Another day making decisions no one wants to make!

On the phone this week with a few HR Pros from the hospitality industry (think hotels and restaurants) some of the folks hit the worst by the pandemic. We start the call like most calls – “how are you doing”.

At some point during the pandemic, when this question is asked, I kind of just started laughing. How am I doing? How are you doing? It’s a pandemic! We survived another day! Does that answer the question?

My HR pro friend says, “It’s another day of making decisions that no one wants to make.” That struck me. She was right of course, that’s the job. Do we let go of Sally today, or cut some other important resource we can’t live without. Which is the lesser of two evils? Can I go home and have a drink already?

“It’s another day of making decisions that no one wants to make.” 

In a nutshell, this is leadership.

For all positives, we get out of being leaders we know there comes a huge downside. There will be times when you must make a decision that no one wants to make, but you have to. The knowledge of this doesn’t make it easier, it’s just knowledge.

What’s the silver lining of all of this?

I do think making tough, unbearable decisions, that no one wants to make, helps you as a leader understand real pressure from fake pressure. The greatest leaders I’ve been around didn’t panic in times that it didn’t call for it, or in times when it seemingly would have warranted it. They understood a call had to be made, no one was going to be happy, this is the job.

Here’s the thing though, with all of this. You can be in a position to make decisions no one wants to make, or you can be in a position where you are able to make decisions and stuff is just going to happen to you. Awful decisions are awful, but I’ll take that situation then not being able to make the decision.

Pressure is a Privilege

“Pressure is a Privilege” – Billy Jean King

I’ve been watching the US Open this week and women’s finalist, Naomi Osaka was interviewed and said as she walks out onto the US Open court she pulls inspiration from the quote and sign that hangs just outside the court where the players enter.

In today’s world, we are all feeling a lot of pressure.

Parents struggling to work, teach, care for themselves. People fearful of the virus. People fearful of social and political unrest. People fearful of how they’ll pay their bills. It seems like every day the pressure just keeps increasing around us.

You are feeling pressure because something is expected of you. That expectation might be put on you by the outside world, or by yourself, but either way, here we are. You have expectations and that is a privilege. It causes us to be uncomfortable and being uncomfortable causes us to change and adapt.

Here is how King explains her own quote:

“I have this saying: Pressure is a privilege. Usually, if you have tremendous pressure, it’s because an opportunity comes along. I remember thinking about this, actually, when I was at Centre Court at Wimbledon. And I said, “All right. You’ve been dreaming about this moment. Is it a lot of pressure? Yeah. But guess what? It’s a privilege to be standing here.” Most of the time, in work or play or anything, if you really think about it, usually it’s a privilege. That I-want-the-ball feeling. Not “please double-fault.” Give me the ball. Give me the problem to solve. Let’s figure this out. Let’s go.” 

Let’s Go!

What if we only hired based on job interest? A Job Lottery!

I heard about a very cool way that some schools are beginning to select student governments. Think about how the normal student government is selected. Some student government advisor, usually the school’s government teacher, makes an announcement for student government elections. Any student interested can throw their name into the hat, and start campaigning.

Then, reality hits.

The most popular girl decides she wants to run, and then the star quarterback decides he will also run, and the drum major of the student marching band puts her name in, it becomes a whos-who of the student body, all looking to butter-up their college applications. If you’re not popular or have a built-in voting base (school marching bands have a way of swinging elections if they elect in mass), you have zero shot at getting elected.

Now, if we changed from elections to a lottery system, every single person who has an interest in being a part of the student government now has an equal chance of being a part of the student government. Do you like this idea or not? (Listen to Gladwell’s podcast to see how this really plays out, it’s fascinating!) 

Most people’s initial reaction is not positive about a lottery. We want to have our vote. Our say! A lottery seems random. The very worst person might win the lottery and then we are stuck! Truth be told, we are awful at selection! We are bad at selecting politicians. We are bad at selecting employees. Humans are just bad at knowing what’s best for them.

Think about how we select our President. If we had used a lottery to select the President all these years, half of the U.S. Presidents would have been female! A good portion would have been African American, way before Obama! We probably would have had a Hispanic President!

