Can Everyone be the Best Employer to Work For?

I have yet to see an organization come out with a brand that says,

“Hey, we’re Super Average, but come work here anyway!” 

For the most part, every organization spouts off about being the best place to work. Statistically, that just can’t be true. Everyone can’t be the best, right?

I think for the most part it’s just lazy recruitment marketing. You are either the best, or you’re something less and no one would ever go to their c-suite and say, “Yeah, so we’re going with “We are almost the best place in the city to work for!” What do you think!?

Why does anyone really want to work at your company? 

That is really the only question you need to answer. It might be because you’re the tallest of the seven dwarfs in your marketplace. It might be it’s a decent-paying job close to home. Maybe you have a friendly culture, and mostly everyone gets along.

But, really, why would anyone choose you?

The answer will set you free. It will allow you to really have fun with who you are and find others that are like you. Not all of us were raised to work for the “best”. The world needs ditch diggers and toilet cleaners, and people who still get up and go to work, and feel proud of what they accomplish.

The fact is, you and your executives shouldn’t give one sh*t about being the best as measured by everyone. You should only be concerned with being the best for those people, who are your people.

Now, why would anyone really come and work for you?

The Secret Sauce to Landing Your Dream Job? Apply Less!!!

Robert Combs over at Fast Company had a brilliant article recently, and if you’re in Recruiting or HR, it’s a must-read! If you’re looking for a job, it’s also a must-read!

Here was Robert’s concept. A.I. (robots) are running the world. It’s the biggest innovation to come into recruiting since Big Data (wait, didn’t we always have data…). If robots can run the application process and find you where ever you are, Robert thought, why not use a robot to apply to jobs for him. Let the robots fight it out!

So, that’s what he did, he built a robot to go out and find jobs he would want, apply to those jobs, and then even follow up!

He applied to hundreds of jobs in minutes! It got a bit out of control:

So I started slowly casting about for new challenges, initially by applying (perhaps naively) to openings at well-known tech companies like Google, Slack, Facebook, and Squarespace.

Two things quickly became clear to me:

  1. I’m up against leaders in their field, so my resume doesn’t always jump to the top of the pile.
  2. Robots read every application.

The robots are “applicant tracking systems” (ATS), commonly used tools for sorting job applications. They automatically filter out candidates based on keywords, skills, former employers, years of experience, schools attended, and the like.

As soon as I realized I was going up against robots, I decided to turn the tables–and built my own…I fired it up I accidentally applied to about 1,300 jobs in the Midwest during the time it took me to get a cup of coffee across the street. I live in New York City and had no plans to relocate, so I quickly shut it down until I could release a new version.

After several iterations and a few embarrassing hiccups, I settled on version 5.0, which applied to 538 jobs over about a three-month period.

So, what did Robert find out? Here were his biggest learnings:

1. Even your ATS robots suck at giving responses! Around 70% of his applications never got a response!

2. Only 4% of 538 jobs he applied for, got a personal email response from a recruiter.

3. Only about 6% of your hires come from people applying to your career site.

Robert found out what most of us in the business already know. Applying to jobs doesn’t actually work. Yet, we spend so much time, energy, and resources building these great tech stacks and apply processes for just his!

So, what works?

Turns out about 85% of jobs are filled by good old fashion networking. You know someone, who knows someone, who has a friend, whose cousin works in the department you really want to work for.

“Out-of-the-box hires rarely happen through LinkedIn (or any job board, career site) applications. They happen when someone influential meets a really interesting person and says, ‘Let’s create a position for you.’”

I disagree somewhat with the above quote. I’ve worked in large corporate TA shops, we just didn’t run around all willy-nilly creating jobs for really cool, smart people! We did many times find really great people and then stick them into a job we already had open, and usually, the reason we found the person was someone who knew the job was openly referred the person to us.

My advice to job seekers is always the same. Stop applying to jobs, start networking with every person you have a possible shred of connection with, and let them know you’re looking for a position, what position you prefer, what position you would take, and where in the world you would work.

