Business norms have changed fundamentally and forever. How can we lead through the chaos to unlock a more robust agile organisation? Guest Contributors: David Barrett, CCO, AON Assessment Solutions, Ian McClean, Founder, Flow Group Interviewed by Robert MacGiolla Phádraig, CCO, Sigmar Recruitment
Now that the workforce has been dislocated, how do we now plan to re-connect, hire, develop and manage remote and central talent. The COVID crisis harpooned us into the future of work over-night and by and large the WFH experiment has worked. Now that the working world has been turned on its head, it’s unlikely to return as it was. As restrictions lift over the coming weeks, how do we plan to: (1) transition from a remote to a blended workforce (2) reconvene in the physically restricted workplace (3) re-connect, collaborate and compete for talent as markets recover. John Riordan from Shopify and Stephanie White from eBay join Sigmar CCO Robert Mac Giolla Phadraig to explore: - how eBay are staggering a return to the workplace in Asia - how a fully distributed workforce works at Shopify - how the talentscape is changing across Europe from Sigmar - how to ultimately re-connect the workforce for a more effective talent-led recovery
In light of COVID-19, many companies have unexpectedly asked a large cohort of their employees to work from home. Without time to prepare for this, leaders, whose teams normally share an office and who now have been thrown into working from home, have been presented with a host of new challenges. How can one lead effectively when employees are greeting each other with instant messages than face to face interactions? When meetings are held via Microsoft Teams rather than in-person? Read on for our advice for managing a remote workforce. Clarity of goals, expectations, guidelines First and foremost, leaders need to prioritise the setting of clear boundaries and guidelines. At its most basic this involves setting clear expectations for work hours, availability, communication methods, meetings, key projects and deadlines, and responding to emails. For example, “We use video conferencing for our daily check-in meetings, but we use instant messenger/chat when something is urgent”. After this you need to convey what is success. Don’t worry so much about what is being done, concentrate on what is being accomplished. If we are meeting goals, great! If not, then we need to look further into what is being done. Everyone has a different idea of what doing something “quickly” or “well” means. Whether showing examples of what you expect to be done, an overview of how you schedule your day etc. make sure you set clear expectations from those you work with. And finally, use this time as an opportunity to re-clarify the basics in order to ensure everyone understands their role and how each person contributes to team objectives. Clarifying and re-clarifying goals will help people understand what is expected of them. Over communicate While communication is always essential for leaders, it becomes even more essential when your team is working remotely. A challenge experienced by many when transitioning from in-office work to remote work is the feeling of disconnection and isolation which hinders an employee’s engagement and productivity. Given the current environment and people’s anxiety surrounding COVID-19, this feeling of disconnect and loneliness is probably heightened. Therefore, it is important that you over-communicate with your employees. Your staff members are probably used to talking to you every day so make sure you regularly check-in. This could be a daily series of one-on-one video calls if your employees work more independently of each other or a team video call if their work is collaborative, or a mix of both. The important aspect is that these calls are a regular feature and that employees know that they have an opportunity to discuss any concerns or ask questions. Embrace video conferencing and have regular team meetings and continue to foster team morale by taking the time at the start of each meeting for general chat such as asking about people’s weekends, how they are feeling etc. Trust Being thrust into a remote working environment, as a manger it can be tempting to micromanage. However, doing so will only make your employees feel like you don’t trust them and impact their engagement and productivity. After you have set clear expectations, you must have faith in the employee that they will get the job done. Being trusted to get things done is a big motivator for people. Finally, as it’s been an abrupt shift to remote work for many, it is important for managers to acknowledge that this transition might be difficult for employees. Listen to your employees’ anxieties and concerns and offer them encouragement and support.
