Do you hire for cultural fit over skills and experience?

Written by Marianna Tuccia – Recruitment Consultant (Legal Professional), Sydney NSW

With this war on talent that seems to be never-ending, the question becomes should you hire for cultural fit over skills & knowledge? Ideally, you want to get both exactly right. But more often than not you will interview a candidate that is the perfect cultural fit but doesn’t have quite the amount of experience that you were looking for.

Cultural fit is just as important as skills and knowledge, if not more important. Education, experience and skills comprise only a part of what makes a candidate successful. Values, style and behaviour are equally important in making a candidate successful within an organization.

If there is time and resources to train and upskill a candidate, in the long term it is probably better to hire on cultural fit above skills and knowledge. Hiring the wrong candidate on cultural fit can also impact adversely existing employees and their engagement levels.

The question then becomes, how do you ensure candidates are a good cultural fit? The answer is as easy as being thorough and strategic in the recruitment and selection process. It goes without saying that there should be multiple interviews and the entire team should be involved in the interview process. You need time to grasp who the candidate really is. But before embarking on the interview process, you really need to understand what your culture means and ask interview questions that relate to this. Behavioral based questions will also assist you in giving you an insight into a candidate’s cultural fit.

Questions you might like to ask include:

  • From the list of our company’s values which one resonated with you most? Which one resonated with you least? Why?
  • How do you see yourself contributing to the company’s values?
  • Describe to me, from previous positions you have held, the values of a company where you have thrived in?
  • Leaving aside the role and the nature of the role, why do you want to work for our company?

Personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (a questionnaire which indicates psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions) can also be helpful in assessing a candidate’s cultural fit.

Candidates will be well prepared for interviews and some candidates even rehearse their answers. Try not to stick to the “usual” interview questions. Discuss unexpected topics e.g. news headlines, or ask questions like “how honest are you?”, “what is the funniest thing that happened to you recently?”, “who is your favorite movie character?” This will give you a better grip of the candidate’s personality and cultural fit. Additionally, allow the candidate to lead for most of the interview. If they have trouble leading in the interview and they have difficulty with communication, the candidate may not be a good cultural fit.

Hiring for cultural fit over skills and knowledge can be a great idea as you never know how much a candidate will develop and grow into the role. In 12 months’ time, you might be surprised as to where the candidate’s skill levels and knowledge base have developed.

How to Handle Difficult People in the Workplace

Written by Caitlin Chapman – Recruitment Consultant (Legal Support) Sydney NSW

I think it’s safe to say that we have all come across difficult personalities at one point in the workplace. Whether it be the office bully, or simply a personality that you did not get along with, it’s a common problem that can affect your mental and emotional health… but only if you let it. Learning how to deal with these difficult people, in whichever form they come, is a skill worth investing in. Below I have listed a few tips to help you handle any difficult people you may encounter in the workplace:

  1. Fight your instinct to be defensive – try very hard to remain calm (I know it feels like it’s impossible!). Your natural reaction to someone being rude or aggressive towards you will be to retaliate. Absolutely do not do this because by retaliating you are giving the person a reaction – exactly what they want! By maintaining your composure, you will let the person know that you are not bothered by them and will not stoop to their level. Remaining calm will also ensure you are able to handle the situation more effectively.
  2. Try to become more objective. Examine the issue from an unbiased viewpoint. Ensure you are approaching the situation in an unemotional way and that you are separating the person from the issue. Also, take responsibility for your actions and how you may be interpreting the issue. Confide in an outsider and seek their opinion. If this is not possible, try to imagine yourself as an outsider and how you would approach the situation.
  3. Address the situation. As tempting as it may be to avoid confrontation, if you fail to address an issue with a difficult person, it will not get better. The bully will think that what they are doing is okay and not an issue. It is essential to approach the person with whom you are having the issue in a calm and private setting and openly airing any grievances.
  4. Take responsibility for yourself, as you can only change the way you interact with the other person and not the other way. Try explaining to the person involved how you are feeling and how it is affecting you. The difficult personality may simply have been unaware of the effect that their behaviour had on you. Should it not be resolved so simply, document their behaviour so you have a record should you need to take further action.
  5. Involve your manager/HR. If you have followed the above tips without success, it is time to approach your manager/boss for assistance. This is not ‘dobbing’ as you have made every attempt to resolve the issue yourself; your boss or manager will be happy to be involved.