Every minute you spend networking is a thousand times better than every minute you spend online applying for jobs. Robert just proved this!

Can a Mid to Large Size Company Work Without an HR Department? #HRFamous

In episode 53 of The HR Famous Podcast, long-time HR leaders (and friends) Tim Sackett and Jessica Lee discuss BTS, companies without HR departments, and whether the new Covid-19 bill will affect employment in the service industry.

Listen (click this link if you don’t see the player) and be sure to subscribe, rate, and review (Apple Podcasts) and follow (Spotify)!

Show Highlights:

2:00 – Just JLee and Tim today! KD is out for this episode.

3:15 – JLee and her family have become a part of the BTS Army. BTS is a K-Pop group that has taken over the world.

6:00 – Tim loves that JLee is very tied to her Korean culture and instills that pride and love in her children. He mentions an article that discusses Norwegian families raising Korean children and discusses the nature vs. nurture argument in that context.

8:00 – Tim brings up how the article examines the racial aspect of coming into a homogenous culture and trying to succeed with all the advantages your family can give you.

10:00 – Next topic: The CEO of UK startup Octopus Energy says he has no interest in having traditional business departments like HR. His company is worth over a billion pounds.

12:20 – Tim asks, “What we do without HR”? Well, Tim discovered that this company actually does have job openings in HR/IT-adjacent roles but he couldn’t find any hard HR or recruiting roles.

14:15 – JLee thinks that he’s gotta be outsourcing things like HR to other agencies or companies.

16:15 – Tim was on vacation this past week and read the book The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. He said he hired a recruiter after only having nine employees for his company.

17:30 – Tim asks JLee if the newly passed Covid-19 stimulus bill will affect people wanting to go back to work in the service industry. JLee says she understands why people would not want to go back to working at restaurants or other service-type places because a lot of the draws of working there are now gone.

19:00 – JLee shares a story about going to lunch at a restaurant only the second time in the past year recently and how she felt very awkward there and didn’t know what to do while in the restaurant.

23:00 – Tim recently went to dinner and a movie for his birthday and he noticed that the business was understaffed. He wonders when people will start to return to the mentality of getting frustrated by long waits and lines.

25:20 – What’s there not to like about Koreans? Here is Time Entertainer of the Year BTS!

Do you ask your interviewer about your competition?

So, here’s the deal. Timmy gets his big break and gets the interview he’s always wanted. Goes in. Kills it. You know how Timmy does! The interviewer is doing interviewer things and drops the question, “So, Timmy, do you have any questions for me?”

Do “I” have questions for you!?! Heck, yes! I’ve been preparing for this interview for all of my life, or at least for about thirteen seconds before walking in the door! I do have some questions!

What question can an interviewee ask that will totally turn you off? 

There are probably a lot. We covered one a few weeks back in terms of asking about money, which is a big turn-off for a lot of interviewers. But one question came up and I wanted to crowdsource some results! Here’s the question:

“So, Mrs. Interviewer, can you tell me how I stack up against my competition?” (The other candidates who are also interviewing)

Hmmm….

I’ve got some feels on this:

  1. Gutsy. It could definitely blow-up on you in a hurry! Might be an immediate turn-off, and I’m not sure it would ever be a real turn-on.
  2. It does allow you to redirect the conversation back to strengths if your competition has some things they like over you. “Well, let me tell you a little more about how I also bring this to the table…”
  3. Most Hiring Managers will politely decline to talk about other people interviewing, maybe chuckle a little at the question, it’s a bit old school, so the older the people in the room, probably more likely to get a positive response.
  4. It’s aggressive, so if the role is a position where aggressiveness is a trait that is desired, it might be worth a shot.

I think there might be a better way to ask the same question, but use different wording to engage the conversation:

“What have you seen, by others interviewing, that you really liked about what they would bring to this position? Or, was there something you were hoping to hear from me, or others interviewing, that you’re not hearing?” 

This now takes it off the personal comparison of one candidate to another, and back to what the hiring manager is really looking for. Which again, allows you to redirect to your strengths, or minimize a weakness.

