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

1 in 3 candidates lie. Will you hire a liar?

Applying for their dream job, or any job, can bring out the worst in some people.  Studies consistently show that at least a third of all candidates are prone to ‘embellish’ their suitability for the job they want.

What do candidates lie about?

The three most common lies you will encounter in a recruiting situation are:

1. Falsifying or exaggerating qualifications, often including courses that were started but never finished.

2. Inflating experience or expertise by inflating past salaries and titles, perhaps by exaggerating the level of involvement in important business deals.

3. Discrepancies in employment dates such as extending end dates to cover periods of unemployment.

How do you know you’re being lied to?

Experienced interviewers are good at reading the signs, but even obvious ‘clues’ may be misinterpreted:

  • Body language can be unreliable as an indicator of honesty in job interviews.  Perhaps anxiety, rather than dishonesty, is causing your interviewee to fidget or avoid eye contact.  How could you be sure?
  • Verbal cues may indicate incongruence between the facts and what they’ve claimed in their CV.  This may show up in extra words, fillers like ‘um’ and delayed answers to your questions as they try to think of the next lie.  On the other hand, this behaviour might be entirely natural under the pressure of a job interview.

There are some more subtle indicators of untruths in the interview:

  • Generalising and hypothesising when asked a behavioural question, such as ‘Can you tell me about a time when…’.  Behavioural interview questions work because they alert you to past behaviour, an excellent predictor of future behaviour.  If you get an answer starting with ‘I would have’ or ‘We did’, it’s time to drill down to what actually happened (as opposed to what might happen) and who was responsible (ideally, your candidate).
  • Avoiding answering the question.  Politicians are the experts at this!  When interviewing, you need to be like the persistent journalist:  If your question isn’t answered, repeat it until you get a satisfactory answer.

Why would you want to detect deception?

There are two main steps in the recruitment process where candidates are prone to deception in order to improve their chances:  the CV and the interview.

If these are your only sources of information for recruitment decisions, you are at risk of employing someone who may be dishonest in other aspects of their relationship with you, your colleagues and your clients.

Five steps to minimise the risk of hiring someone ‘careless with the facts’

1. Screen carefully for minimum eligibility requirements.  Don’t be dazzled by a sparkling resume if there are gaps in qualifications or experience.  The best way screen is by using an application process that includes an application form, either physical or online.

2. Check qualifications with the issuing institution.  Job applicants can – and do – falsify diplomas and transcripts.  Is not checking worth the risk to your business?

3. Use structured interviews with clear, concise and relevant questions, including behaviourally based questions.

4. Always reference check and include the question ‘Would you hire this person again?’

5. Use a personality test that specifically identifies deception and other behavioural tendencies that might lead to future problems.  The Harrison Assessments questionnaire is the most deception-proof in the assessment industry.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Paradox and the one little word you can’t ignore

accountability

A client in Western Australia recently called regarding a profile we had just provided for a candidate.  When shown the report, the candidate had questioned its validity because some of the traits listed appeared to be contradictory.

We notice contradictions because we are conditioned to thinking in terms of opposites:  good and evil, right and wrong, black and white.  The reaction to Tiger Woods in recent months is an example of this at work.  Our conditioning leads us to want an explanation of how, for instance, someone so brilliant and talented (at golf) could be so stupid.

The elusive ‘and’

A more realistic approach is to view individual characteristics in terms of complementarity rather than contrast.

Let’s explore what the paradox means in the real world

When you look at the people you already know well, are they always one thing or the other?  Or are they more complex, able to show a range of behaviours in different situations?

What about yourself?  Have you ever been told that you are, for example, an introvert when you know you can also be an extrovert?  Was there any value to you in being labelled this way?

You are an infinitely complex being.  We all are!  Imagine how boring and predictable life would be otherwise.

The power of paradox

So what was going on with our candidate mentioned above?  Why did his profile show he possessed some traits that we expect to be opposites of each other?

One of the unique strengths of Harrison Assessments is that, unlike other tools, it takes the apparent paradoxes in our makeup and uses them to predict behaviour.

Most behavioural assessments fail to provide this insight because they rely on a traditional bipolar approach of measurement, which assumes an either/or relationship between traits by placing two related positive qualities on either end of a scale.

Communication, for example, typically looks at Diplomatic and Frank as traits. By placing Diplomatic and Frank on either end of the same scale, the bipolar approach assumes that the more Diplomatic you are, the less Frank you are and vice versa.

This assumption is false.

paradox-technology2paradox-technology1

Paradox: You can be both Frank and Diplomatic or neither

When you want insights into employee behaviour, will measuring communication in one dimension give you all the information you need?

What is important is not whether a person is Frank or Diplomatic, but the extent of their frankness and diplomacy to understand how these traits compliment each other.

 paradox-technology-communicators paradox-technology-blunt-evansive

To learn more about Paradox technology, click here or give us a call.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

‘Fresh Ideas for Work and Family’ Grants Start Now

Grants to make your business family friendly

The “Fresh Ideas for Work and Family” Grants Program helps small businesses set up family friendly work practices.

