“Red-headed stepchildren” need not apply

[tweetmeme source=”JanineMoon” only_single=false]Short-sighted. Unconscionable. Foolish. Profligate. Asinine. Ignorant. And I’m just getting started.

How ludicrous is it that some Employers are deciding that the Unemployed are not good enough to hire? CNN Money this week posted an article that says this is becoming more common. While it’s apparently not illegal, I’d have to call it immoral or at the very least ignorant.

Do hiring managers really think that everyone of the almost 11% unemployed is in that position for performance reasons? How far removed from reality are they? Do these hiring managers really believe that organizations suddenly (and all in the same 12-18 month period) decided to retain employees based on performance rather than tenure, politics or laziness? (It takes some doing, after all, to collect the documentation to get rid of someone even in “at-will” states.)

How audacious that hiring managers (and the HR people who clamor to be their strategic partners) so inanely surmise that the talent to fill an opening could only be found in someone who is already employed.

Business just doesn’t “get it”

It’s been obvious for some time that many organizations don’t really “get” that their assets and capital for success in this economy reside in their people…and that the people own that capital. Unlike the last half of the 20th century where the assets were equipment and buildings and bricks that stayed put, when people today leave an employer, they take their brains and energy and talent with them. The buildings and equipment that remain are only the shelter and the tools to support the brains (and heart!) that create customer loyalty. It’s the talent within a business that defines excellence and competitiveness in a global marketplace. Our Economy of Choice is driven by the people who do the work, create new products and offerings and serve and retain loyal customers.

But, apparently, some Employers believe that only the Employed can make this cut. I expect this reduces the number of resumes to review. It also assumes [and we all know what ‘assume’ means] that anyone currently employed is a top performer…because of course organizations only keep top performers…no room for “B” or “C” employees these days.

And a top performer would want to work for you WHY, Mr. No-unemployed-need-apply-here Hiring Manager? Because you aren’t talented enough yourself to know that talent isn’t defined by employment? Because you aren’t influenced by labels? Because you aren’t smart enough to know why the U.S. has an unemployment rate of almost 11%? Because you’re blissfully unaware that downsizing, as in ‘across-the-board-cuts’ is the quickest way to impact the hallowed bottom line? Yes, you need some talent in your organization, Mr. Hiring Manager, but the talented won’t tolerate your prejudices and ignorance for long. You’re making your own bed and eventually you’ll lie in it.

Where are the Human Resources people who are Strategic Partners?

If ever there was a time to draw a line in the sand, HR folks, this is it. Strategically, to look only for new hires in the ranks of the Employed is right up there with selecting a physician who will tell you what you want to hear. S/he may not be the physician who can diagnose you, but you aren’t looking for the best–you’re looking for one who fits your parameters.

Where is your backbone, your courage to do the right thing…as well as the smart thing? Your job as a “strategic partner” with other organization leaders is to prevent those leaders from shooting themselves in the foot and to educate them about the concept of human capital. If you haven’t stepped up before, now is certainly a good time.

And, don’t use the excuse that “we need to weed out resumes somehow.” That’s a really lame and lazy excuse, and sounds like an “employee” reason not a “partner” reason. Partners do things to the advantage of the organization, even if it’s difficult and takes time. You should be doing the same.

Where are the Recruiters who know better?

I expect the first response from Recruiters is “that’s what my client(s) want…they won’t talk with anyone who is Unemployed.” To that I say Bunk!

Where’s your courage, your backbone to do the right thing? How could you go along with an Employer who ignorantly or even indifferently believes that hiring only Employed people is a good talent-attraction strategy? Seems awfully similar to someone who only wants to hire blonds but not brunettes. Or only people with advanced degrees when a college degree isn’t really even necessary for the position. Comes down to power, doesn’t it? “Because we can.”

It’s sad to think that we have all become so enamored with comfort and security that we are no longer willing to do the right thing. We aren’t willing to speak up and question or to provide another perspective because somebody might get mad. It’s no wonder that the employment market is in such shambles. It’s a “buyers market” precisely because employees have given up their perspectives in exchange for the illusion of safety. As long as we’re safe, we’ll do as we’re programmed.

