Are you ready for the Talent Crunch?

Are you ready for the Talent Crunch?

Companies are looking to hire! According to Vistage research, “The most notable finding from the December survey is that more than two thirds (67%) of small businesses reported plans to increase their workforce in the year ahead, up significantly from 55% in November. These expansion plans among small businesses are the highest since February of 2018.”

At the moment, from what I hear, finding the “right” people is hard. That is because of COVID. People will not:

  • Leave current employment. With COVID, employees are staying put for the moment as the risk of moving is too significant. Everyone is aware of a “last in, first out” bias, so no one is ready to take the risk until things improve.
  • Move. With COVID, employees are unlikely to take jobs in new cities. That is not to say people aren’t moving; they are, but usually back to where they came from, with support systems there. Baby boomers are moving to some excellent early retirement locations. However, average employees are unlikely to move for a job as there is too much risk involved in incurring up and moving expenses when the job is uncertain, and they may have no support structure.
  • Take large risks. There is enough risk right now from COVID, and the economic uncertainty that most people will not take on more for a situation that they feel is very risky.

Current expectations are that we may hit COVID herd immunity in July, with the recovery starting in May or June. If that is the case, businesses will benefit from the pent-up demand that COVID has caused. Thus, we can expect employees to adjust their risk profile and start job hunting and moving just as companies increase their employment demands from Q2 onwards.

What are the employees looking for?

Purpose. For many, COVID has brought home their mortality and causing them to ask if what they do matters. Thus, if the company has no core purpose or “Why?”, or the core purpose doesn’t align with the employees’ purpose, the employees will move to those companies where the core purpose aligns.

Empathy. Many people will feel that their employers/bosses didn’t treat them well during COVID or showed insufficient compassion. They may have had to work through challenging homeschooling or ill parents/spouse with their employer making little allowance.

Living Core Values. Many companies have claimed to have Core Values, but when they are just words on a wall. During COVID, many organizations’ behavior has shown employees that their Core Values are just words and not beliefs, and not living your core values will drive employees and prospects away.

Opportunity. Since we are all mortal and life is fleeting, not only do employees want to work where they believe in what they are doing, but they want to realize their potential. Employers that show no interest in an employee’s career development and personal requirements will find those employees departing.

Character. As a result, employees will look for those companies who have always stated their Core Purpose and Values rather than those who have suddenly “found religion” and hoping that their new statements will make a difference like a fresh coat of paint.

McKinsey research showed that of employees:

  • 82% believed it was important for the company to have a purpose;
  • 72% thought that purpose should have more weight than profit;
  • 62% believed that the company should have a purpose statement; and
  • 42% said that their organizations’ purpose statements drove impact.

So, where does your organization fall? If you don’t have a purpose statement that is driving impact, how will you fare in the looming talent crisis? As I have often said, “How you behave during this crisis will define you for a decade or more.”

Here are some questions to ponder.

  • Do you have a clear purpose?
  • Can you say in one sentence what your organization is passionate about?
  • Why does the organization exist?
  • What are your Core Values, and can you point to those that live them and where they are part of your folklore?

If you can’t answer these, then the Talent Crunch is going to hurt! People will leave for places where they feel their purposes align and people live with similar Core Values. As the economy recovers and demand picks up, most companies will need more people to meet the challenges. If you don’t have enough and cannot hire the type you need, you will be in trouble.

If you don’t have a Core Purpose or Core Values, then you are attracting three basic types of employees:

  1. Walking dead. Can’t get a job anywhere else
  2. In Transition. They need a job, so they will work for you until something better comes along.
  3. Don’t care about a Why. These people do have a Why, but it is usually money and nothing else. At any time they feel they are not getting enough, they are gone. Real mercenaries and not good if you ever expect to hit a rough patch in the future.

If you don’t understand your Why, Simon Senik’s video below will put it better than I ever could.

Remember, a Core Purpose is a deep reflection on your corporate identity—what you really stand for—which may well lead to material changes in your strategy and even your governance. If you don’t have a Core Purpose and Core Values but will start defining them now, I would offer some suggestions.

  1. Get a coach or facilitator to help. Discussions over this can easily get bogged down. Many times, everyone will look to the business owner for guidance, which may be okay. But if the business owner comes up with a bad Why, e.g., profit, will anyone challenge?

