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The Right Way to Check a Reference

Over the course of my career, I’ve fired only two people, and both were workers at my family ranch. (I actually rehired one of them a few years later.) In my roles as an operations and logistics line manager in Argentina, a management consultant in Europe, and a leader at the global executive search firm Egon Zehnder, however, my firing rate has been zero. As an executive search consultant, I aim to provide the same thing for clients: very few of the candidates I’ve placed have been fired, and none have in the short term. How is a near-zero firing rate achieved? With great reference checking. Of course, you should assess potential hires in many other ways, too. But reference checks are by far the most important step in making sure that you’re not about to bring on someone who you’ll soon want to let go. This proce....
Motivating Millennials Takes More than Flexible Work Policies

A 2015 Gallup Poll found that Millennials are the least engaged cohort in the workplace, with only 28.9% saying that they are engaged at work. This, combined with high turnover rates and greater freelance and entrepreneurial opportunities, means that if companies want to retain these valued workers, they will have to double their efforts to meet Millennials where they are. A 2015 report on Millennials from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce emphasized flex-time as one way to do this — it found that three out of four Millennials reported that work-life balance drives their career choices. And many companies are indeed starting to offer flexible work schedules, work-from-home policies, and job appraisals based on outcomes and deliverables. But although these flexibility strategies are critical to attracting Millennials, from ou....
Be a Superboss

Lorne Michaels, Bill Walsh, Alice Waters – all have had a disproportionate impact in their respective industries through their knack for collecting and inspiring great talent. We hear
Why Digital Companies Grow Without Adding Headcount

By now we’re all familiar with examples of small and lean digital companies popping up out of nowhere and outcompeting larger, established companies. Insurgent startups, such as Instagram and Snapchat, manage to operate with far fewer resources than legacy companies in the same industry in the “pre-digital” era. Instagram had only 13 employees when it sold for $1 billion to Facebook in 2012, and Snapchat has approximately 350 employees. Compare that with Kodak, which at its peak employed over 60,000 employees. But what’s even more notable is that these digital companies are staying small and keeping headcount low, even as the business scales. Look at WhatsApp, which had 55 employees (35 of them engineers) and reached more than 450 million users when it was acquired by Facebook in 2014. Today, while the number....
Aligning Your Organization with an Agile Workforce

Leaders recognize that lean and agile business strategies require new ways of accessing talent to fill critical gaps — without necessarily bringing on more full-time employees. But most organizations aren’t set up for getting the most out of non-traditional employment relationships. In this excerpt from their book, Agile Talent, Younger and Smallwood explain how to align your organization with the needs and expectations of a workforce that is increasingly external, project-based, and flexible. Nearly all contemporary organizations are increasing their use of talent from the outside—by engaging individuals, teams, and even firms in non-traditional work relationships and alternate forms of employment. Google and Intel rely on experts in social science and biomechanics to develop transformative products by better un....
How Powerful, Low-Status Jobs Lead to Conflict

The insufferable coworker. The abusive boss. When it comes to conflict in the workplace, we tend to think that people are the problem. There is some truth to this idea. From differing values and backgrounds to personal insecurities, individual characteristics are often an important source of conflict. However, by focusing on individuals and their personality traits, we ignore a crucial ingredient in the conflict cocktail: one’s structural position in the organization. Our recent research has begun to shed light on this often-overlooked source of interpersonal conflict. In a set of studies, including surveys, a field study in a large federal agency, and controlled experiments, we found that employees who occupied positions that lack respect and admiration in the eyes of others (i.e., that lack status) but who simultaneously contro....
7 Rules for Job Interview Questions That Result in Great Hires

