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Archive for April, 2014

Seen Any Good Candidates Lately?

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/4nitsirk/3777270261

What do you look for in your candidates?

How important is college?

Do you focus on GPAs?

Google homogenized it’s workforce by using an algorithm that measured people in terms of their similarity to current googlers (but I think that has changed).

Some managers are so naïve/dumb/lazy that they hire based on Klout scores.

EMANIO created a hiring manifesto to define its approach.

Some people think certain questions are the secret to good hiring, and while they are useful they aren’t silver bullets.

However, good questions asked correctly can tell you how the candidate thinks, which is far more valuable than where they went to school, previously worked, position held or even current skills. This is especially true if your goal is to increase creativity and innovation.

For those bosses who think that hiring is a waste of time, not to mention a pain in the patootie, I remind you that the only thing more important than acquiring talent is keeping what you have.

And if doing a good job isn’t enough, keep in mind that as a boss (any kind/any level) your reviews/raises are a function of your team’s performance not just your own.

For more how-to-hire knowledge read my Insanely series.

Flickr image credit: Kristina D.C. Hoeppner

Ducks in a Row: Why Invest in People?

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

invest-in-peopleThere are two attitudes when it comes to investing in people.

The common one considers it a cost that should be minimized.

The more astute believe it provides significant ROI.

Providing benefits can raise productivity and reduce turnover no matter the size or type of business.

Training is just as important (in England it can even stave off a corporate manslaughter charge).

It’s a well-documented fact that attitude/cultural fit are the most crucial factors when hiring, so where’s the sense in dumping people who are not only good cultural fits, but also possess institutional knowledge?

The graphic elegantly sums up the fear of the cost minimizers and the pragmatism of the astute.

One boss lesson that really needs to sink in is the true cost of replacing people.

  • A decade ago replacing cost 2-6 times the annual salary and although the dollar amount has risen I’m sure the multipliers haven’t gone down—they’ve probably gone up, too.
  • Losing the wrong person at the wrong time has the potential of crippling or even destroying the company.

As to ROI, look no further than Frederick Reichheld, founder of Bain & Company’s Loyalty Practice and author of Loyalty Rules!, and other loyalty books, whose carefully researched studies that a 5% improvement in employee retention translates to a 25%-100% gain in earnings.

That is one hell of a return for creating a culture that does the right thing by investing in its people.

Flickr image credit: Peter Baeklund

 

What are the Most Important 21st Century Skills?

Monday, April 28th, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrsdkrebs/8706352806

If you were asked what skills are in shortest supply in the workforce you would probably think first about computer and related skills.

While that is correct, some simple soft skills are just as difficult.

This year’s pair of April surveys confirmed that, as in previous years, employers are having trouble finding people with advanced computer and interpersonal skills, punctuality, and reliability.

Think about it.

Problems finding people who understand that they need to

  • consistently show up at the agreed upon time; and
  • always do what they say they will do.

Not exactly rocket science, but a substantial problem.

The first shows that 36% of businesses in the manufacturing sector that responded to the survey are having moderate difficulty finding workers who are punctual and reliable, while 11% report great difficulty in finding workers with those traits. In the services sector, it’s not as bad — 22% of respondents report moderate difficulty finding punctual, reliable workers, whereas only 3% report great difficulty.

The interpersonal skills are a far more significant concern.

In an age when face-to-face communications is giving way to texting, IMing and email, the ability to work in close proximity with people and not only get along, but bond to create high performing teams, is becoming more and more difficult.

Hard skills, from learning new programming languages or moving from technical work on a financial program to developing mobile apps are learnable, as are all hard skills.

Changing and redirecting the character traits that lead to being punctual and reliable or teaching interpersonal skills to a (probably) uninterested party are most often exercises in frustration.

These are the core reasons why attitude and aptitude are more important than current skills when hiring and a subject we’ll look at in more depth this week.

