Career Advisor Mary Schaefer Puts the Human Back into Human Resources at TEDxWilmington

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On Wednesday, August 6th, one of our very own Career Advisors, Mary Schaefer spoke at TEDxWilmington and delivered her talk, Putting the Human Back into Human Resources. At the forum, creators, entrepreneurs, artists, technologists, designers, scientists, and thinkers alike gathered at World Cafe Live at The Queen to share their thought leadership and what they are passionate about.

One of the 24 inspiring ideas during the day-long program, Putting the Human Back into Human Resources takes a look at how employee appreciation and interaction leads to strong engagement and motivation. Mary insights that businesses need to treat their employees humanly, not humanely. She acknowledges that humans are social beings and as such need to feel not only accepted but valued. Mary illustrates this concept by citing an employee remembering every time her teammate brought her coffee simply because she “looked like she needed it.”

With employee engagement throughout the nation being at an all-time low, many are proclaiming being unappreciated as the cause for their disengagement. How will you demonstrate your appreciation for your employees and show how much you value their contribution to the business?

Mary Schaefer’s interest in human resources began while working on her family’s farm in southern Indiana and she now has over 20 years of HR experience under her belt. She is also the principal of her own business, Artemis Path, Inc., where she specializes in talent development, change management, and workplace interactions. Her clients range from Fortune 500 companies to local businesses. Mary applies her fierce idealism to create work cultures where organizations and human beings can both thrive. Read more about this topic and Mary’s passions at

Outside-In® Culture Series: Hiring Strategy

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Never stop working on your culture. This is very hard to do when there is other work to be done in leadership. Just look around—every part of your business needs culture work. If you need a way to evaluate this just stand at your office entrance and work backwards. Here is a hint—culture is everywhere. Culture shows up in how you hire, retain, recognize, reward, and even let go of talent! Let’s start at the front door. You need to hire employees to maintain a business. Hiring employees is the perfect place to work on culture! Think about it.

A business and its leaders work very hard to know what skills and experiences are needed for an open position. This is not easy and getting it right takes time. Who has it? Does your job description or profile speak to how someone must behave? What values matter to all of your employees?

ID-100262401A business also works hard to attract quality talent. These are the basics of talent acquisition. Companies hire recruiters internally, outsource to companies like mine, and hire temps. There are many strategies to produce the work that is need to find talent, identify the sources for talent, and to get the work done. However, getting the work done has nothing to do with how your organization presents itself to the marketplace. You know you’re a great place to work and there are unique and extraordinary reasons why someone would want to choose your company over another. If you’re not clear about your culture and your values how can you screen talent and know if they are a fit in your world?

You post on a job board for an opening. Does the posting simply tell about the role or does it culturally sell your company?

During the interview process we ask behavioral questions and leaders screen for technical competence. However, there is a real opportunity to screen for culture. The questions depend on your values (common theme) and how you will frame them. If you’re a small business you probably want to ask questions about working independently or how applicants go about making decisions. If your culture is one of structure and compliance or safety then build your questions accordingly. Companies screen and hire for technical fit, however, our hiring failures often relate to fit on the team or in the work environment! Try hiring someone fiercely independent in a team culture. Good Luck.

Make sure you keep the sofa full. This is a cultural Burkhardism that has been written about and is a whole chapter in books on hiring right! Do you look for talent all of the time? Do you have your next hire sitting on the sofa in your lobby? This is a metaphor of course. Hiring takes time, money, energy, and resources. Committing to these things in a structured, proactive way enables us to hire cultural fits.

When the sofa is not full, we hire fast and we hire wrong. Hiring the wrong person is costly—slow the process down. Consider six or nine months of a person’s salary as the cost of turnover. When we cut corners and just hire to fill a seat we fail and cost the company money!

Finally, consider hiring for culture over technical abilities. This is coming from the Outside-In® Guy who runs an entire company based on values. This could be considered radical and I hope so. Hiring for attitude and behaviors (the real source of culture) is a sure fire way to build talent that fits. Many or most roles can teach the rest.

Need a culture hiring review? Can you afford not to? Can you ever stop working on culture? I say no!

Outside-In® Turns 13!

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Thirteen years ago today I started the Outside-In® story in my friend Jim Paoli’s coat closet. I had a laptop, a cell phone (not a smart one), and a folding desk and chair for ambience.  I had my business plan done, my labor of love of 80+ pages. I was so proud—we were going to change the world. This document represented all that was wrong with the HR services world and illustrated how I was going to do it differently. Call it my Jerry Maquire moment. Who’s with me? Well, there were just a few who believed in me and today I would like to thank them all.

