Talent Awareness

talent assessment

Talent Awareness is what I call it. Others call it Talent Management, I actually find it a little amusing, mostly because if you try to manage talent (your people) it doesn’t work. They need to be led to willingly follow your path. However, that is not what this is about. It’s about creating your awareness of the talent that lies in the people who work for you.

A way that companies are doing this is called a 9 Grid.  It is a graph to help you plot your people on.  (See above) What makes this different than forced (or unforced) ranking systems is that you are not comparing one person to another. It is about what they do and what they can do.

Along the bottom of the graph is Performance from low to average to high.  Going up the left side is Potential, again from low to average to high. This will give you 9 blocks (hence the name 9 grid).

Now take a look at each person individually and plot them along the graph. What gets tricky is making sure you don’t change your definition of each criteria based on your own personal bias for each person. If you do this in a group, ensure one person’s view doesn’t adjust all the others. You have to remain objective. (I know…easier said than done).

Just to add another perspective, on the people who you are rating “low” on the performance, take a look at the why it might be happening.  Is it because they are new? Are they in a new role? Are they in the wrong role? Issues at home? Issues with their co-workers?  You get the idea – don’t just label them “low” without understanding the why.

So why is this important? You can use this information to help you plan for staffing moves, determine which direction you want to motivate them, can they help train others, have they out-grown your company, do they need a challenge?  Again, review the information and the people and use this new insight to help lead and guide them for the success of your company.

Need some assistance to implement in your business? Please respond below and I will be in touch.


How to determine Salaries


small business, salary

Small business owners find one of the hardest decisions to make is what to pay their people. Many struggle with the balance between paying a fair salary and what the business can afford.

To give you some guidance, keep the following in mind.

Market Position
You are have taken the time to determine where to position your company in the market – high end provider, unique proposition with average pricing, or the high volume/low cost provider. A well thought out strategy which is resonated in the marketing of the company.

When a market position is determined, it is done with an understanding of pros/cons of the position and the long-term possibilities. The same analysis needs to go into the decision on salaries.

Starting Point: Salary Position = Market Position
This is the place to start. Companies should match their salary position with market as the starting point. The numbers need to be run against revenues and other expenses. From there the owner needs to determine if the salary number needs to go up or down.

There are many sourced on the web and industry specific organizations to assist a company in determining where to low, average and high salary points are.

Understand the Salary Position
An organization needs to realize, similar to the marketing position, the salary position will come with it’s own set of pros/cons. It’s fundamental for a company to understand the long term affects of their salary decision.

Know someone who needs assistance to determine their salary position. I would love to talk to them.

5 Uses for a Job Description

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© vicky –

You may be thinking about creating Job Descriptions or have some that may need updating. The thing is that every time you think about it – you find something else to do. It’s just not that exciting and you think – why bother, people look at it once then never again.  What if that one piece of paper could give your several uses – 5 to be exact – would that make it more of a priority? Let’s find out.

5 uses for a Job Description as a countdown.

5.  Legalities. Ok, this one you may already know about. Having a job description outlines the qualifications (so you can defend your position not to hire someone), physical requirements (to determine what kinds of accommodations you can make for a person with disabilities) and essential functions (what’s the minimum a person needs to do to be successful, also to determine what accommodations you can make).

4. Recruiting. It will help to keep you focused on the qualifications and skills needed. I have found it helpful in order to stop “shinny object syndrome”. You have had this happen. You are reviewing resumes and someone possess a skills that you believe would be great (shinny object) and bias yourself towards that person. The job description will keep you focused on what you really need for the position and if they possess that AND the shinny object – they may move to the top of the pile.

3. Training New Hires. You bring someone new into the organization and need to develop a training plan. Use the job description to guide you to ensure you train what is needed for them to be successful. Don’t forget to add timelines, they cannot learn the job in a day.

2. Setting Expectations. Job Descriptions are the ideal of what a position should accomplish. Share this especially with new hires and they will understand what is expected from them once their training is over.  This works great for people moving into a new position.

1. Development Plans. You probably have some great employees doing wonderful work and you have some…well…let’s say they need some development. Use the job description in a conversation with them to determine how they can improve in one or two areas noted for the next month or so.  Follow-up and repeat. You could end up with fantastic employees all around.

Start writing your job descriptions – now it will be used more than once.

Need some help getting your descriptions done? Contact me and we discuss your needs.


Do it Yourself

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© kemaltaner –


Part of the services I offer is to conduct an audit of the HR systems at a company. Typically this means I review the labor posters, employee files, handbook and policies and procedures. I know, doesn’t sound very exciting. So why am I sharing?

I keep seeing the same mistakes and I want you to avoid these and you can do it yourself (or call me and I will do it) either way, just do it.

Before I get into the how or what you need to do. Let’s briefly discuss the why. Why is it important to do an audit? An audit is based on legal compliance – in other words make sure you are following all the laws that pertain to having employees.  I don’t want to scare you and it’s important you understand the implications of not being in compliance – some laws will affect you in the long run and only if an employee files suit. These can cost you time, money and attorney fees. Others are relvealed during an investigation by diffferent government bodies (a complaint doesn’t necessarily have to be filed). The I9 form for instance can results in fines from $100 – $5000 per form (or per employee). That can add us quickly.