What say you TA and HR Pros? Hiring Managers? Does this question turn you off? If not, is there a question that would turn you off on a candidate?

Hit me in the comments!

From Great to Crap is Mostly a Management Failure

Can we all agree that we hire someone our thoughts are that this new hire can only get better. We think this person will be great when we hire them, and we expect them to only get better. Is this true? Or do you feel when you make an offer to a new hire this person will be a piece of crap you’ll one day fire?

If this is the case, when an employee turns into garbage we must accept the fact this it is mostly our doing as leaders. Somewhere along the line, we failed this person. We hired potential to be great and we did not help this person reach their greatness.

Where do we fail as leaders when someone goes from Great to Crap? 

– We failed to truly assess this person before we hired them. We thought we were hiring great, but we didn’t do enough due diligence to truly understand this person’s skills and motivations.

– We failed to onboard this employee thoroughly to set them on a path for success. To prepare them for our culture and norms.

– We failed to train and develop this person in a way that would assist them on their path of success within our organization. To give them the skills needed to succeed in their role.

– We failed to define, accurately and clearly, what a ‘great’ performance looked like in our organization and in this role.

– We failed to lead them to a performance that would guarantee their success. We allowed their performance to slip into negative territory and not help pull them out of it.

As a leader, we fail our people constantly. Should we talk about how employees fail us? We could, that’s what we usually do. We find every excuse in the world to tell ourselves how a great person turned into a piece of crap when the common denominator was our leadership. It’s not us, it has to them.

They fooled us in the interview.

They lied about their past performance.

They embellished their skill sets and motivations.

They didn’t do the work necessary.

It’s them, it’s not us. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. Well, anyway, I gave them the exact same thing I’ve given every hire before them.

Maybe they needed a bit more than all the hires. Maybe they needed something less, but different than the other hires. Maybe a one-size-fits-all training, development, performance doesn’t fit every size.

Okay, Yes, there is dual ownership over failed hires

That means, if someone has failed, under your leadership you must first look inward to what part you truly owned. What you didn’t do to help this person succeed. I’m depressed after every single termination I’ve done in my career because I know somewhere along the line, I failed as a leader. There was a point where I could have made a difference, and instead, I made an excuse.

I become a better selector of people and a better leader if I internalize each failed hire and try to better understand the part I played in this failure. Did I hire someone who had fewer weaknesses, but no real strengths? Did I believe that giving this person the “same” was good enough? Did I see this person start to fail and not address it immediately believing that a “great” leader would not micromanage and give this person freedom?

Great to crap isn’t a one-person journey. It takes a lot of failures and people to make a great person into a crappy hire. What role did you play in your last bad hire?

Developing Process in Theory vs. Real World

I was traveling this past week and took a flight on Delta Airlines. I’m a big Delta fan. I’ve flown on just about every airline in the United States, and I will go out of my way to find Delta flights. One of the perks is, as a frequent flyer, you get upgraded, etc.

This week I was in first-class, as a frequent flyer perk, in if you’re flying back from Florida, during Covid, on a mid-week, mid-day flight, I’m most likely getting upgraded because it’s not a full flight. At the end of this flight, the flight attendant in the first-class came around to thank each person for their business.

20 first-class seats, about 2/3 of the seats were full. She came to each person seated in first class and said this exact same phrase to each person:

“Thank you for your business, we appreciate it.” 

So, within about 3 minutes, in a fairly small area, I heard “Thank you for your business, we appreciate it” fifteen times. While I completely understand the theory of wanting to let your best customers know they are appreciated, this exercise was a bit comical!

How did we get here? 

I’ve been flying Delta for years. So, it’s not uncommon when I’m on a flight to have a flight attendant stop by my seat and thank me for my patronage. It doesn’t happen every flight, but enough that it doesn’t surprise me. It’s usually very personal, and discrete. “Mr. Sackett, I want to thank you for flying with us today, I hope your trip was pleasant…”

The pandemic has been really rough on the airline industry.

