Taking a Conscious Approach to Your Hiring Practices

By: Margaret GrazianoChief Evangelist for KeenAlignment

Many companies—from multinational mega-corporations to neighborhood markets—are still using outdated hiring techniques. Clinging to the ways of the past when constructing a workforce leads to high turnover, stagnant engagement from staff and quarterly reports in the red.

In some cases, it is as if they are staffed by a host of HR drones, these businesses are going about the practice of hiring in a completely automatic, unconscious manner. Solving the hiring problems of the 21st Century requires a spirited, connected system that makes selecting the right candidates for the job easy. It requires a conscious hiring process.

The premise is that conscious hiring is the lynch pin to workforce optimization and engagement and employee retention, as well as an overall boost to your customer service efforts. Hiring consciously means awareness around the role, the purpose and outcomes required to successfully validate the roles existence and cost in the organization; as well as mindfulness about who the right type of person is for the role. With a conscious hiring mindset, all of these parameters are defined at the beginning of the search. It means making keen hiring decisions that are geared towards the organizations’ strategic needs over and above the key words listed on the resume and the frenzy to fill the job fast.

When people are hired and on boarded into an organization that they are philosophically aligned with and they are hired into roles that are a natural self-expression of their strengths and talents, simply said, they perform—and they perform well. When you open your hiring minds and take a conscious approach in your “people on boarding” methods, you ultimately streamline your operation: you optimize your workforce, maximize employee retention and engagement and begin to provide stout customer service.

Workforce Optimization

When you look at hiring like you look at improving your running, tennis or golf game, it only makes sense to hire people who raise the bar and make everyone better in the process. High performers focus on doing the right things, achieving outcomes and depending on their role and interests, they focus on making improvements to products and the business. An optimized workforce means that the right people are focused on the right things. The right things might look like increased sales, operational efficiency, innovation, customer experience and sustainability, as these are the pillars of any long-term successful organization.

Employee Engagement

There is tremendous chatter in the media about the lack of employee engagement in the workplace and a large emphasis in leadership circles on raising workforce productivity—both of which can be solved through a conscious hiring mindset. When the majority of people on a project team are high quality engaged workers; it raises the energy and output of the group, and when the opposite occurs, it lowers the energy and output of the work.

Most people are like sponges and those around them affect their work attitudes. Positivity breeds positivity, and so forth. Work production improves under the guidance of engaged, inspired and competent people; as opposed to when you unknowingly hire someone who is not competent, not engaged and their attention is bifurcated, you get a subpar work product. It’s the law of physics.

Hiring is a tricky game. Most people know they must put their best foot forward in an interview; however they don’t know the impact they cause by being ill-equipped for actually doing the work. It is the business manager’s job to know and be aware of the impact and to head off these problems before they arise.

Employee Retention

A conscious hiring program helps business owners streamline their hiring efforts and maximize hiring effectiveness because it begins with the end in mind. Before any advertising is done, or any recruitment begins the role is assessed and analyzed for a solid understanding of purpose and linkage to strategic outcomes. Often, too much time is spent with candidates who have spot on resumes yet lack the fundamental traits to effectively execute the role; and in the end, neither the person nor the role deliver.

Organizations want to keep the right people—those people who contribute and move the business forward. When management focuses on developing their best people, evoking the best in them and shepherding them to the next level, they improve the retention of their high-potentials.  Likewise, when management focuses on fixing and preventing errors, they create a culture of risk adversity and stagnation. Consciously hiring affords managers the time to focus on elevating the work challenges and opportunities for the right people, which leads to stronger employee retention.

Customer Service

The customer experience improves when the person in the customer-facing role authentically cares about service delivery, is a proactive problem solver and has a natural talent at follow up and detail orientation. The experience one has when they walk into an establishment and the staff are standing around talking, while customers stand and wait is the same experience your customers have to endure when they call don’t feel served.

In sharp contrast, the organizations that match their hiring brand with their customer brand attract and onboard the type of people who deliver results for the customers that are consistent with what was promised when they signed up. When you match your company values to the values you look for in your service people, they naturally deliver in a manner that honors those values and your message and inn turn your service brand is strengthened.

