Business & Talent. Aligned.

How you manage talent spells the difference between success and failure. To gain a competitive edge, leaders must be prepared to address shifting economic, social and demographic trends that impact workforce performance. Stay informed with research, insights and advice from our leading industry experts. The world of work is changing. Is your company ready?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Factors that Lead to Leadership Failure

Both HR professionals and CEOs agree that Failing to Build Relationships and a Team Environment and A Mismatch with Corporate Culture are the factors most likely to lead to a leader’s derailment.

Understanding the factors that most commonly influence leadership failure will inform your talent strategy and ensure leadership development is on target to deliver needed results. Business growth potential depends on the quality of talent, as does competitive differentiation.
Leadership turnover for non-performance or other leadership dissatisfaction issues continues to be higher than planned, especially since choices regarding senior leadership could be considered some of the most important corporate decisions a company can make.

To gain some insight as to possible sources of succession risk factors, we conducted research in partnership with Chally Group to identify the factors believed to contribute most to the failure of senior leaders in their organizations. The top 10 were as follows:

  1. Fails to Build Relationships and a Team Environment
  2. A Mismatch for the Corporate Culture
  3. Failure to Deliver Acceptable Results
  4. Unable to Win Company Support
  5. Lack of Appropriate Training
  6. Egotistical
  7. Lack of Vision
  8. Not Flexible
  9. Poor Management Skills
  10. Poor Communication

The costs associated with failure (at worst) or ineffective executive transitions are high, and lack of adequate support for talent during crucial periods can have long-term negative impacts for both leaders and the organization. This data only hints of what is to come. When considering the evolving workforce and the increasing importance of engagement on organizational transformation, high performance and productivity, the leader’s role becomes the organization’s greatest catalyst for success. Leaders need to be supported to fully understand the impact of their efforts and, in some cases, lack thereof. Leadership behaviors directly influence employee engagement levels.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hiring Managers Say LinkedIn Delivers Candidates

LinkedIn is the top networking site used by North American companies to find job candidates, according to a global survey by Right Management. More than 2,000 internal and external recruiters, human resource executives and hiring managers from 17 countries representing more than 20 industry sectors participated in the Right Management survey.

LinkedIn was reported as useful for sourcing candidates by 93% of the respondents in the U.S. and Canada. Although it trails LinkedIn in North America, Facebook is dominant among European and Asian employers.

Networking Sites as Source of Job Candidates
(Percentage that said site was “useful”)

North America
Asia Pacific

Most people tend to think of social or professional networking sites just as job hunting tools. But career transition professionals are well aware that nearly all employers search these sites for possible job candidates. Our survey, in fact, says that nine out of ten large organizations in North America find at least one of these sites useful. It’s also evident companies consult more than one site when seeking suitable people for openings.

In addition to the top three networking sites, several were also found useful by respondents, including Peoplenjobs, Plaxo, Scout, Viadeo and Xing.

Although nearly all employers today use networking sites as a sourcing method, it is only one among several. Number-one is job postings on the company website followed closely by referrals from company employees. Third are ads in printed media and on job boards followed by informational interviews and staffing agencies.

Are you active on LinkedIn?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Multiple Job Hopping Hurdles

New research from Right Management found that prospective employers in North America are more likely to have reservations about a candidate’s multiple past jobs than companies in any other part of the world.

Participating in the survey were more than 2,000 internal and external recruiters, human resource executives and hiring managers from 17 countries representing more than 20 industry sectors. The survey explored trends in recruitment as well as factors that influence hiring decisions.

In many cases there were just marginal differences among North American, European or Asian respondents. But when it came to multiple jobs we found statistically significant differences, with Canada and the U.S. most resistant to candidates that come across as job hoppers. That was a surprise since we figured American and Canadian managers were more aware than most of the job market turmoil of the past decade or more.

Hiring Implications for a Candidate with Multiple Jobs
(Percentage of respondents expressing reservations)
  • 57% North America
  • 50% Asia Pacific
  • 38% Europe
  • 50% Global average

Having numerous former positions should not by itself disqualify a job candidate. Certainly many job changes would have to be explained if the individual gets to the interview. Indeed, 41% of respondents globally said they would not regard multiple jobs negatively if the overall experience is relevant to the position. Other respondents would take into account whether the candidate is in the early or middle career stage in which case frequent job changes are more common.

In a downturned economy it is common for people to take on project and temporary work. And with sizeable growth of contract and temporary employees anticipated in the next five years (see next page), candidates with experience in multiple jobs is a reality to which hiring managers will need to adjust.

Do you have reservations about hiring candidates who impress as job-hoppers?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Employee Turnover Expected to Rise in Next Five Years

Employee turnover is expected to increase worldwide during the next five years, according to a global survey we at Right Management recently conducted with more than 2,000 internal and external recruiters, human resource executives and hiring managers from 17 countries. Only 14% of respondents globally anticipated a decrease in employee turnover.

Half the survey respondents globally expect higher turnover. About a third foresee no change, and a minority a decrease…all of which points to greater turnover than organizations have been used to dealing with in the past decade.

Expectations of Higher Turnover in Next Five Years
(Percentage anticipating slight or significant increase)

  • 59% North America
  • 58% Asia Pacific
  • 41% Europe
  • 49% Global Average

There’s no such thing as typical or average turnover. Turnover varies widely from industry to industry. Moreover, some turnover is healthy, but high turnover is a top concern for all organizations everywhere. Yet, unless current expectations are wrong, most employers are soon going to have to cope with more loss of talent and know-how, greater recruitment and training costs, and all the turmoil entailed with people leaving and waiting for their replacement. And aside from the tangible costs, organizations may lose business opportunities as well as momentum, and the constant departures undermine the trust and engagement of remaining workers.

