As I’ve discussed before, MBEs trying to become preferred suppliers for large corporations need to be aware of the many qualifications that these companies consider when choosing who to do business with. To a certain degree, being able to provide the product or services that they are looking for is the easy part, certainly it’s only the first step. Companies have other criteria that they consider important like financial stability, ethical behavior, environmental impact, fair hiring practices, and a host of other things that could negatively impact them if their suppliers were not up to their standards.
More and more companies are setting standards that they expect their third party vendors to comply with if they want to do business with them. Whether they call it “supplier responsibility,” “supplier sustainability,” “supply chain sustainability,” a “supplier code of conduct,” or any other moniker, if you want to be considered as a partner, you should make sure that your company meets all these requirements. If not, it may make no difference how great your product is, you won’t be chosen.
Whether you are a business owner, a program manager, or a procurement professional, if your company doesn’t have formal policies in this area, you may want to consider developing guidelines. Any company that works hard to do the right thing wants those they work with to be held to the same standards. It can be a real business risk if those you do business with run afoul of proper practices. In addition to reputational risk, you can be held co-liable and there is the potential for real monetary and legal penalties in some cases.
Companies make it clear what’s important to them and generally provide the guidelines and regulations to potential partners on their website and/or as part of the procurement process. Increasingly, companies audit their suppliers’ compliance and report the results publicly.
As an MBE preparing to do business with a company, you should research their policies. If you’re looking for information as part of developing your own policies, the same advice applies – do your research. Motorola, Mastercard, Kraft Foods, and CISCO, are all good examples. They also demonstrate how it is a concern across many industries. Obviously companies with significant manufacturing footprints have some very specific and complex areas of concern, especially environmental impact and labor and human rights concerns, but there is also a recognition that all companies have an impact on their community and environment. It’s not just large companies either; it makes sense for any size company to care about its reputation and to be aware of how their external partners are an extension of themselves.
Each company will have its own nuances but common areas of concern include:
Labor and Human Rights – this category covers such issues as forced/slave and child labor, wages and benefits, working hours and conditions, discrimination, compliance with all labor laws and regulations, and the freedom to associate politically and to unionize.
Health and Safety – this relates to things like occupational safety, injury and illness, education and safety training (especially relating to machinery and equipment), sanitation and even emergency preparedness in case of natural disaster.
Environmental Impact – Concerns in this area include everything from pollution prevention and reduction, proper permitting and reporting, treatment of hazardous substances, to the responsible sourcing of minerals and metals.
Ethical Conduct – This is a broad category that touches on the way a company behaves in general but specifically includes business integrity, financial dealings, not engaging in bribery or other illegal practices, respecting intellectual property, and acting properly in terms of advertising and competition.
As an MBE, are you ready to do business on this level? It is more than likely that you are an honest business person and your company complies with all applicable laws and regulations and acts in an ethical manner; make sure this is true and that you can prove it. This is just one more way that you can ensure that you and your company are fully prepared to serve the clients you are targeting.
Likewise, understanding the risks involved when working with external partners and suppliers, and taking measures to reduce or prevent problems in the first place, is just good business sense. Choosing to work with suppliers that share your values and commitment to legal, ethical business dealings will raise the quality of the services you receive overall.
Finding out what’s important in terms of supplier behavior and conduct and ensuring that your company meets these criteria OR letting companies know what you expect from them and hiring those that share your commitment and compliance can be the difference between failure and success!
Corporate Outreach Manager
Making great hires is often viewed as a bit of an art form, when what we’re really looking for is a recipe for success, a proven process that works. Companies often bring in a number of candidates, interview them, make a “best guess” hire based on the team’s input, and hope for the best. But it doesn’t have to be this subjective. There are fact based studies and long term trends that can make hiring more straight forward and objective.
1. Industry experience NOT required
ATR International has been hiring and training recruiters and account managers for over 25 years. And what we have found is that industry experience is often a negative predictor of success, not a positive one. The reason is that candidates with staffing industry experience are often not happy or successful in what they are doing and think moving to another company in the same industry will help. It usually doesn't. The best approach is to hire for ability, past success, and problem solving abilities. Next, train them yourself and educate them about your industry and you will have much better luck.
