Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Carnival of HR: Talent Management Edition

Jessica over at blogging4jobs is hosting the latest Carnival of HR 'Talent Management Edition'. I would suggest you head over there to read some great informative posts. Check it out! It would be worth your time spent. Don't forget to leave your comments on posts that you find interesting.

PS: The 'Carnival of HR' was started by the Evil HR Lady way back in 2007 and since then it has been regularly featuring recent posts from the best of the HR and management blogging community. Get to know more about the Carnival here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Guest Post: Be Creative About Staff Development

Guest post by Karen Wise

Recently I have been thinking about how we develop our staff and ourselves. This subject seems to weave it's way into almost every aspect of my work at the moment: I've been delivering appraisal training to several different organisations: a staff's Personal Development Plan is discussed as part of the course; I recently delivered a break-out session at a Coaching conference on Continued Professional Development; and I'm going to be delivering a practical developmental seminar for coaches next month.

In the course of this work, through discussions and feedback from participants, I've begun to realise that there's a real need to change the way that managers approach the development of their staff.

Traditionally, when a manager writes a Personal Development Plan (PDP) as part of their staff's performance appraisal, external training is identified: some kind of taught course, a conference, further education resulting in a recognised qualification.

But at the moment, with the recession still biting at our heels, the organisational development budgets are not as large as they were a few years ago. Managers now need to start considering how to develop their staff in a cost-efficient way. So I'll give you an example:

A junior manager pulled me aside on a training session. He wanted a piece of advice on what course he could send a member of staff on who needed training in how to manage difficult conversations - there were no more places left on the in-house conflict resolution training, and all external courses cost more than his departmental training budget would allow.

So I asked a question: "Who do you know, more senior to you in this organisation, who is able to manage difficult conversations?" The junior manager was quickly able to identify someone.

So I said: "How about you approach this person to ask them if they could support you in developing your member of staff? Let's develop a plan."

  1. Your member of staff and the manager will need an initial meeting - to make sure they can work together for this specific development need.
  2. Your member of staff will then attend a couple of meetings to observe the manager managing a difficult conversation.
  3. The member of staff will meet with the manager again and talk through his observations. The manager will in turn talk through some of the techniques they use to manage difficult conversations.
  4. The member of staff will return to the workplace & apply their learning.
  5. The member of staff and manager will meet again, perhaps one or two times to consolidate learning: identify any challenges, reflect on application to date, and measure the progress made.

It's quite simple really - and all it will take is the resource of time and commitment from the manager and the member of staff. Some might say that this is a form of mentorship - and I suppose that they would be right. However, this mentor relationship is defined for a specific need, and is time limited. The key benefit is that this form of development opportunity has high impact and is sustainable. The added benefit is the networking opportunities that it creates for the member of staff, and the exposure to a wider range of issues beyond their current sphere of work.

In essence, this idea is based on one of my key principles that development and growth is natural, given the right conditions. Choosing the right role model and having the opportunity to observe, then reflect and discuss with them their approach can happen in any organisation, anywhere. The example I give is just one way that a manager can demonstrate creative thinking when identifying the appropriate learning method to meet a development need.

When you're next completing a Personal Development Plan for a member of your staff - try and think creatively.

About the Author

Karen Wise, MCIPD is an Organisational Development Consultant and Business Coach, with over 12 years’ experience of working in Human Resources roles up to and including Director level. Karen now runs her own consultancy and coaching business, with a particular interest in maternity and wellbeing coaching.

Karen is a co-founder of Minerva’s Mind: an organisation that supports women to become leaders in their own lives, by exploring what leadership means today in every area of life. (

Karen is based in St Albans, 25 miles north of London, England, where she lives with her husband and two small children. She is also currently undertaking a Masters Degree in Coaching / Coaching Psychology at the University of East London.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hiring: Candidate Tip - Part 1

Off late I’ve started getting a lot of questions from readers/candidates asking for advice regarding hiring/recruitment. More specifically about interviews, resume, cover letter, etc. A few questions do intrigue me enough to write a post with my reply. However, many questions are repetitive in nature and hence might seem redundant. I would be glad to answer your queries my mail, but here’s another way that I would go about answering those queries, on Twitter, using the hashtag #candidatetip. To make it easier for folks who are not on Twitter I’ll post those tips in parts on this blog. Hope that these tips would prove helpful.

So here’s the first part of the tips. Let me know your thoughts.

