Recent Trends in Human Resource Management

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sailing Through Senior-Level Interviews

Sailing Through Senior-Level Interviews

A candidate for a mid-level executive position visits the organisation a couple of times before the job is finally offered. The interview focuses on his skills and abilities. Hiring decisions are primarily based on past performance.

When screening candidates for top-level jobs, the interview protocol changes. The atmosphere is friendlier and the candidate socialises extensively with the senior executives. Under this congenial façade is the fact that candidates are being assessed for their potential compatibility with the job, cultural fit and their ability to represent the organisation in public. Hiring managers focus on what the candidate can do for the organisation and his ability to support organisational goals. As Terry Harlow, a corporate vice-president says, “They’re looking for a person who can create and communicate the vision for the organisation.”

Skip Fiordalis conducts senior level searches for various organisations. He ensures that the candidates are ‘good fits’ especially with the administrative management team. Skip attributes his selection success to his interviewing skills. He tests the candidate’s flexibility in dealing with a new environment, pragmatism in approaching problems and excellence in managing various relationships. With so much at stake it is imperative that candidates master senior-level interviews.

The set-up

The initial interview for top level posts usually spans a couple of days. The candidate meets other senior employees in groups and could be invited to dinner. Subsequently, the invitation may extend to his spouse. Some organisations headquartered in other states/countries fly the candidates to tour the area and meet would-be colleagues. Often such meetings are breakfast to dinner affairs involving lengthy negotiations over salaries and perks.

Interviewing candidates is a stressful job-full of interactions with a large number of people and involves extensive travel. An exhausted interviewer has little patience with an ill-prepared candidate. For instance, just as the interview began one candidate forced his resume and recommendation letters onto the interviewer. A rookie mistake! “People who begin the interview with a resume, portfolio, deal sheets or financial statements don’t understand that the interview is already over,” says Andrea Eisenberg, a consultant in a placement firm.


An organisation has high expectations from interviewees appearing for senior posts. Janet Jones-Parker, managing director of a recruiting firm insists that interviewees should exude confidence. Janet advices, “You (interviewee) have to go to an interview as though you’re already there. Everything you do must speak of that. If you act as though you’re stepping up, that’s how you’re perceived.” Dave Opton, CEO of ExecuNet Inc., selects interviewees who carry themselves as leaders.

An interviewee can gain confidence with some basic research into the organisation both, cultural and financial. It also helps to learn more about the other employees, traditions, organisational values and defining historical moments.

Fitting in

“As part of every senior-level interview there’s a high level of social interaction.” The way a candidate speaks, writes thank-you notes, even his spouse’s behaviour all are important. Poor etiquette is the biggest stumbling block. A Philadelphia recruiting firm bought books and videos to educate an interviewee on good table manners! As senior-level executives socialise at high-levels they need impeccable social skills.

A post interview meal with the hiring officials shouldn’t be misconstrued as a confirmation dinner! Dave Opton knows of interviewees who light up cigars after dinner without seeking permission. One such interviewee was rejected after he blew smoke into the eyes of the CEO’s wife!

The better half

Surprisingly, a candidate’s spouse affects hiring decisions. ‘Spouses should seem eager, excited, flexible and positive.’ Quite often candidates need to relocate. The candidate’s spouse should view any career move as a family investment. This should be reflected in conversations with other employees. Spouses need to be cautious. Any negative comments could mar job negotiations.

What is the interviewer looking for?

Interviewees who anticipate the job requirements instantly figure out changes necessary to accomplish a task. An interviewer discovers such an interviewee by asking ‘fact-finding’ questions.

A great way to start a senior-level interview is to ask the single best question: “Can you describe your most significant accomplishment?” The interviewer gains insights into the individual’s accomplishments and how they relate to specific job needs.

Another question that reveals an interviewee’s problem solving abilities, leadership qualities, intelligence and vision is: “If you were to get this job how would you go about solving this (major/typical) problem? “How would you” questions focus on the planning and visualisation aspects. Lack of either skill can disqualify an interviewee.

Think before you speak!

