Paula Bradison

GUEST COMMENTARY: ‘Twilight’ leaders still have workplace skills to offer

Looking for talent seems to be top of everyone’s mind, leaving it to creative problem solving to address gaps in talent at all levels of the organization. Recently there seems to be a trend of Baby Boomers coming in and out of retirement. At first glance many assumed that this was for economic reasons, however during recent interviews we are discovering anything but. During a recent interview with “Bob,” we discussed the outlook for employment for a 60-something. He said that he just isn’t ready to be put out to pasture. His career, spanning over 40 years varied with time spent in a variety of industries, all unique to Alaska. Along the way, like many Alaskans, his career path ebbed and flowed with the economy and with industry trends. What he thought was the end of his career, included a retirement party and a warm send off from friends and colleagues. Just a few months later Bob found himself bored, and he is not alone. In their twilight many executives leave their career subject matter experts within a particular discipline. Tired of the “same old grind” and ready for new adventures, they depart their career finding pleasure in the freedoms of retirement, yet not quite ready to retire their talents completely. Surprisingly, many retirees would rather be given an opportunity to leverage their talents and actually learn a new industry or acquire new skills and companies are better for it. In Bob’s case, he is curious and interested in taking on interim leadership roles. His desire, like many of his peers, is not to consult or move out of retirement completely, but to provide a meaningful and necessary role that supports teams while they transition. In one effort, a retiree might be an “Interim COO” helping to keep operations on track while recruitment efforts are under way. This allows for continuity while leveraging internal staff and ensuring they don’t take on more than they should. Ultimately not overtaxing a CEO or subordinate that would typically take on the role during a transition. The interim approach also offers a fresh and experienced perspective. There is a large pool of able, workforce ready and proven leaders to help where needed. They are far beyond a box store greeter and willing to leverage their experience. Engaging these leaders is good for morale and good for business. Paula Bradison is the CEO and President of Alaska Executive Search and Bradison Management Group LLC.

SPONSORED: Keep your resume up to date

As a management consultant and small business owner, I work with hundreds of senior level and executive candidates each year. One thing I cannot stress enough is the importance of maintaining an up-to-date resume. Your resume is far more than a tool to get you to your next opportunity. It serves several purposes: you can track your career goals, set new goals, better understand your transferable skills, and prepare to “sell” yourself. This past year has been turbulent for most of us. The unprecedented circumstances leave so many feeling uncertain of the future and less prepared for change. The good news is, at Alaska Executive Search, we have seen no shortage of career opportunities, even for candidates more senior in their career. What we have seen is candidates who are not prepared to jump at a great opportunity. Whether it is because they didn’t anticipate entering a competitive job market or because they have not maintained a current and relative resume. Maintaining your resume is an opportunity to self-audit and compare your experience to your competition’s. This exercise prepares the candidate to speak to their strengths and how their experience can offer any organization a competitive advantage. When a candidate sits down to review their resume against a job posting there is an opportunity to compare your work history and accomplishment to what employers are currently seeking. At Alaska Executive Search, our recruiters review thousands of resumes each year and welcome the opportunity to help job seekers polish up their resume and prepare for interviewing. These experts thrive on putting people to work while satisfying their client’s unique needs. A candidate does not have to go it alone. Many candidates do not realize firms like AES do not charge the candidate for services. Employers look to a firm to find employees because they know recruiters are masterful in uncovering transferable skills and look beyond job descriptions. If a candidate finds themselves unable to navigate the automation of applicant tracking systems, a recruiter can help open doors and serve as the job seekers advocate. Even if you are not seeking employment, it’s a good exercise to review and update your resume. Things are changing fast. More workers are telecommuting, and more businesses are willing to look outside of their community to identify top talent. Maintaining your resume provides you with an opportunity to self-audit. You can easily uncover a gap in your skills or alternatively you can identify where you might have an advantage over other candidates. Furthermore, updating your resume is a great way to look back on the goals you have set. Maybe, like many of us you are hard on yourself, reviewing your resume might provide you with a reason to celebrate your successes. Maybe, it is time to set new goals to further advance your career. Either way, taking the time to understand the job market and how you compete is a necessary exercise to aid in continued growth. Remember, agencies like AES, are happy to help you. These experts talk to hundreds of employers and candidates each month. They can review your skills, help uncover skills you may not have already identified, prepare you for what current employers seek, and act as your champion when your dream job becomes available. Paula Bradison is the president of Alaska Executive Search and Bradison Management Group.

