Your Boss Wants Your Input for Your Performance Review — Here’s How to Nail It


“Provide me input for your performance review.”

People cringe at the boss’s request. It is an onerous chore many abhor.

But why?

First, writing about yourself feels like bragging. Second, the information you provide affects your promotion potential and future career opportunities. Third, you wonder, “What the heck have I done since the last review?” Fourth, your input is space-constrained, so each word matters! Finally, the coup de grâce to this distasteful task, you are probably compiling the information on a tight timeline – “Input by tomorrow, please!”

Not to worry! Follow these 10 tips to compose a powerful submission reflecting your hard work and noteworthy contributions.

1. Pretend You’re Describing Someone Else

Banish your thoughts of bragging! Pretend you are making a case to promote someone else — a colleague, subordinate, or friend. Examine your contributions objectively and factually. What did you do? How did you move the ball forward? Proudly claim credit for what you achieved. Now is not the time to be humble.

2. Gather the Data

Like an investigative reporter, you need to dig for the details of your accomplishments. The following questions will help reveal this information:

• What is your level of responsibility?
• Do you supervise anyone?
• Did you submit subordinates for awards, honors, etc.? (Claim credit; this is a hallmark of fine leadership!)
• Did you resolve a difficult situation?
• Did you save resources? How and what, exactly?
• Did you work on a significant project? What was its duration and impact?
• Did you demonstrate initiative?
• How did you advance the mission?

3. Record Accomplishments as They Occur

Keep a job journal. Be precise in recording what you did, for whom, and the resulting impact. If your organization has a weekly activity report, contribute regularly and retain your submissions.

Both of these practices ensure you don’t overlook significant events in your work life. They also preclude that frantic, angst-filled, retrospective search — wondering, “What did I do this past year?” — as you strive to meet the deadline your boss imposed.

4. Scope the Story

Infuse your input with detail to add depth, dimension, and context, and make the story pop! Detail constitutes a mental yardstick, enabling readers to grasp the significance of your contributions. Quantify by addressing how many, how soon, accomplished ahead of schedule (by how much), finished under budget (by how much), or improved production (by what percent), etc.

• “Mary processed many job applications” is flat when contrasted with “Mary processed 54 job applications this month alone, twice the office average, and three times that of her peers.”
• “Named Salesman of the Month” sounds good but is more impressive when relayed as “Named Salesman of the Month, selected above 95 peers for the third time this year.”
• “Managed a team studying the continued viability of an aging computer system and provided recommendations to the CEO” tells a completely different story when revised to “Managed a nine-person team in a five-week study of an aging computer system. Made six recommendations; CEO accepted them all; saved $850,000 annually.”

5. Highlight Your Accolades

Maintain a list of your awards and other recognitions, such as time-off bonuses, kudos from your boss or clients, letters of commendation, and other forms of positive feedback. For record purposes, identify the source by official title and the date of the accolade. Depending on the magnitude of the compliment, consider including a short, concise quote in your submission. These golden nuggets are terrific bell-ringers. Nominations submitted for your awards, by necessity, contain valuable information about your accomplishments. Get a copy!

For more expert career advice, check out the latest issue of Magazine:

6. Strategize Subliminal Messages

Leverage words that connote selection. Differentiators such as “chosen,” “garnered,” “selected,” “agency-wide,” “named as,” and “nominated for” convey a subtle but powerful message highlighting you as an exemplary employee. “The CEO personally selected Jane to lead his star program” contains three differentiators: “CEO,” “personally selected,” and “star program.”

7. Prioritize and Triage Your Input

Performance reviews are usually subject to space constraints. Once you’ve compiled the information, triage it. The criteria below can help you decide what to keep and what to cut.

Was the accomplishment:

• completed early or under budget?
• groundbreaking?
• recognized as a new benchmark?
• a demonstration of excellent leadership
• visible to upper echelons of your organization? To other organizations?
• far-reaching in its impact?

8. Hook the Reader

Your opening words are critical. They set the tone for the compelling, fact-based information to follow. The hooks below herald a strong message: “Pay attention. This individual is remarkable!”

• Personifies innovative leadership …
• Propelled her office to unparalleled levels …
• Best at showcasing his people’s talents …
• Tireless efforts this year resulted in …
• His top three of many significant achievements …
• Has contagious leadership we need …
• Brilliant, contagious enthusiasm led to…
• By force of personality, led her division …
• Not one to rest on her laurels, she continuously …
• A standout at motivating people …

9. Retain the Reader’s Attention

Avoid verbs like “responsible for,” “supported,” “contributed to,” and “assisted with.” They convey little meaning and prompt the question, “What precisely did you do?” Instead, describe your actions with crisp, powerful verbs like:

• Created a critical program …
• Directed development of …
• Executed budget of …
• Pounced on extra funds when they became available …
• Launched a prototype …
• Broke new ground …
• Ensured four-day conference was perfectly executed …
• Expertly arranged …
• Set new benchmarks …
• Brokered arrangements with …
• Impervious to stress, met the twin challenges of …
• Personally commended by …

10. Leave Them Wanting More

Closing words constitute the reader’s final impression. Select them to end with a bang!

• Her proactive, can-do attitude is contagious.
• Sets high standards, and her people achieve them.
• A superior performer by any measure of merit.
• Count on her delivering where precedents are nonexistent.
• Strong leader, outstanding manager, and a top-flight technician.
• Guarantees peerless performance in a most demanding assignment.
• Place in positions to influence others.

“Provide me input for your performance review.”

This is an opportunity to shine! You are your own best advocate. Own your success by claiming credit for jobs well done. Convey your achievements powerfully by making each word count. Use every second of the reader’s time to your advantage. You’ll be well on the way to earning that standout performance review.

Carla D. Bass is the author of the multiple award-winning book, Write to Influence!