With the majority of our teams now working remotely, the challenges of creating and maintaining company culture are evident. Technology can’t replace what the workplace provides: community, camaraderie and shared purpose. Now, more than ever, maintaining culture matters. Here are some ideas on instilling company culture across remote employees: 1. Connect Back to Your Values & Purpose For many of our staff currently, working remotely has been unexpected and in the face of a global health crisis, many are at a loss for what to do. For some work may feel insignificant now, so as their manager this is your time to help employees find meaning and reconnect back to your company’s values and purpose. While you may not be a company at the frontline, you still have a positive impact on people’s lives. Remind your employees of how their contributions add up to something much bigger and that we are all in this together! 2. Communication is Key Communication within divisions, one to one, social gatherings, company updates, all need to be consistent. This maintains relationships and promotes inclusivity. Create an open and transparent communication policy. This allows people to be themselves and feel comfortable reaching out via online chat platforms. Set expectations on communication methods. Where do meetings take place? What tool is for social sharing? Finally, you need to put an emphasis on positivity in your written communication. With the absence of face to face interactions in virtual conversations, it is easy for tone to be interpreted negatively so you need to be extra careful to be positive. 3. Mimic the Water Cooler Effect As mentioned, many of our staff are currently missing the day-to-day work interactions they have with their colleagues. Therefore, assign a platform where team members can live chat, share files, post photos and collaborate throughout the day to mimic everyday office life. This can be where some of the best ideas and knowledge can be shared yet at the same time promotes inclusivity and the sense of “team”. 4. Trust In a remote team, there aren't any silly rules about being in your seat during certain hours of the day. This means at the end of the week you either have something to show for your week or not. This means you trust that your teammates are getting something done. But also, that your teammates trust you. To earn that trust you want to make sure you have something to show for your work each week. 5. Focus on Health & Wellbeing In the midst of a global pandemic, now is not the time to forget about your wellness programme when stress and anxiety is elevated. Make sure to check in with remote employees that they are taking breaks, finishing on time, and are maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Make online workouts available to your employees allowing them to take part in physical activity. Perhaps set a company challenge such as a step challenge to get employees engaged in physical activity and as a plus networking with colleagues. For those struggling with sleep or anxiety, provide access to meditation or breathing courses. And to look after financial wellbeing consider organising webinars on topics such as managing a household budget, how your pension works, setting financial goals etc. 6. Rituals and Traditions Creating traditions with your team members, regardless of how often they happen, helps keep teams cohesive and encourages open communication and trust. Before you were thrown into the digital remote working world, undoubtedly you had traditions in place for how promotions, achievements and even birthdays were recognised. To keep spirits up, it’s crucial you keep celebrating these milestones. 7. Ask for Feedback Finally, the introduction to remote working has been unprecedented for many of us. Therefore, ask employees for honest feedback and suggestions. Use a pulse survey to get real data on this. "You don’t need everyone physically together to create a strong culture. The best cultures derive from actions people actually take.” Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, Authors of Remote
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen hundreds of thousands of people lose their job, both temporarily and permanently, Sigmar Recruitment is today launching an online platform to connect jobseekers with employment opportunities as well as offer upskilling opportunities for the restricted workforce to ensure a smoother return to the workplace once the isolation restrictions have eased. The initiative is online for ease of use by those at home. Jobseekers are invited to register on the website, so that employers can make direct contact for current opportunities. Jobseekers sign up for a daily email, which will inform them of companies that have immediate vacancies on either a permanent or temporary basis. Jobseekers can then apply directly to employers. The site also offers highly relevant jobseeker advice on how to compete in the current marketplace, on a range of workforce topics, including tips on: video interviewing online engagement social branding digital collaboration remote working COVID restriction employee rights societal consciousness remote onboarding and much more Furthermore, the website also directs jobseekers to free online training to support upskilling during down time. Employers can post immediate or short-term staffing requirements for free so Sigmar can keep supply chains running and redeploy Ireland’s workforce that have been affected by COVID-19. Employers can also “shop direct” for talent on the website. Commenting on the initiative, founder of the initiative and Sigmar CCO Robert Mac Giolla Phádraig says: “www.covidresponsejobs.com was created by Sigmar Recruitment to support displaced workers and employers during the COVID-19 outbreak. Our aim is to connect people who have been impacted by short-term business closures with employers who have seen rising demand for frontline staff, those in healthcare and those needed to keeping Ireland’s supply chains operating. “The economy has temporarily stalled and the traditional recruitment process is on its head. However, the current pandemic has created new positions especially in retail, distribution, manufacturing and the health sector, to include many administrative, customer support and back office roles. In addition, we are actively supporting many other organisations balance business continuity with sustainable employee flexibility throughout the crisis.” Commenting on the restricted workforce, Mac Giolla Phádraig adds: “With the introduction of the COVID 19 Wage Subsidy Scheme this week, a significant cohort of the workforce is now likely to be retained, but with restricted workload. We aim to support the restricted workforce through upskilling during downtime, to better equip our workforce to rebound from the crisis in the medium term. “At this time of national crisis, we all have a responsibility to play our part. At Sigmar, we have adopted a frontline first approach and will deploy all resources available to us to support the national interest. “ www.covidresponsejobs.com is created by Sigmar Recruitment, supported by Candidate Manager, The Irish Times and Communicorp
