The Death of Average

“The world needs ditch diggers, too.”

You’ve heard this saying, right? We say it in regards to explaining that we all can’t be high performers. We all can’t be the best. I’ve said a million times that I would take an army of “B” players, just folks who show up to work and actually do the job they are paid to do!

The reality is, it’s now rare to find anyone who just wants to be “average”. I grew up in a world where the majority were completely fine with just doing their job, going home and living their life, rinse and repeat. Now, everyone wants to be extraordinary.

The problem is, if everyone is extraordinary, we all just are the same. If we are all the same, aren’t we all just average at that point? We are. You just raised the bar. This notion of abundance is a falsy, a dream. If everyone becomes high performing, that becomes the new mean, and someone will step up and become a higher performer. Welcome to life, kids.

Does the world still need ditch diggers?

I’m not sure, to be honest. It feels like we can build a robot or a machine or software to do most average stuff. Do we really need Starbuck baristas anymore? No! Robots are already making better coffee without the attitude, and if you want “attitude” we can make a button to push and the bot will give you attitude!

The current employment crisis will only speed up this evolution of eliminating the average. Say goodbye to some disinterested kid at the front counter at every fast food place. Say goodbye to grocery checkout clerks. Bank tellers. Truck drivers. I could do this all day.

If you can do your job and be average and no one says anything to you, know it’s just a matter of time until some sort of technology replaces you. That’s why no one is giving you any grief, it’s not worth pushing you for more when they know you’re going to be replaced!

The world will always need people who are willing to work, show up ready to work, and find some personal satisfaction of a job well done. Somehow that has become a lost art.

Average is Over

Average is over primarily because most people lack the self-insigt to understand and comprehend they are average. We are developing a world of people who believe they are above average at the very least, when most are performing below average work. This is a “participation medal” type of issue. At some point in our lives, we all got a participation token of some sort. This is a blurred lens of not understanding the person next to you is actually way better than you, either through hard work or flat out better talent.

A recent study by Goodhire found that 83% of Americans feel they don’t need a boss. The reality is, about 1-5% of Americans can perform average to above average work without some sort of supervision following up and ensuring performance is being met. So what Goodhire found out is that around 80% of Americans are stupid! Or, as I said above, this confirms the lack of self-insight. Very few people have the self-motivation to get up every day and manage themselves to success, let alone to just being average.

If you are an actual high performer in your life or any job, this is the best news you will ever hear! You are basically surrounded by morons who think they’re great, but struggle to turn off Netflix when real work must be done. People who believe because they replied to an email at 9pm at night, they are extraordinary. People you will walk over on your career ascent because they are average and don’t even know it.

The masses are killing average, but don’t be fooled, average didn’t go anywhere it’s just hiding in a new wrapper of “above average” inside of dumb people.

You Are No Longer Fit For Duty…in Recruiting!

I’ve been hearing a lot of “Fit-for-duty” stuff in the news lately and it got me thinking. Are any of us really fit for duty for the jobs we have!?

Fit-For-Duty, according to OSHA, means that an individual is in a physical, mental, and emotional state which enables the employee to perform the essential tasks of his or her work assignment in a manner that does not threaten the safety or health of yourself, your co-workers, your company’s property, or the public at large.

That’s a lot, right!? I mean, on a day-to-day basis I might make one or two of three of those, but being physically, emotionally, and mentally prepared each day!? Get out of here!

As recruiters being physically ready probably isn’t our biggest hurdle. I mean, let’s face it, we sit in front of a computer. If we can physically type and make some calls, it’s not the most demanding job from a physical standpoint. Also, mentally, is recruiting really challenging anyone day-to-day? We aren’t trying to figure out how to put puppies on the moon, we are just trying to talk someone into accepting a job we have open.

Are recruiters fit for duty?

The problem is the emotional side of fit for duty. You see, Recruiters face rejection all day, every day. An average recruiter will face more rejection in one week than an ugly, short dude gets on Tinder all year. That’s to say, it’s a lot!

The recruiter also has to constantly placate dumb hiring managers that believe they are way better than they are and that believe they know how to recruit talent better than the recruiters they work with. On top of that, we have the serial repeat candidates who are awful but can’t take “no” for an answer. So, each week we spend hours with candidates whose own mother wouldn’t give them a job, but somehow they believe they should be the next executive VP at our company!

