Who’s missing the mark?

[tweetmeme source=”JanineMoon” only_single=false]Help me understand please!

I read an article in a recent International Business Times, U.S. edition, reporting that 3.2 million jobs are going begging because perfect candidates aren’t available within the 15 million unemployed. And, apparently, they aren’t available internally, either.

[Note: I am generalizing and lumping all employers together…I acknowledge that there are exceptions!]

As the author of a book that places career development responsibility squarely in the employee’s lap (Career Ownership: Creating ‘Job Security’ in Any Economy), I still find it stupefying that employers don’t consider growing that perfect candidate–whether from the inside or outside. American employers as a whole look at investment in their greatest assets as an expense to be trimmed or eliminated.

Organizations think nothing of property, building and equipment improvements to extend the value of those physical assets, yet they find it a waste of dollars to maintain or improve the value of the assets that count most in today’s economy: workers’ brains. And, this says nothing of the value of workers who bring their hearts as well, motivated to go over and above to ensure the success of the business.

How did organizations get to the place where an operating assumption is that assets must be “perfect” in order to be a “fit,” to be of value? Or that maintaining the value of capital assets is a dispensable expense? Yet, these assumptions seem to drive many organizations in today’s economy. It’s the same thinking that organizations use to terminate workers who finish a project and hire different workers for the next–even if training or another learning solution would bridge the gap quite nicely.

Why is it that:

>Employers require experience, yet ignore slope of a learning curve?

>They downsize a workforce to reach quarterly financial goals while shelling out big bucks for outplacement to assuage guilt and appear socially sensitive in “hard times”?

>So many employers consider improving and “re-purposing” human assets to be an unwarranted expense while ignoring the expense associated with turnover, lost productivity, low morale and disappearing customer loyalty?

If a position can go unfilled for months while a search for the perfect candidate occurs, how important can it be to fill it in the first place? Do the accolades managers receive for coming in “under budget” outweigh the costs (much more difficult to track) of filling a position with less-than-perfect? What numbers would organizations discover if they weighed the ROI between bringing an internal candidate up to speed and recruiting for the perfect fit? How is the lost productivity measured and tracked? The lower efficiency and missed opportunities? Customers who go with a more responsive competitor while the search drags on for a qualified candidate?

How about measuring the real costs of doing business?

Organizations purport that they must “make the numbers;” so it is time for organizations to take responsibility for tracking all the numbers—not just the ones that make a quick short-term impact. In any economy, sacrificing smart, solid longer term business practice in the interests of meeting outdated stability measures results in a false sense of security for the bankers and the stockholders, especially when it’s the assets that are sacrificed.

In the May issue of Fast Company, authors Dan Heath and Chip Heath make a compelling case for growing talent internally rather than recruiting from the outside. It’s high time business people review outdated activities that fall under the guise of “sound business practice” and upgrade those principles to align with the needs of the 2010 economy.

Why not weigh in?

What will it take for employers to put workers on the “asset” side of the ledger instead of the “expense” side? How can workers help this happen?

“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.

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!”

Taylorism: alive & well in corporate America

Maybe you remember reading–in one of your Introduction to Organizations texts–about Frederick Taylor and his focus on productivity. And even if you don’t, you may recognize his management theories as alive and well in your workplace today!

Taylor’s life work was productivity studies, his beginnings at Bethlehem Steel. Among his first jobs was designing a more efficient shovel.

Taylor's productivity study

Taylor's productivity study

By measuring pounds per shovelful and total daily pounds shoveled, he determined that a shovel designed to hold 21.5 pounds was exactly right to keep the men working efficiently all day. His redesigned shovel allowed the company to reduce it’s coal shovelers from 500 to 140, an early 20th century version of “doing more with less.”

Taylor went further than just shovel redesign; he also applied the same approach to the people who used the shovels. He called his approach “Scientific Management,” and managers (who found the human side of productivity improvement highly resistant) jumped on Taylor’s approach and roamed factory floors armed with clipboards and stop watches, in the interests of hightened productivity.

So it was Taylor’s work that redefined the role of a manager: it was the manager who became the “brains” in an organization, determining how everything would be done. The results? The more the manager did, the less workers had to do. Workers became like robots; managers made decisions and were in charge. Without having to think, workers’ jobs became brainless and closer supervision was required to make sure that slackers didn’t get away with it! Taylor, intent on machine-like productivity, actually said “I care not a whit for the thinking of the working man.” While his work dates to the early 1900s, Taylor’s Scientific Management is alive and well in organizations today.

Ineffective management tools

Ineffective management tools

Managers love the alpha status and don’t want to give it up.

Even when it doesn’t work, and especially when it does more harm than good…like in the current non-Industrial non-machine economy.

Behavioral and neuroscientists have overwhelmingly shown the ineffectiveness of typical management behaviors. Giving feedback in the same old way is not productive, and providing rewards and punishment is counterintuitive to the way the human mind works. Managers who provide rewards and corrective action are automatically putting workers in a subordinate role. Our minds rebel and see this as control and manipulation. The more responsibility a manager has, the less employees take on. As long as what is considered to be motivation comes from the outside, it will be counter-productive…because we literally have minds of our own.

So managers who do less managing and who increase their expectations and support of workers are the ones who will get the best results. Rather than telling, a manager needs to do more asking. Rather than exerting control, a manager must engage the employee in taking responsibility.

Partnership = Responsibility

Partnership = Responsibility

How? By asking questions and supporting the expectation that the employee is a partner in the business. Not a subordinate to be coddled or pulled along like a rebellious adolescent, but a partner expected to hold up his/her part of the business by achieving objectives that contribute to and align with the organization’s direction.

As a manager, you can diminish the Taylorisms you practice by:

1. providing information consistently and in a number of ways to connect employees with the business of the organization: strategic direction, financial indicators, business lines, what competitors are doing, etc. The more workers understand the business and its direction, the more they can define their own contributions.

2. knowing how they contribute to a greater good enables workers to step up to the intrinsic desire to belong. Querying (rather than telling) workers to set their objectives, their productivity and quality metrics, and their customer service practices enables workers to make an emotional commitment to their work, to their customers, to the business.

3. asking workers to assess themselves and their work: how they are meeting metrics and objectives; how they make mid-course corrections; how they improve their own sub-par performance; how they support team members in achieving goals and customer needs.

4. providing objective sources of feedback, such as business indicators that make it very plain whether employee efforts are moving the business forward or back. If the business is successfully meeting its goals, then employee efforts are recognized through these measures, customer surveys and even peer reviews.

Tapping in to the “brains” in your organization is not difficult, but it is different than “traditional” management practices. Interactive practices that build relationships and responsibilities are the only way to engage the head and heart and hands of workers in an economy that requires all these things for an organization’s success.

Why not shift your management approach and let me know how it goes?