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4 things you can expect when working with a recruiter

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Recruiting ImageIt should come as no surprise, but many organizations are outsourcing recruiting needs to consulting firms and staffing agencies. With this growing trend, job seekers are now faced with a new element to the hiring process. The days of seeing a recruiter as a road block are fading and are becoming a crucial part to the hiring process. As someone seeking employment there are many advantages to working with someone who is representing you and ultimately going to bat for you almost every day. If you are fortunate to find yourself working with a top of the line recruiter, below is what you can expect.

 

1. Help with your resume. There are the obvious pointers like formatting, grammar, and chronology, but the most impactful is often the content. It’s common for resumes to be modified for a particular position. Let’s say you have a blend of experience as an individual contributor and a sales manager, and you are applying to a management role. Your resume may only focus on your individual success, which is great, but employers may also want to see what your team was able to accomplish with you as their leader. When working with a recruiter, you can be coached on how to highlight your skills that are most relevant to the position you are applying for. It’s not to say you aren’t capable of doing this on your own, but a recruiter has more knowledge as to what a decision maker is looking for – since it is their client.

2. Stronger interviewing skills. When’s the last time that you interviewed for a job (with a decision maker) and at the end of the interview they gave you feedback on how to be more prepared or how to present a more compelling story? My guess is that only a few people can say this has happened. One of the perks of working with a recruiter is they serve as your consultant. They can help coach you and guide you on how to be more effective when you are in front of decision makers.

3. Level of detail. Recruiters ask a lot of questions, and sometimes it may come off as intrusive. We may want to know why you left every position and how much money you were making when you started and left a position. There’s a lot of reasons why this helps us understand you better professionally and personally. Did you take a step back in pay because there were other things more important to you like flexibility or an opportunity to work for a company with a better culture? Did you resign from a position because you felt like you were no longer passionate about what you were doing? Were you fired from a position because you didn’t meet quota? When an employer sees a resume blindly without a narrative, assumptions and judgements can be made. When you have someone like a recruiter who can provide detail and color around your resume, it brings your resume to life and helps create a story that can stand out from the hundreds of applicants that may have already applied.

4. Personality and culture fit. Understanding what motivates you outside of money and benefits, and what you like to do outside of work is so important to help make sure your goals and personality are aligned with a prospective employer. At eQ we openly say that our company isn’t for everyone, and that also holds true with our clients. Someone who may prefer working in a teal organization (check out Reinventing Organizations for more detail) may not mesh well in a company with more formal hierarchal roles. You don’t have to have the same hobbies as a future employer, but if you happen to and we let you know that before an interview, there’s an instant connection. Culture is a driving force for engaging top talent and it’s a recruiter’s commitment to help companies find individuals that will culturally fit into an organization.

Ultimately both you and a recruiter are responsible for building trust and forming a relationship. The stronger the bond, the higher the chances of achieving the goal, helping you find a job. Now that you know what we can provide for you at eQ, why not let us place you into your dream job?

 

As Talent Acquisition Manager, Jessica Drew focuses on finding the right candidates to fit our clients’ needs. She works with our clients to understand the exact skills and attributes that would fit with the cultural climate and their environment.

Posted in Recruiting, Talent, Talent Acquisition | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m about to save you $19.99 in only 2 minutes

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StopwatchStrategy is simply, simple.

We all hear and read about strategy every day, it’s the proverbial beating of the dead horse. So, what’s so new and different about what I’m about to tell you? Why should you give even two minutes to read this blog? Cause I promised to save you $19.99, right? I’ll get to that …

Well, I’ll be honest – what I’m about to say may not be all that new, or all that different to some of you … but it might just jog your brain a bit, or remind you to think a little differently when you think about strategy. Hear me out:

Like I said, “strategy” is everywhere these days. Everyone and their uncle has “the secret to better business strategy” or “the 3 things you MUST do to ensure success in your business.” But the way I’d like to ask you to think about strategy is even simpler than that. During a recent eQ meeting, we briefly discussed the difference between simple and simplistic:

Contrary to most people’s understanding, simplistic is not a fancy word for simple. Simplistic does not describe things that are easy to understand, deal with, or use. Those sorts of things are simply, simple.

My point: strategy is just that – simply, simple. When you boil it all down, strategy is about using the least amount of resources possible to get the biggest impact, and repeat. This is the most bare bones definition of strategy possible, and some people will adamantly disagree with me, but at the heart of the matter, it is in fact the fundamental guiding principle of strategy.