Let’s not forget our HR brothers and sisters who secretly, and not so secretly hate us, because they ain’t us! It’s hard being this sexy, smart, and cool. We get it, but let’s just be friends! And still, somehow we take the blame for our organization’s lack of talent when we have psychopath leaders who turnover people like there’s an endless supply of warm bodies just craving our average pay, average benefits, and average, cold, work location.

Emotionally, there’s no way, most recruiters are fit for duty!

And, yet, we show up, pick up the phones, and keep finding fresh suckers every day to fill the jobs of our organizations.

When is a Recruiter no longer fit for duty?

Here’s the real deal, because, for all the joking above, there is actually a time when a recruiter is no longer fit for duty in your company. The time they are no longer fit for duty is the exact time they stop believing.

That moment when they stop believing your company is a good company.

That moment when they stop believing that the job they are working on is a good job.

The moment when they stop believing that the hiring manager they are working with has the ability to be someone good to work for.

Now, I get it, we all have a bad hiring manager here and there. a bad job here and there, but overall, the majority is good. The moment we no longer believe this is the exact moment you can no longer recruit for your company.

You are no longer fit for duty, because “believing” can’t be faked. It shows up. It shows up in the bad candidates you let go on to the next step. How you sell your company to the world. How you allow a partner to make a bad decision and just walk away.

As a recruiter, you are no longer fit for duty the moment you stop believing. That is the moment you must leave. Maybe not the company, but certainly your job as a recruiter.

I think a lot of CEOs would like to believe this is a fit for duty criteria for every role in their company, but that just isn’t true. I don’t need Ted in IT to believe in the company, I just need to make sure he keeps the network up. Do I want him to believe? Heck, yes! But, I desperately must have my recruiters who believe!

Take a good long look in the mirror today. Are you fit for duty?

Choose Your Hard…

I was at SHRM Annual last week and a very common story from everyone I spoke to, know matter their title, was the fact that recruiting talent is extremely difficult right now. Most organizations are in desperation mode, and I’m not saying that to be dramatic.

There’s a concept that motivational folks have been using for a while now. The concept is “Choose your hard.” Meaning, a lot of stuff in life is hard. It’s hard to be overweight and not feel good about yourself, it’s also hard to work out and eat healthily. Choose your hard.

It’s hard to get up and go to work each day and put in long hours to make ends meet. It’s also hard to be unemployed and figure out ways to survive. Choose your hard.

It’s hard to recruit talent.

There are so many things organizations can do to recruit talent better. You can hire great recruiters and give them the right tools. You can actually fund your recruitment marketing and advertising appropriately. You can measure and performance manage your recruiters and sources. You can work with your hiring teams to help out as employee advocates to produce more referrals. You can shop out your entire recruiting to RPO or Agency. You can hire great employees who love your brand and train them to be recruiters. You can go out and lead the market in pay and total compensation packages.

All of this stuff is hard to do.

It’s hard because most of this stuff comes with accountability. If I can talk my CEO and CFO into funding us correctly, this will come with some expectations of performance. I will put a bullseye on myself and my team.

It’s hard to get fired from a job because you didn’t perform. Because you didn’t do the work that was needed to be successful. That you didn’t put in the work to build the plan, to acquire the needed resources, to lead your organization to success.

Don’t get me wrong, working harder is not a strategy. Working harder is a short-term fix, that eventually leads to failure and burnout. Hard is doing the work that needs to be done so your sole strategy is not just working harder.

At the end of the day, we all have to choose our hard.

Leaders Secretly Hate Succession Planning!

Do you want to know what you’ll never hear anyone on your leadership team say publicly? Well, let me stop before I get started, because there are probably a ton of things leaders will say behind closed doors, off the record, and then open the door and say the exact opposite. Welcome to the PC version of corporate America.

One of the obvious, which always causes a stir is veteran hiring. I’ve written posts about Veteran Hiring many times, in which I state that companies will always, 100% of the time, publicly say they support veteran hiring, but behind closed doors they don’t really support veteran hiring. At best they want to offer veterans their crappiest jobs, not their best jobs.

