Candidate care - Should you care?

What exactly is candidate care?  Candidate care is the ethical, confidential, respectful and responsive treatment of executive candidates.  Today I am focusing on confidentiality.

Candidates trust they are applying in confidence for a position.  They do not expect that a search firm is going to be generally talking about their interest or candidacy to anyone other than the client – and then, only towards the end of a process.  They do not expect that a search consultant is going to conduct covert references without their knowledge.  This compromises confidentiality and exposes the candidate to potential harm if the word gets out in the business community that they are looking.  As far as confidentiality, respect, and candidate care, this is a big issue and more prevalent than you would want to know.  The first time I ran into this was on a Board where we were undertaking a search for a new leader.  The search consultant offered to “ask around” about the preferred candidate, who was employed by another organization at the time and the Selection Committee readily agreed without realizing that they were compromising the professionalism of the search process.

As a candidate and a client, you should care about how candidates are being treated.  There is a lot a risk and liability when confidentiality is compromised in a search process.  As a search consultant, the right way to approach this situation is to have the client identify what types of people they would like to see on the reference list and ask for input from the candidate and get their approval to contact those individuals.  This approach allows the candidate to talk to potential referees first and lay the framework for what is going on.

If you are a potential candidate who is interested in applying for a job and you have concerns about confidentiality, ask the search consultant for their candidate care and confidentiality policy.  And if you are a client, don’t ask for covertly conducted references.  And if you do, and the search consultant explains why that can’t happen, then you know you’ve hired the right search consultant!

Happy Thanksgiving from Clara Joan

Happy Thanksgiving from Clara Joan

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all the amazing things that life and people give to us.  How fortunate we are and how grateful we should be!  For those of us in business, it’s a time to fully appreciate the trust and confidence of our clients and customers in our services and products, be grateful for the hard work and intelligence of our employees, and be amazed by the province and country that we live in.  There are so many things in business and in our personal lives to appreciate and be thankful for on Thanksgiving, both past and present, and with hope, the future.

This year, my thoughts have specifically settled on recognizing the importance of giving thanks for the past.  My past included Clara Joan – a woman who immigrated to this country and made a small rural community in Saskatchewan her home.  Clara Joan gave me respect for the power of the soil, the magic of organic composting to create “black gold”, and the abundance of whole foods.  She taught me to appreciate food right from the methodical art of slicing and dicing, to the perfect mash, to the watchful stirring of a rolling boil and the long slow roast to achieve ultimate and memorable food experiences.  For Clara Joan, food was passion and food was love.  This Thanksgiving, I especially give thanks and appreciation to the woman who was the first foodie in my life.  She passed her knowledge and appreciation of whole food and the culinary arts to those around her and so every Thanksgiving, there is a celebration of food and the comraderie that goes with it.  Every year, one of her students creates and makes art to celebrate the abundance that we all enjoy in life.  Food is love and love is food.  Clara Joan was my mother and her inspiration is found alive and well around the Thanksgiving dinner table every year as each one of the siblings takes a turn, does a pirouette in the kitchen, and with respectful hands, creates.  The creation now involves more innovation than in Clara Joan’s day to meet the needs of the vegans, vegetarians, and gluten-free members of the crowd. If we are so lucky, the students of the present will continue the creation and innovation of good food and love every Thanksgiving.

At Thanksgiving, it is important to remember and be grateful for the influences of the past that give us the abundance of our present.  We have hope for future Thanksgivings.  And remember:

“People who love to eat are always the best people. - Julia Child”

HR Audit: Checking in on People & Practices.

No one is surprised when the financial function of an organization goes through an audit process.  It’s standard practice.  However, when it comes to the human resources function, not so much!  As much as business intelligence and the perspective about the human resources function have changed over the years, the fact of the matter is, human resources departments are still significant cost centers. If there ever was a reason to audit a function or process, money or cost would certainly rank pretty high as a reason to proceed.

Beyond the cost factor and the importance of managing people, an HR audit helps your organization ensure that a strategy to increase investment in human resources and people is beneficial and aligns with the organization’s strategic goals and objectives.  An HR audit ensures that your business is compliant with ever-changing rules and regulations related to human resources policies and is utilizing best practices to maintain or improve competitive advantage.  An important component of the human resources function is risk management and conducting an HR audit ensures that human resources is compliant and managing risk effectively – in other words, doing its’ job and providing people risk management for the organization.  An HR audit gives you a picture of the value of HR to the organization; where the function excels and where effectiveness can be improved.

