Bad Management

Some Comments on a Recent Tom Woods Show

I’ve commented a few times on Tom Woods’ show.  Now, to be straight, I like the guy.  His political ideology more or less matches mine, but we came to it from two totally different starting points.  He retains enough of his neoconservative roots to grate on me occasionally.  Plus, I think he needs to pull his head out of his theory sometimes and address the real world.  In general, you’ll find when libertarians or anarcho capitalists respond to criticisms, they always defend the theoretical free market, when in fact the objections people are raising are to specific events involving specific people and often specific companies or corporations.  For example, when someone objects to Wal Mart’s low salaries or business practices, these types will immediately take this as an attack on capitalism and free markets.  Here’s the thing though: Wal Mart has nothing to do with free markets.

They are a corporation; that status, its privileges and protections, are created and enforced by the government.  They often push healthcare costs, these days usually assumed to be a portion of a person’s compensation, on to… the government, and thus tax payer’s wallets.  They have used eminent domain, used the government, to steal land from people to build their stores.  They have used the public highway system to their advantage, and to my memory according to some articles well beyond what they pay in taxes for said roads, and who knows if they’re paying anything near what they would pay if the roads were private, as I believe they should be.  Which means they are receiving yet another government subsidy.  Many of their products are manufactured and imported from countries with which the US does not have free trade, but highly managed and controlled trade, and their size and monetary influence means they essentially get to buy access to goods and cheap labor from the government, which would be available to them and everyone else without the government, but it’s kind of hard to accept that, given travel costs, all the goods currently made offshore are really better off being made there, the division of labor and comparative advantage not withstanding.  I mean, in a totally free market, would it really pay to burn thousands upon thousands of gallons of bunker oil in transport ships to bring rubber slippers from China to the US?  Maybe, maybe not, the point is the market really isn’t operating in an unhampered fashion, which would be necessary to really know the answer to this question.

So Wal Mart really has jack shit to do with the free market.  It’s possible they may not even exist in their current form if markets were free.  My guess is a lot of business would be smaller and more dispersed in free markets, but that’s all guess work.  In any event, the advent of the mega corporation is a trend facilitated and more often than not subsidized by the government.  And mega corporations are tied to the government intimately, but also in a combative fashion at times, because they too are targets.  The government has to answer to some degree to the populace, so these companies have to act in such a way, and provide information in such a vein to at least convince people they aren’t the glorified slave owners many really are.

So in this most recent podcast I listened to, Tom had a guest on and they seemed genuinely amazed that people feel like they’re working more hours.  The reality is hours worked are a mixed bag in the modern world.  But what really got me was their stats, because it was all the usual bullshit I see quoted where exempt employees are quoted as working 40 hours a week.  I’ve seen this bullshit in memes put out by teachers I know on Facebook, comparing hours worked in the private sector to them to prove how oh so over worked and underpaid they are, and of course their assumption was that at 40 hours private sector workers drop everything they’re doing and head out for the weekend, never to see their job again for 48 straight hours.  This assumption was also voiced by Woods’ guest, Ryan McMaken, when he said, to paraphrase, these days people leave work at 5 PM every day.


The problem with these claims, and most of the stats I’ve seen that ‘support’ them, is that they include exempt employees.  Being exempt just means you get paid on a salaried basis on what is presumed by the government to be an on average 40 hour week, and if memory serves this was a part of COBRA.  Basically it means your job has a hard time assigning a defined time to it, or you’re at a level where it’s expected that longer, harder, and sometimes odd hours might be required.  So your employer, if you’re exempt, doesn’t owe you overtime.  You’re supposed to work as needed.  But, they’re also supposed to throw some flexibility back your way; you’re not supposed to be punching a clock and having your hours tracked by HR Nazis; you’re assumed to also have some weeks where you work below forty hours; etc.  What really happened though, is that employers classified anyone and everyone they possibly could as exempt, and essentially got to ditch a massive amount of overhead for overtime.  Many employers – in fact every one I’ve worked for but one – had employees classified as exempt that were in no way supposed to be, and one employer I worked for a while ago actually got busted for this by the DOL, and ended up shelling out a load of back pay in the form of overtime.

