Reality Check

A Recruiter.com Article I Commented On

There’s an article here at Recruiter.com 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.

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More Corporate BS

Well, I’ve been absent for a while, the reason being I’m miserable and not in the mood to write much.  My current job sucks, we get near zero off time, and what little we get, I needed to use for medical purposes.  So, as with many Americans who work in this shit-fuck country where employers don’t feel any obligation to give people reasonable amounts of PTO, I will likely soon hit a conflict where it’s stay employed or go to that doctor appointment.  And for context, I’ve had to use five days so far, for the year.  That’s less than half of what the average US worker gets for vacation alone, with sick time added on, and I’m already through the majority of all the time my employer ‘allows.  But, I figured I’d drop a post for fun and to cheer myself up.

My current favorite corporate/recruiting bullshit phrase, “we want someone who has ‘lived in’ that world.”  You hear this when recruiting for all kinds of positions.  It’s yet another subjective, unquantifiable bullshit ‘requirement’ hiring managers throw at you to as a catch-all excuse to reject anyone and everyone they want for not having ‘lived in that world.’  Of course, why the fuck would you want someone who has lived in that world, in any function?  If they’ve already been in that world successfully, wouldn’t a good candidate want to move up and out of that fucking world, jackass?  And if they do want to stay in that world, do you really want someone with a complete lack of ambition or of such a narrow scope of experience working for you?  What value do they add?

The recruiting train of bullshit continues.  If you like my posts, a better way to get them is to check out my comments at Ere.net or Recruiter.com.  Sniping at all the bullshit written by many others in the industry is, right now, easier than coming up with original material.

New Year, Usual Shit

This past Friday I had a request from one of our clients for interview availability for two candidates.  Dutifully, I got availability from both for Monday and Tuesday, and of course never heard back from the client.  We all left for the weekend, I sent emails to both candidates saying that since we didn’t hear back to consider Monday off, and we’d aim to schedule something for Tuesday when Monday came around.  And of course the client emails my account manager at 10:30 PM on Friday wanting to set up interviews for early Monday.

To be frank, it’s this level of incompetence that is destroying the US landscape.  The assumption that people don’t have lives and are on call 24/7 has got to fucking stop.  Back in the sixties and seventies if you couldn’t get your job done in 40 hours, or for some reason insisted on working 70 hour weeks, people wondered what the fuck was wrong with you.  You were considered either inefficient, because it shouldn’t take 70 hours to do the job, or you were considered weird as fuck for not having enough of a life such that you could work 70 hours a damn week.  In Germany this is still the norm.  However, here in the US, ever since the silicon valley boom where the 40 hour work week was supplanted by the 70 hour work week thanks to a bunch of borderline Asperger’s types having nothing else they wanted to do but fuck around with circuit boards, that’s now considered ‘the norm’ in the US.

And, of course, this will reopen my employer’s repeated ‘requests’ I put work email on my private phone.  Because, of course, they want you to be available twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, but won’t provide you the tools or infrastructure to make that possible of course.  Oh no, use your own stuff which you pay for to do that, of course.  And since the ATS system we use is a relic from the 90s with no web access, it wouldn’t even really matter if I had access to email because at most I’d have past emails from the candidates, but no access to alternate contact info, unless of course I doubled up and created my own damn database from scratch in Excel to store information – twice – which is already in the work database but not accessible because it’s an antique piece of shit.

In world were people have no boundaries and more and more people are these lifeless fucks with no families or friends to spend time with, so they insist on making work their life instead of letting work support their life, it’s getting harder and harder to be a normal damn person.

The! War! For! Talent!

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of posts prognosticating that 2015 is going to be The Year where everything turns around. Employees are in the driver’s seat! Salaries are going up! The economy is in real recovery!

All from the same troop of jackasses who thought real estate prices could never go down, and that pre crash we were in a post scarcity world where wealth would just pile up endlessly for everyone.  Well, I say horse shit.

One, prediction can only be made in broad, qualitative terms.  Quantitative predictions are almost always wrong.  Two, trends are great, until they reverse, and then they’re not trends anymore.  So, here’s my prognostication:

There may be a slight uptick in salaries in 2015.  The Fed against all probability has managed to reflate a bit of a bubble, so people might feel richer for it, at least for a while.  However,  some policies and realities continue regardless of the optimism of a few.  For one, monetary policy here and in almost every other country has gone full retard, and the underlying misallocations of capital thanks to near zero, and in reality negative interest loans when you account for devaluation, will eventually have to be exposed and corrected.  What that means is the crash of 2008 was chump change compared to what’s coming.

