Category Archives: talent management

Why ‘Scrappers’ Deserve a Closer Look

Every so often, you run across a talk with a message that personally resonates.

Such is the case with a recent presentation delivered by UPS Director of Human Resources for IT Service Delivery Regina Hartley, who gave a talk at the firm’s first-ever TED@UPS Talks event (titled Longitudes) on why job candidates who often don’t look good on paper may be precisely the kinds of folks you might want to be hiring. Or at the very least, people you  might want to take a closer look at . (TED@UPS Talks took place on Sept. 2 at UPS’ corporate headquarters in Atlanta.)

Hartley’s talk, titled “Why I Hire People Others Ignore,” explored the merits of hiring “scrappers” over “silver spoons”—people who had to “fight tremendous odds” to get to where they are versus those who “clearly had advantages” and were “destined for success.”

Hartley, who has worked for UPS for about 25 years, pointed out she doesn’t hold anything against the silver-spoon candidates. “Getting into and graduating from an elite university takes hard work and sacrifice,” she said. “But if your whole life has been engineered toward success, how will you handle the tough times?”

In contrast, she said, scrappers succeed, despite the fact that their lives seem “engineered toward failures.”

“The conventional thinking has been that trauma leads to distress—and there’s been a lot of focus on the resulting dysfunction,” Hartley said. “But during many studies of dysfunction, data began to reveal an unexpected insight: that even the worst circumstances can result in growth and transformation … .”

In non-scientific terms, she explained, “we just say, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Whatever you call it, its discovery has opened the door to entirely new areas of psychological study.”

Hartley also noted that “scrappers have a sense of purpose that prevents them from giving up on themselves. They adopt a ‘what’s the worse-thing-that-can-happen-to-me’ attitude.”

They also understand that “humor gets you through the tough times” and that “people who overcome adversity don’t do it alone.”

For these and other reasons, Hartley said, employers would be well served to “bet on scrappers.”

I spoke to Hartley earlier today and asked what led her to develop this talk for the UPS event. “For years,” she said, “it’s been brewing inside me.

“As an HR professional and an observer of leadership in general, I noticed that so many people [who] I read about and met, especially at UPS, seemed to come from these disadvantaged backgrounds—and it always intrigued me. I wondered, what was it about the mix of adversity … determination … opportunity that led to success?”

(If you view the video of the talk, you’ll also notice Hartley has some personal stories to share.)

Often, she said, hiring managers are seeking that perfect resume—“that flawless, no-gaps-in-employment [history with] no known failures. Because of that, they’re overlooking some very talented people, be they an external hire or someone internal.”

Hartley, who wanted to make sure no one interpreted her message to mean that UPS only hired scrappers, said her talk definitely resonated with those attending, including members of UPS’ leadership team, some of whom approached her afterward and identified themselves as scrappers.

If you haven’t done so yet, check out Hartley’s talk (embedded above). It’s only 13 minutes—and well worth watching.

But even if you don’t take the time to watch, as you begin to rev up your hiring engines in the first quarter of next year, you still may want to put aside some time to reconsider what constitutes an ideal candidate these days—and what doesn’t. As Hartley suggests, it may not be as cut-and-dried as some folks think.

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Adjusting as Gen Y Takes Charge

Just last week, I finished writing a feature focusing on what a handful of 2015’s “Most Admired for HR” organizations are doing to prime today’s young employees for tomorrow’s leadership roles.

(By the way, this piece is slated to run in the upcoming December edition of HRE, and, naturally, I think you should check it and the rest of the issue out.)

In “Millennials Take Up the Mantle,” HR leaders from companies such as Wells Fargo and Comcast Corp. share some of the programs and initiatives they’ve put in place to groom employees of the millennial generation—a cohort that most projections say will make up roughly 75 percent of the workforce by the year 2025—for the leadership and management positions they’ll soon take over in large numbers.

Many millennials—generally defined as those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s—are already transitioning into leadership roles, of course. Some new data, however, suggests they aren’t the only ones who could use some help adjusting to Gen Y being in charge.

