As everybody knows I have damn near an obsession with hiring hard and managing easy and other vehicles that contribute to a highly engaged work environment. Just as a refresher some of the things I include in that process are:
• The five entitlements; clear expectations, meaningful and balanced feedback, equitable compensation, a work place that is physically, psychologically, and emotionally safe, and clarity about each employee’s purpose and goals as they relate to the business.
• Then I add the pillars of engagement; respect, responsibility, information, fairness, and mutual loyalty.
• I also find that managers and leaders with key skill sets like; the ability to communicate expectations clearly, strength at giving and receiving feedback constructively, diagnosing performance issues and addressing them appropriately, coaching to improve performance, and leading by example are critical dimensions.
• Managers and leaders who understand and lead from a place of identity based trust and congruency are also key.
• Hiring whole people, not just their knowledge, skills and abilities, but also their attributes and potential to become highly aligned with the organization.
Of late we have seen multiple studies and surveys that demonstrate that organizations that enjoy high engagement benefit from almost every critical key performance indicator we care to track and I remain resolute that building engagement into the organization is much more effective than trying to bolt it on at a later point.
To be honest I am not sure many of our hiring processes have gotten a lot better over the last few decades. We have applied technology and dumbed down the skills required to manage the recruitment and selection process, but I don’t think that algorithms have done a substantially better job of predicting success than the old methodologies.
Too many organizations still rely on first impressions and their gut reaction. In too many cases we hire for expediency rather than long term fit.
In the last couple of days I came across two separate blog posts that pointed out some information that every executive should be aware of-
• The percentage of employees who describe themselves as highly disengaged has risen to 17% while those who are engaged has remained static
• A recent study of 60,000 employees in 11 companies by Harvard University concluded that the cost of a bad hire that is a “jerk” is $12,489 per year, versus the benefit of a superstar at an annual benefit of $5303. The jerk costs you 2.35 times the benefit of the high achiever!
I believe that there are two ways we get jerks in the workplace. The first is we hire them. We don’t do a thorough job of vetting them and they get in the door with a predisposition to be a jerk.
The other method is more insidious, they become jerks over time typically because we don’t provide them with the elements I mentioned previously like clear expectations, constructive feedback and corrective action and we don’t take action when their performance/behavior becomes “terminal”.
Although this is important at every level, it is especially critical when we let them enter the management ranks.
Heskett talked about this back in 1997 in his work The Service Profit Chain, back in 1997 (yep almost 20 years ago) and Rhoads and Whitlark revalidated the point in their Engagement study in 2008. To quote Pete Seeger …when will we ever learn…
My point is that this issue is eminently preventable. If we hire the right people at all levels and then we manage them appropriately the ROI is in the billions, but we need to change how we hire and how we train and reinforce appropriate management.
As has been stated previously, “your culture is defined by the worst behavior you will tolerate…and the example of the leader”
We need to do better at hiring. That means being more cautious, more deliberate, and developing and following better processes.
For candidates that means that often when you are not selected for the position it is not a function of your being unqualified or even a poor “fit”, but rather a consensus that another candidate was better.
Over the last three decades plus I have participated in the hiring and selection of literally hundreds of employees including managing the selection process for many at the executive level.
When I am managing that process if you are not an excellent candidate you don’t get presented and interviewed period. So if you are not selected it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you, we just selected someone we felt was a better match.
I can tell you that communicating with an excellent candidate who isn’t selected is one of the toughest activities I have ever done.
On the bright side those candidates often became excellent hires for other clients or even for the same client in a different role.
It isn’t going to get any easier to recruit and retain top talent. The most successful organizations will continue to manage and excel at the continuum of not only hiring the right talent, but then managing them appropriately.
Is that a competitive advantage you want to give up….?