One of the most misunderstood and reviled aspects of employment in the State of Oregon is the Non-Compete Agreement. They scare individuals and present employers as paranoid, though there is a strong business case for them. I have been under strict non-competes as an individual and I have had to enforce them as an employer. In Oregon, non-competes are legal and until recently, pretty strict.
As an employer what are you really trying to protect and is a non-compete the best way to do it?
What about individuals? Should you sign a non-compete or be afraid to?
Individuals need to know and understand their rights under non-competes and what they should and should not worry about:
• To some degree they are not worth the paper they are printed on, however, you cannot completely disregard them either. By signing you are agreeing to abide by its statutes. Be sure you understand what you are signing.
• The more detailed they are, the greater chance they will hold up in court. General requirements like not working for a competitor in the creative industry are not as scary as saying you cannot work for X Company.
• Whoa…hold up in court? Who said anything about suing? If an individual violates a non-compete their former employer can file suit to stop them from competing. This can land you in court.
• Judges generally view non-competes as “un-American”. They believe one has a right to earn a living.
• If the non-compete is very specific on what you can’t do, and you are doing it, you could be in trouble.
As an employer, before you implement a policy requiring employees to sign a non-compete, you should:
• Understand the message it sends, both good and bad. The good: We take our business seriously and don’t want you to screw us over. The bad: We already don’t trust you and are drawing an employer/employee line in the sand.
• If the employee goes to work for a competitor after leaving your firm, do you really care as long as they are not trying to hurt your business? For example, if a copywriter goes to work for a competitor does this really hurt your business? If it does, you may have other problems anyway.
• If you are not going to enforce it, why have it? Enforcing it means going to court.
• Isn’t a non-solicitation agreement what you are really after? You don’t want former employees soliciting business from your clients but competing is fine right? Again, as long as they are not maliciously trying to hurt you, implement a non-solicitation agreement and leave it at that.
• Unless the employee is maliciously trying to hurt your business, the non-compete would probably not hold up in court anyway.
• Whoa! Court? Yes, to enforce a non-compete you would ultimately have to take your former employee to court.
Are these questions, anguish and confusion worth it? Is this the way to start a new employment relationship?
I work in a very competitive industry where employees could easily leave and take relationships with them. I’ve chosen to not have these agreements. Not having them creates a stronger employer-employee bond, and it means I have to build a stronger company to hold up in case someone does leave and take work with them. I’m OK with that. The strong survive.
Employer branding, recruitment branding…whatever you call it, it is all about branding. How your company connects with potential employees matters. And, it’s usually overlooked.
I read a lot about the challenge companies have in attracting and hiring talent. I suspect that these firms are not doing an adequate job marketing themselves. In fact, I know they are not. Hiring is not all about you. It’s a two-way street. Why does someone want to work for you? What is your compelling story?
Erin Osterhaus wrote a story about this on Software Advice‘s HR blog, The New Talent Times. You can find it here:
You want to hire the A-talent?
I will tell you how. Treat the D-talent better.
Companies either have a hard time finding the talent they need or they believe they have to throw money and perks at talent to entice them to join their company.
A-talent is the talent that has the skills, experience and attitude you seek for openings with your company. The typical strategies to hire the best talent? Offer more money, amazing benefits, provide office perks like free food and foosball and hope for the best. D-talent may be great talent for somebody, but not for your company. They are someone else’s A-talent. So, you ignore them. Wrong. Treat everyone the same during the recruitment process.
Treating the D-talent (B’s and the C’s) better shows your company is consistent and focused in your recruitment strategy. It aligns everyone in your organization along the same goals and plan. You present your company and your staff as being a united front. Your organization comes across as professional, organized and your employees engaged and involved. Good stuff when a candidate is evaluating whether they want to come work for you. The foosball table is fluff; this stuff is real.
People talk. Company reputations get built on what people on the street say and whom they say it to. Treating candidates poorly sends bad messages out to their extended network and you risk negative associations with your company. If your firm has a bad reputation, or has a bad recruitment process, people will talk about it. Your employer brand suffers. If your employer brand suffers, so does your recruitment efforts.
