Offering Work-Life Balance Key to Recruiting, Retention – Part 1

This is part one of a two-part series on the growing importance of offering a work-life balance to employees in your company.

I’ve always worked too much. I promise my wife I’ll take time off every year for vacation, and I do. Just not too much – two weeks and I’m still connected. If I ever do retire, which I have no plans to do, that will probably mean I cut my workweek to 50 hours, down from 60.

That’s not an unusual work schedule for Americans. Especially for the Baby Boomers, a generation that expects to pay its dues and works long hours to be successful. They tend to be more motivated by money and prestige.

Hey, at least we aren’t as bad the Japanese, notorious workaholics. Some executives don’t even make it home at night, opting to sleep in hotel capsules, coffin-sized rooms stacked on top of each other like crates in a kennel.

The truth is I really enjoy my work as the Turnaround Authority. Yes, it can be stressful and the hours can be long. But it works for me. And I have plenty of time to be with my wife. We catch up with each other every single day with what we call Couch Time, a period of time where we sit on the couch and spend time discussing all aspects of our lives. When I’m on the road, I always call so we can still stay connected.

Achieving that work-life balance has become increasingly important and is instrumental in recruiting younger generations to your business. In fact, the definition of success has changed for many people. Having a work-life balance was ahead of money, recognition and autonomy for more than half the people surveyed in a study done by Accenture in determining whether or not they have a successful career.

And here’s a critical point. More than half of those surveyed had turned down a job offer because of the impact the new job could have on their work-life balance. Seventy percent of those surveyed believe that a satisfactory balance is possible, and often make their job choices based on achieving it.

In 2013, PwC announced results of NextGen: a two-year global generational study that focused on the motivations of millennials in the workplace. The study included responses from 4,000 people, both millennials and non-millennials. One of the key findings was that many millennial employees are not convinced that excessive work demands are worth the sacrifices to their personal life. A majority of them are unwilling to make work an exclusive priority, valuing work/life balance over rapid advancement and skill development.

So if you want to attract the younger generations, you have to think about work-life balance programs. In addition to offering these programs to recruit employees, they will also help you retain valuable employees and can actually increase their productivity as they will be happier and more focused.

Now that you understand how critical it is to offer work-life balance to your present and future employees, how do you do that? Come back for part 2.


How to Hire Beam Holders

This is part two of a two-part series on beam holders. Read on to find out what that is, and how you can find them.

In my last column, I wrote about the value of beam holders to your business. In the words of Sharon Sloane, chief executive of Will Interactive, a company that makes training videos, a beam holder is “Someone who feels personally responsible for the welfare and growth of the company and will do whatever it takes.”

I refer to these folks as Super Stars in Game Breaking Positions. These are the people you want working for your company at any time, and especially when your business is in dire straits.

So how do you find them? For higher-level positions, I recommend spending the money for a search firm. While you may need to shell out big bucks, it’s a wise investment in your business to find the right person. Particularly if you are in a hurry to fill a position. Please read more about it in my column, “How to Search for Superstars.

If you have adequate time to fill a position and want to hire someone yourself, determine what attributes you would like in that person and set those as criteria for hiring.

Here are examples of criteria others look for. An article I read on, “The Top 5 Traits All Top Performers Share” by Morton Mandel and John Bryne listed these five traits:

  1. Intellectual firepower
  2. Values
  3. Passion
  4. Work ethic
  5. Experience

Another article in, “The Five Attributes of High-Performing Employees” by Laura Stack, mentions these:

  1. Looks good on paper
  2. Has a Yoda attitude, personified by the saying, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
  3. Has sharp, well-defined goals
  4. Ambitious
  5. Has excellent time-management skills

And yet another article on, “5 Attributes to Look for in High-Performing Employees,” by Ryan Caldbeck, lists these five:

  1. Horsepower (intelligence)
  2. Ownership and pride
  3. Work Ethic
  4. Integrity
  5. Teamwork

I wouldn’t argue with any of these qualities. These are all excellent traits to look for in an employee. And despite all these articles, you don’t have to stick with just five. Select which qualities are most important to you and look for those when hiring. That should lead to you building an A team of beam holders and super starts.

Let’s say your business is going along just fine and you don’t have any available positions. I recommend you always keep your eyes and ears open for the next beam holder. If someone you meet at a party or networking event particularly impresses you, get his or her business card and file it away for when you do need someone. You always want to keep your A team well staffed.

