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.

“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!

The Newest Red Flag In Hiring!

I’m trained as an HR pro to pick up on ‘red flags’ in interviewing, in employee behavior, potential turnover risks, etc. Sometimes those red flags are really obvious.  I tease my staff all the time, but missing time on Mondays and Fridays, unexcused time, is a red flag.  It says something about how you feel about work, that you want to extend your weekend. It’s subtle, but in my experience, it doesn’t play out well.

My new red flag in hiring is Positivity.

First, I’ll admit to you that I’m mostly a positive person.  My normal gauge is set to “things will probably work out in the end”.  I try to be realistic, without thinking the sky is going to fall when something doesn’t go my way.  Life has been pretty good to me. My glass is over half full, and when it’s not, I believe I can find a way to fill it back up.

What I don’t buy is the people who are so positive they seem to be telling themselves they’re positive.  I tend to believe if you’re positive, you don’t need to say your outlook is positive, people will hear it and see it in your daily interactions.  Those are the people you get drawn to. They are truly positive people who enjoy the life they’ve created for themselves.

There is another kind of positive person.  This is the person who needs to keep reminding themselves and anyone around them they’re positive. This positive scares me. This positive is a red flag for me.  This type of positive makes me believe you are actually fairly negative but trying to turn yourself into positive.

Now, I don’t necessarily think that’s bad, someone wanting to change from negative to positive.  I applaud the effort. I also know that most people are hardwired to lean one way.  It’s your personality, and that’s really hard to change long term.

My friend Kris Dunn, author of The 9 Faces of HR, loves to ask applicants about what work experience in their life they enjoyed the most, and which one did they dislike the most. Each tells you something about the person.  A truly positive person will have a hard time finding a place they truly disliked, but they’ll speak a ton about what they really liked. A truly negative person will do the opposite. They’ll go on and on about what they dislike, but move on quickly with their answer about what they like.

Basically, you can fake positivity, and it’s common amongst candidates.  The problem is, you can’t fake it for long, and even if they can fake it, fake positivity can get downright annoying!

I think it’s important to remember that the opposite of Positive Thinking isn’t Negative Thinking. It’s Possible Thinking. I want to hire people who are realistic about what is possible. Blind positivity doesn’t last and usually leads to a big fall.  I don’t need drama in my work environment.

Who would have ever thought that positivity would be a hiring red flag!

2.9 million Americans have been unemployed for at least a year! Why?

When I saw this number released this week, I was shocked. This month that number increased by almost 250,000! The 2.9M number represents 29% of all unemployed workers. I found myself asking, Why and How? How can someone who wants to work be unemployed for one year?

Being someone who is in the business of hiring people my gut reaction wants to say, “well, these people must not really want to work!” But that’s a cop-out and mostly ignorant way to think about it. The truth is, there are 2.9 million reasons why 2.9 million people remain unemployed for a year or more!

If we could easily go to each of these 2.9 million people who have been unemployed for at least a year I think we would start to hear some common reasons:

  • Pandemic related reasons: They have medical issues that make it very dangerous for them to return to the type of work there were doing prior, and possibly they are also concerned over an experimental vaccine that could protect them, or even that the pandemic shuttered the work they do, and it still has not come back. Childcare issues do to normal school and after-school programs not running as usual.
  • Pivot Reasons: We talk about “Reskilling” all the time but we don’t truly talk about the logistics of truly reskilling yourself. I was employed as an “X” and because of whatever reasons I left the workforce to reskill because I now want to be a “Y”. Maybe this was of their own doing, maybe this was pandemic related, etc. Some probably are unemployed because they lost their job and decided to go back to school.
  • Executive Positions: There is a lot of data around how long it takes someone to find a job the higher up in a company or your salary is. At a VP level for large organizations, on average it takes six to twelve months for people to find their next position after a job loss, at that same level. This is simply do to the fact that very few of those positions come up, so there’s a waiting game that takes place.
  • Retirement: For a number of reasons I made the decision to retire, but because it’s to my benefit to not actually retire, and claim unemployment, I now get this soft landing going into retirement by taking advantage of extended unemployment benefits, etc.
  • Stimulus and Extended Unemployment Benefits: Let’s not be naive and act like this doesn’t have an impact as well. It does, but probably not to the extent that most people believe. If I can make more money not working than working, well many people will decide to ride that out as long as possible. Some would even find that you know after doing this for 6-9 months, maybe our family can actually live on one income for a while, etc.
  • Habitual poor performers: Have you ever noticed that some folks just aren’t good at working, any job, ever! For whatever reasons, these folks just are not wired to work. They constantly get fired, and eventually it’s really hard for them to get a job. Could be cognitive issues, mental health issues, drug and alcohol issues, etc.

What I know is having 2.9 million workers out of the workforce for a year, is a problem for US companies. We need those individuals, or at least we need those within the 2.9 million capable of working, to return to the workforce in whatever capacity they can!

The unemployment rate currently sits at 5.9% that is still rather high as compared to early 2019, but actually not very high historically. Those of us in HR and TA figure that once you get below 5% unemployment, you have slim pickings when it comes to talent, for many of the reasons listed above. Within that 5% or less, many of those folks just don’t want to work, or can’t work, in the jobs we have open.

