Category: Leadership

Why is Human Capital a Top Challenge in 2014? Again.

CEO’s have once again listed human capital as their top challenge for 2014. Woo hoo! Victory for HR! And what specifically are they worried about? 1. Insufficient talent coming in and 2. Insufficient leadership talent.  This all sounds great right? Focus on your people, develop your people, and you will move your business forward. We can now wash our hands of this and move onto “real business activity.” I say wait a minute…

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Did CEO’s just recently find out that even an automated process had to be created by a person? Is corporate America unaware that the movie “her” is a fictitious film? Outside of the beginning of time, regardless of how you think that came to be, every product, service, or idea came from someone’s mind. This logic makes it seem necessary to declare that PEOPLE MATTER. If people didn’t exist there would be no products, services, or ideas. And voila, I give you the year 2014 and the biggest challenge in a CEO’s mind is still human capital, but why?

We as humans have this inherent uncertainty and that level of uncertainty is magnified when your name is tied to the bottom line of your business, Mr. or Mrs. CEO. There’s pressure for your people to perform. Can you trust them? You want to… but there’s just something that’s keeping you from fully committing.

We can find this inherent uncertainty when we watch historical events. One thing we cannot change is history, unless you have a Delorean of course. However, as we watch instant history replays, we know the outcome and yet we may still be unsure if that outcome will come to fruition. Don’t believe me?

Example 1: Argo

In the film, as the hostages and Ben Affleck’s character were navigating the airport in Iran, slowly making their way through security with bogus identification, I was clenching the armrest in the movie theater, probably perspiring, and unknowingly grinding my teeth, rooting for the fake film crew to make it out of Iranian airspace. Well folks, they made it! The only problem is, I already knew they would make it, everyone did. However, if you were recording a video of me watching you would have thought I was watching live events on a newscast.

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Example 2: 1983 National Championship NC State Buzzer Beater

I have probably watched the clip of the three-point prayer thrown up by Dereck Whittenburg, that is then snatched out of the air by Lorenzo Charles and dunked for the win about 124 times. Yet again, here I am wondering if the prayer will fall to the ground, short of the bucket. Maybe this time Charles isn’t around? Maybe this time, Houston boxes out? Nope. NC State wins every time.

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Example 3: Nik Wallenda

If the name doesn’t ring a bell, this is the guy who walked across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope in June of last year. It was a television event on the Discovery Channel garnering 8.5 million viewers. The big players in TV were reluctant to show a live account, as they were uncertain if Mr. Wallenda would fall to his death. If you can watch a replay of this event and not have your heart rate spike as he’s wobbling 1500 feet above the ground, I congratulate you and also question whether or not the FBI has trained you. It’s one of the most stressful and anxious videos to watch and you more than likely were shifting your weight back and forth on the couch as you completed the feat yourself. I know I did.

Nik Wallenda

We as human beings are unsure of events that are already written in history. Let alone relying on a company, department, or team of people who are responsible for delivering results that do not exist yet. CEO’s are concerned because they understand they need their people. But people are scary and a challenge. It’s not enough to state human capital is a challenge; the true question is what are we doing about it?

You can never be 100% sure you are acquiring, developing, and retaining the best. But, what you can do is commit time and resources to finding and using better information to increase your chances of doing so.

After all, your people matter.

4 GenY Misconceptions About Mentoring

As millennials we’re not only green (aka young, inexperienced, naiive… you get it) when it comes to skill sets needed in a job but the real issue is we’re green to full-time work in general. This creates a perfect storm for 20-somethings and we simply just don’t know what we don’t know.

I currently serve on the board of the Human Resources Association of Central Ohio (HRACO) as the VP of Student Services. My responsibilities include the organization and execution of our mentoring program for college students. Last week I was preparing to speak to students about joining HRACO and I began to think about why GenY might balk at the thought of mentorship.

Misconception #1: Making a decision might be worse than Chipotle running out of steak right before they close and it gives me anxiety.

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When individuals say you need to find a mentor, it’s singular. As a 24 year-old millennial, how am I supposed to pick just one mentor? What if I pick the wrong one? What if I don’t think I have the time? What if someone recommends me the wrong person? What if I want two or three mentors? The idea of choosing “My Mentor” is daunting and therefore I refuse to even look into it because of the “what ifs.”

