Only the future can deliver results

Last week I was talking to a Sales Director about recruiting people for his sales team.

I looked through the job specification to see that almost every phrase was unrelated to sales.
“To submit monthly sales forecast”
“To attend weekly meeting”
and so on

Then there were the skills required:
“Good communicator”
“Five years sales experience”

I pointed out that top talented sales people would be turned off by the job descriptions because they were barriers to making sales.”Must be a good communicator” was a wasted phrase because to have become a top talent salesperson the individual must have excellent communication skills.The descriptions were bland and unexciting

“What you need is something that will draw in top talent, not put it off”
Was my advice and together we went about restructuring the documents. I was keen to show that job descriptions and specifications should be future focussed, attractive to the target candidate and avoid applications from candidates that were obviously NOT suited for the role.

Together we rejected the bland and unexciting language and replaced it with the following:
“The successful candidate will have penetrated two new clients and concluded half a million pounds worth of sales within twelve months of assuming the role”
Other phrases were designed to reflect the new focus and today he phoned me to say that a candidate had complimented him on having an “exciting and easily understood job role”.

For more info on effective job role design tel: (44) 01727 838321

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Gifted employees need not be hard to find

despite the high levels of unemployment many of the businesses that I talk to are finding difficulties in hiring gifted and talented people to join their teams.

This is backed up by the recent research from the CIPD talent planning survey 2011 that found that 52% of businesses are finding it difficult to fill vacant positions with the talent they need to do the job. The CBI suggests that more than half of their members aren’t confident of finding talent to meet their needs.

So what can a business do to find gifted employees?

  1. Consider using job boards such as those on LinkedIn and Facebook
  2. Consider using on-line groups and forums to say you are seeking talent
  3. Ensure that you are looking for the talent that will match the business strategy
  4. Consider internal candidates
  5. Consider if the job, benefits and profile of your business will attract the very best and if not then restructure the position so that it will be attractive to the talent you are looking for
  6. Calculate your talent needs for the present, medium and long-term and create strategies to deliver these
  7. Don’t be too rigid in recruiting the “very best”. The perfect employee doesn’t exist. But make sure you capture the “best available” before your competitors.
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Tips to Retaining Talent

It seems that “losing top talent to competitors” is keeping some senior Directors awake at night. In the past few days I’ve been approached by three different companies asking for help to reduce the risk that their top talent might leave the team.

Here are just three of the tips I advise my clients when advising on retaining talent.

1) Ask yourself the reasons why the talent joined your team in the first place. (Was it challenge of the work, learning opportunities, career path, the business looked great on their CV, resume?). Are these reasons still relevant and are they still being delivered?
If not then the talent is at risk of leaving.

2) Ask yourself the value of your “Poach Rate”. The “Poach Rate” is the additional percentage in salary that a competitor would need to offer to steal your talent. The higher the percentage increase in salary the more your talent values working for your team. If the competitor only has to offer an additional 2-5% salary increase then the reason for leaving is more likely to be poor management, poor culture, few learning opportunities etc.

3) Meet and observe your top talent. Not just at appraisal times but regularly.
Listen and look at the way they walk, talk, dress, engage with customers and colleagues at meetings. (I often go into a business and find that I can identify a talent that’s “on the way out” by just looking at how engaged they are. But then I do this as a matter of norm and often I’m not wrong!)
Ignoring talent because you believe it’s happy, or you’re too busy to observe it, tends to increase the risk that it will leave.

Finally it’s worth considering that the day a talented member of your team tells you they are leaving your team is probably six months after they made the decision to do so!

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Lack of talent is biggest obstacle to growth

Quite a stir was caused this morning on Twitter when I suggested that Lack of talent is the biggest obstacle to growth but many businesses don’t have tools to find and keep talent in place.

A couple of people suggested that this Tweet was bull**t and that “Tools don’t find and keep talent; you need good managers for that”. A sentiment, by the way, that I wholly agree with! However, good management rarely operates on its own and often needs to use techniques, models, processes and past experience to guide actions and decisions and these I call “Tools”. In fact I would add that utilising tools in this way is a sign of “Good management”. Trying to manage without tools is often identified as “poor management”.

