Episode 148

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If there is a common pain point for agency owners today — it’s recruiting and retaining talent. It’s a conversation I am having every day and it’s more difficult than it’s been in quite a while. Unfortunately, I don’t see that trend reversing any time soon. Which means we’d all better improve our ability to keep the good ones that we either have or can attract. It’s starts with hiring the right person for the right reasons.

What are the most effective questions to ask during the interview process? What do you need to know about the candidate? What do they need to know about you, your agency and the culture there?

For my podcast guest Steve Lowisz, it all comes down to purpose. Are you clear on the purpose of the position your hiring for? Are deliverables clearly spelled out in the job description you are posting? It’s critical to discover if the candidate’s purpose actually aligns with your agency’s purpose, and if they do – you’d better have a plan for nurturing that shared passion.

Steve Lowisz is an expert on talent acquisition, talent assessment, personal development, diversity & inclusion, and business performance. He has more than two decades of research and practical business experience allowing him to serve hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals.

As CEO of the Qualigence Group of Companies that he founded in 1999, Steve regularly contributes to Industry events and publications and has been featured in Fortune Magazine, CNN Money, The Detroit Free Press and on Bloomberg Radio.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Why job descriptions often don’t provide the right information to get the right candidate for the job
  • How to look at capacity, character, competencies, and culture when interviewing candidates
  • How to discover what is motivating someone’s job search
  • Identifying what a candidate is looking for that they don’t have now
  • The different competencies needed for working on site compared with working remotely
  • How facts, feelings, focus, and fruit can help get you through difficult, honest feedback conversations
  • Numerous strategies for hiring and retaining great talent
  • How to engage on LinkedIn, rather than using it as an “as needed” resume database
  • Why having one-on-one meetings still matter and how to fill them with purpose

The Golden Nuggets:

“How often do you see deliverables posted in a job description? When you set out clear expectations, candidates know right up front what is expected of them, and you know more clearly the profile of the person who will fit the job.” - @slowisz Click To Tweet “We tend to ask the surface level questions without the follow-up to get at the heart of the matter.” - @slowisz Click To Tweet “Stop hating on millennials. Whatever the generation, there is no difference in how you find and recruit the good ones.” - @slowisz Click To Tweet “Consistent one-on-ones with your direct reports is a non-negotiable. It matters how you approach it, for sure. So make sure there is a purpose and objectives, but these meetings are crucial to retaining great employees.” - @slowisz Click To Tweet “Don’t be generic in your praise. Take that person aside and be very specific. ‘You did a great job on this specific thing.’ That actually goes further in building that relationship.” - @slowisz Click To Tweet “If you’re not feeding an employee’s purpose, I don’t care what else you do. They’re going to find something else and they are going to leave.” - @slowisz Click To Tweet “Almost 90% of employees wish their bosses would be more direct about constructive feedback. They want us to be honest with them so they can improve.” - @slowisz Click To Tweet “Your sales job is not over when the candidate accepts the position. Development and retention are different from recruitment, but they are all connected.” - @slowisz Click To Tweet

 

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Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits, too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build A Better Agency Podcast presented by HubSpot. We’ll show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees, and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant. Please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey everybody. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build A Better Agency. Today’s topic is one that is near and dear to my heart, and I know is a critical part of your agency’s success. And that is the people that we choose to surround ourselves with in terms of the team that we build to serve our clients. And as I’m working with agencies all over the land, one of the challenges that many of you share is that your business is growing, things are stronger and better. And where a few years ago, you were struggling to find enough clients to keep your team busy. Now, the struggle has flipped.

And for many of you, the challenge is you have plenty of business. And in fact, some of you are taking your foot off of the biz dev gas. Because you have so much business, you cannot find the right teammates to help you service the client. And so, we’re going to spend the hour talking about how to build your team, and how to find the right people, and how to be the place that people want to work not just for a day but for a decade.

And to do all of that, I have brought a great guest who has a depth of knowledge around this. So, let me tell you a little bit about him. So, Steve Lowisz has spent the last 25 years as a successful entrepreneur, speaker, and business coach. In his two plus decades in business, he has founded five organizations that are all focused on people, how to find them, how to engage them, how to develop them, and how to create teams focused on results.

So, we’re going to, as best I can in one short hour, we’re going to try and touch on all of that. Steve has led engagement with organizations across the globe, including Starbucks, and Cisco Systems, and Walgreens, just to name a few. So, I think what you’re going to find is that Steve has a wealth of knowledge, some great stories to tell. And as always, my job is to get him to tell us all practical things that you can do immediately to build a bigger, better, stronger team for 2018, and for the future of your agency. So, Steve, welcome to the Podcast.

Steve Lowisz:

Drew, thank you so much, glad to be here.

