Scouting For Talent – Picking a Winner

Tuesday (November 3) is Melbourne Cup Day. Also known as “The race that stops a nation”, it is also a public holiday for those fortunate enough to live in Melbourne.

Who can forget the amazing three years of consecutive wins by Makybe Diva (2003 – 2005), or master trainer Bart Cummings with eleven cup winners?

As I only moved to Australia seven years ago, after a decade living in New Zealand, it has been interested to notice how I became more caught up in all the publicity prior to the big race. Popular choices at this stage are horses like Viewed (last year’s winner and trained by Cummings), Efficient and Alcopop.

Thinking about the race and trying to pick a winner reminded me of the same challenges we as HR people face scouting for top talent. In looking for top talent, we need to differentiate between show horses and race horses.

Show Horses

It really amazes me how some people look at the colours of a horse to pick a favourite.
Bay coloured horses clearly have the best Cup record with 58 wins, including four in the last five years, and there are 16 in this year’s field. Brown horses have won 36 cups, while chestnuts have won 34. Only five greys have won the race, Efficient is the only grey horse in this year’s field.

Just because a candidate dresses well, communicates well, with a good education, does not make them a winner. Picking a candidate based on impressions during an interview is no different to picking a horse based on colour.

Past research have shown that structured interviews (SI) and past-behaviour interviews (PBI) have conflicting results as a valid predictor of job performance. Yet most appointments are based on interviews.

Race Horses

Few punters would pick a horse just based on their performance in the last race. They will analyse the important variables – form, barrier, jockey, trainer, track condition. For the Melbourne Cup a key criterion is whether the horse can see out the 3200m distance.

Just as there is a great science in picking the Melbourne Cup winner, which involves intense study of superior minds, the search for talent requires a similar disciplined approach.

Using well constructed psychometric tests, based on sound job-based criteria, is critical to identify a star performer for that role. I have covered in a previous article the need for role clarity.

Some talent scouts are better at analysing and screening applicants out, than in identifying top talent. Perhaps this is a function of having to embark on an elimination process to produce a short-list that has created this paradox where the hiring manager picks the winner. See my previous article on how long is your shortlist.

The true talent scout

Few and far between, the true talent scout can pick a race horse that will win the race. The key criteria are to match the company, the role and the company.

As I was last week sharing with the VP of HR in a coaching session, it is a great occasion if you work for a great boss, in a great company in a great role!

HR Managers – How to Interview For Talent

Recruitment can be a complex and fragile process. However, interviewing for talent should be handled separately from the rest of the interview process. It should stand alone because of its importance. Basically, it only has one objective and that is to discover whether or not the applicant has recurring patterns of thought, feeling or behavior that match the vacancy. This is a more structured interview, more focused and the questions are more incisive. The candidate should be told that this part of the interview is exclusively about their talent.

One of the best ways to discover a person’s talents during an interview is to ask open-ended questions so that they reveal themselves by the choices they make. The talent interview should be a verbal mirror image of the job. In the job, he or she will face many situations where they have a choice of their response. Their performance will be defined by the way they consistently respond. By asking open-ended questions that offer the opportunity of a wide range of answers, it will be possible to identify elements of talent. The direction that they choose their answer will be predictive of future behavior.

As soon as you’ve asked the question, pause and remain silent. If you’re asked to clarify the question, responded by explaining that you more interested in what they think it means. Past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior and to discover elements of talent remember this point. The quicker and more spontaneous the person answers the question and gives you a specific example, the more likely that this is recurring behavior and not a single example. If it is recurring behavior then it is a reflection of their thoughts and feelings as well.

If you have to keep on asking probing questions after you’ve asked your initial question, you can normally count on the fact that it is not recurring behavior and therefore is unlikely to be repeated in the future and is not an insight to their talent. When you ask, “Tell me about a time when” the careful not to judge the response on the quality of detail. Otherwise, you end up evaluating whether or not the person is articulate or has a good memory instead of possessing the recurring talent that you want.