Currently within the US today we have one open job for every unemployed worker, but as we all know, those jobs are not aligned in a way that we can fill those jobs with those who are unemployed.

If you are one of those folks who have been unemployed for a year or more, I would love to hear your reason and see if it aligns with mine above. Hit me in the comments!

Should Candidate Response Time Be a Measure We Care About?

I have expectations as a leader in my organizations for other employees who are in a leadership position in my company. One of those expectations is, if I call or text you on off hours, weekends, vacations, etc., for something that is urgent to the business, I expect a reply in a rather short time frame.

Some people would not like that. I don’t care. You’re a leader, the business needs you, there’s no time clock for that.

That expectation is set for someone at a leadership level in my organization. They know this expectation before taking the job. Also, I’m not an idiot about it. I can probably count on one hand the number of times in the past five years I’ve reached out to someone on weekends or vacations expecting and needing a response.

But, what if you measured candidate quality in the same manner? Seems unreasonable, doesn’t it!?

Well, check this out:

Nardini is the CEO of the sports and men’s lifestyle site Barstool Sports. In a New York Times interview, she detailed her process for vetting job candidates. After saying she was a “horrible interviewer” because of her impatience, she explained a unique process for gauging potential hires’ interest in the job.

“Here’s something I do,” she said. “If you’re in the process of interviewing with us, I’ll text you about something at 9 p.m. or 11 a.m. on a Sunday just to see how fast you’ll respond.”

The maximum response time she’ll allow: three hours.

So, Erika believes if a candidate doesn’t reply back to her on a Sunday at 9 pm within three hours, they are not interested in a job.

This is why recruiting is hard.

You have moron leaders who come up with stupid ideas of what they think is ‘important’ and then they make you live by these dumb rules. This rule is ridiculous. Erika’s assessment of why this works is ridiculous. But, she’ll get a pass.

Why?

She’s a she. If some dumb white dude came up with the same rule the New York Times would write an expose on how this guy is a complete tyrant and out of touch with today’s world, and how crappy this candidate experience is, and how bad leadership this is, etc. But, no one will. She’s just leaning in and doing what the guys do!

Yes, she is. She’s being an idiot.

Now, I’ll say I actually agree with her on her assessment on response time, assuming the roles she is expecting a reply from in three hours are time critical roles. She runs a media site with breaking stories. Twitter has these things up in seconds, media sites need replies to what is happening within minutes and hours. So, there could be some legitimacy to something as arbitrary as measuring candidate desire by response time.

It’s fraught with issues, to be sure, but for certain roles, it might find you some good talent. Should it be a golden rule of hiring for your organization? No, that’s just dumb.

If you really want a silver bullet I ask every candidate if they’re a dog person or cat person. Works every time!

Do you care about Ethical A.I. in HR and Talent Technology?

Or should you care, could have been an alternate title to this post!

The reality is, almost everyone in HR and TA will be using technology that has some built in Artificial Intelligence and/or some IA (Intelligent automation/machine learning), either currently or in the near future.

What does this really mean? It means, machines will be making decisions we used to make and that can be amazing and problematic all at the same time. My super smart friends, Madeline Laurano and Tyler Weeks discuss this concept with me in the video below.

When someone shows you who they are, believe them.

This is a phrase my wife is fond of saying. I read it recently in an article from a college football coach who was talking about recruiting and social media. He said it in terms of these 18-22-year-old kids on social media, and that it was really difficult to come to grips with this concept.

These kids are daily showing you who they are, but so many times we refuse to believe them. We make excuses, like well it’s just Twitter or the Gram, or whatever, that’s not really who they are. But it is! Whether we like it or not, they are showing us exactly who they are.

It doesn’t mean that as a young dumb kid we don’t make bad decisions. We all did, and they all do. It’s when the behavior becomes a consistent pattern.

We forget about this with candidates and employees!

Especially in a candidate-driven market. We start making excuses for candidates. “No, I’m sure it’s completely normal that his Mom died and he car trouble, and then he came down with Dengue Fever!” “Okay, it’s fine she ghosted us two times, let’s give her one more shot, but not three!”

Our employees are also constantly showing you who they are, both good and bad. I’ve seen the most amazing, giving behaviors in my life come from people I work with, and the most toxic, selfish behaviors come from those I’ve worked with. Almost always, I discounted the bad and didn’t appreciate the good, enough. All the while, each was showing me exactly who they are.

I have these moments after almost every single termination I’ve ever done. I’m usually sitting with the supervisor of the person who just got terminated and we start to reminisce back on this terminated employee’s time with us, and almost 100% of the time we have multiple examples of them showing us who they were and us ignoring it.

It’s quite normal. As humans, we want to give people the benefit of the doubt. We hope that people can change for the better. Also, people believe and hope that they can change themselves for the better, but it truly rarely happens. That sounds cynical! Just know, that’s your heart playing tricks with you! Your brain is also trying to yell at you to listen! But our hearts are often much louder than our brains!

