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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To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate, that is the Question

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate, that is the Question

In my Vistage meetings this week, we had an interesting discussion on whether or not my members would make their employees get a COVID vaccine. While there was a brief discussion on whether or not you could legally make your employees get vaccinated, we primarily discussed what each person would do. (Apparently, you can with two exceptions, medical conditions make it dangerous and religious objections. For more see, Can I Be Required To Get Vaccinated Against Covid-19?). The results were diverse and ranged from:

  • “No!” “I would take it myself but would not force my employees to do so because they may leave.”
  • “I have many conspiracy theorists among a section of my workforce, and they will object.”
  • “No, I don’t want to be sued.”
  • “If they want to travel, they have to.”
  • “If they want to work in the office, they have to as we have health comprised people in the office.”

However, what stood out in the discussion was that none of the CEOs framed their response within their Core Values. Again, as Jim Collins says, Core Values are so important that we would be willing to lose profit rather than breach them. Thus, if our Core Values are that important, indeed, they should frame our response to the vaccination question. If we don’t, then once more, our Core Values are only words on a wall or a pad but have no impact on the organization and behavior in it. In that case, they are worthless, and your employees lose trust in your words and statements because they are just that – words, and not beliefs.

Regardless of whether your Core Values are just words on a wall or actively known by every employee, a complex issue like vaccination stresses them and how they are understood within the organization. Those of you who read my blogs know that I have said that Core Values provide employees a framework for making decisions within an organization. However, if your Core Value is “Respect,” what does that mean, especially in the COVID vaccine world? Does it mean:

  • Out of RESPECT for our fellow workers, we will all vaccinate.
  • Out of RESPECT for you, your opinion, and your decision making, we will allow you to do what you think is best.
  • Out of RESPECT for you, we will enable you to determine what you put in your body.
  • Out of RESPECT for our clients, we will vaccinate those that are client-facing.
  • Out of RESPECT for our employees’ health and decision making, we will allow those that don’t want to be vaccinated to work from home so they can’t infect anyone in the office.
  • Out of RESPECT for our fellow citizens, we will all vaccinate to get to herd immunity quicker.
  • Out of RESPECT for your health-compromised family, we will allow you to work from home until it is safe to return to the office, whether that be one month or five years.

As you can see, a single word like RESPECT can have many different interpretations, and this is where things get complicated. For example, if you determine that your version of RESPECT is the second one, “Out of RESPECT for you, your opinion, and your decision making, we will allow you to do what you think is best.” You apply that to COVID, then surely it applies to all decisions they make within the organization. While we all like to push decision-making down, the leadership team has to be able to override decisions and impose its desires in certain instances. So what are those situations, and where is the line?

Core Values are more than just words or statements. They have meaning, and the organization can only succeed if the intention is understood equally by everyone in the organization. To see how you are doing, ask your employees if they know what the organization’s Core Values are, and how they should be understood. Your employees may often find it hard to define them, so offer them situations and ask, “what should someone in the organization do?”

Here you might find a great deal of diversity of opinion. To overcome this and teach your Core Values, I think the best way is to rely on corporate folklore. Your company needs stories of the founder, the CEOs, the great people in its history, and how they behaved in situations that reflect the company’s Core Values. Having corporate folklore and ensuring that employees learn the stories and their meaning as part of the onboarding process will create greater belief in, and understanding of, your Core Values. Furthermore, make sure to repeat the folklore stories whenever a situation arises where they are relevant. Repeating them drives home learning until everyone knows your Core Values and how they should be interpreted.

Returning to the COVID vaccinations decision. Well, regardless of your Core Values, the decision of whether or not to require employees to be vaccinated will be hard. However, I would recommend that, first of all, you be a leader in your decision and state it with leadership in mind. If you want them vaccinated, be at the front of the line. Second, figure out how your decision fits with your Core Values and explain that way. Of course, it has to work; if it is a stretch or plain contradictory, then maybe you need to re-examine your Core Values.

