Tag Archives: human resources

Negotiating a Flexible Work Arrangement with Your Employer

By Dr. Farzanna HaffizullaDr Farzanna Haffizulla

Every working professional should have the right to take time off, free from the pressures of work, but doing so requires some savvy planning with your supervisors and colleagues when you are gone. Check with your employer about your maternity, paternity and family leave options. The stress that many feel often relates to leaving work unfinished or falling behind on projects. Don’t leave your job with uncertainty and offer a clear timeline so that your work colleagues know what to expect.

While the art of balancing family life and career is fraught with intense emotions at times, make sure you check your emotional highs and lows at the door. Always maintain a professional attitude when in front of your colleagues. You want to show that you are committed and just as reliable, and that you take your work commitments seriously.

Here’s what to go over with your supervisor if you are considering time off:

  • Determine the changes in schedule or job functions.

  • Specify a specific leave period (start date and end date).

  • Figure out coverage. Who will cover for you while you are gone? Will your work be divided up among colleagues and are they aware?

  • Create hand-off notes. Prepare your notes and work procedures for your replacement.

  • Establish boundaries and access. Will you be available for consultation? How much contact are you willing to have during your leave?

  • Plan your re-integration and return. Design a plan for your return, such as changes in job function, reduced hours, etc.

  • Consider telecommuting and working from home or at a location closer to home. Present a clear plan of action to your supervisor about how you see this arrangement benefiting you and your company. Will you be able to make regular conference calls to check-in with your colleagues and with your supervisor? Will you be able to drop-in on occasion if the project calls for it, or if you need to see clients?

There are four important steps to take when negotiating flexible work arrangements.

Step 1: Assess your job and employer: Will they allow you to try the above flex options? Some jobs are strict about a physical presence in the office during regular business/office hours. For example, a surgeon or school teacher may find flex options provide no respite from their work demands. For those with more flexibility from their employers, consider if working in an alternate location would be beneficial. Can you handle the independence and distractions, if it saves you commuting time and costs?

Step 2: Find out where you work best: Many thrive in home offices, which allow them to save on childcare costs, while others find home offices distracting and unproductive. On face value, working from home may seem to be the most convenient option, but before seizing the opportunity, remember that working at home doesn’t necessarily make it convenient. If constant interruptions will make working difficult, theadvantages of working at home may be overshadowed by the downsides,such as battling cranky outbursts from your kids or other interruptions of daily living.

Step 3: If you are a parent or caregiver, drop the guilt-factor: Recognize that you shouldn’t feel like a bad parent if you come to the realization that you can’t work and care for a child in a synchronous manner, and that you are more productive when you keep the two worlds largely separate. Perhaps you’re the type that needs a designated working space. Other parents might not mind writing or preparing reports, making phone calls and dealing with clients while toys are scattered by the desk and your child squeals and plays in the playpen set in the corner of the room. Seek out the best work arrangement and reassure your employer that you’re not seeking a favor, but asking for an alternative way to produce the same level of work expected.

Step 4: Champion your work: Once you’ve started your new work arrangement, remember that you may not be physically in the office as often as usual. Out-of-sight, out-of-mind can have detrimental effects on your employer’s impression of you. Make sure you take these measures to ensure that you get the credit you deserve:

  • Document your performance and work results. Check-in daily if needed with your boss.

  • Be clear about the expectations. You may not be able to work fulltime, but can you still produce full-time work.

  • Set up periodic meetings with your supervisor to go over expectations. Have you made significant contributions? In what ways? Work with your employer to adjust your work schedule as needed to fine-tune an optimal arrangement.

  • If something urgent comes up at work, what is your family contingency plan? And vice versa— if something at home interrupts your work schedule, will your employer be able to grant you more flexibility?

