Should You Build or Buy Talent in 2021?

Two rules of thumb in acquiring talent:

  • In a good, long-term economic outlook, building talent will ultimately be better.
  • In a questionable, short-term economic outlook, buying/renting talent is the best bet.

2021 is not the time to decide to build talent, at least not in the first two quarters. Most organizations have already started renting talent and we see contingent labor as a percent of the workforce rising in Q1 and Q2 as organizations determine how the economy will come back.

We actually saw this start to increase in Q3 and Q4 of 2020.

If the economic uncertainty continues into later 2021, we’ll see these numbers continue to rise.

With so much talk about “Internal Mobility” in the HR Tech space, it seems like the opposite is being spun as the better solution. For a few organizations, who have continued to stay busy during the pandemic and believe they’ll continue after, this is probably the right strategy.

For the vast majority of companies, the focus on hiring more contingent is a better strategy over the next 12-18 months, to ensure they will have much more flexibility and the ability to move quickly to move their headcount up and down based on immediate business needs.

In Questionable Economic Times, You Need Workforce Flexibility! 

I run into a lot of mid-sized enterprise organizations (500-2500 employees) who freak out when you talk about contingent labor. “We only hire direct, Tim!”

Um, okay, so all those Fortune 1000 organizations that have anywhere from 15-30% of their workforce as contingent are doing it wrong? You know better than they do, is what I’m hearing? Or, are you feeling like hiring contingent labor is somehow a sign of weakness for you as an HR/TA Leader?

Our reality is we saw a decade of crazy growth since the Great Recession. Many organizations during that time forget. Forget the need for a fast flexible workforce that you can ramp up and ramp down very quickly. Large organizations, tend to move slower and forget less. They probably have people around who remember what bad economic times look like.

Quite frankly, I don’t care how or who you hire. 

I do know those TA leaders who move up in their careers tend to understand total workforce strategies better than those who stick to one strategy no matter what the external circumstances they are facing. Also, they are more likely to incorporate multiple strategies and test what works more.

In 2021 we see more organizations buying and renting talent in the short-term. They want to make sure, before adding a permanent headcount, that the organization can sustain itself in the long term. If it can’t, quick and easy ramp down. If it can, they already have some trained and proven workers to pick from for the long term.

You only get talent in two ways, buy or build. Both are valid strategies for corporate TA leaders, and both are used often together. What will you be doing in 2021?

Finding Qualified Diverse Talent is NOT Your Issue!

During 2020, I’ve spoken to a lot of leaders who are concerned with their diversity recruiting. Every single one of them will say something like, “Tim, we just can’t find the ‘qualified’ diverse talent we need!” Sound familiar? Feel familiar?

I’m not a diversity recruiting strategy expert. I leave that to my friend, Torin Ellis. I do think I’ve got a bit of knowledge when it comes to overall recruiting, though.

When I break down the response I get from most leaders, regarding diversity recruitment I usually have one cringe, and one response. “Qualified?” What do you mean by that? I hear it as, you can find plenty of diverse folks interested in coming to work for you, but none of them, or few of them, are actually qualified to work for you. Is that how you read/hear that?

It makes me cringe a bit because what you’re actually saying is we don’t have a supply problem, we have a training and development problem, but you don’t even realize that. You could have your perfect diverse mix of employees if you just invested a bit in training and developing these great hired into great employees. But, you don’t see the value in that, which makes me think you probably don’t see the value in a diverse workforce, to begin with.

What I actually say to them is this, “You don’t have a diversity recruiting problem. You have a diversity pay problem because finding diverse “qualified” talent is easy. Finding ones that will accept your job, culture, location, and/or average to low pay is really hard!” 

Finding talent has never been easier in the history of humanity. We have more technology and tools than ever before. Finding is easy. Recruiting is hard..

Successful recruiting takes some skill. A success recruiter will find the “qualified” diverse talent you are looking for and then they’ll do a few things:

  • They’ll get them interested first. They will make them feel desired and wanted by the organization. By the hiring manager. By the team. Being Desired is a powerful drug!
  • Next, they’ll discover what that talent actually desires in their career. Quickly, efficiently, like a sniper.
  • Then they’ll make a determination: 1. Are we going to meet those desires. or 2. We won’t meet those desires.
  • One, you obviously move on to screening, assessing, etc. Two, and you move on to giving something back to this person. “I can’t help you right now, but I’ve taken notes and if I have anything that ever comes close to meeting what you need, I’m going to contact you back.” 99% of recruiters will never say that to a potential candidate.

Honestly, about 25% of the time when you tell someone “I can’t help you, but…” they’ll actually state a desire to keep going. You taking the potential away will make some reveal they actually have an interest. Doesn’t mean you will still move forward, but it’s a nice outcome.

