Why do great employees leave?

May 21, 2009

That is a question that I have found on the LinkedIn group “Executive Suite”.
I love those questions, because there is an army of consultants and specialists and experts showing off all they know, and their comments are incredibly detailed.
But the reality is much simpler. Employees, especially the great ones, do not leave the company, they leave their boss.
High turnover, especially of great employees, is the best indicator of poor management!
Many companies use the “grandfather” principle, but in reality, when there is a problem between the “father” and the “grand child”, grandpa almost always backs daddy, while the departure of great employees should tell him that daddy is being naughty, and daddy should be reprimanded. But that rarely happens, and the grandfather principle is kind of a joke, really.
But one thing is sure: when great employees leave, the average quality of what is left decreases, and the company is heading towards the ground.
I have seen that just too many times, in color, 3D and Dolby stereo.
The good thing about it is that companies who appreciate talent always win in the end!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


What has happened to good old-fashioned headhunting?

May 18, 2009

The more I dig in the world of recruiting and hear from those many talented people who never seem to get any response from their applications, the more appalled I become!

In my view, the whole recruiting process is going in the wrong direction. Everything is set up to just provide companies with “adequate” candidates, but there clearly is no effort anymore to go find out that special someone who will really add competitive value to his/her employer.

I can understand that recruiters seek some help in technology, but only if it creates quality to the customer. What they are doing is adding cost savings for themselves as they do not even read resumes anymore but let the computer do the screening. The keywords matching will sort out who will pass and who will lose. This is sheer laziness and if you ask me, it is cheating the customer. What happens with all the very valid words that are in the resume but just are not the right ones? Bad luck my friend, you used the wrong word, and therefore you are a loser!

And the beauty of it all is that thanks to this “black hole” nobody will ever know that very solid candidates were wrongly rejected. That is the greatest CYA I can think of. And companies keep paying obscene fees to such charlatans in a time where they should cut costs by eliminating all the useless suppliers! Companies do not get the best anymore, they only get the luckiest resume owners.

In my life I have hired quite a few people, and the only few times that I did it through recruiters, it has always been disappointing. They never have been able to send people who had the right personality and solidity for the jobs I wanted to fill in. All the real talents I have hired I found myself and trained myself, with simply the most amazing results and a performance for the company that our competitors envied and our customers valued.

I believe that technology’s purpose is for people to do their work better, not just easier. I also believe that when technology replaces the people using it, then those people purely and simply have no function anymore. They are redundant and irrelevant. Recruiter, you are fired!

I believe that if the way of the future is to screen job applicants by a computer program, then companies can  just as well buy the program and do the work themselves. After all, placing a job posting on Monster or whatever job website does not require a genius and the result will be the same.

As far as I am concerned, except for my first job, I never had to write and send a resume for any position I have held; and even for my first job, I had sent my resume while there was no job opening at that time. I guess that they hired me because they saw something in me. After that, all the jobs I have had have been offered  to me or created for me. I wonder what my life would have been if they had had a computer keyword screening.

In the future, I see two groups of recruiting activities:

  1. The real talent search, by this I mean looking and finding people who have above average abilities, will still be done by headhunters who will tap in their networks and actively work the field to find them one way or another. This will be a quality niche for quality employers. Talented people most of the time are passive job seekers. They are working, either employed or have their own business and can be attracted to another employer if this latter has matching values and offers a job at the level of those over performers.
  2. The bulk or commodity job market, in which companies are not looking for  superstars, but just adequate ones, as they are expendable. This market does not justify the level of fees that recruiters charge (but neither do real estate agents, to whom recruiters actually are quite comparable).  Companies will have the computer program and will go “purchase” the average commodity, and will try to underpay them, as is currently the case already.

Here is a link to an article I found in the National Post that present the current situation: Losing the best: the technology trap in hiring

I really feel sorry for all those people who currently have to find jobs in a very difficult economic environment and who are treated with such little consideration and who have about no way to get around the modern practice of recruiting.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Management & Leadership lessons from my dog – Part II: Recruiting the Boss

May 14, 2009

This is the second article from my dog Slider. This time she shares her views on how to recruit a proper boss.

Dear readers,

At first, I thought that I would deal with recruiting the boss in a similar way as bosses recruit their employees: by asking for a resume.