In an age of big data, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), relying on instinct, intuition or gut feel may seem like an inferior system when recruiting talent but it may just be the edge you need to recruit the best. We live in the digital era. Artificial intelligence (AI) guides our choices of restaurant, how we get there, and helps us get home later if we need a taxi. We talk about generations Y and Z as digital natives and organisations throughout the world are actively discussing their digital transformation strategies. It is also having a profound impact on the workplace where everything can be measured and reduced to a series of ones and zeros, and a growing number of activities and processes previously carried out by people are being automated in the drive to reduce costs and improve productivity. But the digital world is not necessarily a better one. Faster and less prone to error certainly, but better is open to question. And hiring people who will thrive in a given workplace is equally important, according to Sigmar head of European recruitment, Shaun O’Shea. The Sigmar recruitment framework addresses three dimensions, he explains, competency fit, motivational fit, and culture and values fit. It has been tried and tested and proven its worth in successful candidate selection over the years, but it also acts as an indicator for the limitations of technology in the recruitment process. “I have been in the recruitment business for eight years,” says O’Shea. “Eighteen months ago, we set up the largest tech-nology recruitment hub in Europe here in the middle of Kerry. We lean quite a lot on technology tools, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotic process automa-tion. I recruit for the technology sector, so I am very pro-technology, but you’ve got to build in human intelligence as well.” Technology has its limitations, he explains. “When you hear people talking about new technologies, they say they are quicker, more accurate and better. They certainly can be quicker and more accurate but not necessarily better. They lack human instinct, that gut instinct. You can use technology quite a lot for the first two elements of our recruitment framework. You can search for competency matches and so on but there is no questionnaire, AI algorithm or chatbot which can tell if the candidate lives and breathes the values of your organisation.” That’s where the interview comes in, when people can interact with each other to tell what they are really like. “People want to know what will happen when your backs are up against the wall, when the organisation is in dire straits, is the candidate a person who can be relied on to live and breathe its values. Technology is important, of course and we use all the latest tools. But we are combining technology with human instinct. We are using it to complement our own capabilities.” No matter how advanced, technologies like AI and machine learning can be prone to the same errors as humans. “They are designed to do what a human or a group of humans will do but will never have human relationship skills and instincts”, he notes. But they can repeat the same mistakes as humans. In the US, when AI was used in an attempt to overcome unconscious bias in the recruitment process it was actually found to perpetuate it. This was because the algorithms use data on previously successful candidates to hire from the next bunch, thereby repeating and possibly amplifying the behaviour of its human predecessors. Indeed, in 2018, Amazon ceased using AI assessment of CVs after it was found that the software was biased against those which include the term “women’s”, such as in “women’s team captain”. Again, this was due to trends in the dataset of previously successful candidates. This is not the only reason to be cautious of an over-reliance on technology. Mistakes are costly, says O’Shea. “The Work Institute published research last year that showed that wrong hires are costing businesses around the world $600 million every year. The average employee in Europe now changes job every 12 months. We have to look at why people leave, and it’s usually because they are not a technical or motivational fit. It’s generally about culture.” “Every organisation needs to hire the right people for them,” he continues. “Every hiring process should be unique, not off the shelf. Technology should be used as an enabler. It can be used for creating a long list of candidates and identifying a large talent pool. You need human input for short-listing and interviewing. If the recruiter works for the company, they will already know the culture. If it is an external recruiter, they will need to learn the client’s culture. I recently spent three days in Stockholm with a client learning their culture. Before that I was in Berlin and Barcelona.” It’s not about organisations having a good or bad culture. “I explain to clients that their culture is their culture. They shouldn’t try to hide it or represent the organisation as something that it is not.” But culture can vary. “It can be different from country to country, office to office, and between sales and production and engineering. You have to understand it, if you are to hire candidates who will be the right cultural fit.” He concludes by pointing out that the human interaction at interview stage is now critically important to hiring the best people. “The economy is now at full employment and financial, accounting, and technology candidates can have five or six job offers at any one time. It’s a two way process now. Candidates are as much as interviewing the company as they are being interviewed. It’s now almost a question of them hiring the company.” Mac Giolla Phádraig adds: “You can take the human out of the stone-age, but you can’t take the stone-age out of the human. Certain instincts are hard wired in us all, some in our self-interest; survival, fight or flight, reproduction and others which are altruistic; compassion, tribal instinct and a societal instinct.” Intuition is when you trust your instinct, which is often perceived as being “fluffy” as a decision-making factor when used to recruit. “We should not pit data against intuition, rather we should use our intuition to develop a hypothesis about a candidate and test that with the data in a experiential way at interview. Afterall, instincts are the fundamental drivers of how we behave and how we feel. I for one, would love to see a new recruit display, compassion towards my customers, tribal instincts towards my team and societal instinct towards the world at large. Use your instinct to hire for human instinct.”