And the kicker? We’re as safe as the Emperor who wore no clothes was covered: we’re only kidding ourselves.

Meet Jaron. And how he owns his career.

[tweetmeme source=”JanineMoon” only_single=false]Dinner tonight with a friend at The Old Bag of Nails Pub in Upper Arlington was probably the last place where I expected to run into a career owner. But that was before I met Jaron.

Jaron was our waiter, and a most memorable one at that. So memorable that after he brought us water, reviewed the evening’s specials and left us to ponder the selections, I asked my guest if he thought the waiter was an owner of the restaurant or an employee. He was that good!

Jaron is one of those people who provides such great service that you can’t help but comment, especially when you have to search your memory for any comparable experience. He was a most gracious host, friendly and energetic and very obviously wanting his customers to have a terrific dining experience in his pub! He reeked of “genuineness” and you somehow knew that he was for real. Nothing phony about this guy.

So during one of his “just checking to see what else I can get you” stops where he dropped this hint: “Hope you left room for a piece of Snickers pie,” I just had to ask. “This might sound a little strange, but are you an owner here or an employee?”

He grinned and said he was an employee, and I explained what had prompted my question. His smile widened like he got it immediately, and went on to say (with gusto, I might add), ” I really like what I do!” Telling him that it truly shows in his work prompted a little more background. He had been in the army for a few years and when he got out, he grew his beard (that really delighted him!) and looked for work. He tried a few things but wasn’t finding any that he really enjoyed. “I always told my guys that you have to like what you do, even if you don’t.” One of his friends worked at The Old Bag, so he decided to give it a try.

And he said, several more times in several different ways, that he really likes what he does. Jaron has talents that come through in his words, his body language, and his respect for his customers. I expect that the Strengthsfinder assessment would say he has a talent in “Woo,” Winning others over, and talent in “positivity” where the world looks better when you hang around people who have it.

I don’t know if Jaron’s work as a waiter is his career, but I also know that it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that his attitude and approach display his worth right up front. Whether in food service, sales or another business endeavor, most any good hiring manager would recognize the value of making an immediate emotional connection with the customer. It’s what draws customers in and keeps them coming back.

So I told Jaron that I was going to write a blog post about him because he owns his career and that my work is about helping people find the work ownership and enjoyment he obviously has. But the other reason is to tell you to head to The Old Bag in U.A., and ask for Jaron. Tell him I sent you.

When you do, post a comment below to let everyone know what they’re missing if they don’t go visit Jaron. I promise that I’ll collect the comments and see that his manager gets them. How cool would it be to take a stack of your comments in to Jaron’s employer to acknowledge his great work!

By the way, the food is great–I heartily recommend a crab cake on the Caesar salad!

Meet Kari. And how she became a Career Owner.

[tweetmeme source=”JanineMoon” only_single=false]Kari’s email began like so many others: she was discouraged and frustrated. She had been “a rising star” for many of her almost 20 years with the organization, but new leaders and a different culture dimmed that image. So what did she want from a coach? Kari wanted to know how to navigate the politics so she could “survive and thrive” in her highly volatile environment. She was looking for the answer to once again be that rising star.

When we met, Kari spit out years of pent-up frustration and confusion about her workplace. This manager liked her, this one didn’t, this VP said her work was excellent, that director thought she wasn’t keeping up. She was interviewing for positions in other areas but was always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

Kari wanted to know what was wrong with her, what it would take to get her back on her game. She was looking for the right answers. I said, “Did you come here to be fixed?” and she said “yes.”

So we started there.

I asked her, “What would it take for you to step into who you are authentically, to use your skills and wisdom to discover you again?” With a few moments of thought, a small smile appeared and Kari said “You mean trust myself?” She got it.

