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Time For An Upgrade: How To Use Technology To Improve Talent Acquisition - Feb 2017

4 Today’s talent has been born at a time when most households had at least one personal computer, a mobile phone and 24-hour access to the Internet. As technology advances, seemingly every day, the ways candidates search and apply for jobs are also changing. As recruitment professionals, it is crucial for us to adapt to these developments if we are to match the right people with the right opportunities.   Fortunately for us, there is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the technology we need for a seamless, integrated recruitment process. We already have the tools. We may even be using them in our day-to-day processes already. We simply need to learn to use them more efficiently.
 

  1. Have a strong, on-brand online presence

For staffing companies like TASC Outsourcing, this means keeping the company philosophy of finding talent with the right skills and abilities for our clients’ specific requirements top of mind. This is communicated on all our platforms, from the company website to our Facebook page. Companies looking to hire talent should make their company culture and work ethic clear and their communication engaging to give applicants a “feel” of what it would be like to work for them. Today’s generation of employees are more savvy than we think, and the perfect candidate just might pass you by if your website or social media post is filled with irrelevant, buzzword-filled “non-information.”  

  1. Make the technology you use work harder for you

Most staffing and recruitment companies already have the basic tools: a website that accepts candidate résumés, software that aids them in the screening process, and a team of professional, specialist recruiters to conduct pre-interviews. Integrating all these into one complete and streamlined process will not only improve the experience for candidates but will also help make it more time efficient. Take advantage of video-conferencing apps. With time at a premium and everyday headaches such as traffic congestion and transport issues, video conferencing allows both you and the candidate to meet at a convenient time and a less stressful environment. This also gives you the added benefit of extending your search to talents who are currently not in the same city or even country as you.  
 
  1. Avoid duplicating processes

If your website already asks the candidate to fill in an application form, they shouldn’t be asked to bring a printed-out résumé or fill in a physical form during a face-to-face interview. Set very strict parameters on your candidate screening software to ensure that only the most qualified applicants get through to the next stage of your recruitment process. Make what you require of the candidate very clear at the onset so they don’t have to keep coming back and become frustrated by a perceived lack of organization.  
 
  1. Be mobile friendly

An ever-increasing number of applicants search for jobs using their mobile phones. And they’re not only visiting traditional jobseeker websites either. Optimising your website for mobile phone viewing, using social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn for job postings and utilizing hashtags on Instagram all ensure that your posts are where the right talent is most likely to see them.   Lastly, remember that technology is a tool that enhances and improves your day-to-day processes. It is not meant to replace human, personalized interaction and engagement. While a very sophisticated screening software can sift through hundreds of résumés per minute, it cannot take the place of a highly trained professional who, beyond what’s written in black and white, can tell from body language and verbal cues whether the applicant being interviewed fits a client’s specific needs. Used correctly and appropriately, technology can optimise your recruitment process and allow you more time to plan more strategic acquisitions and placements.  

Start-Up Right: Learn From Common Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make - Feb 2017

2 (1) Entrepreneurs are a rare breed. It takes a lot of courage, ambition and determination to set off on your own and try to make it in the highly competitive world of business. Even rarer still is the entrepreneur who gets it right at the first try.   As American-Jazz great Coleman Hawkins once said, “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough.” But mistakes are costly and can break a start-up company before it’s even fully taken off. According to Deluxe Corp, a marketing company specialised in helping SMEs, 50% - 70% of small businesses fail within the first 18 months — a figure that a maverick self-starter may find hard to accept.   TASC Outsourcing itself is an entrepreneurial effort by our CEO, Mahesh Shahdadpuri, who first set up a software company before branching out into staffing and recruitment. Through his example and that of other enterprising souls who have gone ahead of us to build successful, lasting companies, we can get a good idea of what to do and what not to do when starting up a business.  

