Posts tagged ‘Human Resources’
Exit interviews are rarely an enjoyable experience – for the company, or for the employee. Now, from time-to-time “high fives” are given when sub-par, poorly producing employees resign. Or employees skip out to their car and begin gleefully singing and offering up a rapid fire of fist pumps in the air excited about moving on to a new employer. But I believe that in many cases, when someone resigns, a good, quality relationship is broken and the exit interview can be difficult. That said, resignations and layoffs are a part of life, and companies and employees live another day and continue to prosper no matter how awkward that moment in the exit interview may be. So often I hear about how exit interviews are a complete waste of time, and that they are more of a “that’s the way we’ve always done it” process and mentality, and really just a necessary evil. But WHAT IF those employees who were leaving were REALLY honest, and that leaders conducting the interview truly ENCOURAGED honesty during the interview. A true dose of honesty could make a great impact on many organizations, big and small, but a high level of commitment to the evaluation of results of exit interviews must be made. Many organizational leaders are already stretched thin as it is, I get it, and putting in the time to undertake such a task likely presents great challenges and can easily be put on the back burner as other priorities take precedence…but what if?
If honesty is encouraged where as those leaving your company would actually feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, consulting firms and organizations who employ civil engineers could truly continue to evolve and better themselves. Certainly there will be those employee experiences and comments that will be considered outliers, but if you are hearing a steady dose of what really works and what they really enjoyed, and continue to enhance that culture or those programs or those projects, you will continue to retain your top talent. Typically employees are much more inclined to share the positive than the negatives , as they do not want to burn any bridges or hurt any feelings. But by having an honest conversation with those exiting the building for the last time where they feel comfortable ALSO sharing the negatives can be of great value to an organization.
- **Maybe a manage or director who is great and widely liked by clients shows a completely different persona to his employees, which leads to resentment or diminished morale.
- **Maybe some of the systems that you have in place are antiquated and prohibiting you from keeping up or passing by the competition.
- **Or maybe a branch or satellite office is not getting the attention from corporate leadership that it so desires, and as a result the staff working there feel like the ugly duckling.
There is a saying that I have heard a couple of times recently that states, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Try looking at exit interviews not merely as a formality when turnover occurs, but try REALLY using them as a learning tool and a way to provide future value to your organization.
This was the third entry in our HONESTY series. The first two entries in this series are as follows:
President :: Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner :: CivilEngineeringCentral.com
An experienced search consultant can be many things to a client they are working with above and beyond just recruiting: adviser, provider of market intelligence, resume screener, reference checker, recruiting coordinator, and expert negotiator just to name a few . One thing you should always expect from your search consultant as a client is honesty. Here is how your expectations of honesty should play out when working with a recruiter:
The Job Order. You should always find a recruiter who is an industry expert. Often times recruiters take any positions that arrive on their desk and have a hard time saying no. A good recruiter should be honest and should be able to say “no” when an opportunity is presented to them that falls out of their wheel house. I appreciate all the calls I get from existing and new clients requesting my services, but from time-to-time I must be honest and tell them they would be better off selecting another recruiter who has the true expertise they are looking for. For instance, I specialize in recruiting civil engineering and land surveying professionals mainly in the areas of land development, transportation/highway engineering, bridge engineering, water & wastewater engineering, and water resources. There are a number of specialties that are on the fringes, that may seem logical areas for our continuum of expertise, but are not. These areas might include construction management, structural building engineering, or environmental (site remediation) engineering.
The Time Frame. Often times I have new clients that approach me with exciting new searches, and they ask me how long they think it will be before I can deliver some solid candidates. If a recruiter can make you a promise like that I would be skeptical at best. The honest truth is we do not know. In our business timing is everything, so it is about catching the right candidate on the right day with the right opportunity. Now, from time-to-time we may have readily available candidates that we are actively working with they might fit, but normally speaking, those situations are few-and-far between. Searches are customized and tailor made to uncover candidates with specific skill sets that meet your requirements.
