“Benefits” – attracting and retaining your best talents


In a recent newspaper article, I was impressed to see a local supermarket chain being commended for its efforts towards its employee’s well being.

Despite being a small and local setup, this supermarket chain was able to provide a host of benefits (such as bursary for employee’s children, education and renovation loans, etc.) targeting at the very needs of its employees.

One could argue the effectiveness of such personalized benefits and even the amount of work that goes into administrating them. However, to the employees benefiting from such schemes, it’s a different story all together. The schemes had helped them directly in improving their daily lives.

Looking back on my own career, and the different phases of my life, I realized that I myself have very different needs over time. Those needs had determined the career choices I’ve taken, and even right down to the way I’ve negotiated my contract with my employer.

As such, it became more and more of an urgent need for organizations today to rethink their benefits framework. I’ve always felt that an organization’s benefits framework contributes to the very soul of that organization. How well you take care or “not take care” of your employees may not be that clear for all to see, as many a times, the benefits components are buried in a ton of policies and webpages, making it hard for employees to make sense of it all. However, this doesn’t mean that employees are unaware of what’s there.

It is a very interesting observation that employees care more about the very components that directly affect them at that very moment. Thus, if it’s there, it’s good. If it’s not there, it’s bad. Just like in the story about the “blind men and the elephant”, employees would describe their experience based on what’s immediate to them.

Therefore, designing a framework that caters to everyone in the organization becomes more complex than rocket science. It is hard to imagine how there can be a one-size fit all solution. Thus, a flexible framework becomes so much more relevant in today’s context.

Since different benefits components means different things to different employees and candidates at different point of time, it makes it hard to put a dollar value on what that is worth.

A lot of times, we tend to take a simplistic approach to how much is spent provisioning for those components, however this is a case where a dollar spent does not equal to a dollar value.

Having worked with my fair share of candidates, designing an offer that makes sense to the candidate you want to attract to your organization is an art.

Personally, I find that candidates coming from organizations with creative benefits structure hardest to attract. These candidates tend to negotiate on 2 fronts, making sure that not only the cash components are attractive, and also the benefits components are not lacking.

On some occasions, where it’s not an apple-to-apple comparison, it is amazing to see that the candidates do tend to get creative in putting a dollar value on the benefits that they will be forgoing in the move. Making the final cash expectations to go through the roof.

This frustrate the hell out of staffing folks, especially those whose hands are tied in being flexible with what they can give and what’s not within their control.

Turning the table around, if the benefits structure in your organization is out of this world and creatively crazy. Coupled with a relative attractive compensation philosophy and nice corporate culture. Oh boy, I would love to see how anyone would be able to pry that employee away from you without paying through their nose.

Would love to hear your thoughts on what are some of these creative benefits that you feel is relevant and how they can help improve the way you attract and retain your best talents.

Cheers

Eric

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Engaging my work, a different perspective on employee engagement


In a recent report by Gallup “The State of the Global Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for Business Leaders Worldwide” (ref: http://www.gallup.com/strategicconsulting/164735/state-global-workplace.aspx), it was reported that “worldwide, only 13% of employees are engaged at work”.

It is a scary number and worrying stat. If productivity is a direct correlation to level of engagement, think of the amount of inefficiency there is in each organisation.

However, the first thing we think of when we see a report like this is – “the company is not doing enough”, or “the morale is bad, and management is doing little about it”.

Immediately, the finger is pointed at management or even HR. Is that the case? Or is there a chronic issue with the modern employee’s mindset?

Often we view the owner’s of the problem being the party that has the most to lose. In this case, one would naturally feel that this is an organisational issue for management or HR to fix. However, I beg to differ.

By the same token, if productivity is a direct correlation to the employee’s engagement, and if a highly productive employee is a high performer, doesn’t it make sense for each individual to take extra efforts to be personally engaged with his/ her organization and work?

After all, a high performer moves up faster and gets more opportunities both internally and externally. Therefore, as much as it is an organisation’s issue, it is a personal issue.