Employers really need to make greater efforts at identifying and retaining key contributors. Even high turnover may be manageable if an employer is able to keep most of the best workers.

Are you focused on retaining your top-performers?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tuning in to Employees’ Top Priorities

Despite workplace pressures and slow growth for compensation, greater opportunity for career advancement is the number one priority sought by employees in their next position. Right Management polled 561 North American workers via an online survey and asked:

What is your highest priority in your next position?
  • 27% Greater opportunity for advancement
  • 21% Better management team
  • 21% More flexible work environment
  • 17% Better compensation
  • 14% Less work pressure

We posed a classic question to today’s workers, what they’re really looking for in their next job. We wondered if higher comp would top the list, or perhaps less workplace stress, but we found that opportunity for advancement is number one. That tells us that despite all the workplace complaints we hear most employees are still highly motivated about their own development and careers.

Higher compensation and less work pressure trailed other concerns including quality of management. The second highest priority among respondents is a better management team, which may mean either more competent leaders or more considerate bosses, a finding that’s common in a workplace poll such as this. This is a variant of the truism that people quit their bosses, not their companies, and it’s a key lesson for all organizations when there’s strong competition to attract and retain quality talent.

But senior management’s main interest ought to be how to engage employees during a weak economy. The most recent Manpower Employment Outlook Survey is for continued sluggish hiring across most industries. Employee turnover has been remarkably slow for the past two years, and everyone is itching for new horizons. In fact, many workers feel trapped in their current situation. Now that’s bad for everyone concerned and the savvy employer will make strenuous efforts to vary people’s tasks and responsibilities, to shuffle work teams, to do cross-team training…to do whatever is needed to demonstrate real commitment to career development and to counter a pervasive sense of career stagnation among their employees.

Some organizations are surely on top of the problem, but I’m afraid too many aren’t. Are you tuned in to what your employees want from you most?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lending a Helping Hand to Job Seekers

It’s human nature that people want to help people. So it was no surprise to learn from a recent Right Management study of 528 North American workers that nine out of ten employees are willing to help a friend or acquaintance search for a new job. In fact, most of them have done so in the past year.

The survey found that people who already have jobs are nearly always prepared to give time or other support to those who ask it. The finding has never been truer than today based on our experience as career advisors. Unemployment is high and so is overall dissatisfaction in the workplace, according to recent research. Job seekers include both unemployed and employed who are looking for better opportunities. The good news is that they may rely on people’s genuine willingness to help in their hunt for a new position.

A clear majority of jobs are found via person-to-person contact, not the Internet or job boards. Another of Right Management’s studies found that as many as two out of three jobs come by way of networking, where people in one’s network help to put the job seekers in touch with others who may also be able to help. This is a key fundamental of effective job searching. The new finding indicates that the job seekers will almost always receive positive responses from people whom they contact.

Job seekers should ask for insight into specific organizations or industries. The job search is all about approaching individuals to build a network of more people who may be able to help. It’s a continuous process, person-to-person to the next person. The goal is to get names and contact information in order to go the next step. This works because people are disposed to help, even if they themselves don’t happen to know of a suitable opening. But they’ll often know of someone who may be able to help in the process.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Many Employers Unaware of Veterans’ Skills

Many prospective employers have little appreciation of the strong skills that military veterans bring to civilian organizations. In my experience as a military veteran and talent consultant, employers sometimes think military experience is narrow or not easily transferred to a business setting. But veterans have a remarkable range of competencies and abilities of great potential value to today’s organization. The challenge has become one of changing some perceptions, or communicating with civilian recruiters and hiring managers the facts about veterans’ transferable skills.

Veterans generally have the inherent and learned ability to adapt to any new work setting. They tend to possess exceptional communication and leadership skills, a strong work ethic and the positive expectation they will function efficiently and effectively.

Based on the work we have been doing in helping to transition veterans to employment in the U.S. and Canada, we see that employers have a number of reasons to hire veterans:

  • Work Ethic – Companies want men and women who work hard and have a service-oriented attitude, and most ex-military candidates find this easy to do.

  • Accelerated Learning Curve – Veterans have a proven ability to learn new skills and concepts rapidly, entering the workforce with identifiable and transferrable skills, proven in real-world situations. This background can enhance an organization’s productivity.

  • Respect for Procedures – Ex-military have gained a unique perspective on the value of accountability and can easily grasp their place within an organizational framework, becoming responsible for subordinates’ actions in relation to higher supervisory levels. They know how policies and procedures enable an organization to function.

  • Performance Under Pressure – Veterans understand the rigors of tight schedules and limited resources and have developed capacities to know how to accomplish priorities on time, in spite of high stress.

  • Leadership – The military trains people to lead by example as well as through direction, delegation, motivation and inspiration. Veterans know the dynamics of leadership as part of both the hierarchical and peer structures.

Veterans seeking civilian employment to identify transferrable skills and abilities that can be applied equally from one job to another and communicate these to prospective employers.

As the corporate world continues to struggle with a looming leadership shortfall, shifting demographics and a growing gap between needed and available skills it makes sense to take a close look at returning veterans.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New College Grads Find Job Market Tough

To no one’s surprise, this year’s college graduates are finding the job market very tough. More than 300 recent graduates were surveyed by Right Management about their job hunting and career plans. Despite the humbling outlook, many of the graduates proved to be optimistic. Thirty-eight percent expect to find they job they want within six months, while 15% think it may take up to a year, and 9% a year or more. But 16% anticipate landing the desired job in a month or less.

