Here’s your desk & there’s the bathroom. Now get to work.

Here’s your desk & there’s the bathroom. Now get to work.

You just hire a new employee and have invested 2 months of your valuable time going through the selection and hiring process. There is a total of 100 hours invested in hiring your star programmer, costing your company $35,000 – $50,000. The team is super excited to get this person on on-board. Their skills are exactly what was missing and will take a lot of pressure of them because they have be understaffed for 3 ½ months.

The newest member of your team is very nervous about leaving their last company but came because the money was a little better and the projects seemed exciting. They arrive at the front lobby for their first day and you receive a call from the receptionist announcing their arrival. You are in a middle of a conference call with some executives.  You call your Lead Developer to get the newest staff member and, you say, “Peter, please get Sally from reception and show them around.”

An hour later, you make your way over to Sally and you find her on the internet looking at job postings.

90% of an employee’s decision to stay with a company happens within the first 6 months of joining! Yet, 60% of companies have no formal on-boarding process.

A proper on-boarding plan reduces this by 18%, reducing turnover and mistakes resulting from lack of training.  In addition, companies who have formal on-boarding plans reduce the time it takes to get to full productivity by 50%, down from 6-8 months to less than 100 days.

Companies have taken some interesting steps to amalgamate new staff into the fold. For example Facebook  tape a piece of paper on the monitor: “Welcome to Facebook!” Underneath, printed in big, bold, red letters, are slogans like: “We hack therefore we are,” or “Move fast and break things.” “Within days, your software code will be in front of more than 845 million users”.

The best companies have a clear plan and process. These companies have increased retention, increased moral, increased productivity, strong team bond and greater loyalty to the company and its brand.

Here are 10 innovative things companies are doing to help acclimatise new staff:

  1. WAP (Welcome Aboard Party): This is an event held by the company or department where all the staff celebrates the arrival of the newest team members. The party has music, food and drinks. Think of the bonds this would create for everyone involved!
  2. Start Buddy: The company has volunteers from the new employee’s department to partner with them for the first 4 weeks. The individuals give them tours, offer advice, answer basic questions, assist with training and provide reports to management.
  3. Friday Starts: Many companies like to have their new employees start on a Friday. This is the day most staff are open and relaxed. Also, this gives the new staff a rest before they start their training on Monday.
  4. Meeting with President: Every employee gets to meet the President of the company within their first 2 weeks. The larger the company the more impressive it is, with large companies, the President will meet the new hires in a large group, but still shaking their hands.
  5. Swag: Many companies provide new hires with a lot a company swag, including pens, clothing, mugs, note pads, key chains and other need items; this builds excitement of being part of the company and is a great branding opportunity.
  6. Welcome Sign: At the front entrance, there is a personalized welcome sign for each new employee.
  7. Deliverable Checklist: A road map of expectations and deliverables by the newest staff member, this enables them to check things off upon completion leaving the sense of accomplishment.
  8. Onboarding Feedback Survey: At the end of the first 3 months, an employee will receive a survey to critique the process and offer areas of improvement.
  9.  Everything ready for the first day: When a staff member joins they are lost looking for a home to settle into. If their space is set up with a fully functional computer, training manual and welcome package, they feel at home.
  10. Early Onboard: Providing materials for the employee before they officially start will allow them to become familiar with the company and their role.

Again, the employee retention statistics are horrifying and by themselves are reason enough to be upset with HR, but it takes a community to raise an employee. You have a great opportunity to improve the retention and performance numbers in your organization by rethinking how we design new hire training programs to consider the entire on-boarding experience.

What have you done to improve how your organization onboards new employees? 

How Does a CIO earn $1M per year?

In today’s knowledge-based economy, the functions of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) are becoming increasingly complex and multi-dimensional. This complexity has resulted in high turn-over, leading to the nickname, Career Is Over.  In spite of this, some twenty-two CIOs/CTOs topped the $1 million annual compensation mark in 2010, according to Janco’s research. With this remuneration comes greater expectations.  These folks better be providing significant value to the business. How do executives contribute more than they already have?

Generally, working more hours is not an option.  This leaves working smarter. Thinking and acting more strategically will differentiate top tier managers from their less resourceful counterparts, allowing them to increase value. According to the research company Ovum, in their report from Dec 2011, “Big data analytics, security and cloud computing will be three of the most significant drivers of technological change in 2012.” It also predicts “that CIOs will become major enablers of innovation for the business, playing a central role in operational & commercial strategy.”

