Ed Frauenheim, senior director of content at Great Place to Work, and Rick Bell, editorial director at Human Capital Media, go head to head in a discussion about what Gen Z should — and shouldn’t — demand at work.
Ed Frauenheim, senior director of content at Great Place to Work, and Rick Bell, editorial director at Human Capital Media, go head to head in a discussion about what Gen Z should — and shouldn’t — demand at work.
The candidate who excelled during their interviews disappears during the final step of the hiring process. That enthusiastic college grad who accepts your job offer never makes it through onboarding. The promising new hire who settles so easily into their new role vanishes after two weeks without formal notice, unresponsive to texts and voicemails.
It’s called ghosting. A concept typically associated with dating, ghosting happens when someone unexpectedly ends a relationship and withdraws from all communication. Today, it’s one more unwelcomed consequence of a tight labor market tormenting the corporate world.
Candidate-Driven Market Shifts the Balance of Power
We’ve all heard stories about companies ghosting on candidates. But now, with more jobs than qualified people to take them, candidates are emboldened, readily disregarding established protocols and disappearing without warning. A recent article in USA Today reports companies finding “20 to 50 percent of job applicants and workers are pulling no-shows in some form,” and this “bizarre trend … is starting to feel like a commonplace occurrence.” LinkedIn Editor-in-Chief Dan Roth concurs, telling “CBS This Morning” in a recent interview that the job market is so hot that it’s becoming “easier just to stop showing up than to say, ‘no,’ or, ‘Thank you for reaching out to me about this job — I don’t actually it want anymore’.”
Although ghosting is more frequent in entry-level or hourly positions, it is also evident at higher levels, especially when companies utilize junior recruiters who lack the experience in engaging more practiced candidates.
Job Hunting Goes Casual
Candidates today have an abundance of job search avenues available to them, causing the job-seeking experience to become more diluted and impersonal. The net is cast so wide that in many cases candidates don’t even recall how they came upon a particular opportunity and approach communication casually throughout the recruitment process. When it gets tough, or if the candidate experience becomes shaky, it creates a decision point which includes exiting quickly and ghosting rather than having a direct and potentially difficult conversation with the recruiter.
Companies, too, are utilizing more technology to engage and communicate with candidates. While this has its benefits in terms of efficiency, there is no substitute for a good recruiter who can engage a candidate throughout the process with a professional, compelling offer and create an experience centered on the candidate, not the job. Plus, candidates may feel more compelled to respond when they know they are communicating with a person rather than a robot.
Candor and Engagement Are Key
The uptick in ghosting is taking a toll on hiring managers and recruiters already dealing with the impact of prolonged hiring cycles on budgets, sales and operations. If you are rethinking practices to keep ghosting in check, here are ideas to get you started:
In a growth economy where labor pressures are high, ghosting is likely here to stay. But, it should become less of a problem when companies get smarter about engagement and keep their focus on the candidate.
We’ve yet to meet a leader who is confused by the term “problem employee.” In fact, more often than not, leaders can immediately identify their team members who fit that description. But too often, problem employees remain in organizations, doing damage to both their work groups and their direct manager’s career.
Problem employees disrupt team innovation, erode trust and derail group output, with each problem person costing organizations up to $8,000 per day. Research from our organization, the Center for Creative Leadership, or CCL, has found that managers’ careers are negatively impacted if those around them observe problem employee behavior continuing unchecked. This impacts manager reputations, leading to a lower likelihood of promotion.
Despite a plethora of leadership programming and literature that identifies this issue, most leaders struggle with addressing these challenging employees. Our research shows that of key leadership competencies, “confronting problem employees” remains one of the biggest growth needs for most leaders.
Understanding the Problem
We recently explored the challenge of managing problem employees with a survey of 214 leaders worldwide. We asked these leaders to describe a current or past problem employee, with a specific focus on their problematic behaviors. Some clear themes emerged in the responses. Problem employees often turn in poor work performance, demonstrate an inability to work well with others and fail to respond to coaching. In the end, we identified 11 distinct “problem” types.
One of the most intriguing behavioral groups we discovered we termed “Yes, but …” employees. These individuals had strong positive attributes, yet they also demonstrated at least one negative behavior that overshadowed the good. For example, some problem employees have high expertise but are unable to get along well with others. Others have deep, productive relationships within the group but fail to meet their basic job requirements.
