Engagement happens when…

You know what’s always good to share? Stories of actual success. Both are mine.

The first is a success story of engagement. The second is also a success story of engagement.

You see, engagement is a range of things. Engagement happens when you do the right things with your people. And it’s those right things that make the difference.

So let’s get the first thing out of the way. I was happy with my role – the basics were all in play. My salary was a fair one for my role. I was clear about the work I was responsible for. I had autonomy to do the actions I thought necessary. I had clear expectations of what I needed to do. I understood the consequences of not acting in a way which was beneficial to the organisation, the team, and to me.

This has been true of my last two jobs. I was respected by my manager from the off for having the knowledge, skills, and attitude to do the job well. From there it was a matter of letting me get on with it. A series of things helped keep me on track. Regular conversations with my manager about things happening in my workflow. The freedom to try new, creative, innovative ways of delivering learning. I was coached where my performance was going awry of expectations. My ideas and opinions were sought on things that were important. There was the flexibility to work the hours needed for the organisation, and to work from home or adjust working hours where appropriate. I was given regular feedback about my performance. I was allowed to explore how I worked best, and talk with my manager about making this happen.

I handed in my notice in my most recent role, and worked my notice period. All along that time my manager kept the same approach – and I appreciated that greatly. My team were highly supportive of my time left in the role, and helped me to figure out what I needed to do to leave the role and workload in a state which was meaningful and useful for the future person. There was no animosity, or maliciousness, just genuine support and empathy. Right up until the last day I was working on things which I was not going to see put into action, but will help the team achieve things later.

These were things which may have been backed up by some policy somewhere, but I was never told about it. My manager understood these were ways to engage me because we talked about them.

I’m about to start a new role with a new employer. I am seriously excited by this. All because the recruitment, and candidate experience has been excellent.

My interest was piqued about a role I saw advertised. From the moment I applied, within a period of ten days I had been through the recruitment process and been offered the role. To say I was impressed by this is an understatement. It was seriously impressive. They understood I needed to work my notice period and we agreed to stay in touch.

In the two months leading up to my first day I’ve had regular conversations with my new manager. This has been awesome. I have a sense of the organisation I’m about to join from these conversations. I have an idea about the culture of the place and how receptive they are to the role I’m going to do. Some of the ideas they have in place to engage staff have been shared with me, and I’ve been allowed to offer my tuppence about what I can do to support them. I’ve connected with some of the new team members ahead of joining which gives me a sense of the attitude they have to social media. Information about upcoming work has been shared with me and helps me to get a sense of what the expectations are of me.

I feel welcomed and motivated to do well in the role, before I’ve even stepped in the front door, or met the team.

So there you have it. Two success stories about how to put engagement into practice. Both offer a different sense of how to make it happen. Both offer some insight into what worked to engage me. Because at the end of the day, I’m just like you. Someone who wants to work, do it well, and feel positive about the contribution I can make.

This thing about industry experience

Recently I was fortunate to end my job hunt over the summer and find full time employment. A while back I wrote about my experience of my job hunt in the current market. I want to take a moment now and reflect on some key things which jumped out at me while carrying out the job hunt. I wrote my first set of insights in my post on Calling All Hands.

The most consistent and regular piece of feedback I got from potential recruiters was “we’re looking for people who have industry experience”. Quite possibly the single most unhelpful and belittling comment you could pass someone who hasn’t been successful. It doesn’t tell me anything about why I’ve not been successful in applying for the job other than I need to get experience in that industry if I want a role in the same.

These days a lot of what we do is often linked intrinsically to the industry we’re in. There’s context bend actions, behind decisions, behind success, and behind failure. That context is often the organisation we work for, and at a secondary level, the industry we’re working in. This is as far as I can take the industry relevant analogy.

The skills we have, the potential we have, the knowledge gained, the learning and development achieved, are all transferable. As adults we have the wit, intelligence and sense to know how to take what I know and apply it in a different setting. Insisting on industry experience is shooting yourself in the foot in the hunt for the best candidate.

If I’m not good enough because I lack certain skills, or have a poor CV, or have not shown how my skills match the role advertised, then given me that direct feedback. I’m an adult. I can take it.

Where organisations are convinced that only by hiring someone from their industry will they get the quality hire they’re searching for gets me awfully cynical. Part of me says “they already know who they want to hire, and this is just a compliance exercise”. Part of me says “they’re not interested in having fresh or different perspectives and will only reinforce behaviours they’re organisations are already exhibiting”. Part of me says “I couldn’t have delivered on my potential for them if they’re only looking for people who fit the mould”.

