11 Small Business Tips for an Epic Annual Meeting

I enjoy working in the small- and medium-sized business (SMB) space–it’s easy to relate to challenges and opportunities for these employers because I work for an SMB, myself. Having access to impact the entire business from wherever I stand within the organization is an empowering benefit, too. One of my favorite instances of this benefit is the annual ExactHire company meeting. While we do meet as a team on a monthly basis, the annual meeting enables us to retreat off site and do a deep dive into the state of the organization, our long-term product road map and our business strategy.

Having at least six of these yearly meetings under our belt now, I can say we’ve definitely improved our efficiency and meeting outcomes over the years. In this blog, I’ll share our tips for holding an epic annual company meeting to help propel your business forward.

1 – Location is everything

The easy, predictable thing to do is to just have your annual meeting in your own conference room. However, there is something exciting and liberating about changing your venue and assembling in a new space. Yesterday, we were lucky enough to occupy an ultra cool space at the Hotel Tango Artisan Distillery in our hometown, Indianapolis. It was my first time there and it was an excellent space for getting our brainstorming juices flowing and stepping outside the box.

ExactHire Company Meeting Distillery 2016

Hotel Tango was a great, unconventional space – don’t mind Christa’s angelic illumination!

When you select a venue for your meeting, be sure and consider the needs of your employees when it comes to things like accessibility and atmosphere. Do you want somewhere quiet or somewhere full of action and visual stimulation? When I stepped into Hotel Tango, I was reminded of the grain bins and silos on the farm where I grew up…but in a good, nostalgic way. Of course, that’s par for the course at a distillery! Additionally, we took breaks here and there to allow the distillery staff to attend to their spirits and open up the garage door to operate the forklift. Nevertheless, the shiny copper pieces on the stills and the illuminated string lights within the exposed brick building provided creative ambience for our session.

2 – Provide an agenda and assign some homework

What you get out of your corporate meeting will be dependent upon the amount of effort you put into preparing for it–and not just the organizer, the whole team, too. Our Co-Founder, Jeff Hallam, sent a thorough agenda of meeting topics more than a week in advance of our meeting. Additionally, he assigned the entire company the “homework” of thinking about how to answer three primary questions that were tied to our overall short-term objectives of growing revenue and improving profitability.

Agenda Questions Productive Company Meeting

By asking your team to think about solutions in advance, they are more engaged with the discussion topics and likely to be prepared to contribute to the discussion during the meeting. Remember to keep your homework assignment short–having too many to-dos not only dilutes the effectiveness of any one potential solution, but will also most certainly guarantee that you run out of time during the meeting.

3 – Don’t forget the coffee

And snacks are good, too. Our meeting ran from 9am – 1pm, so while people had the opportunity to eat a normal breakfast at home, we still provided fruit/dip and plenty of hot coffee, creamer and sugar. The coffee was of course key to not only our mental stimulation, but also a source of warmth for a few of us while the distillery garage door was open to allow forklift entry. We stayed cozy though!

Also, be sure to take into account any dietary restrictions present among your team members. For example, have some gluten free and/or meatless options available, if applicable, for your organization’s employees.

4 – Make a ruling on electronic device access

At ExactHire, we live on our electronic devices which comes as no surprise since we are in the SaaS product space. I can’t remember the last time I actually printed or filed something in a cabinet. However, having everyone glued to their laptops and/or tablets during a team meeting isn’t always productive as it becomes easy for people to be distracted by email, caught up in IM, etc. It really depends on the purpose of your meeting and whether you need to collectively view or update items electronically during the meeting.

NOTE: It is a good idea to have access to a projector so that everyone can look at a screen together to discuss items.

5 – Designate an official note taker

Especially if you decide that the majority of people will not be using their computer during the meeting, make sure that one person is the official recorder of all important discussion topics and action items. The last thing you want is for all your glorious ideas to be forgotten a week after the meeting.

The notes should be sent out promptly (within one business day) of the conclusion of the meeting. I was our note taker for yesterday’s meeting and opted to bold some of the more compelling team ideas, as well as highlight specific action items (and their owner) in yellow on the notes.

6 – Encourage a variety of presenters

Because annual company meetings tend to be longer than the average monthly update, it would get pretty tedious for the same person to speak the entire meeting. While Jeff and Harlan (our other Co-Founder) did speak quite a bit at the start of the meeting, they also called on many other teammates throughout the discussion to provide a deeper explanation of their own projects.

The extent to which this is successful in your organization will depend on the personalities of individuals (are they comfortable speaking in front of a large group), as well as the extent to which candor is valued within the business. While everyone cannot provide an overview, many can ask questions and probe for greater context within a culture that challenges assumptions and welcomes inquisitiveness.

7 – Have a parking lot…literally and metaphorically

While nearby parking is ideal for your meeting, what I mean by “parking” is designating topics that get into the weeds as something to table and discuss later–put them in the “parking lot” to handle at a future date.

To do so, add them to an easel chart, whiteboard and/or shared file and assign an owner to make sure they aren’t forgotten later. To avoid hurt feelings when one person’s passionate about hashing out a topic, set expectations at the start of the meeting that, at times, some items will have to be put on the back burner in order to get through the entire meeting agenda in a timely fashion. Pass the conch shell, if you will, and move on to the next item.

8 – Don’t forget to order lunch in advance

It’s a nice gesture to order your team lunch during the annual company meeting. We enjoyed some delectable dishes from Chilly Water Brewing Company during our retreat yesterday…conveniently located right next to Hotel Tango.

In past year’s meetings, we didn’t always have the foresight to order our meals before or early on during the meeting, and therefore found ourselves scrambling to figure out food options right at lunchtime. This resulted in waiting a long time to eat and delaying the meeting.

9 – Take pictures

Especially if you head to an eclectic off site location, be sure and snap some memorable photos of the team and what you accomplish during the day. Photographs of events like these are great for inclusion on your branded company careers page, on company social media profiles, around the office and maybe even in an annual holiday video. They just might inspire a blog related to company culture and procedural effectiveness, too.

