Silverpeople, a venture by Uberlife Consulting Pvt. Ltd., offers complete recruitment solutions for all hiring/head hunting requirements in a Focused, Accurate and Time bound manner (Proprietary FAT* Methodology).

Monday, 24 June 2013

The Two Traits Google Really Looks For In Employees Are Flexibility And Hustle

google employee office 
The reason the article is getting so much attention is how surprising these facts may be to people who have little experience hiring/managing in technical fields. But I thought this quote was really telling:

This article is getting some attention, because Google's VP for people operations at Google has made public a few insights that the Google HR team has come to over the last several years. The most surprising might be:
  1. They don't collect GPAs except for new candidates
  2. Test scores are worthless
  3. Interview scores weren't correlated with success.
  4. Brainteasers that Google is so famous for are worthless
  5. Behavioral interviews are the most effective
 One of my own frustrations when I was in college and grad school is that you knew the professor was looking for a specific answer. You could figure that out, but it’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer.
Interestingly, that is the whole point of my data analysis course here at Hopkins. Over my relatively limited time as a faculty member I realized there were two key qualities that made students in biostatistics stand out:
(1) that they were hustlers - willing to just work until the problem is solved even if it was frustrating and (2) that they were willing/able to try new approaches or techniques they weren't comfortable with. I don't have the quantitative data that Google does, but I would venture to guess those two traits explain 80%+ of the variation in success rates for graduate students in statistics/computing/data analysis.

Once that realization is made, it becomes clear pretty quickly that textbook problems or re-analysis of well known data sets measure something orthogonal to traits (1) and (2). So I went about redesigning the types of problems our students had to tackle. Instead of assigning problems out of a book I redesigned the questions to have the following characteristics:
  1. The were based on live data sets. I define a "live" data set as a data set that has not been used to answer the question of interest previously. 
  2. The questions are problem forward, not solution backward. I would have an idea of what would likely work and what would likely not work. But I defined the question without thinking about what methods the students might use.
  3. The answer was open ended (and often not known to me in advance).
  4. The problems often had to do with unique scenarios not encountered frequently in statistics (e.g. you have a data census instead of just a sample).
  5. The problems involved methods application/development, coding, and writing/communication.
I have found that problems with these characteristics more precisely measure hustle and flexibility, like Google is looking for in their hiring practices. Of course, there are some down sides to this approach. I think it can be more frustrating for students, who don't have as clearly defined a path through the homework. It also means dramatically more work for the instructor in terms of analyzing the data to find the quirks, creating personalized feedback for students, and being able to properly estimate the amount of work a project will take.

We have started thinking about how to do this same thing at scale on Coursera. In the meantime, Google will just have to send their recruiters to Hopkins Biostats to find students who meet the characteristics they are looking for.

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3 Reasons Why Men's Wearhouse Firing Its Founder Is Completely Bizarre

 george zimmer men's wearhouse

Men's Wearhouse fired chairman and founder George Zimmer today, and we've never seen anything like it.

The abrupt termination begs for answers about what could have happened.

Here are three reasons why it's a bizarre story:

1. The terse press release. "The Board expects to discuss with Mr. Zimmer the extent, if any, and terms of his ongoing relationship with the Company," Men's Wearhouse said in the statement (see the full thing below). There is no polite mention of the founder's impact on the brand, as would be customary. 

2. Shares and profits were gaining. The company just announced last week that profits were up a whopping 23%. Stocks have been consistently gaining over the past few years. This is not a company disaster scenario, a la Ron Johnson. 

3. Men's Wearhouse cancelled its shareholder's meeting one day before. This sends a huge red flag to investors at a time when the company is trying its hardest to impress.

Clearly, the circumstances surrounding Zimmer's firing are dramatic.
Here's the company's full, icy press release:

FREMONT, Calif.June 19, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The Board of Directors of Men's Wearhouse (NYSE: MW) today announced that it has terminated George Zimmer from his position as Executive Chairman.   The Board expects to discuss with Mr. Zimmer the extent, if any, and terms of his ongoing relationship with the Company.

In light of Mr. Zimmer's termination, the Company also announced that it is postponing its Annual Meeting of Shareholders, which had originally been scheduled for June 19, 2013, at 11:00 a.m. Pacific daylight time.  The purpose of the postponement is to re-nominate the existing slate of directors without Mr. Zimmer.

The Company expects to announce the rescheduled date, time and location of the postponed Annual Meeting shortly.  The Company will set a new record date, provide additional information with respect to the Annual Meeting in a supplement to its proxy statement to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commissionand commence a new solicitation with respect to the supplemented proxy materials.  Shareholders are urged to read the supplement in its entirety, as it will contain important information about the Annual Meeting.

