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Recruitment Diary – How to Sift Through Rumours While Hiring

Recruitment Diary – How to Sift Through Rumours While Hiring

Rumours have always been as much a part of the professional spaces, as they are of the idle personal spaces. Be it random, unnecessary rumours resulting from personal vendetta against a colleague that end up in reference checks, or unsubstantiated rumours about a new employee you are just about to recruit, rumours while hiring do pop up inconveniently. Even though you would really like to have the person on your team, based on your meetings and interviews with the potential candidate, the authenticity of the rumour would have the last word. While most of us, as experienced professionals would say that we would go ahead and recruit the candidate irrespective of what rumour we hear, because, well, it is just a rumour, actual studies have been conducted which prove quite the contrary. The odds of not employing a potential candidate based on a rumour against him/her are higher.

As professionals, we are all well aware of the importance of background checks before recruiting a candidate. With this one thing gone wrong, it could make all the difference, and for the worse. In the World of Work, it is a thumb rule to steer away from rumours and giving it flesh, at any cost. However, humans we are, and mistakes we shall make. Here are three basic principles, that will hopefully help you sift through the rumours while hiring when you are about to make a job offer to a potential candidate.

Focus on the positive

Don’t be penny wise pound foolish. If by believing the unsubstantiated rumour, which doesn’t even mean anything grave, you let go of a true asset to your organization, you should think twice. Weigh the potential of the candidate against the authenticity of the rumour and then take a call.

Remember the source

Always, always remember the source. The reason for the rumour could be purely out of petty personal vendetta and in such a case you do not want it affecting your professionalism. Verify the source and do the required research to determine whether or not the rumour could be true. Half your work is done if you know how reliable or unreliable the source you heard the rumour from, is.

Be thorough in doing your own background check

Do not be dependent purely on your team for doing all the background check. When you encounter roadblocks like these, spend some time on doing your own background check, especially if you are looking forward to hiring the potential candidate. Don’t just depend on internet searches for the background checks, they are seldom reliable, and are often noisy information platforms. Tap into your own sources and seek out dependable data.

Also remember that it could have been you in the other person’s place, and losing a job for no valid reason doesn’t make any one feel good. Besides, it is as much your organization’s loss, as it is the candidate’s. Probably a greater loss for you if the candidate was truly worth hiring, because he/she will anyway get a job elsewhere. Factor in all the consequences and a take a decision accordingly, never on a whim. In the World of Work, it is always professionalism over rumours.

Five Practices to be a Rockstar Trainer – Towards Creating Successful Learning Experiences

Five Practices to be a Rockstar Trainer – Towards Creating Successful Learning Experiences

The problem that many organizations face today is not a shortage of people in the market, it is a shortage of skills.  Research in Corporate Learning tells us that organizations suffer from a “skills supply chain” challenge. Not only do more than 70% of organizations cite “capability gaps” as one of their top five challenges, but many companies also tell us that it takes 3-5 years to take a seasoned professional and make them fully productive (Bersin Feb’14).

So if you are a trainer, you are in quite an empowered position. A position of responsibility. And one of creating change – in peoples’ skill sets, their world views, the trajectories of their work and lives. Good managers and mentors need to be good trainers as well. But for the sake of this post, let’s stick to trainers and the practices that can make trainers empowered to deliver successful trainings – trainings that can expand the learning minds.  By the end of this post, I believe that you will agree with me that these practices can be applied to other positions of responsibility as well. For this post, I invited Nilisha Mohapatra to share her learnings from her experience as a trainer and as a trainer of trainers.

Each one of us at some point has interacted with a trainer and learned with them, mostly in a professional setting.  Trainers can be for a wide range of skills – from technical skills like agile methodologies, six sigma, process improvement, to soft skills such as communication, leadership and confidence. Trainers abide by content and experience, and whatever be the training, the objective is ultimately the same – to add value to an individual’s experience and expand her horizon.  Being a trainer myself, there are a few important things I have learnt over time that have helped me become more effective as a trainer, creating sharp impact. No matter what the training session is about, it is the uniqueness of the trainer’s methodology and approach that makes the difference between a Boring Brain-numbing session and a Useful Brain-expanding session. And to allow that edge to come into play, there are five things that I keep in mind always. Here they are:

You are a Facilitator. The trainer approach is somewhat passé now. A facilitator by definition is someone who creates a space for the group to come alive in, for collective learning to happen through group processes. A facilitator may or may not be subject matter experts. Even if they are, the practice is never inclined towards lecture-driven learning. It is more about creating an experience. Facilitators trust the group’s collective wisdom and take part in shaping skills through sharing of power and balancing group dynamics. I quite enjoy this approach as this allows me to blend with the group, breaking hierarchies. I view trainings/workshops as a developmental processes where my objective is to enable the participants with a new lens/skill. This process of enabling I believe is one of mutual participation, as opposed to a traditional directive. Hence, I am at a workshop to facilitate learning. Not give it.

