Opting Out

During the past few months, due to some life events, I’ve been taking stock. It’s a good thing for all of us to do occasionally, to revisit the way we spend our precious time during the short journey we have on this earth. Given how things have been going in our world, I am also carefully reviewing whether I am using my time and gifts wisely, to further justice, good work and to pay forward all of the great energy others have contributed to me and my life.

Twitter, as a platform, has made it possible for me to connect with many amazing professionals in HR, and to discover ideas and thoughts of others I wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to encounter. But it also causes me to be exposed to a great deal of ceaseless, directionless and traumatic rhetoric that is not oriented toward solving problems and never seems to arrive at a solution. While I do greatly value conversation and debate, I have found lately that the time and energy spent isn’t justified by the outcome. I did an experiment recently and took time off the platform. The result? Sheer bliss. Ignorant bliss.

I have found that I don’t need to know every nuance of every political issue or professional association beef and the inside stories that derive from being extremely active on the platform. Sometimes it felt like diving through a holding tank at the water treatment plant to find a silver dollar at the bottom. How many times would I keep diving through shit for another coin? Why was I obsessively checking this platform to find that only a small number of my visits were keeping me up to date with the people I truly cared about knowing, and why couldn’t I just keep up with them outside this confusing artificial world?

This situation almost feels like it deserves a funeral. I have met amazing folks on Twitter-these are people I have come to call friends in real life, friends who are more valuable to me than gold. I will never regret the time I chose to spend on the platform and it will always be a treasured memory.

But the time as come in my life to say goodbye. There are some life experiences that change you forever, and I have had one of those this year. It’s a story for another blog, on another day, but I know I will tell it when the time is right.

For now, though, I am sure in my bones that this is it, so I will say “so long, best wishes, and goodbye.” My coffee cup is empty. Goodbye, HR Twitter-it’s been nice being a part of the gang. Be sure to keep in touch at solvehrinc.com.  

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Kelly Marinelli
Human Suffering is Everywhere-Including at Work. So is Empathy and Caring.

There is a strong trend toward embracing a human workplace, where we treat employees as complex and full people, not just cogs in a machine whose productivity should be consumed as part of a ceaseless march to profitability, or to hit targets and goals. But we all know there is more to the story than that.

Real people go through having children, breakups of relationships, including divorce, health challenges and caring for sick family members. We all meet these challenges head-on, and appreciate our employer’s support as we do that. Meeting our employees where they are in the give and take of life can create lasting relationships and a sense of well-being at work that contributes to productivity, retention and success in the long term.

Here are some examples of what managers can do to meet the complex and holistic needs of their employees, without losing focus on work:

·       If things aren’t going well with a work project, ask what you can do to help. Is it additional training and resources, flexibility in a deadline, or additional support?

·       Don’t ignore it when your team member is clearly struggling. It’s up to your employee to decide how much detail about the situation to reveal, but it’s not helpful to pretend nothing is happening.

·       Isolation during times of stress can lead to more serious problems. Refer your people to the Employee Assistance Plan, or EAP. My favorite lead-in to that conversation is to relate a story about how I or another leader accessed the services in the past and how it helped, sharing that “It’s there to support all of us in times like this.

·       Sometimes it’s not possible to alter a deadline, and there are serious business consequences of failure. In these cases, involve your employee in the decision-making process. For instance: “The critical nature of this project makes this a hard deadline. If we fail, we could lose the account, and our team will be held accountable for that, so I want to make sure we either set you up for success or hand off to another team member if that would be more helpful. What do you think we should do?”  Unilaterally taking away projects, or making assumptions about what your employee can successfully handle, can make things worse. Instead, be clear about what's expected and how you can help. 

·       If your employee discloses that the problem is medical in nature, (remember that depression and anxiety are medical problems that can arise from difficult life circumstances and transitions), be ready with resources like Short Term Disability benefits and FMLA leave as options. Reach out to your HR team for assistance and make sure your team has the opportunity to privately talk with them about what’s needed. Never ask questions about your employee’s medical status, but if he/she voluntarily discloses that, don’t share that information with others aside from HR.