Seriously, how hard is it to be engaged at work? And why are we scoring so low on the engagement surveys?

Let us take a look at the questions the gallup survey asks, and see how I fare answering them.

Q1) I know what is expected of me at work
Yes. I know my deliverables, and take an active role in defining how that can be achieved. Also, I help my boss understand how I would like to be measured and we setup these parameters early on in the year and review them once every few months.

Q2) I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right
Most of the time – Yes. Come on, the world is not perfect. There will always be data you need for a report that is not complete, and processes/ policies that you don’t agree with. Tools that would solve world crisis if management would have the wisdom to put them in place. The truth is, nothing is going to be ever good enough. Part of doing the work is to make do with what you have. Just think the reality TV show “Man vs. Wild”, only here it’s “Man vs. Work”!

Q3) At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best everyday
Seriously! My best talent is taking photos of my 3-year-old son. Unless I’m a kid photographer, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do best everyday at work! We have to understand that there is a big fat line between passion and work. Only a handful of people I know turned their passion into profession. I wouldn’t want to do it even if I had the chance to. I tried becoming a product photographer when I was much younger. The money was ok, but when you need to think about how you can get enough business to make it sustainable, that killed the interest for me. I realised that I wouldn’t want to touch a camera for leisure, that’s when I realized that this was not working for me. The key is work-life integration and seeing the larger picture. The fact that you know what you’re doing eventually contributes to the organisation’s growth is a very powerful motivator.

Q4) In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work
Yes. And, I realised that I am someone that relies on recognition to push me on. Thus, I made this clear to my manager that this is important. Another tip, I actively seek feedbacks after every project. Sometimes, I would ask for recognition from the key stakeholders for me and my team once the job is done. This is important to me, and I would ask for it. There is no need to feel shy about it. The last thing I want is not knowing if I did good or not, and having that contribute negatively to my “happy index”.

Q5) My supervisor, or someone at work seems to care about me as a person
Why wouldn’t they? They are humans too. However, we need to realise that this is still a work environment, and as much as you like to feel lovey-dovey, being overly involved in someone else’s personal life can make it uncomfortable for individuals, and that could be the reason why you’re not “getting all that love”. Apart from being able to read the mood, you need to open up to your managers and colleagues (in an appropriate manner, of course) too. It takes 2 hands to clap, so if they don’t know what’s going on in your life, how would they know when to show concerns.

Q6) There is someone at work who encourages my development
Yes. I have a very good manager who makes this a regular topic in our regular catch up. However, I hate to think that you would “stop developing” when there’s no one encouraging you. I like to think of this as going to the gym. Yes, there could be personal trainers you can hire, but ultimately, you need to put in the effort. Having said that, what’s stopping you from identifying someone in your organization, and asking this person to be your mentor? I’m sure he or she would be honored and happy to have that discussion.

Q7) At work, my opinions seem to count
Yes. The 2 things I make sure I observe when giving opinions are “timing” and “context”. I’ve seen “careless” opinions being given countless times, and no matter the intent of the opinions, those are generally not welcomed.

Q8) The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important
Yes. Always take time to understand what your organisation stand for, and how you contribute to that cause. There is no better satisfaction than being able to see your efforts contribute to the organisation’s cause.

Q9) My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work
Definitely “Yes”. Don’t judge. Sometimes we tend to impose our own standards or assumptions on others. This is where conflicts begin. Let’s just say, your colleagues are not at the level of performance, but that doesn’t mean that they are not performing to the best of their abilities. Naturally, in any organisations, there will be the top performers, the bottom performers and everyone else. An organisation cannot be made up of just superstars. Always maintain a “help them help you” mentality, this can go a long way in eliminating the miscommunication.

Q10) I have a best friend at work
Yes! If you don’t have one, go make one. Who do you lunch with anyway? Never underestimate the power of the social interaction at work.

Q11) In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress
Yes. My manager and my peers. I do take an proactive approach in asking for feedbacks. Yes, some of which are a little harsh on the ears, but we’re adults, we can deal with it. This helps in ironing out all the potential issues and misunderstandings which occurred in the course of work too.

