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Role Model: Craig Zoberis and Fusion OEM

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

http://www.fusionoem.com/

In 1914 Henry Ford doubled his workers’ daily wage, much to the consternation of other magnates, who believed, as do most of them today, that success comes from paying as little as possible.

Ford, however, believed that he would benefit if his workers had disposable income and he was correct; they used the extra money to buy Fords.

The same holds true today; modern research has proved that higher wages increase profits.

Businesses, from very large to very small, still don’t believe it and scream at the thought of a so-called living wage.

But not all of them.

Fusion OEM at just $12 million is considered very small, but it’s profitable and founder Craig Zoberis is very happy, because he is meeting his twin goals.

While lots of other manufacturers have moved operations to China or Mexico, Zoberis has kept his plant in the United States – and considers it a point of pride to pay his 55 workers above-market rates. Workers with no experience start at $14-an-hour, he says, and by completing training and gaining skills can reach $18-to-20-an-hour, plus overtime and bonuses, for total pay near $50,000 a year, within a few years.

Zoberis doesn’t expect his people to buy his products, but he did want to have a  place to work that matched his MAP and not his father’s.

My father and his partner never did a good job of hiring the right people with the right attitude. I wanted to be excited to go to work every day, and working for my father’s company, I was not.

Fusion OEM has never had a layoff, but finding great workers in its industry is just as difficult as finding great programmers, hence the need for a creative, long-term solution.

My colleagues were always complaining that there aren’t enough skilled workers who have the right attitude. When I talk about skilled workers I’m talking about machinists (…) What we discovered halfway through our life at Fusion is that we couldn’t always look outside for skilled people. We decided to hire for attitude and train for aptitude.

Fusion OEM is enjoying double digit growth, but Zoberis isn’t interested in taking outside investment. He loves going to work, saying, “This is my hobby, my income, my life,” and knows that hyper growth can kill you.

You can’t grow your company any faster than you can get the right people. If it goes too far, you might go beyond your capabilities and you’ll fail.

The interview is well worth reading, especially their approach to hiring and compensation.

I rarely make predictions, but in this case I feel pretty safe making two.

  1. Zoberis will continue building his company, growing his own people and being a management outlier.
  2. Most companies of whatever size will continue to treat people as disposable, pay them as little as possible and bitch about them to whomever will listen.

Image credit: Fusion OEM

Interviewing Fly-On-The-Wall

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

https://hikingartist.com/2015/10/21/cutting-of-the-branch/

This is a short post, because you need time to read the links.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a CEO building an executive team or a newly promoted supervisor, interviewing is critical to success — the team’s, the company’s and, especially, yours.

The most important things to learn from your interviewing aren’t about hard or soft skills.

The truly critical factors are

  • how they think; and
  • their attitude.

That should be the “make or break” information you come away with.

There’s a lot of help to be found here; look in the hiring category and use the various interview* tags — and, of course, today’s links.

Asking slightly off-the-wall questions that candidates can’t prepare for is a good technique as long as you have a valid goal in mind — one that is well beyond just being discomforting.

The technique is used by CEOs from companies diverse companies, including Tony Hsieh of Zappos, Stormy Simon, president of Overstock and Ashley Morris, CEO of Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop.

Use them as a guide, because the same questions probably won’t work for you. First, they will become well-known as they are passed around the digital world, and second, because they won’t be relevant to your particular situation.

Now, a moment of interviewing levity, better know as “candidates say/do the strangest things” or  WTF?????

“It’s hard to say why a candidate would do some of these things,” Rosemary Haefner, chief human-resources officer for CareerBuilder, tells Business Insider. “Maybe he or she is nervous, thinks an employer would find it funny, or perhaps the candidate simply has no boundaries.”

More than 2,600 hiring managers and employers shared with CareerBuilder the most memorable job-interview mistakes candidates have made. Here are 25 of the most unusual things that happened:

I sent this link to several friends; here is the response of one who is a senior manager at a large industrial enterprise in the southeast.