To gauge an interviewee’s problem solving abilities, organisations often show them negative financial information. Organisations expect them to use their leadership skills to wriggle out of complex situations rather than bank on experience and background. Buster Houchins, managing director of an executive search company says, “It’s all about getting people excited about a vision that’s bigger than your own personal goal or vision.”

Organisations typically hire candidates willing to take calculated risks. Hence, the interviewee should freely express his views when asked to comment, even if they are contrary to the interviewer’s viewpoint. He should evaluate the consequences of his remarks. Patronising comments and critical remarks are taboo.

More questions

The interviewer should allow interviewees to ask questions too. In an interview for the position of a vice president Ms.Kenny asked her employers questions that gave insights into the organisation’s strategies. The question, “What’s important to you?” helped her to determine if her perception matched the organisation’s and whether she could support it. Jean-Claude Noel, COO of Christie’s too believes that interviewees should ask a lot of questions.

Channel ‘ WE’

An interviewee did well but on his way to the airport in the company car yelled at his subordinate on the cell phone. The driver promptly reported the interviewee’s attitude to the higher-ups. Needless to say, he wasn’t selected.

Interviewees aspiring to make it to the top echelons should adopt the ‘we’ attitude. They should consider themselves part of a team and be unbiased. Those who lack humility don’t make it to the higher ranks. As Ms. Eisenberg says, “It’s dangerous to assume that the person you’re meeting with matters a lot and others don’t matter. That’s the landmine. Be certain to engage every person at his or her level.”

On guard!

Interviewees naturally feel comfortable with hiring officials after dining and spending time with them. But as Paul Villella, CEO of an executive hiring firm warns, “You have to be most cautious with the most casual, you don’t want to treat them as though you have known them for years.” The interviewee should learn how to manage his relationships.

The computer savvy era encourages informality; most techies are used to ‘winging in’ and come ill prepared for interviews. However, it is important to be conservative and professional in dress and style, during an interview. One CEO recommends making bullet point notes for the interview.

Cultural changes

With recruitment going global, senior level executives are required to travel, and at times relocate to different countries. Hence, the interviewee should have the ability to adapt to different cultures. For instance, German companies are more formal than American companies. Interviewees would have to address people as Mr., Ms. or Mrs., and never by a first name. “Ability to adapt makes a good leader.”

‘Interviewee’ skills are critical for a smooth and successful transition into the higher slots. An interview is a ticket to the job!

Ref: Manage Mentor

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Performance Management: Poor Ratings

Is rating better than ranking?

. Organisations believe that rating employees is a better way of evaluating their performance

. However, experts reckon that rating is just a euphemism for ranking

Ranking employees makes performance evaluation easy. It is also a simple way of identifying how an employee is performing in comparison with his peers. But this method of evaluating performance is not very popular with employees. Though employees do not mind comparisons, trouble starts when they lose out on assignments and promotions based on such comparisons. Since the consequences of such comparisons or ranking can be damaging, most organisations have discontinued the practice, and instead, opted for rating their employees. But, is rating any different? Although the popularity of rating systems indicates everything is hunky-dory, all is not well in paradise actually. This week’s mailer takes another peek into rating systems to determine their true worth as performance management tools.
The difference
Unlike rankings, where an employee’s performance is graded in relation to the performance of others, in rating systems, performance is compared to a set of pre-determined criteria, where the employee scores a letter or a number that represents his level of performance. In ranking, since an employee is pitted against his colleagues, not everyone gets to be a top performer, or number one. In the rating system, everyone can get high grades if they deserve them. With a rubric dictating how employees should be graded, rating is said to have evolved into an objective and reliable performance measurement tool, which explains its popularity.
Truly worthy?

