Category Archives: hiring

Great hires

One of the best ways to build organizational talent is to hire the right people. As Steve Jobs used to say to leaders, “Hiring the best is your most important task.” Great hires add energy and new ideas to your team and have the potential to increase your team’s productivity and effectiveness. Conversely, a poor hire can cost you time, money and endless frustration. So what are some of the best tips for hiring the right employee? Here are a few ideas adapted from HR expert Susan Heathfield:

  1. Define the Job Carefully – Before pulling out an existing position description, enlist the aid of your human resources professional to conduct a thorough job analysis. Collect information about the job responsibilities and desired outcomes, along with the required skills, knowledge, and abilities needed for the  job. An accurate position description can help you plan your recruiting strategy for hiring the right employee.
  2. Plan your Recruiting Strategy – Meet with those involved in the hiring process, including your HR professional, the hiring manager, team members, search committee members, and others who might assist with creating a recruiting plan.
  3. Use a Recruiting Checklist – Does your HR office have a recruiting checklist? If so, go ahead and use it keep your recruiting efforts on track. If not, create your own to systematize the process and keep everyone involved informed.
  4. Actively Source Candidates – Forget the old “post and pray” method of recruiting. Reach out to professional associations and diverse communities in your advertising efforts. Better yet, work to develop relationships with potential candidates long before you need them. This will ensure that you have a large pool of qualified candidates when you have an open position.
  5. Review Credentials and Applications Carefully – Screen applicants against the qualifications, skills, experience and competencies listed in your well-developed position description. When you do, you’ll spend your time interviewing the most qualified candidates.
  6. Ask the Right Job Interview Questions – Create behavioral questions that are tied to the competencies needed for the job. Agree upon the desired answers in advance of the interview so that all search committee members are rating the candidates effectively.
  7. Check Backgrounds and References – Before hiring an employee, check their background to verify their work experience and credentials. Contact references to gain insight into how the candidate has performed in past positions. Online reference checking solutions (rather than phone reference checking) can help you sort through your top candidates with candid and reliable information.

Hiring the right person for your team takes time, but is well worth the effort.  What have you done to hire the right person for your team?

Anita Rios

 

 

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Want high performance? Build a learning culture!

According to David Mallon of Bersin & Associates, if you want a high performance organization, it’s imperative that you build a learning culture. In his research of successful, high performing organizations, he’s found that “a culture of learning and a culture of high performance are significantly linked.”  Intuitively, it makes sense that the smarter your organization is the better it can perform.

So, what is a learning culture, you might ask?  Bersin & Associates define it as a  “collective set of organizational values, conventions, processes and practices that continuously impels organizations and individuals to build knowledge, competence and performance.” And while a learning culture supports training and leadership development, it isn’t limited to formal development programs.

In Bersin’s comprehensive report, Mallon identifies 40 best practices and seven strategies that organizations can use to create a learning culture. Here is a sample:

  1. Assign staff to do jobs that surpass their skills and knowledge – Ask people to stretch. Use difficult assignments to encourage employees to push themselves to develop new skills and improve their old ones.
  2. Let people participate in selecting their assignments – Employees work hardest when their jobs and tasks interest them. Google takes advantage of this by permitting its engineers to devote a fifth of their time to personal projects.
  3. Recognize workers who learn new information and abilities – Provide rewards that show you care about each person’s learning.
  4. Value mistakes and failures – Employees learn best from their mistakes. Capitalize on errors as learning opportunities. And give people time to reflect on them.
  5. Emphasize learning as an important activity – Demonstrate its value in tangible ways; for example, make managers responsible for their staff’s professional development, not just their output. Actions always speak louder than words.
  6. Take a personal interest in the organizational capabilities of teams and individuals – Mentor the people you supervise.

During the next month, we’ll be exploring these ideas and more as we dive deeply into our next leadership competency of Building Organizational Talent. What strategies have you used to build a learning culture?

Anita Rios

Hiring talent

One of the most important things a leader can do is to hire talent. New hires, if chosen well, can infuse the organization with original ideas, fresh perspectives, and cutting-edge skills. They can help you refresh old ways of doing things and create new approaches to accomplishing work.  In many ways, they can represent new beginnings.

But how can you make sure you are hiring not only the most qualified candidate for the job, but the very best person to complement your team? This question has been top of mind for me in the last couple weeks as I’ve been interviewing candidates for a vital role on our Talent Management team.

Of course,  it’s important to create an accurate job description and a position posting that attracts talented applicants. It’s also essential to conduct interview processes that reveal applicants’ skill sets and strengths. In addition doing those things, I’ve been mulling over some of the best hiring advice I’ve encountered in my career.

