Archive for July, 2011

Retention in the Age of Unemployment

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

With unemployment in Canada at 7.6% and in the U.S. at 9.8%, there does not seem to be a real need for organizations to worry about retention. After all, for every person leaving a job there are 10 people waiting to fill it. Also, people are staying where they are because they fear being unemployed. Also, in bad times, many business leaders have more important things on their mind than retaining staff. Their largest retention issue is with customers.

The reason that retention is still a major issues comes down to one word – competitiveness. The reality of today is that people are being asked to work harder for less money just to keep afloat. There still is a shortage of people – qualified people who can work faster and smarter.

There was a story I head a while ago about a chicken plant. The plant went on strike and the union was broken in the process as people crossed the line. People there were working for slightly more than minimum wage and being treated rather poorly. The result was that, in order to get revenge on the plant, they were spitting in the chickens on the assembly line and letting the customers know about it.

This brings me to my central point. A business is only as good as the people who deliver the product and services to the customers. Organizations that search out entrepreneurial, creative people and allow them to solve problems will thrive. Attraction and retention of these people will determine an organization’s ultimate success or failure and provide them with a sustainable competitive advantage. This is where human resources becomes a funciton of the business (and in fact an integral part of it) as opposed to a spectator.

Leadership, Vision and Landing on the Moon

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy had a vision that the United States could land a man on the moon within 10 years. It was only 60 years before that that the Wright brothers flew the first airplane at Kitty Hawk. Yet, Kennedy had this vision that we could push our creativity and limits and within a short timeframe achieve what everybody else thought was impossible. That vision rallied people and resources and ignited the imagination and creativity not just of an entire country but of the world. The interesting thing is that it was the competition from the U.S.’s enemy at the time, the Soviet Union, that spurred that vision.

Today, sadly, marks the final landing of the space shuttle.  NASA will no longer be out beacon to the cosmos.  Instead NASA’s mission is to apologize and perform “outreach to the Muslim world“.  In a twisted perversion of Kennedy’s vision, we no longer should compete against others to better mankind and reach the stars but to subjugate our interests and apologize to others for a host of litanys that had nothing to do with us.  Where Kennedy once showed strong vision and leadership, with the killing of the space program and the ‘redefining’ of NASA President Obama shows lack of leadership and stifling of creativity and innovation into a set of strange apologies.  The irony is that with all of this ‘outreach’, America is more despised than ever in the Arab world.  Why?  Because we are no longer strong leaders with visions but reactive weaklings who ‘lead from behind’, which should more aptly be called following and passing the buck.

The lesson learned is that people respect leaders who have vision, tenacity and challenge those around them instead of trying to appease them.  It is a good lesson for all of us to learn, whether we are leading families, businesses or governments.  Strong leaders have vision and rallying people to those visions.  Weak leaders simply react to events and try to please everybody.  The irony is that instead of pleasing everybody, they please nobody!

Politics and Leadership

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Any one looking at the current group of people who want to President have to notice that there seems to be a lack of leadership. It is even true of the current occupant of the White House. Instead of leading, he seems to be more focused on re-election and playing to his base. He says one thing but in reality is doing the opposite. It is the same a lot of times with many organizations. The best politicians do not make the best leaders. Why does it seem that there is such a shortage of leaders at the very moment in history when we need them most.

The answer is that a good politician does not make a good leader. The ‘art’ of politics is to please as many people as possible. The best way to do that is to give them ‘red meat’ or tell them what they want to hear exactly as they want to hear it. You build a base of power with a specific group of people.  The ‘art’ of leadership is to have a vision, adapt and often times do what people do not want because it is needed.  Leadership is fundamentally about actions.  Politics is about words.  It helps a good leader in many ways to be a good politician, especially the ability to communicate a message clearly and effectively to others.  However, a politican can be a hypocrite, flattering those above them who have a direct impact on their ability to ‘climb the ladder’.

The reason that I am writing this is that there seem to be a lot of politicians but no leaders running to lead the United States right now.  The same, unfortunately, can even be said of the current occupant.  Sometimes it is difficult to be a leader because you have to make decisions that are in the country or organization’s best interest and they may upset your ‘base’.  When decisions are made to get “elected” or “re-elected” because they appease a certain group/ideology and because they promote your individual self-interest, you are acting as a politician and not a leader.  It seems that that is what is happening now with the current budget crisis.  As you read the various press, it becomes clear that instead of working to solve the crisis there is a paralysis as both sides pander to their respective bases.  Leadership is often the art of compromise to solve a problem and when people are simply speaking empty rhetoric above each other rather than offering solid plans to solve a problem.

Talent Management – On Building All Stars

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

As baseball enters its all star break, it is time to think about developing all stars from a talent management perspective. It is interesting to note that many people become stars in one organization only to become low performers in another. The reverse of that is also true. There are many people who are considered low performers in one organization only to become all stars somewhere else. Like Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays who went from “journeyman” center fielder to the largest vote getter in all star history, there are people who become top performers even though the ‘tag’ on them was mediocrity. So, what is the difference?

The difference is culture. There is a culture in sports. Some organizations win no matter who they have playing the game while another organization goes out, buys the best talent for top money and still ends up losing.  Culture is made up of a number of elements.  Each element interacts with the other.  The main ones we put together for the Tetrahedron Culture Instrument are  leadership, attitudes and behaviors, rewards and compensation and process and procedures.  For instance, if a player is given a number of incentives for performance – they will perform.  If the unwritten attitude of the organization is that they cannot win and are losers – they will lose.  There are always external factors that can limit performance (i.e. injury, personal situation, etc.).  However, the way the organization deals with those situations has a tremendous bearing as well on performance.  Fpr instance, is there succession planning in place so that when somebody is injured somebody else can quickly take their place?    Is there an effective ‘minor league’ program where people are allowed to develop their skills and given the best coaching and mentoring to ensure that they fulfill their promise?  This has as much of an effect on an organization as simply trying to bring in the superstars.