Good luck, and may you stay safe in the meantime.

 

Copyright (c) 2020, Marc A. Borrelli

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3 Ways You Could be Undermining Your Core Values

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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Tony Hsieh, a Corporate Culture Icon, RIP

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Last week, we lost a great visionary when Tony Hsieh died from complications from burns and smoke inhalation sustained in a house fire that had occurred nine days earlier, on November 18. Among other things, Hsieh showed how that culture is the most important thing in an organization. He believed that by investing resources in its cultural commitment to customer service, the delighted customers then do the valuable word-of-mouth marketing.

For those that don’t know his background, Hsieh co-founded the Internet advertising network LinkExchange, which he sold to Microsoft in 1998 for $265 million. He then co-founded Venture Frogs, an incubator and investment firm, with his business partner, Alfred Lin. In 1999 following an approach from Nick Swinmurn to invest in Zappos, Hsieh and Lin decided to invest through Venture Frogs. Two months later, Hsieh joined Zappos as the CEO, and by 2009, revenues reached $1 billion, when it was sold to Amazon.

Hsieh stepped down as CEO until August of 2020, but his legacy at Zappos lives on. Hsieh learned how to make customers feel comfortable and secure with shopping online by offering free shipping and free returns. Hsieh’s belief in employees and their ability to self-organize let him rethink Zappos’ structure, and in 2013 it became for a time a holacracy without job titles. Of all the applicants that applied, the company hired only about 1%. Zappos was often listed in Fortune as one of the best companies to work for. Beyond lucrative salaries and being an inviting place to work; it delivered extraordinary customer service.

Hsieh made Zappos fanatical about great customer service. The company was not just about satisfying customers but amazing them. It always sought to over-deliver on its promises.

Also, to ensure great customer service, Zappos mastered the art of telephone service. Telephone services are a black hole for most Internet retailers. For Zappos, they made it key. The company publishes its 1-800 number on every single page of the site. All employees are free to do whatever it takes to make you happy, a step up from the Ritz Carlton where anyone could spend $1,000 to make a customer happy. The call center has no scripts, no time limits on calls, which means no robotic behavior! Zappos employees had an amazing emotional connection to the company through its culture and core values, which then infected their customers. As Richard Branson has said, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers.” Thus, Zappos is a company that’s bursting with personality.

According to Hsieh, if you get the culture right, the rest will take of itself. Besides, Hsieh believed that a company’s brand is just a reflection of the culture. You can see how this value was applied in Zappos’ hiring process.

 

The Interviews

There are two sets of interviews. The first set is done by the hiring manager looking for the appropriate skills and ability to fit with the team. The second is done by HR and is only looking at culture fit. You have to pass both to be hired at Zappos.com because they will only hire people who fit with its culture. Also, regardless of performance, they will fire someone who doesn’t fit with its culture.

 

The Training

All Zappos’ employees, when joining the company, spent the first four weeks going the same training regardless of whether they were a call center rep or a software engineer. The employees receive full pay during training, and this training immerses them in the company’s strategy, culture, and obsession with customers. The training starts with Call Center Training. The next two weeks, they all spent time on the phone taking customer calls because if the brand is all about providing the greatest customer service, then customer service is not a department but the entire company. A side benefit of this approach is that when the busy time of the year occurs, all employees can help in the call center because they have all done it, reducing the need for temporary workers to help. Finally, the last week is at one of their warehouses, picking and packing.

 

The Offer

At the end of the first week of training, all the new employees are offered a bonus of $2,000 to quit and leave the company right then. This is a standing offer that remains throughout the training period. After the training period ends, the offer is raised to $3,000 and extended for a few more months.

As a Harvard Business Review article put it, “Because if you’re willing to take the company up on The Offer, you obviously don’t have the sense of commitment they are looking for.”

