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Category Archives: Decision Making

Why I cringe when people say “hire for fit”

Companies are constantly looking for differentiators. In the first tech bubble, it was all about stock options and perks like kegs in the breakroom. In the second tech bubble, it’s been all about….stock options and kegs in the breakroom. Huh. I thought we’d come further than that. Moving on…

What you hear about more and more now, though, is “culture.” Culture is the great differentiator. It will make or break your company! It will make you productive! It will cure cancer! (Okay, I made that last one up.)

Listen, I’m a big fan of being intentional about the culture you’re allowing to develop in your workplace. It DOES impact the way people work, their ability to be successful, and how your customers view you. Whether or not you personally like Southwest Airlines (and I love them, so there), you can’t argue with their success in a tough industry. And they attribute it to their “culture” – from how they operate, to how they hire, to how they make, spend, and save money.

It’s the “how they hire” piece that I think people screw up all the time. (And I’m not the only one who thinks that!)

Too many companies who are concerned about their culture focus on hiring as the way to “fix it.” They think that by hiring the “right people,” they’ll magically get the culture they’re looking for. They focus on pre-hire assessments like personality tests and quirky questions and conversations about “passion.” And the next time the employee survey results come back, employees still say they don’t like the culture and turnover proves it.

At this point…I’m over “hire for fit.” Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s important that an employee aligns with core elements of the organization whether it’s the work they do, the people they work with, the values experienced, or what the company represents. But I think we’re going at it wrong. And here’s why:

ILLUSION #1 : Hiring for fit = a cure for all our ills: Every organization I’ve ever worked at that struggles with a “challenging culture” focuses on hiring as the fix. Why? Because it’s the easiest process to change. You add a couple of assessments, change some interview questions, and voila! All done.  

REALITY:  Hiring’s not your problem: Culture consists of EVERYTHING within your workplace, not just the people. It’s your systems, your processes, your location, your parking habits, the industry, your policies, your leadership practices, the behaviors of managers, communication….get the point. If you’ve got issues with your culture, it’s going to take more than just hiring people who SEEM to be part of the culture you want. You have to be willing to dissect the WAY you work. If you’re not wiling to do that, all those “new culture” people you hired are going to leave as soon as they can.

ILLUSION #2: Culture is about attitude, so we’ll ask about that: After all, we want to make sure people share our “values” so let’s make sure the questions are all about how they feel and what they like and dislike. That way we’ll know that they’re the right person to match our culture.

REALITY: Culture is about activity, not attitude: When you read about how Southwest (and other strong “culture” organizations – like Disney) hire people, you’ll see that they focus on BEHAVIORS, not feelings. That’s because behaviors are measurable and you can see how they impact work. Disney records how candidates interact with others, how they treat the receptionist, their inherent curiosity when sitting in a room…all behaviors. Southwest asks candidates how they handled a tough customer situation, looking for examples of the actions taken and the results of those actions. If you want a “culture fit” hire, find people who embody the culture through action, not words.

ILLUSION #3: Our managers are skilled enough to decide if someone is a good fit: We gave them a set of questions and told them to follow the law, they should be fine. Besides, these people have been here FOREVER and totally know what a good hire would look like.

REALITY: At best, they’re guessing. At worst, they’re using “not a fit” as an excuse for discrimination: If you don’t require interview training and calibration before a person is allowed to interview candidates, you have little to no assurance they know what they’re doing. Even then, you’ve got unconscious bias that no amount of training can overcome. By allowing “not a fit” to become the reason a qualified, promising candidate doesn’t get hired, you’re making it okay for managers to make snap judgments. If you can say “not a fit because of x,y,z examples of behaviors,” you’ve got a better chance. Also…DO YOU EVEN REALLY KNOW WHAT YOUR CULTURE IS? Probably not. You think you know. But unless you’ve done a valid assessment, you’re just describing what YOU think the culture is. 

ILLUSION #4: Same is good: Companies believe that if everything acts the same, thinks the same, and looks the same, then the culture will be fabulous and the company will be 100% successful.

REALITY: Diversity is good: You need diversity of backgrounds, thought, experience, age, race, gender…all of it. It breeds innovation. It pushes the company forward. It helps reduce that unconscious bias that gets us into trouble. It’s not the friction that’s the problem – it’s how you function with friction that’s hurting you. Include and celebrate differences and learn to leverage that friction in a way that’s beneficial to the organization.