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Friday, 14 June 2013

Eight Things That Happen When Companies Are 'Too Nice'


A recent column from fellow leadership author and Forbes columnist Erika Andersen caught my eye. Erika noted that bad things happen when companies are “too nice.” I enjoy Erika’s writing, and I’ve even enjoyed the chance to review her most recent book here on Forbes.

I love the work that Erika and her team are doing. But with tongue in cheek, as the CEO of a company that is often chided for being way too nice, perhaps, for our own or anyone’s good, I feel the need, along with my fellow leaders, to respond. Politely. Here’s the statement from Erika’s article about useful rules of the road on honesty that compelled me to write this rebuttal:
“One sentence in particular caught my eye: ‘Our survey uncovered a disturbing statistic: 37 percent of respondents felt their organizations suffered from the malady of “terminal niceness,” valuing politeness over the pursuit of the best ideas and perspectives.’”

“I’ve long seen the negative impact of ‘terminal niceness’ (great phrase) in organizations. In such organizations, people think the way to support and respect each other is to be polite at any cost: not to disagree, give people tough news, hold them accountable, or let them know when they’re not succeeding.”

Well, to some degree, I’ll admit that we do resemble that remark. Within our walls you will find a preponderance of niceness. In our 7 Non-Negotiables, Respect is paramount. So is Loyalty, Commitment, and Trust. We are polite at any cost, true enough. But to equate that “niceness” with the inability to give bad news, to hold each other accountable, or to give appropriate feedback—this is where we must disagree.
Erika notes that although “too much niceness” may feel superficially good, it creates all kinds of problems. Here are the eight most significant problems she notes, followed by my own response and rebuttal to each:
1)   Employees don’t get the feedback they need to grow and improve. None of us see ourselves entirely clearly. We all need to get an unbiased third-party perspective about our strengths and weaknesses. In an overly nice culture, it’s as though employees are flying blind, with no way to find out how they need to improve. It’s a huge opportunity cost; most employees don’t achieve their potential because they don’t hear about what they’re doing well and badly.

I disagree entirely. In fact, I would turn this statement completely around. What employee is willing to accept feedback in an environment of criticism? Within a culture of trust and respect a great leader can mentor and guide an employee in the discovery of the “blind spots” that are holding each of us back. Team members learn and grow together to achieve seemingly impossible goals. In fact, many of our greatest members are the individuals who came to us feeling damaged by the style of feedback they’d received in the past.

2)   Bad ideas get implemented because no one pushes back. In “nice” cultures, everyone thinks they need to be supportive by not disagreeing with each other. So when someone has an idea that won’t work, or that can’t be implemented – no one says anything, and tremendous time and effort can be wasted pursuing it. 

On the contrary, consider the possibility that in a truly nice culture, every idea is heard and counted. Often the greatest ideas come from the youngest or newest members of the team, who feel that it’s safe in a respectful environment to speak up, and to question the validity of doing things the way they’ve always been done. Our niceness supports these possibilities and encourages opening up in a way that disrespectfully disagreeing could never achieve.

3)   Lack of healthy debate makes it difficult to build new processes and products. When you’re trying to change things, you have to be willing to openly discuss and debate the pros and cons of various possibilities. If people are more concerned with being polite and not hurting each other’s feelings than they are about figuring out how to do things differently – innovation is impossible.
On this point, we agree. Healthy debate is the lifeblood of a growing and thriving organization. But I believe we can achieve that innovation and can actually do so more effectively without hurting each other’s feelings along the way.

4)   The “real” conversations happen offline, rather than face-to-face. If people can’t say what they really feel in public, they’ll still say it – but to third parties. In other words, if person A has an issue with person B, they’ll tell persons C, D and E about it. It creates a culture of gossip, secrecy, and clique-ishness…making it nearly impossible to have a trusting and truly supportive environment.
On the contrary, in an environment of courtesy and trust, people feel able to say whatever they need to say, as long as it is expressed within the context of trust and respect. In an environment of respect, there’s no need (and no benefit) to hold anything back.

5)   Senior Execs are seen as weak – and not trusted. When bad things happen in the organization, and senior execs respond by being politically correct and evasive…no one is fooled. It just makes the execs look bad – and it makes employees get self-protective. “If our leaders can’t stand up and be honest about the big things that are going on,” they reason, “what else aren’t they telling us?”

