Hiring for Culture Fit in 2023

Hiring for Culture Fit in 2023

March 21st, 2023 by Amy Suitter

Newsletter header that shows the title and an image of people waiting to be interviewed

Hiring for Culture Fit in 2023 by Bill Benson

Are you struggling to find people who will stay with you long term? Do you have an intentional process to evaluate fit? We still see companies screening and measuring candidates against largely tangible requirements. Most companies see the importance of culture fit, but it hasn’t translated to the interview process. A best practice would be to evaluate both tangible and intangible qualities. If someone fails or leaves after a short time it is often related to how they fit within the company or some other intangible factor. Hiring an employee that fits well with the team and has a baseline of experience to build from is often a better hire than someone who has all the experience but doesn’t fit the company well.

It is easy to attach confidence to a candidate with parallel experience or be infatuated with a specific aspect like a skill set or competitor experience. Many of the factors we see as important are often skills that can be learned. Personality, drive, character, willingness to change, interest in learning and many other factors are inherent and won’t change.

The most discussed aspect of fit is “culture fit.” Culture fit refers to the compatibility of an individual with a company’s values, beliefs, and working style. The idea behind hiring for culture fit is that employees who share the company’s culture are more likely to be happy, productive, and stay with the company longer.

Consider employees within your company who are succeeding. What are the qualities they possess that make them successful? They have a good understanding of what it takes to be successful in your organization. It’s important to take a good look at the factors pivotal to the success of your top employees. This gives you insight on qualities to seek with your new hires.

When considering culture fit in the hiring process employers typically assess an applicant’s values, communication style, work ethic, and personality. This can be done through various methods such as:

Interviews: The interviewer can ask open-ended questions such as, “describe a culture that is a good fit for you?” “What elements or characteristics are you seeking in your next work environment?” “If you could wave a magic wand – what would you change in your current environment?” Here are some additional questions to consider.

References: Speaking to the candidate’s past colleagues or managers can provide insights into their work ethic and how they fit into a team.

Behavioral and situational interview questions: These types of questions can provide insight into how the candidate might handle different scenarios in the workplace.

Work samples and tests: Review a candidate’s previous work or give them a test or project that can give a clearer idea of their skills and abilities, as well as their approach to problem-solving.

Company events and activities: Inviting candidates to company events or activities can give them a sense of the company culture and help determine if they would be a good fit. Having the potential candidate spend some time in your environment will also give you a feel for how they fit.

Dinner or lunch: Having a candidate out with a small group in an informal setting like dinner or lunch will give you insight into their social skills.

Family-owned businesses have unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to hiring and building a successful workforce. Typically, these companies have strong cultures that value people, customers, relationships and teamwork. In the post covid environment, many of these family business values resonate with employees looking for stability in a caring environment. It is critical for these culture rich environments to take extra time to evaluate alignment. Here are a couple of tips for family businesses leaders:

  • Designate a key family member who has strong alignment and passion for the culture of the organization and involve them in the interview process.
  • Have a clear understanding of the elements that make up your culture and use those to help promote your brand. Elements like a focus on safety or employee development are examples that reinforce an environment that is meeting the needs of its employees.
  • Trusting relationships are developed when the employee believes the employer is focused on collective interests rather than profit. Make sure interviews are a two-way street where you ask questions about what is important to the candidate and what is important to you.
  • Develop purposeful opportunities for employees to volunteer and get involved with a community or not-for-profit organization. These activities will reinforce your culture of caring.

Here are some areas of “fit” to check that can contribute to an employee’s success:

1. Readiness to adapt and change
2. Self-Directed
3. Motivation and Drive
4. Values Alignment
5. Interest in Learning – Creative, Inquisitive
6. Capability to Work Collaboratively
7. Emotional Intelligence
8. Pro-Active – Able to “see the work” as well as execute.
9. Leadership Style
10. Character and Integrity

The cost of a hiring mistake can be 3-5 times the amount of the employee’s annual salary. A good interview, reference and assessment process will help you find a great fit for your organization.

Happy Employee Hunting!


10 Strategic Growth Questions for Family Businesses

August 31st, 2021 by Amy Suitter

10 Strategic Growth Questions for Family Business

By Jim Fox

Our guest column this month is written by Jim Fox. I’m excited to share insight Jim has learned throughout his successful career in growing businesses. He is now delivering that same insight to small and medium-sized companies needing his leadership and mentoring capability on a part-time, fractional cost basis. A great solution for companies who could use his extensive tool box!