Kari’s belief that there is a “right” answer that would fix her, that would make her “fit” into a changing and challenging work environment is the same thing some of you are thinking I’ll bet. If only you could find the right way, the right program, the right degree, the right mentor, the right answer then work would settle down and you would be OK. You’d be the confident, respected and stress-less person valued by managers and team members alike.

You can spend a lifetime looking for that and have no confidence or respect from your fellow workers, or you can take a look at what you bring, and define the “right” thing based on that. Who you already are, the experiences you already have make up the wisdom you bring to your work–if you listen to yourself, if you trust your own counsel.

With that little smile, Kari began the process of learning to trust herself again. Her weekly practices are helping with that. She is practicing these behaviors:

1. staying present; not spending energy worrying about the past or fretting about the future;

2. trusting her instincts; she pays attention to what her gut tells her;

3. examining beliefs that may hold her back, that may no longer serve her; she intentionally chooses to shift beliefs that don’t support her;

4. paying attention to the supportive feedback she receives and giving it at least as much credence as the negative;

5. stopping the voice inside that comes from the emotional brain, the one that likes comfort and sameness and safety and is mired in fear. Kari stops it with “That’s not true because…” to give the logical brain time to think.

Kari no longer expects external approval to drive her best work because she recognizes that she is responsible for her direction and her ability to be a strong contributor.

How about you? Have you learned to trust yourself?

Meet Bill. And how he became a Career Owner.

Bill is always at the Panera before me; he gets there early, has a coffee and is ready to begin as soon as I arrive. He has his list of items for discussion and we move through it with practiced familiarity.

Bill and I have been coaching together for over a year. At this point, we meet about once a month so Bill can review his work and career activities and accomplishments and realign with his career direction for 2010. When we started, he was frustrated with his employer and uncertain if he was cut out for management: everything about managing seemed lots more challenging than just doing the work himself.

Now, Bill is comfortable in his leadership and knows what he wants to accomplish with his career direction; as his coach, I’m a check-in point along the way. As a Career Owner, Bill’s direction became clear when he focused on his values and began to use them consciously. In his words:

I realized that for most of my career I was doing what I thought I needed to do to get ahead and those things were not the things that I wanted to do. This caused a lot of frustrations between who I was at work and who I was at home, to the point where people would say I have a split (dual) personality. Like a downward spiral, the harder I tried (to do the work things) the farther I deviated from who I really am. Of course it’s not all ‘work’, there’s some personal stuff in there too.

By going through the process of answering a bunch of questions (most of which I though were meaningless at the time) I was able to pick out common themes among my experiences that led me to understand what is truly important to me.

Now that I have a clear understanding of what my core values are and why, I can apply them to any decision or situation that comes down the pipe. I can process everything according to my core values and then I will know the right thing to for me to do. Sometimes the answer is not an easy one and can lead to life changing decisions, but I at least know that I’m being true to myself regardless of the consequences.

Using his values, Bill will find his next position with an organization that mirrors those values and that provides challenges to grow him as a leader. He is deliberately meeting with other C-level leaders in his industry in order to learn from them and to grow those professional connections.

How do your values drive your career?

Playing by the Numbers Means All the Numbers

For the second time in as many weeks, I’ve read that organizations have jobs going begging because they can’t find “qualified” people to fill them. Most recent: “Difficulties in Finding Qualified Workers” by Peter Cappelli of The Wharton School who notes two reasons for the mismatch:

Mismatch reason #1: tons of choice in this “buyer’s market.”

too many choices

too many choices

Organizations can hold out for someone better for less since there are so many sellers. Shopping around is a “smart” thing to do.

Question: If an organization shops around to ensure a smart decision, does it mean a) there’s no urgency to fill it (which begs the question ‘how necessary is it?’) or b) the work of the position is getting done somehow? If you’ve been in an organization recently, you know that the work has been parceled out to others. Yet somehow organizations fool themselves into thinking that this cost is insignificant, but the numbers only lie when they’re omitted.

Mismatch reason #2: what most candidates are missing can only be learned on the job, not through additional education.

highest bid wins

highest bid wins

This means organizations are looking for candidates trained with somebody else’s dime. Smart business model, you say? Only until it’s your employee going to the highest bidder.

