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Have you ever experienced a time when your selection committee had difficulty getting past a certain bias they were experiencing in their decision making? It certainly makes for interesting discussion. Part of the challenge is that we are all graduates of our personal experience which we then internalize and establish emotional views of how life should unfold. These so called “assumptions” are very difficult to remove and so we are challenged to move forward.


For instance, many people make the assumption that one university is better than another. Therefore, a candidate from the preferred university might be perceived as a better choice than another. In other instances, I have seen selection committee’s struggle with appraising a candidate who has moved through several jobs in their career. In the view of some individuals, a candidate moving every 2.5 years is obviously not very stable while for others, a tenure of longer than five years might mean the candidate is not very open to change.

At the same time, individuals often jump to conclusions based on very little fact. This comes into play when selection committee members make inaccurate judgements based on age, manner of speech, dress, body language and/or occupation. One such situation arose when a young entrepreneur determined that he was best suited for employment in a large corporation. Yes, he got interviews, but was never offered a job. Finally, the young man had an opportunity to meet with one of the selection committee members and learned that his motives were not trusted. People believed that once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur. In other words, they were afraid he wouldn’t stay. Too bad, they missed out on a superb candidate. Thankfully, I was able to present him to a client who appreciated the skills that he would contribute.

Making assumptions is essentially an “energy block” that lets past experience seep into one’s thinking and thus prevents good decisions. It prevents a full exploration of a situation and, in terms of a candidate search, a full and comprehensive examination of the job requirements and ideal candidate credentials is essential. Assumptions and a rush to judgement have no place in this important process.

One inaccurate assumption made about candidate selection is that the interview is the key to finding a successful candidate. Not so! In fact, there are a number of process steps that must be taken far before a candidate is invited to an interview. It is these steps that make the search successful.

As a search professional, my first job is to help clients establish a selection committee that represents key decision makers who know and understand the organization and the job role. I then facilitate in-depth discussions to identify, question and validate the competencies and character traits of an ideal candidate for their organization. Throughout each round of discussions, committee members are asked to explain the rationale for their recommendations. Through this process, we tease out any assumptions that appear to exist and work to overcome them.

Once discussions are complete, the committee is confident they have explored both negative and positive past experiences and a rational decision is then made. Not only that, the discussion experience enables committee members to learn more about each other, how their experiences have impacted the way they think which in turn helps to develop teamwork at the senior leadership level.

Once the critical elements of an ideal candidate are identified, the search professional undertakes several in-depth research steps to locate and identify potential candidates and flow them through a stringent assessment process. Candidates are compared and contrasted against the criteria and against each other. Psychometric assessments are used to learn more about the candidates and to confirm earlier findings. No assumptions allowed! Then and only then are finalist candidates proposed to the committee for interview.

Without the effective guidance of a search professional in the candidate selection process, selection committee members might be allowing inaccurate assumptions to interfere in good decision making. 

By Ken Blanchard, Don Hutson and Ethan Willis
The Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group, 2008 

Purchase here (http://www.amazon.ca/The-One-Minute-Entrepreneur-Sustaining/dp/0385526024)

At first glance, one might wonder how anyone could become an entrepreneur in just one minute, but that’s not what this book is all about. Instead, it’s a gentle reminder to entrepreneurs to stop for a moment and reflect where they are at each stage of the business cycle. It’s also a reminder to keep focused and grounded, not letting success go to their head. Written in conversational tone, the book is full of inspirations, insights, examples and advice, but is somewhat pricey for such a quick read.

The war for talent is real. According to the U.S. Labor Department’s recent Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, there are currently around 5.8 million job openings — a series high. – Click here to read more

The time required for a candidate to progress through the hiring process has increased dramatically in recent years, according to a new talent report from Glassdoor Economic Research titled “Why Is Hiring Taking Longer?”

To read the full article click here

CFOs in the U.S. are more confident now than they have been in years about hiring trends, according to the quarterly CFO Outlook Survey conducted by Financial Executives International and Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business.

Click here to read the full article

By: Barbara Bowes

Almost every manager I speak to talks about the amount of time they spend on human resource issues. Some even feel overwhelmed. Unfortunately, most of the issues relate to interpersonal conflict between employees, bullying, blaming, poor performance, job dissatisfaction, gossip, complaints and whiney attitudes.

According to Cy Wakeman, author of Reality Based Leadership, part of the challenge is that many employees have adopted learned helplessness both in their personal and professional lives. In her view, employees are feeling they lack control and have an inability to change their circumstances. This results in negative attitudes and presents a problem for leaders.

