Companies Must Embrace Organizational Agility to Survive — and Continuous Performance Management Can Help


As the world of business grows increasingly complex and volatile, it has never been more important for companies to embrace organizational agility.

Doing things because “it’s the way we’ve always done it” no longer works. Instead, to find success in the current economic landscape, organizations must follow the lead of Apple, Philips, ING Bank, and other companies that have traded traditional managerial hierarchies for new, more dynamic approaches.

Below, we’ll take a look at four reasons why agility matters for contemporary companies. And, because embracing agility is easier said than done, we’ll also explore how a continuous performance management process can help companies achieve sustainable organizational agility:

1. Agile Organizations Deconstruct Traditional Structures

The standard hierarchical organization has a pyramid-like structure in which the CEO sits at the top, presiding over the entire business. Managers occupy the next layer, and at the bottom reside the value-creating employees. This top-down structure concentrates power at the top, and decisions and directions are dispersed among the various layers as required.

In contrast, an agile organizational structure emphasizes autonomous, cross-functional groupings, and the role of the manager is transformed. No longer dictating from above, managers trust the judgment and expertise of their teams. This structure results in a more holistic and functional work environment with fewer roadblocks to transformation and innovation.

Agile performance management complements and supports this way of working. Employees can take ownership of their performance and development, and they can collaborate with managers on their goals rather than having goals dictated from above. As a result, the manager can take on a more supportive coaching role focused on real-time performance conversations and feedback.

2. Agility Allows You to Be Both Dynamic and Stable

One of the most difficult challenges organizations face is being continuously innovative while maintaining a culture built on disciplined execution. Contrary to popular perception, an agile organization does not trade reliability for dynamism. Instead, effectively agile organizations rest on a structure of both stability and dynamic innovation.

To understand how this is possible, we should first look more closely at what is meant by the terms “dynamic” and “stable”:

  1. Dynamic: Practices that respond quickly to new challenges and opportunities with an attitude of experimentation and an emphasis on iterative processes.
  2. Stable: A reliable and efficient backbone that works over long periods and is maintained through the use of shared digital tools and standardized processes and language.

To become fully agile, your business needs to be both dynamic and stable. This is a difficult balance to strike, and all too often, organizations respond to the rapid pace of change today by encouraging an attitude of experimentation and innovation without cultivating the stability necessary to make innovation sustainable.

When you start building a house, you may not know how the rooms will be laid out, but you ensure the foundations are solid. With a solid base to build upon, you’re able to design the interior as you like and expand as needed. The same principle applies to organizational agility: Without strong initial foundations, it is impossible to sustain and scale over time.

Innovation and dynamism can only grow from a solid and stable foundation, and a strong culture of ongoing, focused communication and meaningful discussion provides this stable foundation. Once again, companies can look to continuous performance management for help here, as this approach to performance is built upon ongoing communication between managers and employees.

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3. Agile Organizations Create a Strong Shared Purpose

Much like agility requires a stable foundation, it also requires a strong purpose shared across the entire organization. The whole company needs to be on board with the same objectives and engaged in a collective effort to translate purpose into clearly defined actions.

Informational transparency is key to the creation and perpetuation of a shared purpose, and this transparency can be supported through a continuous approach to performance reviews. In a continuous performance management system, information is more readily and more quickly disseminated throughout the organization, and employees have the opportunity to share ideas, knowledge, and insights to contribute to the growth of the entire business.

You can go one step further by encouraging employees and managers to collaborate on SMART objectives. Using an upward-aligning process, you can ensure that each individual employee’s milestones support the achievement of the organization’s long-term goals. Because performance management is continuous rather than occasional, employees’ goals can be updated at any time to respond to the reality of a fast-moving organization.

4. Agility Realigns Decision-Making Processes

Bureaucracy is a huge hurdle for many large organizations. As a company grows, so do its structure and hierarchy. More middle managers are hired and the senior management team expands — but rather than promoting efficiency, this bloated bureaucratic system stifles innovation by reinforcing that pyramidal structure and downplaying employee initiative.

The fundamental sluggishness of bureaucratic structure undercuts agility and prevents an organization from adapting quickly to new realities of the market or industry. An agile structure, in contrast, promotes a more dynamic and collaborative approach to work, which is vital to sustained organizational success. According to Deloitte, organizations that work collaboratively are twice as likely to outgrow their competition and four times more likely to grow their bottom lines.

Continuous performance reviews can help replace bureaucracy with agility by introducing a performance management model based on iterative work cycles and direct feedback. The emphasis here is on self-organization and self-management. Employees collaborate with managers to set and reach goals, rather than having goals assigned from the top of the pyramid. This system is more conducive to delegation as well, which means organizational processes and innovations can bypass the middlemen who may otherwise hold them up.

As outlined above, the companies that succeed in today’s economy and beyond will be those that embrace organizational agility.

However, the larger the organization, the more difficult it is to sustain the kind of ongoing conversations agility requires. By switching from outdated annual reviews to regular check-ins and continuous performance management, organizations can take a powerful step toward tearing down the pyramid and putting a more agile structure in its place.

Stuart Hearn is CEO and founder of Clear Review.

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What Does HR Actually Do? The Misunderstood Strengths and Weaknesses of HR Pros


HR often gets a bad rap. Sure, we’re there to walk employees through their first days and lend an ear in tough times, but we also bear responsibility for giving bad news, breaking harsh truths, and enforcing change management. It can be a rewarding and gratifying career, but it’s not for everyone.

Even pop culture can’t help but take potshots at HR. Think about The Office: Who always got the short end of the stick? Toby from HR.

