No Non-Compete, No Problem? Always Proceed With Caution When Recruiting From Competitors


Recruiting quality candidates in any market is not easy — let alone in a market as tight as this, with its 3.6 percent unemployment rate. And hiring is made even harder by the seeming omnipresence of the dreaded non-compete agreement, a common contract or clause designed to prevent an employee from working for a firm that competes with their current employer.

By some estimates, as many as 20 percent of American workers are subject to non-compete agreements. No wonder many organizations today feel like: “We just keep getting blocked by those darn contracts!”

So, when you find great candidate who doesn’t have a non-compete with their current employer, your first thought is probably: “Excellent! Now we can charge ahead without worry!”

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I’m here to tell you that despite the absence of an explicit non-compete agreement, you and your company still face great challenges and risks as the recruiting dance gets underway. Indeed, the risks you face present at least as much of a legal and business challenge as the risks you face when a candidate has signed a non-compete. In fact, the risk may be even greater.

Contract-Based Risks vs. Pre-Departure Conduct Risks

The first piece of the hiring puzzle to understand is timing. Specifically, companies that hire from competitors need to appreciate the fundamental distinction between contract-based risks and pre-departure conduct risks.

The contract you were so glad not to see kicks in only after a candidate says, “I quit.” However, regardless of whether there are any post-employment restrictive covenants, what happens before a candidate’s moment of departure must be the hiring company’s first and primary concern.

Every state has a body of laws that govern what a person may or may not do before they resign from one company to join a competing one. What overrides all the legalese is one relatively straightforward-sounding proposition: While employed by Company A, an employee may not compete with that company or take steps to help their new employer, Company B.

While that sounds like common sense, it is in reality anything but simple. Why? Because competition actually comes in many forms. For example:

  1. The revenue generator who asks clients if they might continue with him if he moved to Company B is competing.
  2. The manager who bad mouths her company to direct reports in order to precondition them for a switch is competing.
  3. The top salesperson who hears about a new potential piece of business but pushes it out for a while so that he can bring it to his new company is competing. (Specifically, this version of competing is called “warehousing.”)
  4. The CEO who reveals during the interview process where she thinks her current company is heading is competing.

Because so many seemingly normal and natural exchanges that occur during the hiring process are laden with risk, it is imperative that everyone involved in the effort be informed and in sync. All the best intentions in the world will mean nothing if just one person in the hiring chain steps out of line. It is therefore critically important that everyone interacting with the candidate understand the great risk they create by inducing — or even being involved in — pre-departure competitive misconduct.

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General Is Better!

Luckily, staying inside the bounds of proper behavior isn’t terribly difficult. It just requires some caution and careful attention to your conduct. One particularly helpful technique is for both sides of the process to speak in as general terms as possible when discussing the candidate’s current company.

So, for example, when the manager being interviewed is asked to “tell us about the stars on your team,” the manager shouldn’t identify anyone by name. Instead, the manager should discuss in general terms how the team was assembled and the workload distributed according to individual strengths and weaknesses.

The interviewer can also make sure the conversation stays in bounds by steering the discussion as necessary. If the manager begins to volunteer the names of people who might follow him to the new company, the interviewer can respond immediately with, “We are here to talk about you.”

These principles of generality apply in full force to conversations about revenue sources in particular. Never identify or ask to have identified clients or referral sources by name. Instead, stick to the type of business being done and how concentrated (or not) the revenue is at the time of the interview.

For now, always remember: The absence of a contract does not mean the candidate and company are free of risk! Even without a non-compete agreement in place, a company may have plenty to worry about.

Steven L. Manchel, Esq., possesses the highest possible attorney rating and has extensive national experience in recruiting matters, broker-dealer litigation, securities litigation, and complex civil litigation. He is the author of I Hereby Resign.

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Toot Your Culture Horn — But Don’t Lay on It


When leaders ask me why and how a “cohesion culture” is important to talent acquisition and retention, I refer to the advice my Grandma Goldie once told me: “If you don’t honk your own horn, don’t expect someone else to do it for you. Just don’t lay on it.”

This sage advice is a perfect reminder that it is appropriate and acceptable to tell people about what we do and why it is special. However, the cautionary reminder at the end of Grandma Goldie’s advice gives crucial context: “Just don’t lay on it.”

Before you get to touting why candidates should want to join your company, let’s examine what it means when an organization creates a cohesion culture, which I define as a culture in which people feel a sense of belonging, have value, and commit to the organization’s goals because the organization has committed to them. As you might have inferred, this ideal work environment needs three key elements: belonging, value, and commitment.

When it comes to tooting your own horn, tell folks what is special about your organization and do it with zeal — but be sure it is authentic and genuine. Otherwise, you’ll just be making noise. The better approach is a subtle honk or two that cuts through the clamor in the recruitment space.

Although my expertise is in speaking and consulting on talent retention, I understand the need for talent acquisition teams to outline and communicate the cultural values, stories, traditions, and customs of an organization. Recruiters toot the horn of the organization, and if it’s a well-calculated honk, it can turn the head of a prospect and give great insight into what’s happening within the four walls of the organization.

Honking Gets Attention

Employees want a truthful glimpse inside the organization, not promotional hype full of catchphrases and exaggerated promises. Your candidates don’t want to guess what it will be like when they start working for you. Instead, they want the story — the real story.