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The HR Innovator’s Mandate: Invest in People Analytics to Deliver Data-Led Strategy


According to a report from Mercer, 98 percent of organizations have started down the road toward digital transformation of HR — and not a moment too soon.

From the platforms they use to get work done to those they use to engage with their employers, technology pervades the life of the modern worker. For organizations, the proliferation of workplace tech means more access to more employee data than ever before. This data has the potential to open doors for HR practitioners, enabling them to closely track key HR metrics and costs and create environments that really meet the needs of their people.

However, before that happens, HR teams need to collect the right data — and cultivate the right data skills.

Becoming a Strategic Partner

As business leaders have come to prioritize people as their greatest assets, they’ve looked to their HR teams to help them unlock the workforce’s full potential. To meet this need, HR teams have had to become more strategic. Around the world, HR teams are now expected to report on their operations using data-driven insights, following the lead of key departments like marketing and finance.

To its credit, the HR function has made decisive steps toward becoming more strategic over the last few years, and there are indications this evolution is accelerating. In a 2018 survey from Thomsons Online Benefits, “attracting and retaining talent” was by far the most pressing goal for HR leaders, prioritized by 82 percent of respondents. When asked the same question for this year’s “Innovation Generation: The Big HR Tech Disconnect” report, however, HR leaders prioritized “attracting and retaining talent” equally with “enhancing employee engagement.” This change in priorities is indicative of HR’s new mandate to add strategic value by keeping employees happy, committed, and productive.

As part of its more strategic focus, HR is paying more attention to employee well-being. While research linking improved well-being with improved productivity has been around for many years, the conversation about this vital link has become impossible to ignore in recent times. According to the World Health Organization, depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion dollars per year in lost productivity, indicating that failure to address well-being at an organizational level can have significant financial implications. Employee well-being, then, represents a significant opportunity for HR to support strategic business success.

However, despite the evidence for the relationship between well-being and the bottom line, HR departments must often prove to the C-suite that this is an area worth investing in. For HR to make its case, it needs convincing data insights.

For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Magazine:

Shifting Focus From Initial Investment to Achieving Insight

As HR teams have raced to build infrastructures that can both deliver a great employee experience and generate data insights to feed back to company leaders, we’ve seen significant investments in HR technology. HR is shaking off its long-held image as a conservative department when it comes to tech adoption, and just 7 percent of global HR leaders now classify themselves as “conservative” in this area, according to the “Innovation Generation” report. Meanwhile, almost two-thirds of HR leaders classify themselves as “innovators” or “early adopters.”

However, the report also suggests that HR professionals are still struggling to generate the people data insights needed to support and influence HR and organizational strategy. A concerning 48 percent of employers do not use people analytics to report on benefits take-up, radically diminishing their ability to accurately gauge return on benefits investment. Data literacy within teams is cited as the primary barrier preventing organizations from using employee data to report on business operations. The need to address this shortcoming will only become more urgent as HR teams forge ahead with their ambitious plans for technology adoption.

According to the Thomsons report, only 39 percent of companies around the world currently collect data generated from building sensors, such as time spent at desk or employee footfalls. By 2022, 83 percent plan to do so. Similarly, only 33 percent of global employers collect data from wearables, but this is set to soar to 81 percent within the next three years. But simply collecting data is not enough: HR teams need to have the people analytics skills necessary to derive meaningful insights from these additional data points.

Building People Analytics Skill Sets Internally

Against the backdrop of global tech talent shortages, hiring talent with people analytics skills may not be a feasible solution to HR’s data insights problems. However, that doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless. Rather, HR departments should recognize the versatility of their teams and upskill existing employees to build people analytics skills internally. There may be a bit of a learning curve, but this also represents an incredibly positive move toward realizing the full potential of HR.

In many ways, what’s happening in HR mirrors what’s happening in departments throughout the organization. Digital transformation is driving the demand for skilled employees with the creativity and the technical know-how to apply digital technologies effectively. HR is headed in the same direction, but its arrival is perhaps more pressing. Seventy-one percent of companies believe people analytics is an urgent priority, and HR departments need to be at the frontier of technology adoption if organizations are to get the most from their greatest assets: their people.

Matthew Jackson is vice president of client solutions at Thomsons Online Benefits.

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Keep It Simple: The 4 Secrets to Building a Winning HR App


Mobile apps are on the rise. The global market value of mobile apps stood at around $106.7 billion in 2018, and that figure may rise to $407.31 billion by 2026.

Apps have become integral to the way we manage our daily lives, and the world of HR is no exception. Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable surge in the number of apps designed to support the activities of HR departments. It makes sense: Quantitative and qualitative data play huge roles in the decisions of HR professionals, and apps are ideally placed to streamline the collection and utilization of that data.

Take recruitment for example: New apps are doing away with manual candidate searches and screens by processing huge volumes of applicant data and connecting recruiters to the people who are most suited for the job.

While that is one common type of HR app, it certainly isn’t the only kind on offer — nor is it the full extent of what mobile apps can do for an HR team. The challenge for those setting out to build apps for HR purposes is determining what problems need solving or processes need improving — and how an app can be creatively used to do so.

What should a team consider when setting out to create an app to support HR activities? Having worked with a host of different businesses, we at Studio Graphene have seen firsthand what makes for a successful business app. Here are our thoughts on the matter:

1. Keep It Simple

When it comes to an effective app, simplicity is key. Rather than striving to be all things to all people, a good app keeps its function and purpose as focused as possible.

An effective app is one that takes on the tedious and time-consuming day-to-day functions of an HR professional, allowing them to focus their energy on more value-adding responsibilities instead. However, an app can quickly become overcomplicated or unwieldy if it tries to take on too many functions at once.

