They Like You, They Like You Not!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen it comes to hiring talent, organizations tend to look for employees who are dynamic, impressive and will contribute positively to the future of the company. However, as leaders of these organizations, how do you know if these dynamic individuals will be choosing you when they graduate from college?  Are you their first choice? Do students aspire to work for you? Do they like you…or not?

To help you answer these questions, Engage Consulting is in the process of conducting, the Most Preferred Employer Study 2013. This study is specially designed to help organizations understand the employment preferences of graduating students across Pakistan. What do these students want when it comes to finding a job? Who is their most preferred employer, most preferred industry? What benefits are they most interested or attracted to? The aim of the MPE is to focus on student’s first choice preferences, to collect data from Business, IT and Engineering students from the leading universities of the country and to help organizations understand what it takes to be the employer of choice in the talent market.

Working alongside Pakistan’s top universities, while partnering with graduating students to help collect survey responses, Engage Consulting will be helping students by giving them a voice and aiding  future employers understand the deciding factors behind what attracts fresh graduates to their desired organizations. Universities also benefit by partnering with Engage Consulting, as they have an opportunity to improve on their career development services and be recognized as a progressive university in the job market, by supporting our research.

In today’s highly competitive global economy, attracting and retaining talent is the key to success. There is a substantial and rapidly expanding body of evidence that speaks to the strong connection between employee perceptions (the people), organizational functioning (the processes) and the economic results achieved (the performance). Organizations that adopt ‘people centered’ practices can see immediate effects that can be translated into a markedly improved competitive advantage.

What factors do you think make your organization a desired work environment for graduating students? To find out what Engage Consulting uncovers about the leading characteristics that drive students to choose an employer of choice, stay tuned to read the highlights report from our findings.

Written by: Anusha Bawany
This author is the Marketing Coordinator at Engage Consulting

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Disruption To Business: Did You Strike Out?

imagesSo far in 2013, Pakistan has seen numerous strike days and days in which, due to security reasons, mobile phone networks were shut down. No matter what the reason is for the strike (and I have full sympathy for the reason behind the strike that struck Karachi this week) the consequences and disruption to businesses are severe.

Unfortunately, living in Pakistan we have learned to deal with security threats and strikes. The normal modus operandi is for employees to stay home, as they are either unable to leave their residences (as whole neighborhoods are in lock down) or want to make sure that the situation in the city is safe and their lives are not in jeopardy.

Of course safety of lives and property is sacrosanct and businesses make sure that as a result their operations, and of course bottom line, is accepted. I often ask myself, is that how it is supposed to be? Are businesses and their owners the ones that should take the biggest burden of strikes?

I have been struggling with this question ever since I came to Pakistan. Of course as an HR Director and now as an Entrepreneur, personal safety is priority number one and I left it to employees to assess their circumstances and make the decision whether they would come in to work or not. Employees often took the ‘better safe than sorry’ approach and stayed home more than they came to the office. I sometimes wonder, is the situation such that prohibits people from coming to work, or are they just using the always famous ‘my driver couldn’t come today’ excuse.

I had been trying to come up with a balanced approach that would equally distribute the consequences of strikes across employees and employers. I had never been able to find the right middle ground until I visited a client in Dhaka last week. Bangladesh has a similar penchant for calling strikes for big or small issues. It’s the favorite political arm wrestling game. Businesses there have responded differently to the frequent ‘hartals’ (strikes). However, my client’s business didn’t stop because of the unrest. The company has adapted and found various solutions around these issues. For example, they had set up a whole system to transport foreign visitors and expats in ambulances to and from the office.

-1Furthermore they have developed a policy in which employees are given the following options:

  • If there is a strike you have the responsibility to come to the office
  • If you are not able to come to the office or if you think it is not safe to do so, you are obliged to work on a weekend day
  • If this is not possible then you have to take a personal holiday day
  • If you have consumed all your holiday days then you can apply to work from home

I think such a policy would make more sense as it puts a level of responsibility on the employees and balances the consequences of situations that neither employer nor employee can influence. We can debate whether the ‘work from home’ option should be the only solution, but organization leaders and employees should have a discussion on the topic as to not just let the employers take the brunt.

Let me know what is happening in other countries in these situations.
As always, I am open to your views!

– Paul Keijzer

Young Entrepreneurs: Taking Charge

iycfposter1_newinWhat do Steve Jobs, Sam Walton, Mark Zukerberg, Michael Dell, Sergey Brinn and my father all have in common? No, it is not that they all have been highly successful in building fortune 500 companies (my father build a modest Food and Beverage Distribution company in my hometown.) What they have in common is that they all started their ventures when they were in the early 20’s.

The question is being asked whether extensive experience helps in becoming a successful entrepreneur, and I am sure it has a significant impact. However, the list above shows that the people that really made it big didn’t have the experience, but they did have the idea, the obsession and the drive to succeed.

One of the main reasons that young entrepreneurs have been so successful is that they have got little to lose. They can go all out, take the risk, work as hard as humanly possible and if it doesn’t work, at least they can say they tried, learned from it and can try again.