And one last point. Once you hire these people, you need to compensate them well to ensure they will stick around. Always keep them ahead of the curve on compensation. You aren’t the only one always on the hunt for beam holders.



How to Encourage Innovation in the Workplace

This is the second in a three-part series on Innovation. The first in the series, “Innovation Distinguishes Between a Leader and a Follower,” provided some examples of companies like 3M that have stayed successful for decades by continuing to innovate. These next two parts focus on the steps to encouraging innovation.

In my last post, I wrote about the need for businesses to continually innovate. As Steve Jobs said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

But innovation isn’t something you can just mandate, like telling your employees they need to schedule their lunch hours at certain times. And it’s not just adding a line item to your budget under the column “Innovation.”

Ironically, results from innovation and creative thinking are often not related to the amount of money spent. As Steve Jobs also said, “Innovation has nothing to do with how many R & D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R & D. It’s not about money.”

So what did he say it is about? “It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”

After reading my last post, I hope you get the need for innovation. So let’s talk about how to hire people that will help you innovate.

Hiring the Idea Generators

Any manager knows there are differences between the people who excel at coming up with ideas and those that excel at execution of those ideas. A successful company will have a combination of both at all levels. And never has it been more important to find those idea people.

As Richard Florida, an American urban studies theorist, said, “Access to talented and creative people is to modern business what access to coal and iron ore was to steel-making.”

Consider Walt and Roy Disney, co-founders of Walt Disney Productions. Walt was the big idea guy, while Roy’s expertise was in finance. “Walt had this idea [for Walt Disney World]. My job all along was to help Walt do the things he wanted to do. He did the dreaming. I did the building,” he once told reporters.

But it’s a lot easier to review a resume and determine if someone can handle the financial area of your company. How can you scout for people good at generating ideas?

There’s no particular college degree that would indicate a person’s creativity. Some of our generation’s best innovators famously didn’t finish college — I bet you can name three right away. (Think Facebook, Apple and Microsoft.)

And the people who did come up with great ideas aren’t always recognized for them. Ironically, the person who invented the fire hydrant remains unknown because the patent was lost in a fire at the patent office in D.C. in 1836.

Here are a few tips to find and hire these Idea Generators:

Ask your current employees

The people you have on staff, particularly the more creative ones, probably already know some people they admire as idea generators and would like as co-workers. Let your staff know of your efforts, recruit among their recommendations and offer a referral bonus

Tailor your interview questions to identify them

Ask questions that will reveal a candidate’s creative past. Ask for ideas they have come up with and implemented at previous workplaces or any organizations with which they have been involved. You may find someone who volunteers at an organization who came up with a killer fundraising idea.

Add innovative features to the interview process

A friend’s son recently underwent an hour-long interview exclusively devoted to brainteasers. In a previous post, “Tips on Hiring from the Corner Office,” I wrote about a company that leaves a candidate with a calculator, pencil and a sandwich and returns in two hours. That’s for analysts positions at a $2 billion hedge fund, but you get the idea. Just as you are judging your candidate, they are judging the innovation of your company starting with the way in which you hire people.

Present an environment that encourages creativity

Idea generators want to know they will be in an environment that will foster their creativity, not stifle it. For tips on how to create such an environment, read the third part of this series.

Humility Being Sought in New Hires

“It’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.”

— Lyrics from “It’s Hard to Be Humble” by Mac Davis

I was reminded of this song when I read an article in Fast Company about the hiring practices of Google. The title of the article is “Why Google Wants New Hires Who are Humble and Argue.”

Google has been notorious for its quirky hiring processes and interview questions that included questions like “How many piano tuners are there in the entire world?” and “How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?”

Over the years, Google has gone back to evaluate how well their hiring practices worked in determining the success of its employees. Turns out, not so well.

In 2009, Peter Norvig, Google’s director of research, wrote in his book, Coders at Work, “One of the interesting things we’ve found, when trying to predict how well somebody we’ve hired is going to perform when we evaluate them a year or two later, is one of the best indicators of success within the company was getting the worst possible score on one of your interviews. We rank people from one to four, and if you got a one on one of your interviews, that was a really good indicator of success.”

In 2013, Vice President of People Operations Laszlo Block told the New York Times that they found those famous brainteasers they had been using as part of the hiring process were a complete waste of time. “They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”

Academic performance and GPAs had been stressed, even for hires in the 30s and older. The company admitted that their research found that after two to three years, academic performance and grades were unrelated to performance.

So what is Google looking for now? In addition to technical expertise, leadership and ownership, the company sets a high priority on humility.