A recent study conducted by Future Workplace and Beyond surveyed 5,771 employees of all ages. Overall, 83 percent of respondents said that millennials are currently managing Gen X and baby boomer employees at their organizations. Among Gen X and boomer respondents, however, 45 percent said they feel that millennials’ lack of managerial experience could have a negative impact on a company’s culture.

And, while 44 percent of millennial respondents regard themselves as being the most capable generation to lead in the workplace, just 14 percent of participants overall agree that Gen Y workers are the best for the job.

It shouldn’t be surprising to see that some (OK, many) older employees aren’t completely comfortable with taking orders from younger, less experienced colleagues, at least not initially. And that uneasiness may help explain the more than one-third of millennials who reported difficulty in managing older employees.

All the concerned parties here certainly have some work to do if they and their organizations are to succeed. In the aforementioned HRE feature, Vanessa Walsh, who heads up leadership and professional development at Wells Fargo, explained what the San Francisco-based banking and financial services firm is doing to help its people bridge the generation gap.

Wells Fargo, which holds the No. 11 spot on this year’s “Most Admired for HR” list, currently oversees 10 affinity groups. The latest addition is “My Generation,” which consists of employees from different age cohorts “who are interested in what it means to be of a certain generation in the workforce,” says Walsh. “We don’t have one group focused on boomers or Gen Xers or millennials. These groups just get people together to learn about these different age groups.”

The idea, she says, is to discuss—and in some cases, debunk—stereotypes associated with various generations in the workplace.

What the group is not, says Walsh, is an effort to force young workers to adapt to old and “established” ways of working. Such an endeavor would be fruitless anyhow, she says.

“I don’t know that we’re going to ‘rewire’ 75 percent of the workforce. Nor should we. So, for me, the question becomes, ‘How do we shift to where they are?’ ”

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A New Mission: Hire One Million Veterans

JPMorgan Chase's Ross Brown spent 27 years in the military before joining JP Morgan Chase.

JPMorgan Chase’s Ross Brown spent 27 years in the military before joining JP Morgan Chase.

In honor of Veterans Day, we’re posting a Q&A with Ross Brown, director of military and veterans affairs at JPMorgan Chase, about a recently announced initiative by The Veterans Jobs Mission to hire a total of 1 million veterans over the next several-plus years. It’s ironic, given the training and leadership responsibilities so many of them have had, that U.S. veterans continue to suffer an unemployment rate that exceeds that of the general population. The VJM, a coalition of more than 200 companies representing all industry sectors, recently changed its name from the 100,000 Jobs Mission, with the goal of increasing the engagement and career development of vets in the private sector. Brown himself is a veteran, having spent 27 years as an officer in the Army after graduating with a bachelor of science degree from West Point. His tours of duty included Honduras and Iraq, where he commanded the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. At JPMorgan Chase, Brown’s role includes overseeing veterans employment and small business development. As you’ll read below, he’s a passionate advocate not only for veterans, but for the gifts they can bring to the workplace.

What sort of timeline are you looking at for hiring one million veterans?

Throughout the course of the conflicts of the last 12 to 14 years, we’ve routinely been transitioning about 200,000 veterans into civilian jobs from active duty. So I said to the coalition, that’s one million service members over the next five years. So we collectively decided to make that our goal — hire one million veterans — and, when we reach it, then let’s make it two million. We’re also looking to help the coalition have a greater impact by having an exchange of veterans — if, for example, a veteran applies for a job at AT&T, but they don’t have an opening for that person at the moment, they can alert Verizon, in order for that veteran to be hired.

How many veterans has JPMorgan Chase hired?

We’ve hired over 9,500 in recent years. They work in all sectors of our business. We have a three-tiered process for bringing vets into our organization. First, we have recruiters focused on former military members. Eighty percent of these recruiters have been in the military themselves, so they already understand what veterans offer and how to translate their experience into a skill we’re looking for as a firm. Then, once a vet has been hired, we have a sponsorship program that pairs them with a vet who’s been here for a while — that person helps the new hire navigate the organization. And third, we have a veterans business resource group, analogous to a fraternity or sorority, that sponsors events and activities so they can bond with people who share a common experience, commiserate with other vets.

What do vets tend to commiserate about?

