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STEM Careers

Job candidates with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills are some of today’s most coveted professionals, and it’s a buyer’s market for people with this technical talent. In order to compete with other employers for STEM job candidates, employers need to go the extra mile. Here are 5 things your company can do to attract STEM candidates, from the initial inquiry all the way through to an accepted offer.

Start an apprenticeship program

One way to turn up the flow of STEM job applicants is to establish a presence in high schools and colleges. New apprenticeship programs are appearing across the technology sector, according to the Wall Street Journal. When you position your brand as an advocate for improving STEM education, you develop an early loyalty among tomorrow’s top talent.

Present opportunities for career growth

STEM candidates want to use their skills to have an impact on the world, and they picture themselves on a rising career trajectory. Your company needs to publicize a policy of facilitating professional development, so that you are seen by skilled job candidates as an ally in building their careers. Encouraging personal ownership over the life cycle of a project is an important method of supporting professional growth.

Define job responsibilities clearly

The data analysts at Qubole point out that people skilled in quantitative areas tend to be linear thinkers, and they gravitate towards well-structured responsibilities. Job postings and interviews should be clear about your organization’s vision, your methods of providing a good work environment, and your approach to personal achievement and group collaboration.

Train and promote from within

Don’t overlook your existing human capital — fresh graduates are not necessarily better than the people who are already committed to your organization. Providing advanced training opportunities can build your talent pool for tomorrow’s needs, while also strengthening your employer brand. “A commitment to training is seen by employees as an investment in their worth and a powerful incentive to stay at the company,” according to CIO.

Invest in technology

Keeping your technology at the industry’s leading edge is fundamental to attracting top talent in the STEM fields. Any hint of reluctance to invest in tools and training will discourage STEM specialists right from the beginning. The appearance of staying current extends to using the most effective digital tools for hiring and employee recognition.

You will attract top-tier STEM talent by simply being open about the value that these candidates bring to your company. When you send a clear message that you recognize and nurture your employees, you will build your company’s human capital for the long term.

Managing Millennials

Are you hesitant to put Millennials in managerial roles because of their youth and lack of experience? This hesitancy is certainly understandable. As an experienced professional manager, you’re well aware that years in the industry provide insights that no newcomer can automatically acquire. However, it turns out that your company can still benefit from the unique skills younger staff members can bring to leadership roles. Here are three reasons you should look for Millennials with characteristics of a good leader and give them a chance to shine.

Millennials are big on transparency

Younger managers can command loyalty from their direct reports by creating an atmosphere of transparency throughout the work environment. This openness extends from compensation to strategy and company process. With this outlook, Millennial managers will expect productivity to rely on the shared efforts of the group. When problems arise, they can sidestep resentment of their authority, drawing on the collective mind for solutions.

Millennials seek networks, not hierarchy

Training Magazine points out that young adults grew up in a networked social media environment, where they’re related to a web of connections rather than a chain of command. Freed from a preoccupation with preserving authority, they can easily solicit and accept feedback. This willingness to put mutual goals ahead of personal aggrandizement can foster an open exchange of ideas, increasing company-wide trust and leading to valuable innovation.

Millennials give more frequent feedback

Millennials don’t measure productivity in terms of hours at a desk, and they’re not usually fans of formal, scheduled performance reviews. Instead, they’ll use their emotional intelligence to stay connected with their staff, rewarding effort and productivity with frequent, informal expressions of appreciation.

Fast Company reports that Millennials are ready and eager to lead: 82 percent of workers in this age group express an interest in managing, compared with only 57 percent of employees of other ages. Chief Executive Magazine advises that up-and-coming young leaders can be groomed by whetting their curiosity and exposing them to new ideas, then personalizing their contribution and activating their inherent desire to do good in the world.

When you give your most talented young leaders a chance to step forward, and balance their innovative style with the insights of more experienced staff, you’re taking steps toward establishing a robust basis for transitioning your company well into the coming decades.

How to motivate employees during the holidays

The winter holiday season is often a distracting time for employees. They may be hosting family members or planning to travel, the kids are home from school, and they may be working under generalized holiday stress. The common outcome for business is a high absentee rate and a distracted work force, leading directly to lowered productivity. As a manager, it’s your job to find positive ways to keep everyone on task. Below are three basic tips to keep your employees enthusiastic about their jobs despite the pressures of the season.

Plan ahead and be flexible

Don’t let holiday scheduling sneak up on you. Meet with your staff right now to go over everyone’s scheduling needs and to make sure the office doesn’t end up shorthanded. Nothing adds to holiday burnout more quickly than employees being forced to do someone else’s work in addition to their own. If your staff can work remotely, consider letting them extend their time away while still meeting productivity goals. Also remember that winter holiday travel can be affected by weather, and half your team could end up snowed in at an airport across the country. Likewise, allowing schedules to flex a bit to accommodate holiday obligations can help support your employees’ work-life balance and build loyalty to your company.

