Tag Archive for human resources

5 Things We Can Learn about Leadership from Siri

siriApple’s virtual assistant Siri was designed to learn and get more sophisticated over time. The evolution in Siri’s capability and the increase in value she brings happen as users build a history with her. Learning through experience…what a great concept!

As I used Siri over the past year, I found myself getting frustrated and losing patience when she didn’t understand my request. I would ask her to call someone in my address book – she would tell me there are no Vietnamese restaurants close by. I would ask her to search the web for “succession management” and she would search “efficiency in algorithms”. Not very helpful. In the end, I would often just do the work myself.

Over time, I had an unsettled feeling though. Apple made a big investment to purchase the technology and integrate Siri into their products, so she is clearly talented and has great potential.  A few questions emerged in my mind: What if I was Siri’s leader? What if it was my obligation to develop her for the future?  This got me thinking about how many organizations are struggling to build leadership, build succession processes that really work, and create a culture of learning.

Yes, it’s often easier to just do the work ourselves, especially when someone misses the mark on a task or project. But this is the crux of the problem. As leaders it’s up to us to build capacity for the future. This means we must strive to provide meaningful challenges, show empathy, provide coaching & feedback and we must be patient as individuals learn from their experiences. How often do we bring bright, passionate, talented individuals on board – only to miss every opportunity to help them grow and develop?

Here are a few questions to think about to help you flex your talent development muscles:

1. How am I making a valuable contribution to this person’s development? Take some time for honest self-reflection about where you have made an impact. Dig deep on this one.

2. Am I doing work I shouldn’t be doing? Delegating and empowering others allows you to lead at a higher level. Think about the value you should be bringing.

3. What am I doing to bring out the best in this individual? Understanding someone’s strengths, sweet spot, and passion has simply too many benefits to mention here. Seek to understand.

4. Am I giving important feedback that will truly help this individual? Give the feedback that no one has had the courage to give before. It can be life changing.

5. What is holding me back from helping others develop? Ask yourself if you’re taking enough risks that provide unique opportunities for the individual to not only grow – but to thrive.

Without a doubt, Siri has great potential. She is also a great reminder that really effective talent development and succession management is often hard work and requires discipline, investment, and a deliberate contribution from leaders.  When we do the important work of developing talent, we might even be surprised at the outcomes. In fact, you might be surprised to know that Siri researched, organized, and created most of this blog.

Now that’s some serious talent.


Audra August is a Principal, Succession & Talent Planning with Knightsbridge Leadership Solutions.  Audra works with organizations to build strong leadership capacity. Her areas of focus include succession management, team effectiveness, and organizational development. Audra can be reached at aaugust@knightsbridge.ca and @AudraAugust on Twitter.

8 Suggestions for Fast Recruiting

runningrecruiterMy thought is that leaders and hiring managers need to hire slowly, taking their time to ensure they’re selecting team members that are not a match from a technical perspective, but also a cultural one. What that doesn’t mean, however, is that we recruit slowly. In fact, in an organization where the recruitment is slow, the result is that hiring almost can’t be, because as soon as hiring managers see candidates that look like they’re in the ballpark, they’re hiring them.

We have to embrace a mindset that might seem, at least on the surface, a bit paradoxical. We want to hire slowly, but recruit faster. But wait a minute, you might be thinking, why should we recruit fast if we’re not going to hire fast?

Somewhere along the way, some recruiters and recruitment departments got into the habit of recruiting when there’s a job opening. It’s such a normal mindset that some of you might not have thought twice about the previous sentence. The four letter word in that sentence is the word when. Instead of when there’s a job opening, it should read before there’s a job opening, or all the time regardless of whether there’s a job opening or not. We’re definitely not always going to get it right, even when we are recruiting our little hears out, but we’ve just got to keep working toward doing a better job at being proactive, roll-up-our-sleeves, pound-the-pavement recruiters so that we put our organizations in a better position to hire slowly.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions for faster recruiting.

1. Try not to act like HR all the time. Don’t take this the wrong way. I’m in HR myself. But if we take the mindset of an HR generalist all the time, we won’t really be able to kill it on the recruiting trail. Recruiting can’t be an afterthought. Attracting and keeping talent is one of the biggest, most important ongoing battles in the business world.

2. Recruiting has to move more quickly. Sometimes much more quickly. In a way, many HR departments and recruitment functions are too comfortable. If you’re not feeling a sense of urgency in some respect as a recruiter, something’s off. Our organizations depend on us to do what we do at a high level.

3. Have a plan. How many recruiting contacts were in your plan to make this week? How many did you make this week? What’s your goal in regards to the number of pre-qualified candidates for each position? What do you have planned for social media? Any community outreach? Anything with the local colleges and universities? Are you just crossing your fingers and hoping the CareerBuilder gods smile upon you?

4. Play both the long and short games. There should be a variety of strategies you use, some focused on quick return on recruitment effort–like a job fair, for example–and others focused on developing employment brand recognition or positioning for future activity.

5. If you’re not using social media, you’re not recruiting. Am I saying that everyone has to tweet X number of times per day and post X number of things on LinkedIn per week? Of course not. But there’s no denying that social media is an avenue for a huge number of professionals to do a wide spectrum of things, whether you’re there or not. Why wouldn’t you use whatever tools you have at your disposal to connect with folks?

6. Like I mentioned above, our recruitment is often waaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy to reactive. HR Person (holding phone): “What? You have someone whose last day is today? Guess I should start really shifting recruitment into gear then.”