Image credit: Denise Krebs

If the Shoe Fits: The Lean Startup’s Office Optional Conference

Friday, April 25th, 2014

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mYet again Sarah Milstein and her crew at Lean Startup have knocked it out of the ball park.  The first time I experienced it was at their Lean Startup Conference last year.  With the new Office Optional Conference, they have tapped into a motherload of issues that affect the Future of Knowledge Work and Workers.  Companies both large and small are struggling with attracting, growing, retaining and managing distributed teams, just like an increasing portion of the workforce is enticed by the ability to work from home (or anywhere).

I attended with Galina Landes who leads our engineering team, and one of the great experiences was to see how differently she and I experienced distributed work and strategies for improving what we’re doing.   But then, engineers have always had a more logical approach to most things than those of us working in management or other functions in a company.  Combining our perspectives and discussing strategies was interesting and very productive.

This conference on distributed teams dealt with collaboration, communication and the tools necessary for achieving goals as a team and creating a positive work environment.  I’ve personally struggled with this in my previous company and now as we are building a new one.   Our small team is fully distributed, although several of us are in the San Francisco Bay Area and can meet face to face when necessary.  But it’s still challenging to build a company culture, have good communication and trust without which we can’t achieve our strategic goals. 

Personally, I got a lot of ideas for tools and strategies to enhance our collaboration and communication.  In addition, many of the speakers spoke about the need to create an environment where “water cooler talk” and informal communication (and interruptions) was acceptable.  Just like in a normal office environment.  After all, we human beings are (mostly) social creatures and need to create bonds and trust with those with whom we work to achieve goals.

It was a pleasure to see that so many people from large organizations such as GE to small startups like EMANIO, and everything in-between, dealing with the issues around an increasingly distributed workforce.  In interacting with fellow participants, it was clear that we were all neophytes in the area and even those organizations that successfully had deployed a distributed model were still learning and adjusting their strategies and methods.  Office Optional was a great learning experience and I’d exhort anyone dealing with these issues to participate next time they put it on.  It was invaluable for us.

My only negative feedback would be that toward the latter part, the speakers became a bit repetitive.  However, for a first conference small issues like this should be expected and judging from my prior experience with the Lean Startup team the next one will excellent.

The day ended with a conversation between Eric Ries, who wrote The Lean Startup, and Stanford’s Bob Sutton, who penned the No Asshole Rule, and more recently, Scaling Up Excellence.  Though the conference would have been very good on its own, this was the crowning part of my experience.  Professor Sutton is an engaged and charismatic speaker with deep knowledge of how organizations work.  Excellence is what we’re all striving for and he provided a captivating roadmap for how to achieve it.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: a Word of Warning…

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Ease of replication will destroy your business.

https://www.facebook.com/Jeroom.Inc

Hat tip to KG Charles-Harris for sending this.

Image credit: Jeroom.Inc

Authentic What?

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/54933689@N00/6896999591According to a blue ribbon group at Wharton, the secret of customer loyalty is in connecting on a deep level.

 “If you have been authentic, consumers will love you and share your brand” — Vanessa Rosado, global director of digital capabilities, AB InBev

Or you can be totally inauthentic, if you prefer, because many people won’t even notice.

Retweets. Likes. Favorites. Comments. Upvotes. Page views. You name it; they’re for sale on websites like Swenzy, Fiverr and countless others. 

Of course, if everybody demanded authenticity, instead of accepting cyber-stats as real, we would live in a much better world.

But they don’t.

Then there are the dozens of companies that hype their “community,” but have changed their legal terms so that any interaction with the brand, from buying it to ‘liking’ it eliminates the customer’s right to sue, whether for a perceived labeling error or life-threatening problem.

And then there is Google, who very publicly changed its TOS in response to a lawsuit over its email scanning.

Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.

When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

While the wording is similar to other sites, Google’s services and their ubiquity aren’t.

It is these words, “upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services” that raise a giant red flag in my mind.

Google Docs is a service used by thousands of companies of all sizes for collaboration, both internally and with their vendors and customers.

They’re people upload and store designs, marketing plans, contracts, etc. to share and send.

According to its TOS, if Google so chooses it can share the details of those docs with anyone they please or publish them for general consumption.