Today’s workforce wants to know: Will I fit in? How will I be treated? Do I have an opportunity to contribute? What does advancement look like? These are more than just the inquiries of curious candidates. As I explain in my book, Cohesion Culture: Proven Principles to Retain Your Top Talent, the answers to these questions form the basis of an organization’s culture.

According to an Accountemps survey, 64 percent of employees are likely searching for a new role while working at your organization. That is why a cohesion culture is so important: It doesn’t just bring employees in, but it also makes them want to stay once they get there.

If you want to be an outstanding place to work, then focus on employees first. The natural byproduct of employee development is a commitment to one’s self and the organization. People seek to have meaningful relationships and want to be needed. They want to be valued and respected, and they truly want to achieve. Candidates are drawn to cultures that put their needs first, and employees are more likely to succeed in environments where their individual development is tired to desired organizational outcomes.

Organizations that fail to build cultures to retain employees never receive a “best place to work” designation. The work my team and I have done at the South Carolina Federal Credit Union to create an organization that has been repeatedly designated as a best place to work is proof of that claim; our employees live in a culture they love.

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

It’s Not Just Why You Honk, But How

To make sure that you are tooting your culture horn effectively, I offer these five practical tactical initiatives:

  1. Showcase what it’s like inside the four walls of your company by using social media. When you tell the story from the inside out, you receive two great benefits: employees enjoy telling others why they love where they work, and management keeps the juggernaut rolling because they got it right and everyone understands how to replicate the process.
  2. Utilize tenured employees as part of a personal endorsement program. Ask employees to provide an endorsement of what it’s like to work for your organization.
  3. Offer a “Come to Work Day” that invites candidates into your office for a personal inspection. Let the candidate select the day to demonstrate your commitment to transparency. This allows the candidate to see the work environment in true form. Note: This is not for every new hire. Use this option for hard-to-fill positions or to entice recruits for senior-level positions.
  4. In addition to placing ads on popular job sites, leverage online reviews through sites such as Glassdoor, Indeed, etc. Both current and past employees should be encouraged to submit reviews. Note: If you feel your culture is not yet cohesive, delay this tactic until you’re sure about what you will get. You cannot hide bad reviews, nor should you.
  5. Make sure your leadership team is completely on board with how you promote the culture. This group can make it or break it once a new employee starts to come down from the honeymoon phase, so their input matters.

All in all, these tactical initiatives require 100 percent support from the top down. Otherwise, you are just honking your horn to hear it toot. For continued success, make sure what you are touting is truthful and authentic; you have complete senior leadership support; and the culture is one that everyone can live, breathe, and own.

I believe every employee who is recruited deserves to have the opportunity to be retained. When leadership builds a workplace that encourages people to belong, makes employees feel valued, and focuses on the needs of the employee first, then they can align employee success with organizational goals. All of that combined is the foundation of a cohesion culture.

Dr. Troy Hall is the chief strategy officer for South Carolina Federal Credit Union and the author of Cohesion Culture: Proven Principles to Retain Your Top Talent.

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What Candidates Really Want: 3 Ways to Improve Your Talent Acquisition Strategy for 2020


In the face of historically low unemployment rates and changing workforce demographics, companies are clambering to update their talent acquisition tactics to entice candidates in a tight talent market. A survey from Kronos and the Human Capital Institute, released earlier this year, found that 53 percent of organizations “plan to make major changes to their talent acquisition strategy in the next two years.”

But exactly what kind of changes should talent acquisition teams be making as they head into 2020? Here are a few tips to help you recruit more — and better — talent next year:

1. Offer Flexible Work Arrangements

The prospect of making changes to your company’s standard work arrangements may be intimidating, but the failure to be flexible could definitely harm your retention efforts. In fact, 30 percent of respondents to a 2019 FlexJobs survey reported having left a job because it did not offer flexible work options.

Flexibility doesn’t just help companies retain talent — it can also boost the performance of those employees who stick around. In the same FlexJobs survey, 65 percent of respondents said they were more productive when working from home, and 80 percent said they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options.

Flexible work is easier than ever to implement thanks to technology, and employees can stay connected from anywhere at any time thanks to the constant accessibility of the internet. One common tactic for bringing more flexibility into the workplace is offering employees the option of flextime. Flextime is a work arrangement that allows employees to adjust their start and end times while still working a full eight hours each day. Some employers may worry that variable schedules will interrupt collaboration, but this can be avoided by establishing a certain core period of the day during which all employees have to be in the office.

Flextime can be implemented with relatively little effort on the company’s part, and it gives employees peace of mind when it comes to maintaining a healthy work/life balance. Given how important work/life balance is to today’s candidates, touting your company’s commitment to flexible work can be a powerful differentiator in the talent market.

2. Personalize Your Communication Tactics

As the talent market grows increasingly competitive, effective communication channels between candidates and companies become more important than ever. Organizations are vying for the same top candidates, so it’s vital that talent acquisition teams make good first impressions on a candidate as quickly as they can.

However, recruiters may struggle to maintain efficient, personalized communication using the standard methods of email and phone call. Not only does the talent market move faster today, but younger candidates entering the workforce have different communication preferences than previous generations. In particular, many young job seekers are fond of texting.

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This is good news for recruiters. According to Gartner, text messages have an open rate of 98 percent and a response rate of 45 percent, compared to email’s 20 percent open rate and 6 percent response rate. It’s no wonder more and more recruiters are adopting texting, especially in forward-thinking industries like tech, where 67 percent of leaders say they use texting to set up interviews with candidates.