Toby is openly disliked by the boss and barely tolerated by his coworkers — but why? How did HR get such a downer of a reputation? In an increasingly competitive business world where talent is one of the few differentiators left, why are the folks entrusted with hiring, managing, training, and engaging that talent considered less important than other disciplines?

In part, it does appear that HR may fall short in terms of effectiveness: One study found HR leaders are, on average, 6 percentile points less effective than the leaders of other functions. But is this inherent to HR, or is it a matter of business priorities? Korn Ferry reports that 47 percent of organizations do not offer HR-specific leadership development programs, which may help explain the low average effectiveness.

HR History in a Nutshell

To understand the odd position HR currently occupies in the business landscape, we first have to look to the field’s past.

As Marketplace reports, in the early 1900s, companies were worried about they’re still worried about today: retaining employees and improving performance. While many employees at this time were turning to unions to help get their needs met, HR departments arose largely as a way for companies to address employee concerns without unionization.

“By the 1930s, human resources started to become and be seen as advocates for employees and the reason for that, frankly, was because companies were trying to keep unions out,” Wharton School professor Peter Cappelli told Marketplace. “The idea of being able to tell people at the top of the company: ‘Hey, the workers are unhappy about this’ really mattered because they cared whether workers were unhappy because they thought they might unionize otherwise. In that period, HR developed this kind of reputation as being the workers’ advocate and that’s probably true up to 1970.”

In the ’80s, union membership — and, concurrently, union power — began to decline. As a result, HR’s role started to shift. Rather than the protector of employees, the department became more like the defender of the company, tasked with enforcing compliance to keep the organization out of legal trouble.

Today, HR leaders find themselves struggling to straddle the gap between their two historical roles of employee guide and company compliance officer. This tricky balancing act can lead to both sets of HR’s customers — the company and its employees — feeling dissatisfied with the department.

But some HR pros are better at the task than others. Why is that? In large part, it has to do with the varying strengths and weaknesses of HR leaders. Below, we’ll examine some of the common traits great HR leaders have, with the hope of crafting a basic outline of what makes for the most effective HR pros:

Common Strengths of Successful HR Leaders

1. They Prioritize Learning and Development

Those who work in HR generally end up in the field because of a genuine interest in helping others succeed, and that is reflected in the responsibilities they take on.

Great HR leaders value learning, for both themselves and their employees. They join professional associations, attend conferences, take classes, and read books — and they encourage employees to do the same. Mentoring, coaching, and training initiatives more often than not begin on the desks of HR reps. Additionally, HR leaders are often the first people to establish contact with new employees, and they play an important part in ensuring those hires successfully integrate into their roles.

2. They Advocate for Employees

The HR department was built to bridge the gap between the employer and the employee. While the field has changed over the years, great HR leaders know this function still accounts for a large share of their job responsibilities. A great HR leader understands that advocating for employees — whether in the form of more autonomy, better compensation, or a safer working environment — is an investment in both the employees and the company.

When a worker has an issue with coworkers, leadership, or employment terms, HR can offer guidance and advice. Executives benefit from HR’s advocacy role, too: When a major business decision is made, it is HR who will communicate the change and navigate any backlash.

3. They Understand Compliance

Employment law is dense with rules and nuances, and the HR team is the knowledgeable resource executives can lean on to ensure the organization is complying with relevant regulations on the local and national levels. Workplace legislation is constantly changing and varies widely by location, one recent example being the new anti-harassment training laws going into effect in New York City and other locales. Great HR leaders stay on top of these changes to keep their companies out of hot water.

Common HR Weaknesses

1. They Ignore the Financial Aspect

A survey of more than 400 senior-level HR and finance executives found that collaboration between the departments is nowhere near where it should be. For example, when it came to compliance with the Affordable Care Act — a serious concern for both departments — 33 percent of financial leaders predicted HR would go over budget.

The survey results point to a common negative perception of the HR department’s work that goes back to the old idea of HR as a cost center rather than a revenue generator. While this is technically accurate on many levels, it also ignores one crucial fact: Talent is truly the key differentiator for most organizations across industries today.

That said, HR leaders would do well to better understand how their work impacts the company’s bottom line. Yes, you have to spend money to hire, retain, and engage productive employees, but the efficient use of funds is key to the health of the business.

As Stark HR’s Cristine Sauter puts it, “While finance views HR as an unnecessary cost, HR thinks finance is out to squeeze every penny they can find. Bottom line is both departments function as gears powering a larger machine. Individually, each department provides services to the company, many of which overlap. When HR and finance function cooperatively the company moves into a new era of efficiency, production, customer satisfaction, and most importantly, profit.”

2. They Lack a Strategic Foundation

HR is absolutely a strategic function — but its duties are rarely couched in strategic terms. For example, discussions around how to hire better talent or manage top performers are often disconnected from the overall business strategy, despite the fact that talent is a major driver of successful execution.

Whether you agree or disagree that the HR function lacks business acumen, the fact is HR can benefit from more collaboration with the organization’s operations teams. Implementation of a data-driven approach to HR is an important step in making the connection: Data informs better strategy within HR and also speaks a common language throughout departments, especially operations.

As HR and people management become even more central to a company’s success, the members of these teams need to look at their various responsibilities through a strategic lens. While the talent acquisition portion of the HR function has by and large started to do this, HR leaders should be looking to expand that lens beyond hiring. HR leaders are very often in charge of change management. Whether it’s educating employees on new company goals, rolling out a new health plan, or adding a new policy to the employee handbook, change can only be effective if it is made strategically.

3. They Are Less Customer-Focused

HR professionals have two audiences to please: the employer and the employees. At times, trying to make them both happy is very difficult. The task only becomes more burdensome when HR is accused of not caring enough about customers (for those counting, that’s a third audience).

