New Spin on Checking References

By Helen Sullivan, APR, Fellow PRSA

One of the biggest and easily put into action takeaways for me from Christine Porath’s fabulous keynote address, “Mastering Civility” at the opening general session of the 2018 IPI Conference & Expo in Orlando has to do with checking references for new hires.

Instead of asking for references from a prospect’s supervisors, she suggested asking for references from a few people that the prospect supervised.

People tend to “kiss up and kick down,” Porath says. To find out about a person’s character, see how they treat those working under them. The next time you hire, connect with the future employee’s subordinates, not the boss, to get a true picture.

Conversely, here’s an interesting exercise: Take a few minutes to ask yourself what the people you supervise would say about you:

  • Do you take a take time to understand the person’s real-life challenges – a sick parent, a child with special needs, a wedding in three months? Making accommodations for a valuable employee can often build a lifetime of loyalty.
  • Are you empowering employees or micromanaging?
  • Within your company, are you advocating for team members’ deserved promotions or raises?
  • Are you mentoring young professionals and creating reasons for them to stay in your company, and make parking and transportation a career?
  • Do you take credit, or share the limelight when it’s appropriate?
  • When is the last time you arranged a staff outing for team-building, a fun retreat, or a surprise half-day off? Building morale can reap big pay-offs.

Need inspiration? Do an internet search for “how to be a good boss”—some great stuff comes up!

One way to show appreciation is by investing in people. Have you looked at IPI’s list of online or onsite courses lately? One of the reason’s my son-in-law (in IT) loves his present company is that they have a robust professional development program, supporting his taking increasingly advanced certification programs.

Here’s to caring (instead of kicking) down.

Helen Sullivan, APR, Fellow PRSA, is IPI’s communications counsel.

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