Drew McLellan:

So, we have a lot to talk about in a short period of time. So, I want to jump right in. As I was saying to you before we hit the record button, the challenges agencies are struggling right now is to find enough people and enough right people. And so, as always is the case, when there’s a lot of pressure to add staff and you can’t find the right person, sometimes the wrong person slips in the door. And we have all experienced the pain of that. So, I’m hoping that you have some great ideas of how we can avoid that.

Steve Lowisz:

It’s true. And it’s actually not that difficult to find volume of people, Drew.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Steve Lowisz:

The issue is finding the right person and really understanding for our own purposes as business owners, agency, and otherwise, it’s when we really know what we need. Because if we’re going 100% of a gut feel, you’re bound to make a bunch of problems.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So, when I teach workshops with agency owners, one of the things we talked about is that we’re horrible at interviewing and assessing if someone is really going to be good for our team. So, let’s start with that. How do define exactly what I’m looking for so that I recognize that when I find it?

Steve Lowisz:

So, this is an interesting one, because people try to make it more complicated than what it really is. And we create these really elaborate job descriptions, thinking this is going to solve my problem. But the job description doesn’t match what you really need in the first place. Go back to the basics, Drew. Asked the questions. What’s working? What’s not working? Why is it not working? What’s missing? What are the resources that I need?

We’ve got to start to really uncover and be honest in our agencies what’s going on before I start to determine what do I need to bring in, or I’m just making a bigger mess.

Drew McLellan:

Right. So, our job descriptions a bad thing? Are we doing them wrong? Should we not do them at all?

Steve Lowisz:

So, everybody’s got a different opinion of this. I will say this, caution you with job descriptions. Because they often serve as a crutch. So, let’s think about it, right? So, it’s, “Hey, I’m just looking for what’s on this piece of paper.” That’s what I need. And we’re not really looking at the bigger picture of the challenges within our own organization, right? So, we go to this, somebody made this template. And we keep using the same template over and over.

In that regard, I think it’s bad to have, horrible to have. But we also have to have a document to ultimately give us some guidance and determine and make it very clear, “Here’s the expectations once we do find the right person.” So, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword.

Drew McLellan:

So, describe for me a good job description. So, if I want it to do what it’s supposed to do, what are the elements in it?

Steve Lowisz:

Well, let’s go back for a second. What is it supposed to do? Let’s think about what the purpose of a job description is, right?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Steve Lowisz:

What I mentioned is to lay out some of the objectives of the role. We get that, but it’s, in many instances, it’s way too generic, right? So, job descriptions originally came about as more of a compliance issue. We wanted to cover our butts. That’s really what happened, right? So, instead of looking at it as more of a functional living, breathing document that changes based upon an organization changing, right

And it’s not a one size fits all, because people are not a one size fits all. So, we still have to have some guidelines, right? We still have to have some terminology around what we think you’re going to be doing, what we would like to have in terms of deliverables which most job descriptions do not have.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Steve Lowisz:

Right. How many have you seen with deliverables?

Drew McLellan:

Right. Never many, right. They’re just generic language.

Steve Lowisz:

But some of the best job descriptions I’ve seen have been very specific. It’s in your role. You are going to drive X amount in business. In your role, you are going to develop no less than 15 new clients for our agency. Rarely do I see it, but I’ve seen a couple that were that specific. So, now we know the profile of what needs to fit that job. And when the person comes on board, it’s in black and white. This is what’s expected. Because often, we think we hired the right person. We weren’t clear on what’s expected and they fall apart.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And how critical are some of the soft skills that… so, you just defined SMART goal outcomes, right?

Steve Lowisz:

Yeah. Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

So, I can measure it. It’s specific and all of that. Should a job description also include, or should there be another document? A lot of agencies have either core values, or they have soft skills, and like you have to be a good listener, and blah, blah, blah, whatever that is. Should those be included in a job description as well or is that just something you’re interviewing for?

Steve Lowisz:

Both. So, let’s take a step back. And there’s a lot of studies on this, right? So, generally speaking, we hire for skill, but we fire for something other than skill.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely, yeah.

Steve Lowisz:

So, think about it. So, if I’m looking for a copywriter, I can look at a document that they’ve written, determined. Do they know how to be a copywriter? Simple.

Drew McLellan:

Right, right.

Steve Lowisz:

Creative director, doesn’t matter what it is. Business development, so on and so forth. But 89% of the time, we’re firing for something else. Culture fit, ability, not the skill to do the job, but the competency to do the job. Or-

Drew McLellan:

Or the motivation to do the job, right?

Steve Lowisz:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Steve Lowisz:

Without question. So, we actually look at it, what we call the core four. So, there’s two sets of cores four that I think should be in your job description. And without question needs to be part of your interview process. And this is where agency owners, they just never been trained to do this.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Tell us about the core four.

Steve Lowisz:

So, there’s two pieces to it. So, the first one is core four production. And that’s what I think about when I say, “Hey, what can the candidate do for me?” So, there’s four pieces, obviously, to core four production. Number one is capacity. And you already mentioned it. This is skill. They have the skill to do the job. The easiest one to determine if they have, again, we hire… we do a really good job of vetting for skill, because we only fire 11% of our people for skill.

