The Value of Planning

Is your management team too busy with the day-to-day operations, that they cannot step back and determine the future direction of the company? “Tactical busyness” is a common problem with the lean management teams in the staffing industry. They are so focused on the fires in front of them they cannot address long-term issues. This short term focus traps them in a reactive loop that undermines their ability to improve and direct the organization. About a year ago I was speaking with a software vendor who needed help with an unhappy client. It seems the client purchased their software, but management took a very hands-off approach on its implementation. This lack of leadership led to very poor tool adoption and productivity actually decreased. In response, the leadership team blamed the tool. This wasn’t a question of management being lazy or indifferent. As a matter of fact, these managers worked long hours and were very passionate about the success of the business. This is a great example of a management team that is so involved in the daily business that they do not take a hard look at what they should be doing. The core of the problem is role confusion … Read More

Behind the Wheel: Driving Excellence in Staffing Operations

I am often asked why I wrote a book about the staffing industry. I felt like a book on staffing management needed to be written. There was no business case or financial model, just a belief that strong management is critical to the future of our industry. We needed resources that helped managers understand there unique role as well as their importance. The purpose of the book is to improvement management performance through more effective decision making and collaboration. In order to accomplish that goal, this book defines the performance drivers, provides a shared language, and clarifies the management roles. Defining performance drivers: The key elements of any growth strategy are defined by the performance drivers – Sales Strategy, Operational Alignment, and Performance-Driven Culture. The Sales Strategy begins by identifying both target market and the sales capabilities required to be successful. Operational Alignment ensures the organization has the capabilities to deliver their value proposition. The Performance-Driven Culture is the x factor in staffing operations and the fuel for top-line growth. All managers must understand the role of each of these drivers and how to manage to them effectively. Providing shared language: As a company grows, having a disciplined vocabulary becomes more … Read More

Webinar: Metrics for the Staffing Industry

On Thursday, July 26, I will be hosting a webinar sponsored by eRecruit on Metrics for the Staffing Industry. In this webinar, I will discuss how the right metrics portfolio can empower management decision making to ensure both short and long term competitiveness. It is important to understand that the right metric portfolio can help executives and leaders Measure Results Provide a Leading Indicator Identify Operational Weaknesses Reveal Investment Opportunites Drive Individual Accountability Measure Change In this webinar, we will discuss Financial Metrics as well as Personnel Metrics and Operational Metrics. The Operational Metrics will include both the Sales and Delivery Model. Once the right metrics portfolio is in place, the metrics can help quantify change, determine if change is feasible, provide data for effective change management and hold all levels of the organization accountable. I look forward to having you join us on this Metrics Webinar. Mike Cleland President, Charted Path

Is Intuition Enough in the Staffing Industry?

Most successful executives I have worked with have an indefinable intuition for the business that drives their decision making. This ability presents itself in a variety of ways, but is best revealed when they are forced to make decisions for which there is no clear right direction. In those cases, the executive uses their best judgment and hopes for the best. Executives that are able to make the right judgments continue to see their firm grow, while others are left stagnant repairing the repercussions of poor decision making. But what happens when a staffing company grows and decision making becomes more and more complex? Can intuition effectively guide decision making? While I don’t completely disregard the role of intuition, a common mistake I see owners make is to believe that their intuition is a unique gift that shouldn’t be challenged even as their operational knowledge wanes. This perspective is often justified by the book Blink by Malcom Gladwell. In this book, Gladwell discusses rapid cognition or the thinking that happens in the first two seconds when placed in a new situation. Many people walk away from Blink with a higher regard for instincts as the key driver of decision making rather than fact based … Read More

Strong Managers Have a Balanced Perspective

Article Two in a Five Part Series: Several years ago I had a new recruiting manager come to me complaining that they couldn’t get their work done because they kept getting interrupted. In an attempt to learn more about the predicament, I asked for more details. He then began to craft for me a laundry list of fires he had to put out from addressing conflicts between team members to listening to employees discuss personal issues. Of course, he was disappointed to hear that addressing these daily interruptions is part of management. Too often, however, these interruptions can drive a manager to only think reflexively, to only worry about the next immediate problem and forget about one of the most important responsibilities of the job: Improving the Organization. This limited perspective of the job responsibilities is completely natural for a manager who must constantly address internal issues that come to their desk day in and day out. However, the question remains if management is solely focused on the present, then who is preparing for the future? The answer is “no one”. It is for this reason that managers must work to pull themselves out of the day-to-day and become more externally … Read More