  1. Build A Strong Foundation For Your Business

Set a clear, attainable goal, and the steps you need to take to get there. It is true that some businesses have succeeded without even having a written business plan, but a clear idea of what you are going to offer to which specific target audience may be the difference between you and a company that folds under within a year. Develop one specific business model and stick to it, at least for as long as it takes for you to get out there and be noticed. Think of it as a launch pad, if you will, to your future as an entrepreneur. The ideation stage is quite exciting, and coming up with twenty ideas in one sitting can be a heady experience. But what good will it do you to have 10 businesses with none of them actually bringing in a profit?
  1. Keep Your Focus

Focus on one thing, one product or service, one that you are passionate about and believe you can do better than anyone else and get the ball rolling. Always remember, getting started is one thing, seeing it through to success is another. You will meet challenges along the way, find the returns to be not as good as you had forecasted or that being an entrepreneur means more hard work than you first thought. Sadly, there are no shortcuts in business. You need to see it through every step of the growth process before you can make informed decisions on whether you want to continue on your chosen model or not. All you can do is manage your expectations and know that it takes at least six months to a year before you can see actual results (or a lack thereof).
  1. Plan Ahead

Finding out your product or service will not sell once you’re already six months into operations can be devastating, even more so because it is highly avoidable if you do a few steps in planning before launch. Do your research. Learn what the competition is doing. Listen to what your target audience has to say. Conducting even a brief, informal feasibility study before launching your company can save you much time and money in the long run. It might even help you refine your offering even further and ensure its success.  
  1. Delegation is Key

For entrepreneurs, it’s quite easy to fall into the trap of thinking you know it all and can do it all. While you don’t necessarily need a partner to start a business, it doesn’t have to be a one-man show either. Plot out everything you need to do, figure out in which areas you will need help, and then think of the specific kind of help you need. Create a job description and hire people according to your needs. But don’t get stuck on résumés either. Remember that motivated people who are willing to learn from and grow with you with a can-do attitude may be a better fit for a start-up than those who’ve acquired all their skills working in your chosen industry for decades.  
  1. Managing The Money

We’ve also heard many stories of start-ups running out of money midway through incubation. Listing all your costs on the outset, both fixed and potential ones, gives you an idea of how much money you need to bring in on a daily basis to keep your doors open. This will also help you make informed decisions regarding your pricing. Will your operation costs remain the same in the next few months? Do you expect to need more equipment and staff within a year? Covering these and other variable expenses in your pricing now can prevent getting negative feedback from customers surprised by a sudden surge in your prices later on. Even more important, perhaps, is deciding how much you are going to pay yourself and factoring this into your calculations. Many entrepreneurs believe in paying themselves with whatever is left in the coffers at the end of the month or wait until the company turns a profit. While noble, this practice is impractical. If you include your “salary” in the operating costs from the start, you will avoid having to dig into your personal savings should the need arise.  
  1. Remember What Is Important

Money matters, but it is not everything, especially not for start-ups. If you keep your focus only on profit and growth, many things fall to wayside, starting with your values. Many entrepreneurs have given in to the temptation by doing quick turnarounds that compromise the quality of their products, resulting in negative customer feedback and ultimately losing the business. Set your own standards and stand by them no matter what. Spend on quality and you get quality. This is true for both raw materials and staff. After all, people know what they are worth and whether they can demand a premium for what they are offering or not. While the most expensive is not necessarily the best at all times, it is your responsibility to spend your start-up money wisely, so think long and hard about what you spend it on.  
  1. Get The Right Marketing Mix

Another common entrepreneurial mistake when it comes to money is not spending on marketing. True, with communication technology what it is now, word of mouth advertising is even more widely and quickly spread than ever. But relying on it completely for your target audience to find you can be risky. Choosing the right platform to advertise your product and creating a smart media plan within your budget can help you get the word out without breaking the bank.     Go online and you will find hundreds of “motivational” stories about starting a business, alongside which will be thousands of examples of failure that will make you want to just give up even before you’ve begun. Entrepreneurship is perhaps one of the most daunting challenges you will take on, but it is also at the top of life’s list of most satisfying experiences. Plan ahead, develop the skills that will enable you to face challenges as they come but have the flexibility to handle surprises along the way. And when the going gets tough, remember these wise words from T.S. Elliot, “If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?”  