No one can ever say this year’s college grads are complacent. They are facing a sluggish economy and a difficult job market, but the ones we’ve met seemed very determined and will do the hard work they need to get the kind of work they really want. Employers will find these grads eager to learn and get the job done.

The survey was deployed during complimentary job search planning workshops we conducted with 365 college graduates across 42 North American cities between May and July.

Three out of four (76%) graduates believe it very possible or somewhat possible for them to find the job they want, down from 91% in the same survey a year ago. Twenty-two percent think it is not very possible or not possible at all, and 2% said they don’t know.

Many of the graduates seem to be employed at least part-time or not in positions of their choosing. Consequently, only 8% are able to work full-time on their job hunt, while 42% reported that they are spending as much time as possible. In particular, parents have been helping graduates by far the most, followed respectively by relatives, classmates and the college office. Once again proving how networking is the best approach for sourcing new career opportunities.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Top People Are Prime Targets for Other Companies

More than one in two employers are convinced that other companies are actively seeking to hire away their top people, according to survey of over 1,400 CEOs and human resource professionals from more than 700 companies across the globe.

The study explored the role played by senior management in a broad range of leadership development areas including management succession and the nurturing of the next generation of corporate leaders. According to the study’s findings, 56% of organizations report that other employers seek to recruit their best people. Only 4% strongly disagree.

Other companies actively try to recruit our leaders.

Strongly disagree 4%
Disagree 11%
Agree 43%
Strongly agree 13%
No opinion 29%

As aggressive competition becomes increasingly adept at replicating products, services, operating models and marketing strategies and worldwide demand for certain skills sets rises, senior and operational leaders are realizing that talent is the last remaining source of competitive advantage. So, it is no surprise that there’s a global war being waged for talent. No organization today is immune from the stresses of effective retention or competitive recruitment. CEOs and HR staffs are right to feel enormously vulnerable and many are stressed seeking ways to hold onto their rising leadership.

Even though most organizations report that other companies have targeted their top performers, survey respondents are not necessarily positive about their own leadership pipeline. Nearly half the respondents (47%) expressed doubts about the strength of their middle-level pipeline, and only 27% said their company has a sufficient number of qualified internal candidates that are ready to assume senior manager/executive positions.

At the same time, those organizations that have strong leadership programs are more likely to feel as though they have qualified candidates at both levels. Programs that were rated highly generally had a combination of key elements: assessment and feedback, coaching and mentoring, formal classroom training as well as action learning.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Best Practices for Letting Employees Go

Yahoo CEO, Carol Bartz, was recently fired over the phone by her fellow board member and Chairman. There’s been a backlash by reporters and career professionals quoting this situation as an example of how not to let employees go.

Right Management’s best practice recommendations include:

  1. Prepare the materials - Assemble written documentation if the termination is performance related. If the termination is due to job elimination, explain the rationale. Prepare all severance information in writing: notification letter, salary continuation/severance period; benefits; outplacement counseling, and other pertinent information.

  2. Prepare the message - Write out the script you will use during the meeting and the information you will convey to remaining employees. List two or three factual reasons for the termination. Keep everything short and to the point. Set the stage in general terms. Discuss overall business reason for the action.

  3. Plan for the Meeting - Determine the time and location of the meeting. Review and rehearse talking points. Be familiar with key components of separation package. Prepare to answer likely questions. Know what resources are available.

  4. Arrange the next steps - Schedule additional meetings with HR and the outplacement consultants. Review what should be done with personal belongings. Specify when the employee should say “good-bye” to his or her colleagues and leave the organization.

  5. Prepare yourself emotionally - Don’t assume personal responsibility for the termination. Remember, it is a business decision based on business needs. Prepare your approach and talk about your feelings with the human resource professionals and outplacement consultants.

  6. Anticipate employee reactions - There are typically reactions - shock, acceptance, relief and quiet. And sometimes there are unusual reactions - very angry, overly emotional, manipulative, out of control/violent. By acknowledging these various reactions and learning to recognize them, you will ensure that no matter what the reaction, you will be prepared to handle it in the best way.

  7. Communicate with remaining employees – Prepare a statement in advance. Managers should be visible and prepared to answer questions, keeping the focus on the business reasons for action and the plan for moving forward while respecting the dignity and privacy of the impacted employee(s).

The decision to let employees go is never an easy one to execute. Be prepared and minimize the stress and disruption to both you and the departing employee(s).

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It Still Comes Down To Who You Know

Person-to-person networking continues to be job seekers’ most successful tool. We recently analyzed job data on the nearly 60,000 individuals throughout North America to whom we provided career transition services over the past three years.

Traditional networking was the source of new career opportunities for 41% of job candidates last year, while Internet job boards accounted for 25% of new positions landed.

Source of New Job
(59,133 job seekers)

The job search is changing and some approaches are losing ground to others, but classic, systematic networking continues to be most effective way to find suitable employment. Certainly technology plays a growing role. But online social networking may not always be separate from traditional networking since one so often leads to the other. A job seeker uses the Internet to track down former associates or acquaintances and then reaches out to them in person. And, just like a cold call, the Internet is a way to make an initial contact with a prospective employer.

As revealing as the data may be, a job search is usually a more complicated and multi-layered process. Job candidates are encouraged to use as many tools as possible, every kind of research, any former contacts, and every opportunity to reach out to people who may be able to help. So in practical terms successful job candidates rely on a mix of approaches to find the new position most suitable for them.