While there is no “one size fits all” approach, variations in theme and creative strategizing and planning will allow you to achieve the best of both your family and career spheres of life. Maintain clarity, definition and be resolute in your personal choices.  An injection of optimism and approaching your colleagues and supervisors with amiable professionalism will dramatically increase your chances of getting the schedule that works best for you.

Dr. Farzanna Haffizulla is a speaker and expert in work/life balance. Her book, Harmony of the Spheres, offers methods to streamline workloads, solve interpersonal workplace issues and offers practical advice on integrating work and home life. In addition, she runs the website busymomMD.com, an informative site for modern, educated women juggling career and family.

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Taking the Org Chart into the 21st Century

By Pat HeydlauffPat Heydlauff

Running a business today with 15th Century tools is like driving a 1931 Model A Ford on the modern German Autobahn. Yes, the Model A is an automobile with wheels and a motor but it is not equipped to handle 21st Century demands for speed and peak performance.

Back in 1931, the Model A offered state-of-the-art features such as air conditioning with its front slant window that opened to cool passengers, an analog clock to help you get to your destination on time, and flower vases that adorned the door posts between the front and back seats that added a touch of luxury. As fascinating and advanced as it was for its time, the Model A cannot compete or even keep pace with 21st Century needs.

The organizational chart that governs most organizations today is much like the Model A. It’s been around for centuries. While it is often referred to as Newtonian and thought to be around 500 years old, history shows that its beginnings date back to not only Roman soldiers but ancient Egypt. The organization (org) chart is defined by various sources as a graphic representation of how authority and responsibility is distributed within a company or organization.

Is Your Organization Chart Still Working for You? Does the org chart still work as well in the 21st Century as it did in the 5th Century? The Newtonian org chart is filled with boxes and linear movement and is no longer an effective and efficient way for organizations to operate. It is very hierarchal in nature, puts all authority into boxes and limits the flow of communications, interpersonal relations, productivity and peak performance.

And, when something goes wrong, such as the economy tanking, or a major client is dropped, the solution is to remove the person in one or more of the boxes or add a new box – instead of digging deeper into the problem. Most of the time, the real source of the problem is at the core of the organization –  the company vision, the glue that holds the company together, and its operating system laid out in the organization chart.

The “Orbital Effect”: Once you’ve grasped the limiting factors inherent in the conventional org chart and how they affect your organization’s productivity and profitability, it is much easier to envision the future with clarity. Everything in your organization must revolve around your reason for existence, your story, your vision – much like planet Earth revolves around the sun. In an organization the vision is the sun – it provides the fire, desire and motivation for your existence. The vision is your story and at the center of your org chart. Everything else needs to revolve around your core reason for existence. You can no longer do that in the 21st century if you continue to operate within boxes and angles that do not flow and complete an orbital or circular trajectory of communication, productivity and peak performance. It is the completion of the path that provides more efficiency, improved effectiveness and buy-in on the part of the workforce, which yields more profitability and maximized value to stakeholders.

Leadership, Creativity and Practical Operations: These three categories are often treated separately and fall in different areas on the old org chart but in reality they belong in the vision and fire of the organization. They drive the organization and all of the sub-orbital sections which regularly interact in meaningful communicative ways. How can you know what type of leadership you need and if you have the right people in those positions if you don’t know your story – if you don’t have a vision that is real and summarized in five to seven words?

Leadership, creativity and practical operations are the sun that provides your organization life and everything else must revolve around it – that is how balance and sustainability are created in the 21st Century. There is a natural flow of energy that moves throughout an organization called the “orbital effect” and it no longer can operate with boxes and angular movement. There is a natural flow to information and communications as well, but if it doesn’t complete the orbit, you have no way of knowing whether what you wanted to communicate is what your workforce or the consumer heard – until it is played back.

Are you still driving the Model A version of the org chart?  It’s time to try a better way, a newer, more efficient and productive way of operating. The “orbital effect” is a major upgrade to your operating system. The result: improved productivity, profitability and sustainability with less stress.

Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.

