Five Ways to Attract Prospective Employees

Five Ways to Attract Prospective Employees

Like many of my clients, if you are experiencing significant increases in business, you’re noticed that there is a War for Talent! That is not surprising. There are approximately 9.3MM job openings and 9.5MM unemployed, so demand is about equal to supply. So how do you find employees? Without getting into political arguments about the lack of employees, here are five ways to attract prospective employees better.

If we take the business model that I have outlined before, which I believe can be applied to many situations, e.g., Recruiting employees and the collapse of the Superleague. So, I will examine attracting employees through the lens of:

  • Value Creation
  • Core Customer
  • Brand Promise
  • Value Delivery

and the fifth item is “Spread the Word.” You don’t want to be the unknown greatest secret among employers!

Value Creation

Value Creation in hiring refers to Why Should I Work for You? 

The first part of this is the company’s mission, or as Patrick Lencioni puts it, “Why do you exist?” Articulating a reason for existing that will resonate with the prospect is critical. There is much research by McKinsey and others that shows that if the employee can identify with the organization’s mission, they are more likely to stay and be more productive. Thus, know your mission! It needs to be succinct and easy to understand. But the entire organization needs to know it and express it the same way so that the prospect believes that you believe in it.

Second, you need to explain why the prospect should work for you. Having asked many CEOs, the following hypothetical.

You are interviewing a candidate, and they are “It.” They are an “A” player, exactly what you need and want, and you about to offer them the opportunity. Still, before you do, you ask if they have any more questions. The candidate looks are you and asks, “Why should I work for you?”

To date, not a single CEO or business owner answers this question in a way that would attract the candidate. The most common answers I get are, “We are a great company,” “We offer employees great opportunities,” and “This is an exciting place to work.” If these are your answers as well, consider the following. Do you think when the candidate asks your competitors the same questions, the responses are:

  • “We are an awful company.”
  • “This is a dead-end job where employees’ careers go to die.”
  • “This company and position are boring beyond belief, and nothing ever changes. There is no excitement or challenge.”

Of course not! They provide the same answers as you.

What to do? Consider the question and have a response ready that is supported with details and stories.

  • If you are a great company, explain how in a way that resonates with the candidate.
  • If you offer opportunities, tell stories of how employees have had great opportunities at all levels and how they have progressed.
  • If you are an exciting place to work, show how and make sure the energy is reflected in your tone and attitude.

Being able to articulate this is more critical than many CEOs, and C-Level people realize. Prospective employees have many options. If you want “A” players to take your organization to the next level, you have to stand out from the rest and show them why you are the best choice. Being the “Tallest Pigmy” is not going to cut it.

Core Customer

As with Customers, we determine our Core Customers, so we know how to market and sell to them. With employees, we need to determine who is our “core employee.” As Jim Collins has often said, culture is more important than skills as the job will change, but having people with the same values is critical! Also, you can teach skills much easier than you can teach culture. Hire for core values! Ensure that all the people involved in the hiring decision can determine that the prospect has the correct values. Finally, if you hire them, ensure that your onboarding process makes those values a habit!

Because Core Values are critical, companies that permanently rely on temp agencies are making a mistake. Temp agencies provide you with someone who can fog a mirror and do the job, but there is no test for culture. So, they don’t last, and if you have to get a new temp in who needs training. The cost is high, and productivity is low. Finally, the temp agency is competing against you. If they have another client who will pay the employee more, your temp employee is gone. While temp agencies may solve a short-term problem, they are not the solution many think they are.

Brand Promise

As with customers, you have a brand promise to convert prospects into customers; what is your promise to your employees. What are you offering them other than a salary? A CEO once told me that he couldn’t keep employees, but when we discussed it, the only thing he could say that he offered was a salary, which was in line with the market. No wonder none of his employees stayed. What you offer is not just a salary, but you need to consider things like:

  • Benefits;
  • Career advancement and development;
  • Further education and training;
  • Other opportunities; and
  • Feeling part of something bigger.

It reminds me of Cameron Herold, who, on the first-day offer that an employee joined the firm, used to celebrate to welcome them to the company. At this party, the new employee had to prepare their bucket list. The company used to commit to helping them realize an item on it during their first year. Helping didn’t mean paying for it but instead finding a way to work with the employee to realize it. Doing this gained a tremendous amount of company loyalty.

More recently, a client was telling that her daughter had just joined a new company during COVID. A few days after accepting the offer, her daughter received a laptop and a large computer monitor to help her work. The daughter was so excited about the monitor. She felt that the company cared about her and her performance, increasing her loyalty to the new employer.

Value Delivery.