I, for one, will own up to being the “weak” executive who has spoken openly with my team about every occurrence—both good and bad—we’ve had. When we were in crisis at the 11th hour of our company buyback in 2011, I needed to tell them that the funding we’d secured had fallen $500,000 short of our goal. I had done all I could do. They could have called me “weak” and derided my efforts. Instead, they pulled out checkbooks, donated retirement funds, voluntarily accepted pay cuts—and together, we got the deal done. Now there are 71 employee owners of Fishbowl. As leaders, we will never be anything but honest, no matter how harsh the news. We are far from perfect, but to this day, no one in our organization has ever considered that fallability “weak.” In fact, we celebrate together the opportunities to “fail up.”
Being a kind and benevolent leader was a winning strategy for "Honest Abe" Lincoln (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
6)   People aren’t required to own their mistakes, and so don’t develop responsibility. In a culture where people are praised, but aren’t held accountable for failures, nobody has to say, I’m sorry, and here’s how I’ll fix it. This leads to an environment of passivity and avoiding of responsibility: i.e., “The project wasn’t successful” vs. “We didn’t succeed.”

In what way does niceness serve to inhibit the accountability we hold? In fact, our organization is nice enough that team members pull together and accept accountability together for both their successes and failures as a unified team. What could possibly serve an organization better than that?

7)   Issues build up, poisoning relationships. When people don’t have a chance to get their issues with each other out in the open and resolve them in an honest and mutually respectful way, those issues don’t go away – they fester. Over time, the weight of unresolved issues can turn good working relationships into superficial, polite interactions without joy or trust.

I do agree with this point. Unresolved issues can only fester and develop a wedge in the relationship that can only grow worse over time. But in an environment of courtesy, people actually do have the chance to get their issues out in the open where they can be healed and resolved. Niceness doesn’t get in the way of this process—in my opinion, it serves to support the environment of honesty and mutual respect.

8)   Business-destroying problems don’t get resolved. This is the biggie. If the highest value in a culture is to be “nice,” no one stands up and says, “Such-and-such is a huge issue – and if we don’t address it, we’re in big trouble.” That’s way too brash and confrontational. But if you don’t acknowledge those business-killing problems, you can’t resolve them.

Again, how does “being nice” inhibit the discussion of issues? I maintain that the priority of niceness (we call it “respect”) makes every discussion a greater opportunity to be as open and honest as needed in getting big issues—even the most jugular ones—resolved.

Erika concludes: “Don’t misunderstand me: the alternative to ‘nice’ isn’t ‘mean,’ or ‘heartless.’ The best alternative (and antidote) for too much niceness is honesty offered with a positive intent. If companies can cultivate that kind of culture – they can avoid all these problems, and many others as well.”

While I disagree with the majority of her eight statements, I can agree fully with Erika’s conclusion that the epitome of productive communication is honesty offered with a positive intent. In our company’s experience, however, we can achieve this goal far more readily in an environment where we, and everyone who engages with us, plays nice. No, there’s no danger in being too nice. In fact, I would maintain even more strongly than ever that when it comes to being nice and polite, we could all strive to improve our efforts a little bit more.

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Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Recruitment Process Outsourcing ~ How to Get More Done in Less Time

How "Talent Clusters" Will Help You Win A Sustainable Future

The old systems are broken. The Internet changed everything. Looking forward, we need to cultivate fluid organizations, powered by innovative, multidimensional people.

I am a fan of Steve Denning, author of Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century (Jossey-Bass, 2010) and regular contributor at Forbes.
In his recent article, "The Management Revolution That's Already Happening," he writes:
"In the 20th Century, firms had often been successful by following the precepts of hierarchical bureaucracy: 'focus on making money'; 'tell employees what to do'; 'control performance through rules, roles, plans and reports'; and 'achieve efficiency through economies of scale.'"
In the last quarter of the century, corollaries were added: “focus tightly on maximizing shareholder value"; “strategy is about coping with competition”; and “lower costs by off-shoring." These principles worked as long as oligopolies dominated the marketplace. Firms could succeed with limited innovation, often by copying what had already been pioneered by others.

Then globalization and the Internet changed everything. Hierarchical bureaucracy couldn’t cope. Attempts at achieving continuous innovation led to unmanageable internal complexity, while attempts at limiting innovation accelerated organizational death.

I have repeatedly argued similar points for a more than a decade now, including in a recent Fast Company post: "Creating a Company Designed for the Long Haul." I believe we will need to rethink how we organize and manage this creative innovation era.
It will require us to create cross-functional cross-disciplinary "talent clusters" inside and outside of our organizations.

By now, the notion of knowledge, innovation, and/or business cluster has been well established for quite some time around the globe from Silicon Valley to Southeast Asia. A business cluster is a geographic concentration of interconnected business, suppliers, and associated institutions in a particular field. Clusters are considered to increase the productivity with which companies can compete, nationally and globally. One can argue that the concepts of business clusters goes back to the Japanese notion of keiretsu from the 1990s.