Hiring: How to Attract Top Players

By Patrick ValtinPatrick Valtin

Ann is a frustrated business owner who has been trying to hire a Marketing Manager for the last 8 months. Her last attempt was disastrous: over $6,200 spent on recruitment ad placements and 63 resumes screened. After 27 interviews is one week, 4 selected applicants were met for a second meeting. Not one of these finalists was offered the job.

What went wrong and why was Ann so upset? Simply stated, the company had been attracting the wrong people. An analysis of the job placement ad revealed too much emphasis on job-related hard skills and experience, as well as a strong promise of an attractive salary. But it was lacking a clear description of vital job-related soft skills needed to excel on the job and in Ann’s company environment. Most importantly, the ad was “selling” the wrong benefits to the wrong people – no clear mention of the most important selection criteria top players are looking for!

If you want to attract top players, you need to understand that your challenge is not to find them, but to attract them! Hiring is like marketing – if you do not know what top players are looking for, they will never show up. You have thousands of competitors when it comes to attracting the best, knowing that the war for talent is raging and that every business like yours is willing to over-pay, compromise and sacrifice in order to attract top players.

You can always evaluate an applicant against 4 general levels of motivation in finding a job. The first two criteria are quite logical and your margin of negotiation is rather limited. The last two criteria are much more irrational, more emotional and have proven to be so much more important to top players. The good side of it is: you have ample room to compete on these last two. As a matter of fact, the 4 criteria below are presented in increasing sequence of importance:

1 – Nature of the job. Top players look at doing what they like to do. No matter how tough the job market conditions might be, you want to detect and attract those who would not compromise too much on their life-long aspirations. Communicate clearly in your job ad that you are looking only for those who are passionate about what they do. Always give priority to those applicants who demonstrate a good persistence in their professional orientation.

With young applicants, it is important to detect why they decided to take a specific academic orientation. Were they purpose-driven or merely going through school without any specific future intention? Watch out for the purposeless applicants who mostly look for a job “to make a living.”

2 – Salary and other compensations. Qualified applicants know how much they are worth. Even if the current job market is a “buyer’s market,” make sure you offer your selected players an attractive package which will motivate them to work for long term rewards.

But if you really want to attract top players, offer performance-based rewards, such as bonuses or profit sharing. Reduce the fixed part of the salary and provide larger performance-based rewards which drive personal and organizational efficiency – and also reward commitment to the future.

Watch out for the skilled or experienced applicants who try to sell you their talent at a higher fixed salary with no desire for performance-related rewards. The coming years will be bright for you and your business, provided you are able to surround yourself with able, group-dedicated and future-driven collaborators!

3 – Working environment. While your employees will say that they want a new job for better pay, reality might be different. People do not leave their company, they leave their boss. According to recent studies, nearly three out of five employees feel that their bosses frequently fail to honor their promises and 37% say they do not give credit when due. Another 23% said their supervisors blame others to cover up mistakes or minimize embarrassment. Most employees leave because of a difficult relationship with a supervisor rather than dissatisfaction with their salary. Over 77% of them find a new job with no higher pay.

Be aware that top players will first judge your company through the same irrational criteria as any potential customer would with a supplier. The recruiter’s attitude, employees’ friendliness, the smile on the receptionist’s face, etc. are factors which will attract – or scare away good applicants. So be clear in your message: you will hire only someone who wants to have fun on the job, enjoy a great team work and contribute to others’ as much as he/she will be contributed to.

4 – Challenges & future. Many applicants primarily search for job security. Top players don’t care about it. They mostly want to face challenges and meet their potential. They are future-oriented and they want to prove that “they can do it.” They instantly respond to those “mission impossible” types of assignments. They buy a bright future to which they feel they can contribute. Being part of a future-oriented team is a major reward by itself; financial reward comes on top of it.

