Knowing me, knowing you…! Lessons learned through ABBA!

September 10th, 2010

I had a really great client visit today and I feel compelled to tell everyone why this visit was so great! The client understood us! He understood our needs – we have them too you know!

I know what you’re thinking, it isn’t up to the client to ‘understand’ us, and you’re partly right, the majority (like 95%!) of the ‘understanding’ is obviously on us, but when we work together, we learn to understand each other.

Yah right, blah blah you say! I know, you think our industry has become just another service you turn to when you need a body, when you don’t have the tools necessary to find that right person, or possibly don’t have the time. I’m sure you even think that we are all the same. Sure we offer the same services to varying degrees, but are you and your competitor ‘the same’?

What works best for us, and ultimately for you is to treat us as an extension of your hiring needs and goals…dare I say it… a PARTNER. A hiring partner that really knows your internal culture that really digs deep and understands your frustrations, that inherently knows beyond just skill sets, what personality type and experience really works best with your already developed staff.

The client I visited today, he really understands that PARTNERSHIP mentality, and has realized that by each of us getting to know each other, we both understand how we can work well together. He understands, that finding the right people is different than just taking something off the shelf and putting it in a box, and works with us to provide useful feedback, which ultimately helps us to find him the person that suits his company’s requirements best.

So, talk to us. Get to know us. Allow us to come and visit you and really get to know your business and I really encourage you to do the same with us! Only by working to understand each others businesses and requirements can we move beyond just service and provider and work towards a real business partnership. In the end, we’ll both ‘understand’ each other better!

As Abba sang … “Knowing me, knowing you..ahaa, there ain’t nothin’ we can’t do!”

Letting Go While Resting Up

August 3rd, 2010

You are on a long awaited and much needed vacation, and your blackberry beeps; another email from a client with a question or better yet a new order. Do you respond to the message even though your out of office alert is on directing them to someone else in your absence or do you step away from your family gathered at the beach to make a call?

Studies show that more and more employees are bringing work home with them and handling business issues while on vacation. This is having tremendous effect on the family dynamic and putting unnecessary strain on relationships. These types of interruptions are taking away from the much needed rest and relaxation people yearn for. The constant disruptions prevent you from ever developing that feeling of being refreshed and rejuvenated upon your return to work. Instead your workload has doubled and the stress of having to play catch up keeps you on edge even immediately after taking time off. Vacation? What is that?

To truly enjoy your vacation there are a few things you can do in preparation for your time off.

Cross train someone to step into your place whether it is a temporary employee accessed via a recruitment firm or a co worker from another department. Take the time to ensure they are up to speed and you are confident they can handle what is thrown at them in your place.

Advise your clients that you deal with on a regular basis that you will be away and whom they can contact in your absence. This will bring your customers peace of mind knowing that they will be taken care of even if you are not there.

Be sure to turn on your out of office alert in your email, and change your voicemail to reflect your absence. The last thing you want it for a customer to say he/she has been trying to get a hold of you but you are not returning his/her calls. That just might make them pick up the phone and call your competition.

Finally sit back, relax and enjoy….

Follow me @sandragallacher

What Ever Happened to Honesty is the Best Policy

June 17th, 2010

It is no secret that candidates stretch the truth on their resumes more often than we’d like to think. Instead of admitting to possessing basic computer skills they include a long list of software which they profess to be proficient with. A candidate may highlight 5 years experience in full cycle accounting when in reality their role only required data entry. As an employer how can you verify the truth behind what is on that piece of paper or what you are told in an interview to ensure you are hiring an honest and qualified employee?

Assessments

Depending on the role the candidate is being considered for, you can assess their skills by having them complete a test. For example, if a candidate is required to use MS Excel extensively in a role, have them complete an MS Excel test to ensure he/she meets the expectations required for the opportunity. This will confirm that he/she is at an advanced level as stated in his/her resume.

Checks
You can complete reference, credit, educational verification or criminal background checks to verify the accuracy of their resume. These checks can also give an employer more details surrounding the character of the candidate.

Multiple Interviews by Several Individuals
Sometimes an organization can benefit by having the candidate meet with multiple staff members such as the Hiring Manager as well as Human Resources. This way each interviewer will be able to provide feedback and address different areas of the candidates experience. This offers a dynamic perspective on the candidate being considered from multiple points of views.

