Monthly Archives: May 2013

Organisational Dating – Recruitment

The blogging world is full of helpful ideas to improve your cv, obtain the interview you want and ultimately land that new role. There is also a huge ocean of posts about tips for recruiters looking to land passive candidates, social media strategy and how to be better connected.

Every single one of these posts in invaluable for the recruitment process, offering passionate insight from people who live and breath recruitment.

Now I don’t have a huge amount of experience in recruitment and most of the best tips have already been offered. But I think something which is often overlooked is the mindset you have when looking for a job. A lot of posts focus on practical tips but you need to have a think about how you approach the process mentally. For me, looking for a job is like dating.

Organisational dating.

Now I’m not talking about jumping straight into the first date. Let’s start with your CV or résumé. This for me is like a lonely hearts ad in the newspaper. There are hundreds all in one space all saying the same key phrases. Would like to meet, good sense of humour etc etc. Now people might be looking for a particular type of person here but you might lure someone in by standing out slightly. Standing out a lot might come across as the crazy cat person and no one will be interested. As a candidate you have to think about who you want to attract and market yourself appropriately.

Secondly is your covering letter. This for me is like an Internet dating video profile. It can be quite similar to your lonely hearts ad but gets to show off a little more of your personality. Again, stifling people with too much will just put them off.

Next we have your LinkedIn or social recruitment profile. You are at a mixer or singles bar where everyone is out for the same thing. Everyone sees Mr Big and fights for his attention. This is the chance to show off the most about you. Everyone likes someone interesting and accomplished to talk to but you’ve got to get involved. No one will talk to the wallflower. Find a conversation you want to join and confidently introduce yourself. If you’ve got the goods people will respond. And introductions by a common connection will always provide more fruit.

So we finally get down to a first date or interview. First thing to remember is that everyone has a different ‘date-span’ before they want to go steady. Some may have 3 interviews for an admin assistant and some may only have one for CEO. Everyone likes a different date scenario as well. Some like a formal dining experience and some want brunch at that little cozy bistro down the street. If it’s not your scene maybe there will be issues further down the line. This should also be an exchange of information not just one way. You are interviewing the organisation as much as they are interviewing you.

As much as finding love has evolved and there are many different acceptable avenues to do it, recruitment has only got their for those that are brave. Be creative with how you connect with people and the amount of opportunities will start to rise. Remember that although jobs are few right now it will be much more satisfying to find ‘the one’ than be a serial dater, and disappointed. You’ve got to find the right fit for you as much as you’ve got to fit for them.

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Engaging reward and building loyalty

Following on a couple of posts about recognition I would like to bring up reward. Every company does it differently. Everyone wants something different. Nobody gets it 100% right.

We get it. Reward is flawed. But if you want that expensive reward to really stay with an employee I think there is only 4 rewards that can boost loyalty.

Money, progression, development and flexibility

Now there are studies out there that say non-monetary rewards mean more to employees, that they love a box of chocolates or a meal for 2 at that restaurant close to the office. That’s nice but is that really gonna keep someone long term in their role? I know a few people who would be happy as a doorman if their wage kept them comfortable or even better, increasing. Now remember that loyalty is key here and a large increase in pay or cash bonus will keep staff comfortable elsewhere in their life. I guess it’s got be big enough to make a difference. Why do so many people work in banking? It can’t be for the difference they make. Maybe it’s the bonus.

Second reward is progression. You may think that someone progressing in their career is a given if they have the skill and experience. In my opinion, organisations miss a trick by forgetting to tell their staff that they have been promoted as they mean a lot and their contribution is appreciated. Employees will feel good either way, letting them know they are valued will last a bit longer.

And I put my Gen Y hat on for the next reward, development. Gen Y crave development and stimulation in any career. Another missed trick is to say you have earned this. Employers churn out names for training courses to tick a box and fill a quota. I know training is expensive, relate that to how much they mean. It could be anything outside the mandatory training for their role. Some job swapping through to assistance for a postgrad in their field. The key is if someone delivers in their role, keep them stimulated. They have already proven they can do that, find a way to challenge them. And a challenge means they can’t be bored. One word of caution on that one, it only works really well with Gen Y.

Last up we have flexibility. This is very much a personal thing with everyone describing flexibility in a different way. But by being flexible you can meet their ideas of flexible. As long as they have earned it.

Much like Pavlov’s dog, any of these reward bells should only ring after performance. Only difficulty in that is that employees are cleverer than pavlov’s dog (in some cases). You’re not going to get them to perform if the bell stops ringing, so keep it consistent.

I may be well off the mark with reward and people would say that they need more choice. Well I would say reward is a bit like people’s fashion choices. Sometimes you really don’t know what will be best for you. As long as you let the experts do there job, everyone is happy and stays happy.

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leaning in or screaming in? impression management


I will write a disclaimer to this post, I am an introvert. This is written from an introvert’s view.

I am not a fan of bravado and find it unnecessary. In my younger days I mistook bravado for shyness and covering up being comfortable with yourself. I originally studied music as a composer. My undergrad was spent squirrelling away in a room with the product of my work being very public and the only thing that was judged. I decided music should become a hobby and started in full time work. 

This was a shock to the system.

I maintained the mentality, and still do to a degree, that people’s work should speak for itself. However, in the world of work a manager with a team of 30 staff doesn’t have time to notice what is going on beyond a productivity report. They can’t discover the cogs that make the process happen. So here comes impression management to save the day. What I originally thought of as ‘brown-nosing’ was to become my greatest ally. Self-promotion of exploits and successes allowed me to be noticed. I had swallowed my pride and seen the benefit.