  1. It’s best to avoid 'Comic Sans' as a font for your resume.

  2. Do you mention your blog on your resume? I suggest you don't. Here's why:

  3. No, you don't need to put your zodiac sign in your resume! Unless the role specifically asks for it. Really. Why would you put it there?

  4. If you give 3 different email ID’s on your resume, the employer can choose to send their mails to any one of them or to all three ID’s! Be sure to check all mail in all your ID’s.

  5. Maybe its time to get yourself a Skype a/c. Employers still aren't willing to spend on travel yet. It’s one more way to reach you!

  6. If you have a preferable time to take a call but don't mention it in your resume/cover letter, your telling the employer your ok to talk anytime.

  7. Don’t waste space in your resume by writing too much about your current employer. Maximum of 2 lines along with the official website should suffice.

  8. You can't compare YOUR job offer with your friend's, even if both are from the same company. You just raised a big Red Flag! Here’s a post on this.

  9. It's ok to reject a job offer. But keep the Company informed. You don’t join elsewhere & then call them. You just burnt a bridge.

  10. Employers can reach any ref(s) from companies listed on your resume. Reaching ref's from present company is a no-no.

  11. You don't call your prospective employer @ 10:30pm on a Sunday nite (unless its scheduled). Especially NOT when you're drunk! Silly? It has happened.

  12. If you think you are the smartest one in the room (and have enough reasons to believe so). Then chances are you're in the wrong room. Get outta there. Go learn.

  13. If you're scheduled for a telecon, DON'T switch-off your phone @ that time. If you can't take the call, just inform.

  14. If you are not 100% keen on the role, don't take the job. It will catch up soon and only get worse.

  15. When an employer asks for a week to revert, that’s 7 days. So don’t send mails/call during that week asking for an update. Reach them only if you have something critical to share. It’s ok to follow-up after a week.

  16. Don’t give an email address that doesn’t belong to you. Even if it’s your spouse’s. It's sends out a wrong signal.

  17. Keep your references informed about the call from prospective employers. If they aren't kept informed, it'll look like cold calling! If I had to do that, I wouldn’t ask you. Right?

  18. On mails/any other form of written communication, if you get a name 100% wrong it’s ok. Apologize and get to know the correct one. Don’t tell it’s a typo error!

  19. Put your cell on silent mode/switch off during an interview. It's basic manners. If you have to take a call in between, keep the interviewer informed before the start of the interview.

  20. The excitement of getting highly paid for a job you don’t like; will eventually not sound exciting a year down the line. Really. You are better off not taking up that offer.
Stay tuned for more tips. And yes, if you are a hiring manager, recruiter or in any other role that requires you to hire candidates (and you are on Twitter), please use
#candidatetip while tweeting. It would help candidates who could use those tips for better results.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Is this a bold move?

You decide that after reading this post.

There’s enough written about managers. I’ve written about it myself
here, here & here. But this post is completely devoted to a much avoided/evaded part of a manager’s role: Giving Feedback

So here’s a suggestion I have: Why don’t we make giving feedback a part of a manager’s performance review? Make it objective and quantifiable.

Why should we go with this approach to management? Here’s why:

- It will make managers give feedback. Simple. Right? Yes, sometimes a basic request for feedback isn’t met. At times it’s completely avoided too.

- Feedback can be tracked and reviewed along with other parameters as part of the manager’s performance review. It would help identify areas in which the manager might need help, when it comes to giving feedback.

- Takes away the opportunity to just give hints and get away with it. The recipient knows exactly what’s been said.

- Avoids arguments. When the feedback is clear and precise it doesn’t give room for arguments, debates or worse, assumptions!

- When you make it quantifiable, the manager’s focus will be on giving feedback with enough data.

- Makes it a direct interaction between the manager and his direct report. Often, feedback is passed through other leads/employees. An approach that always backfires.

- It helps set-up a clear communication channel between managers and direct reports. Performance parameters can be set openly and discussed without any discomfort.

- Expectations can be set, managed and communicated effectively.

- It takes away the assumption that giving feedback is a one-time effort.

- Once the feedback is in place, it would help with formulating measures for improving the direct report’s performance. Follow-up can be well planned, tracked and executed easily.

- PIP (Performance Improvement Plan) will make more sense than before. Since feedback is captured on a regular basis and hence helps avoid surprising the recipient.

Thinks to watch out for:

- Managers need to be trained before implementing this move.