I ask that you think about your business. What is your strategy – at the most simple level? This isn’t designed to be a challenging test for you; remember we’re dealing with simple here.

First think about the impact piece – What’s your desired impact?

• What’s your aim?

• What do you want people to think/feel when they hear your company name?

• Who do you want to effect? And how?

Now, think about the resources available to you – what (or who) can help you achieve your goal?

• Who do I know?

• What am I really good at?

• What do I need help with?

• Do I have the right people on my team?

Lots and lots can be said on the topic of strategy. That I won’t argue with, but what I do argue with is how it feels like we’re staring at a dictionary (simple) waiting for lines of Shakespeare to appear (complicated). It’s just not going to happen, because strategy doesn’t have to be this complicated formula for success that people will lead you to believe it is.

Now to the saving money part: I just saved you from buying yet another business strategy books off of Amazon! It doesn’t take 400 pages of case studies and empirical research to define strategy and what a good one looks like, I promise.

All you need to do is take a minimalist approach to strategy, and you’ll find it is simply, simple.

*But … if you are still interested in a book that really gets to the heart of the matter, there is none better than eQ’s best selling, landmark book Grow Regardless. If you want a truly simple approach to strategy, look no further.

 

 

Emily Cosgrove is Project Manager at entreQuest and works closely with all team members to provide employees and clients with remarkable experiences.

Posted in Alignment, Grow Regardless, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The New Fred Factor – 3 central elements to a better client experience

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iPhone ChargingBecause you are a member of the eQ community, I know how much you like to read/listen to great content and thought leaders – and you know it is at the core of what we do at eQ. You may be familiar with an author by the name of Atul Gwande. He has written a few books, all of which are worth the time to read (I promise). I recommend his books to clients and our community fairly often. One of Gwande’s books, The Checklist Manifesto, has quite a bit of relevance to a recent situation I found myself in.

My wife JoAnn has (had) an iPhone 4s. First world problems have been popping up hot-and-heavy recently. The kind of things that happens when you live in a country that lives and breathes technology. With more software updates, the iPhone has been working less and less effectively, often shutting down while it is in use; not ideal as she uses it to communicate with physicians in the work she does at a local hospital. On the day I wrote this, we went to a local Verizon store to upgrade her device to an iPhone 6. The store sales person was very nice, seemed to like his job, and enjoyed talking about the various technologies in play today. His demeanor and overall engagement created a positive store experience for us, which is so important since many of our visits to that store have been drawn out and rather painful.

JoAnn was very excited to get her new phone. We left the device with Fred (the sales person), so he could perform the activation and updates while went for a bite to eat (he said it would take approximately 40 minutes, due to the volume of information that needed to transfer). When we returned, he said the phone was ready to go, and the updates could take some additional time to finish. We left the store, and when we returned home at 7, the phone was still not operational (the store closed at 6pm, by the way). A non-operating phone equates to a work stoppage for JoAnn, which as you might guess, is rather troublesome.

Although you may not know JoAnn, you can likely imagine some of the choice words that came out of her mouth. I called Verizon’s support line, and it turns out that the program under which we enrolled, (Edge) needs to be activated in a specific way, and Fred apparently didn’t do it the right way. The short story is the technical support team couldn’t help us, and JoAnn is now without a device for work for Monday (one of the busiest days at the hospital). And now we need to return to the store so they can correct the error and properly activate the phone (I will be doing that in the morning to save everyone’s sanity).

As nice as Fred was/is, the entire experience is severely tainted because when there is work stoppage for JoAnn, nothing else really matters. Fred’s energy and enthusiasm are wiped out in an instant.

While the story isn’t over at the time of writing this post, you can probably see some of the connections and how this is relevant to what is happening in your world. In the spirit of helping you create an incredible, and hassle-free customer experience, here are three central elements for you and your teams:

• Execute: While having energy and passion for what we do is critical, a failure to execute on the basic elements in your customer lifecycle will cripple your revenue, retention, and referrals (and, as a result, this will erode your brand reputation). A friend of mine used to say that while she appreciates all of the new and different food offerings that Starbucks brings to bear, if they get the coffee wrong, the other stuff doesn’t really matter very much.

• The Client Experience: Client experience starts when a prospective, or current, client engages your brand from the first moment through the entire client journey. This includes searching for your company online, visiting your website, calling your business, visiting a brick and mortar/online store, searching for products/services, purchasing, resolving issues, referring friends – the whole enchilada. Spend time evaluating each and every element through the prospect/client’s eyes. I can’t stress enough how critical it is to objectively remove hassles from the experience.