When someone shows you who they are, believe them.

The Past-Employee Walk of Shame!

I’ve lost jobs and I’ve called old employers to see if they would want to hire me back. I’ve usually gotten a response that sounded something like, “Oh, boy would we want you back but we just don’t have anything. Good Luck!”  Many of us in the talent game talk about our employee Alumni and how we should engage our Alumni but very few of us really take true advantage of leveraging this network.

I was reminded of this recently when a friend of mine took a new job. You know the deal, shorter drive, more money, growing company, and oh, boy, just where do I sign!? The fact was, it was all they said, shorter drive, more money and they were growing, but they forgot to tell him was our operations are broken beyond repair, you will work 7 days a week and probably 12-14 hours per day because of the mess we have, but keep your head up it’s the only way you won’t drown here!

So, now what does he do?

He already had the going away party, bar night out with the work friends with the promises to do lunches and not get disconnected, packed up, and unpack the office into the new office.  Let’s face it, big boy, you’re stuck! Not so fast. He did the single hardest thing an employee can do he called his old boss after 7 days and said one thing, “I made a mistake, can I come back?”

Luckily for him, his past boss was a forward-thinking leader and so this past Monday he did the 2nd hardest thing an employee can do he made the “Employee Walk of Shame”.

You can imagine the looks from people who didn’t know him well, “Hey, wait a minute, didn’t you leave?” Having to tell the same story over and over, feeling like he failed, like he wasn’t good enough to make it in the new position.

HR plays a huge part in this story because it was HR who can make this walk of shame a little less rough. Let’s face it, it is different. You just don’t leave and come back as nothing happened. Something did happen, there was a reason he left and that reason isn’t going away. A transition back needs to be put into place even though he was gone seven days.  It’s not about just plugging back in, it is about re-engaging again and finding out what we all can do better so it doesn’t happen again.

It’s also about making sure you let those employees who you truly want back, that they are welcome to come back (assuming you have the job) and not just saying that to everyone. There are employees who leave that you say a small prayer to G*d and you are thankful they left! There are others where you wish there was a prayer you could say so they wouldn’t leave.

Make it easy for your employees to do the Walk of Shame, it helps the organization, but realize they are hurting, they are embarrassed, but they are also grateful!

What if we hired employees like NFL teams draft players?

The NFL draft, kind of like college football recruiting, is still mostly a crap shoot. I mean, you kind of know what you’re getting, but you truly have no idea if that player is going to be a great success or a colossal failure! It’s all a game of statistical chance. Our hope is this player is more likely to be successful than this other player, but there are no guarantees.

Kind of sounds like Hiring, right!

Here’s kind of what we know about the NFL draft. There are usually a few transcendent talents in the first few picks, like picks one through five. For the most part, if you have one of these picks, you’re are highly likely to get a player who will be productive for an above average amount of time, and more likely they’ll be a superstar talent.

Once you get into the late first round through the seventh round, for the most part the talent is all very similar! This guy runs a 4.56 forty yard dash and this one runs a 4.58 forty yard dash, etc. The stats, the playing experience, the physical traits they have, are bunched very closely together.

There are a few coaches and teams that have kind of figured this out. They are known for “trading back” in the draft pretty consistently. Why draft one player in the first round at number 25, when you can trade back and get two picks of players at 30 and 52? Virtually all three players are basically the same, and if you want better odds at picking a good one, you should give yourself more picks! Hall of fame coach, Bill Belichick, and Baltimore’s GM, Ozzie Newsome, are known to do this frequently and have built very consistently good teams with this strategy.

More picks equals more chances for success!

So, why don’t we hire like this? Let’s say you have an opening for one engineer. You interview a bunch, they’re basically all very similar, and you have no way of really knowing which one will be a great hire for you. Why don’t you hire two or three!?

“Well, Tim, if you knew anything about anything, you would know we don’t have budget to hire two or three engineers! That’s expensive!”

So, if you hired one and they failed, what did that cost you? Also, if you hired two and one made it and one failed, are you better off, or worse off, from where you started? What if both became great hires? Would your company be better or worse?

Let’s say you were hiring a Sales professional. Now, if you hired one and they failed, you start over. If you hired two and one failed, at least you have one performing. Hire three and all of them do well, that is awesome! All three fail and you just quickened your false positive rate on sales hires!

We don’t “over” hire because we, falsely, believe we don’t make bad hires. Until every time we make a bad hire!

What some great NFL personnel have found is “over” drafting, getting more picks, actually gives you more opportunity to get some great talent. Again, this is not just about the number of picks or hires. It’s a combination of doing the right due diligence on talent, all of your selection science, and then getting more chances!

Very rarely, in extreme cases, I’ve seen organizations that could not over hire. But, 99.9% of the time, all organizations would be just fine by over hiring and giving themselves more chances of finding someone great for their organization. Yes, you have some short-term salary budget issues, but most find that is offset by actually being fully staffed with high performing people!

It will either cost you more upfront or more on the backside, one strategy is proactive and one is reactive. As a leader you must ask yourself which one are you more comfortable with?