Some advisors (bankers, accountants, lawyers, consultants, executive recruiters, insurance brokers, EOS implementers, etc.) of family-owned businesses, build advisory relationships beyond their standard services to better ensure their clients’ succeed decade after decade. This can be quite beneficial to family business owners when they are challenged with one or more of the following issues:

  • Market share is shrinking due to competitive changes
  • Sales are decreasing due to an industry disruption affecting customers’ buying habits
  • The owner is considering selling the business and the valuation is lower than expectations
  • The owner is transitioning the business to the next generation and is risk averse
  • The business cannot afford to invest in growth initiatives due to suppressed profits
  • The owner lacks time and/or desire to focus beyond the day-to-day operation

The following are 10 questions which family-owned business advisors can ask their clients to think about the big picture to generate more profitable growth and improve the probability of sustaining the business for generations to come.

What do you ultimately want to get out of your family business?

Understand the unconstrained desires of your family-business owner clients. Probe for clarity on what is most important, both economically and non-economically. Although there are nuisances to family-owned businesses, they should be run like any other business, which is to maximize realized shareholder value. This provides the foundation to support the owner’s goal relative to their family, employees or community. Family business and individual goals should be addressed carefully to keep harmony within the ownership group.

How confident are you that you are on a trajectory to getting everything you want out of your business?

The business owner may be on the trajectory, but more likely there are gaps or risks of gaps. Probe to understand what those gaps are. Regardless of whether the family-business owner wants to thrive or just survive, growth is needed to stay healthy. After all, costs rise, business markets change, and customer demand combined with competitive pressures evolve, often at an increased pace. Also, as a family grows, there are more family members to support.

Businesses that do not grow ultimately go out of business. Businesses that generate good cash flows, despite a stagnant business model, may not make it to the next generation or yield the desired price if sold.

A business mantra to grow forces a business to develop new products and services and deliver a solid value proposition to customers to be competitive. A growth mantra enables an upward performance trajectory which generates the financial resources to reward ownership, employees, and community. Growth needs to be healthy, resulting in incremental profits. After all, growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

What are your growth plans for the business? How were these plans developed?

Determine how much growth is sought and gain an understanding of the plans to achieve this growth. Understand past plans and growth achievement to inform the confidence level of executing growth plans. Probe how the growth will be achieved through a mix of organic growth in current markets, expansion into new markets, development of new products, M&A, etc. Regarding plan development, ask if these plans were developed in isolation, through brainstorming sessions and/or through using data analytical tools. Was there input from an advisory board? Brainstorming continues to be a best practice to unlock the creative power of a group which outperforms what can be achieved by any individual working alone. A newer technique to identify less obvious investable growth opportunities is to complement brainstorming with data analytics tools. This approach uses algorithms to find patterns amongst hundreds ofunstructured data sources to identify clusters and specific growth opportunities to expand organically or through acquisition.

Engaging an outside facilitator for strategic and business plan development can often improve the results of this planning process. The facilitator can help ensure that the approach used to determine the appropriate business strategies is fact-based and opinions of all team members are respected.

What are the biggest growth roadblocks your business faces?

Discuss the biggest threats to achieving the business goals, both external and internal. These may be legacy issues or unfavorable external trends which, if the business does not adapt, will present ongoing and increased headwinds. Note, competition should not be at the center of their strategy. Focus on external factors, especially accelerating trends, and look for opportunities to reshape industry structure to be better positioned with both customers and non-customers in the future.

How are your customers changing and what might they want in the future?

Examine market dynamics and how your client’s customer base is evolving to inform how this will impact their strategy. Improve the probability of investment success by gaining fact-based market insights versus decisions substantially based on opinions and gut. Extend thinking beyond current customers and brainstorm possibilities to reach beyond current demand. Providing your client with information such as market research builds your credibility. Share your synthesized point of view about what your client should consider to achieve their business objectives.

What could disrupt your organization’s growth?

Examine potential disruptions to the business, whether it is losing market share, increased regulatory requirements, or the effect of potentially industry game-changing technology. These are the sudden shifts that could have profound impact akin to what businesses experienced with the COVID-19 pandemic. How can the business be best positioned to align with favorable trends and mitigate the risk of unfavorable ones? Is there an opportunity to initiate industry disruptions to your client’s advantage? For example, how can a lower cost position and differentiation be achieved at the same time?

What should your business do more of to fuel growth?