Are rating systems really worth their popularity among both employees and organisations? Here is an evaluation:Objectivity: It is necessary to grade employee performance in an objective manner. Do rating systems allow for true objectivity? For instance, an organisation has the following criteria and employees are graded on each parameter on a scale of 1 to 5, the best being 5:

1. Job knowledge: The ability to assimilate and evaluate job-related information.
2. Planning: Adapting to changing work demands, using efficient measures to address work concerns.
3. Quality: Maintaining high standards of accuracy and completeness.
4. Initiative: Resourcefulness, innovation and the ability to be a go-getter.
Even though the parameters are pre-determined, its components such as high standards and ability to be a go-getter are open to interpretation. If achieving 80 percent is a high standard for one manager, it can be 90 percent for another. Thus, a better performer and a lesser performer will find themselves in the same bracket. Although employees do not complain about it, organisations stand to lose when they fail to identify their top performers.
Development: A primary function of performance appraisals is to identify an employee’s improvement needs. Learning professionals are of the opinion that rating systems are least indicative of developmental areas. For employees to learn and develop, they need to know the areas in which they fall short, by how much, and what they can do to improve themselves. Managers might argue that rating an employee low in an area indicates his improvement need. However, it does not work that way. For instance, an employee scores 2 on the ability to evaluate information. Although, an area of improvement has been identified, how can one convert a score of 2 into learning requirements? Moreover, to an employee, all that the score conveys is that his manager is dissatisfied with his performance in that area. It does not answer the following questions:

. What should I do to improve my score?
. Is the score truly indicative of my inability to evaluate information, or is it just that my manager thinks that way?

Moreover, an employee, who has been given a score of 4 for the same ability by another manager earlier, will not take the score of 2 seriously. Employees who sense even a bit of bias are unlikely to give any importance to low scores.
A performance management tool must act as a true talent advocate. Additionally, employees must benefit from its assessments. But rating systems only appear to be objective. With the parameters for ratings defined loosely, a low score may not be the correct assessment always. For employees who have received top ratings in the past, a sudden low score will result in disgruntlement. Also, to some employees, a score of 3 on a scale of 1 to 5 is nothing to worry about. This, however, may not be the way the manager interprets the score. For instance, an employee is given a 3 for his ability to be a self-starter. The employee may think of this score as satisfactory. However, to his manager, nothing below 4 is acceptable. Now, when this employee is not given an opportunity to work on an upcoming project, he will be wondering why. He will question the manager’s ability to assess objectively and constructively.
Is there an alternative?
Ratings may not be a great improvement over rankings. They only expose the weaknesses in such performance evaluations. The following are some of the recommended approaches to improve things:

. Use incident reports where an employee’s reaction or response, in a simulated or a real-life situation, is reported
. Define measurement criteria strictly, leaving no scope for interpretation
If rating systems are subjective, and least indicative of an employee’s areas of improvement, how can they help in performance management? Asking questions like this is important to be able to choose the right performance management tools.
Reference:The ManageMentor

The Grim Reapers!- Handling Multiple Lay-offs

The Grim Reapers

HR specialists are experiencing extreme burnout as they carry out multiple lay-offs ...

Key learnings:

1. HR professionals need support to manage lay-offs induced stress and anxiety
2. Emotional distancing is one of the key fallouts of lay-offs
3. Training and HR support networks can help ease the pain associated with conducting lay-offs

HR professionals are living their worst nightmare! Their worst fears suddenly have come true, with lay-offs and job cuts becoming more frequent than one would have ever imagined. .HR professionals are feeling the heat from the emotional outbursts of people being laid-off and the stress caused because of overseeing continuous rounds of lay-offs. The most disturbing part of lay-off related stress is that more than thirty percent of HR professionals are considering a job shift! The reactions seem graver than one would have bargained for, Organisations thus need to take notice of the not-so-welcome trend that is beginning to unfold. Understanding the reasons for anxiety, stress and depression and providing help to overcome these negative feelings is thus pressing for organisations that wish to preserve their HR asset.

The weathered and wilted

HR professionals surely are gaining experience of a different kind by engaging in lay-offs round after round. The experience is extraordinary and faraway from normal. While the experience can be enriching as human resources professionals, getting weathered by the storm is terrible. Some would argue that excessive weathering is causing them to wilt under pressure and stress is leading them to disillusionment. .

