Work Flexibility is the Key to Recruiting and for Building a Culture of Trust

The number 1 request from candidates is Work Flexibility. We, Acumen Executive Search, have been interviewing and placing Director-level through C-Level candidates since 2007, and this has been the case for 13 years. Today, with unemployment so low and top talent in high demand, it makes more sense for employers to be creative.

Many business owners, executives, and leaders talk about “work-life integration”, meaning that when they are on vacation, they check emails in the morning, play with the family in the afternoon, and return to work in the evening. If employees can practice this while on vacation, why can’t more businesses offer work flexibility to their employees? I know that there are industries that cannot offer work flexibility, but many organizations can!

I read a Harvard Business review article titledBill Gates says This 1 Employee Perk is Most Important. A New Harvard Study Backs Him UpI find the statistics amazing. When the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office implemented work-flexibility, they saw 13.5% increase in production from their workers. But what was interesting was that the work-flexibility did not require workers to work from home or from work 100% but allowed them to decide where to work. We know that with technology, we can work anywhere, including when we are on vacation.

The Acumen Approach – Now Backed By Behavioral Science

Acumen spends a great deal of time with our managerial through executive-level candidates.  First and foremost, as true partners with our client companies, we need this time to ascertain the candidate’s ideal position, cultural and core value alignments, and a multitude of other factors making them the one right candidate for our open opportunity.  Secondly, we genuinely develop meaningful relationships with our candidates and want them to succeed.  During interview coaching, one of Acumen’s most highly stressed suggestions is to never answer an interview question with a yes or no but rather, tell a story.  A story that doesn’t talk about what the candidate may have done in the past but instead helps the hiring manager envision how the candidate can be additive and help with specific challenges facing the organization.

Recently, I attended a Link event at which Mr. Larry Shoop was giving a presentation titled “The Science and Power of Story.”  I knew I had to attend on the title alone given the potential significance to one of Acumen’s core tenets and I am so glad I did. In addition to being with a dynamic and fun group of ladies and hearing an amazing presentation, I learned a statistic I was previously unaware of.  A statistic that gave the team here at Acumen further conviction in our approach.  I learned behavioral science shows a staggering 95% of all decisions are first made emotionally while rationalization and reasoning follow later.  As human beings we are wired to learn through stories, we are going to remember the stories which trigger an emotional response and those emotions are going to color our decisions.  I also learned the average attention span is now just 5 minutes; not a lot of time to leave a memorable impression and further underlining the importance of making an emotional connection with your audience.  Apparently, this is all simply science and the Acumen team couldn’t agree more!

As a recruiter I conduct a lot of interviews and my most insightful interviews occur when the candidate opens up and starts sharing applicable stories.  I am able to develop an essential rapport through shared stories.  I get to see what is really behind that nervousness as the candidate relaxes and I often gain valuable information I wouldn’t have otherwise received.  The content, structure and even subject matter of candidate stories help us to better understand their motivators, core values, personalities and much more.  With over 12 years of success following our proven process, it was exciting to hear about the science behind why it works!

 

How One Well-Placed HR Business Partner Can Transform an Enterprise and Mitigate Risk

The Challenge

A decades-old international transportation company was urgently in need of a cultural shift in order to support safety, compliance, leadership development, and effective recruitment goals. They needed a strategic HR leader who had the ability to lead through influence following the strong Founder’s departure. The company HR department was sorely in need of solid policies, procedures, mission alignment, and effective leadership.

The HR Business Partner knew the opportunity would present big challenges going in due to Acumen’s transparency regarding the gaps — and he was excited to take them on.

The organization had recently lost their Founder. It was apparent that the right tools from a leadership, personnel, cultural, and compliance perspective were lacking. Leadership needed support and education. The Founder had a positive, “paternal” leadership style and was the person who generally “held everything together.” Upon his departure, the organizational gaps lead to a loss of trust between HR and the rest of the organization. As typical of mid-sized company business owners, he had a hand in every aspect of the company and was a natural born leader. “Many employees stated that he just ‘made the whole thing work.’ If there was an HR problem, he would listen to both sides and make a decision and everyone would say “yes, sir.” Any company with that kind of leader is going to be successful when they have a maestro making it all happen.”

Once the Founder had departed, the new HR leader would have the challenge of transforming the culture and introducing policies and procedures to remedy the lack of effective HR management. It would be crucial to implement compliance and establish a safe, positive, inclusive work environment that mitigated risk.

