Great Talent Supports Great Talent

Too often leaders put up with a great talent who’s shitty to other employees. The belief is that because the employee is so talented we should be willing to put up with how they treat others. It happens all the time in organizations! All. The. Time.

Ichiro Suzuki is a very successful Major League Baseball player for the Seattle Mariners who just hit his 3,000 hit in the major leagues, that just adds to his thousand plus hits he had in the Japanese professional baseball league. All those hits make him arguably the greatest hitter of all time at the professional level of baseball.

ESPN did an article about Ichiro recently as he was coming very close to the 3,000 hit milestone in the MLB, a very rare feat. What most people don’t know is Ichiro almost left the MLB after only one season because his teammates treated him so badly:

“Suzuki explained later that in the middle of his career with the Mariners, when the team wasn’t playing well but he was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner, his teammates called him selfish and said that he cared only about individual accolades. After Griffey, Sweeney and Ibanez arrived, he says, they stood up for him and encouraged their teammates to worry about their own play first.”

It wasn’t until Seattle brought in other MLB All-Stars that Ichiro felt welcomed. Great talent, supports great talent. Okay, everyone on an MLB roster is talented, but even within those rosters, there are levels of talent. Ichiro is a hall of fame talent. Griffey is a hall of famer.

The point to all of this is your best talent should support the other best talent of your organization.  If you have great talent that isn’t supporting each other, you need to make a move. Great talent is talented if they don’t support the other talent in the organization. That might be the single most difficult thing for leaders to understand.

Your talent is wasted if you can’t find ways to lift up the other talent around you. Seattle was able to find talent that was willing to do that and Ichiro turned his talent into one of the greatest of all time, but he was also very close to just packing it in and going home.

I wonder how much talent walks out your door based on how they are being treated by others in your organization?

How To Build a Dream Team at Work

If you pulled up any sports-related website or watched any sports news show on TV in the past few days you know that NBA player Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City Thunder and accepted a free agent offer to go and play for the Golden State Warriors.

It’s a big deal because Golden State was already pretty good, now, with Kevin, they look to be unstoppable! Basically, Golden State has built a team with arguably 4 of the top 20 players in the NBA on one team (Durant, Curry, Thompson, and Green). Most ‘great’ teams might have three top players, no one in history has had four when all playing at their peak!

Building a dream team seems to only happen in sports, but you hear talent acquisition leaders and executives talk about it a lot. How do we build a sales dream team, a marketing dream team, a design dream team, etc.? We all want to be a part of a dream team, or be a part of building a dream team for our organization!

So, how do you build a dream team?

1. You have to know how you want to ‘play’. You have to define what it is you want to do. An outcome. A style. “We want the best designed UX of any platform that supports patient safety in a hospital environment.” As an example.

2. You have to know who is the top talent in your industry that can accomplish the outcome you desire.  This is actually the hardest part of building a dream team in a non-sports environment because we usually don’t have comparing statistics or analytics to even start to understand who the best is.

3. You have to be able to recruit those individuals to your team. This is actually easier than in professional sports. In pro sports it usually takes one or two superstars to make a decision to get together, then they help recruit the others. In the real world, it helps to have a well-known professional, but it’s not necessary if you can sell the right story, compensation, and location!

4. Just having the ‘best players’ doesn’t guarantee success, they have to buy into the goal of the entire organization. This means having leadership with a clear vision that goes beyond the outcome. Yes, we want to win a championship, but we want to win that championship together, utilizing all of our strengths. This is another really tough thing in a real-world setting because it takes great visionary leadership.

5. Having a ‘Dream Team’ is about “Team”. You’ll have great talent and that great talent needs to understand that they go nowhere without those who support them to do great work. So, your dream team members have to be servant leaders. If they have great talent and treat people like crap, they won’t end up being a great talent!

I love it when great talent makes the conscious decision to get together and try and do something great. Some people don’t. They would prefer to see one great talent try and do it on their own. I love watching highly talented people get together and see how far they can push the levels of greatness! That’s what dream teams are all about, the dream.