Running the Numbers

So let’s do a little quick and dirty math, estimating what it costs an organization to shop for exactly qualified individuals in the market, rather than developing its own internal talent.

For the sake of being conservative, let’s say the open professional position is a $30/hour ($60K annual) with a loaded labor rate of 100% (= $60/hour). Peers are at the same rates, as is HR. Let’s say the manager makes double this, $60/hour with the same 100% loaded rate (=$120/hour). Any consultants make a straight $150/hour. Let’s use the average hiring time of 6 months plus a hiring manager who wants to find the best candidate for the least amount.

When the hiring manager decides to fill the position, he revises the job description just a bit, sends it to HR and has a conversation about his time line and budget. [2 hours] Then:

1. The manager divvies up the position’s critical work to four co-workers within the department. [2 hours] Let’s presume that this organization is “lean and mean” and each worker is already doing 1.5 jobs. This means that people who already have more than a full work load get more work to do. And so none of it gets done well and probably some of it doesn’t get done at all. So, the people left to cover the work become more stressed, do less quality work trying to juggle an impossible number of tasks, and work more hours like shell-shocked refugees, always wondering if their decreased productivity and quality will put them on the downsizing list.

more lost dollars

a waste of resources

So that means 4 people, all doing 2 jobs now, are reduced to 50% effectiveness…for six months. The organization is still paying each employee full wages. Big cha-ching, one not reflected in the budget but there nonetheless. [1000 hours per employee for 6 months.]

2. By waiting, the hiring manager saves the monthly salary and loaded labor rate in his budget and so becomes a ‘corporate hero,’ a great example of  ‘how to tighten the purse strings in this economy.’ Given the number of available candidates and his desire to be certain of the best candidate, the manager may be able to save six months worth of salary dollars, becoming a real hero for short-term budget views. So that’s a “budget savings” of 1,000 hours @ the $60/hour loaded labor rate, or $60,000. Nice cha-ching!

3. Human resources people get the word out, posting to different sites and continuing to review hundreds of resumes: with rigid requirements, they go through lots of chaff to find wheat. Let’s say one HR person takes 4 hours to write up the posting, list it on sites and post internally; plus 4 hours to review 300 resumes and select the top 20 to send to the hiring manager. [8 hours]

shopping takes time; time = money

shopping takes time; time = money

4. The hiring manager gets the top 20 resumes, reviews them, and selects three he wants to interview. Time for paper review, telephone interviews and notes = 6 hours.

5. None of the telephone interviews are quite good enough, so the hiring manager asks HR to re-post. He knows he can get better qualified candidates: the market’s full of people looking for work. He also calls a couple of recruiters he’s worked with and asks them to send him exact matches. [6 HR hours and 15 recruiter hours] Cha-ching.

6. Sound internal candidates are denied because they aren’t exactly right. Career moves are infrequent, so the candidates are upset, disillusioned and disappointed. Let’s say 5 internal candidates denied, now discontent and with no development dollars available, their effectiveness drops to 75% for 6 months. Another big cha-ching that doesn’t show up in the budget, at 1000 hours per employee times 5.

7. Let’s say the process repeats itself three times during the 6 months it takes to find a candidate–the average hiring time in today’s labor market. And then, the hiring manager finds the perfect candidate—for double the money. No learning curve, no development needs, ready to start tomorrow but the “savings” in his budget labor line plus the minimal learning curve makes this hire worth it.

The bottom line?
$ 199, 210 Subtotal costs for hiring the perfect candidate
(60, 000) Less 6 months of salary saved during hiring process
60,000 Additional salary for perfect candidate

$ 199, 210 Total cost

Breakdown: $ 12,060 “hiring” expense that hits the budget and                     $187,150 salary expense that still hits the budget but now for work not done

“Playing” the numbers

All the numbers

All the numbers

How much internal and on-the-job training could be done for almost $200,000? How many employees could have or be a mentor or get skills training to increase bench strength? How much of the expense could be avoided when internal candidates are ready and eager to move into positions that challenge them? How much could be saved in outplacement costs and recruiting retainers?

