An Executive Director's point of view

Category: Employment
Posted by: David M Patt
I've never asked that question of a job applicant but lots of interviewers will.

Here's how to handle that.

April 14, 2017: Job boards

Category: Employment
Posted by: David M Patt
List positions on your association job board in a logical order.

Do not list them in the order you received them from employers. That has no relevance to anybody.

You can list positions alphabetically by state, by category, or by another variable that allows viewers to read only the portion that interests them.

Present the information in a way that makes it most useful to the reader.

People should not have to read everything on the list to find what they want.

October 19, 2016: Salary history

Category: Employment
Posted by: David M Patt
Massachusetts law now prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their salary history.

That's just fine with me.

I've never asked the previous salary of a job applicant because it does not matter.

I'm paying what I think is an appropriate salary for the position and I really don't care what they earned before.

And I always state the salary. There is NO REASON for it to be a secret. If it's too low, the applicant will withdraw from the process.

Demanding salary information of a job applicant - especially at the beginning of an interview - is totally unfair to the applicant and presumes that salary is the only consideration for applying for or accepting a position.

Other states may follow Massachusetts' lead and associations would do well to be prepared for that situation.

September 12, 2016: The (non) performance appraisal

Category: Employment
Posted by: David M Patt
Association professionals are frequently entranced by fads, and one of the latest is the elimination of annual performance appraisals.

Some critics claim that too much time is spent by employers and employees preparing for a process that generates hard feelings and does not yield timely information that is useful for either of them.

That may often be true.

But it is absolutely necessary to evaluate employees, provide instant feedback, ensure they are doing their jobs appropriately, help them feel their roles are important to the association, and let them know their talents are appreciated.

So, call it whatever you want and structure it a different way than has been done in the past.

But don't abolish the process. You still need a method of evaluating employees, providing them with useful feedback, and understanding their concerns.

August 23, 2016: It's a different world

Category: Employment
Posted by: David M Patt
If you work for a public interest group and think you may want to be employed by a trade or professional association, try to make that shift early in your career, before you are labeled a "do-gooder" (not always a positive identifier in the association world).

You'll need to ensure folks that you will be loyal to the industry or profession that employs you, not to the general public.

Your job is to promote the interests of your members. For example, in a nurses association, your goal is not to improve health care or nursing care, but to improve the ability of nurses to do whatever it is they decide to do.

(NOTE: "Trade" associations consist of companies in particular industries, such as drug stores, container manufacturers, storage facilities, etc. "Professional" associations consist of individuals, such as attorneys, physicians, software developers, dental hygienists, etc. There are also "recreational" organizations, comprised of individuals who run, garden, knit, hunt, or participate in other activities not related to their work).

Some of your skills from public interest work will be transferable:

1. Board relations skills. All of these organizations are governed by Boards of Directors, so your ability to work with and for Board members will be a huge asset.

2. Fund-raising skills. Many associations conduct campaigns to raise money for foundations, educational programs, scholarships, and other activities that require the specialized expertise that you possess.

3. Staff management. If you obtain a supervisory position, you'll need to know how to manage and direct employees, just as you would in any organization.

4. Planning strategically. Every group needs a plan to ensure it focuses on its desired goals and does not drift in other directions.

5. Budgeting. And it needs to know how to allocate and utilize its resources to be able to achieve its goals.

Other things may be different, so be prepared for them.:

1. Always do what's best for your members, not what you think is best for "the public good." When necessary, spin your efforts so they are not thwarted by "the public good."

2. Focus on results. Winning, not merely fighting for the cause, should be your aim.

3. Business skills are more important than is often the case in public interest organizations. You've been hired to be a manager, marketer, writer, or whatever. Passion for the cause or organization is not enough.

4. Be gentle when criticizing anything (if you have to criticize at all). Association professionals are obsessively agreeable and frequently try to avoid conflict. They often seek unanimity.

5. Keep your politics to yourself. Your members may not agree with your personal opinions, and may think less of your because of your beliefs, so don't share them. Don't wear campaign buttons at election time and don't comment on public policy positions that have nothing to do with your association. Stay neutral. Act like a professional, not like a partisan.