Instead, focus on a few core items that will provide the user with tangible benefits, such as reducing costs or increasing productivity. For example, you could address communication challenges within the organization by developing a platform that allows employees to share news, ideas, and feedback. Similarly, you might develop an app to give managers on-the-go access to HR and financial information, enabling them to make real-time decisions and increase productivity.

The use cases are endless, but no app can address all use cases at once. To develop a clear, easy-to-use app, it’s important to keep the end goal of the app in sight throughout the entire development process. To test whether the app is simple enough, try describing its purpose/functionality in one unambiguous sentence. If this can’t be done, chances are the app is too complicated.

2. High Performance Is Key

For mobile users, especially those who rely on apps for professional purposes, an app full of bugs or subject to long load times is simply unacceptable. The numbers speak volumes here: Dimensional Research found that 80 percent of app users will only attempt to use a problematic, poorly functioning app three times or less before giving up completely.

For this reason, you can’t overlook the significance of the testing period. Putting a finished app through a series of stress tests will help you identify and address problems, and it can also offer insight into what problems might arise in the future and how they can be fixed.

For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Magazine:

3. Opt for a Native App When Possible

Another important consideration is whether to develop a native or hybrid app, as these have different reputations for performance.

Native apps are built in a specific programming language for a specific device platform (either iOS or Android). In contrast, hybrid apps are built using web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and they are designed to be used across various device platforms.

Native apps are known for offering the fastest and most reliable user experiences. They also make tapping into the camera, microphone, and swipe gestures of a smartphone very simple. Budget permitting, it would be advisable to opt for a native app.

4. The Best Ideas Are Right in Front of You

When creating an app, people tend to think about the complicated problems they want to solve. In reality, the most successful apps are those that solve mundane problems people regularly face every day.

For example, if we think of common HR challenges, one of the issues that immediately springs to mind is the process of giving feedback. An important task of any HR team is listening to and addressing the feedback and grievances of employees. However, this can be an awkward and difficult process for employees who might not be comfortable voicing their opinions.

An app could solve this problem by allowing users to give feedback quickly and easily through an online portal whenever a situation arises, rather than banking up their thoughts for a meeting that may or may not ever take place. The feedback could also be made anonymous for particularly sensitive issues.

Mobile apps are bringing radical benefits to HR departments, with more and more teams adopting apps to help them recruit new talent, develop employees, and keep morale high.

However, it can be easy to get lost in the ever-growing sea of options. When setting out to create — or adopt — an app for your HR department, remember: The best solutions are easy to use, do what they say on the tin, and most crucially, effectively support the real needs of your team.

Ritam Gandhi is the founder and director of Studio Graphene.

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ReHuman: How Corporate America Is Reconnecting With Humanity to Drive Growth 


In a single joint statement this August, 181 CEOs of the world’s largest companies threw a century of corporate thinking under the bus by declaring shareholder value was no longer their main objective. What’s noteworthy isn’t that these powerful CEOs agreed there’s more to a company than shareholder return — it’s that they’re being forced to acknowledge a new corporate reality: Corporations can no longer aim to reward shareholders at the expense of their stakeholders and society.

In fact, focusing solely on shareholders introduces unseen risk into an organization, as shareholder goals are often far removed from the mission and purpose of the company. Companies overly-focused on shareholder return are less likely to see shifts in the supply chain, workforce, customers, and/or community, and they are less likely to make and stick to long-term commitments.

Overemphasis on shareholders creates disconnects that can produce many unintended consequences, ranging from conflicting goals to outright malfeasance.

How do companies adapt to this new corporate reality? They need to rehumanize their workforces around the stakeholder ecosystem and focus on the corporate mission, allowing their employees to align behavior to strategy without losing their humanity.

Gartner has studied four key strategies that enable HR to ensure the organization’s performance remains connected to its employees and stakeholders. Let’s take a closer look at each:

1. Build Innovation Networks of Expertise That Span Silos and Levels

Innovation is often disconnected from the people who deal with stakeholders every day, resulting in top-heavy decisions that aren’t in the best interest of the company or its stakeholders. The first step for HR is to implement network innovation strategies to build a network of expertise made up of employees and leaders that enables the organization to innovate at scale. Gartner research finds that network innovation strategies can improve innovation effectiveness by up to 23 percent, regardless of the digital acumen of the organization’s workforce.

Companies can employ network innovation strategies by focusing on the following:

• Involve employees in filtering innovative ideas rather than solely contributing to idea generation.
• Equip leaders for shared risk-taking, thereby helping them reduce their risk aversion and pursue more disruptive ideas.
• Show employees how to use organizational networks specifically for innovation to create momentum.

2. Align Performance Management to the Organization’s Mission

Eighty-two percent of HR leaders claim that performance management is not successful in achieving its primary goal, and only 38 percent say it keeps pace with business needs, according to a recent Gartner survey. Performance management systems often disconnect employees from stakeholders by replacing conversations and operational agility with cascaded goals, KPIs, and tasks. What’s worse, employees cannot see how they impact the organization and are unable to adjust to changing business needs.

Our research found three key measures HR can take to reconnect performance management to the organization’s mission and purpose:

• Create a line of sight between the performance management process, employees, and the mission of the organization. This targeted customization allows performance management to stay relevant to changing business conditions.
• Employees should not be treated as consumers of the process, but as designers of performance management from ideation through rollout.
• Allow employees to own the testing and final determination of practice designs for performance management. Doing this creates new, employee-centric performance management designs and addresses employees’ diverse needs, leading to a 19 percent increase in utility, according to the aforementioned Gartner survey.
• Help employees set goals that align their individual roles to the larger mission of the organization, and use calibration sessions to uncover collaboration risks and the opportunities needed to collectively execute on those goals.

