Friday, 19 August 2011

You won't produce great work while you're angry

This blog below by Seth Godin just popped up in my inbox and I thought I'd share it with the group. Wise words indeed. I guess we should try to avoid getting all 'wound-up' so we can produce great work more often. Or at least, we should avoid trying to produce great work while we're angry.  

"Is your anger is killing your art?

It's rare to find a consistently creative or insightful person who is also an angry person.*

They can't occupy the same space, and if your anger moves in, generosity and creativity often move out. It's difficult to use revenge or animus to fuel great work.

Ironically, when you decide to teach someone a lesson they richly deserve, you often end up strangling the very source you were counting on.

(*Angry is not the same as being a jerk. For some reason, there are plenty of creative jerks--I think because they mistakenly believe that being a jerk is a useful way for some people to wrestle with their lizard brains)."

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

How to Shortlist Job Applicants - Equitably and Legally

You might find this useful if you're thinking about hiring, from Epert HR:

Against what sort of criteria should job applications be compared?

The criteria against which each application can be compared will include qualifications, training, length and type of work experience, level of responsibility and authority held, level of knowledge and skills, and special skills or aptitudes specific to the job.

How can an employer ensure that line managers draw up a shortlist for a position without unlawfully discriminating against applicants?

By comparing each application with the employee specification to establish whether, on paper, the person has the type of background that is necessary or desirable for the job, the manager will minimise the risk of bias on grounds of gender, race or age (or any other irrelevant factor). Personal information such as the applicant's name, sex, marital or civil partnership status, sexual orientation, nationality, country of birth, religion and age should not form part of the process.

Is it permissible to exclude from a shortlist any job applicants who submit untidy or badly written applications?

Although it is permissible to exclude applicants on the basis of the presentation of their application form or CV, presentation is often irrelevant except in the case of a professional job or one in which the skills of written communication are expressly required for effective performance. If the job is a manual one that does not require any written communication skills, rejection on the grounds of a poorly presented application form would be inappropriate. Furthermore, if the job applicant has a disability, for example dyslexia or learning difficulties, judging him or her on ability to present the written word could be discriminatory and unlawful.

Is it unlawful to exclude a job applicant from the shortlist on the grounds that his or her disability would cause practical difficulties for the employer?

A candidate who has disclosed to the employer that he or she has a disability should be shortlisted for interview unless he or she is clearly unsuitable for an unrelated reason (for example if he or she lacks the necessary experience for the job) or if it is clear from the information provided that the disability would prevent effective or safe performance of the job. Section 20 of the Equality Act 2010 imposes a duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments to any provision, criterion or practice that they apply and to any physical feature of their premises to prevent or reduce any substantial disadvantage that a disabled employee or job applicant would otherwise have.

If a job applicant has suffered from a debilitating illness in the past, can he or she be excluded from the shortlist?

No, not for that reason alone. Where someone has had an illness in the past that at the time would have amounted to a disability under the Equality Act 2010 (or the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, which has been repealed by the Equality Act), it will be discriminatory to reject the person for employment for this reason (s.6(4) of the Equality Act 2010). A history of cancer or depressive illness would be good examples.

Can an employer use an automated process in making shortlisting decisions?

Section 12 of the Data Protection Act 1998 provides that the use of automated processing as the sole means of making recruitment decisions is restricted if the decision-making evaluates matters such as the job applicant's work performance, conduct or reliability. If an employer uses an automated method as the sole basis for shortlisting, it must notify the applicant as soon as reasonably practical that the decision was taken on this basis. The applicant then has 21 days to ask the employer to reconsider any adverse decision made about him or her. Any such representations from the applicant should be taken into account before the final decision is made.

At what stage of the recruitment process should employers make the decision to take positive action?

