Avoiding the Pitfalls of Metrics Driven Management

Most staffing executives and managers understand the value of metrics. They see the visibility it can provide and how it allows them to make better strategic and tactical decisions. However, what we rarely discuss are the pitfalls of metrics based management. These pitfalls can effectively banish common sense and replace it with bureaucratic certainty where rule enforcement dominates management decision making. Rule based management does have its place, but taken too far it can compromise adaptability and lead to a demotivated workforce. Below are a couple common pitfalls and how staffing managers can avoid them. Pitfall One: Driving Non-Productive Activity Potential Problem: Focusing on activity is an effective management strategy for a junior level employee who needs to develop disciplined habits. However, as a producer becomes more experienced and successful, focusing solely on activity metrics can be both demotivating and unproductive. In addition, the focus on activity may compromise the quality of the work. A sales person can definitely hit their meeting number, but are those meetings with people that generate business is a completely different matter. Solution: Define the Key Measure of Accountability It is a manager’s job to define the key measure of accountability for the different roles … Read More

SIA Executive Forum: The Most Direct Path to Greater Profits

On Wednesday March 14th, I will be presenting at the SIA Executive Forum on aligning your recruiting organization with your client buying patterns to improve profitability. The impact of effective alignment can be quickly realized in the bottom line results and are typically of a substantial scale. Why is the impact of improving operations so significant? Well, because delivery issues are oftentimes driven by self imposed process inefficiencies. Yes, the talent pool may be tightening, but don’t fool yourself that the lack of productivity is out of your control. Spend the time to drill down into your delivery organization and honestly evaluate whether it is truly aligned with your current client base. I have worked with client’s who are married to old processes because they worked in the past. However, this is an expensive mistake. Managers must look at their processes in relation to their account base and customize their delivery accordingly. The good news is that these types of improvements can lead to stunning results. I have seen results increase by over 40% and will present these case studies during my presentation at the SIA Executive Forum. In contrast, addressing bottlenecks in the sales strategy takes longer and typically … Read More

Relationships Still Rule, But…..

Back in the early 90s when I entered this business, I was exposed to a simple yet accurate description of the staffing industry by Al Dubuc of Oz Enterprises- “People selling people to people”.  The crux of that definition was that this business runs on the strengths of one-on-one relationships with clients and consultants. However, as clients have changed how they purchase staffing services and candidates have change how they look for jobs, the business has become more complex. While the ability to build long lasting trusting relationships is still critical to a staffing company’s success, other critical factors have crept in over the last decade and altered the landscape of how we need to view and manage this rapidly changing business. Developing Internal Talent:  Companies are frustrated by the inability to hire qualified sales and recruiting talent.  Relying on hiring experienced and qualified talent that are willing to leave their current position has become exceedingly difficult for a variety of reasons.  The alternative is to hire less experienced people and train them.  However, most companies are ill prepared to hire and develop inexperienced talent, but you don’t have to look far to see the return on such an approach. … Read More

Hiring For Drive

One of the most common questions I get from staffing managers is whether it’s better to hire experienced or green sales people. Leveraging my years of experience, I can confidently answer that I really don’t know. I have come to this conclusion because I have seen both profiles succeed and fail. In the end, it seems experience level is a poor predictor of performance. This assertion is supported by a study conducted by American Psychologists Frank Schmidt and John Hunter, who discovered that basing hiring decision on experience level had only slightly better results than a coin flip or hand writing analysis. Neither of which is terribly effective. I’m not saying that experience should not be considered, far from it, the level of experience an employee has should play an important role. However in screening candidates, experience should be balanced by those difficult to define qualities that drive the focus and perseverance of most successful sales people. In their book “Never Hire a Bad Sales Person”, Dr. Christopher Corner and Richard Abraham leverage years of data to capture personality characteristics that are consistent with top producers. The compilation of these characteristics is what they refer to as Drive. Drive is that persistent motivation … Read More

The Power of Habit

I was just reading a book called the Power or Habit by Jack Hodge.  The primary narrative of the book is that we, more than anything else, are defined by what we do, and close to 90% of what we do is determined by habits both good and bad. I am not sure how he determined the 90%, but we all know that our habits are a powerful force in our lives.  However, I would argue that we as managers may underestimate the power of habits in managing and coaching our teams. This make me think back on a conversation I had with one of my past employees a few years ago.  She came into my office to discuss the relevance of my monthly training topic.  Her point was that everyone already understood the best practice we were going to discuss.  It was in her eyes a waste of time.  It was then that the light bulb went off.  I wasn’t training because they didn’t already understand the best practice; I was training because they weren’t doing the best practice.   So in a way, my training was an infomercial on the best practice and a platform to explain my expectations to the … Read More

