A personal story of my experience with bailouts.
Back in my hippie days (as contrasted to my current hippy days), my then-husband and I had a friend I’ll call Bobby (the name is changed to protect the guilty!). It was the late 60’s and the times - they were a-changin’. We were living in a basement apartment at my parent’s house and didn’t have much money. Bobby was a starving student and living in a closet – literally - a closet. He rented it from a friend for a few dollars a week. There was room for a twin bed mattress on the floor of the closet that touched the wall at the head, side and foot of the mattress. On the open side of the mattress was about 12 inches to the other wall. Get the picture? It was t-i-g-h-t. It was s-m-a-l-l.
Stay with me, now. I’ll tie in the bailout issue.
We ate dinner with my parents often. Bobby was over one day and my parents, knowing his lot, invited him to stay for dinner too. We had a great meal (nothing less would ever happen when Mom was cooking!) and shared some laughs and good conversation. The subject got around to Bobby’s living situation. My Dad, with his heart of gold, insisted on giving Bobby fifteen dollars. I mean, really, the guy had nothing. He was a sneeze away from homelessness and object poverty. He gratefully accepted the money.
After dinner, we ‘kids’ sat around bemoaning the fact that we were broke and had nothing to do. Where out of nowhere, Bobby suggested we go to the movies. My husband and I looked at each other and both at each other incredulous at what we just heard. We said to Bobby “But you have no money.”
He replied “I have fifteen dollars.”
And that is why I think bailouts don’t work.
It’s easy to find some great people to fill nearly any position, especially in tough economic times. (A couple exceptions might be RF Engineers, RN’s, and similar ‘never enough’ jobs.) It’s especially easy when money is no object. Yes, I know, things are tough right now, but I can almost promise that the same manager who always wants to hire the best and brightest regardless of salary hasn’t changed her/his mindset.
Many managers simply don’t want to have to train or develop a new hire. Just gimme the best around and we’ll just have to figure out how to pay them. Then, you as the recruiter groan because you know what that means – hiring someone at or close to the max of the pay range plus a signing bonus plus relo, etc. etc. You get the picture. And, these actions are frequently the beginnings of lawsuits, poor morale, turnover, and other bad things.
It’s a bad situation when these ‘damn the salary, hire ‘em anyway’ managers are left to their own devices – especially when there is little, if any, accountability for the dollars. You know how it works: you get hammered for too much spending for hiring and relo, but you have little control over the manager and the boss just won’t back you. It’s your responsibility so deal with it! Oh, and make sure we maintain pay equity – we don’t want to have any legal issues arise. Yes, we’ve all been there before.
It’s a tough direction to follow, but with limited budgets and the continued need for good people, consider hiring the best people you can afford – not the best people you can find. Challenge your managers (and yourself) to look for candidates who clearly meet the requirements of the job, but may need a little time to develop and reach full potential. Yes, I know it’s not you that needs convincing, so start with senior management. If you can’t get them to back the strategy, I’d recommend updating your resume ’cause something has to give down the road and it’s probably NOT going to be them!
Bottom line: even when there is an abundance of candidates, stay within your pay ranges. This strategy will save money, keep the salaries reasonably equitable, and hopefully create a group of employees who really appreciate the opportunity. (Especially when they know there are more experienced people in the job market right now.)
I was fortunate in my career to always have a great staff. It didn’t always start out that way with some employers, but it always ended up that way. And just so you’ll know, I don’t tolerate incompetency, laziness, or poor attitudes. (Yes, I believe ‘attitude’ is a good behavioral performance measure!)
Naturally, there would be some staff members who were keepers to start with – lucky me. And, there were some who had to be terminated and replaced. Finding the right ‘fit’ for my team was very important since my success depended on them.
When looking around for the right person, I started by looking for trouble makers. No, not the raw problem-children who couldn’t be fired soon enough. I’m talking about the employees who were frustrated by dumb rules, stupid managers, and were on the verge of either being fired or quitting. Those were the people who knew a better way to get things done, but were unable to reach anything close to their potential because of circumstances. Those were my targets.
When I spoke with the manager of the trouble maker, it wasn’t a hard sell to get them transferred to my department. It was often a harder sell to get the trouble maker to stay and give it one more shot. After a few weeks, they were glad they stayed and I was glad to have another hard-working staff member.
My staff were told what needed to be done, but were free to do whatever seemed to work best to achieve the results. With some time and a little coaching here and there, the trouble maker was now a very valued and productive team member. And, with a little more time, they were often the target of inter-departmental raids for top talent.
