Tag archive for "HR"

by Bill, Management

Talent Acquisition is More Than Putting Butts in Seats

No Comments 21 May 2012

For some time I’ve resisted the urge to excoriate a term that has been taking more prominent space in the lexicon of HR professionals. I’ve done so largely on the basis that there didn’t seem to be much harm in the emergence of new-agey alternative vocabulary among knowing professionals. I’ve resisted until now, that is. The term – “talent acquisition.”

Oh, I understand perfectly why some might prefer putting some distance between what they do for a living and the functional title that has long been associated with it… recruiting. Recruiting, after all is about as sexy as dirt, or maybe something that is done with dirt, like farming, or agribusiness as it’s now known. Have you ever noticed that the replacement titles never get shorter?

Like farming and selling, recruiting is hard work, because whereas you can exercise some control over the process, the outcome is much less controllable. In this respect, it matters not whether you are operating from a grimy, dog-eared Rolodex or an iPad. As with farming and selling, recruiting is vital work, and still today is a profession where you do a lot of groundwork, unearth a few leads, experience regular headwinds (e.g., withdrawn reqs, failed drug screens), and at the end of the day are glad if you can hit a bunch of singles, a few doubles, an occasional home run, and bat 300 over the long haul. Yet, one can make a compelling argument that the decision whether or not to put someone on an organization’s payroll is one of the most important decisions that can be made. So, if we want to sex up the title a bit to give ourselves some psychic income (or perhaps a higher pay grade), I’m down with that, but let’s use a little caution.

In fairness, cautious branding doesn’t sound like something that would be advocated by someone who for fourteen years has serially referred to workers, in writing no less, as “contented cows.” Thankfully for us, the cow metaphor is simple and very tight; so much so that on July 3, John Wiley & Sons will release our third book in the Contented Cows leadership series (more on that later). But that doesn’t mean that we haven’t taken some serious guff over it. I will never forget an afternoon spent on Clark Howard’s WSB Radio Show when an otherwise wonderful experience was chilled by a caller who got pretty irate over my “comparing people to animals.”

My concern with the expression, talent acquisition is this: Both words miss the mark. Although talent is important, it is secondary to finding people who, by virtue of pace, preference, temperament, and values happen to fit your particular organization. In the vast majority of cases, there are more available people with the talent to perform a given job than those who “fit” the organization. Marriott International, one of our newly minted Contented Cows, learned long ago that mixing grumpy, self-absorbed employees (no matter how talented) with travel-weary guests is not a combination that yields good business outcomes. In similar fashion, talented or not, most people (repeat, most people) would not be happy, productive, or successful working at your place. So, if we myopically get too hung up on the talent side of the equation, we run a very real risk of overlooking some extremely important factors.

Second, I’m more than a little bothered by the term, “acquisition” when it comes to the employment process. You might be able to borrow talent for a while, but you certainly don’t acquire it. Indeed, acquisition is entirely the wrong term if our aim is to do more than merely complete a transaction. I don’t know about you, but when I ran the organization that was responsible for much of the initial high growth staffing of FedEx, starting a relationship with people who would be today’s couriers and tomorrow’s managers was a hell of a lot more than merely putting butts in seats. No, we were trying to capture hearts, minds, and yes, talents, in large numbers, but still one at a time, because eagles don’t flock. Our aim then, and now is to productively engage with people who want to join our team and do important work.

Our hope is that however you choose to brand your organization’s people functions, you will do so thoughtfully.

*****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, the next edition of which will be released in July 2012 by John Wiley & Sons. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

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by Bill, Leadership

Mommas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Lawyers

No Comments 10 November 2011

Imagine if you will what it would be like if roughly 40% of a nation’s primary deliberative rule-making body was comprised of HR professionals? Or, retired Air Force generals?  Just let your mind run with that for a second. Continuing with that thread, why should we expect a better result by having our nation’s legislative branch dominated by lawyers, people, according to Thomas Jefferson, “whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour?”

Before the flaming begins, understand one thing – this is not an anti-lawyer piece. Lawyers and those in the legal profession serve a necessary and useful purpose. Most of them, I suspect are fine people. The principle of having a nation or any large aggregation of people bounded by laws is a good thing.

Yet, too much of a good thing, any good thing, is problematic, whether that “good thing” is principles espoused by HR professionals, military officers, or lawyers. In the latter case, owing in part to the 1.1 million or so lawyers in our midst (and their heavy concentration in government), we have allowed the law to become too much the de facto standard for acceptable behavior. In many cases, we conclude all too quickly (conveniently, perhaps) that if something is legal, it must be okay.