For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Magazine:

3. Align Employees With the Mission and Connect Culture From the Ground Up

In many organizations, culture change is designed by senior executives and then expressed in values, with the hope that these values will drive behavior change across the organization. This approach can disenfranchise line employees, who may feel as if culture is imposed upon them, making it impossible for them to live the new culture. Gartner research uncovered three imperatives HR leaders should consider to reconnect culture:

• Engage employees to gather unfiltered feedback around values and how they are experienced in the organization so that values have authenticity and alignment to the mission.
• Help employees identify and navigate culture barriers and tensions that inhibit values-based culture change.
• Redesign explicit and implicit process barriers to enable behaviors that support the new culture. It is often outdated processes, not people, that are the problem.

4. Remove Barriers to Connect the Employee Experience to Stakeholders

Despite organizations making significant investments to improve the employee experience, Gartner research shows that 46 percent of employees are mostly dissatisfied with their overall experiences. To drive performance improvement, HR must shift to a consumer-centric approach that is more consistent with how people behave and what they value in the digital world. Employers can start by doing the following:

• Focus HR leaders on what employees value. Create employee personas, and use new technology and tools to collect data on where employees work, whom they work with, and when they work to better understand their day-to-day work and experiences. Organizations that consider what employees value, not just what they need, can boost employee performance by 20, according to Gartner’s research.
• Identify critical employee moments. Rather than focusing on improving quality and functionality, identify places where employees spend a lot of time and effort. Then, deconstruct those critical moments to determine how to make it easier for employees at the moments that really count.

Rehumanizing the workforce and concentrating on the corporate mission is a necessary plan of action for today’s organizations. Ensuring that the quality of the company remains connected to its employees and stakeholders allows HR leaders to achieve positive performance outcomes and drive future business success.

Scott Engler is vice president of advisory in the Gartner HR practice.

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Ho, Ho, Hold on — I Can’t Do That? Avoiding Liability in the Workplace This Holiday Season


Between all the parties, the gifts, the scrumptious food, and the laughter, who doesn’t love the holidays?

But is this jubilation all that jolly in the workplace? Employers can get so caught up in the hoopla they may unknowingly set themselves up for serious legal issues.

Here are some tips to help your reduce your risk of employment-related liability this holiday season:

To Pay or Not to Pay Holiday Pay?

Most employers give employees a handful of holidays off each year. However, this can be difficult for employers in industries where year-round service is a must, such as healthcare. If your employees are required to work holidays, are you required to pay them a premium rate?

No. Federal law does not require employers to pay employees for hours the employee does not work, nor does it mandate that you observe any specific holidays unless you have made such promise in writing. Employers are free to schedule employees to work on holidays. If your business does grant time off for holidays, you are not legally obligated to pay employees for that time — though many employers do. If you opt to provide holiday pay, be sure to do so consistently to avoid any implication of unfair treatment or discrimination.

Time Off for Religious Observances

December includes spiritually significant days for a variety of religions. What should you do if an employee requests time off for religious observance? The short answer: Grant the request.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (as well as various state and local laws), it is unlawful for employers to discriminate on the basis of an employee’s religion, unless you can demonstrate that providing a reasonable accommodation causes undue hardship to your business. As a result of this protection, you may need to allow employees time off to observe religious customs to avoid potential liability.

What if granting that time off is disruptive to the workplace? Unfortunately, it is very difficult for employers to establish that granting a single request from an employee is an undue hardship. In the legal context, this is a high burden to reach. Employers should err of the side of caution and be open to these requests, even if doing so makes the holidays hectic. They may be difficult for your business, but schedule changes and shift substitutions are typically not undue hardships in the eyes of the law.

For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Magazine:

Holiday Parties

Now for the best part — the holiday party! Holiday parties are a time-honored tradition where employers get to show appreciation to their hardworking, loyal employees. However, these festivities — often fueled by alcohol — can be breeding grounds for poor choices, bad behavior, and even legal complications.

Here are 10 easy ways to greatly reduce your organization’s legal liability at this year’s holiday party:

  1. If possible, don’t serve alcohol. This is easier to do if you simply have lunch or breakfast.
  2. Invite spouses and significant others so that there will be people who can help keep an eye on your employees and, if necessary, get them home safely.
  3. Always serve food if you serve alcohol, and always have plenty of nonalcoholic beverages available.
  4. If your party is a dinner, consider serving only beer or wine (plus nonalcoholic alternatives) with the meal.
  5. If you do serve alcohol, do not have an open bar where employees can drink as much as they want. Instead, have a cash bar or use a ticket system to limit the number of drinks. Close the bar at least one hour before you plan to end the party. Switch to coffee and soft drinks from there on.
  6. Let your managers know that they will be considered “on duty” at the party. They should be instructed to keep an eye on their subordinates to ensure they do not drink too much. Instruct managers they are not to attend any afterparties.
  7. Remind employees that, while you encourage everyone to have a good time, your business’s normal workplace standards of conduct will be in force at the party. It should be clear that misconduct at or after the party can result in disciplinary action.
  8. Hire professional bartenders and instruct them to report anyone who appears to be inebriated. Ensure that bartenders require positive identification from guests who do not appear to be substantially over the age of 21.
  9. Pay for a taxi service (or Uber/Lyft) for any employee who feels they should not drive home. At management’s discretion, be prepared to provide hotel rooms for intoxicated employees.
  10. Never hang mistletoe. We’re not kidding. It happens, but it absolutely shouldn’t.

Celebrating the holidays with employees is an important part of keeping workplace morale high, but beware of the issues that may arise this December. Follow these guidelines, and you can avoid the gift that keeps on giving through the next year (or two): an employment-related lawsuit!

Emily N. Litzinger is an attorney in the Louisville office of Fisher Phillips. Contact her at [email protected] or 502-561-3978.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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How to Hire Programmers: In-House, Freelance, and Outsourced


You’ve got a brilliant idea for an app — now, you just need to hire some programmers to build it.

