Candidates Are Customers
By Laura Jacob

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HR's Dinosaurs
By John Sullivan

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Waking up is hard to do when a job's unfit for you – April 2007
By Globe and Mail

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By Globe and Mail

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By Andrew Burnham

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This newsletter provides leaders and human resource professionals with information on how they can improve their ability to select, retain and develop talent.
By The McQuaig Institute

From time to time I get asked the question, “What are the legal issues surrounding pre-employment assessments?” As we haven’t addressed this topic since Newsletter #35, back in August, 2004, I thought this would be a good time for a review, especially in light of the recent Karraker vs. Rent-A-Center case in the U.S.

In today’s newsletter we will provide a quick overview of some of the key points surrounding pre-employment assessment and testing instruments put forth in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Guidelines. I am using the EEOC guidelines, as Canadian companies tend to look south of the border for direction on legal issues regarding testing.

In response to our opening question, yes, employment testing is legal and it is used by most Fortune 500 companies. But there are three key concepts that you need to be familiar with to ensure that your pre-employment testing tools and methods are above-board.

The first is “adverse impact”. The test should not adversely impact any special population, such as a minority, gender, or, as recently demonstrated in the Karraker vs. Rent-A-Center case, people with disabilities. In this instance, it was demonstrated that the instrument used by Rent-A-Center, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), was, in fact, a medical “test” that violated The Americans with Disabilities Act. If you Google MMPI you will note that many of the sites that offer this assessment state specifically that it is used by clinicians to assist with the diagnosis of mental disorders. What led Rent-A-Center to use a test for mental disorders in the hiring process? We don’t know, but the message to test-users is clear. Read your test developer’s technical manual to get a better understanding of everything the test measures. Also, take a quick look at the questions that it asks. If it asks the candidate to evaluate statements such as “my soul sometimes leaves my body”, you need to reconsider your company’s use of this test.

The second concept is “job-relatedness”. The assessment must measure dimensions that are related to success in the job. For example, if you use an assessment that measures competitiveness, your company shouldn’t have too much difficulty making a case for using it to assess sales candidates. Better yet, follow best practices and benchmark the assessment by assessing your top sales people. Another good step is to use a job analysis tool that helps define critical success factors. This not only proves job-relatedness beyond any doubt, but it helps clearly define the qualities you are looking for in the selection process and leads to smarter hiring decisions.

The third concept is validity and reliability. The assessment should be valid – it should measure what it purports to measure. For, example, if the assessment says that someone is competitive, is the person really competitive? Does his or her supervisor think that s/he is? Do other validated assessments say the same thing? The test should also be reliable – a person shouldn’t be assessed as competitive this week and submissive next week. Once again, by checking your test developer’s technical manual you should be able to confirm your test’s validity and reliability.

In summary, by following a few simple guidelines you can reap the benefits of employment testing while protecting your organization in the unlikely event that you should be challenged. Review our test developer’s technical manual to ensure that the test is valid, reliable, job-related and does not adversely impact and special populations.

To view a one-page summary of the technical manual for The McQuaig Word Survey® just click the following link: Technical Manual Research Overview

A sister company of The McQuaig Institute®, MICA Centre for Leadership offers a variety of high impact programs to help you on your leadership journey. Our practical business-centered approach to learning will give you the tools, skills and behaviours you need… when you need them. All of our open enrollment programs include pre and post workshop assignments to ensure that learning acquired in the classroom is sustained back on the job.

The Osborne Report - Volume 1, 2006
By The Osborne Group

Click here for the report.

Being voted off the island? Don't ignore it

Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Already feeling insecure in the midst of a company overhaul, a senior manager recently walked by her company's boardroom and noticed that every senior person but her was around the table at a weekly planning session she'd always attended. Figuring it must have been moved to a new time, she approached the boss's assistant and said, "I guess I was so busy I didn't see the e-mail. I'll just go on in." But the assistant cleared her throat and uneasily replied, "Actually, uh, you're not on that meeting list any more."