Create a festive atmosphere

Your employees are going to appreciate your acknowledgment that the holiday season is special. Business Know-How notes that you can increase employee motivation by offering a few celebratory observances. “Secret Santa” exchanges are popular and cost-free for your company. Plus, supplying an assortment of treats and decorations that recognize all of the different holidays that are celebrated during this season can create an atmosphere of emotional warmth. If possible, schedule a holiday party during the workday, so you’ll avoid putting pressure on your employees to invest scarce personal time in work-related events.

Offer rewards and recognition

Kimberly Merriman, associate professor of management at Penn State University, points out that providing parties, gifts, and other forms of acknowledgment carries important symbolic value: “They send a message that the employment relationship is more than simply a transactional one.” A Glassdoor survey focusing on holiday recognition found that “53 percent of employees would stay at their company longer if they felt more appreciation from their boss.”

Knowing how to motivate employees is essential throughout the year, but it takes on unique importance during the holiday season. If you plan ahead, create warmth and recognize each employee’s unique contribution, you can build good will that may last until next year’s holiday season.

LinkedIn Recruiting for Millennials

by Melanie Savas, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist

Now that Millennials are becoming one of the biggest talent pools in the US workforce, organizations are realizing they need new and innovative ways to attract Gen Y candidates, employing both active and passive techniques. This generation brings a new list of requests to potential employers, including top-of-the-line technology, a wider array of benefits, more frequent feedback, growth opportunities, and flexibility. Most importantly, they want to do work that feels meaningful.

Tech-savvy Millennials rely heavily on social media to find the companies that can meet their needs. LinkedIn in particular is seen as a go-to source for professional job listings and employer research. If you want to compete in the war for Millennial talent, you’ll need to refine both your employer branding and your LinkedIn recruiting strategies.


You can start by ensuring your LinkedIn content engages Millennials seeking connection. Revitalize your company profile by highlighting your benefits, company culture, career paths, and how each role contributes to the company’s goals. Solicit employees to talk about their day-in-the-life experiences at your company in video format. Post compelling job descriptions that detail what the candidate would be doing on a daily basis. Include soft skills to attract Gen Yers who may be lighter on experience — think curiosity, critical thinking, self-motivation, and tenacity.


Ongoing engagement is critical to remaining relevant and on the cutting edge of trends. Check your newsfeed and post content during regular working hours, when LinkedIn engagement is highest. Post when you’ll be attending local events and invite others to meet you. Join relevant industry groups and take part in organic conversations. Work with your marketing team to make sure your company is producing articles that position the organization as a thought leader. Connect with industry contacts to expand your network. Finally, don’t forget to engage your current employees. Notify them when new jobs are posted and encourage them to share and submit referrals.


Take advantage of the robust tools and resources LinkedIn offers to achieve the best recruiting results:

Consider posting a sponsored job to attract up to 50 percent more targeted candidates.

Search for candidates by companies, contacts, groups, schools, and interests.

Leverage shared connections to request introductions.

Join the same groups as candidates to connect individually.

Reach out to candidates via InMail and highlight what you have in common, such as a shared contact, company, school, group, or interest.

Review candidates’ profiles and look for level of detail, status updates, groups, endorsements, and recommendations.

Review data analytics to understand where your top Millennial candidates are coming from and where they’ll go when they leave your organization.

Optimize your company page’s SEO rankings by including relevant keywords.

Share jobs via your status updates, groups, and InMail network. Explain what makes the job unique and ask everyone to share the posting. Don’t forget to do the same on your company’s blog, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

Harnessing the power of LinkedIn to reach a Millennial audience can put your organization ahead of the curve in attracting and hiring top talent from this generation.


Melanie SavasMelanie Savas is the Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist at Achievers, where she’s responsible for recruiting top talent for Achievers across North America, and partnering with hiring managers to strategically grow the business.

Marcus Buckingham at ACE 2015

The third of the seismic shifts that will affect human capital, human resources, and the human experience at work is the move from theoretical models to real-world behaviors, according to best-selling author and management expert Marcus Buckingham.

As he explained at Achievers Customer Experience 2015, the seismic shifts will force organizations to zoom in from current broad, depersonalized views to localized, team-based approaches to talent management. Buckingham, who also is the founder and chairman of TMBC, shared that today’s HR development tools are based on models, not people.