Q12) This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow
Definitely. Early the year, when we setup our goals with my manager, I made sure that we talk about stretching the portfolio a little. Both from a job function and projects perspective. Of course, there are some hits and misses, but being proactive about your own learning have its merits

All in all, I think I’m pretty engaged at work. After I worked through the questions, I do admit that there is a certain element of management’s doing. However, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing us as employees can do. All it takes is a little proactive attitude and not to be shy about what you want in your career.

Thoughts anyone? Or, am I just being too optimistic?

Cheers

Eric

Link


Career Savviness Survey 2013

I did a survey on how savvy we are with our careers. Here’s the finding.

86% knows their market value and only 56% feels that they are paid inline with market value!

Near 100% of the respondents feels they are responsible for their own development, but only 39% knows what their organisation had planned for them!

Read more about it here.

Cheers

Eric

BYOC – Build your own career


All of us here are pretty familiar with the term BYOD.  That’s “Bring your own device”. Depending which side of the fence you’re on, the arguments for or against will go on for this one. However, we cannot ignore the trend and the behavioural changes it’s brought along.

Recently, I’ve noticed a similar change in the way we look at our own career. It seems that we are getting a lot savvier in the way we manage and make decision around our careers.

My job in talent acquisition allowed me to interact with many candidates. A common observation I’ve made is, they all seemed to know what they want and have somewhat of an idea of where they need to be at what stage of their life.

I guess the hours spent with their career coach paid off. However, when asked the question of “why are you looking to leave?”, I’ve always got answers that would fall into the “Grass is greener on the other side” category.

However, the point I’m trying to make is, the rationale behind the candidates thinking that the grass is greener on our side of the fence, seemed to had came from the fact that they’re not talking openly with their managers on what they want in their careers.

On one hand, they had a grand plan in what they want to do and achieve, and on the other hand, they don’t openly engage with their managers and organization in making their job a dream job.

I hate to think that if this is the mindset of the general workforce, does this mean that this is happening to everyone of us?

In a recent article published on the “The New York Times” – “Hone the Job You Have Into One You Love” By SHANE J. LOPEZ, published on May 25, 2013, by studying people who love their work, he came to realize that almost none initially landed the jobs they loved; rather, they landed ordinary jobs and turned them into extraordinary ones. (Ref: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/26/jobs/honing-the-job-you-have-into-one-you-love.html)

This can only happen when you are open with your managers on what you have in mind regarding your job and career, and work with them to fine-tune what you’re doing now to what you like to be doing.

It does takes two to tango, so keep an open mind and know that it does takes time and patience to make things happen. The world is not perfect, and as much as your managers would like to, you may not always get your way. Work on the incremental steps on how to get there.

Even if you fail, you know you’ve tried. And there’s no shame in failing, but more shame in quitting. I like to believe that everyone enters into a new job with a sense of passion, hope and excitement that this is the job of a lifetime, you are going to make it happen.

The truth is, just like in any relationship, it never is as simple as it seems. Keep that passion in mind and with the right amount of effort and communication with your manager, I am sure your job will be a engaging one!

Now, if you have difficulties talking with your manager, here’s some tips.

  • Bring up your outlook calendar, and put in an invite for an hour of 1:1. The rest will fall in place.
  • Be precise with what you are looking for. It helps to write it down.

You can structure your discussion as follows:

  • Start with what you want, but don’t let this dominate the whole discussion. I would spend not more than 5 mins on this. Keep it short and sweet
  • Talk about what you like about your role now, and how that aligned with your wants. I suggest 5 mins, but10 mins tops.
  • Talk about the gaps. It can be something that you want to do, but is not doing, or something that you would like to do but is not there yet. Try to be concise about what these are and be realistic about aligning this to business needs. You can’t be saying that you want to be able to bake a cake for the team every month, unless if you’re a baker. But, what’s stopping you? J
  • Next, talk about how you think you can work on getting to where you want to be. Call out your assumptions. It’s ok to sound silly. I told my manager I wanted his position one day. The idea is to work on a plan together to get there.
  • Reach a closure. Sometimes it’s ok to disagree. It’s not the end of the world. Remember, things change. You can always revisit your plans in future. Setup milestones in which the both of you can connect again. Usually, a 6 months interval is ideal. This would give you time to work on what you need to work on.
  • You may find it useful to document this and I would suggest logging this in on your company’s performance management tool.

