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Tim Brennan—Episode 35 - Westgate Career Coaching
Tim Brennan

Tim Brennan

Tim Brennan is the Co-Founder and Chief Visionary Officer at Fit First Technologies, with a 25+ year career in business, management and human resources. 

His company helps small and large companies with their Job Fit model and advanced hiring tools that incorporate behavioural research, AI and human analytics.

Transcript

Maureen Farmer

As a performance optimization consultant and executive coach, I'm fascinated by innovation in leadership and technology, especially as it relates to employee retention, and employee engagement. In my interview today, we learn about building functional and efficient workforce systems that are sustainable, effective, and deliver employee retention for the long term. Tim Brennan is the Co-Founder and Chief Visionary Officer at Fit First Technologies. With more than 25 years in business management and human resources consulting, Tim's company helps small and large companies with their job fit model. The job fit model helps to uncover an applicant's core personality traits, attitude and standards by accessing advanced human analytics and behavioral science assessments. It helps to highlight which job applicants will be the most successful in the role to discover top performers. They use cutting edge career fit technology to match job applicants with the right occupations, employers with the right talent and career advisors with the right resources all within a single integrated platform. Tim has also recently learned how to retire. Listen in for the full story!


Hello, Tim, welcome to the Get Hired Podcast!

Tim Brennan

Great to be here, Maureen. Thanks for inviting me!

Maureen Farmer

Absolutely. It's my pleasure. And I'd love to start with two things, because I'd love to know the difference between emotional intelligence and social intelligence. So why don't we start there?

Tim Brennan

Well Maureen, I started a company about 22 years ago. And that company was started from when I was...prior to starting this company, which now is Fit First Technologies. I was actually in corporate...I was in corporate for 13 years, working in the snack food division there of PepsiCo foods. And one of the things that was happening to me, when I was working in corporate is I hired about 250 people while I was there, and while I was doing that work, I got the hiring right, about half the time. And that made me a rock star. And for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why I got it right this time and why I got it so wrong the next time. And that just became an obsession of mine. And I ended up then starting to build this business. First started out as my own little company with just me, out of my basement, trying to figure out how we can make the hiring system work more efficiently and more effectively. And a big, big thing that I discovered was that, you know, we really had to come up with better ways to measure what matters. So that became this company called (at the time), the Brennan group. Now, with partners that I brought in together, I was a Co-Founder of Fit First Technologies, which is in its current format, where it's now a company with the technology to help organizations find the right fit for the job, then look at their education and work experience. So that's my background. It was a lot of starting out little and then what happened to me was when the company got bigger than something that I was the right person to be running, and I realized that I had been talking all my life for 25 years about you know, you got to have the right fit for the person, you know...And I found as the company grew, I wasn't the right fit, I wasn't sitting in the right seat in the bus anymore to really tap into all the things that I do well, so...

Maureen Farmer

So, can I interrupt you for just a moment? I think the the person listening to this conversation is going to be curious about how did you get it right half the time and not the other half? And what did you do about it? I know you have this great technology, it's very effective. You have clients all over the United States and Canada, big corporations, and they are using this product to hire very effective employees for their company.

Tim Brennan

Well, it's because back then the traditional hiring method is you put people in the yes, no, maybe piles, based on what they know. And what they've done. We do our sorting by the resumes. And then we bring them on later. And we bring them in, and then we start to understand who they are. And it's the who they are, which always became the problem for the success, right? They had the same education and work experience. And some of them worked out and some of them didn't. So what I did was I flipped the system around I said, Okay, well what would happen if we actually put people in the yes, no, maybe piles based on who they are. And then we looked at what they know and what they've done.

Maureen Farmer

And so when you say who they are, what do you mean specifically by that?

Tim Brennan

Well, you know, what we're talking about is how do they process information, not how they act, right? There's the how you act, and then there's the who you are. The how you act is just how we present ourselves. But the who you are is when no one's looking. What is it about you? So things like how are you wired to make decisions? Are you comfortable with risk? Are you risk adverse? That's a who you are. So understanding in each different role, there's different types of people who would be the best fit for that kind of work. So that's what we do is we we bring out that information, the stuff that's hard to get ahold of in an interview.

