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Monday, November 28, 2011

Results Resumes

Many of the questions I get from job seekers are about resumes.  They typically ask questions like, “Should I put my education at the top or the bottom?”  or “Should I have an objective?”  or “I’m over 50, if I list all my dates of employment, will the employer think I’m  too old for the job?” .

All of these are valid questions in the job seekers mind, but the question they really want answered is, “What is going to make me stand out and get my foot in the door?” and trust me, it isn’t whether or not you have an objective listed.

What makes you stand is listing results instead of just job tasks or skills.  For example, if you are in sales, don’t just list that at your current job you “make sales calls”.  What did those sales calls lead to?  Hopefully, a certain increase in customers and thus revenue that you can quantify is what it led to.  Why would you not put this on your resume?  If you are an administrative assistant, tell them that the filing system you implemented led to a reduction in lost orders (and by how many) not just that you have experience filing.  That employer can probably find thousands of people tomorrow that have done filing.

And if they are team results, then all the better.  Tell them about the team results in a way that shows you can 1) Work with a team and 2) Achieve results through and with others.   There is not a job today that doesn’t involve some type of teamwork.

I will admit, it is hard to shift thinking from tasks to results when it comes to work.  The majority of resumes are task based (as are the majority of ways we define jobs). But this is all the more reason to think and put results on your resume.  It is a way to distinguish you from other job applicants, and that is what is going to get your foot in the door for an interview.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Getting Caught up in Competencies

A client I’m working with to implement a performance management and development program for his production team leaders has been having trouble with the word “competency”.  It’s a big word with little meaning to most people, so why do I keep saying it?

I talked a few weeks ago about job modeling the “superstar” in order to develop performance standards for this client.   Basically, I’ve been calling the areas we have identified as critical to performance as “competencies”.

I have tried to stress that what I mean, at least, by “competency” instead of “task” or “job duty” is that a competency is not just simply what the worker does, but what defines excellent performance.  (More information on the distinction between competency modeling and job analysis as well as how to successfully develop competencies can be found in the article, Doing Competencies Well: Best Practices in Competency Modeling).   Competencies should be driven from organizational strategy and be linked to behaviors that distinguish average from excellent performance.

After all, I didn’t observe the worst performer or even the average performer to develop the model for this client.  I observed the one(s) that got results.  Many would say it should be more complicated that than that, and maybe if I described all the steps to develop a valid model, you may think it is.  But it’s not.  The bottom line is what contributes to your business bottom line is what you use.   Maybe I should start calling it a “bottom-line model” instead of a “competency model”.    Do you think this would make more sense to us all?

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Wise Investment

Last week, the Morgan County Business Leaders’ Summit on Early Childhood Education was hosted by the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce.  The purpose of the summit was to focus on making young children a top economic priority.
One might begin to wonder, how on earth is Pre-K tied to business or economic success?  The workforce development panel argued there are two reasons:
1.       It matters to the current workforce.  In Alabama, 63% of children from birth to age 5 have both their parents in the workforce.  So access to childcare (and one would hope quality, learning based childcare) is a necessary support for working families. 

In addition, 90% of women and 80% of men reported that childcare was important to them in terms of changes or improvements in jobs or employment according to a 2009 Ask Alabama Poll.  Working parents can be more productive at work if their childcare needs are met.

2.       It matters if we want to have a future workforce.   A staggering 38 out of 100 of students don’t graduate from high school in Alabama.  It is even higher in some areas of the state.   In a  working world that increasingly requires at least a high school diploma to be hired,  we’re losing more than a third of the potential worker pool due to lack of education.

High quality Pre-K has been proven to close the educational achievement gap.   Over one-half of the gap in school achievement is present at school entry, and if a child is not reading on grade level in 1st grade, there is a 90% chance he/she will not be reading on grade level in 4th grade.  Pre-K can help eliminate these gaps, especially for children living in poverty.

                If someone told you that they had an investment for you that guaranteed a 16% rate of return would you invest?  We’d all be stupid not to.  In comparison, the stock market’s annual real rate of return from 1871-2010 was 6.72%.   Well, a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis determined that annual real rates of return on public investments in the Perry Preschool Project (high quality preschool) were 16%.   My question is, as businesses, governments, and individuals why aren’t we all investing?
                Many individuals and companies see the connection and have a dream of investing.  But like Jim Fincher, Site Manager at 3M Decatur said, we need the dream, but we also need the plan to make it happen.  We need a mechanism for interested parties to invest.  If you are interested in creating such a plan for Morgan County, email Jim Page at to join the Education Task Force at the Chamber.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Retirees as Trainers

Part of the work I do in economic development involves interviewing manufacturing plant managers to see how their business is going and to gain insight from them on what the community can do to help them maximize their success.
One area of business that we ask about is workforce training and development.  In speaking with Jim Fincher, Site Manager at 3M Decatur, he said that one of the things that he is excited about is their implementation of retired 3Mers becoming their go-to trainers.    With the influx of new production operators and industrial maintenance staff, Jim said many of which didn’t grow up fixing things (they played video games instead) like the retiring generation did, these baby-boomer retirees are helping teach the new workforce the skills they need to be successful in a production environment where troubleshooting, problem solving and fixing things is a part of the job. 
It’s also a win for the retirees, Jim said, because they get to earn a little extra money.  More importantly, however, the retirees enjoy having the opportunity to teach and share with others not only the skills they possess, but also the wisdom that they have accrued over time.  
Today there is so much talk about succession planning in business.  How are we going to make sure we have the bench staff to replace the baby boomer workforce is a concern I hear frequently.  But why can’t we think outside of the box like Jim at 3M has done?   We don’t have to lose the talent and wisdom of individuals just because they reach their 60s. It doesn’t have to be a stay on full-time or retire choice. People don’t just reach retirement age and become useless to the workplace.  We can offer flexible arrangements to give those at or after retirement age the opportunity to come off the full-time payroll while maintaining what we need from them the most- their experience and expertise.
The Manufacturing Institute’s Skills Gap Report  points to other ways to close the skills gap.  You can find these in the blue box on page 11.
What have you done to think outside the box to meet your training needs?  What ROI have you seen as a result?