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These Are the 3 Biggest Trends in Workforce Innovation

Keeping up with the changing world requires constant innovation — and this includes hiring. Evolving technology, the shifting generational makeup of the workforce, and a candidate-centric market[...]

February 18, 2020

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Four Ways to Have Hiring Managers Fall in Love with Your MSP Team

The business world doesn’t need more frenemies

If the American business culture over the past few decades has a theme, at least in its messaging, it’s one based on a tone of antagonism. We often laud successful executives as cutthroat. We call them “corporate raiders” and describe their fiscal conquests as campaigns, in the militaristic sense. The very nature of the legal system is defined as an adversarial process. We value competition to such high degrees that the best-selling business guides frequently invoke Sun Tzu, a vaunted Chinese military strategist from two millennia ago. Sun Tzu’s principles have been applied to every conceivable corporate mission, as reflected in works such as Sun Tzu: Strategies for Marketing - 12 Essential Principles for Winning the War for Customers, Sun Tzu For Success: How to Use the Art of War to Master Challenges and Accomplish the Important Goals in Your Life, and The Art of War for Women: Sun Tzu's Ancient Strategies and Wisdom for Winning at Work.

The workplace is filled with aggressive phrases rooted in the language of warfare: we “kill it” in our business deals, we convene in “war rooms,” we glorify “hostile takeovers,” we “cannibalize” concepts, and we too often refer to our competitors -- and even our colleagues -- as opponents in some sort of ideological battle. Consider the resurgence in popularity of the term “frenemy.” The portmanteau first appeared in print in 1953, when famed gossip columnist Walter Winchell coined it to sum up our nation’s tenuous relationship with the Soviet Union. In the late 1970s, the label was reapplied to depict business interactions.

A Businessweek article stated that frenemies in the workplace had become commonplace fixtures, due to increasingly informal environments and the “abundance of very close, intertwined relationships that bridge people’s professional and personal lives ... [while] it certainly wasn’t unheard of for people to socialize with colleagues in the past, the sheer amount of time that people spend at work now has left a lot of people with less time and inclination to develop friendships outside of the office.”

Now, it’s how people refer to acquaintances and peers in their social networks. And we wonder why our working relationships with teammates and managers seem so strained. It’s a recurring theme covered in nearly every HR industry publication. Last week alone, there were over 40 articles dedicated to pondering business cultures of disengagement, unsustainable attrition, manager-employee issues, internal conflicts and failures to attract candidates with effective employment brands. A large part of all these concerns most likely arises from the language we employ and the perceptions they create. To succeed in this new generation, especially as socially conscious Millennials take center stage, we need to find ways of gaining trust, acceptance and nurturing relationships -- making love, not war.


A hiring manager’s Dear John letter

As MSPs mature to their 2.0 states and increasingly unseat incumbent providers to take over legacy accounts, the transformative stages come with a lot of new faces. While some scenarios involve an overly insular and comfortable relationship, many other situations find MSP account professionals at odds with new and unfamiliar hiring managers.

Two years ago, while consulting with a large MSP, we witnessed how quickly an otherwise productive partnership soured because of adversarial perceptions and resistance to change. The client, a multinational manufacturing company, consolidated its global spend into its national program. The initial hiring manager was replaced, leaving the MSP teams to build a new relationship with the incoming hiring manager -- a more experienced, metrics-driven, no-nonsense professional with a keen sense of finance. During the first meeting, the newly installed hiring manager began asking probing and pointed questions about mediocre performance ratings and, in particular, what she considered to be unreasonable SLAs.

This could have been a highly collaborative and productive conversation. The hiring manager considered the SLAs unattainable only in the sense that her predecessor had demanded unreasonable terms. She believed the performance could be improved by making the established metrics more realistic to the MSP. Yet, the MSP account executive didn’t take the discussions that way.

Instead of absorbing the constructive criticism and accepting the new hiring manager’s outreach to re-engineer a more efficient and achievable success together, the MSP executive formed an opinion of the hiring manager as an adversary, using phrases like “frenemy,” “obstacle” and “opponent” to describe the person. The MSP’s former sponsor had been more friendly, personal and complacent about tolerable performance. Yet that hiring manager was ineffective in the role. By letting her internal dialog tarnish her perception of the new hiring manager, the MSP account executive nearly lost the client’s business.


Ways to make hiring managers, even prickly new ones, love you

Attempting to establish a partnership with a new hiring manager, or improve an existing one, requires a serious and committed effort, in which you, the MSP relationship expert, must take full accountability. Where trust has been eroded, or hasn’t yet flowered, you’ll need patience. A series of ongoing and measurable accomplishments, no matter how small, will pave a much smoother path toward the goals you’re hoping to reach.

