Author Archives: Susan Rochester

About Susan Rochester

BSc MHRM FIML Susan Rochester has been managing director of Balance at Work since 2006. According to her Harrison Assessment, Susan has a natural tendency to balance analytical thinking with an optimistic outlook to set direction and solve problems. She is an effective facilitator and constantly creates new and more effective ways of doing things, motivated by helping others to achieve their goals.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Case Study: Online Recruiting

The first time I met Frank Stillone, managing director of The Silent Partner, he was looking for a ‘robust’ recruitment process.  

Finding the right people was difficult.  Most didn’t live up to what was required for the role.  Mistakes and poor performance from his staff were costing him business.  He needed a better way of finding the right person who would be an excellent fit.  Together we were able to develop a process that delivered the results Frank wanted to achieve.

Background

The Silent Partner, in Sydney, is a provider of virtual office, calendar management and help desk solutions.  The growth of the business requires regular recruitment of additional virtual receptionists to deliver these services.  Frank had previously done his own recruitment, with mixed results.

Designing the job requirements

Using his knowledge of what makes someone successful in the virtual receptionist role, Frank and I carefully selected the essential and desirable criteria, along with those characteristics he would prefer to avoid.

For each of the eligibility criteria – skills, qualifications, experience – points were allocated to each possible answer, depending on the job requirements.  For example, some of the company’s clients are medical specialists and allied health professionals, so bonus points were awarded for experience as a medical receptionist.

For the suitability criteria – personality, motivation, work preferences, interests – we were able to add relevant traits and rate them in terms of their importance and frequency of use on the job.

Setting up the campaign

Once the criteria were in place, Frank was ready to start taking applications.  He placed an advertisement on an online job board with a link back to The Silent Partner’s ‘Jobs’ page.  The advertisement also stated that the only way to apply was by following this link.

When an applicant reached the web page, they could see the job description with an ‘apply now’ button at the bottom.  By clicking on this button, the applicant would arrive at the beginning of the online application form.

The application process

Once they reached the application form, applicants were first presented with details of the job.  If they chose to proceed with an application, they completed their name and contact details before proceeding to the first part of the online questionnaire (eligibility).

Answering the eligibility questions took only a few minutes.  The applicant was then asked to upload their CV and cover letter.  Depending on their score in the first section, they were asked to proceed to the second part of the questionnaire (suitability).  Completing this section takes about 20 minutes.

The results

A total of 269 people viewed the online application form.  Of these, 69 decided not to apply after viewing the job description while a further 27 didn’t proceed after entering their personal details, therefore self-selecting themselves out of the process.

This left 173 applicants who completed the eligibility questions and/or resume upload, including 132 who went on to complete the suitability questionnaire.

The system automatically short-listed 24 candidates with scores over the pre-determined cut-off.  The CVs of the top 15 short-listed candidates were reviewed to decide who would proceed to preliminary structured telephone interviews.

Frank interviewed five people in the preliminary round.  Two candidates were selected for more detailed interviews and both were offered – and accepted – a virtual receptionist position.

The benefits

The Silent Partner’s recruitment process had rewards in terms of both efficiency and effectiveness.

Efficient

  • Frank didn’t have to receive and respond to 269 emailed applications, saving him days of unproductive work.
  • Once set up, the process was automatic and did not require management or input until Frank was ready to close the campaign and interview.
  • Frank only had to read the resumes of short-listed candidates.
  • Telephone interviews were structured and effective in further screening of candidates.
  • Candidates could be notified of their progress directly from the recruitment system.

Effective

  • Frank was able to monitor the campaign via a dedicated dashboard.
  • By deciding in advance what he did and didn’t want, all applicants were objectively and automatically screened.
  • Frank estimated the new process took less than 20% of the time he’s devoted to similar recruitment exercises in the past, representing a significant cost saving to the business.
  • All applications were checked for consistency by the system, flagging applicants who may not have been honest in their answers to the questionnaire.
  • Only those candidates who met pre-set criteria were considered for the role.

