Compensation plan – a struggle?

Falling profits
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Question mark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you have questions about compensation planning?  I’ve invited Don Neuhauser to give us a short but practical presentation of compensation planning on Feb 21st at 11:30 am Pacific time on G+.  You can view it from your desk here. It will also be posted on YouTube for later on the HamptonAndAssociates channel.  If you want to join us live and on air, please let me know and I’ll send you the link.  Otherwise, click here to add your questions.  I know nothing about compensation, other than what I have picked up as a recruiter, so I’ll be your ventriloquist’s dummy, but it is Don’s specialty.  Please post questions I can ask him.

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Guest Post: Create a Culture of Coaching

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by Sherry Jordana (All rights reserved 10-26-12)

A photo of the sculpture "Dancer and the ...

A photo of the sculpture “Dancer and the dance” by John Safer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many of us can recount happy memories of working our hearts out and achieving our very best with a favorite sports coach, dance teacher and the like. Yet relatively few can describe a similar experience with a boss. That seems a little unfair.  The favorite coach often pushed us hard to perform, pointed out our weaknesses, and left us physically exhausted. Bosses, on the other hand, are often encouraged to be nice to us, give us an appropriate amount of work, hear our needs and in general “boost” our morale all by themselves. Why is it then, some of our happiest experiences were with a tough coach?

Dan Pink describes in his book “Drive”  that, especially for those in non-routine and complex work,  people feel inspired to perform at a high level when intrinsic motivators are present: two of these are mastery (getting increasingly good at something), and purpose/value.  A favorite coach probably created an environment where these conditions were present.  And in the workplace, great bosses do too.  Here’s some of what they do:  

1. Pick the right type of goal

In my dance class, if I see a really advanced dance step, I will probably watch but not try. It looks too hard and I have no place to even start.  On the other hand, if I’m put through endless drills on ridiculously easy steps, I’ll get bored and check out (it’s easier to leave the dance class than the job).  Make sure that work goals and responsibilities are challenging enough to be stimulating, but not defeating. Look for opportunities to stretch people in their performance: (for instance working with a new software, achieving a reasonably higher sales quota, running a meeting alone). 

2.  Give feedback in balance.

Back to the dance class: I get a steady flow of feedback, both positive and corrective. This is how I grow and learn. Feedback also let’s me know I’m valued, that it is important for me to perform well. At work, remember to give regular feedback that includes both “what you’re doing well” and “what you need to correct”. I recently heard a respected leadership author (and others) suggest a ratio of 5 positive feedback comments to 1 corrective; seems a bit high to me, but how about even 2 to 1? For most managers, that would be an improvement.

3.  Give feedback on behavior, not traits.

Amazingly (or not) I really appreciate corrective feedback from my dance teacher, but am not so thrilled if I get it at work.  One of the main differences is the teacher is focusing on my movements (behavior) and bosses often focus on judgments (opinions about the behavior).  A comment such as “You’re not trying hard” doesn’t help much and makes people defensive.  “Two project deadlines were missed last month” gives you a starting point to talk through to solutions.  Make sure your corrective feedback starts with the person’s behavior or actions.

4. Teach people new important skills.

I love to learn new dance steps, and I love to learn new skills related to my profession (it’s that mastery thing from Pink).  Look for opportunities to teach people what you’re good at, or arrange for them to learn from others. Expose them to fresh or new ideas.  Find out what people want to learn, and set them up for classes, or learning on the job.  Make sure that what people are learning will be used now or in their future career; learning is inspiring when it has a purpose and usefulness (re-read Pink). 

5.  Be optimistic and uplifting to be around.

We look to our coaches to help us through the struggles as well as the celebrations.  Be optimistic, speak well of others, and project confidence that things will turn out well. If the department is going through changes, describe your vision for the future and then help people get there. 

Like the coaches, great bosses know that not everyone will have the talent or produce the necessary results in the end, and perhaps some hard choices will have to be made. But they do their part to ensure they have brought out the best in each and every one. 