Yet, you must remain strong and focus on actions, not words tinged with apologies or attempts at persuasion. Don’t agree to commitments you can’t keep for the sake of earning credibility, and don’t passively accept strong criticisms and unhealthy exchanges to avoid confrontation. Engaging in meaningful discourse and striving to understand the root causes or business reasons for the hiring manager’s decisions will go a long way toward building trust.

Find ways to respect the hiring manager. Seek out likeable and admirable qualities in the hiring manager, and then capitalize on them. People sense the insincerity of false adulation. By feigning respect, you can destroy it and raise suspicion. Shadow the hiring manager and carefully note his or her skills, approach, behaviors, style and successes that you would choose to emulate in the same role. Tell the other members of your team about those characteristics, which will rally them to focus on those positive attributes as well. Praise the hiring manager for good decisions, constructive feedback and when you recognize those admirable traits being put to use.

In doing so, you lay the foundations for loyalty -- to the hiring manager, the client and their vision for the overall program. If you have concerns, voice them directly and privately with the hiring manager. Don’t conspire against him. Don’t circumvent her and report issues to her superiors. Give the hiring manager the chance to work with you to redress situations and overcome hurdles, demonstrating the importance of the relationship to you and your team.

Honor your commitments and obligations. Again, sincerity is critical. You’ll get ahead by under-promising and over-delivering. It’s easy to accept tasks and make promises we think we can meet to please hiring managers. We must, however, only commit to those things we are certain we can achieve. Missing deadlines, exaggerating expectations for anticipated results and being inconsistent will hobble efforts to build and expand credibility. You must prove your team to be reliable, punctual and invested in the client’s business outcomes. Admit mistakes and take ownership for correcting them, then prevent future occurrences.

Communicate regularly with the hiring manager and ensure complete transparency into the program and the MSP team’s performance. Be equally forthcoming about your intentions, plans, ongoing improvement efforts and innovations for the program. This gives the hiring manager an opportunity to collaborate, prioritize the ideas and help set realistic boundaries for your strategies. By the end of this discussion, you will have worked out a solid action plan with deliverables you can honor.

Establish professional boundaries and dissent. A hiring manager serious about the success of the program relishes honesty. It’s not always easy to say “no” or deliver challenging news, yet the truth will always be preferable. Sometimes, we must “lose with integrity” rather than make false promises or fabricate results. When we stumble and immediately inform hiring managers, they will likely step up to help redress the issues. They will respect your integrity and rapid response in mitigating disruptions or program risks. A perceived lie destroys credibility and is often talked about in wider circles.

Set realistic boundaries with the hiring manager and mutually develop attainable SLAs, KPIs, project deadlines and schedules for deliverables up front. Engage and involve the hiring manager in these decisions -- don’t present a formalized plan without this input. Not only will you avoid creating expectations you might not meet -- given the shifting and dynamic nature of the client’s business -- you will convey to the hiring manager a true spirit of partnership, reciprocity and cooperation.

As these boundaries are put in place and evolve, the need to say “no” could become unnecessary.

Solicit and act on feedback. In our earlier examples, we witnessed the pitfalls of failing to assess program performance, working to wring feedback from hiring managers and acting on recommendations or concerns. MSPs must remember that they’re not at war with hiring managers, and hiring managers aren’t campaigning against their MSPs. In fact, it’s the hiring manager’s appeals for support that inspire this sort of outsourcing. The hiring manager should be viewed as a trusted ally. Of course a relationship is a two-way street, yet somebody must break ground first. In this case, it should be the MSP.

  • Regularly and actively solicit feedback from hiring managers.
  • When a hiring manager calls to present corrective feedback or advice, demonstrate that you are listening, taking notes and formulating a plan to address the recommendations.
  • Where a VMS is utilized, incorporate the hiring manager’s feedback in notes.
  • Thank the hiring manager for bringing issues to your team’s attention. Engage the hiring manager in plans for resolution. Follow up with an email or, even better, a brief report outlining the issues, the discussion and steps you plan to take toward remedies and future improvements. Make the plan realistic and adhere to it.
  • Make the action plan a project with repeatable processes. Create milestones and attainable deliverables, with a reasonable schedule in place. At the completion of each phase or milestone, present your results to the hiring manager and request feedback. Refine processes as necessary and move on to the next stage.
  • Integrate these actions and accomplishments into your regularly scheduled formal business reviews. Not only will this highlight the efforts of your MSP, it will showcase the success of the partnership you have cultivated with the hiring manager. When the hiring managers receive praise from their superiors, they are more likely to recognize the value of their relationship with your MSP.
Sunil Bagai
Sunil Bagai
Sunil is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, thought leader and influencer who is transforming the way companies think about and acquire talent. Blending vision, technology and business skills honed in the most innovative corporate environments, he has launched a new model for recruitment called Crowdstaffing which is being tapped successfully top global brands. Sunil is passionate about building a company that provides value to the complete staffing ecosystem including clients, candidates and recruiters.
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