If only the key to commitment and motivation was as simple as a team step challenge…

Written by Alison Dart – National General Manager

This year, we embarked on a national team step challenge at Empire. We split into groups and set out to conquer 10,000 steps each per day. It was amazing to see some individuals reach far more than this figure, but it’s what I learnt about myself and team dynamics that I found really surprising.

My learning’s came from the hard stuff (surprise, surprise!) – things like the thoughts that make you question your role in the team, challenge your commitment and allow you to struggle with your self-worth.

I found the more I applied the step challenge principles, the easier it became to find direction and know my motivation not only for this exercise, but in my work and personal life as well. If I approached my job and life like I had approached the team challenge, I wondered what I could possibly achieve.

My learning below had an effect on my overall well-being that I feel compelled to share:

Team – I was part of the team and they relied on me. I needed to do my part for the group challenge. There is nowhere to hide, no option to fail, and you have to commit and turn up for your team.

Commitment – Having walked your butt off one day and then waking up and knowing you need to do it all again today when you already feel exhausted is a huge test of commitment.

Self-worth – Saving face and not quitting, keeping on going, because your team deserve it and you do as well. You are part of a group actually doing something that feels worthwhile, and it’s contributing to you and your team’s health.

You are connecting with the world outside spending time away from your desk and clearing your head, stopping to get a better focus. Who knew that embarking on this journey would result in so much more than just better health!

#WORDSATWORK

#WORDSATWORK

The Diversity Council of Australia has launched a new campaign to encourage more inclusive language in the workplace.  There is a new campaign, #WordsAtWork which is going viral for all the wrong reasons, and as usual, the focus in discussions about this very important subject have been hijacked because of one thing uttered by the Chair, David Morrison AO.

Mr Morrison said that language plays a critical role in shaping workplace cultures, in particular in how people are able to reach their potential regardless of age, race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.  You can see his video here.

It is true that language can impact how people feel – if a male supervisor uses the term ‘girls’ in a disparaging way when referring to a group of women at work (or men for that matter!), it can be disrespectful, especially if it is repetitious.

The campaign is about people carefully using their language to ensure that it is respectful and accurate and does not demean or exclude anyone.

Mr Morrison said that personally he had decided not to use the word ‘guys’ when greeting work colleagues and this is what has social media, as well as main stream media in uproar, and unfortunately has derailed the important message of basically being respectful to your work colleagues.  It is true that ‘guys’ has come to be a generic term referring to both men and women.  I work in an almost exclusively female environment and we often greet each other with ‘Hi guys’ or ‘Hey guys’.  The point is of course that our work culture is one of respect to start with, so that even if someone was offended by the use of this word, they are empowered to say something about it.  Not all workplaces are like that.

The important message from this is straight from the DCA website, and this is the message that we should be remembering:

Why language matters:

Language is a powerful tool for building inclusion at work. It can be used to create a sense of being valued, respected and one of the team (included) or of being under-valued, disrespected, and an ‘outsider’ (excluded).

Research demonstrates that inclusive cultures are high performing cultures – they deliver greater performance and productivity.  How we speak to and about each other influences how we treat each other, and this builds our workplace cultures. Studies show that:

  • Non-inclusive language contributes to and continues stereotyping
  • Non-inclusive language harms people who witness it as well as the intended targets
  • When used in job interviews, non-inclusive language results in applicants from excluded groups finding the position less attractive, and experiencing less motivation and identification with the position than those who are exposed to inclusive language
  • Non-inclusive comments in the workplace can have an insidious effect on individuals from the excluded groups, impeding their advancement at work by presenting them as incompetent and not suitable for leadership roles
  • Frequent non-inclusive experiences at work have just as harmful effects as more intense but less frequent experiences (e.g. sexual coercion and harassment)
  • Non-inclusive jokes can lead to tolerance of hostile feelings and discrimination against people from excluded groups.

This has made me think about how I speak to others in the workplace and how unconsciously my language may impact others. How can you make sure your language is inclusive and not demeaning to others?

International Women’s Days

Since the early 1900s, International Women’s Day has been celebrated globally – it is a day to celebrate all the achievements of women socially, intellectually, economically, professionally and politically, as well as continue the push for gender equity.

 

It is now celebrated on 8 March each year and according to the official website :getty_539669185_83926

International Women’s Day is all about celebration, reflection, advocacy, and action – whatever that looks like globally at a local level. But one thing is for sure, International Women’s Day has been occurring for over a century – and is growing annually from strength to strength.