So, how does one go about conducting an audit of the human resources function or department?  First, talk to the staff in the human resources department to introduce the concept of an independent review and the benefit to them.  No one enjoys being put under a microscope so be aware of how the staff might react and feel about the audit process.  The goal is to have human resources staff on-side and not feel defensive and resistant.  Sell the audit by focusing on the benefits to the human resources department, involving them in the identification and selection of an internal or independent auditor, and encouraging them to participate in the development of the audit plan.

The audit plan is a critical component of the audit process and serves as a communication tool and a road-map for the audit process.  The audit plan typically clarifies the scope and type of audit, includes the development of an audit questionnaire to gather information from stakeholders, identifies the processes to collect data and conduct a review a sample HR related documentation and policies, outlines the approach to assess compliance requirements and a best practices, and identifies the various HR metrics that will be used to measure the effectiveness of HR.  Following completion of the audit, feedback that identifies strengths and opportunities for improvement is provided to the HR department and senior management team.  The final step is taking the recommendations for change and developing an action plan for moving forward.

Often, people in an organization view the auditing process with suspicion and even fear as to what will be found.  However auditing the HR function provides confidence to senior management and HR that the human resources function is managing risk and doing its’ job effectively.

Discover your Potential

Discover your potential™  New website

Potential reflects the capacity of an individual or organization to build for the future and maximize possibilities.  In today’s world, potential and capacity building are critical for team and individual leader development in order to stay ahead of changes and align with emerging trends in the environment.  Without a focus on potential and the curiosity for discovery, the world stops, we stop growing and developing, and our companies come to a grinding halt.

Our experience over the last two decades has revolved around working with people and organizations to find, realize, and develop potential.   Two very key pieces of the potential puzzle are finding the right senior talent and developing and supporting that talent.  These key pieces of potential provide the framework for “Discover your potential ™” and enable clarity on what has to be done to manage and embrace the emerging future.  We work with you to discover the right people and support and advise leadership for individual and organizational discovery – there are worlds of possibilities and success out there!

InTell Executive Search International is very pleased to roll out a new website to reflect “Discover your Potential ™  Executive search and leadership advisory is all about strategy and discovery of potential.  It’s discovery for candidates, discovery for leadership, and discovery of organization potential.  

Apples to apples when applying for a job

What do the following jobs have in common? Pool and Beach Worker, Procurement Intern, Electrical Designer, and Logistics Co-ordinator.  Truthfully, not that much.  But what is most apparent is that none of these jobs support an application for a senior executive position in finance. Yet, our executive search team sees increasing numbers of applications for senior management positions from candidates who are woefully not qualified for the job posted.   The applicants are hopefuls who have no experience in the functional and technical requirements of the job or don’t have the required professional credentials.  These applications are assessed and go straight into the “No” pile.

How can you avoid being part of the “No” pile on a recruiter’s desk?  When applying for a position through an executive search firm, ask yourself a couple of direct and tough questions:

“Do I have past career experience that supports the functional and technical responsibilities of the job?”

 “Can I clearly draw a line of sight for the recruiter that aligns my experience and the job’s requirements in a cover letter?”

If you are being honest with yourself and the answer is “No” then don’t apply for the position.  To hope that somehow you will get through the rigourous screening of a search firm or that the search firm is desperate and can somehow see that you are the perfect candidate, is naïve.

Executive search consultants are responsible and committed to the client to find the best and right candidate to fill a job.  It is highly unlikely, no, let me re-phrase that;   I know for a fact that an executive search consultant will not put someone whose experience is junior and their last job was a Pool and Beach Worker or a Logistics Coordinator in front of a client who is looking for a senior executive position.  To be considered a valid and substantial candidate, you need to have skill and excellence ‘chops’.  Recognizing that people have dreams of the perfect job and many feel that they could do a job even though they lack experience, the reality is, executive search professionals are in the business of finding the qualified, the experienced, and the outstanding candidates for a client.

My advice for people with dreams of the perfect job - develop a game plan as to how to get to that dream job.  What types of progressive job experience do you need to get there? Build your credentials and qualifications base on the right experience and education. Then, apply for the senior executive positions when you are able to draw that line of sight in the cover letter for yourself and the recruiter and make the apple to apple comparison.  This is me and this is the experience I have that supports this position’s requirements.

Executive Search Consultants are always happy to receive resumes and will gladly accept your unsolicited resume to add to the database in the event that future opportunities arise that match your specific skills, abilities, and background.  That is the better approach when your skills and background don’t match what’s needed for a specific job and you don’t want to be in the “No” pile.