When your company breaks free from the fetters of archaic hiring methods, turns on its brainpower and begins to recruit and hire in a conscious manner, it has an organization-wide benefit. Turnover drops, employee engagement improves, workforce productivity increases, and your customers and clients are more apt to return and increase their business.


Four Insidious Impacts of a Mis-Hire
By: Margaret Graziano – Chief Evangelist for KeenAlignment

The world’s innovators are calling for reinvention and transformation of HR departments. Given that the majority of hiring responsibilities fall within HR and it is—in most cases—the entry into companies, reinventing HR must start with transforming the way leaders think about and behave about hiring.

Many innovative leaders and early adopters are already operating highly effective, conscious hiring programs out of pure necessity. While some may advocate for the complete destruction of human resources departments, the proper solution is the complete destruction of old, outdated, unconscious and ineffective hiring techniques. Frankly, while people and business have remained virtually unchanged, human beings’ perspectives, outlook, attitudes about work and their ability to manifest what they want—when they want—has spurred a fundamental shift in the way people operate in and around business and work today. With a plethora of newly created job options coupled with a major changing of the guard in the workforce, smart companies must equip themselves to navigate through these new employee/workplace paradigms.

CEOs, business leaders and managers are acutely aware of the fiscal costs of a mis-hire, but there are some invisible—and potentially insidious—costs that can wreak havoc on your organization. Although it might not be top of mind, when you hire a person who does not fit with your organizational culture and/or operating philosophy the impacts are pervasive throughout your organization. By continuing to operate with outmoded hiring practices, you become susceptible to four specific hidden consequences of a mis-hire.

Fragmented Customer Service

Ensuring your team understands your product and service set and why customers use them is where excellent service begins. You can—and ought to—bridge the knowledge gap for new hires with comprehensive product and service training, however, you cannot train your workers to care about the customer. Behavioral and performance research shows that great service is delivered through a fundamental set of values, attitudes and beliefs that are in alignment with a service philosophy. When people are in a role in customer service for the wrong reasons, no training in the world will compensate for their lack of connection to the work itself.

This is a common experience when expecting one level of affinity from the place we spend our money and receiving service that is counter to that expectation. This leads to feeling disengaged, dissatisfied and even extreme anger. When you hire a person whose heart is not aligned with your mission and your service offerings, or they lack the basic service acumen to execute your customer service objectives, this same level of dissatisfaction is what your customers experience.
Reduction in Innovation
Companies arrive at a sustainable business model through innovation, creativity and a keen awareness of how to bridge a gap in the market place. Once the product set is stable and customers are buying, continual improvement and innovation is required to stay ahead of the copycat curve. When some of your people cannot seem to get it together, miss basic deadlines, or don’t find problems until your customers do, innovation is not even an option.

When an employee is hired because their resumes list the right key words, yet the person behind the resume lacks conceptual thinking ability and theoretical problem solving, they lack the access within themselves to come up with creative and inventive solutions. Often this lack of ability shows up as excuses, finger pointing and roadblocks outside their control. It is important to be aware that a person who lacks these traits is unaware they lack them and that most often these traits and competencies are very difficult to teach. If time is not on your side, hire people for roles that need to innovate with these innovator competencies, behaviors and values.

Workforce Productivity

When you hire in a hurry, you experience unwanted turn over. If you are lucky the turn over happens fast, yet in most cases it is months before the problem surfaces and the impact of the wrong person doing the job wrong has already disseminated throughout the team, if not the department. In high-level roles, specifically for senior leadership, the impact is detrimental not only in the immediate area of influence; it permeates throughout the organization. In sales, for example, if you have 2-3 people continually not achieving quota and approaching the position with a poor attitude, it poisons the well for those who are producing and are aligned with the position requirements and level of activity required for success.

Tolerating people who are not engaged and thriving waters down the engagement and productivity of those who want to win. When any of these morale and engagement busters are happening within your culture good people either leave or move into autopilot until they can. The indirect and costly impacts are higher staffing costs to make up for the lack of employee and team productivity, institutional knowledge loss when good, trained people leave; and increased training costs to continually retrain new blood into the organization.