Understand the commercial strengths of the business at this time. What are the foundational elements that should be bolstered or minimally maintained? To what extent can relationships and assets be leveraged to grow? Are there synergies with other businesses owned, privileged relationships with customers or industry specific talent, or competitive advantage from distinctive capabilities, assets or processes?

How can products and services be improved from the current offering?

Explore how your client can improve the products or services they bring to the market. What are the opportunities to penetrate further with existing customers in existing markets? What are the product or service opportunities to enable this? What are the logical market adjacencies to current markets and opportunities to win with existing products? Which new products or services grow the bundle sold to existing customers or win more customers in existing and/or new organization where they are part of a “greater good.” Community volunteering or other employee enrichment programs will provide another reason for people to stay.

How is your community? 

One of the reasons people stay in their jobs is due to relationships they have with co-workers and their boss. This has become more difficult through a movement to “remote” and “hybrid” work. Managers will need to find new and creative ways for their teams to build those relationships with each other or they will lose this “stickiness”.

Managers who are spending their time and energy on upward “impression management” or who lack a strong connection with their direct reports, will lose their top performers. A thoughtful and planned approach to management is critical for every leader. Everyone should assume that their best talent is being recruited every day. The truth is the bar has never been higher for leaders in today’s environment.



6 Steps to Building an Onboarding Plan

February 23rd, 2021 by Amy Suitter

6 Steps to Build an Onboarding Plan

It is natural after completing an exhaustive executive search to feel as though you have reached the finish line. Studies show the real work begins when the new executive begins employment. The first three to six months will have a major impact on the long-term trajectory of a new executive. 50% of executives fail or leave the organization within their first 18 months. This Harvard Review article also points out the actual cost of these hiring mistakes can easily be ten times the annual salary.  (It is also well documented that these failures are rooted in mistakes and missteps during the first 3 – 6 months.)

The best approach is to have an onboarding or “integration” plan crafted in advance for the new executive beginning employment. The right time to build this plan is during the executive search if not before. Here are six steps for building that plan.

  1. Build a list of goals and actions for the first 3, 6 and 12 months. This is a good companion to the job description. This list of goals, actions and desired achievements is often the best tool to use in vetting potential candidates. This will serve as the center piece of the onboarding plan. This also allows an opportunity to level set expectations across constituencies.
  2. Facilitate key meetings and introductions. Of course, you will have an itinerary for the new executive that includes meetings with the key stakeholders surrounding the person’s role. Just as important is identifying other key influencers and individuals that may be “derailers” or “challenging personalities”. Having a good understanding of the political landscape will be important to this new person as they navigate this new environment.
  3. Defining the Culture and evaluating candidates for culture fit is critical. Even if you feel you have hired a good fit for your culture, a new person will not inherently understand the norms, behaviors and idiosyncrasies that exist in an organization. Giving a new executive insight and guidance with these factors will provide them with a much less bumpy path.
  4. Establish the right pace of change. We can all agree that turning the furniture over on the first day is a bad course of action. Organizations differ dramatically on the expected behavior and approach during the first 90 days of employment. In many cases the company is asking for this time to be focused on gaining understanding and building relationships.  In other organizations the new person is expected to hit the ground running and evaluated on early wins. It is easy to envision an executive reaching for that “early win” only to find out it was a misstep. You want to hire people who will get things done, but ensure you are setting the person up to move at the proper pace.
  5. Communication and feedback along with way is critical. Plan feedback events at three, six and twelve months. Create open lines of communication with check-ins daily when moments require it. Unanticipated questions will no doubt arise during those first days of employment. Your style might not be “directive”, but every new hire needs direction at the start. Everyone brings their own set of behaviors from their past work environments and cultures that will raise questions.
  6. Understanding team dynamics is critical for a new executive. How to effectively work across an organization and how to build teamwork within the culture will be critical knowledge. What worked best in a previous culture may not be the best approach in a new environment. In some environments clear direction is critical and in other environments a more empowered group will be demotivated by a directive leadership approach. On the other hand, if a group is used to being “directed” …they may not adapt easily to an empowering approach.