Magic bullets in management consulting

“I like to con people. And I like to insult people. If you combine “con” and “insult”, you get consult,” observes Dogbert, a comic-strip character. Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of interesting and disturbing stories from organizations about their experiences with management consultants. Business often doesn’t have a very good impression of consultants, and for good reason.  Anyone can become a management consultant if they can sell the perception of ‘expertise.’   Barriers to entry are low and people with newly minted MBA’s go into consulting, individuals who are retiring after decades of working in an organization go into consulting, job seekers who are in-between jobs become consultants, etc. etc. Many consultants sell the ‘magic bullet’ to companies who are looking for a fix to business stagnation, growth challenges, and people issues.  After nearly 25 years of experience in the consulting business, I can tell you, there are no ‘magic bullets’ that solve organizational challenges; just common sense, expertise, a profound understanding of business, and a pragmatic and transparent process to achieve the desired outcomes.

Expertise, transparency, and results are the foundation of a management consulting practice.  The old adage of “caveat emptor” – buyer beware, should be front of mind when assessing how a management consultant can work with you and the value that they bring.  Over a coffee meeting, a business colleague shared a disturbing story with me about what can happen when a consultant, who, in this case was selling extraordinary team performance, came into the organization without process consulting expertise and consulting credentials.  My business colleague believed that this consultant could really help to develop a team culture with engaged and high performing employees.  Over the course of a year, the consultant alienated all the employees and turned them against the business owner, brought in another manager to work with him, and eventually attempted a hostile takeover of the company.  So much for developing a high performance team!  The company was brought to its knees by dysfunction and financial challenges as a result of the unethical and unprofessional practices of a non-credentialed consultant. Thankfully, this business colleague was able to forge ahead and put the business back on track.  However, this colleague will never look at a consultant in the same way again.

Consulting is so much more than having expertise or a “magic bullet” product or approach; it’s about ethics, professional interaction with clients, a transparent process, and defined outcomes.  A consultant who has passed the requirements of the Canadian Association of Certified Management Consultants (CAMC) comes to an organization with a firm understanding of ethics and business practices and processes related to consulting.  If you want to hire a consultant who is not certified, make sure you know what you are buying and that the consultant you are hiring can provide references that attest to their expertise and ability to deliver on outcomes using a transparent and no-biased process.   And lastly, recognize and don’t buy “magic bullets!”

Does HR still have to be blown up?

ears ago, as a newly minted human resources graduate, I was taken aback by an article in a business magazine titled “Let’s blow-up the HR Department”.  As I was ready to take on the world and save business through human resources management, I was concerned that perhaps I had made the wrong career decision.  The premise of that article was based on viewing the HR Department as an unnecessary overhead administrative expense that offered nothing to improve the bottom line.  HR was so far removed from the business heart of the organization that it seemed that blowing it up wouldn’t make one iota of difference.  As an HR consultant, I’ve seen countless organizations struggle with the role of human resources in their business.  The move from tactical to strategic has been downright painful for HR. The agenda to get HR at the executive table has been ongoing for the HR profession for over 20 years and still the human resources profession struggles to re-make and re-align itself from a service provider to a key strategic player supporting the business agenda.

The Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2015, Leading in the new world of work reports that only 30% of business leaders believe that HR has a reputation for sound business decisions, only 28% feelthat HR is highly efficient, and only 20% feel that HR can adequately plan for the company’s future talent needs.  This is a gloomy report card for HR to say the least particularly since CEOs and senior executives continue to be concerned about talent, culture and employee engagement, the leadership pipeline, and workforce capabilities.

What needs to change in order to re-make HR? HR professionals need to be immersed in the business of their organizations and in the language of business.  Business is about profit and growth.  HR needs to develop a clear line of sight to profit and growth by developing a solid understanding of the needs of the business and delivering value-added and innovative solutions.  Translating business strategic goals to HR strategic goals is a big part of demonstrating an understanding of the needs of the business.  Also, measuring the impact of HR programs in dollars and cents will get the CEO and CFO’s attention.  I have often considered the success of my fellow business school graduates who majored in finance and accounting and sit at the executive table.  Did they receive any education about business that was considerably different from HR majors?  All business school graduates learn the basics of business but the finance and accounting majors learn the “language” of business and the line of sight to the bottom line is clearer.  Perhaps part of the solution is to have our post-secondary institutions assess education content for students majoring in HR to ensure that business acumen is part of the curriculum.

Blowing up the HR department was a so-called ‘solution’ to the ineffectiveness of HR 20 years ago. The current solution for HR professionals is to develop credibility and respect as business leaders. HR professionals need to step up their game and develop analytical skills, understand the line of sight from HR to the bottom line, and learn how to communicate in the business language that CEO’s and CFO’s understand.  HR’s future credibility and reputation will be directly tied to demonstrated business acumen combined with foundational HR.