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Assessment Testing and Organizational Arrogance: Avoiding Talent Turn-Off

Posted by Julia Lansing on Fri, Jul 17, 2015 @ 11:07 AM


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A recent article in Harvard Business Review entitled, Ace the Assessment cited recent research showing that “about 76% of organizations with more than 100 employees rely on assessment tools such as aptitude and personality tests for external hiring. That figure is expected to climb to 88% over the next few years.” 

Hey, we get it.  Good executive recruiting firms use assessment tests too, including us at Nutmeg Healthcare Recruiters.  But here is what most organizations don’t get about assessment testing:

From the perspective of a quality, passive candidate, assessment tests are obnoxious.

I love the dating metaphor relative to the interview scenario because people inherently get it.  So imagine, for a moment, the reaction of your high-quality date sitting across the table when you say, “Hey, before we order drinks, I hope you wouldn’t mind taking a little personality test?  I just want to be sure that you have the right stuff before we spend too much time sort of getting to know each other.” 

Now, how long do you think it would take for that quality person to get up and walk out of the restaurant after that kind of statement?   Exactly.  

Most of the time, high-quality candidates know what they have to offer an organization and often don’t accept the premise that somehow they are lucky to be interviewing with your company -- no matter how great you believe your company is.  It amazes me how deeply leadership candidates will connect with the concept of humility when they are on the job market and also how quickly they forget it when they are employed and on the other side of the interview table in their roles as HR leaders or hiring managers.  If I had to take an educated guess as to why that is, it would be about the types of candidates most organizations usually interview – candidates that need a job (i.e., “active candidates”).   Active candidates typically communicate differently with perspective employers during the interview process than those that are not actively on the job market, much like a perspective suiter looking for, say for example, a new spouse with cash.   With most active candidates working hard to impress, many quality organizations can get used to feeling sort of “superior.”   And like celebrities and the uber wealthy, these companies often times get away with being organizationally arrogant in their “dating” process. The result?  Shallow candidate pool. Compromise hires. Lack-luster productivity and moral. Higher turnover. 

Alas, assessment tests are great tools in the hiring process.  Am I suggesting abandoning them?  No.  What I am suggesting, however, is to more carefully consider the timing of when the assessment test is introduced in the process.  Don’t make it part of the initial screening process.  Instead, consider waiting until the interview process has yielded positive impressions for both your organization and the candidate. To use the dating metaphor again, wait until after the second or even third date.  At later stages of the interview process, most quality candidates understand the opportunity more fully and are interested in continuing the process for all the right reasons.   An interested candidate is always much more willing to do what is reasonable to prove they are up to the task in order to land an opportunity seen as personally and professionally advantageous. 

“Wait,” you say, “most candidates have no idea we do these assessments until they arrive at the first interview.  At that point we have them so why waste the time with the interview if they don’t measure up on the test?”  Well, you may physically have them in your HR office and they may even take your test, but in the limbic, decision-making part of their brains – an area incapable of expressing language – most candidates leave those assessment test meetings feeling sort of “exposed” and generally turned-off.   Perhaps that’s par for the course for an active candidate who needs the job and has no good choices but to acquiesce to an organization’s hiring process, but our experience is that assessment tests during initial interview rounds are a definite buzz-kill for a high-quality, passive candidate with choices.  Those are the candidates -- the ones that are attracted to your opportunity on the merits despite their other good choices -- that often make the best hires.

So if you want a second and third “date” with the best candidates out there, an emotionally intelligent interview process is the right way to go.  Save the assessment test until your confident you've got “Mr. or Mrs. Right” and you’re confident your candidate feels the same way.

Tags: candidate preparation, C-Suite Advice, HR Leader Advice, HR Thought Leadership; Transformational Leadership

Key to A Wonderful Life? Corporate Executives Incentivizing Empathy

Posted by Robert Accomando on Mon, Jul 06, 2015 @ 10:27 AM
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If you’re like me, you never miss an opportunity to hunker down with the people you love to watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” when the holidays roll around. Maybe you’ve wondered whether your friends and business associates would come to your aid if the proverbial bank examiners were at your door.  Maybe you've considered what the world would be like if you had never been born, and wondered if you've really had a positive impact during your time on this earth.  The film reminds us all of how powerful simple kindness can be in making our own lives truly meaningful. It also reminds us of how wonderful life can be when our social connections are rich and authentic; when people care for and help support one another intimately, especially during life's most difficult times. It’s A Wonderful Life is an iconic film because it reminds us of what true success really looks like.

Warm and fuzzy stuff aside, with whom would you rather do business, George Bailey or Henry Potter?   Exactly.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook School shooting and similar acts of mass violence like the recent church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, many of us in Newtown, CT have asked ourselves what we can do to help address the root cause of violence in our communities. The answer may very well lie in the scientifically proven benefits of enhanced social emotional learning (SEL) skills in our children and young adults. But how do we get past the “oh, that’s nice” reaction that most people feel when considering these initiatives and get to a place of sustained effort that yields the kind of results that make a real difference in our culture?