The manager was not only mortified but terrified. She hasn't been able to figure out whether she's paranoid, permanently persona non grata or both, and her colleagues aren't being particularly helpful. Chances are she is feeling the effect of ostracism -- a brutal psychological and social tool that, according to one U.S. expert, is "more powerful than ever" in our modern world. I believe it.

Why else would such cruelty-based reality shows as Survivor have become so wildly popular? I remember first thinking about ostracism while watching the original Survivor television series. It both horrified and, let's face it, thrilled me every time someone was voted off the island. It was the ultimate shunning. Teenagers loved the series because it felt just as cruel as high school. Now it often seems as if the rest of life has become as cruel as high school. Ostracism can take place on a highly public level.

Whatever you think of her convoluted and questionable involvement in the weapons-of-mass-destruction scandal, recently "retired" New York Times reporter Judith Miller has felt shunning by her colleagues ever since she got out of jail. In Canada, our new governor-general, Micha‘lle Jean, has ironically been given the cold shoulder by both sides of the separatism debate -- shunned by Quebec separatists and, last week, reportedly given the cold shoulder by some war veterans who perceive her to be a separatist. In the workplace, ostracism can be a sly backroom tactic that companies use to ease people out the door.

The reason for its impact today is that many people actually have fewer support systems to call on when faced with exclusion in relationships, the workplace or even on Internet chat rooms, says Kipling Williams, a professor of social psychology at Indiana's Purdue University and the author of several books on the subject, including Ostracism: The Power of Silence.

Indeed, cyber-ostracism is now very big -- as any parent can attest after hearing their kids moan that they've been "blocked" by their friends on chat rooms. In the workplace, cyber-ostracism can be as simple and as deadly as "oops, guess we left you off the group e-mail list," or in having a superior or colleague repeatedly not answer your e-mails. "It's the uncertainty that beats people up," says Tim Cork, an executive coach and president of NexCareer, who says ostracism goes on in every company.

Tony Kerekes, a partner at Nvision Consulting, adds that ostracism also happens to new employees who may not initially fit into the culture and who find themselves ignored to the point that "a high percentage of new hires, especially at more senior levels, fail." More inadvertently, it also happens to temporary employees, who often feel invisible to regular staff. And, of course, whistle-blowers suffer from it as well. Prof. Williams said in an interview that he first became fascinated by ostracism after watching a 1978 documentary about a West Point cadet who was ostracized by his superiors and fellow cadets "after not putting down his pencil at the right time." The cadet stuck it out and graduated, even though for two years his friends "were ordered to get up and leave when he came into the lunch room." Prof. Williams concluded that ostracism "is a powerful social tool -- one that we don't study enough."

He recently conducted a study in which participants in a lab played an invented game called cyberball that researchers manipulated so that the subject was never thrown the ball. From clinical observations, the researchers concluded that "just being ignored or excluded for as little as four minutes activates the same region of the brain that is activated when you experience physical pain." Ostracism hurts. It lowers your self-esteem and, "if you're not careful, you internalize it and begin ostracizing yourself," Prof. Williams says. Even those doing the ostracizing are hurt by it, he adds. "It's an addictive behaviour and ostracizers report discomfort when they try to stop." The difficulty with ostracism, he says, is that it's a "legal safe way to punish people." You can get away with it. It's hard to discipline someone for ostracizing because, as he says in a particularly Kafkaesque turn of phrase, it is "really a series of non-behaviours" -- no eye contact, being left off the meeting list, being ignored in the lunch room or being passed by in the hall.

But is it legal in the workplace? Yes and no, according to Paul Boniferro, a labour lawyer at McCarthy Tetrault LLP. He acts for management in disputes over ostracism, which, he says, is more commonly known as "general harassment." The difficulty in these cases, Mr. Boniferro says, lies in determining whether an employee is being managed for poor performance or whether, indeed, he or she is being ignored and frustrated in his or her work to the extent that what the company is doing amounts to "constructive dismissal, in which case the employee is then entitled to notice and severance."