I can easily find you “qualified” diversity talent. Don’t think so, call me. I can find anyone. The problem we’ll run into is that some of that talent is rare and will cost a premium to get. It’s a simple economic proposition, you can buy talent or build talent. They each have their costs and benefits. I find most organizations claim they want to hire diverse talent, but aren’t doing what it will take to make it happen.

Does Your Average Employee Tenure Matter? (New Data!)

I keep getting told by folks who tend to know way more than me that employees ‘today’ don’t care about staying at a company long term. “Tim you just don’t get it, the younger workforce just wants to spend one to three years at a job than leave for something new and different.” You’re right! I don’t get it.

BLS recently released survey data showing that the average employee tenure is sitting around 4.1 years.  Which speaks to my smart friends who love to keep replacing talent. I still don’t buy this fact as meaning people don’t want long term employment with one organization.

Here’s what I know about high tenured individuals:

1. People who stay long term with a company tend to make more money over their careers.

2. People who stay long term with a company tend to reach the highest level of promotion.

3. People who tend to stay long term with a company tend to have higher career satisfaction.

I don’t have a survey on this. I have twenty years of working in the trenches of HR and witnessing this firsthand. The new CEO hire from outside the company gets all the press, but it actually rarely happens. Most companies promote from within because they have trust in the performance of a long-term, dedicated employee, over an unknown from the outside. Most organizations pick the known over the unknown.

I still believe tenure matters a great deal to the leadership of most organizations.  I believe that a younger workforce still wants to find a great company where they can build a career, but we keep telling them that is unrealistic in today’s world.

Career ADHD is something we’ve made up to help us explain to our executives why we can no longer retain our employees.  Retention is hard work. It has a real, lasting impact on the health and well-being of a company. There are real academic studies that show the organizations with the highest tenure, outperform those organizations with lower tenure.  (here, here, and here)

Employee tenure is important and it matters a great deal to the success of your organization. If you’re telling yourself and your leadership that it doesn’t, that it’s just ‘kids’ today, we can’t do anything about it, you’re doing your organization a disservice. You can do something about it. Employee retention, at all levels, should be the number 1, 2, and 3 top priorities of your HR shop.

OMG! Did you guys hear what Kris did!?! #Yikes!

Gawd! We love gossip!

I’m personally on five text groups, a few Messenger groups, a couple of IG groups, and a number of email chains that all act like some strange modern version of a watercooler in the breakroom at work. Or the back smoke break patio at the office. Pick your pleasure.

Cultural anthropology sees gossip as an informal way of enforcing group norms. It is effective in small groups. But gossip is not the search for truth. It is a search for approval by attacking the perceived flaws of others…As a social enforcement mechanism, gossip does not scale. Large societies need other enforcement mechanisms: government, religion, written codes.”

Think about how gossip can help organizations perform better.

If I’m new to a department, gossip quickly lets me know the group norms that are expected and tolerated. If I want to be viewed as a good performer I will follow the group norms and gossip is the vehicle for letting me know what those norms will be.

If I’m a “good” gossip, I skilled at finding and sharing information amongst my team they find valuable, I’ll quickly increase my status within the department. I have to be careful as lies and false gossip can quickly bring me down in status.

The problem with gossip, historically, is in didn’t scale well. I might have some juicy gossip but how am I going to effectively share that across an entire organization? But, now with social media, the internet, smartphones, email, Teams/Slack, Zoom, etc., we can easily spread gossip, both good and bad.

So, why am I talking about gossip? 

I will tell you leaders and HR spend more time trying to stop gossip within the organization than almost anything. I’m wondering if we are actually doing ourselves a disservice. What if we used gossip to drive great engagement? What would that look like?

The key to great gossip is “we” all want to be in on a secret. 

We want gossip that we believe almost no one else has. To use gossip to enforce organizational norms (gossip at scale) we can’t just go out and start launching secrets into the world. There has to be a plan!

The problem with trying to lead with gossip is it can lead to chaos. If we believe the social/group norm is to communicate via gossip, that is a very fine line to try and navigate successfully, knowing it’s hard to know what gossip to believe or not believe.

I think we can use the psychology behind our desire for gossip, though, to drive some great outcomes within our organizations.

What happens if you’re in a small meeting, let’s say, five people. The CEO is one of those people and she has something amazing to tell everyone, BUT, the four of us will have to keep this secret. We can’t tell anyone!

We all leave the meeting. I’ve got my #1 right-hand person on my team. I’ve got to pull them in, this is too important, this has too big of an impact on our department not to let my #1 know! So, I trust them (like the CEO trusted me) to not tell anyone else. What happens?