“Without humility, you are unable to learn,” said Laszlo Bock, again in an interview with the New York Times for the article “How to Get a Job at Google.” They have found that the most successful people at Google are those who are willing to argue for their point of view, but when they learn a new fact or hear an opposing view, are able to be persuaded. “You need a big ego and small ego in the same person at the same time,” Bock said.

Other people have recognized that humble people make the best and most successful employees. Michael Hyatt, a former CEO and New York Times best-selling author wrote in the article “What Should You Look for in the People You Hire” that he has a standard formula for when he is recruiting people: “H3S.” Two of these qualities are being honest and being hungry. By that he means someone who is always setting goals and wishes to exceed expectations. The third quality is being humble.

“A humble person is open to correction and not defensive. He is quick to admit mistakes and apologize … He is conscious of the contributions others have made to his life, his projects, and his career. He is quick to give credit to them and express sincere gratitude,” he wrote.

I’m glad to hear Google has come around to what is really an old-fashioned way of hiring — finding people who are willing to listen to others and learn from them.

Give Your First impression A Fair Shake

Thomas Jefferson is said to have popularized the handshake in Western culture as a more democratic form of greeting. I, and my back, appreciate that we no longer bow when greeting associates. Sounds like an awful lot of work to me.

Now, extending your right hand for a handshake is an important part of our culture and significant in the first impression you make when meeting someone. I’ve written before about the importance of first impressions. In my column, “The First 15 Seconds,” I listed three things I could tell about a person I am interviewing in just one quarter of a minute.

A demonstration of the Lobster Claw, one of the top 10 bad business handshakes as demonstrated in a video of the same name

A demonstration of the Lobster Claw, one of the top 10 bad business handshakes as demonstrated in a video of the same name

Another crucial aspect of making a good first impression is that handshake. I got a big laugh out of this video I came across, done by an Australian company called “The Top 10 Bad Business Handshakes.” Maybe it’s even funnier because of the droll Australian accent but it does illustrate several handshakes that will definitely not make a good first impression. These include the Lobster Claw, the Fist Bump, the Wrestler and the Phantom.

Watch the video and see if you fall into any of those 10 categories of bad handshakers. If you have the slightest bit of concern that you may, here are a few tips from David Gregory at NBC on the “Today” show.

• Have a firm grip

• Make eye contact

• Shake once of twice from the elbow

• Should last about three seconds.

Those three seconds of contact can really pay off. An interesting study done by the Income Center for Trade Shows found that people are twice as likely to remember you if you shake hands with them. They will also be more open and friendly with you. People whose handshakes are evaluated as good are seen as extroverted and emotionally expressive, according to an article in on “Why Women in Business Should Shake Hands.”

Here are a few of the tips the writer Carol Kinsey Goman shared in the article, which apply for both men and women.

• Be the first to extend your hand.

• Stand when being introduced and extending your hand.

• Say something like “It’s great to meet you,” before you let go.

• When you let go, do not look down. That is a sign of submission.

In another study, researchers Frank Bernieri and Kristen Petty screened 300 students, selecting five men and five women with contrasting personality profiles. Their job was to introduce themselves to people of the same sex, who were playing the role of the interviewers.

The interviewers met with five “candidates” who introduced themselves briefly. Half of the time the greeting involved a handshake. The interviewers then rated the candidates on extroversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

The one area where the handshake seemed to really make a difference was in conscientiousness, particularly when men judge other men. The researchers concluded that engaging in a handshake could help you predict whether that person would show up for their next appointment with you.

Hard to believe, isn’t it? How much you can tell about a person in an act that takes three seconds. Make those three seconds count in your favor.

The First 15 Seconds

In the movie “The Big Chill” one of the characters has been dating for 20 years and laments how hard it is.

“I know in the first 15 seconds if there’s a chance in the world,” she says.

“At least you’re giving them a fair shot,” her friend replies.

That may sound a bit harsh, but the truth is you can tell a lot about someone within the first 15 seconds of meeting him or her. This is crucial to remember if you are interviewing for a job or meeting with a potential client.

In my last column I wrote about ways to lose a job in an interview. I’ve interviewed hundreds of people for all levels of jobs in my decades as a Turnaround Authority, and yes it is possible that you can seriously decrease your odds of landing that job within the first 15 seconds.