This HR Leader would need to work as a true partner to the executive team, understanding the history, the business strategy, the diverse personalities of the employees, and HR law to be effective. He would not succeed if he was a “my way or the highway” type of individual; he would need to be a leader who could lead through influence and engender trust to get the job done. Needed was a kind, collaborative leader who listens, while explaining why being compliant was beneficial and essential to the organization as a whole. He also needed to be a knowledgeable HRBP who was able to command the respect of the executive team to allow him to execute on leadership development initiatives.

The Solution

Acumen quickly identified 3 strong potential candidates for the role that had the dual experience in both HR and Safety the role required. Jon not only had the right mix of industries in his background, but he was a hands-on strategist with experience overseeing the facets of HR that needed the most help. This included championing a big cultural change through change management – moving a large organization into embracing compliance and leadership development. Executive Leadership acknowledged him to be a strong cultural fit – a strategic HR Leader who was thoughtful, knowledgeable, and collaborative while being an expert in safety, compliance, training, leadership development, and recruiting. He was a leader who made promises and fulfilled them. He got the job done.

The timeline from when Acumen identified Jon as a strong candidate to when the organization made him an offer of employment took two weeks. Thanks to the great partnership with the CFO, the process ran smoothly and effectively. While placements of HR professionals in more rural areas generally take much longer, Acumen credits their strong, efficacious network which supported the swift identification and relocation of Jon.

Results

Within a few weeks, Jon addressed many organizational gaps and started performing a cultural overhaul. Executive leadership was impressed with the HR training he developed for all management which had employees flying in from both international and multi-state locations. He put together a

5-hour session “HR 101” to ensure cohesion and that everyone was “singing from the same song book” to encourage alignment to avoid liability. The session focused on leadership training and accountability. They reviewed employee lifecycles, progressive discipline, and termination. They were also provided with structured interview processes, “here are the 5 questions we are going to ask all candidates and then there will be 4 that vary for each work group.” Jon implemented effective hiring practices, suggesting that there must be at least 2 people interviewed for every open position. “I helped install rules and procedures, leveraging myself as a business partner, rather than internal affairs.”

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and went from “I don’t want to be here, I’m being forced to do this” to “This was exactly what we needed” and staff and management appreciated the skill required to put together and deliver good, meaningful content. “It was personable – interactive, but not cheesy. We focused on accountability vs. responsibility. Managers may be good at what they do but they don’t always have a good handle on what they do. It’s about developing others and holding them accountable. For example, I don’t need the Director of Maintenance to be best guy to use a wrench – his job is to manage, coach, inspire and be a leader more than having operational skills. It’s about making sure they know what accountability looks like.”

“Initially, there was a fair amount of resistance (to compliance) and it’s legitimate, I’m just the HR guy – I’m not turning the wrenches.  There are a lot of crazy things that can happen in the world today. We need to control every single thing we can control, so crazy doesn’t take over. Let’s be prepared and wear the harness. We need to wag the tail – not let the tail wag us.”

Jon worked with the Executive leadership team to conduct salary reviews.  “Everyone saw an increase. We haven’t done significant increases for everyone in years, so this was a big positive. We pay well in some ways and in others we don’t. What we saw was cost of living going up and inflation. We had lots of people who have not seen a raise in 10 years. We had to make that right and compensate for insurance premiums going up. The next round of increases will be performance-based. I will be installing a review process – the President really wants to do this. Hopefully by third quarter.”

Jon has also had some creative ideas around recruiting, and how they can attract candidates from larger markets. He is also working with leadership to craft vision and mission statements and define the organization’s core values. The process is slowly unfolding, and he is coalescing all employees around their greater purpose.

Satisfaction with Opportunity

Jon feels he has been given a “seat at the table” and that the opportunity was a great fit for him. “I have been invited to the table and as I prove to be valuable and demonstrate how vital my role is and my ability to do that role. I definitely feel valued and appreciated and have the ability to make positive changes – and do it quickly.”

Jon foresees a long-term relationship with the organization. “They are supportive, responsive and appreciate me.”

When it comes to effectiveness with the staff: “Everyone is cautiously optimistic. It’s important that HR has credibility, that HR models the change we suggest, and follows through. If I say, I’ll get back to you tomorrow, I’ll get back to you tomorrow – I make sure of it. If someone asks for something, ask when do you need this by? And I’ll commit. Then that puts the pressure on me and gives them an experience that I can be counted on. Once you have credibility, everything else falls in place.”

Working with Acumen

“Your team (at Acumen) are very communicative – a big pro. Anyone who works through the process is going to be happy because you are always communicating. I could call and ask questions and you were very up front. Your process is really good. I ended up with a great job that I’m happy at where I get to make real change. My manager is smart, supportive, and a great mentor. I want to be him when I grow up.”