My guess is someone at Delta, probably some executives, were sitting around and looking at data and they were like, holy crap, we need to keep our frequent flyers! They are the ones who will come back first, and we need them now more than ever! How do we “retain” our best customers!?!

Brainstorming commences. Ideas flow. The corporate machine starts to work and do its thing. Out the other end of that machine comes an edict, “From now on, every single one of our first-class passengers will be told we appreciate them!”

Sounds good in theory, not so much in real life. 

“Thank you for your service, we appreciate you””Thank you for your service, we appreciate you””Thank you for your service, we appreciate you””Thank you for your service, we appreciate you””Thank you for your service, we appreciate you””Thank you for your service, we appreciate you””Thank you for your service, we appreciate you”…

A broken record skipping over the same lyric fifteen times. It doesn’t feel thankful or appreciated, it feels like you’re making a person do this, as a condition of employment.

Again, I love Delta and the Delta brand! I will continue to fly Delta and go out of my way to fly Delta. This is a story not about Delta, but about how management doesn’t always understand what’s really going on in the field.

In theory so much of what we do as leaders make sense in the conference room. Makes sense in the email we send. It all sounds so good! “Look, we are going to make our best customers feel appreciated and wanted!” Yes! We must do that! We need to do that! It’s going to sound like, “Mr. Sackett, how are you today? Is there anything I can get you to make your flight more enjoyable? Also, please let me tell you how much we appreciate your continued business during this trying time. We couldn’t do this without you.”

That sounds nice, thoughtful.

What edicts have you sent down from up on high that sounded awesome, but totally failed in execution at ground level? How often are you asking yourself this question?

One Year of #HRFamous! Take a Behind the Scenes Look with the Crew!

On episode 52 of The HR Famous Podcast, long-time HR leaders (and friends) Tim SackettKris Dunn, and Jessica Lee come together again to discuss the one-year anniversary of the podcast! Get a behind-the-scenes look at the first year of HR Famous.

Listen (click this link if you don’t see the player) and be sure to subscribe, rate, and review (Apple Podcasts) and follow (Spotify)!

Show Highlights:

3:00 – Who do you think of when you think of “veteran hire”?  The gang has automatic comparisons to movies.

6:00 – It’s our one-year anniversary! Episode 52 marks a year of HR Famous. We can’t believe it!

8:00 – What percentage of the podcasts have you listened to? JLee has listened to them all, and KD has listened to about 70%.

8:40 – Time for a look behind the scenes of HR Famous. Tim says that they often have pre-podcast chats that might get them canceled.

11:30 – Tim asked the crew what they’ve learned from doing the pod. JLee says that she has to trust herself to wing it and she doesn’t always have to have a super-well-thought-out point of view.

13:30 – Do you listen to the podcast and read Tim’s, KD’s, and JLee’s writing? Tim has found that there’s not as much crossover as you’d think.

17:45 – Would you believe that the only person who’s cried on the podcast is KD? Tears of joy but still tears nonetheless.

20:00 – The podcast started out with the intention of being a little bit more fun but because of when the podcast started, the topics were more serious and timely.

21:45 – There is a lost episode! JLee describes the second or third episode where they discussed periods in the workplace.

24:30 – Tim always thought that he was late to the podcast gang. During the pandemic, there was a massive rise in podcasts, and now everyone and their brother has a podcast!

27:00 – Shoutout to our amazing guests! We love you Dawn, Laurie, Cameron, and all our other awesome pod friends!

28:00 – JLee was KD’s first editor at Fistful of Talent and so they have a long history together. Tim and JLee have just gotten closer in the last few years.

32:30 – KD asks JLee if she ever is drawn to certain things because she’s not getting enough feedback in her life.

36:00 – KD asks JLee what she wishes she knew before doing the podcast with Tim and himself. She says she didn’t know she’d have so much fun and she didn’t know how much of a difference a good microphone could make.

42:00 – JLee hopes that listeners of the podcast give some grace to the crew because a lot of the topics of the past year were really difficult and nuanced.

You could just say “Yes!” to everything!

