Use This Quote When Convincing Someone to Decline An Offer From a Big Company...

"It's better to be a pirate than join the Navy."

-Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was brutal in many ways, but with his brutality came moments of pure clarity.  This quote is one of those moments. Johnny-depp

The stale way to make the same point is obvious - "Why do you want to go work for that big company?  They're going to bury your talent. You know all those ideas you have?  You won't get to chase any of them at IBM.  They'll just pod you up in the matrix and suck your energy over the next decade, leaving you a husked-out former version of yourself."

Wait - that's actual pretty good.  A more standard version is "You're going to there and be bored immediately."

Still, I like the clarity of the Jobs quote.  If you're working for a smaller firm, you need every competitive advantage you can get as you fight for the hires you need.  This quote, while not perfect, is a good tool to have.

It just so happens that the only people that it works on are the people who are actually inclined to believe that they're more than cogs in the corporate wheel.  Use this quote on a person who's happy being a cog, and they might dance with you a bit - but ultimately they're going to grab for the security that only thousands (often tens of thousands) of employees can provide.  Doesn't make them bad people or not talented - it's a preference for security and risk management.

But they're looking to enlist with a big entity like the Navy - not roam the seven seas on that cool, but rickety boat you call a company and wonder if you'll be around in a year.

If you're at a smaller firm, the best hires you will make are the people that don't look like pirates - but have it buried in their DNA.  If you think you have one of those people, I'd talk in broad terms about the pirate-like things you're going to do at your company.

Pirates like Johnny Depp, BTW - not Somali pirates.

Go buy some eye patches for your next round of interviews. Dare a candidate to ask you why you're wearing one.

Degrees Measure Resilience In Employment...And That's Why We Require Them...

Do you have to have a degree to get hired at your company? 


Do you need a degree to be one of the best in any company?

Hell no.  That's probably why Ernst and Young decided to drop the degree requirement.

Then why do we require degrees?

I think for the most part we've progressed past the point where we think a degree means anything related to job performance. For the most part, degrees are used as a requirement by Neighborsmost companies because it's a test.

A test of what you ask? Of polish. Of the ability to put up with a process that has good days and bad days, but if you keep plugging away, eventually something good happens. You know, kind of like your career.

You don't have to have a degree - but people should never be able to pick you out as someone who doesn't have a degree. And that's the rub, right?

Google and Facebook can hire people without degrees who are exceptional and have been exceptional in their field since they were teens - or pre teens. It's clear to everyone they're brilliant. 

The rest of us? We tend to still want a degree - unless the candidate has plugged away for a decade with work experience that's directly related to the position we're considering them for.  Then and only then, we'll think about forgoing the need for a degree.

Does a 25 year old have the polish necessary to be a marketing coordinator (name the relevant position) at your company? We're really bad at evaluating that. Even when the interview goes great, we still have doubts.

A college degree is the ante, the chip that gets you to the table.

I'm willing to hire someone without a degree in positions that traditionally require a degree, but they need one of two things:

1. 5-10 years of relevant experience, directly related to the job in question.

2. Proof that they're exceptional in the field in question, which is usually confirmed by unusual accomplishments for their age that show passion and drive.

Don't have one of those two things? Then I'm going to rely on the degree to tell me something. Anything.

You made it through college - I know you have some ability to stick with the plan. To persevere. To accumulate debt.

Want to get hired without the degree at a young age? Have some passion and chase expertise that's directly related to the job. 

Unless you have that, you're just another sharp 25-year old. We're not smart enough to tell who's a baller and who's not. The college degree is the default.

Understanding Your Audience Is the Key to Great Onboarding...