Some of the long-held ideas about how to conduct interviews are no longer accurate. For example, there’s no such thing as a surprise interview question anymore. With sites like Glassdoor.com, candidates can identify each of your likely interview questions and expected answers ahead of time. With that information, candidates now routinely prepare and video their practice interviews to the point where their responses are universally impressive, if not genuine or accurate. It’s not just surprise questions that are a thing of the past. Research at firms like Google has proven that “brainteaser questions” can contribute to a costly miss-hire, that having a candidate meet any more than four interviewers doesn’t increase new-hire quality, and that for many jobs, factors like grades, test scores, and schools attende....
Don’t Let Outdated Management Structures Kill Your Company

dave wheeler FOR HBR During a consulting engagement at a $50 billion conglomerate, I spoke with a young man who was worried about a potential project overrun. I asked if he had hit a stumbling block. “It really isn’t a big deal — I know we have the in-house expertise to solve this,” he said. “I just need to rope in some colleagues from another team.” “So what’s the problem?” I asked. “I’m waiting for my boss to give me the go-ahead,” he replied. This company operates on a hub-and-spoke management structure, where significant decisions are referred to one’s formal boss rather than to whoever is best suited to make the call, regardless of hierarchical positioning. The management structure gave the company the ability to make decisions quickly in the early ....
What Work Email Can Reveal About Performance and Potential

In many offices, using digital tools to chat or collaborate with colleagues is the norm — even with people you sit right next to. Tools like Skype, Slack, and old-fashioned email are convenient and a bit addictive. But while digital collaboration can be useful and engaging, we all know it can also be a mixed blessing. A strategic approach to managing digital networks and collaboration at the company level can help us better understand which types of digital communication are productive, to both employees and the firm. After all, digital tools generate data; some companies are now creating next-generation products with built-in analytics about the networks that they enable. (Disclosure: this includes Microsoft, which bought my former company, VoloMetrix, to help make that happen for core bus....
Avoid These Common B2B Content Marketing Mistakes

B2B buyers often have made up their minds about a purchase before a sales rep even gets a foot in the door. It’s no wonder, then, that more than 90% of B2B sellers have turned to content marketing to help regain access to buyers in the early stages of the purchase process. Yet CEB research finds that most of these efforts fall short of expectations. Why? The research, involving over 5,000 B2B purchase participants across 12 industries, uncovered three mistakes that undermine firms’ content marketing. Mistake #1: The content focuses on “thought leadership” Most marketers would describe their current content strategy as an effort to demonstrate “thought leadership” in their industry. CEB research, however, indicates that simply representing a “smart or expert perspective” has no significant i....
The Business Implications of the EU-U.S. “Privacy Shield”

Last week, the U.S. and EU announced a tentative agreement to allow U.S. companies to continue sending and receiving personal information about EU residents across EU borders — everything from an online employee directory for a multinational company to a Facebook profile stored in the cloud. An earlier agreement, known as the Safe Harbor Privacy Principles, which went back 15 years and was relied on by some 4,000 companies, was declared illegal last year based on concerns, highlighted by the Edward Snowden disclosures, that compliance with surveillance requests from U.S. government agencies, notably the NSA, may have put U.S. companies into conflict with the EU’s broadly written privacy directives. It’s entirely unclear, however, if the so-called “EU-U.S. Privacy Shield” will pass muster with EU autho....
How to Hire Like a Superboss

A woman shows up for a job interview. It’s a management position, but not a high-level one. While she’s waiting, someone drops down in the chair beside her. It’s the legendary head of the company. “Are you here about a job?” he asks. Speechless, the woman nods. The CEO then asks her about the more challenging issues facing the industry. She forces herself to focus and quickly relays some thoughts on the subject. He asks her to elaborate, so she lays out her thinking in detail. When he spots weak points in her argument, she acknowledges them but explains why she’s taking the position anyway. After a bit more spirited back-and-forth, the living legend gets up. “I’ve got to run,” he tells the candidate. “When the human resources people call you in, tell them I’ve just ....
The Opportunity Hidden in Customer Questions - SPONSOR CONTENT FROM DISNEY INSTITUTE

By Bruce Jones, Senior Programming Director, Disney Institute Almost every day in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort, at least one Guest stops a Cast Member to ask “What time is the three o’clock parade?” The question appears to have an obvious answer. But at Disney, we know the true question frequently lies beyond the obvious—and that question provides us a unique opportunity to deliver the kind of customer experience that builds a lifelong relationship with our Guests. Instead of simply telling our excited and sometimes distracted Guests the obvious answer—three o’clock—Cast Members ask questions and then personalize his or her response to reflect each Guest’s experience. Drawing on their theme park knowledge and training, Cast Members offer expanded answers, such as telling Gu....
Just Using Big Data Isn’t Enough Anymore