2. Don’t make profit your Why, for some of these reasons:

  • No one cares but shareholders, and generally, they are not the ones operating the business.
  • Your customers and suppliers are not impressed that “making a profit” is your Why, as that implies you will take advantage of them.
  • If profit is your why then everyone’s only interest is making money. Thus, anything that will make money is okay. When the company hits trouble, no one will stay and help; they are only there for the money.
  1. Remember Jim Collins’ statement about Core Values, “you are willing to lose money than breach your core values.” So, once you determine, make sure your leadership team and most of your employees can live them. If not, they need to go, as they are not “the right people.”

If you have an excellent Core Purpose and held Core Values, put them on your website, in your recruiting materials, and make sure you live your core values. You will be able to attract some great talent in the times ahead.

 

Copyright (c) 2021 Marc A. Borrelli

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As we have all struggled through 2020 and the difficulties of lockdowns and WFH, our core values are guiding decision making and holding us together as organizations. Talking to a senior executive recently, he said that COVID had destroyed his organization’s comradery, and no one felt connected. However, on further investigation, it appeared that the company has no core values, as they thought them irrelevant.

I find companies without clearly articulated core values can rarely define, “Why do you exist?” If you have no core values, no guiding mission, and everyone is now working from home, what bonds the team together? The only thing is the paycheck. However, we know that money is a terrible motivator. Scholars at the London School of Economics looked at 51 studies on pay-for-performance schemes and concluded:

“We find that financial incentives may indeed reduce intrinsic motivation and diminish ethical or other reasons for complying with workplace social norms such as fairness. As a consequence, the provision of incentives can result in a negative impact on overall performance.”

So, core values are fundamental. I hope you have some, and they are clearly articulated in your organization. Remember, as Jim Collins says, core values are those things we would rather lose profit over than breach. If you are undermining them, your team loses commitment to the values, and it becomes a Lord of the Flies environment with finger-pointing, denouncements, and everyone for themselves.

However, even if you do have core values, there may be three ways you are undermining them.

You Breach Them

The first possibility: you breach your core values! If one of your core values is, “We treat everyone with respect” (which I often see in companies) and you do something disrespectful to an employee, customer, or just someone outside the organization, it causes issues. The perception among your employees is that:

  • The CEO lacks personal commitment to the core values;
  • The CEO is a hypocrite; and
  • All corporate statements around behavior, mission, and values are only words and not taken seriously.

Therefore, you and your leadership team must live your core values at all times. If one of you cannot, then either they have to leave the organization, or you have to change your core values. Pat Lencioni talks of a company where once they had defined their core values, one of the leadership team resigned, saying, “I cannot live that value, and if that is the value of the organization, then I should go.” It can be hard to enforce them, but it is better for the organization in the long term.

You Allow Others to Breach Them

As mentioned above, the CEO and leadership team must live the company’s core values. However, if you allow others within the organization to breach them, it leads to the issues described above. I have often seen that the leadership team provides a pass for some employees because they are high performers, e.g., top salesperson or IT person. The rationale is that we cannot survive without them, and so we will tolerate their failing to behave because it is more important to keep them than maintain our core values. However, as Jim Collins points out, you should be prepared to take a loss to live up to them, so you should be prepared to lose these employees to keep your core values.

I often have CEOs and leadership teams struggle with what to do about such “toxic” people, and at the end of the day, after much pushing, they let that individual go. What usually happens is that company morale improves, core values become believed in, and productivity increase above the levels that were there when the toxic person roamed the organization.

Your Employees Are Confused as To What They Mean

Of the three reasons, this is probably the most common, because it is the easiest to do. I have said the worst two inventions for the corporate world were Excel and PowerPoint. The former encourages accuracy without precision, and the latter because we have lots of presentations where everyone has their interpretation of what the meaning was. This lack of definition is pervasive with core value statements.

You need to explain the meaning of core values. Reinforce them by recognizing examples of the team’s correct behavior, and explaining why specific actions are not core values even if they appear to fall within the definition. If you don’t, employees will weave their interpretations and ideologies into them. The employees’ ideologies and interpretations may take the core values further or in a different direction than the CEO intended. However, once the employees have taken them there, the CEO and leadership team’s opportunity to breach them increases dramatically.

If a core value is “employee growth and belonging,” without being clear as to what this means, it may be interpreted as:

  • Employee empowerment to do more than they should.
  • A family environment where the growth is limited to ensure that family feeling
  • Communication is equal, and everyone has a voice at all levels.

If that is not what the CEO intends, but it is what the employees now believe, it becomes only a matter of time before the CEO crosses the line and breaches the core values in the employees’ minds.