2. GPA is meaningless
Google collects data on, and analyzes nearly everything that goes on within their daily operations. This includes their hiring process. And what they found is that a correlation between GPA and an employee’s on the job performance simply does not exist. In other words, a candidate's performance at school is completely unrelated to how they will perform at work. The reason for this is that it takes a different skill set to be successful at school than it does to be successful at work. Read about it in more detail here.
3. Facebook? Yes, Facebook
Facebook is often used as a resource to screen out job applicants who are spending their nights getting drunk at the local watering hole or making questionable “social” decisions. But a new study by a trio of universities has found that Facebook can be used to predict success on the job as well. Researchers at the three universities used 5 personality traits, conscientiousness, emotional stability, agreeableness, extraversion and openness. New hires who received the highest scores from independent evaluators of their Facebook presence in these categories received the highest scores in relation to their job performance 6 months later.
4. Problem Solving
A thirst for knowledge and an ability to solve problems is a proven key for a successful hire. But these traits are often not teased out in an interview. Ask questions like these to get at a candidate’s natural ability to solve problems:
- Tell me about a time when you had a major issue to solve and what you did.
- Tell me about a personal accomplishment you are proud of.
- Tell me something you learned how to do recently.
- Tell me about a recent failure. (people who are problem solvers are comfortable failing)
These are just a few examples, but you get the idea. People who love to learn and solve problems will have no problem answering any of these questions.
5. Employee Referrals
They’ve been around for quite a while and are so ubiquitous it might seem as though they are a standard rather than a best practice but recent data confirms how effective they actually are in bringing top talent into a firm. Many studies have shown that employee referral hires are more productive than non-referral hires – right from the start as well as 6 and 12 months later. They perform better and have longer tenures with the company too. Why are Employee Referral Programs so successful? One reason is that employees know what skills are needed and understand your company culture, so the people they refer are more likely to have those key attributes. In essence, employee referrals are very effectively prescreened candidates.
6. IQ vs. Cognitive Control
The common assumption is that a high IQ leads to greater academic abilities which leads to greater success in one’s professional career. However, this common assumption has proven to be wrong. The truth is, people with the best cognitive control are statistically the most successful in life, regardless of IQ levels. Cognitive control, as defined by LinkedIn Influencer Daniel Goleman:
“Cognitive control refers to the abilities to delay gratification in pursuit of your goals, maintaining impulse control, managing upsetting emotions well, holding focus, and possessing a readiness to learn.”
Cognitive control was first brought to light in the famous Marshmallow Test conducted at Stanford University in the late 1960’s. It’s been redone many times and is worth four minutes of your day if you haven’t seen it.
Aside from this entertaining video, employers are now seeing that cognitive control is a major predictor of success in the workplace. A 30-year longitudinal study of more than 1,000 kids found that those children with the best cognitive control had the greatest financial success in their 30s. Cognitive control predicted success better than a child’s IQ. So how do you screen for it in a job interview? Ask questions that will uncover this specific trait.
- Tell me about a long term goal for yourself and what you are doing to accomplish it.
- Tell me about your most significant accomplishment.
- What single project or task would you consider your most significant accomplishment in your career to date?
- What is something you would love to accomplish but seems impossible?
Listen carefully to the answers and look for individuals who were not easily deterred in reaching their goals. Individuals who understand that failure is simply a step towards ultimate success. Someone who can work hard for a promotion but also understand there may be a wait until a business case can be made too. These are the people you want to hire.
Director of Marketing
This week we turn our Corporate Spotlight on L. Jay Burks, PhD. I met Jay over a year or so ago. He’s been a great resource for me, and I think you’ll all benefit from learning more about Jay and his work. Jay is currently the Manager of Supplier Diversity at the Comcast Corporation, with numerous responsibilities including, of course, increasing procurement opportunities for diverse businesses.
Prior to joining Comcast, he served for over five years as Executive Director of the State of Delaware's Office of Supplier Diversity. His responsibilities were similar to his role at Comcast, but were executed for the State of Delaware contracting opportunities. Jay has been involved with many organizations throughout his career, supporting them in a variety of ways. From national organizations like the NMSDC,WBENC, and the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC), to state and local groups such as the Associated Builders and Contractors of Delaware Diversity Committee and the State of Delaware’s Small Business Advisory Committee. Jay is a tireless supporter of those who share his passion for business and commitment to empowering diverse companies and their owners. His most recent role is on the Corporate Advisory Board for the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN).
