Talent Retention

The Most Popular Employee Onboarding Articles on the Internet

There is a lot of advice our there about how to best onboard new hires. When you consider that studies have shown a good onboarding program can lead to increased revenue, lower turnover, and improved customer satisfaction that makes sense. To save you some time in the search for ideas, we've compiled a list of the 10 most shared articles from across the internet on the topic of onboarding. 

Our recent ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Employee Onboarding, covers a lot of best practices, but we wanted to share what other voices out there have to say on this important topic. So, here are summaries of the 10 most shared articles and blog posts on onboarding from around the web along with links to the original articles.

1) Employee Onboarding at Startups Is Broken – Here’s How to Fix It

Summary: Startups want the most talented people they can recruit and are fighting for the best talent. The author suggests that startup new hires are left to learn and experience the workplace on his or her own. This leaves the employee to feel uncared for and open for recruitment into another organization. A number of fixes along with advice are offered.


2) New Employee Onboarding Best Practices for New Hires

Summary: Trello provides best practices that play up the personal side of onboarding, encouraging socialization; organization and asking for new hire input, are provided. Trello points out “everyone is different. Introverts, extroverts, HQ, remote. We want their first week to be amazing, and part of that is adapting the process to fit them.”


3) How to Get Employee Onboarding Right

Summary: Maren Hogan provides an excellent breakdown of the difference between onboarding and training. If you’re looking for a simple way to explain the difference between the two, this article is for you.  She explains, “Training is fuel for your onboarding engine.”


4) 12 Employee Onboarding Best Practices Every Business Owner Needs To Know

Summary: Best practices for onboarding are broken down into three sections in this post by Rob Wormley: before the new hire starts work, during the first week, and during the first 30-90 days.


5) Sales and Employee Onboarding Best Practices

Summary: Startups are coming to the realization that onboarding is vital to their success in the future. In an interview with David Skok, Andrew Quinn of Hubspot explains Hubspot’s sales onboarding process. Another huge highlight of this piece is that it tells you what you need to consider when building your onboarding strategy, who should do so, and how to evaluate it.


6) How to Stop Losing Money on Employee Turnover by Improving Your Onboarding Process

Summary: Ron Sela provides another examination of onboarding in startups. He points out that an ineffective onboarding process is at fault in 1 of every 6 top talent departures. Sela provides a chronological look at best practices and pro-tips for onboarding.


7) How to Use Social Media for Employee Onboarding

Summary: Using real examples, Matt Charney explains how to use social media to onboard employees from before they’re hired, during their first day and afterward. He presents social media as an innovative way to get to know your workplace, industry and team members through real life examples.


8) 4 Ingredients for the Perfect Employee Onboarding Process

Summary: Ben Plant presents onboarding as a mix of the right ingredients that lead to the recipe for the perfect onboarding process.


9) 5 Strategies for Employee Onboarding Success

Summary: An easy-to-follow infographic providing five strategies for onboarding success. The infographic is promoting a larger ebook of the same name, which you can download from the website.


10) Hire Wisdom: New Employee Onboarding – How to Hit the Ground Running

Summary: Ross Campbell provides a checklist for hiring managers looking to onboard employees. His three tips are setting them up on an administrative level fully prepared (ex. fully stocked desk), making them feel connected (through mentorship, opportunities and socialization with colleagues), and reiterating job expectations to ensure both employee and manager understand the process.


Does your company have a formal onboarding process? 

Posted by Ian Cameron

15 Oct 2015

Aim High: 5 Steps to Hiring & Retaining A-Level Talent

A-Level Talent is the 20% of your workforce that produces 80% of your organization's results. They're unique. Most A-level performers are not looking for a job and they view the hiring decision as their own. This webinar will provide you with 5 practical steps you can take to bring A-level talent into your organization.

Listen to the recorded webinar.

In this free webinar, you'll learn how to:

Appreciate and cater to the uniqueness of A-Level Talent
Identify the characteristics of a “natural” A-level performer
Assess A-level characteristics in an interview
Conduct proper reference checks to ensure you have an A-level performer
Engage A-level talent by coaching to their strengths

About the presenter

Ian Cameron is the Managing Director of The McQuaig Institute®, an International organization committed to helping companies assess, select and develop talent. 

Ian has more than 20 years of Human Resource and Organizational Development consulting experience. Throughout his career Ian’s focus has been on helping organizations realize their goals through their people and helping people live their passion through their work. 

Using McQuaig to Build a Winning Onboarding Program

Building a winning onboarding program is a little bit like gardening. You can spend a lot of time (and money) planning what your garden will look like, buying the flowers and plants you need to bring it to life, but if you just plop them into the ground without watering, fertilizing, and checking on them regularly, you won’t have much to show for it after a few weeks.

As a McQuaig customer, though, you can use The McQuaig System to help you build a top-notch onboarding program.

Onboarding is not a one-day, or one-week process. In some companies it can run as long as two years. We recommend mapping out a process for 12 months and I’ll show you how to use McQuaig in each of the key phases to make or improve your program. Research from the Aberdeen Group has shown that building a program that works can:

  • improve new hire productivity by 54 percent;
  • increase revenue by 60 percent;
  • increase retention by 25 percent ; and
  • increase customer satisfaction by 63 percent

You’ll be able to get even more detail on building a winning onboarding program in an upcoming ebook that will be released in late August.

Phase 1 – Pre-hire

Onboarding begins before you even make a hire. Your candidate experience plays a huge role in how a new hire adapts to working life at your company. As does the preparatorysteps you take during this phase.

The McQuaig 3-Step Process recommends creating an ideal candidate profile, using the McQuaig Job Survey, as a benchmark to measure candidates against. In addition to using this to ensure you find the right candidate, it also plays a role in onboarding. By creating this job profile, you can use it to:

Create a job description that describes how a candidate will apply their natural traits to succeed and allow them to better picture themselves in the role and your culture
Customize copy on your career website to speak to the behavioral attributes you’re looking for. Highlighting the things that matter to your ideal candidates and also highlighting what you don’t want so other candidates can self-deselect

In the Interview

Having the level of understanding of the candidate that a McQuaig profile provides allows you to tailor your approach in the interview and communicate the elements of your employer brand or value proposition that are most likely to appeal to that candidate. This goes a long way toward helping the eventual hire connect with the organization at this early stage.

