Sunday, February 17, 2013

How good is your gut feel?

Everyone thinks they can spot ‘the one’ when it comes to the perfect employee. But sometimes it doesn’t work out. There are some simple measures you can take to back your gut feel.

A client of mine has a small but growing IT consulting business. I recruited his 3rd employee 9 months ago and we are now working on his 7th employee. Last month, he let an employee go after 3 weeks in the role. The interview process went well and the referee report checked out too. The bit that didn’t check out was the employee’s technical skills. Verbally, they were ticked off, but they were non-existent in reality. The employee had secured a role that was punching way above her weight, when in fact, my client needed someone who was equipped with a specific knowledge base and could learn quickly on the job.

My client is lovely. He wants candidates to feel comfortable and at ease during the interview. But at some point, the hard questions have to kick in. There needs to be more rigor in the recruitment process. 

Skills assessments can provide a more practical insight into the candidate’s knowledge of a particular topic and their aptitude. The key to this type of testing is to make the tests simple, practical and clear.

Methods of assessment can include:
•    Demonstration of techniques (testing thought process and ability)
•    Verbal (testing communication and ability)
•    Written (testing writing skills and ability)

For my client, they should consider three different assessments that test the basic knowledge and requirements of the candidate. For example:

•    You may wish to test the candidate on their experience with administration and support of windows, desktops and servers. Consider three typical scenarios and ask the candidate what they would do – or there might be an opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate their knowledge on a laptop.

•    You may consider a test for a specific programming language. You could devise 3 questions that require a written answer. This question will test their technical ability and writing skills.

These skills assessments may take 20 minutes in total.

The assessments should be outlined in a word document with specific instructions.

Another form of testing is an online cognitive ability test. Cognitive ability tests (aptitude tests, general intelligence assessments) are one of the most powerful predictors of future work performance. Cognitive ability tests measure verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning and the resulting score reflects the person's ability to acquire, retain, organise and apply information. Visit or to access simple and effective tests for candidates who have been shortlisted.  These tests can be conducted from the candidate’s home computer. The results and then formulated and provided in a detailed report.

These tests are certainly useful. However, I would encourage you to perform your own specific workplace assessments to get a handle on communication and written skills as well.

If you require cost effective recruitment assistance for your business, get in touch for a chat.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The right to request flexible work arrangements set to become more flexible

The flexible working issue is one again back in the headlines. The Federal Government is proposing to expand the opportunity for employees to request flexibility. It started with parents who have children under school age or a child with a disability under 18 years of age. Now they are proposing to offer it to all caregivers, mature age workers, and people experiencing domestic violence. 

Australia is not a trail blazer; we are simply playing catch up with other countries. For example, The UK brought in their right to request flexibility back in 2003. In 2014, they are working towards offering it to all employees – regardless of whether you are a caregiver or not. And don’t think it is a hard and fast law – in both the UK and Australia, the employer has the opportunity to refuse on reasonable business grounds. It is far better for an employer and an employee to work out a sensible flexible work arrangement that benefits both the employee and the business. Small businesses are particularly good at this. Communication is critical for it to work.

For employers out there, don’t panic. You won’t receive a flood of applications when the law is changed. Australia has a long way to go in terms of changing our workplace culture. Many of us (and our managers) still associate working hard with the number of hours we work as opposed to the quality of work we churn out. There are also managers who have the opinion that once you put your hand up to work flexibly, you are no longer serious about your career. These perceptions will continue to stop workers from asking.

Demographics, technology, traffic, illness, caring responsibilities and an ageing population will continue to challenge all of us to think about the way we work – and how we can work better. I think sometimes we forget that life happens while we are working.

Focus on a practical approach when it comes to receiving flexible work proposals. Rather than just state the flexible work arrangement required and for how long, ask employees to respond to the following questions:
  • Ask the employee to clarify their needs. Why do they require flexible arrangements?  You need to understand their reasons for requesting flexibility so you can assess it on a case-by-case basis and identify the most feasible options.
  • Ask the employee how they propose working flexibly could work and to provide several options for consideration.

  • What flexible working arrangements are they seeking? For example, they may wish to work school hours only. Are they able to suggest other flexible work options for consideration?

  • What are the potential positives and downsides of working flexibly for them and the business?

  • Ask the employee to review and analyse their job responsibilities to consider what elements of their job will be impacted.

  • How do they propose that it will work in terms of their existing workload?

  • Can they identify what work can only be done in the office versus what can be done at home/via phone/via email.

 Agree to trial the new working arrangements to assess if it will work. 

CareerMums and WorkLifeBliss run Flexible Work Masterclasses for managers. We do travel.