Obviously Jay has extensive experience in numerous roles, but his biggest passion remains higher education, for himself and for others. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Morehouse College, a Master of Business Administration from the WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, and a PhD from the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore.
His passion for diversity issues and education come together in his PhD dissertation. The title, “Examining the Relationships between Entrepreneurial Orientation, Procedural Justice, and Entrepreneurial Leadership with the Reward and Performance Expectancies of Minority and Women-Owned Businesses in Government Contracting,” shows the relevance of his research and findings to those of us working in the diversity and inclusion community. You can read the full report in the "Education" section of his LinkedIn profile but I am going to try and succinctly summarize one of his findings.
Dr. Burks’ research found that there is a statistically significant relationship between procedural justice, entrepreneurial leadership and expectancies. For example, if a diverse-owned business thinks that the selection process is unfair they will be less likely to participate, which makes sense. Why would a business person spend time on something that doesn’t seem to promise a decent ROI? Whether or not the process is actually fair is part of the equation too. Both the reality and perception of fairness needs to be changed in order to achieve higher levels of diverse-owned business participation. The findings will be useful in developing effective supplier diversity policies and procedures, which as a result can have an important impact on minority-owned and women-owned businesses’ involvement in economic growth.
There isn’t a lot of research in this area, so his study is useful and important in that sense alone, but he also concludes with recommendations on what these results suggest might be done to improve expectancies and participation in government contracting. These include improving transparency, increasing education and assistance, and standardizing the procurement process and procedures. It might involve better marketing to ensure that diverse-owned suppliers understand the process and how they will be evaluated. It can also mean removing conundrums like “needing government experience” to be hired for any contract, but having no way of getting government experience.
Again, this is a very brief overview of one of the components, and I’m sure I’ve not really done it justice. PLEASE read the original. You can connect with Jay if you have questions or comments about his work. He is on LinkedIn and Twitter to share knowledge, opportunities, and successes. He also recommends utilizing free help such as Hootsuite and Google alerts for the latest developments. Jay is a great example of the diversity of our community and the strength that comes from differing viewpoints, backgrounds, skills and experience. Thanks for sharing with all of us Jay!
Corporate Outreach Manager
We celebrate the founding of our country on the 4th of July with a weekend filled with picnics, parades, and fireworks. We commemorate when we formally declared our independence from England and set forth in writing our grievances with the King. The vote for independence actually took place on July 2nd and July 4th was the day the document was approved. Almost instantly the day was one of celebration, becoming and official Federal holiday in 1941. For many years, the tradition was to read aloud The Declaration of Independence, as it had been read aloud in 1776 in town squares across the colonies.
It’s a great tradition and one that we might all consider re-adopting. Reading the document, aloud or not, reminds one of the beauty of the language, the amazing words that Thomas Jefferson wove together to inspire the colonists, and scores of freedom seeking individuals through the years since then. Here is, arguably, it’s most famous passage:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Reading the Declaration reminds one of the beauty of language. It’s an inspiring piece of work and a testament to the power of the written word. Again and again, we try to express our ideals, our loftiest goals, the answers to our most important questions, in writing. It is in our DNA to communicate with one another. The Declaration of Independence is a beautiful reminder of this kind of achievement at its best. Many others have written about the democracy, liberty and freedom – the founding principles of our nation. I hope you enjoy their thoughts! Please share your favorite quotes with us below.
Happy 4th of July!
“The basis of a democratic state is liberty.” Aristotle
“A people inspired by democracy, human rights and economic opportunity will turn their back decisively against extremism.” Benazir Bhutto
“Those who won our independence believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty.” Louis D. Brandeis
“Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.” Albert Camus
“Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.” Moshe Dayan
“Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.” Albert Einstein
“For what avail the plough or sail, or land or life, if freedom fail?” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.” William Faulkner
“Where liberty dwells, there is my country.” Benjamin Franklin
“This, then, is the state of the union: free and restless, growing and full of hope. So it was in the beginning. So it shall always be, while God is willing, and we are strong enough to keep the faith.” Lyndon B. Johnson
“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” Abraham Lincoln
“We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls.” Robert J. McCracken
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” Thomas Paine
“In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
“Liberty is the breath of life to nations.” George Bernard Shaw
“Freedom and democracy are dreams you never give up.” Aung San Suu Kyi
“The road to democracy may be winding and is like a river taking many curves, but eventually the river will reach the ocean.” Chen Shui-bian
“As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.” George Washington
“May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country!” Daniel Webster
“I prefer liberty with danger to peace with slavery.” Author Unknown
CEO and President
ATR International, Inc.