• Always Be Learning: In Verizon’s case, the Edge program, at the time of writing this post, is still a new offering. Verizon, according to their staff, is making a big push to move as many customers to this program as possible. I can get behind the business rationale of that move. But here’s the deal…when companies rollout new programs, products and services, the customer facing folks HAVE TO be considered. The rollout has to be designed through their eyes, as they are the ones who will make or break the success of the new “thing.” In my experience with Verizon, they have wasted my most valuable resource – TIME – by causing my wife and I to go back to the store. This could have been easily avoided if Verizon ensured Fred knew precisely how activating an Edge program is distinct from a different activation (of the same device).

An overarching guiding principle for your entire client experience is this: consider what you want your clients THINKING, FEELING, and DOING after every interaction with your organization. Then, ensure your people, processes, and systems align to produce those outcomes!

 

Andrew Freedman, Principal at entreQuest, specializes in helping eQ’s clients grow by creating well aligned company cultures and strategies that result in remarkable client and employee experiences.

Posted in Alignment, Client Experiences | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why you need to stop being a leadership couch potato

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Lazy HammockI was in attendance at a seminar recently that discussed the neurological and physiological challenges of behavior change when the following sentence was uttered: “What you know is comfortable, even when it’s bad for you.” Though I’ve tried to educate myself on these topics over the last several years, this was such a powerful encapsulation of what we encounter in ourselves and see in others, it felt like a brand new concept. Think about how challenging it is to replace a behavior we know is bad for us, or is standing in our way, with something more productive. The new, “better” habit feels so strange and awkward … and we keep circling back to the old way in spite of ourselves.

In working with organizational leaders, this truism seems to hold. Individually and within their businesses, there are methods of doing things they know are not as productive as it might be – or even harmful – yet, they’re tied to it. Moreover, when people ask questions about a sub-optimal practice (just ask) denial or defensiveness can be the primary reaction. Often, when people deny or defend they succeed in moving people away from the effort to help them. All of this ensures they fail in moving towards success. If you’re committed to being helpful in facilitating the recognition of the need for change, you need to change the conversation in order to change their reality. But how?

 

• Shift the conversation away from the obstacles and toward the outcomes. This is key to relieving people from the desire they may feel to deny, resist, and/or defend what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Asking questions is a powerful tool, and tying your probing conversation to the desired outcome is a pivotal ingredient to keeping the focus on success and better creating openness to the change that may be required to get there.

• Keep the big picture in mind. This will help the leader identify nearer-term and accessible behaviors or processes they can begin to affect differently right away. Moving away from concepts and harder-to-realize ambitions will move people to action (gets them unstuck) and will provide the opportunity for wins you can build on emotionally and substantively to give momentum to the effort.

• Speak truth to power. Perhaps THE most effective way to move leaders to action and keep them walking the talk is to watch what they do and listen to what they say, and then reflect that back to them. No matter how well intentioned, it’s hard for us to see ourselves as clearly as the experienced eye of a thoughtful observer can. It’s also true that living too long in an ecosystem where you’re the top dog and people around you only ask “how high?” when you tell them to “jump” has the potential to rob you of the constructive pushback. You want people who work with you to validate that jumping at all is the best, most accessible course of action to progress and to achieve your intended and desired outcomes.

We like familiar, but allowing ourselves to be leadership couch potatoes is unproductive for us, and unhealthy for the organizations we love. Seek out the new and the less familiar – try it on and see what happens. It may feel a little weird at first, but it very well could do you a world of good.

 

Jeff Lesher, Principal at entreQuest, blends his deep knowledge of organization design, human capital, and leadership with a pragmatic approach drawn from his own business experience and eQ’s philosophy to help eQ’s clients focus on their core purpose and move people effectively to action.

Posted in Culture, Environment | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

You won’t believe the results when you give your employees a voice

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MegaphoneAt eQ, we begin most of our engagements with a study. Part of our study includes a Voice of the Employee Survey. The purpose of this is to better understand the business we will be working in; from the perspective of all involved, not just the leadership.

Why would the perspective of the receptionist be as important as the perspective of the CEO? The CEO knows his/her own company right? Sometimes. And sometimes, not so much.