In a perfect world, I would want companies to share openly enough of who they are and how they operate so that potential candidates can make the educated choice about whether or not they might be a “fit.” There are also tools out there that can help identify alignment with company values/behaviors in such a way that both allows the candidate to decide if they want to proceed AND helps the hiring manager identify questions that will get at the heart of whether full alignment is good or if the team needs that friction.

So please….stop acting like all  you really need to do is “hire for fit.” There are bigger issues at stake. Tackle those and then MAYBE you can start hiring for fit.

Maybe.

 

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Use Your Brain #SHRM17

[This post first appeared on the SHRM Blog on June 20, 2017]

I’ve had the opportunity to go to a lot of different conferences, and I see a lot of keynote speakers who are considered experts in their fields. They are successful because enough people think enough of what they’re saying makes sense and support it. They’re also successful because they are engaging speakers who connect with their audience and make everything sound brilliant.

The thing is…you’re not required to agree 100% with what these speakers are saying. Some of them cite research. Some of them share what they’ve done that worked. Some of them just share what they think SHOULD work. Are all valid ways to share an idea.  All can either be right or wrong.

Whether it’s Laszlo Bock’s suggestion that hiring managers not have the final say of a hire, or Patrick Lencioni’s suggestion that if you REALLY want to know if a person is a good hire you should take them shopping, it’s up to you as to whether or not that suggestion makes a lick of sense.

I go into every session with the attitude that I am going to learn something, because nothing bothers me more than a conference attendee who claims they didn’t learn anything. I may not agree with the speaker, but I bet I learned something about WHY I didn’t agree with them. That speaker’s point of view triggered an internal reflection – “Does that make sense? No, that doesn’t make sense. Why doesn’t it make sense?” By questioning another’s point of view, I’m forced to critically consider my point of view.

Notice the words I’m using – “reflection,” “critically consider.” I’m doing this on purpose because there’s a difference between thoughtful disagreement and a kneejerk reaction against something new.

So as you finish up your conference sessions, or plan future conference attendance, I ask that you use your brain. Listen to what the speakers are saying – not necessarily how they are saying. Then decide whether or not you agree with it. Only then will you be ready to apply what you were exposed to at #SHRM17.

 
 

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Doing the “correct” thing isn’t always right

Recently I read a story about a restaurant manager who received complaints about a mother and her autistic child. Policy would have dictated that he move the duo to another part of the restaurant, away from the other patrons who were being disturbed. But after one question from the mother, he decided not to. He told them to have an awesome day. He high fived the child. He went back to work.

In his words: Sometimes doing the right thing does not make everyone happy; just the people who need it the most.

Good for you, Tony Posnanski. You rock. You recognized the needs of this mother who had been through this before but just wanted a normal experience with her child. That’s what we call managerial courage – you didn’t hide behind a policy or the bottom line. You assessed the situation and made a judgement call.

justice

This is what leadership looks like. It looks like a person who is aware of policy and procedures. Who listens to the needs of ALL customers. Who assesses things on a case-by-case basis, makes an “executive” decision and stands by it.

We need more leaders like that.

Policies and procedures have their place, but they’re no match for the human touch. People need to reach out to people and engage with them on a one-to-one basis. As my friend Steve Browne often says, you have to meet people where they are. And sometimes that means breaking policy and doing something that just makes sense.

Lord forbid we do something that makes sense.

We all have something in our handbook that HAS to be there because we think we can’t trust employees and managers to make the right decision in the moment. Sometimes it’s dress code. Sometimes it’s bereavement leave. Imagine a world where we let it slide that an employee is in a pair of jeans because there’s 2 feet of snow out but they still busted their butt to be in the office that day. Or we let an employee take bereavement leave for a dear family friend who was like a parent, but gosh darn it, that relationship isn’t listed as covered in the policy.

So as you go about your day-to-day at work, don’t be so quick to say “no,” or “we aren’t allowed to do that.” Think about the person you’re dealing with – the PERSON – and respond in kind. After all, policies and procedures keep us sane, keep us legal, keep us on the right side of compliance.