 Gloria Steinam, a world-renowned feminist and author once famously said:

 

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.

 

And that is still true today. If you look at the definition of feminism, it is generally agreed that it is the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.  Who doesn’t want that?

 

So what is the current state of play? According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency:

  • The gender pay gap still sits at 17.3% in favour of men.
  • In managerial positions, women earn up to $100,000 less than their male peers.
  • Women’s pay peaks at age 31 whereas men’s salaries peak at 39
  • More women than men work part-time
  • Gender pay gaps lead to long term earnings shortfall for women
  • This in turn leads to a corresponding reduction in superannuation shortfall

For the legal profession, we know that over 65% of University graduates are women but that in most large firms the percentage of female partners struggles to make 20 percent. Promotion is still problematic.

 

So what can you do?

Make sure that your recruitment processes are free of unconscious bias based on gender. We can help you by assessing your requirements and submitting applicants based on the criteria. Everyone has unconscious bias – based on our life experience, our brains take short cuts and make decisions without thinking. Young women have been known to remove engagement rings from their fingers for fear that judgements will be made about their futures – whether children are or are not on the agenda.

Conduct a gender pay analysis – you will soon find out if you have a gender pay issue if you compare salaries across the firm and by level. If you identify there is a problem, commit to fixing it!

One of the most important things you can do is to adopt flexible work arrangements – for ALL staff. Being a woman does not give anyone sole responsibility for collecting children from day care or school. Encourage your male staff with children to take responsibility as parents – they will usually have a partner with career aspirations as well!

In the global context however, it is worth remembering that we still live in a world where:

  • Women are routinely denied an education
  • Women do not have the right to choose to have an abortion
  • Women do not have reproductive rights generally
  • Forced child marriage exists
  • Female genital mutilation is an every day occurrence
  • Women cannot leave the home without a male chaperone
  • Rape is used as a weapon of war
  • Women are routinely killed in ‘domestic violence’ incidents

Amongst other atrocities that make me shake my head.

So while there is still much to celebrate and still much to do in terms of gender equity in Australia, International Women’s day is a day to reflect on the achievements of women globally and reflect on the challenges women face across the globe.

I will leave you with the words of our Australian of the Year, David Morrison:

“ The whole debate is not about fixing women, it’s about creating a society where everyone, irrespective of their gender, has the chance to reach their potential”

 

DISENGAGED EMPLOYEES

In his book “Employee Enragement’ James Adonis turns the concept of Employee Engagement on its head to look at why people don’t want to work for certain employers.

Interestingly, it is not dissatisfaction with salary and benefits or work/life balance that is top of the list, but employers not dealing with lazy or underperforming people is the most common cause of employee enragement.

An “engaged employee” is one who is enthusiastic about their work and committed to the employer’s goals and vision.  It is easy to see an ‘engaged’ employee.  They are the ones with a smile on their faces, are optimistic and who bounce back from setbacks.DISENGAGED EMPLOYEES

But what are the signs of a disengaged employee?  Oftentimes when an employee resigns, it is only with the benefit of hindsight that you can see that they have not been happy.  Here are some of the things to look out for:

Tardiness – always late, even if it’s only a few minutes, to work, to meetings

Leaving early – leaving on the dot of 5 o’clock when they used to work late (this doesn’t apply to administrative staff)

Constant Criticism and Complaints–criticises and complains about everything from the quality of the coffee, to the length of meetings, to management decisions

Rolling eyes – if criticism is not verbalized, it is done with a rolling of the eyes.  A lot.

Silence – stays silent in meetings, then tells everyone how useless the meeting was and what their views are

Gossip – someone who gossips about the business and other people

Withdrawal – the opposite of gossip, someone who sits in their office with the door shut, not talking, or at their desk not talking

Uncommunicative –  stops saying hello or goodbye, or taking an interest in others

Unhelpful – stops helping others who need it (usually with a roll of the eyes)

Absenteeism – starts being sick a lot on Mondays and Fridays

Reduced productivity – a previously high performer suddenly starts not performing to expectations

Lack of Discretionary effort – taking a ‘that’s not my job’ approach to work and the workplace.