This week, playing out before our very eyes is a sad, sorry affair involving Penn State University, its legendary and now former head football coach, and behavior on the coach’s part that, while within the law, was hardly acceptable. It has been said that, “The law is hardly a lofty standard.” That certainly rings true in this case.

The Penn State saga is an excellent reminder for anyone in a leadership position that compliance with the law ought to be the bare minimum standard for our decisions and behavior. It is for this reason, perhaps, that there is a Danish admonishment that we should always “beware stepping over  the lowest part of the fence.” In reality, the standard that those who follow us quite rightly hold us to is that we will do what is right even (no, especially) in the absence of an established guideline, policy… or law. That standard can indeed be a difficult one to live up to when lives, careers, and large sums of money are on the line, but that’s the deal when we sign on for a role as a leader.

*****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the newly released book,Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit theirwebsite, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

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by Bill, Management

You Know My Name… Use It

2 Comments 02 November 2011

Twice in the last month when approaching the hostess stand at specialty restaurants inside high end hotels, I’ve been greeted immediately not by the words, good morning, hello, or anything like that, but by a request for my name and room number. In each case, at the end of the meal, I was asked for a room key before being allowed to charge the meal to my guest room. Then, upon signing the meal tab, I again had to enter my name and room number. Funny thing… in neither case was I even once called by my name.

We collect bushels of information these days, to feed the ravenous appetites of our Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS), and other databases. I often wonder, though, how well that data is used, and just how much of it is operationalized in the form of applied knowledge.

It was clear in the case of the restaurants that the hostess staffs were collecting my information not because they intended to use it with me, but because someone in management was requiring it for another purpose. What they (and each of us on a too regular basis) lose sight of is that when you take the step of asking for someone’s name, personal information, or opinion, even once, let alone a second or third time, we expect you to use it in a form that is at least visible, if not beneficial to us. Otherwise, it reeks of arrogance.

I saw this again yesterday in a visit to the emergency department of an otherwise well run hospital. Despite having proffered my medical information via both a url to a secure website AND in writing, I was asked a third time for the same basic information.

This week our firm is in the midst of working with two clients on their employee opinion surveys. In each case, these organizations have figured out on their own, with no prodding from us, that if they are to truly get some ROI on their survey investment, it behooves them to feed the results back to their employees, and, at the end of the day, to act on the information received. Otherwise, management’s reputation, not to mention investment will have been squandered.

What about you? Are you in the data gathering or data using business? Do you at least acknowledge the information that people have given you? (Note to recruiters: This includes you.) Do you use it well? Do you bend the data gathering process to accommodate the preference of the information giver? If not, why not?

As we march on with the vital journey of creating electronic medical records and ever more powerful informational databases, let’s not lose sight of some of the low hanging fruit that is immediately at hand:

  • If we know a person’s name, let’s use it. That will never offend them.
  • Let’s show a little more consideration in the data gathering process. One thing our survey clients both insisted on was explaining to their workers on the front end, how their opinions would be used (and not used), and when they would get to see the results.
  • Let’s resolve to being a bit more “subject-friendly” when gathering data, making sure, for example that any redundancy owes to real necessity, and not laziness.  Let’s resolve to put more focus on both the primacy and privacy of data, collecting only that which is needed, and truly safeguarding that which has been entrusted to us.

*****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the newly released book,Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit theirwebsite, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

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by Bill, Management

On Shirley Sherrod… Mr. Vilsack, What Were You Thinking? Where the Hell Was HR?

No Comments 22 July 2010

Somewhere southeast of Chattanooga my jaw undoubtedly dropped open as I listened on XM radio to the emerging details of the saga of Shirley Sherrod, who this week got the bum’s rush from her position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

While driving on I-75 en route to the ATL, a route that Ms. Sherrod knows well, what I heard on the radio caused me to flash back to a former life as an HR executive at FedEx.  Superimposing the Sherrod affair onto my own career, I could envision myself in the office of FedEx founder and chairman, Fred Smith, along with the operational counterpart to Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack. Even more vividly, I can hear Mr. Smith asking the operating exec, “What were you thinking?” and then, turning to me, “and where the hell were you?”  As one who gives his executives considerable operating latitude, pays them well, and generously funds HR initiatives, he’s well within reason to ask those questions, and to expect good answers. That is no less the case with our senior public servants, and so, I hope that Secretary Vilsack and the head of his agency’s HR function have had a trip to the White House, and been given the opportunity to answer those same questions.

