Monday, January 31, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: Dare to be different with job postings

So admittedly, I am a total Tony Hsieh worshipper. I am enamoured with his book, "Delivering Happiness", I go to both his sites regularly ( and and try to read as many of his employee's blogs that I can find. So it's probably not really a surprise to you that I push his book where I can and quote him and his stories regularly, especially when I'm trying to prove to my clients that employee engagement really does lead to higher profits.

If you download the book on your iPod, you will hear Tony actually reading it out loud, but his staff also have been asked to read their emails or passages or thoughts about Zappos intermittenly throughout. One of the excerpts is written and read by their recruitment manager, who prior to joining Zappos was a recruiter and when she joined Zappos she wanted to do anything BUT recruit. That was, until she was given the reigns and recruit in her own way.

When I first started Elevated HR Solutions - I definitely wanted to stay away from recruiting too. I certainly wasn't passionate about it and thought that there were enough of them in Calgary that I didn't need to try and be part of that. However, it always seemed to be something my clients struggled with to do on their own. It was incredibly expensive to get a recruiter to do it for them (typically 15 to 25% of first year salary), they didn't really know how to articulate their cutlure, never mind their job postings and everything was a race for finding talent (taking a bit of time, wasn't really an option). But seeing as I push the necessity of employee engagement in organizations, I realized that it begins with hiring the right people and so...I started recruiting again.

That said - I needed to find a way to get passionate about recruitment and take some risks to fuel that passion. Writing the same old job posting had just gotten old and boring for me. Go to any of the current job sites right now - all the job postings are the same: "Come work for us because our company is great, our leadership is great...yadda yadda yadda." Yawn. I'm bored. There are a few good ones out there though:

Here's a quick and easy piece of advice that isn't really rocket science: your company's culture must be represented in your job ads. It's just that simple. If you want to change your culture, then you need to hire the right people to help you. You need to figure out the culture you want, develop a code, a mantra, a maxim (whatever you want to call it) - and hire to that.

So admittedly, not all clients want to be as out there as my last ad: but I have to say this - I pretty much got the biggest response I have ever gotten from a job posting - and people who weren't even in IT wanted to be in IT because of this ad.

Here are some quotes from emails:

"I'm interested by the tone of the ad on Workopolis and your website. Thanks for the lift to my day" -- Kary

"What a great ad on Workopolis! Creative and foosball – I want to play!" -- Sam

"I was intrigued by your jobs posting, didn't quite understand what you were looking for (i.e. the pulse thing), but again intrigued enough to want to find out more." -- David

It's true - you can't just post an ad and pray that someone applies (I stole that from a conversation I had with Geoff Webb of Radical Recruitment today) because it simply doesn't work that way. You have to build a strategy and if you want a piece of the action when it comes to recruitment sticking to the same old same old doesn't work either. You got to be a little bold and a little bit out there to attract even the talent that IS looking - and then as much as you are talking the talk, you gotta walk the walk in the interview process. A great candidate pool will lead you to not only a great employee, but greater customer service, productivity and last but certainly not least, greater profits.

If you don't believe me - just ask Tony Hsieh what he did to get himself a 1 billion dollar deal with Amazon. He'll say it's the people every time.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: Titles and Job Postings - Is there something in a name?

When it comes to developing a job posting and asking the question "Does title matter?" it's akin to asking "Does size matter?" The answer is obvious - of course it does!

Here's why:

1.) When people have finally made the decision to start looking for a job, and become an active job seeker rather than a passive job seeker, they go to job sites and start their search.  The process is simple: They log onto their search engine or the job site in general and type in the position they are seeking.  Initially, the company is not what is important -- they are simply searching for the position that matches their skill sets (fun, innovative companies come second in terms of who they apply to).

2.) People that are currently in junior to intermediate roles are looking for a specific role (typically, a step up).  They rarely will take a step down or a step laterally (unless the company they work for is absolutely awful).  Most job seekers are looking for that next step in their growth or development.  So if they are currently an associate, an advisor, a coordinator etc. they will automatically skim past those same positions posted even if it is a senior position for the company who has posted it.

3.) Anything that asks for more than 5 years of experience IS a senior role which demands higher compensation, higher education and more responsibility.  If the position is titled incorrectly, a lower calibre resume will come in for the role causing more work for the recruiting team.  Being concise with titles in the job description in comparison to market will help all recruitment efforts.

4.) Even if the title is different internally (for example, one of my clients call their executive assistants "Intuitive Support" (which is awesome)) they certainly didn't post it as such on the job sites.  They did explain however in the interview that they like to get creative with titles and that it most likely would switch should the candidate accept the position.  

At the end of the day - if you want people to find your posting and have the RIGHT people apply for your role, it has to be easy to search for (in terms of key words).  If you have a quirky organization, you can describe that with the design and the words you choose to define the position.  But the first goal is reaching the right people.

I'd love to say that I do something different than support "Human Resources" but if I told a potential client that I support "Mortal Assets" (the thesaurus at it's best), they probably would think I was on crack or about to release a take on a famous video game from the early '90's.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: Terminations are never easy but they don't need to be hard

During the last while, I have had the privilege of meeting with many small business owners to discuss how I can take the "HR out of the business".  The topic of choice always seems to land on terminations.  I've been through my fair share of corporate terminations (one of which even ended in my life being threatened, but that's another blog in itself) and have certainly learned what to do and more importantly, what NOT to do.  It is an art - as are many actions integral to the HR world.