It’s no wonder that HR sometimes comes across as being very internally focused. HR’s KPIs often revolve around metrics like time to hire, retention, and productivity. These KPIs may drive results that look great on reports but make little if any impression on external audiences (e.g., customers). HR leaders may be focused on employee productivity, but they aren’t necessarily considering the needs of the customers who are directly affected by internal adjustments to talent management.

However, this is changing. As more and more HR departments prioritize employer branding and come to understand candidates as a kind of customer, more HR pros are learning to connect their internal activities to the external environment.

Great HR leaders are not born, they are made from years of practice, training, and dedication. Despite the department’s less than stellar reputation, without the strengths HR brings to the table, organizations would suffer.

Which is not to say the department is perfect: It has many shortcomings it could stand to address. By investing further in HR’s strengths and taking steps to improve upon its weaknesses, HR pros and the organizations they serve can better position themselves for long-term success.

A version of this article originally appeared on the ClearCompany blog.

Sara Pollock is head of the marketing department at ClearCompany.

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Fall Into Routine: 5 Ways to Have a More Productive Autumn


There’s no better time than the fall, the season of heading back to school and new fiscal-year possibility, to create new routines or recalibrate old ones.

As a successful entrepreneur, I use routine to set myself up for productivity. Routine is the key to maintaining focus on your goals and preventing yourself from falling prey to impulse and circumstance. Here’s what has worked for me:

1. Create an Exercise Routine

Regular physical activity is a nearly universal habit of successful people. It’s no wonder why, as exercise offers a host of benefits, from improving your mood and helping you sleep better to fighting stress and promoting a long, healthy life.

For years, I’d been in the habit of exercising first thing in the morning, but surgery to repair an old injury knocked me out of that habit. Now I’m working on my new exercise routine, which starts the night before. I set out my workout clothes by my bed and leave my bag by the garage door. When my alarm goes off, I don’t have to do any thinking at all — I just pull on what’s already laid out, grab my bag, and head to the car.

2. Create an Email Routine

When I return from my workout, I pour myself a coffee and go through the emails I received over the course of the previous night — but I don’t answer any of them. Not yet.

Instead, I head to the shower, where I do my best thinking. I let the emails burble around in my head as I devise responses and hatch plans. Sometimes the epiphanies I get in the shower are so good that I have to write them down — and to make that easy, I’ve installed a whiteboard and markers on the wall of my shower. (It works! Try it!) After my shower, once I’m dressed, it’s back to the laptop to tap out the replies.

Your system doesn’t have to involve a shower, but you do need some sort of routine to stay on top of all those new inbox arrivals.

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3. Create a Routine for Important Meetings

The worst feeling in business is standing up to pitch a client and realizing you haven’t adequately prepared. That’s why I’m a maniac for planning ahead.

The night before an important pitch session, I’ll think through everything. What am I going to say? How will I begin? What if the client has this or that question? I’ll even set out what I’m going to wear. I’ll print off the documents I need to review, place them in my briefcase, and set my briefcase by the garage door. The next morning, I’ll ensure I’m at the client’s office building a full hour before things start. By arriving early, I build in time to glance over my notes so that I’m ready to go by the time we’re in the conference room shaking hands.

4. Create a Productivity Routine

The biggest mistake you can make when you first sit down at your desk is trying to conquer the world. That only sets you up to accomplish absolutely nothing.

Instead, ask yourself: What are the three impactful tasks I can accomplish right now? They should be easy tasks that build up to a bigger win. Every day when I sit down at my desk, the first thing I do is get out my yellow sticky pad and write down three things I can accomplish within the hour. Once I’ve done those three things, the feeling of accomplishment powers me through the bigger tasks of the day.

5. Create a Routine to Evaluate Your Routines

No one is perfect, so allow yourself to make mistakes without giving up on routines. Instead, set up a time on a weekly basis — like Sunday after dinner — to examine how you’re doing. That Thursday when your 5:30 a.m. alarm rang out and you turned it off, rolled over, and slept until 7 — what exactly happened there? Did that routine failure have anything to do with the previous night’s late business meeting? Next time, let’s cut things off by 10 p.m.

In other words: Your routines need a feedback loop. Examine the instances you didn’t adhere to them, and then improve.

Many people dismiss routines as boring, the products of uncreative minds. That’s destructive thinking. The best routines are all about delivering simplicity to yourself to liberate you from temptation, impulse, and directionless inefficiency so you can focus on productivity.

Michael Contento is the CEO of My Blue Umbrella. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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TIME’S UP for the Pay Gap: Why We Won’t Wait Another 200 Years to Achieve True Pay Equity


TIME’S UP, an advocacy organization “working to create solutions that cross culture, companies, and laws to increase women’s safety, equity, and power at work” hosted a closed-door session last month in New York City to brainstorm ways to push for more equitable public policy and coach businesses on addressing pay equity.

This convention brought together a diverse set of leaders from across the pay equity space, including Natasha Lamb from Arjuna Capital, an activist investor whose fund presses companies to be transparent about pay issues. Because my business, Syndio, licenses software to analyze and resolve pay disparities, TIME’S UP invited us to participate as well. We were able to share best practices from Syndio customers who are leading the charge in pay equity today, including Adobe, Match Group, Nordstrom, and many others.

Pay equity advocates currently face a dark picture of the future, with the World Economic Forum predicting the global pay gap will stick around for the next 200 years. Yes, you read that right: 200 years. Those in attendance at TIME’S UP’s event were focused on proving that prediction false by providing a roadmap for action in both the private and public arenas.