I recently had a conversation with a business owner who complained that he couldn’t find employees fast enough. He felt people were lazy and did not want to work hard. This was an insight into how he, and subsequently how his company, hired people. I did not want to tell him, but his attitude is a reason his company can’t attract people.
Most companies try to attract talent with money, benefits and perks. Survey after survey tells us that money is not the most important driver for most employees.
Throwing money and benefits at A-talent may work at times, but it is not a strategy. And it’s certainly not sustainable. In the long-term it probably creates more problems. If money is the driver for people to join a company, money will always be the driver. And they will probably leave as soon as someone else gives them more.
Most large corporations have a process in place for managing resumes and candidates. It does not mean they do it well, but they have a process. Many smaller firms don’t have a process, and they don’t have a strategy. And it shows.
Take these small steps to build a strategy and start attracting better talent.
• Establish a process for recruitment and hiring. Identify someone to “own” your process. No rogue managers….everyone follows the process.
• Don’t solely rely on job postings as an awareness campaign for your openings. Be proactive in promoting your brand. If you do post jobs, focus more on your brand, vision and future and less on a laundry list of skills you seek.
• Implement an employee referral bonus program.
• Make the process reasonable for the candidate to navigate. Be clear on everything from next steps in the process to coaching your employees on who they may be interviewing and why. Get everyone on the same page.
• Map your company hiring plans with your growth plans.
• Make sure your employees know where the company has been and where it wants to go. They are spokespeople for your brand. They need to know your company’s story.
• Be honest about your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Don’t sugarcoat stuff. The truth will come out eventually anyway.
• Acknowledge and respond to EVERYONE that submits resumes.
• CALL everyone you interview but do not hire. Thank them for their interest.
• Identify people that may fit future opportunities. Let them know you have this interest.
• Have formalized offer letters and job descriptions.
• Offer fair market salaries and benefits.
• Know what your salary range is and be firm. Pay extra if you have to but not as a policy. If it’s about money, this may not be the candidate for the long-term. Know this early.
• Have an on-boarding process established.
• Be clear and set expectations for success early with new hires.
• Have a training plan established.
16 easy steps every company can implement. You will become organized. Professional. Intent. Strategic.
You will begin to build a reputation as a company that values people. Not just the A-talent, but all people.
The A-talent will get the message.
What is a personal brand? Your personal brand is not only who you are, it’s how others see you. Employers. Co-workers. Future employers. Clients.
A good way to think about this is to think about you as packaging on a shelf. I hate to take it to this level, but if you are looking for work, this is how employers think. They are looking for the “product” that best fits their need.
Now, if this sounds unappealing, think about this: Unlike the product on the shelf, you have a choice as to who’s shopping cart you go for a ride in! So while you build and develop a brand, remember your brand always has the ability to ask whether you are a fit with the organization looking to hire you. That is one of the cards you hold.
Examples of a personal brand could be:
Aspiring copywriter with a flair for humor
Account planner focused on brand strategy
Client services professional dedicated to great customer service
Things to remember and keep in mind when developing and refining your brand.
- Be consistent
- Define who you are/what you want. Unless you have no definition. That’s a brand too. But don’t expect someone else to figure you out.
- If you don’t know what you want, focus on who you are. Try to have one of these set especially if you are looking for work.
- View yourself as others will and build how you want them to see you.
- Know yourself.
- Be confident in your abilities.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses.
You have something to offer. It’s your job to effectively communicate what that is. There are people/employers out there that will figure it out themselves but you can’t rely on that.
What if you are still trying to figure out your next steps or what your brand is? That’s OK too, but be aware of the messages and content you are “putting out there”. Every message has the potential to influence your brand.
Social media is now where our personal brands often live.
Linkedin is your brand at work.
Facebook is your brand at play.
Twitter is your brand speaking.
