Here’s an idea, just do the job you were hired for

Every day, people get worked up over stuff they can’t control. Everyone’s telling you to be this or that, depending on the latest trend or generation.

I’ve stopped listening to people who don’t know my job or haven’t been in the field for ages. Instead, I talk to my employees – the young, the old, and everyone in between. They all matter because they all contribute to moving the organization forward.

I don’t care about what others think; I focus on what my employees are telling me. Their problems are personal, from daycare and student loans to health scares. Forget the big world issues; help them with the close ones first.

Your employees are individuals with their own problems, and millennials aren’t college kids anymore. The newbies might have different labels, but they’re still young people with their own issues.

At the end of the day, employees want to succeed. Helping them be successful is my top priority as a leader. Success is personal, so I figure out how to tie it to the organization’s goals.

We keep letting others tell us how to do our jobs. I’m sticking to doing the job I was hired for because, frankly, no one knows it better than me. Maybe we should all just focus on doing the job we were hired for.

The 2024 Conference Season is Here! Here is what I’m looking forward to

The HR/TA/LOD/Payroll/Etc. conference season is upon us. I’ve got a new book launching at SHRM Talent in April, so it will be an especially busy season for me this year. I’m excited for 2024 for a number of reasons.

I think the one thing I enjoy about conference season more than any other is connecting with peers and friends in the industry. I have the most inspiring and challenging conversations at conferences. I’ve found lifelong friends at professional conferences. I genuinely find it an awarding and educational opportunity that I love being a part of.

It came to my attention late last year that a group of professionals is working to put together a movement called #OperationPurpleLight that helps protect individuals from getting assaulted at conferences. I’m not naive to the problem of mostly women getting drugged and raped in our society. I was shocked to hear the rate at which this happens at professional conferences. Especially at HR-related conferences, with a demographic upwards of 80%+ female, we have to find ways to keep all participants safe.

It’s disgusting that anyone would ever feel threatened at a professional conference to begin with, especially if the perpetrator is a peer! So, as you are out this season, make special note of the efforts by Operation Purple Light, the conferences that are supporting this effort, and what you can do personally to ensure the peers around you have an enjoyable and safe experience attending conferences!

What am I looking forward to?

  • TransformHR – Vegas, March – Transform has a unique format where almost all of the content is done in a panel format with actual practitioners. Many of them are from SMB and Mid-enterprise organizations, and it leads to some amazing conversations that can really get into the weeds about the what, why, and how we do things!
  • Michigan HR Day – Lansing, MI, April – 2,500 HR pros all coming into Lansing, MI, for a day full of content and development. It’s one of the largest HR conferences in the US at that number! And it’s in my backyard! How the heck?! Over 15 years ago, the governor of Michigan decided to declare the second Wednesday of April to be a state-wide day of celebration and development for HR, and this thing has gotten big! The majority of state SHRM conferences can’t get 2500 attendees!
  • SHRM Talent – Vegas, April (I spend way too much time in Vegas) – Besides the aforementioned book launch, I’ll also be the closing keynote speaker at SHRM Talent this year. I’m super excited about that and a bit nervous. It’s a big crowd, but I’m speaking to my peeps, so that’s comforting. I believe this is the best Talent Acquisition conference currently running.
  • HR Tech Europe – Amsterdam, May – The sister conference to the world’s largest HR Tech conference in Vegas, HR Tech Europe is going on the road overseas, and it will be an amazing show. The HR Tech Conferences are amazing, and I’ve gone every year for the past decade. This is one I won’t miss on my calendar.
  • SHRM Annual – Chicago, June – Ted Lasso is keynoting!! Always huge. Always fun. I’ll be speaking and signing books. It’s the single largest HR conference on the planet, and really, no one else is even close. It’ll be 20,000+ HR pros in one place. If you ever have the ability to attend, it’s an HR bucket list must-do.
  • RecFest USA Nashville – Nashville, September – This is an outdoor recruiting festival, big tents and all, in the heart of Nashville. There is nothing else like this on the planet! It’s completely unique, and I’m taking my entire TA team with me to this event this year. In 2023, the best TA conversations I had all year happened at RecFest!
  • Workday Rising – Vegas, September – One of the fastest-growing and largest HCM suites in the world, Workday seems to be taking over the universe! Workday Rising brings together thousands of enterprise Workday clients for development, education, and a little bit of fun. If you’re a Workday client, you should be investing to send your team here.
  • The HR Technology Conference – Vegas, September – If you’re an HR Technology nerd, like I am, this is another bucket list conference to attend. You’ve got the startup pavilion, Pitchfest competition, HR tech products of the year awards, and the biggest HR Tech expo in the world; it’s by far the top HR Tech conference on the planet.