Anger – barely able to hide their frustration by boiling over in anger at little things

By the time many of these symptoms are evident it is too late to turn a disengaged to an engaged employee – it is not impossible, of course, but very hard to do.  Remember how the number one irritant for employees is employers not dealing with underperforming colleagues?  This, then, is something that you need to deal with, as a disengaged employee will be like a heavy weight pulling the rest of the team down, and you risk losing your top performers.  If you have an employee behaving like this, it is time for an honest discussion about under performance.

‘The Golden Rule’ as applied in the workplace

The Golden Rule in its simplest form is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

This oft quoted biblical passage, in modern terms, is “Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself”.

The expression itself is found in many different religions, not just Christianity.  Various forms of the Golden Rule appear in many religious books from Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha’i, Hinduism and Buddhism, amongst others.  This is possibly the one thing that religion agrees upon, even if those practising or following those religions don’t always practise it.

 

In the context of how we treat others, it is useful to remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi – “Be the change you want to see in the world” or, in other words, be the change you wish to see in your workplace.

Workplaces can be places of conflict and the conflict is usually over the smallest of things, from different ways of handling issues, to people leaving dirty cups in the sink, not wiping down benches, or just being generally thoughtless.

For supervisors, the maxim needs to be taken one step further in terms of how they supervise their staff.  If supervisors were to recall how they were treated when they were junior employees learning the ropes, and recall what they liked about their great supervisors and what they disliked about those who could have done better, they would treat all their staff with respect, even those who are not performing.

So here is a handy checklist on how to apply the Golden Rule in the workplace.

How I like to be treated

How I will treat others

I like to be given feedback in a constructive way I will give feedback in a kind and constructive way
I like people to ask me if I need anything from the stationery room When I go to the stationery room, I’m going to ask my colleagues if they need anything
I like people to offer to make me a cup of tea or coffee When I’m going to make a cup of tea or coffee I’m going to ask someone else if they would like one
I like it when other people answer my phone when I’m not at my desk I’m going to make sure that if I hear a phone ringing I’ll answer it and pass on a message
I like people to say good morning to me and make eye contact when they come in I’m going to make sure I say good morning to my work colleagues and make eye contact with them
I like people to take an interest in me and my work I’m going to treat my colleagues as I would a friend and take an interest in what’s going on in their life
I like to understand what’s happening in the business I’m going to make sure I communicate the big picture to staff
I like people to form an opinion on me based on their experience with me I won’t base my opinions on people by the gossip of others
I don’t like people gossiping about me I won’t gossip about other people
I like receiving a ‘thank you’ when I do something for someone I am going to make sure I say ‘thank you’ more often
I like people to notice if I am overwhelmed I am going to make sure I pay attention to others around me and offer to help if they need it

When you look at it in simple terms like this it’s not that hard to apply the Golden Rule in the workplace. Kindness is contagious.

This applies to leaders as much as to staff as well;  in fact probably more so.  In the words of Richard Branson:

“There’s no magic formula for great company culture.  The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated”.

Welcome women back from maternity leave

[Please note that in this blog post I have referred to maternity leave and used the female prepositions for ease of editing.  I acknowledge that many men take parental leave and face the same challenges; however the vast majority of those returning from parental leave are women, so if you are a man reading this, please don’t be offended]

Some women dread returning to paid work; others can’t wait to get their corporate clothes on again and revel in adult company.  Either way there is always some anxiety about leaving the baby and returning to the workforce.

Ideally your employee will have given plenty of notice of the intended return date and you are ready to welcome them back.  Here are some ways of making the transition back to the office smooth:

Communicate well before the start dateparental leav

Don’t just have an email exchange about the date.  Make sure your employee knows about any changes to the workplace or management that have occurred in her absence – ideally you should have been in regular contact over the period of leave anyway, but if there has been a change in senior management or in the team, make sure she knows.

Welcome them

There is nothing more demoralising than returning to work and to have no one make even a token acknowledgement of the fact that you have been away.  Arrange to have someone meet the employee and bring them to the workgroup.  Make a small fuss – have a cake for morning tea on the first day back for example.

Clean and clear their office/desk space

How demoralising to return to work and find that your office or desk has been used by someone else and is full of random pens, paperclips and not even clean.  Make sure someone takes responsibility to have the space clean and clear so that the first thing they have to do is not getting a rubbish bin and the Spray and Wipe from the kitchen.  Small things matter. Even a new pack of stationery is a good idea.

Organise training

If there have been changes in procedure or systems in their absence, organise training as soon as practicable.  It can be embarrassing to have to ask questions or feel ignorant if you don’t know how to do something.

