whereby everyone is tasked with finding two ways to improve his or her work processes or outputs.

No matter what you choose, be sure you have the stamina to stick with the zombie-eradication tactics you implement. Fewer activities done well will beat a lot of mediocre ones every time.

Step Four: Be prepared to let go of those you can’t save. Despite best efforts, some zombies simply can’t be cured. If you’ve done all you can, and they’re still the walking dead or worse, it’s time to say goodbye. If the termination process in your organization is cumbersome and lengthy, at a minimum, you must protect the uninfected and recently cured from the zombie holdouts.

Step Five:Recognize success and coach for deficiencies. Saving zombies happens one employee at a time. People, who are clear about expectations, receive proper training, get coaching when they miss the mark, and feel appreciated when they get it right or go above and beyond, are highly unlikely to enter or venture back into zombie territory.

Ask

  • Do managers “walk the talk” and model anti-zombie behavior?
  • Do employees understand how their work is connected to the organization’s goals? Can they explain that connection in a sentence or less?
  • Are employees held accountable for following established processes and procedures?
  • Do managers confront negativity?
  • Do managers encourage and reward initiative?
  • Do they meet one-on-one with their direct reports on a regular basis?
  • Does a strong zombie-screening interview process exist?
  • When good people leave, does someone conduct an exit interview to see if zombies are the reason for the departure?

The answers to those questions should serve as a starting point for encouraging engagement and avoiding everything from a small zombie outbreak to a full-blown apocalypse. You can never be too prepared.

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

five Reasons to Hire For Skill Over Experience

By John Carrozza

John Carroza-hire for the skills

When hiring a new person into your organization, it’s very likely that you will review their resume, CV or professional profile and assess how their experience might apply to what your team needs. This is a very logical approach to assessing talent, however, when you look at how quickly the skills to perform each role are changing, only looking at past experience could leave you with a big skill gap. Hiring someone for their skills is a much safer, and longer-term bet, but it’s hard to change how you may have been looking at talent.

Hiring for skills means that your workforce is better prepared for changes your business may need to take in the future. Click To Tweet

There are many news headlines that share the warnings; we have enough bodies to fill the roles, but skills development is not keeping up with the demands of today’s businesses and tomorrow’s innovation. Even if unemployment rates are high, it does not mean you will have more available talent that your business needs. Hiring for skills means that your workforce is better prepared for changes your business may need to take in the future and are likely more adaptable to the future organization you are starting to envision.

To make sure you are not only attracting the best candidates, but know who they are when they’re right in front of you, here are five ways to approach hiring for skill:

Don’t get too caught up with ‘fit’.

Hiring for culture is extremely important, there is no debating that. However, hiring for what ‘fits’ today is extremely limiting. Think about where your business will be in three to five years and look at fit at that point. Every area of your business is likely evolving; make sure your talent acquisition activities are too.

Avoid the shiny pedigree appeal.

Many organizations today focus too heavily on sourcing efforts that target candidates with “pedigree appeal”—impressive or prestigious credentials or educational or employment backgrounds. In fact, these days it takes precedence over the thorough investigation your team should be doing to understand if candidates have the skills needed to do their job today and tomorrow. Make sure you are still using some good old-fashioned interviewing and assessment skills to learn what these candidates gained from their prestigious experience!

Leverage technology, don’t fully rely on it.

There are amazing tools today to search resumes for key words that can help you create a shortlist of candidates. Where the technology cannot take you any further is uncovering why/when/how do people entertain new career opportunities, and what they need or want before you start selling the job and the organization. Be sure to learn a person’s aspirations for growing their career and constantly enhancing their skill set.

Sharpen your assessment skills.

Further to number 2, knowing how to effectively assess candidates for desired skill sets based on prior accomplishments and results, and to coach hiring managers to do the same. Think about the skills the candidate has demonstrated and get an understanding of what they learned from their experience. You can do this by actively listening and interpreting for understanding, not just responding.

Learn the story of the skills.

Know where the value lies in the story of their experience and with at least two skill-based questions (with follow-ups) for each attractive experiential accomplishment in their background, you can get to the story of the skills. Coaching your team who participate in the interview process can help them put the skills in the proper context. An example of a skill-based question could be, “How did you build the skills you needed after a setback?”

Previous approaches may have had you looking for top commercial or consumer brands, or top international schools on a resume. Many have assumed that if they survived a period at that school, or at that employer, they would automatically be able to deliver what is needed in a particular role. Skill-based hiring has you looking for stories with keywords like: ability to communicate, learning new systems, managing relationships, interpreting situations, forming new ideas, strategic thinking, and respecting others’ input.