So what do you need to do to at least get started?

Here are steps for your own audit

1. Labor posters. They need to be posted in a place where employees can see then and in a location they frequently visit. I usually recommend a break room or copy room. Depends on how your office is set up.  Next follow this link for the Federal Poster Requirements (you can also print what you need from here as well) and then you can go to your particular state site (Google your state Department of Labor).

2. Employee files.  Unfortunately you cannot keep everything in one file. You may need up to 2 files per person. First, make sure all I9’s are filed together in their own folder or binder. Also ensure they are completed properly and are in a seperate drawer from your employee files. Second, any medical/confidential information should also have it’s own folder by employee. This folder should have any forms or papers that contain medical information (sick notes, health insurance applications, FMLA leave, etc.). Lastly, all the papers that remain stay in the employee file.

3  Handbook review. This is to ensure your policies are current and it has been updated with any changes you may have made over the years.  Does you vacation/PTO policy explain when a person is eligible for benefits and how they are earned. Do you give time-off for other circumstances (medical leave, personal leave)? What is the procedure for call off of work? What is the procesure if the office is closed due to weather? The best palce to start is to think about all the circumstances you had to deal with over the last year and determine if it was covered.

This is only a start. You also want to make sure you are classifying employees properly between employee/contractor and exempt/non-exempt.

Do this yourself to get peace of mind or if you’d rather – call me and I can help.

Are you giving it away?



It is something everyone wants. I have had business owners ask for it. Yet, they are the same ones who are consistently giving it away. It’s accountability.

It’s true we all want people who make decisions, are responsible and accept the good/bad outcome as a result. Yet at the same time, without realizing it we give away their responsibility, the ability to make decisions which in turns doesn’t hold them to the results.

Now, before you start screaming at the screen and saying it’s not true. Let me ask you a couple questions. Do you do any of the following:

  • Tell people exactly how to solve an issue?
  • When an error is committed, do you tell them how to fix it?
  • When delegating, you provide all the details and they only have to follow your directions?
  • You are known as a micro-manager?

Each time you answered “yes” to one of the above, you have taken away their accountability. I know, you are thinking “no, I’m telling how to work”. This is the same as giving a student the answer to the test.

Instead of giving the answers, ask for the answers. Ask your people “what do you think we should do?” or “what are suggestions to fix it?” or “what is the best way to go about it”.

Keep in mind this is not where it ends, this is the beginning of a conversation with more questions along the “why” or “how would that work”, etc. Give your thoughts or input and have them make the decision.

Think about it for a moment. When someone else told you how to do something – if it didn’t work was your reaction “I would have done it differently” or “I knew it wouldn’t work” or “not my solution, not my problem”. When you came up with the solution or course of action that didn’t work, your reaction is more like “what went wrong” or “how do I avoid this the next time” or “let me try this instead”.

See the difference in the mindset of the person. The second person is taking responsibility and therefore is being accountable.

What will you do differently next time? How can you change this with your people?

Need assistance with creating accountability. Let’s talk.  E-mail me at or call 773.531.8199.

Do you REALLY know them?

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Great leaders know their people and what is happening in their lives.

I said this in front of a group of business leaders as one of the “7 Leadership Habits for an Engaged Team”.  A response I got, is from one person while others nod their head in agreement – “I don’t want to hear their drama”. I get it, I’m not into drama either and that’s not what I am referring to.

So, how do you get to know people without the drama?

Lead by example. Share what you feel is appropriate and they will do the same. Share a bit about yourself and draw the line at sharing your own family drama (yes we all have it). In doing this, if someone crosses the line, gently apologize for their misfortune and end the conversation.

What you do want to lean about: their family, where they are from, do they have a spouse, kids and what they do for fun. Do they have hobbies? How do they spend time outside of work (I know its hard to believe, your people do have lives outside of work). You are gradually going to get this over many conversations. Don’t try to get it one sitting, they will feel interrogated and uncomfortable. You don’t want that.

Why should you care? By showing interest in them, they feel important, respected and cared for, they are more than just a cog in the machine. People have a tendency to respect those who show a genuine interest in the.

This is also beneficial for when you want to reward someone for an achievement, you can show it in a way that is meaningful to them, personalized. For example, if you want to thank them for working overtime to get a project done and they love knitting, maybe a gift certificate to a local knitting/yarn store.

Make you people feel appreciated and really get to know them beyond their name.

P.S. This also works great with clients.



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You hear it in everyday conversation and in business. “I had the expectation…” or “I thought this was going  was going to happen…”. It is typically and normal for each of us to have an expectation of what is happening or what a result will be. However, while we have a clear picture of what we want, we don’t always share it with another person. This results in disappointment – from both sides.

Let’s take a look at what is an “Expectation”. According to Merriam Webster:

“A belief that something will happen or is likely to happen”

In my experience and I’m sure in yours, the likelihood something will happen is increased dramatically when we share our expectations. It seems obvious right. Nothing new here.

