Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Future's So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)

Post by +Victorio Milian - Twitter @Victorio_M

I was cleaning up the office that I use when I work onsite for one of my clients when I came across a stack of magazines. They were from HR Magazine, which is published by SHRM, the world's largest Human Resources association.
I love HR, but does anyone else?
It's been a while since I saw one so I started looking through them. And then I saw this one:
A collector's item, perhaps?
It's from 1999. Wow.
You can't see it in this picture but there's more to the headline than just "The 21st Century." At the bottom it states, "What's in Store for HR?"
Inside, there are various articles, all attempting to answer the above question. The contributors discuss the different generations in the workplace. They attempt to interpret the potential legal, technological, and economic landscape that Human Resources practitioners may find themselves in. Advice is offered on how HR and business leaders can best prepare themselves for these changes. 
The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades...
As with any attempt to peer into the future, some of what's discussed seems to be an extrapolation of (then) current information. For example, the idea that when Baby Boomers retire it will potentially bring about a shortage of skilled workers.

"From 2000 to 2020, annual unemployment rates fluctuate between 3.5 percent and 6.5 percent, averaging about 4.7 percent."-quote from an article within the 1999 HR Magazine

Back in 1999 I wasn't a HR professional yet. I wasn't focused on the future. My mind was on the present, which consisted of bills and building a relationship with my future wife. Oh, and the Y2K scare.
Were HR/business leaders at the time looking ahead? Were they preparing themselves and their workforces? And could anyone have predicted the last 14 years?
  • Terrorism
  • Global Recession
  • The rise of the global economy, particularly Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (the BRICS)
  • The United States electing its first African American President
As we've seen, the future is chaos. While we can get some things right, it's impossible to figure out completely. Regardless of how we may feel about the events that have shaped our current reality, it's important to never stop looking to and preparing for the future. We owe it to ourselves, and to those we impact.

How are you preparing yourself and your workforce for the future?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Papa Don't Preach

“Make it work.”  I love this phrase.  It brings to mind those hard-nosed, over-working small business owners who are keenly aware of the limited resources they have.  They have little time for holding hands and for coddling employees.  In essence, “You can’t do it? Then get out” is the attitude.

The major metropolitan areas on the East Cost of the US that I have engaged with throughout my career (Philadelphia, New York, primarily) are full of small business owners.  Many first generation citizens built their businesses on the 24/7 principle of work ethic with little concern for how much PTO they’ve accumulated or if there is an ergonomic chair for them to sit.  They busted their humps and created an atmosphere of hard work above all.

And while I love this (work ethic matters!), I have also gotten to watch these family-run small businesses push their children into roles that they have little giftedness in or desire to do.  The guilt of what a grandfather and father have done to build a company sits on the son/daughter who is primed to take over, despite the fact that the son’s/daughter's talents do not lean towards running this business.  These conversations are very difficult for a son/daughter to have with dad; there is so much of a personal nature behind it.  A father might preach the painful story of how the business began and the work it took to build it.  Guilt can easily set in.  Ideally, the father will understand and support his child's choice, but often I have seen a dismissal of such a desire and a fatherly push to take over the company.

Perhaps it’s from this traditional thought pattern that some management holds hostage employees who need to go.  Companies can find themselves in the unfortunate circumstance of desperately keeping employees because of their knowledge of systems, processes or product despite their lack of cooperation with other staff or overall lack of connectivity to the organization’s mission.  The employee has shown that he/she is disinterested and demotivated, but because he/she has been there for some time and knows everything, we have to just deal with it.

Managers have encouraged, yelled, cried with and threatened these employees.  And to the detriment of some companies, some of these employees have been promoted through the years and now serve in leadership-type roles (supervisors or managers).  Why are these flakes promoted?  How is it that the apparent reward of knowledge solely over the full package of long-term connection is quality enough to promote someone like this?  Companies find themselves stuck to do this.  Well, get un-stuck!

Our places of employment are not Guantanamo.  We are not holding prisoners, but employing people (I know, some employees think the former, but don’t you believe them!).  If someone is not the right fit, then plans need to be made to transition this person out.  Employment at will is still a valid policy in the US and is allowed to be used, as long as it does not conflict with other legislation and policy.  So, set up knowledge-sharing opportunities so that those who you do see a future with can learn from those who should go.  The words here are simple, but the action of them is tough.  Managers think about the chaos that might occur when so-and-so is fired.  If our employees are not prisoners, then why is management?  The work-relationship is not about that.

