How much are you really caring about your people? In your leadership role or business, how well are you empowering your people to doing what it takes for everyone to succeed? Or are you really only caring for the “bottom line” numbers?
Recruitment is a great place to show who really cares
I recently experienced an example of how the recruitment process can be a great indicator of how little some companies “give a …” regarding the respect and the dignity accorded to the people they are looking to recruit. My criticism refers to both recruiters and the actual staff of the hiring organizations. There was a blatant lack of care and respect for the candidate all the way through almost every part of the interview process.
It made me think about how much “hollow spin” there is around what companies refer to when they say “our people are our greatest asset”.
In my coaching and mentoring work I often assist business executives and professionals through “forks in their road”, which sometimes includes helping them to plan and execute a move to another organization. Apart from helping them to figure out “what they want”, this can also include the fine-tuning of their resume and assisting them in the planning and preparation for them “selling themselves” as well as the resultant negotiations. In that process I have been exposed to numerous recruiters and also HR and other employees of the various hiring companies. And I have to say that my experience has often “not been pretty”.
How much do recruiters really care?
Throughout my corporate career as well as working with helping numerous clients, I have worked with some superb and professional recruiters as well as had some truly remarkable experiences with HR professionals and others involved in the recruitment process.
However, I have also been appalled at some of the blatantly obvious “I don’t give a …” behaviour.
Just as a simple example: why does it appear so difficult to keep an applicant informed of the process and in the picture of where they stand? How is it that even after investing in a days travel to be in a different capital city for the interview, the applicant is told “we’ll let you know by Friday” and only when the applicant follows up (both through the recruiter or directly with the company) a week later because there has been no communication whatsoever, that they hear that they were declined (often without any real or useful insights of the reasons) or some lame excuse or some “very polished coughing and spluttering”?
Can You Really Be Too Busy To Care?
I would really like to give most organizations the benefit of the doubt here. Almost everyone I come across in management or leadership positions today are extremely busy. In fact, overly busy. And in a significant proportion, stressfully busy and bordering on overwhelm to try and stay in control, let alone getting and staying on top or staying ahead.
I have found that the example above is no exception. Surely it can’t be the case that these leaders don’t care? I’m afraid the reality is probably that it is but one important thing amongst all the other things competing for their priority. And so if they don’t keep their “emphasis torch” shining on the recruitment process, it too will be allowed to “slip” into mediocrity.
If we just look at the corporate realities today, how many times do you hear of friends and associates talking about their company being “restructured” these days? Happens all the time, doesn’t it? To remain competitive, everything is constantly under scrutiny. And that competition is relentless. Innovation is all around us and the best brains are engaged to develop the smartest and the best options. Always focused on finding just those few extra points of advantage over the other. Everyone and everything keeps leapfrogging everything else.
The result is that we keep letting more and more people go, ostensibly because they are supposedly being replaced by technology or smarter processes. But we all know that this is not true and all too often “the numbers” and “the bean-counters” win through and we simply have to cut headcount. That often leaves the same amount of work to be performed by far less people, and putting just as much additional pressure on the remaining managers and the leaders.
Whatever the cause, to the applicant the perception of these organizations behaviour is one of “they don’t give a…”, right?
How big is the “young leadership” impact?
In a similar vein, I have also found another contributor – inexperienced leadership. I can’t tell you how often I have either coached “older “people through or after retrenchment to hear that they were replaced by someone half their age or at half their cost, and hence usually also half the experience.
I am also coaching more and more such young managers or leaders in how to get and stay on top of roles they are often clearly too young or inexperienced or insufficiently equipped for.
Management Versus Leadership
My experience has also been that the difference between management and leadership comes into play in a big way.
Management is about doing the right things right. It is about efficiency and effectiveness. It’s about containing risks. It isn’t so much about where the ship is going, it’s about how well it is going there, even if it’s going completely in the wrong direction. And it is often about how it can “get” the resources to do what has to be done. Without consideration for impact on the people involved or affected, employee, contractor or customer.