“When not in dance classes, Sherry Jordana is an HR Consultant in the SF Bay Area specializing in leadership and organizational development. 


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Video review: Job descriptions for biotech and drug development positions

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Careers in Biotechnology and Drug Development

Hi, I’m Connie Hampton here at Hampton and Associates Scientific and Executive
Search Services.  Today I’m reviewing a book by my friend Toby Freedman called Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development.

She describes each of over 100 positions, talks about what each one entails and describes career tracks, typical days, pros and cons, salary and challenges and what you need to excel in each.  She talks about how they all fit together in a company.

I highly recommend this book for both job seekers and for HR people who need to write position descriptions for hiring – especially if a particular role is new to you.

You can get this book from Cold Spring Harbor Lab Press or through Amazon.

Hiring an independent contractor

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Have you seen this?

3 Rules for Hiring an Independent Contractor

While this article is about hiring a software programmer, the same is true about hiring a recruiter or sourcer.

1.  Pay as you go for milestones

2.  Make sure that you both understand who is accountable for what and when

3.  Make sure you have a backup plan

Do you do this when you are using outside help for your recruiting needs?

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Hiring is like getting married – you probably don’t want a mail-order bride

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When the economy slows, so does hiring.  Hiring managers, CEOs, Boards of Directors all need to get more done for less cost and either downsize or ask their current employees to shoulder a greater workload.  When everyone agrees that someone MUST be hired, for whatever reason, HR frequently gets asked to do so, but “don’t use an expensive recruiter!”

Hiring is NOT like ordering a mail-order bride from Eastern Europe or a book from Amazon.  Even though we have social media like LinkedIn or Facebook or whatever the latest one is, people are not commodities and are the only “product” that can, and will, say “No”.  Even the desperate, unemployed person can and does have choices.  And you don’t actually want to hire a generic employee – you need someone with the right skills and abilities who actually wants to solve the problem that made you need to hire someone in the first place.

Recruiters are people who have made a career of finding the most qualified and interested people for their clients and supporting the introduction and exploration of the fit between the two.



Are you ready for the future of talent management?

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 +Lisa Sterling +HR Bartender / ITM Group +Sharlyn Lauby
Ultimate Software: Wrap Up from #UltiConnect 2012 – Talent Management is a Journey not a Destination
One of the definitions that has always perplexed me is talent management. If I talk to a dozen people, I’ll get several different answers about what talent management is and its individual and its individual components.

Lisa Sterling, director of people engagement at Ultimate Software, brought the concept of talent management into focus for me during last week’s Connections 2012 conference. She defined talent management as the umbrella covering talent acquisition, on-boarding, performance management, compensation, succession planning and career development. More importantly, she defined it as a business process not an HR process….

Lisa puts it very succinctly.  But can the epiphany discovered in high-tech be translated into the world of biopharma?  Are the demographics of retirement as true here as in high-tech?  How will the current underemployment of PhDs affect the future of biopharma companies?  How will the underfunding of creativity affect talent management?

Any ideas?

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Don’t hire a recruiter until you do these 5 things!

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Recruiters, like attorneys, can be very expensive if you don’t know exactly what you need from them.  But you get much better results when you do.

1.  Get a job description from each of the stakeholders: direct supervisor, department head, VP and even the co-workers or those who will be the new person’s direct reports

Threadless job description

Image by abraham.williams via Flickr

You need to be sure that all of these people have the same idea of what the new hire will do.  If not, take the time now, before you spend any time or money on the search to make sure that they all agree on the basics.  Also make sure that this is really only one job and not three.  A recruiter can and will do this for you if there needs to be an external consultant to get everyone on the same page.

2. Find out what 5 things your hiring manager(s) will want the new hire to accomplish in the next 6 months.

These things will attract the right people and, hopefully, discourage the people who are not qualified.  People today want to know that they can do what you most need to have done and that they will learn something in the process.