Resume Gaps
With a tough economy, we are seeing more and more candidates staying in positions for shorter periods of time. If a candidate can not explain or comes across negative when explaining why he/she left a job, be aware.

Get Technical and Ask for Examples
Be thorough and detailed in the questions you ask. Request real life examples stemming from past experiences to ensure that what is listed on their resume is in essence what they have accomplished.

Body Language
Body language can often offer more insight then a resume can. If a candidate appears uneasy or defensive then the candidate may be hiding something. Ask questions until you feel satisfied with what is being said is in fact the truth.

Verify Using LinkedIn
Take a look on LinkedIn. Does your candidate have a profile? Is his/her resume posted on this popular social media site in line with the one presented for this opportunity? Are there discrepancies? Be aware for those who falsify information such as their titles for the sake of a specific job requirement.

Finally follow your instincts. If things don’t seem to match up, continue to probe as ultimately your gut may just be trying to tell you something that could be the deciding factor when making the decision to hire or not to hire.

Follow @sandragallacher

You Snooze You Lose …And Your Competition Just May Benefit

May 3rd, 2010

With fewer job postings and fierce competition due to a high unemployment rate, many job seekers are willing to take the first job that they are offered. Companies are well aware of these conditions and therefore are offering lower salaries and taking more time to make decisions resulting in dire consequences. However, as the economy improves, prospective employees will no longer be sitting around waiting for a response. Solid candidates will look for the best opportunity for them even entertaining several job offers at once or discounting those “potential” job offers from employers who are giving them the run around. They will not be held hostage by employers any longer. How will this change your hiring process?

Employers have been overwhelmed by the responses from their advertisements as a result of the economic conditions. Human Resources must sift through piles of resumes in an effort to find the cream of the crop; quite often prolonging the screening process to ensure they do not miss that all-star. Qualified candidates needing to work simply can not wait for the Hiring Manager to make a decision and just may decide to pursue another job offer they have been given in the meantime. At the end of the day the organization loses out on a stellar employee because they are unable to make a decision in a quick and effective manner.

Morale of the story … in this tough economy, do not take for granted the quality of your job applicants. The most talented candidates are still in demand and if you take your time to extend an offer, you will lose them; possibly to your competition. When you’re good, you’re good. It is these stellar prospective employees who will contribute to your organization’s success as the economy turns around. So make sure they are on your team instead of your competitor’s.

Follow @sandragallacher

Think your competition doesn’t know? Think again!

April 19th, 2010

A few weeks ago I attended a networking event geared towards developing better business strategies.  It was somewhat of an eye opener – not really the content of the event, what was more interesting was the comments from one of the attendants of the event.  He was shocked that most of us were comfortable, or maybe resigned to the fact that our corporate information is so easily shared or accessible.  He seemed to believe, still, that anything you develop as business should remain confidential.  My first thought was ‘wow, how niave!’.

As a business manager I understand the necessity of competition.  Competition is what makes the economy grow, gives customers choices to suit their needs, and lights that fire under you when you need to step up your business proposition.  Of course I know what my competitors are offering – I research them, just as I’m sure they are researching my offerings.  It surprised me that this gentleman seemed to be so set on hiding or trying to control, or maybe just feeling in control of what the competition knows or doesn’t know.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your competition always knows!

The internet has played a large role in this change. We have evolved over the last 10, but particularly 5 years to be a nation consumed with finding more information.  This has included our desire to be on top of the news, on top of trends, knowing what the latest sports score is, and of course what businesses are doing well, so that you can do as well as they are doing!  We’ve got so many outlets to share information so freely – Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, general websites, and even just plan old email!  On top of that, your customers are more aware than ever before.  Years ago, the business options may not have been there in your area, or you knew someone from a friend of a friend of a friend that you thought you’d give a shot, or you tried the other competitor simply because it was time to try out the newest person in town.  It was all a lot simpler, and yet harder for the client to really find out the core values and propositions companies were able to offer.