How can managers address problematic employee behaviors? At CCL, we’ve found that leaders who are most effective at dealing with problem employees have a specific communications approach when it comes to feedback.
A Non-evaluative, Three-step Process
Once an employee’s pattern of problem behavior emerges, dealing with it effectively requires a measure of bravery and focus on timeliness. Successful leaders learn to confront problem behavior soon after it occurs, while the behavior is fresh in their mind and the problem employee’s memory. This helps cement shared understanding, which can lead to a more fruitful conversation with less pushback or defensiveness.
A three-step approach called Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI) feedback can be a powerful tool. In this process, the feedback giver:
When using SBI for feedback, it’s important not to speculate about the problem employee’s motivations or feelings. By just noting the behavior itself, the person receiving feedback is less likely to become defensive, which opens up a discussion about the behavior. In the example above, perhaps the employee was trying to demonstrate interest in the topic, or maybe the data was wrong and the employee was trying to correct the presentation in a less-obvious way. The feedback giver may still dislike the interruptions, but SBI allows the colleagues to come to a better understanding, rather than making feedback feel punitive or aggressive. It is this difference — making the confrontation more about a dialogue and less about airing grievances — that can lead to the problem employee changing their behavior.
In addition to addressing problem behavior as it arises, CCL’s research shows that successful leaders create a culture where feedback is common and ordinary. Using the SBI approach to commend the problem employee for doing something good, as well as addressing problematic behavior, can help them feel more supported and reinforce the behavior you’d like to see.
Consistent feedback improves performance and reputation for both leaders and teams, and ensures that problem employees know what’s working —and what’s not – well before their annual review.
Here are seven best practices that can help leaders to give better feedback.
When Feedback Is Not Enough
Of course, simply addressing the problem behavior doesn’t always resolve it. Even the most-skilled leaders may encounter employees who are unable or unwilling to change their behavior, even after multiple rounds of specific feedback. In these cases, it can be appropriate for leaders to consult with their human resources or legal departments to decide on the best course of action or create a formal development plan. But by addressing the problem behavior head-on, leaders — and their teams — will benefit greatly.
No one who makes it to the Super Bowl is ever genuinely surprised. They know how they got there: It takes years of practice, dedication, coaching, teamwork, failures, adjustments and skill building. The players — their team’s top talent — get regular coaching to refine their skills and consistently deliver peak performance to achieve the ultimate goal of winning their league’s top prize, earning well-deserved recognition in the process.
While most business environments may not share the same levels of dynamism and grit (and physical talent!) required to succeed in the NFL, forward-looking organizations embrace their own iterative process of talent management to engage and develop their employees so that they achieve individual and organizational goals. Just like the NFL’s high-performing franchises, these organizations coach for goal achievement.
The Shift: Coaching for Goal Achievement
The role of a manager or people leader in today’s workplace is shifting away from being a traditional “command and control” boss to be more of a performance coach, which is exactly what today’s employees have been saying they want, according to recent research from Gallup.
Performance coaching is an ongoing process of conversations and check-ins that guide the workplace behaviors and contributions of people and teams, and then providing timely feedback, guidance and skill-building opportunities to achieve individual and organizational goals. It’s a significant shift from the “set-it-and-forget-it” mindset that has become all too common when setting employee goals.
Goal management is more than just assigning objectives and reviewing employee performance during their annual review. It’s about frequently revisiting and reviewing these goals, tracking progress, celebrating successes, identifying and discussing challenges and obstacles and reconfirming or adjusting your game plan along the way. This way, we ensure our employees know and understand performance expectations, are set up for success and are able to execute on the game plan.
Now, managers also need tools, development and a framework to enable their people to perform well and hit their goals, starting with a plan.
Plan to Win, Play to Win
Managers can plan to win by working with their employees to develop and execute specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based goals. Collaborative goal setting gives managers great insight into how to leverage an employee’s strengths to help them reach their goals. It also ensures that employees have a voice in setting performance expectations that are fair, relevant and challenging.
Not only does effective goal setting help employees hit their targets; it also improves employee engagement, increases productivity, increases motivation, lowers costs and provides a heightened level of focus companywide.
