A Staffing Firm's Toughest Hire!

When hiring to fill their clients’ positions, staffing firms usually have a clearly defined list of criteria to consider: skill set, salary range, availability—whatever their clients tell them to look for. By checking off the right boxes, staffers are able to match candidates to clients: “You want an employee who has X, Y, and Z? Here’s someone who fits the bill!”

It’s a different story when hiring for internal positions, though. When companies need to find their own staff, they often focus too much on cultural fit. Why is that? The answer, in a nutshell, is “comfort.”

People who work full time often spend more waking hours with their coworkers than with their spouses or partners. Forty (or more!) hours a week can seem like an eternity to someone who doesn’t like his or her colleagues. That’s why being comfortable with one’s coworkers can be so important. And that’s why companies that do their own hiring for their internal positions often put too much emphasis on whether a candidate is “likeable” or someone who’s “like us” or someone who would be fun to grab a beer with after work—and not enough emphasis on whether he or she has the attributes and skills that will contribute to the growth of the company.

It’s human nature, after all, to want to work among friends. Unfortunately, prioritizing “likeability” over “competence” can lead to trouble down the road. Applicants always bring their “A game” to interviews—but don’t always sustain it once they’re comfortable in their new jobs. Those hires can end up being disappointments, and sometimes actual disaster ensues when a company thinks it’s hired Dr. Jekyll but has actually hired Mr. Hyde.

There will always a subjective element to hiring. Any time there’s a cover letter, a personal statement, or an interview involved, some aspects of a candidate’s personality will seep through. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: the fact is, personality can indeed influence a person’s workplace performance (and ability to interact with coworkers—which can in turn affect their performance).

But personality should not be the main criteria for hiring. Rather, knowledge, skills, and potential are key components of a successful hire. Sometimes, though, companies that fill their own positions themselves have trouble seeing beyond the “do we want to work alongside this person?” question and can’t accurately evaluate a candidate’s skill set.

With their distance from the workplace, staffing firms often have the perspective—and objectivity—that companies lack. When marketing their services, staffers should highlight their ability to deliver candidates who are best for the company’s future success.

"Easier" Doesn't Necessarily Mean "Better"

Earlier this month, McDonald’s and Snapchat launched a new filter called Snaplications, which lets people take photos of themselves “wearing” virtual McDonald’s uniform hats and name tags. But this is more than the usual Snapchat filter, and it goes beyond being just a public-relations campaign. It also functions as a recruitment tool: users who record ten-second videos in which they talk about themselves and then send the videos to McDonald’s get redirected to the company’s career website and invited to submit a job application.

Right now, the Snaplication is available only in Australia, and it isn’t the entire application process: an individual still has to download and fill out an application form and, presumably, then participate in an in-person interview before being offered a job. But by leveraging the power of both social media and digital technology, this campaign is a herald of things to come, and I suspect that similar processes will eventually be rolled out worldwide and may even lead to the elimination of the in-person interview. Candidates and companies alike need to consider the ramifications of this future shift.

Social media has revolutionized how we interact with each other both in our professional and in our personal lives. It’s been beneficial for recruitment in many ways, particularly by facilitating the rapid spread of information and helping hiring managers reach out to new talent pools. It’s also contributed to the rapid rise of the “easy one-click” application—which in my book is not a positive development.

That declaration might make me sound like an anti-technology curmudgeon, but that’s definitely not what I am. I’m a big fan of technology when it’s properly implemented. But I’m not a fan of adopting technology purely for technology’s sake and without giving it careful thought. Making it possible for people to research jobs and apply for open positions online isn’t a bad thing. But making it too easy for people to apply for jobs online can open a Pandora’s box of problems.

First, the increased focus on submitting job applications via quick and easy routes such as social media profiles and ten-second videos may actually make it harder for hiring managers to find good candidates. If someone is looking for a job and can send in an application with just a few seconds’ effort, why wouldn’t he or she do that? After all, casting a wide net is one way to increase the odds of landing a job, right? But all of those applications need to be processed somehow. An applicant tracking system can do only so much (and maybe not much at all when it comes to analyzing and rating personal videos), so that means actual people need to be looking at that stuff. Now imagine that the “easy one-click” method has led to a geometrical increase in the number of applications sent to an organization—many of which likely aren’t serious, and most of which will require at least some attention from a hiring manager. See the problem?