  1. They are over the moon that I trusted them enough to bring them in on the secret. (High Engagement – High Loyalty)
  2. I put myself in a really bad position if the CEO finds out.
  3. I start working with the CEO to let us work on a comms plan to let others know that need to know. (basically to cover my ass for already letting the secret out into the wild!)

Welcome to Organizational Behavior 101, kids!

Every leader has “gossip”. Stuff they know that their team doesn’t know. Some of that is secret. Some of that is just stuff they found about before everyone else, for an undetermined amount of time.

I find that leaders who can use the positive “safe” gossip for informing their team tend to have extremely high team engagement. “Hey, team, we need to pull it in close for a five-minute huddle, I’ve got something really important I need to share with you. But, first, you have to understand, this is NOT public information! We can’t allow this to be shared.”

I just wrote that, and I’m sitting here wanting to know what comes next! Gossip is a powerful tool, that can just as easily make your career as break your career!

As leaders, it’s our job to ensure the group norms we allow are ones where the good gossip, the sharing of information that helps us all increase our knowledge and power are encouraged, while the bad gossip is shut down immediately. All gossip is not bad, but it’s all-powerful in terms of possible outcomes.

 

If you had to redo your corporate mission statement in 2020, would it change?

I think we call agree that 2020 has been a sh*tshow, but there also have been some very important issues that have taken a spotlight that probably would have a major impact on our corporate mission and vision statements. Besides the social justice conversation, the political division continues to grow, and of course workplace health and wellness kind of continues to suck up the oxygen in the room!

Coinbase, a technology company that created a platform to buy and trade cryptocurrency, decided to redo their corporate mission statement, primarily because political division and social justice ideas, being discussed in the workplace, were kind of disrupting their culture and not in a positive way.

Here are some of the aspects of the new Coinbase mission statement:

Play like a championship team

  • Be company first: We act as #OneCoinbase, putting the company’s goals ahead of any particular team or individual goals.
  • Act in service of the greater mission: We have united as a team to try and accomplish something that none of us could have done on our own.
  • Default to trust: We assume positive intent amongst our teammates, and assume ignorance over malice. We have each other’s backs.
  • Focus on what unites us, not what divides us: We help create a sense of cohesion and unity, by focusing on what we have in common, not where we disagree, especially when it’s unrelated to our work.
  • Sustained high performance: As compared to a family, where everyone is included regardless of performance, a championship team makes a concerted effort to raise the bar on talent, including changing out team members when needed.

Focus on building

We focus on the things that help us achieve our mission:

  • Build great products: The vast majority of the impact we have will be from the products we create, which are used by millions of people.
  • Source amazing talent: We create job opportunities for top people, including those from underrepresented backgrounds who don’t have equal access to opportunities, with things like diverse slates (Rooney rule) on senior hires, and casting a wide net to find top talent.
  • Fair talent practices: We work to reduce unconscious bias in interviews, using things like structured interviews, and ensure fair practices in how we pay and promote. We have a pay for performance culture, which means that your rewards and promotions are linked to your overall contribution to the mission and company goals.
  • Enable belonging for everyone: We work to create an environment where everyone is welcome and can do their best work, regardless of background, sexual orientation, race, gender, age, etc.

We focus minimally on causes not directly related to the mission:

  • Policy decisions: If there is a bill introduced around crypto, we may engage here, but we normally wouldn’t engage in policy decisions around healthcare or education for example.
  • Non-profit work: We will do some work here with our Pledge 1% program and GiveCrypto.org, but this is about 1% of our efforts. We are a for-profit business. When we make profit, we can use that to hire more great people, and build even more. We shouldn’t ever shy away from making profit, because with more resources we can have a greater impact on the world.
  • Broader societal issues: We don’t engage here when issues are unrelated to our core mission, because we believe impact only comes with focus.
  • Political causes: We don’t advocate for any particular causes or candidates internally that are unrelated to our mission, because it is a distraction from our mission. Even if we all agree something is a problem, we may not all agree on the solution.

The reason is that while I think these efforts are well-intentioned, they have the potential to destroy a lot of value at most companies, both by being a distraction and by creating internal division. 

I appreciate that Coinbase CEO, Brian Armstrong, is working to try and protect the corporate culture that Coinbase had prior to all the issues that have taken center stage in 2020. I think most leadership teams probably feel the same way, “Can’t we just have it like it was before!?” Wasn’t that better?

Well, it probably was better for the leaders and a good number of employees, but it also wasn’t good for a bunch of others. Many of these conversations were needed, and our hope is this will lead to even a better, stronger culture moving forward. I’m not naive, though, some of this will destroy some companies. It’s never all good or all bad.