If you are looking for a job, you send your resume to a company – What is the first thing an employer does when they get your resume and are potentially interested in your background? They immediately go to your Linkedin page to see what you look like. But, they are also digging deeper into your background and experience and looking for consistencies or inconsistencies in your background. If your Linkedin profile does not match or support your resume, it sends a bad signal to the employer. They are left to question why there are inconsistencies. People are busy. They may not take the time to try to figure out why you have an inconsistent message.
Your Linkedin profile is your chance to really impress, expand upon and support what is listed in your resume.
The use of Linkedin has exploded in the last 12-24 months. It’s hiring voyeurism.
Linkedin is your on-line resume and a very powerful job search tool.
- Put a picture up. You can make this invisible to people you aren’t connected with. Why would you do this? In case you do not want people either making judgments based on how you look, privacy.
- Write a compelling summary. Keep it short but sweet. It can grow as your career grows.
- Write a summary/bio that tells people who you are, what you are, and some of your accomplishments. Summarize your “brand”
- Constantly develop your network/add connections.
- Get recommended. And recommend people back.
- Join Groups related to your career interests.
- Complete your profile – add details and accomplishments to your work history.
- Be careful in selecting a title – make it mean something.
- Put in too much personal information
- Look nude in your photo
- Use abbreviations – spell things out
- Use Linkedin too aggressively when looking for a job – example – you send your resume to HR at a company, and then find the HR person at that company and send them a note through Linkedin. Too forward.
Your resume supports your brand. It needs to be consistent with Linkedin. This helps support and furthers your brand.
Don’t believe what they all say about employers and Facebook – yes, employers will try to look at your profile and make judgments on what you are doing. There have been many articles scaring people into believing that HR will disqualify people based on their FB activity. There has also been just as many articles that indicate employers want to see you out socializing. This indicates that you have a healthy social life and can potentially be a good teammate and connect well with clients and vendors.
Twitter is your brand speaking. Be cognizant of what you post. Try to either strike a balance between your personal and professional or consider separate accounts. If you are branding yourself an expert or have passion in a particular area, support this through your Tweets.
All this activity that you do and all this content that you are putting out there, supports what you are saying when you are in interview situations.
For example, you go into an interview as the “aspiring copywriter with the flair for humor” and the writing on your Linkedin has no humor or no flair, your brand is not consistent. If you, however, have some compelling writing, are connected with Linkedin groups that are industry specific, and have Twitter feeds and posts based on writing, industry news, ad campaigns you find are well done, etc., you begin to form a more consistent brand.
Communication and appearance are also big aspects to your brand. This can be the “experience” of your brand. The employer has taken the package off the shelf and may be interacting with the product. What is the experience they have when interacting with your brand?
If you are super casual and want to work in a place that is super casual, that kind of appearance may become part of your brand. But be aware that I may not fit everyplace. Be keenly aware of your brand perception.
In summary – your brand is your package. It’s the look and feel. It’s the wording. It’s the product itself. The benefits of using the product. How you feel when interacting with the product.
The product on the shelf. You.
This is a special edition for all you soon to be graduates. But, most of what is here applies to anyone with or without a portfolio. And while these are rules, remember, rules can be broken. This is more of a guide and really, you can overthink this stuff too. Comforting I know.
Some of these rules apply to physical books and others specifically to on-line. You can figure out which is which.
Make it about the work. The idea here is to not make it about the case or box your work is in. Give the case the attention it deserves, make it nice, but don’t go overboard. A vintage suitcase filled with a poor portfolio? Only the suitcase is remembered.
Only show work you like. Hopefully, this is also your best work. Don’t show work you don’t like unless it tells a successful story. The project you had to crank on all night because of a late change-order and the client loved it. In general, if you don’t like the work, or it was not successful, why are you showing it?
Show the thought that went into the work. Concepts are good. Sketches are great. People love to see how you think.
Not too much, not too little. The whole presentation should last about 30 minutes. Don’t show too much work and don’t show too little. Multiple pieces in a campaign count as one piece. It’s good to have 12-15 pieces. If you are just graduating and you are worried that you don’t have this much, try to get to 10. Fewer than 10 is too little. One way to increase the number if you are coming out of school….have friends and family “assign” you projects. Don’t do it yourself. You may pick stuff that is too easy. Try to freelance too to get portfolio pieces.