Now to the idiots who, as mentioned above, will rush to the defense of the free market which doesn’t exist: Yes, people should be allowed to contract for employment under whatever terms they find acceptable!  That is not what is happening here.  There are fewer and fewer jobs, employees have less and less power, and these companies are using a government created and enforced legal distinction to not pay people  overtime.  How many people do you know who, if we did have a free market, a  solid honest money, and a surplus of jobs, would jump at the idea of not being paid for their time but to work for an extra 25% to 50% of time with no additional compensation?  Yeah, I’m sure everyone would be totally jumping at that opportunity…  There would be contractors and people who would not work on a timed basis, I’m sure, but for those people like factory workers, whose jobs will always have productivity measured at least in part on a timed basis, if you think they would just jump en masse at the idea of working ridiculously long hours for nothing in return, you’re fucking nuts.

The point is employers have an incentive to classify people as exempt, and this is especially true if their jobs require consistently longer hours, and when this data is reported it necessarily makes it look like hours worked are way lower than they really are.  Most exempt employees I know work 50 to 60 hours a week.  Some more, but even if you pick 50 that’s a 25% increase in hours worked over the claimed 40 for a significant portion of the population.  That’s not chicken change, and something Mr. Woods and his guest should have addressed before trying to portray the modern work-a-day American as some ungrateful prick who should be thankful his kids don’t have to work in a coal mine to feed the families.  Yes, conditions for the average person have improved dramatically, and I credit the market with all of the improvements.  Rather, I credit those aspects of the market that are still free.  But we do not live in a totally free market, but one which is highly regulated by the government, and through monetary debasement and regulation of the market from root to leaf, companies have devalued labor, and I believe to a far greater degree and in a manner that reaches further than Woods, libertarians, and anarcho capitalists who originate from the right tend to realize.  They come in with a heavy supply side/corporatist tinge and they never seem to lose that bias, looking with rose colored glasses on everything corporations do, and running to defend some idealistic theory when people levy criticisms at what real, extant people and corporations have done, which is never in a vacuum but in the government managed market we live in.  Hence, why they believe it when Government Mafia backed Corporation A, B, or C, tells them their workforce doesn’t work so many hours, no, not at all…  Oh!, those exempt people?  Well, maybe they sometimes work more than 40 hours, but trust us, it’s not often…  Once more,


The government has massively retarded the advance of working conditions in this country, and governments have done so across the world in general, and just because people aren’t living at pre industrial revolution levels of a poverty anymore does not mean they haven’t been significantly stolen from, or made to bear an enormous opportunity cost by government interventions made in favor of hard lobbying, campaign supporting corporations.

Here’s a link to the page for the show I recently commented on.  Like I said, I like Woods and his show, and especially his Contra Krugman show.  But he often does shows where he veers off into theory over reality, or where he seems to buy into bad information or some idealized way he thinks things work in the corporate world without seeming to have any grasp on the reality of the situation.  He’s an academic who worked hard and, with a little luck, carved out a nice niche for himself and so perhaps he hasn’t had his soul crushed to a significant degree by corporate America to truly grasp how fucked a lot of companies are, he really should try maintaining on a day job.  And he’s commented on this in the past with the implication that people should just break into the twenty-first century, and start a blog or something, which to me indicates he’s spending too much time around sales people and get rich quick types.  The majority of the people on this planet can’t start a blog and live off of it, or sell agorist chocolates to people in Detroit while getting their food from urban farming.  The majority of people on this planet need, and will have, a regular job for a long time to come.  A 9 to 5 job, which is really 7 to 7 for many of them while earning them no extra money for those extra hours, and that’s a problem.  And then when they listen to Woods and McMaken josh around with each other about how many hours people are working, vs how many hours each listener knows he’s working, he’s going to know right away, or assume, that these guys are largely full of shit.  That’s not good if you want the message of markets and freedom to spread.

H1 B Article

This article is worth a read here.  The author is right, and wrong.  I’d say, in a free economy, come who may and work or not.  The problem is we don’t live in a free economy, we live in a highly managed one.  Managed mostly to the benefit of employers, who then turn around and demand workers at wages even lower than they’ve managed to push them already.  If you’re running a company and the only way you can get someone to take a job is via a form of indentured servitude, and to catch them fleeing from having to live next to a leper colony, you’re doing something horrifically wrong.

