Is your organization suffering from the wrong workforce?

Is your organization suffering from the wrong workforce?

Clipart - Meet the StaffIs your organization suffering from the wrong workforce? Here are several ways you can overcome the problem of getting the right people to do the work.

Organizations—business, non-profits, and government—need the “right” people to do the work required to achieve successful outcomes. Some have the name recognition, reputation, and monetary resources to attract candidates from far and wide, and hire them rather easily. Others don’t—their relatively unknown, their budgets are tight, and the labor markets they can draw from are often restricted. Not everyone is Google, after all, so getting the “perfect people” can get a bit tricky. Many organizations end up settling for people with less-than-ideal skills and experience, because they’re available and willing to work for a reasonable compensation package.

Unfortunately, the impacts of settling can be… well, unsettling. Most notably, the work that’s necessary either doesn’t get done or it isn’t done up to standards. Sometimes, when it becomes obvious that an individual can’t perform particular tasks, they get foisted on other staff who have at least an inkling of what to do, even though they are by no means “experts.” When someone can’t do what they’re supposed to, the entire organization can suffer. Performance metrics aren’t met, morale deteriorates, and motivation declines. Not to be too harsh, but the “wrong” people are at best an obstacle, at worst a cancer—they can slowly destroy the organization from within.

With all of their constraints, it may seem like “getting it right” is impossible, and that many organizations are doomed to under-perform unless they get extremely lucky. Of course, this isn’t true—after all, if it was, why would I be writing this blog post?! There are several things you can do if you find yourself struggling to find who you need!

  1. Know what you need. This may seem obvious, but it’s shocking how many organizations don’t know. You need to lay out specifically what you need a person to do, and what skills and experience you think are truly required to do it effectively. This is the foundation for good hiring! It’s often helpful to benchmark, or get others knowledgeable about the job’s subject matter to review what you lay out, to make sure it’s an accurate depiction of what’s necessary, and that it’s realistic (i.e., such a person actually exists somewhere).

  2. Explore your labor market. Even if there are people who match your requirements, that doesn’t mean they exist where you want to find them. Whatever labor market you’re drawing from, you need to make sure there are accessible sources for the requisite talent. If there aren’t (and you can’t expand your market), you’ll need to adjust your expectations. This may mean isolating key functions, skills, and experience, and finding other ways to accommodate what’s left over. Effectively, you’re splitting the job in two (or three, or four…).

  3. Find out what it will cost. It helps to know going in what compensation someone who can fulfill your exact requirements is going to be looking for. That special person may be available, but they may be priced beyond what you think you can pay. If the individual’s salary demands fit your budget, great – go get her! If not, however, all is not lost. You may have some options—you’ll just have some analysis to do and some decisions to make. You may not get the “ideal” person, but that doesn’t mean you have to “settle.”

  4. Examine the options. So you’ve done your homework, and the person you want seems too expensive. What do you do? There are several alternatives to consider:

    • Hire that person anyway. Yes, I said that. Pay more than you have. Why would you do something like this? Consider it an investment, if the job is one that has an impact on either revenue generation or operational cost-efficiency. For example, a good Business Development Director might return far more than someone less experienced (and less costly). You need to think about the job’s urgency and impact, consider the risks, and act accordingly. It may just be the right move!

    • “Hire down.” This may sound like your “settling,” but if you do this right, you’re really not. If you can afford the time to get a new hire “up to speed,” you can look for the essential skills and then develop the additional knowledge the individual needs. When I say “do it right,” though, do it right. This means having a clear development plan, and the resources available to provide the necessary training. If you hire down and don’t develop, you will be “settling,” and that’s not good.

    • Split the work. Why hire one person when you can hire two?! Grouping functions, skills, and experience into realistic parts and seeking two candidates may be less costly than hiring a single individual to do all of the work. Of course, this isn’t without it’s challenges—you may need to adjust your structure, processes, etc. to accommodate a different set-up. But if you can hire two “right” people instead of settling for one “wrong” person, isn’t that better?

    • Use a contractor. Specialized skills can be very expensive. If you can remove them from the job and outsource them, you may be able to get the right person for the remainder and augment their skills by outsourcing. Contracting has to be done judiciously or it can break the bank, but if you can limit what you need to “subject matter expertise,” it may make sense to look outside to help your new hire. Even better, let her soak up knowledge over time, and make the contractor obsolete!

