Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Leadership Must

There are certain things leaders need to remain mindful of on an ongoing basis that impact the mental well being and culture within their operation. Subtle and common sense things that at times can prove to be very elusive including...

  • Always saying "thank you."
  • Always using the word "please" when asking someone else to do something.
  • Not playing the "boss card" unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • Giving recognition for a job well done.
  • Treating everyone fairly even in the most difficult of situations. (This particular item is of just as much importance to the folks that are in your office and not directly related to the issue at hand because they know however you treat the current situation could be reflective of how you might handle any future situations including theirs.)
  • Never using unprofessional language.
  • Being honest with people even if it means telling someone something they do not want to hear but communicating it in a tactful manner.
  • Stopping whatever you are doing to actually listen to what someone is telling you.
  • Summarizing back to someone what they just told you to ensure you fully understand what they are saying.
  • Introducing people by name to your superiors.
  • Always following through on what you tell someone you are going to do.
  • Catch folks doing something right, verses something wrong.
  • "Coach" your people into becoming the winners you perceive them to be.

People emulate their leaders. Follow these guidelines and you will improve the morale, culture and effectiveness of your entire organization. A business is only as effective as the mindset of its greatest resources, its people.

"A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment." - John Wooden

"Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions." - Harold S. Geneen

What are you currently doing that could be added to the above list?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Our Strengths

I was recently forwarded a couple of links to comments on a competitor's blog that referred to our organization in a negative fashion. When you are the leader in your industry, you are going to be criticized, especially by your competition. If you were not the leader, you probably would not have anyone making any comments about your business because no one would really care that much. Being out in front of your competition means that you are the one with the target on your back. It is obvious, however, that if your business does not have a lot of strengths or positives things going on, your only way to attempt to build value in the eyes of prospects or to garner attention is to speak poorly of your competition. When secondary businesses within industries try to use this approach, clients either quickly lose interest in their message or are quick to identify a fleeting effort by a struggling business to nip at the heals of an industry leader.

I have always advocated and will continue to advocate taking the high road when it comes to addressing questions or speaking directly about our competition. As a business, we teach our folks to focus on talking about our strengths. Conducting a thorough needs analysis with a client or prospect will uncover specific requirements to which we can match the features we offer as a business (our strengths). This will result in our being able to quickly ascertain and then satisfy those needs to the benefit of that prospect or client. This approach followed by quality customer service has proven to be a recipe for success over the last ten years. We entered this industry with the approach of being a long-term recruitment solution partner for employers within each of the local 77 markets that we serve with print, online and job fair solutions. Ten years from now our products will have changed because the need of the job seeker and employer will change, but our purpose and focus to meet the ongoing needs of our clients (both job seekers and employers) will remain constant and our passion. As products continue to quickly change via emerging electronic media recruitment solutions, our approach of being focused on meeting our customers needs of today and tomorrow will remain the foundation for our success. We will make this a reality through the combination of quality products in the form of online, print and job fair recruitment solutions. (Did you know that The Employment Guide conducted its 1,000th job fair earlier this year?)

"In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock." -T. Jefferson

My advice is to always position your business based on your strengths. Know your competition and address questions as they come up while having conversations with your customers or prospects in a way that once again allows you to focus on the value proposition your organization brings to the table in meeting their needs. This is always a combination for success. Who wants to spend time talking about their competition? Especially by name! Leave their branding efforts up to their marketing department. Quite frankly, if you find yourself talking negatively about your competition, it might just mean that you don't have a whole lot of positive things to say about your own business or organization.

"A leader is one who sees more than others see, and who sees before others do." -Leroy Eims

How does your staff handle conversations with your customers about your competition?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Change and No Change

Let's face it, most publishing companies that operate in the classifieds business or within one of the classified verticals are undergoing a transformation from being traditionally print to electronic media oriented (at least the ones that hope to still be around in the future). We at The Employment Guide are no exception to this transition. As we become more knowledgeable about what the future of our business will look like and what that means to us as an organization, we have a better idea of how to navigate the directional waters to realize increased levels of success. It is through the acquisition of this knowledge that we will continue to differentiate our products and services from the competition and excel at meeting the needs for our customers (both job seekers and hiring managers/companies).