Getting a business started is a fascinating experience. I have been fond of saying that it feels generally like full-blown asthma. You simply can’t breathe for months because of the crush of to do’s and the weight of needing to pay the bills and find those all important first customers. Eventually you find a way to get through it.

20140806_115354_resizedWe survived even through the adversity—and we have had plenty. It is going to sound like a joke of some sort with no punch line. Did you hear the one about the small business that survived a fire, a roof collapse, IT theft, and 9/11? Oh yeah that one. This was the day I opened to the world and my first full-time employee, Judi Dorazio joined the fold. We sat and worked as the world changed around us. I simply did not know what else to do. So we sat around for months waiting for the world to heal and for us to be able to start all of those delayed projects.

It was not easy. I am a smooth talking persuader according to Myers-Briggs profile anyway. So getting out and talking to the marketplace was easy for me. Hard work, mind you. But I could do it—and I did. Imagine working every single day for a year including Christmas. OK, I did not work all day, but I worked every day that first year. Think about the book Never Eat Alone- I took that to heart and had a lunch date every single day for almost two years. As you can imagine, this is got expensive. People want to feel your energy, get caught up in your dream, and see how big you’re thinking. Then they pat you on the head and wait to see if you make it before they work with you. Who can blame them?  When your nephew comes to you to sell you insurance when it’s his first week on the job you don’t buy. NO ones does. We all must pay our dues, gain experiences, and become good at what we do.

So here are the thank you’s to the class of 2001!

First and foremost my wife, Kim. If you looked at her Myers-Briggs profile, you would see that generally speaking she is conservative and avoids risks. Yet, she willingly and knowingly has supported my dream, our dream, for the past thirteen years—the good, the bad, and all of the ugly! Kim has been a Bookkeeper, Office Manager, Interior Designer, Foreman, and the one that vacuums and empties trash cans! Kim thank you for your sacrifices and vested interest in what we are building.

Laura Kasper. She worked for me once before the Outside-In® Companies. She worked for Placers 1.0 with my Dad and she worked for free until my business got going. Laura did everything that was not customer facing in the early days of the business. Laura did the business plan, wrote the proposals, bought office supplies, and she even designed most of the early processes & systems for every part of the business. I am proud to say that today she is a friend, a customer, a very successful HR leader, and mom extraordinaire!

Judi Dorazio. Judi and I also worked together at Placers 1.0. She did all of the recruiting and delivery. And customer and account management. And sales. You name it, she did it on the staffing side of the business for many, many years. Without that foundation we would not be where we all today!

Colleen Stratton. The first outsider. No Placers 1.0 here! Smart—whip smart. Colleen anchored our consulting practice. However, she really brought us forward with ideas and relationships.  Colleen is always at her best with complex people problems. Colleen is a friend, a customer, an advisor, and of course, an alumnus!

In all fairness, there are many others Jamie, Linda, Dave, Lisa, Joe, John, Garrick, Kelly, Glenn, Kathy. I feel like Frank Sinatra attempting to accept the award on stage but the ending music starts playing. My time for thank you’s is up!

Most companies don’t make it through year one. Then it is the five year hurdle. We had a cake and ice cream. For year 10, we threw a 25% party because only 1 in 4 makes it ten years. How will be celebrate being 13? With hard work, a simple birthday song, and a whole lot of sincere thank you’s!

Follow Up: Four Things You Should Do After an Interview

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Guest blog spot by Outside-In® Team Member Caitlin Olszewski

Most people exit an interview and wonder, “What next?” Following up is one of the most important aspects of the interviewing process and if done right, has the power to set your apart from other candidates. Here are 4 action steps you should do immediately following an interview to put your best foot forward:

1. Say thanks. Be sure to write a thank you note to each person that interviewed you. Handwritten is a nice touch but if time is of the essence, a heartfelt email will do. Make sure you follow up within 24 hours. Remember, a thank you note isn’t a sure-fired way to land the job, but if you’re up against another candidate, your sentiment could be the deciding factor.

2. Give feedback. After an interview, it’s important to communicate whether or not you are interested in the role. Be honest, and give valuable feedback on your view of the role after meeting and learning more about the position.

3. Talk to the right people. Only contact the people with whom you spoke during the interview. Seeking out and messaging other department members might seem impressive, but it could breach confidentiality expectations.

4. Be Proactive. Make sure you are aware of next steps in the process. Pay attention to the interviewer and remember if they say how long it will take before they follow up with you. If they don’t mention it, don’t be afraid to ask about the process. Be patient but proactive!

