Posts Tagged ‘Hiring Tips’


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Could Seniors Be Your Secret Customer Service Weapon?

Stocksy_txpbe336fabXT6000_Small_6767There’s a reason Walmart hires senior citizens as greeters at its stores: Seniors who are seeking employment are generally “people persons” who like socializing and engaging with others. That’s one of the findings of a survey by Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) that asked hiring managers about hiring senior citizens.

If you’re looking to enhance your company’s customer service, hiring seniors could be a great idea. Here are a few of the reasons managers in the SHRM survey say seniors are valuable employees:

  • Seniors tend to be more patient than younger people when dealing with customers.
  • Because seniors have a lot of life experience, they’re often good at coming up with solutions to problems.
  • Hiring seniors who have past experience in your industry enables you to tap into their decades of knowledge.
  • Seniors often enjoy mentoring or passing their expertise on to younger employees.
  • If your business relies on referrals or word-of-mouth to gain new customers, you’ll be able to tap into seniors’ vast networks of contacts from years in the work force.
  • Seniors typically aren’t dealing with children at home, and they may be widowed or widowers, so they have more free time to dedicate to their jobs.
  • Most seniors have a strong work ethic and are highly reliable.

How can you make the most of seniors at your business?

  • Take advantage of their natural skills and past experience. A senior may not do as well in a fast-paced environment. You can still tap into the senior employee’s abilities by having younger workers “triage” customer service calls and pass them on to the senior employee to handle in detail. This way, customers feel they are being responded to quickly, but also feel cared for by the detail-oriented senior employees.
  • Train them on technology to get them up to speed. Although they didn’t grow up with technology, seniors who are in the work force are typically eager to learn. Most seniors use the Internet, email and social media in their personal lives, so you won’t be starting totally from scratch.
  • Treat them with respect. Give seniors an opportunity to share their insights and experiences with younger employees on your team. Their approach to solving customer problems will likely shed new light on common issues your customer service staff faces.

There are plenty of senior job boards, such as JobsOver50 or Senior Job Bank, where you can list openings to attract this age group; you can also contact local organizations for seniors in your community. 


A Great Customer Experience Depends on Great Hiring

About this series: This series of articles from Nextiva will help you grasp of the essentials of customer service: the principles and guidelines that will serve you well in any era, regardless of trends, changing technology, and a constantly evolving customer base. Our guide is Micah Solomon, customer service and customer experience consultant, author, and speaker.

A great customer experience depends on great employees. To get those great employees, you need to know what to look for in an employee you’re going to put in a customer-facing position.

The trick is to hire your customer-facing team based on the following psychological traits, even before you start thinking about the specific skill set you’re looking for.  (Yes, the appropriate technical skills also matter. You can’t hire an empathetic surgeon who is also a klutz. But for most customer-facing positions, the technical skills are largely teachable, while the underlying personality traits can be much more easily hired than taught.) 

WETCO: The five crucial traits of customer-facing employees

Employees Only: Do Not Open Door-Snake Pit (humorous signage from Wall Drug, Wall, ND) © Micah Solomon micah@micahsolomon.com

Wall Drug, N.D. (c) micah@micahsolomon.com

The traits I consider crucial for customer-facing work are contained in my acronym “WETCO.” My suggestion is to picture a big, wet dog at PETCO, and you’ll never forget this acronym.

Warmth: Simple human kindness. Warmth is perhaps the simplest and yet most fundamental of these five personality traits. In essence, it means enjoying our human commonality, flaws and all.

Empathy: The ability to sense what another person is feeling. Empathy is a step up from warmth; empathy moves beyond the plateau of liking other people and is more like reading hearts—the ability to sense what a customer needs or wants, whether or not this desire is even yet apparent to the customer.

Teamwork: An inclination toward ‘‘Lets work together to make this happen’’ and against ‘‘Id rather do it all myself.’’   On the one hand, customers do need the help of entrepreneurially minded employees who will take charge of the situation without prodding, people who are willing to fix a problem all by themselves, if necessary. But that attitude needs to be seasoned by an inclination to favor a team approach, or your organization will soon suffer from the friction created.