Sounds wonderful, but IT departments are undergoing yet another massive upheaval, led by cloud computing, social media, and IT consumerisation. Terms like BYOD or BYOS (Bring Your Own Devise/Software) are commonplace as the personal computer gives way to personal mobile devices like smart phones and pads.  These trends, coupled with the proliferation of social media, bring instant transparency and creates a new level of user demands with new security issues. Managing through these changes while delivering is a tall order.

This month’s letter will give some tips to help you lead and navigate your organization into the next decade:

  1. Decisions – Be decisive:

Making snap decisions can be more cost effective than taking significant time to evaluate all aspects of a decision. The issue of decision-making is being considered on a much wider level than by only productivity gurus. The New York Times posted a column from John Tierney on their website titled “The Price of Dithering.” Dithering really can be quite expensive. An inability to move forward on a decision or project has a hidden opportunity cost that does not appear on an income statement. In addition, the financial upkeep required to have your team ready to spring into action once a decision has been made is high. Avoiding these price tags is a matter of improving your ability to make rapid fire decisions and move on. Taking 6 months to save the company 10% on the cost of a project could cost twice in unseen costs  than it saves.

2. Communications – Be direct

Use clear, concise, and complete communication with your staff and customers.  By implementing direct communication with management of large companies, you can recover an additional 13 percent of their time (spent on planning or other high value activities). Such strategic thinking builds innovative businesses with increased profitability, happy employees and satisfied customers. Ensure your communications have sufficient context to assist your team in understanding decisions and rationalize initiatives.

3. Simplicity – Less is more

Theoretical scientists spend their lives looking for simple answers or solutions. The reason is complexity is difficult to recreate. Take a recipe, the easiest and quickest are the recipes you will use most often. Business processes are the same.  Humans are inherently lazy and will seek the path of least resistance.  Simple solutions will always be more appealing than highly complex ones, even if the simple one is not quite as good. It is often more difficult to design simple processes initially, but it has the biggest pay-off and highest adoption rate.

4. Plan for the future.

This seems self-evident, but so many fall pray to the feeling that they do not have enough time to create a plan. By creating a road map of where you want to take your organization, you significantly increase the odds of actually getting there. Without planning, managers fail to make effective decisions, which leads to chaos and inefficiency.  By having a plan in place, you make decisions faster  and can choose or select components based on whether they align with the intended direction you want to take your organization.

Many things are changing around us and we are entering new phase: cloud and mobile are the keys to this evolution.  Yet many things remain universal.  All humans desire subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity and freedom. Great managers seek to provide these to their team even during the greatest technological changes.

Do You Have Too Many Nodes in Your Network?

You came in to work this morning and answered emails, tweets, voicemails, messages, updates, check-ins, texts, questions, phone calls, pins, shout-outs, uploads, appointments, posts, and shares.  You get the point. But are you really connecting with anyone? Would it be more effective to spend that time with someone at a coffee shop or connecting with coworkers in the lunch room?  Social Media has made it easy to attach yourself to people; but is there any value in these interactions? Are you a Broadcaster or a Networker? Broadcasters are people who simply send information out; networkers are those who actually interact and communicate on an individual or group basis with their connections.  Ask yourself which achieves your goal.

I’m a big supporter of social media both personally and professionally, but it only works if you know why you are there, have a plan, and are honest with yourself and your connections about why you are there.  With this in mind, how many connections can you really manage?

Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn and Google+: These 5 organizations occupy 90% of the Social Media landscape.  How many are you registered with? How many connections do you have if you add them up? Think about this list:

  • Facebook – 100 friends
  • Twitter – 150 followers
  • LinkedIn – 300 connections

If you take these and factor a 30% overlap, you are still left with over 385 unique connections. Manageable, but you see people with 12,000 followers, 500+ connections (which can mean 800, 1000 or more) and 300 friends. How does one have a relationship with that many people?  How deep is their relationship with them? What do they know about them?  Do they know where they live, their phone number, or their hair colour?

Social Media is still a new experiment and no one really knows where it is going.  It is an international phenomenon due to the advent of the World Wide Web.  Prior to the internet, Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist from England, theorized there was a limit to the size of a social group based on the size of a creature’s neo-cortex. When applied to humans he arrived at a number, 150 individuals, which was coined “Dunbar’s Number”, the theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain a stable social relationship. In 2011, Goncalves, Perra & Vespignani (random scientists) applied this to Twitter. Their findings confirmed this theory: users can entertain only a maximum of 200 stable relationships.  A company called Path is using this number to build their social media network, limiting the number of connections one can have. If you have 150 connections, you must lose 1 to add 1.