Many of these things are much harder to teach, change, or develop in candidates regardless of the industry they come from. These are the solid skills that can make an immediate impact and fit in with your culture, today and in the future. For consistency across all your interviews, a scoring tool to identify where the greatest added value would be, where the growth opportunity for each candidate lies and what your recommendations are can be a helpful way to later review the talent available to you.

Having a strong understanding of what you need each role to bring to your team today—and how their role may quickly evolve—will help you find strong candidates. These will turn into fantastic employees who are adaptable and will help bring your organization into the future. It may be tough at first to be able to evaluate experience and then go beyond that to focus on skills. Know that getting a start on this will give you a competitive edge as the battle to attract, develop, and retain your talent heats up.

John Carrozza is a Principal Consultant with Riviera Advisors, Inc., a boutique Recruitment/Talent Acquisition Management and Optimization Consulting Firm based in southern California. His career has been dedicated to helping Talent Acquisition teams perform at their best, and has previously done this at The Walt Disney Company, and consulting for Universal Studios Hollywood and DirecTV. In his spare time, John has dabbled in producing film, video and web content. For more information on John Carrozza, please visit: www.RivieraAdvisors.com

The Gift of Feedback

7 Steps to Move from Confrontation to Conversation

By Dr. David Chinsky

David Chinsky-performance problem

Feedback is a gift that anchors your relationships in honesty. Everyone depends upon the feedback they receive to appreciate and reinforce their areas of strength, and to identify areas for personal and professional growth and development.

While there is no question that many people miss numerous opportunities to provide more frequent positive feedback that is specific, timely, and genuine, the bigger challenge for most people is providing constructive feedback that reduces the wall of defensiveness that often accompanies their feedback.

The seven-step constructive feedback process outlined below offers a framework that converts the typical constructive feedback confrontation into a more productive feedback conversation.

Develop a shared understanding about the situation and to identify causes of performance problems. Click To Tweet

The Seven-Step Process

Step 1: Describe the Performance Problem

Employees (or colleagues or bosses) must first understand the problem that you’re experiencing with them before they can be expected to improve. In this step, you should describe the actual performance and/or behavior and contrast it with the expected performance. To begin, simply describe the problem in a sentence or two. Remain as objective as possible and stick to one point—do not talk about multiple performance issues in the same feedback discussion.

Here’s an example:

“Tom, I’d like to talk with you because I’ve noticed that you’ve been late to four of our last five meetings.” That’s it. If you can’t describe the performance problem in 30 seconds or less, you don’t know what the problem is yourself. In Step 1, state the performance problem in a concise, simple-to-understand fashion. There should be no ambiguity as to why you’re having this conversation.

Step 2: Explain the Impact

During the typical feedback discussion, leaders often jump from the description of the problem directly to the development of an action plan. They want to know immediately what the employee is going to do to resolve the problem. To assure meaningful feedback conversations, employees must know how their behavior is impacting others. In this step, convey the unacceptable impact of the behavior, or the unacceptable performance, on colleagues, the organization and perhaps even the individual himself or herself.

Let’s go back to the previous example of Tom being late to meetings, as described in Step 1 above.

Step 2 would continue the conversation with: “When you are late, it causes us to have to stop what we’re doing while everyone acknowledges your late arrival, and this interrupts the momentum of our meeting and lowers our productivity.”

This second step is very important because many times the employee doesn’t even realize his behavior is causing a negative impact. If you don’t describe how his behavior affects others, he might quickly dismiss the problem, saying something like, “Yeah, so what’s your point? A lot of other people are late, too.” So, rather than just talking about the problem of being late, help him understand the impact he’s having by being late. It’s not just the lateness you’re talking about, it’s the diminished productivity, the lack of momentum, the interruption—and some might even say it’s the dishonoring of the punctuality of the other people who arrived on time.

Here’s another example, incorporating both Steps 1 and 2:

“Jen, I wanted to talk with you today because I’ve noticed that you are the first to dismiss the ideas of other members of our team. Before you ask questions and try to understand someone else’s position, you immediately go on the attack.”

That’s the problem, or Step 1, in 30 seconds or less. The impact might be stated as follows, in 30 seconds or less:

“When you are so quick to judge, it causes other members of the team to withdraw and withhold their input because they are afraid that when they speak you’re going to cut them off or give all the reasons why their idea is stupid. This works against the environment I’m trying to create where everyone feels comfortable sharing their unique perspectives.”

Step 3: Identify the Cause

Once you have described the problem and explained the impact, then you can work with the employee to identify the cause of the performance problem you described in Step 1.Don’t jump in and immediately propose what you believe is causing the problem. Let the employee take the lead here. Your job is to ask one good open-ended question that invites him to think about what might be causing his lateness—or what might be preventing her from listening before she shoots down a teammate’s idea.