I tend to say “Yes” at about a ten to one clip of saying “No”. So far it’s worked out well for me. Most of the time I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen when I say “Yes”, but it usually works out just fine. Some of the coolest things I’ve ever been apart of were because I just said “Yes” and didn’t worry about the details.

What can go wrong when you say “Yes”? 

  1. You can take on too much and get overwhelmed and stressed out
  2. You could be taking time away from more important things in your life: family, working on stuff that is more financially viable, you-time, etc.
  3. You hate the thing you said “Yes” to,
  4. Some moron will try and take advantage of you.

What can go right when you say “Yes”? 

  1. You might actually find some really great stuff you love.
  2. You might meet and work with some awesome folks you never knew.
  3. You might find some business opportunities you didn’t expect.
  4. It just feels better in your soul to say “Yes” to others.

I’ll be honest, I probably say “yes” too much. I often have people try and take advantage of my propensity to say “Yes”. Will you do this thing? Sure! And then that “thing” takes up a lot of my time that is valuable, and the time I’m giving up is mostly benefiting the other person, and there is probably nothing they’ll do for me in return.

Pro-bono work feels great until it doesn’t.  It’s when I start questioning my life strategy of saying “Yes”. Everyone wants some free work from you, believing that it’ll all work out for the best in the long run. Which in truth, it usually does for the person getting the free work!

How can you say “Yes” more, but stay sane? 

That is really the question, right?

I think the biggest thing is to have personal boundaries you don’t compromise. Knowing when the “yes” becomes a “no more”. The reality is people aren’t trying to take advantage of you for the most part. They just are trying to do their thing, and if you don’t have boundaries they’ll keep doing their thing without much regard for your things.

Know your value. I say “yes”, but I also usually let the person know what I’m giving up to say “yes” to their thing. Even when I’m being paid. “Hey, thanks for the offer of “$X” and Yes I want to do this and help you, but normally I would be getting “$X+”. Why do I do this? It’s a boundary thing. This is my real worth, I like you or what you’re doing, I want to help, but let’s be clear, here is my real value. The value I’m giving you.

This is really hard because most people get uncomfortable with this. They don’t want to tell others what they are worth and they don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable that they aren’t paying you what you’re worth. But, if you want to say “Yes” more, you kind of have to come to grips with this!

At the end of the day, I still like saying “Yes”. I like trying new things and working with new people. It’s not for everyone, but I think it’s worth a try!

Get Back to HQ as Fast as You Can!

I know you want to keep working remotely. It’s awesome to be able to wake up, throw on some sweats and just check email. I mean this is what “work” should be, right!? Like not really working, but getting paid for it, this is the best time to be alive!

Okay, where was I? Sorry, Bridgerton is on in the background and episode 5 so, well, you know! No. No! I wasn’t really watching, just background noise. Similar to Steve from Accounting stopping by the cube to talk about nothing.

You’re a complete idiot if you don’t go back to Headquarters! 

I’m sorry to have to be your big brother and break the news, but the future of work isn’t you sitting on your couch in sweatpants deciding if you should paint an accent wall, or add some succulents to the shelf behind your “desk” that people see when you’re on a Zoom call.

If you actually care about your career, you are pushing your leadership team to get back to work, in the office. At some point, people who make decisions are going to start promoting people and the people who will get promoted will be the people with who they have the best relationship. Oh, sorry, you thought it was skill-based, performance-based promotions! That’s cute. Anywho.

The moment someone asks if you want to return to in-office work, you say, “Yes!” You tell them, you’ll actually come in right now, this moment. You already have your desk stuff packed and are ready to come back.

Yeah, yeah, it’s a “New World of Work”! 

Like a Robinhood Game Stop trader, the world is about to teach you a lesson or two. The world of work doesn’t give a sh*t about what you actually want. Oh, we’ll tell you we do, but at the end of the month, there’s this little thing we look at called financials. Look it up, it’s important. Turns out, you working at half capacity at home, isn’t the greatest thing for our financials. I mean, it is the greatest thing for your home design skills and you teaching sign language to your cat, so there’s that!

