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Being at Work Better than Before

In recent months I have been speaking on a variety of challenges in the workplace… This article is going to focus on people who actually would like to go to a workplace: potential employees.

I was recently with a group of bright and talented millennials who had lost their jobs during Covid closures, industry collapse, and downsizing by some companies.

This group has been trying for months to find new positions, new roles, and networking to be resilient, to let go of pre-Covid expectations and simply move on. I asked them about their job searches and everyone, to a person, grimaced. The look on their faces exhibited that the mood had shifted to utter frustration and a note of despair. The stories began to emerge and were discouraging. The usual format from prospective employers was an online form to fill out. While these applicants wanted to send a follow-up letter, find a phone number for a call, or even an address to send a handwritten note, all was to no avail. No return communication available.

A couple of the unemployed group spoke about their excitement when they had received a Zoom room invite for a panel interview. One public relations director was initially inspired because he would be seen, heard, and really able to let the panel of interviewers know who and what he was about, his accomplishments, and his vision for the role and the job.

Sadly, what occurred, was that each interviewer in turn read a question off of a sheet of paper, frequently looking down then back up blankly into the Zoom screen. There was no opening remark or question like “how are you?” “what did you do this weekend?” Or anything remotely resembling anything personal, human, or related to creating a relationship, either short or long term.

The interview lasted far too long for this formulaic setup. When I asked the gentleman if the experience were a color— what would it be? He said with resignation— “stone gray”. The interview process was demoralizing and frustrating, adding to the now 20 dozen jobs he had applied for in the past nine months, all without landing one offer.

There were lots of heads nodding and disappointed faces at the table. This scenario of exhausted young talent is in stark contrast to people naysaying in the grocery line or on the television news “Oh, they just don’t want to go back to work” or “This generation or “these” people are lazy” or… Fill in the blank.

How was it for you when you were a young person filled with hope, talent, promise, and newly graduated from university or having excelled at an organization you were ready for your next experience or promotion? Even before Covid, too many companies were relying on raw technology to find new people to come on board.

Here are some stats from Forbes on how companies are searching for talent (from 2018):

If we want to activate talent, unleash potential, and create a workplace where people love their life‘s work, it will take more than empty forms through a website that has zero follow up, follow-through, or a friendly phone call from an interested leader. This is actually a form of incivility.

This task-focused form of recruitment dehumanizes the very humans that you want to be part of your team and is truly a blank space for leaders when they plan a job search. Spending time to find the right fit for an organization whether you are a fast food joint, a grocery store, a technological giant or a healthcare facility, there are Generative ways to go about sourcing employees that bringing dignity, humanity, and civility to the process.

1. Use technology in a way that benefits both the prospective employee and the organization. Make sure that there is a human being as a touchpoint for applicants. However, you treat prospective applicants speaks to who you are as an organization. Applicants could someday be your customer, your vendor or supplier, and or your competitor. Your lack of acumen in finding, sourcing, and interacting with applicants is indicative of your company culture.

2. Assigning under-skilled people to conduct Zoom interviews as a rite of passage, is a big mistake. Training your interview team to bring humanity and relationship, along with revelatory questions and listening skills that source the right talent must be part of the process prior to any (Zoom room)conversations.

3. Recruiting employees to your organization is not a sidebar project. It needs to be a major initiative or a thoughtful process that has the full support and input of leadership. An approach that demonstrates the enterprise core values, social progress agenda markets the company positively throughout the interview. A follow-up email thanking the prospective employee for their interest can be personalized, automated, and appreciative of the time invested. Technology should be used not as simply a way to screen talent rather as a way to further the enterprise's purpose and messaging.

In the coming years how you treat people will determine your success in a way that has never been experienced. The reason is because of social media and technology. The sharing of treatment, process, and follow-up are chronicled in real-time. In the past, these factors would be revealed after times of recruitment and ramping up. If there are sexist, racist, ambiguous, ageist, and more types of negative, disparaging, marginalizing attitudes, questions, or atmospheres, this will be passed on to others. Top talent will go elsewhere rather than deal with your lack of generative culture.

It’s time that every element of business reflects the coaching mindset. Bring full presence, unconditional curiosity, and heightened listening skills that reveal the best fit for all parties. This is the recipe for Being at Work....better than before.

Sarah Graves, PCC

Sarah passionately and practically pursues the development of leaders through intentional, organic growth. She emboldens leaders to create an environment where management is expansive, willing to move with agility beyond comfort zones, and to champion the individual and collective genius within the organization. With teams in transition she inspires connection, realignment and forward progress within the awkward movements of the changing landscape. Her belief is that coaching is as essential an element for an organization as the product or service the company produces. “An employee who grows personally, grows professionally” and coaching seeds growth.
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