The end of the petro dollar seems inevitable, and without that the US loses some clout in the world.  China and Russia will get friendlier, and India will go along with them.  And specifically to China, my guess is that’s where the black swan event will occur that will bring on the next depression.  You’ve got them being the latest blip on the skyscraper index, and they are literally building entire cities for no one in that country.  If ever there was a real Austrian Economics style bubble economy happening, it’s in China, and when that one pops it’s going to take a big chunk of the world with it.

And, to top all that off, monetary and trade policy remains moronic in the US, regulations are piling up, and income inequality is being exacerbated to an extreme, with the levels of expatriation of the rich going through the roof.

In the US we are seeing a blip upwards on what is otherwise a very long path downward, and it won’t be long before capital starts flowing out of the US en masse.  I’m with Peter Schiff, eventually this will resolve itself into a currency crisis, and I’m pretty sure most currency crisis lead to military crisis.

So, overall, my guess is it’s not too much longer before World War III gets going in earnest.

The Black Hole

This would be a message to all ATS manufacturers.  Both recruiters and candidates hate the black hole.  Here’s how you avoid it, and here’s what recruiters need from the ATS system.

One, there’s always an automated response for submitting a resume available, it should be turned on and used so people at least know their application went through.

Two, applying should be as simple as possible.  Name, contact info, and an attached resume should be all that’s needed.  Any ATS system that asks you to retype your resume is, in short, a piece of shit.  Any recruiter or HR person who sets up an ATS system and doesn’t go through the application process themselves to see if it’s acceptable or a pain in the ass really needs to rethink their profession.  ATS makers need to address this issue and push simplicity in the process; consult, don’t just sell.

Three, there should be an automated process update option that shoots out weekly updates to people, at least letting them know if the position is still open or not, and if possible where there resume is in the process.  HR and recruiters can not do this manually, it would take all day.

Four, there needs to be an automated list generator for follow up purposes.  I lose track of as many people as any other recruiter.  It’s not out of malice, it’s because I can only update people so many times by telling them no, the hiring manager still hasn’t responded, before it falls in the priority list.  I do have to pay rent, as does every other recruiter.  Eventually following up on these jobs becomes something I just can’t do because I have real, paying jobs that are current.  But what would help me massively is if the system I’m using had a module specifically reminding me to contact certain people, so I can at least tie those off rather than forgetting once or twice and then realizing it’s been two or three weeks since I talked to them.

Recruiters need help on this issue, and once more it’s not malice.  It’s just that, so much more often than not, the damn hiring managers just disappear, and you can only give that same update X number of times to someone before you have to spend some time on shit that might actually pay off.  And it’s not one person, it’s well over 75% of the people we deal with.  So, if you’re a candidate, understanding this requires you put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes and realize that for 75% or more of the people he’s dealing with the story is the same: the hiring manager just isn’t answering.  Having to deliver that same message, to the same people, day after day, doesn’t pay your bills.  Placing someone with one of those rare hiring managers who gives a shit DOES pay.  So, it’s not malice, we need to eat is all.

However, having that list generator would help.  As I’ve said before, I like to at least give people a final yes or no, even if it’s me making the decision for the hiring manager.  But I’m not above admitting I need some help in this regard.

Recruiting Reality Check – Bulk Emailing

I’ve written on this before, but it bears repeating in more succinct terms: bulk emailing is a reality of modern recruiting, get used to it and stop getting pissed about it if you’re a candidate.  And, from the recruiting perspective, stop bullshitting people and admit it is now and for the foreseeable future will be a tool that will be used.