Today, 16th October is officially known as Boss’s Day. It’s a significant day considering we all have a boss or we are a boss, but what we want to know is makes a great one? You can go to great lengths to hire the best team but without a great manager the team will ultimately fail. Google is acutely aware of this, so for the last 10 years they conducted extensive research on this topic under the code name Project Oxygen. The goal? Figure out what makes the perfect manager, so companies like Google could train its leaders to be the best in the worlds. The research has paid off, as over the years Google has seen improvement in employee turnover, satisfaction, and performance. Want to know what make the perfect boss? It all comes down to these 10 behaviours… 1. A Good Coach A great boss allows their employees to solve their own problems. Rather than doing everything themselves, they teach others to do the work so they can be responsible for their own tasks. Taking the time to teach staff and encouraging them to upskill makes for a more empowered staff. A great boss allows their employees grow and guides them as much as they can. 2. Empowers Team and Does Not Micromanage Giving staff the freedom to do their job is key to being a great boss. Employees need to be trusted in order for them to succeed. Robert Gibbs, Chief Human Capital Officer of NASA is an advocate for this. During Robert Gibbs keynote at Talent Summit he explained how NASA’s raison d'être boils down to the flourishment of human kind, giving NASA the ultimate competitive advantage. Robert believes in “the power of presuming positive intent”. Belief goes a long way and sometimes to get the best out of people the best thing a boss can do is to just believe in them. 3. Creates an Inclusive Team Environment, Showing Concern for Success and Well-Being Putting emphasis on building social capital in the workplace is a trait of a great boss. Margaret Heffernan is an entrepreneur, CEO, writer and keynote speaker who understands that social capital takes time, focus and energy, but if the ingredients are right, can bind human capital to achieve success beyond measure. A great boss will know that loyalty, friendship and comradery in the workplace create a shared commitment to success, something we may struggle to replicate in the gig economy. In short, being trusting and trustworthy is the basis of creating a just work culture that inspires success. 4. Is Productive and Results-Oriented The best type of boss will motivate and inspire their team purely by just working hard at their job. If a manager is lazy and their team doesn’t really see them doing much it really just encourages the staff to do the same. Having a boss who is not afraid to roll their sleeves up and get stuck in to any given task is the type of leader that inspires their staff. 5. Is A Good Communicator — Listens and Shares Information A great boss shares information from their staff. Having a transparent boss means staff learn more and are encouraged to be transparent themselves. A great boss is a good communicator but an even better listener. 6. Supports Career Development and Discusses Performance A great boss will always encourage their staff to develop, praise them when they do well and constructively criticise when it’s needed. Sir Ken Robinson is a believer in the importance of a culture that gives us the opportunity to engage in creativity and how creativity should be encouraged in our businesses. Humans are born with endless capacities but they need to be adapted in order to become abilities. Sir Ken uses a clever anecdote about learning to play guitar to explain his theory. We are all born with the capacity to play guitar, but we don’t have the ability until we learn to play the instrument. We need to open up our employees to new opportunities to learn and adapt skills and unlock talents they didn’t even know they had. Criticism is also very valuable to employees. A great boss will always praise their staff on doing a good job but will have the capacity to explain in a constructive way when work isn’t at it’s highest standard. This kind of behaviour encourages learning and development which is a key behaviour of a great boss. 7. Has A Clear Vision/Strategy For The Team A great boss had a plan. They know where their team is, where they are headed and what is needed to reach their end goals. A great boss needs to be catalyst for the team/companies vision. When the team loses motivation or drive, the boss needs to be there to remind everyone of the strategy and keep things in motion. 8. Has Key Technical Skills to Help Advise the Team Understanding every staff member’s job is crucial to being a great boss. A great boss will appreciate the work that goes into completing tasks and is on hand with useful advice when needed. If a boss has unrealistic expectations because he/she doesn’t understand their staffs role, employees will only ever feel like they are underdelivering and when they need advice they feel their boss doesn’t quite understand the problems at hand. A boss who has the technical skills will welcome their staff seeking guidance. 9. Collaborates Across Effectively A great manager always sees the big picture. They work for the good of the company as a whole and encourage their teams to do the same. A great leader will promote camaraderie and integration and encourage everyone to come together and work on goals that benefit the company as a whole. 10. Is A Strong Decision Maker A great boss is decisive and not impulsive. They are confident in their knowledge and make decisions that they stick to. Being a leader means being brave in your actions to lead and guide others. You need to be courageousness to lead beyond the odds, stick to your decisions to be a great boss. Google have really hit the nail on the head with these behaviours. If you can promote these behaviours and train your leaders using these 10 points from Google, you’ll build teams that will trust and inspire one another to achieve success beyond measure.