What Hundred.org found is that selecting student governments via lottery actually has produced a ton of leaders that school teachers/administrators, and students didn’t even realize could be great. We never gave them a chance, and they lived ‘down’ to our expectations. But, when chosen via lottery, they rose to the occasion. Also, just because we ‘elected’ the Prom Queen to be Student Class President, doesn’t mean they’ll be good, in fact, just as many that are good, suck!

Now, let’s take this in another direction. What would happen if we did a “Hiring Lottery”? Instead of going through all the interviews and such, we just have people show interest, and then we pull a name out of a hat? Do you think it would work?

Let’s add one thing. What if we had AI go through each person who showed interest and made sure they met our qualifications to do the job? Would you have buy-in then? We had 100 applicants who meet the criteria of the job, we spin the ping pong balls and pick one, and Welcome to ACME Inc., Mary! You won the job lottery!

What do you think Mary’s chances of being successful are? 50/50? Lazlo Bock, in Work Rules, says Google was only 1% better than 50/50 in their selection, so it would seem like 50/50 would be a really strong success rate for your hires!

I have a strong belief that with many of our roles, especially those that are low-skill, no-skill jobs, a hiring lottery would actually be considerably more efficient and eliminate all bias, and would probably produce more applicants for organizations. Also, when considering lower-skilled jobs, “job interest” might be the most important criteria to consider!

Could it work in skilled professions? I think it would probably work exactly the same, it’s just a harder sell to executives since they have skills and want to desperately believe those skills matter over someone with similar skills!

Tell me what you think! Would you be willing to hire via a Job Lottery!?

How many people in your profession actually know what they are doing?

I asked this question recently to a number of people. On a normal distribution curve of performance it should look something like this:

-20% are Top Performers

-70% are Average Performers

-10% are Not Performing at all

So, my belief would be if I asked an individual in any professional occupational role, “Tell me what percentage of pros in your field actually know what they are doing?” That I should get a very similar distribution. But I didn’t!

Ask yourself this question right now. How many of your peers, doing the same job you are doing right now, actually know how to do the job?

If you are a plumber, and I put ten plumbers in front of you, are you confident 80-90% can do the job? No? Then how many? If you are an HR Professional, what percentage of your peers are actually good at our profession?

Here was the breakdown I received, in terms of what percentage of peers in your field can actually perform at an acceptable level, as rated by their peer group:

Only 1% of the 394 people surveyed felt like over 90% of people in their field knew what the heck they were doing! 18% of people felt like less than 10% of the people in their field knew what they were doing! 

What does this tell us?

Almost everyone overrates their own performance and underrates the performance of those around them doing the same job. It’s really hard for us, in a peer setting, to look at others and go, “yeah, Mary is way better than me!” It’s way easier for us to look at a peer and go, “Oh, Tim? Yeah, he’s an idiot! We don’t let him get near the Happy Meals!”

What I actually tend to find when auditing various functions within an organization is that most people can actually do the job that is requested, when it takes lower-level skills. As you ramp up the skill difficulty is when you see larger variations, which isn’t very comforting.

What are the professions that take high skill? Medical, legal, accounting/finance, technology, etc. Most of these professions, to be really good, you need a combination of a strong education, experience, continual learning, and high attention to detail. Because most of these professions are high paying and have high hiring needs, many people are trying to get into the field, but don’t have all four of the requirements mentioned!

Anyone who has gone through a frustrating medical issue where doctors couldn’t find out what was wrong, only then to go to a more well-known medical facility and immediately get a real diagnosis and treatment, understand this perfectly.

If you’ve been through a difficult legal battle you understand the difference between a $300 an hour lawyer and a $1000 an hour lawyer! There are certain things in life you don’t cheap out on. I don’t want the cheapest brain surgeon or tax accountant or criminal defense lawyer. I’m okay with the cheapest quote to cut my lawn.

The difference in skill and performance levels amongst peers is probably greater than we think. I don’t think 20% of people in the same profession are top performers, it’s probably closer to 1%. We know rock stars in a profession when we see them, and it’s rare. You don’t have 2 or 3 on every team.