I'm up over at CareerBuilder talking about how understanding your audience is the key to great onboarding, with some generational twists.  Here's a taste:

As with anything talent-related, generational differences should be considered as you are building your onboarding platform at your company. Here’s what you need to know about generations as it relates to onboarding:

  • Millennials/Z – Hopeful that you don’t absolutely suck as an employer, but actively scanning for signs that you do suck. This group is most likely to make a quick change if their BS meter goes off and their needs aren’t met. For best results, you need to automate the transactional (signing paperwork) part of your onboarding process (they won’t respect you if you’re analog) and consider having follow up sessions that are delivered on-demand. Those two things will go a long way with this segment (as will goal setting and mentoring programs), but you won’t maximize your street cred with this group without talking about corporate social responsibility. Knowing your company cares about something other than itself is huge toward this group sticking with you when the path becomes rough at work.

Head over to CareerBuilder by clicking this link to get the whole article!  Including notes about Boomers and Gen X, which is clearly the best workplace generation that exists today... 

McKinsey Report: Managing Others and Influence Safe From Next Wave of AI/Automation...

McKinsey has a pretty good report out about where machines/AI can replace humans, and where they can't. I'd encourage all in the talent space to take a look - here's the link.

What you learn from the report is that AI and other forms of automation aren't new related to their ability to destroy jobs and cause dramatic restructuring of workforces as we know them.  A recent HBR article shows that between 1900 and 1990, the population of farmers in the United States went from 30 million to 3 million all while the country’s population more than tripled. In other words, 97% of the farmers disappeared, 3% of the jobs were kept but changed dramatically, the cause: automation.  

Smaller examples - the large-scale deployment of bar-code scanners and associated point-of-sale systems in the United States in the 1980s reduced labor costs per store by an estimated 4.5 percent and the cost of the groceries consumers bought by 1.4 percent.  Huh...  Check out kiosks don't work now because humans are generally helpless to learn new things on the fly - once we can scan you walking out the door without you finding a bar code, we won't have check out counters. 

So automation is a fact of life.  The decision you have to help your kids (as well as grown relatives and friends) make is what careers will be viable in the next wave of automation.

If you look at the McKinsey report, you have to be careful when it comes to Skilled Trades.  We'll have those for the foreseeable future, but there will be pressure on these areas for sure. Look at the chart below from the report and we'll talk about it after the jump (email subscribers, click through if you can't see the picture):

McKinsey Work Automation Chart

What the chart says is this - the more predictable the physical work, the more jobs stand to be eliminated by automation.

Self-driving car technology is going to replace truckers.  Low-end recruiters are gong to be replaced by AI technology.

What's safe for right now?  Any position that manages others or requires influence (stakeholder interactions and applying expertise).

Managing others and influence have a lot of overlap.  They're also among the hardest things to get good at in Corporate America.  Unpredictable physical work is much less likely to be automated that predictable physical work.  It stands to reason that predictable work using your brain is much more likely to be automated than unpredictable work using your brain.

You know what's unpredictable work using your brain?  Dealing with those pesky people. 

Which tells me the HR generalist (jack of all trades, master of some - across all career levels) is going to be around for awhile.

The Top 100 Movie Quotes for HR Pros: #69 is Walter Sobchak: "Smokey This is Not 'Nam, This Is Bowling. There are Rules"...

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..

"Smokey This is Not 'Nam, This Is Bowling. There are Rules"

--Walter Sobchak in "The Big Lewbowski 

 People. They're hard to deal with sometimes. You know what causes the biggest disagreements and lack of respect for others in the workplace?

Rules orientation. High rules people hate those who make their own realities and ignore the tribal customs.  Low rules people snicker at high rules people as being bean counters who add little true value.

Which one are you?  I'm low rules.  I'm Smokey in the video below. (put it down, dude)  I've known people like Walter who would gladly draw a gun on me (if socially acceptable) as I ignored a policy for the 13th time.

What saved me?  How about that workplace violence policy?  That's the tricky part for high rules people - if they want to put me in my place, there's usually a rule against that.

Sucks to be them. Find a good behavioral assessment, and I can make a case that the biggest thing you can learn about your team is where they fall in Rules Orientation.

The Dude? He's somewhere mid-range in rules.  Understanding the need, but wondering if taking a stand on Smokey's toe on the bowling foul line is really a good use of our time.