We understand that your working week is busy and you can be overrun with many different tasks, but when it comes to hiring we cannot stress enough the value of adding extra time to your hiring process to give feedback to candidates and here is why… Positive Impact on Employer Brand No matter what the feedback, good or bad just giving feedback will most likely hold you in high regard to that candidate. Giving a direct response and/or constructive criticism will show the candidate that their time and interest in applying for the role was valued and that you, as an employer, appreciate that effort and would like to return the courtesy. This will reflect very positive on your company as a whole. The last thing you want is a disillusioned candidate who when asked about how the interview went they say, ‘I’ve no idea, I haven’t heard from them’. Recommendations The positive experience the candidate had with you even after being rejected will give them the option to recommend you to their friends/peers. Maybe they weren’t right for the position, but they felt they got on well with you and your feedback has helped them to realise why they are not suitable for the job, but they know someone who is. Giving someone feedback will increase your company's advocates which can lead to invaluable word of mouth recommendations and potentially new customers and/or relationships. Future Employee A lot of the time when candidates are rejected after interviewing it is because they are lacking a certain skill or qualification. They normally tick most of the employer’s boxes which is why they were invited to interview in the first place. You may have really liked this person, but they weren’t right for the available position, so you chose to hire someone else. Giving them that feedback will leave the door open for them to come back in the future. They may not have what you’re looking for now, but down the line they could be perfect and it will eliminate a lot of the stress of hiring in the future. Helping a Job Seeker In this case the candidate wasn’t up to scratch. The CV and cover letter were excellent, but after meeting face to face you realised a number of things that could be improved i.e. they were very shy and couldn’t articulate confidently or couldn’t recall information due to nerves. All of these things are understandable reasons not to hire someone, but without that feedback, how will the candidate know what they are doing wrong for their next interview? Your feedback could be the ticket to them landing the job after their next interview. When you consider the added value candidate feedback gives, over the amount of time it takes (usually less than 5 minutes) it really is a no brainer that you should be doing it after every interview.
We are a dog loving nation with over 450,000 people in Ireland having one or more pet dogs. With all those furry friends running around, it’s no wonder more workplaces are adding dog friendly benefits and jobseekers are looking for dog friendly employers. But what is the value of having dogs in the workplace? Stress Buster Werewolf Food co-founder and dog trainer, Chris Hanlon said in an Irish Times article that dogs can decrease workplace stress. “Let’s face it, the office can be a very stressful environment with client deadlines and colleague tensions bubbling from time to time but the presence of a dog, the petting of it and the cuddles instantly lowers blood pressure and acts as a coping mechanism lowering negative atmospheres.” Social Aid It’s no surprise that dogs are excellent ice breakers and sometimes in an office environment that’s exactly what you need. Tensions can run high and we can get very wrapped up in our day to day tasks, but a dog can help us to take a step back from that and talk to the people around us. Chris says “For starters, dogs are excellent social lubricants that instantly bring employees together, bettering the bond amongst colleagues and improving the way the team works together. All good news for a business’s bottom line.” Giving Employees Personal Help Lots of things can happen in an employee’s life and sometimes dog sitters can let you down and what happens when it’s 9pm on a Sunday and you have no one to look after your dog the next day? It’s not always ideal to take annual leave every time life happens and you have no one to look after your furry friend. It can be a huge weight off an employee’s shoulders knowing that they can bring their dog to work when they need to. In Sigmar we are happy to say that we allow bring your dog to work options, which has meant we have seen all three of these benefits first hand and how they can really give positive change to the workplace. On this International Dog Day we want to highlight these benefits and encourage small changes like Pawternity packages, bring your dog to work Fridays or reforming an outdoor area for dogs and see the positive impact it can make to your workplace. Here's some pictures of our Sigmar dog Daisy enjoying her office perks