The key factor is: does the applicant want to take an active role in the expansion of your business? Is he/she responding positively to your challenges? Many employers tend to be too nice and too promising during the hiring process. The truth is: scare your applicants by being clear and totally transparent about the current challenges or difficulties. Then, and only then, show them the future.

Top players will love it. Other applicants will naturally shy away, which is exactly what you want! If you don’t present challenges first, you will indeed attract the wrong prospects for the job. Job security should be the reward of creating and contributing to a bright future, not a God-given right that you, the employer, must assume for every challenge-shy employee. Challenge is THE keyword. A bright future is the reward!

So, in order to attract the best and avoid the rest, put all your attention on developing your competitiveness on the last 2 criteria. While the first two do not give you much room to successfully beat the competition, these 2 irrational, emotional criteria offer unlimited possibilities to show – and make the difference!

Patrick Valtin is the author of the “No-Fail Hiring” book and an international public speaker. He has evaluated over 22,000 applicants for the account of 5,000 customers in more than 30 countries. His No-Fail Hiring System has been used by thousands of small businesses of all kinds of industries. Patrick has trained 85,000 business owners and executives in the field of people management, personnel selection, Sales, business strategies, leadership and organization. To find out more about his speaking and training, visit http://patrickvaltin.com or call 877-831 2299.

Two Reasons Interviewing Fails So Often: The Five Questions to Ask in an Interview

By Brad RemillardBrad Remillard

Do you have other people in your organization interview candidates that will end up working directly for you? Just about everyone answers “Yes” to this question. The follow up question to that is, “Have you ever sat in the interviews with these co-workers and assessed whether or not they are competent interviewers?”  Not co-interview with them, but specifically be there to assess their interviewing abilities. Most answer “No” to this question.

You are relying on their opinion to hire someone that will play a role in your success, yet you don’t even know if they are competent interviewers. So you cross your fingers and hope everything works out. Crossed fingers and hope make a poor hiring process.

Two reasons interviewing fails:

First and foremost are incompetent people conducting the interviews. This is by no means a knock on those people. The fact is, a few people are naturally good interviewers, just like only a few people are natural at music, sports, or math. However, most people are not good interviewers, just like most are not good at music, sports, or math. Most would be considered amateurs when it comes to interviewing. Do you want to have your success based on amateurs conducting the interviews?

The vast majority of people learn to interview from the people that interviewed them. Since that is true, then where did the people that interviewed them learn to interview from? You guessed it, from the people that interviewed them. And so it goes all the way back to Moses. This is not a training program.

Interviewing is a skill that needs to be developed and honed. Since very few people ever actually receive any training on how to properly interview, most just aren’t good at it. Most people have either had no training or it was one short class years ago and they’ve long forgotten what they learned.   How can anyone expect their managers to be competent interviewers? Skills need to be practiced or at least kept up to date to be effective. Asking the same questions you were asked 15 years ago in an interview is not up to date.

Lack of training and practice creates one major flaw which poor interviewers make over and over again. They don’t probe deeply enough into what the candidate tells them. The interviewer tends to just accept or reject what they are told. Few really probe for facts, time, data, outcomes, challenges, team issues, names, etc. They may ask one or two follow-up questions, but even these are pretty superficial. Teaching interviewers how to probe deeply is the biggest challenge to overcome when training people to interview. Not that the person doesn’t want to probe, they just don’t know how or they are uncomfortable asking these deep level of questions.

Secondly, vague questions equal vague hires. This is often because those in the second or third round of interviews really don’t understand the position. They interview every candidate much the same way regardless of position. It is the one size fits all interviewing syndrome.

Since the other interviewers don’t really know the details of the job, they ask vague and generic questions, just like they were asked way back when. The problem with this is that once the person comes on board the job expectations by their new manager are rarely vague and generic. Nobody has asked the probing question as to how the person will do the job once they come on board.

Can you guess what percentage of hiring managers actually review the details of the job description with the co-workers that will be interviewing the candidates? If you guessed less than 10%, you were correct.