Five Steps To Deal With Incompetent Team Members - Feb 2017

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With the world growing smaller every day and multinational workplaces becoming the norm, a full gamut of personalities and varying cultural backgrounds, not to mention a range of skill sets and abilities have to be managed by today’s leaders. While it is all well and good to promote a harmonious, ‘united by one goal’ working relationship, it is also unavoidable to have at least one bad egg in the basket. Ineffective, incompetent employees are present in almost all organisations no matter how hard we try to weed them out during the initial hiring process. To you as a leader, they can present an exceptionally big challenge since firing them may not always be an option or effective solution.

You can, however, choose to see the positive side of this situation. The ability to handle incompetent people and make them active contributors to your growth is a big added asset to your skills as a leader. Ineffective team members also drive you to find solutions beyond the most apparent and be more creative in your approach to daily interactions and processes.

As a leading staffing & recruitment company, TASC Outsourcing has been exposed to possibly every kind of workplace dynamic and witnessed how the best leaders deal with underperforming staff. Here is a list of methods we found most helpful and ultimately more rewarding.

  • 1. Learn to gauge employee abilities better

    Incompetent. Ineffective. Underachieving. We are often quick to label employees who are not performing as well as expected. Yet the truth is, people learn at varying paces. Every employee also has specific skills and abilities different from any other. In our history of talent acquisitions, we have never come across an employee who intentionally or maliciously does subpar work to the detriment of a company. Everyone is eager to contribute to a company’s success, but some factors may be hindering them from doing their best. It is the responsibility of a good leader to gauge a staff member’s strengths and weakness and play to them. As Einstein said, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” Of course, this does not mean spending most of your time handholding your team while they work. Show them what they can do, the results you expect and see how they perform. You can even consider them handling a different role to see if they perform better at it.
  • 2. Be open and approachable

    We’ve come across instances where the team leader and member relationship had deteriorated so badly that it had devolved into nothing more than a series of email exchanges, often nasty ones at that. In another case, the team leader had become so resigned to his members not doing their jobs properly that he would half-heartedly give out instructions while secretly doing the work himself. This defeatist attitude only results in an even bigger gap in relations between the leader and his team. Instead, a good leader should address the situation head-on, map out a strategic plan for delegating work, and speak to those involved directly. Break down the information into manageable parts, give specific instructions, set clear expectations, while offering complete support as needed.
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  • 3. Communicate clearly, precisely and openly

    Remember to also document all communication with any member of your team. Of course, verbal instructions and discussing projects openly are ideal. However, having your plans and directions in black and white ensures everyone knows every stage of the project, are clear about their own targets, and have a document they can check back on should they lose their way at any point. It also helps you avoid those unproductive “he said, she said” situations that only cause delays and unnecessary tension for everyone concerned. Communication also goes both ways. Just as employees are expected to hear you out, effective leadership keeps an open mind to feedback and suggestions. Your team members’ opinions and contributions may end up surprising you, and accommodating them will increase their confidence, motivating them to increase productivity in the long term.
  • 4. Keep your goals in mind

    When faced with an unproductive member of the team, it is far too easy to just ignore the person and let yourself and others take up the slack. Some studies even show that situations like these increase the productivity of the other members. What the studies don’t show is that it also often breeds discontent amongst the productive members, making for a highly uncomfortable working environment that will end up two ways: either the other members start looking for a “better” workplace, or they become so dissatisfied with a seemingly unfair situation that they decide to underperform too. As an effective leader, it is up to you to make the team work toward the goal you had set out to accomplish. Assess the situation with this in mind. Is your underachieving member’s incompetence undermining the whole team’s efforts? Would this person be more effective in a different role? Would he perhaps contribute better on his own? Is the rest of the team showing any strain as you keep relying on them more and more to make up for his incompetence? See what is happening with the view of how it will affect your ability to achieve your goals. And be prepared to make tough choices that will positively impact the company in the long run.
  • 5. Keep a cool, level head