Of course, everyone knows that Google does no evil and would never consider violating anyone’s privacy, but that old bottom line seems to require continual reinterpreting of both ‘evil’ and ‘privacy’.

The only thing I’m sure of is that the experience being provided by these companies are authentic.

The real question is, “authentic what?”

Flickr image credit: Dee Bamford

Ducks in a Row: Quarrio is Hiring the Right Stuff

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/atoach/2313158742/The results of a new survey of 500 business leaders drives the home the importance of personality, which makes perfect sense, since it is “personality traits” that underlay “cultural fit.”

78% cited “personality” as the most desirable quality in employees, followed in importance by “cultural alignment,” and then finally “skill-set.”

“Skill-set” as a distant number three makes perfect sense considering the speed of change, especially when technology is involved.

Skills can be learned.

For a prime example, consider Declara CEO Ramona Pierson.

In 1984, at age 22, Pierson was hit by a drunk driver. The car tore her body apart, slicing open her throat, gouging her chest, leaving her heart and lungs fully exposed.

Pierson was in a coma for 18 months. She was totally blind for 11 years, though she has regained partial sight in her left eye thanks to a corneal transplant. It was the process of having to learn just about everything from scratch (including how to breath and walk) that made her realize how important it was to be a lifelong learner.

Which shaped her approach to hiring.

“We don’t hire people for a job. We look for very smart people and look for roles that let them continue along their path.”

KG Charles-Harris has a similar attitude and since I’m helping him with staffing I thought I’d share his Hiring Manifesto with you today.

It’s one I hope more managers/companies adopt.

QUARRIO HIRING MANIFESTO

Quarrio has used AI technologies (natural language processing & machine learning) to create the technology that enables natural language querying and analytics of structured and semi-structured data sources.  We believe this will change the analytics and enterprise software markets.   

We are seeking programmers to join our team who are willing to work for options until we are funded.  We expect funding to be in the coming 3-4 months.

Our compensation plan is completely transparent and we are happy to share it once we establish mutual interest.

WHAT WE WANT

Most companies, especially startups, look for “stars” with extensive experience in specific skills sets.

Quarrio has a different approach.

We seek people willing to work hard, constantly learn new stuff and who are diligent and dependable. People who perform at their peak because they care and constantly strive to improve. Our current team is truly world class and we plan on maintaining that standard as we grow.

We are a company of experience; our current team members are all over 40 with extensive and varied backgrounds. While their knowledge is deep they love learning; they know multiple languages and operating systems, are familiar with many others and have learned new ones as needed for our product.

WHAT WE NEED IMMEDIATELY

Programmers with

  • Ruby or related knowledge
  • Ruby on Rails
  • HTML 5 & CSS3 & JavaScript

OR

  • willingness to learn them coupled with a viable technical base on which to build.

WE DO CARE ABOUT

WE DO NOT CARE

  • If your experience comes from a formal background, working/OJT experience, self-taught at home or different tech background, but strong desire to learn and branch out;
  • where you live (current team includes Seattle); or
  • what you are.

One or another of our current team has faced and overcome every prejudice that is/was active in the workplace.

First and foremost, we care about getting the work done, so by hiring your mind and attitude as opposed to your body and proximity we have the luxury of finding talent that many companies miss. For example,

  • wounded warriors and others with disabilities;
  • minorities, including extraterrestrials;
  • mothers re-entering the work force;
  • “old” people;
  • women;
  • people with no interest in relocating to Berkeley.

In spite of the current prefunded status I honestly believe that Quarrio offers a unique and real opportunity or I wouldn’t post it here.

Yes, along with the right attitude you need to be willing to take the risk—but everything is a risk these days. And you owe it to yourself to take the time to evaluate this one.

I also hope you will share this post with your friends and network wherever they may be.

Please write miki@rampupsolutions.com or call me at 360.335.8054 for more information to discuss the opportunities.

Flickr image credit: Tim Green

News, but No Surprise

Monday, April 21st, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aryaziai/8740433362/I get it. I get what’s going on in terms of women in the workplace is news.

I get it that it is important to remind people that for all the progress that’s been made some things haven’t changed.