Phase 2 – Post-hire, pre-Day 1

Once your new hire has accepted your offer, you can use the time between acceptance and Day 1 to create a connection and build a customized onboarding program.

We respond better to a process that is personalized for us. Onboarding is no different. You can use the insights you have from your new hire’s profile to customize the onboarding process to suit their personality.

Is your new hire analytical and likely to prefer to consume detailed information, or more social and operate from emotion? Are they likely to embrace change, or will they need help with the change involved in a new job. It’s all in their profile. Use these insights to structure or personalize a program that will best engage them.

Some of the report sections that will help you in this include:

  • Motivating factors– understand how to best engage with them to achieve results
  • Strategies for coaching and development– use the “Dos & Don’ts” report to help prepare the manager with suggestions for best approach for coaching
  • Learning style report– if your onboarding includes training, these are critical insights
  • Team approach– understand how they work in a team and anticipate how they’ll fit in and impact team dynamics

This is also a time when you can share insights from the hiring manager’s profile and the profiles of their team mates, to help them get to know their new colleagues a little better before their first day.

Phase 3 – Day 1

Most employees leave managers, not companies. The manager/employee relationship is critical to retention, engagement and productivity. Get this relationship off on the right foot by ensuring your hiring manager has reviewed the sections on motivation, coaching and development in the new hire’s profile. This will provide boundless insights on how to approach and build rapport with the new hire. It’s also key for ongoing coaching, but we’ll talk more about that later.

On Day 1, provide your new hire with their McQuaig profile and their manager’s profile. An activity for Week 1 should be for your new hire to read both.

Phase 4 – Day 2 to Three Months

According to research, 22 percent of new hires leave in the first 45 days. This period is critical to retention.

The manager/employee relationship: On Day 1 you gave your new hire a copy of their profile and that of their manager’s. Week 1 is the perfect time for a meeting between an employee and their manager to discuss their styles, preferences and how they can most effectively work together using the insights from their profiles.

The team relationship: Use the Team Approach Report to understand how the hire will work in a team and how, specifically, he or she will work with his or her teammates based on their profiles.

Phase 5 – Three Months to One Year

Now is the time to use The McQuaig Self-Development report. Providing employees with a copy of their report, followed by a meeting with their manager to discuss and set goals around key strengths/development areas can help keep engagement high.

The manager should use results from the assessment to drive coaching and development activity.

6 Ways to Make a Perfect First Day for a New Employee

New_Employee_Perfect_First_Day A new hire’s first day on the job can be the beginning of a long, productive career, or the beginning of the end. According to research, 15 percent of new hires contemplate quitting on their first day. Here are five simple, low-cost things you can do to create a first day worth writing home about.

You’ve spent a lot of time and money to acquire a talented candidate and what you do here will play a huge role in whether or not you’ll keep them.

It’s the Little Things

Greet your employee: It so often happens that a new employee arrives only to be greeted by a receptionist, a fellow coworker or no one at all. The hiring manager should always be there to greet the new employee and show them around. If the hiring manager is too busy to even acknowledge the arrival of a new employee, how will that employee expect that manager will react if they need help later on?

Arrange meetings with colleagues: In a big office you may need to do this all in one go, but if you have a smaller office allow the employee to interact with each of their colleagues individually. This will teach your new employee how everyone’s roles fit together and who does what.

Start a little later: Rather than starting first thing in the morning, it can be more efficient to have them come in later. This will give you some time to settle and prepare for their arrival and give them a little extra time to get ready and find the workplace.

Stock the desk: There’s nothing more welcoming than a freshly stocked desk. Conversely, arriving to a desk with no supplies leaves the impression that no one’s been thinking about them. Apple uses this technique paired with an inspirational note that says: “There’s work and there’s your life’s work. The kind of work that has your fingerprints all over it. The kind of work that you’d never compromise on. That you’d sacrifice a weekend for. You can do that kind of work at Apple. People don’t come here to play it safe. They come here to swim in the deep end. They want their work to add up to something. Something big. Something that couldn’t happen anywhere else. Welcome to Apple.”

Assign a buddy: Johnson and Johnson Canada provides their executives with a senior mentor who has no direct working relationship to the new hire to provide guidance on both official and unofficial rules in the workplace. This can help employees get to know the workplace better.

Create a map of the onboarding experience: Almost everyone can agree that uncertainty isn’t fun. Help your employee visualize their experience by asking for their input in drawing up the timeline for their onboarding process. The company Percolate does this through task management system Asana where each onboarding task must be marked complete. Make sure among the tasks is a list of all key stakeholders the new hire should meet.


What do you do to make your new employees’ first day special?


Posted by Kristen Harcourt

04 Aug 2015

Using Assessments in Offboarding

Offboarding Employees are job hopping more than ever before. In some fields nearly half of employees are thinking of changing jobs within one or two years. While this can be frustrating for employers, properly offboarding these employees provides three important opportunities:

Creating Brand Ambassadors: It’s a small world. It’s pretty likely that someone who knows your exiting employee will think of applying at some point for one of your vacancies and will ask your ex-employee about their experience working with you.

Nurturing Potential Referrals: Your former employee will meet people who could use your service or product and ideally they’ll recommend your company.

Encouraging Return Employees: Imagine hiring an employee that knows your specific service/product and culture inside and out, knows the current employees and has a relevant skill set. Sounds amazing right? Well, the only way you’re going to find exactly that is by rehiring your former employee.

If they’re pushed out the door without a thought, they’ll leave your organization and never return. Instead, personalized offboarding activities can turn them into a returning employee, a source of clients and a significant brand ambassador.

That All Sounds Really Good But…

As tensions run high and many quick decisions are made between the employee’s resignation and their exit, it’s easy to lose the people focus. By using assessments to personalize the process, this focus can be embed right into offboarding. Some actions can include:

Exit interviews: This is arguably your most valuable offboarding tool. You’ll be able to determine exactly what can be learned from your employee’s exit. If you’ve done a behavioral assessment on the departing employee, you can use the insights into their personality to probe into their reason for leaving and, identify any gaps in their profile as compared to the job profile during the exit interview and consider the implications for a new hire.