I actually like the focus on work, when you are at work. It’s a very GenX/Baby Boomer thinking. The younger you are, the more you want your work life to reflect your personal life and beliefs. Some of that is just simple nativity. Some of that is probably a better way to work.

What I know, as a leader, is that we can’t have non-stop division within our workplaces and thing that will lead to a successful company. It won’t. So, we have some choices to make. We can decide to only hire people who think just like we think. Which sounds like the opposite of inclusion. Or we can work really hard to help our employees understand that having people around us that might have different beliefs is a positive thing if we really work to get to know the other person.

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!?

Do Recruiters Still Need to Make Phone Calls?

Recently, I was on a webinar, and in my presentation, I harped on the talent acquisition pros and leaders on the webcast on why 100% of us are not using texting as a primary first form of contact with candidates. The data is in. Texting works! It works better than email by a mile, but still, less than 50% in the room are texting candidates.

After I was done a great TA pro contacted me and said, “Tim, shouldn’t recruiters being calling candidates!” I feel in love! Why, yes, fine, sir they should always be calling candidates! But, let’s not forsake other tools that are working at a high level. We know people, in general, respond to texts at a much higher rate than email and phone calls.

You see a text and within seconds you read it, and you respond to it at more than double the rate of email or voicemail. In talent acquisition, we are in LOVE with email, even when it doesn’t work.

In 2011, I wrote this post below – funny enough, it’s still relevant today (except now I think we need to add in more texting with those phone calls!)

Do we (recruiters) still need to make telephone calls?

I mean really it’s 2011 – we have text messaging, emails, Facebook, Twitter, etc. – hasn’t the telephone just become obsolete?  Does anyone actually use their cell phones to make actual phone calls anymore?

The New York Times had an article: Don’t Call Me, I Won’t Call You, in which they delve into this concept of whether the act of making a phone call has jumped the shark or not.  From the article:

“I remember when I was growing up, the rule was, ‘Don’t call anyone after 10 p.m.,’ ” Mr. Adler said. “Now the rule is, ‘Don’t call anyone. Ever.’ ”

Phone calls are rude. Intrusive. Awkward. “Thank you for noticing something that millions of people have failed to notice since the invention of the telephone until just now,” Judith Martin, a k a Miss Manners, said by way of opening our phone conversation. “I’ve been hammering away at this for decades. The telephone has a very rude propensity to interrupt people…

Even at work, where people once managed to look busy by wearing a headset or constantly parrying calls back and forth via a harried assistant, the offices are silent. The reasons are multifold. Nobody has assistants anymore to handle telecommunications. And in today’s nearly door-free workplaces, unless everyone is on the phone, calls are disruptive and, in a tight warren of cubicles, distressingly public. Does anyone want to hear me detail to the dentist the havoc six-year molars have wreaked on my daughter?

“When I walk around the office, nobody is on the phone,” said Jonathan Burnham, senior vice president, and publisher at HarperCollins. The nature of the rare business call has also changed. “Phone calls used to be everything: serious, light, heavy, funny,” Mr. Burnham said. “But now they tend to be things that are very focused. And almost everyone e-mails first and asks, ‘Is it O.K. if I call?’ ”

Sound Familiar?

Now I could easily turn this into a generational issue because for one it’s easy to do, but this isn’t a GenX vs. GenY issue.  This is a basic communication issue.  An understanding of what we do in our industry issue.  Whether your third party or corporate recruitment, we do the same thing, we search and find talent.  There are two basic ways to screen potential talent for fit for your organization: 1. Meet them in Person (no one would argue that this is the best way, but boy it’s expensive if you are using it as your first-line screen); 2. Meet them over the phone (done in some form or another by 99.9% of recruiters).

There really isn’t any way around this issue, we recruit, we make telephone calls.  If you don’t like to make telephone calls, if you believe what the New York Times article believes, you shouldn’t recruit.  It’s not an indictment on you, this just isn’t your gig.

Recruiters like to talk to people, to question people, to find out more about people, not a career, best done by email and text messaging. We need to talk live to others. That’s how we go to work. Doesn’t matter if you’re 21 or 6. It’s how to deliver great talent to our hiring managers.

So, here’s a tip, if you’re in recruitment and you don’t like making phone calls get, out of recruitment, you will not be successful.  If your first choice of contacting someone isn’t picking up the phone and calling them, instead of sending them an email, when you have their phone number, get out of recruitment. If you’re thinking you want to recruit, and you don’t like making phone calls take another path.

Recruiters make phone calls, that’s what we do.

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!