The problem that most often happens is that the employees don’t consider if their interpretation of the core values was wrong; instead, they assume that the CEO is a hypocrite and doesn’t care about the core values. Employees are unlikely to raise the issue that they think the CEO and leadership team have breached the company’s core values because the values of “Open Door” and “Bring me the bad news” are now just considered words rather than values. Thus, the negative spiral starts.

To prevent this, leaders must spend time asking employees what they are thinking and feeling, as well as sharing their own thoughts so that the employees will feel comfortable expressing their concerns.

To ensure that the understanding is correct, the leadership team needs to reinforce examples of behavior that supports their definition of the core values. When they see actions that don’t mean the intent, call them out and explain why it doesn’t fit the core values. Also, recognizing individuals’ living core values within the organization reinforces the organization’s commitment to the core values. Finally, the CEO and leadership team need to be aware of when they breach the values, admit their failures, and commit to living to those standards in the future.

I hope as we end the year, you CEOs and business leaders will take time to recognize those in your organization that has lived your corporate values during the struggles of 2020 in your one-on-one meetings. It will provide a great deal of goodwill and encourage the behavior far more than the usual “Rally around the flag” speech at the end of the year.

 

Copyright (c) 2020 Marc A Borrelli

 

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There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

As we face uncertainty due to COVID, business leaders need not wait for “normal” to return, they need to take action now. “Normal” is not returning! Remember this is not an economic crisis as much as a public health crisis. Until we fix the latter, the former cannot recover. Given our failure at dealing with the latter, I think that we are going to be living in this uncertain state for the next 12 to 18 months. Thus by the time we emerge, behaviors adopted during this time will have become the norm.

While many companies have received PPP loans or are feeling comfortable with current orders, as economist Tom Cunningham pointed out so pointedly on a call on Friday, most of the government support is in the form of bridge loans; the problem is we don’t know how long the bridge needs to be. If we are going to be in this limbo for 12 to 18 months, the loans are not long enough, and many will not survive. Bankruptcies have already wreaked havoc on the economy and are not slowing down. State and local governments, which account for 60% of government-generated GDP, are in a terrible state and will be shedding workers and cutting services as they struggle to survive. The ripple effects will continue. Be prepared.

As I and many have pointed out, COVID is an accelerant. We are now five to ten years ahead in our industries, so are you positioned for such a place? Darwinism is not survival of the fittest, but those ablest to adapt to the new environment. Start adapting. Expand your market and potential client-based. Review processes to see if they can be more efficient.

Not only should you review your business, but also your personal life. COVID is not the flu, it is horrible, and those that survive will in many cases, not have an easy time going forward. Thus, look at your relationships with your parents, spouse, significant other, children, close friends. Are they where you would want them in five to ten years, and if not, make them so. The window to do so may not be as open as you think.

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As we move towards opening up the country to varying degrees, I see some interesting data points.

 

Many consumers and businesses are wary.

While I don’t have any specific data, talking with friends, clients, and looking at social media, I see that most people are careful. They are:

  • social distancing,

  • avoiding contact with others,

  • wearing masks and gloves, and

  • not going to restaurants.

Furthermore, I don’t see anyone in a hurry to change this behavior. I look forward to seeing some data on this.

 

Some businesses are open.

As I move around Atlanta, I see many retail locations are open, from Home Depot to some small local retailers. What I notice is that Home Depot is still busy but at a lower level than pre-shutdown. Many small local retailers are open but empty. From what I have heard, some hotels are operating, but service is limited, and the employees are continuously cleaning after each guest touches the doors, check-in desk, etc.

Online business is operating at full speed and shows little signs of slowing. The biggest issue will be their inventory. B2B remains relatively strong in specific sectors, but as the effect of more bankruptcies and closures ripples through the economy, I think demand could weaken.

 

Some places are giving up on data and experts.

Many states are opening up before meeting the guidelines set by the Administration, i.e., Georgia, and Texas, and the White House is encouraging this behavior and anti closure protests. Furthermore, Arizona has halted its partnership with experts predicting coronavirus cases would continue to increase. The argument is that we have to open up as the damage to the economy cannot be sustained. To stop the fear, kill the messenger. To quote David Farragut, “Damn the torpedoes… go ahead! … full speed!”

 

The delicate nature of our supply chain.

An interesting paper argues that the cost of opening up is higher than the price of shutting down, as we are learning daily that our supply chains cannot take the hit from illness, i.e., the meat industry, nasal squabs, fresh produce. Could other sectors be affected? What would happen if the energy, transportation, or pharmaceutical sector failed? We aren’t even sure which industries are critical. As this progresses, will more industries stop working effectively as their supply chains stop working? I expect so, and we will learn what is vital.