It’s still assumed that it’s OK to ask professional women, such as lawyers and marketing execs, to do stuff that would never be asked of the men in the organization.

“…plan parties, order food, take notes in meetings and join thankless committees…bring cupcakes for a colleague’s birthday, order sandwiches for office lunches and answer phones”

By the same token, it’s news that board diversity is moving at glacial speed, primarily because boards only want people with experience and to have experience they need to serve on a board.

“Recruiting women and minorities to boards is being slowed because of boards’ unwillingness to look at candidates who have not yet served on boards,” said Ron Lumbra, co-leader of the CEO and board services practice for Russell Reynolds. “There’s a premium on experience.’’

So while I have no problem with these subjects being presented over and over in the news, there is one thing I don’t understand.

Why are so many people surprised by the information?

Is the general population so naïve that they actually believe women are no longer asked to do tasks that are closer to house work than business work?

Do they really believe that the lack of board diversity is a function of the lack of experience as opposed a desire to spend time with people like themselves who are well within their comfort zones?

The sad part is that while it’s still news, it’s certainly not a surprise.

Flickr image credit: Arya Ziai

If the Shoe Fits: Surviving Your Startup

Friday, April 18th, 2014

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_m Whether you admire Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, or not, you can’t argue with her success.

But it came at a cost, “…seven years ago I collapsed from exhaustion, burnout and sleep deprivation. I broke my cheekbone on the way down and got four stitches on my right eye.”

That incident lead Huffington to add a third metric to success’ standard two metrics of money and power.

…the third metric, which includes our well-being, our wisdom, our capacity to wonder and bring joy into our lives, and our capacity to give. Without these four pillars, life is really reduced to our to-do list.

Too many in the startup community do treat their lives as a to-do list, from starting a company through marriage and kids, with sub to-do lists for each.

They lose sight of the simple; seeing life as a series of competitive challenges.

Which I find hilarious, since that attitude harks back to the much maligned Boomers, whose mantra was “life is a challenge to be overcome.”

Granted, there are many challenges that indeed need to be added to our to-do list until overcome, but there are many others that, although noticed, may be passed by, with nary a ripple in our well-being.

Destroying yourself for the sake of a vision benefits no one—not your team, nor your investors, nor your family/friends and least of all yourself.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: Pinterest, Women and Culture

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

http://mkhmarketing.wordpress.com/

Can male founders create great, woman-friendly cultures?

And if they do will the company become mind-blowingly successful?

Ask Pinterest co-founders Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp and Paul Sciarra.

Better yet, listen to their female engineers.

People would say things like, “Pretty girls don’t code,” or “I assumed you weren’t very good at coding because normally physical attractiveness and technical ability are inversely correlated.” It was a revelation to join the team at Pinterest and feel like I was treated like an engineer first, not as a female engineer. In most other places, I felt like people always treated me as a “female engineer,” like I was a novelty. People even called me a unicorn to my face. It was really nice to come here and not have that gender modifier in front of who I am.Tracy Chou

But once she started working, she quickly got tired of having to explain her role at the tech companies she worked for to strangers who assumed she was in HR or community management. “Now, I tend to always preface with, ‘I work at Pinterest and I’m an engineer at Pinterest,'” (…) We have a lot of support from the company to put on events for women in engineering in particular, whether through logistics or funding.Nadine Harik

The most exciting part for me is that I get to work on a product that I love and feel like I can actually make a big impact on what we do. It’s cool to be able to focus, and learn and grow as an engineer. — Jennifer Tsai

These comments reflect a culture friendly to women, but in a company that is certainly not dominated by them.

Looking at the Pinterest team picture you see a lot of chronologically young males, but based on the women’s comments the frat boy mentality isn’t what’s shaping the culture.

Nobody can quibble with the level of talent Pinterest has hired or the October 2013 valuation of $3.8 billion.

The point is that talented people of both genders will migrate to a place they feel both valued and comfortable.

Creating a culture that equally values women and men doubles the likelihood of finding, hiring and retaining top talent.

And it’s that talent that paves the road to success.

Image credit: mkhmarketing

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