10 – Respect everyone’s time

Significant, every great once-in-awhile company meetings are typically long already. Make sure you don’t extend discussion beyond the official stop time. If you do, you not only may delay employees’ ability to make other engagements already planned (e.g. sales demos, picking up kids, etc.), but you also will likely forfeit the attention space of those that remain–even with coffee.

Speaking of respecting time, make sure you start your meeting on time, too. A prompt start time is key to a prompt stop time. If this is a struggle within your corporate culture, set the expectation clearly in the agenda email that is sent in advance.

11 – Post-event check in

The work will have only just begun at the conclusion of your corporate meeting. Even when the notes are sent and action items are marked, your leadership team should be sure and schedule milestones to check in with the team and make sure that each task owner is accountable to moving his/her action item(s) forward. This is a great opportunity to offer assistance, vet new questions and schedule follow-up discussion for items that were placed in the parking lot, too.

I hope these tips help you plan an invigorating annual company meeting. While you can’t anticipate every single need or detail, you’re already ahead of the game if you are providing a special opportunity to engage your team and move the business forward–together.

Is improving your company culture a priority in the next year?

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Employee Retention – How To Keep Your A+ Employees

Ah…employee retention. The topic of conversation that swirls around every HR networking event, conference and seminar. And…turnover–the subject of most leadership meetings and one of the biggest challenges facing every industry and company. Businesses that succeed and survive are typically led by adaptable problem solvers able to tackle some of the biggest challenges they face. So why is combating employee retention and turnover still such a problem for so many employers?

People–that’s why. Plain and simple, people. Since no two individuals are the same, no single retention strategy can work for all. Sure you can do standardized things that will keep some employees engaged and employed just a little while longer, but an ultimate end will ensue if you don’t customize.

All too often leaders involved in tackling the retention problem are blinded by their own idea of retention, their own personal motivation to stay. The problem is, most likely, this motivation is not the same for anyone else. Engagement and retention are personal topics and everyone has their own drivers and motives. To tackle the challenge on a one-to-one basis you must be able to grasp the motivations of each individual.

This involves a focus in two key areas:

  1. First, you must know the wants, needs and desires of each of your employees. Then, you must decide if you are willing to accommodate those items. Hopefully, if you did your job in the hiring process, you have already identified the fit. An applicant tracking system can leverage technology to make it easy to gather the answers you need from employees to assess their potential job fit during the hiring process.
  2. The second step is to provide the feedback and environment an employee needs to continue to grow and be successful. Both of these tactics require taking an individualized approach.

Retention is About Meeting Needs

All humans have basic needs. As such, all employees have basic needs. If you analyze Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs you can see how they apply to the workplace as well. Employees who are able to fulfill their needs are more engaged, happy and willing to put forth discretionary effort to succeed and further the business. Likewise, you are more likely to retain them.

Why We Work

Our basic physiological needs drive us to work and provide for ourselves. Fundamentally we work to earn money, pay bills, buy food and acquire shelter. Employers have the least influence on fulfilling this need as trading time for money can be accomplished in any organization, industry or career field. At this level, employees are only compliant; doing what is required to sustain a paycheck in a safe manner. You will retain an employee only as long as you can meet their compensation needs within a secure environment.

What We Do

After the basic needs are achieved, we look to contribute and belong to a community. We select a career that satisfies this “need to belong.” This is the basic premise of why people chose to do what they do. Engagement now increases as employees are doing what they want to do with desirable peers. If they can no longer achieve this need, they will go somewhere else to achieve it.

Where We Work

This is different for everyone! You’ve chosen what you want to do, now you want to do it in the best possible environment. You want the best possible support and resources to do what you love to do. We have many choices in deciding where to work. Ideally we all want to work where we feel that we can be successful and most able to build our sense of self–our esteem. At this level employees are highly engaged; doing what they want and where they want.

Why We Stay

The need employers struggle to fulfill the most, is the need for continued growth and fulfillment. This need is so individualized that there has to be a perfect match with an employee. Companies that crack this code have much higher retention rates than their peers. Employees who have achieved this level are fully engaged and more likely to put forth a greater amount of discretionary effort. An organization must take a customized and individualized approach in addressing this need.

The more of these needs you can meet as an employer, the more likely an individual is to remain with the company. So how do you work to meet these needs? It’s a simple process, really. It starts with sitting down and having an open and honest conversation with employees about their needs and what motivates them. Identify their drivers, with them, and then work together towards achieving them.

Retention is About Facilitating Growth and Success

Let’s face it, today’s workforce does not have loyalty to an employer, nor loyalty to a particular industry or career field. The term “career” is defined much differently than in the past. The traditional definition of a career was working for one company your entire life–either doing the same job for 30 years or climbing the ladder. Today’s career is more loosely defined relating to intertwining paths one would like to take which may involve multiple employers, industries and disciplines.

Some would categorize today’s workforce as full of “job hoppers.” In reality, they are “experience hoppers.” Consequently, continuous growth and development opportunities continue to rank above compensation in employee exit interviews and engagement surveys.

So what is an experience hopper? Employees will work somewhere as long as they can continue to get the growth, development and experience they need to support their defined career path. If they can’t get it at their current employer, they will go elsewhere. When today’s employee stops learning and growing it marks the point at which he starts looking for a new job.

So how do we anticipate this pivotal point and work to accommodate an appropriate growth environment to circumvent it? Two ways: constant communication and constant feedback.

Constant Communication

Employees need to feel valued and appreciated. More importantly they need to feel that you care about what they are doing and are genuinely interested in what they are doing. Nobody wants to feel like a number or a commodity. Frequent meetings with employees to discuss their work will go a long way in keeping them engaged and feeling good about what they are doing.

Constant Feedback

A core requirement for the continued growth of employees is constant feedback. Today’s employees require frequent commentary on their performance to stay motivated. In fact, most put this ahead of a paycheck. You can no longer take the approach that no news is good news or in this case, no feedback is good feedback. That’s not going to fly anymore. Withholding feedback will kill an employee’s motivation. And, only giving negative feedback will send them running for the doors.