Now I enjoy having my thoughts and articles challenged and contradicted, it’s what makes for good debate and learning and I’ve got used to my “pearls of wisdom” being dismissed by those unable to understand the subtleties of what I’m saying, but I do wish that they would do so using logic and experience. “Bull**t” is so difficult to reply to! 

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Just adjust the angle of the golf club

In the past few days I’ve heard of a sales team that’s finding things difficult after a restructure. The restructure slimmed the team, redistributed clients and rationalised the workload but they seem to be failing.

Actually, that’s not unusual because my research and other statistics show that 42% of all restructured teams fail to deliver the anticipated results. The problem for the company is the cost in lost opportunities. Brad Smart in his book Topgrading estimated that failed teams cost between 8 and 24 times the salary.

Change needed for success can be very small
The change required to move from failure to success is, in my opinion, very small and a slight adjustment in in team actions could well change things around. But then that’s so often the case. As most of the team play golf they will understand that a slight adjustment in club face can be the difference to a great round and playing like a crab! Perhaps this clip of Tony Robbins explaining why he plays golf, badly, might help!

Tony Robbins – Tiny Changes Mean Huge Results

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Why is “Out of sight defintely out of mind”?

Ten days ago I was talking to Carl, a good friend of mine, who’s “Ticked off” with the co-operation he’s getting from superiors and colleagues. Now those very people may have to work that bit harder! 

A trail-blazing project
Carl, together with his management team and staff of two hundred, have spent the past year leading a trailblazing project that saves huge amounts of money and delivers enhanced service to the local community. People have said to him “What would we do without you?” and “What you’ve achieved is brilliant”. To achieve these plaudits he’s had to work long hours, hiring a large team and creating process, systems and culture and often without a “model” to follow.

As is usual there has been criticism from other areas of the business that feels overshadowed and exposed. As a result Carl’s team have felt pressured and unappreciated by the very people they are helping to do a better job.

A well earned holiday
A few weeks ago he went on holiday with various senior people and colleagues promising to deliver work whilst he was away ringing in his ears
…was it done when he got back?…daft question…because out of sight was definitely out of mind!

The result is that he’s even more tired than he was before his holiday. Now he’s updated his CV (Resume), bought a new interview suit and is looking for a job and has some interviews even before he’s formally applied for a position. I wonder how the people who’ve said “What would we do without you” will cope when he’s gone!

Cost of replacement and restructure…could be huge!

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The peril of Ignoring old customs & culture

On Sunday I was invited to brunch by some friends. A real treat, but the topic of conversation was depressing. Two of our party, of six, announced that they were changing jobs. Not because they wanted to but because one felt unappreciated, the other tired of a failing “new hire manager”.

Performance review.
The first, an exceptionally clever person, had just had a performance review where his “new boss” had reduced his performance grade for willingness to undertake overtime and timekeeping because he said that he “Didn’t believe in awards at highest grade…”. The previous year the employee a highest grade for willingness to work overtime at short notice. The reduction would mean a change in salary expectation.

Tired of inefficient management
The second friend, the companies highest producing salesperson, recounted various “New hire ” management decisions that had affected how people were able to perform, ignored previous culture and customs and this was affecting team morale. As a result he was deciding to leave.

I’m not against change but find it difficult to understand when new managers try to create an impression without considering the consequences. Ignoring old customs and culture does no-one any favours. In the end one company might lose an enthusiastic and hard working employee and the other a high performing salesperson.

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Manage Your Talent Like A Restaurant

Yesterday I found myself talking about and writing on how a company should view talent management.
When speaking to Directors and managers I will often make the analogy to a
successful restaurant.

Any restaurant that fills all of its tables every
night and has a diary full of forward bookings will have a capable,
stable and motivated team of chefs in the kitchen. However having a team
of top talent creating the product, in this case food, is not enough.
To provide a great customer eating experience there must be a team
professional front of house and waiting staff to meet, greet and serve
the customers. Other aspects such as décor, entertainment value and ease
of access may play a part but the main success criteria are the people
and the product.