(email subscribers click through for video below)

How Companies With Great Cultures Manage the Expectations of New Hires...

"What should I expect?"

This is a question that goes through every candidate's mind as soon as they begin considering a new position—and it stays at the back of their mind all through onboarding. As a recruiter and HR leader, it's your job to help manage those expectations.

I had the chance on the latest and greatest episode of Talent Sniper Radio (my company podcast over at my recruiting firm, Kinetix) to talk to Dawn Burke, VP of People at Daxko, to discuss how companies with great cultures (and lesser cultures) should manage the expectations of new employees.

Turns out, companies with great cultures have the same problems rank and file companies have related to managing new hire expectations.

You don't want to crash with a new hire because the difference between what you sold on the recruiting trail and reality is dramatically different.  Dawn gave me some great ideas, so click through on the podcast below on your way to work/way home and here what she has to say!

Email subscribers enable images or click through for podcast player below...

The Difference Between Nirvana and Pearl Jam Was The Teams They Hired To Support Them...

Sell the kids for food
Weather changes moods
Spring is here again
Reproductive glands

Hey - he's the one
Who likes all our pretty songs
And he likes to sing along
And he likes to shoot his gun
But he knows not what it means
Don't know what it means, when I say...

I recently got back from a anniversary trip with Mrs. Capitalist.  We took advantage of some work travel I had and took 6 days to drive from Napa to Seattle, moving from the Russian River valley in NoCal up Highway 1 in California, to the mountains of Oregon before finishing the trip in Seattle.

Great trip, lots of highlights and some pictures appear below.  But since this is a talent blog of sorts, I thought I'd share the most interesting talent snippet I picked up on vacation.

As you should expect from a Gen X'er, it's related to the grunge scene that stated in the state of Washington, with a critical mass in Seattle.

We visited the Experience Music Project (EMP) that's located in Seattle Center around the Space Needle.  The EMP was funded primarily by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft with Bill Gates and a guy that can basically do whatever he wants.  Here's the description of the Experience Music Project (EMP) on the web:

"EMP Museum is a nonprofit museum, dedicated to contemporary popular culture. EMP Museum was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2000. Since that time EMP has organized dozens of exhibits, 17 of which have toured across the US and internationally.

The museum, which used to be known as Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (EMP|SFM), has founded many public programs including Sound Off! an annual 21 and under battle-of-the-bands that supports the all-ages scene and Pop Conference an annual gathering of academics, critics, musicians and music buffs."

I'd be the first to tell you there's some nerdy shit going on at EMP, primarily of the Science Fiction realm.

But the music exhibits are the bomb, and Mrs. Capitalist and I spent over 2 hours in one exhibit focused on the Seattle music scene told through the lens of the rise of Nirvana.

My favorite Seattle scene groups are Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, probably in that order.  I've shared my 5 favorite photos from the Nirvana exhibit below for you perusal (email subscribers enable images or click through for photos), but in spending some time in the video archives that have hundreds of interviews on the Seattle scene, I picked up the following truth shared by multiple people:

The Difference Between Nirvana and Pearl Jam Was The Teams They Hired To Support Them...

That underscores a few realities. There are people who throw shade to Pearl Jam based off of their commercial success, etc.  Those same people view Nirvana as more gifted, more important, etc.

But Nirvana was a comet that was extinguished by Kurt Cobain's suicide a mere 3 years after they broke onto the scene with "Smells Like Teen Spirit". 

The reason cited by multiple people for Nirvana being a comet and Pearl Jam still being with us after 20+ years?  Pearl Jam - from day 1 - always surrounded themselves with great people, from their manager to the the lowest level roadie.

Nirvana? The same interviews suggest that Nirvana generally employed the most deplorable people, the ones who were it it for themselves (at all levels including roadies) above all else.  The biggest example of that was the fact that Cobain had few people he could turn to in his darkest hour.  When you're surrounded by no one who will tell you no, it's no surprise things end up in tragedy.