Second, “easy one-click” applications downplay one very important part of the hiring process: the human connection. These forms usually consist of just a few basic questions—not enough to yield a useful portrait of a candidate. A ten-second video doesn’t help much, either: how much can you learn about someone in that amount of time?

Third, that ten-second video can actually carry disproportionate weight in the hiring process if it’s all a hiring manager has to go on. It offers just a quick snapshot of a person with no opportunities for nuanced conversation or follow-up questions. It may cause hiring managers to (perhaps subconsciously) place too much emphasis on a person’s appearance—and worse, it can lead to racism, ageism, or sexism playing a role in hiring decisions.

Fourth, companies and candidates have long struggled to connect with each other. Streamlining the application process and leveraging social media are two ways to address this perennial problem—but  “easy one-click” applications might actually make it worse. Person-to-person communication is a key element to figuring out if an individual and an organization are a good fit for each other.

In all fairness, I should point out that McDonald’s is using the Snaplication mostly to target teenagers who are looking for short-term jobs. In those situations, some might say that it isn’t critical for hiring managers to get a “good sense” of candidates who aren’t doing complex work and are likely to be in those positions for only a brief time. Personally, I think it’s important to get a “good sense” of any candidate—but I can cede this point here.

When it comes to long-term jobs—or careers—though, candidates and companies need as much information as possible about each other. Although I applaud the creative approach behind the Snaplication (and recognize the need to come up with innovative ways to reach out to prospective candidates), I think it’s inadequate. By giving some parts of the application process short shrift, the “easy one-click” method does both candidates and organizations a disservice.

Always Ask. Does it Support Your Mission?

In a 2007 article about the then-three-year-old Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg declared, "I'm here to build something for the long term. Anything else is a distraction.” At the time, he wasn’t planning to follow the “exit strategy” example of the many other tech founders who built up their companies and then sold them for huge amounts of money. Ten years later, his stance hasn’t changed (even though the company went through a very successful IPO in 2012 and today has an annual revenue over $27 billion). Zuckerberg is definitely in it for the long haul.

Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having an exit strategy in mind when building a company. But if your goal is to build a company that endures for the long term, then every hire you make, every piece of software you buy, every facility you open, every new product or service you launch—pretty much everything you do, actually—needs to support that mission. To paraphrase Zuckerberg, “Anything that doesn’t tie into the company’s mission is a distraction.”

For example, Amazon’s official mission is “to be Earth's most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” When Amazon first announced it would start selling hardware (Kindle tablets and e-readers), I first thought this venture was a distraction from the company’s mission. Then I realized that it actually directly supported that mission, because nearly all of the purchases made on those devices would be from Amazon.

On the other hand, remember the BlackBerry? Not that long ago it totally dominated the mobile phone market. Today, though, the company is barely clinging to existence and holds just 0.0481% of the market. There are analyses galore about how this happened, but most of them boil down to the same observation: the company rested on its laurels and failed to engage in actions that promoted its mission (probably, in part, because the company never clearly articulated what that mission was).

So the next time you need to hire, fire, create a new position, expand into a new market, or take any other business-oriented action, ask yourself, “Does this decision support the company’s mission?” If the answer is “no,” you may want to reconsider that action. And if the answer is “I’m not sure,” it may be time to tune up your mission statement and make sure everything your company does connects to it.

Strategic Uses of Branded Magazines

When you hear the term “branded magazines,” your first thought is probably of print magazines that are customized with an organization’s name and sent out to a mailing list. That’s a pretty accurate assessment—but it isn’t a complete picture.

We’ve pointed out how print is a powerful medium that lets companies keep their messaging from getting drowned in the fast-moving river of digital content. Because digital content is free (or nearly free) to create and distribute, everyone’s doing it. But how much of that content actually gets noticed? If you think about how quickly you yourself hit the delete key whenever an advertisement lands in your own inbox, you’ll realize that everyone else is doing the same thing. We’re inundated with digital content these days and barely notice most of it—and that’s why print media can stand out.

But when some bit of digital content does catch your eye, how much of an impression does it make on you? Thanks to haptics, print media has a huge leg up on digital media in this regard: the act of physically handling the content vehicle (a printed magazine) increases the reader’s engagement with it and ability to retain the messaging.

Clearly, getting print magazines into the hands of clients and prospects is a great way for your company to connect with those audiences. A printed piece that arrives in the mail can have a powerful impact!