Send off: Don’t let them leave without a proper goodbye, be sure to let your employee know you valued them and wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors.  Offer to be a reference or write a recommendation letter if you’re willing. For those who will remain, ensure your departing employee is celebrated. This will show you value your people and reward the remaining employees for their hard work in the weeks to come. Assessments can help in determining what kind of celebration will suit your team and individual best. Maybe your highly relaxed team isn’t too keen on a party and would prefer a casual lunch instead. Use insight from a team assessment to brainstorm options but leave the final decision to the team and departing employee. 

Knowledge Transfer: Imagine you’re working in a small organization and a vital employee gives their two weeks’ notice. Ensure that the employee’s final two weeks are spent teaching someone else some of the necessary knowledge for their position. This can be done by having a successor shadow the employee or teaching someone with a similar skill set the knowledge needed to take over in the interim. To ramp up this knowledge transfer, be extra attentive to how the interim employee prefers to learn as well as their motivations.

The Take Away

When someone must exit a job it is a difficult time for all involved. However, this time can be a good learning experience for  HR and other management at the company and serve as some closure for the departing employee and current team. If all parties understand that your organization values your people, you’ve done your job well.


How do you offboard exiting employees? Do you use assessments in this process?


Posted by Ian Cameron

27 Jul 2015

How to Use Assessments for Best Onboarding Experience

Assessments_Employee_Onboarding Onboarding. It takes a lot of time, labor and planning to truly onboard an employee. So why do it?

The answer: You can’t afford not to. Benefits of onboarding new employees include the following:

  • Improvement in year-over-year revenue by 60 percent (Aberdeen)
  • Increase in year-over-year customer satisfaction by 63 percent (Aberdeen)
  • Increase in retention by 25 percent (SmartHRInc)
  • Improvement of performance levels by up to 11 percent (SmartHRInc)
  • Increase in new hire productivity by 54 percent (Aberdeen)

We say, take onboarding to the next level. Invest a little more time and get an even larger return. As with most aspects of the workplace, personalizing the process will elevate it beyond simply orienting a new employee. Using the trait and temperament insight gained through talent assessments you can predict how one will behave, both in team settings and individually as well as what motivates them to take initiative. With this information you’ll know exactly how to orient your employee to maximize engagement, speed up productivity and socialize your new hire the way they’d like.

You can use a behavior assessment like McQuaig to create an onboarding process that’s more likely to connect because it’s tailored to the new hire’s personality.

Before Day One

The onboarding process begins as soon as an individual glimpses your job description. From that very first point of contact, potential ideal candidates should be able to picture themselves as part of your organization.

The McQuaig 3-Step Process creates an ideal candidate profile using the McQuaig Job Survey as a benchmark. The report you receive from the McQuaig Job Survey is the ideal behavioral profile to succeed in the role and can be used to:

Build a job description: Including how they’ll apply their traits to succeed, so they’ll better picture themselves in the role.

Customize your career website: To speak to the behavioral attributes you’re seeking. You can also highlight things that matter to your ideal candidates and highlight what you don’t want so other candidates can self-deselect.

Tailor the interview approach to the candidate: The understanding you’ll have of the candidate will allow you to tailor your interview approach and communicate the elements of your employer brand that are most appealing to them. This goes a long way in helping the hire connect with the organization at this early stage.

Use behavior-based interview questions for cultural fit: Not only will these questions give you an idea of how this person will actually behave on the job, you’ll also know whether or not they’ll fit into your workplace culture. Does your organization tend to work analytically? An employee who works off emotion may have trouble adapting.

Share colleagues behavioral profiles (and vice-versa): The new hire can get to know their teammates by learning some information from their new colleagues’ behavioral profiles (and vice-versa). This can make it easier to connect in person.

Day 1

Success depends on understanding what to do, the people you work with, and their expectations. An assessment removes the majority of the guesswork to make this an easier time.

Adapt your onboarding program to their personality: This will ensure that your employee understands and engages with what they’re learning. If they’re highly sociable, plan to onboard them in a way that includes plenty of interaction. If they’re on the dominant side, give them a goal-oriented task to complete such as a presentation.

Some of the profile sections that will help you in this include:

  • Motivating factors – understand how to best engage with them to achieve results
  • Strategies for coaching and development – a “Dos & Don’ts” report with suggestions for best approach
  • Learning style – critical insights for training
  • Team approach – understand how they work in a team and their impact on team dynamics

Provide new hire with McQuaig Profiles: On Day 1, provide your hire with their McQuaig profile and their manager’s profile to read during Week 1.

After Day 1

A huge part of the success of onboarding is about the relationships with their colleagues and manager. McQuaig can help you:

Discuss the manager/employee relationship: On Day 1 you gave your hire a copy of their profile and their manager’s. Week 1 is the perfect time for a meeting to discuss their styles, preferences and how they can most effectively work together.

Learn the team relationship: Equally as important to the employee/manager relationship is the new hire/team relationship. Use the Team Approach Report to understand how the hire will work in a team and how he or she will work with his or her teammates based on their profiles.

Provide employees with their McQuaig Self-Development report: This is a versatile assessment that empowers employees to self-manage their development. It offers enlightening personal insights; actionable feedback and a process to ensure development is aligned to organizational goals.

Meet with employee about report: A meeting with their manager to discuss and set goals around key strengths/development areas can help keep engagement high. Use results to drive coaching and development activity by, increasing self-awareness, enhancing leadership development, and career counseling.

Leverage their strengths: Increasing self awareness will allow employees to understand what they do well and where to apply it.

Target development areas for improvement: Use the Personal Action Plan worksheets that the employee can use to steer their own development.

What best practices do you use when onboarding?