The goal with this step is to develop a shared understanding about the situation and to identify causes of performance problems. Encourage the employee to discuss the performance from his or her point of view. Once you’ve asked your one open-ended Step 3 question, such as “What’s preventing you from getting to our meetings on time?” or “What is preventing you from asking questions first before becoming critical of others’ ideas?”, your job is to let “silence do the heavy lifting”. Do not give in to the temptation of answering this question for the other person. What you think may be causing the problem is not always the case.

Step 4: Develop an Action Plan

You will develop a more meaningful action plan once you’ve clearly described the problem, explained the impact and identified the cause. If you simply leap from performance problem to action plan, you’ll miss out on a lot of conversation that might help to customize the specific elements of an action plan.

In Step 4, you’re looking for the employee to tell you what he will commit to doing differently to ensure he’s able to get to meetings on time or what she will do to take time to listen first to her colleagues’ ideas before jumping in and being negative.

Step 4 leads to the identification of a solution, a time table for any follow-up actions and an action plan that is specific and measurable.

Step 5: Confirm Understanding

Before the conversation ends, ensure that both you and your employee are on the same page. This is an opportunity for you or the employee to summarize what was discussed, who has agreed to what, and when you expect these changes to occur. If there is any disconnect, you can identify it and resolve it during Step 5—not two weeks or a month down the road when you expect something to be done and then realize you misunderstood each other.

Step 6: Document the Conversation

Take a few minutes to document the conversation, even if this is the first time you’ve had to talk with an employee about an issue—and certainly if it’s the second time you’re having the same conversation. When you document the conversation you’ve had, you’ll have the information available should this develop into a more serious performance management issue.

Step 7: Follow Up to Ensure Satisfactory Performance

More than likely, you or your employee will make some kind of commitment during the feedback conversation. It’s incredibly important to follow up on these commitments. This helps you determine if the employee has actually improved or changed behavior. Your efforts are wasted if you don’t take the time to follow up as needed.

When these seven steps are performed in the order in which they are presented above, you will engage more confidently and effectively when the need arises to provide constructive feedback. In about a minute or less, you will have set up the conversation by describing the problem, explaining the impact and asking one good question to turn the conversation over to the person receiving your feedback. This will ensure that you maintain control of the beginning of these conversations when others may attempt to derail your efforts or move you off point

Dr. David Chinsky is the Founder of the Institute for Leadership Fitness, a celebrated speaker, and author of The Fit Leader’s Companion: A Down-to-Earth Guide for Sustainable Leadership Success. After spending nearly twenty years in executive leadership positions at the Ford Motor Company, Nestle and Thomson Reuters, he now focuses on preparing leaders to achieve their highest level of professional effectiveness and leadership fitness. For more information on Dr. David Chinsky, please visit: www.FitLeadersAcademy.com.

The Only Constant is Change

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

As I look back, I see how things have changed. I have changed, my family has changed, technologies have changed, my business has changed, and the industries I work in have changed.

In today’s business environment, a culture of change is essential for every organization. In my younger days, I would recommend change for the sheer fun of it. Now, older and wiser, I only advocate change when there is a real reason to do so.

To establish a change-oriented culture in our organizations, the first step is to minimize employee fears towards change. Click To Tweet

For most people, change is difficult. Change takes something familiar and replaces it with something unknown. Each organization has people who are change resistant. And each leader, manager, and supervisor knows exactly who these people are. With such folks, their aversion to change varies from unspoken trepidation to being overtly confrontational. Regardless of the manifestation, we need to be compassionate, realizing that these reactions are merely their way of responding to fear—fear of the unknown.

To establish a change-oriented culture in our organizations, the first step is to minimize employee fears towards change. Generally employees can accept change if 1) the change is incremental and small, 2) they have a degree of input or control over the change, and 3) the change is clearly understood.

The key is communication. Address change head on. For every change, employees wonder how it will affect them:

  • Could they lose their job?
  • Might their hours be cut?
  • Will they be asked to work harder than they already are?
  • Will they be made to do something unpleasant or distasteful?
  • What happens if they can’t learn the new skills?

These are all worries, worries about the unknown. As with most worries, the majority will never happen. But with a lack of reliable information and top-down assurances, these irrational worries take on a life all their own.

Successfully orchestrating change requires effective communication. Not once, but ongoing; not to key staff, but to all employees; not by one method, but by several: group meetings, written correspondence, and one-on-one discussions. A true and effective open door policy helps, too. Also, it is critical that a positive attitude is set, at the beginning, from the top of the organization, which never waivers. Celebrate milestones, generously thank staff along the way, and provide reasonable rewards at the end.

Successfully taking these steps will send a strong signal to staff. Even though the change may still concern them, they will be comforted knowing they have accurate information and the assurance that they are safe and will be protected. And for each successful change, the next one becomes easier to bring about.