Frank says:  At the end of the day, your company is just a collection of people doing stuff and whether that company is Apple or Merv’s Mowing Services it doesn’t really matter.  If you want to be successful you need to get the right people doing things right.  As small business owners the same applies to us:  We can be experts at many things but we cannot be an expert in everything. That’s why we need to bring in someone with specialised knowledge and tools to help us find the talent we need to grow.

Download the case study

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

The time to ‘trust your gut’ is lunchtime…

…not when you’re hiring a new staff member!

Managers very often rely on their intuition or ‘gut feel’ when making staffing decisions.  In my experience, it’s amazing how often we hear  “it just felt right”, “she seems like a good fit” or “I feel very comfortable with him”.  There’s a lot of confidence in intuition.

When it turns out the person they hired is just not up to the job, have you ever heard a manager say “I guess my intuition isn’t reliable”?

You’re more likely to hear “he did a great job of selling himself at the interview” or “her referees obviously exaggerated her ability”.

For managers who rely on outdated and ineffective recruitment procedures, the wrong decision is usually someone else’s fault – often the new employee’s.

When was the last time you heard a manager use “it just felt right” as justification for an equipment or software purchase?  Of course, few would.  Yet many are prepared to take a gamble on their gut feeling when it comes to the major investment of hiring a new staff member.

A recent survey by the recruiter, Hudson, found that 44% of new hires were described by their managers as ‘not good’*.

Would a 44% failure rate be acceptable in any other area of their businesses?

The managers who regard recruitment as more art than science are ignoring the research and resources available today that enable much better predictions of employee performance.  For example

1. Past experience is a poor indicator of a candidate’s ability to perform well in a new role;
2. Motivation and cultural fit are the best indicators of future performance but only 6% of hiring managers assess these objectively*;
3. Matching the right person to the right job by measuring their ‘fit’ to the role is easy and inexpensive – especially when compared to making the wrong decision.

Next time you see someone recruiting without adding appropriate rigour to the process, suggest they just toss a coin instead.  The odds of getting a good employee won’t be much worse than 56%  – and it’s a lot less trouble!

*Hudson 20:20 Series:  New Generation Recruitment: Battle Strategies For the Talent War at http://au.hudson.com/2020/node.asp?kwd=latest-2020-whitepaper  Read more here: http://www.afr.com/p/national/work_space/why_you_can_get_good_staff_stP5BDsy9SJ2C1F9NqjsOO

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

If I knew then what I know now…

Wouldn’t you love to go back to being 16 – when you knew it all?

Teenagers are a great reminder that we don’t – and can’t – know everything.  The best we can do is limit the extent and the risks of our ignorance.

One very rewarding aspect of our work is giving people information about themselves and those around them that allows them to manage risk.

Here are some cases where we are providing this knowledge and changing businesses:

1. A business owner developing a succession plan with prospective equity partners

What they now know:

  • Values, strengths and challenges of each person;
  • Similarities and differences in what motivates them; and
  • Potential areas of conflict.

2. A management team planning a restructure

What they now know:

  • Who is in the right job;
  • Who has the potential to fill a new role; and
  • Who should probably be moved on.

3. A practice manager developing to take on more of the business responsibilities

What he now knows:

  • His strengths that may be perceived as challenges by others;
  • How to manage time better; and
  • How to express himself in ways that will motivate others while feeling authentic.

4. A manager developing her team

What she now knows:

  • Effective ways to communicate with and inspire her team;
  • The balance and range of strengths on her team; and
  • Individual team members’ expectations.

5. A business owner who is ready to hire more staff

What he now knows:

  • The characteristics people need to be successful in the role(s);
  • What he definitely doesn’t want; and
  • How to objectively measure performance potential.