Big Data has quickly become an established fact for Fortune 1000 firms — such is the conclusion of a Big Data executive survey that my firm has conducted for the past four years. The survey gathers perspectives from a small but influential group of executives — chief information officers, chief data officers, and senior business and technology leaders of Fortune 1000 firms. Key industry segments are heavily represented — financial services, where data is plentiful and data investments are substantial, and life sciences, where data usage is rapidly emerging. Among the findings: 63% of firms now report having Big Data in production in 2015, up from just 5% in 2012 63% of firms reported that they expect to invest greater than $10 million in Big Data by 2017, up from 24% in 2012 54% of firms say they have appointed a Chi....
4 Things That Sink New Executives, and How to Overcome Them

When mountaineers ascend rapidly to very high altitudes, they sometimes suffer from a condition called acute mountain sickness. The severe nausea and headaches are much like a bad hangover, but left unaddressed, can be debilitating and even fatal. In more than 30 years of consulting with senior executives, I’ve also witnessed a kind of “high altitude sickness” among executives who rise quickly in organizations. Upon arrival into the executive ranks, they seem disoriented, unable to adapt, catch their breath, and acclimate to the new environment. We’ve known for decades that between 50-70% of executives fail within 18 months of their appointment. Our research set out to uncover what problems undermined otherwise promising executives upon arrival into the highest organizational altitudes. In more than 2,700 comprehe....
Proof That Women Get Less Credit for Teamwork

Being able to work well with others is a standard requirement for most jobs today. But a new study suggests that women do not get their fair share of credit for group work, especially when they work with men. Heather Sarsons, a PhD candidate in economics at Harvard, gathered data on economists to see how teaming up with others (in this case to coauthor a paper) affects the likelihood of getting promoted (i.e., getting tenure), and whether it differs by gender. She found that coauthored papers correlate with fewer promotions for female academics. Women essentially experience a collaboration penalty, which is most pronounced when women coauthor with men and less pronounced the more female coauthors there are on a paper. Men, however, are not penalized at all for collaborating. Women are tenured at far lower rates than men in academi....
Study: Firms with More Women in the C-Suite Are More Profitable

While successful female leaders have made headlines in recent years — Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg, and Indra Nooyi all come to mind — they remain the exception to the rule. Yet in the U.S. women make up nearly 40% of MBA graduates and 40% of managers. In many countries they make up an equal or greater share of tertiary graduates and the professional and technical labor force. And worldwide they are catching up to men in levels of education and workforce participation. So why do women remain hard to find in the corporate boardroom and the C-suite? In a new Peterson Institute for International Economics working paper, we present the results of our survey of nearly 22,000 firms globally. We found that in 2014 almost 60% of these firms had no female board members, just over half had no female C-su....
Hire the Best People, and Let Them Work from Wherever They Are

I ran into a former HR colleague at a conference last month. We got to talking and she mentioned she was finding it difficult to hire a cybersecurity expert. I wasn’t surprised. Security talent is scarce in the tech sector right now. “I found someone phenomenal, but she’s in Washington State, and she won’t move to our cybersecurity group in San Francisco,” my friend lamented. I said the first words that popped into my head: “That’s great.” Hiring a candidate who is going to work remotely has three levels of benefits. The company benefits. Removing location as a limiting factor offers organizations access to (literally) all the talent in the world. Hiring managers benefit because they have an opportunity to create diverse teams. For instance, it’s widely accepted that people who come ....
Companies Are Reimagining Business Processes with Algorithms

In the early 1990s, executives and managers welcomed information technology — databases, PC workstations, and automated systems — into their offices. They saw the potential for significant business gains. Computers wouldn’t just speed up processes or automate certain tasks — they could upset nearly all business processes and allow executives to rethink operations from the ground up. And so the reengineering movement was born. Now it’s happening again. Powerful machine-learning algorithms that adapt through experience and evolve in intelligence with exposure to data are driving changes in businesses that would have been impossible to imagine just five years ago. The PCs and databases introduced during the reengineering of the 90s have grown up: the rules-based codes written by engineers are giving way to lear....
Luxury Brands Can No Longer Ignore Sustainability