Show variety. Show that your creative mind is nimble. Don’t focus on one industry. Don’t show just one style.
Start with a bang and end with a bang. Put great work first and last. Don’t show work chronologically.
What about my photography of kittens? Hmmm….maybe not. Work that is not relevant to the jobs you are interviewing for can be great if it paints a bigger picture of who you are and the breadth of your creativity. It can also detract and backfire. Think about it. If it’s really a strong part of what makes you, your brand, go for it.
Make it easy. Realize you may not be present to walk someone through your work. Provide descriptors as to the project, the creative brief, and some words around your execution. The viewer needs to understand why you did what you did without you telling them.
Be organized. Don’t end the presentation with 15 pieces spread over a table unless you are just that crazy throwing stuff around.
Make a nice user experience. Don’t make the viewer look too hard to find the work on your site. It should be easy to access, easy to view.
Never make the viewer work too hard. They just may not do it.
If you have a freelance business, but are also looking for a job, you need to make it clear which is which. Don’t point someone to a website that comes across like an agency site if it’s just you. You may need to change things a bit. I’m Bob who runs Bob Design; I’m not Bob Design per se right now, because Bob wants a job. Get it?
Make your portfolio part of a presentation. How you show the work can be as important as the work. If you can’t speak to why you did what you did, or what problem it solved, why did you do it? Practice your presentation. You are also viewed on how you present as you may be presenting your employer’s work some day to a potential client.
Breathe. Do your best. Try to leave every meeting comfortable that you did the best you could.
…thanks for Jeremy Pair, two more points…
Give credit. Make sure you indicate your role in the project, and give credit to others when due. Believe it or not, I have seen the same piece in multiple portfolios with each person taking credit. Someone is not telling the truth!
And, indicate what is a student piece and what is not where applicable.
I approach a lot of agency principals to discuss their approach to their company cultures, personnel and the benefits of sound talent management policies on their staffs and their businesses. I ask questions like, “does your staff have clear expectations in their roles and do you provide on –going performance management and development to help them achieve those goals? “Are their goals in alignment with your business goals?” A get a lot of blank stares, nods to let me know they realize I’ve stopped talking and a lot of “oh yeah, we do that” responses when in reality I know they don’t do that. Many of these responses, or similar ones, come from men.
But I started to notice something interesting when I brought up the same questions with female agency principals. A lot of them said that they do in fact have performance management systems, that they have someone on staff who guides and nurtures their staff and the culture of the agency, or they have consulted with someone like me in the past. They tell me they talk about this stuff internally all the time. That it’s a big part of their business.
Do women get the concept of culture and sound talent management driving business success better than men? Are women more in tune to the needs of their employees? Is their inherent nurturing behavior creating more nurturing places to work? As a guy I understand the typical responses of male business owners. “they’re lucky they get a paycheck.” “I pay them for their work, and pay them well. What more do they need?” Men aren’t always as interested in the “soft” sides of their business. Bad mistake.
Employees want to feel like they are taken care of. That they are appreciated. Women might naturally do this better than men. Of course, I’ve seen women who were terrible managers and those who don’t pay much attention to the happiness of their employees. And I’ve seen men who were great at people skills, and great at supporting and empowering employees to succeed through sound management and growth. Some of them are clients and they get it.
It just seems to me in my current travels that I’ve seen more agencies run by women that had a better handle on their people issues than agencies run by men. Sorry guys, you’ve got some work to do.
Oh boy this is gonna be a good one! ‘Cause no one knows what they are doing!
Social media kind of just went splat on our windows and everyone is trying to figure out what to do with it. It gets really complicated when you mix employers with employees and a level of communication that makes things really transparent. And social media negatively or positively affects your personal brand and your company brand. And you have little control over certain aspects of social media. Uh oh.
So what to do?
Employers listen up. You need to establish social media guidelines as company policy. Think common sense. Don’t think George Orwell. I’ve seen some really heavy-handed policies and some really unrealistic expectations of your employees.