Keeping your contacts between 100 and 200 may seem impossible. Unfriending on FB is still frowned upon in spite of the best efforts of Jimmy Kimmel (the “Unfriend Day”). People randomly follow you on Twitter & try to connect via LinkedIn.

Well, what is a person to do? Managing your connections appropriately means having a social media plan and sticking to it. This will determine where you will focus your time and who your connections should be.

Here are 7 tips on managing social media:

  1. Don’t join everything.
  2. Drop people who have dormant accounts. (Don’t follow someone on twitter who hasn’t tweeted in 6 months)
  3. Figure out what you want from social media. (Are you broadcaster or a networker?)
  4. Fix the amount of time spent and stick to it. (e.g. an hour a day and no more)
  5. Cross-pollinate your social media sites and manage multiple accounts with one action using social media dashboards such as HootSuite (e.g. your tweets get posted on your FB Wall).
  6. Have a content plan. (What information would your audience want to hear – add value, not what you had for lunch)
  7. Review the ROI of your social media foot print every 2-3 months.

The number of connections you want to maintain, be it 100 or 1000, depends on what social media plans you develop and the type of social user you wish to be.

Do Personality Tests Work for Screening Candidates?

We received a great question from one of our clients that we did not immediately know the answer to: “Do personality tests work?”  This question puzzled us so we decided to do what most of us do with a puzzle, go to the internet. The search for information yielded some interesting results that I want to share with you. One very surprising result was the number of hits for pages created on “how to beat a personality test”.

This month’s CIO letter will review the pros and cons of Pre-Employment Testing.

Pre-Employment Testing, as the name implies, refers to all the testing that is done prior to delivering an employment offer. This includes personality, drug, aptitude, intelligence & emotion quotient testing; and criminal background, education and reference checks.

We found significant amounts of misleading and biased information regarding Pre-Employment Testing online. Organizations who sell these services produce most of the information on the subject. There are hundreds of different types of pre-employment assessments ranging from honesty & integrity tests to management evaluations that measure career competency. There are also clinically oriented psychological profile tests and assessments, which are diagnostic in nature.

We can’t cover all areas of Pre-Employment Testing in this letter as the subject is so expansive. Instead, the areas we will cover are aptitude, intelligence, personality, and behavioural testing. On the surface, this type of screening appears to valid. Take your top people (the employees you most want to replicate), look at their test scores, and use those to build a baseline or ideal profile. Then, use this profile to create a candidate filter.

However, when you step back to look at highly successful individuals, use will note they possess great diversity of profiles and personalities. Just look at successful CEOs and their varied personalities.  Jack Welsh and Steve Jobs are both viewed without dispute as successful yet their profiles and approaches are very different.  Screening using these methods may eliminate the next Steve or Jack because an individual like them won’t fit precisely into a mould. This would be a tragic loss for any company.

Research has shown that cognitive aptitude tests are much more accurate predictors of job performance than other widely used employee selection techniques. For example, a comprehensive evaluation of peer-reviewed studies regarding the predictive validity of various selection techniques concluded that aptitude tests are twice as predictive as job interviews, three times as predictive as experience, and four times as predictive as education level.

Behavioural testing provides for a more predictable outcome when screening applicants for employment when used in conjunction with behavioural interviewing techniques. By using validated employment tests and assessment tools, a company can add objectivity, especially regarding management evaluations, and remove unintentional bias.

Job fit is very important and many companies use behavioural interview questions to match the candidate with the job. You want to know that a management candidate has good communication and interpersonal skills, but you also want to know about their overall leadership skills and management potential. What about the candidate’s customer service skills, his sales skills or his emotional intelligence? Doesn’t the interviewer have enough to focus on without going into so much detail in the short time allocated to complete the interview? Well, that is the whole point behind the use of pre-employment assessments.

Most of the articles that you have probably read pertain to the use of psychological profile testing and assessment. There is a major difference between non-invasive pre-employment testing assessments and clinically oriented psychological testing assessments. Most of the assessment instruments involved in litigation are “restricted use,” meaning psychological assessments that generally should not be used in the business environment.