    • Go “part time.” It may not be necessary for you to hire a full-time resource, depending on the nature and volume of the work. Assessing this means envisioning performance to see if there is likely to be “down time.” If so, a part-time job may be the answer. There are challenges, without question—part-time work may further restrict the labor market, since not everyone is looking for this kind of arrangement. It won’t work in every case, but it just may work in yours.

    • Share a resource. Non-profits, I’m looking at you specifically, but businesses may also be able to do this in certain circumstances. If you don’t need someone full-time and the market doesn’t support part-time hires, you can try to forge relationships with other organizations that have the same need, and share! Of course, this has its logistical challenges, but if you really need a certain set of skills, the effort may be worth the reward. Remember, you’re probably not the only one looking!

    • Blow them away with other stuff. Lastly, if you can’t pay, try “killing them with kindness.” Offering things like telework, advancement opportunities, professional development, bonus potential, etc., and/or emphasizing the impact of the work can tip the balance in your favor, especially if your labor market competitors can’t say the same things. Know your strengths, and know your candidates’ interests—if you can match the two, you may attract the right people with “intangibles.”

See? It’s not hopeless! You don’t have to “settle” for Jimmy when you need someone with Mary’s skills and experience. Jimmy’s probably going to do more harm than good, and you can either get Mary or you can find ways to get people who will deliver just as well. Your specific conditions will dictate what you can do, but the one thing you shouldn’t do is panic—there are lots of options. The key is to be realistic, informed, and creative. If you do that, you won’t have to live with the consequences of taking less than you require. It isn’t always easy, and there’s a lot of thought that goes into it, but the potential is there. Find the right approach, and you’ll find the right people!

For more information, please contact Snowflake, LLC at [email protected]. We’ll be happy to discuss your situation and work with you to find the best hiring strategy for your situation. We’ll even give you a one-hour consultation for free! 

Unlocking Your Market’s Inner-most Secrets

Unlocking Your Market’s Inner-most Secrets

Unlocking Your Market - Snowflake LLCIf you’re not using data to hear what it’s trying to say, you’re not making the best business decisions
These days, it’s all about the numbers. We’re inundated with statistics, whether it’s polling data on social issues, President Trump’s approval ratings, stock market trends, or our favorite baseball player’s batting average. Soon enough, someone will probably try to quantify the value of friendships or the actual degree, on a scale of one to ten, to which one person loves another. Our obsession bases itself partly on an innate need to know where things stand and, often, it allows us to make decisions based on what the data tells us. There’s a competitive aspect to it too—we want to “prove” that what we’re offering, who we’re supporting, or even we ourselves are better than the “others.”
It’s surprising, then, how many businesses aren’t using data effectively to understand performance, model different actions, make informed choices, and measure the results. Many organizations don’t even collect data, let alone analyze it in any meaningful way. It’s not because the information isn’t available—it is, more now than ever before. Instead, the problem is that many business executives—especially small business owners—don’t know how to use data (if they’re even aware they should be using it). Naturally, since they don’t “get it,” they aren’t trying. This is a shame, because they’re missing out on a powerful set of tools that can drastically improve their outcomes.
Which businesses can benefit from using data? Well, pretty much every one of them. For example:
  • brick-and-mortar retailers can use information about what draws customers into stores, their buying habits, the effectiveness of different incentives, and many other things that can inform marketing strategies, store layouts, product offerings, optimal hours, etc.—all of which can help minimize costs and maximize profits.
  • Similarly, on-line vendors can measure advertisement click-throughs, site visits, interactions, and conversion rates associated under different conditions, which also can be used to direct marketing approaches, product mix and placement, user experience, etc., with the end result of increased revenue generation.
  • Restaurants can collect data on customer volume by day and time, what people are ordering, their level of satisfaction with the food and the dining experience, etc., which can help in refining menus, setting opening and closing times, and scheduling staff. Data-driven decisions optimize operational cost-effectiveness.