Posted by Kristen Harcourt

20 Jul 2015


Don't Let THIS Happen to You When Reference Checking

I want to tell you a story. It’s a story I was told by one of my clients about a nightmare scenario that unfolded for them because they didn’t check references properly on a new sales hire.  If you’ve ever skipped or skimped on checking references, I think you might reconsider that once you’ve heard what happen to my client. Reference_Check_Police_Lineup

I was running a training session on how to get the most value of The McQuaig 3-Step Process and when I got into how the system helps with reference checking, my client volunteered a story about hiring a new senior sales representative. In this organization, as with many others, this is a very high profile role. In this particular case, the individual being hired would farm an existing territory of high-profile clients while also hunting for new business. Having the right person in a job like this can contribute to the company’s bottom line in a huge way. Having the wrong person, conversely, can be extraordinarily expensive.

As the interview process progressed, there was one candidate who stood out from the others. He was well-spoken, had an excellent presentation style and he was easy to get along with. On top of that, his resume told a story of a successful sales career with impressive financial accomplishments.

Another sales hiring manager once told me that, when interviewing candidates, he asks himself three questions: Do I like him/her? Do I trust him/her? Would I buy from him/her? Well, in this case all of those questions were answered with an enthusiastic YES!

An offer was made to this seemingly stellar candidate and, within two weeks, the individual had resigned from his old job and was ready to start in his new role. As an introduction to his client base, the vice president of Sales sent out an email to all clients advising them of the internal change and telling them that they would be contacted by their new rep in the coming weeks. They were excited to have this new addition to their team and they wanted to get him out in front of their customers!

Well, things didn’t go as planned. Within 24 hours of that introductory email being sent, the vice president of sales received four responses from important customer accounts stating that if this individual would be assigned to their accounts they planned to take their business elsewhere. This came as a complete shock, but the decision that needed to be made seemed obvious; the new star addition to the organization was let go within his first week.

What went wrong? The interview process was solid. The candidate had met with three different stakeholders in the organization on two separate occasions. He had completed the standard tried and true assessment tools that the organization relied on and he even had put together an impressive mock sales presentation. The one thing that was missing? No reference checks were completed.

It’s all too common for us to regard references as an administrative task that we complete only for the sake of compliance. It’s not unusual to seek out positive answers when we conduct them and sometimes to even disregard potential red flags. This can be very dangerous and it’s important to regard references as an essential data point in your interview process.

In the story I related above, the tangible costs were not enormous, but they could have been much higher. The cost to hire a new employee is estimated at about 46% of that individual’s first year salary - this figure captures ad costs, costs associated with the time that internal employees have invested in the process as well as costs associated with the “lost time” of the position being unfilled. In this case this cost likely would have been around the $35,000 mark. It could have been much higher had the mistake not been caught as early as it was. But there’s more to the story. What were the intangible costs of making this bad hire? How might this have affected the reputation that this organization held with their clients? And don’t forget about our candidate - he resigned from a position in order to accept this position. If references had been completed it’s highly likely that an offer would not have been made in the first place and this candidate would not be in this situation. When our candidates have a negative experience these days it can have an impact on our brand and the quality of candidates that we attract in the future. Social networking sites like Glassdoor make it very easy for individuals to share their experiences with a wide audience.

This story highlights the importance of conducting references. Remember that reference checks should not be conducted too early in the interview process because they’re time consuming, but you also don’t want to conduct them after you’ve already made a decision. The information that you gather from references should act as a data point in your decision making process. So how can we make sure we’re getting the most out of references? It’s really not that hard - just follow these basic tips!

1. Don’t settle: Talk to the RIGHT people

Your candidate will likely come to the interview with a list of people that he or she would like you to contact when you’re checking references. It’s very likely that these are the exact individuals that you want to speak with. If they’re not, don’t be afraid to ask for more references. You already ask strong behavioral-based questions in your interviews, and I hope you also ask strong probing questions. One of your probing questions whenever one of your candidates describes an achievement that impresses you should be “Who were you reporting to at that time?” If that individual is on your candidate’s list of references, great! If not follow up that question with: “Do you mind if I contact him/her”.

There are two purposes to doing this. First, in your interview, you’ll make it clear to your candidate that you’ll in fact be checking references and that you plan on confirming the information that they’re giving you. This will encourage a bit more transparency and honesty in the actual interview. I’m a fairly trusting person, so I’m not saying that all candidates lie, but some certainly will stretch the truth given the opportunity. The second reason you’re asking is so you can actually contact this person. When you speak with them you’ll plan on asking them about the specific accomplishment or scenario that the candidate just related to you.

2. Prepare: What to do before the reference check

Prior to conducting references, you want to make sure that you’ve informed your candidate that you will be contacting references. If you followed step 1 then your candidate already know this. Now make sure that for each reference being contacted you have reviewed the candidate’s resume and you understand the role that they played while with that company. With each reference you should review employment dates, job responsibilities as well as rehire status, but this is not where you’ll gain your most valuable information from the reference. That will come from a focus on:

  • Open ended questions: Avoid questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no” and instead ask questions that require more of an explanation. Ask question that will require the reference to expand on the information requested.
  • Behavioral questions: All good interviewers know that they should ask behavior-based questions in the interview, but we often forget to do this when we check references. If you use the McQuaig Job Surveyto benchmark your positions, there are some really great suggested reference questions contained in the report.
  • Red flags identified in the interview: Identify any areas where you received conflicting information from your candidate in the interview or areas where you want to gain some clarity and prepare some questions surrounding these items.

We all know how dangerous it can be to wing an interview and the same is true for a checking references. Make sure that you prepare all of your questions prior to picking up the phone - and yes, you need to pick up the phone! Written references will rarely include negative information.

3. Conduct the Reference Check

We want to be respectful of the time of other people and we also want to make sure that we maximize the value that we get from each interaction. So start off the call with an introduction and an expectation of how long you’ll need. Reschedule if necessary. Also, you must do your best to resist attempts to pass you onto human resources as they’ll likely not be able to give you the valuable information that you want.

Spend a moment to build some rapport with the person on the other end of the line before getting into your planned questions. If the person feels some sort of connection with you they will be much freer in providing you with information.