Yes, I like trouble makers … they’re the ones with the vision and the desire to make things happen! What’s been your experience?
When I first started my business, I knew I didn’t know much about marketing. And, I knew I didn’t have the money to hire an expert. So, I did the next best thing. I asked a friend who was an nationally-recognized marketing guru if he would be willing to provide some advice if I bought him a muffin at a local restaurant (known for great muffins). He agreed and the rest, as they say, is history.
Not sure this particular exchange would really qualify as bartering since the value of what I received didn’t compare – in spite of the great muffins. I tried to ask thoughtful questions, followed advice carefully, and provided regular updates on my progress. As time went on, I slowly learned just enough that I felt comfortable in doing some marketing stuff on my own. As with any marketing plan, some of it worked and some didn’t.
But, here we are, 16 years later – still making a living and enjoying life. I think back quite often to my early ‘muffin marketing’ sessions. My marketing guru passed away suddenly not long ago. I miss him. We used to joke about ‘muffin marketing’ and how our relationship had made such a difference to our business- and hopefully him, too.
When you need expertise, don’t hesitate to reach out … with whatever you have. For me, good muffins worked. For you, it might be something different. And, yes, I pay it forward.
In memory of Dr. Rich Gerson … my ‘muffin marketing’ guru.
When you have more work to do than available hours, look at some of the reports you publish. I once found myself producing tons of reports – full of statistics on hiring, turnover, cost analysis, productivity, and other interesting HR metrics. These reports took lots of time to produce and, of course, the management insisted they be full color, spiral bound, and personally distributed to the senior leadership team.
One Thursday afternoon, I told my assistant to run all the reports, but NOT to deliver them. Just leave them on the credenza. Not one manager asked for the report. I did have a couple good admin people inquire. However, I found out that all they did with the report was to file it. When I asked about the last time their boss asked to see the report, I wasn’t surprised to hear “never.” To make matters worse, they had drawers full of these reports!
So, the following month, I ran only a handful of metrics that I wanted to track and didn’t print a single report. It was nearly a year later before the reports came up in a staff meeting. “Oh, we stopped doing those reports months ago, but we’ve got the data if you want to take a look.” No takers.
Bottom line: look at the reports that take a lot of time and produce little return. Consider eliminating them, especially if you can’t find anyone asking for them!
It was years before I realized that HR is pretty much a no-win job – and can be very stressful. If you side with the management OR the employee, somebody is not going to be happy. And, if you work for a jerk (use your own definition), it makes the job even more stressful. I used to spend nights and weekends trying to come up with a good resolution to a sticky problem only to have the boss shoot it down. Then, I’d spend more nights and weekends trying to come up with a new approach. Only to experience the same result.
So here’s a little secret to less stress, better sleep, and fewer hours. Realize that your job as as an HR professional is to advise, suggest, and recommend. If your boss can’t understand why it’s not a good idea to discriminate, let it be. If your boss can’t understand why it’s not a good idea to pay the Receptionist a salary (and no overtime), let it be. If your boss can’t understand the basics of treating people with respect, let it be.
DO provide counseling, advice, case studies, recommendations, and try your best to convince the idiot that it’s simply not a smart decision. Once done, relax, take a few deep breaths, go home before 6:30pm and don’t take any work home with you. You’ve done your job! If the boss wants to be stupid, so be it. If your conscience is clear, if you’ve done your very best to make it right, then let it be. Look at yourself in the mirror and smile. Give your spouse a hug. Take your kids out for ice cream.
One very important point – when the sh@# hits the fan and the idiot/boss is pointing the finger at HR, don’t hesitate to push back
. Let the idiot know (as politely as you can) than you did your best to help them avoid getting splattered. And, once you’ve done this a couple times, the marginally stupid managers might come around before they pull another illegal, immoral, or unethical stunt. Just maybe they will begin to listen. Just maybe.
After all, a high percentage of stupid idiots just never figure it out. Sleep well – you’ve done your job.
If you were fortunate enough to graduate college, it is likely you heard a commencement speech. Well, let me clarify that: it is likely you sat through
a commencement speech. You may not have listened at all! The speech probably didn’t resonate with brilliance at the time. I suspect you were just so happy to be done with school and couldn’t wait to get out of the cap and gown to go celebrate. Times were good. Sure, they were scary, too, but scary in a good adrenalin-flowing way.
Well, now that times may not be all that good and truly scary, I suggest you recall the pearls of wisdom from your graduation commencement ceremony for a little lift of spirit.