If they did truly support veteran hiring, we would not have a veteran hiring crisis in this country! If every organization that claims they want to hire veterans, would just hire veterans, we would have 100% employed veterans! But we don’t. Why? Well, it’s organizational suicide to ever come out and say we don’t really want to hire veterans.  The media would kill that organization. Yet, veterans can’t get hired.

Succession planning is on a similar path. Your leaders say they support succession planning. They’ll claim it is a number one priority for your organization. But, every time you try and do something with succession planning, it goes nowhere!

Why?

Your leaders hate succession planning for a number of reasons, here are a few:

1. Financially, succession planning is a huge burden on organizations, if done right. Leaders are paid for the financial success of your organization. If it comes down to Succession Planning, or Michael getting a big bonus, Succession Planning will get pushed to next year, then, next year, then, next year…You see Succession Planning is really overhiring. Preparing for the future. It’s a long-term payback. Very few organizations have leadership in place with this type of long-term vision of success.

2.  Leaders get too caught up in headcount. We only have 100 FTEs for that group, we couldn’t possibly hire 105 and develop and prepare the team for the future, even though we know we have a 6% turnover each year. Organizations react. Firefight. Most are unwilling to ‘over hire’ and do succession in a meaningful way.

3. Leaders are like 18-year-old boys. They think they can live forever!  Again, publicly they’ll tell you they’re planning and it’s important. Privately, they look at some smartass 35-year-old VP and think to themselves, there is no way in hell I’ll ever let that kid take over this ship!

So, what can smart HR Pros do?

Begin testing some Succession Planning type tools and data analytics in hot spots in your company. Don’t make it a leadership thing. Make it a functional level initiative, in a carve-out area of your organization. A part of the organization that is highly visible has a direct financial impact on the business, and one you know outwardly has succession issues.

Tinker. Get people involved. Have conversations. Start playing around with some things that could have an impact in terms of development, retention, cross-training, workforce planning, etc.  All those things constitute succession, but instead of organization level, you are focusing on departmental level or a specific location.

Smart HR Pros get started.  They don’t wait for the organization to do it all at once. That will probably never happen. Just start somewhere, and roll it little by little. Too often we don’t get started because we want to do it all. That is the biggest mistake we can make.

3 Steps To Getting Sh*t Done at Work!

There are times when I struggle to get things done.  I’m a really good starter of things. I love starting projects!  I can always see how I want it finished (a little shout out to Covey – Begin with the end in mind).  But like most things you start, eventually, things get bogged down, and getting them over the finish line can be hard.

It’s probably why most projects fail, it gets tough, so we stop and move onto the beginning of something else because that’s fun and exciting.  I’ve learned this about myself over the years and I do two things to help myself. First, I surround myself with people who have a great resolve to getting things done, the type of folks who don’t sleep well at night because they know there was that one glass left in the sink, and they should really get up and put in away.  I love these folks, they aren’t me. I hire them every time I get the chance.  I even married one of those types, she makes me better!

Second, I force myself to not start something new, until I finish what I’ve already started.  This can be annoying, I’m sure, for those around me because sometimes projects have to go on hold while you wait for feedback, or other resources, etc.  This makes me antsy and I like to get things finished!

I was re-introduced recently to a quote from the novel Alice in Wonderland that I think really puts in perspective what it takes to get something done.  The quote is from the King of Hearts and it is quite simple:

“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

Your 3 Steps:

1. Begin

2. Go till the end

3. Stop

We make it much harder than that but it really isn’t.  I like simple stuff, it fits into my mind quite well.  It might be the best advice I’ve gotten in a really long time.  I don’t need pre-planning, or post-project assessments, or update meetings, or budget reviews, or a project charter, etc.

Naive?  Probably.  But, sometimes you just need to Begin, go to you come to the End: then Stop.

“Hire Fast! No, Faster! Fire Fast!” The New Recruiting Axiom!

Traditionally, talent acquisition pros would say it’s “Hire Slow, Fire Fast”. I always thought that was stupid because the reality was for most corporations it was “Hire Slow, most likely Never Fire someone unless they kill another employee in front of you…” Or something like that!

Okay, “It was Hire Slow, Fire Fast”, but we all know that never really worked. Currently, around the world, it’s mostly, “Hire Slow, Fire Slow”. I’m a true believer in we you don’t hire someone to fire them. So, move quickly, hire well, and then support the heck out of them and make them superstars, seems like a higher ROI approach to hiring!