Meeting the challenge of securing talent and engagement during a pandemic

Now, as much as ever, employers are faced with the development and engagement of their work force. Challenges have only been intensified with a global pandemic. As we saw in the medical industry when transitioning to electronic charts just over a decade ago, small and midsize businesses are faced with sharpening operations and investing in virtual workspaces. In so doing, operational blemishes are only amplified. Here are five ways that employers are coping: 1) Using natural attrition to revisit job duties and leverage high caliber employees with use of temporary staffing. Temporary staff can focus on routine duties while direct hire talent leverages their strengths and organizational knowledge. This affords the organization an opportunity to improve efficiencies and take on projects without replacing higher ranking staff. Maintaining continuity while modifying and improving workflows. 2) Adjusting document management and access to platforms that create a more unified and collaborative approach to work. The integration of new software platforms allows virtual workspaces that improve collaboration and access to pertinent information, on-demand, anytime, and anywhere. 3) Introducing and training employees on how to better use the tools and teaming resources the organization already has, but just did not take the time to leverage. Utilizing existing technology to enhance efficiencies and save money. 4) Improving how Key Performance Indicators, or KPI, are monitored. With so much of the workforce at home, and often home schooling children, employees have to adjust work life balance and collaborate with supervisors in new ways. Looking at the goals and desired outcomes over the “9-to-5” availability allows employees to feel accomplished while under the pressure of restrictions, home schooling, and delivering. 5) While some things have been relaxed, such as “business casual,” others have been heightened. Communications is far more intentional. With the rapid evolution of virtual meetings and teaming concerns, with the millennial workforce in particular, communication has improved between generations, each adapting to their audience. You can’t under value the passing conversations at the water cooler, we all miss them, this is where creativity happens. Organizations are learning to monitor morale via virtual meetings. These meetings are not always business, sometimes they are intentionally not business. Staying connected and maintaining relationships will build trust and engagement. Evaluating processes, leveraging technology, improving efficiencies, monitoring KPI, and equally monitoring morale and engagement are not easy tasks for leaders during a global pandemic. However, minding to these areas will most certainly contribute to a successful transition to what, for now, is our new normal. Paula Bradison is the President of Alaska Executive Search and Bradison Management Group.

The new norm in HR: Top 5 questions managers have in the current age of COVID

Business continuity and risk mitigation have always been an element of any strong strategic plan. In 2020 it is more relevant than ever. In just a matter of 12 short weeks, “back to work” is anything but back to normal. Now more than ever leadership is being challenged with questions where the answers rely heavily on risk tolerance and critical thinking. In a recent poll, employers here in Alaska provided feedback of their concerns and we have summarized below: 1. Half of my staff wants to work from home, what happens if I “make” them come back to work? 2. If an employee is provided a workstation to work from home and gets carpal tunnel, is that grounds for a worker’s compensation claim? 3. How do I gauge and monitor progress? 4. What about overtime? Can I still require “normal” workdays if an employee is working off-site? 5. How do I respond to an employee who goes on vacation, travels, or has family in town from out of state? Can I require a quarantine, and do I have to cover the salary if I do? The short answer to all these questions is: it depends. In our research we have found similar concerns even prior to COVID-19; the simple truth is that all the best resources and experts do not have black and white answers that can be applied in an industry agnostic manner. However, we can offer some best business practices that are already proving successful during this uncertain time. Here is your list of what is within your control: If the employee concerns can be met with some accommodation, while understanding job roles and responsibilities, then, by all means, take a step in that direction. Making accommodations that are fair to all employees are policies, not accommodations. So first ask yourself; can this modification to the work schedule (or other change) benefit the organization by majority? Then review workflows and required resources, perhaps, we can relieve other areas of resource allocation. Second, regardless of the industry, as leaders, we must keep our employees as safe as reasonably possible. In the context of a virus that can be difficult, however as leaders and managers we should be developing a safety and response plan that is reasonably monitored and easily executed in the event of a COVID-19 report. Establishing a policy that allows employees to continue working from home after vacation, travel, or potential exposure maintains productivity and ensures the safety of other employees. Finally, there very best thing you can do to relieve angst and apply risk mitigation is to open communication with your staff. Allow them to voice frustrations, and work through those concerns with the job requirements as a focal point. Making accommodations should be a win-win for the organization and employees to ensure business continuity. Keeping staff employed and engaged depends on it. ^ Paula Bradison is the President of Alaska Executive Search and Bradison Management Group