The best team usually wins.  The interviews at EMP suggest that talent issues we live every day as HR and recruiting pros were front and center for both Nirvana and Pearl Jam. One had a plan, the other one didn't - the rest is history.

Enjoy my five favorite photos from the Nirvana exhibit at EMP below (captions for each underneath).

Guitar tree

Guitar tree at EMP.  Too bad Cobain wasn't around long enough to trash of all these.

Cobain regan sketch

Cobain liked art in High School.  Here's a sketch he did of Reagan - not bad!

Nirvana checkbook

Like you in your early 20's, Nirvana had a checkbook before they hit it big.  See $16 check to Tacoma Dodge for van parts, a Uhaul check and a grocery store purchase.  Would love to know who wrote the checks in the band.  I'm guessing Dave Grohl.

First Nirvana label deal

Nirvana's first label deal.  $600 advance - as in "six hundred. period."  Those option years are looking pretty tasty if you're a struggling label knowing what we know today.

KFC Cobain

And finally, Cobain having fun with the KFC Icon on the road, just before Nirvana broke out.

RIP Kurt Cobain. 

CASE STUDY: When The Private Equity Bears Show Up To Eat Your Company

True story - I was once on a business pitch and waked into a company that had been taken over by a multi-national private equity firm that shall remain nameless.  One of the things that blew me away was that as we walked into the lobby, the PE firm had the "new values" in a big display in the lobby - at least 25-30 feet high.

Once of those values was "meritocracy".  "Hmm", I thought - I hadn't seen that as a value before.  And I'd never seen it 30 ft high. BEARS

Anyway, we went to the pitch and it was obvious that the private equity firm was making a lot of changes - many that needed to be made - on the people side.  The change to a more performance-based culture was on thanks to the PE firm.

The problem?  The private equity firm had the right idea related to meritocracy and many other people ideas. But one thing they got wrong was they took a sleepy little company that had people who probably weren't competing as hard as they could and they created a sweatshop of sorts - creating the expectation that people had to stay until 7pm or after or risk being outed as "non-competitive", etc.

Oh yeah - on the ride down the elevator, the doors closed to show the values on display again - this time on the inside of the elevator. My travel partner and I looked at each other - the value "meritocracy" had been scratched by keys repeatedly.

I tell that story to share this - when private equity firms look for the upside of investing, they're often looking for bloated costs they can take out of the company to ensure they make money on their investment.  But what they're also looking for is bloat on the people side - not just too many people, but performance processes that are non-existent and full of bloat and non-focus they can exploit.  

That's why I loved this case study from Marc Effron and The Talent Strategy Group:

"The rules for avoiding a bear attack are simple, clear and repeatedly reinforced to anyone visiting bear country. But, with regularity, people ignore those rules and are injured or killed by bears.

The rules for your company avoiding a private equity attack are similarly clear and violated even more frequently. Companies worldwide tremble as they consider a PE bear attack but then act in the ways most likely to attract a hungry carnivore.

We use the case study of 3G capital – acquirer of Heinz, Burger King, Anheuser Busch and others – to show you how to bear-proof your company. We don't expect that you'll follow this advice, so don't blame us when bears eat your company.

Download the article here."

As an HR leader, you might think that a private equity firm's decision to take over your company is all driven by financials.  You'd be wrong.  Go get this case study and read up - it might serve as great justification to get the buy-in from your leadership team you've needed to get meaningful change in areas that are important to you.

WEBINAR: Your How-To Guide to Weaving Assessment Data into Onboarding and 1-on-1 Coaching Sessions...

If you’re the HR Pro I know you are, you’ve seen the same thing I have. You buy access to a great behavioral assessment platform to be more scientific with your hiring process and selection, then your company forgets about the tool once you make your decision on who to hire.

