Search This Blog

CCE in brief

My photo
Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Monday 16 December 2013

Employees Are Not One Night Stands


HR is becoming a big pain in the neck for employers.  They have bottom lines to meet, work to get done - they want to quickly get the talent they need, pass on work (or vague concepts that can be crystalized into work and sales - hence the "hiring talent" piece) and move on.  There's a growing frustration with these apparently needy, cheeky millennials that expect clarity of direction, recognition for work done and meaningful engagement in a company's decision-making and implementation.

Um, no.  That's not how the real world works.

In the real world, bosses are in charge and new hires have to work damned hard to prove their worth. This means overtime, grunt-assignments and developing the capacity to intuit the boss' needs without them having to waste time explaining it to you.  If you can't manage this, well, that's why the new hires are on contracts only - they can be quickly canned and replaced.

You see, bosses don't have time to hand-hold or train new staff; they've got some significant sustainability issues due to the massive uncertainty around the global economy and their own sector. Partisan wars are making the policy landscape unpredictable, it's hard to know what may be a good investment or a bad one.  In a lot of cases, the solution appears to be hunker down and weather the storm.

Which brings us back to HR.  

Hiring can be a lot like speed-dating - you read a bunch of CVs, buy a couple of kids some coffee and bring on the one who seems like the best fit (skills and personality) for your shop.  If it doesn't work, well, they're only on contract; you tell um it's not going to work out, send them on their way and move on.  And on.  And on.

The more you do this, though, you begin skewering your view of what a potential hire is all about.  Are they trying to tell you what you want to hear to get the job, or are they equally interviewing you to see if there's a fit?  Is their priority to grow in a role and maximize their potential, use you to pad their CV or do they just want to make some money?  We'll get to the money-focused piece later.

Employment isn't a transaction; to say labour-for-money is the entirety of the process is like saying that food is strictly about sustenance (or romantic relationships are strictly about sex).  If you get enough value out of bread-and-water, fine, but in a competitive, evolving marketplace I'm gonna hazard a guess and say you've probably realized you need to branch out a bit.

The employer/employee relationship is not transactional - it's multi-dimensional with a whole host of factors including management style, clarity of communication, flow and even work design impacting the productivity, health and creativity of your employees.  All of this, in turn, impacts the adaptability and responsiveness of your team.

It is absolutely true that millenials have different expectations from work than their parents did - but then, the sorts of opportunities and challenges they face aren't the same as those their parents dealt with.  

This generation will live longer and work longer than the previous one.  As the CPP discussion rages on, there's less and less sense that retirement is even an option.  Besides, if you want to make money and make a difference, you're not looking at 9-to-5 jobs, either.  

There's an expectation on the side of youth that they'll have to blog, tweet and instagram about their day jobs, take calls at random hours and spend more time at networking and other related events.  They'll be thinking about their work and the value they can add while they're out with their friends, riding on the subway or shopping.

They want more from their employers, but their instinctively prepared to give more, too.  They're not looking at employers as pay cheques, but parts of their expanding network and future plans for growth.

Here's the big irony - bosses who either don't recognize the need to change and are fighting to hold the line or those who recognize that something's gotta give and are reducing their focus on HR so they can spend more energy on exploring new business avenues are missing the point.

If you hire well and commit to your staff, you can build a lasting relationship with them that will add value to what you do now and down the road.  Like any relationship, you should not expect employees to be constantly in agreement with you or to understand everything you say immediately; the reverse is equally true.  The goal isn't simplicity or one-way message flow, it's about complimentary capabilities and healthy friction that results in innovation.

Yes, there are certain basic skills you will want to look for in filling positions, but your focus should be more on the people than what they bring to the table on paper.  Understand clearly what you're hiring them for and what your expectations are (or perhaps even make the expectations development part of the hiring process) and plan accordingly.  If you, as a leader, go in looking to empower your future hires to reach their goals through adding value to their company (instead of a linear focus on what they can do for you) you'll be surprised what they'll be prepared to do for you in return.

All it takes is commitment.

Now back to the money-focus.

We have an increasingly laissez-faire culture that puts more pressure on front-line workers to be all things to all people - they need to follow instructions, intuit direction from unclear messaging, give regular (but simple) updates without expecting the same in return, have to find clients, pitch to clients, close deals and implement the work.  If they can't do all that, well, someone else can.

The same is being taught to students/new graduates - the ability to sell is the most important skill you can develop.  You need to sell yourself to employers, make them understand why they should hire you. Always Be Closing, etc.  To understand how foolish an approach this is, you need to have some understanding of behavioural economics.

Selling is not the same as accomplishing.  It never has been, nor will it ever be.  When you're focus in on selling, you're trying to portray confidence and incite a sense of urgency.  You have a problem, I have the solution, nobody else does.

That's what politicians do.  They overstate their capacity and undermine their opponents, then create a sense of urgency pushing you to donate to them or vote for their candidate.  Attention, Interest, Decision, Action.  So, how well and universally do politicians perform?  When does the selling game stop?

It doesn't.  Errors get downloaded, spun or ignored.  Wins are taken credit for where involvements was minimal and blown up to be larger than they are.  Problems that don't look like they have clear, communicable wins to them are simply overlooked.

It's not dead - it's resting.

Selling is about controlling the narrative, keeping up appearances and making a profit - which is not what accomplishment is about.  Accomplishment is collaborative, iterative and focused on the long-term, not the quick-hit.

We have sales-driven politics that are failing to address structural problems, but doing a great job on advertising.  We have firms across the board who are investing more in superlatives than they are in innovation or HR.

With all this selling going on, we're falling behind the curve.  Other jurisdictions are spending less time on preening and more on rolling up their sleeves.  It's time we catch up and start realizing that nobody buys the spin any more - they want to see results.

No comments:

Post a Comment