Beware the Cassandra Complex

Cassandra was a princess of Troy, who had the gift of prophesy, but who could not persuade anyone because was cursed with a severe credibility gap.   Can you imagine her frustration?  She knows she is right, but lacks the credibility to persuade anyone.  Why should staffing executives be aware of the Cassandra complex?  Because they are responsible for defining the value proposition that the sales team must take to market. Unfortunately, some executives curse their sales people with value propositions they are ill-equipped to credibly represent. A company’s value proposition summarizes the problems a company solves and how they solve them.  It is what makes a company unique, and is the reason buyers will buy.  Value propositions vary greatly and many times a company has more than one.  From diversity to technical specialization the value proposition defines a company in the eyes of the client.  So how does changing the value proposition potentially affect the credibility of the sales force? Many staffing firms are attempting to move up the value chain by providing a greater level of specialization.  From a sales strategy perspective this may make sense, but the danger lies in how effectively the sales team can represent the … Read More

Are You Selling to the Right Accounts?

An effective sales strategy starts with well defined segmentation of your current and target accounts.  However, many companies struggle with defining the right criteria to build an effective account pipeline, which then significantly reduces the productivity of their entire sales process.    This post will discuss three examples of how to qualify the accounts you decide to pursue; the existence of vendor programs, the match with delivery capabilities, and account productivity. Vendor Programs Most fortune 500 buyers have implemented some type of formalized vendor program. The key considerations in pursuing programs are the strength of relationships a staffing company has with corporate decision makers, along with any differentiators a company can illustrate to the account such as industry vertical expertise, diversity status, or technology expertise.   If your organization can manage long term corporate relationships and/or can provide a unique differentiator then pursuing large vendor programs could prove to be fruitful. Selling outside of vendor programs either means avoiding companies that have them or providing services that can capture spend outside of the program.  To avoid vendor programs completely translates to an aggressive prospecting strategy that target mid market companies and buyers that have SoW or some other mechanism to bring in … Read More

Sales Management or Micromanagement?

Are you a Micromanager? I conducted an informal survey the other day discussing the roles of sales process within the staffing industry. Most of the respondents responded positively to the need for greater structure within sales organizations in order for sales people to maneuver through an increasingly competitive environment. One respondent caught my eye, primarily because he captured the downside of an overbearing sales process. To quote him: “Too many companies dress their sales team in monkey costumes and suck the passion out of them by having rigid cookie cutter sales programs.” The reason I love this quote is that it captures the frustration that micromanagement can cause within a sales force. What causes that disconnect between management and their team? I believe most sales people see their job as an art that requires the flexibility to be creative to build trust and lasting relationships with the customers. Some managers tend to see sales more as a science, distinct activities leading to predictable results. They are both right. The question is how does management find a balanced sales process to maximize the productivity of their team? That depends on multiple factors unique to each organization including the makeup of the … Read More

Change: Your Future Depends on it

Most companies embrace change when they first enter the market, because change presents opportunities for start-up companies to outmaneuver larger organizations that are less adaptable and more reliant on the status quo.  Anyone who has been part of a quickly growing start-up organization knows the feeling of stealing away market share simply because it’s more in tune with the buyer and more effective at marketing and delivering its solution.  Those companies are drivers of change, not victims of it.    The impact this dynamic is highlighted in the book Creative Destruction by Richard Foster and Sarah Kaplan when discussing S&P 500 companies: “If history is a guide, no more than a third of today’s major corporations will survive in an economically important way over the next twenty years.  Those that do not survive will die a Hindu death of transformation, as they are acquired or merged with part of a larger, stronger organization, rather than a Judeo-Christian death, but it will be death nonetheless.  And the demise of these companies will come from a lack of competitive adaptiveness. To be blunt, most of these companies will die or be bought out and absorbed because they are too slow to keep pace with change … Read More

Eliminate Waste: How Staffing Firms Can Deliver More Efficiently

Do you know who your most profitable clients are, and do you respond to their needs accordingly? Are you paying for work that has little to no chance of providing revenue? How firms manage and deliver against job orders significantly impacts it’s competitiveness and bottom line. Studies from Lean Six Sigma consultancies estimate services firms who do not actively manage against waste  are wasting up to 50% of their costs. With the latest downturn, the percentage of waste  may go down temporarily as companies focus on productivity. However, as the economy recovers, waste will rear its ugly head if its root causes are not addressed. So what are the things that staffing companies need to look out for to ensure they are maximizing the speed and efficiency within their delivery organization? Effective Account Management The biggest factor to successful delivery for a client is effective account management that influences the clients buying cycle.  There are many sales people that do this naturally, however formalizing account management within your organization can help ensure your entire team is managing their accounts effectively. The impact on waste by effective account management can be significant as measured by submittal to hire ratios. It is … Read More