Which got me thinking about the concept of the self-inflicted demotion. Let's call it "downgrade turnover". It exists somewhere between the realms of "voluntary and "involuntary" turnover.
Downgrade turnover happens when one of your employees leaves to take a job that's not as good as the one they have, usually because they were worried about their ability to keep the job with your company for performance reasons.
Downgrade turnover looks like voluntary turnover, but there's an involuntary smell to it as well. They believe they're going to get fired, so they opt out - to a lessor job, which says it all.
What's interesting about downgrade turnover is that it never happens at companies aren't hard-ass related to performance management. If you never push, you'll never get any downgrade turnover.
Downgrade turnover is good turnover. The probability was low that they were going to make it, and they opted out.
The big question for your company is the following - what can you do institutionally to drive some downgrade turnover out of portion of your workforce that is struggling?
The biggest thing is as follows - you tell the struggling talent, "unless things really turn around, I don't think you're going to be here in 6 months." Tell them why that is, pledge to work with them and continue to the honest dialog.
If you're not that honest with talent that's truly struggling, odds are you're going to look up 2 years later - and you guessed it - they're still going to be at your company.
Mediocre talent loves to hang around longer than you would like. Be brutally honest and see if you can get some people to voluntarily downgrade.
I'm Generation X. If there was ever any doubt about that, this post should put that doubt to rest.
Last week found me rolling through airports in Baton Rouge and Philadelphia. As I was running through the Philadelphia airport to catch a plane, I spotted a bunch of old school autographed photos on the edge of a depressing little airport bar and grill. One of them was Fred Durst, front man for 90's rap/rock band Limp Bizkit. Find the history of Limp Bizkit by clicking here.
Me in an airport + autographed Fred Durst picture = photo op.
That's me trying to get my Fred Durst pose on (email subscribers click through for photo), which is hard to do in a blue blazer and slacks. I was so caught up in the moment that I didn't even notice the picture to the right of me was Courtney Love (lead singer of Hole and former wife of Kurt Cobain), which would have been another photo op.
But I digress. If you look up Limp Bizkit like I did that night, it's easy to see what they did right to sell 40 million CDs, and there's some leadership lessons. Check it out:
1. If you're going to lead, have a style. Fred Durst was famous for wearing a red Yankees cap. Who wears that? No one but Durst and Limp Bizkit back in the day, so the brand was instantly recognizable from a freaking hat. Not bad.
2. Own the local market before you go national. Limp Bizkit hailed from Jacksonville, FL, and they were a local sensation before they hit it big nationally. So big, in fact, that Sugar Ray opened up for them in Jacksonville before Bizkit even had a record deal. I know, Sugar Ray... Does it get any bigger than that?
3. Figure out what's next and go there. Limp Bizkit had a lead guy and some rock band members. So did everyone else. So the lead guy rapped as a white guy, then they mashed rock with hip-hop to a further degree by bringing in a mix-master called DJ Lethal (of course they called him that). Rap had hit, Rock/Metal had been around for a while, so they mashed it up and went mass market. See Korn for another example.
I’m reading Team of Rivals in all my spare time, which illustrates the rise of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency in 1860. Most people would be surprised to know that at the time he was elected president, Lincoln had not held any significant office–governor, US representative, US senator, etc. He rose in part due to his work ethic and oratory skill, but equally responsible for his rise was the fact that he refused to take positions on a variety of issues.
Why did he stay neutral or moderate? Because to become extreme on any issue would make him less electable. When the three primary rivals for the Republican nomination became unelectable due to their past extreme views, there was honest Abe–everyone’s second choice, but repulsive to no one. He was the backup candidate on everyone’s ballot. Deals got cut; the USA got a tall, skinny guy as the president; and that moderate led us through some BIG change."
You have to love companies that know how to market and use/redirect negative misinformation directed at them for positive gain.
Subaru of Wichita would be one of those progressive organizations. Brief back-story - the dealership did a remodel and non-union labor was used. A local union entity didn't like it and placed the following sign in front of the dealership:
(assuming it's a public right-of-way and they had the right to do that, email subscribers enable pictures or click through to get the vibe)
It's easy to be a victim to bullying tactics, but instead of rubbing their hands together and fretting, Subuaru of Wichita used the message to enhance it's marketing plan. See the picture below for the genius via an additional sign they put up:
Something I missed years ago that serves as an interesting lesson in union organizing, incentives, profit sharing and more follows...
When Delta merged with Northwest Airlines back in 2008, it set the stage for an epic battle. Northwest was heavily unionized, but at Delta, only the pilots and flight dispatchers belonged to labor organizations. A series of elections would determine whether Delta, which employs 75,000 people, would succumb to organized labor — or whether former Northwest employees would lose their representation.