But our empathy and adaptability makes us human.

 


Think we need more humanity in the workplace? Join me at the WorkHuman 2016 Conference in Orlando, May 9-11, 2016. To register, go to  and use promo code WH16MF300 for $300 off.  

 

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Don’t like policies? Then control yourself

I’ve worked in HR for a long time, which means I’ve heard pretty much every complaint out there about why people don’t like the human resources department (or personnel, if you’re of a certain age).

While some reasons are downright creative – even colorful – the most common one I hear about is that HR always says no. Or that HR is the “Policy Police.” Or that HR won’t let you do anything.

*sigh*

Listen, people. It’s not HR who isn’t letting you do something. It’s YOU – leaders and employees alike. Actually, let me amend that – it’s US. We all contribute to this issue.

If human beings weren’t so jerky from time to time, we wouldn’t have to have all these stupid rules. If we could act like adults with integrity, we wouldn’t have to worry about nepotism, inappropriate conduct, approval levels, complicated oversight, internet and computer usage, etc. meatdress

But we’re people. So we do stupid things. And we make stupid decisions. And we act like it isn’t our fault. Hence…personnel policy manuals.  We like to be able to point to something and say, “Hey, not our idea. It’s in the policy.” When the tough conversations come up, we like to be able to say, “I didn’t want to, but HR made me.”

This is a total rule of thumb, but I’ve noticed that the thicker the rule book, the more unhealthy the culture. (There are exceptions, but still.) When employees can’t make smart, informed, mature choices, you see more and more of the decision-making taken away and replaced by a policy.

Is that how you roll? Do you WANT to lead that way?

I know I don’t. And I don’t like having to practice HR that way, either. I like to be able to work with leaders and employees to find the best solution for the situation they are currently in. It needs to be legal. It needs to be consistent with previous situations. But we all need the flexibility to make good decisions for the circumstances.

So what’s the answer?

Don’t be a doofus. And tell your peers and employees to not be a doofus. If integrity is a value to you, then LIVE IT, don’t just point to a banner on the wall. Do the right thing, especially when there isn’t a policy telling you what to do.

We all have the power to change the system. Believe me – most HR pros would LOVE to rip up the policy manual and just talk it out.

Help us help you.

 

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Slow or fast, we’re all in the same race (lessons from the driver’s seat)

No, this isn’t going to be an introspective look at the fleeting immediacy of life. I mean, that’s a real thing and you should really think deep profound thoughts about it, but I’m not in the mood.

I’m in the mood to talk about driving.

As readers of this blog know, I always wanted to be a stunt car driver. I don’t really remember why that was something I wanted to do. It just looked like a lot of fun, and the drivers were badass.

I’m not a stunt car driver (yet), but I have gotten a chance to live like one for a few hours. It’s called autocross – and if you’ve never gotten to do it, I highly recommend it. It’s so choiceIMG_2998

Basically, autocross is a giant parking lot or other paved area with a course laid out in cones. It might be a hairpin turn, followed by a slalom, followed by a 90-degree turn, etc. You get a series of runs throughout the day, each one timed. If you hit a cone, you get a time penalty. If you miss a “gate” or go off-course, you officially get a DNF (did not finish), but unofficially you still get to drive the rest of the course like a baller.

This was the second such event I’ve had a chance to do and, like a lot of people in my line of work, I couldn’t help but notice some similarities to the workplace.

Someone else may lay out the course, but you choose how you attack it.
In autocross, like a lot of jobs, there are a series of obstacles/tasks you have to tackle. The cool thing is that we get to choose the way to get through them. In autocross, you see people who go as fast as they can, slamming on their brakes to course correct, and sometimes it’s not pretty. Ultimately, though, they learn from their mistakes and do better next time. Some people start very slowly and tentatively, afraid to make mistakes, learning the course. And as their confidence grows, they get faster and better. Your job is the same way. You can go fast and furious, or go slow and cautious. Each approach teaches different lessons, and the “driver” (employee) can either choose to learn from them and improve, or get the lesser result.