In the end, retention is really about building a relationship with your employees. This isn’t the same as a friendship, but rather a relationship that fosters an environment of open communication, support and feedback. Which, when done correctly, will foster an environment of engagement and retention.

Maximize job fit

Leverage affordable applicant tracking technology to better assess candidates’ potential job fit. See an estimate of what your organization would pay for HireCentric applicant tracking software.



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New Hire Onboarding Success with a SWOT Analysis

The purpose of a SWOT analysis in the business planning process is to make sure you’ve identified all the possible strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your business.  Only then can you create a business plan taking into consideration all these aspects and setting your business up for it’s best chance at success.  The new hire onboarding process should be no different.

Some aspects of the SWOT analysis are designed to act upon.  For example, you want to make sure you capitalize on and take advantage of your strengths and seize your opportunities.  Other aspects are for you to be aware of.  You must be aware of your weaknesses and competitors in the market place.

If you really think about it, doing the same type of analysis for a new hire should be no different. To a new employee, changing jobs is a “new business” operating in a new environment with different conditions. Extremely savvy job seekers will do their own SWOT analysis on the company before joining.  Why?  They want to make sure they are setting themselves up for the best chance at success.

Your analysis of your new employee should occur over the course of his/her onboarding and should be a critical part of the employee onboarding process.  Ideally you would have done most of this during the hiring process.  However, it’s not an exact science and you may have missed some items. Hopefully, at a minimum, you determined the new hire should have a seat on the bus.  Now you just need to figure out what that correct seat is.

It’s not uncommon for individuals to be hired for a certain position then find themselves in another. This happens quite frequently in organizations that focus their hiring efforts on the type of person and their strengths and abilities, more so than technical knowledge and experience.  You can only gain this much clearer understanding of the best fit for the individual once she is on board and you have had a chance to analyze her capabilities against various positions.




This is the single most important aspect of an individual’s SWOT.  If you do nothing else, make sure you thoroughly assess strengths and figure out how to apply them appropriately. Getting a new hire aligned with his strengths is the best way to set him up for success in his new role.  

To properly identify strengths, you must allocate the proper time and training.  Just immersing someone in a new role will not yield the results you need to identify his core strengths.  Step one would be to have a simple conversation with the individual and see what he thinks his strengths are.  Consider a tool such as the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment to assist in this endeavor. Then have him work through various aspects of his role (and other roles if possible) to see where he naturally excels with the least amount of direction.  By doing this, you can identify where his best opportunity for success may be.




Awareness of weaknesses will avoid early failure and miss-steps for a new employee.  It is critical that he be given every opportunity to succeed, build confidence in his new role and gain confidence of his coworkers.  This doesn’t mean you don’t want to challenge him, but you want to make sure you are challenging him utilizing his strengths.

Once you’ve identified potential weak points, note them and work to avoid them.  The last thing you want to do is try to change someone or improve his weaknesses.  It’s much easier to focus on the strengths.  There’s also a tough leadership decision in this step of the process.  If it so happens that his weaknesses actually need to be his core strengths for the position, you will have to find this employee another seat on the bus — or another bus.




This is the fun step.  After your analysis of strengths and weaknesses you should have a pretty good idea of the direction(s) the individual can go within the organization after his onboarding.  These are his opportunities.  By the time you get to this step, the individual has probably started to see his opportunities as well and may have expressed some desire towards those.  

Don’t forget to have this important employee development conversation.  This will likely be the difference maker between an engaged long-term employee or a short-term employee.  Most employees will look for their next opportunity within the organization fairly quickly and if they don’t see one they’ll plan their next move — out of the company.  Your job as a leader is to make sure the opportunities they are seeking within the organization align with their strengths and avoid as many of their weaknesses as possible.




Typically addressing threats in a SWOT analysis takes into account competition.  We don’t want to think of competition in terms of an individual’s employment SWOT.  Rather, you want to look at what potential roadblocks stand in the way of his success.  The roadblocks you should try to identify are resource issues, process and procedural issues and potentially other individuals.

Ever wonder why they sweep the ice in front of the stone in Olympic curling?  They are grooming the ice and creating the best possible conditions for the stone to travel further and straighter.  As a leader you must continue to sweep the ice in front of an employee to ensure his optimal onboarding experience and continued success.  What you are doing is eliminating or mitigating the threats you know will stand in the employee’s way.   


If you’ve properly integrated a SWOT analysis into the new hire onboarding process you will be setting the stage for initial and continued success for the employee and your team/company.  It takes a little bit of discipline and practice to master, but really isn’t that difficult.  The most difficult part is evolving to the point where you only focus on aligning his strengths within the role, or a different role, and completely avoid any assignments that will draw on his weaknesses.

Done correctly, and applied correctly, a SWOT analysis will ensure a business stays on course, remains competitive in the market and services customers profitably.  This directly correlates with the same success of a new employee, his level of engagement, productivity and length of retention.

Looking for tools to improve your employee onboarding process? Contact ExactHire to learn how our employee onboarding software can automate your new hire paperwork and workflow.


5 Ideas for Making Work and Home Life More Meaningful

One hundred thirty-nine days into 2016, I reflect on what I’ve accomplished so far this year…and what I’ve totally missed, arguably due to priorities that stack up for family, work, community organizations, kids’ sports, church groups and social engagements just to name a few. I at least know that it’s the 139th day because I have somehow managed to fulfill one of my New Year’s resolutions so far–taking a photo for every day of the year and sharing it to Flickr and Facebook. It’s been a rewarding habit to form because it has forced me to be more observant. Observant despite the demands that distract me (and all of you I’m sure) on a daily basis.

