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Smarter hiring and work, life, family

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Business tips
Friday, June 21, 2013


06.21.13 Blog HiringIt is surprisingly easy to out-compete other firms in hiring top people.

You just need to think differently.

Most hiring managers unconsciously build a ‘box’ of expectations that unintentionally omits large numbers of qualified applicants.

These expectations can include:

  • Full Time
  • Work in the Office
  • 8 to 6 work day
  • Weekdays
  • Under 50 (which is illegal, yet common)

…and so on.

When I work with job seekers, I’m astounded at how highly qualified many of them are — and how complex their lives are. One job seeker is older than 60 — and has amazing energy and drive. She’s been screened out of several openings where she’d be excellent.

Another job seeker has a tough home life with a chronically sick family member. He’s incredibly responsible and hard working, and would be a loyal high performer — if he could get flexibility around days and times of work.

Then, when I work with CEOs and other hiring managers, they think nothing of excluding someone who can’t work a full time 8-to-6 office job — even when the job itself does not truly require that.

Fortunately for Portland area employers and job seekers — and ultimately national and worldwide — a startup called Work Life Family (WLF) aims to fix this. I interviewed Joni Roylance, co-founder with Caitlin Shrigley, about their mission.

Their primary equation is:

1 + 1 = 3

In other words, you can create wholes that are larger than the sums of their parts… especially in hiring and retaining workers.

Joni founded the company after she worked 8 years at one job, needed a 4-day work week with the birth of her second child, and was turned down for flex time or part time.

“There are lots of opportunities for employers to build goodwill, and provide value to employees, that don’t cost cash,” says Joni.

Conventional “family friendly” policies can mean a pretty narrow range of options — like part-time or work-from-home jobs.

Companies can easily go beyond that:

  • offer an FSA for elder care
  • offer health care or other benefits to same-sex partners
  • understand the complexity of family life that some workers face

This inspires one to back up and ask another seemingly naive question — Why have benefits?

  • Build loyalty
  • Remove distractions (EAP)
  • Create win-win transactions (e.g., providing group-buying power to individual workers)

WLF looks to understand, What are the costs and barriers that get in the way of offering benefits like flexible hours, FSAs, etc?

For any employer looking to deepen loyalty and increase their pool of job applicants, WLF’s guidance seems like it should be mandatory.

My advice is, tell (don’t ask) your HR director to connect with WLF and see what policies (and assumptions) you should change, immediately.

But be warned — no amount of flex time is going to guarantee worker engagement. (Too many HR folks over-sell and over-promise the benefits of benefits.)

My experience matches the guidance of Frederick Herzberg — his “Motivation and Hygiene Factors” is a great illustration of the duality of engagement factors.

To summarize Herzberg’s point, employees need two things, Motivating factors and Hygiene factors.

Benefits and the rest of the WLF agenda add up to Hygiene — and a lack of these factors can cripple your ability to engage your workers.

However, hygiene is not enough — it’s “necessary but not sufficient” to create engagement.

You still need leadership. Fortunately, I’ve covered that in prior columns (and podcasts) on Motivating, Engaging, and Connecting.

Tom Cox is a Beaverton consultant, author and speaker. He coaches CEOs on how to boost performance by building workplace trust.


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