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There are a couple of old familiar sayings that summarize some of our communication, recruitment and selection challenges in the workplace. The first is, “you hear what you want to hear” and secondly we often realize that people have a “tendency to oversell their abilities.” All my years of experience allow me to corroborate these statements, as I have seen both of these communication translations create problems in the workplace following a candidate search.


Managers are especially at fault when they attempt to describe their workplaces. One of the first things I do as a search professional is to assist clients in reviewing and assessing their …


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Engaging challenge: Ensuring employees have positive approach a key job

By: Barbara Bowes


While the last few years have found baby-boomer retirement issues holding top priority, the latest human resource surveys are showing that employee engagement is now taking over the primary lead. In fact, one survey reports that 94 per cent of survey participants indicated that employee engagement was the most important workforce challenge they were currently facing.

Yet, what is employee engagement and why are HR managers so concerned? Employee engagement refers to whether or not employees have a positive or negative approach to their work and to whether or not employees are willing and/or not willing to perform at their best in ways that further benefit their employer.


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By: Barbara Bowes

While the last few years have found baby-boomer retirement issues holding top priority, the latest human resource surveys are showing that employee engagement is now taking over the primary lead. In fact, one survey reports that 94 per cent of survey participants indicated that employee engagement was the most important workforce challenge they were currently facing.

Yet, what is employee engagement and why are HR managers so concerned? Employee engagement refers to whether or not employees have a positive or negative approach to their work and to whether or not employees are willing and/or not willing to perform at their best in ways that further benefit their employer.

The reason HR managers are concerned about employee engagement is that engaged employees are known to make a strong impact on business success from a profitability point of view and also contribute to a positive work culture.

At the same time, human resource professionals know that a focus on employee engagement has a spillover effect in that other human resource functions such as performance management, employee recognition and employee retention seem to improve. As well, those organizations that track employee engagement scores are also discovering that their managers are much more effective in developing, providing feedback, recognizing and rewarding their employees.

This is good news from two points of view. First, it confirms that leadership styles have transitioned from an autocratic authoritarian style to one of collaboration, coaching and mentoring of employees. Secondly, it is finally giving credence to the fact that employee reward and recognition programs are not simply that annual warm and fuzzy “must have” event, but do indeed have real return on investment for a business.

If you really think about it, a fully engaged workforce that outperforms other work groups will essentially become your competitive advantage. And, if employee reward and recognition programs have proven to be a big part of successful employee engagement, then it makes sense to strategically implement a reward and recognition program. This program will become a set of guiding principles that will ensure all forms of your rewards and recognition are in alignment with your business strategy. The following steps to implementation will ensure an effective contribution to your employee engagement.

1. Secure leadership commitment – a reward and recognition program must be supported not only by a CEO/president, but also by all the executives and managers in the company. Appoint a program champion to oversee the design, development and implementation.

2. Link rewards to business strategy – your program must be connected to both the needs and expectations of your workforce, as well as to the organizational goals and objectives. Incorporate your company values and goals into the program so that your messages are consistent and employees understand what behaviours are important.

3. Make the program fair and inclusive – a reward and recognition program must be able to impact and motivate all of your employees, not just a set of top performers. This now includes consideration for the interests and needs of the various generations of workers in your organization. Establish your selection criteria so that “justice for all” is perceived by your employees, which in turn will help to develop trust in your program.

4. Design for meaning – consider conducting an employee survey to identify personal interests and suggestions for what would be appreciated in a reward or recognition program. Employees value meaningful rewards that they can get excited about and that motivates them to excel. Work with your employees to help create a personal mission that links with the corporate mission. Form an employee committee to assist management in designing the program. Value all suggestions.

5. Design for choice – with so many different interests and needs in today’s workforce, the best strategy is to allow for choice in the selection of a reward gift. Rewards typically range from an item with the company logo to making a charitable donation in the name of your employees. This will enable you to meet the needs of an intergenerational workforce and one with significant cultural diversity.

6. Simplify the nomination process – ensure the nomination process is not too complicated or time intensive so that people will be encouraged rather than discouraged from participating. Keep your forms simple, and be sure to be consistent and make the overall selection process transparent.

7. Link reward with action – it’s well known that when recognition quickly follows action, you’ll get a lot more “bang for the buck” in terms of employee motivation. Timeliness helps the employee to know why he or she is being acknowledged and why their contribution or behaviour was valuable. As well, your timely recognition will be better remembered and the employee behaviour will be reinforced.