According to government guidance (Equality Act 2010: What do I need to know? A quick start guide to using positive action in recruitment and promotion (PDF format, 338.43K) (on the Government Equalities Office website)), positive action can be taken at any stage of the recruitment or promotion process. The guide gives the example of the positive action provisions being used to complete a shortlist of candidates to go through to the next stage of assessment. However, the guide goes on to say that it is expected that positive action will mainly be used as a tie-breaker between candidates of equal merit for a particular post at the end of the recruitment process, ie at the decision stage. By then, the employer concerned should have been able to establish all of the relevant factors to enable it to determine, as definitively as possible, whether or not the final candidates are truly as qualified as each other. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Employing Foreign Nationals - FAQ's

According to a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and KPMG, one in five (19%) employers recruited migrant workers in the past three months, to help combat a 'homegrown' skills shortage in the UK. If you're thinking about hiring foreign nationals to bridge your skills gaps, you might find these answers to frequently asked questions from Xpert HR useful:

Is it an offence to employ a foreign national who is subject to immigration control?
Under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, it is not an offence to employ someone who is subject to immigration control, provided that he or she has leave to enter or remain in the UK and is not prevented from working. However, it is a criminal offence knowingly to take on a foreign national who has not been granted leave to enter or remain in the UK, or who does not have permission to work in the UK.

Is it lawful to ask a job applicant if he or she requires permission to work in the UK?
Yes, an employer can ask a job applicant if he or she requires permission to work in the UK, as long as all job applicants, regardless of colour, race, nationality, or ethnic or national origins, are asked the same question. Asking the question only to certain applicants based, for example, on their accent or skin colour could amount to unlawful race discrimination.

All employers are subject to a legal requirement under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 to check that anyone to whom they offer employment has the right to work in the UK. The Government has published guidance to assist employers with how best to do this while avoiding unlawful discrimination (Code of practice: guidance for employers on the avoidance of unlawful discrimination in employment practice while seeking to prevent illegal working (PDF format, 183K) on the UK Border Agency website).

One way for employers to deal with this issue is to state in all letters inviting job applicants to interview that they will require documentary evidence of the applicant’s right to work in the UK. It is advisable for employers to inform all applicants that it is the organisation's policy to require all applicants to comply with this request. At the interview itself, the employer should request sight of, and make copies of, the relevant documents.

What steps must an employer take to ensure that a foreign national has the right to work in the UK?

Prior to allowing a job applicant to start work, the employer should request that the job applicant produce original documentary evidence indicating that he or she has the right to work in the UK, check that the documentation appears to relate to the job applicant and keep a copy of it for the duration of the person's employment and for two years after the termination of employment.

When taking steps to guard against illegal working does an employer risk being accused of race discrimination?

Yes, great care needs to be taken not to treat candidates of foreign nationality unfavourably in the recruitment process. In February 2008, a "Code of practice on the avoidance of unlawful discrimination in employment practice while seeking to prevent illegal working" was introduced. Although the code is not legally binding, a failure to observe it may be taken into account by an employment tribunal in its assessment of a complaint of race discrimination.

How can employers reconcile the requirements of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 with the provisions on race in the Equality Act 2010?

It is important to ensure that no job applicant is rejected because of his or her appearance, colour, accent or foreign-sounding name. Employers may wish to include a statement with all letters sent out inviting job applicants to interview that they will require documentary evidence of their right to work in the UK. In this way they can ensure that no job applicant is singled out for different treatment on the grounds of race.

Can an employer refuse to employ a foreign national because of the effort involved in ensuring that he or she has a right to work in the UK?

It is unlawful to refuse employment to a job applicant on the grounds of his or her nationality. Even if an employer is concerned about the time and effort required in processing a foreign national, under the Equality Act 2010, rejection for employment on racial grounds will be unlawful at any stage of the recruitment process.

Where an employer is recruiting a foreign national under tier 2 of the points-based system, must it also require the recruit to produce documentary evidence of the right to work?

Under tier 2 of the points-based system, which was implemented on 27 November 2008, a foreign national can make an application at the British Embassy in his or her home country for permission to come to the UK and take up sponsored employment. The employer must already have provided the individual with a sponsorship certificate. The individual’s passport will be endorsed to show that the holder is allowed to stay in the UK (for a limited period) and is allowed to do the type of work in question. The employer must carry out the necessary document checks, on recruitment, to ensure that the passport is endorsed as necessary.

Is a lapsed UK passport acceptable as proof of an individual's right to work in the UK?

The legislation is not entirely clear on this point but it would appear that the answer is no. The Immigration (Restrictions on Employment) Order 2007 sets out two lists of documents that are acceptable as proof of entitlement to work in the UK for the purposes s.15(3) of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006. Under s.15(1) it is unlawful to employ in the UK a person aged 16 or over who is not entitled to work in the UK. However, s.15(3) of the Act provides a defence where the employer can show that, before the employment began, it carried out various documentary checks in order to verify the prospective employee's status.

