Friday, May 29, 2009

Employees promoting competitors!

A reader asks:

“Our company’s dress code isn’t that stringent. So effectively employees can wear business casuals to work and shifts to formal business attire when needed (like a client visit). We leave it to them to exercise discretion. We have however noticed that far too many employees wear/carry stuff from their previous employers to work! At times, it’s from our direct competitors! Can we include a line in our dress-code policy that prohibits employees from wearing/displaying stuff from competitors? How do we avoid this happening again?”

Appreciate that you’ve let employees decide what they wear to work, as long as it conforms to business needs. However, your employees are taking their dress-code freedom for granted. That’s really bad.

Here’s what could have happened, there’s Joe who likes that blue-shirt he got at his previous company. It matches his favorite trouser. He doesn’t mind that the shirt has your competitor’s logo on it. For him, the combination looks good & the bigger picture gets dwarfed. He then walks into the office and obviously other employees notice. Some of them like it and the others don’t. The ones that liked it might go back & scour their wardrobes for stuff they got from their previous companies. If they find something they like, they’ll wear it to work. Or will display stuff at their desks, like coffee-mugs, awards, calendars. Or use their previous company’s back-pack. The one’s that don’t like it think it’s not for them to correct the others. Had you stopped Joe and asked him not to wear that shirt, the others would not have followed. That’s the risk with setting precedents. Before you know it, it’ll snowball into a messy issue. Employees will feel you are controlling there wardrobe! Really.

Common sense is a rare commodity. So you’ll need to go that extra mile in letting people know they can’t wear/carry/display stuff that could promote competitors. Yes, you can add it in your company’s dress-code policy. But let’s be honest, just how many of them will even read it. You might get some responses in the initial few days. After that, it’s back to old ways. Also, if you haven’t interfered in the way your employees manage their desks, such as displaying personal things, then trying to disallow that immediately (without notice) will backfire.

So, here are some options that you could try.

- You cannot demand loyalty. You can only earn it. So have patience. Make your company's brand worth sporting on one’s attire.
- Communicate to all new employees during induction. It’s a good start-point. At least you’ll not have to worry about them.
- For existing employees, send out mails which tell them that you have noticed this and your stand on the issue. Tell them why you are doing it in the first place. A client visiting your company could notice an employee displaying competitor’s stuff (deal breaker) and that not an image you want to project.
- Most important is that you avoid setting further precedents. The policy is applicable across the company that includes senior management too.
- Yes, popular fashion brands are ok, so are sports-brands. Unless off course they are direct competition to your business.
- I understand that budget could be a constraint, but if you can manage, there’s nothing like giving out stuff that has your company’s logo!

Yes, employees have a choice of what they want to promote. But if their loyalty is still with your competitor, then that’s where they should have remained!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Candidate superstitions!

Well, here’s an interesting question from a recruiter that got my attention.

“It’s a known fact in the recruiting world that a lot of offered candidates push their date of joining a new firm for various reasons. It could be personal travel, vacations, not getting relieved on time from the current company, etc., However, I’ve got a weird request (it is, at least to me) from a senior candidate who has asked to postpone his date of joining to a week later. He believes that a certain day next week would bring him good luck (superstitions) in his new role! He is a very good candidate and we wouldn’t like to lose him for this reason. However, the management & I are a little wary of a couple of things, (a) is the candidate buying time to check on other potential offers, or (b) would his beliefs have repercussions later on the job too. What are your thoughts?”

Let me see, Tom always wears his fave wristwatch to marketing forums (he claims to generate more leads when he wears it!), Jane says she needs to always have coffee in her fave coffee-mug at the start of her day, for better results, while John always wears his fave red tie to close a deal. Would I we ask them to stop believing their superstitions? I would say, NO. It’s because their beliefs are helping them achieve positive outcome at work. However, if the same set of beliefs has a counter-effect on their individual performance, or if it ends up affecting the team’s or company’s morale/performance, I would have a formal talk with them to let them know & take necessary actions. For instance, if John (same sales guy as mentioned above) has another belief that he wouldn’t sign a deal with blue ink & he’s at the table making the client wait while he searches for non-blue ink. That’s trouble and a serious one.