It is always helpful to have outside coaching and advising firms assisting with onboarding and development of team members. Two such firms include:

Pondera Advisors – Leader and Team Development/Integration and pre-employment assessment & more.  https://ponderaadvisors.com/

Avenue Consulting – Onboarding and Executive Coaching & more. www.avenueleadership.com

Sources and good reads:




Hiring for Private Equity

January 21st, 2021 by Amy Suitter

Hiring for Private Equity

9 critical factors for CEOs or CFOs

By Bill Benson

The difference between winning and losing often comes down to having the right players on the team. Private equity firms have significant skin in the game and are acutely aware of the need to hire the right executives for their portfolio companies. PEG firms will typically prefer a candidate who has been part of a private equity grow and sell transaction. Candidates who have this experience are increasingly hard to find. It will likely be necessary to consider candidates who have relatable experience and the right intangibles. Here are 9 essential candidate qualities to consider when vetting your C-level executive for private equity.

1. Motivation – You need a driven candidate with a large motor to tackle the challenge and lead organization to a finish line. Money can and should be a huge motivating factor. The person who has been through repetitive sales exits may not be as motivated as someone looking for their first big win. This is not a fit for someone seeking work life balance as a priority.

2. Team Leadership – This is not an individual sport. It is critical for a team to work together to accomplish the mountain of work associated with building a platform or growth company. The right candidate will be confident without being arrogant. They will listen, ask questions and be genuine during the interview.

3. Transparent – The CEO and CFO are critical links in a flow of information. Withholding information or hiding problems will undermine confidence with sponsors and investors within the PE environment.

4. Smart Intelligence on its own is not a guarantee of success. You will however need someone who can verbally and mentally hang with whip smart investors and equity partners. The person will need to have critical thinking capability. IQ needs to be combined with common sense and EQ. Sorry if screening by intelligence offends the egalitarians out there. PE is not an “everyone gets a ribbon” environment.

5. Temperance and resilience – It takes a level of patience, self-confidence, and open-mindedness to be highly functioning within this dynamic, team-oriented environment. Making sound decisions quickly and under pressure requires the person who can stay present during chaos. The right candidate cannot be thin skinned, easily agitated or intellectually rigid. Having failed or experienced significant challenges should not be considered a sign of weakness. Things will never go exactly as planned so you want someone who has experienced adversity. It is key to understand how they reacted to challenges they have faced.

6. Systems and Data Thinker In a growth company environment, the leader needs to envision the company in the next state and put the building blocks in place to get there quickly. This person is often replacing an entrepreneur who did not have this capability. Having a combination of experience in larger environments as well as growth companies, is a good under pinning. More important is a person’s ability to lead by more than the strength of their personality. The right candidate will use data to make decisions, create repeatable processes and integrate with the right systems to support both the short- and long-term goals.

7. Shirtsleeve – Senior leaders in middle market PE growth companies will spend a percent of their time being “hands-on”. This is a key consideration if you are considering a corporate executive for a PE leadership role. This person will need to be ready to “zoom in” and “zoom out” to gain that hands-on understanding of progress to goal across the organization. Being able to both execute and create strategy is not part of every leader’s DNA. Many prefer to sit at a more strategic level. It is critical for someone moving from corporate to private equity to be prepared for a less cushy and resource laden environment. Being prepared to regularly communicate a “hands-on”, detailed understanding of the organization to investors will be required.

8. Bias for Action – Choose urgency over process or empathy. The clock is often ticking toward a time frame to sell. This creates a heightened expectation around the speed of growth or cost cutting. This person will need to be collaborative and be transparent with decisions. They will need to listen and show concern for employees but also make decisions quickly and backed with data not feelings. Some highly empathetic leaders who might thrive in some environments, may not be able to make decisions as urgently as the PE owned business requires.

9. Decision Maker  We have discussed that PE firms value urgency and data. It is also important that the leader can make decisions without all the information and under challenging circumstances. Often these decisions are shrouded with urgency, ambiguity, complexity and/or volatility. This requires using a combination of intuition and facts along with a mind that is open and agile. A good rule of thumb is articulated by the US Marine Corps which they call the ‘‘The 70% Solution’. This is used for warfare and combat situations, but it also applies to business.



How to Hire Better Talent

November 23rd, 2020 by Amy Suitter

How To Hire Better Talent

Selecting the Right Candidate

Successfully finding and hiring the best people is largely based on selecting the right candidate during a hiring process. We often see postings with a laundry list of requirements relating to very specific experiences, industries or even technical requirements such as software skills. These items are typically taken right off the job description. This leads to the assumption that someone who checks all the boxes or has performed a similar role will be the best person to hire. Why is this likely the wrong approach? Let’s consider these six options.