Documents are in one of two lists. List A includes documents that show that the holder has the indefinite right to work in the UK. List B includes documents that show that the holder has a limited right to work in the UK. Employers must check one original document, or two original documents in defined combinations, from either list. A UK passport describing the holder as a British citizen is the first document on list A. Although the words "current" or "valid" are not used to describe the UK passport, the legislation requires the employer to copy the page of the passport that contains the date of expiry.

Guy Kawasaki's - Ten Ways to Use LinkedIn to Find a New Job

LinkedIn is a great tool for jobseekers, that few people use to its fullest extent. It's one of the most visited sites in the world and full of the types of people who want to hire you. These are the top 10 tips by Guy Kawasaki (endorsed by LinkedIn), on how to use LinkedIn to find a new job.

Importantly, before trying these tips, make sure you’ve filled out your profile and added at least twenty connections

  1. Get the word out. Tell your network that you’re looking for a new position because a job search these days requires the “law of big numbers” There is no stigma that you’re looking right now, so the more people who know you’re looking, the more likely you’ll find a job. Use “status updates” to instantly let your network know about your newly emancipated status.
  2. Get LinkedIn recommendations from your colleagues. A strong recommendation from your manager highlights your strengths and shows that you were a valued employee. This is especially helpful if you were recently laid off, and there is no better time to ask for this than when your manager is feeling bad because she laid you off. If you were a manager yourself, recommendations from your employees can also highlight leadership qualities.
  3. Find out where people with your backgrounds are working. Find companies that employ people like you by doing an advanced search for people in your area who have your skills. For example, if you’re a web developer in Seattle, search profiles in your zip code using keywords with your skills (for example, JavaScript, XHTML, Ruby on Rails) to see which companies employ people like you.
  4. Find out where people at a company came from. LinkedIn “Company Profiles” show the career path of people before they began work there. This is very useful data to figure out what a company is looking for in new hires. For example, Microsoft employees worked at Hewlett-Packard and Oracle.
  5. Find out where people from a company go next. LinkedIn’s “Company Profiles” also tell you where people go after leaving the company. You can use this to track where people go after leaving your company as well as employees of other companies in your sector. (You could make the case that this feature also enables to figure out which companies to avoid, but I digress.)
  6. Check if a company is still hiring. Company pages on LinkedIn include a section called “New Hires” that lists people who have recently joined the company. If you have real chutzpah, you can ask these new hires how they got their new job. At the very least you can examine their backgrounds to surmise what made them attractive to the new employer.
  7. Get to the hiring manager. LinkedIn’s job search engine allows you to search for any kind of job you want. However, when you view the results, pay close attention to the ones that you’re no more than two degrees away from. This means that you know someone who knows the person that posted the job—it can’t get much better than that. (Power tip: two degrees is about the limit for getting to hiring managers. I never help friends of friends of friends.) Another way to find companies that you have ties to is by looking at the “Companies in Your Network” section on LinkedIn’s Job Search page. 
  8. Get to the right HR person. The best case is getting to the hiring manager via someone who knows them, but if that isn’t possible you can still use LinkedIn to find someone inside the company to walk your resume to the hiring manager or HR department. When someone receives a resume from a co-worker even if she doesn’t know the co-worker, she almost always pays attention to it.
  9. Find out the secret job requirements. Job listings rarely spell out entirely or exactly what a hiring manager is seeking. Find a connection at the company who can get the inside scoop on what really matters for the job. You can do this by searching for the company name; the results will show you who in your network connects you to the company. If you don’t have an inside connection, look at profiles of the people who work at the company to get an idea of their backgrounds and important skills.
  10. Find startups to join. Maybe this recession is God telling you it’s time to try a startup. But great startups are hard to find. Play around with LinkedIn’s advanced search engine using “startup” or “stealth” in the keyword or company field. You can also narrow by industry (for example, startups in the Web 2.0, wireless, or biotech sectors). If large companies can’t offer “job security,” open up your search to include startups.