When written in Japanese, keiretsu comprises two characters, meaning "system" and "row." Thus the term "keiretsu" is now used more generally to mean an alliance of companies and/or individuals that work together for mutual benefit. It can easily be argued that giants like Toyota, Virgin, Amazon, Disney, Apple, GE, etc. are all being led and managed on the principles of "clusters" internally and externally.

Although the concepts of knowledge/innovation/business cluster applied primarily outside of the organizations’ four walls, to survive and thrive in the creative innovation economy, organizations will need to create cross-functional talent clusters on an as-needed basis for creating and executing new ideas and innovation. I have expanded these ideas in great detail in my forthcoming book with Fast Company contributing writer and journalist Drake Baer--Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability (Spring 2014, McGraw Hill). Here I'd like to share some basic points:

Defining Talent Clusters

To reach a common goal people need to work together. This act of working together is "collaboration." And successful collaboration requires the right people with the right information to make the right decision.

Creating a cluster is a way to drive value-driven outcomes quickly by assembling the right set of people regardless of their rank and file. Since jobs are increasingly shared and people, whether in small or large organizations, are wearing multiple hats, a cluster is a way of structuring that fluidity. Clusters are not a traditional hierarchical management structure. Instead, they’re multi-disciplinary, multi-functional collaborative networks to drive optimal outcomes. They come into being to address a particular challenge, and then dissipate to form other networks addressing other challenges.

In old days, organizations formed SWAT teams to solve tough problems, except in today’s constantly changing marketplace we constantly need those SWAT teams, aka talent clusters, with fluid structure. Clusters follow rules, just like hierarchical structures do such as accountability, reward systems, and measurements. However, clusters are a bottom-up structure, and they attract the resources they need, organize themselves around an agenda, and operate through their ethos. They are self-motivated, self-managed teams to drive vision, execute to create value, and influence an ecosystem.

Clusters produce results in the same way a species comes to dominate an ecological niche. Sustained biological dominance doesn’t come from a master orchestrator, but from the ability to adapt and move more quickly than competing species. Similarly, sustained market dominance doesn’t come from a singular leader, but from an ability to drive talent clusters to create an agile, resilient, and responsive organization.

Characteristics of Talent Clusters

Regardless of the geography or task, clusters have the following characteristics:
Tailored Agenda: Each cluster has a specific reason for existing--with an agenda of objectives that matches that purpose.
Time-bound Existence: Clusters emerge when needs arise. They disband when their objectives have been completed.
Evolving Membership: Membership to a cluster is not fixed, but is fluid, with talent and perspectives changing to suit tasks as they change.
Self-organizing Responsibility: Clusters develop their own structure and operational rules: They alone are responsible for their operation and its results.
Adaptive Ethos: The culture and personality of the cluster aligns with its purpose: Some are explorative, some are directed.

Primary Types of Talent Clusters

At the highest level, we can define three primary types of clusters, each mapping onto the life cycle of a product, process, or service. They are visioning, ecological, and implementation oriented.
Visioning Cluster: How does a product, service, or a new process begin? Like all living things, it must be conceived. This is the work of the visioning cluster: They sketch out the potentials of the desired outcome.

Ecological Cluster: An organization today constantly requires bringing new invention to market: suppliers, customers, intermediaries, and partners to realize value from our products and services. The ecological cluster’s primary purpose is to inspire, influence, and support our ecosystem with our vision.

Implementation Cluster: Ideas don’t become realized by their own free will. They need to be ushered into life by people. Just as the visioning cluster is composed of people that affect the conceiving of a new idea, the implementation cluster is composed of people that affect the commercialization of a product or a service. The agenda of the implementation cluster is to manifest the vision in the context of the ecosystem as described by the ecological cluster.

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Thursday, 6 June 2013

4 Job Hunting Tips From The Grandfather Of Career Advice

When Dick Bolles first published What Color Is Your Parachute? in 1970, he had no idea the outsize impact his career guide would have. “I never dreamed the job hunting problem was so widely faced. The book would have sold ten copies if you got the help you needed at school.” Instead, the job-seekers’ bible has gone through 42 annual editions, sold 10 million copies in 20 different languages and, in 1994, was named one of the 25 books that “have shaped readers’ lives” by the Library of Congress.

Dick Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute?

Bolles himself remains firmly on the job at 86, spending roughly four hours a day doing research and answering each and every one of the 6,000 e-mails and letters he receives each year. He regularly dispenses four pieces of advice.