And even though I’m a libertarian bordering on anarcho-capitalist, held back only by the fact that I think it’s a nice ideal but will never happen, I have to say if you don’t understand why H1Bs piss people off, you’re just burying your head in the sand.  As if these crony capitalist corporate leeches don’t get enough handouts, bailouts, subsidies, and favors, then they get to bitch about nonexistent talent shortages and import borderline slaves to work for, well, slave wages?  It won’t be long before this kind of behavior among the corporate elite gets them a crowd with torches and pitchforks at their door.

Another of Ted’s LinkedIn Posts

Another good post by this guy here, I have some comments to offer, with quotes extracted I will comment on, but the gist of the post is that productivity has gone up quite a bit from the 1950s, but we’re still working minimum 40 hour weeks.

“So: what does all this mean?”

What does working the same 40 hours – and to be honest usually consistently way more – per week, and being dramatically more productive while getting roughly the same pay in real terms, mean? It means you’re getting screwed big time, because while your productive output has skyrocketed relative to the 50’s worker, your pay is roughly the same in real terms; buying power, or the standard of living you can afford.

“Why are we still so concerned with a 40-hour+ work week?”

Because it sets an arbitrary standard allowing for control over people corporations otherwise wouldn’t get, basically a holdover from the industrial revolution. Managing to performance and outputs would make more sense, but it’s way easier to make sure someone puts in their 40 hours – again, usually way more these days too – per week than it is to make sure they actually do their job well. Plus employers always think a productivity gain means more for them over a given time period. It never, or rarely occurs to them, that people have limits or that labor carries dis-utility, and as such their employees might prefer and expect a little more time for themselves as non monetary compensation, especially considering as their increase in output is almost never matched with an increase in compensation.

Basically when you look at stats and analysis like these, it paints a picture of a labor force that is increasingly robbed of the value of its output, which is usually redistributed to the famed 1%.  Of course, a decent economist will tell you a relative difference in wealth isn’t indicative of a problem in itself; why complain X has five yachts and you only have 1?  However, I think such people are too dismissive of the fact that these wealth differences matter to people.  When you see your boss pull up in a new BMW on the day of lay-offs, it makes an impression.  Plus, I feel people know inherently when they’re being screwed, or when the value they’re receiving is not necessarily in line with what they’re giving in return.

It’s my contention that via monetary, fiscal, trade, and other policies and protective legislation businesses have protected themselves from competition and produced what amounts to a permanent jobs shortage, forcing a devaluation of labor and what amounts to real wages that aren’t rising commensurate with the labor force’s increase in productivity over the years.  As labor gets more productive, it should become more valuable in real terms.  That is, nominal salaries may go up or down, but the buying power/standard of living received in return for work should have a secular trend upward along with productivity.  As that value received has, by most measures I’ve seen, stagnated or fallen, that’s a serious indication that something is massively fucked up with the system.  To the extent you can trust econometrics, George Carlin was right.  It’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.  In the waking world, people are working more and more for increasingly lower returns, and sacrificing their health and families and friendships on the altar of 60+ hour work weeks.

… And Yet More “Recruiting is Sales!” Bullshit

Yet another article, again predictably on LinkedIn, claiming recruiting is sales.

And yet another blog poster blaming HR for shitty results.  Now, to be fair to the author, Lou Adler, I have found his techniques very helpful in recruiting.  His Performance Based Hiring system is something I’d recommend everyone take a look at, because you’ll invariably learn something useful.  But when you read his stuff, it’s always a lot of anecdotal ‘evidence’ and very little actual evidence.  Up until recently he was one of those people who always claimed ‘passive’ candidates were better, but he and that view in general took a big enough beating recently that it seems even he backed off of that in a recent post.  Specifically because there’s literally zero evidence to justify that view.  Passive candidates are more numerous at any given point in time, that’s all.  How they have performed or will perform in the future is completely independent of their job search status.  I like to think my and others’ heckling of this bullshit on sites like might have helped lead to this shift in rhetoric.