While only 30 percent of employees strongly agree that their managers involve them in goal setting, those individuals are 3.6 times more likely than other employees to be engaged at work, according to Gallup’s 2017 “State of the American Workplace” report.
To meet and exceed those agreed-upon goals, managers and employees need to engage in ongoing dialogue. Weekly or monthly check-ins are ideal (and can vary depending on what’s realistic for your organization). But annual reviews simply aren’t enough because so much can happen within a 12-month timeframe.
Adopting a cadence of ongoing performance check-ins, in-the-moment coaching, development opportunities, and feedback and recognition can help identify skill gaps, keep individual goals aligned to organizational goals and monitor goal progress.
Empowering Your MVPs in the Field
Fostering a culture of feedback, development and engagement helps prevent the major pitfall that sidelines even the most well-intentioned goals: the “too busy” trap. Other competing priorities deemed more important often push regular feedback aside in a traditional manager-employee relationship.
But when the manager dons their performance coach cap and empowers the employee to take an active role in their own development and goals, managers ultimately decrease their accountability as a boss while increasing their accountability as a coach and team lead. Performance coaching, enabled by the right tools, also helps empower employees to drive their own goal achievement progress.
Both managers and employees can use their organization’s talent management system to track goal progress, solicit feedback by adding comments or status updates, and document thoughts, wins and challenges. Managers can set alerts to follow up, easily monitor their employees’ progress, and can address skill or alignment gaps in their one-on-one meetings. The rise of mobile talent management applications also enables coaching anytime, anywhere. Managers and employees can interact and stay connected in ways that work best for their relationship — all while avoiding interaction fatigue.
High performers want to see their coaches make the time to collaborate on ongoing performance management and recognize them for their efforts along the way.
Polish Their Trophies: Celebrating and Rewarding Performance Wins
Regular conversations and check-ins are at the heart of goal achievement, but the importance of employee recognition and celebrating performance wins cannot be understated. People who feel recognized and appreciated are naturally more motivated, committed to their work and willing to run that extra mile.
Don’t underestimate the power of positive feedback; performance coaches who regularly give strength-based feedback have the most-engaged employees, while employees who receive constructive feedback are somewhat engaged. It’s not surprising that a total lack of feedback results in very low levels of employee engagement.
Offering real-time feedback and celebrating wins in the form of badges, redeemable points for tangible rewards, and peer-to-peer impressions are all fun and meaningful ways to demonstrate to employees that their contributions are being acknowledged and appreciated.
Playing in the Big Leagues
High-performing organizations know that when they play to win they make no excuses when it comes to prioritizing development for goal achievement. With managers and employees clear on the goal, and aligned on how to achieve it, organizations can remain agile, easily adapting to changing business priorities, driving positive business outcomes.
Regular and ongoing performance coaching, fueled by one-on-one meetings, helps employees understand what’s going well and where they can have a greater impact on their projects, in their roles and, ultimately, their careers. These practices demonstrate to employees that their managers are invested in their success. The best part of it all? When they’re standing in the end zone, they’ll know exactly how they got there.
Many managers will breathe a sigh of relief at the end of the vacation season. While recognizing how important it is to encourage people to take time off, keeping the business running smoothly can be a challenge over this period.
A survey my firm ran earlier this year found that almost half of U.S. workers don’t take all of their earned vacation time and another half of workers check in remotely while they are away. One of the reasons that people give for not taking their time off or for logging in over the break is the fear of work building up while they are away.
Work does build up; most people are familiar with that sinking feeling a huge pile of unread emails can engender when they come back in after some time off.
And most business leaders will be familiar with a similar twinge of unease when they look at the vacation planner and find that several key people are all away at once. Most businesses will end up with periods when all the high performers seem to have headed off together and there is a risk that the revenue will suffer.
With the summer vacation season at an end and the winter holidays around the corner, this may be a good moment to think about three key ways to manage paid time off.
There is a fashion in some tech firms to offer the perk of unlimited vacation time. Personally, I think this is a bit of a gimmick — in many of these companies the culture dictates that people don’t take much time off. And it certainly makes it harder to plan — you can’t offer people unlimited time off and then tell them they can’t go away at the same time as Joe and Charlie. Giving people an entitlement and encouraging them to take it is a better basis for encouraging them to plan their time off and spread it over the year.