First, let me highlight the characteristics that vets bring. The first is leadership. Given the conflicts we as a nation have been in, we have people even in the lowest levels of the military making important decisions. The second is a bias toward problem-solving: I know from personal experience that the challenges you face in the military are dynamic and ever-evolving and the answer is rarely found in a book. The third is teamwork: The military prides itself on being a team of teams. And then there’s character — these are people who volunteered to serve their country knowing full well they’d be sent into combat. And last, they have a bias toward getting things done. Now they find themselves transitioning to these different organizations where they may be a sole contributor rather than a member of a team. In many cases they’ve gone from being empowered to make decisions, even at the lowest level, to situations where they may have very little autonomy.

Another important thing to consider is that in the military, there’s typically a clear career path — an institutional construct for how you will advance, which schools you’ll need to attend, and so on. And there’s often less of that in civilian organizations, where there may not be that same kind of organizational infrastructure. So these are the challenges faced by vets in the civilian workplace, and that’s why being able to commiserate with others with a shared background helps them in that transition.

As a veteran yourself, what sort of qualities most appeal to you in an employer?

What’s important to me are shared values. If I hadn’t felt that the organizational values here at JPMorgan Chase were consistent with my own, then I wouldn’t have joined. Second, I have to feel that whatever business the organization is in, there has to be a commitment to excellence. What attracted me to this job was the opportunity to have a positive impact on peoples’ lives, on veterans’ lives.

Are there some common misperceptions about veterans that can get in the way of them finding work — for example, misconceptions about the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder?

This is my perspective, and it’s borne out by statistics: For the majority of vets transitioning today, if they served in combat, they are strengthened by it. They’ve been strengthened by that experience. And that’s the bottom line.

What are the biggest roadblocks standing in the way of veterans finding good jobs?

There needs to be universal acknowledgement that vets are good for business and we need to continue creating pathways for them to be employed. It’s not that there’s no desire to hire them, but what’s the best way to acquire them.

What’s your advice to HR leaders who want their organizations to hire more veterans?

I would suggest they get their companies to join our coalition, The Veterans Jobs Mission, because we offer a support structure to help them employ veterans in whatever industry sector they’re in. We represent a community that shares lessons learned, discusses benefits and opportunities, and so that’s what I’d suggest: Join us.

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Keeping the CHRO in the C-Suite

Human resources is rarely appreciated for providing thought leadership.

At least, that’s according to Lynda Spiegel,  who wrote “Why HR Belongs in the C-Suite” on the Wall Street Journal‘s The Experts blog today.

Spiegel, who spent 15 years as an HR professional, writes that most companies hire a senior HR professional to report to the COO or the CFO, trivializing the profession into a function “rather than an overarching discipline” integral to incubating corporate success:

Throughout my career, I’ve worked for chief executives whose understanding varied with respect to how human resources contributes their companies’ growth and productivity, but they each initially viewed human resources as a nonrevenue producing function limited to personnel management. Some came to recognize the need for a chief human resources officer to provide strategic direction alongside the CFO, COO and CMO. One CEO, however, memorably invited me to the c-suite only once. And that was to discuss the annual holiday party.

But, she continues, CHROs belong in the C-suite not only for their role in managing companies’ critical asset— aka its talent—but also because they make the C-suite team more effective. “They help focus the team as a cohesive unit and by doing so, support the CEO’s mission and with their skills in organizational psychology, can arguably better manage meeting dynamics when things get rocky.”

As Spiegel concludes: “The most effective CHROs don’t necessarily come from a HR background, but they are as much strategic visionaries as their cohorts in the C-suite.”

Spiegel’s compelling argument is sound and makes great business sense. The only question is whether the other members of the C-suite are actually reading it.

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BJ’s Gets Boost to Promote from Within

Jeannine Loy, director of talent development at BJ’s Restaurants, took the podium Monday at the 18th Annual HR Technology Conference and Exposition® to tell her story of the Huntington ThinkstockPhotos-479406580Beach, Calif.-based restaurant chain’s mission to maintain a culture of promoting from within, no matter what.

Paired with Kirsten Helvey, senior vice president of client success at Cornerstone OnDemand, it was a story of retooling and rebooting several years ago — with Cornerstone’s help, of course — to ensure such a commitment to internal promotions could support and sustain a trajectory of growth that’s gone from a small one-room pizzeria in Santa Ana, Calif., in 1978 to 159 restaurants across the United States today.