If you feel you are listening enough, know that there is more to listen to. Listening happens at multiple levels. More so at the non-verbal levels. Many a times I’ve found a huge difference between what participants share vs what they really think. Try finding signals that can bridge the gap to create genuine and unique learning experiences. Resistant body language, sheer silence, questions, argumentative or defensive tones, extremely high or low energies are some indicators I always look out for.

The more you accept, the more change you can create. It is tough to take a neutral stand always as facilitators.  Being non-judgmental is a challenging skill to nurture, and requires a lot of unlearning. The key to being non-judgmental lies in acceptance.  Validating each person and just accepting their points of view, doubts, resistances, success, makes them feel heard. And then they move towards change of behaviour and skills by acknowledging the new direction suggested in the training. It is a buy-in process. I have had struggles with this. Each time I have not practiced acceptance, the learning has been incomplete or ineffective. Asking curious questions to understand, allowing a variety of opinions into the space, and solid breathing are ways to practice this. As I have accepted, I have changed. And as I have changed, so has the group. Visualize your mind as an open bowl, which keeps filling with what you experience, and never over flows. Be the light and not the critic to let the learning happen.

Change is a tumultuous process. Even in the easiest or safest of environments. Haven’t we all experienced change and been overwhelmed by it? So how can we expect a group of people to just take on something new in a jiffy, without any resistance? Shunning old ways is a mammoth task. A new skill needs practice, on top of all the other skills. A new programme needs testing. A new behaviour needs strengthening. All this needs time and is met with road blocks. Reminding myself of this process of learning has helped me be a more supportive facilitator instead of a demanding tyrant!

Everything that happens in the workshop is a process of feedback. The old saying of what goes around comes around plays out beautifully in a workshop. Always. Whenever I have given in more energy and life to the training, the participants have come alive, sharing more of their energy. When I have shared stories of my own learning and skill building process, that has helped me establish credibility and helped the participants understand the process of learning. If my tone, ideation, validation has been flat, I have only been met with blank faces. This is the potent feedback process that plays out in training, and it helps to be aware of it.

As I understand today, these practices are primarily about training myself first, before I try to engage someone else in a learning process. Isn’t that where the magic starts? In my experience, as and when I have put these practices to use, the more I have been able to unravel about human potential development. This has become my Pandora’s Box for workshops.  And people in leadership positions who have chosen these practices are some of the most charismatic and influential leaders I have known.

We would love to know what your thoughts and experiences are on enabling learning in workshops and in your teams. We look forward to hearing and learning from you.

Nilisha is trained as a Mentor Trainer, delivering complex training to Indian volunteers learning to become mentors to disadvantaged children. She has a Masters in Applied Psychology and has transformed herself into a creative and inspiring trainer who both taught acceptance and behaviour change as well as living the principles in her training. This is Nilisha (@NilishaM)’s sixth guest post for Happy In The Now and you can read all her blogs at fantasycluster.wordpress.com

Five Ways the Cloud can rev up Operational Excellence for your Startup or Small Business

Five Ways the Cloud can rev up Operational Excellence for your Startup or Small Business

For the past year, I have been experimenting quite successfully in running my business through the cloud. I am no techie and this was not a planned model initially. However, I was clear that I needed to enable a flexible working environment for my team and ensure that my capital expenditure stays as close to zero as possible in the early stages. I had tried out tools like Box, Dropbox, Evernote and Skype for my personal use and loved the flexibility and ease-of-use they provided. So, it was a natural leap for me to integrate them into my business as well. And now that the business is growing, I went to my go-to-person for all things technical for advice on an IT plan and investments needed (I still don’t own a single server and that “felt” kind of uncomfortable when I remembered the huge server rooms at the businesses I have worked in). Turns out that I have actually been doing it right and have been part of a trend that is the new normal 🙂 . After I finished my feel-good pat-my-own-back session, I requested Shashwat, my go-to person, techie geek turned cloud solutions SME to write down what he told me in the form of a blog post so that I can share this with everyone. Here is his take on how cloud computing is not just for the biggies but is also a boon for startups and small businesses.