Nevertheless, from year to year the data say that traditional networking is nearly twice as successful as any other job search method. Time and time over, the data proves that people tend to trust people they meet.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bosses Get Busy With Emails on Weekends

One in three employees often gets emails from their boss over the weekend and they are expected to reply, according to a new survey we conducted at Right Management. An additional one-third of the 569 survey respondents also reported getting emails from their boss on the weekend, not often, but just from time to time.

The survey findings are another indication of an increasingly 24/7 workplace. Everybody once thought technology would reduce the drudgery and make the workplace more efficient. Sure, technology has delivered great benefits to employees, but also crosses the boundary between the workplace and the worker’s own private space. It seems one can no longer get away at all from work or responsibility.

We specifically asked if workers were expected to respond to the emails from their boss, so we were not talking about broadcast emails or purely informational communications, but those intended for a particular person and looking for a response. It’s now taken for granted that everyone has to check their work email during the weekend.

Continuous, borderless communications are now a workplace fact of life. I suppose it’s possible weekend emails serve to smooth out the pressures of a Monday morning, but likewise they may become an intrusive nuisance. We know workers are feeling exceptional pressures, and so many weekend emails may be counterproductive.

Managers set clear expectations about what really needs to be addressed over the weekend. And if emails might just as easily wait until Monday, say so. If you don’t have to send an email on the weekend, don’t send it. Create it in draft form and hit ‘send’ on Monday morning. Workers need down time. Weekends should be a time to re-energize. When bosses expect employees to be constantly at attention, you get productivity loss.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Navigating Workforce Strategy

Workforce demands and compositions are shifting in response to economic, social and demographic trends. Talent assets need to be managed as aggressively as the fine-tuning applied to other organizational assets. Everything else fails if the right talent isn’t in the right place. This requires an alignment of workforce strategy with business goals.

In the changing world of work, the one constant is the need for an exceptional workforce. The effectiveness of your workforce strategy makes the difference between thriving and diving. Today, talent is the only source of sustainable success and differentiation. Building an exceptional workforce will drive higher levels of performance and positively impact your organization’s ability to deliver on business strategy.

I will be presenting on this topic at the SHRM 2011 Conference and Exposition on June 28 in Las Vegas. Please join me and learn language, a process, business drivers and key metrics to architect an effective workforce strategy is aligned with business objectives.
Architecting a high-performing workforce strategy starts with the foundation of a five step process:

  • Identify current state and future goals;

  • Establish understanding and commitment;

  • Gather the data and assess priorities;

  • Analyze results and conduct gap analysis; and,

  • Action planning and implementation.
Why make the investment? Building an exceptional workforce will drive higher levels of performance and will positively impact your organization’s ability to deliver on its business growth strategy. Investing in this process upfront will iidentify constraints and accelerators to organizational performance – top strengths to leverage and top priorities to fund and why. It will also increase executive alignment across functions and geographies, while also aligning talent initiatives to business goals – whether they are related to globalization, growth, productivity or even the brand.

I hope to see you at SHRM.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Engaging an Aging Workforce

By 2050, the world population will be over nine billion. Despite this growth and the flooded employment market, employers worldwide report difficulty in filling positions. Many are facing an HR paradox: How to find the right people at the right time, with the right skills in the right place, and fill the gap in the midst of plenty?

On a global scale, birth rates are declining and populations are aging. This means that there is a smaller pool of working-age talent from which to draw. The world average life expectancy was around 52.5 years in 1960. But today it is 68.9 years of age –31% higher in just 40 years. The percentage of individuals over age 65 who are in the labor force jumped about 40% from 1998 to 2008 … and this trend is set to continue.

Combined with these demographic challenges is a broader, more strategic challenge of the global talent mismatch. According to Manpower’s Annual Talent Shortage Survey, 34% of employers worldwide experience difficulty filling needed positions. So it’s not just about having the workers available amidst a shrinking pool of talent. It’s also about having the right people with the right skills needed to drive businesses forward.

Experienced workers will make up a larger percentage of the workforce and employers will need to find ways to keep them engaged. They will need to train managers to manage a multigenerational workforce that includes the young and the old. The skills mismatch is set to accelerate, creating an imbalance between supply and demand.

On June 28, I will be presenting on this topic at the SHRM 2011 Annual Conference and Exposition. I hope to see you at SHRM.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Speaking to the Top of the House

The ability to influence an executive audience is an essential requirement for today’s leaders of all levels. Unfortunately, many are unable to effectively influence senior audiences to take action on their ideas. At the SHRM 2011 Conference and Exposition on June 28 in Las Vegas I will be speaking on this topic and I invite you to join me. In this highly-interactive session, you will learn how to:

• Immediately capture and sustain the C-suite’s attention;
• Present yourself credibly, authentically and engagingly;
• Deliver ideas that provide inspiration;
• Develop confidence to excel at results-oriented communications.

Recent research found that high-performing organizations have the head of HR reporting directly to the CEO. Only 67% of low-performing organizations had their reporting lines set up this way. As a result of this infrastructure, the high-performing organizations reported a stronger and more productive connection between business strategies and HR strategies when the head of HR reports directly to the CEO.

CEOs sometimes forget that people are the only real sustainable competitive differentiator. It’s up to HR to ensure the CEO realizes the value of these assets and commits to investing in a talent strategy aligned with business objectives. Lack of a talent strategy is the number-one impediment to executing on business plans. It is HR’s role to step up and convince the C-suite how to do this. Why? Because there are countless examples of how the business strategy falls down and goals are missed if talent is not aligned.