Rapid learning is a clue to a person’s talent. Find out from the applicant what sort of things that they have learned quickly. Discover what sort of activities and tasks easy for them now. This will give you an insight to their talent. During the talent interview, also try and discover what sort of things gives them great personal satisfaction in the workplace. Ask them what they find fulfilling. Those answers will give you some idea of how a person will cope repeating those tasks week in and week out.

Metrics for Talented Employees

What is the most important task of any HR department? I think the one thing they can do is to find and keep talented people within company. The problem is that these people are usually not like others (that’s why you want to hire they!), they do not pay much attention to salary you suggest, they don’t want to have stock options and don’t think in terms of profit and loose. You goal is to find these people, hire them and keep them in company as long as you can. That is the main goal of any HR department.

Let’s discuss how to manage talents in your company. The first task is to find gifted people, I’m sure you know how to find people to hire, but the task here is to find talented? How to do it? Well, I cannot advise much here, you will need to talk with hundreds to find the one, more over you will probably need to provide some people with test job to find the right person. But there is an indicator that you are performing well: if you will find something that is not usual and is extraordinary, pay attention to this person.

In terms of finance talented people are easy to hire. Typically, you will no need to pay huge salaries or pay someone to abandon their job. The turnover rate within this kind of people is below average, as the only reason why they change their job is they cannot find something new and interesting. When hiring talented person you will need to hire some ordinal persons and probably fire them later, so you should carefully consider what the impart of bad hire might be.

The most important thing about talented people is to provide them with adequate learning and growth opportunities. Keep them interested in your company, not just because you pay money for the job, but let them work with some interesting projects. If you have an education courses, suggest them to visit courses they like. Also, consider some “don’t”-s. Don’t make a usual rotation you might willing to do for others. If you find talent, then I’m sure you don’t need him or her to fill like brick in your company building. These people are more sensitive to that kind of changes.

The best option for talented people is learning-on-the-job, suggest them to learn some technology, or pay attention to some market tendency, suggest them to learn a foreign language.

Actually, training opportunities are the one metric which should be considered as a “talents” indicator. Ask people you why they are interested in position you suggested, the good answers are, “because of I can work here with X technology and help you to develop Y product”, I’m sure you are talking to gifted person or “I like your training opportunities”, again, you are talking to the person, who will learn faster than you can imagine. This is a great business investment.

The good idea is to combine some talented oriented metrics into the set of metrics, key performance indicators or scorecards, so that you can always compare your current HR strategy against “searching talented” strategy and answer the question – if you are performing well.

Emigration to the USA – Want a Green Card For Talent?

Emigration – moving from one country to another – can radically change a person’s life. Of course, the more developed the country of your choice is, the more difficult is to emigrate there. Developed countries build barriers to unregulated immigration and attempt to search for skills and talent among the crowds desiring to immigrate.

This article is for people who seek emigration to America which is among the countries with the most strict and difficult immigration laws. There are four ways to obtain a green card – a status of a permanent resident alien in the USA. One can immigrate on the basis of (a) family relations; (b) employment/professional skills; (c) by winning in a Diversity Lottery; or (d) by obtaining a status of refugee/political asylum. There are thousands and thousands US law firms working in the area of immigration. We – a law group of Milgrom & Associates – work on all kinds of immigration cases. But our primary area is helping those whose goal is emigration on the basis of their unique professional skills and talent. And in this area we perform certain services that, as far as we know, are not offered by any other American attorney or law firm.

Let’s say you are a foreign inventor and have a new invention you want to patent in the USA, or if you are a programmer, wrote a new computer program, and want to protect and register your copyright in the USA, or you are a composer who wrote a symphony which needs protection in the USA… In other words, if you (a) don’t live in the US, (b) created something valuable and (c) want to protect your intellectual property rights in America – we can help you in doing that. Some other law firms offer such services, too.

Let’s further say that after taking steps to protect and register your rights you believe that there is a demand for your creation in America. Then we can assist in monetization of your intellectual property. We can search for a company interested in licensing, manufacturing, marketing and selling your invention, for example. Or look for buyers for your computer program. Or find performers for your symphony. And when those interested parties are found we will conduct negotiations with them, draft an agreement on your behalf, and otherwise protect your interests. Very few – if any – law firms in the US offer this kind of services to their foreign clients.