 

 

These are a few examples. There are many more instances and ways in which data can help.
The point is, if you’re a business owner or executive and you’re not collecting relevant information, analyzing it, and using it to make decisions, you’re effectively “in the dark.” You’re making marketing decisions without knowing where to focus, what to say, and where to say it—so there’s a good chance you’re wasting money. You’re offering products and services without understanding what’s selling (and what’s not), when, and why—so you’re losing out on opportunities to improve sales and limit inventory, staffing, and operating costs. You’re choosing among different options without the benefit of evaluating ROI and choosing the optimal approach for your business.
If it seems hard, rest assured it’s not that bad. The data is everywhere, there for the taking. Information about customer behaviors can be easily obtained by setting up and utilizing simple tracking mechanisms, and you can find out about satisfaction, perceptions, needs, and preferences through surveys or focus groups. Online metrics are ample, for example, through Google Analytics, hosting providers, and other services that collect and provide multiple ways of “slicing and dicing” the numbers. Your market is trying to tell you its secrets, and it’s easy to listen—in this day and age especially, there are simply no excuses for not hearing what it has to say!
For more information or to a free initial consultation on how you can use data to make better business decisions, please contact us at [email protected] or visit www.snowflakellc.com/contact.
Do You View Your Buyers as Objects?

Do You View Your Buyers as Objects?

Building Customized Relationships with Real People is the Key to Successful Marketing, Instead of Viewing Your Buyers as Objects

If you’re a small business or a non-profit, you’re likely facing three main challenges that affect both your short-term existence and long-term sustainability. Specifically, you need to figure out how to:

  • Generate consistent revenue
  • Deliver on your promises
  • Control operating costs

They’re all linked, and we’ll address all three in due course, but today’s thoughts are mostly about the first challenge, generating consistent revenue. Let’s be honest… if you can’t do it, you’ll go “belly up” eventually.

There are two parts to generating consistent revenue: (1) First-time and (2) Returning “buyers” (for our purposes, this term is broad, including small business customers and individual non-profit donors). Ideally, you’ll get buyers in the door, and then they’ll keep coming back because they like what they see. Both are crucial—you have to capture them to begin with, and you have to get them to return. It would be nice if this just happened automatically, to be sure, but unless you’re really, really lucky, you have to work at it. The question, obviously, is how.

Perhaps the biggest mistake small businesses and non-profits make is to think about buyers as transactional—simply put, organizations are focused on the purchase, and they don’t care who makes it. This perspective leads to marketing approaches that treat buyers as objects rather than humans with different attributes, preferences, behaviors, and decision drivers. As such, outreach is typically quite messy, characterized by casting a wide net with a single message, and emphasizing what is (or was) “trendy” with respect to outreach (e.g., the latest and greatest in social media).

These approaches may, in fact, return some results, but they usually cost more than they need to, and they leave a lot of money on the table. They are not cost-effective, and the outcomes they generate are sub-optimal. Fortunately, there’s another way to do it, and small businesses and non-profits can do so much better. The key is addressing buyers as individuals, and building long-term relationships by engaging them on their terms and showing them the outcomes they want to see. This means we need to get to know them, humanizing instead of objectifying.

Think about the best relationships in your life. Most likely, your were introduced, you learned about each other as individuals, you interacted, and you became friends. You built trust, and it turned into “best friendship,” and now they’re always calling, visiting, and hanging out with you. Well, the same principles apply to marketing. It’s about introducing, informing, and converting, followed by delivering and cultivating repeat purchases or contributions. Put another way, it’s about developing relationships—you could say, becoming best friends with your best prospects.

Certainly, this all sounds really good, but cultivating relationships take time, effort, and resources. First of all, you have to learn about your market, and identify the things that make your prospects tick. Then, you need to:

  • Target media and messaging, so your story reaches and resonates with the right people
  • Demonstrate that you’re the best at what you do, and show them what you’ll provide for their money
  • Ask for prospects to purchase or contribute, and make it easy for them to buy
  • Deliver on your promises, and show them you’ve done so (and will do it again and again)

This involves market research and prospect profiling to learn about your buyers. It requires targeted messaging that interests them and cultivates relationships. You may want to offer incentives that will attract them, and you’ll need commerce platforms that conform to their preferences, and are efficient and easy to use. Finally, you’re going to have to the capacity to deliver—if you can’t, your buyers aren’t coming back. Yes, all this costs money—developing fruitful relationships takes an investment. If you do things right, however, it’s worth every penny.

Objectifying buyers and blasting the market may work, if you’re lucky. Personifying and building lasting relationships by knowing them and creating one-on-one dialogues, on their terms, will give you far greater returns!


Tom Morley has 18 years of experience as an internal and external consultant helping clients in all sectors, across industries, in the US and abroad, to become sustainably cost-effective and achieve their visions.  Formerly with BearingPoint and Deloitte Consulting, his areas of expertise include organization strategies, human capital management, and change acceptance and adoption.  His clients range from small, local concerns to international, multi-lateral institutions, and he has advised leaders and managers of more than 50 organizations to help them realize their goals over the course of his career.

