Don’t look back

I stand to be corrected, but if memory serves me well I’ve only once employed a direct team member in two different organisations. And in that case it was many years later and after they had already left the organisation in question. To say that I find it peculiar when people hire people from their previous teams, is an understatement. It completely baffles me.

Let’s start first of all with the moral arguments, or those of good and decent etiquette. Whilst there are often contractual and legal reasons for not seeking to solicit previous employees, there’s also in my opinion a really simple point of etiquette. A bit like stalking an ex on the internet to look at the pictures of them with their new partner, or driving slowly past the house that you once lived in to see what they’ve done with the decor, there is something a little bit icky and unbecoming about going back into an organisation that has been part of your past to make it part of your future again.

But more than this, it also infers a limited self confidence and a level of protectionism and closed mindedness. The chance that the very best people that are available to do the job that you need doing are in the place that you previously worked is highly improbable. There are of course certain circumstances that might prove extenuating, when a full team moves from one organisation to a near competitor, for example. But these are nearly always closed off by the contractual restrictions I mentioned above.

One of the things that I’ve loved throughout my career is working with different people, with different perspectives, ideas and approaches. Sometimes learning to get on and find your groove can take a bit of time, but that’s as much about stretching yourself and adapting to other people’s styles. In many ways that’s one of the joys of moving to a different organisation, learning new things, new ways and working with new people (incidentally that’s also one of the joys of moving sector). Bringing the people that you’ve previously worked with is going to limit that stretch and potentially lead you to continue to have the blind spots that you previously were unaware of.

Would I rule out ever working for a CEO I’ve worked with before? No, but I’d want to know that there was enough time and space between it to make sure that they’d changed and so had I. I’d want to know that the organisation was entirely different and there would be things that I would need to learn and develop in. But would I ever take the people who’d worked for me with me? I just wouldn’t. For the very simple fact that I would want them to grow and develop and learn from different leaders in different contexts. When push comes to shove, no matter how brilliant they are it would be better for them, and it would be better for me.

It’s your money I’m after baby

So most of us go to work because we need the money.  We can put lots of wonderfully worded, good intentioned arguments together about how money is not the motivator, but let’s be honest job satisfaction doesn’t cut it when it comes to paying the mortgage.  We may choose one job or one type of work because we prefer it and trade-off some money, but essentially we are all there because we have something that we need to pay; food, shelter, energy bills, addiction to Coco Pops etc.

Which is why pay is such a sensitive issue within organisations.  Ask any compensation related questions in a survey and you will get significantly lower results than for environment or leadership for example.  I’ve worked in organisations with very defined pay structures, I’ve worked in organisations with broad pay bands and I’ve worked in organisations where there was little if any structure at all.  And I’ve heard the dissatisfaction from employees in each different scenario.

But there are two specific things that are on my mind at the moment, which I think are interrelated: negotiating salary increases on internal moves and counter offering to defend against poaching. Both are event-based situations that occur outside of the normal salary management process and require both a strategic and tactical approach, because invariably they also involve your organisational talent.

I know that decisions in either case will depend on a number of factors, the employee’s current salary, their “demands”, internal comparators, affordability etc. However, those are the mechanisms, I’m interested more in the moral/emotional arguments that are expressed in these circumstances. Is it ok to negotiate a bigger increase when you are promoted internally or should you just get what you’re given? Is it right to counter offer or should you accept that people will leave and move on?

I’ve worked in cultures where if you were being offered a promotion and you tried to argue for more money it would be seen as a black mark on your career.  You were expected to answer the call of duty and THEN get rewarded when you delivered (although funnily enough, that was always after the next milestone….). But I know in other organisations it is run of the mill stuff.  Similarly, I know organisations that see resignations as the quick route to ex-communication, with no thought for trying to retain people, and others that will fight tooth and nail for their “talent” regardless of whether they are really…..talented.

So, more questions than answers I guess. Am I making too much of this and getting confused? I know the theory, but does anyone really operate like that or are we all in the quagmire of uncertainty when it comes to pay and talent.  Is it fair game for employees to use their skills to negotiate more if they can? After all they need to feed their families and over the past few years we have hardly done much as organisations to bolster the psychological contract.

Do we need to accept as employers that this is fair game? Work is part of a transaction for money and any opportunity that arises to improve your lot, you’re in your right to take.