3. Use your social network to see if you already know or are connected to the person you need to hire.

A segment of a social network

Image via Wikipedia

LinkedIn is certainly one go-to spot, but there are many others.  Are all of your top performers on LinkedIn?  Are you Linked to each of them?  Are you a member of the appropriate LinkedIn groups for your industry and for the kind of person that you need?

You can do the same in Facebook, Viadeo, Spoke, etc.

Three best friends

4. Ask your top performers who they know who can do this job.


Employee referral programs are at least as effective as job postings in filling a job.  The danger here is getting a group that is too homogeneous and that you will lose the creativity of diversity.

5. Post the job and see what you get.

Only about 10% of jobs are filled through postings and you always get huge numbers of “What were they thinking when they applied?” applications and resumes.  Sort through them and make sure the ones you pick meet the requirements in the job description.

If you can find the right person with all of this, great!  If not, or if you need a more confidential search, then now is the time to hire a recruiter.

A good recruiter will need the top two items and there is no point in hiring one if you can get the right person from the next three.  But, if you are running out of time and still have not found your new hire, you may want to hire a search services professional to cast a broader net or sort through that stack of resumes.  Contract recruiters are one option, virtual and unbundled search services consultants are another.  I’ll do another post about the similarities and differences in another post.

What do you do when the hiring manager comes to you and says: “We need an X as soon as possible!!!”?  I’d love to hear your stories!




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Talent Acquisition: Do you farm?

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“Farming” or Employment branding is the hot topic these days

We have truly entered the era of branding and marketing.  Candidates are as careful checking you out as you are in checking on them.  They will check your website of course, but then they will look for you on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and possibly and or other specialty sites for the industry. It is said that 3 out of 4 will check you out before sending a resume. They will tweet and message their friends looking for opinions, references and discussions of what it is like to work for you.

With “farming” you have both a bit more control and a bit less.  You can engage with the right people before you need them, establish a talent community and become better known as a company that values its employees.

Starting with your company’s identity, vision and goals you can craft a web presence that will attract the right people.  You need to have an articulated employee value proposition – that give and get between the company and the employees, preferably written and agreed upon by all parties. But don’t stop there.  You can’t climb up on your horse and ride off in ALL directions – you have to pick a destination, you need a plan. What is your talent acquisition strategy?

There are a number of methods and tools to use. What are you currently using? What do you wish you could use? Social media are a set of tools, a tactic, a distribution channel for information, including branding and marketing. You can’t really use it well unless you have a strategy in place first

Begin to build your company’s social media presence using the tools now available: your website, your career page(s), your company’s Facebook page, LinkedIn company page, Twitter site and tweets, the company YouTube channel or, if not all, choose at least one or two.  You will begin to be noticed as a company.  Generously give useful content to your potential customers and potential employees.  And listen to how they respond and then respond to them. This is the new baseline and best practice.

What does your website look like? Everyone who sees you online will check it.  Can the link to the Careers page be found on the home page?  Or is it buried under “About Us”?  Are the pages and links useable.  You want your ideal candidate to be able to find your job posting easily.

When you get to the Career page, is it attractive?  Does it show your values?  Your culture? Why it would be fun to work here?  Can a mid-career person see if they would be a fit for the culture?  Can a recent graduate?  A contractor or temp? Alumni looking to come back? Is there a video from the departments you have openings in that talk about what they are doing and accomplishing?  Is there one that shows why it is fun to work there, or a quote or video about how that real person in that real job likes working for your specific company?

When outside visitors click through to the job listings, can they recognize the title as a fit for them?  Is the department there?  When they click on a job posting, does it leap off the screen and say “see what a great job this is”?  Is it written from the job seeker’s point of view?

Let’s look at a couple of dos and don’ts: Santen does a good job of branding, but Sequenta, unfortunately, does not, yet.

After you establish your company branding, you need to know exactly what problem the open job will solve or what opportunity it will allow the company to pursue.

This will give you the context and content for writing the job description. You can write a posting that will highlight what your unique employee value proposition is and why the right person will want to work for you.  You can define the right person as someone who has the skills and experience and interest to solve this particular problem or pursue that particular opportunity for your particular company. You don’t want to lift a boilerplate, generic description from Monster or the company handbook, because you don’t want to hire a generic person.  You need that special problem solver, talent, even if it is just a duplicate of someone you already employ but for the next shift.