The only difficulty came when looking for a more senior role. I had provided what I saw as an above average contribution but my appraisals and lack of sponsor for a new role would say otherwise. I had slipped out the vision of my leaders. 

Now impression management, for me at least, is a bit of a double edged sword. While it helps individuals be noticed for their work, it also takes away the responsibility of management to stay focused on their team. A voice of performance can be reassuring to you doing a good job as a manager. So when there is benefits to both sides of this relationship, it reinforces the behaviour. And when others see the benefits of this behaviour they want to be involved. 

Very soon you can have a culture of impression management where managers rely on staff to self-promote their success to deem that a good job has been done. Now this naturally fits for extroverts. The introverts, get left behind. And as a manager you soon only see what you think is providing performance and not what actually does.

Now as a self-confessed introvert this is a challenge that we all must overcome to progress in any career. The main difficulty is when you have staff who rely on this skill without ability in their role. And managers toast success of the wrong people. Just because they say they were involved. 

Now both high performance and impression management and necessary to progress. If you work in a competitive work environment there won’t be anyone leaning out. Everyone will be leaning in hungrily to go further. With a strong self-promotion culture, people need to shout to be noticed. And when everyone is shouting, no one is heard. 

Any employee needs to build these skills but managers should be wary of continual self-promotion of staff. If they have everything relayed to them is it a realistic picture of what is going on? Maybe those delegation skills look more like abdication skills right now. Either way to be a great manager or leader look for the cogs not the result to sustain performance.


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Man Up! HR sits on the sideline of strategy

So loads of HR workers complain about a lack of strategy involved in their role. How HR never have a voice and are not present at the top table. How the value that could be added by HR is ignored.

I totally agree with all these statements but I disagree with how HR are trying to change things. The same way they have always tried to change things! Einstein said that Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Right now HR looks a bit insane.

We talk about making a difference through people. Engagement, development, talent. Bla bla bla. Right now it’s just words. The problem of strategy for HR is not in what we are saying but in the fact that we are saying it and not doing it. Now I don’t mean that within HR we are not developing and engaging HR staff. You can count on HR staff getting some of the best in the right situation. I’m talking about our impact with the rest of the team. HR likes to sit on the sidelines and dictate the rules. HR is a tennis umpire, not a player. This sideline culture is so engrained into HR it’s even in the job titles. HR advisor, HR business partner, coordinator etc. Why are we not HR champions? Why are we not people drivers? At best we are a doubles player in the tennis match. At worst we are a spectator.

With the devolvement of some HR responsibilities to line managers, HR think it’s time for them to focus on strategy but to the people that matter, HR just looks lazy. Why didn’t those HR workers stop and say “Great, with this devolvement I can get into the team and prove all these things really do add value”?

HR needs to prove that people strategy can work by their own hands, otherwise HR is just another doubter to the current situation. Business is built on contributions. HR is built on best practice, best-fit or theory. Maybe it’s time HR practice was treated as a leadership skill rather than a role.


Negative staff – friend or foe?

As a manager or leader it is your job to coordinate employees and processes to gain maximum performance. You construct a plan to change things that you think need improved. You even spend some time putting together a communication strategy to appease staff of the downsides. You roll out the presentation and everyone sits quietly. You think to yourself you have done an amazing job. Just to clarify, you ask a few trusted employees for their opinion. Everything comes back glowing and further boosts your confidence. Things change and performance improves. You have done your job well, right?


Further down the line you find staff turnover has increased and satisfaction survey responses are lower. It couldn’t be the changes you made as everyone was happy with those. The staff must be having personal issues or there is something else causing the issue. You bring in an under performer for an improvement plan and they let you know that the changes you made have caused their morale to fall and the job intensity to increase. So why didn’t anyone say?

Were they afraid to? Is it easier to just keep quiet? 

Many friends and previous managers I have worked with don’t like to be questioned about their decisions or workings. In one role I held previously, the employee in question was told they would be ostracised from the team for being a troublemaker and going against management. This member of staff was quoted as being a negative influence on the rest of the team and that it should stop.

Whether it is positive or negative this person has influence. More than perhaps you initially would like. But what if that influence was positive? What if that person agreed with your ideas and was your evangelist among the team? What bigger impact would that person allow for? How much more successful would your change be?

Resistance to change is not a bad thing if you don’t let it become an obstacle. You think this person is being insubordinate and questioning you personally, they see it as questioning an idea. So here are my tips for embracing insubordination.

1. Take your ego out of the equation. This project may be your baby but when you take things personally, particularly criticism, you hold to your ideas stronger and creativity is stifled. Remember this is an organisational goal, not a personal one.

2. Enjoy the challenge. Yes someone is saying your ideas are flawed but celebrate the opportunity to push yourself and your ideas further. Don’t get put out. This is not an attack.

3. Welcome opinions good and bad. Actively seek them out. You may initially see a complaining employee but try to look at this as an employee who thinks it can be better and wants to do so. Employees don’t always say it right so help them to communicate right the next time.

4. Find out why it’s bad. You may have one view of a situation but that’s not the whole picture. The staff can open up a whole other view.

5. Be afraid of those who don’t communicate. They aren’t engaged and don’t want to participate in changes. Even those who complain want to be involved.

6. Delegate the challenge. If you have staff who don’t think an initiative is good enough then let them make it better. If they are directly affected then they have better insight into what is wrong. You don’t have to sweat over it all yourself. Keep on top of their development and initiative though, as you are still accountable.


Taking a more open view to challenging staff can spark creativity, innovation and diversity. And remember be afraid of the silence. No one likes a quiet business.

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