In her view, the fault lies with leaders who over-manage and don’t lead instead of coaching employees and developing their skills and expertise. When a leader acts in such a way, all they get from employees is excuses. This leads to even more workplace drama.

So what is the solution?

Wakeman suggests that, first of all, leaders need to stop arguing with reality and quit making excuses for not dealing with issues when they arise. They also need to stop ignoring the facts of the situation and stop creating their own mental stories in which they picture themselves as a victim.

They must take personal responsibility for their own thinking by recognizing how they distort their initial thinking and assumptions about a situation and then fail to deal with situations in a timely manner.

She suggests leaders need to recognize that viewing their situation from a judgmental manner can lead to a chain of events that results in negative emotions, distorted and inappropriate actions and tainted results. For instance, when a leader makes an assumption and labels an employee as “lazy,” then they haven’t examined the situation carefully and may even be distorting reality. In the end, more than likely, the employee will not have been treated fairly in terms of job assignments and career development. When a leader gets bogged down in their own distorted thinking, they will lack energy, feel significant stress and will fail to be a good leader.

Wakeman’s reality-based leadership framework is based on leading first and managing second. An overview of her advice includes the following:

  1. Resist the urge to do it yourself: The job of a leader is not to solve employee problems or complaints, but to help employees develop the skills to solve problems themselves. The leader should ask numerous questions, help the employee to challenge assumptions and reframe the situation. They need to be taught how to examine the different aspects of a problem, determine what information is missing, and confirm what action is within the employee’s control. In this way, the employee will learn to take responsibility and be accountable.
  2. Coach, coach, coach: Leaders need to help employees by reflecting back what they say about a problem. This feedback will often stun the employee into self-awareness and will lead them to an improved problem-solving mindset. Coach the employee on how to analyze a problem, how to examine the implications for the organization, brainstorm and evaluate potential solutions and then make thoughtful recommendations for action. When this type of thinking and analysis occurs, people feel in control, which in turn leads to job satisfaction.
  3. Work on confidence first: Fostering employee independence involves promoting confidence and competence. Encourage your employees and work with them to identify their strengths and then coach them through learning new things and reinforcing the skills needed to overcome areas of weakness. Acknowledge and compliment employees when they have reached success and continue to encourage them. Remember, confidence builds competence.
  4. Focus on the hearts and minds: Your job as a leader is to focus on the future to develop a compelling vision that you can share with your employees and encourage them to align their goals and objectives with yours. Delegate the technical aspects of your work whenever you can and avoid stepping in to take over or dictating step by step how things should be done. Focus on capturing the hearts and minds of your employees and get their goals aligned with yours.
  5. Let go of old duties: Sometimes when you are promoted to a leader, it is difficult to let go of old roles and responsibilities, especially those that you enjoyed. The same goes for promoting a staff person to a new role. It’s difficult for people to see an employee in a new role and so as leader, you must help with this transition. Provide a mentor to help transition the person to the new role and be sure to reassign old duties so the newly promoted individual can get on with learning their new role.
  6. Deflect emotional blackmail: Sometimes, employees make objections that have no grounds in fact. For instance, someone might say, “Well, you’ve never brought this up before.” This is an attempt to manipulate and pressure you. Be sure to acknowledge what people have said, avoid taking their comment personally and try to redirect them toward a more productive direction.
  7. Focus on the positive: Instead of paying so much attention to those employees who are not motivated, pay attention and reward those who are most willing. This will create role models who will be noticed within the organization. After all, they are the ones who are motivated and are the visionaries within your organization who will help to create and maintain a positive culture. Let people know what competencies are going to get rewarded.
  8. Provide ongoing feedback: In Wakeman’s view, the cause of all employee issues is the lack of feedback from a leader. They deserve to have frequent and honest feedback about what they are doing well and what areas need development. Employees need to have a review of their job description, and be considered for new opportunities. They deserve to be mentored.
  9. Deal with resistance: Leaders need to make employees aware that buy-in to the vision and mission of their organization is not optional. This takes managerial courage because you need to address a lack of alignment quickly. You cannot afford to invest too much time trying to deal with resistance. If your efforts are not rewarded, it is time to help the employee move on with their career.

Leading and managing is not an easy job. However, it is made more difficult when a leader doesn’t face reality. Instead, they create a story around a situation that places them in a victim role, and they fail to deal with the situation. Unfortunately, they spend too much time trying to fix employees who don’t want to get on board. No wonder many leaders and managers feel overwhelmed.

Wakeman’s advice? “Get real!”

About the Author: Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She is also host of the weekly Bowes Knows radio show and is the author of Resume Rescue and Taming the Workplace Tigers. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com. Learn more at www.barbarabowes.com.