I know, it’s me, not you. I’m sure I’m wrong.

You know what. The best companies and leaders in the world have already figured this out. They figured out if you really want high levels of collaboration. Great decision-making. Great creativity. To build the next biggest thing in the world. You kind of have to be together, not on a video.

The new world of work isn’t remote. At its best, it’s probably you get treated more like an adult. Like, “Okay, Timmy, you can not come in on Wednesday because there’s a snowstorm and we think you’ll at least stay up on email, and return a couple of calls.” The pandemic showed us the new world of work, can be more flexible, and in some additional cases, remote, but for the most part we need you back in the cube.

Why Won’t This Work? 

Basically, it because we won’t do two things:

  1. We won’t really define, in true measurable, non-subjective terms, what performance looks like for your position. If we did, you might be able to work remotely and actually meet expectations of performance.
  2. We won’t put a system in place that will truly measure what the hell you’re actually doing. The technology is out there, but you feel micromanaged that someone would actually check to see if you are doing what you’re being paid to do.

So, we’ll just have most of you come back to work. We’ll do the same dance we’ve been doing for a hundred years. It could be better, but better comes with a lot of change, and right now we don’t even change our pants daily.

In the meantime, get your ass back to HQ if you really want to advance your career. And, please, spare me the “I’m not being treated fairly” when you get passed over for a promotion while sitting on your couch in pants with animals on them.

The One Thing Most TA Leaders Miss When Creating Real Change

Our Hiring Managers just won’t give us feedback, or give us interview times. My recruiters just won’t use our ATS or our CRM. I can’t get our executives to understand our brand isn’t what they think it is.

I had an F500 TA leader tell me last week that their biggest issue was not finding candidates, or getting qualified talent, it was simply we can not get our hiring managers to give us interview times. They desperately want and need talent, we have thousands of openings, but they won’t prioritize hiring, so we lose great candidates.

In the Talent Acquisition industry, we see a constant churn of TA leaders. Mostly they get fired because they are ineffective in creating the change they promised when they were hired. At least once per month, I’ll have some well-meaning TA leader reach out to me and ask me this question: “How do I continue to hire, using our broken processes and systems, but also build the new system and processes that I’m supposed to do?”

That’s the catch 22, right?

I wish I had some silver bullet answer for them, but I don’t. There’s no ‘one’ answer for this problem, but I think there are some core pieces to the answer that have to be met:

1 – You have to have an executive, or critical function hiring manager, who will be your champion when you break out your plan of change.

2 – An understanding by you and your team, that hiring as we know it right now, will not continue, and for a bit, we’ll probably get worse and some people might hate us, in the short run.

3 – Change only happens when you actually make change happen. (Damn, I should put that on a t-shirt!) 

The Final Step? 

You stop doing everything people are used to you and your team does. You create tension. You might just stop hiring altogether. Send a note out to your hiring managers explaining that Talent Acquisition is broken. To fix it, we have to blow it up. So, for the next 4 weeks, you are all on your own for hiring. Have fun!

Create Tension! 

The only way you’ll get lasting change is if others feel your same pain. Understand, when you stop hiring, you might just have a hiring manager who will be just fine hiring on their own! They don’t need you. If you and your team got killed in a bad ropes course team building accident tomorrow, let’s face it, the organization would still hire and move forward.

But, you’ve created tension and now you can build something new that will be “the” way you’ll be hiring moving forward. Maybe that is a rules-based approach where every single screened candidate sent to a hiring manager needs a 24-hour turnaround on feedback and also if a manager has you work on their opening they give you pre-assigned interview slots, etc.

If they don’t play along, you don’t work on their stuff.

Might you get fired? Yes. Of course. Might you get fired if you don’t change? Yes. Of course. Damn, isn’t Tension great! Also, why it’s really important to have an executive champion, who buys into your plan!

Every single TA Executive/Leader I speak with actually knows exactly how to fix their problem. Their real problem is they want to change, but they want to do it without adding Tension. That is where they fail.