 

Waiting for a return to the old normal.

Many are looking forward to a return to the way things were before COVID-19 hit. I don’t think we are returning to that period. If we look at 9/11, 3,000 people were killed, vs. 76,000+ today of COVID. Also, the economic loss will be much higher. Events like this will change behavior for many forever. Some of the things I see being affected are:

  • Business travel

  • Flying

  • Hotels

  • Rental Cars

  • Ride Share

  • Restaurants

  • Large meetings/events

  • Sports

I am sure I will be proved wrong, but things will be different. An interesting article on how COVID might affect restaurants like Prohibition affected drinks may provide food for thought.

 

What does this mean for your business?

As I have said in this weekly newsletter before, Darwinian evolution holds that those that adapt best to the new environment will survive. Therefore, the questions for all CEOs and business leaders are:

  • How do we continue to perform in this new world?

  • What is our new environment?

 

Performing in the New World.

There is resistance among many in the U.S. to look abroad for best practices that are implementable here. As a CEO once told me, “There is nothing anyone can teach us.” However, many of our current practices came from abroad, i.e., just in time manufacturing and continuous improvement. So why not.

While experiencing about the same number of diagnosed infections as Italy, Spain, France, and the UK, Germany has registered approximately one-quarter as many deaths. Also, German authorities gave all factories the option to stay open through the pandemic, with the result that over 80% of did so, and only one-quarter have canceled investments. Businesses, to protect workers, implemented strict safety rules early on, and managers involved unions and employees in safety planning. Regional governments were quick to test and trace chains of infection to contain the spread. Finally, many German firms having ties to China had a jump on planning for operations through a shutdown. As a result of its experience in China, Volkswagen implemented a 100 steps affecting many aspects of workers’ routines, including where to change into work clothes, where and how to eat lunch, and how to check for Covid-19 symptoms.

Ebm-papst Group, a family-owned fan and motor manufacturer, has kept its domestic factories running at 80 percent of normal capacity. With three factories in China, management got an early warning of the seriousness of the pandemic, and so they sought to buy masks. Today they a full-time employee whose sole responsibility is to source masks and now have over 100,000 stockpiled. To provide a safe environment, social distancing, ubiquitous face masks, in-house Covid-19 tests, and contact tracing when employees fell ill helped enabled the company to keep its plants open. Ebm-papst, like most German companies, involves employee representatives in management decisions. The head of personnel and a workers’ representative sit on the crisis task force. To date, only 15 of its 6,700 employees in Germany have contracted the virus, and the workers feel safe.

However, the German economy is not immune to COVID and will probably suffer its most significant downturn since WWII. Furthermore, German’s rely heavily on international trade and global supply chains, which could remain under pressure for months or even years. Yet many economists, including those from the International Monetary Fund, thi
nk that the decision by German companies to keep running through the lockdown could allow its economy to recover faster than other nations next year.

 

What is our new environment?

This question is more complex; however, all CEOs and business leaders need to have a team to look at this. As I have said before, they need to look beyond what is happening today, and consider:

  • How could our supply chains be affected?

  • How could my customers’ supply chain be affected?

  • What will our working capital look like going forward if we have more inventory?

  • Can we source more products locally and reduce reliance on international supply chains?

  • How will our business operations change going forward, great WFH?

  • What costs have we cut that we can live without going forward?

  • What personnel have we cut that we don’t need?

  • What roles have we cut that we don’t need?

  • What roles do we need that we don’t currently have?

  • What employees/skills do we need that we don’t currently have?

  • What do we need to do to keep workers and customers safe?

  • Will any consumer/business behavior or government policy changes affect our business?

  • Will any consumer/business behavior or government policy changes affect our customer’s business?

  • Will any consumer/business behavior or government policy changes affect our supplier’s business?

  • How financially stable are our customers and suppliers?

  • How financially stable are their industries?

  • What new markets are available that were not before?

  • What new clients can we attract with our service/product offerings which we didn’t have before?

  • What happens if revenue falls by 25%, 50%?

  • What happens if revenue grows by 25%, 50%, can we meet standards and delivery schedules?

  • What should we automate?

  • How should we change our investment plans?

This is not a definitive list, but definitely, a place to start. Good luck and if I can help, contact me.

Copyright (c) 2020 Marc A. Borrelli

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