It’s OK to tell employees they cannot trash the company, clients, staff, etc. on social media. You have your business to protect and are allowed to do it. No divulging of trade secrets and any confidential information. Be respectful. Be judicious. Common sense stuff. Fine.
It’s not OK to dictate to them what they can post unless it has to do with your company. For example, an employee’s LinkedIn profile is their profile. Don’t tell them what to put on their profile about your company. You can provide suggestions, or marketing-speak to help them represent you well, but they own their profile. They don’t have to do what you say. It’s about them, not you. Unless of course, they are managing your Company’s page or a Group if you have one. Then they are acting as an agent of your firm on social media and you can have more control over that. Telling employees that they have to follow a company-crafted description of the company in their profile is heavy-handed and not fair.
Facebook. Don’t go there. Unless it’s your company’s FB page. Do not friend your employees. Or if you do, don’t follow their feeds. This may sound harsh, but think about it. You see a post from an employee to another employee that seems inappropriate. Maybe harassment. What do you do? You can’t ignore it. You have to address it as if it happened in the office right in front of you. It is best to not expose yourself to this stuff in the first place. Not acting could mean that you condone the behavior.
Is the mobile device that your employee uses for personal social media something you provided them in their job? If so, you own the messages sent through that device. Their work computer is an obvious but people don’t always think of their mobile devices as company property. Twitter posts and Facebook posts done through those devices are under stricter rules than messages sent on personal computers. Hmmm, that poses some issues for both the employer and the….
Employee. Next up: How employees should manage their social media profiles and posts as it relates to their professional brand and their job.
One of my favorite movies is Soylent Green. Not because it’s a great movie, but because it’s a great concept and of course, Charlton Heston is classic. No one else could yell like he could. Soylent Green is people!
Which brings me to a common practice in the staffing industry but one I have always found distasteful: The marketing of people.
For a lot of staffing companies, their product is the talent they represent. Their product is people. And to let the market know they have the best people, they market them and their skills usually through blanket e-mails and marketing materials to clients and prospect clients.
Meet “Mark”. “Mark” is a skilled web developer with great digital agency experience. He’s ready to work for your great digital agency. He has experience in HTML, CSS, has worked on big budget sites….he’s available now. Schedule a meeting soon!
I don’t know. Makes me feel like “Mark” is a product/package on a shelf. Where is the nuance of finding the best fit? Just because “Mark” has great skills and great experience does not mean he can just be slotted into roles and companies to do his thing and all will be great.
There is more to making a match than matching a resume and a job description. A lot more. Like looking into cultural fit. And looking into organizational/structural fit. And asking, “can I see “Mark” being happy working for this company?”
Besides, I’m pretty sure “Mark” is a real person with real feelings on where he wants to work. And does “Mark” really want to be “shopped” around town to the highest bidder?
On many levels I have never agreed with this staffing industry practice of marketing people. If you meet someone whom you think would work great for one of your clients, or vice versa, that’s different. You might help someone find a great job or a company make a strategic hire. But just sending faceless campaigns? Just peddling people?
Something does not taste right about it. Now, soylent green? That might taste good.
John Lennon once sang…. All I want is the truth now
Just gimme some truth now
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth
What I hear from most job seekers is gimme some closure.
The number one complaint candidates for jobs relate to me is that they never hear back from the companies where they interviewed. Had interviews, never heard anything. Sent my resume, never heard anything.
For employers, here is why you should acknowledge people who send resumes and call back people who have interviewed but you did not hire: people talk.
And they are talking in new ways. According to Fast Company, not only are they talking, they are taking it to social media.
But, the reasons to reply to people are not to only protect your brand and your reputation. For one, it’s the right thing to do. Second, while the candidate may not be right for your current opening, they may be right in the future for something else with your organization. And, this is not only your brand; this is your recruitment brand. People talk and their network has heard that you, as an employer, do not treat job candidates with respect.
That network may include people you may want to hire. The candidate you did not call back may be a friend to the candidate you do want to hire. Think of the message you are giving both.
Your brand is damaged. Your ability to hire is damaged.
Do they right thing.
Give some closure.