If I asked you to picture the consumer luxury market, you might imagine jewels, sports cars, watches, premium drinks, high-end shoes and apparel, and so on. A combination of high quality, glamour, celebrity, and attitude. With a few exceptions, it’s been an industry not traditionally associated with concerns about environmental impacts, human rights, and wellness, even while those trends have been sweeping through the mainstream consumer products sector. But according to a new report, 2016 Predictions for the Luxury Industry: Sustainability and Innovation, that sustainability gap is closing fast. Two organizations that work closely with high-end product companies, the Luxury Institute and Positive Luxury, produced the study (disclosure: I’m on the latter’s informal advisory board, but I had no involvement....
Today’s Automation Anxiety Was Alive and Well in 1960

Electronic data processing, or EDP, rose to prominence in 1950s American business as a way to automate simple and regular tasks that involved large amounts of data. It was fast (comparatively), accurate, and transformative. And, like any new technology making its entrance into office life, it was met with profoundly mixed feelings. Ida Russakoff Hoos, a renowned sociologist and a critic of systems analysis, noted in her 1960 HBR article (aptly titled “When the Computer Takes Over the Office”) that EDP’s sudden presence in the workplace provoked polar reactions that were “often wishful and sometimes biased.” On one hand, “the machine is seen as the master of men unless firm government control or a workers’ revolt intervenes” (it was the ’50s, after all); on the other, those who belie....
How to Read a Book a Week

It was the late 1980s and I was sitting in a university lecture hall listening to Abbie Hoffman, an author and an activist, ranting about my generation’s indifference. Next to me was Gloria Emerson, a brilliant and eccentric journalist and author. We were discussing Hoffman’s talk when I told her how much I loved being in the thick of all these ideas. “It’s such a unique opportunity to be here,” I said to her, “to be part of these conversations with smart, thoughtful people.” “Oh, don’t be silly,” she responded. “Anybody can be part of these conversations. Just read some books!” Ironically, as a history major, I was reading three to four books a week. And Gloria was right: through these books, I had a seat at the table. I was part of a cutting-edge conversation that ....
How to Hire for Emotional Intelligence

We know from research (and common sense) that people who understand and manage their own and others’ emotions make better leaders. They are able to deal with stress, overcome obstacles, and inspire others to work toward collective goals. They manage conflict with less fallout and build stronger teams. And they are generally happier at work, too. But far too many managers lack basic self-awareness and social skills. They don’t recognize the impact of their own feelings and moods. They are less adaptable than they need to be in today’s fast-paced world. And they don’t demonstrate basic empathy for others: they don’t understand people’s needs, which means they are unable to meet those needs or inspire people to act. One of the reasons we see far too little emotional intelligence in the workplace is....
The Soft Skills of Great Digital Organizations

Smart organizations have recognized that introducing new technology into the workplace isn’t about hardware or software: it’s about wetware, also known as human beings. If you want to be the kind of nimble business that can make the most of successive waves of tech innovation, you need human beings who can adapt to change. That means equipping each person in your enterprise with the skills and mindset that will help them successfully adapt whenever you introduce new tools like Slack, Basecamp, or even Google Drive into your workplace. But what exactly are these digital skills? They may be more familiar and low-tech than you think. Here’s how to cultivate a more digitally nimble workplace: Goal-centric thinking. It’s really easy to get caught up in the pressure to adopt the latest cool platform or tool. But ....
How to Give Constructive Feedback

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman have administered thousands of 360-degree assessments through their consulting firm, Zenger/Folkman. This has given them a wealth of information about who benefits from criticism, and how to deliver it. Download this podcast

TECHNALINK HIGHLIGHTS
  

In celebration of women role models in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), STEMconnectortm unveils in hard copy and online its inaugural 100 Women Leaders in STEM publicatin. The heroines included in 100 Women Leaders in STEM share stories about their commitment to serving as mentors and sponsors of those who are next in the stem jobs pipline.
           
Mclean, VA - Technalink, Inc. is excited to announce that Alka Dhillon, Founder & Chief Executive Officer has been selected as a winner for the 2012 BRAVA! Women Business Achievement Award Presented by SmartCEO.
    
Alka Dhillon, Founder and CEO, Technalink (McLean,VA) Recognized as one of the leading female CEOs in the Washington, DC, area, Ms. Dhillon is known for her irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for giving back to the community.

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