The answer lies in corporate America’s conscious realization that you’d rather do business with George Bailey -- 100% of the time.

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy proclaimed June 28th through July 5th as Social and Emotional Learning Awareness Week. This exciting news comes as a result of the tireless efforts of Scarlett Lewis -- the mother of Jessie Lewis who was killed in the Sandy Hook School shooting -- in promoting “Nurturing, Healing, Love” as well as practicing gratitude and compassion. Scarlett Lewis and The Jessie Lewis Choose Love Foundation are not alone in this unwavering quest to make a difference in the wake of acts of mass violence. The Avielle Foundation, founded by Jeremy Richman, PhD and Jennifer Hensel, MS -- the parents of Avielle Richman who was also killed at Sandy Hook School --  has launched The Spark Project to teach these skills on a community-wide basis and to incentivize this learning with academic scholarship and mentoring opportunities involving high-level corporate executives.

So if you are a warm-hearted, socially conscious corporate executive who sometimes finds yourself wondering when “they” are going to do something about all this craziness in the world, I invite you to help support this important effort by mentoring one of our up-and-coming George Baileys.  We'll do the heavy lifting.  We'll train the kids with the SEL skills.  You'll help make them sharper when the time is right.  From the perspective of a mentored young adult, think of it as being a young baseball pitcher and having Mariano Rivera as a good friend.  Sort of gets the juices flowing, right?  In the end, you will never have to wonder what your world would have been like had you never been born.  The emotionally intelligent young adult we’ll pair you up with will eventually show you the legacy of your kindness through the kind acts performed across a lifetime.  He or she may someday become one of the greatest leadership talent acquisitions your organization has ever made.  And who knows?  Your kid might just end up being your "Clarence" -- helping to save you in the process.

Learn more about The Spark Project by contacting Robert Accomando through LinkedIn or at rob.accomando@aviellefoundation.org.

Tags: C-Suite Advice, HR Leader Advice, HR Thought Leadership; Transformational Leadership

Sandy Hook, CT: Tomorrow's Talent Pool of Leaders with Heart

Posted by Robert Accomando on Thu, Jun 25, 2015 @ 02:46 PM

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Tomorrow's corporate leaders might just come from Sandy Hook, CT, where the community is joining together to teach compassionate leadership skills on a community-wide basis.

What if an entire community collaborated in teaching compassionate leadership skills to children, young adults and families?  I am talking about emotional intelligence on a town-wide scale. What if we measured our efforts in an affordable yet evidence-based way to inform the improvement of this collaborative effort year after year? Now scale that up – what if communities successful in developing these skills taught struggling communities how to do it themselves all across America? Imagine what that would mean for the quality of our future corporate and government leaders. Imagine what that could mean for the safety and well-being of our most precious assets -- our children.  In Sandy Hook, CT, after losing 20 first graders and six of their educators to a socially isolated and highly anxious neighborhood kid, we have imagined. The idea is called The Spark Project and it is happening.

Spark was an evolution of several ideas, conversations and experiences stemming from the 2012 Sandy Hook School shooting, all focusing on how to best address root cause of violence in broad-based, sustainable ways. Several of us dads in Sandy Hook, CT had a unique experience as part of the Newtown Youth Wrestling Association community with a teenaged wrestler and mentor, Jack Wellman. Jack overcame his own personal sadness experienced after suffering a serious sports related injury in the Fall of 2012 (a feeling exacerbated by the school shooting) by helping coach and connect with young children through the sport of wrestling. Jack’s story was amazing to watch for those of us fortunate enough to experience the first-hand effect he had on our kids. However, the universality of the simple message conveyed and the value of the skills he effortlessly employed was inspiring to others as well, and earned him Sports Illustrated’s Sports Kid of the Year Award.

Importantly, it was Jack’s empathetic leadership and social-emotional skills that made him such an incredibly effective peer mentor. His ability to connect with others – both children and adults -- recalled a day when children were not so tied to their electronic devices and seemingly had a more acute sense of others’ emotions and how to interact with gentle self-confidence and compassion; how to build and maintain trust. We thought, if there were more kids with Jack’s skills focused on connecting with other children in the community, especially kids that are more socially isolated, there would be far fewer events of violence to self and others. We also thought if we could teach these same skills in an effective and sustainable way to all the good people in our community who were already devoting their time and energy to our kids on a volunteer basis – coaches, mentors, etc. – and dovetail that instruction with similar efforts in our schools, religious institutions and other community organizations, we would have a far more profound positive effect on our children and community. 

The idea of teaching these skills to children on a community-wide basis was shared with Jeremy Richman, PhD, founder of The Avielle Foundation, and father of Avielle Richman who lost her life at Sandy Hook School.  We quickly realized that the idea was completely congruent with much of the latest research on brain health, which suggests that “protective factors” such as self-mastery (i.e., developed executive control, high self-esteem, empathy, collaborative skills, etc.) and the ability to develop and maintain heathy, supportive relationships are critical to maintaining brain health and thus would help prevent violence to self and others.  According to Richman, "the application of these insights to prevent aggression and violence is the next step, and community engagement is essential."  Simply put, this is what getting to root cause looks like, and it really does “take a village” if we intend to do it right.