The Word on the Street. Honesty can sometimes be a hard pill to swallow, but a good recruiter will be your firm’s eyes and ears, and an honest recruiter should be able to have a professional conversation with you when your firm’s reputation is not so great. When recruiting for a client, if I continually hear the same objections from perspective candidates specific to my client’s reputation, I feel as though I have an obligation to report that to my client. This market intelligence will allow the client to truly evaluate their public perception and make changes, or it will lead to a conversation that will allow me to overcome those potential objections. For instance, I have a client who from time-to-time is considered a “sweat shop.” I approached my client with this information, and in fact they produced a report for me showing that their average hours hovered around 45-46 hours/week. Hardly a “sweat shop” in the consulting civil engineering world. This honest conversation provided me with the needed ammunition any time the topic surfaced and to have some honest conversations with my candidates as well.
Salary Expectations. Every so often I will have a conversation with a new client revolving around salary for the proposed position they are looking to fill. Because we are experts recruiting civil engineers, we talk to civil engineers all day long and have our “finger on the pulse” as to the range of salaries that are being offered to the different experience levels and specialties underneath the civil engineering umbrella. If our client is being tight on the purse strings, we will let them know, and nine times out of ten they are appreciative of that honesty. They often have to go by different salary surveys they find on line or through national organizations, but salaries and compensation plans tend to be very parochial in the civil engineering community. Sub-market salaries can absolutely kill any chance of finding that civil engineering rock star that is so desired, so don’t be afraid to ask your search consultant his or her opinion of the salary range you have earmarked for the open requisition.
Interview Feedback. No one enjoys being the bearer of bad news, hence the old saying “don’t murder the messenger.” Your firm may have a GREAT opportunity, but if your interview process is not a well thought out process it will come back to bite you in the rear end. Many firms fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to interviewing, and in the end, an unprepared interviewer or team of interviewers can derail an interview process and turn off a really good candidate, leading you back to square one. A good recruiter will extract honest feedback from their candidate, and if that feedback ends up being negative as a result of an uncomfortable interview environment, an ornery line of questioning, etc, he/she should let you know about it. Granted there are two sides to every story, but use that feedback to better position yourself the next time a strong candidate walks through your door and sits across the desk from you.
Over the years I have developed many strong client relationships based upon trust and honesty, and it is a two way street. The ability to put everything out on the table will go along way when working with an experienced search consultant and will lead to far better results in securing the quality talent that is so desired.
This blog is the 2nd in our Honesty series. The first in the series is titled ” What to Expect as a Candidate from your Recruiter.”
President :: Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner :: CivilEngineeringCentral.com
By Bruce Lynch, Vice President of Publishing, PSMJ Resources Inc.
For over 30 years, PSMJ Resources, Inc. has offered publications, educational programs, in-house training and management consulting services to A/E/C professionals worldwide. PSMJ Resources conducts more than 200 educational seminars and conferences annually, supported by major professional societies, including AIA and ACEC. Headquartered in Newton, MA, PSMJ Resources provides more than 150 titles in book and audio, and publishes three newsletters about A/E/C firm management. PSMJ Resources also produces the industry’s preeminent annual surveys on management salaries, financial performance, fees and pricing, and benchmarks for the design firm CEO. On the web:http://www.psmj.com/
I have spent the last few weeks interviewing the PSMJ Circle of Excellence Class of 2009. Circle of Excellence firms ranked in the top 20 percent of firms participating in PSMJ’s Financial Performance Survey that achieve the best overall performance in 13 benchmarks that measure business operations in terms of profitability, growth, cash flow, overhead control, business development, project performance, and employee satisfaction.
Virtually every executive I have spoken with from this exclusive group of design firms has told me that they have used the economic downturn to improve the overall quality of their staff. Many super-talented people with very impressive resumes – as well as star students coming out of design schools – are available and obtainable for firms that have the muscle to make it happen.