I’ll answer your query in two parts. Your first query or doubt is whether the candidate is buying more time to check on other potential offers. If that happened, it would be a really bummer! And major portion of the fault lies at your end. It’s a situation that you needed to control. I had written about post offer discussions
here. These discussions are critical and it ensures that your time & effort spent will reap good returns. Get on that phone and start talking to the candidate. Make your discussions valuable and one that will help the candidate take an informed decision.

Your second query was on repercussions of superstitious beliefs. Let’s give the benefit of doubt to the candidate. Maybe, he associates that day or date, whatever, with initial success in his career. Now he wants to continue with that tradition. You feel he is a good candidate meant for the long haul; then would him joining now versus next week have any effect on the next 3-5 years of working for you? That’s just one way of thinking. Repercussions are hard to predict at the start. Unless off course he said something drastic during the interviews and you/other interviewers didn’t catch it then. It’s never too late to talk to employees when their superstitious beliefs are hurting the company. It’s important to check on his references. You say he’s a senior candidate, which means that his role may require him to take decisions, manage teams or even manage clients, among other activities. It would be best to have a well constructed reference check that will tell you how he managed his previous role & any impact due to his beliefs. Make sure you show discretion, this is a sensitive topic and most candidates wouldn’t like it discussed in the open.

Congrats on closing the position! It’s a great feeling for any recruiter. Also, hope that things work out fine with this candidate.

Or shall we just say…
knock on wood!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Verbal offer & recruiter issues

Got this query from a reader who had commented on my previous post

"If a candidate is not selected or the company, for some reason, not feel like making the offer right now, is it too much to expect the recruiters/HR to communicate the same to the candidate? Especially, if the candidate is given verbal assurance that he has got the job and then he is made to wait till he gives up himself!"

Ok. My answer is going to be a tough-love one. First, you mention that you are actively seeking employment & have done some groundwork in understanding the recruitment dynamics. So effectively you are telling recruiters (in your own way) about your interest in finding a new job. So I wouldn’t say it’s unethical for them to reach out to an actively job-seeking candidate with phone calls/emails. But you got it right when you say recruiters should respond about the outcome of an interview, be it positive or negative. Sadly it’s a case of more supply than demand in today’s talent market. That’s giving the recruiters a chance to try out a lot of different candidates for just one position! I had earlier written
here about recruiter’s being the face of the company. That’s an approach that could backfire if you don’t have the right recruiter handling your hiring activity.

Second, I’m not a lawyer but it’s obvious that a verbal offer means nothing until the terms are put on paper. It’s like a vague statement, your word against the recruiter’s; they wouldn’t discuss your salary, benefits, internal fitment or anything else on call without getting approvals from the hiring manager. That’s a no-brainer. On the other hand, by telling you that you have a verbal offer, the recruiter is buying time to sort things out from the company’s end. Maybe, their budget constraint isn’t allowing them to add new headcount right now, their hiring process involves so many people across geographies that its time consuming to roll out the offer (not a strong reason, but a reason nonetheless), they are building a candidate pipeline (hiring parlance) expecting a new project to take off – see there are some valid reasons. Yet, that shouldn’t stop a good recruiter from telling you the truth. Else, they stand to lose a potential hire.

Here’s what you could do now: Send a mail to the recruiter & hiring manager asking for an update. It works. They couldn’t possibly not reply to your mail. If they still don’t reply, maybe it’s time you reconsider working for them.

I can understand that it’s a harrowing experience after having spent time & effort in interviewing, but have faith; they are good recruiters out there too. Recruiters who know how the business works.

Good luck with your job search!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Do you keep interactions active after a job offer is made?

Recently, I’ve been talking to a lot of candidates. While I was interviewing a good candidate, he said he had rejected an offer from another company. You know why? They never did a follow-up after the offer. He got the impression that if the company didn’t care now, they wouldn’t care for him when he joined them either! Really. That’s got me thinking. Is post-offer follow-up that such a big deal? Yes, off course. It’s like good post-sales customer service.