The rationale behind the offer was that Zappos.com didn’t want anyone who was there for the paycheck; they wanted people who bought into the company’s culture and vision. Furthermore, those who didn’t take the offer had to go home and tell their family and friends that they had turned down the offer because they believed in its culture and wanted to be a part of such an organization. Zappos.com found that those employees were more committed to the organization when they turned down the offer.

When Zappos started the offer, it was only $100, but the company has increased yearly because they feel not enough people take the offer. According to Hsieh, about 2-3% of employees took the offer. Amazon was so impressed by “The Offer” they have instituted a version of it.

 

Performance Reviews

All employee performance reviews focus on job performance, and are you living and inspiring the Zappos.com culture. If not, you will not remain at the firm. Culture is essential.

 

The Culture Book

Once a year, all employees are asked to write a few paragraphs about what the Zappos.com culture means to them, and these are put in the Zappos.com Culture Book. Their submissions are only edited for typos, but otherwise, everything left as written, the good and the bad. It is organized by department so you can see how culture may differ within departments. Here is a link to one of their culture books.

Some examples of how Zappos employees define their culture.

  • Happiness. Great culture leads to employee happiness. The same way a toxic culture leads to unhappiness. Happy employees mean higher engagement, profitability, and low turnover.
  • People. Our culture would not be what it is today without the people, past and present. We are all protectors and cultivators of the Zappos Culture; it’s what makes it unique and something that changes every day.
  • Being Yourself. I love that I get to be me all day. The culture encourages you to be the same person you are at work as you are at home. I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not, which makes Zappos a comfortable place to be.
  • Unique. Every company has a unique culture that’s all their own. Just like every person has their own personality, every company has its own culture. Building a culture is a special process that can’t be taken lightly. It’s the responsibility of every employee to represent and foster culture.
  • Fun. Work can be fun! We have 2 annual parties at Zappos. Our Vendor Party where we invite all of our brands to thank them and celebrate our partnership. And our employee holiday party. Past epic party themes have ranged from Mardi Gras and old-school hip-hop to a Hawaiian luau at a waterpark. Each has had its own twists and tricks to surprise and delight partygoers. This year, we invited our vendors to run away with us to the “Untamed Circus.”
  • Perpetual. Your culture doesn’t stay the same; it will continue to evolve. Having a defined set of values will serve as your guide to continue your culture’s growth and evolution in a positive direction.
  • Not Always Measured. A strong culture means lower employee burnout and, therefore, lower turnover. It leads to higher employee engagement and higher profitability. But really, companies should focus on their culture because it matters. Because it’s just the right thing to do. To quote Tony Hsieh, “Just because you can’t measure the ROI of something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. What’s the ROI on hugging your mom?”
  • Work-Life Integration. Companies and employees worry about work-life separation or work-life balance. But why? Wouldn’t you rather be a company where your employees easily combine their full self into everything they do? Wouldn’t you rather work for a company whose focus on culture allows your job to integrate with your life? It shouldn’t be a struggle to find a balance between life and work where you are truly fulfilled and happy.
  • Partnerships. Your vendors have the same objective as you: to sell their product, be successful in their work, and maybe have some fun while doing it. Something unique that Zappos does is allow brand representatives access to all the same sales and inventory information on their products that Zappos has. By working as a team, by partnering, you are setting the stage for success!
  • Real. Your company has a culture. You may not have “planned” it. You may not like it. Or maybe you love it. But it’s there. It is real. You can choose to be thoughtful about your company culture. You can set values and identify the behaviors that you want to be the core of your culture. That part is fairly easy. The hard part is committing to the values once they are set. Living them.
  • Core Values. Values are more than just words; they’re a way of life. They are the foundation of your company culture. We know that companies with a strong culture and a higher purpose perform better in the long run. As we continue to grow, we strive to ensure that our culture remains alive and well.
  • Your Brand. A company’s culture and a company’s brand are really just two sides of the same coin. The brand is just a lagging indicator of the culture.