Traditionally, it has been the human resources department that has provided counselling to stressed and anxious employees, however, today HR professionals need support of the same kind more than anybody else. Statistics provided in the report presented by workforce management would enable better understanding of its gravity. The HR anxiety survey reveals that:

1. Out of the 370 respondents surveyed more than sixty-five percent had started drinking more while others lit up when they felt unduly stressed
2. More than thirty percent HR professionals are thinking about a job change
3. Sixty-six percent of HR professionals are worried about losing their jobs
4. Seven percent HR professionals have already lost their jobs
5. Fifty percent of the surveyed professionals have conducted three or more rounds of lay-offs in a time span of 16-18 months
6. Majority feel distressed as people call them names like “grim reaper” and “the axe man”
7. Seventy percent have reported with complaints of sleeplessness and stress-induced depression

The foregoing statistics are alarming and suggest the need to take preventive measures for containing the negative impact of today’s uncertain economic times as it is resonating deep and far within the corporate fold.

According to corporate psychologists, HR professionals have been corporate caretakers. They have played a key role in hiring people to ensure better organisational productivity. Removing them for ushering cuts in corporate outlays and containing loss because of poor economic conditions is a bizarre experience for HR professionals. Such conflicting experiences are taking a toll on the mental and physical health of HR professionals. The implications can be worrying for both employers and HR professionals. While HR workers would have to battle out ill-health and a poor mental state, the employers would have to worry about the morale of HR workers and the resulting medical costs that the company would have to bear.

The most worrying fact about the whole lay-off caused stress and anxiety is that, most employers are oblivious to the implications of lay-offs on people who conduct them. All remedial measures are directed to those being laid-off and none towards HR professionals who have been sitting for lay-offs round after round. For instance, the employer providing laid-off employees with outplacement services, however, there is no counselling or aid provided to HR professionals to help them cope with the pressures of axing jobs.

Emotional distancing

Apart from the health issues, emotional distancing is the most obvious fallout of excessive lay-offs. HR professionals are increasingly distancing themselves from their colleagues. According to Laura Rhode, HR director of Bonita Springs, Florida-based hardware giant, “as HR professionals we do not want to get too close with other colleagues as it would really hurt if they were asked to leave”. Where HR professionals are not emotionally distancing themselves we find employees distancing themselves from their “HR friends”, as they believe that they are “sorrow makers”. According to a survey, twenty-five percent of HR professionals believed there has been a dramatic change in their relationship with their colleagues ever since they carried-out lay-offs.

HR professionals thus need help. The criticism, self-induced stress, anxiety, tagging by friends and depression are reasons enough to take professional help. Most HR professionals are fighting the ailments at their personal level without much success. The need to get some professional counselling that can make them feel better about their work is important to spread cheer and gaiety among the HR fraternity. Apart from professional counselling HR professionals can set up formal support networks that work towards providing common comfort. However, the disadvantages of a formal network would be that it could lead to a “HR” versus “us” idea..

This apart, HR professionals can enrol for training on how to conduct lay-offs and deal with issues related to lay-offs. Most HR professionals surveyed believed the training they received helped them cope with stress and therefore recommend it with great conviction. However, experts believe that while training surely helps HR professionals get a grip on conducting lay-offs, explaining the strategy behind lay-offs can highlight the impact of training.

While the survey brought out some real grim facts about conducting lay-offs, it also has given hope and a reason to cheer. According to the survey only nineteen percent respondents believed the stress and anxiety would have a long-term impact on their health and adversely impact their attitude towards HR function. The rest sounded upbeat and positive and believed that this phase too shall pass and the “grim” reapers would soon become “grin” reapers!

Ref: TheManageMentor.

Recruitment & Retention- Mistaken Identity

Recruitment & Retention- Mistaken Identity

Poor hiring is not always about what one does, it’s also about what one doesn’t!

Key learnings:

1. A mistake-free hiring process is a rarity
2. This however does not mean organisations do little to prevent typical hiring mistakes

It is surprising how many organisations rave and rant about showing the importance of ROI of recruiting while indulging in actions that eat into the returns. But let’s cut them some slack. Most are ignorant of how they damage their recruiting efforts. This week’s mailer reveals a few common damaging activities that ail most recruiting processes. The hope is that once aware, organisations will tread the recruiting path with more caution than before.