Welcome to 2021!

The problem is, economies don’t give a crap about our axioms! Currently, in the US you better Hire As Fast As You Can, and Still that probably isn’t fast enough! So, “Hire Fast, No Faster, and Fire the Bad Ones That Got Through Your Super Fast Process!” That is really the only shot you have in 2021, and most likely for 2022 and 2023!

Let’s break down what would really happen if you started hiring super fast!

1. You would fill positions much faster than you do now.

2. You would probably make more bad hires. Turnover would increase if you do it right.

3. You would probably spend more on training.

4. You would probably hire some folks you normally wouldn’t and actually, some of those will be really good.

5. You would be forcing your hiring managers to make very quick decisions if you let them decide at all.

Of course, this isn’t your long-term let’s do this forever recruiting strategy! This is, hey, if we don’t start moving super fast, we’ll never be able to compete for talent in our marketplace!

Amazon Warehouses can currently hire candidates from applications to offer in under 30 minutes. Low skill jobs, paying around $17-21/hr. Yes, their turnover is about 150%. Yes, that is actually about normal for warehousing jobs. Turns out, Doug, the hiring manager, doesn’t have some magic selection instinct. Is the Candidate is interested? Does the Candidate show up? You’ve got a 1 in 3 shot they’ll be a good hire.

If I was in the same marketplace as an Amazon Warehouse and hiring the same level of talent, I would literally hire a taco truck to sit outside their property across the street and just hire all the people who turnover from Amazon on a daily/weekly basis. That would be my sole recruiting strategy! Let them do all the work, and I just clean up the mess!

How Could We Make “Hire Fast, No Faster, and Fire Fast” Work?

It’s pretty simple. You pay slightly above market pay. Be one of the top-paying companies in your market. Hire extremely fast, and the moment an employee starts to show you they actually suck BAM! You fire them. The reality is, being a pay leader in your marketplace will continue the funnel of incoming candidates coming.

We aren’t trying to put Jeff Bezos in space people! We are just trying to fill openings at our companies that are all about average. We treat you fairly well. You’ll have some laughs, and once in a while, we’ll buy ice cream and stuff. It’s not the best gig, but it’s far from the worst.

The key is you can’t let low performance even show up for a day! You reward, celebrate, and do all the good stuff for those who come to work. Those who come to collect a check, and not work, you have to kill instantly! Sounds harsh, but this isn’t show friends, this is show business!

Why do managers hold on to bad hires for so long?

I’ve been very public about my philosophy on hiring. I do not hire to fire. In no way do I hire someone thinking “I can’t wait until the day I fire them!”, I don’t think any of us really think that!

I hire someone believing that with the right training, development, and support, they will be wildly successful! I own at least half of that equation, the person I hire owns the other half. Many times it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

The problem with my philosophy is “Sunk Cost”.

Sunk cost is an accounting philosophy that means a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. So, you’ve already sourced, recruited, and trained an employee. You’ve gone beyond training working to develop them. All those costs are now spent.

BUT – because you’ve ‘invested’ those costs into an employee, you are less likely to let them go believing you are more likely to get a return on those costs. In reality, there is absolutely zero evidence that shows you’ll get any return for future investment into that employee, but we really struggle to give up on them based on what we’ve already spent.

This is super common in the management of people resources!

Well, I’ve already dropped $50K into Tim, I guess another $10K isn’t that bad. When in reality that $10K is actually way better spent on another employee, and you fire Timmy!

I’ve known about Sunk Cost for a long time, but now there is actually scientific evidence to back up the fact we should be firing failing employees sooner:

“Sunk costs are irrecoverable investments that should not influence decisions, because decisions should be made on the basis of expected future consequences. Both human and nonhuman animals can show sensitivity to sunk costs, but reports from across species are inconsistent. In a temporal context, a sensitivity to sunk costs arises when an individual resists ending an activity, even if it seems unproductive, because of the time already invested. In two parallel foraging tasks that we designed, we found that mice, rats, and humans show similar sensitivities to sunk costs in their decision-making. Unexpectedly, sensitivity to time invested accrued only after an initial decision had been made. These findings suggest that sensitivity to temporal sunk costs lies in a vulnerability distinct from deliberation processes and that this distinction is present across species.”