Maureen Farmer

And do you notice a difference between an entry level candidate and an executive level candidate when it comes to measuring how they act and the competencies required? Is that consistent across the levels?

Tim Brennan

That's a really interesting question because, you know, it really is again, it's, you know, some people...there are people who are absolutely genuine, who act the way they are, it's fine, you know, you can't can't make it a generic thing about an age, right? And a role, it really is every human being is a human. Now, there are some people who are very good at putting on a mask and playing the role. Right? And they can play the role...I like to think of...there's people—I've hired them in the past, when I was in the corporate world, these people would come in, and they presented really well, they presented exactly what they thought I wanted. And they came in, and what they had was a kind of mask on the end of a stick, and they had that mask up in front of their face. And they presented who they thought I was looking for. And they came to work. And when they came to work, they could do that for like, a year or so. But then eventually their arms got tired...

Maureen Farmer

Yeah, we call that the adaptive behavior, and it's exhausting for people. It's absolutely exhausting for people.

Tim Brennan

And I used to talk to people and had a lot of conversations about people, you know, really good people who have been burning so much energy on the wrong things at work, that they're no longer as effective. You know, they started out as a star, and then they start sliding down...

Maureen Farmer

Yeah, it's so fascinating how the impact of this type of methodology and technology can improve employee engagement rates, not just the recruiting, but actually keeping the employee inside the organization for the long term, doing the things that they do well, and that they're happy doing.

Tim Brennan

Well, you know, it's funny, Maureen, you know, if you think about...as we talk about, if I could come to work, imagine for a moment, if I could just come to work every day, and just be who I am most of the time, if I don't have to expel energy, and I can be tapping into my strengths and my assets, and reducing my exposure to those things about me that become the problem... So, you know, I use myself as an example all the time, I am very much interested and enjoy engaging in conversations, and fleshing out ideas and coming up with solutions. I am so not that guy to execute them. Right? You know, because I'm on to the next problem...

Maureen Farmer

Well, yeah, I mean, you think about the people that...maybe in your own life, and maybe you've been one of them, I think I've been one of them from time to time, who've taken on roles that were just so contrary to our natural abilities and our passions, and who we are, and it does, it causes burnout. And not only is it bad for the individual person, but also equally as bad or if not more so than for the employer.

Tim Brennan

Well, you know, if you got people who are coming to work and have to act differently than who they are, all we're doing is creating friction inside the organization. You know, it's like, we used to have this thing we used to look at, you know, how we measure...so people who were in your business, we measure success in our business by looking at trailing indicators, right? We look at what were the sales, what was our turnover? What was our production? Like everything, but all the data that we get as managers is all looking in the rearview mirror, what have we done so far? And that's how we manage that. We started looking at people...we said, you know, well, let's look at our people, we look at the trailing indicators and how our people are doing, then we started thinking, Well, what if our people were more engaged? Well, if more people were more engaged than our trailing indicators would improve. So then they started focusing on, well, let's get our people more engaged. So here's the challenge. There's nothing you can do today, that is going to change yesterday's numbers. And the engagement is all about doing things really well over a long period of time. Or consequently doing things poorly over a long period of time that disengages people, you can't have an event and have an engagement workshop and all of a sudden everything improves, it has to be done over time. So that's kind of like an intermediary indicator. So when you start, think about what's the leading indicators in the business, it always comes down to like four critical aspects of fit, you get people who fit with the job, fit with the manager, fit with the team, and then fit with the organization's culture. And when you've got those four critical aspects of fit, now you've reduced the friction, you've put in the engagement and when those are aligned, all the other stuff just works better.

Maureen Farmer

That makes perfect sense. So Tim, I don't know if you can say this on this podcast, but you know, I know you work with some pretty big companies. There is a pub, or a restaurant (I think it is), that your organization has been involved with for a long time, and they keep their employees for a really long time...