 

Twitter

The company is very active on Twitter. They introduce employees to Twitter during the training, and at the end of the training, it is up to the employees if they wish to remain engaged on Twitter. Zappos has a Twitter page that aggregates all the employee tweets together, enabling employees to learn about their fellow employees who they may not have met and build better relationships. As a result, many of its employees are power users of Twitter so that their friends, colleagues, and customers know what they’re up to at any moment in time.

 

Core Values

Zappos didn’t initially have core values because they felt they had to “real” to the organization and not just some words on a wall developed by a public relations firm. Hsieh and his team emailed all the employees asking what they thought the company’s core values should be and then spent a year going through the responses to come up with Zappos core values. Zappos has 10 core values are they are:

  1. Deliver WOW through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and a Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More with Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble.

Today, according to Hsieh, if you Google search any one of these core values by themselves, Zappos is among the in first results. The company has interview questions for each one of these core values.

Other interview questions:
#3 Create Fun and a Little Weirdness. On a scale of 1 to 10, How are Weird are you? With 1 being not weird and 10 being very weird? If you are 1 – 2, you may not be too weird. If a 10, maybe too weird. The answer is not the issue, but everyone is different, and what Zappos is looking for work-life integration so that the person is the same at the office as at home. If they can be who they are at all times, then creativity comes out, and true friendships are made.

#4 Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded. On a scale of 1 to 10 how lucky are you in life? 1 is “I don’t know bad things always happen to me,” and 10 is “I don’t know why good things always happen to me.” Zappos doesn’t want the 1, not because they are unlucky, but that luck is about being open to opportunities so looking for people who are open beyond just the task.

#6 Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication. Zappos is about Transparency and its beliefs are, “Be real and you have nothing to fear. Your culture is your brand. Don’t try to be someone you are not.” Zappos when they have reports come by, they allow them to go around and talk to anyone because they are comfortable with that. This is because every employee is living the brand, have the same cultural views as the company, and they are authentic

#10 Be Humble. This value causes the most problems in the hiring process because many smart people are egotistical and if you accommodate them, you lose the corporate culture. To look for humility, Zappos had would question the shuttle driver who picked up the applicant up from the airport and drove them around to see how they were treated. If the candidate did not treat the shuttle driver well, they were not offered an offer regardless of how the other interviews went.

Tony Hsieh’s legacy will live on, but I challenge those among you to consider how your corporate culture stands up to Zappos and do you really live it. If not, why not? It could revolutionize your business.

 

(c) Copyright 2020, Marc A Borrelli

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Over lunch this week with an ex-colleague, she described the trials and tribulations of her job search. Her frustration was not that she was looking. Rather, she had received a verbal offer from the company but was now dealing with the HR Manager who was playing “bad cop,” contradicting her boss-to-be and backtracking on items that had been agreed upon.

This discussion brought to mind the many horrible hiring experiences I had been through in my career.

Many companies forget that hiring is like going on dates, because you will be married at the end. When we are in the dating world (for those of you who remember), it is an exciting and frustrating time. We are looking for someone who excites us; we wish to excite, be compatible with, and believe together can be more significant than just two individuals. It is the same in the job search. We are looking for organizations that excite us, whose mission motivates us, whose employees impress us, and where we can add value.

In many organizations, those hiring and those in the HR (Human Remains) Department forget this. They don’t realize that perception is reality. Their behavior kills the “dating” process, drives away the “A” candidates, and destroys a successful long-term relationship with those who stay. Things that kill the dating or long-term relationship are:

  • Not treating the applicant with Respect.
  • Not keeping appointments or to the schedule.
  • Bad communication.
  • The offer differs from what you were told.
  • Probation periods.
  • The First Day

One of the common refrains I hear from CEOs is that they struggle to find good people to hire. As I thought of the hiring process trials, I wonder how many good people have driven away because of the process. Given the cost of bad hires and the entire hiring process, how much is wasted because the hiring and onboarding process is so damaging? Remember, Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” So what is your organization’s hiring system designed to do?