Unfortunately, this appears rather useless very quickly, as all the candidates refer to the same great things about themselves. They have had experience with or owned dogs in the past and they can walk on two legs! For how impressive their skills and experience are, for a simple dog like me, this is not convincing, and that by a long shot. It does not tell me much about their qualities as bosses and from my experience, I am more stable on four legs than on two, so that particular skill might even be overrated; and I, too, can do some impressive tricks.

Leading is not a givenSo, let’s forget the resume, as it not giving me the right information and let’s try to see if a personality test would work better. In my doggy world, we establish who the leader of the pack is in a very simple and primal way: the more dominant one leads. Could it be any simpler than that? Although we need to take a slightly different approach with people, establishing a relationship dog-boss follow a rather similar process. We will accept you as the boss only if you are able to earn our respect. Look around and you will see all those dog owners who failed to get to that point: they simply do not have us under control. We run away, we pull in a different direction than the one they want us to go to, or we are aggressive. In short, we behave badly. Well, that is from the boss’s perspective. For us there is another truth: we behave that way because we have no boss. There is no one we respect enough to follow, so we set our own course. Does that sound familiar to you humans? Interesting, isn’t it? We do not have the ability to do politics; neither do we have any awareness of our pedigree. Therefore, respect is about all we have. Also, remember that you do not spell respect F-E-A-R. If you lead us by fear, we probably follow because we prefer to avoid the consequences, but we will not like you, we will not respect you, and when the time is right, we will turn against you; unless we just become dysfunctional and neurotic, as I have sometimes seen.

Of course, there are those who think that buying us is enough to make them our bosses. No, it just makes them our owners. We do not feel too much for hostile takeovers. The merger and acquisition process needs to happen in a firm and effective manner. Of course, some bosses deal with the problem by getting rid of the “difficult” ones among us, but they probably will experience a similar situation with our replacements anyway.

To conclude, I will sum up like this. In order to be our boss, you must demonstrate that you indeed have the ability to lead the pack, which you only will do effectively by earning our respect. Being a two-legged creature or repeating us that you are the boss is simply not enough. Once you have earned our loyalty, you will be amazed by how much you will get in return!

DSCN1492

Next time, I will return with Part III: Leading the Pack.

(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the dog only, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd, although they usually do.)

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


The Resume Black Hole

May 11, 2009

Here is an article from The National Post by Cathy Graham titled The Resume Black Hole.
It sums up quite well how resumes are handled these days, and how job seekers are just treated as a commodity. So much for real talent search, just in case you believed there was such a thing.
It connects rather well with my previous post on this blog “Death of the Resume”


Signs of a good company culture

May 11, 2009

You know what they say to job candidates: you have only one chance to make a good first impression! This is valid for a company, too.
Regardless of any PR work done or how well crafted their website might be, nothing compares with just the possibility of walking around and watching.

First, take a good look at the surroundings. Are they inviting? Is this a place where you would like to spend half the time that you are awake? If the place reminds you of a hospital or a prison, you probably do not want to work there, unless of course the place is a hospital or a prison.
Nothing spells sadness more than empty silent corridors with closed doors. A high-energy high performance place is alive. It is buzzing with people and communication, and generally most doors are open.
Another thing that catches my attention is the presence of those business posters on the wall. You know, the type that will celebrate the virtues of teamwork or of customer service. Unless they have been placed by the employees themselves, it might be a good indicator of the management style and communication style. Instead of leadership by walking around and frequent contacts, the company probably prefers totalitarian regime-like propaganda. Some of those posters are really pretty, though.

In Good CompanySecondly, just observe the people. In the great places to work for, people exude happiness. They will smile at you in the corridors and they will say hello. Beware of the workplaces where you will not even get eye contact, forget about a smile.
A good place to go for a quick assessment of the culture is the water cooler/kitchen/coffee machine. When you pop in, watch what happens! In a good company culture, you can be sure that the employees present will look at you and greet you with a smile. If, instead, your arrival causes the voices to turn down or simply stop, with straight faces and an awkward silence, then you can be pretty sure that the discussion topic is not about how to beat last month’s results.
A brief chat with the employees will show you the company culture. In a good company, people are genuine and enthusiastic; when they talk about their workplace, you can see their eyes and faces come alive and do not be surprise if you have the feeling that they try to convince you that you should work there, too.