Truth: Getting out of your comfort zone is the best thing you can do. Decisions really aren’t that bad. You can have one or more mentors and if it’s not an “epic” experience, that’s ok. If you pick up just one nugget of information it’s an experience that is moving your forward.

Misconception #2:  I’m young, wild, and free like the retro 2011 song says. I have plenty of time.

Three months ago I had my two-year anniversary at work and if you do the math, with a retirement age of 65, I have 41 years left in my career. 41 years? I’ll get a mentor when I’m 30. I can wait.

Truth: So my question would be what happens when you’re 30? Is that when your career jumpstarts? It might be. But, be content with knowing others started at 22 and you’re now 8 years behind. #sorryimnotsorry

Misconception #3: “Older” folks know nothing about technology and that’s what runs the world, please tell me what I can learn from them.

I have a co-worker who has asked me multiple times to help show him how to forward text messages. I tie both hands behind my back, close my eyes, rap “Ice Ice Baby,” hop on one foot and forward the text at the same time, thinking to myself… “For real?” I guess by definition he could be a mentor but he can’t even use his own phone. On to the next one.

Truth: Don’t hate me for this… but you can only learn so much from YouTube. For example, ask YouTube how to merge a PDF. Do not ask YouTube if it can put you in touch with the VP of HR at your dream company. Whether or not a mentor has the latest app has about as much bearing on his/her ability to teach you rapport-building skills, how to build your network, or organizing/prioritizing tasks as the players on a Cleveland roster have on winning a championship. None.

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Misconception #4: When I step off the stage at graduation, nothing can stop me from taking over the world.

When I graduated, there was nothing I “couldn’t” do. My parents let me believe if you work hard enough you can get anywhere you want to go. Why would I ask for help? That’s admitting I can’t do it alone and that does not fall in line with my narcissistic ways.

Truth: You’re creating a new marketing plan, you have a meeting to present it to your supervisor tomorrow, and you do it all by your lonesome. All you have as a reference are the three marketing classes you took in college, where you were on Twitter 87% of the lecture and the other 13% of the time you looked up occasionally to make sure the professor was really only using the PowerPoint. In which case you need not pay attention at all, just tally up another “I showed up” in the attendance books and save the studying for the night before your test when you print the PowerPoint and take a quick read-through.  How much about marketing do you REALLY know? Maybe someone who’s done this before could give you some tips? Just a thought.

Whether or not you formally call someone a “mentor” is not the issue. What is important is that we seize opportunities to learn from those with experience. It could be a formal program, a meeting with your professor, or lunch with a co-worker.

I’m not trying to crush dreams. Please feel free to be successful. Just know you might need a few others along the way.

Job Offer Turndowns and The Bachelorette

A wise man once said, “Offering a candidate a job is very similar to proposing to your soul mate.” That wise man may or may not be my boss, but this is beside the point. If you’re ready to be at the altar and can’t wait to begin your life with THE ONE, there is excitement, nerves, anxiety, anticipation, and for some of us out there (who don’t lie to ourselves), sweat, bullets of sweat. 

Finding your husband or wife is one of the greatest fulfillments and one of the most important milestones in your life, or so I’ve heard. Treating the hiring of employees as one of the most important milestones in a company’s life though, seems a bit of a stretch, right? Wrong. No matter the level, open headcount costs companies each day its jobs are not filled. Even worse, the wrong hopeless romantic (candidate) says, “Yes! I do!”, only for everyone to find out one month later it was the biggest mistake of their lives.

 

Last Monday was the anticipated prelude to The Bachelorette finale on ABC. The Bachelorette is a reality TV show, which I’m clearly not afraid to admit I watch where a young lady is presented with 25 handsome devils to choose from with the ultimate goal of marrying a final lucky bachelor. Desiree, the bachelorette, has narrowed her pool of men down to three.