We will know we have successfully created a change-friendly organization when our employees—all of them—get bored with the status quo and begin seeking change on their own. They will ask for more challenging work, seek to expand their job, and want to add new technology. At this point, the potential of our organizations becomes unlimited; the personal growth of our staff, unshackled; and the future, inviting. We don’t know what that future will entail, only that things will change for the better.

So, sit back and enjoy the ride, fully confident that the only constant is change.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is a published author and commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services.

Four Ways to Effectively Attract a Diverse Workforce

Having a Variety of Diversity at Your Company Can Have a Big Impact on Your Success

By Jeremy Eskenazi

Jeremy EskenaziIs your team diverse?

Do you invest to ensure your team reflects the needs and attitudes of your customers and clients? They need to reflect the communities your employees live, work in, and provide services to.

When a lot of people think about diversity, they focus on gender, ethnicity, and age. These are important to keep focus on, for sure, but there is another kind of diversity that is often overlooked. This is diversity of thoughts, background, and experiences. If elements of the latter are missing in your organization, it’s likely that everyone thinks the same way; and new ideas, new ways to problem solve, and innovation may be stunted. When you have employees who only follow the boss, the only ideas you have are from that one boss. Your organization should invest in diversity because it’s not only the right thing to do, but you will get much better business results! Click To Tweet

While there is no “one size fits all” playbook for attracting diversity, you will want to make your organization attractive for diverse talent. In order to effectively attract diverse candidates, here are four success practices that have been effective:

1. Referral programs

If you have great talent on your team who are highly engaged and doing a great job, they likely have similar friends. Consider offering incentives with shorter payout times and getting immediate impact to ensure your team is helping to attract people who are a good fit. You can also have them act as ambassadors in alumni groups, associations or clubs they are a part of.

2. Early Careers/University strategy

Attracting talent right out of school is often a strategy for helping shape the career of generally younger people, but is also a great place to find diversity. A strong university recruiting strategy is a terrific way to help create a diverse team because you can more easily target diversity on a university campus through student clubs and organizations. Setting up early career development programs and considering those in majors that are not what you’d traditionally look for are also good for your employer brand, and ensures your talent can develop with your business.

3. Cultural awareness training for Hiring Managers

We know that this group often needs help to build relationships. While it’s unwise to force training on managers (and often backfires), integrating training that helps them identify unconscious bias is an area of learning and development that has taken off in recent years and has been effective in many organizations.

4. Workplace preparedness

It is one thing to say you want diversity—setting up your physical space and your benefits program to accommodate it is another. Does your office have things like nursing stations? Do you offer extended Maternity/Paternity Leave, and are your Human Resources policies inclusive for Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, etc. individuals? Do you have prayer rooms facing the correct direction; do your gyms have areas that are exclusive for women? How is your pay equity based on gender? These are things that can help attract top talent and show you will welcome them as equal employees without singling them out, or making them feel that they won’t find a sense of belonging at your company.

In addition to finding the right candidates, diversity brings several important things to your organization. Imagine if the people who applied for your job postings came in for an interview and didn’t see anyone who looked like them, or if all the people who interviewed them asked the same questions in the same way. They would likely not be very interested in continuing the discussion. Your employer brand is only as good as what employees and candidates will say about you when you’re not in the room. Taking the opportunity to show you are a progressive company that is investing visibly in many areas of diversity will be obvious from their first encounter with you.

While it is generally true that almost everyone values diversity, you may have noticed that many in younger generations are very vocal about their values. Moreover, many of them expect diversity and can be very outspoken about how much it matters to them in a workplace. By bringing in a diverse group of people to your organization, you will have access to broader networks which will spur further diversity opportunities and all the benefits it brings. Think of how much more likely it is that diverse people who enjoy working at your company will introduce you and advocate for you in their circles.

While the business reasons for diversity are compelling on their own, many jurisdictions also have regulatory requirements that you have to consider as well. It’s not just laws for the jurisdiction you operate in; it could be laws necessary to sell to your customers. For example, if you sell to the United States government, it requires you to submit an affirmative action plan to improve diversity at the organization and provide updates during the term of the contract. There is also an audit process that ensures that organizations are keeping to their plans.

Most importantly, your organization should invest in diversity because it’s not only the right thing to do, but you will get much better business results! Don’t let regulations drive your diversity efforts. The best way to improve diversity is to be truthful. No matter how many smiling, ethnically diverse models you may hire to represent your brand, or false testimonials you may really want to post—it is so easy to spot a workplace that does not value diversity. The truth always comes out. Give your organization the best competitive advantage you can by welcoming diversity into your team, and celebrating it in real ways. All types of diversity bring something new to the table, and who doesn’t need fresh ideas?

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.