You may also be looking at moving across functions into a different role. I always suggest talking to your manager first, but if that is not possible, there is always the friendly HR person you can reach out to.

Also, you may also find it useful to setup time with the manager of the department you are hoping to move into. This will give you insights into the role. Share your plans with them, and you can get a good picture of what is required. One thing to note is that, moving across functions is always tough as you many not have all the necessary skillsets. However, there’s no better place than your current organization to “try” out a new role.

Be realistic about your expectations, and know that you may need to start early to work on some of those developmental areas before you make the move. I would suggest planning this at least 1 year in advance. Ask for projects that you can be involved in to gain the experience required for the move. This would also allow you to “show off” what you’ve got and earn the strips

Have you spoken with your manager today? I know I had!

Cheers

Eric

The truth about “Talents”


In a world of opportunities and rapidly compressing business cycles, we find ourselves having to evolve faster than before just to keep up.

This rate of change is not helped with the invention of computers. What’s more, it has been further accelerated by the reach of Internet.

The explosion of economies resulted in a variety of professions and trades, making the traditional apprenticeship model obsolete, thus restricting it only to certain professions, generally in trades of craft.

What about Talents? The truth about Talents is – it is relative.

Everyone can be a talent, while one can be more talented than the other.

A play with words you might say, but the simple truth about Talents, and we do mean Top Talents is; they are fast!

They are fast in all aspects. Coupled with an insatiable appetite to learn and evolve, they adopt faster the others, and gain mastery in anything they do quicker than the rest.

That, we all know! However, the flip side to that is, they are restless and can’t sit still. Forever seeking more!

More to learn, more to do, and more to master. A true talent will not stop at being a master of one, their minds are hot wired to challenge norms, and push boundaries. Seeking that platform to prove their theories and show the world that they are right. They are not happy with just a sandbox, they need a stage to perform and shine.

They have no fear of mistakes, or consequences.  Charles Goodyear, the American inventor who developed a process to vulcanize rubber in 1839 was to be rich man from his early business ventures, bankrupt himself with his persistence pursuit of invention. Without his discovery, we wouldn’t have known rubber as what we see today.

This focus, arrogance and confidence can be easily found among top talents.

However, the truth and reality doesn’t always correlate. We all know what top talents look like, but we don’t always have the platform, the infrastructure, and the stage for them to flourish.

Bringing this back into context, organizations today places too much emphasis on role based performance, often overlooking the holistic impact a talent could bring to an organization.

This is the result of departmentalization. The idea behind such structure is critical to ensuring organizational efficiency.

Thus, if you want stability and have someone to stay in the role for an extended duration, just hire an average talent who has neither desire nor ambition to climb to the top.

Having said that, shouldn’t 50 percent of the organization be made up of talents with that caliber? Else, how should we enforce a standard bell curve when it comes to performance?

That is all good. The problem lies with the identification and development of top talents. If organizations is unaware of who those top talents are, or blindly subject their top talents to the “standard” developmental programs, they will lose these talents in no time.

Remember, they are fast! Fast to learn and fast to deliver. And if they can’t see what’s next for them within their roles and organization, or are being told to get in line and wait their turn for recognition and a larger portfolio, they will be fast to move!

This phenomenal is what’s happening in a lot of emerging countries right now. Talents are relative. With the emerging markets, there is an overly inflated demand for talents who knows just what to do. Not necessarily talents who are masters at what they do.

As such, everyone can be a “top talent” somewhere somehow, causing the existing talent shortage, and short stints in employment we all see today.