For more information or to discuss your hiring needs, contact Snowflake. Mention this blog and we’ll give you a free, one-hour consultation to get you headed in the right direction!

Are Your Employees Engaged?

Are Your Employees Engaged?

ARE YOUR EMPLOYEES ENGAGED?

Here’s why that question is ridiculous, and what you should really care about
 
Employees who are engaged increase productivity by [insert percentage].”
 
Highly engaged organizations report [insert percentage] lower turnover.”
 
Engaged employees drive higher profits and help reduce costs.”
 
So you want your employees to be more engaged, right? Statistics don’t lie, and there’s a reason “engagement” is the new buzzword. After all, if everyone’s talking about it, they must be on to something.
 
Eventually, we’ll figure out that employee engagement is the new change management. It has a murky definition, one that morphs in accordance with the interests of those promoting it. The statistics, as a result, are borderline useless, and the more they are repeated, the more empty they become. Just like the “70% of change initiatives fail” figure that’s been floated without questioning since the 1990s, the “truth” that employee engagement is the “magic bullet” to fix all ills is gaining widespread acceptance while escaping critical examination.
 
On the surface, it’s hard to argue that an employee who’s engaged will perform better than one who is not. The devil, as usual, is in the details—specifically, what does “engagement” even mean? How far does someone have to get into her job to be considered engaged, and what are the alternatives? Is it enough for her to show up for work and perform her tasks accurately and completely, or does she have to have some metaphysical connection to her role and to the organization? It seems that every person who uses the term has his own definition.
 
It gets worse when stock employee engagement surveys are used. These presume that engagement is a one-size-fits-all concept, meaning the same thing at one organization as it does every other. For all of the similarities we can find across organizations, though, sectors, industries, and individual entities have their own peculiarities. Does the individual manufacturing widgets need to be intimately familiar with the mission, for example, as would benefit the person running operations in a non-profit, or is following quality control procedures enough?
 
Moreover, it would seem to make sense that what engagement means to one employee may differ from what drives another. What causes a millennial to meet some mercurial standard of engagement is likely not the same as what keeps the gray-haired, old-school, long-tenured professional enthused, involved, connected, motivated, or whatever the term actually means. This is another reason that employee engagement is a shallow concept—it makes for a great sound bite, but under the covers there’s not enough to provide much direction.
 
Instead of obsessing over the mystical idea of engagement and striving for some state of affairs that may or not make sense for your organization and workforce, you should focus squarely on what you want, who is most likely to provide it, and how to ensure that they do. In other words, step away from stock measures of employee engagement, and stop trying to be everything to everyone. It’s better to define what you want your employees to do and how you want them to act, and ensure they get what they need to do it. This means:
 
  • Getting what you need—Defining requirements (“what”), designing appropriate jobs (“how”), determining the characteristics, experience, etc. that are likely to lead to success (“who”), and finding them (“where”).
 
  • Giving them what they need—Understanding what encourages the behaviors you want—e.g., equipment, incentives, facilities, work environment, opportunities, relationships—and ensuring it’s all in place.
 
  • Following through—Delivering on promises, and weeding out the low performers. If you’ve defined what you need and provided the enablers, performance is your indicator, not “free coffee, please” surveys.
 
Of course, this is all well and good for bringing in the “right” new hires, but what of your existing employees? What if they don’t have what you’ve identified as the necessary attributes? Actually, the same principles apply. You can only adapt behaviors when you know specifically what behaviors you want, and how to encourage them. That necessitates knowing what you want people to deliver and how, providing the tools, and assessing performance on actual performance—making the hard personnel decisions when they’re required.
 
Attempting to fix problems by retroactively attempting to meet some universal-yet-under-defined standard of employee engagement is a losing proposition. More than likely, you’ll be sent in directions you don’t need to go, and you’ll be spending money you don’t need to spend. You can design a qualified, motivated workforce based on your standards and objectives. If you do it right, set up the foundation, and hire effectively, you’ll get the most out of your employees—no matter how engaged someone else’s survey says they are.

Tom Morley has 18 years of experience as an internal and external consultant helping clients in all sectors, across industries, in the US and abroad, to become sustainably cost-effective and achieve their visions.  Formerly with BearingPoint and Deloitte Consulting, his areas of expertise include organization strategies, human capital management, and change acceptance and adoption.  His clients range from small, local concerns to international, multi-lateral institutions, and he has advised leaders and managers of more than 50 organizations to help them realize their goals over the course of his career.