Are you frustrated with your recruitment results? Have you had a rash of unqualified applicants and/or a candidate turn down your salary? When was the last time you conducted in-depth reference checking inclusive of educational credentials, personal credit, and/or driver’s convictions? And what about your interview team… are they using best practice interview strategies that are legally compliant with provincial legislation? Do you even know what legislation protects your potential candidates?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it is time to conduct an in-depth audit of your recruitment and selection process.

As external consultants, we would work with you to develop and customize an audit checklist that will meet the needs of your organization. We would first meet and inquire about how you go about your candidate criteria. Do you simply repost an old job description and/or do you take the time to review and determine whether or not it is still valid?

This is one of the first steps to ensuring you are attracting the right kind of candidate. This stage of criteria development is the most important process element. Without careful consideration and accuracy, you will be off and running… but in the wrong direction!

The next area of assessment is to identify where and how you plan to identify your candidates. First of all, have you determined whether or not an internal candidate could be considered? Are you only using one marketing strategy? Is it working? If not, why? Perhaps your methodologies are outdated and/or the candidates you are seeking don’t refer to this source for their news. If you are not attracting good candidates, it is time to do a review of this element of your search strategy.

What is your process for evaluating your candidates? Is it a simple two-step process… an interview and reference checks? Will you utilize a panel of interviewers or a series of interviews with different members of the management team? Are your interview team members trained on best practice interview strategies? Do you have specific interview questions aligned with the tasks and skills required? Are your questions compliant with legislation? An audit will identify strengths and weaknesses in this area.

The next search element is actually making the candidate selection. How do you select your final candidates? Do you simply rely on your one interview and a quick reference check? Are you using psychometric assessment tools to provide in-depth personality and character evaluations? If not, why not? What about the background check mentioned earlier? Without a combination of these elements, your selection process is not meeting the standards of best practice.

The last series of process steps includes developing an effective employment offer and solidifying the agreement. Are you offering a market fair salary? Have you even checked to see how the market has changed since your last recruitment? Does your salary respect the level of expertise offered by the candidate? Have you defined the salary with respect to internal equity within your organization? If not, you risk losing your good candidates!

The recruitment and selection process doesn’t end the day you have a candidate sign on the dotted line. You also need to create an on-boarding and/or orientation program to help your new candidate fit in. What does your program look like? I can’t tell you how many new candidates are thrown to the so-called, “wolves” and expected to get to know the lay of the land all by themselves. Be careful, some candidates won’t last!

If your recruitment process has areas of weakness, then you will be at risk of failing to attract high quality candidates, losing candidates, paying too high a salary, or losing them within the first three months. No matter what, the best and most effective recruitment process is a rigorous, systematic process that must be managed at every step of the way. Perhaps it is time for a recruitment process audit!

By Jo Owen
Prentice Hall, 2007
Purchase here

No matter that this book was written in England, if you are looking for a practical “how to” book on gaining management influence and succeeding in organizations today, this is it! Owen suggests that high intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ) are simply not enough; instead, smart managers strive to develop solid political intelligence (PQ). In his view, political intelligence is all about understanding how an organization works and developing an ability to make things happen in a world of increasing ambiguity combined with decreasing authority. The author contends that political IQ is a learnable skill and recommends a six-step process to develop strategies that deal with the who, what, where, when, how, and why, of organizational power. The book is well laid out, easy to read, practical and straightforward. A quick but powerful read.

Businesses must prepare for widespread major illnesses

By: Barbara Bowes


For the last number of years, Canadians and Manitobans have basked in the glory of the growing global economy. More and more businesses are exporting their goods and services all over the world. Many have established manufacturing plants and distribution systems in foreign countries. With this has come a burst in international travel as employees and owners arrive in various countries for sales excursions, annual meetings and other business trips. Life is exciting.


The Internet has also helped us explore an international world and it is becoming easier and easier to communicate across borders. In many cases, it is said your message will go around the world in 30 seconds with a push of the button.


At the same time, with the Ebola crisis in West Africa, we are now finding out just how quickly and easily dangerous germs can also travel across the world. So, it was not a surprise to learn of the recent Ebola case and subsequent death of a patient in Dallas, Texas, and the death of a Sierra Leone-born doctor in Nebraska this week. Nor was it a surprise to learn of the nurse in Spain who has contracted the disease or to learn of other health professionals who have contracted the disease and died.