1. What are the odds that the perfect “experience” candidate is also the best potential performer? Even if the candidate that checks all the boxes is out there, it would be like arranging the moon and the stars for that person to also be the best performer or talent available. It is very often not the case.

2. Often the job description does not address what you are looking for the person to accomplish. Make a list of desired outcomes for the prospective hire. This provides a better screening guideline.

3. What factors do you consider when you promote someone from within? Do you look at years of experience and check lists of requirements or do you consider their performance? Why not look at the same factors for external candidates?

4. You want to expand the field of candidates, not limit it. The best candidates typically evolve out of a larger pool, rather than a limited one. Despite the pandemic, we are still in a talent short market, and painting yourself into a corner with a long list of requirements will not help you hire the best person.

5. Don’t “fall in love” with a particular attribute or experience. E.g. Worked for a specific competitor or company, degree from a certain school, or other singular “WOW” factor. These biases or perceptions often have little to do with actual performance.

6. Finally, don’t disqualify a great candidate because of a particular factor. Just because you had a bad experience hiring someone from a certain company or with a certain background, it doesn’t mean that it applies to all candidates with that attribute. We all have a tendency to project our past issues forward, but it is important to stay objective and be open-minded, so we aren’t screening out someone that may be a great fit.

How to Hire Better Talent

Selecting a Search Firm

September 9th, 2020 by Amy Suitter

Selecting a Search Firm

by Bill Benson

There are many good reasons for companies to use an executive search firm. Two of these reasons include gaining access to a larger pool of potential candidates and adding a layer of candidate evaluation and screening. This extra layer will provide objectivity to help mitigate the costly risk of a hiring mistake. The right search professional will help you navigate the process to a successful outcome. When it comes to finding an executive, one size does not fit all. Your most important decision about the search will involve selecting the right partner to help lead you to the right candidate. Whether you are leading a Search Committee hiring a CEO or you’re seeking a top executive or a key specialized technical resource…. choosing the right search firm partner will likely determine your success. .

This article will explore 6 factors to help you make the right decision.

1.Capability to Build a Complete Candidate Pool

The key to a successful search is building a high-quality and deep talent pool. This is accomplished by recruiting candidates who are not actively looking. Active or networking candidates are just the “tip of the iceberg”. You may get lucky and find a great person through an ad or posting, but it is hard to measure a candidate without strong comparisons. Make sure your search firm partner is primarily a search/recruiting firm. Understand how they are accessing the entire pool of candidates (iceberg). Many consulting firms and human resource organizations include executive search as a service offering. These firms are typically posting the position along with some networking. You want to make sure the prospective search firm is focused on researching and outreach as a key part of the process.

2. Where Should the Firm be Located?

I think we have all heard the quote “A profit is not without honor, except in his own land”. Don’t assume the right search solution is a large “national” firm and located in a big city. It is a misconception that a national search cannot be conducted from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Des Moines, Iowa, or any other location. A firm located nearby will be more effective in selling the local “place to live and work” to an unfamiliar out of town candidate.You will have less cost and flight risk with candidates who do not have to relocate. Every search starts concentrically with the local market or region, so leaping to a large city out of your area may not be in your best interest. The firm located near you is also more likely to care about building a long-term relationship due to having shared interests and contacts. Clearly if you are seeking a “C level” executive for a large company, someone who specializes in these positions may be located in a larger city or work for that “name brand” search firm. When selecting a firm specialized in a vertical space like Fashion, CPG or Pharma, that firm might be located where the industry is concentrated. Sometimes the best resource for a specific niche may be located in a completely different location.

3. Evaluate the “Person” Not Just the Firm

You might believe that hiring that “name brand” search firm will assure a successful outcome. It is more likely the person conducting the search will determine the success of the search. Top consultants at these larger firms are working on high profile positions. If you are looking for the CFO of General Motors, you want someone networked at that level. If you are a mid-sized company looking for an executive, then you often get a more experienced search professional when you work with a boutique, mid-sized firm. Ask questions to understand who will be conducting the search, vetting the candidates, and consulting on the assignment. A trusting relationship with the professional conducting the search is important. You also need a search professional who understands and can assess work style and culture fit. Often, an executive is derailed due to “fit” rather than technical capability. The right consulting resource will also help you navigate the onboarding/integration of the candidate as well.