8. Train your managers – managers are typically the people handling the reward and recognition program as well as leading employees toward greater engagement. Train your managers to understand the goals and objectives of your program as well as how to effectively implement the program on an ongoing basis.

9. Promote your program – help employees understand the “what, where, why and how” of your rewards and recognition program. Use multiple communication strategies and media. Be sure that employees understand the “what’s in it for me.” Plan to promote employee success and recognition through your company newsletter or email/twitter messages. Make them a star.

10. Make it a celebration – in addition to making daily acknowledgements, annual performance reviews or sporadic special events, celebrate employee achievements by holding an annual event. Incorporate all kinds of rewards and recognition ranging from retirement to special achievements. Make it a celebration.

11. Measure your results – measuring success through tracking employee satisfaction and employee engagement against your program objectives will give you an indication of success. When management is aware of this annual measurement, you’ll see an increase in accountability and leadership behaviours as well as increase in the application of other human resource functions.

Meaningful employee reward and recognition programs are a powerful tool for engaging your employees and increasing retention. However, a program must be well thought out, fair, transparent and based on corporate goals and objectives that are linked to the recognition and rewards that your employees value.

Source: Employee Recognition Survey, Winter 2012 Report, SHRM/Globoforce; Creating an Effective Reward and Recognition Program, Leadership council, March 2006

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.

There are a couple of old familiar sayings that summarize some of our communication, recruitment and selection challenges in the workplace. The first is, “you hear what you want to hear” and secondly we often realize that people have a “tendency to oversell their abilities.” All my years of experience allow me to corroborate these statements, as I have seen both of these communication translations create problems in the workplace following a candidate search.

Managers are especially at fault when they attempt to describe their workplaces. One of the first things I do as a search professional is to assist clients in reviewing and assessing their current culture, the current duties and tasks in the job profile and the competencies required in order to be successful. Without a refreshing examination of these details, interviewers have a tendency to reflect back on a former incumbent instead of focusing on future needs and requirements. This results in a skewed overview of a job as well as the organization culture.

At the same time, I know that candidates legitimately make every effort to sell themselves to a prospective employer. While not intentionally exaggerating, many candidates take credit for accomplishments where credit is not truly due to them. After all, leaders have drilled into employees that teamwork is key to success and as a result, many candidates actually lose sight of what they contributed individually versus the overall team accomplishments.

All of these issues lead to the importance of accurately describing the job for which you are recruiting, accurately describing the organization culture and accurately describing the challenges a new employee would face. If this initial information is inaccurate, successful candidates will quickly determine they made a mistake and will regret accepting their new position. As the employer, you will soon see this error in hiring as well.

However, it is rare to see an individual resign after only a few short months. Instead they simply hunker down and do their work, and all the while they are looking for another job. As you can expect, little work productivity and engagement will result and the employer will soon be trying to fill the position again.

This exact situation was recently reported in a survey conducted by Developmental Dimensions International, a US-based research firm. In their study, one in eight new hires was declared unsuccessful with individuals terminating their job in the first year. According to their survey, the number one reason for hiring mistakes was over reliance on manager evaluations. While the survey was not specific, I can say that my experience suggests again that a poor description of the job at hand and an unintentional misrepresentation of organization culture is often a key part of those manager evaluations. The result, of course, is that the wrong person is hired.

Yet equally as important, the survey also indicated that only 30 per cent of hiring managers are skilled at conducting high-quality interviews. In my view, this isn’t unusual since most hiring managers are not conducting interviews on a frequent enough basis and, in fact, many have not conducted interviews in many years.

When managers are inexperienced interviewers, they fail to develop a connection between interview questions and the competencies required by a successful candidate. As indicated earlier, the managers simply review an old job description and don’t pay any attention to identifying a set of competencies required for the job. Then again, many managers may rely on gut instinct alone rather than assessing the candidate’s responses to objective interview questions.
What executive search professionals have to offer in this case is objective views, consultation and advice on getting the right candidate the first time. We focus on identifying the key competencies, the key challenges a candidate might face, the nature of the organization culture and that of the department in which the candidate will work. I also focus on the reporting structure and the leadership style. Once this is complete, I am able to draw up a set of competencies that will ensure success in the role.