Most mistakes are minor. Don’t freak out. Keep going.
If you hit a cone in autocross, you get a 2 second penalty. And people might give you a hard time. If you miss a gate or something, a corner worker makes a big X with their arms and you get a DNF for the run…but you get to keep driving and you learned something. Most work mistakes are similar. Did you send out an email with a minor typo? Okay, you goofed up. Own it and learn from it. Did you forget to staple ALL the packets? Nobody died. Don’t be afraid to make minor mistakes. (And if you’re a leader, realize your people will make them!) The important thing is to learn from it.

Some mistakes ARE a big deal. Recognize when it could happen.
In these types of driving events, you don’t drive all that fast. But cars do sometimes spin out and go flying off the course. If you’re working a corner, you need to be alert and position yourself in a place that will minimize your risk of getting hit. Not all jobs are life and death, but SOME ARE. Inattention can and does get people killed. Whether you’re the person doing the dangerous activity, or the support person watching that activity, be alert and do what you can to ensure safety protocol is followed. We all want to get to the finish line in one piece.

People doing the same thing at the same time have SOMETHING in common. Work with that.
People who do autocross events have all different types of cars and come from a variety of backgrounds. In a generic social setting, it’s doubtful that any of them would hang out. But put them in this situation and suddenly they are best friends, trading driving tips and encouraging each other to improve each run. Your coworkers may not be people you’d choose to socialize with. In fact, people are socializing with coworkers less and less these days. And it may be impacting our work experience. So while you don’t have to be a best friend or anything, it’s okay to loosen up and talk like people now and then.

Have a good time.
You’re driving a car through a crazy course. OF COURSE YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE FUN. Granted, work isn’t going to be a super fun autocross event every day. But hopefully parts of it are. And if it isn’t, try to find ways to make it a good time. You’re there for too many hours in your life.

Whatever you do – in your “real” life or your “work” life – it’s important to remember that while we all have different approaches, we are all still just trying to finish the race.

Start strong, stay strong, and finish strong by always remembering why you’re doing it in the first place.
– Ralph Marston

 
 

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Finding sanity with a bit of sunshine

This week I will be attending the WorkHuman 2015 Conference in Orlando, Florida. The goal of this conference is to help companies find ways to create a community of support and positivity that brings greater meaning to everyone’s work lives. This conference is unique in that it’s not just about keynote speakers. The days start with yoga or a run, there are breaks during the day to connect with people, there are interactive discussions. It’s helping us practice what we preach. I’ll share what I learn here and on Twitter (@mkfaulkner43 #workhuman). 


We live and work in a world where there is no “off” switch. We come to work early, we leave late, we don’t take breaks, we eat lunch at our desk. And for this, we feel like we don’t get any work done.

When stress is high and achievement is low, it affects employees. People get stressed. People get fussy. When people get stressed AND fussy, there is no end to the drama. There’s a sour buzz in the air. People don’t want to give others the benefit of the doubt. Dumb mistakes get made. Fingers get pointed. All because we think we have to BE SEEN doing work – putting in the extra hours, toiling away at our desks so we can brag/complain about all the time we worked this week.

What the hell is wrong with us, people??!!!

First of all, we’re not solving the world’s problems by working that many hours. In fact, it makes us less productive. So good job, we’re costing the company money AND not getting good work done.

Second of all, we’re not the lone sufferers we seem to think we are. Research shows only 1 in 5 American workers take a lunch. Those people are blissful and happy and know what the weather is outside without having to check their weather app. Everyone else eats like crap at their desk because some how they think that they’ll get extra credit for being a fricking martyr.942472-work-holiday

I’m guilty of “eat at desk” syndrome. Most of the time it’s because my lunch hour is usually the only “free time” I have to catch up on emails or do actual work. But that’s no excuse. I know it impacts my creativity and ability to think critically. It also make me cranky if I’m inside all day when the sun is shining after weeks of non-stop rain. (Seriously. We’re done for now.)

And so, one day this week, I decided I didn’t want my sensible Progresso Light Soup (I’m partial to the Chicken Corn Chowder, in case you’re picking some up). I wanted fish and chips. And I wanted to eat it outside on a patio. So a group of us went and did exactly that. We got away from the office and sat in the fresh air and ate like crap (okay that part didn’t change). But what DID change is that we were able to reset for the rest of the day, and in same ways, for the rest of the week. It was like a mini-vacation. I even got a little sunburn. It was glorious.

So what did we learn from our impromptu luncheon adventure?