Software as a service (SaaS) has been around since the 60s, when IBM and other mainframe providers introduced the concept of time-shared computing. ISVs would host their code on remote servers providing functionality to enterprises on a subscription basis. With the advent of the internet and its increased adoption in the 90s, it gave way to a more efficient and ever-present way of computing, popularly known as cloud computing.

With higher internet speeds at reduced costs, cloud computing can be a boon for your start-up. Here’s why –

1)   Productivity on the go – Productivity has been revolutionized with the arrival of personal devices. The information worker has gone desk-less and enterprise IT has been consumerized. With the Bring-your-own-device culture gaining popularity in major conglomerates, it only makes sense for startups enable their workforce with such power. With cloud storage and cloud apps, the information worker can be more agile and help the startup be nimble. There are multiple platforms/vendors to choose from, to suit your organizational needs. From software development to basic word processing, all workloads can be hosted in the cloud. And with unlimited storage options, all you projects/files are omnipresent – all the time.

2)   Reduced capital and operational costs – The world’s best companies started in a garage, and not with a lot of money. Investing in a resilient IT infrastructure might not be an option available to every aspiring startup. The costs of deploying and maintaining an IT backbone, could be an expensive deal even for a small startup. For many, investing the money to the business would make more sense. The cloud helps you run your IT, without having to worry about maintaining or upgrading it – You will always have the latest and greatest. Thick clients are a thing of the past now, thus helping you reduce the need for expensive end user computing. Effectively, all you need is a browser J

3)   À la carte Computing – Efficient use of IT hardware is always a concern for enterprises. You don’t want to under-size the environment to save cost and run into performance issues, OR invest a lot of money to buy real beefy hardware and have them sit underutilized. With fast growing organizations, scalability becomes a constant issue and a drain on your finances. Enter – CLOUD – you use what you pay for, you pay for what you use. The user-feature based licensing model, helps companies to pick and choose what they want to use, without having to worry about hardware costs. Scalability??? Not a problem, you can scale your user base on the fly with a few clicks of the mouse.

 4)   Boosted Collaboration – Audio/video conferencing, file sharing and web apps – 90% of my workday is spent on these workloads. With teams becoming more virtual now, geo locations cannot be a hindrance to productivity. Efficient use of the cloud tools ensures that people collaborate successfully. You never have to email a single project file back and forth. Multiple people can consume and work on the same data from different locations simultaneously. Business intelligence and reporting has been simplified to a few clicks.

 5)   Increased continuity of service – “The cloud is always on” – You can get to it from anywhere, anytime. Businesses spend a lot of money to ensure that their systems are resilient and highly available, increasing the overall complexity of the environment, with constantly increasing operational costs. A subscription based model eliminates the need for a business to plan for unplanned service interruptions. You pay a one-time subscription fee, the vendor takes care of everything else. Many cloud vendors out there also offer financially backed service level agreements for mission critical workloads, so you can concentrate on your business worry free.

So, there you go – Cloud solutions enable you to concentrate on your business and run IT, quite practically with a credit card. 🙂

Cloud Tools/Solutions for your reference:

Cloud storage:

Onedrive for business – https://onedrive.live.com/about/en-us/business/

Box.Net for business – https://www.box.com/business/

Google drive – https://drive.google.com/ob?usp=web_ww_intro

Business email and productivity:

Microsoft Office 365 for small business – http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/business/compare-office-365-for-business-plans-FX102918419.aspx?tab=1

Google apps for business – http://www.google.com/enterprise/apps/business/

Unified collaboration:

Skype for business – http://www.skype.com/en/business/

Microsoft Lync online – http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/lync/meeting-software-compare-lync-plans-FX103842081.aspx

Google hangout – http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/hangouts/

Social for the enterprise:

Yammer – www.yammer.com

Chatter – https://www.salesforce.com/chatter/overview/

Today’s post is by Shashwat Mohapatra. Sash is a Client Success Manager and has about 10 years’ experience working as a trusted advisor with large Fortune 500 enterprise organizations in various business verticals around the globe, focused on helping enterprise customers consistently improve IT health, drive successful projects and migration deployments.

Did you find this post useful? How have you used cloud for your business? We would love to hear back and learn from you.