- Feedback is to be given only about work. Shouldn’t be a personal judgment of the manager.

There could be many more instances to look out for. That’s exactly why a training session would be helpful. Is this a bold move? Maybe not. It’s a matter of companies implementing and manager’s accepting it. Yes,
Change is Strange!

Do you think your organization is ready for this? Are you ready for this? Do you manage people? Are you a leader? Do you report to a manager who gives feedback? Do you report to a manager who hates giving feedback? Would love to hear your thoughts. I’m open to receive feedback!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Candidate Rant: Flawed Salary Negotiation

A candidate writes:

“Dear HR Store,

Been reading your blog for sometime now and wanted your advice on a current situation I’m in, regarding a job offer. I’ve been looking for a job change for quite sometime and have interviewed with a few prospective employers.

I’ve now received a job offer from a Company that I’m keen to work with, based on the role and responsibility explained to me by both hiring manage and HR. However, the compensation offered doesn’t excite me. I know I deserve better. How do I go about asking for a better deal?

Recently, a friend (ex-colleague from same team) as mine has joined them and he was offered a better deal than me for almost the same role. I did bring it up in my discussions with the hiring manager and HR, after I received the job offer. They have however stuck to their offer and aren’t willing to make any changes. What could I do to convince them?

I’m running out of time and need to let them know of my decision.. I’m keen on the position. But don’t want to go into the job thinking that I’ve been undervalued in terms of compensation.

Any advice?


Since you wrote to me, I’ll give you my take on it. Not sure if you’ll like what I have to say next. So brace yourself. You just touched upon my candidate pet peeve.

If you have been reading my blog, then you may (I wish you already have) read this post on
salary negotiation. If you still haven’t read it, I’ll explain again.

First, it’s good you like the role & responsibility that comes with the position you have been offered. That’s a great start. So you already have a valid reason to take up the job. Since the excitement of getting highly paid for a job you don’t like, will eventually not sound exciting a year down the line. Really.

Second, the Company you’ve interviewed with have their own parameters to select candidates. If they’ve offered you, it means you’ve made the cut. But chances are at you may have only met a majority of their hiring criteria. That leaves certain areas of the job profile that you don’t bring to the table, but have shown potential to pick it up.

That brings us to the point. How do you go about asking for a better deal after receiving a job offer?

- Start with having a candid discussion with the hiring manager regarding your take on the job offer. Start with asking their way/rationale of arriving at a job offer. It will help understand the criteria they’ve considered in your case.
- Based on their response, you build our case with reasons for why you feel that the compensation offered is on the lower end.
- Your reasons could be based on:
o Reinforcing the value that you would add to their team / work.
o You could project your value primarily based on having studied their product/service.
o Take prevailing market conditions into account.
o Your understanding on skill-set availability.
o Your ability to manage more responsibility efficiently and effectively (not another role, but more on the current role over a period of time).

Now, all of this must have been done during the interview process itself. If for whatever reason you haven’t highlighted your strengths, this is your last chance. The hiring manager is usually the decision-maker too. So use your last chance wisely.

However, I would ask you to be ready to hear a ‘No’. That’s a possibility too. If they believe they’ve been fair in their selection process, they’ll stick to their offer. Then the call rests with you. That’s when you ask yourself, “What are the things in a job offer that are you willing to give-up?” Make a checklist of things that you cannot give up, while maybe others you can give up. Which bucket does salary/compensation fall under?

Ok, that was the nice me answering your first part of the question. I’ll move on to my candidate pet-peeve.

You can't compare YOUR job offer with your friend's, even if both are from the same company. You just raised a big Red Flag!

Worse, you brought it up in your discussions with the hiring manager. It screams that you don’t understand the hiring process. If you don’t know how it works, ASK. Understand the process and it will help you handle future interviews a lot better. If you brought up your friend’s salary /comp details, it tells the employer:

- That their employee (your friend) is revealing salary details to candidates (you). That’s reason enough to land him in trouble. And hurt your chances of getting hired too.
- By comparing yourself to your friend, you are creating a pseudo-benchmark for yourself.
- Even if you do accept the offer and go on-board; the hiring manager is going to be on his guard for a long time. You wouldn’t like that. Really.

So there you go. You know what you could do next and most importantly what you should not be doing in future. Make your checklist of things you are ok to let go and those that you aren’t ok with. Quick. Revert to the hiring manager with your reply.

Good luck!