One area for change is with competency models. As an employee moves up in a company, the competency model grows to “require” more skills and traits for the job. Buckingham says there is no real data to support competency models, and – very importantly – no one person will have all of the traits, qualities, and competencies in the model. Instead, companies need to get away from models as a way to define positions, people, and promotions and move toward tools for real managers and teams.

For instance, look at this 40-point competency model created by NASA for Systems Engineering leaders. It seems impossible to be able to accurately measure employees based on this overwhelming set of attributes.

NASA Competency Model

Buckingham said that when you study the best teams in an organization, ask the right questions, and compare the answers you get from the best teams to the answers you get from the worst teams, you can see the difference. The questions are in four key areas – Purpose, Excellence, Support, and Future – and are designed to probe how the employee feels about the team and about himself/herself in relation to the organization. Here are some examples:

  1. I am really enthusiastic about the mission of my company.
  2. In my team, I am surrounded by people who share my values.
  3. At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me.
  4. I have a chance to use my strengths every day at work.

The manager – the team lead – is responsible for making employees feel connected to something larger and ensuring they feel they have a stake in it. Organizations must hold team leaders accountable not only for their team’s performance, but also for how team members feel about the organization.

The challenge for today’s enterprise is to move the organization’s view to the local level while balancing the needs of employees to feel at once unique and a part of something bigger than themselves.

Marcus Buckingham Performance Ratings

Marcus Buckingham, best-selling author and founder of TMBC, outlined the three seismic shifts in talent management that will take an organization’s focus down to the local level, upset the traditional performance review process, and up-end traditional competency models.  During his keynote at Achievers Customer Experience (ACE) 2015, Buckingham explained that organizations will need to move from big data to real-time, reliable data.

According to him, performance ratings data is typically “garbage” because it is generated only once or twice per year, and it’s based on the fallacy that human beings can be reliable of raters of other human beings. In fact, he says that humans are horribly unreliable and have been recognized as unreliable for years.

Enterprises invest billions in the traditional performance reviews that take place each year. After the reviews are completed, data has to be compiled, reviewed, and analyzed by human resources and then packaged up and sent back to leaders before anyone can get a raise, promotion, or learning development plan (or termination). But these actions are based on obsolete data. It would be better, as noted in the previous post, to upend the process and make performance reviews an ongoing activity in which managers ask real questions about their employees.

In traditional performance reviews, more than half of the rating is based on the patterns of how the manager rates. For instance, if a manager has given a 4 to two employees in a row, they’ll likely be more inclined to give a 3 or a 5 to the next person in the line. According to the study Understanding the Latent Structure of Job Performance Ratings, “Our results show that a greater proportion of variance in ratings is associated with biases of the rater than with the performance of the ratee.”

Companies have known about – and have been trying to remove – these idiosyncratic rater effects (IRE) for decades. Recently, some companies have decided to stop doing performance reviews altogether. But Buckingham says that reviewing isn’t the problem; it’s the ratings and the IRE that are leading to bad data.

Companies actually need a range of data and a differential between people in order to determine how to pay and promote them. He says companies should be asking: How do we capture good data about our employees?

This takes us back to the team lead. Buckingham says instead of asking the leader to rate his or her employees objectively (which is rarely possible), you should turn the questions around so that the rater is asked to record their own feelings and actions:

  • I always go to Jane when I need extraordinary results. (1-5)
  • I choose to work with Jane as much as I possibly can. (1-5)
  • Would I promote him/her today if I could? (Y/N)
  • Does he/she have a performance problem that I need to address immediately? (Y/N)

Taking those answers and comparing them to data about the team leaders’ intentions for the team, noting how long he/she has worked with each employee, and understanding that each leader has innate rating tendencies (more critical or more ____, for example), creates natural, real performance ranges that can be used to make solid decisions about pay, promotions, and training.

Marcus Buckingham Talent Management

The three seismic shifts that will affect human beings, human capital, and human resources, according to Marcus Buckingham, best-selling author and chair and founder of TMBC, will change organizations’ focus down to the local level, upset the traditional performance review process, and up-end traditional competency models.

At Achievers Customer Experience (ACE) 2015, he elaborated on the first of three: the shift from serving the organization to serving the team leader. As he noted, in any given company, with policies, procedures, culture, and environment being equal, the success of teams can still vary wildly. The only difference? The way the team leader manages the team.

Buckingham says that no matter where you work, as the team leader goes, so goes the organization. Despite the fact that every organization knows this, HR tools are made to serve the organization rather than the team. Most HR departments launch initiatives centrally and push them down to the employees. Buckingham suggests shifting the focus to the local level by borrowing the processes of successful teams and pushing those practices back up.