Once your reference interview begins make sure you listen! Don’t fall into a confirmation bias trap where you only hear the things that are said that serve to confirm what you already think about your candidate. Do not interrupt or lead the person on the other end of the phone. Allow them to speak freely and don’t be afraid to ask follow up and probing questions if they don’t give you the detailed response you were looking for.

And finally take notes! Your goal here is to gather information. Reserve any judgment for final step.

4. Review the information you gathered and make a decision

If you followed the above suggestions then you likely came away from your call with quite a bit of information. Your decision to hire will not be based solely on the reference, but as one data point. You’ll also consider the candidate’s skills, experience, assessments completed, etc.

In regards to the reference, evaluate the quality of information that you gathered (especially if there’s an impression that the reference was not being entirely transparent with you). Don’t be afraid to conduct more than the one or two checks. If you see inconsistencies, continue to ask questions until you’re comfortable that the inconsistency is resolved. Finally, make sure that the information received is weighted equally for all candidates - what disqualifies one candidate should also be the basis for disqualifying another.

It’s time to stop treating references as a chore and to start treating them as a priority and a source of rich information. When conducted properly, they can save us a lot of time, effort and money and avoid nightmare scenarios like the story I started with.

What tips do you have for making references more effective?

Talking Leadership with Mark C. Crowley

MiChat_Leadership_Thumbnail What are the most important traits of a leader? What do employees want from their leaders? What are the common mistakes organizations make around leadership?

These are some of the topics we explored with author and leadership expert, Mark C. Crowley on our latest Twitter chat, #MiChat. You can watch the video interview and read the transcript of the Twitter chat here.

Mark C. Crowley is the author of Lead from the Heart: Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century. He was our first guest on #MiChat, a new, monthly talent management Twitter chat exploring the issues important to organizations looking to make people their competitive advantage. Every #MiChat begins with a video interview with an expert and then heads over to Twitter for an all-hands sharing of ideas.

Below is a video of the interview I did with Mark as well as the transcript of the Twitter chat that followed.

Video Interview


'Unscripted' [The McQuaig Psychometric System]

'Unscripted' [The McQuaig Psychometric System] - Big thank you to Sonal Srivastava for her feedback in this unscripted series and for using The MPS! Big shout out to Atif Amin Thakkur and his team at Creative Experts WD for managing the entire shoot and editing on the last minute without their professional equipment. You guys are a great sport!

What Are Successful Companies Doing to Attract A-Level Talent?

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For the 2015 McQuaig Global Talent Recruitment Survey we asked more than 450 HR professionals from around the globe about the recruiting challenges they were facing, what they were doing to attract talent, and what strategies were most effective.

The Highlights & Insights Report provides a breakdown of the key findings and provides insights on:

  • What successful companies are doing differently
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What Most People Forget When Team Building

team-effectiveness-building Imagine you’re the manager of a highly skilled marketing team and you’re trying to create a big campaign for a new product. On your team you’ve got Anne, the deadline lover who thrives on pressure; Dave who needs to get work done early and stay on schedule to manage; Susan, the dominant personality, who needs her ideas to be heard, often at the expense of quieter members; and Will, Mr. Easygoing who seems to be in agreement with any member that talks.

They’re all skilled in what they do, but when you put them together … BAM! Things go sideways, communication breaks down and dysfunction sets in and leadership looks at you for an explanation.

You had all the project tasks identified and the right team members assigned to each. What went wrong? The answer lies in something simple and powerful that dictates the success or failure of any team: personality.

Our personalities, which psychologists say are set at a very early age and don’t really change throughout our lives, dictate our behaviors and how we react to other people and the world around us. People will behave in whatever way feels natural to them. We don’t always have the self-awareness to recognize how our personality and world view affect the way we relate to those we work with. But, if you, as a manager, understand your team’s behavioral makeup you can manage this and turn dysfunction into function.

If you understand the personality, or temperament, of your team members and they understand each other, there will be more effective communication and productivity between group members. Understanding temperament can help you build a team of people that will work well together and meet your objectives.

At McQuaig, we work with hundreds of companies around the world to help them make use of these scientific insights. Our system allows you to understand these temperamental differences and the impact they can have on team dynamics. This isn’t to say that you need a team with all the same behavioral types, but you do need to take different types into account.

Using Behavioral Insights to Build Strong Teams

The McQuaig System takes a three-pronged approach. We can assist with three important team building steps:

  • Building a team
  • Assessing their effectiveness
  • Improving their effectiveness

Building an Effective Team

Building a team shares many similarities to recruiting and you can use a tool like The McQuaig System to create an effective internal team in much the same way you would use it to recruit a new employee.

When putting a team together, it’s important to understand the behavioral and developmental needs of each member in relation to the role they’ll take. The McQuaig Job Survey can be used to create a behavioral profile of a successful team member for each role – in other words, the traits someone will need to succeed in that role, including:

  • Member strengths
  • Member gaps
  • How to manage these gaps and strengths
  • Behavior-based questions to probe strengths and gaps.

Here’s a free tool based on the Job Survey that can be used to create this kind of profile.

Assessing Current or Potential Members

Through an assessment tool like McQuaig, you can discover the motivations and natural behaviors of potential or current team members and their level of fit with the benchmark you created for an ideal team member. Don’t use this as your sole selection method, but use it as a starting point to probe and understand if an employee has what it takes to carry out the role as you see it.

A great example of this is if you are looking to fill a project manager position within your team. You would likely want a driven, detail-oriented person in that position who will ensure objectives and deadlines are met. By defining those behaviors and comparing candidates to the target, you can identify a strong fit in the same way you would look for a skills fit.

You’ll also be able to better manage team members by understanding their temperament and how to best interact with them.

Assessing and Improving Team Effectiveness

If you’re dealing with improving the effectiveness of an existing team, you can use a tool like McQuaig to understand the different personality types involved; where potential conflict may arise and where they complement each other’s strengths. One of my favorite tools for team effectiveness is the Team Approach Report. What this will do is display a list of each team member’s attributes and areas for development in relation to teamwork. As a leader you can leverage this knowledge to decide whether the team will work well together or if it will lead to inefficiency and dysfunction. Sometimes sharing each team members' personality type helps the team understand why people act the way they do, and what they can do to help each other succeed.

