HR Roundtable: Mind Reading for Managers

Go Back to Searchlight Q4 2017

Featuring Kim Seeling Smith, founder and CEO, Ignite Global

At the October 17 Pearson Partners HR Roundtable event, we were honored to welcome guest speaker Kim Seeling Smith, founder and CEO of Ignite Global and seasoned expert on employee engagement and productivity. Seeling Smith divides her time between the United States and Australia, and previously worked with our own Stephen Konstans earlier in their careers. We’re always seeking great speakers to help our HR clients and colleagues excel in their roles and advance their companies as industry leaders, and knew Seeling Smith would be a great fit for the Roundtable. So, we pulled a few strings to get her to Dallas to present to a tough crowd of HR professionals. She didn’t disappoint.

Seeling Smith’s acclaimed presentation, entitled Mind Reading for Managers, focuses on conversations between managers and staff that improve employee engagement and productivity. “Five FOCUSed Conversations for Greater Employee Engagement and Productivity” is not only a managerial framework, but also a published book that has withstood the test of time across a variety of industries.

Employee recruitment and retention are among the foremost challenges for businesses today. In fact, a McKinsey statistic reported that in 2020 there will be an astounding 85 million global jobs left unfilled. So what happens when you can’t find the one you need? Seeling Smith suggests you “love the one you’ve got.” Businesses invest money, time and training into their staff, but up to 80% of those employees are not actively engaged, negatively affecting overall work performance.

It costs between 50–200% of an annual salary to replace an employee.Click To TweetIt costs between 50–200% of an annual salary to replace an employee, not to mention the aggravation and lack of productivity that comes with unsatisfied employees and the search for replacements. To combat this issue, Seeling Smith encourages businesses to focus on retaining current staff through 5 steps, or “currencies of choice,” outlined below:

  1. "Five FOCUSed Conversations for Greater Employee Engagement and Productivity" - Kim Seeling Smith

    Image credit: Kim Seeling Smith

    Feedback includes company updates and praise, and giving staff members a voice.
  2. Objectives are specific, measurable metrics/KPIs. These can be set and reviewed every quarter and provide a way for staff to be held accountable.
  3. Career Development shouldn’t be the elephant in the room. Small things can make a big difference and managers and employers should discuss opportunity.
  4. Underlying Motives are what drives your staff to do what they do. What pushes them to go the extra mile? Do they prefer internal challenge or external praise?
  5. Strengths are the skills and talents your staff brings to the table. What are they good at? What do they love to do? How can you help them free up two hours each week to sharpen these skills?

Implementation is the key to success with Seeling Smith’s framework. Senior management and executive staff must be on board with a two-way communication system to determine staff needs, or at a minimum manage expectations when needs can’t be met. Similarly, all staff members must make time to discuss issues face-to-face with management once a month, solving problems the old-fashioned way. Seeling Smith’s philosophy and outlined conversations pose the question: what do your employees need to stay engaged?

For those who couldn’t be at the HR Roundtable event, Kim Seeling Smith’s online presentation serves as an excellent recap. We enjoyed hearing from Seeling Smith and look forward to many more insightful Roundtables.


Save the date for our February 13 session, with details to be announced soon. If you are a senior-level corporate HR executive and would like to attend our events, please join our LinkedIn Group.


We are seeking speakers for our Pearson Partners HR Roundtable events. If you or someone you know has expertise in presenting on an executive-level HR-related topic, please contact us.

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