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CNN has published this article on just another twist in the “talent battle” that does not exist. Read the article and the comments.
If you cannot hire people in this economy, in any economy, I don’t know if I’d trust you with watering plants or raking leaves. This is not just sad, this is a sheer disgrace for the woman in the picture and, as a result, for the organization she works for. Bad publicity and I wouldn’t want her to be a part of my organization.
This is a great example of how awful hiring practices can be and a reason for massive underemployment.
Based on my recent article.
Jack has been with the company for almost ten years. On a Thursday afternoon, he was called to the HR, where he was informed that his services were no longer required. Not that he’d done anything wrong, but the economy is tough, you know. A security guard was called to escort him to the door like if he were a convict. His personal effects would be couriered to him later.
Elsewhere, a company’s new CEO reduced the middle maangement layer by half, sending some 120 employees home. Here is how it looked from inside: a phone in a cubicle rings. After a 30-second conversation, its owner stands up and makes his or her way to the HR, never to return. The whole organization is terrorized for days. No explanation follows.
Yet some other place, every Friday at 3pm for about a year, names are called over a PA. Their holders are to report to a meeting room. Everyone knows that they are gone. This goes on for a year. Morale is at its worst.
Here is my advice to you if you are considering taking a job offer or are assessing the state of the HR department within the organization. Before looking at their promotional materials, policies or initiatives, look to understand how they go about letting people go. That’s the basic litmus test.
It is not easy to find a good tradesman, such as a plumber or an electrician. Really good ones seem to be booked up for months if not years and I was wondering, well, how long exactly does it take to develop that kind of a track record.
There is a roofer operating in the area where I live who I will call David here. When I asked another local tradesman if he could recommend anyone who is the best roofer around, he said that David is by far the best and probably the most expensive, however I’d have to get in line because he is booked solid for many months.
Apparently, he has a dozen guys working for him and they can strip and relay any roof faster and better than anyone around. They have the best tools on the market, some of which are customized. They take on complex and problem roofs that others don’t want to touch. Once the project is finished, the site is left spotless.
David is widely respected among other tradesmen who readily recommend his services, like it happened in my case.
David is 25 and has been in business for just about 5 years.
In organizations, we need to judge and reward people by the results they produce, not by their age, seniority, certifications, years on the job (doing the same thing all over again) or how carefully they fill out their time sheets or how much time they spend in the office.
In life, results is the only thing that matters. Seriously.
In my recent article, I suggested that you shouldn’t be hiring via recruiters or even getting your own HR to write a job advertisement.
Here is a good example, sent to me by someone in Toronto, Canada. It is from an advertisement on workopolis.com:
“Strong work ethic (40-50 hour week)”
Apparently, it is now measured in hours. Who writes these things?
UPDATE – August 12, 2009 – Someone posted a question on the Organizational Development group page in LinkedIn, asking how to quantify integrity.
I share 30 concrete (and sometimes controversial) ideas on building a winning team that can be implemented right away in this article published by Techrepublic.com
My latest article written for CBS.
“Visit the nearest bookstore and you will find uncountable volumes on team building, hiring, and personnel management. Browse the Internet and you will discover scores of articles, blog entries, and other content devoted to the topic. There is a good reason for this amount of attention to the topic. A leader cannot act alone and is only as good as his team. When we talk about Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Jack Welch, we mustn’t forget that there are people behind them, a team that supports and enables them.
So, given the abundance of writing on the subject out there, why this article?
The answer is simple: on an average, organizations suck at it — all the books and articles and other knowledge notwithstanding. As a consultant, I see a lot of environments, and the sheer number of teams that have a potential to be absolute stars, but are mediocre at present, is astounding. I would like to inspire the reader and provide some ideas for changing things for the better. I cannot be in every organization all the time to fix the problem, so this is simple way of leveraging the reading audience for maximum result.”
Read the rest of the article: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/tech-manager/?p=1620
At a recent event, a man came over to introduce himself. He explained that he was a project manager and wanted to “pick my brain on something”. I inquired about the kind of projects he typically engaged.
“Oh, system implementations with budgets of $1-2 million.”
It occurred to me at the time that project budget is a useless but commonly used metric. What does it tell us about the size or complexity of projects this gentleman runs? Nothing, for different organizations go about projects differently. Some throw money at it, hire dedicated teams, buy the best equipment, and involve consultants. Others spend as little as possible relying solely on internal resources, adding the project to a list of responsibilities for a few people within the organization. It is meaningless to compare the two projects on a basis of budget because the approach is so diverse.
Furthermore, an argument can be made that the same project carried out on a strict budget is more challenging and speaks to the mastery of the project manager and abilities of his team. After all, which chef is more skilled, the one who prepares a delicious meal from a limited number of ingredients in a field kitchen or the one who whips up the same meal from a fully stocked pantry, in a restaurant kitchen with a crew of helpers?