PS: Another post about cost that might interest you

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Learning on the job (flipside)

Scene from a recent shopping experience at a sports shop:

(Backdrop: There’s a sale at a particular sports shop. My wife went there in the morning and picked a t-shirt for me, which ended not being the right fit. During the purchase the sales guy at that time/shift had assured my wife that she could exchange it later if I didn’t like the fit/color. And off course only on terms that there was no damage caused to the goods purchased. Understandable. Later in the afternoon we tread our way back to the store to exchange the Tee and we end up meeting the sales guy from the next shift. Here’s what happens next…)

My wife: Hi Joe (sales rep), I picked this t-shirt this morning, for my husband. The fit isn’t right for him and so I would like to exchange it for another one.

Joe (thinks for a minute): Was this bought from the sale?

Wife: Off course, that’s what I told you. Here’s the bill for reference.

Joe: Ok, let me check.

(Runs to his pal in the store to check and then returns)

Joe: Sorry, that was the last one and we don’t have another one to exchange it against. You’ll have to keep it (offers no other solution, lost his chance to ‘WOW’).

Me: (!!!! Momentarily dumbfounded): Ok. Since it doesn’t fit me well, I cannot wear it. So could I buy another t-shirt not from the sale but at retail price and I’ll pay you the difference?

Joe (thinks again): Sorry. No. You can’t do that! Since your wife bought this at the sale, not from the retail section. You’ll have to keep it (Second chance, to give an alternate solution. Lost.)

Me (slightly agitated): Why can’t I exchange it for another one that costs more? You’ll stand to gain more money. (Makes sense, right?)

Joe: Sorry. I was informed (by his colleague) that the system doesn’t allow us to do that.

Me: So you telling me you can’t exchange it because a system that you are in control, doesn’t let you do it! Ridiculous. Can you please check with your manager?

Joe: (Again runs off to check with his manager & returns. Smiling.): Yes, he says you can exchange it. Sorry for the trouble, I’m new here and learning on the job.

Result: T-shirt exchanged for another one from a retail section and difference amount is paid. The store stood to make more money and we got a better Tee.

I’m a big fan of learning on the job. Don’t get me wrong when I tell you that learning on the job is dangerous. There’s a powerful downside to learning on-the-job.

- You really learn to approach things in a way your job-mentor would. No? That’s at least until you start thinking about the process or procedure to do certain things.
- Most often there’s no written document to refer too. So you are called upon to use your judgment/discretion in handling queries.
- There’s no budget allotted for employee training and development. So your sources of learning are colleagues, books (self-funded), networking sites or blogs. Sources that are FREE. The challenge is in identifying who is authentic and worth your time.

So if you are an employee asked to learn on the job:
Here's a few things that you might want to watch out for:

- Ask questions. Listen. Ask questions. Listen…continue the learning process.

- Understand the escalation hierarchy. If your colleague (peer) is your max ceiling. It’s trouble. Get access to leads/managers.

- USE your discretion. The Company either tested you for it or knows you are good with using discretion. Don’t stop that.

- Are you allowed to make mistakes? Or do you get pulled up for each one you make? Helps you understand the Company’s stand.

- Go ahead and network furiously. It's the best way to help you learn on the job. Are you on FaceBook, Orkut, Twitter, LinkedIn? No? Start now.

- If you are uncomfortable/don’t like roles that require you to learn on the job. DO NOT accept the job offer. You'll end up doing a big disservice to yourself.

- Last, don’t forget to use Common Sense. It’s a powerful tool. (Sorry, that was sarcastic) But far too many of us tend to ignore it.

If you are an Employer promoting learning on the job: A few pointers that you could take into consideration.

- First, hire right. Many people like documentation at work that they could follow during their initial days. And if you don't have any, then maybe such people will have difficulty with the learn-on-the-job working style. You are better off hiring people who have had prior learning-on-the-job experience.

- There will be mistakes. Don’t get too critical. Better off giving constructive feedback. It’s part of an employee’s learning curve.

- Allow them to question. It will help tweak/build your processes and also understand their thinking methodology.

- While hiring, tell candidates that the role requires them to learn on the job. And dig deep during interviews to know their comfort with such an approach at work. Interviews that are situation-based would help immensely.

- If you have hired right, you’ll have employees who know to use discretion. A powerful skill-set. Especially when it’s learning on the job. Allow them to use it.

I’ve been a one-man HR team for long enough and have mostly learnt on the job. I’ve noticed that people are either comfortable or they are not, when it comes to learning on the job. It’s best to decide whether you want to take up a role that requires it.