How do you measure value delivery with customers? NPS scores. Well, do you get NPS scores from your employees or get them to complete Gallup’s Q12 Employee Engagement Survey? I do these for my clients. Doing these things will enable you to understand if you deliver on your promise and show that your employees are engaged. You can use this as recruiting materials. (If you are interested in having an NPS and Gallup Employee Surveys done, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.)

Get employee testimonials from employees at all levels. The strongest recommendation you can have is from your employees in their own words. Get them on video so that prospects can see how strongly your employees feel about the company and how you deliver your brand promise to them.

Spread the Word

Finally, most companies have no information on their website about any of these things. At best, a few websites ask you to submit a resume without even listing any jobs. Why would an “A” player do that? If this is the best you offer, you are not attracting them. Your website needs a section in the top menu for employment opportunities. It needs to tell prospects:

So, attract them.

While the above is not a guarantee to fill your empty positions, it will help great employees find you and be interested in working for you. If someone applies and appears to be a great candidate, but you have no role for them, find a place for them or keep them in a talent file for when a need arises. As with selling, if you don’t get the message out that you have a great product, meet your brand promise and have the data to prove it, you need to do this with hiring. Failure to do so will limit your success. Just because you are a company, realize you are now fighting for employees, and you need to work harder!

 

Copyright (c) 2021, Marc A. Borrelli

 

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  • the vision
  • the people
  • the issues
  • traction – meetings and goals (“Rocks”)
  • the processes; and
  • the data

I am a supporter of EOS in that I believe all companies should have some system to improve their performance. However, as I have worked with clients who have implemented EOS, I found that it is just that, an Operating System and not a business model that enables the organization to grow!

As defined by Wikipedia, an Operating System is “the software that supports a computer’s basic functions, such as scheduling tasks, executing applications, and controlling peripherals.” So for a business, I defined it as “a model that supports the company’s primary functions, such as identifying a vision, getting the right people in the organization, improving meetings, defining goals (rocks), etc.” At the risk of upsetting EOS Implementers®, I think EOS satisfies these metrics to a varying degree, but in most cases, doesn’t enable the company to build a growth engine.

Here is what I believe is missing to develop a growth model.

The Hedgehog Concept

In Good to Great, Jim Collins talked about the Hedgehog Concept named after Isaiah Berlin’s essay, “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” which divided the world into hedgehogs and foxes. The theme is based upon an ancient Greek parable where “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Collins found that those companies who became great followed the Hedgehog Concept. Those companies which didn’t tend to be foxes never gaining the clarifying advantage of a Hedgehog Concept, being instead scattered, diffused, and inconsistent. 

The Hedgehog Concept is based on the questions prompted by the three confluence of questions. 

  • What can you be the best in the world at?
  • What are you deeply passionate about?
  • What drives your economic engine?

The EOS Model® doesn’t focus on the hedgehog concept, and so many companies using EOS have goals and strategies based on bravado than from understanding.

Knowing your hedgehog concept will keep the organization focused on something that aligns its passion with what it can be the best at. Being good at something means you are only good and indistinguishable from many others. If you are the best at something, then you stand above the crowd. Finally, the economic engine keeps the company focused on a metric that drives profit.

Vision

While the EOS Method® works to develop a ten-year goal, I find that is not as compelling as Jim Collins’ BHAG. A BHAG, Big Hairy Audacious Goal, is a clear and persuasive statement and serves as a unifying focal point of effort with a defined finish line. It engages people, is tangible, energizing, highly focused, and often creates immense team effort. People “get it” right away; it takes little or no explanation. 

A visionary BHAG is a 10-25 year compelling goal that stretches your company to achieve greatness. It should be a huge, daunting task, like climbing going to the moon, which at first glance, no one in the company knows how on earth you will achieve.

As Collins’s noted, the best BHAGs require both “building for the long term and exuding a relentless sense of urgency: What do we need to do today, with monomaniacal focus, and tomorrow, and the next day, to defy the probabilities and ultimately achieve our BHAG?”

Profit/X = Economic Engine

The BHAG’s economic engine is the concept of Profit/X. In Good to Great, Jim Collins defines this strategic metric as “One and only one ratio to systematically increase over time, what x would have the greatest and most sustainable impact on your economic engine?” Unfortunately, too many companies don’t have an economic engine, so they fail to deliver hoped-for profits. This metric is not easily identified; however, Collins noticed that the companies that took the time to discuss, debate, and agree on one key driver for their economic engine are the ones that went from good to great.