Tim Brennan

What I've seen in trends, and why you get people...and I think what you're thinking about is, you know, from a retention side...the trend is really clear. The employers who actually understand who their employees are and what their employees need from work, they're the ones that make that relationship and have that fit with the manager, fit with the team. And it's as simple as things like, you know, we're all at different places in our lives, and we all want different things from work, it doesn't take a lot to do this, you know? I saw trends for years, where everybody was doing exit interviews. Like if somebody left the company, let's go and sit down and let's interview the person that we put in the inappropriate job, didn't give them the right training and the right support and ask him/her what we need to do differently...

Maureen Farmer

Right. I might have been one of those people during those exit interviews many years ago.

Tim Brennan

Right, right. And I was barking about this 20 years ago. And now I'm happy to say I see it happening more and more...organizations have finally embraced what I call retention interviews. A retention interview is when you sit down with someone who's been there with you a year or two. And you say, you know, hey, you've been working with us now for over a year, you know what we do well. You know where all the dead bodies are hidden inside the company. Right? And yet, every Monday morning, you still show up for work. Why? That retention interview will tell you so much more about what it takes in your organization to keep the right people. You know, I can tell you stories...we had a call center we were working with in a major center. And they thought that it was a great idea that they would have a contest so that the people in the loop could win a trip for their family to go off to Disney World. If they hit a certain number, and there were people who deliberately didn't want to win it, because they had extended family. And they had never traveled and it was like, actually, I hope I don't win.

Maureen Farmer

Right. Yes, know what your people are interested in!

Tim Brennan

Yeah, you know, in that trade, you know, what was the big retention player in this call center that they never thought of? A hot breakfast. Because what happened is there's an awful lot of people who have young kids, and they have to get them out the door. And they were coming to work, not having had breakfast, or they've already had three hours in their day. And they're showing up at the call center. Just the fact that there was a hot oatmeal breakfast that could be served to them...that was enough to make that job better than any other job they'd ever had.

Maureen Farmer

So Tim, how did they discover that?

Tim Brennan

That's when they started having those retention interviews.

Maureen Farmer

And is this retention interview something that you suggested as part of your service?

Tim Brennan

Oh no. I just think humans should do it.

Maureen Farmer

Yeah, I agree 100%.

Tim Brennan

No, what we are...we are the data. We provide you the data about who your people are. So if you understand and you're in your organization, you've got people...you wish you had a basket full of stars.  And on the other end, you've got people who you thought were going to be stars, but they're no longer stars, I'm going to call them passengers. Years ago, we would refer to them as poor performers. But then I discovered that everybody doesn't think they have poor performers, because if they are poor performers, they would have fired them. Right? So now we have to call them stars, and passengers. So you've got people who are okay. All right, you let them stick around. Right, but you didn't hire them to be a passenger. Well, what I've done in years is looking at the data. And this is what we've done with some of those larger organizations, where if you've got a pool of people all in the same role. So let's say we have engineers in an organization, and we've got, you know, 340 of these engineers all doing sort of the same type of work. We could look in a group like that we can go in and say, okay, what do your stars have in common? What do your passengers have in common? And what is it your passengers and your stars have that's different? See, one of the mistakes people do is they go out and they say, well, let's go look at our top performers and see what they all have in common. And they miss the step of going to find out yeah, but do my passengers have the same things?

If the passengers have the same things that my stars have, we're not measuring the right things. And that's what I mean by measure what matters. What matters is, what are those three or four traits that are critical signature traits to fit your job, fit your company, and fit your team?

Maureen Farmer

Can you give an example of a couple of those based on your...