Generally speaking, a leadership team approaches entreQuest because there is a concern, or just because they want to do things better than they are right now. More often than not, though, they are surprised at the answers from their team. They are surprised at how deep the issues go. They are surprised at how deeply their employees feel about aspects of their company and sometimes even about the leadership of the company.

So, how do we get employees to open up about issues or concerns that they have, perhaps, been too uncomfortable (or scared) to voice? For starters, the Voice of the Employee Survey is anonymous. We ask really good questions (that have gone through many iterations), both objective and subjective, that allow the employee to think about a topic and respond according to how they feel.

Why is this important? In order to get true answers, employees have to feel safe. They have to feel that this is the chance for their voice to be heard without any threat or concern of blow-back. Once they feel secure, they open up.

But, there’s a second part to this that some leadership teams have failed to comprehend. It isn’t just giving the employee an opportunity to voice his/her opinion, but it is doing something with that opinion once you’ve gotten it.

Hearing the words mean nothing when you don’t acknowledge that you’ve heard them and when you don’t take action as a result of hearing them.

There are two easy steps we recommend all our clients take after a Voice of the Employee Survey:

Step One:  Thank the team for their opinions. Be sincere in your thanks and appreciate that this was probably difficult, but that the purpose is to take this information and make the company better.

Step Two:  Do something with the information – create an action plan (the roadmap or blueprint) and share that action plan with the team.

Don’t think I’m saying you have to take every suggestion or comment from the team and make a change. You don’t. You just have to take it into consideration and acknowledge that it was said. You have to be honest about what changes you are going to make, what changes might have to wait, and what changes are never going to happen.

This is where entreQuest can be particularly valuable – we’re great at helping you dig through the responses, making sense of it all, and at making an action plan for moving forward. But, even if you decide to take the results and do something on your own, I caution you about not doing anything at all. Not doing anything at all means that trust within the company will tank. Employees will feel like they aren’t valued for their opinions. They will feel that the Voice of the Employee Survey was an exercise in futility as opposed to an exercise designed to improve the overall running of the company. Things will be worse than they were when you engaged in the process to begin with – or at the very least, they won’t be better.

So, take the Voice of the Employee Survey for what it is: a tool. It is a tool that helps you understand the perspective of your staff. It is a way to get ideas about how to do things that you have perhaps never thought of before. It is a way to make employees feel valued, a way to build trust within the company, and it is a way to move forward toward success. Know that one anonymous survey has the potential to change your company from the inside out. Know that you have people that can help you with that change – on the outside, and on the inside. And take heart, this is the first step in making future steps with an invested team. A Voice of the Employee Survey increases employee investment and engagement in all processes moving forward… As long as you move forward.

 

Emily Cosgrove is Project Manager at entreQuest and works closely with all team members to provide employees and clients with remarkable experiences.

Posted in Culture | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Are you kidding me?! Sanctioned segregation in the office is never a good idea

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Are you kidding?At this point in my career, I am not easily surprised. But, every once in a while I hear something that makes me say, “Are you kidding me?” I had one of these moments when reading a recent Wall Street Journal article about how ad firm, Grey Global, is addressing young worker integration challenges by creating a separate work area referred to in the piece as “the office equivalent of the kids’ table.” Honestly, the article delivered a more effective punch to my sensibilities than Manny Pacquiao landed in the entire title fight with Floyd Mayweather.

Rather than risk “irritating their older colleagues,” the so-called millennials are grouped together where they can be more “at ease” and, apparently, are expected to gain their professional footing largely through osmosis (the only logical explanation after reading the article) … only given the opportunity to leave “base camp” when they’re promoted. Depending on the part of the country you’re from, the reaction you likely are having is either expressed as “Ugh!” or “Oy!”

To be fair, the firm in question accepted a volunteer to sit amongst the youth rabble and their “iced coffee” and “containers of fruit salad.” (Let’s pause here, and consider how similar references to groups of people and their dietary stereotypes rightly would result in charges of racism.) As I’ve noted before, research consistently shows that generations of workers share much more in common than they differ, they complement one another, and – overall – inclusion benefits organizations. Valuing and encouraging diversity even in terms of work style is part of what enables high performance in organizations.

The chasm highlighted in this particular account is defined by horrifyingly large differences like: what time people eat lunch, and whether they prefer to work at their desks or in common spaces design for people to … wait for it … work! Seriously. The “volunteer” acknowledges some of the benefits to her. What concerns me as that there is no design to actively engage the members of the largest segment of the workforce in learning what they need to in order to quickly, effectively, and comfortably become high-performing members of the team. By some stroke of mutual good fortune, apparently the newest team members get “promoted” which leads to them being moved from base camp to some far off, undoubtedly scary place. The send off is a “slow clap” – and one only can imagine how well the newly departed are able to apply their “higher threshold for interrupting senior colleagues.”