Finally, if your creation is commercially successful in America and emigration to the United States is your goal; we can help you and your family to get green cards – on the basis of that commercial success. As far as we know, nobody in the US offers all of the above as one package. These legal services offered by our firm are unique.

Also we assist foreign talents and professionally successful people from all walks of life – science, literature/theater/music, business, sports, and industry – in obtaining green cards. We help them and their families in their emigration to the US.

Emigration to the US on the basis of professional achievements, getting green card for talent is not an easy task. We will assist you in navigation of stormy emigration waters and bring your family ship into a safe harbor.

What Makes a Good Leader? Employee Engagement and the War for Talent

Employee Engagement is usually described in terms of people feeling a strong emotional bond to the organization, demonstrating a willingness to recommend the organization to others, and committing time and effort to helping the organization succeed. It suggests that people are motivated by intrinsic factors (e.g. personal development, being valued, and having a wider, shared purpose) rather than issues relating to extrinsic reward (eg. pay and status). Employee Engagement is strongly linked to high productivity at work, but what are the leadership qualities that build this commitment?

Setting Direction and Building Trust

It is sometimes said that managers keep things on track, but leaders create energy. Increasingly, managers are seen as leaders, particularly in the context of building employee engagement. As a start point they need to create Role Clarity, so there is a clear sense of purpose and well-defined objectives. This is important at all levels, but of course takes different forms, depending on the experience of employees and the complexity of the task. For professional or managerial staff there is often a strong need for consultation and dialogue on how best to proceed. It is surprising how often people are not clear about the reasoning behind proposed changes, new initiatives, or how these will be implemented.

It is also important to understand the difference between Motivation, associated with initiative and discretionary effort, which is supported by perceptions of a supportive environment, doing meaningful work and self-belief (i.e. the ability to visualise oneself overcoming a problem) and Engagement, which is influenced by the support given to personal development, and people’s trust in their immediate manager. This may be linked to perceptions of fair and consistent behaviour, and competence, which can also affect views of senior management capability.

What Makes a Good Leader

Research relating to employee engagement offers significant insights into the behaviour required by leaders. Most significantly, a good leader demonstrates high awareness of role relationships and appreciation of the need to clarify role requirements. Effective leaders set clear direction whilst helping employees respond positively to work demands. They therefore involve employees in a process of regular dialogue, helping them to make sense of what is required. This strengthens the feeling that tasks are meaningful and have a wider purpose.

Building this shared sense of purpose is not easy. There may well be disagreement or conflicting views on how best to proceed. Research by Pario Innovations in the UK has identified four key steps that managers need to master to become leaders. Central to leadership are the “Purposeful Conversations” that help build genuine commitment. The process is described as Leading with AIMS, where AIMS relate to Awareness, Insight, Meaning & Support.

How Important are Individual Employee Attributes?

Individual attributes, particularly differences in mindset and Cognitive Style, affect discretionary effort, which is central to what we mean when discussing motivation at work. The combination of self-belief, a more questioning outlook and the sense of doing meaningful work in a supportive environment are the drivers of personal effort and initiative. However, the role of the immediate manager can play a key part in building or undermining people’s feelings of Competence and Personal Mastery.

If competence, motivation and engagement are not supported it creates problems. Studies by Pario suggest that a proportion of people in most organisations are Disaffected and this may involve 5 – 8 per cent of the workforce. These people do not identify with the organisation and generally lack a sense of longer-term involvement. They only stay because they do not have a good alternative. They may be less skilled and feel less ‘professional connection’ with the business. As a start point, they require clear objectives, regular feedback and development of a sense of shared purpose to increase their involvement.

Effective Leadership and Organizational Development

The research highlights issues affecting employee engagement that may not be covered by a traditional ‘job satisfaction’ or employee attitude survey. It is important to have a clear model of the factors that affect motivation and engagement. Understanding the key issues that have most impact of people’s identification with the organization is also vital in the War for Talent. This insight opens up opportunities for management and leadership training focused what is required to increase overall levels of motivation and commitment.