So, here in this article Lou wants recruiting to report to the CEO.  Here I’ll have to go Lou’s way and speak in anecdotes and experience, I’ve looked and I’m not sure the evidence on this subject.  My suspicion is he could be right, but there is a deeper problem; assuming recruiting is sales, and a lack of accountability, and sales people are aces at avoiding accountability.

The idea that HR is some obstacle is really not the case.  As both an agency and corporate recruiter, I’ve worked with HR departments that were helpful, and others that were obstacles.  I’ve worked with hiring managers that were helpful, and others that were obstacles.  In the C suite I’ve worked with execs who were helpful, and others that were obstacles.  The reporting relationships were generally not the issue, the issue was no one gave a shit and no one was accountable.  My suspicion is the problems with recruiting stem from the fact that no one really gives a shit about their employees, plain and simple.  Here in the US you’re “lucky to have a job,” our hours worked are up, our benefits are down, our PTO is basically non existent, and our wages are largely stagnant.  This does not indicate an environment that values employees, but rather one that sees them as disposable.

There are two views of sales in my world: good sales people are into needs fulfillment and will advise and consult with people to make good decisions, bad sales people are scum bags chasing a commission, who will do anything to get it.  The majority of recruiters, in my experience, fall into the latter category.  And even for the existing ‘good’ ones, few companies out there are concerned enough with meeting the needs of their employees in order to get them engaged and retain them, much less recruit them.  More often than not, they just work them to burn out and then replace them.  There’s just not that much to sell when the preferred approach to employment is churn and burn, to be blunt.

More ‘sales’ does not solve the problem.  Sales people are not accountable in good organizations because they’re good sales people, they’re accountable because there’s a good manager there bringing objective reality to the situation, so when they say their numbers aren’t at quota, s/he can look at their excuses and say objectively if they have a point or not.  There are objective stats to go over and measure against.  More sales will not bring that to recruiting, nor will changing the reporting relationships, but accountability will.

In Lou’s own method, you have to justify a ‘No’ vote on a hire as much as a ‘Yes.’  ‘No’ can cost the company as much as ‘yes,’ if it’s the wrong move.  But it takes an accountant to realize that, not a sales person.  Sales people are notoriously blind to opportunity cost, and the concept of accountability is often in direct contradiction in their minds with the customer always being right.  What’s missing from recruiting is supply chain and accounting principles that let people spot the cost of not hiring and bad hires, or poor retention, not a lack of sales.  They need to understand the cost of not having what you need when you need it, or having the wrong stuff there.  If anything there’s too much damn sales of the bullshit kind in recruiting, and too little objective reality, too few people calling bullshit on bad hiring decisions, whether it’s not hiring or hiring the wrong person.  A buyer in a factory who refused to buy materials needed to keep it going, and who gave vague ass reasons about ‘fit’ and ‘culture’ as to why they didn’t buy when the factory ground to a halt, would be fired.  As a manager or recruiter, you get praised for doing the same thing, and sales people facilitate this bullshit, they don’t check it.

As for reporting to the CEO, well you can go that route or not, I don’t think it will make a difference one way or another.  The real truth is the costs of poor recruiting and poor management are not captured by most companies except in the vaguest, most diffuse ways, much less are they factored into the bottom line calculations, so the costs of poor decisions are unacknowledged and unseen by most.  We live in a world where labor is increasingly seen as disposable, where the costs of treating labor as disposable aren’t even tallied in most cases, and yet where every company, regardless of how horrendously it treats its employees, expects to get Top! Talent! at bargain basement prices, and then to expend no effort whatsoever in the retention of that talent.  And they think this way, in large part I believe, because a bunch of sales people taught them too.