Identifying the Root of the Problem

The event began with real-world stories from very powerful women across industries who have endured everything from sexual harassment to pay discrimination and responded with hard-hitting action and a fight for change. It was a great reminder that, as women, we must continue to support one another in standing up and owning our voices. Stories like these must be told to inspire lasting change.

TIME’S UP also led sessions where participants could share and discuss concrete steps for achieving gender pay equality. One of the main topics of conversation centered on the communication of pay policies and practices within companies.

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Because accountability requires transparency, it is critical that employees push their employers toward more fair and transparent pay processes. In doing so, more companies will become accountable to ongoing pay analyses, ensuring gender parity. We know that this push toward transparency is reflective of the movement, as PayScale recently released a report showing that a fair and transparent pay process has five times the impact on employee satisfaction as actual pay itself.

For HR professionals, this is extremely powerful research. An employee who knows that she is paid fairly relative to coworkers will be more engaged than one who is told how she fares against the external market. This makes sense: If a tech worker is told that she is paid better than all of her external competitors but learns that similarly situated male coworkers earn more, how would she feel? Pay transparency could move companies toward pay equity and ensure that top talent remains for the long haul. Wouldn’t that be a win-win?

Other topics of discussion touched on cultural factors that contribute to the pay gap, including occupational segregation and gender bias. There were suggestions on how to change the narrative for young women to provide them with a broader range of opportunities across many different career choices. A recent study found that Google searches of various career choices served up stereotypical images, such as female nurses and male CEOs. Given this reality, how do we talk to our daughters about career options, vocations, and the balance of work and family? These topics hit especially close to home for me, as a mom to four daughters (and two boys).

Lastly, participants discussed public policy and possible solutions at the local, state, and federal levels to address pay equity. Most of the discussion focused on better paid family leave, childcare options, and other support for families.

The 3 Key Takeaways

Given everything we learned from the discussions outlined above, here are our key takeaways that both employees and employers all over the world can use to advance their efforts to solve the pay gap once and for all:

  1. Acknowledge that each woman’s journey is both unique and meaningful. It’s important that we keep providing opportunities for women to tell their stories. This is how we connect with one another, learn from one another, and keep the movement both human and real.
  2. Understand the difference between pay equity and the pay gap — and why companies need to address both. Solutions to address both pay equity and the pay gap are important. Pay equity measures equal pay for equal work to ensure that women and minorities are not paid less for the same jobs due to gender or race. The pay gap is the difference in the average salary for men and women, which speaks more to the distribution of gender across an organization. To close the pay gap, companies need to focus on providing fair opportunities for movement, promotion, and hiring that are not influenced by personal attributes like gender or race.
  3. Be more cognizant of how we talk about women’s roles in society today. As we raise our children, we must be more aware of the cultural messages society is sending. If we don’t like what we hear, we need to collectively change the dialogue.

All in all, the TIME’S UP event had one important objective: to discuss solutions to tackle a problem that is 100 percent solvable. Now, we must take the responsibility seriously and eradicate pay disparities long before 200 years elapse. We have the innovations and tools at our fingertips to make it a reality.

Maria Colacurcio is the CEO of Syndio and cofounder of Smartsheet.

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5 Things You Can Start Doing Today to Combat Employee Burnout


Characterized by “emotional exhaustion, cynicism, … ineffectiveness in the workplace, and chronic negative responses to stressful workplace conditions,” employee burnout is quickly becoming a pervasive phenomenon companies are struggling to address.

Burnout triggers a downward spiral for both the employee and the organization, and workplace stress causes additional healthcare expenditures of anywhere from $125 to $190 billion a year in the US alone.

While stress can be caused and exacerbated by numerous factors, there are some universal strategies companies can use to alleviate stress before it turns into full-blown burnout:

1. Improve Communication Between Managers and Employees

The manager-employee relationship is one of the most valued assets in any organization, and it is crucial to identifying and intervening in employee stress.

Generally, managers are the ones assigning employees to projects, so they have the most knowledge of employees’ workloads. Thus, managers have clear insight into what employees are dealing with on a daily basis. It is important for managers to establish open-door policies to encourage authentic and honest dialogue with employees. When managers promote such conversations, employees will be more willing to bring stress-related issues to their manager’s attention. The manager is then in a position to offer assistance before burnout sets in.

Employees may not necessarily take advantage of an open-door policy on their own initiative, so it is a good idea to schedule weekly or monthly check-ins with employees. This gives managers the chance to gauge how all of their subordinates are feeling, and these regular meetings can foster a stronger sense of camaraderie between managers and team members.

2. Promote a Healthy Work/Life Balance

Perhaps the most common symptom of employee burnout is the feeling of overwork and exhaustion, and even the commute to and from work can be a contributing factor here. For some, a commute can effectively add several additional hours to the standard workday, thereby giving the employee less time to unplug and recharge every day.

Thankfully, we live in an era of mobile technology, and employees can now access their work from virtually anywhere. Take advantage of this fact by offering your employees the ability to work from home. Even a few remote days a month can help increase productivity and reduce stress.

As added incentive, remote work opportunities are something your employees likely want: According to one survey, 43 percent of US office workers think “the ideal working situation” is a mix of in-office and remote work.

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3. Mark the End of the Workday

While advances in technology have helped us improve efficiency and productivity, they have also come with a downside: Now that employees can work from anywhere, they often feel obliged to keep working once the day is done.

The more after-hours work an employee puts in, the more quickly they speed toward burnout. Therefore, companies should encourage their employees to officially unplug once the workday is done. Set formal guidelines to ensure employees get some much-deserved rest and relaxation while at home.

4. Encourage Collaboration

Sometimes, employees don’t realize they’re dealing with burnout. Instead, they believe they are simply struggling to keep up with their team members and falling short of expectations. As a result, the employee may feel alone in their struggle and may not reach out for support.