Plus, younger generations — particularly Gen. Z-ers — tend to lose interest quickly. Texting allows candidates and recruiters to communicate with speed and convenience, reducing the chance of a talented job seeker growing disengaged.

3. Target Candidates With Smarter Recruitment Marketing

Recruitment marketing has become much more important to hiring in recent times. Rather than waiting for candidates to come to them, marketing-savvy recruiting teams specifically target the best talent and take steps to actively attract and engage these candidates.

Recruitment marketing focuses on the beginning stages of the recruitment process, building awareness of the company among candidates and actively encouraging top prospects to apply. Companies looking to improve their hiring results through smarter recruitment marketing need to start by building strong relationships between HR and marketing personnel. In today’s market, job seekers are learning about companies through online searches and interactions. They are looking at social media pages and reading reviews on sites like Glassdoor. These are often the domain of the company’s marketing team, so it’s crucial that HR work with marketers to create and maintain an online presence that speaks to the right kinds of candidates wherever they are.

Finding the best talent is especially difficult in today’s competitive market. In order to succeed in 2020′s hiring environment, talent acquisition teams will need to adjust to the latest trends. By offering flexible work, adopting effective communication channels, and implementing a targeted recruitment marketing strategy, recruiters can better reach their audiences of highly skilled candidates.

Matt Thomas is president of WorkSmart Systems.

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How to Spread Holiday Cheer Across a Distributed Team (Without Breaking the Bank) 


The popularity of remote work has skyrocketing in the United States. From 2005 to 2017, the number of remote workers increased by 159 percent according to FlexJobs. Modern professionals are looking for remote work for a multitude of reasons, but they all generally boil down to a desire for flexibility and work/life balance.

While remote work may make employees happier, employers should be aware that it is not without its challenges. In particular, remote workers are prone to feelings of isolation. According to Buffer, 21 percent of remote employees say the biggest hurdle they face is a sense of loneliness.

As the holiday season approaches, that loneliness may intensify as remote workers watch their in-office friends, family members, and colleagues partake in year-end festivities. It’s important that employers take steps to support their distributed teams and spread the holiday joy to all their employees, regardless of their distance from the office.

Of course, celebrations can come with a price tag, but the good news is you can keep your remote team members feeling connected without breaking your budget. Just follow these tips:

1. Use Your Business Credit Card Cash Back

If you use a business credit card that earns cash back, you could accrue hundreds and maybe even thousands of dollars over a year’s worth of spending. Leave this cash back alone until the holiday season, and you can use it toward your employee’s gifts and seasonal celebrations.

Of course, this strategy requires some planning ahead, and the holidays are already upon us, so you may have to implement it for next year instead.

2. Save Money With Apps and Shopping Portals

If you’re shopping for your distributed team, you will likely utilize online shopping to fulfill and deliver your gifts. While you’re already saving time by shopping online, there are ways you can save money, too.

Consider using cash-back apps and/or shopping portals. These allow you to earn cash back on the purchases you make for your employees through the app or portal. That cash back can defray the costs of your gifts, lessening the impact of your shopping spree on the company’s budget.

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3. Use Your Credit Card Rewards to Buy Gift Cards

While some may view gift cards as not very creative or thoughtful, most employees appreciate being able to purchase what they actually want or need. In a recent Blackhawk Network survey, 80 percent of employees said they considered gift cards from their employers a nice way to “treat themselves.”

Many business credit cards will allow you to redeem your rewards points for gift cards. You can purchase gift cards at large retailers, grocery stores, or online. If you do decide to purchase online, don’t forget the previous tip: Be sure to check for additional discounts through shopping portals or apps.

4. Use Your Credit Card Perks for Employee Gifts

Some of your remote employees may have chosen remote work for the flexibility of being able to travel whenever they want. If you have such avid adventurers on your team, take a look at your business credit cards for unused travel perks, like a statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, that can be gifted to them.

At first glance, this gift may not sound too heartfelt, but you can save an employee hours of time by expediting their security process at the airport. For someone who loves to travel, that’s a really valuable proposition.

5. Give Back for Your Employees

Some of your employees may enjoy the giving part of the holidays more than the receiving. If that is the case, you can give to a nonprofit in the name of your employee. The donation will be tax-deductible, and you can save even more money if you make the donation using a credit card that offers cash back or other rewards.

To get started, ask the employee to name the nonprofit of their choice, or give your team a list of vetted nonprofits to choose from. You can use a resource like Charity Navigator to find verified, reputable nonprofits.

Depending on the credit card you have, you may also be able to use your accumulated points or cash back as a donation. Search the rewards dashboard of your credit card for a section with a title like “donate rewards.” If you go this route, you can also save a little more money by avoiding transaction fees. If you were to make a traditional donation through a credit card, the credit card company would take anywhere from 2-3 percent of the donation in fees.

As remote work continues to grow in popularity, it is imperative to make sure those who are out of sight are not out of mind. By recognizing a job well done this year, you get your employees — both remote and in the office — excited for the year to come.

Brett Holzhauer is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University.

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The Agency Outsourcing Opportunity: Why Media Buying Outfits Need to Expand Their Talent Options


According to a 2017 Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article, “The End of Employees,” outsourcing has become a leading and long-term driver of productivity and growth for large corporations over the past two decades. In fact, the article says, some companies are seeing productivity improvements of up to 23 percent per employee thanks to strategic outsourcing.

