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What Drives Us Beyond Fear of Change?

The Blogs of Dave Murphy: What Drives Us Beyond Fear of Change?

As a hiring manager and team leader in the workforce you know that your most valuable assets are talented, ambitious employees. It’s useful to occasionally review the reasons why these high-performing people choose to work for you, whether that means taking a job offer or remaining on your team long-term. There is a natural human tendency to resist change and fear the unknown, but if the motivation is great enough you can be sure that the A Player employees will pursue greener pastures if it is in their best interest to do so. What are those motivators? A popular method of categorizing them is summarized by the acronym CLAMPS, which stands for Challenge, Location, Advancement, Money, People and Security. Each of these drivers affects people differently at different times, and it’s extremely beneficial to understand their impact.

Challenge – One of the most commonly cited reasons people have in explaining why they want to make a job change is to find an opportunity that is more challenging for them, to allow them to stretch their abilities and develop new skills that will enhance their career. Sometimes people make job changes simply because they are bored, or because they have been in an organization for a long period of time that has not given them the opportunity to do different things. This is not as strong a motivator as those based on fear but it can be powerful nonetheless.

Location – This relates to non-work related quality of life issues beyond just commute time. It includes significant life decisions to be near family members, to keep kids in a particular school, and to reduce the amount of overnight travel, among other things. These are often non-negotiable factors, and we have seen them become more important as the years go by. As generations change and our society has become more affluent there has been an increasing unwillingness to accept a job in a non-preferred geographic location.

Advancement – Perhaps the most important driver for ambitious professionals to consider making a job change is the opportunity to advance their career in duties, responsibilities, direct reports, and job title. It’s the most commonly cited reason I hear when people call me back to discuss career opportunities. The one that stands out the most is for individual contributors who want to supervise a team. This is industry and discipline dependent of course, but for many people the hurdle to get this level is very high.

Money – Many would assume that compensation is the leading factor people consider when they decide to make a job change or to remain in their current company. That’s not the case, however. It is certainly a part of the overall consideration but it’s rarely if ever the number one cited reason. Most high performers simply want to be paid fairly based on industry and geographic standards. Some folks become more willing to accept more risk-and-return as they advance through their career, exchanging base salary for variable comp and equity.

People – This is a huge reason why employees consider making a job change, and the number one reason I hear when they say they are happy with their current situation. Everyone wants to work with smart, talented, nice people who can make their day more enjoyable, share ideas, and stretch them to accomplish things they wouldn’t do on their own. Indeed, this is the main reason that we hold interviews: to evaluate personal chemistry and cultural fit, on both sides.

Security – Fear is a powerful motivator in all of life’s endeavors, and the job market is no different. If employees are concerned that their job is at risk of being eliminated or that an acquisition or reorganization will change their job satisfaction they will make a change faster than for any other reason. Age and family status play a major role in the need for security, and some people are willing to put up with the bureaucracy, politics and perceived security of large organizations based on their personal circumstances and the phase of their life.

How does all this impact the employee selection process when filling a job opening?

When a hiring manager needs to fill an important position he/she will normally develop a list of required and preferred qualifications for the job and initiate the “selection” process. Often overlooked in this process is the importance of convincing the best candidates to consider quitting their current job and taking yours. The most effective way to convince the superstar candidate to make that change is to understand their primary motivators and to explain why your opportunity will better satisfy their needs than other opportunities.

Proactive hiring managers will often discuss the CLAMPS model with candidates early in the interview process and ask them to articulate what they are seeking. If a candidate can’t identify a rational reason for making a change or pursuing your opportunity then they are either not serious about making a switch or do not prefer what you have to offer. It saves a bunch of time and heartache to weed these candidates out early in the process rather than have them reject an offer at the end – or take a counteroffer from their current employer.

It’s no secret that we are experiencing a “candidate-driven” job market where there is an undersupply of talent relative to the demand for specific kinds of employees. In addition to competing effectively for the best employees managers must work harder than ever to retain them once they are on-board. The CLAMPS model comes into play again for the same reasons: people choose to stay in a job using the same criteria as when they choose to leave for another job. It’s very useful to know each team member’s primary motivators when working with them to create a career development plan or to inspire them to perform at a high level in a particularly difficult situation. Good managers will continually probe, using the CLAMPS model or something similar, to stay up to date on what drives each team member. As always I welcome your comments and questions.


Job-hopping – a generational thing?

The Blogs of Dave Murphy: Job-hopping – a generational thing?

I work with hiring managers to identify candidates for openings that fit their “ideal” profile. On the wish list of criteria is always a “track record of success,” often defined by a clear progression of increasingly more responsible roles. Most hiring managers want to see some of that progression within the same organization because they usually want to build a bench of future leaders for their own company, and would prefer to do that with people they can trust will want to stay with them for a period of several years. Hence, hiring managers have historically looked askew at “job-hoppers.” One large pharma company I have worked with even has a policy against considering candidates if they have more than two different employers in the past five years.