Most often recruiters are caught in a frenzy to identify ‘right-fit’ candidates (yes, there could be many, you may need just one!), run them through grinding interviews and end up selecting the best to make the job offer. Once the selected candidate has been offered, the tendency is to move on to another open job requirement to be filled. That’s good. But what happens next to the offered candidate? The requirement isn’t closed unless he shows up at the door on the agreed date of joining your organization.

Post-offer interactions are just as necessary. There’s so much time & effort spent (from far too many people) in hiring one candidate. If that candidate decides not to join, everyone’s efforts will then need to be replicated! The issue isn’t with the candidate not joining your organization; it’s with recruiters or even hiring managers who allow that to happen in the first place.

It’s a no-brainer. But here’s why you should keep the interactions active:

- It gives the candidate confidence that you are interested in him joining & that he can make a difference.
- Reduces chances of him talking to your competitors.
- There will be tons of questions that the candidate might have; your interactions will help him take informed decisions.
- Send across company related non-confidential articles/news will help the candidate to get to know your company better.

Just don’t go over the top while interacting (like call the candidate every waking hour). There’s nothing more harmful than an overdose of information.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

HR Carnival

Recruitment 2.0 is hosting the Carnival of HR. Head over there to check out more about how Chaos Theory gets everything connected although they may seen random. Get to read eclectic group of posts too. Check it out!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Myth: Passive Candidates

Ok. For those asking what or who are passive-candidates, here’s the explanation. Passive candidates are people who aren’t interested in looking for a new job, unless they come across a very good opportunity which they may consider.

I’ve been hiring long enough to confess that: There are no ‘passive candidates’. They are only folks who haven’t heard from you!

Previously I had written about selling capabilities of a recruiter here that acts like a differentiator. Just the way we differentiate active & inactive candidates, it works the same way around, there are active & inactive recruiters. The job-boards, employee referrals, job fairs, online ads, have made it easy on folks looking out for a job change & easier for recruiters to get more resumes. These events churn out so many resumes that a recruiter’s time schedule is filled with sifting through tons of resumes. Why do I list these differences? It’s because hiring managers & recruiters are in search of elusive candidates whose resume didn’t turn up through any of these searches. Why then do we have these resume sources in the first place? It used work about 10 years back, when they were the ‘in’ thing. Not any more. They are just traditional recruitment business models.

Why do we assume that candidates who don’t send their resume are passive? For one, they may never have read your ad, been to job fairs, don’t see the need to place their resume on job boards. They just don’t know enough about your company yet. Maybe the medium you are using to spread your message is a passive one! Do you have something great to tell them? Tickle there grey-cells? Through a channel that reaches great talent. Like a really great product or service. If not, then tough luck. Your efforts are really yielding what you asked for, so don’t complain or find reasons to blame.

Here’s what I tell recruiters. Don’t make your life tougher than it already is. There’s enough fish in the sea to select from. Don’t go looking for that elusive yet-to-be-found approach. There’s enough talent to select from. It prompts me to ask, “Does your company really need great talent?” After all, if you had marketed your job well enough, then they’ll come by themselves looking to be trapped!

Start thinking…

Monday, May 11, 2009

Do I mention my blog on my resume?

That’s a question that I was asked recently.

It’s a great idea. But the answer is 'No'. Unless you have a great or spectacular blog that just cannot be passed without a second glance. It’s a no-brainer that your blog has to be in your field of work. Else, the recruiter/company doesn’t need to know nor or will they be inclined to read it. A great blog (if you have one) gives you a chance to stand-out among the rest of the applicants.

Why shouldn’t you put your blog on your resume? Here’s why:

1. A blog is like a personal opinion. Even if someone is paying for it, they are still asking for your point of view. Companies don’t run on a thousand different views, they have their own. Maybe even a official blog to tell you what they believe in! Your blog could hamper your chances, if found contradicting their views or vision. You could still go ahead with it, if you want to work for a company that endorses your views.

2. If you think your blog acts like a resume. That’s a tough stand. Your blog IS NOT your resume. As much as you want to believe it. Just imagine if a job opening two thousand hits and half of them end up sending their blogs instead of a one-pager! You can bet that the people who sent their blogs just made things easier for the rest of the applicants. Again, don’t try unless you have a great blog.