The WSJ article notes that between 3 percent and 14 percent of the US workforce is estimated to work in outsourced roles. Moreover, “At large firms, 20 percent to 50 percent of the total workforce often is outsourced, according to staffing executives. Bank of America Corp., Verizon Communications Inc., Procter & Gamble Co., and FedEx Corp. have thousands of contractors each.” WSJ quotes SAP Fieldglass Head of Strategy and Customer Operations Arun Srinivasan as saying that “outside workers sometimes outnumber employees by at least two to one” in fields like oil, gas, and pharmaceuticals.

In my experience, large ad agencies have been uniquely resistant to the outsourcing trend, particularly in their cash-cow media buying divisions, even when their creative and public relations agencies have embraced outsourcing wholeheartedly. What gives?

Why Media Buying Agencies Are Bucking the Outsourcing Trend

Given that the industry is plagued by flat and declining revenues, margin compression, a longstanding talent gap, and a growing trust problem with clients, it seems surprising that more holding companies — including WPP, Omnicom, IPG, and Publicis Groupe — haven’t followed the lead of other industries to seize the cost, risk, and scale advantages of outsourcing.

Holding companies are premised on economies of scale, aggregating dozens — or in the case of WPP, more than 150 — individual agencies together to pool buying power, centralize operations, and jointly pitch large opportunities. But the pioneer of the holding company model, former WPP CEO and current S4 Capital Chairman Martin Sorrel, now describes the outlook for the conglomerates as “catastrophic” due to their inability to change and their excessive focus on traditional media.

Why are holding companies struggling? For one thing, with dozens of independently operated businesses acting together, coordinating change can be a nightmare. One holding company COO told me, “There are some of us who get it, and we are championing change. But there are so many individual entities and conflicting incentives that the politics are insane.”

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For a giant like WPP, the pace of growth can present its own challenges. When a company is reaching more than 50 acquisitions in a single year, the sheer volume of real estate under management can become a problem. In his inaugural earnings call, WPP CEO Mark Read listed consolidation of real estate holdings as a top candidate for increasing financial efficiency for the company.

However, competing priorities and operational complexity are not the only things that limit the holding company model. One media agency CEO told me, “If I don’t own a capability, I don’t feel like I can pitch it. It’s not differentiated enough.” Outside of the media buying discipline — even within a single holding company — this mindset is not as common. In fact, PR and creative agencies often already rely on broad talent networks.

“I was surprised at what I saw when I came over to media from creative,” said one industry C-suite executive. “I didn’t realize there was such a big gap in the use of outside talent.”

Publicis, which recently preannounced an earnings miss, is widely known for an internal offshore capability. In 2018, it also announced an AI-based platform, Marcel, to better manage internal resources, but the company has been relatively quiet about its impact to date.

With competitors elbowing in on the advertising market, the time is right for holding companies to look at new talent options. One recent entrant into the advertising market, consulting giant Accenture, is famous itself as an outsourcer and well known for its people and process management skills. Accenture is now competing directly with agencies for brand budgets. In parallel, a new crop of “in-housing” agencies like MightyHive and Oliver are helping brands fire their existing agencies and bring all or part of the media buying life cycle inside their four walls.

With pressure mounting on all sides, it’s never been a better time for agencies to take a fresh look at their talent models. Outsourcing presents an opportunity for agencies to increase focus on and dedication to their most important, high-skilled, billable resources; limit risk due to fluctuations in business; and lower overall execution costs.

The question is, will agencies finally take advantage of the opportunities presented by outsourcing?

Brian Dolan is CEO and founder of WorkReduce.

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Leave the Tuna Casserole at Home: Tackling the 5 Biggest Office Pet Peeves


From breakfast at your desk to break room blunders, some obvious and not-so-obvious behaviors are causing unrest in America’s workplaces, according to a survey from National Business Furniture and Kelton Global. The good news is these problems can easily be solved by encouraging just a bit of office decorum.

Here are five common office misbehaviors and tips on addressing them:

1. Foul Foods

Sometimes you want to ask your coworker for the recipe of the divine-smelling dish they just heated in the microwave. Other times, you find yourself stuck sniffing yesterday’s attempt at a casserole.

According to the National Business Furniture survey, 52 percent of American workers find cooking fragrant foods at the office to be an offensive behavior, although younger workers are less bothered by smelly foods than their baby boomer counterparts. Note that unpleasant odors go beyond the classic can of tuna; be considerate of sensitivities to garlic, spicy food, burnt popcorn, pungent vegetables, and raw onions.

Luckily, there’ a long list of foods that don’t have much of a scent at all to choose from when you’re snacking at work. To preempt this issue, stock the office kitchen with inexpensive and non-offensive snacks like fruit and granola bars. Designate a break area that is far away from open cubicles to discourage eating at desks.

If the behavior continues, it’s perfectly acceptable to politely address the problem. Some coworkers will take the hint. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to bring the matter to a supervisor’s attention.

2. Loud Music

The survey found that 74 percent of employees say it is unacceptable to play loud music during the workday. Before you pump up the jams, think about the captive audience in your area. With open concept offices on the rise, it’s easier than ever to hear your neighbor’s every move. Cubicle walls are notoriously thin, leaving little to the imagination. While a quick chat may be understandable, it’s considered rude to make consistent, elevated noise throughout the day.