Perhaps you have recently caught World Cup fever or maybe you’ve been a longtime fan, or perhaps you’ve remained immune to the charm and excitement of “the beautiful game.” No matter what, it is likely that you’ve heard at least something about Uruguay’s star player, Luis Suarez, biting Italian player, Giorgio Chiellini. (For more details, click here.) It’s shocking to watch, and further shocking since it is the third time he has done this in his career. Much has and will be written about this and with good reason. There is an opportunity to learn and not just for those directly involved.
Sports teaches life lessons and this situation demonstrated a few for me, especially as a business owner, manager of people, and staffing industry professional, where helping our clients build a great “team” is what we do every day. Suarez’s bite is an example of the perils of allowing a star player to get away with behavior that wouldn’t be tolerated in most other people. It isn’t a good idea in sports and it isn’t a good idea in business. Excusing bad behavior is a dangerous proposition and can have its consequences. It’s playing out in this situation. Consider:
- It is a distraction and morale killer to the rest of the team. His behavior overshadowed the great play of his team. Instead of focusing on the incredible goal that won the game, his coaches and teammates instead spent time and energy responding to questions. It even called into question the legitimacy of their win and advancement to the Round of 16. It has, or should, dampen the pride of his nation, and cause headaches for FIFA. (Trying to win over new fans? This doesn’t help.)
- In the short run, it hurts the team. He got suspended and couldn’t play any remaining matches, which put his team at a big disadvantage. This is like putting up with an employee who has a bad temper because of his other abilities, only to find out he’s been arrested for a road rage incident over the weekend and now can’t come to work. Whatever his skills are he won’t be using them for your company’s benefit for a while. What good is Uruguay advancing if by his behavior Suarez takes himself out of the game?
- In the long run it hurts the team. The suspension carries over and affects his ability to play for his professional team, the English Premier League’s Liverpool. At first glance, it was good for them to have one of their stars on the World Cup stage, but now? Not only will he miss actual matches but it’s damaging to their reputation. What will the fans of Liverpool think? The sponsors? In a business setting, this is akin to an employee who codes circles around everyone else but ends up saying something that upsets the client and severely or irreparably damages the relationship. What good is a successful product if the client doesn’t like you enough to buy it from you?
I am not naïve enough to think that suddenly sports stars are going to be held accountable regardless of their abilities on the field. Different sports and different teams have different levels of tolerance, and every business owner is free to make their own decisions about how to manage their people. I also understand that in sports a win can mean so much money or fame that there are many who will argue it’s worth it.
But for most of us in the business world, there aren’t as many situations where in a few intense moments, absolutely everything is on the line. Bad behavior over time erodes your team and causes problems. A superstar who is allowed to be habitually late causes resentment in other team members, who in turn either begin to show up late themselves or harbor negative feelings, both of which can easily hurt their own, and thus your company’s performance. When you allow someone to lose their temper, gossip, skip meetings, skirt administrative requirements, or just generally misbehave in ways you don’t put up with in others, you’re also in danger of alienating your other employees to the point that they will consider changing jobs. Unless your superstar can do everyone else’s job too, you’re going to have a problem!
Suarez’s biting incident hurt Uruguay and it remains to be seen how it will affect Liverpool or FIFA. In the meantime, it’s a good idea for the rest of us to look at our own teams and make sure that we’re not coddling a troublemaker at the expense of their hardworking, honorable teammates. Think about the consequences, they matter!
CEO and President
ATR International, Inc.
As we have talked about many times on this blog, finding and retaining IT talent has been, and for the foreseeable future will be, one of the most pressing business challenges for employers. The challenge has become so great that offering perks such as free gourmet lunches, five figure referral bonuses, and time to work on pet projects have become common place. So it is only natural that Computerworld would rank the top IT places to work.