“No, no, Mr. Manager, it makes total sense to not hire someone because their degree is from a school that has a football rivalry with your alma mater, we’ll get you someone else…”

“Absolutely, Mr. Manager, turnover of 500% is normal, especially when your preferred method of managing people is screaming at them and calling them names, we’ll get you some more people for that position shortly…”

“No worries, Mr. Manager, paid time off is for pussies, and it’s totally alright to fire someone because their parents were killed in a car accident and they needed to attend the funeral.  Don’t worry, we’ll have a replacement for you soon…”

“You’re right, Mr. Manager, how dare that lady take PTO to see her child in the E.R. after an accident when she didn’t have enough time accrued in her bucket, we’ll get you a replacement by tomorrow…”

These are all real life examples I’ve either experienced myself or heard first hand from other recruiters and HR people.  I truly don’t think people like Lou are clued in to how horrendously bad most companies treat their employees and how little they give a shit about their ‘talent.’  And because of that lack of value, there is a lack of accountability in obtaining and retaining talent.  The reporting relationship doesn’t matter in the end, no one gives enough of a shit about the goal for it to matter.  They say they care, every company gives lip service to caring about its employees, but actions are what matter.  And, in action, most companies couldn’t care less about their employees.  They’d happily throw them into a wood chipper if it meant higher quarterly profits.

That is the root of mediocre hiring, not reporting relationships.  If Talent Acquisition reported to the CEO, they would still have jack shit to work with in terms of stats to convince the CEO that there was an issue, and the CEO will likely consider himself or herself a God among people, generously dispensing jobs to the lucky, and how dare they speak about market rates for labor, or paid time off for vacations, etc.  The new modern worker is expected to work 90 hours a week, never take a vacation, never work remotely, never leave the office, never get a raise, never have a medical problem, never have to do anything, ever, which might require leaving their desk for one picosecond.  That is the problem, and it’s not one a different reporting relationship will solve.

Again, my opinion.  But after ten years in this business, I feel confident saying that most employers couldn’t give a shit less about their ‘talent.’  And I also feel confident in saying that a lack of acknowledgement of the ‘sales’ aspects of recruiting isn’t the problem.  If anything, it’s too much sales and not enough incorporation of the principles of accounting, engineering, and management into the recruiting process.  We need fewer sales types in recruiting and more who are ready and willing to start using data and stats to hold people accountable.  When a hiring manager leaves a position open for months on end, they need to stop being praised for being ‘picky’ and an objective assessment of who they’ve interviewed and not hired, and what that’s cost the company, needs to be made.  When a manager has high turnover they need to stop being praised for being ‘demanding,’ and to start being held accountable for the extra cost of replacing people on their team more often.  When clients don’t return your calls or don’t give feedback on candidates you’ve sent, you need to stop labeling those accounts as ‘challenging,’ and instead drop them and find new clients.  When a company keeps losing people due to the fact that their hours or their PTO policies suck dog ass, it’s time they acknowledged that and were called out for what they are – sweatshops – instead of glossing it over or claiming people just don’t want to work hard anymore.  None of these things require more ‘sales’ or a different reporting relationship, they just require someone in a key position to give a shit, which very few do.

That is the problem.

EDIT: Also, Lou did make one incredibly good point in the article: the lack of a good system.  Most ATS systems are cumbersome pieces of shit, barely adequate for their purposes.  Most HR people work to make them even worse, requiring people to type and retype their life story forty ways from Sunday before being able to submit an application, after which sometimes a resume screener just looks for key words and kicks them out if they don’t match a profile.  The nature of most ATS systems is compliance oriented, they are not designed to get better performing hires.  If they were, it wouldn’t be so hard to apply for one, and they would be action oriented for another, with regular automated reminders built in.  One of the main problems, at least with agency recruiting, is the sheer number of people you deal with goes way pas Dunbar’s number, and it’s up to you to do everything in terms of scheduling follow ups, etc.  A simple ATS that just reminded people to call candidate X, or Hiring Manager Y, for a follow up would likely blow all the others out of the water with that functionality alone.

Edit Again: Also, if you read the comments in Lou’s post, you’ll see a lot of bitching about HR.  Usually along the lines of how stupid they are, or how they are incompetent because they aren’t experts in the field in which they’re recruiting.  The latter is certainly correct, they can’t be experts in everything. However, over the last few decades they have been expected to be, and have performed pretty well living up to an impossible task.  At my last job, in order to truly hire for the company, I would have had to have been an expert in: accounting, project management, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, manufacturing engineering, supply chain, customer service, order entry, information technology, and likely some departments I’m forgetting.  How the fuck can anyone do that?  The answer is they can’t, and the fact that HR generally has done well, if not great, having to cover all those bases is pretty fucking spectacular when you stop to think about it.  And it again goes to the root of the problem, the fact that they have been tasked with that, when in fact it really is the unaccountable almighty managers who are supposed to be the technical experts when hiring their staff.  That they have sloughed off this responsibility on to HR and then blamed them for every fuck up while claiming credit for every success only goes to show how little talent is truly valued.  And the next person to complain about HR should consider that.  Those people have been hiring reasonably successfully for all areas and departments in your company for years, and that they’ve done that kind of shows they’re a hell of a lot more talented than you’re giving them credit for.