This is just a tip of what’s available and out there for your own professional development. There’s been a giant growth of HR Tech user conferences as well – Workday Rising, Oracle World, LinkedIn Talent Connect, etc. are a few giant ones. This isn’t even getting into the SHRM state conferences, industry-specialized conferences, etc. Then you have local DisruptHR events, local SHRM events, etc. If you wanted to, you could go to an HR event every single week of the year.

Let me know if you’ll be attending any of these conferences that I’ll be at. I would love to connect and share ideas.

Hey, Be A Career Guide

Remember what Steve Jobs said – people don’t know what they want until you show them. This applies to careers too. You might think you want a specific job title or hit certain goals, but the reality hits differently.

I once told my wife I wanted to be a vice president by 35 when I was 25. Got there, and it didn’t feel any different. It turns out, what I really wanted was control. Titles didn’t matter; I wanted to be the one calling the shots.

As a leader, I’ve noticed maybe 10% of the people you guide know exactly what they want in their careers. The other 90% are like me back then – they think they know but are just winging it until they hit some goal.

Most employees don’t really know what they want in their careers. That’s where leaders come in. It’s our job to help them figure it out.

Your job as a leader is to show your team what they want. Don’t assume they already know – most don’t. They won’t admit it, but that shouldn’t stop you from pointing out the possibilities.

From my own experience, the best leaders I had showed me the way. Four mentors in my life called me out on my title obsession and guided me in the right direction. They didn’t give up on me, and I’m grateful for that.

So, leaders, your role is like a career guide. Help your people see the path, and you’ll see them step up and do more than they thought possible.

The Snowstorm Test

Throughout my career, I’ve had conversations with coworkers who think they’re more crucial to the business than they really are. You know the type – they drop comments like “This place would be lost without me” or “Let’s see how things go if I’m not around.” Usually, it’s the sales or tech folks who, despite their contributions, sometimes overestimate their importance. Over time, I’ve come up with a simple two-step test to figure out if someone is truly essential to your business:

  1. Snowstorm Test:
    • Ask yourself if this person is required to show up at the office during a severe snowstorm, lasting multiple days.
    Example: In a large Health System where I worked, doctors and nurses were essential, with plans in place for emergencies. Meanwhile, in HR, I wasn’t on the list for a 4-wheel drive SUV pickup.
  2. Self-Promotion Check:
    • Consider if the person spends a lot of time trying to convince you of their importance to your operation.
    Examples: Statements like “Our biggest client wouldn’t be here without me” or “Our department saved the organization $500K last year on a $3.7M budget.”

Looking at how organizations evolve, it’s interesting to note that in the beginning, only essential employees are truly needed – those involved in getting materials, making products, selling them, and handling finances. Support functions like HR and Marketing often come later, usually after the company grows beyond 100 employees.

Regularly reassessing who holds essential roles within your organization is important. As a “client” to these vital contributors, focus on tasks that support their efforts. This means having direct conversations, asking, “How can I help you do your job better?” It’s simple but often overlooked.

Think of organizations like picking teams on a playground. If your most essential employee were choosing a team, where would you stand – first, tenth, or last? It’s worth thinking about where you fit in.

I’ve Always Been a Straight-Shooter

Like most recruiting teams, we deal with our fair share of “Repeat Offenders” – those folks who just won’t quit when it comes to job contacting you. Maybe we’ve called them, interviewed them, or even hired them at some point. But now, they’re like persistent shadows – calling, emailing, hitting us up on LinkedIn, and even sending friend requests on Facebook. Stalker!

One of our recruiters said, “John Smith (a boring fake pseudonym, I know) won’t stop bugging me; he emails me his resume every single day!” We all know John Smith. He used to work for us at a client, and it didn’t end well. Now, he wants us to find him his next gig. But here’s the catch – it’s not about his skills; it’s his personality. He was a pain for the client and his co-workers, and frankly, he’s not the right fit for any job.

So, here’s the burning question: How do you get John Smith to back off? This is a situation every recruiter faces sooner or later.

Here’s my simple solution:

  1. Tell Them! Be honest. That’s it – no more steps.

    The problem with recruiters is that we’re scared to burn bridges. We worry about where the person might end up, who might hire them, and we don’t want to mess up our good rep. We’re all about the “Candidate Experience,” right? Well, that’s a load of nonsense. It’s just avoiding conflict. It’s better to give them that gift than let them walk around clueless. So, be straight up.