3. I know it’s bad, but recruiters are so crunched for time sifting through so many resumes. That they will not take time-off to check your blog. The hiring manager might, but in most cases, the first line of resume validations is done by the recruiters.

Let’s hear what the readers have to say. Would you place your blog on your resume? If you have already done so, do share your experience with the rest of us.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Less could be more!

A reader asks:

Recently I’ve been allotted a new project (could be for the next one year or more) which requires me to report to a manager with much lesser experience than me in my field of work. I’ve more than 14 years of work experience and the manager has far lesser experience. I’m apprehensive about the whole thing. Is this common practice? I like the project that’s assigned to me and don’t want to lose it. Can I ask HR to help with this?

First, your situation is not a unique one. They have been others who have gone through the same path. Many a time people have even come out as better individuals than before! Really.

In your case, HR can help you. By making you realize that the manager has the required skills, expertise & most importantly enough maturity to manage a team which has people with more experience. They’ll also tell you that you have the required expertise to do wonders with work that’s assigned to you. Their explanations may sound boring. But you must know that HR isn’t the only department that takes decisions on making managers out of people. Yes, they are involved, but eventually they’ll need a buy-in from the to-be-the-manager’s boss as well as from senior management. So effectively there is a lot of thought behind making a person a manager. At least that’s the way it should be. Unless you are telling me otherwise.

Maybe this is a first time in 14 yrs of working that you are getting to experience this. Your apprehension is understandable. But there’s a shift that’s already happened within many companies where age or numbers of years of work experience doesn’t determine your move to the next level. There are usual suspects like - capability, dependability, expertise, leadership qualities, problem solving skills (includes conflict management) and maturity, which help determine a manager. Above all, humility is a big factor in deciding a manager.

You could make things better for yourself.

- Give yourself time. Being judgmental will only hurt your chances of creating conducive work environment. It’s quite possible that the manager is thinking about this too!

- Don’t take up the project with pre-conceived thoughts. Like trying the project for a week or two & then deciding next steps. Relationships at work need more time than a couple of weeks. Go with an open-mind and take it one day at a time.

- Give the manager a chance. Really. You never know more about a manager until you have worked with him. No matter what others say, the manager & you could get along like just fine.

- Please don’t play the comparison game. There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ managers. Only managers. Really. Your previous manager was excellent, but you may have worked with him for a longer period of time to get a balanced relationship.

It’s great that you like the project you have been assigned. You then have enough reasons to focus your energy on work & let the results speak. I suggest you take up the project and you'll definitely have few things to learn and share with this manager.

All the best!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dream Job!

This stuff beats reality TV hands down!!

Australia's Tourism Queensland has pulled off one of the biggest marketing strategies in recent times. In the process they have generated so much buzz that the applicants for the job crashed the website with tens of thousands of applications. It was termed The Best Job in the World’. It’s for a post of a caretaker on Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef. Just how cool is that! Meanwhile, their efforts paid off big dividends in excess of $125 million dollars in free publicity!

If you want to know more about the job, you can read about it here. The winner was declared today to be Ben Southall from UK.

I know they spent a million dollars to get the message out. But there’s a lesson to learn on what ‘buzz’ can do for a job opening! In your case it could be just an email, a blog, flyers or an advertisement on TV or radio!

Go ahead and make some noise.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Now's the time to rehire

Well, you read that right. In today’s market, many companies are facing trouble finding great talent. The point is; employees with great talent aren’t taking chances with new jobs. That’s made recruiting even more challenging!

That’s when you start thinking about rehiring ex-employees.

Let’s say your star-performer John left your company some months back citing better career prospects (role, money, options, location etc.) and joined a start-up. Due to bad market conditions the start-up’s having problems with funding and John has been told to look out for other options (Read: get yourself another job). Now he has to start searching for a new job & you can be quite sure he is thinking of contacting you. Do you reconsider him if you still have a job vacancy to fill?

Here’s a take from both sides of the table.

For ex-employee(s):

- DO NOT BURN BRIDGES! That’s the worst thing you can do when you are leaving for a new job. Apart from references, you may find future need to reach your previous manager for getting rehired or even applying at a company he works for!
- Asking to get rehired means you need to do some ‘ego-swallowing’. Unless you are sure, don’t ask.
- Make your reasons valid enough to get rehired. Be truthful.
- Be ready to accept a ‘No’ from the company. They are obligated to only give you a chance to reapply and not necessarily rehire you.