"Step one was accomplished by forging the deal with Northwest, which exited bankruptcy the same day as Delta. His old company brought what Delta lacked -- a premium international franchise. But Anderson felt that to make the deal work, Delta's culture and practices had to dominate. The Northwest employees were virtually all unionized, and the big unions were hungry to use that wedge to bring the Delta employees into their ranks. "I was determined to keep most of Delta non-union," says Anderson. "We needed to maintain the direct relationship with employees."
Delta argued that its pay levels were higher than unions were commanding at other airlines, and that its work rules gave flight attendants and machinists the flexibility to work longer hours, and hence pocket more pay. Its generous profit-sharing plan, which now hands employees 10% of the profits up to $2 billion and 20% over $2 billion, also attested to Anderson's goodwill. In 2010 over 50,000 flight attendants, machinists, meteorologists, and members of other trades voted on whether to join unions. All nine elections went in favor of management. In one stroke, Delta effectively de-unionized almost 17,000 Northwest employees."
I've argued before that a union I could get behind is one that would push a lot of benefits and comp into a profit sharing plan - that way, the employees are truly incented to make the company successful.
Of course, that's not the way unions work. The combined Delta/Northwest company voted no to unions in most workgroups, and 17,000 Northwest employees effectively got decertified.
How's that decision working out for them? In February, most of Delta's now 80,000 employees got bonus checks equal to roughly a month's salary. Sounds like a good decision. The profit sharing plan was a cornerstone of Delta's pitch to it's non-union employees (the votes they had to dominate) during the election.
Think about it - in a industry dominated by unions, Delta gave it's non-union employees the chance to vote on representation (a huge risk) and won. But they had already been treating them well - and like owners.
For those of you who don't live in the Southeast, you may or may not have experienced two fast food/fast casual eateries:
- Moe's Southwest Grill
What's common about these two places? They both force employees to use a standardized greeting or thank you - the employees have to do it a certain way as part of the gig:
- At Moe's: Somebody on the food prep line has to yell "Welcome to Moe's" every time someone comes through the door. With enthusiasm.
- At Chick-fil-a: When you say "thank you", the folks at the counter have to say "My Pleasure".
Does it work? For the most part, yes. But, if you had to choose one, the standardized way to say thanks is much easier to pull off than the forced greeting that takes a small yell.
The reason is simple. It's harder to appear authentic when you have to put enthusiasm into a loud greeting that the entire place can hear - than it is to say thank you to one person (at a normal voice level in a standardized way). The burden is much lower.
One's public, one's private. When you perform at Moe's, everyone can hear you. When you return to Moe's and you sense cynics and jaded employees are giving you the "Welcome to Moe's" line, you're not the only one hearing it - everyone else is as well. And you're disappointed. I like Moe's a lot - it's just a high burden for the brand to carry.
The moral of the story? It's good to build a piece of your hospitality culture around standardized greetings - you just have to make sure that you can deliver on them, and if you can't - that only one person hears the lack of enthusiasm.
There are a few places where the corporate culture is truly defined and it's a net positive to the business.
But that's it. For the rest of us, talking about culture is an opiate for multiple people, including:
-Leaders - that talk about culture because Inc. Magazine told them it's important...
-HR Pros - because we're trained we're supposed to talk about it, but even if we have ideas on how to establish and nuture it, too much is outside of our control...
-Employees and Candidates - Like Poison, they desperately want someone to give them something to believe in, to the point where they'll except whatever culture vibe you're putting out. Beats seeing the underbelly and understanding how ugly the business world is, right?
It doesn't mean there isn't hope. In my experience, there's only one role in your organization that can establish and nurture culture - your individual managers of people. There the ones that can make the difference, and it's usually got nothing to do with weak attempts at saying your company's culture is this or that.
The best managers establish cultures of their own within the team. And trying to get as many managers who understand what they're doing with people and even training them a bit to nourish them is the best culture your company can have.
Or foosball. Foosball looks great on the website if you've got to fake it.
You just lost another one. People are looking to you, because... well, you're the HR leader and you're responsible for turnover, right?
Of course, you know that there are a lot of reasons that people leave. But you also know that your calls for a more competitive compensation structure has fallen on deaf ears.
That's OK. It actually gives you an opportunity to break out the following go-to line sure to be repeated away from HR:
--"We're organ donors for the rich"
You need a go-to line to underscore your lack of competitiveness when it comes to total comp. Would you rather go with "We're organ donors for the rich", or "we really need to look at the competitiveness of our comp plan next budget season"?