Yesterday I had a chance to practice my improved observation skills while attending the RESOLVE Conference at the NCAA Hall of Champions in Indianapolis. The purpose of this event was to unite Indiana executives and HR professionals for a common purpose: “achieving meaningful experiences for their employees.” While this focus lands right in my interest wheelhouse anyway, I especially appreciated that so many of the presenters shared personal stories and imagery in order to inspire ideas about improving company culture and employee engagement. As an unexpected bonus, I’m able to transfer many of these ideas into action items in my family life, too. In this post, I’ll share my five takeaways and how I hope to apply them to both ExactHire work culture and my personal life.

1 – Make time for learning

In your workplace, do you encourage individuals to continuously learn by reading business and personal development books, following blogs and/or participating in peer strategy groups? It sounds like a great idea, and if you’re like me you have the best intentions with an inbox full of messages marked “to read” or a never ending Goodreads list of bookmarked titles for future enjoyment. But unfortunately, the best of intentions often get saved for an appallingly rare Friday afternoon when I finally frantically take time to clean out my inbox or catch up on suggested blogs in my Feedly app.

Santiago Jaramillo, CEO and founder of Bluebridge, gave a presentation at RESOLVE that was about moving the smartphone from a device of distraction to a workplace differentiator. During his talk, I was inspired by an old photo he shared of he, his father and his brother building a tree house. He remarked that he read Robinson Crusoe at a young age and then resolved to build his own tree house. The story made me think about how likely my seven-year-old son will be to read Robinson Crusoe when he is a few years older. I decided that the prospect is pretty unlikely unless I more intentionally encourage the behavior now. The same holds true for your employees. Do you advocate for employees using work time to make time for reading, study, research and self-development?

I had the pleasure of seeing the prolific author John Maxwell speak at the HR Indiana Conference in 2015. One of his childhood experiences that he described was an epiphany for me, though admittedly, I still need to implement it in my own household. As a kid, his parents didn’t pay him for doing chores around the house. Rather, they paid him for reading books. Regardless of whether you measure by books, minutes or pages read, think about the potential impact that could have on a young person’s life…particularly if you choose some of the classics and other books that offer powerful lessons and insights! It’s a compelling strategy for rewarding the behavior you desire until it becomes a habit, and way of life for someone. A habit that sets one up for new opportunities for far-reaching success.

2 – Lead at every level

Throughout the conference, multiple speakers referenced the fact that U.S. employee engagement hovers around just 30%. And while the buzz word “employee engagement” has different definitions, I’ll suggest that it measures the degree to which one feels that his/her work is personally rewarding and impactful in a positive way to an organization. Being passionate about small business, I especially correlate employee engagement to the ability for one to see how his/her individual contribution affects the culture and bottom line, and to then be recognized for that contribution.

RESOLVE speaker Martha Hoover, owner of Patachou, Inc., espoused the importance of enabling leadership at every level of an organization. While there is generally a figurehead or group of owners/senior leaders at any company, having a culture that empowers all employees to lead some degree of change and innovation is an enviable advantage. Corporate culture has everything to do with whether employees will have the confidence and support to present and enact their own solutions to challenges in their areas and across the business.

Admittedly, I’m a compliance-oriented person and our household has a clear set of expectations and rules when it comes to what we will and won’t allow our kids to do. My husband jokes that I’m always acting like a “project manager” with regard to big initiatives affecting our home life, too. So when it comes to thinking about how I can teach my kids to lead at every level, it’s a good exercise that gets me out of my default mode. From challenging them to spend their pocket change responsibly to equipping them with opportunities to brainstorm how our family can stay healthy together, parenting is a leadership development exercise everyday!

3 – Wear clothes that fit

No, I’m not talking about your dress code…though I would encourage appropriately-fitting attire for any workplace, of course. Tiffany Sauder, President and founder of ElementThree, indicated during her RESOLVE presentation that a critical component of cultural authenticity is whether the organization’s leaders have adopted a culture that is supported by values that come naturally to those same leaders. Are the leaders wearing clothes that fit the image they are trying to present?

This idea was one of the most compelling points of the day for me. ExactHire is an amazing place to work for those who like wearing multiple hats in a fast-growth, people-oriented, small company. We have a great culture that has even more room to flourish as we scale; however, it’s time for us to get really intentional about where we go from here. While many of us have come from strong cultures at previous employers, we can’t always take what worked elsewhere and cram it into our daily work life expecting immediate success. We must call to attention values that are already present (even if not explicitly named yet) in all that we do. Then, we must integrate them into our client prospecting and support, internal messaging, behavioral interviewing, performance management, learning development and rewards programs.

The clothes must fit at home, too. As both a mom and a competitive person by nature, I unfortunately tend to compare myself to other families and examine the supermom-esque feats that other children are seemingly afforded.

  • Why didn’t I spend hours making fondant-decorated Minecraft cupcakes for my son’s birthday?
  • Why don’t I make it to my daughter’s preschool class every Thursday to do stations with all the kiddos?
  • Why are there more clean clothes in laundry baskets than in dressers and closets?
  • Why do I consider it a personal victory if I manage to clean the fridge only once per year?

But alas, the cultural clothes suggested by the above questions don’t fit me as well as I might like. Instead, I embrace the jeans that I can actually zip up and teach my kids to multitask and to be confident meeting new people and participating in lots of new experiences/organizations!

4 – Be radically different

During her session, Tiffany Sauder indicated that she wholeheartedly believed that today all products and services are commodities. If so, how will your organization differentiate itself amidst a sea of competitors with similar offerings? Be “extreme” she said. Coincidentally, the same idea of being radically different was a significant point in Martha Hoover’s presentation, as well. So, pick a few things that you will do in a dramatically unique way relative to others, and incorporate those activities or beliefs into your values.

Speaking of values, don’t pick vanilla, predictable cliches. That’s not to say that “trust” and “giving back” and “respect” aren’t admirable values…but make them yours if you use them. Further define them (or whatever values you select) so that they are unique and incredibly descriptive of your business, alone.