    Tell them exactly, very specifically, and calmly, with no ill intent: “I want to give you a gift. You might not see it as a gift right now, but I hope in time you’ll understand it to be a very valuable gift. I (don’t use ‘we’ or ‘us’ or ‘the company’ – you’re avoiding again by using those) – I think you have a significant personality flaw that comes across as annoying to me and, from the feedback I have received, to those you work with. If this does not change, I won’t be finding you any job in the future, and you’ll probably struggle to find one on your own as well.” OUCH! That hurt, right? But, read it again. Was there anything mean or untrue in the statement? If this person actually listens to the statement and acts on it, will they be better for it? You can change the reason for whatever issue the person might have – maybe it’s hygiene, maybe it’s a crazy laugh, who knows – but the basic message stays the same. You need to change, or I never want to speak to you again.

It’s tough for recruiters because we’re trained to be nice, but sometimes being nice means stringing people along. It’s rude not to tell them what’s wrong. Stop with the blow-off lines and start telling the truth. At the very least, you’ll free up time to talk to the candidates who actually matter.

Is it time to go with the flow?

Whenever HR folks hang out, they often think they’re the rebels in the room. But truth be told, when you look at what they say and do, we’re all not much different from everyone else. This isn’t just an HR thing; it’s all over our workplaces. It’s like we’re stuck in this ‘Group-think’ mode.

Back in the 1950s, Solomon Asch did a study where students had to solve simple problems, like figuring out if two lines were the same length. Some students purposefully gave wrong answers, and guess what? Three-quarters of the others went along with the wrong answers at least once. It’s a reminder that as humans we tend to follow the herd, even when it’s clear they’re off track.

In the corporate world, the contrarian label often gets slapped on the CEO or someone on the fast track to getting the boot. Despite what top executives say about valuing contrarian ideas, the truth is, going against the grain isn’t well-received in companies. So, it’s kind of amusing when HR pros claim they’re the rebels in their organizations. No you’re not. Plus, do you really want to be?

Let’s cut to the chase – HR doesn’t have to be the rebel; shouldn’t they just go with the flow? HR needs someone who totally drinks the Kool-Aid and fully supports the mission. It might sound rebellious in its own way, especially if the boss is a visionary leader, but that’s what organizations need from HR.

HR needs to toe the line. Conform to the vision, conform to the mission, and lead by sticking to the organizational goals. By embracing this kind of conformity, HR can actually make a real difference in the success of the company.

Why You Should Recruit from Competitors

Is it cool to hire from your competitors? This usually gets mixed responses. If you ask 100 Talent Acquisition Pros, half might say it’s a no-go due to agreements not to poach from each other – a common practice in the corporate world.

Infamous legal dramas, like the Silicon Valley case, highlight the downsides of these secret pacts. Between 2005 and 2009, tech giants allegedly avoided recruiting each other’s people, causing lower wages and less job mobility. The lawsuit claims this left workers in the dark about better-paying opportunities.

Surprisingly, openly declaring an agreement not to recruit from competitors is not just ethically weird – it’s illegal. Yes, you heard that right. While it’s tempting to dodge the hiring treadmill in a competitive market, there are smarter ways to deal with it.

One approach is to invest in better pay, engagement, and talent development. DUH! Smart companies know it’s crucial to pay at or above market rates to keep their team happy. Instead of reacting to high turnover with higher wages, these companies stay ahead by regularly adjusting compensation to retain top talent.

Choosing between paying upfront or dealing with turnover costs is a classic business challenge. Reactive companies end up paying more on the back end due to turnover and higher wages. On the flip side, proactive organizations invest upfront in talent development, keeping a competitive edge by promoting from within and having visionary leaders.

I would actually love to see legislation that makes it illegal if you’re a corporate recruiter and you don’t make cold calls to recruit! You saying you’re a ‘Recruiter’ but you don’t recruit! That’s the real criminal activity going on!

Your Secrets Are Safe With HR

I’m not big on secrets, but let’s chat about the lowdown that HR folks usually have. In the HR circle, there are always a few things we’re told to hush about.

These are the secrets that only we as HR pros have:

  1. Spotting folks in the office about to exit. Others might catch wind, but HR usually has the inside track on everyone’s moves.
  2. Knowing who’s moving up the ladder, and not necessarily because they earned it.
  3. Figuring out how much you’ll get in your next raise. Yep, we already know, but don’t slack off – we don’t want it looking pre-decided.
  4. Understanding why some departments get more resources than others. Sadly, we can’t spill the beans – it would mess things up!
  5. Getting a sneak peek at your annual bonus 6-12 months in advance. Budgets need planning, after all.
  6. Anticipating changes to your benefits 4-8 months before they kick in.
  7. Knowing who might go off the deep end at work. Can’t tell you for privacy reasons…

There are probably more secrets, but they’re not just HR-exclusive. Consider this: We might tweak our metrics, but guess what? Every other department does it too! In a corporate world driven by politics and metrics for resources, the numbers won’t always be squeaky clean. What makes HR unique is our stash of substantial secrets and the duty to keep them locked up. One common pitfall for new HR folks is sharing these secrets to make friends – it usually backfires.