Sackett Stats #36 – Boss Block

I was with some HR blogging friends at a conference recently and we were talking shop. Someone had a great idea for a blog post, but said they couldn’t find any stats to back it up, so they weren’t going to write about it. My exact quote back was, “I just make stats up!”

To be fair, when I do make stats up, I tell you! It’s something like, “9 out of 10 employees who are fired (by me) want to kill their boss!”

My stats aren’t just made up! Sackett Stats are based on nothing more than twenty years of my experience working in the trenches HR and TA, across multiple industries. To be honest, though, some idiot will one day read this and think it’s a real number, stick it in their Forbes article, and they a few weeks later you’ll see it at your local SHRM meeting in a presentation deck!

Sackett Stats! Like Pew Research, but far less likely based on actual research.

Sackett Stat #36 is called Boss Block.  The concept of this statistic comes from the number of years that are between you and your boss in age. The lower the number, the less likely you’ll ever be promoted, and the more likely you are to turnover.

The average over/under Boss Block number that pushes a person to leave an organization is 5.3 years.

If your boss is more than 5.3 years older than you, you are less likely to leave the organization, believing you will eventually get a chance to be promoted. Obviously, the farther apart in age, to your boss, the less likely you are to leave on your own. If your boss is 5.3 years or less to your age, you are highly likely to leave, believing there is no chance in hell you’ll ever get promoted because you’re being Boss Blocked for promotion.

Sackett Stats – like most stats, but more believable.

I Haven’t Been Realizing I’m Getting Old

I have three sons: 19, 17 and 12. When I tell people this, they have a hard time believing I’ve got kids that old. That always makes me feel good.

I guess I don’t look as old as I really am. When I look at Facebook and see the ‘kids’ I graduated with, some I don’t even recognize, they look like old people and I think to myself, holy hell Batman, I hope I don’t look like that to them!

I’m 46 years old.  In my mind, I still believe I’m 26! My body most days feels like I’m 56!

My wife smacks me at least once a day for something juvenile that comes out of my mouth. I would rather hang out with my teenage sons and listen to their music, watch their movies and play their games.

My last two vacations I’ve decided to take up surfing, because apparently I’m 14 years old.  I’m Benjamin Button, but only mentally!

I’ve been interviewing people who weren’t even born when I started my career. I’ve forgotten more shit than they even know. And, yet, they come in knowing more shit than I’ll ever know.

I’ve been getting old and I didn’t even realize it.

I figure I have 25 years left to work.  I about halfway through my career. When you look at it from that standpoint, it doesn’t seem like old, it seems like primetime! If an NBA player had a ten-year career, year five would be around the height of their ability! It’s when they would be most valuable.

So, maybe I should think of it as old, but think of it as I’m playing my MVP years, right freaking now!

It makes sense. My wife says recently it’s like I’ve been trying to work two full-time jobs. She’s probably right because I have to, you only get one chance at your MVP years. Ten years from now I won’t be going “now is the time!” Nope. It’s right now. I’ve got to make stuff happen. I’ve got win championships! Whatever the hell that means.

I wonder how many people feel this same way, but they’re at different ages?

When I as thirty, I distinctly remember thinking, “holy crap, I’m 30 years old, I need to be a VP!”  I bet there are 60-year-olds out there thinking, “it’s my time to shine!”

From 20-ish to 70-ish are your prime working years. You have 50 years of work. I know, many of you think you’ll stop working between 60-65 years of age. You won’t, that was your grandparents and maybe your parents. It’s not us. 70 is the new 60. Most of us won’t retire until we reach 70+.

50 years of work.

Take the amount of work experience you have, right now, and subtract it by 50. How many work years do you have left? What are you going to do with those years? I bet you haven’t even come close to accomplishing all that you want!

Employees don’t leave organizations, they leave…

BOSSES! Right?! Right? Right…

For at least the past two decades, the foundation of employee engagement has been built on this one simple principle. Employees don’t leave organizations, they leave Bad Bosses.

So, if you want highly engaged employees just don’t have assholes for bosses. Super easy! Just hire and train great leaders and your employees will be engaged and productive and all will be right in the world.