For candidates: recruiters want you to believe they know your life’s history when they first talk to you, they don’t, and that’s part of their sales pitch and it’s a load of shit.  Recruiting is like dating, and be real with yourself: when you’re dating someone, do you get their life story instantly, ask them their sex preferences, ask to inspect their apartment or house to make sure they’re clean, and then introduce them to your family and get their approval for marriage on the first date?  No, that would be fucking ridiculous.  You put out feelers and proceed on a step by step basis, first gauging interest, then dating and determining long term fit, and then you get married.  That is what a bulk email is.  It’s key word based, it’s impersonal, and it’s really just a large net the recruiter casts to say, “Hey, I’ve got this position available, are you interested?”  Getting pissed at that is like getting pissed at not being able to get a blood test for marriage approval on the first date, get the fuck over it.

You have every right to say no, you’re not interested.  You have every right to ask to be removed from future mailings.  You have every right to ask for, and to receive, the salary range and location and a job description if you are interested.  A recruiter who won’t tell you those things is full of it.  But please, stop acting like a bulk email is akin to someone walking up to you and politely asking if they can fuck your mother.  Stop buying the bullshit of recruiter ‘sales’ types and understand the reality; we aren’t going to invest a shitload of time and effort into getting to know you, or ‘building a relationship’ as they say, only to have you not be interested in a single potential opening we have.  We have rent to pay as well, and we get paid for placements.  Relationship building, real relationship building, is a step by step gradual process that begins with assessing interest.  Recruiters are not your personal career coaches, they don’t get paid for finding you personally a job.  If you get an email you don’t want, ignore it or say no thanks.  It’s really quite easy.

For recruiters: stop bullshitting candidates.  Few if any modern recruiters have a stable of candidates with which they’ve built relationships with over years of work.  That happens with consultants, not so much with permanent placements.  And, if you are doing that, congratulations.  I’m sure your clients are very comfortable knowing that within a year of getting Bob a job in their company, you’ll place him somewhere else, especially since that’s written in as an explicit prohibition in most contracts, I’d very much like to know how you’re accomplishing that.  When you do speak with candidates, tell them the God damn salary range.  They don’t pay their rent with a good cultural fit or job satisfaction.  And stop bullshitting about cold calling and phone work too.  This is the 21st century, email is a perfectly appropriate and useful tool and it should used.  If communication is the key to a good relationship, cutting off one mode of communication for archaic, luddite reasons is just plain stupid.

I am preemptively posting this here since somewhere critical comments tend to disappear or not get posted on Recruiter.com.  I have no idea if this is on purpose or just a glitch in their Disqus implementation, or if authors control their own comments and differ in what they allow, but I’ll always double post from now on because I hate typing these things out and then losing them.  This weekend I plan on writing a more detailed response to the Good Corporate Citizenship article from a while back.  The below is a response to this more recent article on how passive candidates should behave.

The difference is, the passive candidate has a lot more leverage than the active candidate, as it is clear that an employer needs to lure the passive candidate away from a job they are already comfortable with.

This is actually incorrect. All positions have a budget, and usually a salary cap associated with them, and this is not an official budget or cap, but that which is dictated by the capital return based on the company’s ability to utilize a person. A passive candidate has a little more negotiating power than an active candidate, or so it’s assumed, but at the end of the day there will be opportunity cost for every extra dollar invested in any particular hire’s salary, and pulling a super star passive candidate doesn’t necessarily benefit your business when you have to pay significantly more for them. This squeezes the ROI for the position, and that’s assuming you can actually utilize them to their full potential. Most companies can’t, because most companies are managed in an average to poor manner. In essence it’s like buying a Lamborgini for your daily commute over winding roads through stop and go traffic. You’ll pay more initiall, and use a ton more gas, and while the Lambo is great for open road driving, its gearbox sucks in actual traffic. Its performance is hindered due to the circumstances under which it is being used. The same goes for superstar candidates.

Another analogy would be to look at your company as a production line, and to consider where the rate limitation is. If the up-line is only producing 10 widgets an hour, and has no real hope of exceeding that, then you’re wasting money on any down-line equipment with a much greater capacity. Now, there may be plans to upgrade the line, but in terms of a workforce that’s a long haul, and most companies are not making that investment these days, at least that I’ve observed. All told, the supposed higher productivity of a ‘passive’ candidate is only of use to you if you can utilize them to their full potential, and every dollar you spend to get them above and beyond what you would have paid for an active candidate squeezes your ROI and demands that you utilize them at a higher potential to get the return you need. Earning 10% on a 60K candidate means 6K profit. Earning 5% on a 100K candidate means 5K, and half the actual margin. Spending more doesn’t mean you get more when it comes to investment. Most companies aren’t Lamborgini companies, as such, they should probably get the Honda model. The margin is actually better, and the profit higher, on a more appropriately utilized employee than one with massive potential thrown into a mediocre situation.