For the company

Off course you should rehire John, provided that he left you on a good note. Really. Employees abandon ship for various reasons only to realize that they left to go aboard the wrong ship! While the company might feel betrayed when employees quit, it pays off big time to rehire ex-employees because:

- They can hit the ground running.
- You help save a lot on training and recruiting costs.
- They know your work culture.
- Product/services familiarity gives them a great advantage.
- Their productive will be higher, since they feel grateful that you rehired them.
- Their search for ‘greener pastures’ wasn’t so good after all; that’s a story they’ll want to tell your current employees. It acts like a retention tool.

Things to watch-out for:
- Don’t rehire unless you have carefully thought out the reasons and done your checks. It needs the ex-employee’s buy-in too. Getting rehired shouldn’t be a stop-gap arrangement for them.
- It’s good to check on the ‘exit form’, if you have documented their previous exit. You want to ensure the employee wasn’t fired for incompetence, integrity issues, poor work ethic or bad performance.
- Existing employees might not take the rehire well. Especially if you end up giving raises or promotions to the rehired employee! That will backfire badly. Even prompting your existing employees to quit.
- You rehire an employee only ONCE. As funny as it sounds, I’ve known of incidents where companies have rehired multiple times!
- Consult an attorney if needed. To ensure you have the legalities covered.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Clean desk policy

Query from a reader:

Should the HR implement a ‘Clean Desk Policy’? Recently, we had a case of confidential information which got compromised from an employee’s desk. What’s your take?

Ok. A clean desk policy is nice to have, especially if you work for a company dealing with financial records or high confidential data. In this case, since you haven’t mentioned the work area, I presume the data got compromised because of one person’s negligence rather than the entire organization (like a system that got hacked). So would you need to reprimand that one person or everyone in the organization? Is your intent to implement a clean desk policy so that everyone should know that confidential papers shouldn’t be left on their desks when they leave for the day? Then an email would suffice.

Else, you get into the next level of policy implementation which involves identifying who would be responsible for: tracking compliance, effectively run the program, documenting non-compliance and more paperwork.

A clean desk policy is more a common sense policy. Really. Think about it, your HR rep left Joe’s latest performance appraisal letter (don’t know why, we still print them!) on the desk and stepped out for a while. Jane comes by to the desk to get a query answered. The point is Jane didn’t come looking for info on Joe’s appraisal; the info she got was incidental. Right? Not sure why she had to read something that wasn’t meant for her. That’s another issue. A bigger one. Sorry, I digress. But the person at fault should be the one who left the appraisal letter on the desk, completely aware that people drop-by frequently.

Clean desk policy needs active participation from employees and you can be sure of encountering stiff resistance. They could cite breach in individuality over a clean desk! Does a clean desk mean more productivity? Arguments may vary. Forceful implementation could make employees feel like robots: file this, shred that, hide this, secure that – get the point? That’s a challenge you have to deal with. Another one is deciding the frequency of cleaning one’s desk. Just how many times a week will you need employees to clean their desk. Daily? That’s a logistic nightmare. Once a week? That’s too long a period of time to wait.

Here’s what I would do as a pro-active measure. Prepare a basic clean desk policy, one that informs employees that they are required to ensure confidential data should not be left on their desk. Explain the ‘why’ in it and ‘when/frequency’ to clean up. Initially, have some incentives for people who clean up their desks. And compliance isn’t an option, means violations will be tracked (by managers) and reported for stringent action. Talk about the importance through forums, mails, company meetings and to every new hire. This policy will have employee resisting it, you can’t rule them out. They’ll come around once they start seeing the benefits. Focus your energies on people who buy your idea of having a secure desk. They’ll make this policy a success.

You may want to watch out for a few things. This policy needs a buy-in from the management. It needs to be part of a company culture, like if you have given employees a free rein to manage to their own work area (typically start-up atmosphere), then implementing such a policy over-night will back-fire. Set it up as one that will ensure security and trust in the company.