When I was hiring my first supervisory training director at Minnesota State 12 years ago,  the Vice Chancellor for Human Resources at the time gave me a sage piece of advice. He smiled and simply said: “Anita, hire someone smarter than you are.”  After hearing that, I had two thoughts.  The first thought was ….of course, I want to hire the very best person for the job.  And the second was ….hmmm, that can take a lot of confidence AND humility to hire people who are smarter than you.

The late Steve Jobs believed that hiring was the most important thing he ever did. He managed all the hiring for his team and never delegated it, personally interviewing over 5,000 applicants in his career. I’ve admired this particular piece of advice he’s shared on hiring and leadership: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” 

Another of my favorite hiring insights comes from Warren Buffett, who said, “In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy.  And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.” When you think about it, it really is true. Integrity is paramount when building your team.

Do you have a piece of favorite hiring advice? What has helped you to hire the very best talent?

Anita Rios

 

 

Welcome aboard!

Welcome to Uncertainty

Congratulations! You just hired a new leader. Helping them succeed is a crucial, and often overlooked, transition. The new leader is ready to show their stuff, you are excited about the grand ideas you shared during the search process, your colleagues are expecting results, and their new team is full of experienced workers. What could go wrong?

Actually quite a bit. As leadership transition expert Michael Watkins says in his book, Your Next Move “Transitions into significant new roles are the most challenging times in the professional lives of managers.”

The book does a great job describing the different types of transitions the new leader will experience. Regardless of their specific transition you can take the following five actions to give them the best chance of succeeding in their new role.

  1. Deliver transition support just-in-time – Strategically identify what information and resources are needed immediately and what can wait. No one can digest everything on the first day! Your new leader needs time to assimilate information.
  2. Leverage the time before they start – Provide access to meetings, people, information, budgets, and yourself before their first official day. Check in and answer questions they have before they are swamped with first-day paperwork and work demands.
  3. Create action-forcing events to guide the transition – Don’t rely on random circumstances during the first few weeks. Instead use your influence and experience to create a learning environment for your new leader. Set up meetings, invite him or her to your meetings, delegate certain tasks to them, add them to different groups, and actively debrief with them to strengthen their understanding and competence.
  4. Provide focused resources that support their transition – A new leader needs a different type of support than an experienced leader. Resources, information and contacts must address culture, basic information, unstated rules, “land mines” to avoid, and other topics above and beyond project or work issues.
  5. Clarify roles – Take the time to clearly identify who is responsible for what. Start with your role, their role, and the roles of other leaders on your team. Then move on to the roles and responsibilities of leaders in other departments and divisions.

You can’t guarantee the success of a new leader but you can give them the best possibility to succeed with your actions.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

Hiring for great customer service

interview 1While most of us in higher education are not hiring customer service representatives, all of us have an element of customer service required in our roles. Whether we are providing direct services to students in admissions, advising, financial aid or in the classroom, or providing services and resources to our colleagues or bosses, it can help to hire people with the right customer service skills, knowledge and abilities.

While browsing for good resources, I happened upon a set of great customer service interview questions from happyfox.com. I’ve skinnied down the list and adapted them a bit for higher education below. What I like most about them is that they help you zero in on the qualities you are seeking, such as honesty, engagement, attitude, engagement, etc.

Honesty and Communication:

1. Have you ever had to communicate a bad news to a student (or colleague, community member) who was affected by your service? How did you do it?

2. Give me an example of a time when you have successfully handled an irate student, parent, faculty or staff member?

Engagement:

1. Do a role play as a customer support agent who is trying to manage a customer when facing a performance hiccup during a solution demo.

2. How do you sense the mood of your customer (student, parent, colleague, etc.) while communicating with her?

Attitude:

1. What is that one skill you possess that will influence the success of our college/university?

2. Why do you want to be a member of our team?

Passion:

1. What do you enjoy about working as a __________? in a college/university?

2. How do you think you can help our  team become more efficient? Where would you start?

Knowledge:

1. What do you do to keep yourself updated with industry best practices?

2. What do you think is key for contributing to both your personal growth as well as the institution’s growth?

Empathy:

1. What is that one quality in you that helps you understand a customer’s problem better?

Creativity:

1. How much fun do you have in your job and what can you do to make your co-worker’s job fun as well?

2. What was the best mistake you did on your current job and explain why that’s the best?

What interview questions have you used to hire for great customer service?

Anita Rios

Minnesota (not so) nice

mnniceIf you’re a native of Minnesota, you’ve probably heard of the phrase “Minnesota Nice.” And maybe you’ve heard that it’s a good thing. According to Wikipedia, Minnesota Nice is “…the stereotypical behavior of people born and raised in Minnesota, to be courteous, reserved, and mild-mannered.”

