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Tech startups disrupt the way recruiting is done

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, June 10, 2015


By Gill South 

Tech entrepreneurs have a way of doing things which are designed to disrupt and turn things on their head. They take pride in it, in fact. Their approach to recruiting is similar too. No psychometric testing for them. No interviews in impersonal business suites. 

Wherever they are, out for dinner or on their kids' sports field, they are always on the lookout for new people, confident, change-makers who like nothing better than to throw a spanner in the works.  Their ideal recruit is the type of person who is fun to pull all-nighters with and who fits the informal but hard working company culture of a startup.

I witnessed this in action at the recent San Francisco Startup Job Fair, an event where tech talent and startup founders came together to make recruitment magic, ideally. Upwards of 1000 keen job hunters milled around 30 company booths.

It was a job fair like no other I had seen. There were no rules. One COO tapped me on the shoulder as I walked along and asked if I were a developer by any chance. The mind boggles. After a while job-seekers began queuing in front of company's booths in a more orthodox fashion. 

Although many of these tech CEOs have excelled academically, they were generally not looking for Ivy League types or graduates with fancy PhDs. They were more interested in people with good solid industry experience but also provocative thinkers who liked to challenge the status quo.

As for the entrepreneurs, they had to be really good at telling their company's story and inspiring excellent candidates who were looking for the next big idea to latch onto. In some cases these business leaders had no real proof that their idea has taken off yet, so they were looking for people with imagination and vision who could look beyond the here and now.

These startup recruiters were fully aware that they were competing with every other new business idea that has popped up in the last year for the truly top talent. 

“Everybody in the Bay Area is looking for the next best thing,” said one experienced tech recruiter, Kevin Seng from Ayasdi.  
He listed the most important attributes he was looking for.  

“We are looking for people who are inquisitive, who are asking the right questions, people not afraid to speak up with new ideas,” he said. “A friendly demeanor is also a must.”

He is looking for people who might say something like: “Why are you doing it this way? Have you thought about trying it that way?” 

Getting the cultural fit right is more important for startup hires than for other businesses further down the track, Seng said. “It's understandable. These are hard working operations where people spend a lot of time together and if you don't get along, it's pretty painful.”

Many of the decision-makers who participated in the annual Job Fair are running their own businesses now, but a lot of these techies came from large companies like Google and Facebook. 

As one former Google recruiter, Ramy Khalil, said: “I wanted to make more of an impact.” 

For Khalil, industry experience is what is was most valued at Ampush, the mobile advertising business founded by three 17 year olds a few years ago. Startups are well aware an inexperienced person is going to make mistakes and they just don't have time for that. They need someone who can hit the ground running.

Meanwhile for Purple Squirrel founder, Jon Silber, confidence is the biggest thing he is looking for in his current recruitment drive.  Another ex-Googler, Silber was asking potential candidates to come on the adventure with him, his idea just “coming off beta” this month. 

As a brand new company, Purple Squirrel is looking to connect with job seekers directly with employees at top companies who are invested in getting them hired. Silber is looking for front-end marketers who can tell the company story with complete conviction. Self-sufficiency is another quality high up on his list.

“Talking to a candidate's referees is the best way to find out if someone is exceptional,” said Silber. They can tell him what is special about them and give examples of their achievements.

Lessons to be learned about the way startups recruit:

- Ask candidates to give examples of when they thought laterally and had success.

- Look for candidates who are curious about everything.

- Look for candidates who are always looking for better ways of doing things.

- Value candidates who have researched the company and come up with some new ideas for it.

- Value confidence and the ability to be an inspirational story teller.

About the Author:


Gill South is a Berkeley-based business journalist and writer who loves reporting on the startup world and people's careers. She has been a newspaper journalist in the UK, New Zealand, and the US for over 25 years, working on the launch of three newspapers. She is also the author of an inspirational book for working mothers: ”Because We're Worth It” -- A ‘whereto from here’ for today's working mother. Visit Gill's website to learn more:

Tags:  Facebook  Gill South  Google  HR  NCHRA  Purple Squirrel  recruiter  recruiting  staffing  startups  tech  workforce 

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3 Characteristics of a Focused Listener

Posted By Amy S. Powers, Wednesday, June 3, 2015

By Karen Rodriguez  Exec-Comm

Have you ever noticed that some people just seem to be better listeners than others-- engaged in your every thought; understanding your message; focused on you?

It’s called focused listening. 

Focused listening is a key factor to exuding executive presence and an important business skill. With practice and effort, anyone can become a focused listener.