We all make snap judgments when we meet someone. Will we like this person? Do we want to be around this person? Our brains made fairly rapid assumptions about the personal traits of others. This process is known as thin-slicing, which refers to our ability to gauge what is important and form opinions from limited information.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote about thin-slicing in his fascinating book “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.” Speaking of the book in an interview he said, “When you meet someone for the first time, or walk into a house you are thinking of buying, or read the first few sentences of a book, your mind takes about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions…. As human beings we are capable of making sense of situations based on the thinnest slice of experience.”

If you are interviewing for a job, you need to spend time focusing on what you are telling the interviewer about yourself in the first 15 seconds. Here are just a few things I can tell immediately upon meeting someone.

1. Whether they are respectful of others

Did he show up on time? Was she friendly to the receptionist or anyone else I introduced her to? Is he dressed appropriately for a job interview? Does she look polished and put together? Are his pants ironed? Did she wait for me to invite her to sit down?

2. Whether they have confidence

Did she look me in the eye when we met? Does he stand up straight? Did she smile when she met me? Does he seem excited to be here?

3. Whether they arrived prepared

Did he bring a copy of his résumé and references along? Does she know my name?

Frank Bernieri did a study at the University of Toledo in Ohio to find out if there are any particular mannerisms that will help you in a job interview. Two people were selected to be interviewers and were trained for six weeks on interviewing techniques. They then interviewed 100 people for 15-20 minutes and filled out a six-page questionnaire on each person. His conclusion was there were no particular tricks you can use in an interview.

But then one researcher asked to do a second study with the videos they had made of each interview, showing people just the first 15 seconds of the interview as the applicant arrived and met the interviewer. They were then asked to rate the candidates using the same criteria that the trained interviewers had.

In an article in The New Yorker written by Malcolm Gladwell, Bernieri talked about the results. “On nine out of the 11 traits that the applicants were being judged on, the observers significantly predicted the outcome of the interview. In fact, the strength of the correlation was extraordinary.”

Accept the importance of the first 15 seconds of any encounter towards making an impression on someone. And do what you can to make yours a positive one.

Five Ways to Lose a Job in an Interview

You just have to chuckle when you read a story like the one I did recently about a young woman who showed up for a job interview as a buyer at American Eagle with her cat in a crate. She then proceeded to put the crate on top of the interviewer’s desk and play with it.

That may be the quickest way I’ve heard to sabotage a job interview. But there are plenty of other ways. Here are just a few I’ve seen.

1. Blaming others for your failures

I like to ask job candidates to tell me about a project they were working on at their last company that failed. It gives me a chance to learn about how they work with others. The big red flag: when they blame others for everything that went wrong. Yes, there are people who claim they have never made a mistake and probably really believe it. But I won’t hire those people.

2. Being overly negative about your current situation

No one likes to hang around negative people. And even though your current job is making you break out in hives from stress, there has to be something positive you can say. If that’s a stretch, focus on what you are looking for instead. You can say you are leaving for more growth opportunities or a chance to take on more responsibility. Don’t ever forget that no matter how big the city is where you are interviewing, it’s still a small world, especially within a certain industry. Your interviewer could be a golfing buddy or in a book club with your current boss. It can only hurt your career to be negative.

3. Focusing more on what the company can do for you rather than what you can do for the company

It’s good to ask questions. In fact, it’s a big red flag if an interviewee doesn’t ask questions. But if those questions are all focused on what you’ll be getting out of the company — salary, benefits, vacation, type of office — rather than what you are bringing to the company, well that’s a huge red flag. Companies want to hire team players with a motivation to contribute to the goals of the company.

4. Talking too much or not answering the question

I get it. You’re nervous and that may cause you to talk way too much and take five minutes to answer one question. Or not answer it at all. I get really frustrated when I ask what I think is a simple, straightforward question and I get a rambling, long-winded, irrelevant response. It’s like asking a politician a question at a press conference. And it tells me this person needs to work on his or her communications skills.

5. Not knowing your own strengths and weaknesses

An interviewer doesn’t expect anyone to be perfect. But he or she does want to know what strengths you are bringing to the team. You wouldn’t conduct a draft for a baseball team without knowing whether your shortstop has the strength to throw the ball to first base. You also need to know the batting stats of all the potential recruits, whether good or bad. It’s the only way to build a winning team.

Another candidate left his cat at home. But he also left his shirt. The HR manager couldn’t recall any policy against candidates being half clothed, so he interviewed him. After that he added a sign to his office that read “No shirt, no interview.”

So here is one last tip. Arriving fully clothed to any interview is always appropriate.