At this point, I apply my expertise to developing questions for the interview. The best questions ask for examples of direct experience including what was the situation, what was their role, what action did they take and what was the result. When candidates are able respond in a systematic and logical way, the interviewers will be able to more accurately assess the best cultural fit and the best fit of skills.

By Patricia Barbato

Insomniac Press

Purchase here (http://www.amazon.ca/Inspire-Your-Career-Strategies-Success/dp/1897178921)

Written in a down to earth manner, almost as the author is speaking directly to the reader, Inspire your career is full of wise counsel from a young lady who progressed quickly in her career. Using personal experience and reflection exercises, the author takes readers on a journey that touches on the many areas new workers confront early.

For instance, she provides advice and tips on understanding the bigger picture, the importance of avoiding assumptions, and the importance of recognizing and dealing with personal frustrations. Finally, the author deals with various transition issues that individuals will face in their career. This is an enjoyable and helpful book especially for new job entrants so don’t let the dense internal layout detract from the value if offers.

Resources – Talent Management Articles

Leadership during an economic downturn is especially difficult and requires a whole different set of skills and capabilities. While leaders may continue to demonstrate passion for their products or services, the challenge is ensuring there is a good number of followers and some strong front line leaders.


While change is happening at lightning speed, if you don’t offer a clear and better picture of where you want to be, and if employees can’t see direction and purpose for the company, they will not understand how they can contribute or collaborate to make things work. Start by reviewing the company vision and make the necessary adjustments to address your external environmental forces. Involve employees as much as possible; you’ll be surprised how creative and innovative front line workers really are. Finally, share and communicate this vision as broadly as possible. Help everyone understand, as creating that clear picture will ensure employee commitment and retention.


The next big challenge in an economic downturn is actually making things work; implementing the vision through operational strategy and tactics. To do this, you must concentrate on improving the quality of your internal leadership. Take time to put a plan in place to identify and develop your next generation of leaders. It is this group that will provide the front line leadership and innovation required as you move ahead. So what should be included in a training program for this new group of leaders?


The following leadership program elements should be considered:


1. Company leadership philosophy – leaders can no longer work in isolation, nor can they be successful with an autocratic leadership style. Instead, leaders need to have a win/win approach and work collaboratively with employees to solve common problems. Start your program by exploring how this philosophy will apply in your workplace.


2. Self assessment is key – leaders must be very self aware. In other words, they must understand where their strengths and challenges lie and recognize how to build employee strength around them. They must set personal and professional goals that lead to continued personal improvement.


3. Goal setting skills – it doesn’t matter what the vision is, if you don’t set specific goals to accomplish the vision, it will soon fall by the wayside. Good leaders set good goals, meaning they are specific, measurable, attainable, and realistic within determined timeframes. This is often a very difficult task for leaders and must be taught at an early stage in development. It needs to become a habit. It needs to be ingrained in everything you do.


4. Employee motivation – the new leadership style requires employee involvement in setting win/win goals. Leaders must coach for success instead of policing for failure. In order to do this, leaders need to understand what motivates their employees and to assign tasks that are motivating and challenging.


5. How to be a good coach – supervisors need to transform into good coaches for their employees. This new way of interacting helps give people the opportunity to influence their work and creates a collaborative environment where everyone succeeds. Good coaching serves to remove the traditional barriers between supervisor/employee, instead fostering a valuable partnership.


6. Communication skills – whereas influence will be the backbone of employee motivation, communication is now an essential skill for all new leaders. Training in planful communication, such as asking questions effectively, dealing with conflict, giving and receiving feedback, presenting ideas with confidence and being assertive are important topics.


7. Effective Team building – good team leadership is all about giving clear direction, providing appropriate resources and removing roadblocks so that teams can do their work. Team members must be taught to think independently, to problem solve and to recommend solutions that have an impact on the whole organization.


8. Good personal time management – if you could improve productivity by just one hour per day for every employee, what impact would this make on your organization? Time is money and, more than likely, increased efficiency will increase your bottom line. Therefore leaders will need to know how to manage their time wisely and to free up time by delegating to employees.


9. Skills in leading change – one of the true corollaries of life and work is that we are always changing and adapting. We never stay the same. This means that leaders need to be skilled not only in personally adapting to change, but in helping employees adapt to change to maintain their productivity. They need to understand the cycle of change, the stages their employees will go through and how to provide support on an ongoing basis.