Five Thoughts through Five Favourite Quotes on Performance Metrics

Five Thoughts through Five Favourite Quotes on Performance Metrics

Numbers tell stories – and metrics are the tools through which these stories get shape and substance. And yes, I am mad about metrics. And I know I am not alone in my fascination for metrics. There are tons of metrics to choose from and the right performance metric for your business may not be the right one for mine. I have been asked many times on how to know when to introduce metrics, what the right metric is, and how to work the metrics so that the metrics work for you. So through this post, I will try to answer these questions through another passion of mine – quotes! I LOVE quotes (as do the majority of internet users going by the number of quotes shared every minute) – do you too get the feeling sometimes when you read a quote – ahh, I totally get that one, I wish I had written that – an Eureka Moment ?

Quotes are distilled pieces of wisdom. And when it comes to metrics, my experience is that getting the perfect metric and the perfect outcome as a result of tracking the metric needs a lot of hard work and experimentation – so wisdom from people who have been there, done that certainly goes a long way in making the metrics journey easier. So, here are the five quotes on performance metrics, pieces of wisdom that have helped me crystallize my approach to key performance metrics:

“Measure what is measurable and make measurable what is not so.” – Galileo

From the Father of Modern Science comes this gem. The thought to keep in mind when you have to begin from the beginning with metrics. The second half of the quote – make measurable what is not so – stands out to me – just because you can measure something easily is no good reason for measuring something. Metrics need to be tied to the desired business outcomes. And we need to spend some time assessing what metrics we have already and what metrics we need, and then going back to work on creating the systems and processes that will provide the data for quantification in a shape and form that will allow us to measure that. Data collection, analysis and management is most often cost and labour-intensive – so that part should always be weighed against the benefit derived from the metric. Don’t start something you can’t sustain in the long run.

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” – Hans Hofmann

What not to measure is sometimes more important than what you do measure. Selection of the right performance metric for your business is critical. Do not introduce metrics just for the sake of metrics – it serves no one and the whole purpose is defeated. Start with what is the business goal that you need to track and improve, what are the processes related to that goal, and what metric would best reflect the productivity of the process. Measure only that which is important, that which provides real value to the process in question, which can be easily understood by all stakeholders and is ACTIONABLE.  Control your love for metrics and don’t produce reams of excels and slides and/or dashboards that make peoples’ eyes glaze over right from the start. Be ruthless in cutting down the unnecessary so that the necessary can stand out and shout.

“If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything.” – Ronald Coase

One of my favourites and sorry to say, one that I am reminded of time and again in the corporate world. Data through metrics must speak the truth even when (and especially when) it does not serve our personal needs. As professionals, we have a responsibility to ourselves and our organizations to be honest, transparent and collaborative. How you measure is as important as what you measure. Don’t devise metrics out of the data just to show things in a good light or in a bad light – keep doing that and there will soon be nothing left to measure. Design the metrics and the data collection systems in such a way that it throws the spotlight on the business outcome and is balanced to reward productive behaviour and discourage “game playing”.

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” – Peter F. Drucker

This one is a popular quote and one that has served me well every time I enter a new setup or review a long running process. Business is dynamic, why should metrics remain static? What made sense to measure last month, quarter or year may have become completely irrelevant to measure today. Many a times I have found during reviews, a metric that no one remembers why it is being used, knows who is using it or where it is being used. Trust me, the same is true for many processes as well. There may have been a good reason once sometime in the past that makes absolutely no sense today. So keep reviewing, keep questioning and keep going back to the drawing board with your list of chosen metrics so that they remain relevant and useful.

“An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied.” – Arnold Glasow

Do I see you nodding your head to that? All data, dashboards, metrics are useless unless the knowledge and insights derived from them are translated into action.  Ask yourself – what story does this metric say, how can it help the leadership make the right decisions (more, less, better, different?) and arrive at an action plan when necessary? Every metric should be mapped to an end goal and have an action plan defined for improvement, sustenance and excellence. The action plan reviews should go hand in hand with the metric reviews feeding each other in a continuous loop. If the metrics are chosen carefully and presented properly, then, in the process of achieving their metrics, people will make the right decisions and take the right actions that enable the organization to maximize its performance. And that is when you know you have done your job well.

So, there you have it, the method and mechanism behind key performance metrics through learned wisdom. Metrics matter, metrics need work for them to work, metrics tell a story – the ending of which you have the power to change. Make your Metrics Rock!

What are your favourite quotes on performance metrics? What wisdom have you gathered on setting key performance metrics ? What has worked for your business and what has not? I would love to hear back and learn from you.