Encouraging employees to work together on projects is one way to combat this aspect of burnout. When employees collaborate, the workload is more evenly distributed. Moreover, if team members notice a colleague is struggling, they can more readily empathize and offer advice because they are dealing with the exact same situation.

5. Celebrate Successes

An additional contributing factor to burnout is the feeling that one’s efforts are not appreciated by the company. Employees spend the majority of their waking hours at work, sacrificing time with family and friends. With employees giving so much to the organization, they want to feel recognized for the work they are doing.

This doesn’t mean you have to give all employees raises or promotions. A company-wide congratulatory email or the sharing of individual accomplishments on social media can effectively show recognition without breaking your budget.

It is important to celebrate the little things, and while most of the accomplishments in the workplace are group successes, you should also highlight individuals to foster a greater sense of value. For example, if an employee’s work anniversary is coming up, have the executive team sign a card to show the staff member they care.

Employee burnout is difficult to eliminate from the office entirely, but there are strategies to reduce the risk of your employees catching it. By taking a few simple steps today, you can put your company in a position to win the fight against employee burnout — or at least make the matter much more manageable.

Matt Thomas is president of WorkSmart Systems.

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5 Questions to Ask Before Outsourcing Your Executive Search


There is a lot riding on any search for a new executive. Whichever candidate you choose will have a substantial effect on your culture, engagement, and business goals. This particular hiring decision can lead to immense consequences — positive or negative.

For that reason, many organizations choose to hire outsourced executive search firms for assistance. However, simply hiring an executive search firm doesn’t guarantee a great outcome — you have to make sure you hire the right executive search firm for the right situation. Here are some questions every organization should ask before making any decisions about outsourced executive search:

1. What Are My In-House Executive Recruiting Resources and Options?

Almost every firm has some sort of internal recruiting function, but does yours have the bandwidth for an executive-level search?

When considering an outsourced executive search firm, weigh opportunity cost against the actual financial cost of the decision. An in-house search might feel like the most comfortable option, especially if your internal team manages all of your other recruiting efforts. By keeping the executive search in house, you maintain complete control of the process from start to finish. You don’t have to worry about small details (or red flags) that matter to you getting lost in the shuffle.

So, at what point should you consider outsourcing?

An executive search can be a months-long, strenuous process requiring plenty of special expertise. Do you know the specific traits a candidate will need to thrive in this role? Do you have a network of executives through which to source prospects? How many C-suite hires have you made in your career? Confidence, experience, and time are paramount in filling an executive-level role with the right candidate. If your day-to-day duties will compete with the search for your attention, or if you feel your expertise or network is lacking, it may be time to look to an outside expert.

If you feel particularly strongly about keeping the executive search in house, another option is to hire a full-time recruiter with experience making C-suite hires. Fully immersed in your company’s culture, your new in-house recruiter will have a better understanding of what your organization needs from a new executive. Of course, adding a brand new full-time employee to the payroll comes with its own costs and challenges, so consider the option carefully before making any final calls.

2. What Sets Executive Search Apart From ‘Regular’ Recruiting?

It typically takes more than a month to make a “regular” hire, but finding a new executive can take much longer — and it probably should. Rushing to fill a position for the sake of speed can be a costly mistake, especially in executive search. The resources you invest in an executive will far outweigh the cost of recruiting them to the firm, and their impact on overall organizational success will also be outsized.

Another issue is that executives are rarely looking for new jobs.  Successful executives are highly valued top performers with their current companies, so getting them to consider a new offer can be incredibly difficult.

For these reasons, executive search is a whole different ball game from typical recruiting. Executive search firms establish their own proven processes for sourcing, attracting, and landing executive talent, and they often maintain their own networks of qualified executives from which they can draw. Executive search firms are uniquely qualified to locate and approach C-suite candidates, and they often have far more resources at their disposal than an internal hiring manager or standard recruiting firm would have.

3. What About Confidentiality?

If you want to keep your executive search confidential, that’s a sign you should hire an executive search firm — and confidentiality is often key to a successful executive search.

Generally, the executive you need will be someone who is already performing well in their current role. Most likely, they will be content with their situation. As a high-profile employee, an executive’s every move is often subject to scrutiny. Discretion is essential when connecting with these individuals so as to avoid disrupting their current work environment. Many upper-level executives will only work with recruiters they know they can trust — like those at established outsourced executive search firms.

On the other hand, you may want to keep information about your company’s open leadership roles confidential until a candidate has been vetted to a certain degree. Especially for large public companies, a change in executive leadership can have wide-ranging repercussions, from lowered stock prices to negative media attention and beyond.

Maintaining internal confidentiality can be difficult if you’re conducting your search in house. If you handle the search through a third party, specific details can be left out of the equation until the vetting process has progressed. You can trust the search will be private and remain out of the public eye — and out of the corporate gossip chain.

4. What Is My Budget?

Hiring an external firm to take over the search or augment your internal recruiting team will come with a price. Before hiring a firm, assess your budget and evaluate the fee structures of various firms. Typically, the price of the search is based on the salary of the position. The higher the salary, the more expensive the search.

That said, new technologies that give more people access to wider talent pools are changing the face of executive recruiting. The traditional model of paying a search firm an exorbitant fee is no longer the only option. Keep this in mind when comparing fee structures.

5. What Are the Different Types of Executive Search Firms?

No two executive search firms are the same, but there are two major categories: retained and contingent.


In a retained search, the fee is not contingent on the finding of a candidate. Instead, the client signs a contract for a specific amount of time and pays an upfront fee, typically on a monthly basis until the end of the contract period. The recruitment process itself typically follows the standard pattern: The recruiter sources qualified candidates, vets them within the search firm, and then presents the top contenders to the client.