Are you one of these people that’s going to add value to a firm that is prospering in the face of tough economic times? There are a number of factors that determine the answer. In general, firms that are looking to upgrade staff try to improve their overall position in specific geographic locations, in services offered, and in markets served. To upgrade at the management level, firms are looking to hire market and/or thought leaders. In upgrading staff, firms are looking for people with direct apples-to-apples experience with a specific market or service offering or that bring valuable knowledge on the latest technology.
Here are some examples: If you are a project manager and you are a super client champion in a specific geographic area, research firms that may be interested in expanding their services in your area. Sell yourself as someone who comes to the firm with a ready-made base of new clients. If you are a K-12 program manager, look for healthy firms that may want to expand into the K-12 market – your addition to the firm gives them the opportunity to hit the ground running. What if your expertise is in a market that is currently sluggish like residential construction? Sell your value-add expertise. Do you have relationships with zoning boards or permitting authorities? These are tangible benefits that can elevate the profile of a firm overnight.
For non-management design professionals, sell your direct experience with a specific market or service. If you design health care facilities, get letters of reference from health care professionals with whom you have worked directly. Having direct experience using Building Information Modeling (BIM) software like Revit is a huge selling point as more firms work on BIM-designed projects. If you have recently graduated from design school, sell your facility in new software applications and your ability to train up your peers in these applications.
It’s also helpful to have a relationship with a professional recruiter – even if you end up finding an exciting new job on your own, these people have the experience to serve as a sounding board and alert you to opportunities you didn’t know existed.
If you are good and you have the skills and experience that other firms see as an “upgrade”, you will always be impervious to the ups and downs of the economy.
All the best,
Over the years I have often seen outstanding land development engineers desire to break into a new area of specialization under the civil engineering umbrella, yet they have found the opportunity to do so to be scarce, at best, purely because they have a background in land development. That said, after discussing this topic with numerous land development engineers across the country, I have been so inclined to blog…in defense of land development engineers.
Why do many firms who specialize in areas of water & wastewater, highway engineering, water resources, etc, turn a blind eye, when hiring, to candidates who come from a land development background? The usual response is that they do not have the desired technical experience, and would rather go without having to absorb the cost of training someone. As a recruiter, I completely understand that reasoning. There are some deeper stereotypes though that should be addressed here, so let’s do a little point/counterpoint as we evaluate some of these potential misconceptions…shall we?
- POINT: Land Development Engineers are the “General Practitioners” of the civil engineering industry. They are jacks-of-all-trades-and-masters-of-none.
- COUNTERPOINT: Land Development Engineers are indeed jacks of all trades, but they are often masters of those trades as well. When pulling together a land development project you are dealing with roadway, traffic, hydrology & hydraulics, utilities, etc. With a good 7-10 years of experience a talented engineer can fully master these concepts. This shows a high level of intelligence and a desire to learn.
- POINT: If our highways and treatment plants and bridges were designed as poorly as some of the subdivisions then we would have an enormous problem.
- COUNTERPOINT: Though you many not always like what you see, often times it is the land development engineer who is at the mercy of their client- the developer. Some developers have the goal of fitting as many lots as possible within a parcel of land for the least amount of money. This is unfortunate as many land development engineers are very creative. It’s not always about what it looks like, but rather the money – and at the mercy of the client their hands are often tied. Many firms would walk away from this type of client because they do not share the same philosophy…but many do not walk away.
- POINT: Dealing with governmental clients is much more complicated than dealing with a developer.
- COUNTERPOINT: Have you ever dealt with a developer? Enormous amounts of pressure, often times ridiculous deadlines with ridiculous expectations, and then there is the collections process. Also, land development engineers deal with MANY different personalities -not only their clients, but attorneys, municipal engineers and other governmental agencies, designers, surveyors, planners and landscape architects, builders, home buyers, angry citizens at public meetings, etc. I would tend to say, that more often than not, an experienced land development engineer could handle dealing with governmental engineers.