Today’s volatile economic environment, and the daily challenges this creates, calls out for effective leadership throughout the organization. The phrase, “doing more with less” is no longer someone else’s problem; it is now reality for most leaders. Thus strengthening and building your frontline leadership team is a powerful technique for ensuring the culture of your organization continues to focus on productivity, quality and success.


Credit: Results Centered Leadership Program, the Achievement Centre.

Resources – Working World Articles

By Barbara Bowes


Employee motivation — an individual’s internal drive to achieve a goal — is now one of the most studied areas of human resource management. Over the years, multiple theories have been put forward.



For instance, Maslow’s popular hierarchy of needs theory suggests that employees are motivated to first look after their physical needs, then their safety and social needs and finally, they are motivated to seek satisfaction for their own ego and self-gratification.


The Skinner theory, on the other hand, suggests that if an employee’s behaviour is positively reinforced, then this will lead to ongoing positive outcomes.

One of the older and common motivational strategies has been to reward employees by giving them money. In this case, employers would typically give bonuses for good work as well as increasing wages annually as much as the economy allowed. However, it is also well known that while employee motivation does initially increase, in most cases, the motivation is short lived. One reason for this might be that employees simply forget what their bonus was for and their motivation quietly slips away.


In my view, this type of financial reward system has simply taught employees to continually look for money as their only work reward. If an employee sees money, wealth and possessions as the driving values in life, then I doubt that any employer could ever make them happy.


However, most employers cannot afford to continue giving bonuses or increasing salaries if the economic situation in their industry sector cannot support it.

As well, if an organization has a well-structured compensation system, there are established salary scales set for each job based on the value of the job to the organization and the market rate for their industry and geography. To arbitrarily increase these salaries based on desires of employees rather than the value to the organization would create chaos. In this case, if salary doesn’t meet an individual’s needs, the employee should move on.


So, if money is not considered to be a lasting motivator, what alternative strategies are perceived to be effective for motivating today’s employee? Some of the following strategies have proven effective and can be given consideration for your organization.


A sense of achievement – Most employees are motivated by the desire to work in a goal-oriented organization where the work is challenging and employees can gain a sense of achievement by seeing concrete results.


Identity and purpose – As social beings, employees typically want to work for an organization where they feel a sense of belonging and can identify with the values of the organization. This is also known as cultural fit.


Interesting work – Employees want to be involved in interesting work that provides some variety rather than a job that quickly becomes too routine. Most employees seek work that involves their minds and requires thinking and personal involvement.


Team collaboration and reward – Employees enjoy a combination of team-based rewards where a portion of the individual reward is contingent on the group performance. Research suggests this appears to contribute to high employee performance as well as job satisfaction.


Making a difference – No matter what the nature of a job, most employees are motivated by the opportunity to make a difference and then sharing in the success when a goal is accomplished.


Effective leadership – Employees typically want to do their best and are motivated by leaders who support and back their workers and encourage them to do their best.


Goals and objectives – Employees will be motivated when they are fully aware of the goals and objectives of the organization and how their own job goals and objectives fit into the overall goals. The closer the connection, the more motivation the employee will demonstrate.


Input and involvement – Our work world is no longer the “do as I told you” environment. In fact, employees want their voices heard, especially if they have an idea for improving work processes and making their work more effective. Employee involvement and employee engagement is the key to success.


Opportunity for learning and advancement – Most employees look forward to learning new things and are motivated by having the opportunity to engage in professional development, especially if it represents an opportunity for advancement.


Balanced workload – A workload that is out of balance will soon burn your employees out. They will be stressed and overworked and will not only lose their motivation, they may very well quit. Pay attention to life/work balance.


Praise, praise, praise – Most employees don’t expect praise, but rewarding employees by praising employee contributions individually and collectively goes a long way toward helping employees stay motivated.


Tactful discipline – While it is inevitable that employees may make mistakes in their work, how the supervisor handles it will make a critical difference to sustaining employee motivation. Being tactful, sensitive and using a coaching, teaching model to correct work deficiencies is much more likely to increase motivation.


Positive interpersonal work relationships – Creating and sustaining a harmonious work environment where team relationships are positive and where conflict is minimal goes a long way toward maintaining employee motivation.


Job security – While I always say the only job security is one’s own skills, I know that employees continue to be motivated by working for an organization where they see that job security has potential. Once their physical security is looked after, employees can start focusing on other things. Thus, it’s important to introduce change slowly and carefully to avoid creating fear about job security.