This scientific study showed both humans and rats basically do the exact same thing. If we feel we have already invested a ton of resources in a task, we are more likely to continue pursuing this task even when all the evidence to that point has only shown failure!

This is Poor Performing Employee Management 101!

-You hire an employee.

-The employee gets trained and should have the skills to perform the job.

-The employee doesn’t perform the job, so you give more resources to help get them up to speed.

-The employee still doesn’t perform.

-The manager decides not to terminate the employee, but to continue to give more resources and chances.

Why do we do this?

You hired 3 employees before the failing employee and all three completed training and did the job successfully. We know the process works. So why do we not fire the employee?

Sensitivity to Sunk Cost. We are as dumb as rats when it comes to investing our own resources into failing employees. We act the exact same way!

It has nothing to do with the employee and our desire to give everyone a fair shot (I don’t hire to fire). It has everything to do with our own internal drive of not wanting to lose, what we feel we’ve already invested, even when all the data tells us future investment is akin to burning a pile of cash.

So, don’t hire to fire, but also don’t be as dumb as a rat and not fire someone who shows you they can’t and won’t do the job you hired them to do!

In HR (and life) the story that wins becomes the truth!

In HR we hear a lot of stories.

We love to tell ourselves we are hearing the truth from one side and a lie from another side, but the reality is both sides are stories with a little truth and a little lie built-in. We then ‘measure’ who we feel is telling more truth than lie, and that side becomes the full truth.

Throughout history, this plays out. The winners of war decide what the truth is, not the losers. One side is good and righteous, one side is bad and evil. Before the war, both sides were just trying to make it through the day and make their society better. Truth.

We fire someone because they harassed another person. That person is a bad person. The person who got harassed is a victim and is a good person. The problem is, that’s not really reality, is it? Many times the person we fire is actually a pretty good person and the victim is a piece of garbage. But, the winner gets to decide the role they want.

We fire an employee because we are told by their manager that they are not performing well. We trust our manager. We have to it’s what our structure is built on. If we didn’t then what are we really doing? The employee claims they weren’t trained properly, they weren’t given good direction, they were put in a position to fail. You’re fired, you’re a bad employee. You lose, you don’t get to decide the truth.

It’s one major reason why I tend not to really care that a person was fired from a job. The reason probably matters. I don’t want to hire someone who embezzled from their former employer or some other major offense, but if it’s performance, let’s talk. I’m willing to talk because I know there are always two sides to the story. It just happens that this candidate lost their last story, but they might win the next.

It’s important as HR pros and leaders we understand this concept, not just for hiring, but also that we understand most times we don’t deal in complete black and white wins and losses. In HR we deal in the middle, in the gray. Once we make a determination, we are making a determination of ‘win’. We are validating one story over another. We like to tell ourselves and our leadership that this one story is the truth, but it’s really just another version of a story.

So be careful this week as you decide which stories will win and which ones will lose. Truth can be a pretty powerful thing even when it’s just a story.

Want to Recruit Better? Hire more Recruiters and less Recruiting Managers!

 

Take a look at what’s happened in healthcare over the past 40 years:

 

In the healthcare industry over the past forty years, there has been a 2000% growth rate in the number of “Administrators” in healthcare, which the number of Physicians has remained relatively flat. Now, some of this growth in administration could be that for decades prior there might have been a lack of proper administration and some of this growth is just catching up, but 2000%!?

And we wonder why the cost of healthcare in our country is out of control!

Healthcare isn’t the only place where this happens! The more successful an organization is, the more mid-level management hires increase. So, in times of prosperity, we tend to want to surround the worker bees with tons of management “help”. Our organizations get bloated with none productive hires all hired believing we’ll make those who actually produce more efficient and effective.

We do this in talent acquisition, a ton!

I get asked by HR and TA executives frequently about hiring recruiting leadership. Recently, I spoke with a CHRO who was struggling to attract talent and fill positions and I asked her to give me their TA structure. “Oh, we have a Director of TA, a Manager of TA, and a Recruiter.” So, you can’t hire, but you’ve got two TA leaders and one person actually doing the hiring!?