Focused listening requires a combined effort from your ears, eyes, body and mind and it’s a key to being a successful leader.


Here are three characteristics of a focused listener:

  1. Focused listeners take notes (in-person or face-to-face meetings/ interviews). Taking notes helps you to concentrate your mind and compliments the speaker by showing that you’re engaged and value what he/she is saying. Notes also improve your recall of the content.
  2. Focused listeners encourage speakers (in-person or phone meetings/interviews). Show the speaker you’re listening by raising your eyebrows or nodding. You can also offer a response when the speaker pauses.
  3. Focused listeners probe for issues (in-person or phone meetings/interviews). If you’re not clear on something, ask questions!

Focused listening is an important skill that can be used in all parts of your life, whether at home, the office or in the classroom. Give these three tips a try and see how it improves your communication style.

About the Author

Karen Rodriguez joined Exec.Comm in 1999, and entered the partnership in 2009.  As the manager of the Exec|Comm brand, marketing and design efforts, Karen oversees the firm’s identity, touching all aspects of the brand (online presence and web site, web-based learning center, advertising, PR, classroom materials, and live special events). She recently introduced the firm’s blog, The Chat, and launched their quarterly lunch and learn series, The Learning Exchange.  Additionally, she manages their open-enrollment seminars in New York and San Francisco. Karen holds a B.F.A. from Parsons The New School for Design in New York City. She lives in Aberdeen, NJ, with her husband and three sons.




Tags:  blog  coaching  communication  employee  Exec-Com  executive  focused  hr  interview  Karen Rodriguez  leadership  listening  meetings  nchra  training 

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29 Employee Engagement Ideas You Need to Know About

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Contributed by Emil Shour - SnackNation


29 Employee Engagement Ideas You Need to Know About


HR managers can agree that employee engagement and retention is at the top of their priority list. Every company wants to attract and keep the best talent. The problem? Many employees in today’s job market quickly feel uninspired by their work, get bored after 2 years and start job hunting for something new.

So we decided to speak with some of the best HR professionals and business leaders around the country to find the strategies they recommend to keep employees engaged. There are also some tips below that have been really successful at our company.

Note: We sharing the first four (of the 29) employee engagement ideas here on the NCHRA blog, so please click over to to read them all---it will be well worth your while! 

Here are employee engagement ideas that you should apply at your office. 

1. Offer healthier options at your workplace.

Jason Lauritsen, Director of Best Places to Work at Quantum Workplace, discusses how to increase employee engagement by making healthier foods available on-site:

Jason LauritsenThree-fourths of employees want access to healthy cafeteria or vending options at their workplace, but less than half of employers actually offer it as a benefit. This creates a great opportunity. Not only will providing this benefit help organizations play a role in boosting productivity, increasing performance, and lowering healthcare costs, but we’ve also found that employees who work at organizations that provide healthy cafeteria or vending options are 10 percent more likely to be engaged.”


2. Align your company with a purpose.

SnackNation CEO Sean Kelly recently gave a presentation at the HR Star Conference, a large gathering of human resources professionals. The presentation, titled “Millennials in The Workplace”, discussed how organizations can increase engagement with their millennial employees. One of the key points Sean discussed was how important it is to align your company with an overall purpose. Don’t focus on what you do, but why you do it. As millennials quickly begin to dominate the workforce, this message becomes more and more important. Here’s what Sean had to say about aligning your company with a purpose (skip to the 19:35 mark): 



3. Get your health and wellness program in order.

Kevin Sheridan, New York Times best-selling Author of Building a Magnetic Culture, has helped some of the world’s largest corporations improve their culture and foster productive engagement.  When we asked him what companies should be doing better to improve workplace engagement, he offered us this wisdom:

Kevin Sheridan“The bottom line is that anyone who knows about employee engagement is also a firm believer in instituting health and wellness programs. There have been multiple scientific studies proving that health and wellness efforts not only yield higher productivity and engagement in the workplace but will also help reduce turnover as job stress is the #1 reason people quit (along with a lack of work-life balance which is related to wellness as well).”







4. Give your people “inside” information.


Want to know a great way to get your team more involved and committed? Keep them up to date with “inside” information. These are things like the direction of the company and the challenges that the Leadership Team is facing.

Tim Sackett, HR Pro and President at HRU Technical Resources, explains this important part of your employee engagement strategy:

Tim Sackett“The one true fact in all workplaces is your people want to be in the know, they want to be in the circle of trust. HR and leadership, in general, do a crappy job at this, and it has a huge impact to engagement. Find ways to make this happen and let your people know that it’s “inside” information. Trusting your employees can handle it raises engagement.”