With information about anything, everywhere, selling your business offerings has become less about the information you provide (or try to hide!), and more about the connections you have or make with that prospective client.  This can include face to face, retaining clients with smart customer service or loyalty programs, or even impressing them with your savvy on your website, and your many connections on Linkedin.  The way in which we source information, use information, and connect with people has changed.  Have you changed with it?

Follow me at @andrea_duggan

A Successful On Boarding Program to Prevent New Hires from Jumping Ship

March 17th, 2010

As the economy continues on an up swing, organizations will be busy trying to find the perfect employee to fill the gaps needed to fuel their growing business needs. Finding a qualified employee is one thing but keeping them is a whole new ball game.

An effective on boarding program is necessary for ensuring that your new hire is here to stay. Not only does it get them off to a solid start, it demonstrates what they can expect from the organization in years to come and what is expected of them. It provides the foundation from which a new employee can flourish.

Key components of an effective on boarding program include:

Introductions
Often employees are nervous on their first day, so why not provide that opportunity to get to know others by walking the new hire around the department and introducing him/her to his/her new colleagues. By breaking the ice and taking that first step relationships are more easily form.

Be Prepared
As a Manager, coordinate an orientation and training before hand whether with HR or hosted by you. The last thing you want to demonstrate is a company that is not organized. Have the IT Department set up email, and computer privileges and a desk well in advance so the new hire feels that they have a place from Day 1.

Open Door Policy
Encourage your new hire to ask questions by emphasizing your organization’s open door policy. By providing new hires with a venue to ask without feeling like they are a burden; they are likely to feel at home quicker and take pride in their new role early on.

Time for Lunch
Your new employee, tray in hand, walks into the busy cafeteria looking for somewhere to sit. Sounds like dreaded first day of high school. Instead make it mandatory that the Manager (or team member) is responsible for taking new hires out for lunch on their first day. Welcoming your new team member in a relaxed environment outside of the office may allow him/her to feel more at ease in their new position.

With the unemployment rates on the decline and as more companies begin to hire, top notch qualified candidates will become few and far between. To ensure that your organization is able to hold on to its star new hires it’s imperative that you have an effective on boarding program in place from the start. New hires need to feel that they belong or else they will not stick around. Making them aware that they are a critical member of the team by demonstrating how they fit into the puzzle will give them purpose and a sense of direction. With these critical steps in place, the foundation will be set for your new hire to develop their career. Who knows…he/she just may turn out to be a future CEO.

Follow Sandra @sandragallacher

Boomers and Echo Boomers, divided we fall!

March 2nd, 2010

The last three months have been a real eye opener when it comes to business networking.  By business networking, I mean the time tested process of connecting with other business people to share ideas, build credibility, promote your products or services and give/receive referrals.

When we re-launched Armor Personnel as Armor People Link, our focus was on leveraging the latest in web communication tools like blogs, Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook.  With my background in technology and the internet, this approach was a no brainer; and without being immodest I can say we’ve had a fair degree of success.  One of our blog posts was picked up nationally by the Canadian Human Resource Reporter, we launched a very effective Twitter initiative with HRPA in Toronto which resulted in 500 to 600 tweets a day around the hash tag #HRPA2010, and we were named Small Business of the Month by the Brampton Board of Trade.  Each of these accomplishments were either directly or indirectly the result of our online business networking efforts.  Most importantly each of these efforts has translated into new business from either existing or new clients.

My eye opener came when I began to engage more traditional business networking channels.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still a strong believer in face-to-face contact and the power of listening and connecting with another human being.  I’m also not disparaging these institutions; clearly they add great value to our business community and have played an important role in the success of many businesses.  None-the-less there was something almost quaint about these experiences that made them feel outdated and some what anemic, shadows of their once heady days of glory.

Perhaps a bit of a of a dramatic over statement from someone who’s use to working at net speed, but I couldn’t help feeling like I was watching a classic movie with too much dialog and not enough action.  The image of a wicker basket being passed around as participants dropped in little papers with referrals or notes of thanks seemed to be an eternity.  In the time it took for that basket to go around the room I could have followed, reviewed and connected with ten or more people on Twitter or Linkedin.  Each of which might bring 200 or more direct connections and potentially 100,000 plus connections through two degrees of separation.  Now I’m not saying that those connections are as strong as a direct referral from a close member of a small group, but they are immediate and additive thus extending my reach far beyond the smaller more intimate group.  I can also make these connections twenty four hours a day, seven days a week; creating an always on resource that can, if managed properly, produce new opportunities.