So, if you are not going to recognize your top talents and create an accelerated development plan for them, someone else will.

Even if they do not have a world-class developmental plan in place, they will still be able to acquire your top talents. This is because, it is easy to bring in someone into a larger portfolio, and stretch the person to do the job. If this person is indeed a “top talent”, he’ll excel.

By than, a third company will come along and acquire them for the skills that they’ve developed.

Thus, being perceived as “fair” to all have a backlash effect to an organization where you will be very successful in keeping all your average talents, but not your top talents. Since the process is “fair” to all and not “fast” to some!

Always remember, “Acquisition” is easy, “Retention” is hard, the key is “Development”!

Ultimately, having a transparent system where everyone is clear of the selection of “Top Talents” can have both a motivating effect on the rest of the workforce, as they know what they need to do to be there, and also a positive impact on retention of your “Top Talents”!

On the origin of careers (Hiring for potential, hiring for eco-balance)


Drawing a parallel comparison to Darwin’s Origin of Species, where nothing is stagnant, the same can be said about one’s career and its evolution.

The math tells us that successful evolution is an exception, while millions of species died in the process for a few to survive to modern time.

It is a romantic thought to have that with each new job we take on, we progress and evolve for the better. However, that may not be always the case.

As in Darwin’s observations in the Galápagos Islands, where after a visit of only four islands in five weeks, observed that the creatures differ from island to island, with their adaptations to the different harsh environment of the islands.

Thus coming to a conclusion that the species underwent a natural selection process, which resulted in a transmutation of species.

Looking back at ones career; a similar observation can be form where no two person can have the same career evolution.

There are numerous variants that may affect the course of one’s career evolution; from latent variance such as personality, interest, upbringing, education, cultural, religious and personal beliefs, to more obvious parameters such as the career progression and roles the person undertakes in the course of his/ her career.

Bringing some context to our argument today, how would we put a value to one’s talent at the point of hire? Given that in this move, the new hire would have to undergo certain level of transformation to adapt to the new enviornment.

Thus, shouldn’t we be looking out for evidence of successful adaptations and evolution in similar enviornment? Also, should we not place too much emphysis on one’s failure to adapt to enviornments that differ from the hiring organization’s?

As such, we can be sure that our new hire would be successful in fitting into the existing ecosystem.

Having said that, we also need to make sure that our new addition doesn’t cannabilize the rest of the species.

Ps. Special thanks to Maurice Ling (http://www.linkedin.com/in/mauriceling) for helping me with the Darwin’s analogy. I have to admit that I had a hard time with the 500+ pages of the original book!

Cheers

Eric Wong

Your career is your greatest asset and investment


This is probably one of the most important but yet underappreciated entries in your big portfolio of assets and investments. The fact that many of us don’t recognize “career” as part of that portfolio is worrying.

After all, your income and career stability are factors which banks use to evaluate your credit worthiness before they grant you that loan.

Putting it in investment terms, this is also one of the few investments with fixed repayment, which comes in form of paychecks. For the most people, this income is consistent and predictable.

Despite the value in which having a good career can bring to your overall asset portfolio, we haven’t been paying a lot of attention on how we manage, plan and invest in our career. Many of this is down to chance and fate.

Having being recruiting for so long, I come across candidates that would make the worst career choices for the most misguided reasons. The job change happens due to either a “push” or “pull” factor.

Either they are really fed up with where they are, or someone comes along with a bigger carrot.

I would admit that those are valid reasons to consider a job change, however shouldn’t there be a more structured and organized way to doing it?

We seldom hear of anyone that’s mapped out what they wanted to do in their careers in entirety. What it looks like now, what’s next and what ifs.

Granted that things may not be as utopic as what we wanted it to be, but as in any investments, we would had set up parameters in which we would cut our losses or cash in on the profits.

If that’s the case, why is it that many of us can’t say with certainty where we would like to go tomorrow? And for those who know where they would like to go, can you tell me how you would get there?