The Broken Window Fallacy and Sales and Recruiting

The broken window fallacy is simple, yet most people don’t get it.  Most news anchors will commit this fallacy whenever there’s a hurricane, and in the aftermath they say something along the lines of, “But at least the rebuilding will lead to a boost in economic activity for the area…”  It goes like this:

A kid breaks a window, the glazier comes and repairs it, and everyone shames the kid, but one person says, “No, look at the money the glazier earned, so the kid actually committed a ‘good’ for the economy.”  This comes down to what is seen vs unseen.  People see the transaction between the window’s owner and the glazier, they don’t see the suit, or the computer, or anything else he might have bought if he didn’t have to repair his window.  At the end of what’s seen, he just has a window.  He had to expend resources to the simply get to where he already had been.  If the kid hadn’t broken the window, the guy would have had the window and something else; a suit, a computer, etc.  The opportunity cost, in other words.  The opportunity cost is always unseen.

This is somewhat applicable to sales people who perpetually go after bad accounts, a massive problem in the recruiting industry.  They always want to ‘get in’ to that account, as if it’s the end all be all of existence.  Sometimes this works, they get in, and one in a million times the account starts to generate revenue.  The problem is most times, this does not happen.  The sales person is perpetually trying to ‘get in’, and wasting time and resources that are unrecoverable.  And even if they invest thousands of man hours and untold monetary resources ‘getting in’ with that account, even one placement is enough to make the Sales guy say, “See?!  See?!  I told you we could get in there!”  They’re so fixated on the moment of closure that they literally think that erases all the previous losses. Now, imagine the resources spent ‘getting in’ with that one account were spread over accounts with higher response rates, or developing new accounts.

It is necessary to be aware of opportunity cost when managing people and processes.  Sales people have no concept of opportunity cost, that is why they make such shitty managers.

Get a Degree?

An interesting post on LinkedIn asked a question: why is there no recruiting degree?  The reason is frighteningly simple: there’s no degree to be offered in bullshit this blatant.  Let’s go through the writer’s suggestions for courses to see why:


A good course to take, but the problem is you will learn about all aspects of business, not just Sales!, which will put most recruiters out of business.

Computer Science, Economics, Finance/Accounting

Excellent choices from my perspective, anathema for most recruiters and recruiting managers. If there’s one thing they don’t want recruiters to have, it’s critical thinking capabilities, which all these courses teach or instill via activity.

Marketing, Psychology, Sociology

Perhaps useful, but again the problem is people will learn things that will expose significant portions of recruiting as complete and utter horseshit.

Public Speaking

I agree with this one, good call.  But the weak links can be seen more clearly in the suggestions for additional courses.  Particularly these two:

Employment Law, and Talent Acquisition Data, Metrics, and Analytic

Most employers except the really large ones couldn’t care less about employment laws.  They refuse to understand the basic distinction between exempt and non exempt employees, there are endless numbers of companies out there that have everyone classified as exempt just to avoid paying overtime.  As for Talent Acquisition Data, Metrics, and Analytics, that might be useful in a corporate setting, but right now recruiting is dominated by agencies, all staffed by people who are outright hostile to data, metrics, and analytics.  They are intent on keeping recruiting a Sales! function regardless of the reality that there is much more to it than sales, because Sales! is where the bullshit lives, and as long as you can make a living bullshitting, why work?

Recruiting is sales in as much as anything involved with needs fulfillment is sales, however it is more akin to a supply chain job than anything else.  It’s certainly those analogies, and the practices of that field, that can be applied to recruiting to help people understand why it’s so fucked up.