·       Above all, don’t leave your struggling employee out there alone, to stand or fall. Be frank about what’s required for work performance, and let your employee know what supportive resources are available.  

While it’s true that some employees will tend to have ongoing problems, for a variety of individual reasons, the strategy of addressing work performance, support needs and benefits available as a holistic plan will move your employees toward better outcomes and help them feel supported and valued at work. If, ultimately, your employee is unable to perform the job, he/she will nevertheless have been treated fairly, valued as a team member, and given every opportunity to succeed. Managing with a human touch takes vulnerability, commitment and confidence, and not only produces better results, but also is a more rewarding experience for the leader.  

Photo by MilitaryHealth on Foter.com / CC BY

Kelly Marinelli
Generating a Game Plan for Improving Candidate Experience
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Your compensation is in the right range, you’ve added some great benefits job seekers value, like student loan repayment, and your employer brand is showcased on your newly updated career site. But you haven’t noticed a great response to your recent open positions, and feedback has been tepid. You’re a successful organization, and people like you. Why haven’t you been attracting great candidates for your open positions lately?

47% of candidates think employers do a good job of setting expectations regarding communication in a potential hiring interaction. 78% of employers think they do a good job. Where is the disconnect, and what other aspects of your candidate experience are lacking? Hiring is a two-way street. In many markets, industries, and specialized roles, job seekers can take you or leave you. The power imbalance that once existed in favor of employers has shifted mightily. Improving your candidate experience can differentiate you from other employers and help you land the best hires.

How do we define candidate experience? According to Mike Roberts, writing in the Jibe blog, “Candidate experience is defined as how job seekers perceive and react to employers’ sourcing, recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding processes.” What does this have to do with employer brand? Employer Brand defined: Your employer brand is your promise to your potential employee. “This is what you can expect.” Ideally, employer brand and organizational branding are aligned.

Now that we know what employer branding is, how do you develop your brand so you know that it’s contributing to a great candidate experience?

  1. Take ownership of what it’s really like to work for you!
  2. Recognize the problems and work on solving them, but don’t hide them or pretend they don’t exist.
  3. Be open about your culture so job candidates can opt in if it’s a fit.
  4. Recognize that looking for the right job & right hire is a two-way street.
  5. Don’t make excuses but do be able to communicate why your culture and way of doing business works for your organization.

Employer brand can contribute to (or detract from) a candidate’s experience in the hiring process. It’s all about expectations. When expectations and experience do not align, this creates disappointment-when promises are made, they must be kept! So consistency between branding and experience is key.

What about the other way around? How does candidate experience impact employer brand? A poor Candidate Experience can wipe out gains in visibility & credibility of your employer brand. You can’t have a great employer brand without a great candidate experience. A poor candidate experience can also negatively affect your company brand. Candidates are often current or potential customers, so turning them off in the hiring process can also hurt your brand perception with them and those they share their experience with.

All stages of the candidate experience are potential touchpoints for positively impacting candidate experience. Some of these points are:

•       Pre-application/interest community

•       Application for open requisition

•       Pre-hire assessment

•       Screening (phone, live video, recorded video)

•       On site interviews

•       Offer stage

•       Post-offer background check, drug testing

•       Onboarding

Responsiveness, communication, setting realistic expectations about the process and timeline, and clear descriptions of jobs and qualifications can make the candidate experience better at every stage along the way. Additional support for pre-hire assessments and other technology solutions like video interviewing are critically important and appreciated by candidates. Respecting job seekers’ time and treating them with dignity and appreciation can set you apart from your competitors.

Continued communication post offer, as well as an organized and effective onboarding program, will be icing on the cake if you have followed through at the other steps. Removing barriers, creating a frictionless process that doesn’t drag on, and providing candidates the support and status updates they need will help you create a superior candidate experience. Asking new hires in the onboarding process to provide a frank assessment of their experiences will provide you with the data you need to identify needs and make continuous improvements. With unemployment at all-time lows in the U.S., it’s time to make your move toward the best candidate experience, and capture your competitive advantage!