So that means the other people interviewing simply assume they know what is important in the job, what specific issues need to be probed, and what questions they should ask to determine if the person is qualified for the job they themselves don’t even understand. Is it any wonder interviewing fails?

Interviewing doesn’t have to be all that complicated. It doesn’t have to be so sophisticated that a person needs to go through extensive training every time they have an interview. In fact, interviewing should be simple, thorough, and easy for everyone to understand.

Well-trained interviewers can get about 80% of the information they need to decide whether or not the person can do the job with just five questions and 6 words. That is it. If they can’t pass these five core questions, then all the other questions are irrelevant, so why ask them? In fact, for most hires at the manager level and higher, if the candidate can’t get past the first three, you should move on. The five questions are:

1) Give me an example where you demonstrated high initiative. Just about every position requires initiative. The degree of initiative may change based on the position, but if they don’t have it at the level you need, do you really need to continue?

2) Give me an example where you successfully executed on a critical project. If you have critical issues you need done and they can’t execute and get them done, you may not have the right person.

3) Give me an example where you lead a cross functional team on a complex project. Leadership is something managers must possess. Cross functional is important, because motivating people that one does not have authority over is just one difference between managing and leading.

4) Give me an example where you have done X in your current company. Aligning past experiences and accomplishments with regards to scope, size, and organization is important.

5) When you come on board how would you accomplish X within X period of time? Getting them to describe how they will do the job in your company, with your resources and your culture demonstrates their ability to adapt to your company.

Once the interviewer asks each of these questions, then simple probe deeply with who, what, when, where, why and how. Simply ask follow-up questions that start with one of these six words. If the candidate really did what they claim to have done they will be able to describe in great detail what they did. Probing deeply is what will separate those that did it, from those that claim they did it.

Brad Remillard is a speaker, author and trainer with more than thirty years of experience in hiring and recruiting. Through his corporate workshops and industry association speaking engagements he demonstrates how organizations can effectively attract, interview, hire and retain top talent. Brad is also the co-founder of Impact Hiring Solutions and co-author of, “You’re NOT the Person I Hired: A CEO’s Guide to Hiring Top Talent.”

Hiring: Do It the Steve Jobs Way

By Patrick ValtinPatrick Valtin

Jim was the perfect candidate with many years of solid experience as a professional sales rep and had an obvious talent of persuasion and communication skills. But the hiring manager had some strong reservations during the interview. Jim’s strong focus on results ‘right now’ and a certain aggressiveness that could probably overwhelm or upset clients were some of the weaknesses he was concerned about.

In regards to Jim’s focus on the purposes of the company, its role in the community, the vital importance of innovation and unselfish dedication to excellence, he did the perfect job. He sold himself like never before and got hired.

Four months later, Jim was fired for lack of vision, lack of dedication and worst of all, for his lack of honesty in his intentions.

The manager knew he had to hire “the Steve Jobs way,” but had no real clue as to how to do it. He hired what he saw and what he heard “at the moment.” He was trapped into Jim’s salesmanship talent. And he was fooled by Jim’s hidden intentions: to get the job, “no matter what needs to be said…”

Steve Jobs’ Hiring Philosophy: Steve Jobs was an amazing and unconventional leader in many respects. His reputation as the best entrepreneur of our time can be summarized in a few words: he and his top execs never compromised with the talents and qualifications required of their employees. He personally interviewed over 5,000 applicants during his career. He and his executives considered very different qualities in people than most business owners do. When you thoroughly analyze Apple’s philosophy of hiring, you find out that there has always been fundamental, un-compromising attributes needed to get a job at Apple, Inc.

You too can apply these attributes when you look at attracting top players and ensure you avoid trouble makers.  To help you in the hiring process, here are the main “Apple selection attributes.”