Here’s a crazy thought: have a 100-day plan for onboarding these incredibly valuable (and thus, hopefully, valued) employees. Your future, literally, depends on it. Onboarding actually begins before new employees arrive and can reflect any number of approaches – none of which should include cordoning them off from the more “evolved” workers at your company.

Here are just a few of the things that can ease and speed transitions – getting people to a higher level of performance sooner, and increasing the likelihood that they’ll stay highly engaged for the longest period of time:

• Have colleagues send congratulatory notes ahead of their arrival

• Decorate their work space

• Celebrate their arrival

• Assign a trained mentor to make sure they have a go-to resource

• Have a scripted onboarding plan that you share with them

• Schedule weekly 1:1 conversations with their manager or mentor, depending on your organizational design and philosophy – and use this time to aggressively check in with them … how are they REALLY doing? What else do they need from YOU and others.

• Establish, track, and report on 30-60-90 day milestones

• Embrace and encourage difference … finding ways to put it to effective use

Separation is NOT the answer. Sorry, folks, this is just absurd. Having fun with missed metaphors and cultural references may make for good copy, but giving into stereotypes is lazy and no way to run a business.

 

Jeff Lesher, Principal at entreQuest, blends his deep knowledge of organization design, human capital, and leadership with a pragmatic approach drawn from his own business experience and eQ’s philosophy to help eQ’s clients focus on their core purpose and move people effectively to action.

Posted in Talent, Talent Brand | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

3 things you have to do before you track applicants

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Magnifying Glass Ancient MapTired of letting the best, and most talented, candidates slip through your search undetected? If you’re still employing traditional tactics to find the right candidates you’re likely missing out on some great people.

Chances are you might not be utilizing an applicant tracking systems to your advantage.

Deciding on the right software to track candidates throughout the recruiting process can be a daunting process. It’s easy to get inundated with multiple companies contacting you for a demonstration of their product. Having gone through a few evaluations of applicant tracking systems there are many things to consider and evaluate.

Many of the systems are incredibly similar so it’s important to do your research prior to the demonstrations, and even after, to really make sure you know what is best for your organization. Below are two pointers that we feel are most helpful to consider when picking your applicant tracking system.

 

1. Check out reporting capabilities: Before you even begin the process of demonstrating systems, establish a list of reports that you would like to be able to pull. You should label each report as either a must have or a nice-to-have. We’ve found that if you don’t have these thought through and you purchase a system you may be shocked to find there are additional fees to create certain reports. We have been quoted as much as $3,000 to create a report that you’d think would be a standard item. To create this list we recommend pulling together people who will be using the system daily. Choose leaders who are using reports to make decisions and someone from operations or finance. The users of the system should be thinking of reports that will drive efficiency and help them with day-to-day recruiting. Some examples of reports that may help recruiters are:

• Job activity reports. This would tell candidates activity as it related to a job they are being considered for.

• Notes activity. This would allow recruiters to track their daily activity.

• Placement list. Recruiters can use this to see current and past placements.

2. Reports Worth Considering: Leaders within an organization may not be as interested in the details of each candidate and would rather see higher-level information. Similarly, your finance or operation team may be keeping duplicate reports that Customer Relationship Management software could produce. Here are reports worth considering:

• Weekly/monthly/quarterly revenue. It’s important to understand the system’s capability to track revenue.

• Employment status. Can the system differentiate and run reports based off 1099 or W2 employees.

• Billing information. If you work with hourly employees, can the system run reports based off bill rates and pay rates and allow you to determine spreads? In addition, can you use this system to run commission reports? Same this for permanent placements.

• Recruiting statistics. Does the system run reports that reflect days to fill, percentage of submit to hire?

3. Training: What will implementation and training look like for your team? If you are transitioning data from one system to the new, is this fee included in your quote? Some applicant tracking systems have prerecorded or live trainings for new users. These training seminars are important to utilize in order to get a better understanding of the system. But you should know whether your initial quote only include training for the current users. This is a hook that I’ve seen before. I’ve also noticed that some applicant tracking systems will charge you for additional training seminars as you add new employees. You should also inquire about the process for asking questions or reporting system issues. Many times there is a help desk but it’s important to understand expectations for hearing a response.