Good LinkedIn Post

Definitely worth reading this, I’ll comment on it later, but I wanted to get it up here when I saw it.

Update: Ted makes some good points, but I think he misses the underlying problem: Sales!  The problem with sales, and specifically sales people, is they are detached from reality.  Sales people are notoriously disorganized, and they are ridiculously positive.  They are positive in the face of the most horrifying adversity.  Now, in sales that’s a good thing.  The problem is in any non-pure sales position, and especially one that requires management of any kind, it’s a recipe for utter failure.

Being positive all the time means a psychotic disregard for opportunity cost.  Sales people will pursue every method to make a sale, and the one time out of a hundred it works, they’ll say, “See, see, I told you it works!”  And they will ignore the costs of the 99 times it failed, even if the cumulative cost of those failures is  greater than the profit for the one success.  And if you have an industry controlled by sales people, like recruiting, it will be ridiculously slow to change, its participants will be psychotically averse to admitting error, they will all be psychotically averse to criticism and evidence based approaches that question the validity of their methods, and none of them will see a problem until it is so huge that it’s ready to destroy them.

That’s basically the state of recruiting today.  It’s dominated by agencies, those agencies are in the main run by Sales! types who will bend over backwards to fellate  the Almighty Client, however ridiculous and moronic their demands are.  When objective reality intrudes into the situation, they get confused at best, petulant and obnoxious at worst.  For example, if the prevailing wage for an Account Receivable person with 5 years of experience and a degree is X, and the Almighty Client wants one at 50% of X without compromising any on the person – same requirements for education, experience, etc. – it’s not a moronic white elephant hunt.  Nope, it’s a ‘challenge.’  The client is ‘challenging,’ not a fucking idiot.

Right now, the hiring process is essentially controlled by people who think it’s a pure sales process, when in fact it’s more of a supply chain process.  The Sales! types always want to concentrate on intangibles; culture, chemistry, job satisfaction, etc., etc., etc.  They never want to concentrate on objective reality: skill set and measurable ability within it, company structure, reporting relationships, time frames for delivery, etc., etc., etc.  Nor do they ever, ever, under any circumstances, want to talk about price, otherwise known as wages.  Because the Almighty Client doesn’t want to pay them, and therefore you’re not getting any.

We need to get the Sales! types out of control of the recruiting industry or it will die a spectacular death from them pushing it too far, pushing salaries too low, indulging the ridiculous requests of Almighty Clients who want people at rock bottom wages for 80 hour weeks, no benefits, no time off, etc., etc., etc.  People will get fed up with the bullshit and eventually hiring will come under the thumb of some bureau of the government who regulates every aspect of it, and quite frankly if this profession can’t kick these assholes out and get its collective shit together, we deserve no less a fate.

Here’s the thing…

I’ve noticed something, something people don’t seem to get, and that is that there’s a compounding effect among the factors that make a bad job bad.  Put another way, as jobs get worse, they tend to get worse more exponentially than they do linearly.

For example, a place that stresses people such that they have increased needs for ‘mental health’ days, is also far less likely to offer enough PTO to allow people mental health days.  The same bad and incompetent management that causes the need strangles the cure, and this goes across the spectrum of issues at work.  Companies that tend to have bad pay also tend to be the ones who think they’re most entitled to good employees.  The same overvaluation of their own worth is what causes them to devalue the contributions of their employees; at once they assume people should be breaking down their door to work there, and so refuse to pay assuming the market is in their favor, when it isn’t.

And it really all comes down to one thing: poor management.  Sometimes it’s just vacuous people with no idea what they’re doing, sometimes it’s outright malicious people who, finally tasting some power, make it their life’s goal to spread the misery they themselves feel.  Most Americans are living lives of quiet desperation, being ground down into shadows of their former selves with no hope in their future, their bosses happily ignorant of the effects of their sheer incompetence on the mental and physical health of their down line.  And there is absolutely no indication that this will change, ever.