Continue reading here (start at:  #5 "Celebrate Personal Wins"). 




SnackNation is a one-of-a-kind monthly healthy snack delivery service that helps employees be happier, healthier, and highly productive. It’s also a way to give your employees convenient “grab and go” access to healthy foods so they can stay on site, stay properly fueled, and save themselves time and energy. Visit:


Tags:  confidence  employee  engagement  HR  human resources  morale  NCHRA  SnackNation  TIPS  turnover  workplace 

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How Coaching in the Workplace Builds Leaders at all Levels

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Wednesday, May 20, 2015

By Melissa Asher  - CPS HR Consulting



Coaching within the workplace – a long time practice in the private sector – has finally arrived in the public sector. The cost of coaching may be an initial deterrent, but savvy organizations see it as an important strategy to developing leaders at all levels. Currently, public-sector employees are facing new and difficult challenges around cost-effective service delivery, intervention, ongoing economic stress and political polarization as well as a barrage of technological changes to keep up with and adopt. Coaching allows for individualized development rather than a one-size-fits-all group training approach to growing abilities, confidence and skills.


Coaching is an ideal way to bring about new and different ways of thinking. It is about inspiring, empowering and engaging people to establish a new level of commitment and performance. The International Coaching Federation, a leading authority on coaching, concurs with its definition:


Coaching: partnering with individuals in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.


If done well, the coaching relationship fosters an attitude and action orientation around reaching beyond the status quo. Having an objective person who will work one-on-one to solve complex workplace challenges, elicit new ideas and solutions, and help the person being coached identify blind spots is one of the most effective ways to expand learning and thinking. This can be done with external coaches as well as internally through a partnership between a manager and an employee. 


No matter the coach, the following common elements must be present for coaching to be successful:

  • Both the coach and person being coached need to be fully present and committed to moving forward in a learning mode
  • The person being coached must adopt an attitude of engagement not entitlement
  • There needs to be a commitment to building and understanding context without getting stuck in past thinking or blaming
  • The coaching sessions need to connect how thinking and behavior are related for the person being coached
  • The person being coached must embrace the possibility of self-exploration and change
  • Coaching discussions are held confidentially and should not impact a performance appraisal

These elements set up the foundation for a productive coaching relationship, in which the agenda is often focused on improving performance and technical skills rather than organizational change. A shift is needed on the part of the manager from controlling and monitoring to one that is more collaborative and nurturing, engaging the employee in a shared understanding of what needs to be achieved and how to achieve it. In all cases the focus is on improved success on the job.


Getting to a breakthrough may come quickly or may take more time. The difference comes down to two main ideas:


1.       The attitude and willingness of the employee being coached

2.       The level of trust that develops between the coach and person being coached


At the core of coaching is a trusting relationship that makes several basic assumptions about employees:

  • They want to succeed at work
  • They can contribute ideas that improve work processes and the environment
  • They will work hard to achieve goals that they have helped develop
  • They are open to learning and can see its value in terms of improved success on the job, recognition and/or reward

Likewise, the coach must adopt an attitude of openness and helpfulness that the person being coached sees as a total commitment to his or her success. There are several ways to do this. One option is to introduce new possibilities and use questions to have a conversation where the person works through what the new possibility would mean for him or her. They would then analyze the impact to those around him or her and what is trying to be achieved.


An alternative is to give honest feedback that will help a person remove a blind spot. This can be done through direct observation, observing the effects on others, or reviewing results from any number of assessments (i.e. change preference, conflict style, personality). In this case, the coach is bringing light to an action, attitude or behavior that may be producing an undesirable outcome in a way that the person can think about it and choose to make a change.


A useful coaching model that CPS HR Consulting uses is called Agreed Upon Accountability and can be applied in virtually any situation with four steps:


1.       Begin with a request

2.       Host an open conversation to reach agreement

3.       Create commitment with “by when” or “how much” defined

4.       Hold each other mutually accountable


Coaching is an effective development tool that can empower employees by building competence and confidence. It can bridge the gaps created by the steady stream of retirements, the changing workplace demographics and the call for ever greater levels of performance. What could be better than individualized skill building delivered exactly when you need it and can apply it?


To learn more about this topic, visit and sign up for CPS HR’s one-day course “Coaching Within the Workplace.”