The question on budgets is often posed in job interviews, but the truth is, you should never base your decision on the answer. This metric has no meaning and should not be used.
I pay no attention to certifications and ratings. I have been through it too many times when an all-decorated purple belt of something turns out to be a major disappointment. In associates, I look for intelligence, curiosity, drive, and passion. It never interests me how long the person has been in this industry, nor how many of those feel-good certificates he or she collected.
As a result, unlike the organizations that talk about hiring talent and fail at it, I am able to hire the real deal, not “team players” (they are typically not), seat warmers or other species of the ubiquitos office plankton. It is not that difficult when you are capable of making the right decision.
But here is another example: my wife and I went out with friends on Saturday. The restaurant we chose has a bunch of awards.
Awards don’t matter, though, if the artichoke dip has no artichoke in it and is inedible due to copious amounts of undercooked garlic (and I love garlic, mind you), if frites are limp and soggy and the greens are not green at all.
Why are we obcessed with certifications and rankings when we are the best judge of the quality?
The idea of ”going on your own” is attractive to many for the obvious reasons of independence and control over one’s destiny. As businesses shed people today like larch needles after the first frost, many turn to considering consulting seriously.
I went on my own after a successful career of 15 years in corporate IT in 3 countries and walking the classic career path from operator and programmer to executive. For a long time before making the leap, I yearned for the times when I would be running my own business, being my own boss. It finally happened 3 years ago and I’ve never looked back.
Being an independent consultant offers unsurpassed learning opportunities and a variety of assignments (if you can sell your services, that is). While travel is almost always a given, today’s technology has reduced it greatly as collaboration tools and communications become more and more powerful and efficient. Improving the client’s condition is venerable, satisfying and, frankly, well compensated.
Can you make it as an independent consultant?
A few traits are requisite, such as the ability to communicate effectively, the presence and, obviously, the knowledge of the subject matter. Pick up “Getting started in consulting” by Dr Alan Weiss if you are pondering this career path for a great discussion on this and other topics. In this article, I want to point out three important considerations that I believe to be critical; yet they are subtle enough to escape most people’s decision making process.
For the purpose of this discussion, I distinguish between consulting and contracting, the latter being a temporary placement with a client for the duration of a project or a set term. Here, I am talking of the former.
Structure, commitments and priorities
If you are a part of organization, you show up at work in the morning knowing what you are going to do. You have meetings lined up, voicemail light flashing, people popping their heads in your office. Your boss gives you assignments, you, in turn, task your reports. There is a structure created by schedule, commitments and priorities, which tell you how to use your time. This structure “happens” and is far from being of your own doing.
Running your own business means that unless you are besieged with client calls from the onset (a nice problem to have!), you will have time on your hands and no one but you will have to decide how to use it with the best return possible. There will be no structure to speak of, nothing that resembles the one I described above.
It’s a big deal. More than once people told me they wouldn’t be able to succeed in such uncertain setting. Would you?
Coffee, water cooler…
As a corporate woman or man, you may dislike a lot of things that come as a part of the package. Commute, office gossip, your boss who drives you nuts, high-maintenance employees… Wouldn’t it be nice to escape it all?
Sure it will, but if you have been a part of a large outfit for a few years, it is likely that you are used to being a part of something bigger, with its culture, challenges, dynamics and little idiosyncrasies, with the coffee machine and the water cooler and the cafeteria. We are communal animals, after all…
Do not underestimate the significance of these things to your happy self. I have seen many people becoming miserable and even falling into depression because of the lack of belonging. Solo consulting can be lonely and you will have to build these accoutrements yourself: network with fellow consultants, read newspapers, watch news, join associations and, if you have to, buy that coffee machine.
I have done it and so have my colleagues, it is not that hard, yet it does not happen by itself.
Getting things done
Whatever you do today in the corporate world has its boundaries. You may be the head of marketing, which means that you are probably not involved in Operations. You may be a network administrator, building and maintaining networks and completely removed from the sales process. Rarely do you have a staff member who is involved in all aspects of the enterprise, and not just merely involved but actually being a key decision maker in every area.
Guess what, once you are a consultant, you will be running your own business from A to Z, from IT to accounting, from product development to marketing. You don’t have to do your own books or set up your network, in fact, most often you shouldn’t, but you will make all the key decisions across the full spectrum of your little company’s functions.
The most successful consultants I know have an incredible knack of making things happen. For instance, you have decided to create a series of podcasts on your consulting specialties. It is not enough to just think up the concept but you actually have to line up the technology, record it, make it accessible to your audience and market it. The likelihood is that in your corporate life several people would be involved, but now it is all up to you. It can be difficult and you have to have the discipline to stick to it and diligently execute, from the beginning to the end.
As you have read my three points, you may have started questioning your thoughts about going on your own. This is fine and I wrote this short article not to discourage you but to inform. Independent consulting offers incredible experiences and as with every vocation, you have to love what you do to be happy.