Then along comes Harvard and their stupid studies:

“Good leadership doesn’t reduce employee turnover precisely because of good leadership. Supportive managers empower employees to take on challenging assignments with greater responsibilities, which sets employees up to be strong external job candidates. So employees quit for better opportunities elsewhere — better pay, more responsibility, and so on.”

Wait, what!? This is exactly what your CEO said she feared when you wanted to dump all of that money into leadership development. But you said, “If we don’t develop our leaders the people will leave as well!” So, what happened? We did so well at developing and empowering our leaders they pushed our best employees right out the door to other opportunities!

Ugh! This HR thing is hard. We think we’re doing the right thing for twenty years, then we find out we did it all wrong! Don’t fret, there’s some good news:

“There is a silver lining, though. Former employees with good bosses are what we call “happy quitters.” When the consultant company asked them about their feelings toward their former employer, their responses were overwhelmingly positive. Questions included Do you hold positive opinions about your former company? Would you refer employees to work for the company? and Do you see yourself as a potential boomerang employee? Good leadership, then, is an important tool for building goodwill with employees, which they are likely to retain as alumni, in turn becoming sources of valuable information, recommendations, and business opportunities later on.

The upside to losing well-led employees, however, comes with an important caveat. Our research finds that good leadership generates alumni goodwill only for those employees who experience good faith retention efforts when they quit. So managers should go to bat for their employees and counteroffer if they can. Our findings indicate that such retention efforts are critical for preserving the goodwill created by good leaders with employees, which can then be translated into a continuing relationship with them as alumni.”

What does this all mean?

You better get a heck of a lot better at Off-boarding! Off-what?  You know Onboarding but in reverse. Make employees feel really good about leaving you! Make them feel like they are valued and you don’t want to lose them and you’ll do anything to keep them. When they leave, they’ll be more likely to return or recommend others go work for you.

Most companies off-board like this:

Leaving employee: “I’m putting in my two weeks notice, I have this great opportunity to challenge myself and I have to give it a shot.”

HR and/or Hiring Manager: (while ripping their shirt) – “You are dead to us! Leave immediately. Don’t return to your desk, we already have security guards boxing up your crap!”

You laugh, but it’s mostly true. We suck at off-boarding, which is why most of us suck at alumni hiring. Fix that!

The Next Generation Just Named Itself! #NicknamingYourselfIsStupid

Have you ever had a nickname you didn’t want?  You were in the third grade and crapped your pants and some dumb kid called you ‘Stinky’ and it stuck, for life! The rest of your life you got to go around being called ‘Stinky’ and having to explain this to people.

I think most people in those situations try to create a new nickname!  “Hey, guys, just call me Dice! I was at summer camp and all the guys there called me “Dice”! We played this game with dice and I was really great at it, anyway, it stuck. So, you guys can call me Dice, I’m cool with it.” Okay, Stinky, we got you!

There’s only one rule in nicknames. That rule? You can’t make your own nickname!

To my surprise the great folks at MTV decided it would be a great idea for the kids over at GenZ, that generation under the Millennials, to just come up with their own generational nickname.  The MTV crew actually surveyed thousands of high school kids from across the country to determine what they would prefer to have their ‘generation’ called.

Say hello to The Founders!

Why the founders?  Well, apparently this next generation has attached itself the Silicon Valley culture of founding companies.  Not they have really actually done this, but it’s what they identify with, so why not act like you started this whole dot com, startup thingy.

What do we really know about these Founders? A few things for sure, that I think will help organizations understand this next generation entering the workforce:

1. They were raised during the Great Recession. Not since the Great Depression, have so many kids witnessed parents and adults close to them lose so many jobs and struggle financially. This will impact their work ethic, the importance of keeping a job, etc. Think the opposite of how Millennials view work! The Founders probably have more in common with the Greatest Generation, than the Millennials.

2. They have never not had a Smartphone. This will impact how they do their work, how they socialize and how they communicate. The Millennials had flip phones to start!

3. The media has bombarded them with unrealistic views of what work looks like.  Google is an outlier, not the norm. Yet, they tend to believe it’s the norm because the ‘Googlized’ work environment gets so much publicity. 99% of work environments do not look like Google. This will cause some ‘hey, I didn’t expect this’ moments for a ton of kids in their first jobs.