“I’m really proud we’ve been able to promote this culture,” Loy told listeners at the session, titled Driving Talent Retention With Succession and Internal Mobility at BJ’s Restaurants. “We even call our corporate office the ‘Restaurant Career Center.’ We take team members’ individual success and growth very seriously.

“We want everyone to learn and improve and develop who they want to be, and how they want to get there, for their careers, not just for BJ’s,” she said. “A lot of people at BJ’s in management and senior management started as hourly workers. This is the story we’re especially proud of.”

The problem was, several years ago, the company was still handling the tracking of employees very manually, with Excel spreadsheets, for the most part. Managers couldn’t get real-time access to data on their employees fast enough to make the decisions they had to make to send worthy candidates up the ladder and “back-fill” the old positions, Loy said.

Now, using Cornerstone’s learning, connecting, performance and succession systems, the company has enabled managers — and managers’ managers — to see, in real time, who should be next in line; how much each and every team member has completed in necessary compliance, and learning and development work; what their career preferences are; who’s a low performer with high potential; and who’s a flight risk.

“We have talent visibility at each level for every position now,” Loy said. “You have no idea how much this has boosted our engagement numbers as well. People now know their successes are visible to top leadership. That is huge.”

And instead of being behind the eight-ball, she added, “we already have people in mind for succession and for back-filling those positions left vacant into Q3 and Q4 of next year.”

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Gaining an Edge via Mentoring

Few of you, I’m sure, need to be convinced of the value of mentoring.  But are certain workforce demographics more likely to gain from a formal mentoring program than others?

ThinkstockPhotos-479512083Well, according to a recent paper titled “Network Intervention: A Field Experiment to Assess the Effects of Formal Mentoring on Workplace Networks,” published in a recent edition of Social Forces, the answer is yes, assuming we’re talking about gender.

The paper by UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business Assistant Professor Sameer Srivastava reports that women gained more social-capital affiliation with a high-status mentor than their male counterparts.


According to Srivastava, women in this study of 139 “high-potential” employees at a software-development lab for a U.S.-headquartered company in China experienced a greater increase in visibility and legitimacy as a result of their mentor affiliations than did male participants.

The employer at the center of the research had been experimenting with different ways to help employees develop their breadth of social capital and decided to use a formal mentoring program to support that effort. Employees were asked to shadow a more senior person in another part of the organization for about a dozen days over a two-to-three-month period.

During that time, the protégés attended meetings with their mentors and worked on short project assignments. The senior employees’ objective, meanwhile, was to transfer some of their organizational social capital to their protégés.

Srivastava suggests care needs to be taken before applying the findings of the research to other contexts, but he believes they certainly lend support to “the idea of formal mentoring programs as a means of addressing differences in the kinds of organizational networks that women and men tend to form, which, in turn, contribute to gender inequality in the workplace.”

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Engaged, Happy … And Looking to Leave

Sometimes love just isn’t enough to make it work.

A certain amount of employee turnover is an expected and accepted part of doing business, and there will always be a certain (hopefully small) number of disengaged, disgruntled workers angling to leave your organization.

New data from Mercer, however, suggests that even some of your happiest, most satisfied people may have one eye on the exits.

The New York-based consultancy’s recent poll of 3,010 employees—“a complete cross-section of the U.S. workforce,” according to Mercer—finds 45 percent of employees who report being “very satisfied” with their organizations are still looking to leave, with 42 percent of employees who consider themselves very satisfied in their jobs saying the same.

Overall, the survey found that 37 percent of all workers, regardless of satisfaction level, are giving serious thought to leaving their organizations. According to Mercer, that number stood at 33 percent when it conducted a similar survey in 2011.

How much thought employees are giving to the notion seems to vary based on age and seniority.

Older workers, for instance, say they are less likely to be seeking out new opportunities. Just 29 percent of employees between the ages of 50 and 64 said they are seriously pondering a job change at the moment. Thirty-nine percent of those aged 35 to 49 said as much. Millennials, on the other hand, seem a bit itchier, with 44 percent of these workers (ranging in age from 18 to 34) thinking about moving on from their current employers.