7 Interview Questions You Need to Ask

Effectively conducting interviews is very challenging and we've all been asked 'crazy' questions during interviews that seem to have no real qualifying purpose other than filling air time. It's the interviewer's job to create a framework for the discussion and prevent it from running off the rails. A good basic strategy is to ground the interview in questions about past job performance, then throw in some situational questions to evaluate practical decision making, and learn a little bit about how the job fits in with a candidate's biography. The format of these 7 questions by Brian Libby over at BNET form a good basic structure to getting off to a good start:

Question #1: "Did you see the game last night?"

Purpose: Develop the rapport needed to get the interview off the ground.
Every interview should begin with an icebreaker. It helps nervous applicants calm down and builds a sense of trust. If you have a 45-minute interview, you should spend at least the first five minutes trying to connect on a neutral topic. Make the person feel at ease and you'll solicit better information—and much more honest responses.
Alternate Version 1: "Did you go to the industry conference last week?"
Alternate Version 2: "Were you affected by the heat wave/cold snap?"
Alternate Version 3: "Did you have a good holiday?"

Question #2: "Talk about a time when you had to overcome major obstacles."

Purpose: Get a clear picture of the candidate's past performance.
Variations on this question should actually comprise your next several questions. Don't hesitate to guide the candidate through the variety of tasks (both tangible and theoretical) necessary to perform the job, and listen carefully to how he or she has handled such challenges. Pay attention to intangibles: some people are better at performing in interviews than on the job. If your candidate continually plays the role of hero or victim, that's a red flag that you're probably not getting the whole story.
Alternate Version 1: "Tell me about a time when you wrote a report that was well received. Why do you think it was successful?"
Alternate Version 2: "Describe a time when you hired (or fired) the wrong person."
Alternate Version 3: "If you had to do that activity again, how would you do it differently?"

Question #3: "What interests you about this position?"

Purpose: Find out how the candidate feels about the job and the company.
People apply for jobs for plenty reasons besides the obvious ones. Asking a candidate why he or she wants the position gives insight into their motivation. The answer may be personal (such as a narrative about what spurred them to seek a new job), or it may connect the candidate to the company: her experience with the brand, the mission statement, or the organization's role in the community. Any of these answers (or some combination) are acceptable—a personal answer can communicate trust, and a connection to the business indicates loyalty and a sense of ownership.
Alternate Version 1: "Where does this job fit into your career path?"
Alternate Version 2: "If you had to convince a friend or colleague to apply for this job, what might you tell them?"
Alternate Version 3: "What motivated you to apply for this job?"

Question #4: "Is there intelligent life in outer space?"

Purpose: Find out what kind of thinker the candidate is and how he deals with surprises.
This is your curveball, designed to make the candidate ad-lib instead of just reciting well-rehearsed answers. How much will he or she play along? As long as it's not too short or too long, virtually any response is a good one. But pay attention to attitude, the way the candidate approaches the problem, and the ease or difficulty they have in coming up with a response.
Alternate Version 1: "How many phone books are there in New York City?"
Alternate Version 2: "How do they get the cream filling inside a Twinkie?"
Alternate Version 3: "Why do people climb mountains?"

Question #5: "Imagine we've just hired you. What's the most important thing on your to-do list on the first day of work?"

Purpose: Learn about the candidate's judgment and decision-making skills.
This is an example of a situational question, which is like a behavioral question in that it's designed to assess judgment, but it's also like a curveball question because it illuminates the candidate's thought process. You want to see whether he demonstrates the competencies and priorities that are important to the job.
Alternate Version 1: "Say a coworker tells you that he submitted phony expense account receipts. Do you tell your boss?"
Alternate Version 2: "How would you handle an employee whose performance is fine but who you know has the potential to do better?"
Alternate Version 3: "What would you do if you got behind schedule with your part of a project?"

Question #6: "Why did you get into this line of work?"

Purpose: Measure the fit between the candidate's values and the culture of your company.
It risks a long, drawn-out answer, but this type of question will help you select candidates that fit your company's culture. It's not about finding people like you, or people with similar backgrounds that led them to your company, but about getting a sense of their values and motivations. Concepts like values and culture can be subjective and difficult to define, but you should be looking for someone whose work ethic, motivations, and methods match the company's. This isn't a quantitative measurement so much as a qualitative one. Coke and Pepsi may seem the same to people outside the soft-drink industry, but each houses people with different approaches to making cola and running a business.
Alternate Version 1: "What do you like best about your current job?"
Alternate Version 2: "When did you realize this would be your career?"
Alternate Version 3: "What keeps you coming to work besides the paycheck?"