Now you have a job posting that will stand out on any job board as well as on your site and a video you can post to YouTube. You can also post the job description and video to your Facebook page and LinkedIn company page as well as Tweet about it with a link back to your company job description. This will also increase the number of people who come to you.

How do you get this information into the minds of the people who have this talent?  There is no point at all of getting into the minds of the buggy whip makers when you need a computational biologist of a particular type.  Sure you can cast a wide net, but that, like bottom trawling, only disturbs the ecosystem, it doesn’t improve your catch.

Establish an outpost in each of the major (and perhaps some of the minor but specific-to-your-industry) social media sites.  Where are the particular, stellar people currently interacting, on- or off-line?  Where are your current stellar employees interacting? Is the company already present in those places? How can you get your wonderful, exciting job posting in front of them?  And when you do, can they respond to it and to you, ask questions, make suggestions, even tell you that the skills you need don’t exist in the same person?  Why would they want to interact?  What is in it for them?  Job seekers, at least the good ones, don’t stay job seekers for long and if your conversation is only about the jobs you need to fill, they will get bored and leave.  So what else can you offer them?  New ideas, training, a chance to ask questions of your stellar employees or founders?

You could just barge into already established sites and groups and start posting your job description, tweeting it, interrupting the current conversation to say “Me, me” or you can establish your company reputation first by giving the same great content you have developed for your website and make working for your company look even better.

How do you do that?

Fill out your profiles and company pages.

Post information that will be interesting to the sort of people who work for you and who may want to work for you. Remember that they may be old hands, even alumni of the company, current employees, consultants and contractors, recent grads or just people who are interested in what your company is doing.

Ask your employees to contribute to the conversation and reward them for doing so.  Yes it does expose them to the blandishments of recruiters, but why would they leave such a great company?  The chance for a new prospective hire to actually talk with someone on the inside says how confident you are that the company is a great place to work.

If there is room for a video, use it.  For slides, use them.  Post other things that are public – talks given by the CEO, presentations by the sales people or the scientists, presentations by experts in the field.  What other great content can you, your employees and founders think of that would make your social media sites “hot” and the place to go for information for the top people in the field?

Start the party.  It will take some time to get off the ground.  But when it does, you will be attracting the right people and they will be glad to hear that you have an opening that fits their needs, wants and values.


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Talent Acquisition: Do you hunt?

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Continued from Do you fish?:

There are huge numbers of people unemployed right now, but how many are in your industry with the skills you need to solve your problems?  No company hires unless they have a problem they can’t solve or an opportunity they can’t pursue with the people they already employ.  You don’t need just anyone, just any warm body.  You need a person who can solve the problem.

Book illustration, pen drawing

Image via Wikipedia

What if you need to hunt?

When you are hunting, you are focused on a particular group with particular characteristics, a buffalo, not a fish.  You don’t ask your engineers for referrals to accounting people.

You are using professional networking sites for the data, old-school recruiting techniques (be it in-house, contingency or retained, or the services of an unbundled search service) and employee referral programs.  You are the one moving toward the object of your desire, but still standing far enough off that they don’t spook.  These methods fill about a third of all open positions.

If you are using a third-party recruiter (full retained, contingency or search services

Start by being clear on your industry, your clients and competitors and, perhaps, your vendors.  Where might the right people be working or have worked?  If this position is for a recent graduate, which colleges and graduate programs offer degrees and post-docs in the skills needed for the job?  You will use this list over and over so it is good to keep it up-to-date as new companies are formed and old ones are acquired or go out of business.

The next step is that job description – beat it out of the hiring manager if you have to – or talk with the person who will be working next to the new employee.  Get agreement from all the interested parties so that a decision really can be made.  Be sure that it really is only one job and doesn’t require three people and 120 man hours/week to accomplish.  Articulate what five things the successful new employee will have accomplished in the first 6 months as well as why the manager and coworkers like working there.