I would love to hear thoughts from readers who have built their careers in similar fashion. Do share them.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Would you trade your iPOD for this?

I'm convinced that this cool gadget from Sony has got me hooked! The question I'm asking: Would you trade your iPOD for this? :) Check this ad out...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Cost is just a negotiation tool!

Yes, it is. Especially when hiring highly skilled talent and its true in a good market or otherwise. Agree? No? Read on.

The reason I bring this up is because as much as we deny, cost is a major driving factor in hiring. And needless to say, managers want the best bang for the buck. That’s understandable. But don’t we know that you always get what you pay for? Yet for some reason hiring managers aren’t willing to buy that reason. If you believe that’s right. It’s easy to understand why a candidate will not take a sub-standard offer even in a bad job market. If you still persist with a sub-standard compensation, the candidate might eventually relent, but only until such time that the market improves. And when that happens, you can be sure that he’ll be in the first one out.

Think about any product you recently purchased that you felt was overpriced. Then you started using it only to realize that the benefits were so awesome, you even recommended it to your friends. That’s the ROI on cost. It works the same way with hiring too. The initial high price is long forgotten once performance kicks in. The tough and laborious part is in identifying who makes that cut, a.k.a, the selection process.

The flipside is obvious. Things don’t work out and you’re forced to move on. Now, far too many hiring managers take that path since it’s a safer option to assume. Have you ever known a manager who’ll pass a chance to tell, “I told you so!”? Never. It’s also the very reason that many hiring managers generalize the selection process and avoid taking that extra effort in hiring right. The ones that take it get the rewards. They hire high caliber candidates who go on to build better products/services.

So how do we resolve this issue?

As a candidate:

Understandably you are looking for a job real bad. But wouldn’t hurt to take a step back and evaluate your career too.

- Don’t accept that offer just because you want that job. Really. When you realize its not what you want to do (maybe a few months into the job) you’ll end up hurting your career in more ways than one.
- Your ex-colleague got paid more. That’s not reason enough to ask for the same amount. Build your own case.
- Taking up a job offer to let go later has its own consequences. It could range anywhere from burning bridges to hurting future references. Absolute no-no.
- Prepare yourself with enough information which will help you decide better. Make a checklist of things that you cannot give up, while others maybe you can. Which bucket does cost/salary fall under?
- When you go prepared with enough information on how much you are willing to negotiate, it helps to stay away from low-balling yourself!
- Also, it’s critical that you sell your value. If you can’t communicate your worth to them, they’ll do that assessment for you! Really.

As an employer :

Answer this.

- Does the role really need very high caliber candidates?
- Or are you hiring high caliber candidates just because they are now easily available at lower cost?

Your real answer will determine whether you have a problem on your hands or not. If you ignore it now, it will catch up sooner than later. Maybe a few months down the line. The only person getting fooled otherwise is still you.

Here’s the final take: Cost is just a negotiation tool. The one who knows to use it well, ends up getting the better end of the deal.

It’s now obvious. right?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

And then I get my 'Blog Birthday' gift....

‘The Daily Reviewer’ compiled an exclusive list of the 'Top 100 Human Resource Blogs' and they included my blog ‘The HR Store’ in it! I’m humbled! Really.

Much appreciate and many thanks to The Daily Reviewer for including me in their list!

Check out the list at

Happy Blog Birthday!

I’m so excited!! Today my blog ‘The HR Store’ turns one! It’s been a great ride so far. Thank you all for your support!

Look forward to see you all stayin’ tuned to ‘The HR Store’ for more posts…and hopefully I’ll be able to write enough good stuff to keep you hooked here!

So I’ve been asked, “What’s your birthday wish?” I do have one :). I would love to see people de-lurk and leave their thoughts on each post! Really. I would love it! It would help me write better and relevant posts.

Meanwhile, here’s a recap of a few posts from last year that gave me enough will-power to stick with the blog. Enjoy reading it.

Bring your own shoes!

Your Resume's Got Only 30 Seconds! Make It Count...

Ask your reference to give a well-balanced feedback

Salary Negotiation

Five Myths About Leadership

5 Days and 4 Nights...HR Lessons

Abusive Managers: Confront or Walk-out?

Verbal offer & recruiter issues

Yes, it's ok to disagree with your manager.

Do I mention my blog on my resume?

Resume Writing