Question #7: "But enough about you. What about us?"
Purpose: Find out if the candidate has done his or her homework.
It's a cliché to end an interview with the standard, 'So, any questions?' But the fact remains that you really do want to let the candidate ask a few things of you. Reversing roles communicates that the company seeks an open a dialogue, and it helps you ascertain just how curious and knowledgeable a candidate is about your company. If he doesn't ask any questions about the job or the business, it's a safe bet his heart isn't in it. Listen for insightful questions that demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the circumstances of the job, the company, the competitive landscape, or the industry.
Alternate Version 1: "Where do you think the company should be in ten years?"
Alternate Version 2: "What's your opinion of our new product?"
Alternate Version 3: "Have you seen the company's new ad campaign?"

Monday, 15 August 2011

Eight things your employees want from you

A list we liked from Melissa Raffoni over at HBR - Eight Things Your Employees want from you:

 1. Tell me my role, tell me what to do, and give me the rules.

Micromanaging? No, it's called clear direction. Give them parameters so they can work within broad outlines.

2. Discipline my coworker who is out of line.

Time and time again, I hear, "I wish my boss would tell Nancy that this is just unacceptable." Hold people accountable in a way that is fair but makes everyone cognizant of what is and isn't acceptable.

3. Get me excited.

About the company, about the product, about the job, about a project. Just get them excited.

4. Don't forget to praise me.

Motivate employees by leveraging their strengths, not harping on their weaknesses.

5. Don't scare me.

They really don't need to know about everything that worries you. They respect that you trust them, but you are the boss. And don't lose your temper at meetings because they didn't meet your expectations. It's often not productive. Fairness and consistency are important mainstays.

6. Impress me.

Strong leaders impress their staffs in a variety of ways. Yes, some are great examples of management, but others are bold and courageous, and still others are creative and smart. Strong leaders bring strength to an organization by providing a characteristic that others don't have and the company sorely needs.

7. Give me some autonomy.

Give them something interesting to work on. Trust them with opportunity.

8. Set me up to win.

Nobody wants to fail. Indecisive leaders who keep people in the wrong roles, set unrealistic goals, keep unproductive team members, or change direction unfairly just frustrate everybody and make people feel defeated.

Labour shortage hampers BP's operations

I saw this artricle from BBC over the weekend:

BP logo 

A shortage of engineering skills in the UK could hamper growth at BP's North Sea operations, an executive has said.

In July, BP announced plans to invest £3bn in redeveloping two oil fields in the North Sea, a move that was expected to create hundreds of new jobs. But Trevor Garlick, head of BP's North Sea operations, said the company could struggle to fill the available roles.

"Getting hold of the right people is a real issue for us," Mr Garlick told the Sunday Telegraph.

"We are hiring a lot of people, but we are also an exporter of a couple of hundred people to other regions [in BP]. We are a centre for recruiting elsewhere."

The rest of the company viewed its North Sea operations as a "training ground", with talented workers snapped up to fill posts overseas, Mr Garlick said.

Oil and gas companies are expected to create some 15,000 new jobs in the UK over the next five years, according to the latest research from the industry body Opito.

Firms are struggling to find skilled new employees ...

You might find this interesting despite the high unemployment figures in the UK.

Firms are struggling to find new employees with the skills they want, despite high unemployment, according to a recent report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

The author, Claire McCartney, said that a “safety-first” attitude among employees was contributing to the shortage of available skills – and holding up economic recovery.

“Free movement of talented individuals is being impeded by a reluctance to voluntarily change jobs in volatile economic times – and the problem is worse now than at the height of the recession,” she said.

“We expect a continued ‘safety-first’ approach from employees, with many wanting to stay put for the next couple of years at least, making it difficult for employers to really drive competitive edge through the recruitment of talented individuals.”

Overall, the Resourcing and Talent Planning survey found that 75 per cent of the survey’s 636 respondents with vacancies to fill had struggled to do so in the last year (68 per cent in 2010). 52 per cent of respondents said competition among employers for talent was greater in spite of higher unemployment, compared to 41 per cent in 2010, and just 20 per cent in 2010.

Of these, almost three-quarters (73 per cent) cited a shortage of managerial, specialist and technical skills as the major obstacle to recruitment.