July 27th, 2011
Let’s start with the value that titles have.
A title can create clarity for your customer by simplifying your business and declaring what you do and how you can help. “Customer Service Representative” says it all. Others help people categorize you and what you might want from them. “Oh you’re in sales.”
Titles are also important to employees. They imply that there are levels to achieve and give a tangible thing for people to strive for — titles can reflect a person’s success. Some roles, ones with VP or Manager in the title, give the impression of authority and respect. These earned titles, when earned through results, effort and hard work are no problem.
But some times titles create more confusion then they do clarification. And often times, titles do not guarantee respect. Employees that get things done, are good teammates, or peers that solve problems do. Let me share an example.
Years ago I worked in a regional leadership role for an international staffing firm. During a leadership retreat a core team member pressed the President of the business for a VP title. The argument was a traditional one. During a real time of change, he needed that VP title to “demonstrate” that he had the authority to sell and negotiate in our home markets. The funny thing is that that’s all the title really meant — it helped people take him seriously. He had not earned nor received the authority he craved. So he got a title, all pomp and circumstance with no new authority!
So I’d like to challenge you to think about what a title really means to you. Certain titles are sought after and people shoot to progress “up the ladder” but do we ever think about WHY we have them or WHY we shouldn’t? The world understands linear promotions. Just because people get it, doesn’t mean titles are always right for your business. Are titles good for your company’s growth?
I don’t think so. My premise is simple. Titles limit a business. They make you inflexible. They can and do create unintended circumstances like hierarchy. They isolate and create silos between people and departments. Titles can hurt your company culture.
I’d like to challenge the norm and what people understand or stereotype. Imagine a business where business cards do not include titles. Contemplate a world where job descriptions take on less importance. I come from an HR world and understand the inherent value in listing tasks, skills, experiences and duties. But these lists can create boundaries that limit staff. Putting people in a box can stifle creativity and often discourage risk taking for fear of overstepping boundaries.
I encourage you to think about the titles you’ve had. That the people in your company have. What do they really mean? Please post your thoughts — do you think there is anything wrong with titles?
July 20th, 2011
The definition of being Open Book can be interpreted in many ways. To CBI Group, being open book means that we have no secrets. We believe that being open book is about more than trust; it’s about sharing information with the team to enable them to make educated business decisions.
Contemporary leadership theorizes that employees should simply know and understand their job requirements and have measurements on the activities that drive productivity within their roles. They believe that sharing the bigger picture will confuse people and complicates things. Besides, how could the average employee see a correlation between their role and the big picture?
Another theory goes that if you provide access to all financial and operational information, employees can act like entrepreneurs in how they go about their work. This open book knowledge helps employees understand how the organization makes money and how long it takes to get a spent dollar back into the organization after an investment is made. So, what’s my theory?
Tell your employees everything. If your employees sense even a small discrepancy, it shows up like a Grand Canyon chasm. In a small business, trust is everything. Tell the truth. Employees will respect it and embrace it. And once they have it, they notice it when it is gone. Lack of information creates a void — and that void negatively affects trust, engagement and the business.
Have consistent training sessions and explain the “why”. Trust that employees will appreciate and figure out the connection to their job and the organization’s profitability. This will take time and it will be hard but training time should be a part of every role.
Treat everyone the same, manage everyone differently. Being flat works because everyone wants to feel equal. Employees do different work and have different skills and experiences. Understand these differences instead of trusting a title or a label — titles are for customers and their understanding. Having a class system creates animosity, loss in productivity, lack of trust, poor working relationships and silos between departments.
That is what being open book means to me. When employees care, free flowing information sharing can have a profound impact on a business. Everyone starts to spend the organization’s funds more like they are their own. Do we really need office supplies? Is the travel really necessary? Are there ways we can improve cash flow by making improvements in how we sell or invoice? These questions will come naturally with the knowledge.
This is difficult to achieve if you typically share information on an as-needed basis. It requires a huge cultural shift and some change adaption but there is tremendous value you in starting to think about being open book and how it can help your company. It also means you might have to hire the right people that care to ask questions, value information sharing and can take action based on what they learn.
