It’s time to stop short-changing education

We’ve all heard, and in some cases experienced the horror stories. College graduates (often star athletes) who are unable to read and write at the eighth grade level. High school graduates who cannot complete even the most basic math problems.

Add to that the recent Deloitte report finding that more than 700,000 skilled jobs in manufacturing will not be filled in the near future because of lack of qualified applicants.

I had previous experience with several manufacturing and food processing plants during my career and quickly learned which local schools produced illiterate “graduates” or dropouts who were completely without basic work survival skills. Twice, I resorted to teaching basic reading and math skills to current employees who were failing at the most basic tasks.

It’s clear to me that we have a major disconnect in our current process of preparing young people for the work force. It should not be necessary for a company to use its precious resources to teach employees things they should have learned in grade school!

Here are some things we should be doing NOW to prepare our young people for their futures, and to prevent the predicted labor shortages.

Change Expectations

First, we must teach our children the importance of basic English and math skills for every student. We must change the ways we teach these skills in our classrooms, and the current practice of “teaching for the tests” must be abandoned for a return to the more effective “teaching for life” practices of the past.

We must lessen the emphasis on professions like medicine, engineering and the sciences, and elevate learning for trade skills like computer sciences, manufacturing processes, and transportation.

And we must cease our societal denigration of any career field that does not carry an advanced degree. The manufacturing sector of our economy is vital to our continued growth and stability of our country, but our young people have such a negative image of “working in a plant” that many will not even consider manufacturing as a career field. This must change.

I’m not saying the professional fields are not worthy of study. Of course they are. But we must all understand that many students have no interest in becoming a doctor or research scientist, and for those students we must provide other training opportunities.

Technical Education

Many of our school systems no longer offer technical education options in their standard curriculum, so students who are not college bound are severely limited in their learning options. Whatever happened to automotive mechanics, wood shop, and welding? Young people who leave or graduate high school with these skills are immediately qualified for many well-paying jobs, but our emphasis on college prep programs has relegated these skill programs to second class when it comes to available funding. We must change this immediately.

Our career programs must be changed to include the manufacturing skills jobs like machine operator, blueprint reading, quality assurance technician and so on. Until this happens, young people will leave school having no idea what the possibilities are for them.

Return to Basics

And let’s not forget to recognize and award students who succeed in English and math in grade school. We recognize attendance, and club participation, and citizenship, but there are few rewards for excellence in the two most critical learning areas.

Finally, before I leave my soap box, those programs that allow high school Advanced Placement students to earn college credit while still in high school must be expanded to include advanced technical education options. By doing that, more students who do not plan to go to college will be better prepared immediately to enter the work force, and many may reconsider the college option if technical degrees are more available. Let’s stop short-changing these students and give them a hand up to better entry level jobs!

What about you? What other ideas do you have for better preparing grade school and high school students for non-professional career fields? Where are the public schools that are succeeding in this area? I’d love to hear some good news, so please comment below and let’s start spreading the good news!

Posted in Hiring Right

Survey shows best sources for hires

Internet based recently published their Source of Hire Report 2014, and there were some surprising findings.

  • According to the report, companies continue to find their best candidates in their own backyards. Participating companies filled more than 41% of their openings from current employees.
  • Contingent workers now account for one in six members of firms/ workforces.
  • Among online job boards, Indeed and LinkedIn have become the most significant SOH. (Sources of Hire)
  • Nearly six in ten surveyed companies said LinkedIn was a critical component for their recruiters and sourcing groups, and half said it made a significant impact on their career sites.
  • Companies filled about 20% of their openings via employee referrals, and job seekers who are referred are three to four times more likely to be hired than someone who applies without a referral.
  • Social media has become a significant factor in recruiting. More than 20% of participant companies said social media was a significant or dominant factor in their hiring, especially for experienced professionals.
  • Read the complete report at, Source of Hire Report 2014.