The rankings are broken down into three categories: large, midsize, and small. You can read the article and see the rankings here.
Each winning company has their unique approach that placed them in the #1 spot. But there are some common threads that run between each of them.
1. Encourage Learning
The world of technology changes rapidly. So encouraging IT workers to take classes and earn certifications benefits the employee and the company. It’s almost imperative for companies competing for the best IT labor to invest in their workforce through tuition and certification reimbursement. Whether it is an annual stipend to spend on education (e.g., $4-5,000 per employee), ongoing internal training, or short, targeted classes (e.g., a week long class on new VMWare Technology), this is an investment that is both good for business and for employee morale.
2. Food (and other perks)
Free food used to be considered a luxury and only offered by billion dollar high tech companies. But other companies soon learned that it’s a cost effective way to keep your IT workforce happy and productive. Consider the following:
Free food is just one example of the kinds of perks (e.g., onsite fitness centers, hyper break rooms, free dry cleaning, parties, etc.) that started out as cutting edge and are now almost common, at least in some form. This is one area where smaller companies can compete with the biggies - the fewer employees you have the less it will cost to feed them all!
- It shows the company cares. Sure, IT workers are often paid well but they also provide the foundation and products that make billions for their companies. Using some of that money to provide a free meal goes a long way.
- Free meals often facilitate greater communication among employees resulting in networking, idea exchanges, and increased camaraderie. All of these things result in a better, more productive workplace.
- Employees that don’t need to plan for meals, prep for meals, shop, and do dishes often spend more time at work or have better quality time off.
- Free meals translate into approximately $5,000 of tax free income for the employee. Something every employee calculates and appreciates at some point.
Every IT employee has career aspirations. And the majority of the time those career aspirations coincide with company goals. Companies that are successful at attracting and retaining IT workers have formal programs for tapping into each IT workers career aspirations and building a path for him/her to attain them. It’s more than just training and opportunity though; many of the most successful companies provide mentors or involvement from leadership in developing their employees. This makes IT workers happy and the company ends up with motivated, successful employees.
4. Company Culture
Mentioned again and again as a key component for the top ranked companies is a strong set of core values, a clear mission statement, committed leadership - from the top down - and transparent, honest and frequent communication. Computerworld’s top ranked companies all shared this quality. Their employees consistently talked about the difference it makes when the CEO reaches out to personally praise work that a team or individual has done, takes an interest in their career aspirations, has an open door communication policy, or sends flowers to an ailing family member. They also cited strong company values as important to weathering difficult times - an economic downturn or difficult projects.
None of these things is going to replace salary as one of the most important reasons that people work, and these companies all acknowledge that they pay competitive if not generous salaries to their employees. But if you read the profiles of each winning company, regardless of size, you’ll see these four common areas of focus and action. Computerworld’s survey and rankings underscore that it takes more than just money to be a great place to work.
VP of Recruiting
ATR International, Inc.
The Western Regional Minority Supplier Development Council’s (WRMSDC) Minority Business Enterprise Input Committee (MBEIC) held a General Assembly hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco on June 6, 2014. The event, “Think like a Corporate Buyer,” included a panel of Corporate Supplier Diversity Professionals from major corporations as well as breakout sessions, and was attended by dozens of area MBEs. The panel consisted of:
- Michael McQuarry, Strategic Procurement Manager/ Global Supplier Diversity - Hewlett Packard;
- Timothy Evans, Supplier Diversity Specialist – Comcast;
- Lisa Castillo, Senior Global Supplier Diversity Manager - AT&T;
- David Feldman, Supply Chain Advisor Supplier Diversity/Local Content – Chevron; and,
- Richard Chacon, Senior Vice President and Director, Supplier Diversity - Union Bank.
Thanks to the Federal Reserve Bank for volunteering to host! Lynn Reddrick from the Federal Reserve opened the event along with the WRMSDC’s new President, Lawrence Wooten, who also facilitated the panel. Lawrence brings his knowledge and experience from previous Supplier Diversity positions at Pitney Bowes, Time Warner Inc., and other companies to the council, and added his perspective to the panel’s discussion as well.
Everyone appreciated the opportunity to learn from the distinguished panel. They covered a number of relevant topics, including how they evaluate suppliers and debrief during the procurement process, dividing the viable candidates from the lesser qualified. Following the panel were four training segments from MBE’s that shared tips on Marketing /Social Media, RFP’s, and Technology for Your Business. Provided below are some of the points from the panel discussion that stood out to me and that I feel will be useful to any MBE.