Back to the beginning

A person’s natural temperament is a strong force that will influence everything they do. Rather than try to fight a battle against it, equip yourself to win the war for productivity by using the insights available to you to form a super team and leverage the natural temperament of each member.

If you’d like to learn more about the role of personality in team building, ask us about our “Maximizing Team Effectiveness with the McQuaig System” seminar, or speak to a consultant about a free trial. 

What steps do you take to build an effective team?


Posted by Ian Cameron

10 Jun 2015


The Secret (You Already Know) to Effective Social Recruiting

Whenever I speak about social recruiting—whether it’s one-on-one with a client or to group at a conference—I inevitably get asked questions about what it really is and how to get started. I recognize that it can be intimidating. There are so many differing opinions out there as to how effective it is, what’s involved, where to start, etc.
What I’ve come to realize, after struggling for a simple answer for a long time, is that one of the most important, foundational pieces of a successful social recruiting strategy is something that most HR and recruiting professionals are already using. That seems like a good place to start.
That something is an ideal candidate profile. In our recent 2015 McQuaig Global Talent Recruitment Survey, 75% of HR professionals said they’re currently using ideal candidate profiles as part of their recruiting process. This is something that’s been espoused in the profession for years as a way to create a target that you can measure candidates against and have a way to make an objective hiring decision.
The majority of you who are creating these profiles are already on your way to creating what I believe is a critical piece in any social recruiting strategy. To take the candidate profile and transform it into a tool to drive your social recruiting strategy, all you need to do is evolve it into what I call The Employee Persona.

How the Employee Persona Differs from Candidate Profiles

A candidate profile may be something like a modified version of your job description with added elements to identify key characteristics required for success. Many of our clients use our system to create what’s called a Job Profile to add those behavioral or personality traits that are most likely to predict future success.
The Employee Persona takes it a step farther to create a more 3-dimensional portrait of your ideal candidate. It’s borrowed from the Buyer Persona, a tool marketers use to accurately target potential customers.
Employee personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal employees for a given role. They help you understand your candidates better, and make it easier for you to tailor your approach to courting them. Think of them as detailed portraits of the people you wished you could attract.
These portraits ideally consist of a description written in the first person that sounds something like this:

"Hi, I'm Susan, the director of IT Infrastructure in <whatever> company. I’ve got a couple of big projects under my belt and I’ve just been promoted. I like my job, but I just wish the company’s environment was more pro-IT with people who wanted to work with us as partners. I love rolling up my sleeves and really digging into a challenge … etc.”

Writing in the first person makes your personas more engaging and allows you to better put yourself into that person’s shoes when you're using the persona to develop content to attract your ideal candidates.
The strongest employee personas are based on research as well as on insights you gather from your actual top performers (through surveys, interviews, etc.).

What Goes into an Employee Persona?

The Employee Persona contains many of the same elements of an ideal candidate profile, plus some additional ones. I’d recommend at a minimum, you include:
  • Background/Experience (job, career path, skills, etc.)
  • Demographics (age, lifestyle, where they live, etc.)
  • Behavioral traits (driven, analytical, independent, etc.)
  • Goals (career, personal)
  • Challenges (what keeps them up at night)
  • Objections (why wouldn’t they work for you)
  • Elevator Pitch (sell your persona on your employer brand and the role)

How Employee Personas Help Your Social Recruiting Strategy

At the most basic level, employee personas allow you to personalize your messaging for different types of candidates. What a high-performer in IT is looking for in an employer may be very different than a high-performer in finance. The Employee Persona helps you tailor your approach and how you position your company for each persona.
Employee personas tell you what keeps these people up at night, what their goals are, where they look for solutions and support, and what social networks they may belong to.
Here are a few suggested ways to use your personas to court passive candidates:
  1. Identify employees with the same persona and use them to help connect with these candidates
  2. Create a presence in the social networks where these candidates spend time
  3. Use the language your personas use in all content, job descriptions and ads
  4. Create persona-specific career landing pages on your website
  5. Write your job descriptions to appeal to your personas dreams and counter their frustrations
  6. Develop content that speaks to your personas hopes, desires and interests. Position your company (if it’s true) as the answer to their dreams

Advanced Pro Tip

If you’re feeling like you’ve mastered use of the employee persona, try developing negative personas to compliment them. These personas paint the picture of the candidates you don’t want. If you take the time to create negative personas, you’ll have the added advantage of being able to segment out the “bad apples” from the rest of your candidates, which can help you reduce the number that you attract and even speed up your selection process.
What do you think? Do you see a place for employee personas in your recruiting? Or do you have a better method?


Posted by Ian Cameron

12 May 2015

The Employee Persona: A Critical Element in Attracting High Potentials


It seems in life that very few things we really want to happen, happen without a little effort.

Take attracting high potential employees to our organizations; to attract this A-level talent, you have to specifically target them. Studies show that upwards of 80% aren’t actively looking for a job. They’re not going to stumble across your job ad. They’re not going to find you on LinkedIn or spend an hour consuming the career page on your website. You have to understand them at a deep level and develop a strategy to target them.

You need to create an Employee Persona.

Creating an Employee Persona

A persona is a marketing term that simply means a fictional, three-dimensional description of a person who represents an ideal customer. In recruiting, you can substitute employee for customer. The idea here is that you create a vision of your ideal employee. This vision will inform your decision around where to look for them, how to approach/interact with them, how to position your company, the role, and provide a benchmark to measure candidates against.

Creating your employee persona should be done through a combination of interviews with key stakeholders, current high performers and your own knowledge.  Here are some sample questions you should be asking:

  • What past roles have they held?

  • What do their current managers say about them?

  • What are their career goals?

  • What do they like about their current job?

  • What would make them a good fit for your culture?

  • What frustrates them in an employer; in a manager?

  • What personality traits will be key to success in the role?

  • What social networks do they use?

  • What type of person do you NOT want?

The idea is to prepare yourself to paint a picture that you can hold in your mind when you are thinking about writing job descriptions, looking for them on social media and interviewing candidates.