As Mark Zukerberg says it: “There will never be a better time in your life to live your dream of entrepreneurship. Swing for the fences with a goal to add your name to the prestigious list above. If you fail, it will have been one of the best learning experiences of your life”

I read an article on Inc. with tips from America’s Coolest Young Entrepreneurs and picked out some important highlights:

  • Simplify Your Mission: “I would encourage other entrepreneurs to spend a lot of time boiling down what their business is, what it does, and what it represents. If you nail down a 60- to 90-second synopsis, that will pay a lot of dividends throughout the life of your business.”
    – Eric Koger, ModCloth
  • Ditch your safety net: “I lined up a job at Goldman Sachs. I thought I was pretty smart since this would give me a backup if the start up wasn’t working out. Looking back now, I realized that having that in hand was a reason not to push harder and higher. The day before the job started, I told them I wanted to pursue my own company. They thought I was crazy, but I think it has worked out pretty well.”
    – John Goscha, IdeaPaint
  • Be Nimble: “The landscape no longer changes every two, three, four years like it did in 2002. If you’re not quick on your toes, you will miss opportunities.”
    – Tristan Harris, Apture

And my favorite:

  • Don’t Go It Alone: “Surround yourself with an awesome team because you’re going to need them to overcome all the obstacles that come with starting a company. Lots of people have great ideas that they try to tackle by themselves, but I think it’s almost impossible to do everything by yourself.”
    – Emily Olson, Foodzie

I am sure there are a number of amazing entrepreneurs out there in Pakistan. People that have got great ideas but need a support network in order to make it big. I would love to contribute to the success of young Pakistani entrepreneurs. Men and women that have embarked on the journey of launching and growing their company, and in the process change their future.

I know that it can be lonely setting up a new company. Knowing whether you are taking the right steps, sharing your success and more importantly your failures so you can pick up the pieces and bounce back even stronger.

I want to reach out to aspiring young entrepreneurs that have recently started their own company, maybe have one or two other people working with them and are looking for companionship, counsel and a desire to be part of a larger group of like-minded people. If you are interested, send me a quick email at paulkeijzer@engageconsulting.biz and lets catch up and see how I can help you take your business / idea to the next level.

Go for it!

– Paul Keijzer

The Interview IQ: Great Questions for Candidates to Ask

Screen-Shot-2012-03-18-at-8.13.38-PMOver the years I have interviewed thousands of candidates. Some have been highly impressive, some good but the majority of candidates were mediocre. There is plenty of advice out there on how you should dress, behave and prepare for these job interviews. But, looking back I found that the majority of candidates that I hired made an impact not because of the questions they answered but because of the questions they asked.

Candidates asking great questions stand out because they have not only properly prepared themselves, they have gone beyond that and have immersed themselves in the company and the job that is at stake. It shows not only a different level of interest but also a different level of intellect to get the job.

So here are some questions that you might ask:

  • What are the outstanding achievements expected from me 12 months from now?
  • What are characteristics of employees that have been successful in working with you?
  • What are you looking for to determine whether a person has potential to grow in this company?
  • In addition to the company values, what other characteristics do you value in your employees?
  • What have been the reasons the company has been successful in the past?
  • What is the reason this company exists, what contribution does it make to the larger community?
  • How would you describe the leadership style of the CEO and his / her direct reports?
  • What makes a person successful in this organization?

In addition to asking questions you might impress the interviewer by sharing how your recruitment would add value to the organization. You could do this by:

  • Sharing a number of ideas on how you would grow the market / launch an innovation / improve a process / develop people
  • Share insights on how ways of working from other industries might be applied in this company
  • Highlight a number of best practices that you have picked up that might work for the organization you are applying
  • Compliment the interviewer by sharing positive feedback you have heard about the organization from others

An interview is all about convincing the interviewer that you have the required skills and competencies, that you are the right cultural fit and above all how you could add value to this organization so that paying your salary is an investment on which an organization gets a greater return.

Go on – blow them away and land that amazing job you are gunning for!

– Paul Keijzer

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Welcome to HARDtalk

-1I bet you all have a tough question you want to ask your boss. Something that will help explain why he or she is doing what they are doing and the reason behind their thinking. I would like to increase the stakes and say that the same question is on the lips of many of your colleagues. Often these questions lead to frantic water cooler discussions, gossip and rumors spreading around the office. And nobody is willing, or knows how, to ask the tough question, as the boss might take it negatively.

People trusting each other and willing to engage in tough conversations are the starting points for any team to move up the ladder of highly performing teams (ability to hold each other accountable, commitment on shared goals and focus on results are the other three). However, as the Chinese proverb says “Trust comes by foot and goes by Horse”.

To build an environment of trust you need a leader who is understanding and that has the inner strength to make him/herself vulnerable. It is only when you make yourself vulnerable and transparent, that you have conquered your worst fears.

Offering teams a helping hand on the journey of trusting each other and becoming a high performing team is one of my signature interventions. I can proudly say, I love doing it!

An intervention I sometimes use in these sessions is something I dubbed ‘HARDtalk’. Copied from the BBC series of the same name, I use the same approach; asking hard hitting questions to the person interviewed. The key in the interview is the first questions, which needs to be the toughest one, the one that everybody wants to know the answer for and the one that people gossip about.

The results are spectacular. As the audience gasp and hold their breath at the audacity for me to ask that question that everybody wants to ask but nobody dares to. Then, keep on digging deeper with follow up questions that don’t let the boss off the hook but forces him / her to explain why and address the consequences of his / her actions.

Not for the faint hearted bosses. And it only works if the boss understands that they need to open up first for the team to follow suit. When that magic happens and you allow people at the end of the interview identify, what they agree with, what surprised them in the interview and follow up questions they want to ask, you have started your journey of building trust in the team.

– Paul Keijzer

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Shred The Form And Have A Quality Conversation Instead
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