Vision-minded. Everyone joining the company must have a clear picture of its management vision – and fully agree to fight for it, to defend it and to live with it every day. Applicants who do not seem to get it are systematically rejected. When you hire people who don’t seem to agree with, or care about your company vision, you are potentially employing future enemies.

Innovation-minded. Steve Jobs always emphasized the vital importance of hiring people who are innovative – willing to create something from nothing. Applicants are first chosen for their ability and willingness to constantly create, rather than for their technical competence.

Future-minded. Employees at Apple are driven by their leader’s vision of the future and they contribute everyday to creating the future, more than just beating the competition. Each of them owns the future of the market because they know they can contribute to creating it. The eagerness to create, not follow the future is a vital attribute observed in top players, no matter the industry.

Passion-minded. Steve Jobs’ first principle is: “Do what you love.” People are hired because they love the product, the company and its vision. Applicants who do not demonstrate a genuine passion and “love” for the company’s purposes and business philosophy will never make it.

Contribution-minded. A statement given by an Apple recruiter is clear enough: “We didn’t want someone who desired to retire with a gold watch. We wanted entrepreneurs, demonstrated winners, high-energy contributors who defined their previous role in terms of what they contributed and not what they titles were.”

Engagement-minded. Over two thirds of Americans are not engaged in their workplace. Apple management is strict on employees’ level of commitment. Committed individuals who are inspired by a grand purpose make the whole difference in the most competitive conditions.

Excellence-minded. Steve Jobs was known for his passion of perfection. The company always tries things out until they are perfectly done. The same attitude is expected of every collaborator. Applicants who do not share that passion for excellence do not have a chance.

Other Critical Attributes To Evaluate: You will notice that these 7 points enforced in the Apple’s personnel selection are all personality-related attributes, also called soft skills. They do not always guarantee performance. But the chance of selecting productive people is at least 200% higher when focusing on these vital soft skills. It is very well known that recruiters who focus on soft skills in their personnel selection process are, on average, 50% more effective in selecting top players.

So, in order to avoid falling in the momentary personality trap – as the hiring manager in the above example did, you should also focus on the following two basic soft skills:

Honesty. Did you know that one third of all business failures in the USA are due to employee theft? Also, 95% of all US companies are victims of theft and yet only 10% ever discover it. So this is definitely a crucial criterion to evaluate. Everybody recognizes the importance of honesty so it would make sense to evaluate it PRIOR to evaluating any other soft skill, wouldn’t it?

There are strong indicators which allow you to precisely evaluate honesty. Here are just a few:  gaps in the resume, contradictory data between the resume and your standard job application, negative reaction or embarrassment from the applicant to your challenging questions and lack of accuracy in applicant’s explanations of previous achievements.

Willingness. According to the US Department of Labor, more than 87% of employee failures are due to unwillingness to do the job. You can’t simply force someone to do something if they do not want to. Such persons will do what you want in order to keep their job or to avoid penalties. But they will not really put their heart into it.

Most applicants will tell you that they are willing, of course. The key to finding out if they are honest is to ask them to prove i.t Challenge them to demonstrate that they have been willing to work hard, learn something new, question their old habits, work under tough conditions, etc… The way you do this is simply by asking them to give you specific examples when they had to display such willingness.

So, hire the Steve Job’s way, by all means. But don’t forget these two basic attributes in the same process. inform applicants that your company values and management philosophy imply honesty and willingness/positive attitude as primary selection criteria, no matter the position – lack of either is enough to be considered unqualified!

Patrick Valtin is the author of the “No-Fail Hiring” book and an international public speaker. He has evaluated over 22,000 applicants for the account of 5,000 customers in more than 30 countries. His No-Fail Hiring System has been used by thousands of small businesses of all kinds of industries. Patrick has trained 85,000 business owners and executives in the field of people management, personnel selection, Sales, business strategies, leadership and organization. To find out more about his speaking and training, visit http://patrickvaltin.com or call 877-831 2299.