    Dealing with incompetence can be frustrating and appears to be a thankless job. But as the old axiom goes, someone’s got to do it. As a leader, everyone looks to your example and guidance. If the entire office is in chaos, your members expect you to be the calm haven and have answers to everything. This may feel like a big responsibility, and it is, but you also recognize that if leadership is the first to react strongly and negatively to an already stressful situation, you can’t expect your members not to be just as or even more so negatively impacted. Take a deep breath and look at a situation calmly, methodically and strategically. Do not let emotions or your own personal opinions cloud your view of what is actually taking place. Make a list of things to be done by order of priority. If need be, take the person or persons concerned out of the picture temporarily and assign their tasks to others. The company’s operations always come first, and dealing with the people involved will have to wait once the work is done and there are clearer minds all around. Next, respond without judgment. This means confronting the employee with the facts of the matter, not counterproductive finger-pointing, emotional outbursts or fault-finding. Make a straightforward assessment of the situation, listen to the person’s opinions on what happened, and point a clear way forward. At the end of the day, unless you have and can find grounds for termination, this employee will still be a member of your staff. Turning their attitude around and ensuring they are not further demotivated to do their part in the future is up to you. Having to deal with workplace incompetence is a daunting task but one that is simply impossible to avoid. And while you often can’t change a person’s attitude or personality, you can, however, develop your own skills to be better able to handle such employees. Learning to take on the challenge of incompetent employees and turning them into productive, actively contributing team members make the difference between a good leader and a great one.
  • How To Provide Workplace Flexibility With Accountability - Jan 2017

    Retail Technology and Managed Services

    By Abbas Ali - Vice President, TASC Outsourcing

    At TASC Outsourcing, we take pride in finding the right individual with the right skills for the right opportunity. In the majority of our talent acquisition activities, we’ve noted an increase in the number of candidates who put a premium on flexibility when asked what for them is an ideal working environment. Yet we have also discovered that even in today’s technologically advanced, globally connected workplaces, “flexibility” is still a word feared by employers. Considering that reputable studies show how employees who get flex work benefits are happier, more productive and tend to stay with an employer longer, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that employers would be happy to implement such programs and leverage them as recruitment and retention tools.

    The hesitation on the part of companies, however, stems mainly from one thing: a perceived lack of control over the work an employee on flexi time is producing in terms of quality and quantity.

    As an employer, you might be surprised that flexible work programs have had proven positive effects. Employers benefit financially as most employees are willing to accept a cut in salary and forego insurance when given the opportunity to work from home. Companies also enjoy reduced rental and utilities costs, among other benefits. On the other hand, employees working on flexi arrangements report higher levels of productivity because of fewer distractions such as interruptions from colleagues.

    A deeper look into the systems and processes of your company may be able to reveal whether a flexi program can work for your organisation. How should you go about it?

    First, ask yourself a few relevant questions, such as whether your employees absolutely must complete tasks within a 9 to 5 timeframe. Is it necessary for each employee to be physically in the office all 5 days of the week? Is it more cost-effective and time-efficient for an employee to conduct face-to-face meetings outside the office?

    Next, consider whether you are equipped with the infrastructure and technology to support your employees who work off-site. Video conferencing and a secure network where everyone can remotely access data and files in real-time are just two of the tools that can help ensure the whole team is up to date on the task at hand. They also offer reassurance that your employees are putting in the effort and hours required of them even if they don’t physically clock in and out of the office.

    Lastly, think about what flexi work program will work best for you. At this point it would be a good idea to get feedback from your employees, after all, this would impact them most. Would working fewer days in the week work best for you? Can employees only come to the office when face time is absolutely necessary? Will earlier start and off duty times be better? Listen to what the employees say and take that in consideration when making your final decision.

    In today’s ever-changing work environment, it is projected that most companies, from SME to huge multinational, will have a form of flexible work program in place by 2020.

    Is your company ready for the challenge?