What all this means for you depends on the size of your company and your budget available for recruiting. Regardless your limitations, however, here are my recommendations for increasing your hiring effectiveness:

  • Look inside first. Chances are you’ll have a qualified candidate just waiting to move up. If not,
  • Ask for employee referrals. Employees won’t refer people they don’t want to work with, and won’t refer someone whose work they don’t know, out of concern a bad hire will reflect poorly on them.
  • Use social media when appropriate. For professionals, consider posting on Indeed or LinkedIn. For other positions, post on Facebook and ask your Facebook friends to report for you.
  • Consider asking a temporary employment agency to help you with a temp-to-hire program.This has worked extremely well for me in the past, and for a lot of other companies hiring entry level workers or those with specific, verifiable skills. Just be sure all the normal screening is done, including drug testing, background checks, and thorough reference checks.
  • For local positions when you don’t want to pay relocation expenses, newspaper ads are still a good bet. But run your ads as display, only on Sunday, with Wednesday as a distant second. Skip ads on holidays. And have a qualified professional write your ads for you. Sell your job!
  • For entry level positions, post flyers at local tech schools and colleges, grocery stores, quick-stop stores and other places where people hang out. On every flyer, ask for referrals (“Tell all your friends about us!”) and include tear-off strips with your telephone number or Internet website address.
  • Be sure your internal hiring systems do not impede the process for applicants. Some online applicant systems are so complicated that they screen out more applicants than they allow through.
  • Before you post a externally, make sure you’ve posted it to employees first! Many employees will apply; more will refer their friends, family and acquaintances; and all employees will appreciate knowing what’s going on in their company. It’s a great morale booster!

And when your job has been filled, be sure to keep track of where your applicants came from, which SOH had the best qualified applicants, and which SOH actually filled the position. This history is invaluable over time as you work to increase the effectiveness of your recruiting process.

For more detailed information about recruiting and hiring qualified applicants, get a copy of Hiring Right: A Business Blueprint for Lower Turnover and Higher Profits, Second Edition, available from And let me know if you have any questions about this blog; I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Hiring Right | Tagged , ,

Disparate Impact Affects All Employers

Sunday’s newspaper brought an article by columnist Thomas Sowell about the Justice Department’s repeated use of the term “disparate impact” in their report about the Ferguson, MO., police department.

But what does disparate impact mean to an HR professional or hiring manager? And why is it important?

Disparate impact is a major standard the EEOC uses when determining whether a company has discriminated against an individual, or individuals, in an employment situation. More importantly, consumers seem to have accepted disparate impact as positive proof of discrimination, even when there is no objective evidence to prove the claim.

Minority applicants hired in fewer numbers than white applicants? Must be disparate impact. Your workforce doesn’t have the same percentages of minority and female workers as in the surrounding labor market? Must be disparate impact. More minorities, women or older workers fired or laid off than Caucasians or those under 40? Disparate impact again.

The sad fact is that in today’s world perception too often becomes reality, so managers and leaders must carefully ensure that their human resources practices, policies and decisions can stand up to scrutiny by entities like the EEOC, and especially by your own employees and customers.

Use every possible resource to recruit qualified minorities for open jobs. Make your company one where minorities are comfortable, appreciated, and not singled out because of their race. Make sure you don’t use different performance standards for minorities and non-minorities, and that your recognition systems work for both groups.

If you are required to produce an annual Affirmative Action Plan, you will be forced to document your efforts to be inclusive and non-discriminatory in all your HR practices. But whether you’re required to complete this documentation or not, the only way to avoid the perception of disparate impact is to be proactive with your recruiting and hiring policies and procedures, and to make sure all employees are given opportunities for training and career progression.

Perhaps your most effective tool, however, is a supervisory or management training program that teaches participants how their actions can be perceived as having a disparate impact on employees, and how to change those actions in real world situations.

You can have all the right programs, policies, procedures and mission statements in the world, but if your leaders’ behavior is perceived as negative or discriminatory by minorities, women or older workers, you may very well be forced to prove there is no disparate impact on affected groups.

Don’t let that happen. Be proactive and take the actions now that will avoid problems in the future!

Do you have other suggestions for preventing customer and employee perceptions of disparate impact? I so, I’d love to hear them! Comment below, or go to my website at, and send me a comment from there. And thanks for your input!

Posted in Hiring Right | Tagged , , , ,

Get the most out of your interviews

You’ve reviewed dozens or even hundreds of resumes, pulled a few you think have promise, and invited them in for an interview. And your hiring process falls apart because you don’t know how to get the most out of your interviews.

Here are some of my favorite tips, based on more than forty-three years of interviewing experience:

1. Control your time. I always begin interviews by saying something like, “I have a lot of questions for you, and I need you to be very specific in your answers. Once we’re finished with my questions, I’ll give you all the time you need to ask me questions.” This establishes right away that this is an interview, not a chat, and you’re the one in control. It will save huge amounts of time without alienating candidates.

2. Never interview from the resume. You’ll only get the information the candidate wants you to have. Review the resume in advance, compare it carefully to your Job Profile, then set it aside.

