Strong Managers Have a Balanced Perspective

Article Two in a Five Part Series: Several years ago I had a new recruiting manager come to me complaining that they couldn’t get their work done because they kept getting interrupted. In an attempt to learn more about the predicament, I asked for more details. He then began to craft for me a laundry list of fires he had to put out from addressing conflicts between team members to listening to employees discuss personal issues. Of course, he was disappointed to hear that addressing these daily interruptions is part of management. Too often, however, these interruptions can drive a manager to only think reflexively, to only worry about the next immediate problem and forget about one of the most important responsibilities of the job: Improving the Organization. This limited perspective of the job responsibilities is completely natural for a manager who must constantly address internal issues that come to their desk day in and day out. However, the question remains if management is solely focused on the present, then who is preparing for the future? The answer is “no one”. It is for this reason that managers must work to pull themselves out of the day-to-day and become more externally … Read More

Why the Status Quo Isn’t Good Enough

If you don’t like change, you will like irrelevance even less. General Erick Shinseki An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage. Jack Welch The majority of people hate change.  Change increases uncertainty, impacts trust, challenges relationships, and if poorly implemented can make people fearful of the future.  It is these potential consequences that make managers advocate the status quo, and look at change and innovation with a skeptical eye.  When you consider the potential negative consequences along with the amount of work necessary to define and implement change initiatives, it is no wonder that many managers opt for the status quo. However, the staffing industry is continuously changing and if managers do not learn to adapt to those changes, their company will invariably become less and less competitive.  Take for example the continuous improvements of applicant tracking systems.  From social media integration to more effective CRM capabilities, these directly impact the productivity of the production team as well as management assuming effective implementation.  It does not stretch the imagination to realize that managers who enable their team to leverage these capabilities will have a competitive advantage over ones who choose … Read More

Building a Balanced Metrics Portfolio

As a staffing organization grows, management relies on metrics to provide the visibility necessary to ensure the company is staying on the right track.  How effectively an organization develops these metrics has a direct impact on critical management decisions, and thereby, on company performance in both the short and long term.  Because the staffing industry relies on individual performance, most staffing companies have a system of metrics in place.  However, having an incomplete portfolio of metrics can undermine growth since it can misdirect management on solving the wrong problems which can further undermine performance. The metrics we use act as the lens in which we view the business, so it’s important to ask ourselves does the lens we use accurately represent reality?  Too often the answer is no. Of all the assessments I have done there is always one common theme, the problems I am asked to evaluate are often not the key issues that need to be addressed.  These disconnects between perceived and real problems stem from either a lack of correct metrics or inaccurate interpretation of what the metrics are saying.  Common sources of a poor metrics portfolio include: Not Aligning Metrics to the Company Strategy:  Many companies … Read More

In Case You Missed It: Metrics that Matter

A couple months ago I was given the opportunity to present on metrics at the SIA conference in Miami.  I have had several requests for the presentation, so it is now available on the website.  You can listen to the presentation or view in pdf format here. Some of the topics covered in the Metrics that Matter presentation are: The role of metrics in managing a high performance organization The different types of metrics that provide a properly balanced perspective The role of company strategy in effectively defining your metrics You can also view two TechServe Alliance webinars on our website as well. Strategy Simplified : Understanding strategy and its role in building an exceptional staffing organization. This presentation is tailored to the executive who must define and implement the company’s long term growth strategy. Drivers of a Successful Sales Organization : Building and managing a strong sales organization includes mastering these drivers. This presentation is a must for executives and line level sales managers Upcoming: For IT staffing companies I also encourage you to sign up for the SIA webinar “Making IT Solutions Work for your IT Staffing Firm” on May 24, 2011. I will be presenting the key success factors to consider … Read More

Relationships Still Rule, But…..

Back in the early 90s when I entered this business, I was exposed to a simple yet accurate description of the staffing industry by Al Dubuc of Oz Enterprises- “People selling people to people”.  The crux of that definition was that this business runs on the strengths of one-on-one relationships with clients and consultants. However, as clients have changed how they purchase staffing services and candidates have change how they look for jobs, the business has become more complex. While the ability to build long lasting trusting relationships is still critical to a staffing company’s success, other critical factors have crept in over the last decade and altered the landscape of how we need to view and manage this rapidly changing business. Developing Internal Talent:  Companies are frustrated by the inability to hire qualified sales and recruiting talent.  Relying on hiring experienced and qualified talent that are willing to leave their current position has become exceedingly difficult for a variety of reasons.  The alternative is to hire less experienced people and train them.  However, most companies are ill prepared to hire and develop inexperienced talent, but you don’t have to look far to see the return on such an approach. … Read More