    360 degree Revolution in Retail Staffing: Case Study in Client Solutions - Sep 2016

    Retail Technology and Managed Services

    By Melvyn Mascarenhas

    Associate Vice President, TASC Outsourcing

    True definition of 360 is equidistance from the center of a circle. In this Case Study, as fresh as ground cinnamon on a spices shelf, we look at a recent experience in the Retail industry. The story revolves around an integrated platform we developed, for automating the Sales Force at Retail stores.

    TASC Outsourcing is a talent solutions company with a ready pool of resources for deployment at client sites. We have more than 4000 contract staff on our rolls, of which more than 1100 are outsourced to clients in the Retail sector. The founder of our company, Mr. Mahesh Shahdadpuri, is an engineer with a passion for IT (besides being a business magnate ranked in recent years among Top Indian Leaders in the Arab world, awarded as Middle East CEO of the Year in Outsourcing, and acclaimed as IT Innovator of the Year).

    It was quite natural that, since inception 8 years ago, our back-end was driven by state of the art software systems that empowered recruitment, training, on-boarding, payroll and compliance. One fine day, a year ago, while assessing the potential for Retail in the GCC, we came up with an idea: Why not infuse technology for the benefit of clients, beyond its use in-house.

    Not that simple, considering most of our clients are MNC brands, with their own tech teams. We went back to the drawing board and came up with a fusion of our core business and their core business need: A 360 degree software application that will manage human resources, manage inventory, monitor share of shelf and increase sales. Read on for the case study, and launch story of the TASC Retail Technology Platform.

    Traditional retail, from the days of shops and supermarkets, has been driven more by book keeping and manual stock taking. Next came computerization and along with it voluminous spreadsheets that had to be analyzed manually. Followed by Big Retail, with a potpourri of centralized IT hubs, warehouses, supply chains and customer value chains. They went shopping for every software tool, to make the backend strong and customers engaged on the sales floor. ERP, MIS, BIS, SIS and SAP applications, Heat Sensors to monitor lines at checkout counters, transaction processing systems, RFID for stock levels, automatic reorder from as many as 1000 suppliers… phew… Retail has come a long way from the mom and pop store of yore.

    In this evolved industry vertical, powered by cutting edge IT, in a domain dominated by global majors, we spotted a niche where we could add value, with our technology genes and HR expertise. Working with a knowledge partner, we developed a resources-centric technology platform that would motivate the sales team by automating work flow, thereby enabling focus on their core function of customer service.

    With our Retail Technology Platform, even a routine but essential task of marking attendance is made easy – all it needs is an RFID check in, or a selfie click. The app installed on the sales person’s mobile phone geo-tags location and time. Stock tracking is in real time, which helps replenish inventory just in time. Field staff are able to measure share of shelf – in real time, facilitating action for boosting sales. For management personnel in Retail Chains and consultants engaged in retail performance improvement and store transformation, here is an overview of our Retail Technology Platform:

    • Integrated KPI setting, incentive calculation and payroll management
    • Enhanced employee engagement through mobile alerts and e-pay slip
    • Automated stock capture, product demo and market visit planning
    • Visual merchandising reports from store visits and field audit reports
    • Capture of SKU-wise stock through an intuitive UI
    • Helps monitor In-Store Sales, Visual Merchandising and Field Training
    Initially, when we proposed the platform to our Retail clients, we encountered resistance, as there is an additional cost for implementing the technology. But we had a happy ending, when the platform switched to payback mode within a few months of implementation. To cite two examples:
    1. A global manufacturer and distributor, who never stops inventing, and whose products help paste, staple, clip and stick, reported an increase in sales of 20%.
    2. An electronics giant, for whom we have deployed more than 150 promoters, and has implemented our automation technology, is convinced of our sense and sensibility.
    We have successfully deployed the platform at retail establishments in UAE, Kuwait and Qatar. Implementation is underway for clients in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. In many ways, the platform is a milestone in our Managed Services offering. Until now, we outsourced team members, and we managed payroll. Technology innovation completed the trinity. Looking at it closely, we integrated Sales Management across touch points, equalized the distance from the center, and ushered in without a fuss, a 360 degree revolution in retail staffing.