Pic Courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rubyblossom/4674821065/

Five Key Considerations for Successful Project Management – Operational Excellence

Five Key Considerations for Successful Project Management – Operational Excellence

Who is a Project Manager?  A simple answer would be: Any person who has a team and is expected to deliver an output, given a set of requirements.  A typical Project Manager is often under pressure from the management, customers, third party vendors and the team members.

Project management is the discipline of planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals. A project is a temporary endeavor with a defined beginning and end (usually time-constrained, and often constrained by funding or deliverables), undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, typically to bring about beneficial change or added value. The temporary nature of projects stands in contrast with business as usual (or operations), which are repetitive, permanent, or semi-permanent functional activities to produce products or services. In practice, the management of these two systems is often quite different, and as such requires the development of distinct technical skills and management strategies. (Wiki)

Successful Project Management entails achieving all the project goals while remaining within the constraints of scope, time, quality and budget. It is not an easy job – but definitely a very fulfilling and rewarding one. A Project Manager needs to balance many aspects carefully to achieve the project objectives. From my many years of managing projects and project teams globally, I put together this list of key considerations that a project manager always needs to keep his focus on. The following aspects are from practical experience and hence I believe these would resonate well with practicing managers.

Consideration #1 – Forming the Right Team:  80% of the Projects fail due to lack of right team. Assuming the estimations are done well, the project manager should strive to get the right team based on the project type, including system architects, development and test leads and a solid configuration management expert.  The critical roles should never be compromised – for example, if you need a carpenter, “you need a carpenter” and a plumber cannot be “adjusted” into that role.  Of course there are businesses realities, but the delivery Manager needs to aggressively push for the “right” team. Also, the core team should be intact throughout the duration of the project (or as far as possible).

Consideration #2 – Commitment to Customer:  It is essential that the manager sensitizes the team that release plans once locked-in are sacrosanct. On-time delivery is key. Hence it is extremely important that the entire team is fully aligned to the customer’s requirements.  The manager must develop an in-depth understanding of not only the current activity/project, but also get a good understanding of the customer’s product road map.  The goal is to become a true partner for the customer through excellence in delivery and technical depth/product understanding.

Consideration #3 – Dashboard driven: Metrics can be overwhelming and hence should be viewed as dash-board (aka cockpit panel or a car dashboard). This will provide the right amount of information to know if the project is under control. Standard metrics like schedule/effort variance are of course essential.  In addition, customer satisfaction and various productivity measures needs to be tracked. It is also extremely important that the project management is aligned to the business goals. The project manager has to understand all the parameters that impact the project profitability and gets a regular view of the profitability of the project against target.

Consideration #4 – Never Surprise your stake-holders: It is extremely important to keep open and regular communication both within the team and with the customer (say steering group meeting).  Just sending Weekly status report is not sufficient. E-mail should not be the ONLY means of communication. If it is important and deserves an immediate attention, please pick-up the phone and CALL.  I have not seen any case where phone calls are over-used.  Never delay bad news. Also bad news should be accompanied by recovery plan, impact etc.  The bottom line is surprises should be avoided.  Examples of common surprises – Communicating to the customer about a delay in the release on the date of release, informing the finance team that there will be a 20% revenue drop for the current month, etc.

Consideration #5 – “Thinking” Plan-B:  The changing dynamics in the project makes the manager’s role extremely challenging and it is important that the manager does not get into the Panic mode. It is imperative that the Manager “thinks” ahead of the team and is able to predict potential issues and be prepared with alternate approaches (often called plan-B). Proper Risk planning and management is absolutely necessary. This will give greatly improve manager’s confidence in dealing with risks/issues and be prepared for all outcomes.

The above points are some the key learning from my own mistakes and also from the multiple projects managers I have worked-with across many counties. I am sure there are many more considerations that would help in mastering project management, but I believe the above five practical and simple considerations would be among the most critical ones required in project management. No matter what certifications we posses, nothing can beat hands-on experience!  Also, no matter how experienced anyone is, there is always plenty to learn in Project Management!!!

G Krishna Kumar is a Vice President in a leading global software company with many years of experience in managing large global programs for software products and services delivery. He is also an avid writer and blogger and blogs on Telecom, IT and Education related topics at http://bloggerkrishnak.blogspot.in/ . Views are personal.

What is your learning from your project management experience? What other consideration/s do you believe are critical to ensure the success of a project? Krishna and I would love to hear back from you.

 Pic Courtesy : http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2006-02-08/