How much impact on the bottom line could 100% employee commitment have? How much additional top line impact could 100% employee commitment make? What level of customer service could employees who are totally committed to the organization deliver…every day and to each customer? What kind of customer loyalty and business could your organization realize?  What if each employee were productive for 8 hours rather than 6, an average found in a 2008 salary.com survey?

The simple answer? Huge impact. Gallup says over $380 billion annually in the U.S. alone.

The difficulty in using all the numbers? Moving far enough away to see the forest for the trees: to see the true costs and returns (visible and not so much) in a global economy driven by employee brains and hearts rather than by financial reports developed for a different era. If organizations play by all of the numbers, then hiring will reflect human capital as valuable, and the ledgers must as well.

Science says: it’s what’s inside that counts.

How cool would it be if every time we worked we felt a sense of accomplishment, deep satisfaction and excitement about that work? Several intrinsic motivators–three in particular–can make it so. Autonomy: we use our talents, skills, abilities in pure self-direction, supported and coached to be our best. Mastery: we work knowing that we are perfecting what we do. And Purpose: our work, whatever it is, connects us to the reason we’re here–we contribute to something larger than ourselves.

I know lots of people would settle for even one of these. And I know others who have all three. Before work happened in big boxes, those who practiced a craft or a trade most certainly had all three. Not so much today.

While you can do a number of things to engage these drivers for yourself, it’s just as important that anyone who is responsible for business success understand this: these three intrinsic motivators are shown to produce work outcomes that more money and bigger rewards cannot.

You owe it to yourself to watch this video.

Dan Pink’s recent presentation on TED is worth many times the 18 minutes it will take you to watch. He’s very clear when he says “There’s a mismatch between what science knows and what business does.” Business doesn’t put much stock in common sense, but I wonder if they might consider science?

Scientists have shown many times over 40 years that business motivators (i.e. rewards and punishments) don’t necessarily create the outcomes we think. Paying ‘x’ to do ‘y’, in other words, doesn’t always get ‘y’ and the ‘x’ may even get in the way of doing ‘y.’ The “carrot & stick” approach to getting the best from workers isn’t very effective, and especially not in today’s service/information economy.

A knowledge economy

A knowledge economy

You see, what scientists have found is that very simple tasks with a very narrow focus requiring mechanical skills may actually get better performance with a bigger reward. However, this is how work was done in the Industrial economy; it’s not how it’s done today.

Today’s work requires innovation, synthesis and collaboration to respond to constantly changing economies and customer needs. This higher cognitive level thinking doesn’t respond to bigger sticks or bigger carrots, but soars with the challenges of intrinsic motivators like autonomy, mastery and purpose. Science says!

So, how much science does it take to change a business ideology?

Much of America’s corporate world is still mired in the “scientific management” approach, not to be confused with the science of what motivates people to be–and give–their best. This muck holds tight to many managers because it is known and comfortable. Even in the face of evidence to the contrary, for businesses to shift to a management model that recognizes and utilizes intrinsic motivators is a huge change: one even bigger than adapting to a global economy.

So what’s realistic?

Change yourself; change one person at a time. Recognize that if each of us changes a little, then the overall transformation will eventually happen from the inside out, for us as individuals as well as for the organizations with which we partner. Here are a few ideas to help you reconnect with your internal motivations:

1. Autonomy: autonomy is about self-direction. Don’t wait to be picked any more. Don’t wait to be told what else your job description holds. Let your manager know where you can make a difference and offer to take on the tasks. In this economy, how can you cut expenses? How can you volunteer or step into a gap in your department? What can you do to solve a customer’s problem without waiting to be asked or given the solution? How can you be a better, more collaborative project member? How can you truly become a partner with your organization to make it better and provide more value to customers?