“HR is so important—I touch about 180 members of staff and their lives. I think Acumen was honest about the company and the opportunity – I think the issues ran even deeper than they knew. We were out of compliance for many years. It’s not an overstatement to say that I saved the company liability.”

By Molly Norton

The Inside Skinny on Getting Noticed.

United Professional Women Accelerating Relationships & Development is hosting “The Inside Skinny on Getting Noticed“. Recruiters are 13% less likely to click on a woman’s bio on LinkedIn, but 16% more likely to hire a woman. Does your profile stand out? Are you owning your accomplishments? Does your resume cause a recruiter or a client to want to spend more than 9 seconds (average review time)?

Join Suzanne Hanifin and Amanda Szeto April 23 at 5:30 pm to explore tips and tricks for building an effective LinkedIn profile and optimizing your resume for job hunting, board positions, consulting, or whatever your goal is.

 

Congrats to Scott Cooper – New MEDP Executive Director

Acumen Executive Search is proud to announce the successful placement of Scott Cooper as Executive Director for McMinnville Economic Development Partnership (MEDP).

The MEDP board was looking to replace its outgoing Executive Director and called upon Acumen Executive Search (Acumen) to help fill this crucial position. Acumen quickly implemented their unique, customized 9 step search methodology and brought forward a pool of top tier candidates.

The board ultimately chose to hire Scott Cooper. Cooper’s innovative accomplishments and exceptional understanding of economic, business, community development, and extensive involvement serving as a leader within extremely different environments set him apart as a top tier candidate and the clear choice to lead MEDP.

About Scott Cooper: Scott Cooper brings over 20 years of economic development for both small and large communities to the city of McMinnville, OR. He has previously implemented economic initiatives that created jobs, recruited new companies, expanded existing businesses, and launched a tech innovations center.

Cooper feels that there is much opportunity, both personally and professionally, in the community of McMinnville that offers a great quality of life and wonderful residents. He is eager to learn and understand the history of McMinnville and learn and work cohesively with the board for the betterment of all.

Says Cooper “The professional team at Acumen really made a difficult process go very smooth. From initial contact through the successful outcome, I felt I had a partner in the process. The efforts of the Acumen team did not stop after accepting my new position, rather they have continued to offer assistance. I could not ask for a better experience.”

About MEDP: The Partnership includes the City of McMinnville, McMinnville Water & Light, McMinnville Industrial Promotions, McMinnville Industrial Promotions, the McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce, and area businesses. To learn more about the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership, visit www.McMinnvilleBusiness.com or find us at facebook.com/McMinnvilleBusiness.

 About Acumen: Since 2007, Acumen has been the premier boutique, woman-owned Executive Search firm in Oregon with global clientele. Acumen works holistically and strategically with their clients to deeply comprehend their business and culture, to facilitate critical hires who can help solve meaningful problems. Visit www.AcumenRecruiting.com

by Christine Billett

Product Marketing Manager Sought to Fill Gaps and Prepare Prior To Product Launch

“Acumen was easy to work with. I felt both Amanda and Karen genuinely looked out for my welfare. They kept in touch and clearly care about me – so unexpected and so very appreciated. Acumen’s coaching was on point; they advocated well for me resulting in a win-win agreement”

– Ananda, Product Marketing Manager

 

Challenge:

An early stage, pre-launch medical device company needed an experienced Product Marketing Manager to spearhead go-to-market strategy. While awaiting certain data for an innovative yet complex hardware/software product, it provided a challenge and opportunity for solutions. The product is a game changing medical device to be used in predicting disease state pre-dispositions to position patients and providers to enjoy improved health outcomes.

 

Solution:

Acumen’s expertise quickly led to a top-tier candidate. As the interface of engineering, product management, and marketing, Ananda feels he has been able to be a sounding board for the team and has helped with overall direction and marketing approach. The team has been able to focus on goals in order of priorities and have clarity on product deliverables. As a result, Ananda is now a part of a Clinical Studies Group where team members from multiple departments meet regularly to examine next steps in the process of product development and launch.

 

Results:

Ananda feels heard and valued by his company.  He finds the science of the product and the whole space he works in is both exciting and fascinating.  As such, he is currently spearheading a group “The Voice of the Customer” to prepare to partner with customers post launch by building tools to work with and train distributors.

The team began a Culture Committee late last year to bridge the lab and corporate office.  It was an initial success, with approximately 27 people show up to an inaugural event designed to bring everyone together collaboratively as one team.

“I have learned so much and have never been in such a brand spanking new environment. Such a great experience!”