Then why are we experiencing disappointment,  frustration and disillusionment?

We are not in habit of setting expectations with others. You will find taking the time to set expectations can increase our results, time, and happiness.

Here are a few examples on where you can set expectations to achieve better results:

Meetings:  We have all been involved in meetings where we sit there and wonder why we are spending our time. To change it, start by setting an agenda and outlining the anticipated results before hand will allow people to understand why they should take time out of their day to meet, prepare for the meeting, and the end result. If the meeting isn’t yours, ask the host to do this. Imagine how many more meetings you would attend that would be productive and you would be a more willing participant.

Delegation: This one can get people tongue tied as they are afraid to give too many details and micromanage the process.  When delegating focus on the results and not the process. Discuss the objective with the person and how you will be using what they give back to you. If you have a preferred format (word, excel, powerpoint, etc.) let them know.

Interviewing: Here is a case where we think the expectations are clear and don’t need to stated. We are looking to hire and you applied. Yes, that is why you are talking to the person. Let them know the process, how you like to interview and what will happen next. For example: I have your resume and have read it, I would like to ask you questions to see if you are a fit for the company and then I will tell you about the position and you can determine if its a good fit for you.

Networking: We are connecting with people and want to learn more about their business. As you know networking is not about getting business at the event. When you are following up with someone you met at a networking event, let them know why you are reaching out – to learn more about your business, I can help you with…, etc.

Where else do you need to set expectations? Share below.

Need assistance in making setting expectations a habit, something you always do? Let’s talk.

Attracting the Right Employees

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Jim Kendall of the Daily Herald (local newspaper) on the various struggles of small employers to find quality employees.  There is so much you can do.

Read here to see what I shared with his audience.

Don’t forget you need to focus on the planning to get it right.

Are you struggling or want assistance to get the right employees for your small business. Contact me for a complimentary consultation at or 773.531.8199


Plan to Get it Right

Summary: Before you take action in your business, you plan. May people don’t plan enough when it comes to hiring. Here are a few things you need to plan to get you started and to help you Plan to Get it Right.

pen and organizer on a white background

In many parts of your business, before you take action, you plan. You don’t launch a marketing campaign without knowing what results you want. You don’t give a customer a price for services without knowing if you will make a profit. When it comes to recruiting however we feel it’s ok to jump in without a plan, and then we wonder why we can’t find good people.

Right now I have many clients who are hiring new team members. This is wonderful as they are all growing their teams. Sometimes we are too eager to jump in and get a new person started.

If you really want to get it right the first time,  some planning is needed before you even advertise a job opening.

Here’s what you need to plan for:

Skills: Needed for the position.

Knowledge: This goes beyond skills, for example – a bookkeeper needs Quickbook skills and accounting knowledge.

Attitude/Personality:  This sometimes gets overlooked. Do they need to pleasant, prefer someone quiet, or do you need a more “chatty” person.

Working style: Do you need someone to work with little direction or more side by side to do the work in a particular way.

Then you can prepare yourself to ask the questions to find out what you need. This planning will help you spot who fits the job the best and who would need more work. It will also help you avoid “shinny object syndrom” that flashy piece of experience someone may have that looks like it may help you one day but is not needed now or in the immediate future.

What else do you look for in people who work for you? Tell us below.


Best Places to Work

Summary:  It’s award season – awards for best places to work. What do you need to do or consider to make your organization a great place to work.

best places to work, awards

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I have to admit I’m not a big fan of the “Best Places to Work” awards. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is vital for all workplaces to be great, it creates success in business, in people and in the community. It’s the awards. It seems to be that time of year when different publication announce their winners according to their criteria.

Yes, their criteria.  Sometimes they tell us what the criteria are and sometimes they don’t. What about your criteria? Each workplace, business and person is different and will have different ideas of what makes a great workplace.  Right now, stop reading and write down what is important to you and your company. Now make another list of what you believe is important to your employees. Do they match? Do they intersect? Is there some form of commonality?

If not, this is what needs to be looked at. Not what marketing people put together to get your business on a list.

That being said, I do believe there are a few criteria which you need to be mindful of and these are based on research on what contributes to an employees engagement in the workplace. Engagement is the ultimate test of a great workplace – not ping pong tables.

What you should strive for. What is your long-term vision for your business, what are you trying to achieve and how can your employees help you.

Belief in your mission. Yes that piece of paper or poster at one time or another you put on the wall and hope everyone reads it. If this is the case, you need to revisit and create something you really believe in, something your employees can believe in. Let it become infectious.

Sense of purpose. This is something all employees need. They want and need to know their role in the company fulfills a need and gives them a purpose, a reason to get up and go to work every day.

Doing what they love every day. Imagine if your people were focused only on what they love to do every day. Imagine that for yourself. How would it transform your business.

Focus on strengths. Not only should they be doing what they love, they should also be doing what they do best. What would that look like?

There are more, this is to get you started.  Along with a colleague we have developed a program to assess your people and your business to achieve engagement and create your version of a Great Place to Work.

Want to learn more? email me to schedule a complimentary session.