It doesn’t take much to keep your favorite podcasts and energizing albums out of earshot. Nearly three in ten employees (29 percent) have turned to headphones to get their grooves on without disturbing their workplace neighbors. Another solution is to look at soundproofing or noise-absorbing options such as art panels or movable privacy walls.

3. Chronic Lateness

You saw the Outlook meeting reminder, wrapped up your task, grabbed your laptop, and booked it to the conference room — but it turns our none of your colleagues did the same.

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We all fall behind once in a while, but 77 percent of employees are peeved by perpetually late arrivals. If you are the one who tends to be chronically late, consider setting extra phone alarms ahead of any upcoming meetings. You could also use the Procrastinator’s Clock, which randomly speeds up and slows down, the idea being the time fluctuations will keep you on your toes since you’ll never know exactly what time it really is. And try to avoid checking emails or voicemails right before heading into a meeting, as they’re an easy way to get sidetracked.

For those dealing with procrastinators, once you see a pattern of behavior, respond proactively by having a polite and private conversation about the matter.

4. Distracting Ringtones

You may be Adele’s No. 1 superfan, but you shouldn’t assume everyone wants to hear your “Hello” ringtone when they’re just trying to work. Fifty-seven percent of survey respondents said keeping smartphone notification sounds on in the workplace is a no-go.

To keep the peace, simply put your phone on vibrate. If you really need to know what notifications are coming in, pick up a smartphone stand so you can keep your device in front of you at all times.

And when that important call does come in, be sure to find a quiet, out-of-the-way space that’s conducive to a quick chat. Half of employees say they don’t want to overhear coworkers’ personal conversations, even if they’re pleasant.

5. Taboo Topics

Somewhere between the latest football power rankings and this season of The Bachelor lies a sea of great conversations between colleagues. While meaningful connections are important in the workplace, it’s still necessary to ensure that personal boundaries are respected.

The adage “Don’t talk about politics or religion at the dinner table” holds up in the office, too, as 59 percent of workers surveyed think taboo topics are off-limits in the workplace. Though these are important and engaging topics, they can also be deeply alienating in certain contexts. Keep conversation both PG and PC to keep your coworkers — and yourself — comfortable.

HR pros, make sure you set firm policies around workplace conversations and behaviors. Employees, make sure you clearly understand what is and isn’t considered appropriate in your office. If an employee does break the rules, management should follow up quickly with a private conversation letting them know exactly what was unacceptable. Be sure to treat all employees equally in order to avoid biased decisions.

Desiree Carpenter is an HR professional at National Business Furniture.

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The 3 Keys to Making Continuous Performance Management Work — and Why You Should Care


As anyone in recruiting will tell you today, hiring is tough. The competition for candidates is fierce, as evidenced by a Conference Board survey that found one-third of senior leaders believe finding talent is their most significant managerial challenge

It stands to reason, then, that companies should be investing heavily in retention efforts. The more top-tier talent you retain, the less time and money you’ll have to spend battling it out in the talent market. With the staggering cost of turnover being 90-200 percent of the departing employee’s salary, companies can’t afford not to prioritize retention.

One key to retention is robust performance managementAccording to Gallup, employees who “received strengths feedback had turnover rates that were 14.9 percent lower than for employees who received no feedback.”

Yet businesses are often slow to prioritize employee development. In fact, in another Gallup survey, 47 percent of respondents said they received feedback from their managers just a few times a year or less, despite very strong high demand for it.

At MessageBird, we’ve been embarking on our own quest to keep employees engaged and retained through continuous performance management practices. Here are three key lessons we’ve learned so far — which we hope other organizations can use to get their own performance management processes in place:

1. Start Now

Anyone who has experienced startup life firsthand knows there are times when it feels as though everything is moving at warp speed. That’s certainly the rate things have been moving at MessageBird for the last 18 months. We increased our employee base by more than 100 percent — but without all the necessary processes in place, this growth created a less-than-ideal experience for our new hires.

It’s difficult to call that hiring frenzy a mistake because we learned so much from it. Most notably, we learned that you can’t put performance feedback on hold until you have everything “ironed out.” The pace of business today is too fast to wait for the perfect time to implement performance feedback. The perfect time is not likely to come, so you might as well start now.

2. You Don’t Need to Have All the Answers

There’s a reason many businesses list “dealing with ambiguity” as a core competency employees should exhibit. As much as we’d love to have it all figured out, every business faces detours, roadblocks, or even radically new paths. Priorities will often change based on the needs of your customer base.

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We’ve learned you don’t have to have all the answers before setting short-term goals for employees and providing feedback on progress toward those goals. Everyone wants to know what success looks like in their role, and having goals to work toward helps team members measure their performance beyond the simple execution of daily tasks. When priorities shift, having a more continuous feedback process in place helps employees work through the transition and adjust their goals accordingly.

It is also important to remember that communicating nothing communicates more than you think. In fact, when you communicate too little, employees have a tendency to fill in the blanks with information that’s often inaccurate. That’s why we hold monthly all-hands meetings to share information and address questions. During these meetings, we bring the team together to share project updates and zoom in on a critical area or two. At the end of every meeting, we have a Q&A session so employees can ask questions and hear from leadership. While we don’t always have all the answers, we can create open dialogues, facilitate the sharing of ideas, and prevent our employers from assuming the worst.