Unfortunately, I often get asked to come into an organization AFTER something bad has happened (reaction).  At any rate, this particular client had just gone through a "terrible" termination and were literally exhausted by the whole ordeal.  They claimed they had warned the employee over and over again that if the behaviour continued they would eventually end the employment with them and after 3 months of no change, the finally let the person go.  They claimed it was due to performance and then provided the statutory amount of pay as legislated by the province (thinking they were being nice).

The client did have a couple of things going for them:

A.) They had a policy on corrective discipline
B.) They had sat down with the employee multiple times
C.) They had a signed action plan

While it never went to court, lawyers eventually settled on an additional 4 weeks of pay (for a total of $8,425 settlement plus legal fees.)

"So let me get this straight..." I said, slowly, trying to comprehend the story. "So you spent 90 days, trying to coach someone, who you knew was inevitably uncoachable, and you still had to pay them out an additional 4 weeks of what you originally offered? Where's his employment agreement? Where's his termination letter?"

Pausing, they said they didn't really have an employment agreement and as for the termination letter, they just gave him his record of employment and told him it was over. Further to that, when I audited his employee file, there was only one action plan and no evidence of follow-up.

3 learnings came out of this:

1.) Ensure you have an employment agreement that stipulates what may happen upon termination without cause (remember, this is different per province and must comply with minimum provincial statutes).  You may elect to provide more (to mirror common law) but this is not mandatory.
2.) If you go so far as to have a policy on how corrective discipline works in your organization, you may as well follow it.  Remember - if you're already going so far as to writing down an action plan, meeting weekly, having crucial and tough conversations - you better make sure it is supported in writing that the employee understands the consequences if the behavior continues.  The consequences MUST be laid out.
3.) Always ensure a termination letter is included in the termination package. And the wording should be laid out in such a way that protects the organization.  In other words, "Effective immediately, your services are no longer required and we are terminating your employment agreement as per section 7.1, dated June 1, 2010. We relieve you of your job responsibilities immediately, so you may secure alternative employment."
4.) Finally - there is no such thing as little bit of cause.  If you are paying out something anyway, you are not alleging cause and therefore, should make no mention of poor performance or WHY you are letting go of the individual.  Yes, it FEELS like the right thing to do (to explain it) but don't get caught up in the emotions of it.  Pay them what is required inform them their services are no longer needed.  If you believe you have the right to terminate someone without pay, then you are alleging cause and you have to have ample proof that you can prove in court.

There is nothing nice about terminations.  You are responsible to  to do it humanely and discreetly to avoid Wallace damages / punitive damages, but that doesn't mean getting into a conversation. It's quick and simple.

What would I have done if I were working with the client prior to the termination?

After 2 weeks of coaching and clearly no improvement, knowing what the final solution was going to be...I'd have let him go.  Thank him for his services, pay him a bit more than what legislation requires, get him to sign a release for the additional monies and be done.  I save time (there is no credit given in court for the amount of "coaching" you do), I save legal fees (even it's lawyers talking to each other) and ultimately I've mitigated my overall risk (a bad seed in a organization can do more damage than what's at the surface.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: Employee Engagement

I had the extreme pleasure of presenting to a group of business owners, CEOs and senior managers this past week on the topic of employee engagement.  I was given an hour and a half, and admittedly was initially overwhelmed of where to start.  I have often complained that the only people who are talking or caring about employee engagement are fellow HR colleagues and here I was: Presenting to the audience I've always wanted.

As much as I was there to teach and facilitate, I had the opportunity to listen and learn a lot myself.  At the end of the day I think we all were reminded that Employee Engagement isn't rocket science. Nothing I said was new or extremely innovative - just gentle reminders of how to improve it and how it can really boost an organization in terms of sales, profits, productivity and customer service.  The main points touched on were reminders that if you are having issues with motivation, complacency and employee engagement in general, it starts with the top. They have to put the time and energy in to engaging their employees.  No one else (including myself) can do it for them.

If you need help in identifying whether your employees are engaged or not - ask them.  It's a great first step!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: New Years Resolutions May Mean Higher Turnover

Just like clockwork, the end of the first week of 2011 had my phone ringing non-stop.  Employees have decided to resign and my clients (and potential clients) need help to replace and/or have asked me to complete exit interviews of their departing staff.

Unfortunately this was not a surprise to me as unemployment rates have started to drop as recovery from the recession continues and employees start to feel confident enough to look for a change. Those companies that used the phrase, "Stick with us during the hard times and we'll reward you when we get through it," need to either pony up or watch their A-Stars leave. This is the perfect time for it - as New Year's resolutions are most acted upon within the first to two weeks of the new year. 

If your company still can't necessarily afford raises or bonuses (or any of those recession promises made), a company's next greatest defence is communication.  Grab your A-Players and make sure that they know they are that (A-Players). Remember - the whole carrot and the stick trick is running out.  So try to give them something like meaningful praise or maybe an extra day or two off before things get crazy in 2011, or perhaps a gift certificate for dinner and an offer to pay for the sitter for a night - anything that would be customized to the person's life outside of work that says, "We care! We want you here!"

If you can get through January, you've got a chance to keep them hooked again for the year.  Of course, employee engagement and employee enablement initiatives should technically last more than a month - but that's another blog!

Happy New Year All!