2. Mastery: mastery is about becoming your best. So decide if you need to re-purpose or reinvent yourself. Either way, you’ll need to determine what new or advanced skills or knowledge or attitudes you need to best develop your talents. Whatever it takes, go after it. You are fooling yourself if you think your employer is responsible for your development. Recognize the new rules of employment and make your own security. Pay for your training, classes, and skills upgrades: it’s one investment you can’t afford not to make!

3. Purpose: more than any other desire, my clients want to know their purpose–what they are on earth to do, how they will make the world a better place. This is a purely human desire, and goes to however you define spirituality: belief, connection, energy, religion. So find yours. Start by finding a coach who can guide you through the process (yes, there is one) of becoming clear on your Foundation: who you are and what you’re about. Your purpose is within.

And, why not send the link to the TED video around to your coworkers and your manager? Ask to have a discussion on its content in your next staff meeting or department gathering. Take responsibility to get a conversation going on what would motivate those in your workplace and how you might work together to make that happen.

Labor Day Musings

A macro concept that underpins a lot of my thinking is “work,” most specifically how our definitions of work are drastically changed, yet apparently unrecognized by both the work ‘giver’ and the ‘doer.’

job boxes

job boxes

Employers (the ‘giver’) continue to look at work as segmented pieces or ‘job boxes’ that can be put together into an integrated whole by someone looking down from on high. While organizations continue to define “jobs,” what they really need is flexible project workers who use their brains to readily move from one work area to another.

Employees (the ‘doer’) continue to look at work as jobs defined by a description with a defined beginning and end. While workers continue to say, “It’s not my job,” what they really need is work that they recognize as a contribution and that engages their mind and spirit.

If you’ve read my blog at all, you know that I see the employer-employee relationship as–at the very least, dysfunctional, and maybe–at the most–irreparably broken. It is, in many (maybe most) organizations, a lose-lose relationship.

Employers continue to consider employees as commodities, and employees continue to see employers as economic lifelines. Employers see employees as interchangeable and as expenses… a ludicrous view in an economy driven by knowledge and service. Employees continue to see employers as their lifeline with only high-risk options for economic security. There is no joy, enjoyment or even much satisfaction in most work and workplaces.

intrinsic value

intrinsic value

What’s ignored by both parties is work’s intrinsic value: the value that drives the engagement and contribution of the worker. Without this, the enterprise “success” suffers–however that success is defined.

In the agrarian economy, work’s intrinsic value is continuity and contribution to the earth: tending to the growing cycles that foster abundance and replenish life stores.

In the trade / craft economy, work’s intrinsic value is using one’s talents and skill, contributing to the bigger needs of the community.

In the industrial economy, work’s intrinsic value is contributing the “piece” that makes the “whole,” and knowing the end result is better for the contribution. [Really? What happens when you can’t see your contribution because the “whole” changes so often?]



In the knowledge/service economy, work’s intrinsic value is knowing that one’s contribution makes a difference…through a creative approach, a new product that better cements customer loyalty, or a superior level of service that outshines the competition. In today’s organizations, there’s lots of talk about these things but the approvals and the second guessing and the need for control and the short-term focus on the next quarter’s financials prevent most workers from having any sense of their work’s value.

In today’s world of global competition and global economics, this lack of contribution is destroying the only assets that can compete in these arenas. As Earl Pitts used to say, “Wake up, America!”

Here’s my question for you: what does it take to move Givers and Doers toward a truly realistic expression of “work” in the 21st century? To let up on the antiquated management and control practices that may have worked in the assembly line environment but that truly smother and destroy workers today? To give up on the antiquated because-we’ve-always-done-it-this-way and it’s-our-policy-service mentality that reduces productivity to ruinous levels?

How will you make a difference?

How will you make a difference?

And here’s a personal question for you: What will you do, when you return to work after this holiday, to show the intrinsic value in your work contributions? Just one thing? How will you make a difference?

So how about adding to these Labor Day musings? What will it take to redefine “work” so it works for both employers and employees? Please leave a comment to further this conversation, and maybe by Labor Day 2010, we’ll see a shift that re-energizes “Labor Day!”