9 ways to involve customers in your recruiting efforts

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In an article I published about 18 months ago, I described how Enterprise Rent-a-Car had drawn me into their staff-recruitment efforts.

“We’re hiring. Do you know someone who is looking for a job?” asked the person assisting me.

I couldn’t help him, but he had helped me. I had just received a lesson in recruiting staff: ask your customers.

It’s simple, takes almost no time and doesn’t cost a cent.

Few customers are likely to be looking for a job or to know anyone who is. But even if it takes 100 asks before one customer responds that she will tell someone who might be interested, someone who might never have considered Enterprise as a potential employer will do so.

Since then, I have discovered nine other ways—in addition to Enterprise’s direct approach—which organizations are doing or could do to involve customers in their efforts to find candidates to fill vacancies.

Perhaps some of these simple, low-cost tactics can work for you:

1. Talk to your customers – about the weather, about the local sports team or their summer plans—and, oh yes, about the vacancies you need to fill. “We’re hiring. Know anyone who might be interested?”

2. Ask about family members: This is a variation on the Enterprise theme, but more focused. Ask regular customers about their kids. “Is your son Jordan looking for a job for after school or on weekends?”

3. On-site posters: This is a common recruitment tool, which you can easily make uncommon.

Often, recruiters rely on a generic, “Now Hiring” message. This advertising conveys nothing about why people should come to work for the organization. It looks like everyone else’s ads and only lists the position. It might as well read, “Come work for us. We’re just as boring as the next guy.”

Unless your organization truly is that boring, liven up your on-site job postings in a way that demonstrates that yours is a great, exciting place to work. One coffee shop seemed to get that, with an in-store poster that really showed why it was the right place to work. In part, it read:

“We are looking for passionate individuals [who] want to embrace their love for coffee, deliver an exceptional guest experience and become a valued member of our team. If you are looking for a place to interact with great people and enhance your guest service knowledge through world-class training, then look no further.”

Another coffee shop got right to the point, with a hard-to-resist challenge: “We are now hiring. Qualifications: must be awesome. If this describes you, come prove it.”

Here are two more suggestions for more creative recruitment posters:

  • Post a sign at a vacant service desk: “We would like to serve you more quickly, but to do that, we need to hire more staff. Know anyone who might be a great addition to our team?”
  • Looking to hire a custodian? Emphasize the importance of the job. “Help create a clean learning environment where students will remain safe and healthy.”

In addition to conveying the message about being a boring place to work, posters can also send unintended messages. Posters that remain up so long that they turn yellow with age scream, “No one wants to work here! Why should you?”

Another sign that lends itself to misinterpretation is one that announces that the company is, “Always Hiring,” which logically is only possible if employees are always quitting. Doesn’t sound like a place where a quality jobseeker would want to be.

4. Signs near the business: Some businesses have found sandwich boards on the sidewalk in front of the business or on temporary signs on the boulevard, which advertise jobs, have attracted qualified candidates.

5. Flyers: Prepare a full or half-page advertisement, which can be left where the customers can pick it up. Staff members could hand this information to customers or slip it into bags with their purchases.

6. Application Forms: Display them prominently. Without you saying anything, the customer gets the message. You’re hiring.

7. Prepare current staff: Before implementing your ask-customers recruitment strategy, let your staff know about your plans and the role they can play. Provide a script. Prepare them to answer questions customers have about the positions you hope to fill or about the next step in the application process.

Encourage them to show enthusiasm when approaching customers to ask if they know of someone who is seeking employment or when customers have questions. This is key to your success. Just like boring advertising, employees who appear bored will give the wrong impression of your workplace.

8. “Upselling” the job: It’s common, particularly in food service, to ask customers if they would like to add to their order. “Would you like a cookie or a croissant with your coffee today? Maybe you would be interested in a job with us?”

9. Newsletter: If you send a customer newsletter, use this as a vehicle to let them know you are hiring.

Suggested Action: Develop your own creative approach to make customers part of your recruitment strategy. Which of these tactics can you adopt or adapt for your use? Are there others?

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Assumptions about candidates’ motivation become barriers to hiring the best qualified

bigstock--RejectedResume--138101084It doesn’t make sense, but some organizations screen-out well-qualified job applicants based on untested assumptions. After looking at their training and experience, they conclude the applicants are “overqualified” or “not serious about wanting to work here.”

What arrogance! It allows the best qualified to slip away, while ensuring those hiring settle for mediocre performers.

It’s not the hiring manager’s job to decide on behalf of applicants that they don’t really want the job because they are overqualified or will have to take a pay cut, and to relegate their resumes to the not-to-be-interviewed pile.

Far better to trust the applicants: if they applied, consider that a clear indication that they want to work for the organization.