Reflecting on this session, I asked myself how my family might be radically different. Of the five takeaways in this post, this is the one that I struggled relating clearly to my home life. I don’t think our family is particularly unique in terms of what we value relative to our peers; however, this line of thinking did prompt me to consider whether our kids will grow up with a clear vision of “written in stone” core principles on which they can reflect as they face decisions as they mature.

Martha Hoover and her RESOLVE co-presenter, Matthew Feltrop, spoke of the recently formed Patachou Foundation which aims to serve wholesome meals to youth and educate them about healthy food choices and wellness. One of the educational activities is to provide children with conversation starter cards to model ideas for productive, engaging conversations with others. What a fantastic, yet simple idea. Not radically different, but perhaps radical in that today we must focus on it more intentionally in the age of smartphones; whereas, it used to happen more organically when I was growing up with fewer electronic distractions.

5 – Make culture accessible

If anything is clear about culture, it’s that you can’t force it to turn out a certain way. However, you can nurture its growth and nudge it in a positive direction by making it a central focus for your organization. Or, you can let it languish and risk a negative environment by ignoring it.

Given that the theme of RESOLVE was to create more meaningful employee engagement experiences, many of the presentations discussed culture at length. In particular, from a panel of senior leaders at a diverse set of locally-based businesses, came the notion that successful organizations will make culture more accessible by creating it, and then “giving it away.” My interpretation of that statement was that while owners and upper management need to foster and be attentive to the development of company culture, in order for it to flourish they must enable employees at all levels to participate in its evolution.

While the core values and principles of doing business may already be in place at your organization, in what ways do you empower your staff to decide how your daily work reflects and celebrates those values?

A former co-worker once told me that while she was baking a cake with her young son, she thought he could be mixing the batter more productively. So, she tried to show him how to do it more efficiently her way. In response he commented, “Mom, there’s more than one way to stir batter.” Indeed. Sage advice for all of us.

Image credit: Sunrise by uditha wickramanayaka (contact)

Ready to Focus On Mobile Recruiting?

Sometimes the need for change is glaring. Outcomes are increasingly negative. Trend lines are plummeting. You know it when you see it; it’s time to change things up. Unfortunately, when the need for change is obvious, it might also be too late to implement effectively.

If your organization is considering a mobile and social media recruiting strategy, the good news is that it’s not too late to effectively implement one. In fact, most small- to medium-sized businesses are in the same boat. According to a 2014 study by CareerBuilder, only 39% of all employers use social media for recruiting and hiring. And in LinkedIn’s 2015 Global Recruiting Trends Report, only 30% of employers reported having job postings optimized for mobile, with 37% reporting their career sites were mobile-optimized.

Gaining A Competitive Advantage

Successful organizations must have leaders who proactively research new trends, best practices, and technology. By doing this, they can make the decision to change before the change is required. This positions an organization ahead of the curve, where they are more likely to gain a competitive advantage with successful implementation. While your competitors may not be ahead of you in mobile recruiting, you may fail to gain a competitive advantage if you delay too long in developing a strategy.

Changing before you are forced to change is also advantageous because it increases the chances that your change process will be successful. This is because before implementing any change–especially large scope change–an organization must take the time to consider whether it is, in fact, ready to change. A “Ready or not, here I come” attitude can have disastrous results.

The Consideration Stage

New initiatives take time and resources. Often, the time and resources are drained from existing operations. So one of the primary objectives of the consideration stage is to determine whether taking on a new initiative is feasible, in light of its potential impact on existing operations.

Of course, there will almost always be tradeoffs for small- to medium-sized businesses looking to implement a new initiative. Unless a large amount of capital is available, implementation will affect some degree of inefficiency on overall operations. But the goal is is to minimize this inefficiency and to generate outcomes that result in a net gain or benefit after implementation is complete. Ultimately, an organization must determine its priorities by weighing the value of a new initiative against the value of existing operations.

Once priorities are determined, the next step is to develop a case for change, and then get buy-in from all stakeholders who will be charged with implementing the new initiative. This step is vital for achieving successful outcomes that align with the leadership’s established priorities. Not surprisingly, this step is often missed when an organization is caught off guard and rushes into the change process.

Considerations For Implementing A Mobile Recruiting Strategy

In addition to the feasibility of implementing a mobile recruiting strategy, an organization must consider the need and value of developing a strategy. To do this, it helps to simply begin by looking at your current performance.

Recruiting Performance

Here are a few questions to consider for your organization:

  • Has it become increasingly difficult to source candidates?
  • Has the quality of applicants decreased?
  • Are applicants dropping out of the process earlier?

Answering “yes” to any of these questions may indicate that you are not reaching enough job seekers, or when you do reach the job seekers, they are turned off by your application process. In a 2015 survey by Pew Research Center, “Some 47% of smartphone job seekers have had problems accessing job-related content because it wasn’t displaying properly on their phone, and an identical 47% have had problems reading the text in a job posting because it was not designed for a mobile device.” This should be troubling news to employers when, according to the 2014 Talent Acquisition Survey by Jibe, “80 percent of job seekers expect to be able to do part of their job search easily on a smartphone.”

Even if your organization’s current recruiting performance is healthy, there may be reason to move toward developing a mobile recruiting strategy. Consider your competition.


While your current talent recruitment efforts may be producing acceptable outcomes, your competition can change this very quickly. Take a look at your competitors’ online presence:

  • Do they have career sites optimized for mobile?
  • Are they advertising jobs via social channels?
  • How easy is it to apply for a position with a mobile device?

Regardless of your findings, you will find one of two things: a threat or an opportunity. And just like with other aspects of business, it is better to anticipate new conditions and proactively adapt to them than to be caught unaware and scramble to adjust. The former approach will strengthen your organization’s advantage; the latter will likely erase it.

After considering your current recruiting performance and reviewing your competition, you are likely close to making a decision on implementing a mobile recruiting strategy. But are your employees and job seekers ready for change?