In the end, it may not be so much the technical skill set as it is the mentality. I believe that there are many talented land development engineers out there that could pick up pretty quickly on how to design a highway, a dam or a bridge with a little mentoring and some additional studying/training after hours. Land development engineers are used to spinning many plates at once in a fast paced environment, and are not often the analytical number crunchers that you so desire when designing a treatment plant.
So, when a sound land development engineering resume does surface, don’t be so quick to rule them out. What if they are indeed a number cruncher? Imagine a number cruncher then that has acquired great communication and team building skills as a result of being in a land development environment and what that could bring to the table for your firm’s bridge or water resources group. Would you be better off hiring this engineer and taking the time to catch him or her up to speed in a specific specialty rather than searching for the perfect candidate for two years with nothing to show?
During the current recession that we are entrenched in this may not be too much of an issue for you with the surplus of candidates “out on the street.” But during improved times and boom times, is this mentality really too “out of the box” for the civil engineering industry?
When people ask me what I do, I like to tell them that I am an “Executive Search Consultant,” but I always then clarify that with, “you know, a headhunter.” I am not a Human Resources professional, but I interact with them on a regular basis, and based upon those interactions I thought I could offer up some different suggestions that Human Resources professionals could be doing during these slow times. Now, I do have a couple of good ideas, but I have decided to hold off on those ideas for now as a friend of a friend set me straight about what many Human Resources professionals within the civil engineering industry are going through right now, and it is a topic that is worth mentioning.
The economy has slowed down, but you have not…many of you are still working 50-60 hours week, but now you are experiencing the dark side of human resources where the best skill sets you have are guts and compassion. Downsizing, layoffs, RIF, whatever you want to call it, it is not a pleasurable experience, no matter which side of the desk you may be on. I speak here not through experience, but through the account of this process from a Human Resources professional in our industry.
Preparing for layoffs is grueling:
- Compiling staff review documentation from managers;
- Working with managers in identifying who will be laid off ;
- Coaching those managers as to how to best approach the looming conversation while knowing that no coaching can really ever fully prepare someone for what it’s like to let a colleague go;
- Organizing and implementing severance programs;
- Administering COBRA;
- Conducting outplacement assistance;
- Fending off lawsuits;
- Taking on the tasks of those in your department who were recently let go;
- Much more that I am surely missing.
Maybe the most difficult duty you have right now though, is having to sit down across the desk from a mom or a dad, from a single parent, from an employee whose spouse just lost their job a week ago, from a parent with a sick child or a child who is just getting ready to go off to college, from a young woman who just put a down payment on her first home, or from a friend, and telling them that they are being laid off. ..and then dealing with roller coaster of emotions that are felt from that employee, their family, from yourself, from their supervisor and from their friends who still work there.
This is not what you signed up for, but there is no better trained or more qualified person in your organization to deal with the current situation than you:
- You have the guts to stick to the orders that you were given as opposed to packing up your desk and bailing;
- You have the compassion to empathize with these folks;
- You have the ability to absorb the verbal abuse that is unleashed on you;
- And you have the know-how and the desire to do EVERYTHING in your power to make sure that these folks are granted their severance, that they are provided everything they need to know about applying for COBRA, that they know who to call to roll over their 401K into what you hope to be a new 401K in the very near future, and to coach and to help these individuals find new employment.
Especially during these tumultuous times, the Human Resources professionals are clearly the unsung heroes whose compassion, resiliency, hard work and dedication are the rock…wait…the mountain…that everyone leans upon.
The great thing about being in America is that we are resilient. We have the ability to dig down DEEP and to be strong, to stand tall, to fight tooth and nail, and to land on two feet. It is not an easy thing to be a part of, on either side of that desk, but the smoke will eventually clear and most people will be a better person for it.
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