Conscientiousness: Detail orientation, including an ability and willingness to follow through to completion. Conscientiousness is a key trait for successfully serving customers, and unfortunately may not always be found in those who are otherwise suited to customer service work. The quintessential ‘‘people person’’ may lack conscientiousness, and this one flaw can be fatal: An employee can smile, empathize, and play well with the team, but if he can’t remember to follow through on the promises he made to customers, he’ll kill your company image.

Optimism: The ability to bounce back and to not internalize challenges. Optimism is a necessity in customer-facing positions. Employees who can’t shake off a drubbing from a customer won’t last long. Support from management is, of course, important here, but the employees themselves need a positive, optimistic self-image as well to propel themselves forward in the face of daily adversity.

How to select for WETCO

How to select such people? An ideal approach is to match candidates to the psychological profiles of existing, successful employees. You may not have gathered this data for yourself yet, in which case you’ll be dependent on an outside company to provide it. That’s okay, because some of the available external tools are excellent. But you need to use your chosen methodology consistently: on every hire, rather than as the whim hits you. If you use scientific methods only sporadically you’ll never know what worked and what didn’t. Instead, the selectiveness of your inherently biased—that is, human—memory will trick you and you’ll continue to favor unscientific, ineffective hiring patterns that will hamper your organization for years to come.

If you start with externally generated profiles, as you grow be sure to gather data specific to your company. This process isn’t that complicated. Have your best performers answer profile questions and then bank these results. Have your average performers do the same, and then bank those results. If you show a consistently measurable difference between these two categories of employee, you have a valid test.

The necessity of a trial period

Great companies tend to have a lengthy trial period before newly hired employees become ‘‘brand ambassadors’’—that is, are ready to be foisted on the public. This is important in providing consistently great service, because how your brand is perceived is only as strong as the weakest cliche´—sorry, link. There’s no truer truism than the simile of the weak link; it’s one of the unnerving truths about providing customer service. You never want those potentially weak links out there representing your brand, whether at the returns counter, the contact center, or connected via their workstations to customers.

The trial period is also important for protecting your company culture. Even in the best-handled hiring scenario, it can take ninety days to know if you have a fit. Most often, it takes that much time for the employee to know if there’s a fit. At the Ritz-Carlton, for example, the first twenty-one days are treated as crucial, and if you’re not there for the big, transitional ‘‘Day 21,’’ you’re taken out of the work schedule. They don’t cut corners here, and neither should you.

Article © 2014 Micah Solomon


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Is It Time to Invest in New Employees—or Is New Technology Enough?

Do you really need to hire new employees—or would new technology serve the same purpose? According to the fifth annual Brother Small Business Survey, a whopping 72 percent of small business owners believe new technology would provide a better return on their investments than hiring new employees (28 percent) this year. No wonder nearly half (49 percent) the small business owners surveyed said investing in new technology is their top priority this year.

It’s not exactly cut and dried. If you’re confused, you aren’t the only one: 63 percent of survey respondents say they often feel “overwhelmed” by the number of tech tools available to help run their companies, and struggle to keep up with knowing what technology to buy.

What are small business owners planning to buy this year? Well, 41 percent say they’re going to invest in mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. About one-third will buy Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, 20 percent will buy social technologies and 15 percent say cloud services will be essential to their businesses this year.

So how do you know whether you should hire—or if buying new technology could fill the bill just as well? When debating new technology, ask yourself:

  • ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????What is the learning curve for this tool? Can you or your existing employees get up to speed quickly enough that the tool will quickly start providing a return on investment?
  • How much time will the tool save? If the amount of time it saves allows you or your employees to absorb the new tasks into your existing workday, that’s ideal. However, if the new technology will add hours to your workday, you may need to hire new staff to handle the load.
  • Will this tool create additional work or additional business? Sometimes a tech tool can work so well it creates more work. For instance, your new CRM system may create more work at first as you follow up more frequently with prospects and customers. However, eventually it should create new business, not just new work. When you implement a new tool, figure out the break-even point at which it’s generating enough new business to finance hiring a new employee. 