4. Demonstrated and Repetitive Success

When selecting a search firm, you want a firm that can demonstrate that they have successfully completed similar searches. Everyone believes their business and industry is unique, but you do not need a clockmaker to find a COO of a clock manufacturing company. You need a clockmaker to make a clock and an executive search professional with repetitive success filling leadership positions with companies of similar size. The firm should have success within the function (finance, operations, sales) and/or the industry or related industries. The other two factors are the location and level of the position. If your position is a “C level” position in a Fortune 500 company then you want a firm that has worked on similar positions. If you are a mid-sized family-owned business, then experience with these organizations is important.

5. Gauge the Motivation & Commitment Level

Not every firm or individual will approach your assignment with the same level of commitment. Make sure the firm/search consultant is fully invested in finding the candidate who will deliver the best results. Do you have mutual interests or connections with the firm? How important is your business to this firm? You want to feel as though the search professional has a shared responsibility for the successful outcome beyond collecting a fee. Do you feel as though your relationship is important to them? Do they offer a guarantee that backs up their commitment?

6. Costs, Capacity and Other Factors to Consider

While you want to understand the total costs associated with selecting a firm you do not want to use price as a primary reason to exclude or select a firm. The value associated with hiring the right candidate should far exceed any price difference. You want to understand the search professional’s capacity to perform the search. If you’re selecting a firm due to their specialization within an industry, make sure the search professional is not hamstrung from contacting candidates who might be working for “clients” within that industry space. Ask whether specific companies are “off limits” because they are clients. This will give you a good start to determine the right search firm partner for your critical hiring need.Selecting an Executive Search Firm


Do you have a strategic HR function?

August 4th, 2020 by Amy Suitter

Do you have a strategic HR function?

Where is HR in your company? We often hear the euphemism “seat at the table” as a descriptive term to determine whether a human resource function truly participates in steering company strategy. Does your HR function have a “seat at the table”?  The human resources function plays a key role in the operating of a company. These traditional roles include; managing policies and discipline, employee administration, benefits and payroll. They resolve people issues and support managers in hiring, training and managing labor practices. They are often the fixer of other people’s problems. They are often the advocate or voice for employees.  Everyone will agree these are critical functions to do well. Many companies operate just fine with a tactical but not strategic human resources function. Many of these companies get exactly what they want and expect from HR. In order to get to the next level it is likely that a more evolved HR function will be necessary. The need might be driven by increased competition and rising performance expectations or a need for more consistency throughout an organization. Organizational development facilitated by a professional is invaluable from the standpoint of succession planning and talent optimization. Organizational effectiveness and culture leadership can make the difference in sustaining the culture of an organization through these large changes. You may need executive compensation advice, improved HR technology or a more sophisticated performance management system. In reality, you probably need it all. We will further explore by asking questions to understand your current state and then offer five characteristics of a strategic HR function

Start by asking these questions

1.   Where does HR report? It is often the case HR reports to either Operations (largest number of employees) or Finance (budget or compliance reasons). Often in these situations HR is not at the decision table. You may have good reasons for your structure but HR should ideally report to the top of the house for it to carry the right strategic weight.

2. Is your HR leader trusted and respected by the senior leadership team? This person needs to have iron clad relationships with the other senior executives.

3. Is HR primarily a compliance function? Are they obstructing needed change and growth? HR needs to proactively lead talent strategies to help the company move forward.

4. Can your HR Leader perform GAP analysis? Are they using KPI’s to measure success? Are they a business person as well as an HR person? Do the goals within human resources support the overall goals of the organization?

5. Do you view your HR function as modern? Do they look around the corner and at future trends? Do they embrace technology? What is the “employee brand” of your organization? What is their role in advancing the culture of the company?

5 Strategic HR Roles

1. Human Capital Expert – Maximizing the contribution of everyone within the organization. Talent acquisition and management strategies, training and leadership development, succession planning.

2. HR Strategist – Adapts both workforce and leadership structure to align with the future. Organizational development and effectiveness, measure results, survey, correct course as necessary.

3. Culture Keeper – How is the culture communicated? Are we “Walking the Talk?” Is the culture reflective of where the company wants to go? Does it represent what is “right” vs. what is expedient?

4. Change Manager – change occurs via people. Is the HR Leader the change leader (or one of them) within the organization?

5. Advisor/Consultant to CEO – Ensure HR goals and strategies are aligned with organizational goals and strategies. Key consultant and confidante within the senior leadership team.

Information from this article was a collaboration between WilliamCharles and Steve Crandall. Steve Crandall is an Executive HR professional, leadership coach and Master Trainer (L.E.T) Learn more about Steve at https://www.crandallpartners.com/principals-bio.