I hate naming generations. Millennials, Founders, Gen-X… They’re kids.  They won’t know their ass from a hole in the ground, and you’ll have to teach them most everything they’ll need to know about your company and your jobs, because our educational system continues give them real-world skills to compete.

Call them whatever you want.  Entry level always seems to fit best.

Your Leaders Secretly Hate Succession Planning

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.  William Tincup and I were just talking about this last week, in regards to a correlation he was making about organizations and succession planning.  I wrote a post about Veteran Hiring a while back, 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.

If they did, we would not have a veteran hiring crisis in this country! If every organization who 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 the 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 no where!


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

1. Financially, succession planning is a huge burden on organizations, if done right.  Leaders are paid on 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 over hiring. Preparing for the future. It’s a long term pay back.  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 6% turnover each year.  Organizations react. Fire fight.  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 do it 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 direct financial impact to 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 impact in terms of development, retention, cross training, workforce planning, etc.  All those things that 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.

4 Reasons You’ll Leave Your Job on Your Terms

There’s a million ways to lose your job.  Layoffs, company closes, smacking an employee on the butt, you name it and someone has lost their job over it!

The reality is, though, most people leave their jobs on their own terms and it has nothing to do with more money or a higher level job.

If fact there are four main ways people leave their jobs:

#1 – Crappy Boss.  Almost anyone who has left my company has left because they didn’t like me, or I didn’t like them. Well, to be honest, I probably didn’t like the way they were performing.  If they were performing well, I don’t really care if I like them personally. I’ll take the performance over me liking them!  So, for some I’m a crappy boss, for others I’m not.  The key to great leadership is having only a few believe you’re crappy!

#2 – Bad Job Fit. We hired you and thought you would be awesome. Yay! But, we all messed up with thinking you would fit.  You’re not the right fit. You know it. Doesn’t ‘feel’ right, so you you leave to something that feels better. In so many of our jobs that we hire for, fit is the most important part of success. Fit and showing up every day. Shocking how we can’t figure this out!

#3 – Commute.  Length of commute is subjective.  My friends in Detroit live 10 miles from work and drive an hour on good days to their jobs. They seem completely happy with this commute.  I drive 12 miles and it takes me twenty minutes and if I get slowed down and it takes me 22 minutes, I’m ready to shoot people!  People take a job and think the commute is no big deal, but it is a very big deal for so many people.  If the length of commute comes up in negotiation, run away from that candidate.

#4 – Cultural Fit.  I hate conservative, very political environments.  There’s something about kissing ass all day that makes me not a pleasant person to be around.  You need to know who you are and what kinds of culture you like.  Some of my best friends love ultra-professional conservative cultures and do exceptional working in those cultures.  Everyone has a preference. Find yours.  So many people get this wrong and stay in a culture they hate.

These four reasons make up about 99% of why people decide to leave a company.  People always want you to believe they left for money or a promotion, but all of that can usually be had at their current employer with a little patience and some conversations.


Hiring Is About To Get Really Difficult!

One thing was abundantly clear from speakers and thought leaders at SHRM 2015, hiring is hard, and it’s about to get much harder!

That isn’t good news for any of us in HR and Talent Acquisition. There are two forces that are currently happening that are making hiring more difficult than it has been in over ten years:

  1. Solid economy and job growth.
  1. Baby Boomers leaving the workforce.

This isn’t earth shattering information, we all kind of new this was happening.  The issue is we are now all beginning to feel this in every part of the country and in almost every job category.  This means some things are going to happen, and the top HR and Talent Pros are already preparing for these:

  • Wage Growth: CareerBuilder CEO Matt Ferguson spoke at SHRM on Tuesday and had some great data showing that organizations see wage growth of around 5% in 2015, and similar in years to come. Are you budgeting 5% increases? I’m guessing not!
  • Recruitment Process Challenges: How many steps does it take to apply for a job in your organization?  If it’s more than two, you’ve got problems!  Can someone apply for a job online with your organization without having a resume? Why not?  Matt also showed data from CareerBuilder showing 40% of HR and Talent Pros have never applied for one of their own jobs to better understand the true experience!
  • Technology Challenges: Do you have a way to reengage candidates in your system on a regular basis?  A system that allows you to let great talent know, that you already have in your system, when you have an opening that fits them? It’s called CRM, and only about 20% of companies have technology that can do this important recruitment marketing function!
  • Job Design Challenges: Too many of us are working and designing jobs like we are living in a society that was pre-internet, pre-ultra connected. We still think we need employees sitting in front of us from 8-5pm, Monday thru Friday. If they aren’t sitting in front of us, they must not be working! Indeed shared that 80% of job searches on their site include this single word: “Remote”!  Are you adjusting those jobs that can be flexible?

Those organizations that believe they can recruit and get talent like they have been doing for the last couple of decades are going to fail.  It’s really that simple.  Talent attraction will be a powerful strategic differentiator for organizations over the next decade, like almost no other time in our history.

The good news?  At no other point in our history do have access to the information on how to be successful!  Twenty years ago, doing great talent acquisition was mostly trying stuff and getting lucky.  In today’s world you can learn easily how the best organizations are attracting talent at conferences, on websites, in blogs, webinars, etc.  There are so many sources of this information, that we now have no excuse to improve what we are doing.  We just have to do it!


Do Demotions Work?

Quietly, Brian Williams returned to NBC last week. Not in his usual spot of nightly news anchor, but in a demoted spot, for less pay:

The embattled former NBC Nightly News anchor has been demoted and will receive reportedly less money in his new role, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Williams is being replaced by Lester Holt, who took over for him after he was handed down an unpaid six-month suspension for making factually incorrect comments and “misremembering” details spoken about on-air.

The newspaper reported that Williams will receive “substantially” less money when he returns to the network as a breaking news and special reports anchor for MSNBC, a division of NBC. He had been making at least $10 million a year for the last five years.

It begs the question, do demotions work?

They certainly aren’t popular. Both, employers and employees, dislike demotions.  Employers feel like if they demote an employee they are just giving them notice to go find another job.  Employees feel like a failure and that the organization is probably just trying to push them out the door. In my experience demotions rarely work.

What kind of demotions work?

There are times when you promote a good worker into a new role, a promotion, and both you and the employee think it will be great, but then it ends up not being great. The employee can’t handle the new role, you did a bad job preparing them, there were other organizational issues at play, whatever the reason, it’s not working. This happens more than you realize, but we usually just end up firing the employee for performance, or they see the writing on the wall and take off before you get a chance to shoot them yourself.

I always find it ironic when I hear about this type of turnover. I’ll ask, “was this person a good, solid employee before they got promoted?”  The answer is always yes.  They wouldn’t have gotten promoted if they weren’t. So, then, why did this person have to be a turnover statistic? Why couldn’t we figure out how to get them back to a position where they were productive and successful again?

Modern organizational theory doesn’t allow for this.  We don’t believe that a person will ever want to go backwards in their career. Once they have been promoted, they will not want to go back into a position they had prior, and they definitely don’t want a pay cut!  We assume this to be true. Also, it might be true in many cases. So, we take a ‘good’ employee and terminate them or let them just go away on their own.

I think the only way you make a demotion work is if you set it up within your organizational culture that this ‘demotion’, going back into a very important role in the company, is something that happens here.  We want to challenge people, and sometimes those challenges won’t end well.  That’s okay, we still love you, and respect you, and we want to get you back on a path of success.

This conversation has to happen, not after failure, but before the person is ever promoted.  That moving along the career path here, at our organization, isn’t just up, it’s down, it’s sideways, etc.  We are going to constantly want to get you into a ‘role’ of success.  Yes, failure happens, but we will want to get you back to success as fast as possible.

The reality is, people don’t stay around if they’re failing.

Brian Williams is damaged goods, so he accepted the demotion.  He’s talented. He’ll get back on the horse, show his value, and then he’ll go someplace else.  NBC is giving him an opportunity, but this kind of demotion doesn’t usually end well, for the employer.