Show empathy

Be patient and empathetic to the returning worker – regardless of the length of time they’ve been away or their enthusiasm levels to returning to work, it is a different environment, and can also be draining – particularly if the baby is not yet sleeping through the night, or not settling into the childcare arrangement.  These things will change, of course, so don’t assume your co-worker will always be distracted or tired – give them some time to settle in themselves.

What are your experiences in returning from maternity leave?

Combating Negative Behaviour

Even the smartest and most successful people will naturally have at least a handful of bad habits in the work place. These negative behaviours don’t in themselves make you a terrible person or a bad employee, but can prevent you from fulfilling what would otherwise be your potential. The secret is to recognise and identify these traits so that you can combat them and turn them into positives.

After a quick survey in our own office here are our top ‘bad habit’ picks and how to address them;

  1. Putting things off rather than doing them straight away.

It can be very tempting to put tasks that you don’t enjoy so much to one side and prioritise your more favourable tasks. However this habit can hurt you in a work setting, especially if you end up having to complete a task in a rush to meet a deadline,  comprising the quality and standard of your work. Make sure you are prioritising your work according to urgency and where possible complete your less favoured tasks first, that way they are off your desk and you can move on!

  1. Not asking for help.

It can be easy to feel that you are making yourself look stupid by asking questions, however quite the opposite is usually true. By not asking questions where you require clarity you can increase the risk of errors and can also make yourself look unengaged and uninterested in the task in hand. Ask questions freely but make sure that they are relevant to the task and make a note of the answer so you only have to ask once!

  1. Being negative in the workplace.

Some of us can fall into the pattern of habitually gossiping or complaining without even realising that we are doing it. This can impact on the whole office and can also be a headache for your manager who will usually be tasked with ensuring their teams are contributing to positive morale. A good approach if you have a complaint is to speak with your manager directly, in private rather than involve the office and remember positivity breeds positivity.

  1. Consistently running late.

If you constantly arrive late to work, or return late from breaks, it can give an impression of  complacency and carelessness. It can also be aggravating to staff who do ensure they arrive at their desk in a timely manner as not only are they then putting in more hours than you they may also find themselves picking up calls or even extra work in your absence. Be prompt or even a bit early to show that you are time conscious and that you care about your job and other people’s time.

  1. Thinking that you have all the answers.

No matter how long you’ve been with a company or how well you know your role, the day you’re no longer open to learning is the day you stop moving forward. Growth happens when you change and try new things. Make the effort to continue to learn from those around you and do all you can to embrace new information or ways of doing things.

Basically we all have little annoying habits but as long as you recognise these and work to replace them with positive workplace routines you can prevent them negatively effecting you and even turn them into positives!

How flexible is your work place?

I recall a conversation with a young woman recently who wanted the opportunity to work from home one day a week. The only reason was that she travelled for an hour each way to and from work and she wanted to reduce the stress and be more productive with her time. She said that her supervising partner was not very keen on the idea at first but then she convinced him.

When I asked her how she smiled and said ‘I pointed out that most Fridays he left the office at lunch time to drive to the sunshine coast to go windsurfing’. Some might say that is a cheeky response, but she had a good relationship with him, and as she pointed out, she was planning on being available to clients and colleagues on her day at home, rather than in a wet suit on the water.flexibility

It was not that simple of course. While she overcame resistance, she had to make sure that her supervising partner, the other partners, her team members and clients were all going to benefit, or at least not be disadvantaged by the new arrangement, so she agreed to a two month trial period.

After two months her billable hours were better and communication had improved in the team, largely because she took responsibility for making sure everyone was informed of whatever they needed to know, and neither clients nor partners were the slightest bit concerned about her ‘absence’ from the office. In fact her supervising partner is now considering working from home on a Friday, from the sunshine coast, to save time driving!

Does she have a secret? This young woman is a very determined and focussed person and she provided her tips for making it work:

  • never assume the team knows what you are doing
  • over communicate if necessary
  • always prepare for your day away from the office on the day before
  • flexibility is a privilege so it is up to you to show how it can work and work well
  • practice reciprocity – if there are times you are needed to work longer hours or work in the office on your ‘at home’ day, then do it
  • put yourself in the shoes of your colleagues – what would you need to make it work?
  • Express gratitude to those assisting you, and often
  • communicate about problems and be open to many views

This is a good example of flexibility in action and how good communication can overcome even the toughest barriers. Do you have any advice for making flexible work, work?