If you have a small business with between 1 and 14 employees then funding of up to $15,000 is available to help you with your work/life balance initiatives. These initiatives may include home-based work programs, flexible work practices such as job sharing and part-time work, flexible workplace policies and guidelines, family rooms and more. The focus of the program is to help employees better balance their work and family obligations by making the workplace more flexible.

The funding round opens on 25 February and closes on 31 March 2010. Eligible small businesses must have a least one employee and can include companies, partnerships, not-for-profit, non-government, sole traders and a consortium of up to three small businesses.

With the workplace flexibility requirements under the new National Employment Standards and the grant being provided by DEEWR to set up flexible work practices, it is important that small businesses take advantage of this opportunity now! Flexible work arrangements also benefit both employees and the business bottom-line.

For more information and help with applying for the grant contact Kerry Fallon Horgan at Flexibility At Work on (02) 9402 4741 or email kerry@flexibility.com.au  Further details are also available at www.flexibility.com.au

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

The most common hiring mistake and how to avoid it

assessments for recruiting

Imagine you need to employ a new staff member…

What’s the first thing you do?  Write an ad?  Call HR?  Brief an agency?

You’ve just made the most common mistake of managers who decide to hire:  Missing the first step.

Allow me to explain…

Have you ever found yourself interviewing a job applicant and thinking “This is a total waste of time”?

Usually, you’ve come to this conclusion within a few seconds.  Unfortunately, you’re committed to carry on the interview until a reasonable time has elapsed for the candidate to believe they have had a fair hearing.

Why was this person, so clearly unsuited to the role, even sitting in front of you?

They were there because they had submitted an impressive application in response to an advertisement.

Clearly something was wrong in the process.  Either

1.  the advertisement was not specific enough about the requirements or

2.  the application was not adequately scrutinised for a match to the specific requirements of the role.

Start your recruitment process with one simple question and I guarantee it will be much faster, easier and more productive:

“What would it take for someone to be an outstanding performer in this role?”

(Because you only want to hire outstanding performers, don’t you?)

Here are three simple steps to help you define what you’re looking for in your ideal candidate:

1.  List all your requirements for the role (=success factors).  Include

  • skills
  • qualifications
  • work experience
  • values
  • attitudes
  • motivation
  • interpersonal skills
  • task and work environment preferences
  • interests

2.  Now decide which of these you must have (=essential criteria) and those which would be nice to have (=desirable criteria).

3.  Are there any personal characteristics which you definitely don’t want (= traits to avoid)?  For example, you might wish to avoid employing someone who has a strong desire for money while lacking the personal drive required to earn it.

Now – and not before – you are ready to ‘go to the market’ with your requirements.

Then:

  • Get ready to receive applications that are more relevant and targeted;
  • Stick to your wish list;
  • Evaluate the success of your recruitment campaign by the quality of the candidates, not by the number of applicants; and
  • Avoid wasting time in interviews that should never have been scheduled!

Tip:    Review your job descriptions to include success factors for more efficient and effective recruiting next time round.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Excuse me, your bias is showing

Do you think you’re good at judging people?  You are, but probably not in the way you think…

We all live complicated lives and nature has given us neurological shortcuts so we don’t have to relearn everything as we go.  For example, when we encounter a closed door, we don’t need to consciously think:  What is this?  What is it for?  Why is it here?  or How does it work? Instead, we grab the handle and walk through (perhaps with a little push/pull confusion on the way!)

Similar shortcuts are in operations when we interact with other people.  We are able to quickly assess a person based on our past experiences and conditioning.  This usually goes on beyond our awareness.  Efficient but not always accurate!

For more than a decade Project Implicit, based at Harvard University, has been tracking a whole range of our hidden prejudicial associations.  Curious about my own, I decided to try one of their Implicit Association Tests (IATs).  Being a feminist, mother of two girls, business woman and teacher, I thought I’d be pretty safe trying a test called ‘Gender-Career’.  Imagine my surprise (horror!) when I found my results showed that I strongly associated men with careers and women with family life.

Implicit biases are shown in the majority of the population.  At least I’m not alone.  And most of us don’t even know we are biased against certain groups.

How is this significant in business?

Our hidden prejudices predict how we respond to others.  They may impact on:

  • deciding on the best applicant for a role
  • evaluating others’ work performance
  • how friendly and inclusive we are towards team members

Tip:  Job interviews are a notoriously inaccurate way to predict workplace behaviour, even when conducted by experts.  Project Implicit shows that without using objective measures of job fit, we are often relying on judgements we aren’t aware of and can’t control.

Curious about your own biases?  You can visit Project Implicit online and take a test of your choice.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

The rules of employment have changed…

Use this checklist – provided by Steve Champion of ER Strategies – to update yourself on the Fair Work changes that came into effect on 1 January 2010.  Steve has included links to more information on each item.