Contract or Interim Hiring

June 17th, 2019 by Amy Suitter

Contract or Interim Hiring

Most companies find contract staffing a complimentary addition to their overall staffing and talent acquisition strategy. Talent continues to be a challenge for companies given the supply and demand characteristics of the current economy and labor market. There are many reasons to consider hiring a contract employee.

  1. Stay Flexible – One constant in business is change. Having a contingent element to your staffing budget gives you flexibility. This is true whether you are growing, shrinking or in a seasonal peak or valley. Contract options can help you stay lean.
  2. Fill a Gap – You need a solution for a period of time, but not permanently. This might be filling in for a maternity or some other leave of absence. Perhaps you feel you need additional head count in a particular area and bringing someone in on contract can help you determine the right level of staff to hire on a more permanent basis. When someone leaves unexpectedly, filling the position on a contract basis while you take the proper time to conduct a thorough search may be the right approach.
  3. Import a Skill – A contract resource can supplement your current team with a specific skill set or capability that is lacking. This also prevents you from making a long term hire for a specific skillset needed for a shorter term project or to build an organizational capability that doesn’t currently exist.
  4. Expand Resources – This current labor supply environment makes it challenging to find certain types of talent. You can expand your resources by making use of people who are open to gig or project type work. This is also an option when you simply need more hands on deck to get something accomplished.
  5. Contract to Hire – Sometimes all factors align and you may decide to convert a contract person to a direct hire. You now have a known quantity on board, a person that has already auditioned and can hit the ground running. This is a great way to tap into those on deck players for unexpected needs.
  6. Optimize Finances – Use contractors to manage peak work-loads and projects. Keeping your direct hiring level at a level constant with the “valleys” will optimize your fixed employment costs. This will make your CFO happy!

Hiring contract or interim talent for shorter term needs is a compelling strategy in today’s labor market. Many professionals are finding it advantageous to work interim gigs. They can utilize skill sets they have developed that are in demand, build relationships with a variety of organizations and keep a more flexible work-life balance by working on a contract basis.

We will dive deeper into this subject in our July newsletter including misperceptions along with a couple case studies. If you are considering hiring talent on an interim or project basis WilliamCharles Search Group is happy to discuss this option with you.

Call one of our search consultants to learn more: 616-464-4355

The Dream Job. Are You Ready if it Knocks on Your Door?

September 7th, 2018 by Amy Suitter

You are content in your job.  But let’s face it.  It’s a job.  A means to an end.  But what if your dream job was right around the corner.  What if an employer was proactively seeking their next superstar and that star was YOU?   Would you be ready? 

Here are some ideas on how to prepare yourself, fine-tune your personal brand and be job ready when your dream position comes knocking:

  1. First things first – the resume. If you’re content in your current position (or even if you’re not), it’s likely you haven’t touched your resume in a while. But it’s time to blow the dust off and spruce it up.  The resume oftentimes is your only chance to get your foot in the door.  What does it say about you?  Is it job current?  Are your most up-to-date volunteer and board positions represented?  What about ongoing education, certifications or additional training?  Take some time with this one.  Ensure the resume reflects you and your experience accurately.
  2. Social media can make or break you. Gone are the days of separating your social and professional world.  Employers are actively reviewing social media tools their candidates are using.  A recent CareerBuilder survey stated that nearly 40% of all hiring managers are screening candidates based on their online personas – and nearly 70% of those candidates were ruled out due to questionable personal content online. Review your social profiles and delete any inappropriate photos, vulgar language or complaints about your current job or employer.  Are your accounts representing a well rounded, polished professional with strong communication skills? Now is the time to manage your virtual reputation.
  3. Stay connected. Your references should be your biggest fans. You’ve probably provided their contact information over the course of your career, but when is the last time you had a conversation with them?  Are they aware of your current employment situation? If it’s been awhile, it might be time to reevaluate who you are providing as a reference.  Are there more current or relevant contacts that can speak on your behalf?

Update your list.  Give them a call.  Make sure they are ready and able discuss your background and experience.