Words matter. Use talking tracks that get repeated when you're not around. It's part of your HR Brand.
I don't get a chance to watch a lot of TV, but here's one upcoming series I'm excited about - HBO's "Silicon Valley", which debuts this Sunday on April 6th after Game of Thrones.
Take a look at the trailers and let's talk after the jump (email subscribers click through for the video):
It seems understated, but what I love what it is underscoring in the margins:
-The natural inclination in the Valley to think you can get rich off of one idea.
-The fact that they're mocking the creative genuis of Steve Jobs, when his orginal partner might have been the brains, which the nerds understand.
-The reality that people have to make career choices which they know they may come to regret, even in the valley.
At the end of the day, I'm a sucker for the show that digs as deep into the culture of work as it does within individual characters. Games of Thrones is nice, but I'm really looking forward to the real world connection of "Silicon Valley".
HIt me up if you watch it on Sunday with what you thought about it...
Pretty Simple. They have more people than average to bad HR organizations with the following characteristics -
1. A low tolerance for Rules. High rules people, which traditional HR is full of, look for the operations manual and if your situation doesn't fit the pre-packaged solution, don't hesitate to tell you no. Low rules people can't stand the operations manual and love the chaos. They want to come up with their own solution, which BTW, happens to be customized for the person they're trying to help.
2. They say "yes" more than their traditional HR counterparts. A willingness to say yes, or provide a conditional yes, is probably a result of the low rules pentration I've described up top. Finding a way to say yes/find a path again leads to more custom solutions, which results in actual innovation (shocking!) from an HR Pro.
The HR orgs who have more HR pros with these two things will win. Degrees, certifications and all the other BS is nice and valuable on some level, but without more people with these two things, your department will be average.
Watch it closely. It's classic. Then watch the reaction of the team.
Some people are horrified by it. To me, it underscores a component of leadership mixed with results/success that is the following reality:
Succeed at a high level and you can lead whatever way you want to lead. Not because you're above the law (although you are), but because you probably got that way with a leadership style your team understands and values. If any action is consistent with that style, you're probably good to go.
It doesn't matter that the player got a slap on national TV. Ollie is the leader. The team reaction says it all. "Oh no, he didn't..." They know Ollie. The team's just succeeded on the biggest stage. It's no doubt in line with the behavior they see from Ollie on a daily basis. It's expected, and at the moment of their greatest success with this leader, it's embraced.
Results trump whatever we define as acceptable behavior. Maybe some year Kevin Ollie will be struggling and will do something with poor judgment to a player and he'll pay a price.
2014 is not that year. 2014 is another great year in UCONN hoops.
You think that was over the line? You can't touch Kevin Ollie right now for that.
The leaders who succeed on the biggest stage can do what they want for the most part. Until the success isn't there, at which point we'll treat them different.
New series at the Capitalist: The Top 100 Movie Quotes of all time for HR Pros. In no special order, I break down the 100 movie quotes that resonate most for me as a career HR pro. Some will be funny, some will be serious... Some will tug at your heart like when the Fox voice-over guy said, "Tonight - a very special episode of 90210"... You get the vibe... I'll do it countdown-style like they're ranked, but let's face it - they're ALL special..
"Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic..."
--Crash Davis, Bull Durham
It's baseball season, and that means it's time to get Bull Durham back in your talent vocabulary. We've all had young stars around that wanted to do it all by themselves, take all the credit and generally alienate the team around them.
Enter the legend of Crash Davis in Bull Durham. The next time you have a young star who just doesn't understand that getting the rest of the team is important, channel Crash Davis and tell them strikeouts (or any solo performance activity) are boring and borderline fascist (look it up here).
They should throw some ground balls - it's more democratic and lets others participate.
Remember SHRM Members for Transparency? That was the renegade (I mean that in a positive way!) group of former SHRM Leaders from the field who identified a number of issues (SHRM board members giving themselves raises without going to the membership, flying first class, etc.) with SHRM national and decided to try to do something about it.
I recently ran across a name from that movement - Kate Herbst - and decided to have her on my podcast, The CYA Report, over at Fistful of Talent. We had a great conversation about the history of that movement, why it started, what happened as a result and when it might come back (the website is still active!).
The world needs disrupters.
Podcast appears below. If you're a SHRM junkie, it's worth a listen.
Welcome to The CYA Report, brought to you by Workforce.com and Fistful of Talent. On today’s show we haveKate Herbst, talent management professional and passionate HR leader, on SHRM Members for Transparency—2 Years Later.