Because the client has signed a retained contract, the recruiters are not incentivized to find candidates in a particular time frame. The client will continue paying the retainer fee, regardless of results, until the contract is up.


As the name implies, in a contingent search model, the search firm is paid once it has delivered a qualified candidate who is hired for the role. The contingent search firm will typically source a large candidate pool from its network as quickly as possible because the focus is on the hire itself rather than the process. For this reason, you may want to take extra steps to verify that the recruiter is thoroughly vetting candidates and not sacrificing screening for the sake of speed. Contingent firms tend to be very transactional, moving from one position to the next to earn a commission.

Each executive search — and each executive search firm — is unique. Rather than rushing into a partnership, take time to carefully analyze your situation before making any decisions. This will ensure you make the right choice for your organization’s future.

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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How to Build a Bigger Retirement Nest Egg With Your Side Hustle


Financial experts recommend you save $1-1.5 million to retire comfortably. If that number sounds impossible, you may be part of a national trend. According to the US Government Accountability Office, 48 percent of households headed by someone aged 55+ have no retirement savings at all.

If your retirement fund isn’t as large as it should be, launching a side hustle can be a smart way to boost your income and rectify the situation. Here’s what you need to know and do to get ahead:

Track Your Earnings

Side hustles are great because they’re so flexible. Whether you drive with a rideshare company or become a freelance writer, you can work when it’s convenient for your schedule. You can also scale your work up and down to meet your needs. Over time, you could work up to earning thousands of dollars each month.

Because side hustle income can be so variable, diligently tracking your earnings is important. It’s a good idea to open a separate bank account and business credit card solely for your side gig income and expenses so you know exactly how much extra money you have coming in each month.

Consider using a program like QuickBooks, Wave, or FreshBooks to manage your income and expenses. Having a clear picture of your income will help you budget accordingly so you can invest more of your earnings into your retirement fund.

Set Up the Right Accounts

If you have an employer-sponsored 401(k), make sure you contribute enough to get the full employer match. That’s free money you’d otherwise leave on the table.

If you’re operating a side gig with the intention of using your earnings to boost your retirement savings, consider opening a new retirement account in addition to your 401(k). By doing so, you’ll be able to contribute money beyond the maximum allowed by a 401(k). Some options for your side hustle earnings include:

  1. Traditional IRA: With a traditional IRA, your earnings grow tax-deferred, meaning you only pay taxes on investment gains once you start making withdrawals when you reach retirement. If you’re not covered by a retirement plan at work, you can deduct your total IRA contribution on your tax return. You can contribute up to $6,000 per year ($7,000 if you’re aged 50 or older) into a traditional IRA.
  2. Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA: Any self-employed individual, including someone with side hustle or freelance income, can open up a SEP-IRA. You can contribute up to 25 percent of your compensation or $56,000 for 2019. Contributions made to a SEP-IRA are tax-deductible and tax-deferred.
  3. Roth IRA: With a Roth IRA, you make contributions with after-tax dollars. As a tradeoff, your contributions grow tax-free, and you can withdraw money from your account without having to pay federal taxes on it as long as you’re 59.5 or older. As of 2019, you can contribute up to $6,000 per year ($7,000 if you’re 50 or older), so long as you fall within the IRS’s income guidelines.
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Getting set up with these accounts can be easy. You can even open an IRA with an online brokerage firm or robo-advisor like Betterment, Wealthfront, or Wealthsimple.

Remember to Pay Taxes

If you’re earning income from your side hustle — even if only small amounts or you’re only paid in cash — you have to pay taxes on it. If you make $600 or more from a single source, the company that paid you must send a 1099-MISC form detailing how much you earned. However, you owe taxes on any money earned even if it totals less than $600.

You’ll also have to pay estimated taxes each quarter or be subject to costly penalties. If that sounds like a hassle, you can adjust your withholdings on your W-4 at your full-time job to take out more of your income for taxes. By doing so, you can avoid having to pay estimated taxes.

To prevent any surprises, it’s a good practice to set aside 30 percent of your side-hustle earnings in a separate bank account for taxes. That way, you won’t have to raid your savings account when tax season comes around.

Automate Your Savings

Once you’ve opened a retirement account and set aside money for taxes, make sure you deposit regular contributions into your retirement account. You can manually put your earnings into your retirement account whenever you get paid, but it’s both smarter and easier to set up automatic deposits. By automating the process, you ensure money is consistently contributed to your retirement fund no matter what.

If you’re behind on retirement savings, starting a side hustle and investing your earnings in a retirement account can be a smart way to catch up. Whether you decide to deliver groceries or walk dogs, you can boost your income and build a solid nest egg.

Kat Tretina is a freelance personal finance writer based in Orlando.

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To Get More out of Your Employees, You Have to Give Them More


Productivity is a topic that comes up a lot when I speak with CEOs and business leaders about their companies. Whether they operate in B2B, B2C, or even the social sector, nearly every leader I know spends a significant amount of time worrying about how to help their employees get more done.

Higher productivity is such a common pain point because it’s so hard to achieve: How can you improve your team’s performance without adding expenses and stress or breaking the team altogether?

Working Longer Hours Is Not a Long-Term Solution

Over the years, I have seen a number of approaches that can help drive productivity, but this is one that definitely doesn’t.

While it can be tempting to expect employees to add a few more hours here and there, there is no linear relationship between longer hours and productivity gains. In fact, employees who work longer hours are more likely to burn out and make mistakes that can hurt your company. So, while it may sometimes be necessary to ask employees to spend more time at the office to get major projects across the finishing line, this measure should be used as infrequently as possible.