We’ve developed a tool that will help you in gathering some of this information. McQuaig clients can use our Job Survey to help.

Once you have your employee persona you can now use it to inform all of your other activities in the recruiting process.

Social Media Activity

Let me remind you: A-level talent isn’t looking for a job. If you only rely on those candidates who respond to your ads on job boards, you’re not getting to 80% of the top performers out there.  If you don’t need a top performer for the role you’re recruiting for, that’s fine, you can continue to recruit like its 1997. If finding that A-level is important to you, though, you have to be using social recruiting.

Your employee persona will guide where you can find your ideal candidates and how to get their attention. Remember, on social media you have to soft sell. You can’t start pumping job ads into LinkedIn groups or tweeting “work for us” pleas to your target audience.

Look at your persona. What does your target want in a career? What frustrates them about their current management? Try offering some helpful career development advice. Profile an existing employee talking about how they built their career. Talk about the importance of a culture that values independence (if that’s what your employee persona values). Bottom line: BE HELPFUL! Build your network by appealing to the needs and wants of your ideal candidates.

Job Description

Your job description needs to speak to the employee persona. Forget skills and education. Those are table stakes and A-level talent don’t have the patience to read through it. Instead, use your job description to describe the environment based on your employee persona’s hopes and desires.

Weave a tale about how they can use their natural leadership ability to mold a new team. Or how their common-sense, no-nonsense approach will help them cut through the clutter and deliver meaningful results. Make it personal. Help them picture themselves walking the halls of your office. Skills won’t take them there. Make it what we call a 3-Dimensional job description.

Website Career Page

Like your job ad, your career website should speak to the needs and wants of your employee persona. Don’t use it to espouse generic vision and values bunk. Nobody cares. Show them how you can help them realize their goals, avoid their frustration, find the leadership they’ve been looking for. Highlight your involvement in the communities they participate in. Whatever your persona tells you is important to them, that’s what they need to see there.

If you’ve got multiple employee personas, why not create customized career pages for each one? Marketers do it all the time for different types of potential customers. Highlight the things that matter to them on a page promoted just to this group.

If you’ve got elements of what you don’t want in an employee from your persona development, highlight that, too. If you need quick-thinking, decisive leaders, let them know that analytical types will struggle. This will appeal to your target and discourage those you don’t want, creating less screening work for you.

Remember, it all starts with your employee persona. Get that right and you’ll set yourself up for success. Get it wrong and the rest of your activity will continue to bring in candidates you don’t want, increasing your workload and leaving that A-level talent out there for someone else to attract.


Interview Skills, Candidate Profiles and Hiring Managers … Do They Matter?

As we continue to explore the results from our survey of HR professionals from around the globe, I wanted to look at what our survey respondents told us about the all-important interview process. And of course, you can’t talk about interviews without talking about hiring managers, so we’ll see what there is to say about them, too.Job-Interview

image: studio tdes | CC BY

There was a study done by Michigan State University that reported interviews made up 90% of the hiring decision. Only 23% of respondents in the 2015 McQuaig Global Talent Recruitment Survey felt the interview had that much influence (7% of those felt 100% of the hiring decision was based on the interview). When we look at the weighted average, though, 74% of the hiring decision is based on the interview, according to our respondents. No matter which way you look at it, this is a critical element of the process to get right.

And that’s the question, are companies getting it right?

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Let’s Talk Hiring Managers

To answer that, it’s important to understand the key players in that process: hiring managers.

In our 2014 survey one of our big findings was that nearly half of respondents felt that their hiring managers were not strong interviews. This year, the numbers improved a bit with 36% feeling the same way. That could be a bit of a problem if so much is riding on this one element.


Just half (51%) told us that their hiring managers have had interview training – okay, we might have a bit of cause-and-effect happening there. Interviewing (proper, behavioral interviewing) is a skill and you can’t just pick it up along the way.

In spite of this lack of training, 66% of respondents said their hiring managers had the skills to assess candidates. Maybe that means they’ve got some naturals who don’t need training, or maybe these companies have some processes and tools in place to compensate and equip their hiring managers to assess candidates properly.

For the second year in a row, “Getting hiring managers to make time for interviews” was the #3 recruiting challenge facing HR professionals. And when we combined hiring-manager-related items, they jumped to #2 on the list, again for the second year running.

When we asked a question about why hiring managers were not engaged in the recruitment process in this year’s survey, only 33% said that there is no problem and they are, in fact, engaged. The phrasing of the question may not allow us to make the assertion that 67% of hiring managers are not engaged in the process, but I’ll bet that’s true.

We have some suggestions for engaging those hiring managers here and here.


The Recruiting Process

I wanted to also take a look at the recruiting process surrounding the interview. It’s often been said that you can't hit a target you don’t have. In this context, it means you can’t find that ideal candidate—with properly trained hiring managers or not—if you don’t have a profile for what that looks like.

In our survey, 75% of HR professionals told us they’re creating an ideal candidate profile as part of the recruiting process. I think that’s pretty good, 100% would be nice, but that’s a B+. I’d love to know what you think; is this an important step in finding the right candidate?

The top items our respondents include in their ideal candidate profiles are (in order):

  1.        Experience

  2.        Technical Skills

  3.        Personality/Character

  4.        Education

  5.        Non-technical skills

Preventing New-Hire Turnover

Are you in the 75% or the 25%? Whether you’re using ideal candidate profiles now, or considering adding them in the future, there is another result from our survey you should keep in mind: the reason new hires fail.

When we asked this, the #1 answer was “Personality/attitude not suited to the role” by a huge margin (57% cited this versus 22% for the next-highest response, “Lack of skills”). So, make sure you’re including some measure of personality or temperament in your ideal candidate profile if you want to prevent the #1 reason for new hire-turnover.


Posted by Kristen Harcourt

30 Apr 2015

Does the Talent Shortage Mean the End of Corporate Culture?


As As I read and re-read the results of our recent McQuaig Global Talent Recruitment Survey, new insights and questions keep popping up. This week I was looking at what the responses from 450 HR professionals said about why new hires don’t work out. Some really interesting things came into focus regarding corporate culture and whether or not it matters. I want to share my thoughts and I’d love to hear what you think.