Number two is this idea of character. Now, you call it motivation. Motivation is somewhat, you got to be careful with that because motivation tends to be temporary. Character-based on past performance tends to be a good indicator of future performance. You’ve heard that saying before interviewing, right?

Drew McLellan:

Yup, yup.

Steve Lowisz:

So, based on what they’ve done and the questions that you asked to determine what they’ve done at previous employers, do they have the character? Have they shown the character to do the job? That’s number two.

Drew McLellan:

And so, the character would be things like are they a self-starter, do they take criticism or praise? Is that what you’re talking about when you say character?

Steve Lowisz:

Those are some of the pieces to it, but go even further than that, right? So, look at their past, where they’ve worked before, and ask some open-ended questions around difficult situations that they’ve dealt with and how did they deal with it. They run for the hills? Did they quit? Or, did they actually address this?

Drew McLellan:

Did they stay late? Did they take a hand on weekend?

Steve Lowisz:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Okay.

Steve Lowisz:

Exactly. So, it starts to give you a sense of the character, which is something we often fire for. So, that’s number two. Number three, and you reference this is what we call competencies. You call it soft skills. They’re somewhat the same, but there’s competency for the job. And the number four is culture, which is really competency for the company. And there’s a big difference between the two. So, competency for the job, if I’m in a sales role, if I’m new business development for the agency, I better know how to develop relationships.

And it’s pretty easy to ask questions on how they’ve done it and what was the result of that? Right? So, you can get the competencies for the job, the killer. How do you know if somebody fits your culture?

Drew McLellan:

Right. How do you-

Steve Lowisz:

The killer.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Steve Lowisz:

And the reason it’s a killer is I get two things happen here. Most agency owners, and this goes beyond just agency owners, they can’t describe their culture if their life depended on it. In a simple way, what I hear is, “Well, we’re Google-esque. We have bean bag chairs.” That doesn’t describe your culture. Or people are not-

Drew McLellan:

Because we need to have an Ikea credit card.

Steve Lowisz:

Yeah. That’s not culture. And it’s an overused term. And I even hate to use it to a certain extent, but there are certain things in the DNA of your company the way it exists today. Now, what I often get from business owners, the agency owners, what their aspirational culture is. The problem with that is you have to be able to understand where you are today. And if you’re trying to change it, be honest with the candidate about trying to change it. But how do you define culture?

Drew McLellan:

Well, and is an owner even able to define culture? Because I suspect in most agencies, the culture is different when the owner is around and when the owner isn’t around.

Steve Lowisz:

No question about it. And it’s an ambiguous term. So, how do you get it measurable? How do I measure my culture fit? And often you have to look at the past. So, if you look at the people in your organization right now that are successful across the board that’s specific to creative or copy or anything along those lines, but across the board, and you look at those that have failed, right? What’s the difference? What is the ones that are successful?

What did they have, in your mind, in your opinion, because some of it is opinion-based, but you can quantify it that the people that were not successful, that they’re gone. So, I’ll give you an example of that. In our group of companies, we have five pieces that are innate to our culture of the organization. One of them is this idea of open to change. Now, it seems esoteric, but let me give you an exact example of this. Because of the industry we’re in being in people, people change all the time, tools to find people change all the time.

We have to be at the cutting edge of that, right, just like you in the agency space have to be at the cutting edge of agency world.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Steve Lowisz:

Marketing, advertising, all that other stuff. So, we have to try new tools, and new things, and new concepts all the freaking time. In order to do that, we have to have our team execute. So, I could come in today and say, “We’re going to try this new tool. Figure it out, get it done. And let’s see if we want to launch it to our clients.” Right. In our shop, if somebody isn’t comfortable with trying new things all the time, they will fail if they…. even if they have the skills, the competencies, and the character.

Drew McLellan:

Because they freak out.

Steve Lowisz:

You got it.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Steve Lowisz:

And that’s the way we need to look at culture of our organization. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It just is. And you need to quantify it in four or five competencies that you’re looking for that you can ask a question about and get a specific answer. If you can’t get a specific answer, don’t know what you’re looking for, you’re going to mishire.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Okay. So, those are the four core principles of production.

Steve Lowisz:

Correct.

Drew McLellan:

Are there core four purpose?

Steve Lowisz:

Yeah, there’s a core four purpose. Now, you’re getting into what’s driving the candidate.

Drew McLellan:

Okay.

Steve Lowisz:

So, we first looked at, “What are they going to do for me, do they fit for me?” Now, I got to figure out, “Can I address the needs of the candidate?” But in recruiting, what do we generally do? It’s all about us. Right? We forget about the person on the other end of the phone or video or interview, and we’ve got to learn about them. And this has been a challenge when I train agency owners on how to interv