I would also pose these questions, regarding Katherine’s hypothetical experience. If her current company really does value her, why are they not offering a comparable salary? Why did they not proactively raise her rate to what she could get from a competitor in an proactive bid to keep her? Would her company show her as much loyalty should she come into health problems and go on FMLA, or require off time? Or, more to the point, would they should such loyalty should their bottom line start to indicate her salary should be cut, or her entire position scrapped, not due to her performance but to the company’s own lack lust performance, more appropriately laid at the feet of her managers? While Katherine’s hypothetical current employer seems wonderful and may in fact demonstrate loyalty, most real world companies will ditch you in a second if keeping you meant sacrificing a fraction of a percent to their bottom line. A job is a mutua exchange, that’s all. The employer gets a work product they want more than the salary they pay, the employee gets a salary worth more to them that what they produced or the time it takes to produce it. Neither one owes the other anything, and in the real world the only people who do usually show loyalty are the employees, not the employers, whose loyalty is first and foremost to their profit above and beyond their employees by such a wide margin it may as well not exist.

Companies are not guided by ethics, but by profit. So should employees be guided. Keith Halperin is right, and employees should act like CEOs, and companies should stop bitching and moaning about loyalty which they never reciprocate on, and start treating and paying people well from the get go if they want to retain them, instead of only addressing the issue when they’re already leaving. The sad truth is that companies that act like Katherine’s hypothetical employer are so rare they may as well not exist. As a practical reality employees should not strain themselves to do the right or ethical thing by employers who will never spare a thought for doing the same by them. Employers have enough of an edge in the market without employees giving them even more based on one-sided assumptions of loyalty and ethics which they will never see returned to them.

Employees should get as much money and perks as they can, and then ditch their employers in a heart beat when they’ve made a prudent judgement they can get more, because their employers will do exactly that to them. Tit for tat, employees treating employers as badly as employers have historically treated employees is the only way the labor market will ever balance itself. As long as employers see their employees as disposable, employees should reciprocate.

Recruiter.com Reply

Since Recruiter.com keeps deleting my reply to Art on this article, I figured I’d post it here.  Just got back from a Caribbean trip and catching up with work, missing the blue water.

Reply to Art:

I think you missed the point, Art. The title of the article is, “Is Passive Talent Better Than Active Job Seekers?,” and is not asking whether or not a passive strategy is a good, and sometimes necessary thing, which it is. However, the incessant harping on passive! talent by many recruiting ‘thought leaders’ leads to just that problem: people think ‘passive’ means ‘better.’ It doesn’t. It just means the person in question wasn’t actively looking for a job when they were contacted.

The best qualified person is the one who performs better, it doesn’t depend on how they were sourced. The correct approach is to always employ both active and passive strategies to varying degrees, depending on the needs of the particular position as in the situations you mention, and pick the best person from the pool of people you get regardless of how they were sourced.

The problem at base is that thanks to the incessant harping on this issue it has been reframed in the minds of many people outside the industry as passive = inherently better, when in reality it’s just a marketing distinction to delineate strategies for reaching as wide a candidate pool as possible. It is not a determinant of job performance. But, that’s how many see it. That’s the problem, because people then pass over ‘active’ candidates who could very well be superstars because, well hell, they’re not passive!, so how good could they really be? Hell, they’re looking for a new job.

After all, we wouldn’t want to employ anyone who actually wants to work for or with us, would we?

Article for Review

It seems one of my comments inspired an author to write a whole new column.  I plan to have a response up here soon.  I have various points of agreement and disagreement with the author, I’ll get them up here over the next few days.  This column is definitely worth a read though.

Article on Downsizing

From Recruiter.com.  Worth a read, my comment at the bottom makes a point I’ve always thought needed to be addressed.  Human capital is managed to a lesser extent than any other on the market.  I know of no company, literally none, that even knows what revenue is contributed on average on a position level, much less an individual employee level.  Not only do they not really know who to cut and retain in hard times, they don’t know who they should concentrate on retaining in good times, and who is more or less replaceable.