January 2011 20
Such is the advice of Garrett Miller, author of the new book Hire On A WHIM: Four Qualities That Make for Great Employees. As the president and CEO of workplace management company CoTria, Miller frequently coaches companies and gives keynotes on the subject of workplace productivity.
Shortly after starting CoTria, Miller says he started to reflect on the things that made him successful in his previous career, and one thing he always came back to, he say, was hiring.
“I started to wonder, ‘Why did I have so much success hiring?’ As I wrote down qualities that made them [great hires] great, I began to see these four threads that wove them all together. And suddenly, the word ‘WHIM’ popped up,” he told me in a phone interview recently. Thus, the inspiration behind his new book.
"No matter how good you are as a manager, you can't teach someone integrity."
WHIM, as the book’s title implies, is an acronym for the four qualities Miller believes are the foundation for a great hire: work ethic, humility, integrity and maturity.
Why these four qualities? "What makes these qualities so unique is that you can’t teach them," Miller says. "No matter how talented a manager you are, you can’t teach someone to have more integrity. That’s something life teaches you. And, yes, you certainly can learn these qualities, and you can grow in these qualities, but as a hiring manager, I can’t adopt you without these qualities."
What’s conspicuously absent from WHIM is the mention of skills or experience, but as far as Miller’s concerned, that’s no accident. He says he’s not discounting the importance of experience when making a quality hire, but even the most experienced employees will make poor hires when they lack any one of these qualities. “What separates the great employees from the mediocre employees? And it comes down to these qualities.”
And only a candidate who possesses all four qualities will do, Miller insists. He says he learned this lesson the hard way that “if you hire three and give a pass to one, you’re going to pay for it…It cost me dearly and my team dearly. And it’s affected my reputation as a manager, because everyone I hire is really a reflection on me, isn’t it?”
"Peel back the onion" by asking unexpected interview questions
To help others avoid the same mistake, Miller provides a list of questions at the end of each chapter in WHIM to guide hiring manager through the act of “peeling that onion back so that you’re really seeing the individuals – as opposed to someone who answers questions well.”
Miller says that one of his personal favorite interview questions is, “What one event helped to shape you into the person you are today?” because it’s an unusual question that generates a thoughtful answer – one that reveals whether or not a candidate “can come through adversity on the other side and grow from it.”
In fact, Miller seems to have a soft spot for unusual interview questions. “One last thing I do in an interview is I sell them out of the job,” a tactic that Miller uses to keep himself from setting false expectations and reducing the amount of “I wasn’t expecting this” feeling from new hires. “Once they’re in the ‘I wasn’t expecting this phase’ part…in a sense, they feel you’ve lied to them. So now, the integrity is busted, and they look at you without integrity. And you can’t have that in any type of relationship.
"We need to keep in mind the ROI of getting this right."
But Miller also understands that sometimes just getting to the interview phase of the hiring process is half the battle. “It’s funny, because people think this is the greatest time to hire because you have so many applicants, but it winds up being a nightmare – you post a job, and you get 300 resumes.” While Miller doesn’t have an “easy answer” to those hiring managers who are overwhelmed with more resumes than usual right now, he is adamant in his belief that as time-consuming as the process is, going through those resumes thorously will pay off in the end. “What takes more time is when you hire incorrectly. We need to keep in mind the ROI of getting this right.”
He suggests having a sort of litmus taste when going through resumes that revolve around WHIM, such as screening for charity or volunteer work. Another piece of advice he has is giving priority to those resumes that come from personal recommendations and networking, which he has personally found leads to a lot less “spam” and a higher quality of candidate.
“I can’t guarantee a great hire every time, but I can guarantee MORE great hires,” Garrett says of what readers will get out of his book. “My goal isn’t to be right, but to share what made my career so great,” Miller says of his purpose in writing these book. He hopes others can take away the lessons he’s learned and apply it to their own careers, and understand that “no matter how good they are, they can be better.”