If you are an HR leader and want to earn a seat at the executive table, you must market the HR function so senior management realizes the value-add and the full impact of what you do and how you contribute to the business. You need to understand each C-level executive and relate your function’s activities to his/her strategic imperatives. One of the unique opportunities about being in HR is that your responsibilities infiltrate every aspect of the business. Why? Because it takes talent to get the job done. The collective talent of our workforces is the only sustainable differentiator that will provide competitive advantage over time.

I look forward to seeing you at SHRM.

Friday, May 27, 2011

HR Execs Give Mixed Grades to Leadership Pipelines

Organizations appear to be all over the map with it comes to implementing coherent leadership programs. Right Management research found that human resources and talent management executives give mixed grades for the quality of their own organizations’ leadership pipelines.

We recently surveyed over 1,200 executives and found that there are gaps in the leadership cadres at most companies in North America. In fact, only 6% of organizations were reported to have future leaders identified for all critical roles. A majority of organizations seem to have ‘some’ critical roles covered, but that’s barely reassuring. What’s really striking is that fewer than one in five has no one slated to take over any key positions. And we’re not talking about small companies.

As executives rated their leadership pipelines, they were also asked if there had been any recent change in their organizations’ approach to succession planning. A majority (57%) said succession planning had become a higher priority in the past year, while 17% said it was made a lower priority. For the rest there was no change in priority. Combining these results suggests that the need for succession planning is becoming more evident, but actual succession management strategies and implementation plans are lagging behind.

There’s a growing recognition that management succession is no luxury. Board members, executives and business leaders are now openly acknowledging that talent management plans –which include succession management – are absolutely essential for sustained performance in today’s organizations, as talent is now seen as one of the only competitive differentiators left.

The world is chaotic and unforeseen events can change a company’s situation overnight, so having a depth of leadership talent as well as a genuine plan for all eventualities are more important than ever. In fact, weak bench strength throughout the company can erode employee engagement and reduce overall performance.

Managing succession insures business continuity as well as retention of high-value talent. Corporate health depends on the effectiveness, depth and breadth of succession management planning.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Loss of Top Performers a Growing Concern

As new opportunities begin to open up in the job market the loss of top performers has emerged as the top concern of across the nation. Right Management research found that as many as 30% of employers cite defection of top talent as their most pressing HR challenge. And a further 30% told us that they lack high-potential leaders in the organization. Twenty-two percent are suffering from low engagement and lagging productivity and 18% have a shortage of talent at all levels.

Loss of top talent is a growing concern for many employers. In fact, it’s now more of an expectation. After all, it’s no secret there’s a lot of pent-up frustration in the workplace and that many, if not most, employees have been floating their resume.

Many employers find themselves faced with a dilemma. Right now they don’t want to do much hiring, but at the same time they think they will lose top people. If these defections play out, that in turn will mean more hiring to fill key gaps. It seems certain that job churn and turnover will notch upward, which may harm growth at many organizations.

HR professionals know that recruiting and securing the right talent for key positions is a demanding process regardless of whether the job market is weak or strong. Top talent is clearly on the move. To secure the best available talent, organizations need to have a clear picture of the competencies required and the success profile for the positions for which they are hiring. Without this clear focus as well as a fast track on-boarding plan, organizations risk losing greater productivity and performance especially from new leaders being hired into the firm.

It’s imperative for organization’s today to have a well-constructed succession planning system for rapid replacement of key roles, and more broadly, a well aligned succession management plan to ensure firm-wide talent progression. Those that don’t are highly exposed to risks of underperformance and further loss of talent that could have been successfully developed for competitive advantage.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Are Competitors Pursuing Your Talent?

This may come as a surprise, but have you considered that many of your competitors are actively pursuing your talent? Right Management research tells us that nearly half of employees (45%) say they were contacted by another company about a possible job offer during the past 12 months. If you aren’t tuned into this reality, it’s time to pay attention.

Sure, there may be some wishful thinking amid the data. But it’s fair to consider these reported job offers as another sign the job market is stirring. For the past couple of years our research has tracked a restless workforce, frustrated by the slow job market, always on the lookout for greener pastures, cruising job sites, putting out feelers and e-mailing resumes. At the same time, what’s become a kind of perpetual job hunt is now matched by organizations which constantly scan the potential talent on tap in the marketplace.

No doubt social networking has accelerated the growing back and forth in the job market. Because of social networking every employee is now more visible. Everyone seems to be linked or recommended, and everyone knows people at many different companies. This is a dynamic that feeds on itself and is reshaping the fundamentals of the job market in ways we may not yet understand.

For their part, employers need to be unquestionably concerned that their people may be targeted by competitors. A revitalized job market will put a lot of intellectual property into play and employers are increasingly uneasy about their ability to retain top talent.
It would benefit employers to have clarity around the particular skills and competencies they need today and in the future. Identify your true real-up-and-comers and have a conversation of consequence with them about their careers. Take pains to align their individual goals so they can deliver on business objectives. Employees actually want to know and need to know how they can contribute to the current and future success of the business.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Contingency Plan

As business leaders continue to be conservative with investments in talent, utilization of contingent, temporary and flexible workers continues to grow.

As many as 41% of employers have used more independent contractors over the past two years, according to recent survey of 430 senior human resource executives conducted by Right Management.

Nearly all companies are re-examining their talent management practices in order to align their workforce with their business strategy. This has required a behavioral shift that includes the greater flexibility afforded by independent contractors.

Many of the contractors eventually become full-time employees. But just as many workers these days prefer their independence and organizations must accommodate the goals of these people to stay competitive in the marketplace. Flexibility employment practices will help to attract the best and brightest talent available.