As it turns out, empathetic leadership skills are exactly what 21st Century corporate American needs. According to a 2014 article in Fortune Magazine entitled, Employers are looking for new hires with something extra: Empathy, “[a] mushrooming demand for employees with affective, non-logical abilities spans the economy. Empathy—sensing at a deep level the feelings and thoughts of others—is the foundation. ‘Non-cognitive skills and attributes such as team working, emotional maturity, empathy, and other interpersonal skills are as important as proficiency in English and mathematics,’ reports an advisory group of executives and educators on education reform in the U.K. When author George Anders searched for online job postings that paid over $100,000 a year and specified empathy or empathic traits, he quickly found 1,000 of them from companies as varied as Barclays Capital, McKinsey, and Mars.”

Recognizing the potential upside of having a deep, emotionally intelligent talent pool to draw from, Spark Project leaders are connecting with Fortune 500 executives and the best universities and colleges nationwide to partner in this mission. Companies and colleges are being tapped to provide employment opportunity and scholarship to those who not only excel in empathetic leadership skills but also spearhead initiatives using these skills that make a positive impact on the community, especially in the area of social inclusion and compassionate leadership. Parents will soon look at their children’s good deeds and warm hearts as a potential “ticket to ride.” When that happens, we will change the world.  And, indeed, we must.

For more information about how your organization or university can partner with The Spark Project, connect with Robert Accomando, Spark Program Director on LinkedIn.

Tags: C-Suite Advice, HR Leader Advice, HR Thought Leadership; Transformational Leadership

Preventing Turnover: 5 Reasons Why Healthcare Employees Stay

Posted by Robert Accomando on Mon, Jun 22, 2015 @ 07:36 PM

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Employee turnover in healthcare is a chronic problem affecting patient care and healthcare costs. 

According to American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration (ASHHRA) fifth annual HR Initiatives Survey, the loss of a single healthcare worker costs organizations the employee’s first year’s salary. So why do healthcare workers leave their employers?  More importantly, how can you get them to stay?

As a seasoned leadership recruiter I have literally chatted with thousands of healthcare professionals in my many quests to find the ideal candidate for my healthcare clients.  Most of the time it's about timing.  Catch a great professional at the right time -- a moment of growing frustration or career anxiety -- and most will listen carefully to the opportunity I am presenting. But sometimes there are candidates who just won't consider making a career move no matter what.  Even when the money would be a significant step-up. Why, you ask?

Here are 5 reasons why healthcare employees stay:

1. Work / Life Balance.  Life is not linear - not for anyone.  Child care, auto repairs, dance recitals, dentist appointments, baseball games, caring for ailing parents or a spouse; life happens. Good leaders in good organizations find a way to give their good employees the flexibility to help them manage some of their competing priorities.  Yes, I know that there is work to be done.  But some flexibility has to be baked into the cake.  It just does. Great leaders and great organizations find a way.

2. Great Leadership.  Great leaders have something more than intelligence and technical skills. There is humility to them. They are disarming. Approachable. They nurture and delight in the success of others. Their passion is evident in their uncompromising commitment to beauty of their vision. The loyalty, commitment and excellence they inspire in others are the earned results of their character.  True leaders serve.  Turns out that when you work for a great leader, it's really hard to leave. So always hire the best leaders you can, and when you have them move mountains to keep them happy. 

3. Respect.  Organizations that employ shared governance generally enjoy higher retention rates. For a healthcare professional, having a real ability to influence the decision making process lays the foundation for converting an employee to an engaged stakeholder.  When you couple having a seat at the table with true personal and professional respect for the ideas and insight offered by your team, you have the building blocks of loyalty.  

4. Succession Planning. The one question that seems to always put a chink in the employee loyalty armor is, "So tell me, what has your supervisor discussed with you as far as next steps in your career in your current organization?"  Most of the time, I get a long pause followed by, "uh, we really haven't discussed it."  Leaders need to dream openly about how they intend to help grow the careers of those that they lead.  As Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, once said, "Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others."

5. Connection.  "I love everyone I work with.  I hope I am lucky enough to retire here."  Once I hear that, I know I need to get to my next call.  What the bean counters always miss as they calculate quarterly revenue goals is the human connection needed to sustain human hardship.  We are all hard-wired with a longing for connection, belonging and safety, and when we get what we need from our pack, our bodies reward us with powerful feelings of pride, loyalty and love (a/k/a, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin).  Treat employees like you love them, and they will love you back.  They will also love those you serve - your patients.  That's not hippie talk.  It's science. 

And for you bean counters out there, there's hope.  You just need to change your perspective. Consider these reasons people leave and you will find that in the long run, your healthcare organization will not only earn a lot more and spend a lot less, but improve patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes as well.  It's about smart and compassionate leadership.

Tags: Candidate, C-Suite Advice, HR Leader Advice, HR Thought Leadership; Transformational Leadership