Are Your Values Divisive?

For decades one of the linchpin exercises for executives has been developing a mission, vision, and values to rally the organization around a shared identity. Going through this exercise is typically seen in a positive light especially when team members are involved in their creation. In theory, it aligns the team by giving them a common understanding of what they are building and provides parameters of how it needs to be built. But more often than not this exercise does not have the intended effect. While values are supposed to be long-term guideposts, they are often in reality a teambuilding exercise or worse, a disruptive catalyst that undermines the culture of a company. When viewed as a teambuilding exercise, the effects are often short term. The feeling of camaraderie quickly fades away when the team focuses on their daily work. While this result maybe disappointing, it typically isn’t disruptive to the business. Ironically, the true disruption is when the management team builds a support system around values that are inconsistent with the company’s true identity. When poorly defined values are propped up by management, people see through the inconsistency and resentment starts to build as the perceived hypocrisy fuels cynicism … Read More

The Art of Staffing Leadership

During the last six years, every consulting engagement has challenged my perspective and provided important insight on how best to advise staffing executives on critical strategic decisions. When I started Charted Path, my initial plan was to align execution with strategy by primarily focusing on process efficiency and metrics based management. This approach was due in large part to the prevailing wisdom that process efficiencies and analytics promised to make growth a more objective scientific endeavor. While these tools have proven to be powerful in many industries, staffing quickly revealed the limits of “management science” and instead demanded a more comprehensive, dare I say artful and personalized approach. Why is a more creative approach necessary for staffing companies? Because performance is driven by culture. We have heard a lot about data and analytics over the years and they have an important role. However, individual motivation, passionate collaboration, and steadfast commitment are the lifeblood of a staffing company and all three require a strong culture to thrive. Experienced managers understand this at a tactical level which is why so many staffing companies focus on incentives and recognition to ensure their staff remains motivated. Keep in mind that these tactics only work … Read More

Mike Cleland Writes About “The Art of Candidate Engagement”

TechServe Alliance asked Mike Cleland to write for their first issue of Beyond Certification, a newsletter for Certified AEs and Recruiters. Be sure and read this article for tips on improving how you connect with your candidates to build better trust and collaboration.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Metrics Driven Management

Most staffing executives and managers understand the value of metrics. They see the visibility it can provide and how it allows them to make better strategic and tactical decisions. However, what we rarely discuss are the pitfalls of metrics based management. These pitfalls can effectively banish common sense and replace it with bureaucratic certainty where rule enforcement dominates management decision making. Rule based management does have its place, but taken too far it can compromise adaptability and lead to a demotivated workforce. Below are a couple common pitfalls and how staffing managers can avoid them. Pitfall One: Driving Non-Productive Activity Potential Problem: Focusing on activity is an effective management strategy for a junior level employee who needs to develop disciplined habits. However, as a producer becomes more experienced and successful, focusing solely on activity metrics can be both demotivating and unproductive. In addition, the focus on activity may compromise the quality of the work. A sales person can definitely hit their meeting number, but are those meetings with people that generate business is a completely different matter. Solution: Define the Key Measure of Accountability It is a manager’s job to define the key measure of accountability for the different roles … Read More

The Value of Planning

Is your management team too busy with the day-to-day operations, that they cannot step back and determine the future direction of the company? “Tactical busyness” is a common problem with the lean management teams in the staffing industry. They are so focused on the fires in front of them they cannot address long-term issues. This short term focus traps them in a reactive loop that undermines their ability to improve and direct the organization. About a year ago I was speaking with a software vendor who needed help with an unhappy client. It seems the client purchased their software, but management took a very hands-off approach on its implementation. This lack of leadership led to very poor tool adoption and productivity actually decreased. In response, the leadership team blamed the tool. This wasn’t a question of management being lazy or indifferent. As a matter of fact, these managers worked long hours and were very passionate about the success of the business. This is a great example of a management team that is so involved in the daily business that they do not take a hard look at what they should be doing. The core of the problem is role confusion … Read More