Profit/X how you choose to make money; it is a strategic metric, not an operational one. This ratio is a key driver in your financial engine and when you make decisions about how to spend money. When developing your Profit/X, you need to have that is unique and not the industry average because if you choose the latter, then everyone will be pricing and driving costs the same way to maximize it. Like the BHAG, a correctly defined Profit/X will promote teamwork as everyone can focus on their role to drive the metric, from how many people to hire, where to open new operations, etc.

Here are some examples of Profit/X.

  • Profit/customer experience or customer visit
  • Profit/customer
  • Profit/employee
  • Profit/location
  • Profit/geographic region
  • Profit/part manufactured
  • Profit/division
  • Profit/sale
  • Profit/brand
  • Profit/local population
  • Profit/invoice
  • Profit/market segment
  • Profit/store
  • Profit/plant
  • Profit/purchase
  • Profit/square foot
  • Profit/fixed cost
  • Profit/recurring revenue client
  • Profit/seat
  • Profit/plane
  • Profit/product line
  • Profit/life of the customer

To frame this in a real-life context.

Southwest Airlines: Profit per plane

Walgreens: Profit/Customer Visit

New System Laundry: Profit/Delivery Truck Load

I think the EOS Method® ignores the following areas, but to me, they are part of the Hedgehog Concept. If you are doing something with clarity and focus, you need to have clarity and focus on these areas.

Value Creation

It is said, “A Business That Doesn’t Create Value for Others is a Hobby,” so what value does your organization create? Value creation is part of what you can be the best at. However, organizations need to know, “What is the problem they are seeking to solve for their customers.” Christian Claytonson defined this as “What is the job your customer is hiring you or your products to do?” Too many organizations define the job to be done as what they do, e.g., “We integrate your systems.” While that is what they do, that is not the job they are hired to do. The job they are hired to do may depend on the client but could be, “Provide information from across the organization to make better-informed decisions.” Knowing the job to be done enables your marketing and sales efforts to focus on the customers’ needs rather than on what you do. No one cares about what you do; they care if you can solve their problem. I don’t see the EOS Model®’s focus on this crucial question, but it is central to a company’s growth.

Core Customer

Who is the company’s core customer? I have discussed this before, and many companies can identify their core customer. However, most haven’t analyzed their customers from the point of view of Profit/X. If Profit/X is the driving metric of the organization’s profitability, then failing to know which customers meet and exceed it is crucial in defining your Core Customer. There is little point focusing on a Core Customer that doesn’t meet your economic engine’s critical financial metric, hoping that somehow you will magically capture the lost profit elsewhere. Furthermore, if you don’t know your Core Customer, your marketing and sales activities will be directed towards the wrong groups, further weakening your performance. 

Brand Promise

What is your Brand Promise, and how is it measured? This question is one that the EOS Model® doesn’t address. However, it is crucial.

  • It is what convinces your targets to buy from you. 
  • It is what you stand for and promise to deliver. 
  • It is the metric against which you will be measured.

Some organizations do have a brand promise, but it is not measurable. In that case, it is “valueless” because if it is not measurable, no one knows if you are delivering it, and in that case, it has no value to prospects or clients.

Value Delivery

Value delivery is vital for knowing how customers value the performance of the organization. While the EOS Model® discusses many metrics, this one does not get enough focus. Companies need to understand if their customers are satisfied with their performance. Recently, I spoke with a CEO who said that 80%+ of their customers were “Very Satisfied.” However, on further investigation, I discovered:

  • It was just a guess as they didn’t measure it.
  • 7 – 10% of their customers had complained in writing about their product and delivery in the last year.
  • None of their clients had recommended them.

Here is wishing over reality. I would expect that the company had a “Very Satisfied” score of less than 25%, and they should be working hard to improve their delivery and start collecting customer satisfaction data.

Critical Number and Counter Critical Number

The EOS Model® deals with goals (Rocks) and meetings, and that is one area that I think it does very well. However, I notice that the Rocks are not aligned to improving a critical number for the quarter. The Rocks should seek to improve some Critical Number each quarter. Without a Critical Number, you are once more a Fox, not focused. Those that use Scrums know the importance of the Critical Number. 

Rocks are great, but they need to improve a single business area to have the most significant benefit. As the saying goes, “You cannot defeat ten soldiers by sending in one soldier every day for 100 days.” For example, if our Critical Number is Customer Service in a Call Center, then the Rocks could relate to:

  • Hold time
  • Time on the call
  • Customer satisfaction at the end of the call
  • Percentage of calls resolved in one call
  • Employee satisfaction.

The Counter Critical Number is essential to preventing the critical number from overwhelming the company and leading to adverse effects. For example, if our Critical Number is project completion, then a Counter Critical Number would be customer satisfaction. This metric would counter the attempt to deliver incomplete or defective products or projects.