First, here are the numbers: In a weighted average, our survey showed that HR professionals think about 12% of new hires don’t complete their first year with a company. On the extreme end of the scale, 12% of those respondents said that they think that 1/3 or more don’t make it to their first anniversary.

Of course, then you start to wonder why are all these new hires that you worked so hard to recruit, not sticking around?


We asked about that, too. As you can see by the chart the overwhelming majority (58%) said it was because of an “attitude/personality not suited to the role.” The next biggest reason was lack of skills, way down at 22% and it dropped off a cliff after that.

I’m sure you’ve heard a version of the saying “hire for skills and fire for attitude.” I know I’ve heard about a dozen variations of that over the years, and it seems to bear out.

When you look at the results of this question you also see “other” accounting for 10% of responses. I looked into what those other reasons were, and almost half of those were related to a lack of fit with corporate culture.

That jumped out at me because elsewhere in the survey, 65% of respondents told us they have a hard time finding a cultural fit when recruiting. That’s a 14% increase over that same result in 2014. Now we’re getting to a piece that really makes me wonder and worry.


The survey results made it pretty clear that we’re either in, or heading into, a tight talent market. This is backed up by reports from the Conference Board and others. Here’s why I think it’s important to connect these results, and the danger they hint at.

I think – and this is my opinion, so let me know if you disagree – that fit with corporate culture is likely to be thrown over if it comes up against finding the right skills. Despite all the catch phrases and studies that suggest character, cultural fit, and personality are more important than skills because skills can be taught, most HR people I speak to admit that their hiring managers more often pick skills over fit if they can’t get both.

If we’re in a tightening labor market and companies are struggling to hire, corporate culture could end up de-prioritized in the hunt to win the war for talent.

That could be short-sighted, though. Remember that personality/attitude was the run-away leader in terms of the reason new hires don’t work out. Cultural fit ended up accounting for about 5% on write-in responses. Those instances where new hires who fail due to personality conflict or attitude problems may be developing because they were a poor cultural fit.

It will be interesting to watch and see what happens as this talent crunch evolves. What do you think? Will organizations discard cultural fit during the talent shortage? And what does that mean for the future of organizations? Please share your thoughts.

The McQuaig Global Talent Recruitment Survey 2015


Here’s What More Than 450 HR Professionals Have to Say About Recruiting Talent

The results are in for the 2015 McQuaig Global Talent Recruitment Survey and I'm really excited about what they have to say about the challenges companies are facing and how they're adapting. We changed up the questions this year and were able to dissect the data to show the differences between companies that are have more success and those that are struggling, providing valuable insights for anyone looking to improve hiring outcomes.

In total, 453 HR professionals from around the globe shared their insights with us regarding the state of talent acquisition, where their biggest challenges lie, what’s working and what isn’t as they try to attract A-level talent.

Here’s a look at just a few of the results:

  • Successful companies are more likely to use employee referrals and social media as a source of candidates than their competition

  • 65% say it’s hard to find employees who are a cultural fit

  • Attitude/personality conflict is the #1 reason new hires fail

  • 74% of the hiring decision is based on interviews, but only 41% feel their hiring managers are skilled interviewers

Compared to 2014:

Far fewer felt that it was getting easier to fill open positions this year (8%) compared to our 2014 survey (28%). One-third said it’s harder today than it was one year ago. And 65% said it is hard to find a cultural fit, a 14% jump compared to a year ago.

Finding qualified candidates remains the top recruiting challenge, but it jumped 10 points from 2014, supporting the assertion that it’s getting harder to find talent. We also asked what positions were the toughest to fill this year and specialized technical roles and middle-management lead the way.

The report also looks at:

  • What successful companies are doing differently
  • Which channels are delivering the best candidates
  • What strategies are being used to combat talent shortages
  • Which roles are hardest to fill
  • What untapped tactics may hold the greatest promise

Do you need The McQuaig Psychometric System?

Do you answer YES to any of these questions? Than you probably do.

1. Do you hire using unstructured interviews?

Interviews provide a great opportunity to communicate directly with candidates during the recruitment and selection process. However, interviews that do not use a form of structure will not be effective. Ensure that questions are job related and all applicants are evaluated using a common set of parameters.If the cornerstone of your hiring process is an unstructured interview, think about making some changes. These include:

  • add a structured interview
  • add a psychometric assessment add a psychometric
  • collect consistent, job related information about each applicant

2. Do you have high turnover at one or many key positions?

Turnover cannot be completely eliminated. But even a slight reduction in turnover can equate to significant savings. Psychometric assessment has proven to reduce staff turnover.

Assessments make it easy to measure your current top performers. They will allow you to build an internal benchmark and compare potential candidates for each role.

3. Do you have a high volume of applicants?

All businesses experience very high applicant volume at some point. It may take extra time and effort to evaluate so many applicants, however it will give you much more choice.Psychometric assessments will help you:

  • Eliminate the bottom 20% of applicants
  • Identify the cream of the crop. Recruiters and hiring personnel are able to focus their attention on applicants who have the best chance of success

4. Are you worried about the legality of your hiring process?

Organisations that do not use assessments are putting themselves in legal jeopardy. Those who use a well thought out assessment strategy and follow best practices will be stronger in their legal defense.If your hiring process is audited, every part of it is going to be considered a test. The use of unstructured methods not based on a job analysis and other forms of due diligence are not going to hold up.You will have a stronger legal defense of your hiring process if a valid, relevant assessment is used. You should treat all forms of evaluation as a test to evaluate all applicants consistently.

5. Do you hire for potential and then train/develop?

Assessments are excellent indicators of raw ability.Concentrate most of your attention on Level 3 as most skills can be taught once the candidate is in post. A candidate’s raw ability will determine how to build a post-hire training and development programme.

6. Does good job performance boil down to one or two simple things?

Entry-level positions make great roles for assessment. For instance, in many hourly jobs the ability to provide good customer service, be quick to respond and detail oriented can have a significant impact on the bottom line.Simple assessments can make a big difference when it comes to helping companies to hire workers who can get the job done.