That’s why it’s critical that if you have high performing talent, at any level, you do almost anything to retain them. Most will outperform a handful of average to low performing peers doing the exact same job.

 

Is it okay to be biased for underrepresented communities in hiring?

I’m a big podcast listener. It’s one of the reasons we started HR Famous because we loved the format! One of my favorite podcasts to listen to is The Prof G Show with Scott Galloway.

If you aren’t familiar with Scott Galloway he’s a New York University professor of marketing and hugely popular. He’s a liberal and rails openly against Trump and also his own industry, Higher Education. I’m a moderate and he’s so freaking smart, I could care less about his political leanings, I just get smarter listening to him.

Besides being a professor, he has started and exited a few technology companies, sits on boards, has school-aged kids, and talks a ton about the stock market.

On a recent pod, Elitism: Money vs. Influence, he gave his top 3 attributes the top-performing employees of the companies that he has started. These are:

  1. Most likely Female. “First they were female. If they were male I couldn’t say this but it’s okay because as long as you are biased for underrepresented communities your okay, but we try and ignore that…” (42:03 in the pod)
  2. Graduate from a world-class university. Ivy League, Penn, Michigan, Stanford, Berkley, Vanderbilt, etc. “Better schools matter…more applicants…start with better core human capital…better screening.”
  3. Athletes are very successful. They understand teamwork, discipline, they can endure and push themselves harder. “Someone who can finish an Ironman isn’t lazy”, says Galloway.

So, Professor of NYU, former business owner, and thought leader says it’s okay to be biased in selection.

I’m not sure I agree we should ever be biased in our hiring selection practices, but Galloway points out a reality in our culture. As long as we aren’t biased towards the majority, we will look the other way and ignore it.

What Galloway is saying is not different than how the vast majority of hiring managers are making their final selections. They take a look at past and current performance and they make some educated inferences about what those top performers have in common. Based on this knowledge, it will shape their hiring selection. Does this, or could this, lead to bias? Yes.

Does it make it wrong?

That’s the big sticky question, isn’t it?

We want to say, no, it’s fine, continue to hire the females if those are your best performers. But, just because your current females are your best performers doesn’t mean they’ll be your best moving forward, or that maybe one of the males will be even a better performer.

Flip the scenario.

Galloway now tells us that one of the three attributes for high performance is they are “male”. Do we have a problem with this now? Most likely, you do have a problem with it based on hiring equity issues, broadly, but it’s hard to say specifically since maybe this organization doesn’t have gender equity issues.

Want to know what Inclusion is difficult when it comes to organizational dynamics? It’s because what Galloway laid out is exactly what every organization lays out. The difference is, it isn’t always friendly to the underrepresented community.

Like I said, regardless of your feelings on this one subject, Galloway’s podcast is money! It’s on my must-listen to pods each week.

Give me your thoughts on this in the comments?

Creating friendships at work during a pandemic is really hard!

We’ve been told for years now, based on the Gallup research, that having a best friend at work is one of those anchors that will lengthen a person’s tenure with an organization. New research is proving this might not be as easy it sounds! Business Insider:

A Study by Plos One asked students to rate their friendships and also rate whether or not the ‘friend’ would reciprocate by telling researchers they also believed they were friends. Here the results:

In 94% of these perceived friendships, students expected them to be reciprocal. So if John rated Jack as his friend, he expected Jack to rate him as a friend also. But this was so in only 53% of cases; less than half of the students had their friendship beliefs about others reciprocated.

Ouch! Almost half of your friends, do think of you as a friend!

The researchers point to the social network-style of so many friendships today of why people have this wrong perception. People are now building so many friendships with individuals they rarely see or interact with but feel like they have a strong friendship with.

So, what should you be doing as an HR Pro to take advantage of the Friend Anchor?

1. Help provide real-life interactions with your employees to build ‘real’ friendships, not just social network friendships.

2. Give employees the opportunity to work with employees of their choosing on projects. Give an employee a project and let them pick their team to work on it.