Personality tests are least accurate since they only measure different attitudes about items. A general attitude about something is not able to predict accurately how a person will react to various business situations. These tests cannot predict behaviour because behaviour is context sensitive. People act differently in different environments. For example, in a support role when there is a backlog of issues, people will react differently on a sunny Friday afternoon in the summer than they will on a rainy Monday morning in the middle of winter.

There is an attempt to associate success with specific personality types. In fact, personality requirements are different for different jobs. Rarely do any of the tests customize their recommendations by job type or environment. It is simply, “this person may (or may not) succeed.” In actuality, people are not as cut and dry. Furthermore, there are generational changes that occur over time. Thus, if an organization uses the same profile for 10 years the predictability may drop.

About 65% of all employers use some sort of pre-employment screening. Organizations must review their testing annually and determine what success looks like in using testing. Many of our clients swear by them while others have mixed results. So to answer our question: “Do Personality Tests Work?”, there is no definitive conclusion , but rather it boils down to a company’s decision.  If  your organization uses this type of testing, the key is not to rely on the test as the sole screening criteria to hire a candidate, but rather as an additional tool in the hiring toolbox.

Motivate Your Staff

Do you know what motivates your staff?

Most people in the technology industry are generally considered smart, and highly skilled in math, logic and problem solving. However, these highly developed technical skills usually come at the expense of their interpersonal skills. IT managers are not immune to this imbalance and spend little time to improve these underdeveloped skills. Making matters worse, we recognize and promote based on results and reward for performance. The consequence is that managers spend 95% of their time focusing on measurable items and pay little attention to the emotions of their staff. This is not because managers don’t like people or don’t care, but few of them have an idea of what employees really want from a boss.

“But that warm fuzzy is what HR does. I do delivery,” is the common retort.  True, but employees do not leave a job because HR did not give them enough hugs. The old adage holds true; people join companies but leave managers. Surveys show individuals quit for 5 main reasons: pay, management, career advancement, benefits and other. Many of these can be influenced by management. We can reduce turnover simply by understanding your staff’s desires.

The following CIO letter will shed some light on what matters most to workers.  The results from a survey of 500 employees by the Lore International Institute over a 2 year period shows some interesting insight and some pretty basic things we can all improve on.  Here are the findings:

More than 90% of employees want honesty and integrity from their managers. An equal number desire fairness across all staff and for management to hold everyone accountable to the same standards.  Furthermore, just over 75% indicated they sought after trust, respect, dependability, collaboration and appreciation.  But only 14% wanted interesting conversations from their manager and only 3% wanted them to be a friend.

These requirements seem easy to roll out but can be difficult to sustain. We, as managers, will revert to our natural personalities.  So what else can be done? Fortunately, Randstad surveyed 6000 people throughout North America giving more insight. What will make them happy?

Job Flexibility 72%
Liking the team they work with 71%
Pleasant work environment 68%
Workplace is an easy commute 68%
Challenging work 65%
Job security 65%
Ability to work independently 59%
Opportunity for advancement 55%

Based on these results, here are 6 suggestions to improve employee satisfaction and lower turn-over:

  1. Make the work space look better; get rid of office clutter (cables, computer equipment, books, files, etc.), get some plants, find local schools for art, replace lighting with full spectrum light bulbs and use creative ways to make the environment better.
  2. Try to hire local; the closer staff live to the office and the shorter the commute will increase loyalty and happiness.
  3. Find ways to allow people to work from home on occasion.
  4. Establish flexible work hours when possible, sometimes four day work weeks would make sense.
  5. Look for ways to give more self-direction to your staff.
  6. Have an off-site staff bonding session to promote team work; it can be as simple as a soccer or baseball game in the park.

Lastly, here are 4 things you should say on a regular basis:

“How can I help?” This statement will aid you in determining impediments your staff face in performing at their best.

  1. “Great job on…” Any praise is welcome by everyone. We all crave appreciation and receiving it can be more motivating to staff than anything else.
  2. “Can I have your thoughts on…?” Engaging your staff in decisions and discussion will make them feel part of the solution and not just a cog in the wheel.
  3. “Thank you.” Two words that can never be over used. Using them more often is not simply for common courtesy, but as a way of connecting and showing appreciation for a job well done.

Try some of these ten pointers; you may find them to be successful in helping you to reduce your turn-over. We advise not to try all of them since you might find some cynicism from your team, especially the younger members.