All of this will give you keywords and phrases.  Make sure you know all the different ways to say the same thing – the way one person says it may not be the way other, perfectly qualified, people say it.  Use the keywords and phrases to search on the web in general (Google and other search engines) so that you know what you are looking for and can see other keywords that may not be used in your locale or your particular company.  Search in LinkedIn and other social media sites for those groups and people who have chosen to use those keywords in their profiles or postings. Remember to use #hashtags in Twitter, Google+ and but nowhere else.

If you are skilled at Boolean Search or can use the advanced search features in the search engines, give that a bit of time and use those keywords, not necessarily to find resumes at first, but to understand where you might find the right people.  Then look for the people, not the resumes.

Begin to put together a spreadsheet of all the people you find with the right keywords, including their titles, companies, phone numbers and emails if possible.  I usually need at least 150 to 200 people on my spreadsheet to find 3 to 20 qualified and interested candidates depending on the position and if there are more than 5 people in the world doing it.

Start to contact each one directly.  Use all the methods of contact – phone and voice mail, email, texting, through the social media sites, introductions in LinkedIn, direct Tweets, etc.  The same plans that allow you to put the job description in front of the right eyes will also allow you to see who is looking, so keep adding to the spreadsheet.

On LinkedIn you can message anyone who is in a group that you are in, without using up your “InMails”.  So you need to be in the groups that attract your ideal candidate.  Since you can look at their profiles, you can put only those who fit your job description on your spreadsheet and check to see if the people you have found elsewhere are a fit.

You can also set up groups for people with those skills you need frequently.

Don’t forget to directly reply to the people who have interacted with you and your posts on each of the Social Media sites you are active on.  Ask for referrals, always.  And put them on the spreadsheet.

As the fresh resumes start to come in, check them against the position description and also check the person’s LinkedIn profile, Facebook profile if you can find it and Twitter page if you can get it.  Check on YouTube as well.  Some people may send you additional information – a bio, a deal sheet, a sales plan, a video introduction, etc. Don’t allow these extras to distract you from the skill set you need, but do see if they can help with “fit”.

It will be harder to sort these resumes than the ones from a posting because you will have more of the right people and fewer “Looky Lous”.  You pre-qualified these candidates by industry and interest before you even began to receive resumes. Won’t it be nice to present a full slate to the hiring manager of people you know fit.


Don’t hire a recruiter until you do these 5 things!

What can you expect from a full retained search firm?

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Your EVP – Do you have one?

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Employment Exhibition

Image by Modern_Language_Center via Flickr

An EVP is an Employee Value Proposition.  This is the reason that someone would choose to work for you, keep working for you, be motivated and stay engaged.  Adrienne Fox wrote “Make a ‘Deal’” in the January 2012 issue of HR Magazine about just this concept.

Adrienne talks about an articulated, well-thought-out, employee value proposition which is consistent with the business strategy and practices and how well it correlates with financial performance and recognition as a “great place to work”.  An EVP describes the “give and get” between the company and the employee from both sides of the equations.  A good employee value proposition defines what is great about your company and, while it should be used in your employment branding and recruitment, it really defines and builds your “corporate culture” – the “deal” you have with your employees and which they have with you.  She quotes Jason Jeffay, Mercer’s global leader of talent management in Atlanta who says that your EVP won’t need to change if it is “aligned, authentic and aspirational”.

What struck me, as a recruiter, is how this is what I need to know in order to attract and “sell” the best candidates on your critical open positions.  Even with so many people out of work, the best and brightest are usually employed and not looking, or they are “picky” about the companies they want to work for.  I find this especially in the life sciences/biopharma space.  The added factor is the science and how open the company is to fostering learning and development.

She also quoted a study that asked both the senior management and the rank and file employees if the companies they worked in had a formal employee value proposition.  Guess what!  The senior management said no or that it was informal, but the individual contributors said yes and quite formalized.

Do you know what your EVP is?  Do your employees?

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