July 20, 2016: Student loans

Category: Employment
Posted by: David M Patt
If you want to construct an attractive employee benefits package, offering repayment of student loans is something you may want to include.

It could help you attract quality job applicants, especially young ones.

Don't expect it to tether people to your association for a long period of time, though. Employees, especially young ones, will be on the move no matter what you do. Turnover is just a fact of life.

But you may be able to lure higher performing workers, and may even induce them to remain a bit longer, if you help them alleviate a major burden in their lives.

Student loans are wrongly classified by colleges as financial assistance. Actually, they are the opposite - financial tools that drive many into severe, lifelong debt. Money is loaned to people who may have no way of ever repaying it. It's no wonder the default rate is so high.

So, offer to lift some of that burden from their shoulders. It may turn out to be a valuable investment for your organization.

P.S. Don't create conditions that require employees to remain with your organization longer than they would have. You should want people to work for you because they like the work, and not just hang around for the benefits.

June 18, 2016: No secrets

Category: Employment
Posted by: David M Patt
When interviewing job applicants, share as much information as possible, not as little as you think you can get away with.

Look for the most qualified applicant, not the one who accidentally meets your secret criteria or magically knows the inner workings of your organization.

Share information about finances, strategic plans, staffing, programs, and other organizational activities.

Don't hide information - including salary.

Don't ask trick questions.

You'll get a better hire if you are honest and open with applicants.
Category: Employment
Posted by: David M Patt
When hiring high level employees, especially Executive Directors, you should want to view them in action and see them at their best.

So, instead of opening an interview by saying something like, "Tell us about yourself," ask the person, when scheduling the interview, to make a presentation of 5, 10, or 15 minutes - specify the amount of time - so the job aspirant can make her case for the position. You can ask questions after that.

You will get better information this way. The candidate can say everything he wants and then be more responsive to your questions, rather than watching for opportunities to insert selling points during your interrogation.

And you can see how applicants represent themselves and are likely to represent your organization.

Don't assume the person you are interviewing is embellishing, exaggerating, or lying and that you have to catch them in the act. Your goal should not be to reveal the phony hiding behind a curtain.

Your goal should be to conduct an effective job interview that enables both the employer and the applicant to communicate what they believe is important and to learn about each other.

A job interview should NOT be a competition with each side trying to outsmart the other.

June 08, 2016: No raise is a pay cut

Category: Employment
Posted by: David M Patt
Many organizations, especially those with public interest missions, frequently deny raises to their employees.

They'll say they can't afford to pay more. Or that they'll have to cut services to pay more, even when salaries are pitifully low to begin with. Or that the group serves needy people and employees should be willing to sacrifice for them.

Don't let organizations guilt-trip you with those comments. You should not have to sacrifice your well-being to serve others.

Denying you a raise is the same as reducing your salary.

Your rent will still rise, groceries and medicine will cost you more, and everything you spend money on will be more expensive than it was before. Merchants and landlords will not discount their services because you work for needy people.

So, stick up for yourself. Don't let employers pit you against clients or members. You should be paid what you are worth, not merely what your employer thinks you should be willing to accept.

May 31, 2016: Bridging the culture gap

Category: Employment
Posted by: David M Patt
Industry and professional organizations often conduct business in the manner to which they are accustomed, even when hiring association professionals.

They may favor professional or industry degrees and certifications, even if those are not relevant to the association positions they seek to fill.

They may request written letters of recommendation, not just a list of references with contact information.

They may wish to publicize a list of finalists for the job. The search is not confidential.

They may feel it premature to leave a position after only ten years. They may have held their jobs or owned their companies for decades.

They may not be knowledgeable about governance, membership recruitment and retention, association financial and legal issues, or any of a number of activities routinely carried out by association professionals.

They may not understand the difference between for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.

And they may think that anybody can manage an association.

When faced with this kind of culture shock, try to approach matters from the industry or professional point of view. Explain how associations operate differently, how they require possession of different skills sets, and how association professionals can help groups succeed.

Demonstrate that association management expertise is a very valuable asset.
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