Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Case For Leadership

Ok, it has been a while since my last post! I promise I won't stay away for so long.

What has compelled me to resume blogging is the topic of leadership. Below is the link to a post that I just read and thought it was worth sharing.

Richard Davis pens a compelling piece about the characteristics of mature leadership. I am no leadership expert and Lord knows I made my share of mistakes leading teams and organizations. However, what I have learned through experience is that the most effective leaders are principled leaders. This comes from experience and hopefully experience breeds maturity.

Take a moment to read Davis' blog. Well worth the time.

Friday, May 6, 2011


Last week's post revealed the shift in the current hiring market. Today I want to address what to do about it. Per my comments, hiring in the technology sector has become much more competitive. Top Engineers, Sales, Marketing and even now Finance professionals are in much higher demand and in shorter supply. Some are receiving multiple offers and others are holding out for the offer they want. "No need to jump ship yet if I am ok where I am at. I will wait for the optimal opportunity". Your competitors are stepping up their hiring and have been so for 3 months. On the extreme, that loud sucking sound is Google, Facebook, Zynga and Twitter pulling in as much talent as they can assimilate. 

The good news is that you CAN compete for top talent in today's market IF you are prepared and make course corrections TODAY! Below is a quick primer on the changes you need to make NOW regarding your hiring tactics:

1) Philosophy: What is your deliberate and adopted philosophy on how you manage your recruiting efforts? If you don't have one that is documented...then I offer this as the first recommendation.  Much as been talked about Google's "Lake Woebegone" approach to recruiting. Grossly translated: The next person in the door should be smarter that the mean. Works for them but your approach needs to be tailored to your organization. It should incorporate how you treat candidates, how many people really need to be in the vetting process, the speed with which you make decisions, references, qualifications, etc. This philosophy should be bought into by hiring managers. If not, they will default to their own and most likely it won't support the company's approach. Get everyone on the same page.

2) Attitude: Sadly, there are companies and leaders that give off the impression that "we are so hot you are fortunate to be speaking with us". They feel their technology, their VCs, their IQ, their every existence is so special that the candidate's self-esteem must be skyrocketing to be in their very presence.  Two words....TURN OFF! Top candidates, the ones you want to hire aren't necessarily looking for job. They possess skills and experiences your company needs. You are RECRUITING them so treat them as such. This decision is made by two parties...the company and the candidate. Treat the candidate as you would like to be treated. Convey an attitude that supports how great your opportunity is but that the company is only as great as the people we attract and hire. In today's market, you can ill afford to project an arrogant attitude. Be confident, positive, excited but not arrogant. Make sure your hiring managers and executives are positively promoting the company through their interactions with candidates.

3) "Be Quick, But Don't Hurry". One of my heroes and mentors John Wooden, the late former basketball coach from UCLA coined that expression. It means move fast but don't compromise quality or thoroughness. The reason companies can lose great candidates is they get stuck in their own mire. Cranking out an offer letter once the decision is made on the select candidate should take a day, maybe most. All too often we hear of horror stories that it took 3 weeks (or longer) to get the offer out the door. Not good. If the CEO has to review every offer before it goes out....problem. The CFO or HR manager should be held accountable for this step. Set up a process that aligns with the business objectives. If the headcount has been approved, is budgeted for, the candidate has been selected and has verbally accepted...get the offer out the door! Why? Because that candidate might receive (and accept) another offer from a company that has it's act together and really can't quite understand what the delay was about! Make sure that managers know what is expected of them. Adopt and hold fast to this practice that once all of the vetting is completed and the candidate has been chosen, you WILL get the offer out the door within 24 or 48 hours. Anything longer will put your company at a disadvantage.

4) Use Search Firms: Yes, a shameless plug but hear me out. A friend and very successful CEO once to me "if it isn't a strategic capability or a core competency..outsource the function". Search firms can get results faster. It's their business. You have enough to manage. That headcount you want to devote to an internal recruiter could be sales person generating revenue. We see ourselves as an extension of your company. Using firms for key hires makes good business sense. Not convinced? Contact me at and let's talk about it.

With a sound philosophy, an attractive attitude, an efficient process and using the right resource (search firms) you can dramatically improve your time to hire metrics. Incorporate these simple steps and you will attract the top talent you need to exploit your competitive advantage.

Mike Vanneman

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Memo To Hiring Executives: The Market Has Shifted

While the national unemployment outlook teeters at 9.2% and California's unemployment rate "improved" by dropping from 12.4 to 12.0% in between January and March, there are indicators in the technology sector that the talent pool is contracting and it is becoming a "buyers" (candidates) market. We are even seeing companies do unnatural things to keep key employees. No, I am not talking about Google's $5,000,000 retention bonus package to keep an engineer from going to Facebook. Not an urban really did happen. I am not talking about Google giving every employee a 10% raise last November in addition to the free food. 

What we are seeing at TVG Executive Search is that progressive companies are locking down key talent by offering more incentives (options and or cash). They are promoting key employees because these are the valuable people that most likely survived the meltdown in late 2008 and now the companies are hiring back people in every department. These new employees need to be managed and many of these management positions are being filled from within. These are defensive moves to prevent experienced producers from leaving. Is it working? Yes, in many cases. In many other situations the candidates are going on the offensive.

The "passive" candidate of yesterday is now the aggressive candidate in today's market. If they don't see more upside with their current employer, they are willing to take more risk and move elsewhere.  Two years ago it was hunker down. This year it's saddle up!

What is an employer to do? The first step--face reality. Accept it. The market has shifted and you are behind the curve. Now, catch up. Don't listen to that Board Member who continues to blather on that "Unemployment is so high! Everyone is out of work! You can get people on the cheap!" Politely smile, tolerate the same bad joke he tells at every board meeting and get back to the business of building a world class company.

The second step--develop specific talent retention and acquisition plans.  What should be in these plans? This will be the subject of my next entry. I don't want to give you too much at one time. Accepting the market reality will be challenging enough. So, let's do a quick meditative exercise. Close your eyes. Repeat after me..."I accept the market as it is today, not what thought it was or told that it is...but what it really is now". Now, don't you feel better!?  

Your new motto is "Get over it and get on with it!"

Until next time.....