Interestingly enough those same “nice” behaviors often make it difficult for those not born and raised in Minnesota, or those not part of the dominant white culture, to fit in and feel welcome. Recently I’ve become acquainted with Corey Bonnema and Jerilyn Veldof, authors of an e-book: Minnesota Nice? A Transplant’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Minnesota. After much research into the Minnesota Nice culture, they’ve identified common behaviors shared by many Minnesota natives that often confounds people who move here from other areas of the country. They include:

  1. Polite friendliness.   Polite friendliness is just that; it doesn’t mean interest in being friends or imply any future obligation.
  2. An aversion to conflict and confrontation.  This goes both ways – Minnesota Nice makes it hard to confront and to be confronted. This can include a strong aversion or unwillingness to give or ask for feedback that might cause friction as well as a pattern of jumping to surface agreement rather than dealing with conflicting and divergent ideas.
  3. A tendency toward understatement.  This can show up in the workforce as a difficulty to tell others when they have done something well.
  4. A disinclination to make a fuss or stand out.  Minnesota Nice causes people to squirm under the spotlight.  They still may want to be acknowledged, but in a low key sort of way
  5. Emotional restraint.  You’ll hear a lot of “not too bad” when you ask how a Minnesotan is doing.
  6. Self-deprecation. When asked to explain their own contributions or critique their own performance Minnesotans are more likely to undervalue themselves.
  7. Resistance to change.  As you have most likely discovered, Minnesotans tend to be born, raised and continue to live in the same town surrounded by the same friends they’ve had since baby play dates and preschool.  These tend to be folks who are suspicious of anything different and fearful of a lot of change.
  8. Passive aggressiveness.  Look for signs like procrastination, sullenness, stubbornness, or confusion and it’s likely you’ve hit on passive aggressive behavior.

Of course, not every Minnesotan shares every characteristic of Minnesota Nice, but I’m sure you can recognize some of these behaviors in your Minnesotan-born friends, colleagues, and possibly yourself!

Non-Minnesotans often say that it is very difficult to make new friends here because most Minnesotans socialize with friends that they’ve had since preschool. In fact, a few months ago while at Macy’s,  I met an African-American makeup artist who said that he had moved here 18 years ago from San Francisco, but his only friends were also transplants.  He said it was just too hard to get past “Minnesota Nice” to make good friends.

Listening to Corey and Jerilyn, I realized that these behaviors can create unwelcoming campus climates for many people. At the same time, I realized that there are a few things I can do to help new employees feel welcome in my workplace. I can help decode Minnesota Nice behaviors and point them to   “8 Tips for Dealing With Your Passive-Aggressive Colleagues, Friends and Neighbors.   Or better yet, I can move beyond polite friendliness and take the time to invite that person to coffee or lunch and really help them feel welcomed.

What can you do to combat the effects of Minnesota Nice and make your campus climate or workplace more welcoming?

Anita Rios

Hearing each other’s stories

MLKOne of the keys to understanding others is to learn how to listen and learn from each other’s stories. As leaders, it is dangerous to make assumptions about where other people have been and what they might do next. Understanding their stories can help make a personal connection the helps build relationships and move the work forward.

This week we’ve been celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. That always reminds me of a lesson I learned about hearing other people’s stories. I had an acquaintance that I’d known for a long time. Some years ago we were traveling together and getting to know each other better. The person was a retired professor from a local seminary and I made some wrong assumptions about what his political experience might be.

We had an opportunity to go swimming and I saw his legs for the first time when he wasn’t wearing long pants. One of his legs was scarred with what looked like bite marks. As we talked, I learned that he had been with Martin Luther King, Jr. on the courthouse steps in Alabama. The bites occurred when police turned dogs loose to break up the event. He’d been part of history and I never knew it.

On another occasion I was looking at the reviews posted in the window of a local community theater. Someone came up to me and I thought, “here’s another homeless person asking for a handout.” As it turned out, the person told me about an opportunity when the theater sells tickets very inexpensively to local residents. We had a nice talk about plays we had both seen.

When I work with project teams, I’m teaching myself to ask questions before giving my opinions. Tell me more about why you want to do it that way? What happened that makes you so frustrated? How can it be improved to make your life easier? Providing an opportunity for colleagues to share their stories helps build trust and I’ve learned a lot that I wouldn’t have known any other way.

Have you had experiences where hearing someone else’s story helped you to understand yourself and the other person in a new way?

Dee Anne Bonebright