Employees, too, can manipulatively claim they are being psychologically damaged by ostracism when, in fact, they've had a justifiable but undesirable change in status or duty. If you think you're being ostracized at work, the experts says, don't ignore the ignoring. You must "document, document, document," Mr. Boniferro advises. Be precise, Prof. Williams adds. "Keep a list of all the incidents of non-behaviours -- for example, yesterday I walked into the lunch room and people looked away and didn't speak to me."

Just as important, Mr. Cork says, are "those three little letters -- ASK. You must, in a non-aggressive way, confront your employer and directly ask what is going on. If you don't get a satisfactory answer or cannot resolve it, "then you know you have a serious problem and it's up to you whether to go to human resources or get legal." You can even try to ride it out. But if that's what you're going to do, make sure you have a support group either inside or outside your office, Prof. Williams advises.

And here's a slightly reassuring note: There is life after being exiled in your office to the village of the damned. "People do make it back," Mr. Cork assures. That's one major difference between real life and those reality shows, in which the exiled ones almost never make it back. So I guess there's hope for civilization yet.

Talent War Looms in Hiring Boom
November 7, 2005 - CATAAlliance Ottawa

A new Report sounds a wake up call for industry, government and academia to take immediate action to avoid major roadblocks in the growth of enterprises reliant on knowledge based workers for growth. Conducted by CATAAlliance, and based on Ottawa as a first study cluster, the Report focused on how Ottawa-based SME's (between 20 and 500 employees) view the current and near future market for knowledge workers.

The Report has a wealth of statistical data and analysis (see Survey methodology and highlights section). "The perceptions, attitudes and actions captured in this survey indicate that once again there is a high demand for skilled knowledge workers in Ottawa.

Our research revealed that 75% of the surveyed companies were currently in the process of hiring. More than 45% of these companies indicated that hiring the necessary talent was already somewhat difficult to difficult. Combine this with results that indicated an additional 15% of respondents not actively hiring today will begin to do so during the next twelve months and you have a strong argument that the Ottawa high-technology sector is in the midst of another hiring boom" said Keith Carter, CATA Director and Vice President, Business Development of Procom Consultants Group, adding "Unfortunately, our research indicated that these same companies who achieve business success through process- and goal-oriented practices do not extend a similarly structured approach to what is ostensibly their most valuable asset: human capital.

What's more, our results showed that many companies are utilizing the same methods of accessing knowledge workers used widely during the tech boom and bust, a costly mistake that fed turnover, accelerated labour costs and contributed to sizable business losses or closures."

Who said the War was over? The country's high technology sector is facing the highest employment rate since June 2000: the apex of the high tech explosion. Although 56% of respondents indicated that Ottawa had enough knowledge workers to satisfy their company's demands, 70% of respondents indicated that they will search outside Ottawa when looking for additional skilled labour. This suggests that local demands for skilled labour are already testing the limits of local supply. In combination with short supply issues, recent Accenture research suggests that companies will also compete to keep existing talent as well.

It is generally believed that in the near future the labour market will be extremely turbulent and that turnover will be a leading concern for most enterprises. It seems clear that Ottawa tech firms are once again at war with one another for human capital. Proven HR Management Methods Not Utilized Of great concern to CATAAlliance was a key finding that the overwhelming majority of SMEs don't utilize best- practices to obtain and retain human capital.

It is strongly believed that these practices should be structured and should form the basis for a holistic human capital management strategy. The results indicated that a mere 6% of the companies surveyed used a recognized, certified methodology to obtain and retain their most valuable asset, people. Furthermore, 3/4 of the companies surveyed do not measure ROI as it relates to human capital.

When companies talk about their people as being their most valuable asset, CATAAlliance believes they then must quantify those assets the same way they do other aspects of their operations. Contingent Workers (i.e., contractors/consultants/part time) Not Fully Utilized Although almost half of the respondents agreed that accessing the labour market for traditional knowledge workers was at least somewhat difficult the survey also revealed that Ottawa SMEs do not appear to consider contingent labour as an option for addressing this problem and enhancing their overall human capital strategy. The survey results show that although respondents perceive the composition of the entire labour market accurately they don't access the contingent market to the same degree that they perceive it. In short they use far less contingent labour than is available to them.

