Benefits of a 4-day Work Week

Posted on May 11th, 2016

I just finished reading a very interesting article about the benefits of a 4-day work week. We typically focus on the benefits of productivity and morale. The article looks at implementations in the State of Utah and city of London. The State of Utah put 18,000 of 25,000 employees on a 4-day week. Trying this at the scale a government body offers also presented benefits from:

  • reduced commuter and organizational car use
  • cost of utilities
  • reduced traffic congestion, pollution, e tc.

Rather than my trying to restate the article, read it at this link.

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Lessons Learned in 2015

Posted on January 14th, 2016

As we begin a New Year we like to look at what insights the previous 12 months have to offer based on our work and contact with clients.  In reviewing our work from 2015, the short list of activities that stand out for one reason or another include:

  • Final implementation of an assessment center for retail district managers.
  • Major progress in CEO succession for a $5 billion dollar company, including assessment and identification of internal candidates, reorganization and creation of new roles to develop those who show the most potential.
  • Development and delivery of leadership training for field managers in a green energy business.
  • On-going succession assessments and development planning in a public utility.

Between these projects and other on-going activities, certain trends and issues have become apparent about our clients and their businesses. The lessons we find most interesting and important are:

  1. Baby boomer retirements are picking up after a temporary recession-driven slow down. As more experienced talent exit businesses, the need to have an active and full pipeline of future leaders will become increasingly critical.
  2. Hiring and promoting for adaptability, both intellectual and personal, is increasingly important given change in technology, markets, people, etc. In the competency models we’ve developed over the past year or so, this characteristic has become more pronounced across a range of jobs.
  3. In addition, we’ve also seen great interest in understanding and identifying critical thinking ability in both candidates and current associates. With people at all levels being asked, and empowered, to take on more decision authority in their roles, good judgment and the ability to make sound decisions is key.
  4. Companies with the best executive succession plans seem to have a CEO willing to look at their own “shelf life” in terms of the value they have brought during their tenure, how their business is changing and what the next CEO needs to bring that might be different. It appears that reflection and a degree of humility play an important role.
  5. More and more of our clients are working to establish early identification of internal talent for senior leadership roles. It looks the research showing that internally developed talent generally has a longer employee lifespan than externally hired talent continues to take hold.  While this may also point to developing more effective on-boarding of outside hires, it’s clear that developing talent within the culture is more effective than trying to guess who will adapt.

That’s the short list of issues and insights that landed on our desks during 2015. If any of them spark ideas on your part, or you have something to add, drop us a line and we’ll include it in a future post. Have a successful New Year.

Filed under: Demographics, Leadership, Succession Planning, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Toxic Personalities and High Performers- What’s the Value

Posted on December 8th, 2015

This Link  leads to a Harvard Business article that empirically puts some meat behind the notion that some very high performers are actually removing net value from the organization because of their toxic effect on the environment. The authors also point out opportunities to extend the research into looking at topics like creating a work environment that prevents this from happening in the first place.


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Executive Assessment- The “How-To”

Posted on December 8th, 2015

Clients regularly ask how I do what I do when interviewing candidates for senior level leadership positions.  What do I look for?  How do I get past well-rehearsed and sophisticated answers? I’m going to devote a series of posts to the mechanics of matching candidates to executive positions from an assessor point of view.  I’ll cover issues of fit with the job itself, fit with the culture of the organization and fit with both at a given point in time (more on that in a later post.) I’ll also cover some of the basic tools and techniques of interviewing as they related to more senior level, and usually more sophisticated, candidates.

Let’s start with the last point- experience being interviewed. When interviewing an experienced, senior level candidate chances are that they have lots of interviewing experience.  Either within a company or between companies, they’ve been in that chair before and have likely seen most general approaches to interviews.  You should expect that they will present themselves well and interact easily with you, the interviewer.  They are also very likely to come equipped with examples for just about any behavioral question you ask. So this is your starting point- raise your standards.  If you meet a candidate who is particularly nervous, uncomfortable with you, seems unwilling to cooperate or can’t give you nicely focused and detailed answers to specific behavioral questions, something is wrong.  Generate a hypothesis and pursue it through the rest of the interview.  One example- suppose your candidate is energetic to the point of diving into his or her answer before you have fully stated the question and provides you far more detail than you need.  You can gently cut them off to get to the next question or restate if they don’t give you what they need.  If this behavior persists they clearly are more interested in pouring out their thoughts than meeting your specific need.  That is the behavior worth noting- more interested in their agenda than yours. A truism in interviewing is that any behavior that candidates exhibit repeated during an interview is well ingrained and will show up if hire them.  This is how they will likely treat others once hired.

Next post- Self Awareness

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Do we pay too much attention to demographics?

Posted on May 15th, 2015

Having always been interested in demographics and  hiring/ employment/ employee life cycle issues it’s possible that we try too hard to “be relevant”. Interesting article here about Whole Foods marketing and demographics. I can’t help but think about how it might relate to the world of work and careers as well.