But how do you do that? Do you hire a team of full-time programmers? Do you look for freelancers? Should you outsource your project to a software development company?

It’s a tough call, because the answer depends on your project, resources, and company vision. Even if you have a lot of technical knowledge yourself, hiring programmers is tricky. For example, say you want to staff out a talented tech team for your startup — is that really the best choice for you? If you need to pivot down the line, your in-house team of programmers may not be flexible enough to make that pivot with you.

So, let’s take a look at your options when it comes to hiring programmers. Hopefully, this guide will help you determine what kind of programmers you need — and how to get them.

Option No. 1: Hiring an In-House Team of Programmers


• You keep sensitive information inside the company.
• Communication with your programmers will be faster and more efficient.
• You have more direct control over the success of the project.


• You need expertise in managing tech projects.
• You only have access to a local talent pool.
• Pivoting and product changes may be more expensive, and your team may be less flexible when new needs arise.

When hiring in-house is the best option:

The best time to hire in-house is after you’ve achieved product-market fit. At that point, you have finished pivoting. Your product is solid. Your team will maintain the product, fix bugs, and work on new features.

If you’re working on a particularly sensitive project, you may want to hire in-house programmers from the beginning. That way, you’ll have control over data privileges, and you’ll be able to maintain crucial levels of efficient communication.

If you aren’t a technical person but need to hire an in-house team of programmers, you may want to first hire someone who has more knowledge of the field, like a CTO. This person can help direct your hiring process to ensure you get the right people, and they can oversee the team’s work. While you’ll need to budget another salary, it will save you money over time by ensuring you make good hires and have a team that consistently operates at high standards.

When to consider a different option:

It’s tempting to hire talented programmers who work in the office and report to you. You’re more involved. You can see what’s happening. You have ease of communication.

However, that doesn’t mean in-house is always the way to go. If you aren’t a technical person and you’re not sure hiring a CTO is worth it, you can outsource your project. Similarly, if you know you’ll have to pivot, go with a more flexible team. Plus, the recruitment process is expensive. You’ll want to account for recruitment costs before hiring in-house programmers. If costs are prohibitively high, you may want to check whether an outsourced option might be more cost-effective. You can hire full-time programmers when your product matures.

Option No. 2: Hiring Freelance Programmers


• You have access to a wider, more diverse talent pool.
• You can write a contract that protects valuable company data freelancers may have access to.


• You need expertise in managing tech projects.
• You have less control over remote work.
• Communication is slower and weaker.

For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Magazine:

When hiring freelancers is the best option:

If you’ve run a recruitment process and found that your local talent pool is shallow, freelancers can be a great way to expand your search. The programmer who best fits the project might live in Kazakhstan — and as long as you set the right contract terms, you can still have the same level of oversight that comes with hiring your own in-house team.

When to consider a different option:

If the development process depends on efficient communication — which happens best when everyone is sitting in the same room and keeping the same hours — freelancers may not be a great solution.

If you’re not technical, or you know you’re going to pivot, a freelance team has the same issues as hiring in-house.

Finally, remember that freelancers need to be more than just good programmers. You’ll need to find people who are autonomous, able to self-report, and good at communicating. As a result, hiring freelancers may require even more intensive vetting than hiring in-house.

Option No. 3: Outsourcing to a Software Development Company


• You’re hiring people with proven track records of building tech.
• Communication is fast and efficient.
• You have flexibility, as teams can pivot with a project.


• You’re not in direct control of your project.
• Sensitive information may leave the company.
• You might end up spending more depending on the scale of your project.

When outsourcing is the best option:

Outsourcing your project is a good idea when you need flexible experts. If you’re not a technical person, you can often trust an outsourced team to be overseen by its own technically literate supervisors. You’re free to focus on the important work of running your business.

As with freelancers, development companies can also be an effective way to expand your talent pool when the local pipeline is running dry.

If you do go with an outsourced company, make sure to work with one that prides itself on transparency and client relationships. That way, you won’t have to sacrifice communication for talent.

When to consider a different option:

If your project needs just one or two developers, you may find it ridiculous to hire a whole company. Get time and cost estimates from a potential outsourced team, then compare those to the price of a developer’s salary. Take the timespan of the project into consideration. If it’s going to be faster and/or cheaper to hire your own programmer (in-house or freelance), that’s the better choice.

If you need programmers, be sure to weigh your options before deciding how and where you’ll find those programmers. You may want the control and security that comes with hiring in-house. You may want the ease of freelancer talent. Or you may decide you’d rather hire a company to do everything for you. Whatever the case, you have options!

Natalie Severt is CMO of Iterators.

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Turning Prospects Into Loyal Customers: The 5 Skills of the Most Successful Salespeople


Article by Brittany Hodak

Turning a prospect into a loyal customer starts with the sales experience. Salespeople set the tone for the relationship, and to make that first impression count, they must learn to work efficiently and communicate effectively.

Successful salespeople know they have to hone specific skills if they want to deliver great customer experiences. Here are five of the most important skills, plus some advice on how to get better at them:

1. Prioritization

All salespeople are busy — but why do some seem stressed and disorganized while others manage to stay cool no matter what? Because the latter group has learned to prioritize.

Prioritization allows salespeople to separate what’s actually important from the tasks that would merely be nice to tackle. Truly effective prioritization requires more than just making a to-do list. The Center for Sales Strategy suggests an “ABC method” that sorts tasks into three categories:

• The “A” category should contain projects that are vital to the company’s success, such as sending proposals to target prospects.

• In the “B” category, place things that are important but can wait for later in the week, such as follow-ups.

• The “C” category contains tasks that would be good to do, but aren’t terribly urgent — think tasks like cold outreach.

Once your tasks are sorted, go through the categories in alphabetical order, moving tasks up as appropriate.