Obviously there are many more steps needed to implement an applicant tracking system, but these factors were crucial for our team when we decided on the best tool for our team. By using these three key considerations, the best and most talented people will stop falling through the cracks – they’ll start falling into your organization.

Posted in Hiring Best Practices, Recruiting, Talent, Talent Acquisition | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Working hard, or hardly working?

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Socks and CoffeeHopefully hardly working.

This may be easy for a lot of people to believe, but according to the Washington Post, only 13 percent of people worldwide actually like going to work. To many this is just a statistic (insert eye rolling emoticon), but to those who are driven and passionate about what they do, this should be a huge shocker. You spend roughly 25% of your week at work … why wouldn’t you want to at least like what you’re doing? At eQ, we spend a lot of time thinking about this statistic, and what the root cause is:

It’s employee engagement.

As a new team member here at eQ, I see firsthand how pertinent employee engagement is when retaining talent. There is life and energy in every interaction at entreQuest. People are happy to be working and people are engaged in every facet of their daily schedules.

I quickly realized that people here were not working, they were doing what they loved; they were hardly working.

Quickly I took to this approach, and discovered if I immersed myself in this culture and ideology then I would be hardly working as well, and not because I am lazy, but because I want to be driven by a passion. It was easy for me to take to this approach, because eQ did such an amazing job engaging me. Immediately when I walked in on my first day, I was greeted with open arms. My desk had eQ materials, a binder full of eQ literature and a thorough itinerary of what to expect, not just for my first week but also for the first 90 days! There was a personalized welcome card signed by every eQ member and a magnetic sign saying “Welcome to eQ Kelsey!” I felt comfortable and thoroughly driven. More so, in all team huddles and one-on-one meetings I wanted to contribute to the conversation, and I felt totally engaged in every topic of discussion.

At the time of writing this, it is coming to the end of my first week and I am engaged in this organization more so than I could ever have imagined. I look back on my experience with other companies and realize the key ingredient they were missing was employee engagement. People would come in, put in hours and leave. entreQuest is an innovative and collaborative work environment driven by innate talent and passion. People have autonomy here and this contributes to the employee engagement. Less engagement by management and more engagement by peers, mentors, clients, leaders, and one’s self.

At eQ, everyone works hard, but most of us feel like we’re hardly working, because we’re engaged and we love what we do.

 

Kelsey Trundle, eQ’s Business Development Manager, is our front-line influencer for attaining and growing business. As the voice and presence of eQ in and out of the business community, she can tell the eQ story with absolute authenticity and passion.

Posted in Culture, Employee Experience, Motivation | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

More4Bmore: from incredible tragedy comes incredible opportunity

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Baltimore SkylineIn the wake of the recent riots in Baltimore, I’m reminded of what makes me cling to the things that matter most. Loved ones, safety, traditions – specifically, the kind I participated in when I was in grade school. Thanksgiving and Christmas marked a time when my family and I would shiver in the church parking lot and load turkeys and beloved side-dish ingredients into brown bags and onto truck beds. The meals were then delivered to public housing throughout the county. When it was my family’s turn to distribute the meals to doorsteps, children squealed with glee and the adults graciously accepted the parcels. Each household expressed gratitude and it was that tradition of giving back that warmed my heart, and in turn melted theirs.

Traditions. We count on them. We look forward to them. National holidays are memorialized on our calendars. How we honor these moments shape our culture and invite us to appreciate what bonds us together.

In a business context, traditions take the form of regular meetings, the ways we greet one another, annual events, and the list goes on. Every now and again some customs become stodgy. They require a reset. Other organizations dismiss the importance of tradition altogether, and thereby stop honoring them or they lack such practices in the first place. What does that mean for culture? How are employees impacted? What can be done to foster more pride and bring back tradition?

One way is to introduce a very rewarding initiative – the timeless act of volunteerism. At eQ, we call it Impact Day; it’s when we strive to do some good as an entire company each quarter (at the least!) with the understanding that some of us will choose to engage in additional volunteer opportunities – just because we like to do more.

Perhaps you’ve seen #More4Bmore trending on social media. It reminds us that out of tragedy comes opportunity. In this case, the opportunity that has presented itself is an invitation to create innovative solutions to improve our culture.