Focusing on a Critical Number and Counter Critical Number for the 13-Week Sprint is essential to developing focus and alignment within the organization.

Team Alignment

The EOS Model® does a great job of looking at the “Right People” in the “Right Seats.” However, what it doesn’t look at are alignment among the leadership team and employees’ satisfaction. Is your leadership aligned around the company’s direction or not? Culture will bring them to agree on values, but not necessarily alignment.

Your employees may all have the correct values, which is crucial, but if they are not engaged or dissatisfied with the leadership, cultural values will not prevent them from leaving or, worse, showing up but not there. Companies need to survey their leadership teams for alignment and their employees for satisfaction to ensure everyone is working in the same direction and committed to its success.

Conclusion

Thus while I like the EOS Model®, I think it doesn’t deal with many of the key things involved in the Hedgehog Concept. This failure enables companies to perform but not grow at an optimum rate. I am not ignoring many of his other areas of focus in Good to Great; however, this refinement of the Hedgehog brings an additional guide that the EOS Model® doesn’t. 

The above model is most of Gravitas 7 Attributes of Agile Growth® model, and if you add in the rest, you have a model that will propel you to growth while keeping your operations running smoothly. The 7 Attributes of Agile Growth® focuses on:

  • Leadership
  • Strategy
  • Execution
  • Customer
  • Profit
  • Systems
  • Talent

making it a more encompassing system. If you want to start your transition to an agile growth company as a certified Gravitas Agile Growth coach, please contact me.

 

 

Copyright (c) 2021, Marc A. Borrelli

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What has COVID done to Company Culture?

What has COVID done to Company Culture?

The effect of COVID on company culture is an issue for all business leaders to consider seriously. I see the following areas for examination:

  • Have you lived your culture during COVID?
  • How are you maintaining your culture and connections in a WFH world?
  • How are you instilling your culture into new hires in a WFH environment?

Have you lived your culture during COVID?

COVID has forced many companies to pivot, cut costs, and adjust strategy. However, did the leader and management team live up to the company’s culture while executing these changes? As everyone’s cultural values are different behaviors to consider.

  • Did you check in with your employees regularly to see how they were coping?
  • Did you communicate effectively and often with your employees, so they knew what was happening?
  • When making changes, did you explain why and where the company’s new direction was aimed?
  • When terminating people, did you do it in person or by email?

The above is just a sample of behaviors that maybe didn’t live up to the company’s values. If you didn’t, then you need to work hard to fix it. As with any crisis like this, there are a few key steps:

  1. Get in front of it. It has happened, so it is hard to get in front of it. However, do an audit of behaviors and values during COVID. Identify the lapses and then plan accordingly. Don’t wait for the Zoom cooler talk to destroy any belief in the companies values.
  2. Admit It. Let your employees know you recognize that you didn’t live up to your values in the identified situations.
  3. Own It. Say it was the leadership’s fault. The buck stops with you, and that is why you get paid the big bucks! Deflecting the blame will only weaken a fragile state and create further disbelief in any values you may have.
  4. Correct it. Layout a plan to correct the behaviors from happening again and what steps the organization will take to reinforce its values in the future. This plan needs to have SMART metrics tied to it so that employees can see the progress being made and it not just more “CEO Bingo.”

Maintaining your culture and connections in a WFH world?

For many, the move to WFH has gone well overall. Productivity is generally up, and work is getting done. Many CEOs and business leaders are considering to what degree they can allow WFH going forward, permanently, one to five days a week, etc. However, one of the reasons that WFH has gone so well is that before COVID, we had strong relationships with our coworkers. We knew them, had worked with them, and most importantly, had built some degree of trust. But the longer we don’t connect with them, the weaker these bonds grow. While we are connecting with them over Zoom, Teams, Slack, or email, that is not the same as in person. If we lose the culture or connections, it weakens the ability of the company to respond to other threats, and people will leave for companies where they see better relationships.

The more time we are remote, the bonds between us grow weaker. Long distant relationships have a 58% chance of success, basically a coin toss. There are stronger connections in a romantic relationship than a work one, so the chances of a “long-distance” work relationship working are less than 50%. So leaders need to figure out how to maintain the connections and culture among employees as they go forward with a WFH policy. If employees are only going to be in the office rarely, the company needs to increase how it builds connections between employees and promotes its culture.

Regular gatherings of employees at events where they can strengthen their relationships will be essential. Getting them to share personal information to build stronger bonds will also be a crucial part of the effort. Doing this will differ among companies, but figure it out and ensure that the events have a clear purpose that everyone understands and get feedback on to know if you are achieving your goals.