I’ve been offered a blow job, been asked out, been introduced to the “cruising” area of my city, threatened with a sexual harassment suit and shouted at. Interviewing is no joke…

Managers are still sticking their respective feet in their respective mouths.

Don’t be one of them.

Image credit: Hiking Artist

Golden Oldies: Paying For Hires Upfront

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Greetings and welcome to 2017. I thought we’d start the year out with a bit of critical hiring wisdom, especially since hiring so-called stars is still high on most founders’ agendas.

The problem is that hiring often reverses the old adage, ‘one man’s junk is another man’s treasure’ and the promised star is, in the new environment, a dud. (Note: the compensation described is from 2007.)

Read other Golden Oldies here.

My entire career, even when I was a headhunter, I’ve condemned guaranteed pay packages and sign on bonuses, whether stock or cash, because of a passionate belief that people who join just for money/stock have no loyalty and will leave for more money/stock and that what a person did for their previous employer is not a guarantee of what they will do for their next one.

Obviously, my efforts have had no impact whatsoever, outside of my own clients, especially in the executive suite.

The practice is now so common that it’s been named the “golden hello,” a sure sign of broad acceptance.

Such packages are based totally on candidates’ historical actions for another company, frequently in a different business, their interviewing/negotiating skill, charm, and the threat that doing so is the only way to acquire their talent.

Just how much is all this worth? Penny gave its new COO “…a base salary of $750,000, to be reviewed annually starting in 2007, with a cash bonus that could be as much as 150 percent of her salary…stock option awards and restricted stock awards valued at more than $20 million in recognition of forfeited benefits at her former employer, Capital One, as well as a minimum cash bonus for 2006 of $1 million.”

She was fired six months later, because “…Ms. West not being a good fit for the company,” according to Deborah Weinswig, a Citigroup analyst.

Further, “…Ms. West had a severance agreement and that the retailer intended to honor its terms.” and you can bet that her golden goodby will contain a goodly portion of her golden hello.

I understand executive paranoia and the desire not to lose what they already have, but change always involves risk.

Penny isn’t talking, but if the analyst is correct about the fit, why was Ms. West hired in the first place?

Who wrote the job description? Who interviewed her? Who checked her references? Who thought she was such a good fit that it was worth doing anything necessary to land her?

“Who,” of course, is plural, nobody, especially at senior levels, is interviewed by just one person any more.

That’s why I keep telling my clients that, as their companies grow, they must make hiring, including skilled interviewing, a core competency at all levels.

How to be Dumb as Google

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ficusrock/5716144109/

When it comes to hiring, as Forrest Gump would say, “stupid is as stupid does.”

And stupid is using recruiters who think the only “right” answer to a technical question is the one written on a sheet of paper. (Note that “technical” can refer to the specifics of any field, although in this case it was software.)

No knowledge or understanding of the subject; just the blind focus on the written words — kind of like talking to customer service when the rep keeps repeating their script no matter how you phrase the question — and no recognition that they may wrong.

The call started off well but as the interview progressed, Guathier got an increasing number of questions wrong. His frustration grew as he tried to discuss the answers with the Google recruiter only to find that the recruiter wanted the exact answer in the test book even if alternative solutions were better.

The company is Google and it should be noted that they approached the candidate, as opposed to his applying.

Way back in 2007 Google announce that they had developed an algorithm to screen candidates.

It didn’t work.

Google was also famous for its brain-teaser questions.

Only, according to Lazlo Block, SVP of People Operations, they are a lousy predictor of success.

“Part of the reason is that those are tests of a finite skill, rather than flexible intelligence which is what you actually want to hire for.”

The value of elite colleges and high grades was publically debunked in a 2013 story about the prevalence of grade inflation.

Not all Google’s efforts fall in the stupid category; block’s efforts to educate both management and workers about bias is definitely a smart move.

But locking technically ignorant recruiters into accepting only set responses to tech question rates right up there with algorithms and brain-teasers. And I say this as someone who was a tech recruiter for more than 12 years.

