Here is a problem I have seen developing in sales over the past 10 years – shorter attention spans in salespeople having to deal with longer sales cycles.

First, some background from a quick American Management Association:

Whenever I teach students, I tell them, “Your chance of being successful has gone up exponentially because all you’ve got to do now is actually try to pay attention for more than five minutes.”

Ok, that is disconcerting.  You can see where this is going.  The integration of the Internet into our lives has provided prospects with a unique ability to research your company, and more importantly, your solutions.  We often talk about how prospects approach your sales team today.  The prospects have probably been to your website, at a minimum, and have pursued social media information regarding your company and solution.  The prospects are well-informed.

The control of information used to be a tool of the salesperson but no longer.  Instead, the salesperson has to focus on being a guide to the prospect.  The Internet’s ability to dispense information has moved many transactional sales to automated orders.  Think Amazon here:  people do their own searching, determine the “best” solution, and then place their order without any human interaction.

Salespeople now have to nurture these types of sales.  More often, they have to move towards complex sales and their longer sales cycles.  There is a certain type of salesperson who struggles with this long-term, relationship sale…the classic High-D hunter.

High D’s are quick-pace, aggressive and, well, not relationship-driven.  They are task-driven and short which makes them powerful in new business development roles.  It does not make them powerful at relationship sales.  If more sales are moving to a relationship base, what will happen with these classic hunters?

I think we are observing a fundamental shift in sales.  The classic hunter is either adapting to a modified hunter with relationship-sales focus or they are slowly exiting the sales world.  I am seeing this first-hand during phone screens and during face-to-face interviews.  The High D hunters are learning to temper their drive to mold into the modern day sales world.  Those that successfully make this transformation will survive this new world.

You’ve probably used the term “robot” to describe some of the people you have worked with or, in my case, some of the hiring managers with whom I interviewed over the years.

But I’m not talking metaphorically now.  This BBC news article introduces (is that the right word?) us to Tengai, the job interview robot.

Here is Tengai:

If Tengai is here, surely our robot overlords are not far off in the future.  Can you imagine interacting with that robot on a serious job interview?  The European company that has created Tengai explains their thoughts on the robot’s interactions:

The firm has spent the past four years building a human-like computer interface that mimics the way we speak, as well as our subtle facial expressions. The idea, according to chief scientist Gabriel Skantze, is that “it feels much less scary or strange compared to a more traditional robot”.

A more traditional robot?

The “less scary” robot does provide a unique perspective to hiring.  I honestly think some form of initial robot interviewing is at hand – the article mentions a couple other companies launching in this space.  The most difficult aspect to overcome, in hiring, is bias.  We all have it and a significant portion of it is subconscious.  Clearly robots are immune to this preferential pattern (I think).

The article does provide a point that often gets overlooked in the hiring process:

She also points out that interviews – especially those in sectors where there is a skills shortage – can be as much about job seekers deciding whether or not they want to work for a company as the reverse.

The candidate is making a decision about your company also.  Hiring is a two-way street where you have to “sell” the opportunity to the candidate.  I would not feel comfortable entrusting that process to a robot.  Taking it further, hiring salespeople would be difficult in that the robot cannot pick up on intuitive decisions.  Can you envision this person selling for your company?  Will your prospects buy from this salesperson?  Does the candidate have the intangibles for sales success?  I don’t see those questions being answered by a robot interview in the near future.

I sure hope I am right about that last sentence!

Contact a Human

LinkedIn recently surveyed over 10,000 people who changed jobs in 2015 to find out why they made a change.  Some interesting findings:

#1 reason they left – Lack of advancement opportunities (45%)

#1 reason they choose their new employer – Career path & opportunity (59%)

I’m convinced that there are always a myriad of reasons behind a job change, but the primary reason is simply the most interesting.  I’ve been beating this drum for some time, but it warrants repeating – you must provide a general career path to all new hires today.  Many times in sales the thought process is to simply hire a strong salesperson and let them develop their own success.  Their monetary success will be enough to keep them satisfied for years to come.

For some, yes.  For many more, no.

The younger generation is looking for growth in their own skills and their career development.  This desire for growth is present in most people, the difference with the Millennials is that they will simply leave a job after a short tenure to find a new opportunity.  They are not “constrained” by the…traditional mindset of staying at a company for 5 years even if it gets to be repetitive.  I think this is one of the most fundamental changes I have seen in the marketplace over the past 15 years.

I’ve written about this before, but it keeps coming around – tattoos hurt your chances of landing a job according to this salary.com article.  I am a bit old to participate in the tattoo craze so I probably come across as a stodgy old man on this topic.  However, the millennials seem to be enthralled with tattoos even in open sight.  To give you proof:

A recent study from the Pew Research Center found nearly 40% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo…

Think about that stat – 40%!  That is more than a fad.  But here is where the problem develops:

The biggest takeaways from our survey include a whopping 76% of respondents feel tattoos and piercings hurt an applicant’s chances of being hired during a job interview. And more than one-third – 39% of those surveyed – believe employees with tattoos and piercings reflect poorly on their employers. Furthermore, 42% feel visible tattoos are always inappropriate at work, with 55% reporting the same thing about body piercings.

I don’t care for tattoos and I don’t understand the appeal.  If they have this significant drag on hiring success, I would strongly encourage people to avoid them.

Call me old-fashioned.

From the Herman Trend Alert email newsletter (sorry, no link):

Agile Thinking Skills. In this period of sustained economic and political uncertainty, and, agile thinking and the ability to prepare for multiple scenarios is vital. In industries that face significant regulatory and environmental challenges, including life sciences, and energy and mining, the ability to prepare for multiple scenarios is especially important—72 percent and 71 percent respectively, compared with 55 percent for the overall population of respondents. To succeed in the changing marketplace of the future, HR executives also placed a high premium on innovative thinking (46.0 percent), dealing with complexity and managing paradoxes (42.9 percent).