One way to do this is to change the performance review process. Instead of a once-a-year snapshot (that requires managers to rate employees on a scale) that is fed back to the central HR department for compilation, review, and analysis before being cascaded back to the manager, he said the process should be frequent, local, and personalized. He emphasized that HR should never be the first department to get their hands on performance review data – everything should go to the team leaders first, so that they can act quickly on the findings.

This can be accomplished by moving the focus away from a traditional rating scale to questions that allow the manager to asses less subjective information:

  • What are the strengths of the people on the team – what can each person do?
  • What are the teams doing now – where is the work?
  • How are the team members feeling – right now?

We need to have managers start asking and answering these three questions right now and on a regular basis. By moving the focus from ratings, which Buckingham notes are subject to interpretation by each manager (some managers never give a “3,” for example), to real questions about real people, an organization can truly measure where each team members’ strengths lie and – importantly for engagement – how they feel about their work.

By  serving the  manager rather than the organization and focusing on real-time results and dynamic teams, Buckingham says a company can model success from the bottom up.

Our next post will focus on the 2nd seismic shift: from big data to real-time, reliable data.

Marcus Buckingham at ACE 2015

There are three seismic shifts underfoot that will affect human capital, human resources, and the human experience at work.

These shifts will force organizations to zoom in from their broad, depersonalized view and instead take a localized, team-based approach to talent management. According to best-selling author and management expert Marcus Buckingham, organizations need to overhaul the traditional performance review process and upend existing competency models.

Buckingham, who also is the founder and chairman of TMBC, has dedicated his career to exploring and addressing the complex issues of strengths, management, and leadership in the workplace. He described the three following shifts during his keynote at Achievers Customer Experience 2015:

  • From serving the organization to serving the team leader – Today’s workforce tools are made to serve the organization, but no matter where you work, the team leader affects how successful their employees will be. Despite the fact that every organization knows this, HR tools are not built to serve the team leader. Performance management, employee engagement, etc., are built to serve the organization.
  • From big data to real-time, reliable data – Predictive data is ubiquitous in today’s organizations, but no matter how great the algorithm, if you put in bad data, you’ll get bad data in return. In fact, the way most organizations gather performance ratings data results in faulty, outdated data being put into the system.
  • From theoretical models to real-world behaviors – Today’s HR development tools are based on models, not people, and measure against a set of competencies and skills that are expanded upon as an employee moves up in an organization. This isn’t realistic for two reasons: a) no one person possesses all of the competencies and skills “required” by any given workforce model; and b) there is no data to support competency models, so organizations should not promote against them.

The challenge for HR and business leaders in making these shifts will be finding and deploying tools – many of which exist already – to take the organization’s view from “we” to “me.”

In the following posts, we will explore how Buckingham says organizations can take the focus from a central to a local approach, and how they can balance the needs of employees to feel at once unique and a part of something bigger than themselves.

Jennifer MClure at ACE 2015

Today’s HR professionals should think of themselves as business leaders who happen to work in human resources. When they behave that way, they will be perceived that way by the C-suite, according to Jennifer McClure, president of Unbridled Talent LLC.

McClure spoke at Achievers Customer Experience 2015 about “Getting the C-Suite’s Attention: 7 Strategies for Transforming from HR Leader to Business Leader.” For the past three years, CEOs have listed Human Capital as their number-one challenge, and they look to human resources to help them overcome that challenge. HR leaders must learn to speak to business executives in terms of strategic direction, planning, problem solving and – more than anything else – in terms of money and finances.

McClure outlined seven areas in which an HR leader must transform the way they’re thinking and the way they’re positioning their work. She said that to evolve into a respected business leader, an HR leader must first overcome the fact that data used for workforce planning (absenteeism, retention, etc.) is historical. It’s critical that HR leaders start looking forward, by understanding what needs you have today so that you can project what you’ll need tomorrow. It also is essential for an HR leader to understand which current employees hold institutional knowledge or could actually hurt the business if they left the organization.

Regardless of what industry you are practicing human resources in, McClure says that the “The War for Talent,” coined by McKinsey years ago, is still relevant today. Candidates today are in the driver’s seat, and organizations are in a position where they may be trying to “sell” their organization to people they may not have hired in the past. In fact, McKinsey also predicted a shortfall of up to 18 million skilled workers over the next 5 years, making it even harder for organizations to fill essential roles today and tomorrow.

HR leaders must be able to present human capital “problems” to CEOs with solutions in mind. Be prepared to present data and sell workforce planning and human capital ideas based on how they will help the business and support business strategy. Remembering to speak like a business leader – in terms of dollars and cents and the impact on the bottom line – will help any HR professional.