Brooks is one of the three remaining men. Des thinks she’s going on this magical catamaran date but Brooks has other plans. I guess if you’re going to break up anywhere though Antigua is not a bad draw.  I won’t get into details of how Brooks breaks up with Des; however, I will say it was similar to a 9th grade break-up with the boy you’ve been dating since the 7th grade.

It’s been long enough you think you can marry him and when he tells you his feelings aren’t the same you act as such: you begin to sob uncontrollably, pull your legs into your chest onto the bench you’re sitting on, cross your arms on your knees, bury your head  into your forearms, and pout like you’ve never pouted before. “No, this just isn’t fair! This isn’t how it’s supposed to go! I love you and you’re supposed to love me back!”

 

Similar to hiring candidates into a company, hiring managers wait with baited breath when an offer is sent out. On the other side of the relationship, candidates wait to receive the offer.  We typically hear about companies not interested in the candidate. But, what if the candidate tells the company they don’t want to get “married”? If a company wants to avoid being surprised with rejection like Des (you can’t eliminate all turndowns) there is one, proven overarching strategy.

Talk about deal breakers early and often.

There are more in-depth steps to the secret recipe I MIGHT reveal in a later blog, but if companies use this as a rule of thumb they’re well on their way to curbing their turndown rate.

Compensation. Relocation. Benefits. Title. Career path. Window seat. Flexible work hours. Company car. Summer Fridays. Trailing spouse. Children.  Direct reports.

These are deal breakers. I know recruiters / hiring managers don’t want to scare off the “perfect” candidate and candidates don’t want to disappoint a potential employer but discussing deal breakers on the first, second, third, and fourth encounters will help avoid extending offers that aren’t accepted. Everyone is on the same page and at the end of the day no one wants a surprise, a surprise break-up that is.

If you don’t want to be left in despair on the island of Antigua like Des (or maybe you do, but you’re not in Antigua so snap out of it), think about deal breakers and talk about deal breakers early and often.

Tell Us What Not to Do vs. What We Should Do

Do this. Do that. We Millennials have been told how to act, how to dress, how to speak since we were teens. Whether it’s a millennial thing or a “this happens to every 20 something” thing, the idea of telling these “kids” how to act does not reveal consequences but rather prompts rebellion and raises this question, “Why do I have to do it that way?”

Jeff Havens is a speaker, trainer, and author regularly on Fox Business News and has been featured in Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, AOL, and dozens of other regional and national media outlets. I have witnessed Jeff in action at Ohio SHRM and I believe that saying the audience was engaged is an understatement.

Jeff’s speaking engagements, training sessions, and publications use humor in education and inform the audience of WHAT NOT TO DO and WHY. He makes learning about dress code, office and dining etiquette engaging and humorous. Jeff can tell you How to Get Fired, which might help you do the opposite and actually keep your job

A few books from the Jeff Havens collection and Big Pow! Enterprises.

A few books from the Jeff Havens collection and Big Pow! Enterprises.

Here are a few run on sentence vignettes of my experiences or stories I’ve heard during my almost quarter century of being on this earth describing how those my age have been told what to do.

Number One: There are dress codes at some public schools prohibiting students from wearing sweats basically decreeing, “No, do not wear sweat pants and try to be comfortable because you look like a schmuck and don’t reflect the affluent neighborhood and district we want to depict.” Because being comfortable and showing off your new Miami Heat 2013 NBA Championship hoodie would be a detriment to your experience as a student and is such an awful means of self-expression. Do you know how much more I want to wear that hoodie because of your “dress code”? A LOT.

Except if you know me… I clearly would not select that sports team but I’m trying to be non-bias by selecting a current event while still putting my bias into play so that I am not confused with being a front running sports fan.

Number Two: In college there was an hour of my life I will never get back to use for something much more valuable, such as watching a re-run of Grey’s Anatomy. I majored in Business Administration and rather than higher education teaching Millennials to deal with something such as rejection – we played around on Microsoft Office, learned how to write memos, worked on our resumes once a week to finagle “work experience” onto the page, and what else? Dining etiquette, yes sir or madam it was required for us future business leaders to attend this special session on how to eat and drink. I mean, who wouldn’t be jumping up and down to do that?