That conventional thinking is being challenged in many circles, and labor market analysts like to contend that workers in younger generations, particularly Millennials, are far less “loyal” to their employer and much more likely than older works to change employers frequently. One LinkedIn study says Millennials job-hop more than their predecessors, however this only contains data LinkedIn members actually report. Gen X and Baby Boomer members of the site may be less likely to report their extended history of employment, but instead the few most recent jobs. It’s interesting to note, however, that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Baby Boomers job-hopped in their twenties just as frequently as Millennials do now. So it appears that frequent employment changes is not so much a generational phenomenon as it is a function of being young.

From a Recruiters perspective, job-hopping is more prevalent in certain functions than certain generations, for instance, I see far more employer changes among marketing personnel than I do among engineers or R&D personnel. On balance, a 50 year old marketing professional is more likely to have multiple, recent job changes on their resume than a 30 years old product development professional. A recent LinkedIn study inquiring about reasons for making a job change showed that 59% of respondents chose their new company because they saw a stronger path for career development at the new company than at their current company, regardless of their age. It’s not surprising that workers from all generations are seeking opportunity for growth and development, and it’s also not surprising that workers in their 20’s and early 30’s don’t necessarily believe that they were fortunate enough to stumble into a career path that will ultimately lead them to retirement.

Is there a continued stigma associated with job-hopping?

With corporate contractions, mergers and acquisitions affecting nearly all industries, and the resulting force reductions and lay-offs, it’s safe to say that frequent job changes on a resume are not unusual, and generally not perceived as negatively as they once were. Hiring managers are less likely to simply cast off a candidate without at least inquiring about the reasons for the job changes. But there remains a level of suspicion about candidates who have had many job changes because they are assumed to be a flight-risk. It’s extremely expensive and time consuming to hire and train new employees and if an interview team has to choose between someone who has demonstrated longevity in a given employer versus a job-hopper, they will demand that the job-hopper have significantly better skills for the job.

I think it’s fair to say that today’s hiring managers, who themselves have likely made several employer changes and / or lived through some downsizings, are far more open to considering candidates with a track record of multiple job changes. But they also have a high level of respect for employees who were able to earn multiple promotions within one organization over several years. It’s not necessarily a negative thing to have job hops, but it’s a very positive thing to show a track record of progression within one organization. And it’s so rare to see that in a Millennial candidate – for example, 5+ years at the same employer right out of college that included multiple promotions – that they are always viewed with favor in an interview process versus other younger candidates who don’t have that story to tell.

When I review resumes in my database of successful employees of mid-size and large companies who have risen to the VP level and above I see a similar pattern. Their first job out of college is usually with a high-profile, multinational organization that gave them training and access to resources that are not available at smaller companies. They generally stay there 5-10 years and earn at least two promotions, building a track record of accomplishments that make them very attractive to other organizations. In some instances those high risers will choose to remain with their initial employer for decades, rising through the ranks, but far more often I see them being recruited to smaller organizations where they can often accelerate their career advancement and have more fun doing it. It’s no secret that smaller companies are riskier and when they don’t get funding or their lead product fails, those A Players need to find another job. So in reality I see just as much job-changing (voluntary or not) among Baby Boomers and Gen X workers as I do among Millennials.

I don’t think job-hopping is a generational thing, I think it’s far more based on individual personalities and the functions that workers perform, regardless of their generation. As always I welcome your comments and questions.

“Do you have a different process for recruited candidates?”

The Blogs of Dave Murphy: “Do you have a different process for recruited candidates?”

We all know that candidates for job openings can have very different motivation for pursuing the role, so leading-edge employers adapt their interview processes for each candidate. An “applicant” is someone who is actively looking for a job and applies directly to an employer, typically in response to advertising. These are usually unemployed or under-employed workers who have updated resumes ready to send to job postings that may be close to their interests.

Employers – particularly larger ones – view these applicants as sellers of services, with the employer playing the role of buyer. It’s common for employers to treat applicants like they do other vendors or sellers: with skepticism and unresponsiveness. They recognize the need to be civil because they may need those vendors someday, but in the near term most employers feel little pressure or incentive to pay much heed to “applicants.” Unfortunately, the majority of hiring organizations behave this way because to do so otherwise would require time, effort and a commitment to “hi touch” that they’re unwilling to make.

In contrast, there is a different breed of candidate out there who is not actively looking for a new job, but they are actively “listening.” These are passive, opportunistic job seekers who are generally satisfied with their current situation and reasonably happy – so they need to be convinced that they should become a candidate for a new job that might improve their situation. These are truly recruited candidates and they often need a high-touch interview and selection process if they are going to make a job change.