Yet Another Example of Incompetence…

So we have a client who came close to a hire, but since they put the date of hire off for two months for some reason, the person found something else to do.  They got a bunch of resumes, went through a bunch of interviews, and decided on that guy, and he left.  Now they’ve got another guy they want to hire… but they’re not going to.  My manager just asked me to find this moron manager someone else because, “He wants a comparison first.”  Oh, and he “totally understands” where this manager is coming from, because apparently the previous five people he interviewed no longer exist and count as viable ‘comparisons.’

This is the kind of shit that gets recruiters a bad name.  First off, this company has a shit reputation as an employer.  What’s more, from all indications their turnover is high.  Further still, the ‘process’ they have demands interviewees report directly to security upon reaching the site and giving the name of the person they’re to meet with, but under no circumstances are they to say they’re there for a job interview.  Why?  Because, according to the manager, “Rumors spread real fast,” there.

You couldn’t raise more red flags that this is NOT a company you want as a client, and that this place is pure poison to work at.  And yet, like a good Sales! person, my manager is going after this hire, no matter how much pointless time and money it wastes, no matter how many people’s lives get fucked so this moron incompetent manager can have his ‘comparison,’ it doesn’t matter.  All that matters is the fee.  And of course my choice is work on this or basically find another job.

I swear I have to get out of this shitfuck industry or find the one in a trillion company that actually has some common sense and ethics so I don’t have this kind of shit landing on my desk ever other minute.

A Article I Commented On

There’s an article here at that I decided to comment on.  Here’s the comment:

“‘It’s weird that we haven’t built any tools for team leaders at all,’ Buckingham says. ‘We have none – not even a few good ones. We have zero.'”

Team leaders themselves are employees, and at the root of this disengagement problem is the fact that companies do not actually value their employees. That’s why they don’t have the tools they need. Companies say they value their employees, they give lip service to doing so, but this value is not reflected in their actual actions; pay offered, benefits offered, work-life balance, having skilled managers, and opportunities for development and advancement. You have to actually have all those things to get people engaged, not just mention them in a speech every now an then but never deliver. Rhetoric is not enough, we are in the information age where reality trumps Sales! oriented rhetoric of promises with no follow through, and people can increasingly see through the BS on a shorter and shorter time scale. It takes them far less time these days to realize their CEO is full of crap.

As long as companies fail to deliver on the things that will create engagement, they can measure it all they want and it won’t get better. As mentioned in the article, you can’t make a pig fatter by weighing it more often. So, the message to companies who want to increase engagement should be, pull your heads out of your posteriors and start taking actions that will increase engagement instead of endlessly fussing about it, but not doing anything about it. Most will do nothing, because increasing engagement will mean addressing and valuing employees’ concerns which may not seem immediately tied to bottom line improvements, because few if any companies tally the cost of disengagement and factor that into their financial judgements. But, it’s an easy start.

Step one, examine your salary structure and make sure people are making market wages, perhaps pay more if you think you need to compensate for things you can’t deliver, perhaps a bit less because of other perks you do offer, but there can’t be a massive disparity between your pay and the market mean, or you’re screwed.

Step two, examine your benefits and again, make sure they are on part with the market. This is an area where you can make a big dent because while time off is not very costly to offer, it makes a huge difference in people’s lives. Examine your health plans, time off plans, and work hours, and make sure they are all reasonable from an employee’s perspective. Try adhering to it yourself, and if you can’t do so without availing yourself of the perks of ‘flexibility’ offered to higher-ups, how the hell do you expect them to live on it? If people are working significantly more than 40 hours a week on a consistent basis, find out why and put a stop to it, or they will burn out and turnover, plain and simple. If your vacation plan is the standard plan of Go To Hell, Get Back To Work, revise it. Talk to a few brokers and see if you can get better health coverage if that’s a factor as well, it’s not hard.

Step three, start looking at your existing employees as resources and start considering advancement and succession planning. The institutional knowledge they have is often priceless, so capitalize on it and actually try to retain them proactively instead of waiting for their resignations and then wondering what happened. This can dramatically cut recruitment costs by shifting the need to back filling more basic positions. Always exhaust the internal pool of all possibilities before hiring outside.

These are not hard, and if done would correct most companies’ engagement problems. In many cases they’re not even costly, and yet companies still refuse to do them. That is an indicator of how much they actually care about engagement. In simpler terms, they don’t care, or it would be dealt with already.