So, yes, HR’s got secrets – you knew it, and I’m just confirming. Let’s keep moving, though, because I’m not spilling the beans on the details!

4 Habits of Successful Recruiters

In recruiting, success can come down to some simple daily habits. After hiring hundreds of recruiters, I’ve seen what works. Let’s break down the four simple habits that I’ve identified as key factors in making successful recruiters stand out.

  1. Daily Motivation: Successful recruiters stay self-motivated. No doubt about it. They set small goals, like closing a client or job order, to keep themselves on track. Whether it’s meeting specific activity numbers or focusing on a larger goal, daily motivation is key.
  2. Own Up to Mistakes: The best recruiters take responsibility for their work. If something goes wrong, they don’t pass the blame like a hot potato. If an interview is a no-show, they learn from it and make adjustments for the future.
  3. Step Up to Challenges: When critical positions open up, successful recruiters step forward. They embrace challenges and are comfortable working under pressure. They not only excel in their tasks but also contribute ideas for organizational improvement.
  4. Maintain Daily Focus: Successful recruiters stay focused on their daily tasks. Despite the distractions in recruiting, they don’t let the noise disrupt their plans. They concentrate on their goals and persist until they achieve them.

HR and Recruiting both have the same main daily issue we face, we turn ourselves into firefighters.  We run from made up emergency to made up emergency.  It feeds our need to feel like we accomplished something today and became a savior. The most successful recruiters are no different.  They get the opportunity to be fire fighters, just like we all do, but they make a conscience decision not to allow themselves to slide down the pole. How can you make yourself more successful today? And what factors did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

Optimizing Recruiting Efforts: Never Underestimate the Power of Nudging!

I hate administrative work. Dotting i’s and crossing t’s puts me to sleep. I’m not a tasky person. This past week, I had to do a billing/invoicing thing for a client. It was like this 37-step process that I’m sure some accountant is so proud of. It wreaked of CYA. They used technology and walked me through each step. Dot this i. Cross this t. Give us three pints of your neighbor’s youngest son’s blood. You know the deal.

I skipped over one step because it was a live verification step. They wanted to verify that the person willing to go through 37 steps was actually a real person. I didn’t have time for this nonsense. I’ll ignore it. Most likely, they won’t need it. I mean, look, I’ve got a blog! Tens and tens of people know me. Surely, some real person on the other end of this process will see this and check the box.

Nope.

That’s when the nudges started. “Hey, Mr. Sackett, We see you mistakenly forgot to schedule your meeting with us…” Ugh. But, look, I’m a pro. I’ll keep ignoring it, and it’ll go away.

Nope.

“Hey, Idiot, Do you ever want to get paid?”

Okay, the tech wasn’t ever rude, although I suspect if it were, I would be more apt actually to respond! The nudges kept coming, and I was worn down. I scheduled my little call and finished the process. Long story short, the nudging worked. It always works.

I saw some data this past week from a company that gets about 2,000 applicants a month. Only about 500 of those actually follow through with the process and turn it into an interview. What’s the process, you ask? They get sent a link to schedule an interview! The company sends out one “reminder” after 24 hours, and then nothing ever again.

They decided maybe we should give some of these applicants one more chance and send them another reminder/nudge to have them schedule an interview. In the first round, an additional 300 responded. The company got 300 more interviews by sending out one email reminding them to click a link to schedule themselves for an interview.

Nudging works.

I tell my recruiting clients that you can never nudge enough. Your goal in nudging applicants to finish your process is to receive cease and desist letters from attorneys! If someone started your process, clearly they have interest. Our job as talent acquisition professionals is to follow up on this interest until we are 100% sure they no longer have interest. Not 97% sure. 100% sure!

It’s the only thing in recruiting that is black and white. You are either interested = Yes. Or you are not interested = No. Hearing nothing = make more f*cking nudges!

Your nudges should be multi-modal, meaning you should nudge via email, SMS, LinkedIn messenger, snail mail, phone calls, smoke signals, etc. You can use these modes simultaneously, like sending a text and an email at the same time. Or my favorite, The Triple Threat, calling the applicant and leaving a voice mail, texting them and saying, “Hey, I was the crazy person who just called you,” and sending an email, all together. 60% of the time, it works every time!

If we have learned one thing today, it’s to nudge more. Nudge all day, every day. Nudge until you can’t nudge any more. Then, nudge a little more. Get nudgy with it! Just Nudge It!