2. Negotiation

Whether selling enterprise software or used cars, salespeople need to know how to negotiate. Successful negotiation requires you to understand the other party’s needs, so it follows that negotiation training group SAB recommends using personality profiles to understand the individual.

You need to get a sense early in the sales process of who your buyer is. You can’t send them a personality test, but you can use clues to guess at their personality type and tailor your pitch accordingly. For example, using the Myers-Briggs paradigm, you might look at signals like:

• Introversion vs. extraversion: Introverts think before responding to questions, while extraverts tend to answer immediately. During presentations, you may need to periodically stop to ask introverts if they have any questions. On the other hand, you can expect extraverts to ask questions freely.

• Intuition vs. sensing: If they focus on the here and now, they likely prefer sensing. Those who prefer intuition tend to focus on the future. Spend extra time showing sensing prospects you understand their challenges, and make an effort to give intuitive prospects a rich vision of the solution.

• Thinking vs. feeling: People who lean toward feeling consider how others will be affected, while thinkers tend to be more objective. Expect thinkers to focus on hard factors like price. Prospects who prefer feeling may be more concerned about things like implementation plans.

• Perceiving vs. judging: Perceiving types are all about the experience, while judging types are more concerned with the end result. Be patient with perceivers, who may require more time or touch points to close the sale. Cut to the chase with prospects who prefer judging.

3. Responsiveness

Companies rise and fall on the basis of their customer experiences. Salespeople must be responsive not just in terms of time, but also emotionally. Factors like response speed, flexibility in communication channels, empathy, and positivity make prospects want to work with the salesperson and the company they represent.

Be there when the prospect is ready to take the next step. An eBook from communication platform PingPilot and content marketing agency Scorch suggests embedding links in communication materials that enable prospects to get on the phone, shoot an email, or request a meeting when they’re ready. Replace gates to on-site content with click-to-chat buttons. Keep sales and customer service lines separate so prospects don’t have to request a transfer, sit on hold, and re-explain themselves in order to buy.

4. Writing

Salespeople don’t need to be the next J.K. Rowling, but they do need to come across as competent and warm in their written communications. Prospects won’t trust someone who can’t string a sentence together to understand their needs. Even email typos can create a perception of carelessness.

Unlike some of the skills on this list, writing skills are largely built through solo practice. Read regularly and imitate the conversational-yet-professional style of authors you admire. Focus on creating emotional connections without using superlatives, which can make sales pitches seem pushy or exaggerated.

5. Non-Verbal Communication

Body language conveys a lot during a sales conversation. How salespeople hold themselves can communicate anxiety and confusion, or it can show confidence and ease. Even from across the room, prospects can pick up on these cues.

Learn to control the signals your body language sends. HubSpot suggests tweaks that can give you an air of authority and confidence, like opening your chest, standing up straight, and varying your gestures (but keep them small).

Loyal customers don’t just waltz into sales pipelines — they’re cultivated, starting with the first interaction with your company. Master these skills to give prospects a great experience, and you’ll be well on your way to creating loyal customers.

A version of this article originally appeared on

Brittany Hodak is cofounder of The Superfan Company, an entertainment agency that helps brands and celebrities identify, engage, and retain their most important customers. She has been mentioned as one of the top sales motivational speakers in the industry. For more information, visit

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Mixed Tables: How to Create Breakthrough Solutions Through Surprising Collaborations


If you were asked to help soldiers detect roadside bombs, where would you start?

I’m guessing it wouldn’t be Hollywood.

This was my exact dilemma in the mid-2000s, when the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) asked me to do just that. At the time, roadside bombs were a prime cause of casualties for US Army soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Something had to be done. So, I used an approach I’d learned from my former boss, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin: I organized a series of “mixed tables.”

Complex Challenges Demand Holistic Thinking

Whether our challenges are as enormous as saving lives or as small as figuring out how to squeeze in grocery shopping for the week, we can’t find solutions without tools and a process in place. My process is a mixed table.

We live in a hyper-specialized society, where we’re encouraged to have a laser focus in our individual area of expertise rather than study broadly. In many ways, that’s fantastic. Think of medicine. Never before have we had such advanced healthcare, in part because we’re able to focus so much time, effort, and money in each specific field.

However, such specialization distorts perception. When someone specializes in a field, their perspective narrows. It’s like how sociologists are more likely to use environment and culture to explain people’s behaviors, whereas psychologists are more likely to say people are born with certain traits. Neither approach is entirely correct, and each could benefit from an insurgence of the kind of holistic thinking our education system doesn’t encourage.

As I explain in my new book, The Renaissance Campaign, for centuries, scholars studied broadly, often acting as beacons of knowledge for their communities. We’ve advanced our education system, but have we updated our problem-solving methods? People who now possess great expertise in specific areas but a limited breadth of experience frequently grapple with complex challenges they are only partially suited to tackle. To compensate for our lack of breadth of knowledge, we need holistic thinking. That’s where mixed tables come in.

Mixed tables are a collaboration between people who wouldn’t ordinarily have the opportunity to convene in a meaningful way. These include subject matter experts in different fields, creatives, and thought leaders. Mixed tables embrace a diversity of thought so participants can navigate challenging waters in a different and more effective way.

While the term and specific methodology is new, the concept has built our history’s cities. In 15th-century Italy, the famed Medici family consulted painters, architects, stonemasons, financial experts, poets, and playwrights to create a new and compelling vision for the city of Florence that many historians credit for ushering in the Renaissance. Mixed tables are a tool for simulating this kind of diversity of thought and can lead to mini-Renaissance moments within our own lives today.

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While working at the Department of Defense, I traveled across the country, organizing mixed-table dinners to generate solutions to a number of policy issues. The diversity of these meetings was fascinating: a local pollster sitting next to a retired army general; a college professor beside the CEO of a defense company. Among the broad-reaching solutions generated was a shift that led to veterans being treated with respect across the political spectrum.