No, no, no. If that’s how you reply when a hiring manager tells you something like that, you’re missing the boat. It should be more like, “Oh really? Let’s circle back later on when and how we communicate when we have an employee give his or her notice, but after we hang up I’m going to send several pre-qualified candidates your way. We’ve already confirmed they meet the minimum qualifications as described in your job description….” It’s not the wording itself that’s the big deal; it’s that the latter wording indicates a recruiter or recruitment department that’s been proactively recruiting and anticipating the organization’s needs.

7. You should have a pool in the office. Not that kind of pool. No one wants to see Larry from Accounting and Marge from Quality Assurance in their speedos. I mean an applicant pool. It’s that aforementioned group of pre-qualified applicants that you have ready to go when a position opens up. Keep track of them. Talk about them. Report on them. Make them a big deal.

8. Use culture-based recruiting strategies. Understanding an organization’s unique culture is a key–but too often overlooked–component of recruiting exempt and non-exempt positions. The best recruiting strategies are the ones that will help your organization find individuals who are not only a fit from a technical perspective, but also a cultural one.

So if we want our organizations to be able to hire slowly, we have to recruit fast. What separates good recruiters from exceptional ones is that exceptional recruiters know the right balance between speed and quality. They know that getting people who are going to stay in those seats is just as important as getting people in the seats in the first place.

6 Tips for Slower Hiring

slowsignIt’s a tough spot for a recruiter or hiring manager. On one hand you really need to fill that position. Work is piling up, your team is falling further and further behind, customers are getting ticked, orders are getting backed up, lines are getting longer, and hold times are skyrocketing. If there were an award for the most ulcers per capita on a team, your team would win it. Tension is high; tempers are higher. Everyone is feeling overworked and underappreciated. You’re not the captain of a ship with tattered sails and skull-and-crossbones flags, and they’re not pirates; but you feel certain that if there were a plank, you’d be walking it. You need to fill that position.

So you’re tempted to make “the candidate must be able to successfully fog a mirror” the only job requirement. I mean literally–as long as a candidate didn’t murder someone in the waiting area before their interview, you’re going to hire him or her. That’s how desperate you are to get someone–anyone–in that seat.

On the other hand, you feel this faint tug at the rational part of your brain. Something about past experience showing you that fast hiring decisions have often resulted in the hiring of an employee who turned out not to be a good long-term fit. Ah, yes. It’s coming back to you now…

They were only two people interviewed for the position. No need to waste lots of time interviewing, right? The lucky winner was put through the “accelerated” version of the training program at your request. He/she wasn’t hired to sit in a training class, you may have reasoned. He/she was hired to help alleviate some of that stuff mentioned in paragraph one. Sure enough, things got ugly quickly. One week into his/her employment, you called HR wondering if you were legally able to terminate the new hire. But he/she saved you the trouble by walking out after his/her fifth tirade in as many days.

Back in the present…if you don’t take Mirror-Fogger, you feel certain you’ll have to wait forever before another one comes along, and you simply can’t afford to wait. Your team needs help now. You need help now.

Recruiters, HR Party People, Leaders, Managers, we’ve got to recruit fast and hire slow. My next post will focus on the recruiting piece, but in the meantime, here are some things for all of us who making hiring decisions to think about.

1. Don’t be afraid to say no. Take your time. Don’t settle for anything other than someone who’s a great fit. Be very clear, first with yourself, then with Recruiting, about what you’re looking for in candidates. Be specific.

2. You can and should recruit too! Who knows what you want for your department better than you? I’m one of those who believes that recruitment isn’t and shouldn’t be limited to HR and/or Recruitment within an organization. Everyone, including management, should recruit. If you see someone who appears to be a possible fit for your organization–both technically and culturally–you should be getting them in touch with the appropriate folks within the organization.

3. Look at the “No” candidate as a learning opportunity for both you and Recruitment. Depending how your interview process is structured, it may be that the candidate you met and hated was the same candidate that your recruiter met for a preliminary interview and loved. If that’s the case, put your heads together and figure out what the disconnect is. Why do you have such vastly different ideas about what the ideal candidate for that department looks like? Perhaps you both need to revisit #1 above.

4. Engage Recruitment in ongoing conversations, and not just about positions you need filled. Believe it or not, recruiters are better recruiters when they have a better understanding of life in your department or area, and not just from a headcount or attrition rate perspective. Each department or team, even within the same organization, has its own unique personality. Its own flavor. Its own quirks. Knowing those will help a recruiter immensely when it comes to finding candidates that are especially well-suited to your particular environment. Otherwise, they’re left to basically find a human who has put words on their application that match words on your job description.

5. Understand that hiring slower means it’s going to feel like things are moving…well…slower. This is NOT an excuse for recruiters to be lazy or slow. Like I said, we’ll get to the recruitment piece next post. But you need to understand that finding folks who are a fit from a technical competence and culture perspective takes longer than simply finding someone who can perform the essential functions of the job. This is true for a number of reasons, one of which is that those awesome people are very often already happily employed elsewhere. Obviously it takes a little longer to get those people.

6. Complain less. I’m not trying to be a jerk here; I’m just saying that in light of the above, we’ve got to be more patient with our recruitment folks sometimes, assuming of course that they’re working hard to get the right people. Recruiters aren’t robots; if they’re surrounded by an organization filled with people criticizing them at every opportunity, it would make sense for them to be less-than-motivated and consequently perform even more unsatisfactorily. In most cases, we really do want quality over quantity. A set that’s filled longer and better is superior to a seat that’s filled quicker.

Hiring slowly is a good thing. You’ll notice I didn’t say recruiting slowly is a good thing–we’ll get to that in my next post. But hiring slowly is often a necessary thing if you want to get the right people. Any organization can fill seats, but as leaders, it’s on us to be sure we’re making good decisions in regards to who we hire. Resist the urge to talk to someone for five minutes and then offer them the position. 

In the long run, you might save yourself an ulcer and a walk down the plank.