Time and Energy Losses for the Team and Leadership

We have all heard the old adage that 80% of our time is spent with the bottom 20% of performers. As it happens, this statement may be closer to 30% of the underperformers. As the competition for talent increases and the fear of the empty chair blocks your good senses, you can feel pressured to fill the job with the 1st decent person who surfaces with a cogent resume. Hiring the wrong people because you are “in a rush” to put a butt in a seat leads to more empty seats; or worse: full seats with empty pay offs.

One of the hidden costs of unwanted turnover as reported in recent employee and manager engagement surveys is that 70% of managers surveyed reported that they are coping with burn out and a job misery rating that is detrimental to their overall happiness. When the workplace culture turns into one of micromanagement, correction and reprimand rather than collaboration, creation and mentoring, the manager’s job becomes one of parent and babysitter.

Often we see managers and leaders looking to HR to fix people and situations that could have been avoided by demonstrating more consciousness and awareness before during and after hiring. It seems like; in many companies an admission of making a poor hire is a far worse offense than allowing and tolerating subpar performance.  Furthermore, the cost of doing nothing about a bad hire far outweighs the cost of being proactive and creating high-impact hiring solutions. When you think about it in terms of bottom-line profitability and overall success, shifting your philosophy about people and hiring consciously just makes common sense.


5 Secrets to Being a Great Interviewer
By:  Margaret GrazianoChief Evangelist for KeenAlignment

In today’s market, it’s imperative to utilize interviewing techniques that will maximize your effectiveness in hiring the right people for the right roles. With more than 20 years’ experience as a top producer in the Recruitment and Search industry, I have found there are five secrets that are key to being a great interviewer.

The first secret is knowing what you want, before you start the interview. You need to understand the role that you’re interviewing for, the purpose of the role, and the intended outcomes the role is required to produce for the organization. In addition, you should understand the core functions of the role, who the ideal candidate needs to be, what competencies the ideal candidate needs to have, and what the right experience is for this kind of position.

The second secret is to use an interviewing guide. You can either use a work history interviewing guide that gives you all the questions that you need to answer – like a template or a format – or use a values-based behavioral interviewing guide.

Even after all the years I’ve been in recruiting, I prepare for interviews, so I ensure that I ask all the right questions to make a conscious choice.  I’ll be honest, there are times I’ve found myself on autopilot and I immediately reschedule the interview, or get access to my interview questions, so I can get back on track.

The third secret is to get yourself mentally prepped to be in an interview. Many of us are doing 15 things in an hour, and then we rush and do an interview. Or, we do an interview on the run or in our car or a coffee shop. We’re not present and we’re not listening, which causes us to have a superficial conversation and make a decision based on a few things we’ve heard and many things we didn’t hear or didn’t want to hear. This only leads to regret down the road, so it’s important to be present. It’s also important to be in a quiet place, and in a frame of mind to be ready to listen and most importantly ready to hear.

The fourth secret is to listen from a place of curiosity and open-mindedness. You’ve already defined the role, you know what the core functions are and what the ultimate purpose of the role is. Now you listen from: “Does this person have the core competencies, the values, the work history, the attitude, the belief system, and the skills that your company needs for them to do this job?” What’s most important to listen for is who the person is, what they can do and what they want to do.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to hear yes to everything. With 50 million millennials coming into the workforce, in most cases they’ll need some level of training, specifically in skills and experience. So, what you’re really listening for are core competencies, values, attitudes, and beliefs about themselves and about work. Sure, some of the EcoBoomers need training in people readiness and that’s also something you’re listening for.

The key is in listening: 70% of the interview is you listening. If you’re talking more than 30%, you’re not interviewing.

The fifth secret is at the end of the interview, let the candidate know that you’ll get back to them in a specific period of time with an answer or next steps. Go through a checklist and debrief within an hour, so you don’t forget anything that was really important. You want to spend ten minutes reflecting on how you experienced the candidate’s answers, as compared to what you need.

When you can put aside old interviewing techniques and habits, and deploy these 5 secrets, you’ll be setting yourself up to be a great interviewer and will maximize your effectiveness in hiring the right people for the right roles, every time.