So what is the secret to his success? “It wasn’t because I was a good manager,” Miller says, “but because I hired great people and then got out of the way.”
While you were busy updating your Amazon.com wish list, confirming what you already suspected about your favorite 2 a.m. dining facility, or in no way whatsoever exploiting your reunion with a long-lost family member, here’s what was happening in the world of workforce management this week…
- Motivating Losers Starts with Perks (And Also Not Calling Them “Losers”) Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have found that giving perks to departmental losers makes them better employees, according to Post-Gazette writer Ann Belser. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
- Program Helps Transgender Workers Work Their Transferrable Skills In hopes to garner support for a new equal rights bill that highlights gender identity and gender expression in Massachusetts, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights group will start offering “Back to Work” seminars geared toward transgender workers. (Boston Herald)
- If There’s One Thing Younger Workers Love, It’s Not Going Into Work More younger workers are looking for employment with companies that offer work-at-home and telecommuting options for employees, according to CNN. (CNN)
- The Only Time It’s Ever Maybe Okay to Go Pantsless to an Interview Virtual interviewing – via Skype and other means – is one of the many ways in which recruiting is going high-tech, according to an ABC News article, along with mobile text alerts and video resumes. (ABC News)
- Google Won’t Stop Until Everyone in the World is Working for Them In its ongoing attempt to take over the world maintain its competitive edge in the marketplace, Google announced this week that it planned to ramp up its hiring in 2011. (USA Today)
- Mass Layoffs Increasingly a Distant Memory According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many of the companies plagued by mass layoffs in 2009 and 2010 now expect to recall workers. (The Fiscal Times)
- Behind Every Great Female CEO is a Great Sponsor. According to a new study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, the reason women hold just 3% of Fortune 500 CEO seats is a lack of sponsorship – that is, the backing necessary “to inspire, propel, and protect themselves on their journey through upper management.” Hey, let’s change that, shall we? (Harvard Business Review) And finally…
For the sixth year in a row, Hay Group released the results of its Best Companies for Leadership study, naming General Electric the top company for leadership worldwide. Proctor & Gamble, Intel, Siemens, Banco Santander, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Accenture, Walmart and Southwest rounded out the top 10.
What exactly does ‘great for leadership’ mean? In a nutshell, the companies on this list actively promote and support leadership development throughout all levels of the organization, providing extensive training, education and mentoring programs – as well as viable work/life options.
Notice how the top companies for leadership also happen to be leaders in their industries as well? That’s no coincidence – their leadership and development initiatives benefit the bottom line just as much as they benefit the individual employees. Hay Group’s research finds that these companies owe much of their long-time success and sustainability to “attracting and developing leaders who can collaborate, inspire and lead,” according to the group’s website.
Leading the Way: Four Characteristics that Define a Great Company for Leadership
For more specific examples of what defines a company that’s great for leadership, check out the list below of the characteristics that define these companies – according to Hay Group’s official study – and how various companies on the list embody these characteristics:
1. Diversity is Valued as a Business Asset.
Diversity and inclusiveness is central to General Electric’s mission, with affinity networks and employee groups geared specifically toward minorities, women and veterans, among other groups. Proctor and Gamble has a U.S. Diversity Recruiting Team in place to ensure “consistent and continuous representation in the leadership networks in order to provide the best sourcing pipeline available” Siemens’ management training programs are specifically designed to teach managers “how to effectively leverage and develop the talents of our employees across the entire spectrum of similarities and differences.” The company also keeps the conversation on diversity alive across the the company with its blog, DiversityTalk@SiemensUSA. And as part of its diversity commitment, FedEx encourages employees to get involved with community service and volunteer initiatives, an effort furthered by its partnerships with such organizations as the American Red Cross, United Way, NAACP, and the Special Olympics.