Give and Take: The Real Secret to Higher Productivity

When it comes to getting more out of people, the secret isn’t to demand more. It’s to give something back. Here are three ways to actually improve productivity by doing just that:

1. Help Employees Work Effectively From Anywhere

Today, most companies are staffed by a complex mix of people working from various locations. In any given day, you and your employees might be dealing with colleagues who work in different time zones, as part of an offshore team, or 100 percent remotely. While that mix can help you to get the talent you need, managing people you may never physically meet (not to mention tracking their productivity) can be a significant challenge.

No matter where your employees happen to be, it’s imperative they all feel connected, supported, and able to communicate easily with colleagues. We’re fortunate to have many modern communications tools like Slack and cloud-based project management software like that provided by Atlassian to put everyone on the same page in real time regardless of location. Throw in video conferencing, and it’s easier than ever for people to have regular face-to-face contact with their colleagues, stay connected, and keep projects flowing.

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2. Encourage Employees to Use Vacation Time

Just as cutting out a commute can help your employees reduce their daily stress levels, there are significant benefits to be gained when employees actually use their vacation days.

According to one study, less than half of all US employees use all of their vacation time in a given year. That should cause concern for both employees and managers. When employees fail to take advantage of their vacation days, they not only leave part of their compensation on the table, but they also damage their happiness and productivity at work. As research indicates, employees who believe their company encourages vacation are much happier with their jobs. As we know by now, happier employees are more productive.

3. Have Better Meetings

A well-known fact of corporate life is that the more critical an employee is to your organization’s success, the more meetings they will have to attend. In our recent “State of Meetings” report, my team at Doodle found that the average meeting lasts around an hour, and almost a quarter of US respondents and 30 percent of UK respondents report they attend more than five such meetings every week.

With top employees attending almost a full workday’s worth of meetings every week, it’s imperative your organization has strong rules around when and how meetings are arranged in order to minimize wasted time. In that same report, the busiest professionals were also the most likely to note that improper attendance (either key individuals missing or too many people attending) was a major problem in meetings. Worse still is that poorly organized meetings don’t just waste time — they also waste money: In 2018 in the US alone, unnecessary or poorly organized meetings cost companies $399 billion, according to our report.

To reduce wasted time in meetings, ensure:

  1. all meetings have a clear purpose and agenda;
  2. the appropriate people are included;
  3. the meeting is actually necessary for achieving current business goals;
  4. and the desired outcomes can’t be achieved in a less time-consuming way, such as a one-to-one chat or via email.

Finally, in a world where most people arrange their own meetings, it’s important to consider how much time it can take for employees to simply schedule a meeting that works for multiple attendees. Adopting tools that can help your employees organize meetings more effectively can significantly cut down on wasted time in this regard, allowing people to spend more time doing things that will add real value to your business.

Reducing Friction

As with so many challenges, the key to increasing productivity is to reduce friction so your top workers can get on with doing what they do best. You can take a variety of approaches to reducing this friction: providing technology and tools to help people be more efficient, rethinking organizational processes that lead to wasted time, and removing cultural roadblocks that lead to low uptake of initiatives such as vacation time use and remote work opportunities.

Improving productivity while maintaining a healthy organization might not be easy, but it is the only sustainable path for business success. As recruiting and retaining top talent becomes increasingly competitive, your company can stay ahead of the game not by treating your employees like a problem to be managed, but by giving them what they need.

Gabriele Ottino is the chief executive officer at Doodle.

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The Power of Formal Policy: Employees Want Autonomy — and Autonomy Requires Structure


Talent is a company’s most valuable resource, and losing high-performing employees can really take a toll on a company’s bottom line. But the time, money, and manpower organizations put into making sure their employees are engaged enough to stay can be just as costly.

Employee engagement is a complex issue. Many different factors can lead workers to disengage, and what works to keep one person engaged may not necessarily inspire another. Organizational leaders can spin in circles trying to please everyone and never really touch on the deep-rooted issues at play.

The truth is that the most effective approach to shoring up employee engagement starts with getting back to basics. The key question every organization must ask is: “What can we do to promote the best employee experiences and enable workers to be successful?”

Here are a few solutions to this pressing challenge:

1. Focus on Standardization

One popular approach to attracting and retaining employees is to create a “fun” workplace. While it’s true that casual dress codes, ping-pong tables, free food, concierge services, and similar perks will engage some employees, what most people really want is the autonomy to do their job and do it well.

What does that look like in practice? Paradoxically enough, you can only grant employees the freedom they want if you have solid structures in place to govern those freedoms. As it turns out, most people like a little structure. They want to know what is expected of them. Autonomy without order means chaos, and people will quickly become overwhelmed without any structures to guide them.

Organizations, then, should have standardized policies wherever possible. For example, think about workplace flexibility. Does your organization have a formal telecommuting policy? Do you offer a compressed workweek, and if so, do employees know exactly what such a workweek should look like? Employees want flexibility, but they won’t be able to make effective use of it unless your policies around flexibility are clearly defined and communicated.

Buy-in is key. Employees who have a clear understanding of why following standardized practices benefits the entire organization can also act as stewards who uphold these formal policies, thereby maintaining the structures that allow for the autonomy workers desire.

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2. Apply Company Policy Consistently

Clearly setting expectations around standard company policies is just the beginning. Once policies and procedures have been defined, leaders must ensure they are consistently applied and followed. That means leaders, too, must adhere to standard practices.

Employees expect their leaders to follow through on commitments. If leaders do not set an example by consistently following policy themselves, employees will not feel motivated to adhere to formal policies either.

3. Be Transparent and Promote Accountability

Along with clear expectations and consistent application of policies, transparency is fundamental to a thriving, engaging workplace.