Foremost: “Don’t make money the most important thing about finding a job.” Instead weigh salary against a position’s responsibilities, location, working conditions and growth opportunities. “You might be willing to take a pay cut to get one of those other factors. Those who aren’t at least considering this are going through life fishing for the biggest salary while being miserable.”

Second, Bolles advises delaying talk of salary, vacation time or health benefits until it’s clear they want you. “Once the potential employer gets to know you better, they might in fact decide that you’re worth more than the average person.”

Bolles also stresses the importance of keeping a diary. A weekly record of accomplishments at your current job will make it easier to discuss your role, in detail, when hunting for a new one. And as a finishing move, he advocates being bold. “Somebody told me the best way to end an interview is to ask: ‘With all we’ve discussed, can you offer me this job?’ When I first heard that, I thought that’s kind of cheeky, putting the person right on the spot. Turned out it was exactly true.”


Wednesday, 5 June 2013

"Slowly I Turned...Step by Step...Inch by Inch..."

What's the best way to build a great company, launch a new product, or advance your own career? Try this chili recipe: Low and slow makes for maximum flavor.

Here's the problem with gradual: It's chronic, insidious, and subtle. The newspapers report that more than half of all Americans are overweight. I can tell you how we got that way: one french fry at a time. We didn't foul the Love Canal in a week. That took a generation of dumping chemicals. Your company didn't hire 30 or 100 or 1,000 noncontributing employees all at once. That took years.

The problem with gradual is that we don't notice the damage until the damage is extreme. People have no trouble opening their hearts and their wallets to hurricane victims, but we often don't take the time to help a community that's slowly sinking into despair. No company sets out to be average, but far too many let themselves end up that way. No plant manager decides to turn her plant into a dirty, unsafe, inefficient facility, but it happens -- gradually. Day by day, bit by bit, we get stuck.

And what happens when we finally realize that the problems we face are bad enough that they need fixing? Panic sets in. We rush around, ready to spend money. We put all of our efforts into finding the quick fix. Consultants charge Fortune 500 companies huge fees, describing how they can undo 30 or 40 years of bad planning with a single reorganization.

Here's the point of gradual: You don't win an Olympic gold medal with a few weeks of intensive training. There's no such thing as an overnight opera sensation. Great law firms or design companies don't spring up overnight, like rock supergroups that decide to get together one weekend.

Every great company, every great brand, and every great career has been built in exactly the same way: bit by bit, step by step, little by little. Managers who are both smart and patient can take the same inexorable downward force that drives some companies to mediocrity and turn it on its head.

If every element of an organization gets a little better every day, then that organization will become unstoppable. An organization that builds that kind of momentum will soon evolve into a market leader. Yet our impatience negates the simplicity of that statement. Amazingly, it was the Three Stooges who first codified this management technique: "Slowly I turned . . . step by step . . . inch by inch . . ." It worked for them, and it can work for us. We're not going to fix our economy -- or our miserable negative attitude -- with a federally mandated intervention in time for the next election.

You're not going to build a great company because of a neat idea that you got in the shower one day.
You're not going to find that perfect job just because your ré sumé ends up on the right desk on the right day.

We need to stop shopping for lightning bolts. The way out of our paralysis is simpler than that: It's about thinking small and thinking gradual.

No, I haven't gone over to the side of the slow-moving reactionaries. I'm not proposing anything that isn't scary, or risky, or painful. I'm just saying that you should consider using the few opportunities that you have to invest in those things that are worth it: things that represent big change but that are achieved over time. Here's the danger of gradual: It shouldn't be used as an excuse for doing nothing at all.

Venture capitalists who are in a rut should stop talking about how hard it is to raise a $100 million fund. Instead, raise a $5 million fund. They should also stop trying to invest $5 million at a time (with an 18-month window before going public). A better strategy is to start doing smaller investments with longer time horizons. Just like chili, low and slow is the way to maximum flavor.

At the same time that so many people whine about their current straits while looking for a guaranteed home run, a few smart folks are quietly placing their bets, making small investments of time and money and giving them a chance to grow. The truth is, gradual change is challenging and hard: challenging, because the people around you are demanding something great right now, and hard, because gradual requires the faith to know that your hard work is worth the investment. We shouldn't be surprised that the Atkins diet is so popular. It's not gradual, and it doesn't build a lifetime foundation of good health. In other words, it's the American way.

The new fast company isn't fast at all. It's gradual, slow, measured, and organized. It's making small bets. Which, it turns out, is the fastest way of all to get back to where you want to be.

Seth Godin is a Fast Company contributing editor. His latest book, Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, is being published this month by Portfolio.

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