Every one of the situations above are very expensive if you get them wrong.  Doesn’t it make sense to find out as much as you can before you make that investment?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Giving feedback? Remember the other F-words

Feedback is one area some people struggle with when managing staff.  Remembering some other f-words could make it easier!

Here are some quick tips to giving feedback that will be well received and acted upon:

1. Always give feedback face-to-face.

2. Giving feedback on a frequent basis makes it normal and expected.

3. Be fair and consistent.  Take the time to recognise good performance, not just problems.

4. The feedback conversation requires you to focus on the person with you, without distractions.

5. Stick to the facts and don’t let emotions influence how you deliver feedback.  If you are feeling angry or upset, wait until you’re in a better frame of mind.

6. Have a plan to follow-up on your feedback to see if it’s been effective.  If you were expecting change and it hasn’t happened, try again.

You will have other tips you can add to this list.  Please add your comments below.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

The 2 main reasons you don’t delegate

In my years of coaching and observing managers, one of the main obstacles I see the majority of them face is delegation of their work.

If I was to nominate one characteristic that would make the biggest difference to their chances of success (or stress) it would be the degree to which they are able to enlist the cooperation of others to get things done.

For most, the inability to delegate comes from one or both of these two main core beliefs:

1.  Nobody else can do it as well as I can.

2.  Asking for help is a sign of weakness.

Here are some signs that delegation is not working:

  • Customer calls are not returned because of reliance on one person to know what’s going on;
  • Employees feel uncertain about what to do and keep escalating issues;
  • Important tasks get missed or forgotten because the team’s relying on the manager to make it happen.

The lack of delegation poses the biggest threat to a business in times of stress so pre-emptive action should be taken to avoid it getting to that point.  You can start by taking a closer look at those beliefs above:

1.  Nobody else can do it as well as I can

Is that really true?  If it is, I recommend you review your hiring and training practices.  More than likely, you do have staff who can do the job – so give them the opportunity to show you how well they can do it.

Until the work you do can be done by robots, accept that all humans are fallible (even you).  In most businesses, mistakes aren’t life-threatening and the sooner you learn to live with them the better!

Other people might do things differently from how you’d do them.  Isn’t that exactly what a business needs in order to adapt, grow and thrive?

2.  Asking for help is a sign of weakness

If this was really true, there would be no need for service industries to exist.  We’d all do what needed doing for ourselves, from installing antennas to running our own court cases.

Clearly that’s ridiculous, so why be so selective in getting things done that need to be done?  It doesn’t have to all be up to you!

Of course, you can choose to struggle along doing work to which you’re not really suited but how much better for you, your staff and the ‘Gross National Happiness’ if you’re mostly doing what you love and your team are given opportunities to excel at tasks they enjoy?

If I’ve achieved one thing with this article, I hope it’s that the next time you think “It’ll be quicker/easier if I just do it myself” you take time to challenge your beliefs and think about delegating instead.  Will you?

 

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Hazard reduction, backburning or putting out spot fires?

As we experience our first bushfires of the season in the Blue Mountains, I think there’s a good analogy between the practices above and how managers behave.

Hazard reduction is the practice of burning, clearing and other practices done in advance of the fire season with the aim of reducing the impact of any future fires.  Back burning is when a fire is lit deliberately in the path of a bushfire with the aim of reducing the fuel load and slowing or stopping the progress of the fire.  Spot fires happen when a fire is underway and embers get carried into unburnt areas.

“I’m always putting out fires!” is a common complaint from managers.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before.

What if we use the bushfire analogy to avoid those management ‘fires’?