I especially like is from Larry Lucchino, President and CEO of the Boston Red Sox at Boston University, May 18, 2008. Here is the much abbreviated version that should be a good short diversion:
“Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the argument that life is serious, though it is often hard and even terrible. And saying that, I am prompted to add what follows out of it: that since everything ends badly for us, in the inescapable catastrophe of death, it seems obvious that the first rule of life is to have a good time and that the second rule of life is to hurt as few people as possible. There is no third rule.” This was written by Brendan Gill, a writer and critic for The New Yorker magazine, as encouragement for the young.
· Be bold, be prudent but take risks.
· Smile, laugh and be pleasant.
· Be strong enough to say “I don’t know” but be smart enough to add “but I’ll find out”.
· Find time for family and friends.
· Always remember the affect you have on others – good and bad. [Let this be the barometer of all you do.]
· Seek justice with dignity.
· Embrace and celebrate our differences.
· Seek balance – A rich life is a balanced life.
· Help some people along the way. [This is a big one but can be practiced in the smallest way.]
I started my HR career in 1968 with Genesco in Nashville, TN. (They called it Personnel back then!) After a year-long training program and a couple short, temporary assignments, I was given my first regular HR assignment. (It was there I started making some career-changing mistakes.) I reported directly to the Division Personnel Manager with a dotted line to the Plant Manager where I worked.
A few months later, Charlie G. came along. He was the new Plant Manager. Even though I was a young and inexperienced HR Manager, Charlie called me into his office a few days later and told me to bring something to write on. He started out by saying, “Here is what you’re going to be working on for the next year … and these are the priorities.” I was blown away! Not only was I given some real work, he ended our meeting by saying, “Use your best judgment and let me know if there is anything I can do to help.”
I had a great time working with Charlie. He gave me great advice, listened to my ideas, and between the two of us, we really made things happen. My mistake, however, was in not paying enough attention to the “way we do it here.” A quick example: the company (every plant of every division) tracked attendance on a 4×6 card – with 2 years (yes, every day of each year) to a side. Well, needless to say, there were errors in tracking and reporting absenteeism. So, I came up with my own card, Charlie approved it, and we moved on. The Division Personnel Manager, however, didn’t like the fact that a wet-behind-the-ears kid was straying from the “way we do it here.” After all, there were lots of the attendance forms available and it would be wasteful to replace them.
Thanks to Charlie, I never worried about “how we do it here” when that method is obviously not working. I left Genesco a short time later and began looking for turnaround situations … you know, the kind of job that really demands some creative problem-solving skills. I found lots of them and eventually realized that consulting is really where I needed to be … where clients really value what works.
Thanks to Charlie, I realized early in my career that HR’s role is to solve business problems. And, being “good with people” is only a very, very small part of what it takes to be successful in today’s HR role.
Thanks, Charlie, wherever you may be.
So this is our first blog…which isn’t really a blog but more of an introduction to us. Since our background is HR and, as the blog name implies, the number crunching side of HR, our posts will be about compensation, incentives, performance management, blah, blah, blah. But before we get started, we thought we’d take a little time to tell you a bit more about us personally.
Barry likes to hike and backpack through the Smokey Mountains where we moved to a little over a year ago. He hasn’t had much time to actually do so yet though. He’s an accomplished guitar player and a ‘fiddle’ student. He loves boating, fishing and anything to do with water really.
I like puzzles/games (Sudoku, Scrabble, cryptoquote, crossword), reading, and working out (but you’d never know it). I dabble in interior design, have done some painting in my day and I maintain the behind- the-scenes activity of our business and our personal life.
We’re working hard at keeping our precious dog, Cocoa, who we have had since he was eight weeks old and is now 14, strong and healthy for as long as we can. Oh, and we each have two grown kids too. You can see the pecking order! But, as I tell the kids, the dog is helpless and totally dependent on us and they’re not (although there have been times when it seemed as if the kids were totally dependent on our bank accounts!)
We are HR management consultants and have two business locations. Barry shuttles between them spending a week a month in Florida maintaining our existing client base and the rest of the time here in Tennessee trying to develop a client base. Barry is a compensation professional and conducts employee opinion/satisfaction/’insert your own PC term of the moment’ surveys. I write affirmative action plans (too exciting). Together we conduct salary and benefits surveys. It’s a nice niche business doing the number crunching side of HR that most people don’t know how to do, don’t like to do or just don’t have the time to do. Our posts will be about these and other related topics since that is what we know best.
We’d like you to stick with us for a bit while we work our way through to what this blog will eventually be. I suspect, as with many bloggers, our posts will evolve into something we may not even be thinking of right now.
So, hello, and welcome, we’re glad you’re here.