Tim Brennan

Yeah, well, tact would be one. Oddly enough, there are roles where too much tact can be a problem, and not enough tact could be a problem. But also, sometimes you need to have low tact, because you just need to make sure someone says it. You know, I'll give you a fun example that I just dealt with yesterday. I'm dealing with the tradespeople and about whether or not these people should become electricians, or should become plumbers. Now, if you're creative, and think rules are just guidelines, and you want to you know, and you're willing to try things to see how it works, I'm gonna say lean towards being a plumber. Because if you try something as a plumber, and it doesn't work, you get wet. If you're an electrician, and you think rules are just guidelines, and you like being creative, I might be a little suspicious that you might die. 

Maureen Farmer

Right. That's a really good point.

Tim Brennan

So, but there's roles that those traits would be a great fit for. But again, a lot of times what happens is, it is a big aha moment, I mean, I've got some simple rules. As an organization, you have to reserve the right to get smarter about your people. And you need to learn from the mistakes of others, you don't have time to make them all yourself. And one of the big mistakes that I think a lot of organizations missed out on is that they don't take the time to understand what is it that makes our people, our people. The people we wish we had a basket full of...what is it that they have that's different than the other ones who work with us? And that's important.

Maureen Farmer

So do you delineate in this process between competencies and actual personal values? Or is it some other type of measure?

Tim Brennan

Let's break it down into sort of three measures. There's the what you know, there's the what you've done, and then there's the who you are. So the word gets used by different people to mean different things. So I'll put definitions to it. If you're talking about competencies as in a skill set, then that's something to be learned. So they have a competency in mathematics, right? That's a skill set that can be learned. But you can also have a competency in listening to others. That's who you are, you need to measure both. But the the competency and mathematics falls into what they know and what they've done. The competency of listening to others isn't who you are.

Maureen Farmer

Interesting. So I do find this incredibly fascinating, Tim, because, you know, employee engagement is so...and retention, I guess, is another measure...so important for organizations. And so your tools in your toolkit, how do they work? How do organizations use them?

Tim Brennan

Here's a little secret—tools don't do anything.

Tool are just tools. You can buy all the tools you want, and nothing happens, right? I know, because I have a garage full.

You have to do something with them. And, so saying, well, let's go assess our team and get a map, a sort of a picture of who we are, and then not do a thing is useless. You might as well not do it. And it's really about having a plan and a commitment of Okay, before you get the information about your people, what are you going to do with it? How are you going to use it? So I'll give examples. One of the things that used to drive me nuts in corporate, and I know you've got a corporate history that goes back a few years as well. But I used to be absolutely bonkers about what they were trying to accomplish during performance reviews. Okay, so like, to me a performance review...it looks like this in the real world. What happens is, it's kind of like when my kids were younger, and we used to go and they played hockey. And we'd go to the hockey rink. But we didn't live in a very wealthy community and our hockey rink didn't have a scoreboard...only a clock. So the game started at the top of the hour and at 10 minutes to the hour, a buzzer would go and we had to get off the ice. That's how a game went. Then what had happened is the referee would go into the dressing room. And he would tell them who won the game and who scored the goals. And that's kind of how I look at what performance reviews are like. You're going to do a whole year of working together. And then about two months after the year is over, someone sits down with you and says, Oh, by the way, here's where you won. Here's where you lost. What would happen if you actually had these performance reviews throughout the game? So, you knew how the game was going...what a concept!  I used to remember my own, they would come in and say, Hey, Tim, here's the things you do really well. Now, let's talk about all your weaknesses, yes, and all the things we want to fix. Let's try and fix Tim. But we're going to take all these very expensive resources, and we're going to work on your weaknesses. And we're going to try and bring you up the average, when did average become a goal? I mean, the corporate concept was if we raise the average of everyone, then the average...we all get better. I go, no, what you do is you become average. I say, what would have happened, if they took all that energy, and all those resources, and they actually targeted my strengths?

Imagine what would happen if they said Tim, we want you to do more of this. And we want to have you do less of this...not get better at the stuff you're bad at. One of my traits is I really don't like conflict, it stresses me out. So we're going to help him get comfortable with conflict so that he can be a disciplinary with staff. That's big, and then it just makes me an average manager.

Maureen Farmer

It's so true!