Be careful not to cross the line between being proactive and being aggressive. Follow up politely and when necessary. Do not overdue it as this could be a sign of desperation or it could even annoy a busy interviewer!

What Would Alan Burkhard Do?

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Throughout most of my formative years as a leader, I started off my thinking with the basic question, “What would Alan do or say?” Alan Burkhard is my Pop, a serial entrepreneur, a good Father, an activist for the community & any underdog that he comes in contact with, and most importantly, the most unique leader I know.

Alan's PictureFor example, I used to call him every Friday when we worked together and without fail he thought differently than most leaders. For most situations he would not give me the answer I sought. Rather, he would point me back to the information. He would say, “You don’t have enough information to come up with the solution. Go back and get more.”

Recently, the Outside-In® Companies was awarded with a very large contract. We have worked for it for years. As is typical of a comprehensive workforce program, the customer needed help well before we finished implementation! We had a choice stick with our higher retail price for services until we implement or give the volume price and trust that this is the right thing to do.  Do we have more margin now or do we establish a great “wow” moment of trust with a new customer? What would Alan do? Most grab the margin. We gave the volume price and we will trust that the rest will take care of itself!!

So my statement, “What would Alan do or say?” has nothing to do with seeking fatherly approval or anything like that. It is simply a phrase that keeps me sharp and focused on what being an Outside-In® leader is really all about.

Another example of his unique leadership occurred while at a recent baseball game. Alan commented on the recent security changes at the MLB ballparks. Essentially, ballparks are going to be like airports and large office complexes in the sense that game goers will be patted down and go through scanners. All in the name of homeland security. We might mumble and grumble about our loss of rights and civil liberties but we go along with the crowd and think that this is just another precautionary measure. Not Alan. He brings forward the classic Outside-In® leadership principle. We always seem to police and create rules for the handful of wrong doers and then punish everyone else. Security is serious business of course. However, I get his point as he as always applied this to his business.

Stereotypically speaking, leaders create too many rules and over complicate things. We create policies and handbooks galore. Don’t misinterpret me, I believe some structure and system makes sense. Just don’t over do it! Allow good people to follow simple rules and be allowed to operate freely within that loose system. That is why Outside-In® leaders lead with values. Values are there when we are not (which is often). Besides, bad leaders want to be superheroes anyway and are much too quick to dole out answers. That is NOT what staff wants. Staff wants to grow and be challenged in their job.

So for me, “What would Alan say or think?” is my mantra. It keeps me sharp. I am reminded that it is OK to cut against the grain and to be Outside-In® every moment of every day. This is very hard as most of those in the leadership world would rather make a rule than to actually lead or take action!

7 Questions You Should Ask During an Interview

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Guest blog spot by Outside-In® Team Member Caitlin Olszewski

It happens at the end of every single interview and yet it still seems to secretly tie the shoelaces of even the most prepared candidates. We often find that when we are preparing candidates for interviews they ask for advice on how to answer, “Do you have any questions for me about the role?” It’s important to remember that an interview is meant to be more of a conversation and not an interrogation. Asking questions is the best way to demonstrate that you understand the company and their challenges while showing how you can bring value to their organization.

We compiled this list of 7 questions you can ask during an  interview to show your vested interest in the position and help answer some burning questions that might spark up in your mind later:

1. Can you describe a typical day in this role?

The answer to this question will give you more insight into what the position is currently like while showing that you’re already thinking about how you can jump right into things.

2. How would you describe the work environment or company culture?

“Cultural fit” is a term employers use to gauge if a candidate could thrive in their specific work environment. This question shows that you’re determined to be successful by ensuring that you’re the right fit for the job.

3. What are the company’s short and long term goals?

This question shows your interest in the company and where it’s headed. It lets the interviewer know that you’re thinking about the future and how you can contribute to the company’s success.

4. In what way is performance measured and evaluated?

Understanding the role and the company is the most important aspect of an interview. Asking how the performance of the role is evaluated will be memorable to the interviewer because it shows that you’re thinking about the quality of your work.

5. What career opportunities could open up for this role down the road?

Asking this question will demonstrate that you’re interested in professional development and advancement within in the company.

6. What would you say are the top two personality traits someone needs to do this job well?

This question will allow you to feel out whether you’ll be a good fit, and will get your interviewer to look past your resume and see you as an individual.

7. What types of initiatives does the company offer in reference to training and development?

During the time you’re in the interview, remember that this is a chance for you to show your enthusiasm and interest not only in the role for which you are applying, but also the business.