How to Create a Mixed Table

The first step is to identify your specific question. What are you trying to figure out? What is your ideal outcome? What is your challenge? What are all of the questions surrounding that challenge? This is a vital step because you will use these questions to determine the people you should invite to the mixed table.

The second step is to bring together those smart, insightful people. A mixed table might combine individuals from academia, industry, engineering, and the creative and performing arts. Many of the mixed tables I’ve been involved with have included Hollywood filmmakers and scriptwriters, though they don’t have to. Professional creatives, accustomed to breaking through parameters we don’t even realize we’ve placed on our imaginations, can be incredibly resourceful and quick-thinking.

Consider the process a bit like a series of dinner meetings for three consecutive evenings. After a meal and conversation, have a key participant present a mini TED Talk to introduce the evening’s problem. Split attendees into three smaller groups of approximately eight people and have each group deal with a different aspect of the overall problem. Assign individual group leaders to guide the discussion and ensure everyone participates.

What happens in the room stays in the room. This creates trust. Beyond obvious confidentiality, people might consider their thoughts too outlandish to voice if they fear judgment.

The first night, present and discuss the problem. The second night, consider discussing a parallel problem. The third night, after ideas and thoughts have taken shape and solutions are in sight, adjust your questions accordingly. If your groups create an actionable goal, develop milestones to achieve it.

By tapping into disparate pockets of information and bringing them together, we can find connections that lead to breakthrough solutions we might never have otherwise considered. It wasn’t an army general who figured out how best to protect our soldiers from roadside bombs, though they were invaluable in the overall process and discussion. It was a filmmaker. Accustomed to looking for the best shot and camera angles, he was able to pinpoint how foreign enemies were placing roadside bombs in locations ideal for great camera angles so they could capture the footage and use it for propaganda. It was a brilliant stroke of insight we might not have had without the filmmaker’s unique perspective.

The answer isn’t to forgo specialization. It’s to recognize you’re a prisoner of your own perspective. Embrace your expertise as you listen to others.

When executed well, mixed tables have the power to shape society, bring about massive shifts in human history, and determine the fates of peoples and nations. They have the power to create a Renaissance.

John Rogers is an entrepreneur and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense. He currently serves as the chair of the National Brain Aneurysm Foundation and is a board member and former interim CEO of MV Transportation. He is also the founder of several successful businesses, including RL Leaders, which tackles vexing challenges facing organizations, and Capstone National Partners, a bipartisan lobbying team.

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Take Your Time — Even Under Pressure: The 4 Secrets of Successful High-Growth Hiring


So business is booming, and you need to expand your team to keep up? Congratulations! And be careful.

You should make all hiring decisions with care, but this is especially true for hiring decisions during periods of high growth. Bringing new employees into your growing startup is a momentous and somewhat intimidating process. Your employees are your greatest asset; they decide the direction of your company’s future and act as the building blocks of company culture.

Getting the right candidates into the right seats at a moment of massive growth is a make-or-break move. Follow these four best practices to make sure your high-growth company is staffed by rock star employees:

1. Keep Your Standards High

When your small team is drowning in work, it’s all too tempting to lower your standards to fill a position quickly just to get some extra hands. However, you have to resist this temptation.

Filling a position with a candidate who isn’t a good fit can have much worse repercussions for your company than leaving the position vacant for a little while longer. Estimates of the cost of a bad hire vary, from 30 percent of the hire’s salary to as much as $240,000, but no matter what the price tag is, it’s one your company can’t afford at such a critical juncture. It pays to take your time when hiring, even during periods of rapid growth.

2. Prioritize Attitude and Soft Skills Over Technical Skills

Employees can always learn technical skills on the job, but it is more difficult to teach someone soft skills. Moreover, working successfully in a high-growth setting requires a specific type of attitude. Only employees with the requisite grit, agility, and willingness to help can drive the company to capitalize on its moment.

The employees who will add value to your growing company are those who are prepared to lend a hand where it’s needed, even if it’s not part of their job description. They should demonstrate top-notch critical thinking skills and take initiative to solve problems. These kinds of personality traits take more time to cultivate than technical skills, and that’s time your organization doesn’t have at this stage.

That said, it can be very difficult to assess a candidate’s soft skills. Here are a few creative tips you can use to get a better read on your applicants:

  1. Ask candidates to list the soft skills they think would be required for success at your company. Look for detailed responses.
  2. Have candidates rank themselves on a list of your company’s most valued soft skills.
  3. Have references rank candidates on a list of your company’s most valued soft skills.
  4. Administer online tests that evaluate soft skills.
  5. Ask a candidate how they feel they could improve their soft skills.
  6. Host a group interview with some type of gamified simulation that puts candidates in a position to showcase their soft skills.

Remember: Attitude is everything when it’s all hands on deck.

3. Acknowledge Your Biases and Keep Them in Check

It’s important that anyone involved in any hiring decision be honest with themselves about their unconscious biases. Everyone has some degree of bias, and the sooner you recognize it, the sooner you can take intentional action to overcome it.

Unconscious biases can destroy your company’s chances of finding a valuable employee by turning you off from certain perfectly capable candidates for irrelevant reasons. This needlessly puts a kink in your talent pipeline when you need candidates the most.

Check your biases with these practical steps:

1. Cut Gendered Language From Job Descriptions

Certain words can be subconsciously perceived as masculine- or feminine-coded, even if no specific gender reference was intended. For example, many people perceive “assertive” to be masculine, while “nurturing” is often taken to be feminine. Try using a gender decoder tool to help you detect implicitly gendered language in your own job posts.