Instilling your culture into new hires

New hires are posing the most difficult challenges for companies. Historically we know that 70+% of people regret making the job change on the first day. Now we are in a WFH environment where there are fewer personal connections. If we cannot build those connections and get them to buy into the culture, they will shortly leave, which is expensive for the organization and poses new problems when people are hard to find.

The leader and leadership team need to work with their HR departments to figure out how to effectively onboard new hires and simultaneously install the firm’s culture and develop personal connections among the teams. Achieving this won’t be easy, but the effort will pay huge dividends.

Why Does This Matter?

It doesn’t take much to destroy the employees’ belief in the company’s values and attribute them to just words on a wall. If this is where you are, the road back to get alignment around values will be hard. Without core values, nothing connects the employees to a common bond and purpose, so they are more likely to leave.

If your employees are not connected, they are less likely to have a good friend at work. Without a good friend in an environment where they spend a third of their time, there is less keeping them attached. With demand for employees increasing, and thus wages, they will be tempted to move if there is no downside to leaving the tribe.

Those organizations that live their culture and whose employees have strong bonds of trust will outperform those that don’t. The work to achieve this is not always easy but very beneficial.

 

Copyright (c) 2021, Marc Borrell

 

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Hopefully, Your Firm Doesn’t Claim a Family Culture

I am a strong believer that company culture is critical in its success. It defines who you are, who you attract, and how you behave. As Jim Collins says, the most important thing is “Who is on the Bus.” However, when talking to many clients and business owners, I often hear that they have a “Family” culture within their organization. I am always perplexed by this answer, but it has become a red flag in my book about the possibility of the organization’s performance.

What Does Family Culture Mean?

Drilling down, it would appear that it means that the organization is nurturing like a family. Mentally they envision a Norman Rockwell painting of everyone happy and getting along. However, most family gatherings are not like that. Rather it starts that way and then someone says something that leads to the usual conflicts arising. I know families where they always invite guests to ensure everyone remains on good behavior.

When I hear family, the first thing I think of is “dysfunctional.” Now everyone is pointing out that only my family is dysfunctional; however, we all have thought our spouses/partners’ families were dysfunctional when we met them because they didn’t behave like ours. But it is not just behavior; there is true dysfunction. As a friend reminded me of at my wedding, at every wedding, there is the equivalent of the “Drunk Uncle.” Let’s consider some of the cast of characters that can appear.

  • The matriach/patriach. They rule. All allegiance is to them. They were paramount in the family’s success, so their “rules” are lived to even when no one can remember how or why the rule came into being. I have seen families lose fortunes following such directives because the world had changed, but all that remained was the rule and not the intent.
  • Favored child. There is always one. They often perform way below par and everyone else, but the parents continue to make excuses for them and support them. They are the ones who believe they are owed everything under their “favored” child status.
  • Second Class Child. The one that was ignored as all the attention got lavished on the favored child. They often work harder, produce more, and die for the family’s success; only they are never taken seriously. Often they become bitter and seek the destruction of all.
  • Drunk Uncle. We all know him/her. Embarrasses everyone, totally inappropriate, starts fights, resented by all, yet tolerated because they are family. However, everyone hopes they will not make the next event.
  • Bitter Sibling. Was overlooked in the succession plan, so bitter forever. Points out how the others received everything on a plate, but they received nothing. They ignore the fact that they have lived off the families’ wealth for the entire lives.
  • The Outcast. Unable to fit in went on their own. Has done well, but resented because they had the strength to walk away and is enjoying life.

If we have a “Family” Culture, then we probably have some of these in the organization.

What is the Problem?

Employees leave organizations because they lose respect for their supervisors.  Why? Their supervisor tolerates “B and C” performers. “A” players want to be surrounded by other “A” players. In a high-performing company, if you don’t meet expectations, you are fired. There is no job security other than through performance.

However, we never fire relatives; we can’t. You are always my father, mother, son, daughter, etc. Thus, claiming a family culture, by definition, requires that you will tolerate poor performance. Knowing that there are “B” players on the team who are never going to leave because of the “family” culture will just driveway more “A” players. This is a negative reinforcement cycle that leads you into a future of mediocre performance as an organization.

My father gave shares in his company to his parents and siblings. When my aunt married someone who didn’t reflect my father’s values, she demanded that my father give him a job in the company as she was a shareholder and it was a “family” business. My father fired all his family members and reminded them that he had them sign undated sale agreements back to him when he gave them their shares. He dated them all and became the sole owner. From then on, he would only hire those that could perform.

So What to Do?