The panel stressed that diversity program managers are your advocates in the procurement process. Do not be afraid to contact and engage them. As you explore their website and procurement guidelines, and take advantage of any training or networking events they offer, you will begin to develop a relationship. Leverage this resource when you are comfortable that you can truly deliver the services or goods the company needs, and feel the time is right.
These corporate managers frankly discussed some of the pain points they experience with suppliers:
- Suppliers sometimes overstate their capabilities or overextend themselves to get an opportunity with their company.
- Supplier Diversity managers spend months building relationships to help suppliers get on the vendor list, and when there is an opportunity for an RFP, the supplier fails to open it and respond. They wish to provide that opportunity to those who want it.
- Suppliers do not thoroughly read the RFP and follow directions.
Here is some advice on how to avoid these pitfalls:
- Be realistic about your current capabilities and your core competencies. Make sure you are ready and bidding on work that you can excel at delivering, otherwise you are wasting everyone’s time and likely setting yourself up for disappointment or failure.
- Don’t burn bridges! Better not to have bothered to develop the relationship if you’re just going to do this. Make sure that you respond in a timely manner if you decide not to bid on the work, send a polite note declining. If you bid on the work, meet the deadlines. Remember that this is a community in which managers share information and feedback with other supplier diversity professionals. Don’t underestimate how it may hurt you down the line to behave unprofessionally.
- Read the paperwork! Let me repeat that – read the paperwork, and read it carefully! This seems like it should be obvious but the fact that it was mentioned shows that it happens, and more often than it should. Also, the panel was emphatic - do not be afraid to ask questions! Many feel as though it is a sign of weakness, but in reality, it’s a sign of commitment to understanding and better answering the question.
Two of the factors that companies consider when evaluating potential suppliers that I thought were of particular importance to consider are the level of risk they perceive in working with your company and which companies were really prepared and showcased their product or service the best. Corporations want to work with businesses of a size and stability that provides a sense of security and low risk. Risk management in the supply chain is an important consideration. Does the supplier meet the Insurance requirements? Will they survive a data breach?
Be mindful about the size of your business and recognize the importance of growing into a second tier level supplier. Express how and why your company is a low risk no matter what size it is. Talk about the total value that you bring to the table in your service delivery. Suppliers also need to show how they are able to deliver great service and quality products at a good value. Those that show how they could deliver the total value package – cost, efficiency, superior client service, etc. had a better chance of success.
Finally, Pamela Isom, MBEIC Chair President and CEO of ICE Safety Solutions, gave a wonderful speech reminding MBE’s that they were the guests of honor! The event was for their benefit, and I think those of us in attendance recognized this. Events like these that are designed to connect MBEs and corporate buyers are invaluable. I’ve said it before and this event was no exception. Pamela also shared a great quote that she recently heard and that I instantly loved! “Success ends when you die, significance lasts a lifetime.”
Thanks again to the MBEIC, The Federal Reserve, and the corporate professionals who served on the panel for the advice they all shared. It’s great to have so many people supporting the Council’s mission to strengthen, educate, enhance, and grow minority businesses. Looking forward to the second assembly that will be coming later this year: “Share your Breakthrough Moment!”
Corporate Outreach Manager
InformationWeek’s Annual Salary Survey is out and for a few columns now I have been looking at different parts of the report and thinking about what some of the results mean to me, ATR International, and our clients. I have one last thing that I wanted to share with you in case you missed it.
When IT staff and managers were asked their “Primary Reasons for Working as a Contractor / Consultant,” they strongly responded that higher pay (44%, 49%), flexibility of hours (33%, 50%), and variety of work (33%, 42%) were why, with only 28% of staff and 10% of managers saying it was because they couldn’t find a full time IT job. This is not news to me or anyone else at ATR or in the business of procuring or supplying contingent workforce professionals. It confirms what we’ve known for years. My hope is that it will also be noticed by the naysayers out there who denigrate the contributions and success of the contingent labor force.