1.  Hazard reduction

  • skilled staff with the right attitude doing work they enjoy
  • adequate infrastructure, training and resources are available to do a job well
  • appropriate remuneration and benefits
  • clear and consistent policies and procedures
  • performance management systems in place
  • adequate insurance

2.  Backburning

  • disciplinary procedures
  • defined exit process
  • many team/morale building exercises, because there’s already a ‘fire’ when they’re implemented

3.  Putting out spot fires

  • immediate, on the spot decision making to avoid, contain or reduce damage
  • dealing with unplanned absences
  • summary dismissal
  • resolving client issues

Of course, just as with bushfires there are no guarantees but perhaps it’s time to ask:

What would you rather be doing?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Writing an effective job advertisement

The development of a job advertisement is a crucial part of the recruitment and selection process to enhance the employer’s capability to attract the right pool of applicants for their role.  

This extends to where you advertise and under which category you post the advertisement.  This article will step you through writing your advertisement and will provide you with some sample wording in key areas.

Recruitment Strategy

The first decision you need to make is where you advertise.     Factors will include the:

  •  Seniority of the role
  • Type of role – example IT role or HR role
  •  Location of the business
  •  Employment category – full time or part time (there are now web sites for part time jobs, job share).
  • Advertising budget
  • Time frame to fill the role
  • Main components of the role – this will determine the category and sub categories.

Requirements of an effective advertisement:

The advertisement should:

  • Attract attention from a sufficient number of potential candidates
  • Provide an honest picture of your company
  • Display the image of your company
  • Create an impression of credibility
  • Contain accurate information
  • Provide information for follow up by the perspective candidates – example contact details, your web site.
  • Closing date – this is a personal choice however I always prefer to have a closing date.
  • Salary range – again this is a company decision.  Some companies have a policy that they will not advertise the actual range.  Others simply select the range in the tools for searches by candidates who can select jobs within their range.

Content and Layout of your advertisement:

Write your advertisement in the following flow of information:

Headings –  job title and a few key bullet points to attract candidates’ attention; such as:

Administration Manager

  •  Fabulous Leichhardt location, close to coffee shops, delis etc.
  • Varied role managing a small team
  • Flexible Work Arrangements possible

The Company – a brief description of your business

Limit to one paragraph, enough for the prospective applicant to know what your main purpose is.

The Job – describe what the job entails – this is critical.  You do not want the whole job but avoid vague descriptions, be specific.  Use wording such as:

  • Manage a team of two – an accounts clerk and receptionist
  • Process a weekly payroll of 20

Person SpecificationWhat knowledge, experience, skills and personal attributes must candidates possess – be specific and avoid vague descriptions.  Be careful not to stipulate criteria that you do not need for the role which may be a concern in discrimination issues.

Don’t use               –                               Good computer skills (you wouldn’t want bad!)

Use phrases such as            –               Must be able to demonstrate advanced skills in Excel

Package informationinsert information about package, benefits etc.

Closing information –  closing date for your advertisement, contact details.

Equal Employment Opportunity:

 Due care is required to avoid discrimination against potential candidates.  For example avoid wording such as:

  • 3 years experience  –  use “candidates must be able to demonstrate …” or “candidates must have a demonstrated track record in …”
  • Office Junior – can become Office Assistant
  • Foreman – can convert to Supervisor

For more information on equal employment opportunity in advertising or elaboration on any other aspect of this article please do not hesitate to contact Victoria Sciacca on 0408 602 240 or info@hrcsolutions.com.au or visit hrcsolutions.com.au

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

More places to find our articles

As well as writing this blog, did you know I also write for other websites, e-zines and blogs?

You will find my writing on the Leading Minds Academy, Dot Com Women, Planner Lounge and HR Daily Community websites, with different and relevant articles.

Here are links to recent articles on those sites:

Are you an expert yet? on leadingmindsacademy.com

Are you a creature of habit?  on dotcomwomen.com.au

Ideal traits of paraplanners and financial advisers on plannerlounge.com.au

Top 5 critical skills in shortfall on community.hrdaily.com.au

It’s possible your clients, managers or members could also use this information.

Please get in touch if you’d like to add this sort of content to your own publications, online or in print.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Are you compliant with employment standards?

Recent conversations with employers made me realise many are flying blind when it comes to current employment legislation.  Although there’s a lot of information available online, it’s not always easy to find.