Of course, managers’ interviewing skills won’t matter, since  the best, most knowledgeable, most creative candidates will be screened out before they ever see them.

Image credit: Chris Pond

The Humorous Side of Layoffs

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/searchengineland/2263318234/Michael Smith, CEO of TeraTech and a past client of mine, sent a link to a Medium post about recognizing the signs that a layoff is coming.

Here are three examples.

  • Fresh CEO blood.
  • Loss of eye contact.
  • Earlier rounds of layoffs.

I  would add

  • Lots of smoke and dancing by management, instead of answers.

Obviously, layoffs aren’t funny.

However, management’s belief that no one will notice the signs is funny.

Why?

Because you can’t brag about hiring smart people and then assume they will miss the telltale signs around them that something is wrong.

Image credit: search-engine-land

How to be a Great Boss

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/hikingartist/3555349324/Being a great boss is hard work; it doesn’t always come naturally.

Being a boss means understanding the importance of culture.

  • “I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game.” –Lou Gerstner, IBM turnaround CEO

Being a boss means clarity throughout 360 degrees of your communications, i.e., subordinates, peers and bosses.

Great bosses

  • provide their people with all the information needed to understand how to perform their work as correctly, completely, simply, and efficiently as possible.

They do this by

  • providing clear, concise, and complete communications at all times.

Being a boss means a strong focus on hiring.

Great bosses hire smart.

  • “Don’t hire jerks, no matter how talented.”

Great bosses hire sans ego.

  • “There’s two ways to manage. You can hire to be the smartest person in the room or you can hire to be the dumbest person in the room.” –Michael Lebowitz, founder and C.E.O. of design firm Big Spaceship (He says he works at being the dumbest.)

Being a boss means many other things, too, but master these three and you’ll be well on your way to being a great boss.

Image credit: Hiking Artist

Ducks in a Row: Assumptions Result in Bad Hires.

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rainbowy/15498377216/Even after working decades with bosses at all levels, from CEOs to team leaders and first-time supervisors, their ability to make inaccurate, let alone stupid, assumptions based on nothing solid still astounds me.

The smartest/most creative people only attend top tier universities. No they don’t. The wealthiest/most indebted, unless they were on scholarship, attend those schools.

I can spot instantly talent, even with just a casual conversation. No you can’t. What you can spot are people like yourself.

Hiring/poaching top talent always pays off. Not hardly. Consider JC Penny, Bob Nardelli, Marissa Mayer and thousands more at every level and in every field.

Or that a birdbrain, even the smartest, could figure out the eight steps it took to get a reward, with no coaching?

As opposed to the wisdom of crowds, assumptions are more often the bias of crowds.

Video credit: The Kat on the BBC
Image credit:  Holly on Flickr

If the Shoe Fits: Are You Dimpatient?

Friday, August 5th, 2016

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mI saw a new Snickers’ commercial and thought how relevant it was to the startup world — founders, employees and candidates.

In case you haven’t seen it, here it is.

Dimpatient.

Great word. No question what it means and so apropos to the situation.

Most bosses have interviewed a fair number of dimpatient candidates in the course of their careers.

Of course, candidates have been interviewed by a goodly number of dimpatient founders, managers and team members.

And that’s not counting how many founders have presented to dimpatient investors and been forced to interact with dimpatient advisors.

Or, worse yet, because they have no one to blame but the selves, hired dimpatient contractors.

Dimpatience is already rampant throughout the tech world and spreading rapidly to other fields.

Too bad Snickers®adv can’t actually curtail the epidemic.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And if you’re looking for inspiration, information, guidance or solutions click over and browse the August Leadership Development Carnival. You can’t go wrong.

YouTube credit: SnickersBrand
Image credit: HikingArtist

Ducks in a Row: SAP’s Smart Hiring

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/treehouse1977/4664642792/

Some companies look spend millions in recruiter fees and poaching candidates from their competitors; others are more creative.

Those in the second category are open to staffing solutions far outside the box — even the standard race/creed/color/gender/national origin diversity box.