Job enlargement/rotation – Increasing the variety of tasks in a job can also increase employee motivation. Adding new challenges creates new enthusiasm and renews interest. Cross training among employees is a good way to do this.


As you can see from the variety of motivational techniques described, there is simply no secret formula that will meet each individual’s personal needs. In fact, employee motivation is far from an exact science, yet I truly believe that employers should stay away from focusing on simply giving money as their only motivational technique. In my opinion, those employees whose prime motivation is money will never be loyal to your organization and will soon move on to the next highest paying job.


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.

Resources – AESC Articles

Source: The Singapore Business Times


In a rare example of global synergy, initiatives to encourage a larger percentage of women to serve on boards of directors are springing up around the world. Fuelled in part by government interest and, in some cases, by government intervention, this worldwide phenomenon is gaining momentum and has become a major focus for media attention. In other words, the time for this issue has come.



Although the level of female representation on boards differs from country to country – some countries, such as Norway and Sweden being in the 30-40 percent range, and others, such as the UK and United States lagging behind in the 10-20 percent range – the cause of promoting more women on boards has become almost universal.


In Singapore, organizations such as BoardAgender are focusing attention on the male to female disparities on boards while the recently revised Code of Corporate Governance specifically requires boards to comprise directors with a diversity of skills, experience, gender and knowledge.


The government of Singapore has lent its weight to the issue via recent comments from Halimah Yacob, Minister of State for the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, as have corporate leaders from multinationals such as Citi and Microsoft.


The logic of the issue is indisputable. Women constitute half the population, half the consumers and half the university graduates. As Michael Zink, Citi head of Asean and Singapore, said in a recent Business Times article: “Gender diversity is in our self interest to make sure that our leadership team looks like the marketplace and society we serve.”


With the world facing a global talent shortage fuelled by demographic shifts, the encouragement of women to stay and prosper in the workforce becomes an imperative.


Part of the challenge is around supply – the corporate pipeline. Fewer women than men are coming through to the top level of organizations for a variety of reasons as described by McKinsey in their 2007 report.


These include the early exit of women from top management ambition because of the “double burden” of career and family obligations, the male corporate model still prevalent in many corporations and the legacy prejudices of the “glass ceiling”. But part of the challenge is also around demand, that is, that there are plenty of women more than capable of serving on boards who are not currently being sought out an “demanded” by boards.


The challenges clearly need to be addressed from a number of angles. Chairmen and chief executives of public companies around the world need to take action so that board positions can beopened to more female candidates, investors need to demand it and there needs to be more training and development of women at universities and business schools to assume Board roles during their management careers.


How can executive search firms play a constructive role towards these obvious goals?


Many firms already pursue candidate diversity as an end in itself and have done so for many years. Some even specialize in providing diversity candidates. However, there is still an opportunity for executive search firms to take a more proactive role in promoting greated gender diversity.


In the UK, the Davies report recommended that the executive search community should be encouraged to draw up a voluntary code of conduct in order to commit to search out and present at least 30 percent of a long list of candidates as women. Such a code was agreed and signed twelve months ago and highlights a number of areas where executive search firms can make a difference:

Succession planning: Search firms should support chairmen and their nomination committees in developing medium-term succession plans that identify the balance of experience and skills that they will need to recruit for over the next two to three years to maximize board effectiveness. This time frame will allow a broader view to be established by looking at the whole board, not individual hires; this should facilitate increased flexibility in candidate specifications.


Diversity goals: When taking a specific brief, search firms should look at overall board composition and, in the context of the board’s agreed aspirational goals on gender balance and diversity more broadly, explore with the chairman if recruiting women directors is a priority on this occasion.


Defining briefs: In defining briefs, search firms should work to ensure that significant weight is given to relevant skills and intrinsic personal qualities and not just proven career experience, in order to extend the pool of candidates beyond those with existing board roles or conventional corporate careers.


Long lists: When presenting their long lists, search firms should ensure that at least 30 percent of the candidates are women – and, if not, should explicitly justify to the client why they are convinced that there are no other qualified female options, through demonstrating the scope and rigour of their research.


Supporting selection: During the selection process, search firms should provide apporpriate support, in particular to firt-time candidates, to prepare them for interviews and guide them through the process.


Emphasizing intrinsics: As clients evaluate candidates, search firms should ensure that they continue to provide appropriate weight to intrinsics, supported by thorough referencing, rather than over-valuing certain kinds of experience.