Transition Coaching is a Good Investment in You!

I am an HR consultant. To the untrained eye, that might look like I’m a recruiter, or someone who helps people figure out how to find the right job. But that’s not really what I do for my clients, even though I really think that work is important and valuable, and I highly respect my colleagues who perform that critical function.

I’ve found myself recently crossing that line between talking with really good friends and close colleagues about career strategy and getting meeting requests from people I barely know or just met, to help them with their careers. I often feel like I am giving scattershot advice, and I don’t know how to help them along in their personal journeys toward a rewarding career choice, because I don’t know them well enough and don’t have the tools available that my colleagues have to help identify strengths, tendencies and archetypes. I know what I would want to do, but not everyone is like me. I also don’t have time for a bunch of follow up conversations, which people in transition really need. It feels like I am letting them down when I can’t just jump on every request or question they have, because I am trying to do paid work for my own clients.

When I started thinking it through, I realized that the best choice is really clear. My network has all of the answers that transitioning job seekers need!

When someone recommends, “You need to talk to so and so, he knows everyone,” or “my coworker such and such, she has a great eye for personal branding,” that is a start. It makes sense to go ahead and reach out to that person. But the next question shouldn’t be, “When can we meet for coffee?” but instead should be, “do you know of a good transition coach you would trust with your career?”  

I am a lucky, lucky member of the #HRTribe and I know several amazingly effective and talented professionals I could call, located all over the U.S., if I needed transition coaching. I would contact any one of them immediately if I find myself in need of that assistance. Many folks who know my work understand I am not a career coach. I fear I am not up to the task, and this kind of work doesn’t feed my passion. That said, if we work with one another, as volunteers or on work projects, we are in the same network and know many of the same people. I will go to bat for you and recommend you, and I will send you job leads and get you in the back door all I can. Beyond our connection, that is just good business, because you get a great new job, and the people I know get a great new employee. Everyone feels good about that result!

But the bottom line is that people like me are touchpoints in the job search process, but we can’t be your primary way to get a job. My advice: don’t trust your career to half-hour phone conversations you are having with referrals adjacent to your network, who don’t know the superstar quality of your work, the depth of your values or the fire of your passions. These random calls don’t benefit you or the people you’re talking with as much as you hope they will, because they lack alignment with a real career strategy. Also, the people you set up calls with are busy, and they may even resent your intrusion on their schedules unless they are personally looking to hire someone like you now or in the near future.

The exception? An offer of help should ALWAYS be accepted. There is no such thing from me as a disingenuous offer. If I offer to help someone, that means I have already considered what I can do and am willing to spend time talking about how I can assist.

How do you help your network get a leg up in their job searches? Share with me and we will help everyone up their transition game.

Photo by PhilWolff on Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Support 101
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In my consulting, working with employees through difficult times in their lives, including medical and disability issues, I come across a lot of great techniques to support others during a personal crisis. In addition, I have witnessed some (usually well-meaning) actions that don’t help, and actually can make a bad situation worse. For an employee who is facing a devastating medical challenge or serious accident, or that of a family member, support from management and coworkers can be the difference between getting through a tough time and coming back to work with a renewed sense of appreciation and engagement, and toiling through a crisis feeling alone and disengaging from work in a way that is neither good for the employee or for his/her team and employer.

Sometimes employees share full details of a crisis with their coworkers, seeking understanding and help from the people they spend the majority of their lives with. It is a natural reaction for the team to express support initially, but then begin to worry about how the work will get done, and even to withdraw from the employee in crisis and realign work immediately. This is a mistake. A more nuanced reaction is in order, and managers and teammates should take their cues from the employee and allow him/her to dictate what is reasonable, while providing a safety net in case additional help is needed. If someone is still at work and wanting to be engaged and productive, we shouldn’t strip that from the employee, but rather should wait in the wings and only come in to offer help when that support is truly needed. To remove responsibility and meaningful work from an employee without them requesting assistance can make that person feel like their relevance is diminished and that they are being written off as “too sick to work” when they are still there, contributing important forward motion to the team.