If your father said, “you have to work this company and that’s final,” there is more to work through emotionally and relationally rather than just professionally.  In our workplace, most of our relationships are not familial.  We’re not disappointing two or three generations.  Management has a job to do.  Finding and keeping talent that will move the company forward is part of our responsibility, just as moving out that talent that is destroying or, at the least, stagnating the mission.  And to be honest, we’re not doing any favors to that individual employee who doesn’t fit.  Let that person discover what he/she should connect to in a new organization.   It’s okay; we’re not their father.

Monday, January 6, 2014

4 Minutes

Dynamic, collaborative relationships are desired.  Most companies that I get to work with are often eager to find professionals who understand how to make an impact with the skill set they have while being respectful of the authorities in place already.  Smart employers often seek to find these exceptional people with vigor.

So, where are these people?  Do they exist?  After speaking with some of the ones we get to work with at Humareso, I would say 9 out of 10 have become discouraged about the talent pool.  Whether it’s a non-committal attitude, a desire for a list of all benefits offered by the company prior to the first interview or an awareness that the depth of work ethic displayed falls short of what’s actually needed in the workplace, these employers have dejection written on their metaphorical faces.

People, let’s display what should be displayed, not just as an appearance, but as a true picture of the qualities we possess.  Do I think that all candidates fall into the descriptors above?  No.  However, do I think that these employers are wrong?  No.  They are responding to what they see.  And remember, what they "see" is not always viewable.

I sometimes wish that everyone’s skill sets could be viewed, such as what a model has to do for his/her interviews.  Show me what you can do.  You can sit all day and tell me how great you are, but it’s better when I see you get up and walk the catwalk.  The tangibles are visible.  How do you move?  What does your face do when you walk?  Do you capture the look we want?  It takes about 4 minutes to know.  So, theoretically, can you show what you must in 4 minutes?

Most potential employers conducting interviews say they can tell within a few minutes if you have what it takes.  So, if the interview is a half an hour or longer, what is happening in the interviewer's mind?  You’ve got to make a quick, competent impression as an applicant.  The shortfall here is part of the reason that these potential employers feel that there is a lack in the talent pool.  They struggle to know what you know because it’s not presented in a coherent way.  If you have four minutes, what do you want to share?  Practice.

OK, naysayers, I hear you.  “Yeah, but John, when I walk into an interview, I don’t get to dictate the questions.”  After years of witnessing interviews, I would have to say that more than half of those times begin with a potential employer asking one of the following questions to start out:
  • Can you tell me a little about yourself?
  • Why are you leaving your current employer?/Why did you leave your last employer?
  • Why did you decide to apply for this position?
  • Why should we hire you?

Think about what you can do with the answer to any one of these questions.  Can you give them a great snapshot of your competencies, personality and work ethic in four minutes by answering one of these first questions?  Heck, yeah (Sorry, I will tone down the language moving forward).  Practice what that response is.  Look in the mirror and work it out.

However, I have to address those who do practice the answer.  Can you act like you believe what you’re saying?  The words are not the only important part, but the facial expressions, body language, inflection and lilt in your voice, etc., too.  Robots are not attractive and will not communicate who you really are (unless you really are a robot, and in that case, please be sure to check “other” in the Self-Identification section of the application).  Being believable is done when you are believable.  Crazy, right?

Authenticity begins with a belief in who you are and a confidence in it.  You might not be a fit for every company, but you are a fit for a company.  Your disillusionment with the process of finding a job can be seen clearly in the first four minutes, even if you’ve practiced your answer.  The spark in your eyes is dim, the life in your voice is weak and the enthused body language is replaced by a slouch.  Be prepared, yes, but be engaged, too.

I do believe that the talent pool needs to get stronger in certain skill sets (technology, written communication and mathematics) and in presenting those aptitudes.  I believe it takes work to get the job you want to get.  I don’t believe that you should just hope it works out.  Rather, work it out.  Do what you have to do to be enthusiastically ready for an interview.  Share with those potential employers why it would be great to have you as an employee based upon a clear and vibrant expression of your competencies.  Believe in who you are.  You’ve only got four minutes.