So who needs these quaint institutions that move so slowly.  We do, I do.  How can I say that after my obvious biased rant above?  Because, I see a greater opportunity if we can over come one great hurdle.  What hurdle?  Well that’s a little more complicated.  In short, we face a serious digital divide which is holding back growth, stagnating young entrepreneurs and in general making us less competitive.  We really do have two economies in our country right now.  The older economy and I don’t mean older industries, such as mining, forestry and manufacturing, I mean Baby Boomers; and the younger economy, Echo Boomers or those aged 18 to 34 who grew up or mostly grew up with computers and the internet.  This divide is most strikingly demonstrated at these venerable institutions, it is rare if ever that you’ll see anyone under 34 at these events.

This is the problem we face.  For the Echo Boomers the world is a chaotic network of ever changing connections, messages and opportunities.  Fueled by social networks and executed at the speed of light.  They have little patience for process and procedure.  Boomers are the industry leaders, structured, in control and process oriented.  They worked there way up in well defined hierarchies paid their dues and earned their success.  They view the casual linking, self promotion and openly voyeuristic nature of the Echo Boomers as indulgent, self-serving and arrogant.  Tweeting out the key points of your presentation to a league of followers is rude to the Boomer but coveted by their children.  In short, we have two massive generations facing one another, one emerging the other holding on to power, neither speaking the same language in a very fundamental way.  Both generations need to learn how to communicate and much to the disappointment of many Boomers it’s not the Echo Boomers that are going to have to change.

So why are these quaint institutions important to me and to you?  Because they need to do what they’ve always done, that is bring people together to pass on wisdom, embrace change and in doing so invigorate our economy.  The digital divide is not going to heal itself, and Echo Boomers are not going to “grow up and fly straight”.  They are grown up and heading straight up the corporate ladder.  Nothing is going to stop them.  So Boomers you have two choices, one you can ignore this emerging generation and hang on until the balance of power snaps from your grasp or you can embrace change and move to narrow the divide before us.  To do that you need to shake up these venerable quaint institutions bring in youthful blood and seed some control.  You may in the end be surprised at how productive this new generation can be and likewise they may be surprised by the wisdom and knowledge that a few years under your belt can impart.

Follow me @geoffclen

The last three months have been a real eye opener when it comes to business networking. By business networking, I mean the time tested process of connecting with other business people to share ideas, build credibility, promote your products or services and give/receive referrals.

When we re-launched Armor Personnel as Armor People Link, our focus was on leveraging the latest in web communication tools like blogs, Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook. With my background in technology and the internet, this approach was a no brainer; and without being immodest I can say we’ve had a fair degree of success. One of our blog posts was picked up nationally by the Canadian Human Resource Reporter, we launched a very effective Twitter initiative with HRPA in Toronto which resulted in 500 to 600 tweets a day around the hash tag #HRPA2010, and we were named Small Business of the Month by the Brampton Board of Trade. Each of these accomplishments were either directly or indirectly the result of our online business networking efforts. Most importantly each of these efforts has translated into new business from either existing or new clients.

My eye opener came when I began to engage more traditional business networking channels. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still a strong believer in face-to-face contact and the power of listening and connecting with another human being. I’m also not disparaging these institutions; clearly they add great value to our business community and have played an important role in the success of many businesses. None-the-less there was something almost quaint about these experiences that made them feel outdated and some what anemic, shadows of their once heady days of glory.

Perhaps a bit of a of a dramatic over statement from someone who’s use to working at net speed, but I couldn’t help feeling like I was watching a classic movie with too much dialog and not enough action. The image of a wicker basket being passed around as participants dropped in little papers with referrals or notes of thanks seemed to be an eternity. In the time it took for that basket to go around the room I could have followed, reviewed and connected with ten or more people on Twitter or Linkedin. Each of which might bring 200 or more direct connections and potentially 100,000 plus connections through two degrees of separation. Now I’m not saying that those connections are as strong as a direct referral from a close member of a small group, but they are immediate and additive thus extending my reach far beyond the smaller more intimate group. I can also make these connections twenty four hours a day, seven days a week; creating an always on resource that can, if managed properly, produce new opportunities.