 

Respect!

Like Aretha Franklin, everyone wants Respect! From my job searching experience, at some point, the applicant is called in for a day of “interviews” where the applicant gets interviewed by four or more people that they will be working with, including their prospective boss. Usually, this day is where the lack of Respect starts.

Some who are doing interviewing feel put upon to interview candidates and come across as either superior or just jerks. During one interview I had, the World Series was on, and the person supposedly interviewing me was watching the game from a small TV that only he could see. As a result, he never heard my answers to his questions, there were long pauses in the discussion while the game absorbed him, and the interview ended early at my suggestion. I declined a second round.  

Now I realize that people have things come up, and some crises have to be dealt with; however, Respect is still required. One company that I interviewed with canceled three separate interviews while I was sitting in the lobby waiting for the interview with the CEO. When on the fourth attempt, I finally did meet the CEO, he was abrupt. He didn’t acknowledge the canceled meetings and the imposition on me. Now, most will say, you are an applicant; why should he. But you never know where the applicant will end up, and one day they might be a customer. In this instance, while I didn’t get a job at the company, its reputation was tarnished in my mind forever, and where I could, I avoided doing business with them. The fact the CEO treated people like that meant to me that they treated everyone like that, and that was not the type of organization with which I wanted a relationship.

 

Keeping your promises

Once you have been through a few job search rodeos, you know to ask, “What is your process?” Applicants want to know how many interviews they can expect, how long the process should take, where the decision points are, and for “A” players – how they manage competing offers to ensure they get the best one. Unfortunately, many companies forget that their answers create expectations that can drive excellent applicants away or kill any long-term relationship if not met.

My lunch companion complaining that the HR person she was dealing with had failed to make any of the appointments they scheduled, without explanation or reason, but had called out of the blue at other times. This behavior creates the impression that the hiring company is chaotic at best and cannot be trusted worse, so the applicant is likely to question where they are being misled.

Once, interviewing for a VP of International M&A position with a Fortune 100 company, my prospective boss laid out how he saw the department going forward. We spend time discussing my role in creating his vision and the challenges he wanted me to tackle once I started, which he emphasized he wanted as soon as possible. However, he noted that I needed to have interviews with the head of legal and HR before they would send me an offer. Those interviews did occur, and at the end of the interview with the head of HR, she informed me that I would hear back within a week. Three months later, I received a call from someone in HR whom I never met or heard of, offering me a Manager’s role in a different department, which I respectfully declined. I already had another job by then, but again I had lost all Respect for that organization. Interestingly enough, in the 18 years since then, its market capitalization has fallen by 67%.

 

Bad Communication

Once upon a time, after a day of interviews, I received an email from the company addressed to someone else telling me that they were not interested in pursuing the discussions any further. I replied, thanking them but asking if the email was meant for the other person and sent to me by mistake or meant for me, but they had typed in the wrong name. The response was, “Both.” Such errors don’t impress people.

However, as is my MO, I reached out to the senior HR executive that I had met during my day of interviews, asking for feedback on why I had not progressed through their process. He responded with shock to say that I was still in the process and wanted me to come the next week to see the CEO.

After this great start, one has to once more question the organization.

 

The Offer Differs from What You Were Told

Often in the process, your potential boss will tell you that some conditions you ask for are acceptable, e.g., start date, vacation, options, etc., only later to be contradicted by HR. HR informs you that this is the firm’s policy, and it is non-negotiable. Managing situations like this are difficult and cause more mistrust because sometimes your potential boss cannot deliver what they promised. As a result, you question their power within the organization, or worse, it creates further doubt about the organization’s core values and ability. In such situations, you begin to wonder if you are dealing with the Job Enthusiasm Killer Department and soon to be working in some Kafka nightmare.

