dumb and dumber, toby elwin, blog

Low risk, low return human resources

dumb and dumber, hr, human resources, human capital, risk

Dumb and dumber waiting for dumberer

My 11-odd-years in business and talent management consulting, the other nine years in marketing, have shown a few disturbing trends that I see from most poorly-run companies.

These type of organizations, across all industries, ascribe to, what they believe is a low risk strategy, but in reality, is a low return, strategy for human resources to:

  1. Take advantage of the economy to lay off the workers they don’t manage – the problem cases;
  2. Take advantage of a recession to lay off more staff than needed to slash costs; and
  3. Recruit for industry experience over technical experience

There are far more, but I wanted to just get this list started.

A problem with strategy 1:

The root cause of the problem remains that lazy incompetent leaders, managers, and human resource professionals who don’t manage talent. ¬†These people and their policies are the reason ill-fitting workers get¬†recruited and the reason ill-fitting workers remain.

And the staff worker is far less damaging as an incompetent then the manager or executive as an incompetent. Management and executives are the ones guide the policies and chart the course for success as well as model organization behaviors and cultural norms.

A problem with strategy 2:

When you lay off more workers than needed, you distribute work to those that remain.  Perhaps they seemingly handle the distributed work load, but the reality is they become over worked and unmotivated.

The only people who advocate this strategy and remain happy are the myopic-bean counters who trumpet quarterly results to highlight short-term results over the long-term return on investment.

The real cost of strategy number two is that productivity slips, quality slips, and your organization reputation slips.  And no, you should not confuse these people as feeling they are lucky to have jobs.  Some of them wish they were the ones laid off, yet others will jump ship when the opportunity arises as more workers voluntarily quit their jobs.

Not much for a workforce dedication with strategy two.  But you can not expect better from reactive short-term strategies that usually result in long-term consequences.

A problem with strategy number 3:

you miss out on great candidates and great opportunities for innovation [there’s that buzz word we all hang on today]. ¬†This is a huge cost that too few take into consideration when their job description requires 10, 15, 20 years industry.

I have been part of job description, job family design, and recruiting efforts too often where the ultimate requirement comes down to time in industry.  A candidate with more skill and accomplishment rejected over a candidate with more industry experience.

I advocate strongly against this.

I want to take number three a bit further, as today you have the greatest opportunity to gain with changing this.

Make a case for me that industry experience is not overrated? ¬†With technical skill being equal, anyone can learn an industry behavior: ¬†financial analysts write and recommend industry buys all the time and they’ve never worked in the industry – anyone can learn an industry.

What people don’t get from industry experience is job competency, technical knowledge, and/or the relationship skills important to do a job well, work in a team well, conceive and contribute ideas, and solve challenges.

If we believe diversity is a core organization competency than we have to believe companies that are exclusionary to outsiders are, in the least, missing an opportunity, or, at worst, running diversity programs as compliance or litigation mitigation.

These companies and industries lose out on great talent eager to bring their skill and their fresh perspective to your meeting and your industry challenge.

Recruiting looks for fit on four levels:

  1. Person to job;
  2. Person to team;
  3. Person to manager; and
  4. Person to culture

Of those four, where is industry experience most needed?  You are not going to tell me you have the most difficult industry to work in.

The more industry diverse someone’s industry experience, the more their view of options and alternatives to the same problems. ¬†I’m perversely¬†reminded of this in the music industry as they retread the same management and executives into the same jobs, but expect different, game-changing results.

That is no way for human resources to treat human capital.

Embrace diversity, fear group-think.

And we in human resources have a job to do to make the business case for diversity a business case. ¬†That is unless we are afraid of risk …

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