As discussed above, changing too soon or without buy-in from stakeholders can lead to disastrous results. Likewise, imposing an aggressive timeline for implementation on unprepared employees guarantees difficulties. For organizations that have been testing the waters of mobile recruiting, there might be less of a danger in fully embracing a mobile recruiting strategy; however, those starting from a blank slate will likely experience growing pains. Consider this:

  • How tech-savvy are my current employees (stakeholders)?
  • How open are they to change/ adept at learning new skills?
  • Do they fully understand and agree with the need for a mobile recruiting strategy?

Your answers to these questions will go a long way to determining the time and resources needed to successfully implement a mobile recruiting strategy. The best, well-conceived strategy will fail without adequate resources driven by a reasonable timeline. Again, this is why it is so crucial to begin the change process well in advance.

Finally, if your organization understands and agrees with the need for a mobile recruiting strategy, and implementation is feasible in light of its potential impact on existing operations, then the final consideration is to what degree are job seekers ready?

Job Seekers

It may seem counter-intuitive to place job seekers as the final consideration; however, this helps to ensure that an organization makes objective considerations at each point. Your accuracy in determining job seeker readiness relies heavily upon third-party sources–of varying statistical accuracy. So it makes sense to begin considering that which you know with great accuracy, rather than having your consideration of the job seeker preference/readiness drive all others.

With that being said, job seeker readiness will help you refine your implementation timeline as well as your overall mobile recruiting strategy. Here are a few questions to consider about your job seekers:

  • Is there a prevailing demographic for your new hires or workers in your industry?
  • Is mobile device usage high for this prevailing demographic?
  • Do you receive a high percentage of job inquiries via social media or email?
  • Do you receive a high number of applicants from a specific job board?

Again, answering these questions will require you to rely on statistical data and make some assumptions to draw conclusions. But working through these may reveal insights that inform your ultimate decision to develop a mobile recruiting strategy.

Moving Beyond Consideration

The consideration stage may seem exhaustive–if not exhausting–but the work completed upfront will lay a solid foundation for strategy development and implementation planning. Additionally, once a thoughtfully considered strategy and implementation plan are in place, an organization is more likely to reach desired outcomes without unexpected delays or tradeoffs.

New Leadership Must Inspire New Talent

The following blog post is part 3 of a 3-part series, which is adapted from a speech given by Harlan Schafir (CVO, CEO of ExactHire and Human Capital Concepts) at the Collective Alternative Executive Speaker Series on September 17, 2015.

In my previous two posts from this series, I discussed how changing demographics, views on the nature of work and the workplace, and rapid advances in technology have converged to create intense competition for talent in today’s job market. I believe that this has resulted in making talent management the #1 constraint to a business’s growth. As a solution, I’ve proposed that organizations seek to adapt their work culture to attract, hire, and retain top talent. Today, I would like to discuss how leaders of  an organization can do the same by adapting their leadership style.

Style, Not Substance

It’s easy for business leaders to become defensive when we begin to talk about “adapting leadership style”. I can imagine the response to such a proposition would be something like: “But my leadership style has been successful to this point!” or possibly, “I didn’t dictate the style of the leaders who led me! I fell in line and paid my dues.” or even, “ These whiny, spoiled millennials want everything their way.”

However, when we talk about “adapting” leadership style, it’s important to understand that this refers to changing the delivery of your values or principles, not changing your values and principles themselves. In other words, if you are a leader who values trust and accountability, then the change is in how you engage employees in imbuing those values through their work; trust and accountability do not need to be discarded simply because it appears that the two values are threatened by a shift in workplace culture like, say…an employee’s need for telecommuting or flexible work arrangements.

So the question before leaders today is: How do I effectively communicate my values and principles to a new generation of employees in a way that inspires their loyalty and motivates their work?

Leading a Multigenerational Workforce

Much has been written, spoken, and thought about the Millennial Generation. These blogs, tweets, posts, podcasts, ebooks, etc. have gone to great lengths–some based on dubious sources and research–in describing how DIFFERENT this group is from those generations before it.

So much has been written, in fact, that one might believe that “leading millennials” is the most pressing and important challenge before business leaders today. But I believe it’s much bigger than that. It’s about leading a diverse workforce that, for at least a little bit longer, will span 4 generations.

And while 4 generations working side-by-side is unprecedented, the concept of leadership evolving in response to generational shifts in the workforce is hardly anything new.

Leadership Styles Over The Years

Dr. Tim Elmore–a noted author, thought leader, and speaker on Leadership Development–speaks of the different styles of leadership over the past half century as being products of the time–and specifically products of each period’s emerging generation.

  • 50’s – 60’s (The Military Commander)

    Organizations were run from top-down. Authority was not questioned. If someone left a staff position, they were considered disloyal. These leaders led from positional authority.

  • 70’s (The CEO)

    This leader led by creating a vision that would influence followers to buy-in and work toward fulfilling the leader’s vision. Productivity was the focus. The style was still very top-down.

  • 80’s (The Entrepreneur)

    This leader was pioneering and often preferred the unconventional. They managed by “walking around.” They felt the most critical element was being the first to do it. Innovation was the focus. This style allowed for employees to share ideas that could be implemented, which helped them tolerate the fact that the leadership style was still top-down.

  • 90’s (The Coach)

    This leader assembled and worked with teams. They saw themselves as coaches of players. The leader found the proper roles for all the players, so that together–as a team–they could accomplish more than the sum of its individuals. This style was participatory, but still top-down.

  • (Today) Poet Gardener

    This leader is discerning of the culture and ideas that emerge from others. They gather thoughts from others and draw connections in order to make the best decisions–even if the ideas are not their own. They see their primary function as developing their people, and they equip and empower employees accordingly.  These leaders value individual and organizational growth, but see the the latter being driven by the former. This is leading with shared ownership.

Adapting Leadership Style

The fact that we can map the evolution of leadership styles and their differences is evidence that the challenge before business leaders today–to adapt their style to a new generation of workers–is not new; however, what could be considered unique is that meeting this challenge today will directly impact the constraint to an organization’s growth.