Managers can ask people early in the year to book their vacation dates. Protocols can be set about the number of people in key teams who can be off at any one time. Think about the teams and skill sets and how to spread the load across the whole summer.
This is another argument for a diverse workforce; having people in the workforce who aren’t all at the same age and stage is more likely to lead to a wider spread of vacation preference. For instance, older people who don’t have school-age children often prefer to vacation outside of peak season.
A collision of vacation requests may be an opportunity for someone to try out a different role or to work across a different discipline. Offering staff who don’t go away at peak holiday time the chance to try out a more senior role could be just the incentive you were looking for to encourage talented staff to stay put and take a break at a different time.
Historically, job interviews have been the go-to way for companies to decide whether or not to hire certain people. But this doesn’t mean job interviews are the best way to find the right talent. To better determine the best fit for the job, companies have a wealth of other tools available to test out skills, knowledge and alignment to the brand. Nick Cromydas, CEO of Chicago-based recruiting firm Hunt Club, shares his thoughts on why job interviews are no longer the best way to find the right person for the job.
Talent Economy: Why aren’t interviews a good indicator of how an applicant will perform on the job?
Nick Cromydas: Interviews are too subjective. They require a hiring manager to assess a candidate based on their emotions, which could change based on whether they’re having a good day or week. The same goes for the interviewee. Their performance during the interview will vary based on a number of factors, including the behavior of the interviewer.
When hiring managers assess candidates using a subjective model, they can easily allow biases to get in the way. Many questions, even the most common “Tell me about a time” questions, will favor those who are more charismatic than others, even if that’s not a required skill for the position. They also allow candidates to claim the work of others with no one else to confirm the real story.
On the other hand, it’s said that first impressions are made in the first 30 seconds of meeting a new person. Those impressions tend to hold. So going back to an interviewer’s subjectivity, a candidate could easily start the conversation off on the wrong foot — even by wearing an article of clothing that rubs the interviewer the wrong way. Their initial impression will hold weight throughout the entire interview and during the rest of the hiring process.
In the end, a recruiter will end up hiring someone who isn’t necessarily the best person for the job, but someone that they like or someone they can see themselves working with from day-to-day. This is why interviews make hiring so difficult. It’s a people process, not a mechanized one.
TE: What strategies can employers use to more accurately forecast whether an applicant is a fit for the job?
Cromydas: It’s critical that hiring managers are trained properly. They need to have a clear understanding of which skills, experience and personality traits are needed to be most effective in the role. This is about going above and beyond the job description to have a strong sense of what they’re looking for in a person, whether it’s intensity or attention to detail.
Here’s an example: You’re a fast-growing software company that sells ERP systems to manufacturing plants. You’re looking to hire 50 account executives to support your company’s business development goals. There might not be 50 account executives that have sold software in a complex B2B sales environment. For this reason, you need to look beyond finding candidates with sales experience. You need to find someone who will do exceptionally well in this specific environment faced with these unique challenges. This could be someone who is more introverted but analytical and process-driven, rather than your typical extroverted seller.
My other recommendation is to come up with a strategy for fine-tuning interview criteria. Hiring managers should know exactly what they want in an interviewee based on the needs of the business. Without defining this criteria, hiring managers will end up selecting a candidate based on emotions, rather than objective benchmarks or standards.
One strategy I’ve seen increasing in popularity is testing. Giving candidates a real problem to solve that pertains to what they would be doing in the potential role. This way, recruiters can see candidates work through the problem-solving process, critical-thinking strategies or error-spotting abilities. Whiteboard tests involve giving candidates a problem to solve on a whiteboard. After solving, they are evaluated on not only their ability to come to a solution, but also the way they can communicate their process.
TE: Any tips for candidates? What steps should they take to ensure they don’t misrepresent themselves?
Cromydas: Take the time before the interview to understand “What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? What are my accomplishments?” and “What am I looking for in a position?” Once you define the answers to those questions, you will be more confident in how you are presenting yourself without being misleading.
Another strategy is to connect with a career coach. Although a career coach can’t open up doors to get you a job, they can get you up to a level where you’re prepared to accept a new opportunity. Before seeking outside advice, it’s crucial you understand yourself and your goals. Be prepared to consult with your coach around these two questions: “What’s my dream job?” and “Where do I want to go?” Then, your coach can guide you through the interview process and ensure you aren’t misrepresenting yourself.