Planning for Success

How would you respond if someone asked “what’s your growth plan for next year”? In answering the question, you may find that you really don’t have a satisfactory answer.  One of the causes of this lack of planning is the tendency to derive business planning from the budget process instead of the other way around.  The budget should give the financial backing for the business plan to be executed.  By deriving the business plan from the budget process, managers often miss critical business issues that need to be addressed in the coming year.  Throw in the year-end reconciling of financials and it’s easy to see how planning is dominated by analyzing and discussing numbers on spreadsheets. Effective business planning requires a more holistic approach where management not only is aware of the financials, but also will evaluate each core driver of the business to identify areas of improvement for the upcoming year.  The three core drivers that need to be reviewed and challenged include your sales strategy, operational effectiveness, and the performance driven culture. Some questions to get you started are listed below. Sales Strategy: Is defined by your value proposition, the buyers you are targeting, and the sales process … Read More

Letterman’s Legacy

Recently, I stumbled across some articles that made some interesting claims including the “The ten dumbest management trends” and “The ten worst business ideas ever”.  It makes me want to write an article titled “The top ten management articles that make controversial overgeneralizations to drive web traffic”.  I understand why people structure their articles around lists, and if you want readership, then it pays to be as dramatic as possible.  Drama is entertaining.  Also, it certainly sets the expectations that the article is going to be relatively short and what manager wouldn’t want to know the top ten of anything? People love lists.  You see them everywhere on the internet from major news organizations to everyday blogs.  Lists suggest both a level of research and authority.  Initially, many lists were around interesting facts or well researched theory.  Lists are easy to digest, make for good trivia and provide a level of entertainment.  Lists can also provide important structure around management issues that can be difficult to define.  My upcoming webinar incorporates “Five Sales Drivers” is one example of that technique. However, reading these lists on management practices gives me cause for concern.  Lists that make sweeping generalizations are more about … Read More

Hiring For Drive

One of the most common questions I get from staffing managers is whether it’s better to hire experienced or green sales people. Leveraging my years of experience, I can confidently answer that I really don’t know. I have come to this conclusion because I have seen both profiles succeed and fail. In the end, it seems experience level is a poor predictor of performance. This assertion is supported by a study conducted by American Psychologists Frank Schmidt and John Hunter, who discovered that basing hiring decision on experience level had only slightly better results than a coin flip or hand writing analysis. Neither of which is terribly effective. I’m not saying that experience should not be considered, far from it, the level of experience an employee has should play an important role. However in screening candidates, experience should be balanced by those difficult to define qualities that drive the focus and perseverance of most successful sales people. In their book “Never Hire a Bad Sales Person”, Dr. Christopher Corner and Richard Abraham leverage years of data to capture personality characteristics that are consistent with top producers. The compilation of these characteristics is what they refer to as Drive. Drive is that persistent motivation … Read More

Are the Scales of Talent Tipping?

From my discussions with many staffing owners and executives, things are getting better. Job orders are up, clients are moving faster and it seems more and more likely that the worst of the great recession may be behind us. This uptick is especially true for IT staffing. This is good news, but it does bring with it issues that managers have not faced in a long time including hiring and retaining top talent. Staffing companies live off of the need for talent, but we are facing a bit of a crisis of our own. I speak with staffing managers every day and the common focus area is hiring top sales and recruiting personnel. The sales side can be particularly vexing for managers that are just looking for “A hunter that can bring in business quickly”. These people may exist, but I make a point in my TechServe Rainmaker article that it is less a hiring strategy than it is wishful thinking. Similar issues are found in finding recruiting talent. The fact of the matter is for the foreseeable future in order for companies to build competitive teams, they need to build three critical capabilities: Retain Existing Talent: These last two years have been … Read More

The End of Management

A couple weeks ago I was browsing through the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal and stumbled on an article titled “The End of Management”.     Contrary to what it suggests, the point of the article is not to rid companies of management, but to challenge the perception of the role of management as it faces unprecedented change.  One only has to look at the hyper-accelerated changes in the marketplace to realize that hierarchal or bureaucratic management approaches are outdated and in many cases are harmful to a company’s ability to adapt.  This dynamic is captured in the following paragraph discussing creative destruction: “Yet in today’s world, gale-like market forces—rapid globalization, accelerating innovation, relentless competition—have intensified what economist Joseph Schumpeter called the forces of “creative destruction.” Decades-old institutions like Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns now can disappear overnight, while new ones like Google and Twitter can spring up from nowhere. A popular video circulating the Internet captures the geometric nature of these trends, noting that it took radio 38 years and television 13 years to reach audiences of 50 million people, while it took the Internet only four years, the iPod three years and Facebook two years to do … Read More