What really happens?
In a recent finger-pointing research, analysts confirmed how the high-handedness of hiring managers and supervisors affect most recruiting functions. The objective to improve the recruiting returns is to target the hiring managers and supervisors since final hiring decisions lie in their kitty.

Here are a few mistakes that can easily be avoided with little awareness and effort.

Mistake: Rebuking recruiters about candidate quality only to reject the qualified based on gut feelings or resume information

Complaints on how only a few candidates match are rampant. But what hiring managers and supervisors overlook is the number of qualified candidates they reject citing reasons such as, “I don’t think he’ll like the job”, “I’m sure he’ll get bored with the job profile soon” and “He is overqualified for what we have to offer”. Maybe these reasons are not flippant but how many organisations ask their hiring managers to confirm their reasons for rejecting a candidate. Once this stipulation is in place, hiring managers and supervisors will be wary of rejecting candidates for unjustified reasons.

Mistake: Failing to make it to the interview

There have been instances when critical positions have been vacant for long and when ‘right’ candidates finally show up, hiring managers have done the disappearing act on the day of the interview. Good fits are always a rarity and competition for them is always on. Therefore, not showing up for scheduled interviews is the biggest mistake some hiring managers make. Most candidates are unwilling to reschedule their interviews or make reappearances. While their unwillingness has all to do with their market worth, hiring managers are quick to say, “The fact that he cannot reschedule or come on another day shows his reluctance to work for us”. It may not be true. Start pulling up hiring managers and supervisors for not showing up on scheduled interviews.

Mistake: Turning up ill-prepared for interviews

There have been instances when recruiters have had to resend candidates details while the candidate is seated across the interview table. Recruiters have not only resent resumes but have also attended those urgent; “Hey, quick tell me something about this guy” calls. A hiring manager or supervisor’s lack of interview readiness speaks volumes of how serious he is about hiring the best. Getting hiring managers and supervisors to share their interviewing schedules a week in advance and asking them to clarify their concerns about shortlisted candidates in advance should help hiring managers and supervisors get serious about their roles.

Mistake: Turning up late for interviews

Asking candidates to wait beyond their scheduled time gives them the impression the organisation is unorganised, ill-prepared or could not careless about them. Though most candidates would wait for the interview, only the desperate would wait to accept an offer. Typically, the desperate are not always the best. Hold hiring managers and supervisors accountable for sticking to their interviewing timetable.

Mistake: Getting to the interview only to ask dimwitted questions!

Asking interviewing questions is not akin to being a quizmaster! Questions asked should help hiring managers and supervisors make the right hiring decisions. However, most hiring managers and supervisors ask irrelevant, inappropriate and wrong questions. Interviewing questions have to be to-the-point and information generating. Blaming those in-charges of interviewing is unfair when they have had no formal interviewing skills training. Here is where more organisations falter. All organizations do not make artists out of their interviewers, interviewing skills is a recognized art. Hiring managers and supervisors must be trained with the dos and don’ts of interviewing and exposed to questioning skills.

Mistake: Delaying decision making Delayed decision is refuted decision.

Although not yet recognised as an idiom, it holds true in recruiting circles. Hiring managers and supervisors who delay hiring decisions stating, “We are yet to hear from our team” or “I am waiting for the green from my boss” are doing a disservice to recruiting. Although some have the courtesy to tell candidates about the delay, undue time lags between interviewing and hiring are the banes of recruiting. Most top candidates are lost during this time. Justifying their time lags is a must for hiring managers and supervisors. Also, penalising them for keeping critical positions unfulfilled even after interviewing.

As some experts rightly say, the success of most actions lie in not what is being done but what is not, in hiring too, success lies in avoiding the preceding mistakes. Hoping this week’s mailer will enable organisations to indulge in a mistake-free hiring process - happy hiring.