2. Don’t Ask for Unnecessary Qualifications

Is a bachelor’s degree really absolutely necessary, or could relevant experience be enough? When you really reflect on it, you often find that the criteria you think you need aren’t really required to do a great job.

3. Use Blind Screening Software

A 2004 study found that job applications with “white-sounding” names like “Emily Walsh” and “Greg Baker” received nearly 50 percent more callbacks than applications with “black-sounding” names like “Lakisha Washington” and “Jamal Jones.” According to the researchers, simply having a “white-sounding” name is roughly the equivalent of having eight additional years of work experience!

This is where blind screening software comes in. It strips applications of demographic data, allowing hiring teams to focus exclusively on a candidate’s relevant qualifications for the role.

4. Get Comfortable With Delegating

In a small company, leaders are often involved in all hiring decisions. As the company grows, this becomes more and more difficult. If company leaders insist on offering their input on every new hire, they could end up slowing down the recruiting process at a time when it needs to move even more quickly than normal.

Learning to trust others with big decisions is a scary but critical step in expansion. Before you can get comfortable with giving control to others, you need to find a trusted partner. Make sure to delegate hiring duties to your most capable team members. If you need additional help, it may be worth considering outsourcing options. In periods of high-growth, that investment can be very well worth the price.

A version of this article originally appeared on the IQTalent Partners blog.

Chris Murdock is the cofounder and senior partner of IQTalent Partners.

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Culture Quake: 4 Things That Will Shake Up the Work World in the 2020s


If you thought the 2010s were a disruptive decade for workplace culture, wait until the 2020s arrive.

In the next 10 years, you can expect the trends that rocked workplace culture — like the proliferation of remote and flexible work options, social activism, and millennial job hopping — to keep on rocking it. Alongside these, however, we’ll also see more seismic changes that will turn old thinking on its ear.

We’ve already had some hints about what these changes will be, as they began to appear on the fringes in the latter part of the decade. In the 2020s, they stand a good chance of becoming the new normal.

Here are our predictions for the trends and events that will bring the biggest shakeups to the work world in the next decade, along with some surprising side effects of these changes:

1. Pay Transparency

We are already halfway there, with sites like Glassdoor adding salaries to job postings and nations enacting laws to foster gender pay transparency. We think the demand for pay transparency will only grow in the 2020s, and firms will see the benefits transparency can bring to job satisfaction and retention.

In the beginning, getting companies to adopt pay transparency will be like ripping off a band-aid: painful, but it will promote the healing of a lot of simmering workplace resentments. By the end of the 2020s, pay transparency will be the new normal, and as a result, the average company will likely see more job satisfaction and better retention.

Surprising Side Effect: It was hard for top-level execs to justify earning many multiples more in salary than the managers who reported to them in the 2010s, but it’ll get even harder in the 2020s. Look for a more level paying field between managers and the C-suite as a result.

2. The Blurring of Business/Community Boundaries

The social activism that sprouted in the 2010s will flower into a very different form of business mission and purpose as the next decade rolls on. In 2019, the Business Roundtable fired the shot heard ’round the world on this topic, declaring that businesses need to serve more than shareholder interest — they need to serve all stakeholders, including their employees and the community at large. This declaration was driven by the increasing demands among employees and consumers that organizations take a stand on social issues.

In the 2020s, companies will make serving their communities an integral part of how they do business; more businesses will respond publicly to pressing social concerns and support community schools and social services. How this plays out will be interesting to see, especially considering how the increasing popularity of remote work puts more employees in their communities for longer periods.

Surprising Side Effect: The more firms connect with their communities, the more loyal customers they’ll gain and the more sustainable they’ll become — which, in turn, will actually drive more shareholder value anyway.

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3. Healthcare Sets Employees Free

Nations like Canada already experience the business benefits of universal healthcare. It is highly likely, given Americans’ embrace of the Affordable Care Act and the promises made by many political candidates, that some form of universal healthcare will come to the US soon.

While many decry the costs, we shouldn’t overlook the potential benefits, especially when it comes to entrepreneurship. When employees no longer feel tied to a job because of health benefits, they’ll be free to pursue the careers they’ve always wanted. A culture of innovation will flourish after universal healthcare becomes a reality. Employees will set out on their own to start new companies, and greater numbers of small businesses will open. If the plan to pay for universal healthcare is a net positive for small businesses, they will hire more workers.

Surprising Side Effect: Companies will have to work harder than ever to recruit and attract talent, making culture even more important to an organization’s success. In addition, salaries, retirement benefits, and other financial perks may increase. Perhaps souped-up health benefits (like concierge medical services and comprehensive screenings) will be a part of that.

4. Regular Hustle vs. Side Hustle

As the 2010s drew to a close, more and more employees chose to take on side jobs. Whether or note the economy and salaries improve, side hustles will remain popular in the 2020s, especially among younger employees who cut their teeth as freelancers and are used to having a second job to fulfill creative needs or pay the bills.

Employers will find that they not only need to attract employees with a stronger purpose, but they’ll also need a strong raft of benefits and ways to keep talent happy if they want their workers to be loyal to just one job. Without minimum-hours requirements for healthcare eligibility (see previous trend), we’re likely to see more and more employees asking for part-time arrangements. Companies may be forced to pay higher wages to those willing to work full-time, or they may have to come up with new and creative solutions to enable job sharing.

Surprising Side Effect: As the number of side-hustlers grows, so will demands to rein in the tax bite on freelance and side jobs. Side-hustlers will argue that business gets a break by not having to pay them benefits, so they should get a break as well. Lawmakers will likely concede by the time the decade draws to an end.

Leaders should prepare for these trends to become business as usual. Put in the work now to make sure your workplace culture is poised to keep up with and take advantage of these major workplace shifts, both in the next decade and beyond.

David Shanklin is managing director, culture solutions, for CultureIQ.

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