Building a Balanced Metrics Portfolio

As a staffing organization grows, management relies on metrics to provide the visibility necessary to ensure the company is staying on the right track.  How effectively an organization develops these metrics has a direct impact on critical management decisions, and thereby, on company performance in both the short and long term.  Because the staffing industry relies on individual performance, most staffing companies have a system of metrics in place.  However, having an incomplete portfolio of metrics can undermine growth since it can misdirect management on solving the wrong problems which can further undermine performance. The metrics we use act as the lens in which we view the business, so it’s important to ask ourselves does the lens we use accurately represent reality?  Too often the answer is no. Of all the assessments I have done there is always one common theme, the problems I am asked to evaluate are often not the key issues that need to be addressed.  These disconnects between perceived and real problems stem from either a lack of correct metrics or inaccurate interpretation of what the metrics are saying.  Common sources of a poor metrics portfolio include: Not Aligning Metrics to the Company Strategy:  Many companies … Read More

Planning for Success

How would you respond if someone asked “what’s your growth plan for next year”? In answering the question, you may find that you really don’t have a satisfactory answer.  One of the causes of this lack of planning is the tendency to derive business planning from the budget process instead of the other way around.  The budget should give the financial backing for the business plan to be executed.  By deriving the business plan from the budget process, managers often miss critical business issues that need to be addressed in the coming year.  Throw in the year-end reconciling of financials and it’s easy to see how planning is dominated by analyzing and discussing numbers on spreadsheets. Effective business planning requires a more holistic approach where management not only is aware of the financials, but also will evaluate each core driver of the business to identify areas of improvement for the upcoming year.  The three core drivers that need to be reviewed and challenged include your sales strategy, operational effectiveness, and the performance driven culture. Some questions to get you started are listed below. Sales Strategy: Is defined by your value proposition, the buyers you are targeting, and the sales process … Read More

Letterman’s Legacy

Recently, I stumbled across some articles that made some interesting claims including the “The ten dumbest management trends” and “The ten worst business ideas ever”.  It makes me want to write an article titled “The top ten management articles that make controversial overgeneralizations to drive web traffic”.  I understand why people structure their articles around lists, and if you want readership, then it pays to be as dramatic as possible.  Drama is entertaining.  Also, it certainly sets the expectations that the article is going to be relatively short and what manager wouldn’t want to know the top ten of anything? People love lists.  You see them everywhere on the internet from major news organizations to everyday blogs.  Lists suggest both a level of research and authority.  Initially, many lists were around interesting facts or well researched theory.  Lists are easy to digest, make for good trivia and provide a level of entertainment.  Lists can also provide important structure around management issues that can be difficult to define.  My upcoming webinar incorporates “Five Sales Drivers” is one example of that technique. However, reading these lists on management practices gives me cause for concern.  Lists that make sweeping generalizations are more about … Read More

Budgeting Behavior

Staffing is a rapidly changing, people driven business, so I have always struggled with the role of the budget in managing the day-to-day operations over the course of an entire year.  While I know budgets are necessary, they can also exert a negative influence on management decisions and employee behavior that can be traced back to the budget process itself.  Jack Welch’s view on the budgeting process may seem a bit extreme, however; it does highlight the pitfalls of a poorly conceived budgeting process. “The budgeting process at most companies has to be the most ineffective practice in management. It sucks the energy, time, fun and big dreams out of an organization; it hides opportunity and stunts growth. It brings out the most unproductive behaviors in an organization, from sandbagging to settling for mediocrity.” Jack is not the only one to express those sentiments.  Many companies have seen their budgeting process stifle innovation and undermine management collaboration.  Does your budgeting process spend too much time negotiating and positioning future expectations, and too little time discussing how the business is actually going to grow and outmaneuver the competition? If the answer is yes, then I would encourage you to challenge your … Read More

The Price of Excellence

Recently the last of US combat troops left Iraq and crossed into Kuwait marking a significant milestone in a long hard fought war. Regardless, of your view on the war, the support for our troops justifiably crosses political spectrums and is a unifying force for most Americans. I believe much of that appreciation stems from the willingness of our men and women in uniform to make sacrifices that most of us would not consider, but that we know are required for all of us to live prosperous and free lives. However, regardless of the level of our appreciation, we tend to underestimate the lessons we can learn from our military. PBS has a compelling documentary, simply titled “The Marines” that sheds light on the nature of what motivates these men and women and what they are willing to go through to achieve their goals. Early on, it becomes clear that many of the Marines are primarily motivated by two things. First, is they feel called upon to protect the country and second they want to become part of an elite group. As they arrive at Parris Island they sacrifice their individualism and put themselves through physical, mental, and emotional turmoil to … Read More