So I ask my hiring managers and HR clients – who I’m trying to help fill positions with the best available people, whether applicants or recruited – if they have a different process for these candidates based on their motivation. Most often the answer is either “no” or “what do you mean?” That leads to a discussion about the importance of “selling” the opportunity to a recruited candidate, and the need to understand the candidate’s needs and desires so they can explain how the job can be a match. Those companies that are winning the War for Talent want to know about the hot-buttons of a recruited candidate so they can sell to them and secure A level “Impact Players” on their team.

The vetting and qualifying process should be consistent for all candidates in a selection process, but it’s important to recognize that you often have to earn the right to fully qualify a recruited candidate or they will likely remove themselves from the interview process before ever getting to the extended qualifying stage. So as in fishing, success in landing a recruited candidate is often based on timing. Examples of less-than-optimal hiring practices that dissuade recruited candidates from pursuing a job include having them complete extensive applications and / or assessments before they’ve had at least a few conversations with the employer, requiring them to provide references before a live interview, and lumping them into a “cattle-call” interview day where many candidates are brought into the same location to compete for a limited number of jobs. But the most common deal-killer for recruited candidates is the lack of responsiveness from employers after phone calls and live interviews – we call it “reverse rejection,” where a candidate’s self-defense mechanisms kick-in in order to pre-empt what they expect will be a rejection from the employer. If a hiring manager has any interest whatsoever in keeping a recruited candidate interested in a job, they must follow up with some meaningful feedback within a few business days of the contact.

We may be tempted to consider these relatively fickle recruited candidates as prima donnas – people we would not want on our team anyway. But the reality is that preparing for and going through an interview process is hard work and they need to be convinced that it’s worth it. In the same way that employers become disappointed when a candidate is just “kicking tires” and not serious about making a job change, recruited candidates are also suspicious that employers may be using them as fodder to benchmark against other candidates (often internal candidates who are in line to get the job). “Before we hire him let’s see who else is out there . . .” Nobody wants to have their time wasted – neither employers nor candidates – and this is particularly true if candidates are good at what they do and reasonably happy in their current job.

It takes extra effort to follow a modified process for a truly recruited candidate, but it can bring huge rewards. As we all know, it’s very expensive and time consuming to hire the wrong person. Given the risk involved in selecting employees for key positions, the best staffing people feel like they can’t afford NOT to have a selection process that includes an effective sales program for targeted, recruited candidates.

Discussing Compensation in the Interview Process

I hear the question very often: “What do I say when they ask me about money?” The answer is pretty simple, assuming that you have some general understanding that your expectations are at least “in the ballpark” of what they can pay (your recruiter or the job posting should guide you there). The money question is usually split into two parts:

1. ” What are you currently earning or what has been your recent salary history?” That is very straigthforward and should be answered candidly. Most employment applications will ask for that information, and many companies will ask for a copy of your pay stub or W2 / 1099 to verify the data before they extend an offer.

And then the follow-up, tricky question:
2. “What are your salary expectations?” Unless you think that you may be wasting your time and theirs, don’t reply with a number (either verbally or on the application). If your number is too high it may screen you out of the process, and if it is too low then you’re likely to leave money on the table. Simply talk about fairness – something like: “From what I’ve learned about your company, I’m sure that if I were fortunate enough to receive an offer that it would be fair and reasonable, based on my background and experience.” Then work with your recruiter to broker an offer that will be a win-win for both sides.

In that way you can achieve your goals as well as those of your future employer, without burning up political capital with them before you even start! Your recruiter is usually incented to get you the best deal possible, within market value, so be candid with him or her and in the end you’ll be assured that the process was fair and equitable.

Remember that regardless of how well you interview or how badly the hiring manager may want you on the team, the employer is bound by the constraints of “internal equity.” They can’t bring someone new into the organization who has a similar profile and amount of industry experience as current employees and pay the new person at a higher rate. So the employer has to find a balance between incenting the candidate to take the job and not blowing their own internal equity. Hopefully they are communicating to the candidate about this challenge they face – if not they’re likely to build resentment among candidates who frequently don’t know about how the process works.

If candidate’s are made aware of the internal equity challenge and persist in pushing for an offer that is beyond what the company can provide things generally don’t work out. The offer is extended and ultimately rejected, which is OK for the candidate but a waste of time for the employer. There are other, more hopeful situations where the candidate’s expectations are within the range of internal equity constraints and they want to ensure that they maximize the offer. That is normal and expected and a win-win can almost always be found by open, transparent communication. However, I’ve seen a few situations where a protracted “negotiating” process creates so much frustration for the employer that the offer is rescinded. This is where a recruiter can really help both sides in fostering communication and making sure that a fair, reasonable offer is accepted.

There’s no magic to it – both sides need to be clear about what they need and why they need it. As always I welcome your comments and questions.