Commencement of the operation of NES (National Employment Standards)

Modern Awards commence operation

State System Employers enter Federal System

Need to know more? Call ER Strategies on 1300 55 66 37.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Overcoming ‘interview infatuation’

When I met Matthew Farrell, Principal of Five Pillars Financial Planning, he was in the process of selecting a new financial planner to support the growth of his business.

Matthew was impressed with a candidate but confided that one of the traps he’d fallen into in the past was loving someone at the interview, only to find they didn’t live up to expectations on the job.  This is a familiar scenario, especially when faced with a charming and enthusiastic interviewee.  

To ensure he didn’t make the same mistake this time, Matthew decided to use Harrison Assessments to determine the candidate’s suitability for the role.

1.  After the first meeting, we sent the candidate a ‘questionnaire invitation’ so that he could complete the online assessment overnight.
2.   We sent Matthew a draft job template for him to consider.
3.   Next morning, Matthew and I discussed the template and I made adjustments to the
template online.
4.   The candidate had completed the assessment so we were able to immediately run the
reports, comparing him to the customised template.
5.   Matthew and I discussed the reports and the candidate’s suitability straight away.

We asked Matthew to comment on his experience of using the Harrison Assessments:

“I was looking for an objective assessment tool that took away the temptation of me being swayed by the candidate’s pleasing personality and charm. I wanted to know if the candidate possessed the internal qualities required to perform in the position.

TIP:  Don’t let your heart rule your head!  Get some objective advice before you make decisions on the people in your business.


BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Christmas Party Checklist

It’s that time of year again!  Here is our quick guide to your responsibilities as a manager organising a staff Christmas party.

Just because you’re not at work, it doesn’t mean you’re not at work!
Any function organised by you and attended by your employees is work related and the same rules that apply in the workplace apply to your party.  There are certain steps you can take to ensure risks are minimised and everyone has a good time.

Before the event
Make sure you have implemented policies covering occupational health and safety, harassment, bullying and discrimination.  Remind staff that these policies also apply to work social functions.  Let them know that unacceptable behaviour could result in disciplinary action.

You can be liable for sexual harassment, bullying and unsafe behaviour engaged in by employees or agents at the Christmas party unless you can show that you took all reasonable steps to prevent the unlawful behaviour.

Plan the event to take into account the age range of your staff and their access to transport.   For example, you may have employees who are under 18.  Serving them alcohol is against the law.

If you have staff with food allergies or preferences, these need to be considered in planning your catering.  Also, be aware of the food poisoning risks with buffet-style food service and take steps to avoid them.

Employees who are injured at the Christmas party or on their journey home may lodge workers compensation claims or common law claims for personal injury.

During the event
Provide the option of low alcohol and plenty of alcohol free drinks, accompanied by substantial food.  Don’t rely on venue staff for responsible service of alcohol. Managers also need to keep an eye on drinkers and take action if needed.  This may include sending an intoxicated employee home in a taxi.

As a manager, you can model appropriate behaviour.  A work Christmas party that you have organised is probably not the best situation for you to really let your hair down!

It sounds trivial, but avoid having mistletoe.  That ‘innocent’ kiss could bring problems later.

After the event
Ensure staff have appropriate travel arrangements in place to get home safely.  Consider arranging a mini-bus or cabcharge vouchers for your staff, particularly those who have been drinking.

In the event that a staff member has had too much to drink, or too late a night, and needs to drive or operate machinery the next day, give them time off or alternative work until they are fit to resume their normal tasks.

And a good time was had by all!
Follow these guidelines for a work Christmas party that’s memorable for the right reasons.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

‘SMART’ Resumes and CVs

Killing the business you love

Most people in business are familiar with SMART goals.  This simple acronym can also be applied to resumes and CVs – both your own and those of job candidates.

SMART becomes an easy checklist that will save you a lot of time.  Ask yourself  if the resume is:

Specific – detailing achievements of the individual, not just their team or department and not too vague or generalised;

Measurable – there should be facts and figures to back up the achievements.  For example, ‘increased client base by 20% in 2 years’;

Accurate – provides information that can be substantiated.  For example, academic transcripts, references;

Relevant – the information supplied links directly to the role;

Timeframed – dates are given for different jobs, study, etc, and all time periods are taken into account.

For help with recruitment and careers, get in touch!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Reports that are job specific, quantified and easy to understand

The following information is an excerpt from the whitepaper ‘Best Practices in Talent Assessment’ by Dan Harrison, PhD, of Harrison Assessments International ©2008 Harrison Assessments International. For a copy of the full report, please email us.

If a behavioural assessment report simply describes the person’s behaviour or personality, each interviewer or interpreter will assign their own meaning to the behaviour or personality trait, usually based on their own bias rather than a formula of job success factors.

This seriously detracts from the benefits of job assessment. The report must be focused on the specific job requirements and provide an overall score related to the suitability of the person’s overall behavioural patterns in relationship to the specific job. This must be such that it is easy to understand and not left to the interpretation of the person reading the report.

"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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