In other words, whereas previous changes in leadership styles evolved in order to increase efficiency or production indirectly through the employee, now this evolution in leadership is required in order simply hire and keep an employee. It has a direct impact on an organization’s ability to grow.

The mindset of “Here’s my leadership style. Here’s my culture. Accept it.” will not cut it. For businesses today, leadership style and culture may be more important than ever before. In order to grow, we must adapt to the new realities of a changing workforce.

“The mindset of ‘Here’s my leadership style. Here’s my culture. Accept it.’ will not cut it.”

Becoming A “Poet Gardener”

So how do we begin transforming our leadership style to one that engages and inspires a new generation of workers, while still serving to encourage and affirm preceding generations? Oh, and still results in the overall growth and increased profitability of our company.

I think it begins with listening. Until we are able to understand the needs and values of our employees and those that are prevalent and unique within each generation, we cannot effectively lead and inspire. I would like to provide a quick story of how I realized this.

Before starting ExactHire, I had spent over 25 years leading employees–mostly Baby Boomers. But it was with ExactHire–around 2012–that I began encountering a different type of worker: the millennial. What I noticed most in these workers was the change in expectations. And so, rather than forcing my leadership style–honed through managing Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers–I stopped and listened. And then I began to understand the expectations of this new generation of employees and how I could meet them.

The point here is that employee expectations change. Sometimes this is due to generational shifts in the workforce, sometimes it’s because of popular culture or societal shifts that span generations. But inevitably, employee expectations will change. Your approach to meeting these expectations as they change will define your leadership style and, ultimately, determine whether you retain top talent. 

And this is important not just in addressing a seeming crisis–like a massive generational shift in the workforce–but also in building the type of organization that, thanks to its leadership culture, is “self-sustainable” and can adapt to future change–long after you’ve gone.

ExactHire provides hiring and employee onboarding solutions to assist organizations in attracting, hiring, and retaining talent. To learn more about how you can leverage our SaaS solutions to optimize your talent management efforts, contact us today!

Feature Image Credit: Change by F Delventhal(contact)

New Day, New Talent, New Culture

The following blog post is part 2 of a 3-part series, which is adapted from a speech given by Harlan Schafir (CVO, CEO of ExactHire and Human Capital Concepts) at the Collective Alternative Executive Speaker Series on September 17, 2015.

A new generation of workers rapidly entering the workforce is one thing, but when that generation is huge, and it enters the workforce at the same time as another huge generation exits, the stage is set for a seismic cultural shift.

And I think many small- to medium-sized business owners have already felt the tremors of this shift. Over the next decade, organizations will increasingly grapple with the challenges of work culture, as the Baby Boomers retire and the Millennials make their mark on the nature of work and the workplace.

Yesterday and Today

I’d like you to think back to ten years ago, 2005, and consider what the average workplace was like then for small- to medium-sized businesses.

In general, the employees all lived within the same geographical location. They worked 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM in the office. They had a desk, they punched a clock–or at least clicked it. They still filed some work in folders–or at least to the folder in their desktop computer. When they left the office they were done with work.

Today, an organization’s employees can be spread across the country and, in some cases, the world. Full-time, telecommuting workers have increased by more than 80% in the U.S. since 2005 according to 2012 Global Workplace Analytics study. And a 2014 survey by the Society for Human Resources Management  (SHRM) indicates that 59% of companies are offering at least part-time telecommuting.


“Telecommuting workers have increased by more than 80% in the U.S. since 2005.”

This flexibility in work location has given rise to flexibility in working hours as well. Flex work schedules empower employees to arrange their work schedule in a way that helps them balance commitments at work and home. Some organizations are even going so far as to offer unlimited Paid Time Off…that’s right unlimited PTO!

Technology Driving Change, Blurring Lines

The current change in the nature of work and the workplace has been largely brought about by advances in technology. Cloud-based software and storage solutions mean that workers are no longer reliant upon the office desktop computer or file cabinets to access their work. With a laptop or even a smartphone, employees can communicate with colleagues, access shared files, complete sales transactions, and conduct virtual meetings from anywhere at anytime.

So what’s happening more and more today is that workers are transitioning from a work/life balance mindset to a melding of work into life, work-life. The two are no longer weighed against each other or separated by the punching of a time clock. This mindset drastically changes the dynamics of the workplace and, thus, work culture. Organizations that foster and support “work-life” will stand to gain a competitive advantage in talent management, but it is imperative that they first consider the impact such a change will have on their existing work cultures.

Sea Change In Work Culture

I believe that the majority of business leaders in our country are aware of the changing nature of work and the workplace. I am less confident that these same leaders have considered how embracing these changes will impact their work culture. Sure, organizations may be introducing elements such as flexible work arrangements and telecommuting as part of their work culture, but how many have fully established them? 

The reason I bring this up is that, while many organizations are testing the waters of this oncoming sea change in the nature of work and the workplace, they will very soon be engulfed by it. This is because, over the past decade, changes in work culture have largely been a matter of choice for employers, but going forward they will be demanded by a workforce that has new expectations of its employers and more options for employment.

According to the Intelligence Group, their survey of Millennials found that:


Want flexible work schedules.


Want “work-life integration”.

A Culture That Accommodates All Talent

With so much competition over talent it’s understandable that organizations could decide to change whatever it takes to attract the type of employees required for continued growth. However, there is a danger in a “whatever-it-takes” approach to adapting work culture. The danger is twofold:

  1. Drastic change to attract and accommodate new talent (Millennials) can alienate existing talent (Baby Boomers) and disrupt existing culture;
  2. Your organization could miss the opportunity to build a framework for managing future growth and change (Generation Z or Baby Boomers forgoing retirement).

So, yes, adapting work culture is a solution to managing talent and removing it as a constraint to growth, but it is not a simple solution. Business leaders would be wise to first consider the nature of their existing work culture–what makes it work? what is lacking?–before making changes that could eventually disrupt operations and, ironically, lead to increased turnover.