However if that top talent leaves the restaurant this is often
immediately noticeable by regular customers. Either the food or the
service will suffer and customers IMMEDIATELY stay away in droves.

Top Talent from top to bottom

Despite the analogy above too many companies try to attract top talent
to their most senior or important posts whilst “getting someone to fill
the post” for more junior staff.

This positions all the top talent in specific areas of the business
whilst creating a number of inbuilt and preventable weaknesses.
Weaknesses that reduce the potential for profits and future growth.
These weaknesses are most evident when the business wishes to introduce
changes to processes and systems.

With a weak talent pool any change programme tends to be slower to
implement, with the top talent urging the change whilst other groups are
unsure or opposed to the change.

In my experience the problems that poor talent management create are:
Increased costs,

Poor flexibility,

Poor management capability,

Inability to develop robust succession planning,

Difficulty in developing strategic capability

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Intelligently Pruning Staff Costs

Reducing costs is a main focus for all business owners and Director these days. The most obvious cost to tackle are the “people costs” but these also happens to be the most problematical.

The problems
The first problem is that, even in difficult economic times, there’s an inbuilt process in most firms that increases people costs. Once a person is hired increases in pay to keep up with inflation, promotions, increases in employment taxes and so on all add to increased costs. If salaries are frozen or small then there will be increased pressure from staff who claim that they are “Unvalued” and continually justify increased bonuses and promotions. Then there is the hidden future pension costs, often not included in company accounts, but which increase staff cost significantly.

Reducing people costs is an issue that Directors talk to me about almost daily. The problem is that getting rid of staff is often a problem. In some countries it’s almost impossible and even in the UK and the USA the process takes time and substantial management time, which is all cost!

Reducing costs by shedding under-performers
Many Directors and firms find it difficult to reduce staffing levels until forced to do so. Concerns over company morale, culture and team spirit all cause delays in shedding staff. However, the fact is, that often reducing dead wood actually improves the morale of those that remain.

A main flaw
One of the most effective ways to manage staff costs is through a robust performance appraisal system. Yet I’m still surprised at the number of companies that have a poor system of staff appraisal. This is so costly, makes change and restructure difficult. Ideally a good performance review is held every six months, is focussed on targeted results and linked to time-framed development and which actually identifies the best talent as well as the costly talent.

The final stage is to ensure that action is taken to manage the bottom end of the talent pool effectively so that it is continuously pruned.

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Talent shortage to become critical

You would think that the topics of talent shortage and managing employees productivity were two business issues. I’ve had a few conversations with senior Directors bemoaning the shortage of talent, particularly in IT, banking and technology and both have been linked to how to manage employee productivity.

The Talent Crunch
Most people would think that with the financial crisis that finding good talent would be easy, but in fact this isn’t the case for many specialist areas. Indeed the Manpower Group report that a third of companies report difficulties in finding good talent. There is a talent crunch in India, where it’s reported that sixty seven percent of companies are unable to find the people they need. In Brazil the figure is thirty four percent and the shortage is pushing up wages and inflation.

The skills shortages in these countries is likely to have an affect on our own talent pool and attract our own talent towards high salaries and a better style of living than can be gained within Europe or the USA. This will be true even of bankers who see career progression in terms of London and New York.

Managing Employee productivity
If most businesses can’t find all the talent that it requires, or afford it when it can, then it needs to invest some time and money to improve the productivity of its existing talent. That’s the reason that people have been asking me how to measure, manage and improve their people’s performance and productivity.

It’s been interesting that in the mind of the Directors I’ve spoken to that they seem to have a vision of a “One size fits all” solution. The problem is that there isn’t a one size fits all nor is there an immediate solution to making internal talent more productive. Different strategies need to be employed for salespeople as opposed to IT,  Senior staff as opposed to Non-Executive Directors and so on. In the long-run, however, it might be the only viable and affordable solution. 

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