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: How to Get the Most From a Temporary Employee

??????????????????????????????????Are you using (or considering) temporary employees in your small business? Last year we told you why hiring temps can be a smart way to staff up without the hassles of hiring permanent employees. These tips will help you get the most out of your temporary employee relationships.

Welcome temporary employees on board. Too many temporary employees are met with blank stares when they arrive at a new job, then essentially ignored for the duration of their employment. Just as with any new employee, your temporary workers should receive a warm welcome to your business. (This is especially important if you think you may eventually want to hire the temp full-time.) It’s a good idea to match the temp with an employee on staff who can show him or her the ropes of company culture. Talk to your full-time employees about the importance of making sure they help the temp fit in.

Provide adequate orientation and training. Sure, a temp will come to you with knowledge of a skill, such as how to use Excel spreadsheets, code websites or operate a certain type of machinery. But that doesn’t mean he or she knows how the particular job he or she is doing at your company works. No matter how impatient you are for the temp to get to work immediately, spend some time orienting temps as to where their job fits in within the company, what the goals of the job are, and how to perform the specific duties of the job. It will be time well spent.

Take care of the proper paperwork. Just because a temporary agency is handling the temp’s payroll doesn’t mean you’re off the hook legally. Temporary employees can still file claims against your company if they feel discriminated against, harassed or if you are breaking wage and hour laws. Make sure each temporary employee reviews your employee handbook and signs a document that he or she has read and understood it. Also review your contract with the temporary agency carefully so you know what forms you need to have the temp complete, what records you’re required to keep about the person’s employment, and how long you need to maintain them after he or she leaves. By dotting all the i’s and crossing your t’s, you’ll protect yourself and your business. 


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Should You Hire Your Spouse to Work in Your Business?

Stocksy_txpb6090cd68s3000_Small_17056If you have trouble finding workers with the dedication and loyalty you need, there’s a solution that can offer the best of both worlds: hiring your spouse. You get an employee who you know truly cares about your business, and the money you pay your spouse stays “all in the family.”

But before you broach the idea to your spouse, there are some important factors to consider.

How will working together affect your relationship? Some spouses can work together all day long and enjoy a happy marriage after hours, while others find business stresses spilling over into their personal lives. Clearly define roles within the business so each of you knows what he or she is responsible for. Also set boundaries outside the business, such as not discussing business over dinner or taking regular weekends off.

What does your spouse expect from the job? Perhaps your spouse expects to work closely together and spend lots of time with you, while you expect to scarcely see each other because you’ll both be so busy handling your separate duties. Clarify your expectations from the beginning and make sure you are both on the same page. Is this a short-term arrangement or a permanent move? Will your spouse need to work for free if money is tight?

How will a spouse working in the business affect your company’s dynamic? When you bring a family member into the business, nonfamily employees may assume your spouse will get favored treatment, that they will be passed over for promotions or that they can’t be honest with you about problems with your spouse. Discuss these issues openly to ease their worries.

What are the legal and tax implications? The way that you report and pay taxes for a spouse in the business will vary depending on whether your spouse is considered an employee or partner/co-owner. If the spouse is an employee, you need to withhold appropriate taxes from his or her pay just as with any employee. If your spouse has an equal say in the business and/or contributes capital, he or she is considered a partner, which affects your business’s tax reporting and payments. (See this IRS article for more information.) To avoid unpleasant surprises, consult your attorney and accountant regarding the tax and legal implications of bringing a spouse on board. 


Mondays with Mike: The Quick Qualifier – The Secret To Better, Faster Hiring

For entrepreneurs with a sizeable staff, payroll can be one of the biggest expenses.  That expense can multiply quickly if we don’t hire the right people, so any techniques we can find to improve our hiring outcomes can make a huge difference in our bottom lines.  The fact is that there aren’t a whole lot of shortcuts when it comes to running your business better, but I’m going to share one that can help you simultaneously speed up your hiring process while sifting out your best choices – automatically.