2. Effective Leaders are Increasingly Collaborators.
According to the study, companies that are great for leadership have programs in place “designed to develop leaders who can creatively bring together resources across different parts of this organization.” Such is the case at Southwest, where employees can spend a day on the job of another employee if they’re interested in another department or position at the company, and its Manager in Training Program is designed to identify and develop leaders. In addition to internal communities and networking events, Accenture ensures collaboration between leaders and employees with its mentoring program. And with its Performance and Development Planning program, Unilever encourages employees to take responsibility for the next step of their careers as they maintain an ongoing dialogue with their managers for feedback and guidance. According to Pfizer’s career page, “each individual contributes to Pfizer’s scientific medical and business leadership possible.” The company's interactive “It Begins With Me” website highlights the ways in which employees are collaborating in order to accomplish this mission.
It seems like just a year ago we were telling you that 72 percent of workers 60 and older were postponing retirement due to financial reasons. Turns out, it was. Where does the time go?
Who knows, but apparently in that year, the situation for mature workers began to improve. According to this year’s survey, 60 percent of mature workers are postponing retirement because of finances.
“Engaged employees are the competitive advantage of today,” Eric Mosley and Derek Irvine argue in their new book, Winning with a Culture of Recognition. If they’re to be believed, that means bad news for employers: Employee engagement is at its lowest level in 15 years, according to a recent Hewitt survey. From that standpoint, it’s no wonder the number employers are struggling to hold on to top employees, despite a still-slim job market.
If anyone can speak to the important role engagement has in an organization’s success, it’s Mosley and Irvine. Through their work at Globoforce®, they have helped companies of all sizes – including such recognized corporations as Dow Chemical, Intuit and Fairmont Hotels – develop strategic recognition programs to increase employee engagement levels and ultimately drive bottom line results. Winning with a Culture of Recognition is their effort to bring those same strategies and solutions to a broader audience.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Irvine, who heads Globoforce’s strategy and marketing team, via e-mail to discuss how the book addresses today’s key employer challenges, including what is causing the drop in engagement levels, the impact it is having on U.S. businesses, and what leaders can do to not only stop – but reverse – these effects. Below is the edited version of our conversation.
What sets “Winning with a Culture of Recognition” apart from other management books? Winning with a Culture of Recognition gives practical step-by-step guidance, proven stories of success, and the research behind the power of recognition to create a culture of appreciation that increases employee engagement for dramatic bottom line results. This isn’t a soft-skills “1,000 ways to thank your employees” book. This is a hard management practice with proven results. We bust the myths around old-school recognition and incentives, making strategic recognition attainable for companies of any size.
In your book, you talk about “strategic recognition.” What do you mean by that? Strategic recognition means integrating recognition with a company’s core values and strategic goals. It helps employees understand the behavioral norms you have identified to achieve the desired business outcome. What matters in the recognition moment is not showmanship but sincerity. Let the managers express appreciation in their own way; if it’s personal, tied to company values, and genuine, it will be effective.
What does “winning with a culture of recognition” mean? “Winning” with a culture of recognition refers to winning in the marketplace. It’s proven that companies with more engaged employees are more successful. Recent Gallup research found that for companies in the top 25 percent for employee engagement, earnings per share (EPS) exceeds competition by 28 percent. That number increases to 72 percent for companies in the top 10 percent. What did the level of employee engagement mean to companies during the recession? Those in the top 25 percent that were trailing competition before the recession surpassed the competition in 2008. Those in the top 10 percent were already ahead of their competition in 2007, but widened the gap further in 2008.
