Are Your Business Practices Driving Away Talent?

“Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it. Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine.” -David Ogilvy

Hiring and retaining talent is something that businesses engage in every day. However, it seems that in the last ten years as technology has advanced the process, hiring and keeping good employees has become somewhat – convoluted.

Employees who experienced the 2008 recession were terrified of losing their jobs. Heads down, nose to the grindstone people were petrified that they would be the next person on the chopping block. I remember working for a company and every day at 4:50 you would see the head of the VP of HR bobbing along past cubicles, somewhat reminiscent of Pepe Le Pew’s tail bouncing along a brick wall, on her way to drop the hatchet on some poor unsuspecting schnook.

As a result of the recession, people put up with a whole lot of aggravation and humiliation that they wouldn’t have if the economy had been good.

Fast forward 12 years and you have a lot of those companies that browbeat their employees experiencing massive turnover as employees started bailing in droves when the economy turned around. Since the 2016 election employment rates are the lowest that they have ever been across the board for all demographics. People are creating jobs and are willing to take the risk of starting their own businesses.

When creating jobs, hiring replacements and seeking talent in general, however, companies are driving away top talent.

The problems are threefold.

 1. Executives haven’t kept pace with the times.

 2. Hiring managers, especially up and coming “hotshot” millennials, are making the hiring process so convoluted they are driving away good talent who aren’t willing to jump through hoops when the economy is good.

3. Hiring by committee.

Let’s look at problem #1.

1. Executives haven’t kept pace with the times.

I have a cousin that loves what he does. He loves his team. And, he loves the people he gets to meet doing the work he loves.

What he does not love is his employer. He is not the only person who feels this way and as a result, his employer has turnover rates that hover around 80%. Which frankly is staggering and if I was advising the Board, we would be talking about cleaning house in the management ranks.

But I digress…

At this company, management realizes that they have high turnover rates but they don’t seem to give a damn. Apparently, no one ever told them it is more expensive to hire and train new people than it is to focus on retaining the employees you already have.

Some of the policies that have been put in place in this company are, quite frankly, asinine. To protect the innocent, I won’t get into specifics but, anyone with half a brain has to wonder if the entire executive team has suffered a lobotomy.

The breaking point for my increasingly unhappy relative, came during a meeting with his supervisor where he was asked, in front of his team, when discussing pay raises what his “shut the f—k up number” was.

And HR wonders why they have an 80% percent turnover rate!

So, the people in this miserable (and to my way of thinking hostile) environment are abandoning ship. However, the speed at which they can bail is dependent on problem #2.

2. The hiring process is a convoluted, soul-sucking endeavor.

Here at STCG, in addition to traditional contracts, we also work on freelance projects. When it comes to finding those freelance projects, we have noticed that some companies seem to thrive on creating the dumbest and most ridiculous experience possible.

For example, a while back we came across a freelance gig with an up and coming startup that looked very interesting. They reached out to me relatively quickly to set up an interview either through Skype or the Whatsapp. Now being older than 22, I naturally assumed if you are scheduling a meeting with me on Skype that this will be a video conference.

Boy was I wrong.

At the designated time I was in my office, in front of the computer, webcam at the ready waiting. And I sat there. Waiting and waiting and waiting. After waiting 15 minutes I messaged the contact to say “Hey is this happening?” He messaged back asking what I meant.

See I foolishly thought that this was a serious interview. What I was not expecting was that the CEO would be interviewing people via Skype chat. Go to find out he was conducting 9 chats at the same time. So, while I sat in my office watching “The Great British Baking Show,” I occasionally answered a question via chat with a 7-minute lag time between each question.

When my show was over, I made my excuses to bail from this farce of an interview. This is not the kind of client I want for my business.

As a consultant/coach I talk to people all the time. I’ve been working since I was 16. Never in all my life had I experienced anything so completely insane.

But it did tell me a few things.

  1. The CEO was a scatterbrain. You may think you’re saving time trying to interview 9 people via chat at the same time but you’re really just prolonging the process and driving away qualified candidates.
  2. This company doesn’t have a clear focus. If they did have a clear focus, they wouldn’t waste potential candidates’ valuable time (or their own).
  3. If this interview is indicative of how they run their business then that business is not long for this world.
The But

But an experience like this only occurs if you get an interview. Nowadays everything is done online. A job candidate trying to get their credentials looked at by a human has a better chance of building a snowman in Hell.