One, if you’re really interested in dining etiquette I am almost positive YouTube could do a fairly good job of telling you the salad fork is smaller than the dinner fork and picking up your bowl of soup to slurp the last bit of broth is inappropriate. Two, they TOLD me how I should conduct myself, which led me to ask… So if I happen to forget to turn my coffee cup over at the dinner table but, yet still decline coffee from the waiter/waitress, the person across the table from me will get up and leave?

Number Three: Speak eloquently, slow down, NEVER cross your arms, look me in the eye, and please give me your undivided attention. How many self-help or “business” books talk about how you SHOULD communicate? So what they’re telling me is if I model myself after a polished communicator, I’ll be on my way to success? What if I’m talking to a room of 20 something’s? What if I’m so polished it’s intimidating and I’m uptight and no one can relate to me?

In no way am I saying that I’m an endearing communicator but you can’t tell me that Blake Shelton’s Southern drawl doesn’t captivate you.

These are just three examples of how we are told how to act. But the younger generation entering the workforce might have some trouble with not only being told what to do but the real issue is being told what to do without understanding why. When you describe what not do to do, your why shines through. The why typically being, “I’d prefer to not act like a reckless hooligan.” If you happen to read Jeff’s books, he has a poetic and comedic means of leading you to the promise land of, “I never want to act like that.”

Please understand I do believe you need to be dressed appropriate for your environment, you need to be polite and aware when dining, and you need to understand how to be an effective communicator to your target audience. These are musts in the business environment. But might there a better way of getting this message to Millennials?

HR and Hiring Managers, show the consequence and the hilarity in that consequence. Show what not to do and you might find that the kids (and adults) you’re dealing with might listen this time. It’s not what you say but how you say it. Ask Jeff.

Your Puppy Dog Eyes Failed: They Said “No”

With summer breaking through in the Midwest, I drive home after work with my windows down, country music flowing through the speakers, and dream of being in shorts and a T-shirt at last. Throwing my bag down on the floor, I then immediately find the right Nike Tempo shorts and T-shirt to put on. Black, white, or festive crew socks? Whatever best matches the color scheme I have put together that day. Now that I’ve assured anyone coming within 0.3 miles of me will be able to see me with my assortment of neon hues… I grab my headphones, GPS watch, iPod and head for the door.

But, before I can make it down the stairs there’s a collie following my every move. By slanting his eyebrows down and making well thought out whimpers just at the right cadence, Rex pleads, “Take me with you, take me with you. Please?” I mean really, how do I say “no” to that! I just can’t. And even though he always completely throws off my run with his half mile sprint to start, I snag his leash, take off, and prepare myself for the insane amount compliments about to take place regarding the majestic pup pulling me along. Can you blame them though?

Rex - Blog

As most of us in the workforce (I won’t say all, because being that assumptive can get you in trouble) do not have beautifully groomed locks of fur, a snout that allows us to secretly knock food off of the counter and eyes that you just can’t say “no” to – we must understand that rejection is inevitable at some point. Yes, Jesse Williams (Jackson from Grey’s Anatomy), you do have eyes that can make any gal melt – but nothing competes with man’s best friend. Trust me.

Jesse Williams

When talking about my own career I’ve often been candid in sharing that recruiting was not my first choice as a starter job, but the right choice. You learn how to deal with “no” very quickly. Along with, “You’re getting ‘no’ because you need to do ‘this, this, and this’ better.” This morning, my Twitter feed offered up an interesting blog title related to this, “On Losing Your Fear of Rejection and Embracing ‘No.’”

The blog specifically discusses rejection as it pertains to jobseekers. Resumé after resumé peddled out, e-mail after e-mail with thanks but no thanks. But I think it’s important for Millennials to understand that when you’re a new grad beaming with your college degree, you’re going to hear “no” even when you do land that job. It could come from customers or co-workers but be prepared for when it occurs. Whether it’s a rejected sale, project idea, or vacation request – it’s going to happen.

Taking rejection and criticism is a trait Millennials are not typically ready to deal with appropriately. However, I think this lesson is not solely for 18-32 year olds but can be learned at any age, it’s never too late.