Those figures seem intuitive enough, when you consider that employees tend to be bound by more familial and financial obligations as they get older. What’s more interesting is the number of senior managers—63 percent—who say they’re seriously thinking about leaving their current role, compared to the number of management-level (39 percent) and non-management employees (32 workers) who are contemplating a change.

Taken together, all of these figures reflect a workforce in transition that’s increasingly on the move, according to Patrick Tomlinson, North American business leader for Talent at Mercer.

Employers have been seeing this shift firsthand, said Tomlinson, in a statement from Mercer announcing the findings. The new wrinkle, he says, “is that the inclination to leave is increasingly detached from employees’ satisfaction with jobs, pay and even growth opportunities.”

To remain competitive in a talent market that’s quickly changing, companies must create a “strategic workforce plan” that considers engaged workers as well as the disengaged employees that are planning to stick around for now, says Tomlinson.

The latter group in particular—which comprises about one-fifth of the overall workforce, according to Mercer—has the potential to damage morale and productivity even more than those who leave, says Tomlinson.

“If your employees stay, you want them engaged and productive.”

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New Hires Face Higher Expectations

If you’re new to an organization, you’d better be prepared to hit the ground running — especially if you’re a college grad. That’s certainly the way it’s been for Ham Serunjogi, who tells Fast Company he was “shocked” at how much was expected of him during his first few days at work.

Serunjogi, a graduate of Grinnell College, started work as an intern at an environmental technology firm in 2013. In his first meeting with the executive director, he was asked whether he’d taken a database class in college. When Serunjogi replied in the affirmative, he recounts, he was told that he would now be overseeing the design and implementation of a new communication database for the organization.

“That was the first time I was ever brought into a project I had little or no knowledge about, and was expected to deliver results,” he said.

This past summer, Serunjogi began an internship at Facebook, where he encountered similar expectations. “Facebook is a very fast-moving culture,” he tells Fast Company. “There’s an expectation that you come in and you learn how to catch up with everyone else, otherwise you’re slowing down the entire organization.”

Technology companies are far from the only ones with such a mindset these days. HRE‘s Talent Management Columnist, Wharton prof Peter Cappelli, has written extensively about the trend in Corporate America to do away with the extensive training programs companies once provided to help new employees develop and acquire skills. Now, he writes, firms expect employees to come “ready made” with the necessary skills via school, college and internships — and if they have trouble finding such people, then it’s evidence of a “talent shortage.”

Yet more evidence of these higher expectations comes via a recent Harris Poll, which finds 27 percent of the 319 executives surveyed said they form an opinion of entry-level employees in less than two weeks and 78 percent decide in less than three months whether or not that person will succeed at the company.

Considering that everyone is now expected to be “an A player” right out of the box, job candidates need to prepare accordingly by interviewing their potential employers as much as they’re interviewing them, Decisions Toolbox chief recruitment officer Nicole Cox tells Fast Company.

Use that time to clarify what will be expected of them, she says. And, “after they’re hired, ask if they’re meeting those expectations.”

One would also hope that employers do their part to clarify expectations — and give new hires the time and support necessary for proving their capability.

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Concern Over U.K.’s Older Workers Hits a U.S. Chord

474168522 -- older workerThis article from the United Kingdom caught my eye. Called “Missing Million,” it was put out by Business in the Community, one of the Prince of Wales’ charities.

It talks about older workers (50 year of age and up) and how more than a million of them have been “pushed out of work involuntarily,” thereby wreaking havoc on an impending skills gap that’s already pressing down on the U.K. economy. As the article puts it, “these missing million older workers could potentially boost the U.K. economy by £88 billion, if they were able to stay in work for longer.”

The three-part report “highlights the value of older workers,” it says, “making recommendations to government and responsible employers at a time when there is much discussion and growing business engagement in how we can all collectively support longer working lives.”

It brought to mind a feature I wrote several years ago, When Junior’s in Charge, highlighting the challenges older workers face in corporate America as they find themselves answering to much-younger managers who don’t value their worth.

In that story, I cite a book written by Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and Bill Novelli, former CEO of AARP, titled Managing the Older Worker. It highlights just how much U.S. employers are missing out by not recognizing this worth and making better use of this level of skill, knowledge and dedication. (Here’s an excerpt, as published on, from the book.)