Filed under: Careers, Demographics, Hiring | No Comments »

Executive Assessment Characteristics- Part 2

Posted on September 12th, 2014

After Self- Awareness and the ability to change and adapt one’s approach to the world, executives need a set of intellectual capabilities to match the environment in which they work.  Of course it helps to have a higher than average intellect when operating in an executive position but this can mean different things in different positions.  Some executive positions require a high level of general analytic ability, especially in technical industries where knowledge of products or technologies is required even at the top, as you might expect at technology giant Google or engineering-driven Intel. Even in those cases it is not enough to just be smart in the problem solving sense. In all executive positions it is vital to have the ability to look broadly and see the implications of different courses of action. Some people call this “conceptual” thinking. Some call it “strategic.” You can even label it “good judgment.” Whatever you label it, an executive needs to be able to identify different courses of action and anticipate how those actions will play out financially, operationally, even culturally depending on the issue.  Experience helps with this but some people do it more naturally and easily than others.  People who are good at it can walk you through the logic that they use to arrive at their conclusions about different courses of action.  We all get lucky sometimes and make the right call intuitively.  The same is true for executives.  The trick to success is to balance intiution with a sound, logic and fact driven follow up process to weigh the probabilities of different outcomes.

When hiring or promoting executives it is critical to differentiate different kinds of “smart.”  It’s easy to be impressed by deep but narrow thinking or by broad superficial thinking. It’s a greater challenge to test the nature of candidate thinking across multiple topics and in different styles of thought.

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Assessment Core Characteristics- Part 1

Posted on August 1st, 2013

In our last post I talked about the those characteristics that seem universal across leadership positions. When assessing candidates we look for these as well as the knowledge, skills and abilities required for a specific role.  These “universal” characteristics seem to make a difference in one’s ability to successfully engage and lead a group of people or an organization. Today we highlight the first of those.

Self Awareness. Successful leaders generally are reflective and realistically critical about who they are, what strengths and weaknesses they have, and usually have a good idea of how others see them.  They are not overly impressed with their own strengths and pay close attention to their shortcomings.  This allows them to adapt when necessary and to call in an expert when their own skill set needs supplementing.  The demands on senior leaders are varied and so their ability to adapt is important. Good leaders, however, don’t lose the sense of who they are and what they are trying to achieve. Their ability to adapt to changing demands must be high but not at the expense of their sense of core values, style and goals.  A high level of self awareness is what allows successful leaders to maintain this balance. It keeps them from “disappearing into the character” of a public role.  Critically reviewing how they have managed difficult situations and looking for ways to improve on that performance allows them to improve over time and to maintain their “core.”

Regularly reviewing their own strengths and shortcomings keeps leaders humble.  As discussed in the book “Good to Great” about what the authors refer to as Level 5 Leadership, humility seems to be one of the characteristics that allows successful organizations to maintain success after the departure of a founder or key long-term leader.  A well-developed sense of self awareness is perhaps the core ingredient in maintaining humility when at the top of an organization.

Stay tuned to Part 2 where we will talk about Intellectual Capability.


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Executive Assessment- Introduction

Posted on July 18th, 2013

Every year we at Rogala & Orr conduct a large number of executive  and managerial level assessments across a range of industries.  We do so for any and all of the following reasons:

  • succession planning processes where our assessments have become an integrated part of our client’s  succession planning
  • hiring or promoting a candidate into an open position
  • individual professional development.

Regardless of the intended outcome (development plan or hiring decision) many of the same characteristics are evaluated and considered critical at the executive level.  We do work from job descriptions, succession strategies, competency models and the like, but there are always some  core  characteristics we like to look for.  We find that the presenece of certain key traits bodes well for many of the more specific KSAs we’ll look for on a case by case basis.

So what are these characteristics? And how do we identify them during our assessment process?  The next series of posts are going to detail some of the key success characteristics we look for, and we’ll wrap it up by talking about how we try to learn about the people who we’re asked to assess. Particularly at the executive level it is a challenge to really get under the hood of candidates.  As a general rule they are highly motivated and fairly sophisticated about being interviewed. It takes skill and a solid process to learn enough about them to be of use to our clients. And practice. Lots and lots of practice.

Stay tuned and let us teach you about Executive Assessment.



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Potential vs. Experience in Hiring Decisions

Posted on June 25th, 2013

An article that’s been getting a lot of press lately (link to article here) demonstrates research to support the idea that people in general value perceived potential over experience when thinking about hiring.  Many hiring managers and HR professionals will state this as common sense but this study provides some proof.

Those who struggle with the concept are those experienced people looking for work.  They often have a wealth of experience and knowledge but don’t feel they get credit for it in their job search.  Some of the staff here at Rogala & Orr do some pro bono work for a local not-for-profit outplacement center training and coaching people looking for work.  Many people we meet complain that they don’t feel they get credit for what they know.  Our advice?  Don’t focus primarily on your experience.  When you do, there is a built-in assumption that the problems you face in the future will be the same as those you solved in the past.  Seek out informational interviews and ask companies what kind of problems they face in your area of expertise.  Talk to younger employees as well. They may well have a different take on what skills are necessary now rather than in the past.  Anticipate what kind of problems companies face in your field and think about how you might solve them.  Focus on your ability to learn and adapt your experience more than on the experience itself.

Hiring companies would love to hire someone with the wisdom of experience coupled with a fresh and objective focus on solving problems.

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What’s More Important- A College Degree or Where It Came From?

Posted on August 24th, 2012

I’ve had this article sitting around for several months now.  I haven’t done anything with it because it seemed obvious.  As college graduates struggle to get jobs commensurate with their education, the value of that education comes into question. This is especially true for the most expensive schools.  Still, it’s a good read and I encourage you do so.

My reason for bring this up now is that the son of one of my neighbors did this.  Both parents are MD’s.  The son would like to study medicine.  He was certainly qualified to apply to top tier schools but decided to attend a local commuter state university as an undergrad.  His reasoning (supported by his parents) was that the cost of medical school is such that having any undergraduate cost to pay off additionally just didn’t make sense.

So how do I get my kids in the same room with this guy without it seeming like a set up?

Filed under: Careers | No Comments »