One frequent claim is that temporary assignments are a way for businesses to cheat the employee and that temporary workers are being taken advantage of and manipulated like pawns. The survey results clearly refute this idea in the IT space. Of course there are some who turn to contract assignments because they can’t find full time work but by and large most consultants are working this way because they want to. What they say supports what I’ve seen for the past 25 years – contingent labor solutions help both businesses and employees.
The software developers, engineers, project manager and technicians that we place at leading firms across the U.S. are not unhappily droning through a dismal workday underpaid and undervalued but people working on projects they like, along with the company’s permanent workforce, to provide critical services. They are vibrant members of teams that contribute to the overall success of individual firms and our economy overall. The survey shows that many if not most choose to work on a temporary or contract basis because of the benefits and flexibility that it provides.
I always acknowledge how rewarding this job is and I’m proud of the work that we do each day – helping people find the right opportunity, the next best step in their career. Bringing clients and consultants together, helping both at the same time, is an honor and a privilege. I’m pleased to see concrete support of what I already knew. There is no reason for shame or apologies. Companies want to hire on a contract basis and workers want to work that way too. Seems like a good match and one that we should be happy about being a part of.
CEO and President
ATR International, Inc.
There is little disagreement that hiring the right people is the most important part of building a successful company. Finding the best employees to fill the proper roles is what makes a company hum. There are many steps to accomplishing this, the most important of which is often the interview. This is why it was so surprising to hear recent stories of how some tech giants are going about hiring.
The 30 minute phone interview
I have heard about this approach more than once. A candidate is deemed a good fit by a company recruiter and is then passed along to the hiring manager for a 30 minute phone interview. This interview with the hiring manager is do or die for the candidate. But should it be?
I recently spoke to a friend who was interviewing for a Sales Engineer position. The position was client facing and involved meeting clients in person to demo products and “upsell” customers on more and better features. A fairly high responsibility position with a tech giant in Silicon Valley. The only problem was that the interview with the hiring manager was 30 minutes long and over the phone. Hardly enough time to assess the candidates qualifications to interact with clients in person. In addition, the first 10 minutes of the conversation was going over the ins and outs of the position. That left 20 minutes for the hiring manager to assess, over the phone, the candidates ability to interface with clients in person. Not an ideal approach to finding the best candidate. And this is just one example of a disconnect between the interview length and approach compared to the position being filled.
Always ask the candidate to come into the office, any office, and sit down with someone in person. Even if its just for 30 minutes. A candidate who is really interested in the position will be happy to carve out some time to meet in person. It takes no more of the hiring manager’s time and is a much more effective way to learn about a candidate's fit for a critical position.
The hiring manager and recruiter not on same page
This happens more than most Silicon Valley companies care to admit. A recruiter is sent off to find and screen candidates for a hiring manager. The recruiter thinks they have found a handful of top-notch candidates and schedules time with the hiring manager for each candidate to interview. The only problem is that the recruiter’s understanding of a quality candidate is very different from the hiring manager’s.
In a recent example, an acquaintance of mine interviewed with a recruiter who emphasized the candidate’s marketing background. The candidate was led to believe she was a great fit after two separate conversations with the recruiter. The problem came when the candidate spoke with the hiring manager. The hiring manager was more interested in the candidate’s sales experience, of which she had very little. She was asked about her comfort working with sales quotas and was asked to do a thirty second, off the cuff, sales pitch. It was clearly a waste of time for everyone involved.
The obvious solution here is better communication between the hiring manager and the recruiter. A job description, like anything else that is in writing, can be interpreted differently by different people. A hiring manager should always spend at least 10-15 minutes upfront with any recruiter, whether they are internal or external, explaining what they want to see in a candidate to ensure the ones coming through are a good fit. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
The arrogant interview
Some of the large tech companies have been accused of being arrogant and patronizing during interviews. Part of this has to do with the sheer number of candidates they are interviewing on a daily basis. Its tough to be polite when you are trying to get as many candidates through the interview process as possible; sometimes the desire for efficiency borders on indifference or arrogance. But its important to remember that just because a candidate has expressed interest in a position, doesn’t mean you, as the hiring company, have the upper hand and should behave as such.