Now there’s an easier way…

To make it easy for you to find the information you need to comply with employment law I’ve gathered the basics together in this blog post.  When you click on each item, you will find the relevant downloadable fact sheets.

You’ll have all the information at your fingertips if you bookmark this post for future reference.  

In Australia, the National Employment Standards are set out in the Fair Work Act 2009 and comprise 10 minimum standards of employment. In summary, the NES cover the following minimum entitlements:

  1. Maximum weekly hours of work – 38 hours per week, plus reasonable additional hours.
  2. Requests for flexible working arrangements – allows parents or carers of a child under school age or of a child under 18 with a disability, to request a change in working arrangements to assist with the child’s care.
  3. Parental leave and related entitlements – up to 12 months unpaid leave for every employee, plus a right to request an additional 12 months unpaid leave, and other forms of maternity, paternity and adoption related leave.
  4. Annual leave – 4 weeks paid leave per year, plus an additional week for certain shift workers.
  5. Personal / carer’s leave and compassionate leave – 10 days paid personal / carer’s leave, two days unpaid carer’s leave as required, and two days compassionate leave (unpaid for casuals) as required.
  6. Community service leave – unpaid leave for voluntary emergency activities and leave for jury service, with an entitlement to be paid for up to 10 days for jury service.
  7. Long service leave – a transitional entitlement for employees who had certain LSL entitlements before 1/1/10 pending the development of a uniform national long service leave standard.
  8. Public holidays – a paid day off on a public holiday, except where reasonably requested to work.
  9. Notice of termination and redundancy pay – up to 4 weeks notice of termination (5 weeks if the employee is over 45 and has at least 2 years of continuous service) and up to 16 weeks redundancy pay, both based on length of service.
  10. Provision of a Fair Work Information Statement – employers must provide this statement to all new employees. It contains information about the NES, modern awards, agreement-making, the right to freedom of association, termination of employment, individual flexibility arrangements, right of entry, transfer of business, and the respective roles of Fair Work Australia and the Fair Work Ombudsman.
If you need further assistance, we are happy to put you in touch with consultants who specialise in this area.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Are you ‘success-oriented’?

What does it take to be successful in business?

Research published by The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute surveyed the attitudes of 1100 small business owners (2-99 employs) in the US in May 2009.

What they found, according to the Institute’s director, Mark D. Wolf, was that “Success-oriented small business owners are a special breed of highly motivated, caring and curious individuals.  They effectively balance their personal and business goals, take advantage of others’ expertise and continually see to learn the best practices exhibited by peer companies.”

Here’s a summary, from the report, of the six dimensions that characterise success-oriented small businesses (emphasis added):

1. Collaborative

Success-oriented small business owners understand how to delegate effectively to
others within their business as well as build strong personal relationships with their
management team, employees, consultants, vendors and customers. They are more
committed “to creating opportunities for others.”

2. Self-fulfilled

Success-oriented small business owners place a high value on the personal fulfillment
and gratification that their companies provide them, relishing the self-determination and
respect that comes from being their own boss and being in control of their personal
income and long-term net worth. They are more desirous of “doing something for a
living that I love to do,” “being able to decide how much money I make” and “being able
to have the satisfaction of creating something of value.”

3. Future-focused

Planning for both the short- and long-term future are key traits that characterize
success-oriented small business owners. They are more focused on cash flow and more
likely to have “a well thought out plan to run our business for years into the future” as
well as “a well thought out plan to run our business day to day.”

4. Curious

Success-oriented small business owners are more open to learning how others run
their businesses. They actively seek best practice insights regarding management, business
innovation, prospecting and finding/motivating/retaining employees.

5. Tech-savvy

Technology is a key point of leverage for success-oriented small business owners. They
more intensely value their company’s website and are significantly more likely to “rely a
great deal on technology to help make our business more effective and more efficient.”