3. Don’t ignore those employees who don’t interact with anyone. This is usually the first red flag you’ll get that a person is unhappy at work and more likely to turnover.

I know you didn’t get into HR to play a friendship matchmaker! But, if you value retention and want to lower turnover, being a great matchmaker might be the best tool you have in the HR toolbox!

To increase the difficulty of the position of being a matchmaker, what will you do for a remote workforce to increase friendships? The truth of the matter is it easier to create friendships in person, face to face, then it is when everyone is remote. The process of workplace friendship building has to be purposeful, and again this will mostly fall on HR pros to lead.

Also, remember, you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose. Unless they’re a really, really, really good friend, but even then, that’s creepy, don’t do that.

7 Things Start Ups Teach Us That Will Increase Our Success!

My buddy John Hill works for Techstars as the VP of Network, go connect with him, he’s completely an awesome guy who will sit down and have a beer with you and talk about how to change the world for hours!  Last week he got to meet the latest crop of Techstar startups and came away motivated with some great learnings.

Here are John’s takeaways from the newest Techstar startups:

1. Nothing beats hustle. Nothing.

2. The world is full of good ideas, but only a few will execute them.

3. Relational capital is vital.

4. Networks matter. Surround yourself with those who can help you.

5. There are some wicked smart people in the world.

6. To build a great company you need help with funding, talent, and connections to business/industry to scale and the understanding of how to navigate each.

7. Suspend disbelief!

I’m drawn to each of the seven for different reasons but #2 jumps out because I witness this on a daily basis. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who execute and those who talk about executing. Hire those who execute. Understand that they are rare and you should overpay for this ‘skill’.

Do you notice nowhere on his list does he talk about failure. John is a motherfucking doer! He gets shit done. Techstars will only take a chance on startups led by people who will execute. John talks about ways to succeed not about just throwing caution to the wind and failing. The reality is most will fail, setting yourself up for success is key.

I love that he ends his list with “Suspend disbelief”. The world is a critic. Those who make it big have that special combination of John’s list. Great idea, ability to execute, the right network to make it happen, super smart, etc. What they also have is true belief! At the end of the day, you have to believe 1000% of your idea is going to work. No part of you even questions that it won’t.

If it didn’t work you would be destroyed because your belief was so strong that you never saw it coming when it fails. That’s how most great ideas actually make it. You find a combination of all of these things and you put money and resources behind it.

These 7 learnings aren’t about how to make a startup successful. These are how you make anything successful that you’re working on.

Chief Crisis Officer – The newest c-suite addition in 2020!

The c-suite has expanded over the years. Originally you had basically the CEO, COO, and CFO. Next, depending on the industry came the CIO/CTO (IT), CMO (marketing), and CHRO/CPO (HR and Talent). Some organizations have added depending on need c-suite roles for strategy, diversity, safety, client/customer support, etc.

Basically, the c-suite is a little like empire building. If you’re a CEO with a decent head on your shoulders you want to surround yourself with people who complement your lack of certain skill sets, or skill sets that need more emphasis.

Don’t be surprised if you start to see another addition to the c-suite roster that I’m calling the Chief Crisis Officer!

Think about the crisis’s that many organizations have had to deal in the past couple of years:

COVID – Work from Home/Remote transition

Social Justice/#MeToo/BLM

Major Client issues (social media blowup, bad press, freak of nature accidents, etc.)

Major Employee issues (labor supply, harassment, D&I, pay equity, etc.)

Supply chain issues

IT Hacking issues

Environment Issues

Stuff we haven’t even thought of yet…

If I’m a CEO today, of course, I expect my c-suite partners to own crisis, but I also need a point person who I’m 100% sure their job is to work through crisis and help us mitigate crisis fallout. Ownership of crisis is critical, as it’s a nature of organizational dynamics to want to push crisis off onto other functions.

We continue to hear stories of organizations that handled COVID and most recently the uproar around social justice with great poise and response. We also continue to hear about the organization that totally mishandled these situations. Leadership, and the ability to have someone high enough in the organization to push back, seems to be critical in getting the proper response all the way around.