 

Probation

I know many firms like a probation period to determine if the employee is a good fit; however, remember most employees start a new job full of excitement about what they will achieve at their new company. It is like getting married, and they are waiting at the altar for this wonderful new life when the other party says, “Yes, you are committing to the marriage, and it’s our vows, but me, I am not committing for a few months or so until I am sure.” In such cases, by the time the probation period has passed, the employee has lost their enthusiasm, they are now looking for their next gig, and the company is wondering why they can’t keep good people.

If you have a probation period, inform the applicant upfront, so this doesn’t surprise them. Not only that, but if you do, go all-in with commitment. The more the organization holds back, the less likely there will be a long term relationship.

I once joined an organization, and there was no mention of probation during the hiring process. However, as I logged into my computer on my first day, I could not access the network. I was informed that during probation, they kept you off the system. Thus, any files I needed had to be copied onto a disk (Yes, a bygone era) and brought to me, or I had to give them to whoever needed them on a disk. This event was the first I had heard about any probation, and the message was welcome to the team, you second-class citizen. Nonproductive and soul-destroying!

At the end of the first week, my boss asked me to go to Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Thailand on a Business Development trip. When I asked when I could expect my business cards, I was told that new hires could not get business cards until they had finished their probation. Since I now knew I was on some form of probation, I tried to explain to HR that in Asia, business cards are essential; however, the person would not yield. As a result, I traveled with some I printed up myself, which looked like it and I am sure did lots to promote the organization’s standing in the Far East. Once more, perception is reality, and I am sure the HR person was “following orders” given by someone who had never traveled internationally.

 

The First Day

Data shows that over 50 percent of new employees regret the decision on their first day, and after three weeks, it is closer to 70 percent. Suppose you accept Richard Branson’s view that happy employees make happy customers. In that case, you will realize that if your organization is one where 50 percent of your new employees regret their decision to join you the first day, you have a huge uphill task to build customer satisfaction.

I have been among the 50% because the first day was so demoralizing. As I have said above, you arrive at the new job full of excitement only to be sent to HR hell to fill out a massive pile of forms. Surely these could have been sent beforehand, and you could bring them completed. There is nothing in them that I have ever seen that is so sacred it could not be shared outside the organization.

After this beautiful ritual, you are shown to your desk, whether in an office or cubicle. For some reason unknown to me, in every new job I have had, my boss has not been there my first day to meet with me and show me what I need to tackle. As a result, you arrive to a note saying, “Welcome and make yourself comfortable.” They may have scheduled some meetings for you with other people, but it usually mentions a name and not who they are and how you will be working with them.

A colleague once told me that she went to the stationery cupboard on her first day to get some supplies, only to be berated by a PA who informed her that her department could not access that cupboard. Again, thanks, great to be on the team.

If you are lucky, some of your workers may invite you to lunch on your first day. Indeed this is the least that they could do to make you feel welcome. So, after a wasted day trying to figure out what the unwritten rules are, where the political minefields lie, and whom you can trust, you head home wondering, “What the hell have I done?”

As I have asked before, is your onboarding process more akin to waterboarding?

I love Cameron Herold’s attitude of having a new employee party their first day to welcome them to the organization. However, when they leave, there is no going away party because you will no longer add any value to the organization. Furthermore, that night they ask for your bucket list and commit to helping you achieve an item on it during your first year. Now that is a welcome and one which makes you want to die on the hill for that company.

 

What to do?

A CEO friend of mine once told me that he used to call the CEOs of companies that his sales team had targeted. The purpose was to find out how the sales process was going and if his organization was responsive to the potential clients’ needs. He found this process made his sales team far more responsive to potential clients, honest with their targets, and he learned what worked and didn’t in the process.

If you are struggling to find good people, question if your system delivers the results it is designed to provide. Review your hiring process to figure out what is going on. I would suggest sometimes doing surveys with applicants to find out how they found the experience of applying for jobs with your companies and new hires. Remember back to when you started your career with excitement, what tied you to a boss or company, and what drove you away. Make sure your organization is doing the former and not the latter.

 

(c) Copyright 2020, Marc A. Borrelli

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