To understand culture, and how it is shaped, consider the definition provided by Edgar Schein, an MIT professor who focuses on business management, “Culture is a way of working together toward common goals that have been followed so frequently and so successfully that people don’t even think about trying to do things another way. If a culture has formed, people will autonomously do what they need to do to be successful.” On the surface, culture appears to lack free will. Dig deeper and think about the strength that comes from working as a team – toward a shared goal – doing so frequently – in order to achieve success. Sounds really good to me.

In a 2011 Volunteer IMPACT Survey conducted by Deloitte, respondents signaled they are nearly twice as likely to be incredibly satisfied with their career path if they are provided with the ability to do community impact work. The individuals who took the survey are employees who frequently participate in workplace volunteer work. So ask yourself – how do I feel about my career growth? Does my organization have a tradition in place that supports volunteerism? Do I give my employees regular opportunities to contribute collaboratively for the betterment of society? If you answered negatively to any of these questions, figure out how you can make a change. Figure out what will provide you with increased satisfaction in your career and if it’s volunteering, gather a group of colleagues to provide ground support. Then, pitch ideas to leadership. If there’s no tradition in place, there’s nothing stopping you from becoming the tradition maker.

Now if this idea of suggesting something new or bringing back something old stirs fear in you, focus on the impact. Remember what tradition means to you, to others. To me, traditions aren’t traditions unless you celebrate them with those whom you share a connection with – whether by blood, by vocation, by interests, or by values. Your family, your colleagues, your friends, and your community make up a passionate, unstoppable, and thoughtful group. And when you do things together, and better yet – for the greater good, look around. Maybe you’ll say to yourself, I’m exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what I need to do. In the words of musical group, Talking Heads, “This must be the place,” the place where it all happens – where it matters.

 

 

Alexandra Wieland is a Project Specialist at entreQuest and works closely with all eQ team members to provide employees and clients with remarkable experiences.

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“That’s not in my job description” – a global epidemic of disengagement

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VirusThe business world’s single greatest cop out.

If you’ve ever said this before, it’s not your fault you’re skirting additional responsibilities. Our job descriptions and titles have programed us to be single-minded myopic beings that don’t allow us to see outside HR’s definition of our role. Like I said, it’s not your fault…it’s your company’s fault. It’s their fault because they gave you a well constructed, well thought out, and detailed job description of what your responsibilities are day-to-day. And how dare they do that to you.

Little did you know, this is the source of a global epidemic of disengagement.

Formal job descriptions are a hindrance to efficiency – they’re a disease. They stem fluidity and spurn creativity in professional roles, and it’s taking a massive toll on how we do business. It’s the business equivalent of the Nuremburg Defense – “I was only following orders” – and it’s dangerous. It allows us to fall into a vicious cyclical pattern in which we take no risks, view thinking outside the box as radical, and do the very minimum to achieve goals.

I was involved in a conversation the other week in which the topic of discussion was dangerous workplace behaviors and patterns, and although the phrase, “That’s not in my job description,” was not uttered, it was at the heart of the discussion, even if it was veiled at the time. This discussion had me equate the disengagement epidemic with a particular scene from Office Space, the philosophical masterpiece of reflection on a bad work environment, where Peter Gibbons has his meeting with “the Bob’s” (the consultants). In Peter’s meeting he tells “the Bob’s” that he has no motivation, and tells them, “That’ll only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.” It was prevalent in 1999 when the film was released, and it’s still prevalent today. Disengagement is engrained into our very culture.

This is the product of the attitude of “that’s not in my job description.” With this mindset we scrape by only completing the requirements of our job description to the point where we believe we’re doing well enough not to get fired.

Our issue is one of engagement. After only a few weeks on the job, there’s nothing inherently fulfilling about a job with a clearly defined job description. The employee falls into a circadian rhythm of “do my job, don’t get fired.” This is fine – if you’re okay with mediocre results. But if you’re not, you should recognize disengagement as the catalyst of meager efficiency.

I might be stepping on the toes of some people who need to be told what to do; but realistically, we should dispense with the 19th Century Industrial Revolution conception of formal job descriptions. At this point in time they are analogous to the steam engine – antiquated. They continue to anchor us within the 19th Century, and restrict us from having a modern business. It’s not that dissimilar to the idiom “sink or swim.”

 

“I’m on break.”

I was recently told a story from a family member about an experience they had shopping in Wal-Mart. Walking through the store they attempted to stop an employee and asked them where they might find a particular item. Without even breaking their stride the employee loudly explained, “I’m on break. Ask someone else.” Fair to say you’d be annoyed to receive such a blunt response? Yeah, we’d all be a little POed by that response. But even this is part of the global epidemic of disengagement. This should not be a negative reflection of the Wal-Mart employee, rather a poor reflection of Wal-Mart and their use of rigid employee roles and regulations.