Good candidates have a variety of options when it comes to choosing their next career move and treating them as if they are lucky just to be interviewing is going to be detrimental to your hiring process. Sites like Glassdoor allow interviewees to post their experience. Word spreads fast so make sure you are honest, fair, and respectful during the interview process, even if the candidate doesn’t seem to be a fit. They took time out of their day to speak with you. It’s not difficult to make the effort to respect that. Remember that how you treat them may get back to someone you do want to hire; your reputation matters.
It’s hard enough to find great IT professionals these days, don’t make it harder on yourself by falling in to any of these interview traps. Take a look at your current processes and see if there are areas that can be tweaked or even overhauled. Look at your reviews online and see what people are saying about you. These too may reveal opportunities for improvement. Pay attention to the interview, this critical point in the hiring process, and you’ll certainly see results.
ATR International, Inc.
InformationWeek’s Annual Salary Survey is out and as always provides an interesting look at IT salaries and great insight into what IT workers are thinking about. One thing that caught my attention as I reviewed the details were the results around training and education, which shows a bit of a disconnection between what IT workers are thinking and doing.
The survey reports that “Just one in five IT pros considers ‘ability to work with leading-edge technology’ among the top factors that matter at work [and that] just 23% of staffers and a mere 15% of managers put skill development/education/training on that priority list.” However it also reports that over 50% “of both staffers and managers acknowledge that ‘experimenting with cutting-edge technology’ is critical to doing their jobs.” It’s easy to see the problem here: If you know that cutting-edge technology is critical than how can you think the opportunity and perhaps your ability to work with it isn’t important? It seems pretty obvious that it is!
The fact that less than ¼ of the people surveyed say that the opportunity for ongoing skill development is a priority should be very troubling to managers and senior leadership. If people don’t think it’s important then they won’t do it. Does this attitude mean they aren’t getting the right message? Do you value training and development? Do you understanding the connection between it and innovation and growth? If so, are you communicating this to your employees effectively? Do they appreciate how important you think enhancing their skills is? Are you providing the right opportunities and ensuring that everyone takes advantage? These numbers suggest room for improvement.
For those who don’t think it’s a priority to invest in themselves to become better IT professionals and more valuable to their company – this is a wake-up call. Based on my personal experience, I can tell you that it is critical to keep learning. For example, a few summers ago I attended a leadership program at Stanford University; after 25 years running a business and many more as a consultant, I still continually look for big and little ways to improve. Everyone should, whether it’s working on your technical skills or building better communication or managerial talents.
Specializing in IT staffing solutions, I can also attest to the importance of continuing education and IT certifications. Companies look for employees that have the latest skills – it’s as simple as that. If you don’t pay attention to this you’re hurting your market value, probably making it more difficult to get promoted or find a great new position, and possibly increasing the likelihood that you’ll find yourself or your job obsolete. If your company offers training or opportunities for tuition reimbursement and you aren’t taking advantage of that, you’re missing out big time.
The good news is that some people are taking advantage of the opportunity. InformationWeek reported that “around half of all IT pros in our survey say they attended company-paid training in the past year, and 17% of staffers and 18% of managers attended company-paid certification.” This is good but could be better.
The survey doesn’t ask exactly why people didn’t get training – were they not offered it or did they not take it? My guess is some of both, and that means there are lessons for both sides. The skill shortage and talent gap, particularly in IT, are long time hot topics. Hiring companies say they can’t find skilled people and these results support that conclusion in a way, but are they doing everything they can to support people development at their firms? Are they providing training and educational opportunities and an environment that makes it possible to take advantage of them? Some people contend that the talent shortage is fictional and just an excuse to turn to offshoring or other sources of cheaper labor, but if by their own admission IT professionals don’t think development is a priority then it seems reasonable to think employers are at least partly correct.
Those that have attended company paid training, and those enterprising and dedicated people who invested their own money in education, will reap the benefits. I’m pretty sure they’ll be the ones getting the better raises, the promotions, or the amazing offers from other companies. I know those are the kind of candidates we find it easiest to place. Not only does investing in your development provide tangible results in enhanced skills, it shows present and future employers your commitment and dedication and a host of other desirable attributes in an employee. The fewer IT pros who do so, the more the ones who do will stand out.
42% of respondents said they were either actively or somewhat looking for a new job. If they are the same people who said they take advantage of training opportunities and actively work at improving their skills then they should have an easier time finding that new job. Make sure you’re one of them!
CEO and President
ATR International, Inc.