Individual employees want flexibility – in how, where and when they work. And employers are adjusting their human resource policies and practices to meet this demand. We also asked survey respondents if their organization had seen an increase in flexible working practices over the past year. Twenty-three percent said “Yes, a lot” and 54% said “Yes, somewhat.” Only 22% said no.

Such HR policies and practices are on the increase. One study reports that as many as 85% of organizations have flexible practices in place for employees. These might be more flexible work hours, telecommuting, or even a greater use of temporary or contingent workers for specific projects or short-term assignments. Companies that create more flexible options for workers typically foster higher levels of engagement and commitment, as well as build their brands in order to attract the best talent available in the market.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Some Employers Find It Hard to Fill Jobs

Despite high unemployment and the sluggish job market, 23% of employers often find it difficult to hard to fill key jobs, according to recent research we conducted with over 700 firms across the U.S. Moreover, another 64% find it hard occasionally.

The findings reflect the challenge organizations always face when it comes to bringing in top talent. HR professionals know that whether it’s a weak or strong job market finding and recruiting certain key people are a demanding process. Moreover, the difficulty varies according to job level, industry, requisite skills among other things.

The survey also found that qualified internal candidates are scarce. Only 3% of respondents said they have an ample leadership pipeline to cover most of their needs. And the majority of 80% relies on a combination of internal talent development and select external hiring. As many as 17% routinely look externally before filling critical roles in the organization.

Virtually no employer feels confident of his or her own management pipeline. Management ranks are very lean, and nobody should be stunned by this reality, not after the organizational streamlining that’s taken place over the past two years. Now companies find themselves not just short-handed, but also fearful of the loss of their top performers. The year ahead holds great promise, but there will also be serious talent management challenges for organizations of all sizes.

Organizations with scarce talent management resources need a different strategy to secure the right talent for key contributors and pivotal leadership positions within the firm. Without this focus, an organization risks losing even more top performers, as these types of positions typically have greater scope and influence over other positions within the firm.

Without a well-constructed succession planning system for rapid replacement of key roles, and more broadly, a well aligned succession management plan to ensure firm-wide talent progression, organizations are highly exposed to risks of underperformance and further loss of talent.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Prevailing Winds of “Cautious Optimism”

Do you feel like some days you are taking one step forward and two step backwards? For every economic prognosticator, there seems to be equal parts optimism and pessimism, and the stock market follows suit. Well, that’s because many leaders seem to be approaching this year with cautious optimism. In fact, recent research we conducted told us that 58% of senior leaders believe this year will be one of caution with limited hiring and renewed investment in talent development.

Like most people, employers aren’t sure what to expect in the year ahead. So it’s not surprising the survey findings reflect this uncertainty with a majority hedging their bets and expressing caution. The rest of the respondents seem fairly evenly divided between optimists and pessimists, with some 22% believing it will be a year of growth and recovery marked by increased hiring and new talent development initiatives and a further 16% believing it will be similar to 2010 with sluggish hiring and postponed HR initiatives. Very few (3%), however, anticipate more cutbacks and restructurings.

There is at least one positive sign of corporate confidence. Four out of five employers plan to renew or step up their investment in developing talent, a hopeful sign organizations are shifting their 2011 focus from cost-containment to growth.

And the source of real growth comes down to the quality of the talent in your organization. Talent, and the unique culture it creates, is the main source of competitive advantage and is becoming the only real source of sustainable differentiation. Having a solid, relevant talent strategy is the greatest enabler to delivering on business goals.

Executing strategic initiatives and delivering on near term bottom-line business goals are absolutely dependent upon a firm’s ability to manage talent better than their competition does. Aligning talent with business goals, through an integrated talent management strategy, is imperative to delivering on growth objectives.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Worker Insecurity Could Be Harming Productivity

Despite signs the economy is steadily improving, most employees feel less secure in their jobs compared to a year ago. According to our research as many as 71% of workers reported they are less secure in their job than last year, while 14% feel just as secure and 15% more secure.

This research finding surprised us. We really expected a more optimistic outlook by employees. In fact, we thought most respondents would tell us they were feeling at least as secure as a year ago now that it appears the recession is well past its depth. But it seems it will take more time for people to get over the trauma of the long downturn, and job security is probably the sort of indicator that lags behind any good news.

As further evidence, Manpower’s second quarter Employment Outlook projects that 74% of employers plan no staffing changes. With only 16% of companies expecting to hike hiring, and just 6% foreseeing any staffing decreases, it seems the word just isn’t getting through or that employers have been overly reticent about communicating their staffing plans with their employee base.

Persistent workplace unease can pose challenges for employers. Savvy leaders know that such widespread deep anxiety is no good for the organization in the long run. In order for employees to do their best they need to have a sense they’re valued by their organizations and engaged in a worthwhile pursuit. Top management has to address the job security issue head on, and communicate to workers what their role is in the organization’s future success.

Productivity may suffer when workers are busy with “water cooler” discussions, rumor mills and looking for a new job on your time-clock. The best thing a leader can do to promote security and confidence is to communicate regularly and with authenticity and candor. Most people feel greater confidence when they know they are dealing with the truth.