The practical implications of recent research are significant. The information from a well-designed survey enables organisations to focus follow-up interventions far more effectively, and also achieve a much clearer focus on the Practical Leadership Skills that make a real difference to performance. Feedback is the life-blood of modern organizations, and there is great potential for organizations to build on more effective 180 and 360 degree feedback. The latest tools offer real insight into key aspects of behaviour, and now include the option to target specific questions to different groups of respondent. This is a powerful way of developing more-effective leadership behaviour, which benefits the immediate work climate and the wider cultural norms of the organisation.

In Conclusion, we are starting to identify strong links between Employee Engagement Surveys and Innovative 360 Degree Feedback. These techniques help profile factors associated with a dynamic culture that fosters talent. They also bring into focus the drivers of psychological well-being, vital to healthy organizations. The new tools identify the leadership qualities contributing to high performance, and assess these far more objectively than was possible in the past. This means that there is now a strong business case for taking positive action on issues that impact on motivation and commitment at work!

Find out more about Leadership Effectiveness and Employee Engagement

Go to http://pario-innovations.com/leadership_skills_ebook.html and find out more about the new Pario e-book, How to Unlock Your Leadership Potential.

The Golden Age For Software Testing In China

The China’s Computer Market 2008 Forecast Report has been released recently. It showed that in the first three quarters of 2007, the software industry in China has registered sales revenue of $50 billion, up 23.6% on pcp, accounting for 10.95% of the entire electronics and information industry’ sales revenue. As the software market matures, people have higher and higher expectations over software features, quality and reliability. In October 2005, Ministry of Labour and Social Security formally listed computer software product tester (software test engineer) as one of the new professions. In only two years’ time, software testing has become a powerful dark horse in the software industry.

Steadily rising status

“In the early 1990s, software industry was still at an infant stage in China. Most software projects were very simple, the whole code writing and development process could be handled by one person. As industry competition intensified, software companies were gradually evolving from one-man-band small shops to software engineering co-operations. Although division of labour could improve software development efficiency and functional varieties, it also lead to increasing number of bugs between modules and deteriorating qualities,” said Mr Wang Yazhi from CONCEPT Information Technology Ltd, a major software development company in Beijing. Quality impairment would not only damage a software firm’s competitiveness, it could also lead to massive economic loss for software users or even personal injuries, such as medical accidents.

As China’s software enterprises continue to prosper, the importance of software testing has also been increasingly appreciated by software companies. Many large and medium software companies have begun recruiting professional staff to take care of software testing. Ms Ran Chunjuan, a former testing manager in Wuhan Superidea Technology Ltd, said that “in Superidea, the ratio between software testers and developers is 1:4. Although this is still well behind the international best practice of 1:1, it is still a great improvement from 1:8 a few years ago.”

Industry experience appreciated

In addition to lifting the number of software testing staff, many companies are demanding higher staff quality as well, especially in areas of professional testing experience and thinking ability. “A tester without professional training can still work out 3-5 testing methods, but not necessarily detect bugs. Even if bugs are discovered, he might not be able to express the problems in proper languages, which could increase developers’ workload. Those well-trained testers can work out 10-20 testing methods, such as boundary value analysis, equivalence classes and cause-effect diagrams, to maximally discover any bugs. Professional testers can also articulate testing documents in standardised languages, thus improving the recovery rates of software problems,” said Mr Liu Fei, a former testing manager in Qualcomm. Many companies in China have now established independent testing departments, working along with R&D departments.

As companies’ software testing knowledge deepens, work scope for testing staff is expanding from system testing phase to unit testing and integration testing phases. “This requires software testers to have in-depth knowledge about the businesses a product is involved in,” said a testing manager from Founder Group, one of China’s largest software companies, “for example, when we test software for banking applications, we have to first understand the specific users in the bank. Some operators only use keyboards in the office, but if we don’t know about this and design it as a mouse-friendly control, banks will not buy, it no matter how well the software works.” Therefore it could be forecast that the status for software testers who possess technical experience and customer demand knowledge will further enhance.