To highlight this, earlier this week I attended an event where Gene Smith, Athletic Director at The Ohio State University, was a guest speaker. He mentioned Gen Y and Z having issues with discussing rejection or criticism face-to-face. As an example, his student-athletes would rather send an e-mail or text to their professor questioning why they got an “A-” instead of an “A” rather than meet in person. Regardless of generation, if you understand face-to-face communication is the best way for you to deal with rejection or criticism, this is what can separate you from the pack. If face-to-face is impossible, make the phone call.

Millennials, you’re competing with peers who are also intelligent, have internships, have degrees and in a lot of cases advanced degrees. Yet, the unemployment rate is currently hovering around 11-12% for this age group. The question I always ask myself is, what are the other 88% doing right? Understanding how to deal with “no” at the age of 22 (an age Taylor Swift made much cooler than it actually is) is a differentiator when it comes to the workforce.

You can try your best Rex impression to turn a “no” into a “yes,” but if you truly want to separate yourself – accept you will hear “no,” understand how to deal with “no,” and learn from “no.”

The REAL Reasons You Should Hire College Athletes

There are two schools of thought when it comes to hiring athletes. One being they’re just “dumb jocks” and won’t bring value to your organization. Second being they’re an attractive hire because they’ve shown commitment to a cause.

Being a college athlete I have a slight bias and tend to agree with the latter. It is a benefit to the workplace to hire college athletes but not just any college athlete. I recently read a blog essentially classifying the “good” athlete hire versus the “bad.” Pointing to combinations of level of play from Division I-III or NAIA, grade point average, scholarship amount, and playing time.

These combinations only scratch the surface of evaluating a student-athlete. When you have a recent grad or current student in the interview process, you should be asking yourself, “What can this individual add to our company?” In my opinion outside of GPA, the division a player competed in, scholarship amount and playing time, don’t tell you if the candidate “can do this job” – it only tells you about the level of basketball player they were and if they might be able to beat you in a game of H-O-R-S-E.

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But not all college athletes are one in the same.

The Myths of Hiring College Athletes

  • They all have time management skills:  There’s a major difference between knowing how to allocate time to projects in the work environment and knowing that on MWF I have class from 9-11am and 1-2:30pm with practice from 4-6pm. Out of the 8 hours plus left in the day – I somehow have to find time for homework and to study! Trust me… College athletes DO have time (less than non-athletes, you’re right, but time nonetheless) – it’s just a matter of how they use it.
  • They’re all coachable: I can think of several individuals I have played with or against who were college athletes and never once did I think they were coachable. Watch an NBA playoff game this week. Coachability isn’t exactly a quality all athletes possess.
  • They know how to work with a team: One, let’s discuss all of the individual sports out there – golf, tennis, gymnastics. Yes, I know they can win team trophies too but they don’t need to communicate, “Hey! I’m going to rocket a pass to you under the basket and if you don’t look up I will peg you in the back of the head” in less than 2 seconds. Two, as with time management and being coachable, just because you’re on a team and listed on a roster does not mean you understand how to be a good teammate or how to work effectively in a group.

The above 3 items are typically knighted upon all college athletes who enter the workforce. But, as a hiring manager or recruiter – do not be fooled. They are not automatic traits. And if you’re an athlete – don’t fake these qualities, it will become apparent very quickly that you started all but 4 games in your career, received a full-ride scholarship, but can’t seem to figure out why you’re terrible at sales.

Mount Bball

You may now be asking yourself, “So what am I looking for? You’ve told me about several fallacies and yet, I’m left with no action.” Below are the REAL reasons you should hire college athletes.

What to Look For and Questions to Ask:

  • Mental Toughness: How were you tested physically as an athlete in college? When you were faced with adversity, how did you handle the situation? The day a teenager or early 20-something says to himself or herself, “Wow, I can’t believe I just did that. I didn’t think it was possible.” You’ve struck gold. Your coach should push you to levels you never thought you could reach and this quality will be one you will use over and over again in the workplace.
  • Self-Discipline: What did your off-season workouts look like? When you arrived back on campus in the fall, were you in shape? Did your coach instill a sense of accountability when it came to working out on your own? It’s a lot more difficult to stay on task and push yourself when no one is watching.
  • Sacrifice: This is how I define TEAM. You know when to put others before yourself. You do what’s right, because you don’t want to let your teammates down. When have you had to sacrifice for your team?
  • Leadership: Describe leadership stories. The title “captain” doesn’t grant you leadership skills. Why were you elected captain? If anything about being a senior or upperclassman is mentioned, that’s a turn-off. You earn the title of captain because you know how to motivate, you cultivate relationships, and not only do your teammates trust you but so does your coach. You can also gain leadership skills without being a captain. The question around leadership boils down to; did your teammates value your opinion? And, when things weren’t going well, did your team look to you?
  • Coachable: This is a very important trait but, as stated before, don’t assume just any athlete is coachable. Ask pointed questions – How did you react when your coach pointed out mistakes? When posed with opportunities to improve, did you take the initiative to get better?

Sweet 16

For the majority of college athletes who will not be playing professionally, as the famous NCAA advertisement states, it’s important to differentiate yourself beyond that line on your resume reading “Varsity Basketball 2007-2011.” Millennial athletes, did you gain any of the characteristics above? Be prepared to convey more than “common traits” several athletes before you have over-used. Tell them your stories. The resume lines on winning one regular season league championship, two league tournament championships, and two NCAA appearances with a Sweet 16 don’t hurt either. More stories.

Hiring managers, expect more from the athletes you’re interviewing. Get to the important traits and don’t take college athletes at face value.

I think most will find that the clear indicator of the value of a college athlete can be measured by the coach they played for. A coach who runs a program with the goal of not only winning championships but developing contributing members in the real world and teach their players mental toughness, self-discipline, sacrifice, leadership, and being coachable.

Thanks Coach.

Case Study: “True Life: I’m a Millennial Looking for a Job”

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There has been a common theme since April 2012 when I started my blog; if you work hard and don’t take “no” for an answer you’ll find a job. I still do truly believe this but let’s now discuss putting “working hard” and being “persistent” into practice. What does this really mean? It’s definitely not wishful thinking.

Job Seeker Profile:

  • 23 year-old female
  • 4-year college degree from a private liberal arts school
  • Major: Business Administration
  • Student-Athlete and Team Captain her senior year
  • Work experience: 1.5 years

Job Search Statistics:

  • Moved to another city December 1st 2012 after amicably leaving her first role
  • Started her job search prior to this date in October 2012
  • Applied to 29 jobs with 2 call backs
  • Sent resume to 4 people in her network with 2 call backs
  • 9 companies contacted her directly
  • 4 phone interviews
  • 3 first round face-to-face interviews
  • 1 second round interview – led to job offer
  • Hired on January 15th, 2013 and start date is January 22nd, 2013

The scenario above is important to illustrate because it’s a blue print for any Millennial (I would argue Xer’s and Boomer’s can also take some notes on this) for their job search. It’s not impossible.

Here in Ohio there are 4 million individuals who are unemployed. This morning I checked Ohio means Jobs and there are just under 100,000 jobs open. Being a former recruiter, there is the mantra of “it’s a numbers game.” The more you have the better the chances you’ll find the right person. Well ladies and gentlemen can someone please tell me why there are 100,000 job openings, key word OPENings, with 4 million people out of work?

I’ll concede the “it’s becoming a more skill focused job market” argument, sure, that’s fine. Let’s just cut the unemployment number in half then – 2 million are “unskilled.” They don’t qualify. Well my friends we still have 2 million left, to go after 100,000 jobs. That still means there are 20 times as many unemployed individuals as there are open jobs.

Maybe the above job seeker had the x-factor, maybe she is just better at looking for a job than others, maybe she got “lucky”, maybe it’s because it’s January and staffing departments are excited to hire and use their allocated funds. All of these could be true for those of you trying to find reasons other than hard work to rationalize how she found a job.

I challenge you to say, “I can do that too.” Sure, this may be a former teammate of mine and sure, she has an arsenal of “hard work” in her being solely for the fact she played for Coach Venet. I do have a clear bias toward this experience obviously – but take a look at the bullet points above. They speak for themselves. It is possible.

Be educated about job searching, be persistent, and at the end of the day – put in the work.