Employees don’t just want autonomy to do their jobs — they also want to see how their jobs contribute to the organization’s success. Sharing information about the organization’s achievements, opportunities, and even areas for improvement helps tie employees to the greater good. When employees understand how their work impacts the company, they feel more motivated to strive for greatness.

A monthly meeting in which company leaders share updates on organizational milestones and progress is a great way to promote transparency. Beyond companywide developments, these meetings should also share updates on department-specific activities. That way, employees across the organization can see what their colleagues are working on, which promotes further transparency.

That said, transparency won’t do much without accountability. Keeping employees and leaders alike accountable fosters a culture of responsibility, which in turn motivates employee performance further. Employees want to feel like their work really matters, and being held accountable shows them exactly that. Moreover, employees also appreciate when their managers hold accountable those team members who may be falling short of the standards expected. A cohesive, thriving team is one in which everyone does their part.

As employers work to retain more talent, their focus should be on creating positive workplace cultures that boost morale, keep everyone moving in the same direction toward shared goals, and give top performers a reason to stay.

Instead of attempting to keep all employees happy at all times, organizations must acknowledge this is an impossible feat. The best thing a company can do for its employees is to set them up for success by giving them clear expectations, consistently applying company policies, and promoting a culture of transparency and accountability from leadership.

The novelty of a “fun” workplace wears off rather quickly. What keeps employees satisfied for the long haul is the positive energy of an environment of mutual trust and respect.

Jackie Larson is the president of Avantas.

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Take a Balanced Approach: 3 Tips for Developing Your Organization’s Talent


There is a lot of pride to be had in recruiting a top worker for your company. A new hire — especially one with a great background — can be a badge of honor for an HR professional. If this person lives up to their promise? Even better.

But even if everything seems to go amazingly well, a new employee may still decide to leave relatively quickly. We all know this. Sometimes your organization isn’t a good fit, or a better offer may come along. Maybe boredom sets in, the employee grows disengaged, and you don’t even realize it before it’s too late.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take before any of this happens. Yes, opening up the company coffers (with or without a promotion) can help, but that’s often just a band-aid. The long-term solution is developing your employee and investing in their talents. The more an employee grows, the more they will be engaged — and the more your company will be enriched as well.

That said, no two people develop in exactly the same way. Your employees are unique, and nothing will make them feel worse than a one-size-fits-all approach to learning and development. Let’s take a look at a few ways to help both your workers and your company grow and prosper for years to come:

1. Know Your Employees

During the hiring process, you should be carefully evaluating candidates to understand their unique situations. What are their working styles? What are their interests? What are their aspirations? The answers to these and similar questions are invaluable to building the strong employee-employer relationships necessary to keep retention high and workers engaged.

This information will also help you tailor a professional development plan to your employees’ particular wants and needs. For example, there’s a big difference between the right plan for an employee who wants to move into the managerial track and the right plan for an employee who wants to grow within the same role going forward. Knowing exactly what your employees are aiming for is the first step in putting together a program that helps them reach their goals.

2. Support a Variety of Learning Styles

After areas of interest are identified, the road to professional growth can be determined for each employee. That said, individuals learn in different ways, so a variety of training options should be available.

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

For many companies, eLearning is the easiest offering. Moreover, today’s workers are by and large comfortable with computer-based learning activities. That said, some workers do prefer the in-person, classroom-style approach — and not just older employees. Plus, instructor-led training has its own benefits: Burning questions can be answered, and employees can find strength in numbers when it becomes apparent that their coworkers are facing similar challenges as they are.

Of course, traditional learning is costlier in terms of  both time and money, and you can’t take an instructor-led course on the train ride home like you can with eLearning. You also won’t be able stop the course and return to it at your leisure.

The right answer for most organizations will be a mix of these two delivery methods. The bulk of professional development might occur online these days, but classroom-style instruction shouldn’t be discounted entirely. Even if convenience wins out, there are still leadership conferences, business forums, and industry events to send employees too. A balanced approach delivered through diverse channels can enrich the experience and satisfy the needs of all your employees.

3. Offer Experiential Learning

There are other professional development approaches to consider, especially at large companies with varied departments, positions, and job duties. Many workers in these organizations are highly interested in making later moves and trying new opportunities in new departments. If you want to keep retention high, it is in your best interest to support these desires.

One simple way to do so is by instituting a shadowing program in which one employee can follow another to get a feel for a day in their life. This territory doesn’t just belong to students, interns, and young workers starting out: Everyone should be able to take advantage of job shadowing. If the worker doing the shadowing enjoys their coworker’s role, they could gradually begin to move in that direction professionally, possibly with the aim of gaining that role over time.

And if the employee doesn’t like it? Their current position will begin to look a lot better than it did before this experience.

You can even go a step further and allow interested employees to try their hand at some of their coworker’s duties. Of course, this should be arranged during downtime so as not to impact either employee’s responsibilities, and the coworker being shadowed should fully understand that their role is not in jeopardy.

As corporate structures are loosened around the world (think: unlimited PTO policies, work-from-home options, and flexible dress codes), companies that appear accommodating and progressive will have an edge on retaining talent almost every time.

Employees always appreciate the opportunity to enrich themselves professionally, and they especially like when development opportunities are tailored to their specific career aims and learning styles. Getting to know your employees and fostering their growth is a win for everyone in your company.

Joan Burns is executive vice president of human resources, marketing, and communications and chief diversity officer at IDB Bank.

Master the art of closing deals and making placements. Take our Recruiter Certification Program today. We’re SHRM certified. Learn at your own pace during this 12-week program. Access over 20 courses. Great for those who want to break into recruiting, or recruiters who want to further their career.
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