Executives must overcome fears to adapt in changing times

Employee education and development has never been more important as we navigate the challenges brought on by this decade. Not only do business managers and owners need to rework operating procedures, but new skills are also necessary to stay competitive and provide a pathway for future sustainability during such dynamic times. Employers and employees alike are rapidly working to address a multitude of health, safety, and service challenges; businesses must embrace the ability to grow, adjust, and improve during times of uncertainty. Not insignificant to these challenges, is the need for continued sales, marketing, and business development strategies. Cold calling has become a “new norm” as requirements for social distancing and quarantine make the old methods of visiting brick and mortar obsolete. How does a business create new opportunities? Executives have been forced into cultivating online and over the phone relationships, processes generally reserved for the more junior staff. Outside of learning new technical skills, multiple generations will need to continue honing in on relationship-building strategies far outside of (our) comfort zone. So, why is this such a daunting prospect? According to Patrick Lencioni in his book Getting Naked, the apprehension for executives leads to three fundamental fears: 1. Fear of losing business 2. Fear of being embarrassed 3. Fear of being inferior To overcome these fears, our businesses will need to look inward to refine values and train our staff to not only communicate their value to potential clients but to strengthen their role within a new team dynamic as well. It all starts with focusing on your people and their strengths. Because, when you get the best out of your people, you get the best out of your business. Don’t lose the business. Solve the problem. Along with bringing your unique strengths and perspective, individuals can overcome the fear of losing business by recognizing how we can solve a problem for our valued customers. Outside of our services, our clients are experiencing a unique problem specific to their industry or business. Often these are not complex issues, and can easily be solved by a trusted and objective partner. If we can develop our team to overcome inherent fears of stepping out of our comfort zone, realizing we don’t have to be experts in our field, but rather an expert in the feeding and care of our clients we will certainly prevail. Don’t be embarrassed. Be vulnerable. Gallup’s latest research continues to highlight the need for understanding your unique strengths, and also being able to identify those strengths and talents that do not come as naturally to you. This will help you come to terms with the fact that we have to partner with others around us and utilize the strengths of theirs that we don’t have. With this in mind, when approaching a project or a new client, understand that mistakes in a working relationship are inevitable, and therefore by being honest, partnering with those around you, and communicating proactively, you can increase the trust and loyalty of the group. It’s not about being perfect, it is about understanding your strengths and communicating transparently through them. Don’t make yourself feel small. Highlight your client. Amid so many changes, when you work to solve a client or customer’s problem, take a moment to think about what it took to get them where they are. Part of overcoming the fear of inferiority is to remember it’s not all about you. Take an interest in the business or the actions of the client/customer. Honor the work and perspective that have taken them this far. Demonstrate this respect authentically, as it is not something easily faked. Engage authentically with those surrounding you and understand that developing means first acknowledging the need to learn, and then doing the learning. “In times of great trouble, as the study demonstrates, using the insights that CliftonStrengths profiles offer is a best practice for creating work cultures that acknowledge and honor individual strengths. And leaders who use that knowledge can reduce stress for each individual.” How strengths, Wellbeing, and Engagement Reduce Burnout Organizations with strengths-based cultures succeed because: • They engage their employees. They surround employees with managers who coach them to maximize their potential. • They provide an exceptional employee experience. • It’s not a surprise that organizations with strengths-based cultures experience higher employee engagement, retention, productivity, and performance. Paula Bradison is the CEO of Alaska Executive Search/Bradison Management Group.

What does it take to win the top talent?

According to Glassdoor, unemployment hit an all-time low in the Lower 48 dipping to 3.7 percent. This competitive environment calls for organizations to monitor and gauge key indicators of change in the workplace. Specifically, in Alaska we see that positions in healthcare, IT and professional services — particularly civil engineering — are extremely difficult positions to fill. For that reason, we have found organizations set themselves apart in a few major ways: Online presence wins More than ever, today’s workforce wants to know that the business they work for has a vested interest in their future and an interest in the community. Prior to an interview, the better recruits do their homework. They are looking for continuity between what is shown on the company website and what they see when they show-up to interview. We have found that the Gen-Y workforce wants to see an organization’s social conscience and evidence of a fun and engaging team. Baby Boomers want to know that loyalty still exists in the workplace, and all ages have a desire for transparency in terms of workplace culture. Strengths-based teams win Organizations with a better recruiting record recognize that the best recruitment happens when their own employees spread the word of an opening. Consequently, managers and owners have to step-up their game and compete for the best hires, and their current employees. When your own team is engaged and working in their strengths, new applicants can see that what you sell online is precisely what is being delivered onsite. Do you say you are a collaborative business? If so, then how does that translate to new employees or your clients for that matter. Multi-generational workforces win With so much focus on Millennials, we like to point out that Baby Boomers continue to be the fastest growing workforce. Compared to previous generations, they are in better health and working longer than the generations before them. It is estimated that the entire Baby Boomer workforce will continue to grow by approximately 5 percent, however the individuals ages 65+ will grow by more than 61 percent. So, as this generation ages, they move the needle for other generations in the workplace. We have found that by focusing more on the individual and collective strengths of a team, managers are able to synergize teams crossing the generational gap. Development focus wins With a busy and a competitive environment, it can be difficult to prioritize continued learning in the budget. However, with such digital transparency, supporting and reinforcing values and culture is more important than ever. By investing in your team and providing growth opportunities, managers reinforce that employees do matter. By focusing on team building, problem solving or planning, managers inspire creativity and ingenuity. Employees most satisfied are those who are often called upon for cross-training or special projects. These opportunities, when properly delegated, can lead to an opportunity to advance your team. Paula Bradison is the CEO of Alaska Executive Search.
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