So who needs these quaint institutions that move so slowly. We do, I do. How can I say that after my obvious biased rant above? Because, I see a greater opportunity if we can over come one great hurdle. What hurdle? Well that’s a little more complicated. In short, we face a serious digital divide which is holding back growth, stagnating young entrepreneurs and in general making us less competitive. We really do have two economies in our country right now. The older economy and I don’t mean older industries, such as mining, forestry and manufacturing, I mean Baby Boomers; and the younger economy, Echo Boomers or those aged 18 to 34 who grew up or mostly grew up with computers and the internet. This divide is most strikingly demonstrated at these venerable institutions, it is rare if every that you’ll see anyone under 34 at these events.

This is the problem we face. For the Echo Boomers the world is a chaotic network of ever changing connections, messages and opportunities. Fueled by social networks and executed at the speed of light. They have little patience for process and procedure. Boomers are the industry leaders, structured, in control and process oriented. They worked there way up in well defined hierarchies paid their dues and earned their success. They view the casual linking, self promotion and openly voyeuristic nature of the Echo Boomers as indulgent, self-serving and arrogant. Tweeting out the key points of your presentation to a league of followers is rude to the Boomer but coveted by their children. In short, we have two massive generations facing one another, one emerging the other holding on to power, neither speaking the same language in a very fundamental way. Both generations need to learn how to communicate and much to the disappointment of many Boomers it’s not the Echo Boomers that are going to have to change.

So why are these quaint institutions important to me and to you? Because they need to do what they’ve always done, that is bring people together to pass on wisdom, embrace change and in doing so invigorate our economy. The digital divide is not going to heal itself, and Echo Boomers are not going to “grow up and fly straight”. They are grown up and heading straight up the corporate ladder. Nothing is going to stop them. So Boomers you have two choices, one you can ignore this emerging generation and hang on until the balance of power snaps from your grasp or you can embrace change and move to narrow the divide before us. To do that you need to shake up these venerable quaint institutions bring in youthful blood and seed some control. You may in the end be surprised at how productive this new generation can be and likewise they may be surprised by the wisdom and knowledge that a few years under your belt can impart.

Olympic Pride Brightens Up the Workplace

February 25th, 2010

With the end of the Olympics quickly approaching it has become apparent that the games have instilled a new found sense of pride in fellow Canadians in what has been a dismissal few years. Those who would not typically watch sports events now find themselves glued to the tube tuning into hours of curling or skating coverage or surfing the net to find out how Canada is positioned in the global medal race. Now if only organizations can achieve that level of engagement from their employees. Imagine the productivity!

With a potential increase in absenteeism and decrease in productivity due to patriotic employees wanting to watch the Olympic events, companies have found creative ways to keep the focus on the task at hand while offering support to those going for GOLD. Employers are allowing their staff to take breaks to Google the latest event results. Others are paying homage to the Olympic race by going as far as televising the games in a communal area within the organization such as a lunch or conference room. Employers see this as an opportunity to encourage interaction amongst its employees and further solidify a bond all while boosting morale. Employees see their employers in a different light when they share the same interests and promote national pride by supporting athletes.

However with flexibility in the workforce comes the opportunity for exploitation. The Olympics shouldn’t be a reason to put your job on hold. Companies need to make it clear to their staff that their jobs still need to get done and they must meet their business goals. In such a situation, Employers are forced to rely heavily on the trust aspect of the Employer-Employee relationship. Keep in mind, by providing opportunities in the workplace to stay connected to the events at the Olympics during business hours, it will make it less likely that individuals will call in sick or sneak onto the internet behind an Employer’s back in an effort to be in the loop.

By acknowledging the importance of the Olympics and promoting all the positive energy that comes from it, employers will be able to avoid a dramatic decrease in productivity. Instead many are finding creative ways to incorporate this monumental event into their employee engagement strategy whether via office contests, dress down days or televising coverage. With the Olympic frenzy in full effect and companies’ overwhelming support, organizations may perhaps find a motivated employee whose own goal is to reach the podium in the workplace.