Read Part 3: New Leadership Must Inspire New Talent

ExactHire provides hiring and employee onboarding solutions to assist organizations in attracting, hiring, and retaining talent. To learn more about how you can leverage our SaaS solutions to optimize your talent management efforts, contact us today!

Feature Image Credit: Changed Lines by Marcin Moga(contact)

Talent As A Critical Resource

The following blog post is adapted from a speech given by Harlan Schafir at the Collective Alternative Executive Speaker Series on September 17, 2015.


Many organizations are growing, and so is their need for talent. The problem that many employers are beginning to face is in finding and retaining that talent. Today, I’d like to talk about staffing our organizations to meet the demands of growth and turnover–or simply, talent management.

An organization’s growth in this decade and beyond will be determined by how its leaders respond to the challenges associated with talent management. Talent has become and will remain the #1 critical resource for businesses in this decade. And for the foreseeable future, I can think of no issue more threatening to the growth of SMBs than this one.

The following quote I recently read sums it up nicely:

“The changing workforce is influencing the way companies do business, suggesting that workforce stability will be an employer’s competitive edge.”-Roger E. Herman, CSP, CMC

Today’s Workforce

Demographic shifts have placed vital demands on talent. And while the dynamics of the talent market have changed over time, the impact of this change is now upon us in full force.

But if the demographics were changing, how did we not see it before now? Did we fall asleep?  Let’s look back over the last 8-10 years, beginning right about the time the recession started.

Through The Great Recession of 2008-2009 and the slow recovery that followed, the vast majority of organizations were trimming their workforce, attempting to do more with less, and trying to just keep their businesses solvent. So the focus for most leaders was on increasing sales–this was the constraint to growth.

The Workforce and Hiring Since The Recession

YearBusiness ClimateMillennial WorkforceHiring NeedsHiring Concern
2007-2009Sales Declining22%LayoffsNone
2010-2014Sales Flat, ModestSteady IncreaseSlight IncreaseLow
2014-2015Sales GrowingSignificant increaseSignificant IncreaseHigh

At that time, Millennials were entering the workforce, but studies showed that many were just taking jobs to have jobs. Although their percentage of the workforce was slowly increasing, hiring was stagnant. So many organizations hired one, maybe two Millennials and that was it. There simply was not enough hiring taking place for Millennials to make their mark on organizations, and so the dynamics in the workplace and how these companies operated really didn’t change.

It was only recently that hiring increased significantly as sales have continued to grow and show stability following the recession and slow recovery.

2011-2015 job openings talent

And as companies go to the market to hire, the makeup of the talent pool has changed significantly since before the recession.

A New Generation

Through the recession, the Baby Boomer generation continued its reign as the largest generation represented in the workforce, but many left the workforce in the years immediately following it.

baby boomer talent decline

In the first quarter of 2015, the Millennial Generation became the largest percentage of workers in the U.S. labor force (Pew Research Center).

workforce generations talent

That’s important because that reality essentially flips the labor market on its head within the span of a decade. Think about it.

Today, in a recovered economy–which really only took hold in early 2014–sales are up, companies are growing, and hiring is increasing. Instead of adding one or two Millennials to the payroll, they’re adding several. Suddenly, this new generation of workers accounts for a larger percent of the organization’s workforce. By 2020, the Millennial Generation will represent nearly 50% of all workers in the U.S. (SHRM).

Now the unique needs, values, and skills of these new workers must be fully considered. Their impact on an organization’s culture must be considered. To ignore them is to lose them, and to lose them is to incur the costs of rehiring.

Times they are a changin’. Talent has become and will remain the #1 critical resource for businesses in this decade. And for organizations to succeed, I believe leadership style and culture must adapt to address it.

Read Part 2: New Day, New Talent, New Culture

ExactHire provides hiring and employee onboarding solutions to assist organizations in attracting, hiring, and retaining talent. To learn more about how you can leverage our SaaS solutions to optimize your talent management efforts, contact us today!

Feature Image Credit: Oklahoma Pumpjack by Jonathan C. Wheeler (contact)

New Mom Motivations – Increase Employee Happiness

I have a new daughter, and she is amazing! I love having a baby in the house again. My two sons are six and eight, full of energy, and involved in everything. But having an infant in the house has reminded me to slow down and enjoy life a little bit more.

Although my husband and I are often sleep deprived, we’ve learned to appreciate the quiet times and enjoy the first smiles, snuggles, pretty dresses, and bows. It’s safe to say that being home and having the opportunity to enjoy all of this is motivating to me.

And my company knows it.

Motivate Your Employees

What Makes Your People Tick?

A successful company knows what makes people tick. People are driven in many different ways. Compensation is important, but it’s not everything. Companies need managers who know what it is that makes their teams happy and what motivates them to help the organization succeed.

I work for a company that believes in a work-life balance and provides flexibility to work from home and to change schedules if necessary. Two years ago, I preferred to arrive after 9:00 AM because I didn’t need to rush out at 5:00 PM (and because I wasn’t a morning person). Today, I arrive at work early so that I can be back home by late afternoon. I am motivated to be as efficient as possible at work so that I can be home to help my boys with homework, make dinner, and have time to hold my baby girl. I am telling you this to illustrate how employee priorities and motivations can change as they reach different stages in life.

Knowing more about what motivates your employees will also help you learn to manage them over the course of their employment within your organization. From the very beginning–as part of the hiring process–companies can utilize cognitive and behavioral assessments to determine whether an applicant is a good fit for both the position and the organization. Later on, you can use these assessment results to help manage and motivate the employee.

Maximize Employee Happiness

It’s About People

For long-term success, the happiness of your employees should matter the most in your organization. Be sure to assess new hires for job fit, get to know your team and what makes them happy through informal conversations, and use company social activities and events to to strengthen relationships. You will find that happy employees lead to greater work efficiency, and the work environment is more enjoyable for everyone.


How will you keep your employees happy so that you can retain the best team?

Learn more about applicant assessments tools and other people-pleasing HR Technology at Contact us today!

Image credit: mother&child01 by David Bleasdale (contact)