It’s open season for talent

It used to be that things were simpler when you wanted to recruit senior “talent” in to your organisation. Companies and sectors worked in a pretty siloed fashion and with a commercial hierarchy in place. Making it more straightforward for recruiters and managers alike.

When you needed to recruit an senior hire in to your business, you’d first identify your place in the industry hierarchy. You then had two choices, you could look up the hierarchy and identity people who were in more junior roles to your vacancy, but in a bigger organisation. Or you’d look down the hierarchy and find people in similar or larger roles, but in smaller organisations.

Of course, there were always organisations and companies of the moment. The ones that CEOs and leaders would say, “how about getting someone from ABC Corp?” but generally it was a straightforward thing.

Then things got a whole world more complicated.

As our businesses have changed and developed through the use of technology, as new “super companies” have come on to the scene and as the fetishistic adulation of the start-up has grown to gargantuan proportions, the world of talent acquisition has become much less linear.

On one hand you have the large traditional corporates, with their constant refrain of, “get me someone from Google/Facebook/Apple” and on the other, increasing evidence that these target companies are looking to established FMCG players

So what’s going on? Well nothing really, it is just the silos falling away and the increasing movement of talent both within and between industry. But the implications for those working in HR and talent management become increasingly more interesting:

  • Brand names don’t guarantee skill sets and whilst they never have, recruiting within industry always ensured a certain level of transferable knowledge that would pass as valuable. With cross industry moves it is harder to be sure.
  • Established organisations and fast growing organisations have completely different cultures and ways of working. Even if you get the skill set right, the ability to land well and navigate the organisation is an imperative for hiring.
  • The more sources there are for recruiting from, the more competitors there are for the same people. As career paths become less linear, your compelling argument needs to be greater than your status in the industry. You need to understand what you really have to offer someone from outside.
  • Compensation, benefits and career structures might need to go right out of the window. When things are no longer moving in a linear fashion, you can’t have linear structures. That offers a whole heap of pain, but it is a natural repercussion of inter industry moves.

But, at the end of the day, the biggest challenge is letting go of the things we’ve had, to gain the things we want. Bringing people in from outside of the industry, whichever way they move, means that they won’t have industry experience, it means they won’t necessarily look, behave and talk the same. And it means it will probably take them longer to get up to speed – regardless of the name or prestige of their previous company.

I am legend

Here’s a question;

When you leave your organisation, will you leave it better or worse than you found it?

It’s a pretty pivotal test for all of us, even more so if you are a senior leader or a CEO.

Have you extracted more value to your organisation than you’ve added? Is it better for having had your presence? Will it be after you’ve gone?

The simple fact is that we are all caretakers. Our job is to leave our organisation in at least the same state as we found it and our focus and intention should be to leave it even better.

It isn’t easy. Our financial markets, our economic model compel us to extract value and to return it to shareholders. Our leaders are rewarded for it, in this imperfect model.

Even in not for profit organisations, the public and third sector. It is very easy for egos and personal agendas to cloud the perspective of leadership teams.

It doesn’t matter what circumstances our business is under, our thoughts should always be beyond our own safety and security, our own comfort, our own personal gain.

Our reward should not be in personal adulation, false empires or the trappings of power.

Our reward should be knowing we’ve left a sustainable legacy.

We should not put off the decisions, hide from the challenges or avoid the truths of today, but face them head on to create the hope for tomorrow.

When we leave our organisations, we should leave them ready for the next generation to build and grow. We should leave them fit, healthy and ready.

Judgment is not when we are in situ, but when we are not.

So when you’re facing a tough decision, a change, a need to repurpose, rethink and realign. Ask yourself not whether this suits the needs of now, but whether it has to be done for tomorrow.

Delivery is everything

If I had one single wish, something that I could change about the world that we live in, it would be to ensure that people delivered on their commitments.

The amount of time that is wasted chasing others to follow through, courier companies, our public services, utility companies and of course colleagues at work. The time is totally unproductive – in and of itself, it moves nothing, adds no value, creates no meaning.

And think about those services that pretty much always deliver, the restaurant where the service is faultless, the retailer who always hits their delivery slot, the bank that can always help. The delight that is created through the consistent and regular fulfilment of its stated obligations.

In a world where the consumer is king, delivery is divine.

My advice to anyone entering in to a career in HR, that wants to change the perception of the function and profession, is to focus on delivery as a critical tenet of your strategy, both personally and as a function as a whole.

When dates are set, keep to them. When promises made, fulfil them. When actions agreed, complete them. If you want to create the promised delight, then the delivery of the solution is as important as product. And that repeats every day.

There’s a phrase in restaurant kitchens, “you’re only as good as your last service”. If you want to make a real step change in your organisational perception, take this to heart and realise that consistent delivery is key.

In fact, it’s (almost) everything.

Where are you going?

As I stood on the train platform this morning, I waited side by side with the same people that I stand with every morning, making their way in to our capital city to do business – we have a long, but a relatively straightforward commute.

Just before Christmas, I made the mistake of being in one our capital’s busiest train stations at rush hour and stood in a queue for the underground. Four or five trains must have past before I managed to even get to the front of the queue.

No, this isn’t a moan about the joys of commuting, (you can follow #traincrimes on Twitter for that) instead it started me thinking about the physical construction of our businesses and our locations and in particular the impact on health, wellbeing and productivity.

Let’s take an employee that lives in one of the commuter belts south of the city that serves that busy station, they have a house that they have a significant mortgage on, but they want a family and can’t afford to live in the centre and have enough room. So instead they buy an overpriced house within a “reasonable” commuting distance, but so does everyone else, so every morning they get on a train that doesn’t have enough seats and stand for forty minutes or so in to the centre where they queue for a tube train to take them another twenty minutes to their place of work.

In that hour and a bit, they’ve experienced, physical discomfort, stress, anxiety and pressure. And then they arrive at work, ready to earn a living and serve the company that employs them. How ready are they and how much are they really bringing to work? And multiply that by the number of employees in the building.

At the same time, the company itself is paying higher rent and rates, higher salaries and competing with a greater range of companies with a similar offering, all so that the employee can afford the overpriced house in the same commuter belt as every one else. All siting for the same fish in the same pool, all with the same challenges. What differentiates them?

And why do we do this? Well ask people and they’ll tell you that, “that’s where business is done”. But is it? We talk about operating in a global economy, we have meetings and conference calls around the world, we can connect with people from different countries and different continents at the click of a button. But if we want to do business, we need to be in the same place?

The economics just don’t make sense. How is it that the business that are supposed to be driven by capitalist virtue, don’t respond to market forces which would quite clearly drive a different agenda and a different set of behaviours? My guess is that there is something about the vested interests of the senior population.

We talk a lot about the correlation between the quality of workplace and the quality of work, but we seldom talk about the location of the workplace and the quality of life. People will jump to the simple (and incorrect) answer that we need to be allowing more people to work flexibly and encouraging remote working. The problem with this is you lose as much as you gain.

The future? It’s regional diversification. The economic arguments are clearly there, but moreover the employee benefits are also achievable – a rare alignment – which could be one of the keys to improved productivity. The clever are starting to understand that and the first movers will be the winners. But they’ll also realise that this isn’t just chasing cheaper rent – its changing your organisational model.