Ref: TheManageMentor.

Training and Development - Conjured Learning

Training and Development - Conjured Learning

Simulations as more than learning tools

Key learnings:

Gaming simulations have carved a niche in training

But they also have the potential to move a little beyond that

Gaming will enable learning professionals to reinforce key learning ideas, deliver more attractive, engaging sessions and ensure higher retention levels is an irrefutable fact. Organisations are so satisfied with just this much that only few have exploited the true potential of gaming.

“Simulation games have more potential than what is currently being harnessed,” says an expert in gaming technology. The biggest discovery is using games to bolster business performance. In fact, once organisations understand the correlation between gaming and business performance, the final word in the learning world will be games!

Simulation games allow learning professionals to reproduce complex market, organisational and customer-service systems and conditions. As a result, learning interventions are better poised to support business performances. Read on to understand the link between simulation games as a learning tool and improved business performance.

The question, “Why simulations?” though answered a hundred times before, todayt in answering the same question, the objectives are to highlight:

1. Using simulation games is relevant in present times
2. How simulations boost business performance

The joys of simulation

Besides their high entertainment value, using simulation games can create knowledge. By modelling work-life conditions, they enable learners to understand:

1. Complex market functioning
2. Tactics that support improved business performance
3. Competencies and skills needed to achieve high performance

In short, simulation games, when well leveraged, give organisations a unique business advantage. Detailing reasons why simulation games should become a hot favourite, especially when increasing business performance is the key learning objective.

Generational preference:
With gamers representing an increasing chunk of the employees, short, intermittent online learning exposures will leave learners dissatisfied and disillusioned Simulation games offer modern learners what they expect - a wholesome online learning experience.

Equally important is for organisations to understand the importance that modern generations place on technology. To them, technologically non-savvy organisations have no future. As the head of a telecommunications company reiterates, “With the younger generation in particular, it is important to attract such employees with the kinds of technology they have come to expect, including simulation games and Web 2.0 capabilities” .

As well as to helping organisations cater to the learning needs of newer work generations, simulation games help attract and keep the young crowd! But these benefits are just the beginning.

Built-in learning:
Simulation games place learners in practical performance management situations. Here, learners play a central role in managing and controlling and gain practice in making the right moves. Learners also enjoy the luxury of making errors without suffering its outcomes. With rapidly changing trends, having learners return to classrooms or online sessions often is not possible. With this limitation, simulations provide a great learning platform and what is best is that learners are not getting short-changed in the bargain. On the contrary, they benefit more from the experience of being-in-the- moment. “Compared with traditional classroom learning, simulations help learners master content and new behaviours forty – seventy percent faster,” says an expert. Speeding learners to new learning competencies translates into quicker business results.

The differentiator
There are market simulations that allow learners to perform ‘what if’ analyses. By modelling cause and effect associations that exist in a particular market environment, these simulations allow learners to get a first-hand feel of complex market functions and human interactions. Simulations also make learners better assessors of real-life situations. Known as the ‘déjà vu factor’, a learner who has experienced something in a simulated meeting will immediately link it to what he is going through in real-time.

Simulations can also help business plans and organisational structures to enable employees to understand the complex web of their operations and functioning. Organisations have used such simulations to identify actions and interactions that act as obstacles or hamper functioning. Simulations have also helped them test the solutions. In fact, an emerging practice is using simulations for corrective and preventive measures. Customising all these simulations to the‘t’ will have the desirable impact.

As mentioned above, simulations can help gain critical skills and competencies even when individuals have had no prior experience in it. A railway company employed a cost-centre simulation solution to help their employees, who were engineers with no exposure to finance, gain financial management skills. By engaging those in complex role-playing and allowing them to plan and perform operational activities, the engineers felt as comfortable as their finance counterparts by the end of their training.
The benefits of simulation continue to charm organisations. But thinking of them as learning tools alone will prevent organisations from using them as part of performance management. Given the increasing complexities of the business world, speeding employees’ knowledge and competency gaming is a definite way to ensure better and quicker business results.
Ref: TheManageMentor.