Induction: Search firms should provide advice to clients on best practices in induction and “onboarding” processes to help new board directors settle quickly into their roles.


The just published Cranfield Business School study: Gender Diversity on Boards: The Appointment Process and Role of Executive Search firms has examined the performance of search firms since the Voluntary Code was established and has concluded that search firms are encouraging chairmen and nominating committees to broaden their remits when filling non-executive roles but that still more needs to be done to keep women in the runing for board room positions. In particular, more focus needs to be placed upon promoting diversity all the way through the recruitment process rather than just at the early stages of search. As the final short-lists are drawn up, more emphasis is still being placed upon baord room “fit” than upon the candidates’ abilities, thereby propagating prevailing male cultures and attitudes.


It is clear that no one initiative will correct the gender imbalance on boards of directors. What is clear, however, is that by pulling together, government, educational institutions, corporate chairmen and CEOs, and the executive search community can achieve much faster resolution of an important disparity that is harming national, international and corporate competitiveness.

By: Barbara Bowes

According to a recent human resource survey, the level of stress among Canadian business professionals is rising, with approximately 63 per cent of survey participants blaming their work as the main source of stress. Survey participants also suggested that the continuing instability of the world economy was a contributing factor, as well as personal finances and customer relationships.


But what does a stressful workplace look like? What’s happening in the workplace to create so much stress?


First of all, there have been numerous fundamental changes in how we work. It seems that everything, right from production to administration and support services, has become mechanized and computerized. Information technology has brought the concept of “instantaneous” into our workplaces and this has changed expectations; in other words, everyone wants everything “now!”


Our world seems to have become so fast paced that businesses and employees are struggling to keep up. In fact, if you asked an employee, they might tell you they feel like they are running in a three-legged race because while they have to run fast, something is dragging them down. For instance, with change occurring in business almost every day, employees are forced to be continuous learners, whether they want to or not. They are busy learning new software programs, new policies, new procedures, as well as meeting and working with new employees, new bosses or new customers.


Finally, while many organizations have downsized and restructured, they haven’t truly reduced the work tasks and so you’ll find some employees are completing the work of two to three jobs. No wonder employees are blaming the workplace for their stress. Yet, in my view, work isn’t the only cause of today’s stress.


Just look what we do in our spare time. Coupled with a fast pace at work, we often see our employee families trying to juggle dozens of activities at home. For instance, they create busy personal schedules by over-committing themselves to volunteerism while at the same time racing back and forth with their children’s activities. They leave little time for themselves and soon, weekends are no longer set aside for quiet periods of rest. Instead, employees and their families stay busy, busy, busy. Stress then accumulates from both sides of their lives.


At some point, stressed employees can no longer deal with their excessive and prolonged stress and eventually they’ll begin to experience physical, emotional and mental exhaustion, more commonly known as burnout. However, one of the key challenges with burnout is that while some employees will not recognize their own developing symptoms, others will simply deny how they feel. Dealing with employee burnout is rather a delicate situation, especially if an employee is in denial. Yet if you are a supervisor and/or manager, you need to take responsibility and deal with it, preferably sooner than later.


First, you need to assess and clarify the employee’s behaviour over a period of time. In most cases, you will already have heard about incidents of odd behaviour or emotional outbursts that appear to be completely out of character. Sometimes a person who is normally outgoing and communicative will slowly stop engaging with others until they are completely isolated. They just don’t seem like the same person. You may yourself have seen overt changes in work habits and/or you will notice a growing negativity in an individual’s attitude. In my experience, one of the first signs of burnout is a negative attitude sprinkled with an “I can’t” and/or “I won’t.”


Prior to confronting a stressed-out or burned-out employee, I suggest that managers conduct their own stress inventory by examining how they are directing the work and what stress this might be causing. In many cases, managers don’t realize they are setting impossible requirements, particularly as it relates to deadlines. Nor do they stop to think of all the tasks they’ve already delegated to their employee and then stop and re-prioritize. Lastly, managers often forget to assess the capabilities of their employee and fail to recognize that some employees struggle with trying to do multiple tasks at the same time.