????????????????????????????????Conventional wisdom may tell you that casting as wide a net as possible in your hiring search will yield the highest quality result, but given today’s job market, your problem is unlikely to be a shortage of applications.  Rather, you’re likely to be buried under a sea of resumes, and your greatest challenge will be separating the wheat from the chaff – reducing the flood to a manageable stack of resumes from qualified, competent folks.  That’s where my technique comes into play.

When I post an ad for a job, about 75% of the way through the ad, I insert the following:  “To prove that you’re a meticulous reader, you have to include the following sentence when you send your resume: ‘It is with my utmost respect that I hereto surrender my curriculum vitae for your consideration.’”

Now here’s where the automation comes in.  You create an email filter that searches for the specified sentence, and sorts all of the qualifying resumes into a folder for you to review.  Think it won’t make a big difference?  Think again!  I’ve had as many as 80% of the resumes for a specific position eliminated by this filtering tactic.  Now you may be worried that you might discard a great resume, but let me tell you why this technique works:

  1. The unemployment rate is still so high that folks are desperate, sending off resumes to any ad they read, regardless of whether or not they’re qualified.  In fact, the applicants who don’t include the sentence may not have even read the application, and might have zero relevant experience.  They’re not the employees you’re looking for.
  2. Regardless of the field, attention to detail is crucial, and including the sentence demonstrates that an applicant cares enough to get it right.
  3. You’re looking for candidates who can follow instructions, and applicants who comply with your directions demonstrate a willingness to do what you expect them to.  They’re eager to please, and that’s important for nearly every position in a business.

I’ve used this technique repeatedly, and it’s proven to help select the very best candidates for my careful consideration.  In fact, one of the best employees I’ve ever hired responded by writing: “Yes, I’m so detail-oriented I am including the sentence you requested. However, I also noticed you spelled the word ‘meticulous’ incorrectly, and here’s the correct way to spell it.”  She ended up being a partner in one of my companies.


The 10 Best Interview Questions of All Time

??????????????????????????????????????????While unemployment is the lowest in 5 years, it is still challenging to find the best employees for your company. Not only do they need the skills to perform their job well, but they also have to fit within the company’s culture.

To hire the perfect people, it’s important to ask the right questions. This is a challenge for many small business owners because they typically talk more than the job candidate or they just ask questions which review their resume. Here are the best 10 questions to ask:

  1. Tell me about yourself. This is always a good introductory question. Ask and then don’t say another thing until they are done. What they actually say is not critical, but how they answer this question is. Do they focus on personal or professional details? How do they see themselves? Does this view fit into the culture of the company.
  2. Tell me about a time when…Many job candidates can talk in generalities about their skills and accomplishments. However, asking for a specific example is a much more effective why to discover what they have really achieved. For example, when interviewing a sales candidate, ask “Tell me about a time when you won a customer from a competitor.”
  3. How will you contribute to the company? This will highlight their goals for the specific job and which of their skills would be most beneficial for the company. It also will tell you how they see themselves as part of a team. Remember, their goals should match the company’s. When they deviate, employees leave.
  4. What is a specific example of the biggest professional challenge you have faced? How a candidate faces adversity is key. Even if a project didn’t go as planned, it’s important to find out how the applicant would reacted and would remedy the problem in the future.
  5. Test them. In a professional setting, these are typically hypothetical situations or ones that have actually occurred at the company. They should demonstrate job-specific and problem solving skills. Don’t be afraid to ask them to solve problems they would face in the first month of their job at the actual interview.
  6. Why are you here? Andrew Alexander, President of Red Roof Inn, says it helps reveal what the person’s passion is. The applicant should want to work at the company, not just want a job. Employees that are passionate about the company’s mission excel at their position.
  7. What is your ideal job? Liz Bingham, Partner at Ernst & Young, says it helps match if the person is suitable for the open job. It reveals what their passions and strengths are.
  8. What areas of improvement were identified in your last job review? Andrew Shapin, CEO of Long Tall Sally, says it can show self-awareness and weaknesses when people answer this question honestly.
  9. Where’s your passion? Hilarie Bass, co-president of Greenberg Traurig, says they only hire people who are passionate about that profession. It helps attract committed employees that will make the business successful.
  10. How do you measure success? This answer will tell you what the candidate values and if it matches the job compensation structure.