These results contrast current significant research that shows that U.S. companies are heavily leaning toward the use of contingent labour to achieve address shortages, gain flexibility and achieve cost savings. Carter said "Sadly, these results strongly suggest that most firms in this survey are ignoring the root causes of workforce challenges, with obsolete recruitment processes and no way of measuring their ROI.

At the same time leading employers are beginning to recognize that a best-practices approach to human capital is a prudent, cost-effective response that guards the interests of employers and employees alike. Companies that act on this knowledge will establish a cost-effective and sustainable competitive advantage through their ability to measure, identify and retain the region's best talent. Companies that continue with their unstructured and antiquated approaches to recruitment and retention will have failed to heed the lessons of the previous high tech hiring frenzy, and are likely to repeat the same mistakes" John Reid, CATAAlliance President concluded, " The overall results sound a serious wake up call for the Ottawa and Canadian high-technology sector to take immediate steps to avoid repeating past mistakes.

Given the current labour climate, companies seeking growth and shareholder value need to re-examine their overall human capital management process." CATA mobilized its Board of Directors last week to develop innovative and practical solutions to the problem of attracting, training and retaining skilled talent to propel industry growth.

Study Methodology and Highlights Section In August and September of 2005, CATAAlliance conducted a survey of local executives in the National Capital Region, which encompasses Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec.

All of the respondents represent small-to medium-sized enterprises, or small-to medium-sized operations, with between 20 and 500 employees. The Survey was sponsored by Procom Consultants Group. Out of the 237 companies in the original survey sample, invitations to 180 invites were delivered and 102 companies responded and completed the online survey, for an overall response rate of 43.0%.

Their responses help to answer questions like:

  • How is today's executive structuring his or her organization to meet today's human capital requirements?
  • Do executive perceptions match market realities?
  • Can companies compete in today's labour market using yesterday's hiring techniques?

Presented below are the highlights:

High tech in Ottawa: the current market

  • Ottawa SMEs hire the majority of their knowledge workers locally
  • 75% of them are currently hiring knowledge workers
  • 40% hire in Ottawa exclusively
  • 46% find it is somewhat difficult to hire qualified knowledge workers
  • 50% believe the contingent labour market is growing significantly

The future workforce and labour market

  • 90% of SMEs surveyed plan to hire knowledge workers over the next 12 months
  • 70% of them will hire 3/4 of their knowledge workers locally
  • 30% hire in Ottawa exclusively
  • 40% predict a growth in traditional labour in excess of 10%
  • 25% predict a growth in contingent labour in excess of 10%

Perceptions and process in hiring

  • 55% of SMEs indicate that primary disadvantage of traditional staff is cost
  • 28% of them indicate that the prime disadvantage of contingent staff is lack of loyalty
  • Only 6% of SMEs use a recognized/certified approach to hiring traditional staff
  • Only 1% of them use a recognized/certified approach to hiring contingent staff
  • 92% hire traditional workers directly
  • 65% engage contingent knowledge workers directly
  • 78% do not use metrics to measure ROI on traditional workers
  • 82% do not use metrics to measure ROI on contingent workers

To Obtain a Summary Copy of the Survey and Report (CATA members only), please contact Cathi Malette at email cmalette@cata.ca Full Reports will be forwarded to all survey participants directly. Should you wish to participate in future studies of this nature please contact CATA VP of Research, Kevin Wennekes at 613-769-8614. We also encourage organizations to advance recommendation as part of CATA's HR Campaign.

Contact: John Reid (johnreid@attglobal.net) at 613-235-6550 and Keith Carter (keithc@procom.ca)

Rules to win the networking game
Most people aren't methodical enough and give up entirely too easily, career transition consultant TIM CORK tells WALLACE IMMEN

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Mr. Cork has a personal computerized contact file that he started 20 years ago and represents more than 20,000 people he has met. There are 2,318 people he considers close networking acquaintances, with complete electronic files that include interests and family that he updates regularly. Figuring "conservatively" that each of these people also has a circle of about 200 contacts, he estimates that knowing just this smaller group gives him networking access to more than 460,000 people. Get to the point.