We learned that lunch breaks are there for a reason. That being an exempt employee does NOT mean being exempt from lunch breaks. And that eating fish and chips outside on a patio in the bright sunshine is an essential part of surviving the rat race.

The next time you find yourself approaching burnout, or snapping at your colleagues a little too easily, or struggle to write more than 4 words in a row that make sense – stop and think about the last time you had a lunch break. Then stand up and walk outside. You won’t get fired. You won’t get yelled at.

You earned that break, dammit.

So take it.

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 8, 2015 in Decision Making, Self-Awareness

 

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You are who you THOUGHT you were! (a question of identity)

If you’re like most people, your life has been one identity crisis after another.

  • When you’re a little kid, you might have wanted to be astronaut, a doctor, a firefighter, a police officer….a stunt car driver.
  • When you’re in high school, you freak out because you’re a freshman – bottom of the social ladder.
  • When you’re a senior, you feel invincible – because you aren’t those puny freshman anymore.
  • When you’re in college, you decide you’re going to major in chemistry…no, pre-med…wait, art history…aw, screw it – business.

And then you start your working life for real, and you realize you’ve been answering the question, “What do you want to be?”, instead of, “What do you want to do?”

139580 green

He knew what he was talkin’ about.*

In our culture, we have learned to equate our job/career with who we are.  You can argue the rights and wrongs of this approach, but it’s a fact of life for most people in the working world.  I’m not here to debate pros and cons.  I’m more interested in honestly facing the impact our identity obsession has on our career decisions, and how acknowledging that fact can help us make better ones.

  • The Company: Whether it’s when you’re first starting out or are 20 years into your career, the name of the company on your business card can influence your choice. Do you join Google, even though the job sucks?  Or do you join ABC, Inc. – a relative nobody, but a nobody who will challenge and engage you on a daily basis? Easy money says you take the cooler sounding company because you know you have the opportunity to grow in an awesome organization.

    And yet…companies like Google are targeted by recent college grads, but not because of their job now, but because it will help them get a better job later. [Note: Peter Cappelli shared this thought in a presentation I saw 6 years ago – still searching for the link!]  Be honest about whether this choice is a destination or a stepping stone to something else.

  • The Path: At some point, you may be faced with the choice between remaining an individual contributor or angling for the management track.  A lot of people have no desire to lead others.  They like what they do, the challenge of the work.  The idea of dealing with the drama of others makes some people break into a cold sweat.

    And yet…some people think if they don’t achieve manager status, they have some how failed.  Is it enough to be “just” an expert in your field, or do you feel like you have to “prove” something…and maybe give up a piece of what makes you happy?

  • Title: Those in the know will claim title doesn’t matter, just what you do; and that truly happy employees are unconcerned with such trivial things as what’s on their business cards.  Plenty of us in HR and recruiting have rolled our eyes at the “Manager of Accounts” title that amounts to little more than a glorified salesperson.

    And yet…how many of us have faced those same recruiters and had to answer ridiculous questions about why you “took a step back” just because a title isn’t as cool sounding as as the responsibilities you have?  (Seriously, recruiters – you know better than to assume every company uses the same title structure!) It would be disingenuous to not acknowledge the influence that title has on our decisions.

  • Industry: My background has been in a lot of different industries – some exciting (VOIP, startups, alternate energy) and some not thought of as innovative (event planning, insurance, utilities).  Each industry I’ve worked in has taught me fascinating things and challenged me in ways I didn’t anticipate.

    And yet…there have been times in my past where I have hesitated to share what industry I worked in because it wasn’t the “hot new thing.”  If your identity is tied to being forward-thinking, envelope-pushing, and an all-around rabble-rouser, there can be some cognitive dissonance around the industry you choose to work in.

Each of us has made at least one decision (or more) in our career based on how we’ll answer the question “what do I want to be?” If we think we aren’t considering the coolness factor of a particular opportunity, and the way others might react when we’re talking at cocktail parties, we’re just fooling ourselves.

The ultimate sign of confidence and self-actualization may be the ability to simply share what you do when talking about your job…and being who you truly are.

We know what we are, but not what we may be.
-William Shakespeare 

 

*Because it never gets old to watch Dennis Green do this.

 

 
 

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