It’s not hard to see how the Sherrod affair came to be. The obvious political maneuverings notwithstanding, we live and work in a sound bite world where speed of thought, communication, and execution (often just execution) reign supreme. Doing it better often gets trumped by doing it faster, resulting in the occasional train wreck. It serves as a vivid reminder of the sound advice given us by our mothers in our youth, with reference to crossing the street: Stop. Look. Listen.

In recent years, most HR professionals have struggled with the objective of becoming more “strategic.” What they are really saying is that they are trying desperately to earn a seat at the table, and to remain relevant in a world where meeting this quarter’s numbers, or just surviving to tomorrow pretty well trumps any and all concern for things humanoid.

With respect to our HR friends, for whom I have profound admiration, and who do a thankless job, one of the ways that we earn (and keep) that seat at the table is by finding a way to keep our clients, folks like Secretary Vilsack, from shooting themselves in the foot. We do it by working as business partners with our management team, adding value, weighing in on difficult issues, doing our homework, and certainly by imposing a business-like process whenever someone’s livelihood is in the crosshairs. We do it each time, every time, whether we think the whole world (and Fox News) is watching, or no one is watching.

With respect to our operating exec friends, the HR profession has grown immeasurably in talent and capability (coinciding too neatly with the time I left the business). You would do well to seek their counsel and to involve them (meaningfully involve them) in all of your critical business decisions. In case of doubt, just take a few minutes and replay the video of Secretary Vilsack humbly apologizing on world-wide television to Ms. Sherrod. Play… rewind… play… rewind… play. Got it?

*****
A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

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by Bill, Leadership

Rent-a-Dummies vs. Fully Engaged, Responsible Team Players

No Comments 12 December 2009

In a prior life as a corporate HR executive, I was known on occasion to use the term “rent-a-dummies” in reference to temporary agency help. My use of the term had a lot more to do with the no strings, obligations, or loyalties nature of the relationship than any IQ disparagement. Still, it was cold and unkind, even though in so many cases it just seemed to fit.

I was reminded of the term, and the extent to which any semblance of loyalty between employees and the organization has faded when reading yesterday that University of Cincinnati football coach, Brian Kelly had accepted the Notre Dame job.

Ironically, it wasn’t six months ago that Kelly signed a contract extension through 2013, saying at the time that, “this agreement allows me and my family to call Cincinnati our home, not just a place where we live,” Oh, I know, this situation is different, because it’s not just any university. It’s Notre Dame for gosh sakes. Kelly probably had to undergo an extra interview with a ah-hem Higher Authority to get the job.

Despite apparent statements to his Cincinnati players that he was staying, and that they would be the first to know if he decided otherwise (they weren’t), Kelly opted not to coach those same players in what, for many, will be the biggest, if not the last football game of their lives, the 2010 Sugar Bowl. As Notre Dame had already announced that it would not accept a bowl game invitation this year, it’s not like he had a competing professional interest. No, Kelly had gotten all he was going to get out of the University of Cincinnati and he was leaving, now! Never mind the interests of the young men who have played their hearts out for him and enabled him to get this job!

A few thoughts for the senior leaders and recruiters in our readership:

  1. If you truly want to get beyond the “grab mine and go” mentality in your organization, and you’ve really got to want to do it because it is an uphill slog, the effort must start with you. Are you setting the example by demonstrably placing the organization’s good at least on a par, if not a step ahead of your own? Are you earning the loyalty of the folks on your team day in and day out, or merely demanding and hoping for it?
  2. We suggest you revisit your use of employment contracts and seriously consider whether they are adding beneficial clarity to the terms of the arrangement, or simply tightening the screws of self-interest and creating more rent-a-dummies.
  3. In your recruiting and selection process, place as great an emphasis on how people finish their obligations and projects as how they start them. If a new recruit is willing to void an employment agreement and dump their current gig like a hot potato, why would you want them on your team?

Our interest is not in resurrecting the workplace of a bygone era. Anything but. Rather, it is in recognizing the fact that speed, the competitive advantage of choice, is compromised when people, either by choice or necessity, go through the day always keeping one eye focused on their own welfare rather than the job they are getting paid to do. We’ve made our choice. What’s yours?

*****

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

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Considered thought leaders in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden speak to, train, and coach managers on leadership practices for better business outcomes.

OUR PREMISE: Having a focused, engaged, and capably led workforce is one of the best things any organization can do for its bottom line.

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