There may be reasons for applying that are not evident from the resume alone. Perhaps they see that the work your organization does is significant, or that it aligns with their values. They feel that by working with you they can make a difference.

Some may be seeking a less stressful job, which can motivate people to abandon management jobs. Others may be looking for jobs that require them to put in fewer hours, which is important to them because it enables them to have more time to spend with their families or to explore non-work interests.

Some are willing to take a pay cut to achieve these outcomes. Others may have simply discovered that they can live comfortably with less income.

If you are wondering why a person has applied for a position for which he is seemingly overqualified, there’s a simple solution. Ask! This could occur during a brief telephone interview or during the interview itself.

“Looking at your resume, it appears you are overqualified for this position. I must ask, why are you applying for it?”

“I am sure this position pays less than you are now earning. This leads me to ask, why are you interested in this job?”

If in answering these questions, the candidate brings up the following topics, avoid followup questions that relate to areas protected by human rights legislation, such as family, marital status, or income sources. Quickly steer the conversation back to work-related subjects.

Assuming that “overqualified” people are not interested leads the organization to miss the opportunity to hire the best-qualified person for the job, who has the potential to contribute in other ways in the future.

It’s possible that some people will leave as soon as a more suitable position comes along, but they may not.

Rather than worrying that they might leave, focus on how much they could contribute before they leave. How will your organization benefit from them being there? What legacy will they leave?

Even if he stays twice or three times as long, a mediocre employee who was hired because someone believed he would soon leave may be unlikely to contribute as much.

Suggested Action: Reflect seriously on your hiring history. Have you ever rejected candidates because the information on their resumes suggested they were “overqualified” or “likely not really interested?” What might your organization have lost because of these decisions? Commit to never again rejecting candidates because they seem overqualified.

Most popular 2017 blogs answered readers’ questions or included lists

blog, blog, blog - blogging concept on a napkin with cup of esprLooking at the most popular of my blog posts for 2017, two themes emerged. First, articles written in response to questions from readers are among the most read (three of the top five posts were based on readers’ questions).

The other type of articles, which proved popular, included lists (for example, 9 do’s and don’ts, 10 ways to say thank you, 7 questions to ask).

What does this mean? In the future, I should write more articles that include lists and more in response to your questions, which will only be possible if you ask me questions about hiring, engaging, recognizing and retaining the right staff.

Please email your questions to nmscott@telus.net.

Here are the most popular blog posts of 2017:

You Asked: About the best ways to raise morale

9 Interview Dos and Don’ts

You asked: How do I avoid getting false recommendations from previous employers?

Why I took the easy route and gave gift cards at Christmas

Should I thank someone who sends me a thank-you card?

Grab this tool to navigate your way through the interview journey

Should I acknowledge service anniversaries? Yes, if they are important to the staff member

10 ways to say thank you on National Boss Day

7 questions to ask to recognize staff Appropriately

Suggested Action: Email your questions about hiring, engaging, recognizing and retaining the right staff to nmscott@telus.net.

Humorous commercial exposes serious workplace problem

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Managers can be guilty of imagining that their problems are so complex they cannot be solved without the input of a truly wise person. They overlook the obvious and are oblivious to the contribution of mere mortals.

This was illustrated in a FedEx commercial, which features an executive who is struggling with what appears to be an insurmountable problem.

“Hey Jerry, what’s up?” his administrative assistant says. “You looked stressed.”

“Oh, problems with our international shipping, as usual.”

“What, still?”

“Yep, but I am doing my best not to let it get to me.”

Doing his best involves well-known stress-busters, such as meditation, acupuncture, tai chi and a Japanese Zen garden.

“Is it working?” she asks.

“No.”

“What about switching to FedEx, the reliable way to ship internationally?”

Upon hearing this, a guru, who is floating crossed-legged above the Zen garden says, “Your path is now clear.”

Jerry’s stress immediately falls away. Now he has only to express gratitude.

“Thank you, Guru.”

What just happened here? Who deserved credit for proposing a solution which eliminated so much stress?

Certainly, from our perspective, the answer is as obvious as the solution: the administrative assistant.

But the executive had a different view, seeing the solution as coming from the wise man from whom he sought advice. Perhaps with time he will come to realize the true source of the wisdom he sought and thank the assistant for providing the answer.

As this commercial shows, there is always a possibility that recognition may be misdirected. One staff member will be praised for the contributions of another.

Some may seize on this as another reason (to be added to the 22 excuses, rationalizations and cop-outs identified and rebutted in my book, Thanks! GREAT Job!) for not recognizing staff: fear that the wrong people will be recognized.

But fear should never prevent us from doing what needs to be done. Despite the possibility that your recognition may occasionally be bestowed on the wrong person, you should continue to recognize staff for how you believe they have contributed.