While you were busy surprising the technology world with the announcement of your resignation, surprising the technology world with the announcement of your temporary leave, or surprising…meh, probably not really anyone with the announcement of your retirement, here’s what was happening in the world of workforce management this week…
- Call These Companies ‘Frosted Flakes,’ Because They’re Grrrrreat! FORTUNE magazine released its annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. Prepare to not be shocked. (FORTUNE)
- No Pressure at All on Obama’s New Hire Putting the future of job creation more or less in the hands of one man, President Obama has appointed GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt to chair the new “President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.” (MSNBC)
- Employees in Virginia Apparently Free to Act as Ridiculous as They Want Virginia’s Supreme court ruled that a restaurant worker was entitled to worker’s comp after being injured during on-the-job horseplay, thanks to the, um, “horseplay doctrine.” (Workforce)
- Just Like the Poltergeist (But Way Less Scary), Workplace Perks Are Baaaaack Rather than survival, more companies are switching their focus to employee satisfaction and retention these days, bringing back perks they might’ve cut during the recession. (Star Tribune)
- The Office File Cabinet Isn’t Just For Files You’ll Never Revisit Again The NYPD recently released a study that found that the office file cabinet was the best place for workers to hide should someone ever walk in and start shooting a gun. (New York Post)
- Dress Codes Get Workers’ Panties in a Twist After inciting controversy over what some say is an overly strict workplace dress code, Swiss banking giant UBS AG announced plans this week to revise its current 44-page dress code to be less micro-managey.(MSNBC)
- Another Product of the Recession: Pay-For-Performance Models Last week it was GM, now even more companies are adopting the pay-for-performance model. (Advertising Age) And finally...
Yesterday, FORTUNE released its annual list of the Best Companies to Work For.
Simply looking at the profiles FORTUNE provides for each company, which includes such big names as Google, Whole Foods Market and Goldman Sachs, you might be thinking, Well, sure, if my company had an annual revenue of $23.6 billion, we could afford to give our employees on-site dry-cleaning and free gourmet lunches, too. But it's important to remember that the perks FORTUNE highlights in its profiles of these companies are just that – perks.
Sure, things like Google's free laundry services, Zappos' no-charge vending machines, or the state-of-the-art gym at SAS are nice - very nice, in fact - but those things don’t even scratch the surface of what makes these companies great workplaces. In other words, it's not the benefits themselves, but rather the implication that employees and their work are valued that keep employees happy, engaged and productive.
Building a Great Workplace: Think 'How,' Not 'What'
Last month, I had the pleasure of speaking with Michael Burchell and Jennifer Robin, researchers at the company behind FORTUNE's list, The Great Place to Work® Institute, to discuss what differentiates great places to work from other companies.
As they note in the opening pages of the new book they co-authored, The Great Workplace: How to Build It, How to Keep It, and Why It Matters, when it comes to creating a great place to work, "it's not what you do, but how you do it." And these companies execute their employee benefits in such a way that says, “We value you.”
It should also be noted that these companies don’t treat their employees well because they can simply afford to offer a bunch of perks, but they can afford to offer perks precisely because they treat their employees well.
“The research we’ve done on the business benefits are pretty clear and compelling that great workplaces just do better financially [than their competitors],” Burchell says.
Aside from the financial impact, however, Burchell notes that a lot of leaders simply believe creating a culture that recognizes and rewards employees for their hard work is just the right thing to do. The fact that it happens to be good for the bottom line, too?
Well, that’s just a perk.
FORTUNE's Best Companies to Work For 2011: Top 10
Get a peek at what makes these places so great...or check out the entire list here:
- SAS: While perks like on-site healthcare, high quality childcare, summer camp for kids, car cleaning, a beauty salon, and access to a state-of-the-art, 66,000-square-foot gym are nice, the real reason employees stick around is because – as one manager told FORTUNE – “they feel regarded -- seen, attended to and cared for."
- Boston Consulting Group: Employees here have the chance to work with the U.N. World Food Program and Save the Children through the company’s Social Impact Practice Network (SIPN), contributing to a larger community effort.
- Google In addition to recognition from executive leadership (Google employees recently received a surprise 10 percent pay hike and $1,000 bonus for their service), peer recognition is also emphasized here: Googlers can award one another $175 peer spot bonuses.