A sellers’ market

“The software testing industry is at a growth stage,” said Prof Zheng Renjie, a software testing expert. The current hot market for software testers is mainly due to the rapid development in software industry itself, “companies are demanding better quality software, which has in turn stimulated demand for software testers. But talent supply and talent training are lagging behind the dramatic changes in market demand, hence a telent shortage.”

At present, software testing talent shortfall in China has exceeded 200,000, and it is rising to the 300,000 threshold. According to statistics, total software tester supply from nationwide IT training institutions is less than 10,000 per year, thus it can be foreseen that the testing talent shortage could last another 5-10 years. At the same time, talent shortage has given leverage to tester remunerations. According to a remuneration report from 51Job.com in China, starting salary for software testing engineers ranges from $400 – 650 per month, and it could increase to $1200 – 1650 for engineers with 2 to 3 years’ experience, higher than the remuneration for many developers with similar service years. As the talent supply shortage continues into 2008, software testers’ remuneration is looking for more gains.

Education and training

The shortage in software testers in China has not only lifted the remuneration levels, not also created a boom for educational and training institutions. Even two years ago, several prominent IT professional training institutions had realised the importance of software testing positions, and organized a few domestic and international software testing experts to co-develop training courses, which have successfully cultivated lots of software testing talents in the past two years. Currently in China, apart from overseas recruitment and company internal training, external professional training is also an important channel for producing software testers, amounted to 12% of total talent supply. As companies are paying more attention to labour costs control, more professional talents are expected to come from external training institutions.

While professional IT training is booming, tertiary education institutions also began to test the water. In August 2007, the first software testing education forum was held in Shanghai by various government bureaus and universities, explicitly marking “software testing” a core area in software engineering courses in China. But Dr Chen Honggang, who had been involved in development and testing of projects such as Windows95, Internet Explorer 4.0/5.0 and SQL Server 2000, commented that although universities can ease some pressures on software testing talent educations, based on overseas experience, professional training will still be the main channel for supplying software testing talents.

WoW Druid Talent Tree Build in WotLK – Where to Spend Your Talent Points

The druid is a shape shifting hybrid class which allows you to approach many different play styles and this is the reason why it is one of the most versatile classes in the entire game. Druids of every spec can find a role for themselves at the end-game whether it’s raiding or PvP.

Just like with the rest of the classes in World of Warcraft the talents for druids are split into three categories, or trees:

– The Balance tree which focuses on damage spells that will make the druid a very efficient spell damage dealer.

– The Feral Combat tree which focuses on using the shape shifting druid forms of cat, bear and dire bear, each of these focusing in turn on either tanking – Bear and Dire Bear – or on melee DPS – Cat form.

– The Restoration tree focuses on healing spells, making the druid a very efficient healer, especially because of the Tree of Life form that druids learn by investing in this talent tree.

Like we said in the beginning the druid class is a hybrid class and this means that each druid talent tree will definitely contain some talents which will be useful and sometimes necessary when specializing in any one of the other trees. Let’s take a look at what a druid talent tree can offer.

For instance:

– Some Feral Combat talents will modify your maximum mana which you would need large amounts of if specializing in the Moonkin form;

– some Balance talents will modify the cost of healing spells which is crucial for any good healer, while others will be helpful when in the feral forms.

– Some Restoration talents like Furor, will give the druid rage when they switch into either Cat or Bear Form, while others like Natural Shape shifter will reduce the mana cost of shape shifting by thirty percent.

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The 21 Storylines Even The Most Cynical Media Will Love (part two)

Visibility and credibility are the two keys to building ongoing success in business.

Effective media relations delivers both with big consequences.

For example you can reach people you never imagined. Even if you had an unlimited budget for a direct mail campaign.

It is all about media engagement.

Here are the second seven of what I call The 21 Storylines Even The Most Cynical Media Will Love:

8. The Big Break

The media love the story of the big break because it shows what can be done when telent and preparation meet opportunity.

Bill Gates and the rise of the personal computer is a good example. As is Russell Crowe and the movie Gladiator.