While the change that we are experiencing as an organization is fascinating and is a very exciting journey that everyone is embracing, there are still certain aspects of our business that need to remain the same, primarily our ability to execute. Proper execution is one of the best competitive advantages for us as an organization (coming in a close second behind the talented folks that make up our employee complement). The process of unifying our direction from the field level up to the senior management team has given us a profound competitive advantage in the past and will continue to do so in to the future. Our best ideas inevitably come from the field, our local employees on the front lines or even from our customers. A quick look back over our history reveals this to be true. We got into the job fair business via a customer's request. Here we are more than 1,000 job fairs later still reaping the benefits of following that suggestion. Another thing I like a lot about our organization is in the ability we have to adjust to the current business climate. This is an exceptional trait for any business but is critical when you operate a business that is cyclical in nature. Let's see: labor industry - employment advertising - cyclical in nature? DUH! This is also a great place to insert that we do not utilize this as an excuse for lack of execution but as another factor in determining our next best course of action.

It is my opinion that you can take quality leadership skills, sound decision making and quality operational skills and apply that across just about any industry and you will have a recipe for success. The secret ingredient on achieving a high success factor is in the passion and individual desire to be successful (not only for an individual, but for an organization as a whole). This is something that definitely starts at the top, and I am not exempt. I for one am very excited about the direction we are heading as an organization. I enjoy greatly talking about this with new recruits and current employees. As a former field general I can tell you that the thing I enjoy the most is getting back out in the field and speaking with our talented group of folks all over the country. It was, is and will continue to be the strength of what makes The Employment Guide successful, as well as truly differentiated from the competition, in fact all competitors! The journey that we are on is exciting. The transition we are experincing as an organization is one of the coolest things I have professionally been in a position to oversee.

So, as we experience organizational change and explore new directions, some things will not change. Mainly, our ability to properly execute will continue, which includes maintaining a strong bias towards the ongoing development of our people (who remain our greatest strength).

Do you embrace change, new concepts and ideas, or are you more of a traditionalist?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Looking Ahead

As our business begins the budgeting process for 2008, we are starting to focus some of our attention on what is in the cards for all aspects of the employment industry that directly impacts our performance. The Employment Guide is focused on the non-exempt, hourly workforce or the service industry side of the labor economy, which now represents close to 80% of the entire workforce in the United States. Given that we are so closely aligned with the labor economy, it should be no surprise that we pay particular attention to job growth projections and related statistics. Some of the more interesting statistics as far as the labor economy goes is in the fact that in 2006 the US labor economy added 2.26 million jobs verses projections of up to 1.5 million in 2007. All reports that I have come across from multiple resources indicate that 2008 should hold steady and be a close mirror of 2007. The economy will continue to grow, there will be a steady decline in the national unemployment rate, seasonal hiring trends will remain in tact and businesses will have an increasingly hard time staffing their companies as more boomers decide to exit the workforce.

Older workers are the key to satisfying many of the needs of businesses that are feeling the pinch of the tightening labor market. Just like the economy has been fueled by this great American generation, so will the next five to ten years of the labor economy (barring significant immigration reform or increased automation through improved technologies). What can an older worker bring to your organization? Experience for one thing, which in and of itself has a great value. Not to mention is professional maturity and potentially a new perspective.

Due to the majority of the readers of my blog being employees of The Employment Guide, I am sure most of you are well aware of the initiative that we have in place in partnership with the Department of Labor's upcoming Employ the Older Worker Week, as well as our corresponding job fair series of more than 40 job fairs in 26 states to help hiring managers and companies tap into this great labor resource. The AARP Foundation is also a major sponsor of this event. This is a significant event that represents a new opportunity given that in the very near future one out of every three employees will be 50+ years old. While a lot of time and effort from a multitude of folks in my organization have gone into putting together the logistics of this event, I must give kudos to Amy Hoster, regional marketing coordinator in our Phoenix office, for leading our efforts and ultimately bringing this to the forefront of our efforts. Great job, Amy!

So back to the economy and looking ahead a bit into the future. What else can we expect? A couple of positive items are that inventories are going to need to be replenished, which will place increased pressure on the transportation industry as freight demand increases steadily throughout the rest of 2007 and into 2008. It is also projected that one out of every four jobs that will be created in 2008 will be in the healthcare industry due to the increased needs of the boomers. Both of these projections fit well with our plans as a business as we continue to position our organization for higher levels of success by placing increased focus on serving both the transportation and health care verticals.

"The economy will add about 1.5 million jobs both this year and next, or an average of 125,000 per month -- enough to sustain income growth and consumer spending. Unemployment is likely to stay below 5% through 2008 -- quite low enough to keep the labor market tight. Many employers, particularly those that depend on skilled labor, will continue to face challenges finding new qualified candidates." ( June 1, 2007)

We as a business are not immune to the tightening of the labor force. I am interested in hearing what you are currently doing to keep your staffing complements at desired levels that might fall outside of the normal recruiting and hiring protocol. Obviously for my folks, you will first need to maximize your presence and utilize the opportunities that exist in our suite of recruiting products. What tools do you use and what methods do you employ to keep your hiring funnels full of suitable candidates?