What are your favorite interview questions?


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 5 Tips for Keeping the Peace in Family-Owned Business

If you run a family-owned business, you know that hiring, managing and motivating non-family employees can sometimes be a challenge. Employees may think there’s no room for advancement or that the decks are stacked against them because they aren’t family members. How can you avoid these problems? Try these tips.

  • Stocksy_txp4bfbd52fKr2000_Small_131353 (1)Compensate them fairly. Family employees typically have ownership or stock in the family business or enjoy other perks in addition to their salaries. While you may not want to reward non-family employees the same way, it’s important that you find other ways to compensate them financially. Consider offering bonuses or setting up a profit-sharing plan so employees feel they are sharing in the success of the business they work hard to grow.
  • Offer them opportunities for advancement. Promoting from within is a smart strategy for any small business, but particularly in a family business. This practice shows non-family employees that working hard, getting results and being loyal to the business pay off…even if your last name is different than the owner’s.
  • Empower them. Non-family employees in supervisory or management roles often become disgruntled if they feel like they have no real power in the business. If you give a non-family employee a management position, be sure you also give him or her the authority to make the decisions that go with that role, including disciplining family members who aren’t living up to expectations.
  • Communicate with them. Family members who work in a business naturally end up discussing business during their off-hours, which can leave non-family members feeling left out if they don’t get the same information. When your business includes non-family employees, it’s crucial to communicate openly and clearly. Otherwise, non-family employees will feel as if they’re being kept in the dark, and rumors and misinformation will start to spread.
  • Treat family members professionally. It’s easy to slip into a trap of treating family employees one way and non-family employees another. Be sure to maintain professionalism when dealing with family employees—it makes everyone on the staff feel like they’re on a level playing field.

By following these tips, you’ll build lasting bonds and loyalty among your non-family employees.


Business Owners: 5 Questions You Should Never Ask in an Interview

crop380w_istock_000003401233xsmall-question-marksHiring can be one of the most difficult parts of being a business owner. You look for the best people for your company and you ultimately end up making your decision based on one event: the interview.

So, how can you conduct an interview that will reveal your next employee of the month? According to Kathleen Lapekas, founder of Lapekas HR Consulting in Evansville, Ind., it all comes down to how you phrase your questions.

“The best types of questions are directly job related and behavior-based,” she says. “Ask someone to explain a time when they had a co-worker that drove them nuts and how they handled it. Keep them talking about real scenarios to learn more about your candidate.”

Lapekas recommends staying away from the following questions:

Question #1: When did you graduate from high school?

While this question may seem benign, it can be perceived as trying to find out a candidate’s age, which is discriminatory.

“You can ask someone when they graduated from college because people graduate from college at different ages, but you can’t say anything about high school because it is assumed that most people graduated when they were around 18 years old,” says Lapekas. 

Question #2: What do you do for fun?

Be careful with this one. Unless your candidate offers, keep the conversation focused on the role at hand. Why?

“By asking someone what they do for fun, they may tell you that they are an active member in the National Rifle Association or that they just marched in the local Gay Pride parade,” she says. “You don’t want find out anything in the interview that later—especially if you don’t hire the person—can be perceived as ammo for discrimination.”

Questions #3: When are you due?

It is never acceptable to ask a female candidate if she is pregnant. If, though, she mentions that she is expecting, leave it at that. Do not ask her when she is due. As Lapekas explains, pregnancy is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits any employer discrimination.

Question #4: Are there any medical issues or medications that we need to know about?

“This is hard because obviously you want to know if you are buying a future heart attack,” she says. “But employers can no longer do pre-employment physicals (note: pre-employment drug screenings are allowed by law). In some states you can’t even ask if someone is a smoker.”

Question #5: Where do you go to church?

Race, sex, age, gender, ethnicity and religion are all protected under law and cannot be mentioned in an interview.

“Even if you live in a small town where everyone goes to the same church, keep it out of the interview,” advises Lapekas. 




 
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