Often, employees in crisis worry that they will be marginalized and ejected from the team during the time when they are unable to work, because they understand how important their contributions are and they worry that without them there, someone else will need to take their place, and they will no longer be needed. For this reason, it’s very important that managers clearly articulate their desire to have the employee back at work just as soon as they feel ready, and to check in on a regular basis to let the employee know that their presence is missed and their team is looking forward to seeing them again. That said, this message should not be that there is a lot of work to do and that the team is falling behind because the employee is away, or that pressure is being brought to bear on the employee to force them to return to work before it’s medically appropriate. Rather, the message should be that the employee is in the team’s thoughts and that they want to see him/her back at work when the time is right.

Managers who are aware of one of their team members’ illness and impending absence may have trouble answering questions from the team about what is going on. I have often heard concerns from managers about how to communicate with their teams in a way that helps them understand the impact, but also protect the privacy of the employee in crisis. The right answer, I often advise, is to be clear about the work status of the employee, without communicating details that don’t contribute to the team’s need to plan for work while the employee is out. Often the communication is simply, “Joe Doe is on Short Term Disability/FMLA leave beginning today, and he is expected to return in six weeks, so we will be covering his work during that time. I want you to know that Joe is okay and is looking forward to getting back to work as soon as possible.”

Coworkers who are aware of more detailed information because the employee has chosen to share that may be wondering how they can support their teammate. Here are a few easy ideas:

·       Listen. Say, “I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through this. How are you feeling?”

·       Help. Instead of asking, “Is there anything I can do?” mention something specific, like, “Can I pick up your kids for a playdate?” or “How about I bring by dinner tomorrow night?” If you don’t know your teammate well enough to visit the home, give a gift card to a local restaurant.

·       Stay in Touch. If you are close enough to have your teammate’s cell phone number, call or text each week or two to check in to say hello and let him/her know you care.

Sometimes well-meaning coworkers, friends and even family will do things they think are helpful, but actually aren’t. Here are a few things to avoid:

·       Making it about you. Telling long, drawn-out stories about how you once had an aunt who had the same problem…it’s fine if there was an inspirational outcome and you want to lift your coworker’s spirits, but otherwise, just offer support and a caring, listening ear instead of monopolizing the conversation chatting about yourself when your teammate is the one who needs help.

·       Offering prayers or saying anything about “God’s will” unless you are already sure that is welcome. Some people are not religious, and although offering prayers makes YOU feel better, your coworker may just feel uncomfortable about how to respond. Plus, even if they believe in it, they may feel like God’s will kind of sucks right now. Instead, think of saying, “I am hoping for a quick recovery for you-I’ll keep you in my thoughts.”

·       Sending them crackpot therapies like juice fasting, coffee enemas and crystal healing, in an effort to “make sure they know what will cure them.” If you want to give a referral for a great massage therapist to help your coworker stay in balance during healing, by all means do so. If your coworker asks for your advice, feel free to give it. But telling your teammate that conventional medicine is harmful, or trying to hijack what is already a complicated treatment process for them, is selfish and counterproductive. Keep it to yourself.

·       Avoiding your coworker. If you don’t know what to say, don’t avoid the issue and pretend your friend isn’t going through something tough and risk contributing to their feelings of isolation. It’s always okay to say, “I don’t know what to say. But I want you to get better, and I care about you.”

Most people are very caring and want to be supportive. They don’t intentionally do things to stress out people in crisis and waste their energy when they need 100% of it for recovery. Respecting employees’ privacy, treating them with dignity, ensuring they have an ongoing opportunity to contribute at work as they are able, and providing them with a caring support network are all ways to effectively help a coworker through a crisis. In addition, avoiding the things that don’t help, and focusing on the things that do, can help effectively support employees through crisis and get them back where they want to be, in life and at work!

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