For more information or to discuss your hiring needs, contact Snowflake. Mention this blog and we’ll give you a free, one-hour consultation to get you headed in the right direction!

Searching for Hiring Answers? Start by Asking the Right Questions!

Searching for Hiring Answers? Start by Asking the Right Questions!

“I need a CIO who also has a background in finance, significant experience in the hospitality industry, and expertise in inventory management.  Preferably someone who’s worked in a Fortune 500 Company, and knows basic, applied household cleaning robotics.  With 20+ years in the field.  And oh, I have a tight budget, maybe $100k or so.”

We all need help running our businesses.  I could use an accountant and a business developer, for example.  Maybe you need a CFO, or a CIO… someone strategic, who can also do the dirty work.  Unfortunately, we often can’t afford what you’re asking for… we have $100k, and inevitably the market for what we want demands twice that.  And that’s assuming we can even find someone out there who meets our requirements.

Small firms sometimes get lucky, taking on a person who can do everything they want for a reasonable cost.  These people are the “all-stars,” who can build and maintain your web site, run your technology infrastructure, go out on sales calls, and clean the toilets in their spare time.  We envy the company that’s somehow able to hire the IT-Sales-Plumbing Specialist, because we’d love to have one ourselves.  We seek, but we don’t usually find.

Why do we continue to long for candidates who are either too expensive, or don’t exist? Many companies don’t take the time to think about the labor market before jotting down a laundry list of requirements that may or may not be realistic.  If they did, they would wouldn’t waste so much time and money recruiting people they won’t get, or put operations in jeopardy by hiring someone who simply doesn’t fit.

Before we start to recruit, there are some key questions we need to think about:

  • Do we really know what we need for expertise and experience? What are the minimum qualifications that we can accept to meet our needs, and find a candidate who’s an asset to our organization?
  • Do we need everything right away? Are there “first priorities” that require a subset of the skills we’re looking for, or do we need a person who can do it all, the day she’s hired?
  • How does someone acquire the skills we’re seeking? Is experience the best way to become qualified, or can some capabilities be learned through on-the-job (OJT) or classroom training?
  • Are the needs typically represented in a single individual? Is there any such thing as an IT-Sales-Plumbing Specialist on the market, or should we be looking for multiple people?
  • Can we realistically access the labor market to get the qualifications we want? What will it cost to hire who we’re looking for, and is paying that person our best use of resources?
  • If the market is too expensive, what’s driving up the price? Which of our knowledge, skills, and experience requirements are putting upward pressure on the cost of the potential candidates?

By considering these questions, we open up a world of creative opportunities to get the people we need, at a cost we can afford.  There are so many potential options available when we’ve really thought through what we’re looking for, when we need it, and how it’s most likely to be “packaged” in the labor market.  In effect, we can shape our requirements so that we have a better chance at getting the right resources, without “breaking the bank.”

Then, instead of going for the “home run”—holding out for the ideal person—we look at alternatives such as:

  • Splitting our requirements into multiple, easier-to-fill roles
  • “Hiring down” for immediate needs, and developing skills through training
  • Carving out expensive requirements and contracting them out
  • Moving some responsibilities “in house” to staff we already have
  • Designing part-time roles for highly specialized, expensive skills
  • Using interns or volunteers, if possible, to meet part of the needs

With apologies in advance to the feline, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, after all! We shouldn’t feel like we have to find the perfect match for the things we need done—there are often equally effective, cheaper ways to get the right people.  It takes a little bit of advance planning and analysis, but for every problem, there’s a cost-effective solution.  It’s up to us to find it, and it starts with asking ourselves the right questions.


Tom Morley has 18 years of experience as an internal and external consultant helping clients in all sectors, across industries, in the US and abroad, to become sustainably cost-effective and achieve their visions.  Formerly with BearingPoint and Deloitte Consulting, his areas of expertise include organization strategies, human capital management, and change acceptance and adoption.  His clients range from small, local concerns to international, multi-lateral institutions, and he has advised leaders and managers of more than 50 organizations to help them realize their goals over the course of his career.

For more information or to discuss your hiring needs, contact Snowflake. Mention this blog and we’ll give you a free, one-hour consultation to get you headed in the right direction!