Moneyball- A term describing baseball operations in which a team endeavors to analyze the market for baseball players and buy what is undervalued and sell what is overvalued. Unlike a common misconception, it is not about OBP, but whatever is undervalued at that time. It is most commonly used to refer to the strategy used by the front office of the Oakland Athletics. It derives its name from a Michael Lewis book of the same name.
That's the sports definition of Moneyball. The more important application of the Moneyball concept is that in any talent economy - the one your company competes in for example - there's always undervalued assets to be recruited and acquired on the cheap.
The point of Moneyball is this - if you can recruit the undervalued asset at 60% of the cost but get 80% of the production the higher priced asset gives you, you're going to win as a company.
Which brings me to the point of the post. What's the undervalued asset in today's talent economy? Is it any of the following?
Ivy League grads? No, too competitive and the price gets driven up quickly.
Young college grads? Probably not - not enough experience and they're probably valued correctly, even at their low salaries - for their skills and experience.
Generation X? I think not. Now in late 30's and 40's, they're in their peak earning years. You may love the experience and energy combo, but this segment is not undervalued.
Here's another thought. If you're going to follow the Moneyball approach and invest in the undervalued asset that no one wants, let's face it - it's old people in the workforce.
That's right - I said old people. Shock and awe. Some people consider me to be old in my 40's. Bastards - I'm Gen X, which doesn't qualify as old. Unless you're a punk kid, but you really don't have the experience to judge me - OK youngsters?
Here's why older workers are on my mind as the undervalued asset a moneyball talent approach would follow. New Republic recently published an article on the Brutal Ageism of Tech in Silicon Valley, and the part that interested me the most was a counter-intuitive, Moneyball approach to older entrepreneurs by a outcast VC/angel investor:
"Midway through my first encounter with Dan Scheinman, he warned me that he was weird. He wasn’t wrong. Once, while he was fielding a pitch from two entrepreneurs, I watched him tear apart a bagel with his teeth like a flesh-eating predator. Later, I noticed him absently fingering poppy seeds from a napkin into his mouth.
Though he had ascended to head of acquisitions at Cisco during his 18-year run there, he always felt as if his quirkiness kept him from rising higher. His ideas were unconventional. His rhetorical skills were far from slick. “I’m a crappy presenter,” he told me. “There are people in a room whose talent is to win the first minute. Mine is to win the thirtieth or the sixtieth.” Back in the early 2000s, he proposed that Cisco buy a software company called VMware. It did not go over well. “Cisco is a hardware company,” the suits informed him. Why mess around with software?
Not that this shook his confidence. Scheinman simply concluded that he would have better luck if he made investments without clearing them through a bureaucracy. VMware, after all, became a $50-billion success. And yet, when Scheinman left Cisco in 2011 to become a venture capitalist (V.C.), he attracted not the slightest bit of interest from the established firms on Sand Hill Road."
That made Scheinman a lot like the Oakland A's when it came to talent he could attract on his own. So he naturally zigged while others zagged:
"The only question was what to invest in. “I could see the reality was I had two choices,” Scheinman told me. “One, I could do what everyone else was doing, which is a losing strategy unless you have the most capital.” The alternative was to try to identify a niche that was somehow perceived as less desirable and was therefore less competitive. Finally, during a meeting with two bratty Zuckerberg wannabes, it hit him: Older entrepreneurs were “the mother of all undervalued opportunities. "Indeed, of all the ways that V.C.s could be misled, the allure of youth ranked highest. “The cutoff in investors’ heads is 32,” Graham told The New York Times in 2013. “After 32, they start to be a little skeptical.”
Naturally, Scheinman decided to lurch in the opposite direction. He became an angel investor, meaning he typically provides the cash the founders tap once they’ve exhausted their family members and credit cards. If the angel’s bet is sound and the company continues to grow, it will frequently need an “A round” of funding from a V.C. later on, usually between $2 and $10 million. Scheinman’s hypothesis was that, with enough money to pay their bills for a year or two, the older entrepreneurs could rig up a product that was sufficiently impressive to overcome the V.C.s’ prejudice. He could force them to wonder if maybe, just maybe, they were staring at a billion-dollar business."
Our natural instinct is to do what others do. Reach for the energy of the young person. Be skeptical whether the professional in his 50s has what it takes to climb the mountain again.
You might have reasons to really believe that. But, if you also believe in the Moneyball approach - that assets ultimately get undervalued as the pack chases what's hot - it's clear what the undervalued asset is.
The undervalued asset is old people. Or should i say <throat clearing sound> - deeply experienced workers.
Zig when others Zag. The only thing you have to figure out is which 20% of deeply experienced workers are super talented and simply got caught in pack mentality that older workers don't have what it takes to compete in today's economy.