July 13th, 2011
Talent Acquisition professionals are misunderstood. Generally, recruiters are rebellious. We color outside the lines and come and go when we please. Often times, this freedom is misinterpreted. Our work can be considered soft, simple, easy. But frankly, we never stop recruiting. We work at night and on weekends and there is science behind the mysterious, magical quality of our work.
We often hear things like, “I don’t know how you do it, but can you get me another one just like Mary (or John or whomever).” It is this mystery and ambiguity that makes our work seem more like art than true science. I have managed more than 1,000 recruiters in my career and I can share from experience that only a few are born to recruit. Those that are born with it have some common traits. They are naturally curious, they care about people and they have the energy of the “Energizer Bunny”. They go, go, go 24/7 and they move mountains for their customers. They make it look easy, when it is not. This work ethic, curiosity and personality can get you started but it takes great science to be a good recruiter.
The trouble with the science of recruiting is that there is not one standard formula. When it comes to hiring, our clients respect education and certifications. There are CPA’s, MBA’s, RN’s, EE’s… you name it, these certifications and degrees are a symbol of excellence in a particular field. But how do you know when a recruiter has reached a certain level? That they know, understand and excel in their field? For recruiters, it is not as cut and dry. We learn by doing and sometimes we are lucky to have a good mentor show us the way. We can take some course work or get an Internet certification, but we do not have certifications that translate. Have you heard of CPC or CTS? Probably not. I have had both, but now they mean nothing.
All we do is run Internet searches or review our databases. Right? This misunderstanding of our profession means we aren’t typically viewed with strategic importance. We are rock stars for a year. We are homeless the next. Our expertise is necessary during certain times of a business cycle like growth, acquisition, new product or business unit launches. But we have to be creative with our skills to show our value in down times of the business cycle.
Our customers see outcomes (the people we hire, the requisitions that aren’t filled) not process. They don’t care about things like sourcing or behavioral based interviews because they need what they need when they need it. But take a minute to think about the people on your team. Would you hire them if it were up to you? How would you find the right people to build the best team? With enough thought I think you’d agree that people are really the science behind the strategy — and good recruiters are the science behind it all.
July 6th, 2011
Chris, the Outside-In Guy: Kelly Hocutt is back with more thoughts on entrepreneurship. Three months ago she wrote her first guest post, “What does it mean to be entrepreneurial?” and she is checking back in.
One thing I can tell you is that living an entrepreneurial life goes by at the speed of light. It’s a fast-paced environment where your days, weeks and months pass by in the blink of an eye. Another thing I’ve learned about is the power of an entrepreneur’s handshake.
In a time when new entrepreneurs are often found sitting on a couch in their living room or local coffee shop, I’m left pondering what tools I need to be a successful entrepreneur. I have learned a lot from team members at CBI Group who value relationships first and also from the recruiting industry that relies heavily on networking.
It’s easy to squirrel away and use the Internet and social networking to build a successful business these days, but what new entrepreneurs may be missing is the value of old school relationships. I’m talking face-to-face meetings. Getting out of your PJs and meeting people who introduce you to people who introduce you to people. Instead of more followers, fans, sponsored emails to subscriber lists and all counts of virtual relationships, I want to keep track of the real life handshakes I have in my career.
I’ve learned that real life handshakes signify commitments made and follow-up steps that you actually follow up on. And it takes handshakes to be a successful entrepreneur. So while I’m tempted by the articles about 20 something entrepreneurs that started companies equipped only with Wi-Fi and a laptop, I see way more value in meeting people, hearing their story and building partnerships on my path to success.
What’s your career handshake count?
July 1st, 2011
Have We Turned the Corner on the Job Market in Delaware?
As a Customer Relationship Manager at CBI Group, Rich Kolodgie talks to business leaders, HR and Talent Acquisition professionals every day. Working from our headquarters in Newark, Delaware, Rich sensed that things in the local job market were improving post-recession and turned to his relationships to see what they thought. Rich surveyed leaders representing a wide cross-section of industries to gather their perspective on how the job market in the first state is fairing.
Rich’s findings were published in the July/August issue of Delaware Business Magazine.
Download his article, “Have We Turned the Corner on the Job Market in Delaware?” here.