Where would your “Chief Crisis Officer” come from? I think it’s definitely a personality set vs. a skill set, in terms of coming out of one functional area over another. You would probably want a person who is more of a generalist, than a specialist, but someone who has a keen understanding of how your operations are run. I don’t think you want someone from outside since part of great crisis management is knowing the history.

The person has to be all in on the organization. I want someone who loves the company, our mission, our employees, our customers, all of it. That person will own it all during a crisis. They’ll take all the stakeholder’s viewpoints into consideration. I need someone who is high details, low rules. Get it done. Don’t miss anything. I don’t really care how it gets done in a crisis, as long as it gets done correctly in the end.

I’m not sure I want someone from legal. They get too caught up in risk aversion. Crisis management is about mitigating risk, not eliminating it. This person will have to be confident, as we’ll need them to push forward with not much information or certainty. I tend to believe the best folks at in crisis situations, in the workplace, are female. Confident, good detail orientation, but not cocky. Quick to move, but not so fast stuff will get missed that doesn’t have to be.

Keep your eyes out, the c-suite will be growing in 2020 and beyond, and many organizations across the Fortune 1,000 will be hiring Chief Crisis Officers!

3 Ways You Can Extend the Work Lifecycle of Older Employees

One of the biggest biases we have as leaders is ageism. If you’re 35 years old and running a department and you are looking to fill a position on your team that will be your righthand person, the last thing you’re looking for is a 55-year-old to fill that spot! That’s just me being real for a second.

You and I both know that 35-year-old hiring manager is looking for a 25 – 28 year old to fill that spot

That’s mainly because at 35 you’re still basically stupid. I was. You were. We think 35ish is the pinnacle of all knowledge, but it’s really when we just start learning for real.

So, we have this core issue to deal with in workplaces right now. Our leaders are mostly Millennial and GenX, and Millennials are increasing into these roles at a rapid rate. Because of the Boomers leaving in large amounts, there aren’t enough talented young workers to replace the knowledge gap that is being left. So, we are left grappling with what we think we want (youth) with what really needs (experience!).

A recent study at the University of Minnesota found that employers need to add programs to focus on older workers:

The study argued that programs aimed at training workers won’t be enough to satisfy the state’s need for workers between 2020 and 2030. New policy directives and incentives may be needed, including offering pathways for baby boomers to delay retirement, drawing in workers from other states and supporting immigration from other countries

“There’s all this focus on workforce development, but none of it is guided to older workers,” said Mary Jo Schifsky, whose business, GenSync, advocates for meaningful career pathways for older adults and who helped initiate the study for the Board on Aging with the U’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “We need career pathways for older workers just as much as we do for younger workers.”
 
In the U survey, managers ranked baby boomers high on loyalty, professionalism, engagement, and their commitment to producing quality work.
Employers need to find ways to extend the Work-Life Cycle of the older employees that work for them until the workforce, technology, and retraining programs can catch up to fill the void. Most employers are only focused on programs that are looking at younger workers.
So, what can you do as an employer to extend the life cycle of your older employees?
1.  Have real conversations with older employees about what they want. Most employers shy away from having the ‘retirement’ conversation with older employees because they think it’s embarrassing or illegal. It’s not. It’s a major reality of workforce planning. “Hey, Mary, Happy 55th Birthday, let’s talk about your future!” Oh, you want to work 18 more years! Nice! Let’s talk about a career path!
I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard a hiring manager say, “I don’t want to hire him because he’s 59 and is going to hire soon.” Well, I spoke to him and he wants to work until he’s 70 (11 years) and our average employee tenure is 4.7 years. I think we’re good!
2. Stop, Stop, Stop, believing that all you can do is hire full and part-time FTEs into roles. If Mary, my 63-year-old financial analyst wants to give me five more years of work, but only wants to work three days per week, in role ‘traditionally’ we’ve only had a full-timer, I’m taking Mary for three days! HR owes it to our organizations and hiring manager to push them out of the box when it comes to schedules and how we have always filled positions. 3 days of Mary is probably worth 3 weeks of an entry-level analyst in the same role!
We do this to ourselves. I hear it constantly from hiring managers, “HR won’t allow me to do that.” Why? Have you asked? No, but HR doesn’t allow us to do anything. We need to come to our hiring managers with solutions and let them see we are open to doing whatever it takes to help the organization meet its people’s needs.
3. Develop programs and benefits specifically designed to retain older employees. I work with a plant manager who developed an entire engineering internship program around having his retired engineers come back and work three days a week with interns and paid them ‘on-call’ wages for the days they weren’t there, so interns could call them with questions at any time. These retired engineers loved it! They could come to do some real work, help out, and still have a great balance.
It went so well, he kept some on all year, on-call, and partnered them with younger engineers who needed the same support and assistance from time to time. The on-call rate was pretty inexpensive, the support and knowledge they got in return, was invaluable.
It all comes down to flexibility on our part as employers to extend the life cycle of our older employees. We no longer have this choice where we can just throw our older employees away and think we can easily replace them. We can’t! There physically isn’t anyone there!
This is about using each other’s strengths. Younger leaders will be stretched and we need to help them stretch. We need to help older employees understand their roles. In the end, we need to find a way where we can all see each other for the strengths we bring to the table, not the opportunities.
It’s our job as HR professionals to work on how we can extend the life cycle of each of our employees.