Behind the Wheel: Driving Excellence in Staffing Operations

I am often asked why I wrote a book about the staffing industry. I felt like a book on staffing management needed to be written. There was no business case or financial model, just a belief that strong management is critical to the future of our industry. We needed resources that helped managers understand there unique role as well as their importance. The purpose of the book is to improvement management performance through more effective decision making and collaboration. In order to accomplish that goal, this book defines the performance drivers, provides a shared language, and clarifies the management roles. Defining performance drivers: The key elements of any growth strategy are defined by the performance drivers – Sales Strategy, Operational Alignment, and Performance-Driven Culture. The Sales Strategy begins by identifying both target market and the sales capabilities required to be successful. Operational Alignment ensures the organization has the capabilities to deliver their value proposition. The Performance-Driven Culture is the x factor in staffing operations and the fuel for top-line growth. All managers must understand the role of each of these drivers and how to manage to them effectively. Providing shared language: As a company grows, having a disciplined vocabulary becomes more … Read More

Achieving Simplicity and Focus in Staffing Data

We live in a time where we have more data that can possibly be manipulated.  Companies sincerely believe that the more data they show their team, the better they are at management.   I would argue this approach does more harm than good.   While data can be valuable, sometimes it becomes too much of a good thing. Instead of adding value it does the opposite, it creates confusion resulting in the wrong conclusion.  “Focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”  Steve Jobs, BusinessWeek, May 25, 1998 Steve Jobs’ quote from fifteen years ago is still applicable today.  Staffing managers are responsible for combing through data, identifying and understanding key trends, and presenting their findings to their team. The desired result is a team with focus. In order for the data to be usable, it must be simplified to its essence. If management is unable to do this effectively, it can create more harm than good as it fosters confusion. Recently I was at a conference when a speaker said a management … Read More

Execution: The Most Powerful Differentiator

When I was a staffing executive, I faced a crucial decision that would determine the fate of our organization.  Our largest client had given us an ultimatum that would require me to completely restructure our organization to meet their service requirements.  In addition, they were demanding lower margins with the promise of higher volume in the near future. What our client was demanding was a complete transformation of our organization putting at risk our financial model, our culture, and most importantly our philosophy of a quality driven staffing company.  If we decided not to sign the new agreement we would lose our largest client, and have to find a way to replace almost 20% of our gross profit.  We decided to walk away from the client, and built an aggressive sales strategy that replaced it with lower volume, higher margin business.  After everything was said and done I convinced myself that our decision was the right one, and any company who chose otherwise was making a crucial strategic mistake. A few years later I had dinner with a company that challenged my thinking.  This company was put in the exact same scenario with the same client with no more resources … Read More

Reducing the Growth Plateau in Staffing Companies

From what I have seen, most growth trends for staffing companies are not linear.  Instead, there is strong growth followed by a plateau.  I have come to the conclusion that managers may not be able to completely escape plateaus, but they are the key factor in determining how long they last.  The reason for this is simple.  As a company grows and operations become more complex, it is more difficult to identify bottlenecks and drive accountability. Each manager has a different role in breaking through plateaus, below are some common considerations each functional role must consider.   Middle management isn’t listed below since they either directly or indirectly impact the functional roles. Executive Role:  Responsible for adjustments in growth strategy, strategic investments, organizational structure, cultural considerations, and revamping the management framework. Sales Manager:  Accountable for revamping targets, managing process improvement, using data to drive creative problem solving, establishing sales identity, formalizing on-boarding and on-going training, creating consistent accountability, and remaining externally focused. Delivery Manager: In charge of implementing new sourcing tools, maturing processes to drive operational alignment, formalizing on-boarding and on-going training, and managing automation to streamline data flow. How each of these manager’s attempts to break through the plateau varies … Read More