About the Author

Melissa Asher is the training and development manager at CPS HR Consulting, a self-supporting public agency that provides a full range of integrated HR solutions to government and nonprofit clients. She runs the training center in Sacramento, California, that offers open enrollment and group training, leadership development and coaching throughout the U.S. She has more than 18 years of experience inspiring others to reach their full potential and strives to impact organizational performance by enabling clients to apply learning in their everyday lives.

Tags:  blog  building  coaching  confidence  consulting  CPS  employee  HR  leadership  Melissa Asher  morale  NCHRA  training  workplace 

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Calculating the High Cost of Employee Turnover

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Wednesday, May 13, 2015

By Matthew Coleman - Marketing Manager, MyEmployees


There’s a disease silently infecting the modern American business world today. It lurks in the background, silently eating away at the bottom line of your company. This silent destroyer of business profits is known as your “employee turnover equation,” and it affects small businesses and corporations alike.

I’ll not bore you with stats detailing the billions of dollars lost annually to this problem. In reality, when the numbers get that large, people tend to accept them as the norm. What you need is a simple employee turnover calculator to understand exactly how it is affecting YOUR business. Once you’ve got an idea what you’re losing, there are a few simple steps you can implement to regain some of that lost profitability.

Most businesses know, on some level, that the cost of employee turnover is a problem. They view it as a mere inconvenience that must be dealt with, a cost of doing business. That’s until you put a dollar amount on its effect. Even seeing an “estimate” of what you’re losing will shock you!

See for yourself! Here’s an employee turnover calculator to help you understand just how much money employee turnover truly costs YOUR business each year. Once business owners, HR managers, CFOs, and CEOs get a look at the real numbers lost each year, quarter or even a single month... they need to take a hard look at what needs to be done to slow that tide.

Example: Let’s say you have 100 employees. Each year, you have 15% turnover. When those employees leave for whatever reason, you have to train new employees to fill the open positions. If it takes 2 weeks to train each new employee, at 40 hours per week, on a $8 hourly salary for the new employee, and a $25 hourly salary for the trainer, you’re looking at $42,768 per year! And that doesn’t even cover recruiting!

Those are just blind estimates.  Take a minute to input your data into the employee turnover calculator to get a true number for your own business. Prepare to be shocked!

While you can’t stop employee turnover completely, you can take steps to diminish it. Examine your company culture for ways to improve employee engagement. Find ways to inspire employees to take more pride in their job by asking them for input on how to do their tasks more efficiently. Survey employees and ask their thoughts on how the workplace can be improved (and then implement do some of the suggestions!). Create an employee recognition platform that recognizes people for their effort, and awards them regularly and consistently.

It’s a proven fact! When employees are engaged, they work harder, are more efficient, and take pride in what they do. A “World Class” atmosphere of teamwork develops. A cooperative, competitive spirit blossoms, encouraging everyone to be a better employee and a better person. People stop coming to work because they have to, and start coming because they want to. They are more productive and happier. That means fewer performance-based layoffs and fewer top producers leaving your company for greener pastures.

Engaged employees have significantly lower levels of absenteeism, on the job accidents, and fewer HR issues. What is that doing to your bottom line every year? According to Gallup Research, companies with high levels of employee engagement are 400% more profitable. Yes, 400%!! Pair that increase in productivity and profitability with the savings from reduced turnover, and your business can expect exponential growth in sales and profits.

Many of the factors affecting true employee engagement need to be customized for each business. A great place to start is an employee survey. Find out what employees think about the business and work environment. You may uncover hidden systemic issues that contribute to your high rate of employee turnover.


Another excellent place to start is a consistent recognition platform. One of the most basic human needs is to feel appreciated. From a business perspective, a recognition program can reward and inspire employees while at the same time achieving company goals and objectives. It’s not magic; it's all about criteria. Check out this video for more about that: How can an Employee Recognition program increase profitability.

Employee turnover is an infection, but it doesn’t have to be a killer. The first step is using a simple employee turnover calculator to put a dollar amount on just how much it costs your business. Once you understand that, you can easily justify any investment in employee engagement and employee recognition to shrink your turnover rate drastically. Not only will you be saving the headache of replacing many of your employees, but you’ll be investing in the massive growth potential and profitability of your business.

About the Author

Matthew Coleman is the Marketing Manager for 
MyEmployees. The mission of MyEmployees is to engage America’s workforce, one manager, one employee at a time… forging stronger companies in the process. Twitter: @matthewjcoleman

Tags:  Bay Area  behavior  California  cost  cultural  culture  diversity  engagement  harassment in the workplace  HR  human resources  leadership  management  my  NCHRA  San Francisco  turnover  workforce  workplace 

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