Whenever you meet someone, you have 30 seconds or less -- the average time of a television commercial -- to get your networking message across. More than that and attention starts to wander. Ask each contact for two references. But don't make the request until you've earned the right. "If I have just met them, I may not ask immediately for a contact but the next day, I'll follow up with an e-mail," Mr. Cork says. In that message, you can say: 'I don't want to put you on the spot but there's something we discussed that was very thought provoking. It would be great if you could give me two contacts to help me pursue it.'" That means you don't put the person immediately on the spot and also gives him or her some time to think about the best people to put you in touch with. Seek help warming up a call. Ask the person who makes the referral to do a huge favour and get in touch with the contact on your behalf first. That way, the person will be expecting your call, you avoid uncomfortable introductions and you can move easily into a friendly discussion.

In most cases, all it takes is you asking, Mr. Cork insists. Be politely persistent. In most cases, you won't get a response from the person you are trying to reach on the first call. Mr. Cork says that's how a lot of people fail: they don't try again and again. You should leave a message explaining the reason for your call, but you don't have to repeat it each time. If you keep getting a recording, try calling at different times and keep calling until you get the person live. It may take five or more calls before you should start to take a hint. However, "I don't think you ever have to give up," he says. "They may not want to talk to you but if you are courteous, the worst thing that can happen is they will eventually call and say 'please stop calling me.' " Most often, busy people don't return your call because they don't know you and you may not be high on their list of priorities. But most people will eventually reply if you keep telling them you want to reach them, Mr. Cork says. And invariably, they will try to be helpful, as long as you have prepared a compelling and succinct reason for them to help.

The approach that works best is to tell them how much you value their expertise. Follow up with a thank you. Express gratitude in as many ways as you can. "Tell them they have done you a huge favour, thank them profusely and offer to help them in the future. Always indicate your willingness to return a favour.

If you are playing the asking game, you have to gain the right by offering something in return," Mr. Cork adds. "Networking is really very simply about continually connecting with people, and it is really always about being willing to give, and not just in tangible things like gifts or services," Mr. Cork says. You can send them something that relates to their interests. If they're a reader, send a book about the business topic you've discussed, along with a personal note. If they say they are not a big reader, ask if they'd like to have an audio version of the book to play in their car or an interesting music CD you've heard recently.

You can also offer your time, your experience and networking contacts to introduce them to other people that can help them. These are the things that will keep influential people in your circle of acquaintances, he notes. Networking becomes easier and easier through habit, repetition and breaking the fear of rejection, Mr. Cork says. And it is the foundation you want to have firmly in place when it comes time to build your next career. "People aren't strangers once you've met them. It's so much easier to meet the right people before you need their help."

Build a 'feel good' biz
by Roger Pierce

There's no better feeling than knowing you're helping people to change their lives through your business. Although not every entrepreneur's intention, any business that helps people to achieve life goals is a winner. "It's incredibly satisfying to see a client land a great new job or launch a fresh career," says entrepreneur Tim Cork.

Cork is president of NEXCareer (www.nexcareer. com), a leading Canadian provider of career management and outplacement services. His company helps people to successfully manage career transition through training, career counselling and placement services. NEXCareer serves individuals and corporate clients right across Canada. "We love to help people take their 'NEX' career steps," Cork quips.

In business for four years, NEXCareer is a boutique career transition firm with a national punch. "We provide support and expertise in the areas of career management, outplacement, career transition and coaching," Cork says. "We focus on delivering quality high-touch services; for example, our clients are partnered with a career coach who will advise them on their career options and support them throughout their career transition."


Career transition can be a scary time for anyone. A person may be feeling unsure of themselves, nervous about their next moves, worried about money or even a bit blue. In business, it's not what you do for customers, but how you do it that matters.

While NEXCareer is very good at helping people to build their careers, Cork believes his competitive advantage lies in how his firm treats clients. "Think of your customer as wearing a sign around their neck that says 'make me feel important, make me feel good'," Cork says. "We've built NEX by delivering a really high level of individualized client attention to one customer at a time. It takes effort, but it's well worth it."

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