3. Spend whatever time is necessary to get a complete chronological work history. I prefer at least ten years’ history, or going back to the last time the applicant attended school full time. For management level positions, go back to the beginning, even if it is forty or more years. During this process, make sure applicants account for all time from the beginning to the present. This process will highlight areas where work history may have been enhanced on the resume, or periods of unemployment not listed on the resume. I’ve had candidates admit they were in prison when I probed periods of unemployment.

4. Prepare your interview questions based on the Job Profile. Remember, the Job Profile is where you documented all the requirements of the job. Ask specific interview questions like “can you…” and “when did you…” and “how did you…?” It’s important to be very specific in these questions to establish qualifications.

5. Remember that an interview is not a conversation. That doesn’t mean you can’t be cordial and eventually answer an applicant’s questions. In fact, you should do both. But this is your time, so use it wisely. When you’re taking a chronological work history and establishing needed skills, keep the ball in your court and maintain the attitude of an interview, not a conversation.

6. Once you’ve established work history and job skills, move on to the personality characteristics that make a person a good fit for your particular job. Your questions in this section will be less directed, and more “feel” in nature. This is where you can relax a bit in your style and engage in a conversation with your candidate.

7. What else can you tell me about yourself (that will help me make a decision)? That’s a great question to begin winding up the interview, and it gives candidates a chance to tell you something you’ve not yet uncovered about themselves. It’s a good way to learn what’s important to the candidate, which will add insight about “fit.”

8. Answer the applicant’s questions honestly. Don’t mislead, but remember that your job is also to sell the job opportunity to the candidate. This is where many managers miss the boat with interviewing: closing the deal. Long before you’re ready to make a job offer, you should be selling the candidate on the opportunity.

9. Immediately after the interview, make your notes, then go back and review the resume again. Look for inconsistencies in the chronological work history or skills listed.

10. While the interview is fresh in your mind, do your reference checks. Be sure to include former supervisors in your references, but also remember to do some “deep background” references such as co-workers and peers. You can delegate the verification checks such as dates of employment and eligibility for rehire that you get from Human Resources, but never delegate the conversations you need to have with supervisors and peers.

For a more detailed discussion of each of these areas, get a copy of HIRING RIGHT: A Business Blueprint for Lower Turnover and Higher Profits, Second Edition. This book gives you a complete, step-by-step How To on each phase of the hiring process. Adopt the recommendations given, and you’ll no longer feel that you’re not getting the most out of your interviews.

In fact, with just a little practice, you’ll become an expert!

For more information, or questions about this article, contact me at, or comment below. I promise you’ll get a speedy response!

Posted in Hiring Right | Tagged , , , ,

Leaders never use terms of endearment at work

I live in eastern Oklahoma and often shop in western Arkansas. This is a part of the country where informal speech and speech patterns are the norm. It’s common, for example, to hear store clerks address customers as “honey” or “sweetie.”

For some people that might not be a problem, but I’ve always felt denigrated when a total stranger calls me sweetie. It’s patronizing at best, and downright insulting at worst.

And when I hear a supervisor or manager — a leader — address employees in such a way, it really sets my teeth on edge. Employees should be treated with respect. Doing otherwise could lead to a sexual harassment or discrimination charge, not to mention being patronizing.

So here are some basic guidelines for leaders who want to be seen as professionals in their communication with employees and customers.

In a work situation, never call others sweetie, honey, sweetheart, darling (darlin’ in the South), or baby (babe). These terms of endearment are fine when used privately with those you love, like a spouse, significant other, or child. They are never okay when used in public with employees or customers.

Never curse or swear at employees or customers. It’s a sign of disrespect, and also a sign of ignorance. Find another way to express your frustration. I fondly remember one manager who would shout “Hot Diggety Dog!” when he was angry or frustrated. The laughter that followed helped reduce tension and improve problem solving. And his professionalism was never compromised.

If you’re new to management, follow the example of people in senior leadership positions in your company. My bet is that you’ll never hear one of them use inappropriate terms of endearment at work. If you do, give them a copy of this blog!

Listen to commentators on the television news, especially major channels. It’s extremely unusual to hear a public speaker use a swear word. They find other ways to emphasize their points. You should do the same. There are exceptions, of course; there always are. But the rule is no swearing or cursing, and it’s a good one.

Remember that as a leader, other people are looking to you as their example of professional behavior. Make sure your example is a good one.

Posted in Leadership Issues | Tagged , , ,