Follow @sandragallacher

The Volunteer Experience …. #HRPA2010 Conference and Trade Show

February 24th, 2010

Learning I was selected out of over 600 applicants as a Volunteer for the #2010 HRPA Conference and Trade Show was surreal. Putting on the maroon HRPA Volunteer shirt made it official. As a volunteer, my mandate was to serve the association, its members, as well as the exhibitors and the delegates by answering questions, addressing concerns and greeting visitors with a smile. Sounds like my days at good old Burger King.

I was assigned to volunteer in the Conference Office where fellow Volunteers alike would be required to sign in daily prior to their shift. With limited training, we were thrown in to answer questions, hand out information and sign in Volunteers. It felt like the first day of a new school; a slew of new faces, all unsure of what to expect of them in their assigned role. Some had volunteered in this area last year and knew what to expect. They had already developed cliques. Others new to this area (such as I) took a seat next to a friendly face in an effort to strike up a conversation. For many it was their first time volunteering, and they were armed with many questions most of which even I, a seasoned HRPA Conference Volunteer, could not answer.

To pass time during lulls, the Volunteers would talk about their experiences in the world of HR. Labour relation issues, recruitment trends and even horror stories as a result of the economic downturn. I learned about the hiring process in the public sector (sometimes it is who you know), dealing with employee leaves in a strategic manner (mat leaves can be a God send in a slow economy), and how to put up with a difficult coworker (or in this case Boss) without compromising your integrity. Even though we only just met, we took solace in the fact we understood where each other were coming from. We were not alone. As a result, our shifts flew by and before we knew it we were done for the day.

After I put in my volunteer hours, it was my time to expand my horizons and soak in as much information as humanly possible. Attempting to sit in on as many sessions as possible (space permitting as host rules apply), and making time to stroll through the Trade Show with minimal disruptions (after all I was still sporting my volunteer gear) all while Twittering, proved to be a challenge. There were just not enough hours in a day. This was when my exceptional multitasking skills came into play. I was able volunteer, play the delegate and listen to interesting speakers, all while tweeting away with the infamous #hrpa2010 hashtag (look for me next year at www.armorpeoplelink.com/talentfindr ). I even found time to reconnect with former colleagues. I have to say my experience was an overall success!

Volunteering at the #HRPA 2010 Trade Show and Conference blessed me with the opportunity to interact with fellow HR professionals. Some with 25 years experience, others fresh out of school, some from private organizations, others from the public sector; all having something positive and meaningful to offer. Not only was I able to learn from respected experts, intelligent speakers, and seasoned HR professionals, I walked away with new friends, a sense of accomplishment, and a feeling of camaraderie. Now the question is when do I sign up for next year?

Follow Sandra @sandragallacher

Thanks to Twitter one of our own got published in the February issue of Candian HR Reporter!

February 11th, 2010

Our very own Andrea Duggan became a published author this week with the appearance of her blog post entitled “What employers can learn from the Jay Leno – Conan O’Brien succession plan!” Why did she become a published author? Well a lot of the credit goes to Twitter and our social networking initiatives around the 2010 HRPA Annual Conference in Toronto, Canada. Someone once called Twitter a serendipity engine because of the interesting people, connections and opportunities that come about through it when applied correctly. Such was the case in these circumstances. Through our #hrpa2010 Twitter campaign we began to connect and build a community of Twitters in and around the HRPA conference. Within two weeks we had hundreds of people sharing the #hrpa2010 hash tag and a real-time stream of 500 to 600 tweets a day. Through this stream a connection was made with Todd Humber (@HRReporter), Managing Editor at CHHR, who happened to connect with one of Andrea’s colleagues at Armor People Link. That colleague re-tweeted Andrea’s blog post on Conan & Jay which Todd picked up in his Tweet stream. Todd then followed Andrea and replied to her tweet. They exchanged emails, had a brief conversation on the phone and a blog star was born (a star in our eyes anyways). Why is this so interesting, well it’s interesting for two reasons: one, this never could have happened without Twitter (the serendipity engine works!) and two, this entire transaction took place in less than 90 minutes.

To view the article click here

To view the original blog click here

Follow Geoff on Twitter @geoffclen
Follow Andrea on Twitter @andrea_duggan