3. Feedback Should Never Be a Surprise — and It Should Always Be a Two-Way Street

When it comes to performance feedback, I’ve encountered very few employees who like surprises. That’s why we encourage managers to hold weekly one-on-one meetings with their team members and share course corrections regularly. Regular check-ins are more efficient, as the sooner feedback is offered, the sooner an employee can act on it to improve their performance.

Perhaps most importantly of all, your employees shouldn’t be the only ones getting feedback. According to Deloitte, employees value an environment of listening. They want to offer their own feedback to the company, and they want to know the company will seriously consider their input and act on it when warranted.

Even the most well-intentioned constructive feedback can be hard to hear, and it’s no different for the leaders of an organization. It’s tempting to surround yourself with people who only share the good news, but when you’re the leader, you need to be able to face feedback.

When it comes to retention, few things are as powerful as regular feedback and a strong performance management process. Establishing two-way communication between employees and their leaders can make employees feel heard, valued, and invested in. That, in turn, makes them less likely to leave — and you can spend less time in the fierce talent market.

Mayke Nagtegaal is COO of MessageBird.

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How to Help Your Employees With Anxiety Feel Motivated


Wellness and performance go hand in hand, so it makes sense that employee well-being has become an increasingly important part of regular performance discussions. Your employees need the support of their managers if they are to perform at their best, and this is especially true for any employees who may be dealing with mental health challenges like anxiety or depression.

Your employees need to know they can come to you for encouragement and understanding without fear of losing their jobs or forgoing a promotion. With this in mind, it’s important we discuss the issue of anxiety, a disorder that can seriously affect performance, quality of work, and employee motivation.

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety comes in a number of guises. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the five major forms of anxiety are:

  1. Panic disorder
  2. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  3. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  4. Social anxiety disorder
  5. Generalized anxiety disorder

Someone with anxiety might always feel on edge, have difficulty concentrating, or worry excessively. They might also be irritable and indecisive, and they may experience tension headaches and a general sense of fear. All of this can impact employee performance, so if someone on your team is suffering from a form of anxiety, you should put measures in place to encourage, support, and motivate them healthily and sustainably.

Before we cover how to motivate employees with anxiety, we first need to address a common misconception: that anxiety and stress are essentially the same.

Nearly everyone experiences workplace stress, particularly when deadlines loom or a company is facing difficulties. However, not every employee experiences anxiety.

People with anxiety can feel a loss of control over their lives and their work. As a result, they might avoid taking on extra responsibilities or tasks. Employers need to remember that anxiety is a disability, and they should make reasonable adjustments to accommodate people with anxiety. Employees should feel like you are on their side. If they do, they’ll be more willing to work with you to reach optimal performance.

How to Support Employees With Anxiety

1. Let Employees Know You’re Open to Discussion

Everyone experiences anxiety differently. No two employees will have the same anxiety trigger, nor will they express their anxiety in the same way. Managers should be aware of this.

To motivate and engage employees with anxiety, you must first begin an honest dialogue. However, you have to let employees take the initiative and bring their challenges to you. Don’t pry; instead, let your employees know you take mental wellness seriously and encourage them to discuss such issues with you.

If your employees are comfortable and open to it, discuss how you can adapt your workplace processes to support them best. What symptoms do they suffer from? How severe is their anxiety? Do certain situations make them particularly uncomfortable? Once you have a better understanding, you will be able to put measures in place to alleviate the likelihood of your employees feeling anxious at work.

Once you get everything out in the open and your employees realize you are on their side, they can let go of some of the pressure weighing on them. In turn, this will help them feel more confident talking to you about how you can collaboratively create a motivating workplace environment.

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2. Be Flexible

As most managers are aware, flexibility is key to optimal performance. Flexibility is all the more important for individuals with anxiety. Sometimes, just knowing the possibility of working flexibly exists can reduce an employee’s anxiety.

For people with anxiety, some days are worse than others. As a result, they might need additional time for certain assignments. They might need to work away from their colleagues or in environments with particular conditions so they can relax and be motivated to perform. Making small adjustments here and there, such as offering telecommuting or flextime options, can do a world of good.

Furthermore, employees will likely feel an increased sense of loyalty to your business if you take active steps to support their well-being. These feelings of loyalty will result in better retention and improved performance in the long run.

3. Keep Communication Frequent and Transparent

Once you have established a healthy dialogue with an employee, you must maintain regular contact. A one-off discussion once or twice a year isn’t good enough. Communication, like flexibility, is a key factor in employee motivation.

Meet with your employee every month. Ask them how they are coping with their workload and give them positive feedback. Discuss recent achievements and efforts. Show them you recognize and appreciate the work they are doing.

Above all, stay connected with all of your employees. Implement an open-door policy if you haven’t already. Anxiety can be isolating, so employees will really appreciate having the ability to come to you whenever they need to discuss their progress, struggles, and development aims.

4. Keep Anxiety in Mind When Creating SMART Objectives

Anxiety can cause people to feel overwhelmed, which can grind progress to a standstill. It can be hard to take a single step when confronting a task that feels insurmountable.

So, rather than assigning massive long-term goals, it’s worth working with employees to design smaller, short-term SMART objectives. These objectives will keep employees motivated and focused while still feeling manageable. This doesn’t mean your company needs to compromise on the amount of work done. Rather, you merely take a larger goal and segment it into smaller, less intimidating tasks.