When was the last time you checked in on how your employees are feeling?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Stemming the Tide of Employee Defections

As new opportunities begin to open up in the job market the loss of top performers has emerged as the top concern of employers across the country. As many as one in three senior executives and human resource professionals told us that defection top talent is their most pressing HR challenge. A further 30% are suffering from a lack of high-potential leaders in their organizations and 22% have low engagement and lagging productivity. Staggeringly, 18% reported that they have a shortage of talent at all levels

Loss of top talent will likely emerge as the most pressing concern for many employers in the year ahead. This seems particularly prevalent in the service industry whose growth largely depends on the creativity and knowledge of their key employees. In fact, it’s now more of an expectation. After all, it’s no secret there’s a lot of pent-up frustration in the workplace and that many, if not most, employees have been floating their resume.

Many employers find themselves faced with a dilemma. Right now they don’t want to do much hiring, but at the same time they think they will lose top people. If these defections play out, that in turn will mean more hiring to fill key gaps. It seems pretty sure that in the year ahead job churn and turnover will notch upward, which may harm growth at many organizations.

Those organizations that can evaluate what drives workforce engagement – and the lack of it – are in a much better position to mitigate the risks of top talent flight to competitors. Simply understanding what the current workforce engagement levels are is no longer a sufficient strategy to stem the tide of potential attrition. Organizations that can identify what drives engagement in actionable terms, so that those drivers can be leveraged in an overall retention strategy, will be the winners of the emerging talent migrations.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cutting Back on Cutbacks

For the past couple of years, organizations have cut costs and laid off staff. Most organizations have very little, if anything, left to cut. After two years of widespread downsizings most companies foresee few or no staff cutbacks in the year ahead. We recently surveyed more than 700 firms across the U.S. and learned that just five percent of firms nationally anticipate significant cutbacks or restructurings.

While it is anticipated that organizations will likely continue to be conservative with cash, many leaders are shifting from crisis mode to a growth agenda. According to research by Gartner, some 42% of CEOs are focusing more on revenue growth than cost control and 29% expect this to be the prime focus for 2011, according to Gartner research. In 2009, this research reflected CEOs’ focus on restructuring, layoffs, consolidation, write-offs and rebuilding trust.

So the road ahead will be one focused on growth. Many organization’s are at a point where they need to make a greater investment in talent to ensure strategic viability. An organization’s people are, in the end, the only differentiator that may be sustained. And a coherent strategy around talent will be needed to deliver on increasingly aggressive business goals. Businesses across the board have successfully taken costs out of their structure through a variety of methods. The challenge is rebuilding and growing the business with the talent left after the wake of cost cutting efforts.

Engagement and motivation levels are not the only challenges firms face when re-focusing the business on the future. The skill sets and abilities of the remaining workforce may or may not be what is needed to take the business forward. Organizations that evaluate what the “new normal” looks like – and how the mindsets, skills sets, motivations and abilities of the workforce need to be developed, adapted and changed to meet the future – dramatically increase their the chances of success.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Branding and positioning are critical for company growth (really)

Whether it is about focusing the effort of every employee on improving customers’ perceptions of your brand or using social media to help shape your brand’s reputation and perception, you need to engage customers and prospects in a meaningful way. Successful branding helps build and maintain superior results.

Some leaders mistake branding for positioning and vice-versa. This can have serious consequences. Branding is not about your logo, tag line, and web site stickiness. While those are components, branding is about your organization’s core identity and what that represents.

Because branding precedes positioning, you need to answer a few questions:
  • What makes our offering different?
  • Can I succinctly describe what we do for our clients?
  • Why do clients hire us or use our products and services instead of our competitors?
  • Can I name my company’s strengths?
  • Do I have our 30-second elevator speech down pat so I shine at networking events?
If you cannot easily answer these questions, you may have branding (i.e., company identity) problems. Some tips:
  • Write down on a piece of paper all that your business means and represents. What do you do for your clients? What is your vision and differentiating value-add?
  • Write down how you want your clients to perceive your company and product/service offering. Consider more than “superior products” and "high-quality service.” Think about value-based goals such as trustworthiness, integrity, and subject matter expertise.
  • Speak with your clients. Learn why they hired you. Find out if they are willing to refer you to a colleague, friend or family member.
Market positioning is comprised of market segmentation and competitive differentiation. A market segment is a group of buyers who share certain characteristics. By defining buyer characteristics, you can effectively draw a boundary around a group of buyers, which keeps your marketing activities focused. Competitive differentiation means stating why your product or service is better than your competitors.

Positioning is about finding the right path to create a unique place among a crowd of competing brands. A marketer can adopt from different strategies like leveraging on existing brands, your corporate name, product features and benefits, or price-quality competitive positioning. Most important: build and share a story that helps your target audience understand how you can help them get the job (at work or home) done.

One excellent example of superior branding and market positioning is the cell phone company, Great Call (formerly named Jitterbug).

In 2008, they recognized a cell phone market segment with large, yet unsatisfied, demand. That market segment was millions of senior citizens who wanted to use a cell phone but found the high-tech, feature-loaded phones too complex and intimidating. Great Call recognized the opportunity and teamed with Samsung to create a cell phone designed to appeal to people over 50. The Jitterbug phone is over-sized, has easy-to-read buttons, and is very easy to use.

Great Call defined a large, profitable market segment and created a unique product by satisfying their customer’s most important requirements. Their superior market branding and positioning resulted in significant sales and company success.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Leaders Beware: Mass Exodus Looms

Workers are poised for a mass exodus in 2011. They are feeling increasingly restless and intend to leave in droves if opportunities open up in the job market, according to a recent poll we conducted of 1,400 workers. As many as 84% of the employees say they plan to look for new jobs in 2011, up from 60% reported in our survey a year ago. Only 5% now say they intend to remain in their current position.