Wal-Mart, in terms of customer support, experience, and image, has rapidly gone down hill since Sam Walton stepped away from the company in 1988. The only support you need for this claim is to view the negative media attention the organization has gotten over the past decade or more. I want to be clear, this is not an attack on Wal-Mart. They’re one of thousands of companies that have fallen victim to this behavior. I actually applaud their recent efforts to fix the issue of disengagement, even if they aren’t doing enough just yet. But, it still must be said, the rigidity of formal job descriptions (i.e. Not being able to help a customer while off the clock) is severely damaging the levels of engagement of employees in organizations.

Over the years I have worked in numerous retail positions (like many teenagers and young adults before me), so I am able to confirm that this behavior is the norm; it is not an isolated event experienced by my family member. I spent some time working in the electronics department of a Sears a number of years ago, and I was instructed to do the same as the Wal-Mart employee. I was unable to assist any customers while I was off the clock. For us rational human beings this ideology gets under our skin, but, ironically, what we find unacceptable at the places we shop is perfectly acceptable in the places we work. We continue to fall prey to the restrictions of our job description.

In office settings people continue to only work within the parameters of their job description. Perhaps it’s as Office Space suggests, it’s out of fear of losing one’s job. I think this is part of the equation, but not the chief variable. That, if you ask me, would be engagement. Most of us in the know of cultural business trends have likely heard the statistic that 70% of the workforce is disengaged, and I believe our culprit here is the job description HR handed you on your first day on the job. With this you’re told to subdue your creativity and cram it away in your filing cabinet, only to work within the confines of what your job description tells you to. And you better subjugate that outside of the box thinking until you’re off the clock.

 

The vaccine.

So, how does one stop this epidemic? If it were a real medical emergency there’d be work done on a cure – a vaccine. There must be a way to prevent the spread of the great epidemic. And a vaccine, so to speak, is exactly what we need to end this epidemic.

The word vaccine comes from the Latin, vacca, for cow. This is because of the use of the cowpox virus in combatting smallpox in the late 18th Century. The full etymological description of the word vaccine translates directly to vaccinus, literally meaning: of, or defined by the cow. What I suggest has nothing to do with vaccinus, or cows. In fact, what I believe we need is a contemporary perception of the vaccine, something of, or defined by: the worker.

We don’t need a vaccinus (pertaining to the cow); we need an opinus* (pertaining to the work) as a solution, or cure, to our epidemic of disengagement. But, how do we create our opinus? We restructure our conception of the organization and the carrier of this disease – the job description.

In Fredric Laloux’s innovative work in Reinventing Organizations, he discusses the exponentially evolutionary stages of an organization, and the stage at which we are on the precipice of operating in within our 21st Century environment. Laloux calls these “Teal Organizations.” One aspect of these revolutionary organizations is the deconstruction of the formal job description.

Laloux believes that, “Titles and job descriptions come with an implicit expectation: people must adapt to the box (emphasis mine) they have been recruited or promoted into. Teal Organizations reverse the premise: people are not made to fit pre-defined jobs; their jobs emerge from a multitude of role and responsibilities they pick up based on their interests, talents, and the needs of the organization.”

Our opinus is the removal of the cubical (perhaps literal and figurative) mindset when we approach the method of defining our roles within an organization. In this lies the potential for a tremendous benefit. Think about the increase in levels of engagement if people were able to evolve in their roles, and not be confined by the metaphorical bars caging them in. Creativity shouldn’t be spurned; it should be nurtured and encouraged.

My ardent plea to the business world, and I’m speaking to everyone in it, is to remove this vernacular from not just the workplace, but from our lives. Think of the work we could get done and the relationships we could cultivate if we strike, “That’s not in my job description,” from daily use. The epidemic is very real, but thankfully we have the cure to our disengagement crisis. We have the opinus.

 

 

*Opinus is my created and poor attempt at the Latin language to combine opus (work) with the suffix inus (of: or pertaining to). Scholars of Latin, which I am not, will probably find my use of the language to be poor, but it serves my purpose within the discussion.

 

 

 

As eQ’s Writing Specialist, Eric Stewart works his creative magic to tell eQ’s story by putting our Team’s concepts, ideas, and methodologies into words!

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