When I first relocated down south in 2015, I filled out what seemed like hundreds of applications. It got to a point where I could predict down to the day when I would get the email saying “Thank you for your interest. We have decided to move forward with another candidate.”

Talk about soul-sucking.

And it wasn’t just my experience.

Another cousin going through a job search these days is experiencing the same thing. Fill out 250 applications on the off chance that someone will see her resume and recognize her brilliance, but generally ending in the same rejection email. And this is in a stellar economy.

In another case, a friend of mine was looking for a traditional 9-5 job. She was bright, hardworking and had 20 years of experience that would make her an asset to most organizations. Only problem? She never finished her degree.

This bright, intelligent person, who in the past has managed massive logistical projects with raging success, couldn’t find a job because she was missing a degree. When applying online (which for most jobs is the only way to start the process) the algorithms automatically kick her out if the college box is not ticked. Over twenty years of experience be damned.

We here at STCG operate under the belief that there isn’t a whole lot of “human” in human resource applications.

Alternatively, if you have an HR team that is pre-screening you have another problem. The folks in most HR departments tend to dismiss qualified candidates because they don’t know what they are looking for. Back in the day, I was part of a 2-person hiring team for the marketing department. We had to tell HR to back-off and let us do our own pre-screening because they kept sending us unqualified candidates who met their requirements but not ours.

If you have a great and qualified candidate to get through the online phase and actually make it to the interview stage, we come to problem #3 that drives away good candidates. Hiring by committee.

3.Hiring by committee

Once upon a time, I was interviewing for a job with what could only be described as a “bureaucracy.” In the beginning, the process was relatively straight-forward. Go online to the organization’s website, fill out all required fields, upload resume and wait.

Then I got the call to come in for an interview. Hooray. That happy feeling lasted until I got there. I knew the minute I walked through the door and saw 6 women and 1 man sitting there as part of the “hiring committee” that I was never going to get that job. And I was right.

(For those wondering about that last statement, I, as a woman, have come to find that women -especially the ra-ra sisterhood, leaning in, men are evil, cheerleader types – will sandbag any other woman they believe to be a potential threat. You can disagree, but this has been my reality as a competent person who happens to be female. In my experience, the women who don’t talk about “supporting women” like it’s religious dogma and treat everyone equally regardless of sex are the ones who actually helped me the most in my career.)

I am not a fan of hiring by committee. Never have been. Never will be.

When working with our clients on building out their marketing teams we always advise that someone needs to be the final decision-maker. There has to be someone with enough backbone willing to make a decision and defend that decision if required. There needs to be ownership.

Now, just to clarify if you want a candidate to meet with your team or other people in the organization, that he or she will be working with that is totally fine and we support that. However, take the feedback with a grain of salt.

I once sat through a team interview where the person we were meeting was a hit with everyone except me. I had major reservations about this candidate’s ability to perform this role. My assessment was that this candidate was all fluff and very little substance.

As the team assembled and threw one softball question after another, I chose a different path. I knew this person would be dealing with our executive team who were not warm and fuzzy so channeling the company President, in an Oscar-worthy performance, I became highly combative. The candidate couldn’t handle it and started melting down.

My boss was the final decision-maker. She got the team together and listened to each person’s positive feedback then she got to me. I laid out my argument against this person in detail explaining exactly why I was opposed. My closing argument was if this candidate couldn’t handle me how was she going to handle an intimidating and argumentative executive team?

At the end of the day, my boss under enormous pressure from the other 6 people on her team chose not to hire the consensus candidate. She instead hired someone else (who actually turned out to be a good team fit).  The moral of the story: she owned her hiring decision.

When you don’t have a decision-maker who is willing to take a stand and hire the best-qualified candidate, what happens it that the committee hires the milquetoast consensus candidate. Which usually ends up being a complete and utter disaster.

If you’re not going to hire the best and brightest what’s the point?

In conclusion

The next time you are looking for a new team member aim for hiring the best of the best instead of potentially driving away good candidates.

Think about putting the “human” back into human resources. Look for executives with the gravitas to not only make hiring decisions but to stand by those decisions when it comes to recruiting talent. And never, ever conduct 9 interviews concurrently via chat.

Happy hiring!

Angela M. Insalaco is the President of Strategic Tactics Consulting Group, LLC. Visit us at www.stcgllc.com.

© 2020, Angela M. Insalaco. All rights reserved.

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