If one looks at successful family businesses, I see that they don’t claim a family culture. They emphasize those family values that they care about. They can say that their values are “nurturing and developing” e.g. they are a “pool” company. Or they can say that they train and develop their people to go on to better things, e.g. a “stream” company. In my father’s case, one of his values was caring. When one of his accounting staff’s husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer he sent her home on full pay until the husband had died. He made sure that the bonuses and gifts he gave made it to the employees’ families. When my father died, over three hundred Africans came from the townships in South Africa to pay their respects at his funeral.

Further, I have noticed that high performing family businesses often have rules, like those below, when a family member wants to join the family business they must:

  • Have worked elsewhere before joining.
  • Apply for an open position
  • Have the requisite experience and qualifications,
  • Be interviewed and selected by non-family members.
  • Report to non-family members and stepping over the chain of command to family members higher up can be a termination event.
  • Realize they will be fired for nonperformance. If they are, they are still in the “family,” just not in the company.

So if you want a culture of performance, don’t say you have a family culture. Focus on what part of the “family” culture you want to emphasize and say that.

Copyright (c) 2021, Marc A Borrelli

 

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COVID = Caught Inside

COVID = Caught Inside

Reflecting on the current employment environment as we emerge from COVID makes me think of “Being Caught Inside When a Big Set Comes Through.” Why?

For those who don’t understand the analogy, it is something that surfers experience when paddling out when a large set of waves appears. The first wave appears in front of you, and it is a monster. So you put your head down and paddle like crazy to get over it before it crashes on you. You paddle up the face of the beast, hoping to get over the top before it breaks and drags back down “over the falls.” You make it, and you look up to see the next monster, larger than the last, bearing down on you. Tired, you have to paddle harder to make it over that one before you end up in the “impact zone.”

2020 was the first wave that appeared. We all put our collective heads down and paddled hard. We made it over. However, talking to many in early 2021, I don’t think we realized how much effort that had taken. Everyone was tired, many a little depressed. But as we looked up, the next wave was there blocking the entire horizon. That wave is the increase in business activity.

Some of my clients are experiencing more business in Q1 than they did in H1 last year. So we need to paddle hard to make it over this one. However, with everyone tired and depressed from the last one, it is getting harder. Everyone is looking for employees right now, but you are asking more of your employees when they are already working flat out and dealing with the stress until you hire.

The Current Situation

As a result, many are thinking about moving. A new survey reported by Fast Company found that 52% of U.S. workers are considering a job change this year, and 44% have plans in place to move. What is interesting when breaking down the data is that:

  • 59% of those whose annual household income is between $50,000 and $75,000 (the middle-income bracket) were thinking about moving.
  • 76% of those under 30 either looking or open to new opportunities.
  • 48% of six-figure salaried workers were planning their change, and 66% of them are feeling more confident about their decision to change jobs than they did six months ago. 
  • 21% of those surveyed felt there were “better opportunities available to [them] at other companies.”

What I have also seen recently is not only that people are considering leaving, but who. The “Who” here are those centers of influence within the organization. To understand that, look at your “shadow org chart,” which shows employees who have disproportionate levels of impact relative to their hierarchical position. To develop one, ask your employees these three questions:

  1. Who energizes you at work? (list four or more people)
  2. Who do you go to for help and advice? (list four or more people)
  3. Who do you go to when a decision needs to be made? (list four or more people)

If key influencer leaves, then many others may decide that the time to move on has come. One executive told me this week that his concern was that if two of their top influencers left, that would be the beginning of the end.

A recent HBR article suggested asking both the departing employee and the rest of your team questions, listening attentively, and acknowledging their concerns. Focus on goals and reassure your team that they’re still important and achievable, and provide them with educational opportunities to show that you care about their long-term effectiveness.

Regardless, those looking or considering a change are looking for:

  • A stable organization and where they are sure they’re growing and changing within that organization. 
  • More pay. Pay is the main factor that entices employees to look for a new role.
  • Work-life balance is also an essential requirement. 68% of employed workers and 43% of women said that remote work and work-from-home options are “very important,” versus 33% of men. 18% want to have more flexible hours in a new job.
  • Finally, the overall work environment is an essential factor.

However, employees say that the most critical factor that keeps them with their employer is engaging work.

Furthermore, a recent study from Ceridian reports that the cost of onboarding a new employee can range from $2,000 to $4,000, and talent expects a rise of 29% to change roles. I have mentioned before that everyone I know is looking for people. So if a 30% increase is required to change, and 50%+ are looking to move, expect salary and wage costs to increase.

The Challenges

So given the above, the critical challenges for organizations today that want to get over that second wave are:

  • Recruiting.
  • Onboarding.
  • Engagement.
  • Growth path.