It’s called neurodiversity — those with some kind of cognitive disabilities, such as people with  Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

What do you do when you have highly repetitious work that also requires a high degree of intelligence — like software testing?

That is actually a viable description of people with ASD.

Of course, that means hiring people who, for most people, aren’t the most comfortable to be around.

Roughly 60 percent of people with ASD have average or above average intelligence, yet 85 percent are unemployed.

For smart companies, such as SAP, that group is a goldmine of talent and five years ago it set a goal to have 1% of their workforce comprised of individuals with ASD.

Hiring people with ASD isn’t about charity or financial exploitation; it’s about gaining a competitive advantage and partnering with Specialisterne goes a long way to providing the right program.

So far (as of 2013) about 100 people have been hired [by SAP] for jobs including software developer or tester, business analyst, and graphic designer, and pay is commensurate to what others in those jobs earn.

SAP use an analogy that individuals are like puzzle pieces with irregular shapes.

“One of the things that we’ve done historically in human resource management is, we’ve asked people to trim away the parts of themselves that are irregularly shaped, and then we ask them to plug themselves into standard roles,” says Robert Austin, Professor of Information Systems, Ivey Business School. “SAP is asking itself whether that might be the wrong way to do things in an innovation economy. Instead, maybe managers have to do the hard work of putting the puzzle pieces together and inviting people to bring their entire selves to work.”

That approach can benefit other forms of diversity like race, gender, and sexual orientation.

“Innovation is about finding ideas that are outside the normal parameters, and you don’t do that by slicing away everything that’s outside the normal parameters. Maybe it’s the parts of people we ask them to leave at home that are the most likely to produce the big innovations.”

Read the article and then decide what’s best for your organization.

Good bosses won’t have a problem with the approach; the rest will whine and resist.

Flickr image credit: Jim Champion

Golden Oldies: Insanely Smart Retention and Stars

Monday, June 27th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

I’ve never been a fan of so-called stars. Bosses constantly waste their time, not to mention their budgets, looking for stars. As with everything, stars are often a product of a specific ecosystem and set of circumstances which are rarely duplicated in the new environment.You have only to take a hard look at Marissa Mayer’s history to see the problem in action. Read other Golden Oldies here.

3937284735_35e9f47fb3_mAre you already a devotee of insanely smart hiring, in the process of changing after reading insanely stupid hiring or somewhere in-between?

Wherever your MAP is on the subject there is one thing about hiring that you need to wrap your head around if you want your career to flourish.

You can not hire stars, but you can create and maintain them.

This is as true of executives and management as it is of workers at all levels.

Think of hiring in terms of planting a garden—only these plants have feet.

You’re at the nursery and find a magnificent rose. It’s large, because it’s several years old, has dozens of blooms and buds and is exactly what you wanted for a particular space in your yard.

The directions say that the rose needs full sun to thrive, while the space in your yard only gets four to five hours of morning sun. But the rose is so gorgeous you can’t resist, convincing yourself that those hours from sunrise to 11 will be enough, so you take it home and plant it.

It seems to do OK at first, but as time goes by it gets more straggly and has fewer and fewer blooms.

Finally, you give it to your friend who plants it in a place that gets sun from early morning to sunset.

By the end of the next summer the rose is enormous, covered in blooms and has sprouted three new canes.

One of the things that insanely smart hiring does is ensure that people are planted where they will flourish, whether they are already thriving or are leaving an inhospitable environment.

I said earlier that people are like plants with feet. Abuse a plant, whether intentionally or through neglect, and it will wither and eventually die; abuse your people and sooner or later they will walk.

Insanely smart hiring also gives you a giant edge whether the people market is hot or cold.

By knowing exactly what you need, your culture, management style and the environment you have to offer you are in a position to find hidden and unpolished jewels, as well as those that have lost their luster by being in the wrong place. (Pardon the mixed metaphors. Ed)

These are often candidates that other managers pass on, but who will become your stars—stars with no interest in seeking out something else.

They recognize insanely smart opportunities when they see them.

Flickr image credit: Ryan Somma

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