  1. Be prepared to discuss your individual or team accomplishments. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day to day of doing your job, but when is the last time you reflected on your successes.  Could you name a few if you were asked?  It’s time to take stock of the individual positive contributions you’ve made in your roles.  Make a list.  Identify the outcomes.  Have you led successful teams? The same is true of this scenario.  Can you speak to successful team outcomes?  Be prepared to do so. Future employers want to know that you’ve demonstrated successes throughout your career.
  2. Strengths vs. Weaknesses (or Opportunities for Improvement). Everyone’s got them.   Not unlike identifying accomplishments, being asked to articulate strengths and weaknesses is common in the interview process.  Yet many interviewees have a difficult time pinpointing these areas.  Be prepared to discuss them.    In addition, have examples ready.  Interviewers want proof.  Can you validate these areas?  How have you utilized your strengths or overcome your weaknesses? How do you, in fact, know these are true areas to highlight?  While it’s not easy to expose some of these vulnerabilities, most employers value this level of transparency and self-awareness.
  3. Continuous Improvement. It’s not just a cliché. What are you doing to ‘improve’ yourself, meaning, what is your professional development plan?  How are you expanding your skillsets?  Too many candidates rely on their employers to provide and resource their professional growth.  For many organizations, this simply isn’t a focus.  Or they are cutting or shrinking these budgets.   It’s time to recognize that gone are the days of employer-funded or directed growth and development. Be intentional.  Own your career path and growth plan. You are in charge of your development, not your employer.
  4. Be proactive. You probably have a job description.  Do you follow it closely?  Do you draw a hardline on tasks outside of your job?  Or are you open to expand your skills outside of your defined role? An individual who is willing to take on additional responsibilities becomes a more desirable candidate every time.  Not only does this approach highlight someone who is a team player, it also illustrates someone who is proactive, seeking to better themselves and their organization.
  5.  When opportunity knocks, open the door.  You may have few chances in your life to change your trajectory.  Don’t miss them.

How to Approach Succession Planning

February 22nd, 2018 by Amy Suitter

Succession Planning


Many companies consider succession planning a key strategy for future growth and continuity. What considerations are necessary to this process? Many organizations consider succession planning to merely be an activity identifying replacements for incumbent positions. I find this to be self-limiting, and indeed, increasingly ineffective because of the fast rate of change, turnover and organizational fluidity. Instead, many organizations have developed a broader process by which a bench can be built without specifically targeting future positions. Job rotation immersions, talent utility pools, cross functional training and other activities can build the skills of future leaders without committing them to a specific function. This gives the organization flexibility for the future while giving high potential staff recognition and a challenge to develop a broader skill set.

Are you saying that there shouldn’t be specific target replacements for positions? Of course, this often makes sense. Say for instance that the Finance area has a CFO who is about to retire and the Controller, just below this position, is performing well and has the capacity to succeed the incumbent. This would seem natural and a given career opportunity for the Controller. However, in many other cases, especially regarding top management positions, it is generally unwise to predict how the future will unfold and lock in a specific transition. Unless the change is imminent, things can change very quickly and alternatives are important. Even in this example, while the Controller might be a logical successor, if might also make sense to ask, given this vacancy – is this the model we need going forward and can the Controller rise to that- if it is significantly different. Succession planning is about developing options for filling positions and development of staff which gives multiple opportunities – not locking in a particular map.

Some might be concerned that if we develop a good bench, but don’t have positions available, we may lose our good work and talent to someone else. That’s always a possibility, but not a good reason not to invest in development and career opportunities for staff. Without it, your high potential people will leave anyway because they don’t see a future or commitment to their growth. They are always marketable. So, the burden is on the organization to see to it that positions are developed, or indeed invented, to challenge their best talent.

Do these same principles apply to private or family held organizations? Yes and no. To the overall staff, the principles apply the same. For the owner(s) and next generation succession, roles of family in the organization are very different. Research shows that only around 30% of all family owned businesses survive into the second generation, only 12% will survive into the third, and only 3% make it to the 4th generation and beyond, according to JSA Advising, a family business consulting firm. While there are many reasons for this, in my experience the most prevalent are:

• Failure to accurately assess the skills, potential and interest of next generation family members.

• Failure to develop and deploy a transition plan from current generation to the next: roles, responsibilities, governance, etc.

• The mistaken assumption that the criterion for succession is being a family member. A good, but often painful exercise is to ask, “If the next generation were not related to the family, would I hire these people?”

• Failure to candidly deal with wealth and control succession, along with management succession.

Sounds like a pretty precarious environment! It can be, but doesn’t need to be. In my practice, the companies that have most successfully moved control to the next generation have done so because there was deliberate hard work and thinking on the front end, new management was qualified, committed and well trained, departing management/owners were actively willing to release the reins, and the organization was healthy enough to handle these changes.