Recruiting

I have written before about recruiting and ways to make it better and more of a system. However, I think some of the critical factors to consider right now are:

  • Stand out above the crowd. How do you attract the best talent and not just one of the many looking for a new opportunity? To achieve this, you need to produce job ads that create interest in your organization and the opportunity to attract everyone, not only those considering moving. 
  • Using your employees, customers, and suppliers to help find new talent. These people all know you. They know your culture and values. So they are the best people to refer people to you if you are looking. However, first, you have to tell them what you need. If you have a great job ad, share it with them. Encourage your employees to refer people.
  • Employee testimonials on your website. Again I have mentioned this before, but it still amazes me how few companies have employee testimonials on their website. The first thing a prospect will do is go to your website to find out about your organization. Having no employee testimonials is not a good way to entice them. Worse is only having stock photos of employees other than the leadership team.
  • Ensure your reputation is good. Check Glassdoor and other sites to see what has been said about you. While you cannot always change the negative posts, understand them and be willing to address them in an interview.
  • Interviewing. With many people looking to move and the cost of replacing large, make sure that you are getting the right person. A term I prefer is “auditioning.” As many have said, the key is culture and values. Concerning ability, ensure they can do the job. Given how busy everyone is, it might be harder to defend hiring someone capable but requires training. However, getting the wrong person just because they have the skills is a more expensive proposition in the long run.

Onboarding

Onboarding is more critical than ever, and it is more challenging than ever with COVID. However, now you have to ensure that your new members can absorb your culture and values and know your strategy and expectations.

I have discussed onboarding with many CEOs and find that all are struggling to do it effectively. A few thoughts are:

  • Ensure they know your culture and values, and strategy first. With this knowledge, they can make better decisions that benefit the organization.
  • Ensure they understand what is expected of them and have regular check-ins for the first year to ensure that both of you are on the same track.
  • Understand their objectives and needs. These are both professional and personal, but you can build a plan together to help realize them if you know them. That is not to say the company has to give them more but enabling them to see that they have a path to what they seek will show interest on the organization’s part. Right now, several companies are offering an extra day off a month or large bonuses. Figure out what you can offer to make your employees feel appreciated and not cause trouble in your organization.
  • Make sure they feel welcome. Remember, a majority of people regret the move after the first day! Make sure your new employees don’t. 

Engagement

Keeping all employees engaged is key to keeping them, those that you have and those that you are hiring. That means they need to know:

  • The current situation. Your employees need to know where you are today. Now is time for the truth because they do know, just not necessarily from the leadership team. Telling them everything is okay when they see chaos around them means that the leadership team is out of touch with reality, and now is the time to move on.  
  • Where is the company going? Make sure they know the company’s BHAG and 3HAG. Knowing where you are going provides more energy for the task, and right now, we need everyone to paddle.
  • What is their role? Make sure they know their role in the organization. First, make sure they can answer the following:
  1. What do we do, and where am I in the process? 
  2. How do we make money, and what do I do that helps that? 
  3. How will we succeed?
  4. What is most important right now that my team has to do? 
  5. Who must do what? Accountability and reporting roles and 
  6. How can they help? Seek input from them regularly on how to improve processes and actions to perform better. It is incredible how often employees know a better way, but no one ever asks. However, please don’t ignore their feedback because they will never give it again. If you don’t want to use it, explain why.

Growth Plan

As part of the onboarding, understand what they want in their life. If they wish to grow to a new role in the next X years, help them develop a plan. If they are contented at their current position but want to move flexibility, work on that. Understanding their wants and needs shows interest by the company, and that builds attraction. If they feel you care about them, they will care about you. 

Given all that is happening, this is not the time for the Mushroom Theory of Management!

Finally, given that many people are thinking of leaving, if you can afford it, maybe this is the time to prune some of that deadwood.

Good luck paddling out, and I hope you make it through the set.

 

Copyright (c) 2021 Marc A. Borrelli

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Sunk Costs Are Just That, Sunk!

Working with my Vistage group this week, we had an exciting discussion about “If you were starting your business today, what would you do differently?” This discussion made me think of sunk costs and how they limit us. I have discussed how to make better decisions before, but sunk costs deal with our assumptions.

What are sunk costs? A sunk cost is a payment or investment that has already been made, and it is sunk because it is unrecoverable no matter what. So, it should not be a factor in any decisions from now on.

The Sunk Cost Fallacy

The sunk cost fallacy is when an action is continued because of past decisions (time, money, resources) rather than a rational choice of what will maximize the returns at this present time. The fallacy is that behavior is driven by an expenditure that is not recoupable regardless of future actions.