I couldn’t agree more with them – “agile thinking” is critical in the today’s world.  Everything is moving faster which inevitably leads to change.  The best candidates we assess have strong scores in these agile areas – Practical Thinking, Theoretical Problem Solving, Using Common Sense, Intuitive Decision Making – these are all measurable traits that help identify the strongest candidate.

So much has changed over the past decade that it is problematic that companies continue to use outdated hiring models.  There are better tools today, tools that will provide more insight into an external candidate that what you may know about an existing employee!  May I suggest you test drive one of these assessments to see the power behind them?  Contact me if you would like to see what is available today.

The economy is in rough shape as most people know.  However, I give credit to the Business Journal for attempting to spin a good story out of this hot mess.  Here is the headline:

Challenger report: June job cuts hit 13-month low

Sounds positive and they lead off with this info:

Nationally, the country’s employers announced plans to slash 37,551 jobs in June, down 39 percent from May, which marks a 13-month low for planned cuts, according to a new report from human resources consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Ah, but the truth often lies in the later paragraphs:

Still, halfway through 2012, there have been a total of 283,091 job cuts, an increase of about 15 percent from last year’s total during the same six-month period, per Challenger Gray & Christmas.

The job situation is still in shambles and we are seeing it in our business.  There are many strong candidates out there looking for opportunities that just are not materializing right now.

From today’s Herman Trend report (emphasis mine):

The other highlights of the study are fascinating: the least happy of the generations is the Baby Boomers. They expressed the strongest discontent with their employers and the greatest frustration that their loyalty and hard work have been neither recognized nor rewarded. “Almost one-third (32 percent) of Baby Boomers surveyed say a lack of trust in leadership is a top turnover trigger—the highest ranking by any workforce generation.”

Employers are most vulnerable to lose their Generation X workers. Lack of career progress is their top exit trigger (65 percent). Only 28 percent of Gen X employees surveyed expect to stay. This intention to leave is a clear signal to employers to expect a significant exodus by employees viewed as future leaders.

For the Millennials, their employers’ commitment to "corporate responsibility/volunteerism" was very important. Millennials are also nearly three times more likely to say a "fun work environment" is important than their Baby Boomers counterparts.

On the other hand, “employees who plan to stay with their current employers (35 percent) say their companies have strong talent programs, characterized by clear career paths, leadership development initiatives, trust and confidence in corporate leadership, superior programs to retain top talent, and effective communication.”

Did you catch that last topic?  Communication – this is almost a free move for any company, but it requires commitment.  The Gen X’ers are a generally skeptical bunch as I can attest – I am one.  I value all of the programs listed, yet it all starts with effective communication within the company and specifically within the manager-employee relationship.

Well, it is good to be back at it after a nice Christmas break with the family.  It is even better to come back to read an article like this one from CNNMoney.com.  How about this:

"We’re looking at some leading indicators on employment, and they’re all flashing green lights," said Bernard Baumohl of the Economic Outlook Group, a Princeton, N.J. research firm.

Though most economists still expect a painfully high unemployment rate of about 9% at the end of this year, Baumohl and others think that stat masks more important signs of strength.

Baumohl and some other economists forecast between 2.5 million and 3 million jobs being added to U.S. payrolls in 2011, about triple the gains likely to recorded in 2010 and what would be the best one-year jump since the white hot labor market of 1999.

I am hopeful that these economists are correct.  If you would like an odd indicator, try this one:

Baumohl says another non-traditional employment indicator, the number of day-care workers, which has been edging up for four months and is now about 2% higher than a year ago. "People need more day care when they’ve got jobs to go to," he said.

Odd, but it seems logical.  The hole we are in is far greater than 3 million jobs as you can read in the article.  This would be a good start, but it is going to take years to recover.  In that light, a “hiring boom” may be overstating things.

Most people agree that there will be a demand for workers as soon as we start the recovery process (no, I do not subscribe to the idea that the recession ended in June of 2009).  Companies are running in a most efficient manner right now due to the fact that they had to cut staff to the bone.  Growth/expansion will require an expansion of most company’s workforces.  The supply of workers will be limited due to the Baby Boomer retirements and the great decrease in workers in Gen X.

Along with this shortage comes another important limitation in the workforce.  From the Herman Trend’s weekly email (emphasis mine):

“Unfortunately, with all of the uncertainty created by the current regulatory environment, small to mid-size businesses have put their hiring plans on hold; in fact, many are waiting to see the outcome of the United States’ elections on November 2”, said Daywalt.

When they are ready to recruit trained, qualified people and the demand exceeds the supply, US employers are in for a rude awakening. Why? Government, healthcare, and energy industry Baby Boomer retirements and the significant training cutback that accompanied the recent economic slowdown.

Absolutely true.  I work with a handful of sales trainers and they have all seen serious declines in their revenue.  There will be a price to pay for this lack of development in the workforce.  The “tsunami” of hiring that is impending will be tempered by the sheer lack of candidates along with the lack of trained candidates.  Companies will need to keep an open mind when hiring as to the investment they will have to make in their new employees.

I’m not sure what to make of this, but it caught my eye:

Overall, the reading on local economies is still grim though, as home prices continue to fall and unemployment rates remain historically high, the report said.

The list of strongest-performing areas included several middle American cities that were boosted by an uptick in manufacturing jobs and home price declines that were more modest than in other parts of the nation. The weakest performers were mostly sunbelt cities which saw some of the largest declines in home prices and continue to lag behind the rest of the country.

chart_recession_proof_cities.03.gif

Honolulu just jumps off the page for me.