This may disappoint the person who deserved recognition, but this transgression will soon be forgotten in a workplace with a recognition-rich culture. Or the recipient of the misdirected recognition could step forward to right the record.

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Exposing the reasons some give for not recognizing staff as just excuses, rationalizations and cop-outs is just one topic discussed during my Staff Recognition: One Piece at a Time program. Contact me to learn more and to schedule training for your leadership team (nmscott@telus.net or 780-232-3828).

Reflections on tales of recognition denied and recognition received

“I worked for the state of New York for 33 and a half years and no one ever said thank you.”

These words exploded from a woman I met on a recent transatlantic cruise, when I responded to her question about what I do. “I encourage managers and supervisors to acknowledge staff for what they do and how they contribute. Saying thank you is important.”

“Boy, that’s needed!” she said, before launching into her unhappy tale of never hearing that her efforts were appreciated.

Hers is representative of one of three responses I hear when explaining my passion for staff recognition. While never may be a bit of hyperbole, her feeling of being unappreciated is likely the result of having worked for managers who provided infrequent and ineffective recognition.

Anecdotal evidence abounds that lack of recognition motivates people to search for new jobs.

My hope is to spread the message to these managers that recognizing staff makes a difference. It can boost morale, increase engagement and improve retention. I sometimes add that when this doesn’t work, I provide tools and training to help managers hire the right people the next time.

Other responses I receive when I describe what I do are more encouraging.

During a recent book signing, an educational assistant told me how she felt valued because her principal—much like the principal who was our 2017 Staff Recognition All-Star—treated everyone as equals. She felt he respected her and was willing to listen to her suggestions and comments.

Another education assistant, this time someone I met at a social event, described two principals with whom she had worked. One was often at the door to greet staff as they arrived and to thank them for coming to work. Another made a point of asking staff individually how they preferred to be recognized, which is one of several questions to ask to discover Appropriate ways to recognize staff.

A third type of responses, which are also positive, come from managers and supervisors who, upon hearing what I do, describe the ways in which they recognize staff and ask for suggestions of other ways to let staff know they are appreciated. Such responses are encouraging. There are people out there who are committed to strengthening relationships with recognition.

It’s more discouraging when these managers occasionally talk about some colleagues who never recognize anyone because “they are afraid they might miss someone.” Certainly, that is a risk, but it hardly justifies recognizing no one. Even in a recognition-rich environment, some contributions and achievements will be missed. It may disappoint an individual staff member when their contribution is overlooked, but when staff members are recognized frequently, they will forgive the occasional missed opportunity.

$56K lesson on what not to ask during interviews (which won’t cost you a cent)

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A recent article in the Edmonton Journal (Man refused job due to sexual orientation, race gets $56,000: Human Rights Tribunal) should serve as a cautionary tale for anyone tempted to venture into territory designated as “no-go” by human rights legislation when searching for someone to fill a vacancy.

A Human Rights Tribunal awarded a complainant $36,000 in lost wages and $20,000 in general damages for “loss of dignity” from a company that the tribunal determined had refused to hire him because of his sexual orientation and race, which violates the Alberta Human Rights Act.

The tribunal concluded that, “[Complainant Rambo] Landry’s race, sexual orientation and marital status were factors in the respondent’s decision not to hire him.”

Landry is of Dene First Nations decent, and is married to the commander of the Cold Lake RCMP detachment.

On its website, the Alberta Human Rights Commission states that, “the Alberta Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on the protected grounds of race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religious beliefs, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, physical disability, mental disability, marital status, family status, source of income and sexual orientation.”

The Journal reports that Myron Hayduk of Vegreville Autobody spent most of a 75-minute interview quizzing Landry about “religion, marriage, race, sexual orientation and other matters unrelated to the job.”

After a normal enough start (“Why do you want to work here?”), the interview “took a strange turn when he was asked what he would do if a customer had an issue with his sexual orientation,” the Journal reported.

Hayduk reportedly told Landry that, “he did not believe in political correctness, that straight people are bullied into accepting gay people and the tide would turn against them.”

The tribunal also found that he asked about race and religion and shared his views on these topics, including that “Catholics believe marriage is between a man and a woman.”

When asked to do so, Hayduk was unable to demonstrate that the successful candidate was better qualified than Landry, but volunteered that, “she looks whiter than me.”

Whenever a hiring decision is made, it should be based on the candidate’s qualifications and experience. Has he/she done the right things in the right way in previous work situations?

Interview questions should be job-related. What has the candidate done in circumstances similar to those that your staff encounters regularly? The better the fit with what your top performers would do, the more suitable the candidate is to fill your position.

Questions about race, religion, marital status, family, etc., have no place in the hiring process. If the candidate brings up topics related to protected grounds, you should steer the conversation back to work-related topics.