Sound familiar? Of course it does. That’s why RJ Morris and my FOT crew are back with our latest version of the FOT Webinar, brought to you by our friends at OutMatch. Join us on September 29th at 2pm EDT (1pm FOT-webinar

Central,11am Pacific) for Free Agent Nation - Using Talent Assessments to Build Your Superteam
 and we’ll give you the following goodies:

—Better Onboarding – We’ll serve up a template you can give your managers to cover the results of their behavioral assessment with each new hire, making them feel great about their strengths and aware of some the weaknesses they need to minimize to maximize their success in your organization.  

—Improved 1-on-1 Sessions - We’ll also provide some great talking tracks your manager can use to incorporate each employee’s behavioral strengths and weaknesses into ongoing coaching sessions. If you are trying to make your performance management system stronger through the use of more frequent 1-on–1’s, you won’t want to miss this.

In addition to these great resources, RJ and my team at FOT will also cover how to research/implement assessments (and avoid getting sued) and sell the concept of leveraging external assessments to the company bigwigs if you're thinking about bringing an assessment into your company.  

Join us on September 29th at 2pm EDT (1pm Central, 11am Pacific) for Free Agent Nation - Using Talent Assessments to Build Your Superteam and we’ll give you the plan to get started or do more with the assessments you already have!


Olympic Swimmers and the Trials/Tribulations of the Low Cog Employee/Candidate

By now, you've heard all you need to hear about the Olympic swimmers who were robbed/not robbed at gunpoint/not at gunpoint after vandalizing/barely vandalizing a convenience store in Rio.

Who's to blame?  Like most of the stuff we deal with in HR, the truth is somewhere in the middle.  And it's messy. Rio

There's one thing that's certain, however. Whatever happened, we're dealing with the equivalent of a log cog employee/candidate when it comes to the response of the primary swimmer in question.  I'm going to refrain from naming names, because some of the stuff that follows could be viewed as unkind.  Let's call the swimmer at the middle of the firestorm "Bryan Rochte".

Bryan is responding to the controversy in a way consistent with the low cog employee/candidate.  Let's break it down.

First up, what do we mean by "low cog?"  Low Cog means Low Cognitive.  If you're into testing candidates before you hire them, most of you will do behavioral assessments and as a part of that, some of you will measure cognitive skills.

High Cognitive candidates can take in large amounts of information and make quick accurate decisions.  Low cog candidates aren't comfortable making choices that quickly - they need some soak time to arrive at the best possible decision.  Cognitive tests most often require a candidate to complete X number of problems in a limited period of time - often making the candidate feel it's impossible to complete all the items in the time given.  

Flash back to "Bryan" first responding to the reports that he had been robbed at gunpoint.  However that story got started, he had a chance to set the record straight when Matt Lauer showed up to interview him the first time.  Instead, he went with the story he shared earlier.  That's consistent with a low cog candidate in an interview, or a low cog employee under pressure at your company. 

What you say next will set up multiple dominos in the next couple of days. You've got 5 minutes to figure it out because Matt Lauer is coming up the elevator.  Go!

Instead of backing off, he doubled down.  Couldn't make the right decision in a restricted timeframe under pressure.  Make the right decision - tell the whole truth about you ripping down a sign and in response to that, guns being drawn - and you're OK.  A little black mark on your history but you likely keep the endorsements for no other reason than.... guns being drawn on you and everything that implies.

Low cog makes poor decisions under pressure.  It's not about being dumb. It's more about processing speed and having the ability to make quick, accurate decisions under pressure.

But wait, there's more. Bryan the low cog swimmer had another chance when the story broke bad. During the "mea culpa" interview where he apologized, it was a great time to get some of the facts out that related to what happened while still taking full responsibility.  To the contrary, low cog can't see the game and what's possible with the second interview, instead simply apologizing rather than doing a combo apology/let me tell you all the details session.

Low cog employees and candidates don't perform well under pressure.  They need time to soak in the details and talk through options, hopefully arriving at the right decision/course of action after unlimited soak time.

You can hire people like Bryan - they can be good employees.  But you should never put them in a spot where they have to deliver on demand.

And for the record, I'd like to know whether the security officers in Rio kept the money or if it made it back to the store owner.