But don’t rely solely on the mail to get the job done. Remember, businesses are built on relationships—and successful companies work constantly at creating and strengthening relationships with their clients, prospects, and other target audiences. And one of the most effective tools for working on a relationship is direct, person-to-person contact.

No doubt you already know the impact of an in-person visit—with a handshake, eye contact, and time spent together in the same space. Now imagine making that visit with branded magazines in hand.

We’ve long suggested using branded magazines as marketing tools for in-person sales calls. At a professional conference last fall, we met with a client who does just that. One of the tools her organization’s sales team highlights in its market engagement is its branded version of our bimonthly hard-copy magazine HR Insights.

The sales team loves the magazine because it gives them a reason to visit their clients. Hand delivering the latest issue gets them in the door and having a conversation. In-person visits are a time-tested method for maintaining business relationships—and one that especially stands out in an era of mass communications.

Companies also know that in order to maintain their business relationships, they must continue to add value beyond the staffing they provide. Sometimes, this takes the form of positioning themselves as innovators, sharing information about industry-specific trends, or informing clients about relevant legislative updates, for example. Sending this information to clients through the mail in a branded magazine already distinguishes those companies from those that rely exclusively on digital mass mailings. Delivering that information in person sets that apart from the competition even more.

Would you like to learn more about how your organization can leverage branded magazines as outreach tools by incorporating them into in-person visits? Mamu Media can help you develop effective strategies for this. Contact us to find out how!

How to Make Telecommuting Work for Both Employees and Companies

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Thanks to technology, the phrase “working from home” no longer has to be accompanied by air quotes. Gone are the days when everyone took that statement to be a euphemism for “I’m actually going to goof off.” Computers and the Internet now make it possible for many employees to escape their offices and work from nearly anywhere—and assignment-and time-tracking software ensures that they stay on task.

Employees like telecommuting for many reasons, including the schedule flexibility, the lack of a commute, and the ability to focus on work without the distractions of a busy office. Employers like telecommuting because it offers potential savings in overhead costs (most notably those associated with maintaining physical office space) and it’s a desirable perk that can help a firm land top talent.

Enabling employees to work from home definitely offers benefits to both workers and their companies. More and more workers are prioritizing telecommute arrangements when looking for jobs—and more and more companies are accommodating (and sometimes even embracing) those preferences.

For that reason, staffers and recruiters need to be prepared to help make telecommuting benefit both workers and companies. Start by making sure that the following elements are in place:

Designated office space at home. Telecommuters may be tempted to kick their feet up on the ottoman and work from the comfort of their sofas all day long, but this arrangement isn’t ideal for work. Employees need a space where they can do their jobs (and where they can keep their work-related stuff), such as a home office in a spare bedroom or another out-of-the-way part of the house.

The ability to store and access work files in the cloud. Cloud computing has been the game changer for working from home. Today, with a computer and an Internet connection, telecommuters can easily access everything they need to do their jobs from anywhere in the world. Make sure that your telecommuting workers have the equipment they need to work remotely and that your client companies have cloud-based structures in place for them to use.

Fixed schedules. Have telecommuting employees set working hours and try their best to stick to them. Don’t expect them to put in more hours than they would if they worked in the office (think work/life balance). At the same time, dissuade them from scheduling personal appointments during standard office hours.

Boundaries between home and work. Make sure that your telecommuters don’t mix their home tasks with their work tasks. (For example, they shouldn’t try to conduct phone interviews while folding their laundry!) And unless they live alone, there’s a good chance that their workday may be interrupted by family members at a time when they need to focus. Encourage them to hang some sort of “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door during those times when they absolutely can’t be interrupted (while making a phone call, for example) or just need to get work done. At the same time, encourage your client companies to respect the work-home boundary as well by not assuming that workers are available at all hours just because they’re at home. Remind companies that building a reputation as telecommute-friendly organizations can help them attract top talent for their open positions.

Break periods. Remind telecommuters to step away from their computers periodically and, if possible, to go for short walks during those times to benefit from a change in scenery. Encourage your client companies to have their managers (gently) remind their telecommuters from time to time to take breaks.

Office visit policies. Make sure your employees visit the company office from time to time (weekly or monthly, perhaps). They may work from home but they’re still part of your client’s organization—and you don’t want anyone to forget that. It’s good for telecommuters and their managers to touch base in person regularly with each other so that “out of sight, out of mind” doesn’t cause problems down the road.