Keep in mind that many employees who are experiencing burnout will either not be comfortable disclosing their feelings or they may not even recognize their own symptoms. Therefore, it is important to confront your employee with specific observations. For instance, if you are raising the issue of excessive absenteeism, then refer to the number of times the individual was away from work. If deadlines have been missed, then refer specifically to the job tasks and the dates when they became overdue. If a negative attitude is the most obvious problem, then give specific examples of where this has been problematic.


Next, ask the employee for feedback to confirm their understanding of the problems you have described. Ask the individual for comment to help you understand what might be behind the deteriorating behaviour. If the issues are work related, such as feeling a lack of control over work, too many deadlines, not enough resources or a need for more prioritization, then collaborate with the employee to find solutions. But no matter what, the work needs to get done.


While it is always wise to intervene at earlier stages of burnout, many times burnout will creep up on the employee and the manager and by the time you confront the issue, the employee may be in need of more serious assistance. Be sure to refer the employee to your employee assistance program for counselling and/or advise the individual to seek professional help. In some cases, a brief leave of absence accompanied by stress counselling will assist the employee to get back on track. On the other hand, the longer an employee is away on leave, the harder it will be for that person to return to work.


The increase of stress in the workplace is indeed a disturbing trend and if we don’t deal with it, all elements of our businesses and/or organizations will suffer. While we can’t create change in an employee’s family life, we can make process and structural changes in our workplace that ensure our employees do not experience constant and exaggerated stress.


Source: Stress levels rising among business professionals: Survey, Two-thirds of employees cite work as biggest stressor hrreporter.com, Sept. 14, 2012


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.


Five years ago, the Human Capital Institute collaborated with the large consulting firm Hewitt Human Capital Consulting and published the results of a comprehensive leadership survey entitled, the State of Talent Management, Today’s Challenges, Tomorrow’s Opportunities. The study revealed five looming workforce challenges, including the attraction and retention of skilled professionals, developing manager capability, retaining high performers, developing succession pool depth and addressing management and leadership talent.


Well, here we are in 2013 only to find these problems are no longer just looming. Our businesses are smack in the middle of trying to deal with these same challenges. In particular, developing the next generation of manager/leadership talent is now the hot topic of debate in every corporate “C” suite.



Yet for the most part, many businesses and not-for-profit organizations have not created an effective internal succession plan and/or their strategy didn’t work out as planned. Therefore, organizations must turn to the recruitment of external candidates to fill their needs. This requires a special set of eyes and professional expertise in order to assess the full capability of candidates. It also means that candidate-assessment strategies must go beyond cultural fit and personality and engage in an in-depth review of the true talent that each candidate might bring.


As a leading executive search professional, I work with clients to focus their attention on a number of candidate character traits that can determine whether an individual has the potential to be a high performing executive. Although there are multiple elements to our executive search process, the following dimensions will help you to understand some of what we look for in candidates.


Track Record – high performing candidates who can be considered potential executive material are able to effectively create a vision for the future or take their part of a vision for the future and make it happen. They aren’t just visionaries, they are doers!


Strategic thinking – candidates who have the potential to succeed at the executive level have a broad view and can see multiple dimensions of any problem. They are good at identifying disruptive obstacles and are good at creating solutions that result in success. Their success is of high quality each and every time. It is measureable and supported by references.


Team leadership – high performing candidates have a strong sense of self esteem, a caring for people and a keen eye for talent. These skills enable them to build strong and loyal teams of diverse professionals. They know how to develop people and to continue building strengths amongst their team.


Relationship building strengths – strong candidates have excellent relationship building skills that enable them to develop powerful networks both within and outside their current organization. They reach out into their professional community, contribute their expertise in a variety of ways and become well known for their leadership abilities.


Change management skills – high potential candidates not only know how to implement change, they also focus equally on the soft issues such as culture and ongoing employee motivation. They know that change takes time, and that communication and training are essential to moving employees away from their ingrained ways of doing things. These candidates have developed a reputation for implementing change effectively.


An attitude of persistence – managing any organization today and into the future requires leaders who are flexible yet persistent in working toward their goals. Leaders can have all the ideas in the world but if they can’t make them happen, if they can’t deal with unexpected problems and aren’t flexible, they will not be successful in the long run.


Assessing a potential candidate for an executive leadership position requires a special set of eyes and professional expertise in candidate assessment. It is important to examine personality and cultural fit but it is also important to fully examine the true talent that each candidate might bring. This is accomplished by asking the tough questions related to their track record, ability to implement a vision, build relationships, lead a team, manage change and persist until they reach success.