The Alberta Human Rights Commission provides advice that will help you determine if a question is acceptable or not. Download it and keep it close by as you prepare to interview.

“Moments of Truth” can impact your ability to attract and retain the right staff

Moment Of Truth

Impressions count. We all know about first impressions—easily formed, enduring and difficult to change.

They influence how we think about an organization and whether we want to continue to do business or be associated with it. Some suggest that if the initial experience is negative, it will take as many as 20 positive experiences to overcome that unfavourable first impression.

Unfortunately, the opposite is not true if the first contact creates a positive first impression, which is much more fragile. A single bad experience can undo the benefit of several positive experiences.

Jan Carlzon understood this. His 1987 book, Moments of Truth, introduced the phrase to the world of customer service. The then-president of Scandinavian Airlines provided this explanation of what a “moment of truth” is:

“Any time a customer comes into contact with a business, however remote, they have an opportunity to form an impression.”

Most of these encounters are brief, seldom lasting more than 15 seconds.

The impact of moments of truth isn’t limited to customer service. The concept is equally applicable to hiring and keeping staff. There are many times when potential and current employees will form impressions based on what they experience, which will have an impact on your ability to attract and retain the right people.

Just like the SAS employees described in Carlzon’s book, what you and your staff do will influence the impressions that will be formed, from the point of first contact to when the employee resigns or retires.

Let’s look at some of these moments of truth (I expect that you will identify others, which are specific to your organization):

  1. When a potential employee first encounters the organization as a consumer of its products or services How were they treated? Did the employee who served them seem committed to the job and knowledgeable about the product? Was the service efficient? Did this feel like a place where they might like to work?
  2. When a potential employee sees recruitment advertising What message does the advertising convey about your organization: exciting or boring? Does this seem like a place where they would like to work? Do the organization’s values seem to align with those of the potential employee?
  3. When the potential employee is contacted to schedule an interview Is the applicant treated with respect? Does the call feel more like an invitation than a summons? Is information about the interview presented in an organized fashion?
  4. When the candidate is interviewed – Is the interview conducted in a professional way? Do the interviewers seem organized and knowledgeable about the position? Is the interview panel introduced and welcoming?
  5. When the candidate is offered a job – Is the offer made by the soon-to-be boss or some other significant player within the organization? Does the candidate feel that the employer is excited about her joining the organization?
  6. When the new employee arrives on Day One – Does the newcomer feel he was expected? Is the organization prepared for his arrival? Does he feel welcome? Is he introduced to other staff? Do they make the newcomer feel welcome? Is there an opportunity for the newcomer to contribute on Day One?
  7. When the new employee receives feedback for the first time, whether positive or negative – Does the employee receive feedback on or soon after Day One? They should, and it should be positive. Other feedback should reflect a commitment to the employee’s growth, not to find fault or attach blame.
  8. When the new employee meets customers for the first time ­– What is their attitude towards the organization (likely influenced by their past experience with the organization)?
  9. When change occurs – How are new initiatives introduced? Is staff consulted before change is implemented that will impact them? How is staff prepared for change?
  10. When the supervisor demonstrates the relationship (or lack thereof) between the organization’s mission statement and values, and what happens on a day-to-day basis – Are day-to-day actions consistent with the organization’s values? How well do these values align with those of the employee?
  11. When there is bad news – How is it reported? Is bad news suppressed?
  12. When the employee requires supplies or equipment to do the job – Are they available when required? How easy are they to obtain? Is staff expected to make do with what’s ready there?
  13. When the employee provides input or makes a suggestion – How is input requested? How is it received? Is input welcome?
  14. When the employee responds to an employee satisfaction survey – Is anyone really listening? What happens as a result of this input?
  15. When another staff member resigns or retires – How are they treated? What is said? Is their contribution celebrated or do these employees just slip away unnoticed?
  16. When the employee receives recognition – Does recognition include the five ingredients of GREAT staff recognition—Genuine, Relevant, Explicit, Appropriate and Timely? How frequently are staff members recognized?
  17. When the employee attends a staff meeting – What is its purpose? Are meetings about being told what do or opportunities for managers to listen to input? Are meetings productive or a waste of time?
  18. When training is offered – Is it job related? Is training directed by management or does staff have a chance to shape the training they will receive? Will what they learn help staff members’ reach their career goals?
  19. When the employee is ill or is facing a family emergency – Is the employee treated with courtesy or made to feel guilty for inconveniencing the organization?
  20. When the employee decides it’s time to leave – How is he treated? Remember, he will talk to others about his experience, including potential applicants.

What moments of truth influence the impression potential and current staff form about your organization? What can you do to ensure that all these incidents lead to positive impressions? Please leave your thoughts in the comment box.