6. Action oriented

Finally, success-oriented small business owners are more proactive in taking initiative
to build their businesses. They are more committed to “taking the business to the next
level,” “differentiating ourselves from our competitors” and “having something to sell
when I’m ready to retire.” They also see adversity as “a kick in the rear to help move
you forward.” Not surprisingly, they are less concerned than other small business
owners about the overall state of the economy.

Success Tips:

1.  Most of these factors can be quantified using an objective measurement (eg.  Harrison Assessments), allowing you to clearly see your own – or a team member’s or successor’s – success orientation.

2.  Coaching is the most effective way for business owners to gain best practice insights through tapping into others’ expertise and experience.

3.  We have a copy of the full report for you to download here:  SME Success Orientation

Tell us what you think!

Leave a comment below or contact us .

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Why job fit matters for business

Career guru Kate Southam, wrote on her Cube Farmer blog last week  “Whether it is a pair of shoes or a job role, wrong fit hurts”.

The wrong fit hurts employees and the companies they work for, their colleagues and their customers.  The discomfort they are feeling radiates in all directions and can have substantial negative impacts on your business.  Discomfort degenerates into real pain when you have to deal with a resignation or dismissal.

Why choose to go through the pain when there’s a much easier way?

Kate says:  …with shoes, you are more likely to know your size.  With jobs, people don’t often sit down and work out their ‘size’ before they go shopping for a new role.

We say:   Far too often, managers don’t sit down and work out what they’re really looking for before they go shopping for people to fill roles.

We see the results of this ‘mutual mystification’ around us daily with disinterested and unmotivated staff. 

The most common manifestation is in poor customer service.  Other symptoms are bullying, absenteeism and even outright sabotage.

If you’re serious about avoiding pain, this article is a good starting point.

If you need more convincing that the upfront work will be worth the effort, see this article about customer service (SMH, 28 July 2011).

And if you really don’t think you have a problem because your staff aren’t complaining, it might be time to revisit this blog post.

We would love to help you ease the discomfort.  Better still, we can show you how to avoid it.  Contact us for more information.

 

"The last couple of years at batyr has seen incredible growth and the Balance at Work team has supported us along the way. They have helped us improve leadership skills across the team by helping us source and manage mentors, and even engaging as mentors themselves. As a young and fresh CEO Susan has also supported me personally with genuine feedback and fearless advice to achieve great things. "
By Sam Refshauge, CEO, batyr
"We used the Harrison Assessment tools followed by a debrief with Susan, for career development with staff, which then allowed us to work with Susan to create a customised 360 degree review process. Susan has a wealth of knowledge and is able to offer suggestions and solutions for our company. She is always ready to get involved and takes the time to show her clients the capability of Harrison Assessments. "
By Jessica Hill, Head of People and Culture, Choice
"Balance at Work are the ideal external partners for us as they completely get what we are trying achieve in the People and Culture space. Their flexibility and responsiveness to our needs has seen the entire 360 approach being a complete success. The online tool and the follow up coaching sessions have been game changers for our business. The buzz in the organisation is outstanding. Love it! Thanks again for being such a great support crew on this key project."
By Chris Bulmer, National GM Learning and Development, ISS Australia
"We use Harrison Assessments with our clients to support their recruitment processes. We especially value the comprehensive customisable features that allow us to ensure the best possible fit within a company, team and position. Balance at Work is always one phone call away. We appreciate their valuable input and their coaching solutions have also given great support to our clients."
By Benoit Ribe, HR Solutions Manager, Polyglot Group
"The leadership team at Insurance Advisernet engaged Susan from Balance at Work to run our leadership development survey and learning sessions. Susan was very professional in delivering the team and individual strengths and opportunities for growth. Susan's approach was very "non corporate" in style which was refreshing to see. I can't recommend Balance at Work more highly to lead employee and team development sessions."
By Shaun Stanfield, Managing Director, Insurance Advisernet

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