While somewhat alarming, this finding is more about employee dissatisfaction and discontent than a measure of projected turnover. We view it as a barometer of trust in management or commitment to the job. Basically, it’s a workplace equivalent to opinion polling on whether or not ‘this country is moving in the right direction.’ Just as people are questioning their elected leaders in government, so too are workers wondering if their management is up to the challenge of renewed growth or developing a sound strategy moving forward.

The underlying factors contributing to employees’ backlash is most likely the prolonged recession, continued job market weakness along with disruptive economic and workforce changes. Employees’ trust has been seriously shaken and there is a general lack of confidence in leaders.

The discontent is widespread. But this does not mean an organization’s management is helpless and nor can it afford to ignore the problem. If the job market picks up a lot many employees are going to take advantage of it, and organizations stand to lose some of their top contributors. This is a wake-up call to management.

One proactive step management should take is to identify star performers and have open and constructive career discussions with them. High-value employees always have opportunities available to them. Know who they are and be sure to take care of them in ways that are meaningful and aligned with the businesses goals.

Do you know the commitment levels of your employees? Do you have a plan in place to retain your star performers?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Work Priorities Overrun Vacation

As Forbes reports, futurists in the 1970s predicted that by now technology would have so shrunk our workloads that we'd all be paddling about in a leisure-and-vacation playland. How wrong were they? Workloads and business priorities are overrunning taking earned vacation time. In fact, nearly half of employees failed to take all their vacation time in 2010. Personally, I find it somewhat disturbing. Although it is an improvement over a year ago, when in the identical survey we found that two-thirds of workers weren’t taking all the time that was due to them.

For many employees, fears of job insecurity and work pressures after layoffs were probably the main reasons why so many gave up vacation time. So it may be that our latest finding reflects a somewhat healthier workplace mindset.

Still, with only half of workers actually taking all of their vacation in 2010, many employees are likely uncertain about their futures. There’s clearly a lot of stress among employees in both Canada and the U.S. There are heavier workloads as well as uncertainty about business viability and the chance of more cutbacks. Leaders would do well to improve employee productivity and wellness by regularly communicating the state of the organization and sharing the role that each employee plays in its future success.

After all, vacation time is an earned employee benefit and it affects work-life balance and overall wellness. Vacation plays a fundamental role in fostering a healthy, productive workforce. Foregoing some vacation days may by itself not prove significant, but when many employees come to feel they can’t take the time to which they’re entitled real harm may be done…and the results can be high turnover, low retention, absenteeism, frequent health or safety claims or a host of other HR problems. Vacation time is essential for balance and wellness.

In my opinion, employers should do all they can to encourage their workers to take the vacation time due to them What’s good for the workforce is almost always good for the business. Business growth depends on the quality of an organization’s talent.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Turn thought leadership into market leadership

When providing a complex solution and attempting to win the sale, you will confront key business challenges. The good news: if your solution is enterprise-wide, then you know your prospective client is seeking an experienced, trustworthy, and reliable business partner. The bad news (aka challenge): you need to deliver on the promise of being a truly innovative and game-changing thought leader.

Thought leadership involves some risk-taking. Serve your clients in ways that they never have envisioned. On occasion, that may mean pointing out the obvious. This forward-thinking and entrepreneurial style of leadership can uncover new opportunities and previously unexplored customer audiences.

Collaborating with a competitor? Some believe this heresy. Yet Fortune 100 market leaders do it all the time. Some call it “co-opetition.” Others look at it as strategic partnerships and win-win collaboration. When your client expects you to deliver the holy grail of market dominance, through some social media innovation or otherwise, be sure to uncover and reach out to prospects that, while right in front of their eyes, they are ignoring.

Many organizations also are still fumbling with social media. A recent HBR survey found that:
  • 75% of companies do not know where their most valuable customers are talking about them
  • Less than a quarter (23%) use social media analytics tools
  • Only 7% are integrating social media into other marketing activities, such as campaign management, retail analytics, CRM and business intelligence
Social media is one important marketing channel, but here is the reality: women buy or are the key influencers of nearly 80 percent of all consumer product sales in the United States alone. Are you doing what you need to reach them, and are they buying enough of yours?

Help your client connect with the world’s largest group of decision-makers. This may open a floodgate of previously untapped customers. Think outside and inside the box. This is the thought leadership your client expects and deserves.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Whose idea was that? Everyone’s.

Which deserves more reward – ideation or participation in idea formulation? Some organizations reward individuals for their ideas, while others believe it is better to reward participation in idea sessions.

Many leaders are reluctant to acknowledge that they are opposed to an idea because of their feelings about the individual who proposed it. While we live in a culture that celebrates individual contributions, we also desire reward for our own contributions to an idea's evolution and ultimate culmination.

Oftentimes, when one person drives their idea into action – and does not welcome ideas and feedback from others – it is doomed to failure. If you desire buy-in, collaboration, shared commitment and accountability, then give others the opportunity to offer their opinion and play a role.

While collaboration is invaluable, too much groupthink also presents a problem. How is the individual who brainstormed a new product feature (or new product) commensurately rewarded for his/her contribution? It is critical to share ideas with others and collaborate to deliver results.

However, when it comes to performance evaluations, a manager typically will review not only how much of a team player someone is, but also what s/he individually contributed. It is important to clearly articulate the organization's leadership model – i.e., what you value, your commitment to development and helping each employee succeed, and how successful performance is rewarded.

Both the employer and employee require an understanding about expected performance, results, reward, and the balance. If you, as manager, specifically and clearly define the terms for each employee's contributions and recognition, you will lay the groundwork for a high-performing staff and highly rewarding work environment.