In a good company culture, everyone makes sure that the workplace is friendly and inviting. The main signs of a good company culture are happiness and absence of fear! And this describe exactly the “happy” (using vicious would be inappropriate) circle. Fostering happiness and fulfillment increases the commitment of the employees and their performance. They will go the extra mile for the company without asking anything (well not much) in return. They will not watch the clock to decide when to go home. They will leave when they have that sense of completed work. The absence of fear allows the employees to be more entrepreneurial and to dare more. This increases the performance of the company, reinforces its competitiveness and, success breeding success, this creates more happiness and fulfillment in the workplace. Full circle.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Energizing frustrated employees

May 11, 2009

Here is one of my favorite ways to help the staff focused on work, and not get distracted for too long by the frustrations that their work sometimes causes them.

Tensed

We had two main rules:
1) There had to be a good reason, as I had no interest to be disturbed for insignificant problems. After all, my staff had to be able to deal with most issues themselves.
2) They would make sure that I would be available at that very moment and, if not then, we would agree on a time to review the matter. “Can I come in and vent?” would be the password.

This technique has delivered wonders, and the funny thing about it is that in most cases I hardly had to say much at all. I just would ask a few questions about what, who, how, when or why and they would tell me all about the issue.
In most cases, they would know how to solve the problem that had arisen, but they actually were looking more for support and confirmation that they had the right solution in mind.

Back to SerenityThis is just an example of how important presence and availability are in managing people. If you have done your hiring properly and brought in the right people in the right jobs, they will understand very quickly how to do what is expected from them and deliver the performance that meets, and in most cases exceeds the targets. The role of the manager in such a situation is a little comparable with a shepherd. You keep a good oversight of your troops, but if any one wanders in the wrong direction, you just bring him/her back on the right track.

Further, once people have vented, they can “breathe” normally again and they will get back to work, not only happier than before the session, but actually energized to go out there and deliver more results.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Everyone has potential, just allow them to show you!

May 11, 2009

j0414117[1]To illustrate this, I cannot think of a better example than one of my employees when I was in the aquaculture business.
She used to work for the accounting department of a different division, and her performance was not great. At that time, I needed someone to help us out with administrative tasks and with the processing of information.
I was offered to hire her, although all the negative feedback I had heard was not encouraging. Fortunately for her, the manager under which she was working, was not exactly an example of trustworthiness or integrity, and I decided to meet her and see for myself who she really was.
I remember meeting her on a ferry to one of the islands off the coast of Vancouver Island. She was sitting in her car and did not expect much good from me, as I am known as quite straight forward and decisive.
Anyway, we had our meeting, which went rather well, and I decided to have her meet further with the rest of my team to discuss the operational needs a bit more in details. As there still was some hesitation about her real abilities, I decided to give her a chance, under the condition that we would review her performance after 3 months and then decide. If the performance was satisfactory, she would stay; if not she would go.
And what a transformation! From an unmotivated and dull person, she turned into a dynamic and resourceful collaborator. She did an amazing work, had a great productivity and came with many great ideas on how to process and present the information we gathered.
Later, the person to whom she was reporting (who reported to me) surprised us with a change of attitude for the worst, and unfortunately, I could not have her to tell me what the reasons of that change were. After several attempts to get her getting back to her former self, it appeared that this would not work, and I fired her, which left a hole in a rather sensitive position. I went to the other lady, and asked her if she felt she could take over from her supervisor. She was a little hesitant about a fairly big step forward, but as I guaranteed her that I would fill in temporarily for the areas that she did not master, yet, she agreed to take the plunge.
It was a position with much more responsibility and that needed decisiveness and authority, as she basically had the mandate to stop the plant if production was not in order. And once again, what a beautiful transformation it was!
She not only adapted to a higher position, but delivered a quality of work that I rarely had seen elsewhere, and I had been in quite a few many places!
She became the best QA Manager in the seafood business that I have met in British Columbia, and she has survived 2 mergers where I am sure she was in competition with people who had a much more solid academic background. She now is in charge of Food Safety for the largest salmon farming company in BC (and in the world)
All that was needed, was for her to have the chance to be able what she really was made of, and that would have never showed up on her resume. It was selection on the job, in the real world!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.