Here, too, is yet more — and much more recent — fuel to add to the fire of the worthy senior worker. This study by, released Aug. 29, reveals that those in what we’re calling the Greatest Generation — now 70 years of age and older — outscore all their younger counterparts in the top five most-productive work traits: emotional stability, extroversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. In essence, the PsychTests release says, “this 70-plus generation is more pleasant, tolerant, even-keeled and diligent than all the generations to follow.

All this also made me hearken back to Cappelli’s August column on HREOnline  about the United Kingdom taking the lead on engagement and the importance of HR.

I shared this latest U.K. report with him to see if, indeed, he thinks the United Kingdom might be leading the way again, setting yet another example for employers across the pond when it comes to workforce and talent management.

Interestingly, he told me, it’s “the Asian countries [that] are taking the lead in trying to make better use of older workers, especially Singapore, where they have tight labor markets.”

“In the United States,” he said, “we still have a great deal of prejudice against older workers that probably won’t change until more baby boomers retire and start kicking up a fuss.”

Hats off to the Prince of Wales, at least, for trying to kick up a fuss over this missing and maligned segment of the United Kingdom before it’s too late.

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Making a First (and Fast) Impression

In baseball, there are can’t-miss talents with potential that’s abundantly and immediately clear.

Take Mike Trout, for instance. At age 24, the Anaheim Angels centerfielder/four-time American League All-Star/freakish baseball prodigy’s trophy case already includes the 2012 American League Rookie of the Year, 2014 AL Most Valuable Player and two All-Star Game MVP awards. And, as one of a handful of names on the short list for this year’s AL MVP, he may soon be taking home more hardware.

Then there are late bloomers like the Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista. The right fielder and occasional third baseman showed flashes in his first five years at the big-league level, but not enough to keep him from being jettisoned by four teams between 2004 and 2008. Bautista finally broke out in 2010—his third season with the Jays and first in a full-time role with the club—when he earned his first of six All-Star Game selections. Since then, he’s led baseball in home runs twice, picked up two Hank Aaron awards and bashed his way to three Silver Slugger awards as well.

The point of all this is that some don’t start as strong as others, and being patient with a prospect just might pay off in a big way sometime down the road.

Those in the corporate world, however, apparently don’t have that kind of time.

Consider a recent online survey, in which 319 executives at companies with revenues of at least $1 billion shared their thoughts on entry-level employees. In the poll, 78 percent of respondents said they think employers take less than three months to make a judgment as to whether an entry-level employee is likely to succeed with the organization. Twenty-seven percent said they form an opinion within the first two weeks.

Now, this particular Harris poll was commissioned by Fullbridge Inc., an education technology company with a learning platform that offers “everything students and young professionals need to rise to the next level,” according to Fullbridge.

It’s natural—and not unfair, I think—to be a bit skeptical of this sort of poll, given the company that commissioned it just happens to offer the type of technology designed to make sure these fresh-faced young employees thrive in your organization.

But that’s not really here or there, at least as far as my purposes here are concerned. Misgivings about survey methodology aside, the aforementioned findings—especially the percentage of companies saying new employees essentially have 10 business days to prove themselves—still seem to beg the question: How long should it take to get a good read on a young, new employee’s likelihood for success? For that matter, what sort of variables should factor into making that judgment?

I put those questions to Dave Ulrich, Rensis Likert Professor of Business at the University of Michigan, partner at The RBL Group and frequent contributor to HRE.

Not surprisingly, there’s no specific timeframe for predicting—at least not with any real accuracy—how an entry-level worker’s going to fare over the long haul, says Ulrich. And he cautions against rushing to judge new employees in their first few weeks on the job.

“First impressions limit future impressions,” says Ulrich. “This is sad, because many first impressions are based on visible look and feel, and real impact often comes from insight and ability to manage relationships.”

Still, 90 days or so should be long enough to gain a sense of how an employee’s going to perform, he says, adding that “it’s important to give new employees autonomous responsibility for a task or project to determine their technical skills and cultural fit.”

It’s even more critical, he says, “to know if they have ‘learning agility’ and an ability to adapt and change [when] given new information.”

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