Leadership on the other hand is about vision and direction and about inspiration and motivation. It’s about growth and sustainability. It needs to focus on having the right number of the right resources in place to drive the outcomes that everyone wants. And in a way that inspires and empowers everyone to want to contribute.
Of course leadership will engage good effective and efficient management, but not at the expense of “the big picture” and all the “willingness” to be part of something they all believe in.
This never ending need for balance across both is what I have learned to differentiate successfully growing organizations from “stressfully growing organizations”. The successfully growing organizations usually have a greater degree of care and will also often be labeled “learning organizations” where mistakes are tolerably managed and not punished but where lack of performance. And lack of care are dealt with professionally but severely.
Those are the ones that won’t allow the above scenarios to eventuate. And those are the ones that end up with the best people that want to be there and want to succeed and contribute to the overall success.
Do you know what people remember?
I’ve said this many times and because it’s so relevant, I’ll repeat it here again: “people won’t remember what you said or did as much as they’ll remember how you made them feel.”
Imagine how the person in the above recruitment example felt about their experience with this recruiter and with this company. Why would they be interested in joining such an organization? If that’s how carelessly they already treat prospective employees, how badly might they treat or how much less could they care about their actual employees? The very resources their business success will depend on? Their valuable people assets.
I have a great example of the converse. When I left South African Breweries (now SAB Miller) to emigrate to Australia, we still had 3 weeks to wrap everything up. When I said goodbye to my boss to hand in keys etc, he said: “no, you keep the keys and the petrol card for the company car, and drop it and the keys off at security on your way to the airport when you leave. It’s on us. Have a great last few weeks”. Writing about that here proves to you just how much I valued and remember such an uplifting gesture….
Where is the Empathy?
In the recruitment space, we are dealing with people; people with hopes, and expectations and aspirations. Sometimes with personal circumstances that make them dependent on winning that job. Even the most senior are nervous.
Surely leaving the applicant “hanging” over the weekend (or week or month) can’t be a tactical negotiation strategy to “soften them up” by keeping them “on tender-hooks”? No, I reckon the absence of such progress updating is indicative of a lack of empathy for the applicant (and care for the process). Surely a quick phone call to keep everyone in the loop isn’t asking too much? Surely we can’t be that busy that there isn’t time for that? Even if it’s just an SMS on the mobile phone? Isn’t that a minimum level professional level of service or treatment anyone can expect? I think this is indicative of “I don’t give a…” attitude.
However, what I’ve also learned in the large corporate space, that the business unit managers or the executive leadership or the business “owners” are often blissfully unaware of such blatant abuse of their image. Why? Because of all the “filtered spin” that they are “fed” up the line by (often overwhelmed) function leaders needing to “protect their patch”.
Due diligence exposes mediocrity
In my blog Hitting the ground running I speak about the “homework” applicants ought to be investing in researching the company they are looking to join. Sometimes access to relevant and useful information can be hard to come by, however, how strong and visible a message does the applicant receive when the above behaviour is so evident? And how sure are you that this might not be happening in your very own organization and that you are unaware of it?
So what next?
Are you the owner or an executive leader or manager of a business that engages skilled people to provide scalability and growth for your organization’s success? Then it is incumbent upon you to assure that this process is as professionally set up and run as all the others that are required to run a successful business. Millions spent in brand image marketing can be offset in no time at all by such blatant “I don’t give a …” behaviour, right under your nose.
If your business has developed a set of values you believe in and expect everyone to believe in, then please be sure that you and your leaders actually “live” these values yourselves. Particularly if you expect everyone else in the organization to do the same. Please be sure that your processes assure that too.
And no matter how much emphasis you need to place on “the numbers”, please remind yourself (often) how much better these numbers can be achieved when there is an air of trust and respect and enthusiastic pursuit of commonly held objectives by everyone on board. And that this is proudly extended to those being looked at for recruitment.
And if anywhere in the business you find evidence of an attitude that suggests “I don’t give a…” then I believe it is an absolute requirement that you stamp that out ruthlessly and immediately and unashamedly. It is the cancer that is growing through too many organizations despite today’s competitive climate, where mediocre people or mediocre processes and poor leadership are allowed to derail the best investments.