Someone is Banking on You Being Lazy!

I work in an industry where I’ve been told for a decade technology is going to take my job. The staffing industry is half a trillion-dollar industry worldwide. The entire industry is built on us banking on the fact that someone in corporate TA is going to be lazy.

Ouch! That should sting a little!

So, I don’t really bank on you being lazy at my company. We do contract work so we are looking to fill contingent roles, not direct hire staffing, which is an industry almost completely built on lazy! For my staffing brothers and sisters out there, I hear you, I know you’re ‘just’ filling in when ‘capacity’ is an issue. (wink, head nod, wink)

There are other industries that bank you us being lazy. The entire diet industry! You’ve got overpriced awful foods, bars, shakes, workout gyms, at home gyms, etc. Because we won’t eat less and move more, because we are “lazy”, we pay a lot for that! Believe me, I pay my fair share! Just because I’m too lazy! Ugh, it’s embarrassing!

Direct hire staffing as an industry could be gone tomorrow if corporate TA just did what they were hired to do. You have an opening, you fill the opening. We aren’t trying to put a woman on the moon! This isn’t rocket science!

But, we don’t fill the opening. In fact, we do just about everything except filling the opening. We post the opening. We meet about the opening. We send whoever applies to the manager of the opening. We meet some more about candidate experience. We have another meeting about employment branding. One more meeting with the manager to see if anything has changed.

That doesn’t sound lazy, does it?

But, deflection of more difficult work is just another form of laziness.

My kid doesn’t want to go out in 90-degree heat and mow the lawn. It’s a hard, hot job. So, they come up with ‘alternative’ work that they have to do that just happens to be inside in the air conditioning.

As TA Leaders, we have to understand how are others are banking on us being lazy, and then make adjustments to stop lazy. So, how do you do that?

Well, I wrote an entire book on the subject – The Talent Fix – you can buy it here – but until you can get it, here are some tips:

  1. Have clearly defined measurable activity goals set for each member of your TA team.
  2. Make those measures transparent so everyone can see them every day.
  3. Have performance conversations immediately when measures aren’t met.
  4. Course correct as measures need to be adjusted to meet the needs of the business.
  5. Rinse, repeat.

1 -5 above is like page 37 of the book. So, you can imagine what the rest of the 200+ pages will be like! 😉

If you follow the five steps above about half of your team will quit in 90 days. That’s a good thing, those idiots didn’t want to recruit, to begin with, they just wanted that fat corporate check and Taco Tuesdays. They were being lazy and it was costing your corporate bottom line.

The talent acquisition function is not a charity case. I think in the history of HR we’ve done some corporate charity where we let people keep collecting money even though they were costing us money. They weren’t giving back the value we needed for what we were paying. Great leaders stop this from happening.

Great leaders understand that there are people in the world that are banking on us being lazy.