I told her to fire the director and the manager and hire 4 more recruiters and let the team of 5 recruiters work the openings. I was exaggerating a little, but she got my point. Positions don’t get filled by managing them to death. Positions get filled by recruiters generating activity that leads to filling positions.

Of course, great leadership can help any function be more effective, but having leaders for the simple fact that we believe someone or something needs to be “managed” is short-sighted at best, and destructive at it’s worst. I’ll always choose a flatter structure over empire-building any day of the week. Give me some soldiers and let me fight!

The problem with hiring non-productive employees is what we’ve seen in healthcare. Once you get one administrator/manager every other employee wants to do the same thing. “Wait, I can get paid more and not have to actually produce!? Yes, please!” And soon you have a 2000% increase in hiring folks who don’t actually see patients, who don’t fill positions, who don’t make the donuts.

 

Why Aren’t You Celebrating When You Make a Hire in Recruiting?

When I was a brand spanking new recruiter right out of college something amazing would happen every single time we made a placement. Now, granted, this one in an agency environment, and we were kind of a small business, startup, but if we (not I, but anyone on the team) made a placement we celebrated!

Now, I’ve heard of TA shops where they ring a bell or play a song, or something like that. NO, I’m talking about closing down the office and popping a bottle of champagne that usually turned into other drinks, and coming to work the next morning with a slight headache, celebration! Doesn’t that seem crazy now, in the world we live in!? I know high-volume recruiters who are making 15 hires a week or more! That’s a lot of champagne!

It might not be popping bottles, but we should still be celebrating!

Let’s be honest. Currently, for almost all recruiters, we are on a treadmill and it doesn’t look like that treadmill is going to stop anytime soon! If there was ever a time to celebrate a hire, filling a position, it’s now! I had a TA leader tell me last week that she has never been more stressed in her career than she has been right now, and over the past 6-12 months. The job is non-stop, and not trying to sound too life-coachy but we have to stop and enjoy our successes!

So, what can we do to celebrate filling a position(s) on a daily, weekly, and/or monthly basis?

  1. Acknowledge those fills as a true success. Period. Because here is what happens. We start off a meeting by saying, “Hey, I just want to recognize Mary because she made four fills last week and that’s just awesome! Now, let’s talk about the 660 openings we still have open!” That is defeating. Try and separate the success conversation from the rest of the work conversation.
  2. Have a senior-level executive, above the hiring manager, send notes of thanks and encouragement. We many times feel like second-class citizens in recruiting. We hear the hiring managers and their bosses talk sh*t about us in meetings. It’s our fault that these positions aren’t getting filled and because of that, they are failing. Actually, it’s all of our fault, but they love using that excuse. If senior executives recognize and celebrate the successes of the recruiting team, it goes a long way. It goes even longer if they actually understand their role in this failure!
  3. Have a Hiring Manager who just had some great fills happen, come buy lunch for the recruiters. Yes, it’s the job of TA to fill jobs, but if you’re a hiring manager and you want great recruiting, recognize and thank your recruiters, often. It’s a super hard gig right now. They will appreciate you.
  4. Have the CEO send a company-wide note or video recognizing an individual recruiter who has gone above and beyond to get positions filled. Share the stories. Yes, this makes this one recruiter feel special, but it also signals to the company how important recruiting is right now for our entire success.
  5. Don’t allow you and your recruiting team to be victims or use victim phrases or behaviors. Yes, we are in a difficult spot, but we are here together, and the only way we’ll get out of this, will be together, as one. We support each other, always. We only talk about our team and the teammates on our team in positive ways. We help each other, unconditionally. In times of crisis, victim mentality kills recruiting teams faster than anything. I’m not asking you to be “Polly-Ann-ish”. I asking you to understand where you are and do not allow outside forces to pull you apart.

Also, ring the bell, buy cupcakes, take the team down to Dairy Queen for an hour, do crazy stuff that shows the organization that a hire was made, and goddammit, that is important to recognize and validate!

Recruiting is hard. Life is hard. What makes it all worth it, it to feel valued. Valued for who you are, and the work you do. To have some enjoyment amongst the chaos. To feel supported by peers, and support them back. It doesn’t take much, but it does take something.

Keep grinding out there people. I see you! And once is while, Pop a Bottle of Champagne and Celebrate!