However, what is alarming to most readers is the scope and breadth of people who can be touched by the tentacles of this dangerous disease. For instance, more than one hundred people in Texas were quickly placed under close watch for Ebola symptoms. Spain quarantined several health professionals while several hospital staff were reported to have quit over Ebola fears and a perceived lack of training and resources. The United States and Canada are now scrambling to activate their readiness strategies.


As has been demonstrated, an illness such as Ebola has the capacity to shut down entire economies. Schools and businesses have sometimes been closed as a precaution. In fact, the World Bank is warning of a catastrophic “billion dollar” economic impact if health officials are unable to stem the tide of this dangerous illness. At the same time, we all know the health resources in these West African countries are nowhere near the high standards we Canadians enjoy.


Yet, in spite of high Canadian health standards, viruses such as H1-N1 and SARS gave us a good scare. However, now another virus, EV-D68, a respiratory illness is on the rise and spreading quickly. Not only that, our regular flu season is just starting.


As terrible and devastating as the situation regarding Ebola is, there are many lessons for individuals and businesses to be learned. First and foremost, individuals must take precautions for their own health and well-being, starting with the simple doctor recommended task of hand washing. Believe it or not, most people are not aware there is indeed a distinct method to proper hand washing. And of course, with flu season upon us, it is recommended people get a flu shot.


What about businesses? Are they prepared? Apparently not, according to a study by a leading U.S. human-resource association. This study identified only 47 per cent of survey participants had a disaster-recovery plan, in spite of the many lessons learned through the awful 9/11 tragedy.


Sure, we have fair and reasonable sick-leave policies and we tell an employee to stay home if they’re feeling ill. Yes, many of us are placing sanitizing lotion next to the kitchen sink. Severe repercussions on a business from a mass communicable disease are very real. In fact, although you may not recall, Canada lost more than $1.5 billion due to the 2003-04 SARS epidemic. At the same time, 7,000 long-term jobs in Canada’s tourism industry were lost.


So, with this in mind, it’s time for business leaders to ask themselves, “Do you have all your bases covered in case as many as 40 per cent of your employees went off work at the same time?” “How long would your business survive?” If you can’t answer these questions, it’s time for serious planning. In fact, make it a priority before illness hits.


There are essentially six steps to human-resource planning for a mass communicable disease. First, determine who is to be involved in developing your plan, who will approve it and who will act as the backup decision maker. Also, be sure to assign someone to monitor government directives with respect to the illness. As part of planning, examine what might happen to the demand for your goods or services, and at what point absenteeism will affect operations? As well, examine what might happen to your supply chain?


Secondly, re-confirm your core business functions and determine which factors, such as staff roles, services, supplies and equipment are critical to the core functions. What alternative strategies can you identify that could be used during a pandemic? Seriously think about cross-training as many employees as you can, examine your strategies for work delegation and prioritize tasks that can be postponed.


Third, review your human-resource policies for illness and absenteeism, because widespread illnesses certainly push the boundaries with respect to normal policies and practices. How will you balance the challenge of sending sick employees home versus lost productivity and even lost wages for those without sick leave credits?


Step four involves efforts to protect your employees. Identify the communicable-disease threat and educate managers, supervisors and employees on the health risk as well as strategies for self-protection. Ensure all the resources needed to contain the exposure are made available. Identify high and low-risk areas and the staff who work in each. Review your work safety procedures and document your reviews and audits. Offer an on-site flu clinic. If possible, reduce public access to your office and/or reduce employee travel. Seek additional alternatives that will work for your organization.


Step five involves communication and this is absolutely critical, especially if employee fear appears to be gaining ground. Determine what will be said, who will say it and when you will give ongoing updates. Develop a strategy for employees, your customers as well as your suppliers. Choose multiple communication strategies. Use your bulletin boards, your intranet, email and even tweets.


Step six is all about recovery. Know that recovery can take anywhere from 18-24 months. Keep in mind recovery in this case will not simply be about physical operations, information technology and other equipment, it will be more about people and their mental health. Determine what steps are needed to resume your normal operations and give serious consideration to on-site counselling for employees.


Workplace absenteeism is a major concern these days irrespective of a mass communicable illness. However, when a crisis such as a widespread major illness does hit our businesses, we need a plan to deal with it.


Source: International Centre for Infectious Disease Control/LBG presentation, 2007, Controlling Exposure, Protecting Workers from Infectious Disease, WorkSafe BC, 2009. Disaster Planning and Recovery, SHRM, 2012. Ebola economic impact in West Africa could be catastrophic: World Bank, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 8, 2014.


About the Author: Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She is also host of the weekly Bowes Knows radio show and is the author of Resume Rescue and Taming the Workplace Tigers. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com. Learn more at www.barbarabowes.com.