For example, a company that decides to build a new software platform. They have done their analyses and determined that the future benefit they will receive from the software will outweigh its development cost. They pay for the software and expect to save a specific cash flow level from the software’s production each year. But after a few years, the platform is underperforming, and cash flows are less than expected.

A decision has to be made: should the platform be abandoned or not? At this point, the software’s initial cost is a sunk cost and cannot be recovered. The decision should only be based on the future cash flows—or the future expected benefit—of the platform compared to the value of replacing it today, not the original cost of the software.

However, businesses, organizations, and people often have difficulty abandoning strategies because of the time spent developing them, even if they aren’t the right choice for the company or individual. Therefore, recognizing what a sunk cost is will result in better decisions. 

How sunk costs sabotage us

Here are a few ways, but this list is not exhaustive.

At Work

Bad Pricing

Companies often justify pricing based on their costs. Most commonly, the R&D expenditure to develop the product. Whatever the R&D costs were, they are irrelevant to the pricing. The market will only pay what the product is worth, not what was invested in it. A pharmaceutical company’s attempt to justify high prices because of the need to recoup R&D expenses is fallacious. The company will charge market prices whether R&D had cost one dollar or one million dollars.

Similarly, many businesses price their services on the hours it took to deliver a service. However, the costs of providing the service are sunk, and you cannot recoup them. The market will only pay you what they deem the value of the product or service to be, so using pricing to recoup costs is “backward.” Instead, one should determine the price and then figure out how to deliver the product or service at the profit margin desired.

Consider if a company invested $100,000 to produce a product and planned to sell them at $100 each. However, the day after the product launch, a competitor announces a better competing product at $50. Will anyone pay $100 for an inferior product when the best one is available for $50?

Bad Investments

Sunk costs are why so many investors tend to remain committed or even invest additional capital into a bad investment to make their initial decision seem worthwhile. How many times has an investor tell you, “As soon as X gets back to what I paid, I am selling.” Why?

What they paid is paid. The investor cannot change that; it is a sunk cost. The real question is, “Does X offer higher returns in the future than Y, some other asset I am considering, after transaction costs?” If yes, then stick with it. If no, switch out X for Y. 

Assume you spend $4,000 on a wine tour of Napa. Later on, you find a better wine tour to Bordeau that costs $2,500, and you purchase that trip as well. Later, you realize that the two dates clash and the tickets are non-refundable. Would you attend the $4,000 good wine trip or the $2,500 great wine trip? The $2,500 trip. The $4,000 trip is irrelevant in consideration because it is inferior, and the money is gone.

Bad processes

Returning to my initial question, “If you were starting your business again today, what would you do differently?” Many people will give outstanding examples of what they would do differently but never consider making the change because of the investment they have in their current process. As with assets, if your current process generates a cash flow of $X per year, and switching would generate some cash flow greater than $X after the costs of switching, you should switch.

Misaligned employees

Many companies have employees whom they know are subpar. However, they cannot fire them because they have been employed for a long time or the company has invested some amount in them. This situation is most often seen with those employees who have been with the organization since the beginning. However, the organization has outgrown them. 

Again, the time invested by the company and the employee are sunk costs. The decision is what is the best investment going forward. If a more significant return is achievable with a new employee, then the change is required.

Sunk Costs Exist in Our Personal Lives Too

Feel free not to ski in bad weather.

You may be considered a fair-weather skier, but the cost became sunk when you purchased your ticket. You might feel obligated to stay and stick it out if the ticket was expensive or you have a limited holiday window, but if not skiing in a freezing whiteout makes you happier, do it! Either way, you aren’t getting your money back.

Don’t go to the gym just because you have an annual membership.

While working out may be advantageous to your health, your annual membership shouldn’t dictate whether you go to the gym on any given day. If you have paid up front, then the money is gone. So if you would prefer to take a hike, ride a bike, relax and meditate, you should. However, I am not saying there may be more benefits to working out.

Don’t grow up to be a lawyer.

I chose lawyers because I was this example; however, I decided before I graduated law school that I didn’t want to be a lawyer. Assume you went to law school, passed the bar, started working, and then realized you hate being a lawyer. What should you do? You invested so much time, energy, and money in that degree, so it can’t be worth starting over again with a new career? Unfortunately, time, energy, and money are all sunk costs, so if your end goal is your happiness, you might need to cut your losses and refocus your energies elsewhere. 

With the above examples, next time you face a decision, ignore all the sunk costs; you will make better decisions for your organization and yourself.

Copyright (c) 2021, Marc A. Borrelli

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