5. Be Understanding About Mental Health Breaks

Employees are human beings, not robots. They need occasional breaks. This doesn’t just mean holidays; it also means taking 10 minutes here and there to reset and refocus. Allow your employees to stretch their legs, close their eyes, and recuperate from mounting stress. Opportunities like these are especially important for sufferers of anxiety.

If an employee feels the need to step away for a breath of fresh air, be understanding and accommodating. It’s unlikely they will take advantage of your generosity, and they will come back to work more refreshed and motivated to perform. If you expect your employees with anxiety to work at a constant rate all day long, you shouldn’t be surprised when they burn out.

It’s important to remember that not all disabilities are visible. Individuals with anxiety want to give work their all. It is your responsibility as a manager to give them the tools and support they need to do so.

Stuart Hearn is founder and CEO of Clear Review.

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How a Corporate Job Taught Me the Foundations of Successful Entrepreneurship


Article by Alex Song

Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. Dive in before you’re ready and you won’t have the tools and experiences you need to handle challenges as they arise.

Some people learn the entrepreneurial ropes through trial by fire, but there is an easier, more effective path: corporate employment. While many entrepreneurs hate the idea of working for someone else, the lessons I learned while working at Goldman Sachs provided context and clarity that have benefited me greatly on my entrepreneurial journey.

No matter how many books you read or how many conferences you attend, nothing adequately replicates the value of on-the-ground experience. During my time as an employee, I saw countless examples of what works — and what doesn’t — as my colleagues and bosses collaborated and collided. As a green recruit, I found my roles and expectations shifting constantly, but each of my experiences helped me understand how to run a business before I even knew what products or services my future company would provide.

I learned dozens of important lessons during my time at Goldman Sachs, but these four stand out to me as the foundational essentials every entrepreneur should know:

1. Discipline

Larger organizations naturally create more social pressure. When you are surrounded by people who adhere to certain expectations, you find yourself striving to meet those expectations as well. To do that, you have to analyze how and why those standards exist. In the process, you learn about the norms of the business world. That way, when you’re going it on your own, you’ll have an understanding of what you, your clients, and your employees can and should expect from one another.

Working for a corporation helped me learn how to follow processes and programs before I set out to develop my own. So many entrepreneurs attempt to reinvent the wheel because they believe they must do everything differently to succeed. That’s not the case. The fact of the matter is that best practices are “best” for a reason, and there is a value in finding ways to innovate within — not outside of — the framework of tried-and-true methodologies. When you learn how to operate according to those tested and established models, you learn to see the value in the existing processes.

Corporate discipline helped me understand why certain standards maintain their value for so long. I iterated on those processes after I left, but I rarely felt the need to replace them entirely.

For example, Goldman Sachs uses a highly structured review system. Most startups neglect the importance of feedback, but I had learned that soliciting input from employees is the best way to stay ahead of the market. Today, my company hosts anonymous 360-degree feedback sessions twice a year, and I use them to guide the direction of our growth.

2. Resilience

Investment banking earned its reputation as a meat grinder the honest way. During my time at Goldman Sachs, we worked 100 hours a week, and if we got to leave before 10 p.m. on a Friday, we considered that a win.

When you join an environment with high expectations, you must push yourself to find out how resilient you can be. It’s a grueling test, but as you dig deeper, you learn that you can do more than you ever thought possible. Just as people push themselves in competitive sports and marathons, tough corporate life forces you to challenge your mental, emotional, and physical limits. By learning that lesson when you’re young, you can remain confident in tough times that you will make it to the other side.

Of course, not every corporate job will be comparable to a role in investment banking. There are plenty of corporate jobs that may be too cushy to contribute to entrepreneurial resilience. If your employer only asks you to work 9-5 and lets you goof off for multiple hours per day, you don’t learn how to struggle — you learn how to be complacent. Humans crave stability, but business owners don’t have that luxury. Entrepreneurs must get comfortable with mistakes and setbacks. Because entrepreneurship is unpredictable by nature, the people who endure chaotic environments succeed more often.

To truly gain the level of resilience that will serve you well in an entrepreneurial role down the road, you need an intense corporate environment that demands a higher standard. That’s what sets you up to succeed when you set out on your own.

3. Social Intelligence

Office politics and social intelligence are close cousins. You can’t navigate treacherous waters without a bit of tact. While you don’t necessarily want or need to morph into a master manipulator to successfully lead your startup, you do need to learn how to handle delicate social situations with grace and foresight.

Deeply hierarchical organizations like corporations make excellent training grounds to build social intelligence. When you’re the junior employee, you have to learn how to make people like you. You also have to work within larger teams and find the delicate balance between standing out and crossing the line.

At Goldman Sachs, I watched how the leaders above me interacted and learned from one another within the parameters of operational command. They didn’t step on one another’s toes by handing tasks to someone else’s subordinates. They operated within the system and ensured everyone felt respected. Instead of learning this lesson the hard way — hurting someone’s feelings and having to make amends — I began my company with a broad understanding of how to work well with others.

Top performers in corporate environments learn to prove their value without a ton of one-on-one time with their superiors. As the leader of a business, you need your employees to respect your abilities and your vision, even if you don’t see all of them every day. Fresh college graduates rarely possess those social skills, but the demands of a corporate environment can forge you into a more capable leader.

4. Culture

Do not wait to invest in culture. Of all the lessons I learned in the corporate world, this one may be the most important.