I’d like to think that in the 21st century, we’re able to be a lot more honest and direct with our candidates applying for roles.

The other piece of feedback I regularly received was “we’ve received applications from candidates who better match the criteria of the role”. Where that is useful for you to know, here’s what it tells me: you’re application was no good. As I’ve mentioned above, if you have a clear idea of what criteria you’re searching for, and I’m taking the time and effort to apply, it means I want to know how to make future applications more robust and help me get past the application stage.

I know there are considerations I’m just dismissing. There are a lot of people applying for a lot of jobs. Some jobs have thousands applying for them. Personal one to one feedback is a time burden and not an efficient way to work. Recruiters don’t want the possibility that an aggrieved candidate may make a high profile complaint against them as a result of feedback. Time may be a factor in finding the right candidate. There is a lot of practcial sense in hiring someone with industry experience as they are more likely to be productive sooner than candidates without. And many others I’m sure I haven’t mentioned.

I also know there are a good many organisations who don’t take the above stance, and will actually consider candidates from different industries and sectors. In either case, I don’t know who’s going to do better overall. But I do know that where candidates are given the chance to be involved in the hiring process, you’re only helping to get people back into the world of work.

Calling all hands

So that’s where the inspiration for an ‘All hands meeting’ came from. I really should have clocked that one sooner.

It’s often interesting to hear what’s happening in the world of employment. Not employment law, but in these hard times, securing work seems to be at the fore front of a lot of people’s minds. I’m amongst that group, and trying to secure gainful employment. And as others have done before me in speaking about their experience of job hunting, I’d like to share mine.

Some brief context – I’m searching for senior learning and development or organisational development / effectiveness / design roles. I’ve been at it for about 3 months now. I’m doing all the good stuff I should be doing – registered with agencies specialising in this field, looking for opportunities daily, applying to jobs of interest regularly, and generally making sure I’m doing what I can to find a job. I’m a firm believer that you have to put the hard work in seeking a job in order to get the right job for you. It’s hard.

Here’s my learnings so far.

Agencies are easily the first and best port of call. In an age of social media and the likes, there are a lot of roles going direct to agencies that don’t even enter their own job sites or job boards until they’re sure that’s what they need to do. I have to say I’ve been impressed with the relationships agencies are building with candidates. When I speak to the consultant I’ve met, they recognise my name and know what I’m looking for. When I speak to them about potential roles, they’re advising if I’m right for it or not. I get reassurance from them that I’m in good hands.

LinkedIn is my best friend right now. Second to agencies, a lot of companies who want to hire direct are posting on there. I’ve easily applied to more roles directly through LinkedIn than I have job boards.

Twitter isn’t doing anything for me. It’s useful in letting people know updates as to what’s happening with my job hunt, but that’s about it. In a chat with David Goddin earlier today, he made a very good point that most people won’t be coming on to Twitter to see who’s applying for a job they’re hiring for. Most people will be using Twitter like they always do. Equally though, most people are very kind in helping to spread the message that I am looking for work. That is very appreciated.

The rhetoric on using social media to source jobs has been made a bit more interesting. As I’ve said, LinkedIn is proving to be a gold mine. Twitter is for good conversation. The two aren’t meeting in the same place. I suppose that’s fine. What it means for me is I’m being far more active in other online spaces than I thought I would.

My CV is undergoing daily revisions. The more I see job descriptions and roles being advertised, the more I think my CV needs to be stronger. This is a personal thought, and I’m by no means advocating everyone should be doing this. A long while back I wrote about the Death of the CV. We're a long way from that point, and the CV continues to be the first impression recruiters gain of you. However, I've been more free about where I make my CV available. Mine is on Google Drive too. I’ve simply edited it to make sure only the personal contact details I’m happy to be publicly available are there.

I overestimated my ability to find work. This is a hard one to swallow. I entered the job hunt thinking I was a shoe in for anything being advertised. I got a very hard wake up call. There are a lot of very good candidates applying for the same positions I’m going for, with experience that is better, and with credibility I can’t compete with. *deep breath* It’s ok though. I’m determined to fight harder for the positions I’m going for.

There are other learnings I’ve had about work and life, but these are the ones which relate to my candidate experience so far and my job hunt.