9. The Accidental Meeting

Your future can change in an instant. Especially if you network with the right people. You never know who you will meet. Take the example of the accidental meeting between Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

10. The Great Teacher

“When the student is ready the teacher will appear” is a timeless Buddhist Proverb.

The media love great teachers and mentors and their protege’s. The Dalai Lama is a good example the media love.

11. Moved By Religious Power

Mel Gibson and The Passion of the Christ, the 2004 film detailing the final hours and crucifixion of Jesus Christ fall into this category. The media loved this movie because it was controversial and reflected Gibson’s passion.

12. The Great Sacrifice

Speaking of religion, the Christian story of Jesus is one of the most powerful. This is a universal theme reflected in many cultures and religions.

13. The Incredible Feat

Sir Roger Bannister and the four minute mile. Sir Edmund Hillary and Mt Everest.

Professor Barry Marshall and Dr Robin Warren won a Nobel Prize for their ground breaking collaborative work done at Royal Perth Hospital in the early 1980s.

They discovered that infection of the stomach with a previously unidentified spiral bacteria caused gastritis-associated dyspepsia and ulcers, and increased the risk of gastric cancer.

“The discovery was based on clinical and laboratory observations as well as a remarkable experiment in which Professor Marshall infected himself, treated the infection and recovered,” trumpets a University of Western Australia media release.

14. Small Person Takes Over Big Job

The media love the conflict between the diminutive stature of a person and the size of the challenge they take on. Mother Theresa and Pope John XXIII are good examples.

The final seven will be in the next edition.

Jon ‘Bones’ Jones is the UFC’s Latest Phenom

I have to admit it was the first time I saw him fight. It was last Sunday night and they were showing a rerun of UFC Versus 1 and immediately following was UFC Versus 2. Jon ‘Bones’ Jones was the main event on each card. I had heard about him from the commentators in previous UFC fights, they always said he looks fantastic, but you can never tell for sure until they are tested by fighting a tried and true veteran. It happens time and time again in the UFC, an up-and-comer steps up to the next level of competition and gets destroyed. Every once in a while the read deal comes along. And now that deal is Jon ‘Bones’ Jones.

In UFC Versus 1 Jones fought Branden Vera. I’ve seen Vera fight a lot so I know how good, and seasoned, he is. I thought Jones’ honeymoon was over. After all, Vera has fought some of the top fighters at heavyweight and had dropped down to face the top fighters at 205. He all but stifled Randy Couture in a UFC match, Couture won but Vera made it a close match. So Vera is a legitimate top contender. So we all know what happened, Jones destroyed Vera in the first round. He may have broken Vera’s orbital (eye) socket bone, Vera was really hurt and had to call it quits. So now is Jones for real? Maybe. Did he get lucky and just catch Vera? Or did he really outclass him that much?

In UFC Versus 2, Jones fought Vladimir Matyushenko. I’ve never seen him fight either, but he was champion in another mixed martial arts (MMA) organization so he had definitely proven himself. More impressive to me, as an ex-highs school wrestler, was that Matyushenko was long-time national heavyweight wrestling champion of Russia. Wow, not that’s saying something, the Russians are at a world class in wrestling, and so Matyushenko had competed in wrestling internationally for years. Jones could be in trouble this time, Vladimir Matyushenko was a proven world class warrior. Jones had been the national junior college wrestling champion in the U.S. But still, compared to the Russian national champion? Well once the bell rung, it was a quick takedown. By Jones. Jones instantly got on top of him at the side, and pinned both of Matyushenko’s arms outstretched out to the sides in what they call a crucifix position (you get the picture). With both arms trapped Matyushenko’s face was left wide open for Jones’ viscious elbows, and the referee stopped the fight quickly.

So in my opinion Jones has proven he belongs as a contender at the top of the weight classs. Is he the best? He hasn’t proven that yet. Is he a phenom? Definitely. He’s only 23 years old so he is just getting started, imagine what several years more of training and experience will do in addition to the raw telent he has displayed. There are some incredibly tough and experienced contenders at 205 in the MMA world, it’s a who’s who of probably future hall of famers. They better not take Jones lightly, he might be the next big deal in mixed martial arts. A phenom.