When you work in a large organization, you see how difficult it is to get everyone aligned and working toward the same goals. Bad cultures create friction, while good cultures empower teams to become more than the sum of their parts.

Purpose that goes beyond personal well-being goes a long way toward building a positive culture. In finance, most of us wanted to make as much money as we could, regardless of how that mission affected the people around us. As I got older, I saw how that environment could quickly become toxic and superficial. In this case, I learned from a large organization by observing both its best practices and its dysfunction.

Today, I am deliberate about how my company culture is formed. For example, we host an internal book club every two months. The company buys a book on a business or personal development topic, then we buy pizza for everyone and chat about our key takeaways. The goal is to get people — regardless of whether they’ve actually made it through the book — talking about ideas and takeaways from other companies that could be meaningful for our organization. Little things like that have helped us build a sustainable, thriving company.

I’m not saying you should put your entrepreneurial dream on hold to earn your stripes in a corporate office. If you have a brilliant idea and the tools to execute on it, then go for it. However, don’t force yourself to jump into entrepreneurship right off the bat, either. You can learn a lot by spending some time in the corporate grind. After you’ve absorbed learnings from a challenging corporate environment, you’ll have great confidence and a deeper understanding of what it takes to start your own successful business.

A version of this article originally appeared on

Alex Song is the CEO and cofounder of DojoMojo, the one-stop home for partnership marketing where businesses of all sizes can connect to grow their audiences at a fraction of the cost of traditional paid channels. With a passion for early stage growth, Alex is also the founder and CEO of Innovation Department, a tech-enabled consumer brand-building platform. Prior to launching these companies, Alex worked at Goldman Sachs and Pershing Square Capital Management.

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How to Keep Politics From Ruining Your Office Relationships


Political discourse in the United States has grown increasingly contentious over the last few years. In a recent survey from Pew Research Center, 85 percent of respondents said they felt conversations about politics have deteriorated, becoming less respectful, fact-based, and issue-centric than in previous years.

These conversations have caused stress for 40 percent of Americans, according to a University of Nebraska-Lincoln survey. Furthermore, a fifth of respondents said politics had “damaged friendships and created problems with family, friends, and in the home,” while 5 percent said “politics led to financial or legal problems or caused them to miss time at work or school.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that people are finding it harder and harder to leave politics at the door when they enter the office. A 2017 Betterworks survey found that close to three-quarters of employees have talked politics with their colleagues since the 2016 election, and half have witnessed an all-out political argument at work.

Luckily, there are steps we can all take to keep political discussions from ever reaching that level. Consider these tips the next time a work conversation turns political:

1. Understand What’s Appropriate (and What’s Not)

First, get clear on what your company policy is when it comes to political talk. Some private-sector employers discourage it or ban it altogether, which they have the right to do. Even if it is technically okay to talk politics in your office, it’s almost always best to avoid the topic.

“You need to talk about it minimally and respectfully because even if somebody doesn’t say something, they may be feeling uncomfortable,” Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life, says.

2. Frame the Conversation Properly

As an election nears, it’s not uncommon for politics to come up around the water cooler, especially when hot-button issues like candidates’ stances on student loans, the economy, or healthcare are in the news. The upside here is that it is possible to have a constructive conversation that doesn’t get heated. According to Gottsman, your body language and tone of voice play a huge role in keeping things calm.

Taking an aggressive or belittling tone, crossing your arms, and shutting the other person down are surefire ways to make people defensive, which doesn’t set the stage for a positive conversation.

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“Ask questions,” says Gottsman. “You can just say, ‘I’m genuinely interested in how you came up with that thought process; what am I missing?’ It really does have a lot to do with your demeanor.”

Perhaps the most important ingredient is active listening, something conflict resolution expert Paula Green underscored to the New York Times earlier this year. Political conversations generally go much more smoothly when each person feels like they’re really being heard, regardless of whether or not others agree with their outlook.

With the right attitude, Gottsman says, political conversations at work can actually be a great opportunity to learn from our differences. You aren’t necessarily going to do a 180 on your political views, but you may become more empathetic as you better understand where other people are coming from.

3. Have an Out

Despite your best efforts, some colleagues may not be respectful, and some may be downright aggressive or relentless with their political views. Gottsman recommends having a script at the ready for removing yourself from a conversation or asking a coworker to tone it down. This can be as simple as affirmatively saying that you’re not up for a political debate at work. End of story.

Gottsman suggests keeping it short and sweet. For example, you could say something like, “You know, Jim, I just don’t like where this conversation is going. It’s turning into a debate and this isn’t the kind of conversation I want to get into.” It’s brief, direct, and unapologetic. From there, you can either steer the discussion into neutral territory or exit the interaction entirely. (Staying on good terms with everyone in the office may help you the next time you’re up for a raise or promotion, so keep that in mind when political conversations arise.)

4. Consider Looping in Management

If you have a colleague who just isn’t getting the message, there’s no shame in bringing the matter to your supervisor’s attention. Working alongside someone who is continually overstepping your personal boundaries makes for a hostile work environment.

Political aggression may even be considered harassment if it includes offensive jokes, insults, or mockery, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Gottsman says you can consider first going directly to the colleague and asking them to knock it off. If that’s not enough, privately share your feelings with your manager or HR contact so they can make a plan for addressing the issue and making a safe space for all.

Marianne Hayes is a longtime freelance writer and content marketing specialist.

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