Two years ago, I wrote an article about things I needed CHRO’s to know about what the organization needs from them. I wanted them to know what kind of leaders their employees deserve. I find myself wanting to have this discussion again after yet another anecdote about an ill-equipped CHRO.
I have often heard that leaders don’t need to be knowledgeable in every facet of their employees’ work to be effective. That may well be true in some scenarios. However, it is my belief that time spent in the trenches is valuable not only for the purpose of understanding what your employees go through – but also so you bring something other than a title to the table when you are called to it.
Some of the best leaders I have known have worked their way from the bottom to the C-Suite. I also know people that haven’t held every role on their way to the top, but are relentless about rolling up their sleeves and keeping themselves current on all things HR. As a business owner, I know what I know and I know what I don’t know. As such, I seek out the people and resources that are needed to help me execute my tasks and business goals. I may not be an expert in everything, but I am willing to learn and/or I research what I don’t know so I can have an intelligent conversation about the work that needs to be done.
Here’s a thought…
Don’t become a leader , if you choose to be a figurehead rather than a team member. The world can use less people who look the part versus fitting the part. Personally, I have had enough of watching people in the C-Suite sitting in meetings and town halls completely oblivious to what is going on in their organizations. It isn’t becoming to not understand the basic tenets of your niche – when it is that very expertise that you got you hired for the job in the first place. It is equally uncool to take credit for your teams knowledge and expertise.
Experts often say you shouldn’t be working in your business day-to-day as a CEO. I both agree and disagree with this sentiment. I know that going forward I will need to delegate work so I can work on business development and other aspects of my business. Conversely, I have been all things in my business out of both necessity and utility. I now know what has to be done in all aspects of my business and how it should be done. It would be impossible for me to provide the proper direction and vision to a future employee – without having experienced being in their shoes.
Additionally, if my team members bring something new or innovative to my work that was previously overlooked by me, I have a duty to give them the credit for their effort and ideas. Being a knowledge-poacher is not only disingenuous, it is a morale killer.
Put yourself in the place of one of your employees for a second. Think about how exhilarating it is to think you have come up with a solution to an issue or to know that you created a unique program or initiative. Imagine the pride you would feel as an employee to hand the deliverable off to a manager or leader realizing its potential for recognition by the right people – only to have said leader take credit for your work. How would you feel?
As a leader, you don’t have to know it all or be everything to everyone. You do have a duty to ensure that your employees efforts and great ideas are recognized. You are not less of a leader, because your employees excel at things you don’t. If you are a knowledge-poaching leader take a good, long look at yourself. Heed the following warnings because this is your plight:
1)Employees who are victims of knowledge-poaching leaders eventually move on to greener pastures where their talent can not be hidden (I am proof of this). This likely means high turnover for your organization.
2)When the victims of your poaching do move on, everything will eventually crumble around you. It only takes that one key employee to leave for the weakest links to be exposed. This run of hiding behind other people’s talent never lasts indefinitely.
3) Your poaching affects all of your employees whether they are the ones being poached or not. In the case of one of my colleagues, he questions the ethical, moral, and organizational ramifications of not speaking-up in defense of a co-worker whose knowledge, expertise and efforts are being poached.
True leaders aren’t insecure because their teams are strong. They celebrate the strength of the team with pride and acknowledgement.
Are you one of those companies that would rather preserve everyone than let them go? Right now, I know of at least one organization -where despite lackluster performance, poor behavior and the disbanding of their team of direct reports- a leader is being salvaged beyond their time because no one has the balls to let go of people who are detracting from the organization.
Let’s be honest employers…
With the exception of a select group of companies, it has been my experience that many of you see your workforces as being dispensable. If business is down over a period of time and tough decisions have to be made- you layoff people without blinking an eye. If one of your employees doesn’t exactly fit the mold or doesn’t flow with the way of the company- get rid of them is what you say. Oh, but there are a select “untouchable” few that get to stay for the ride. They have a certain pedigree these untouchables. If you went around and did a very unofficial survey of your workforce at the moment to find out who people believe are “untouchable” in your organization they would either be reluctant to answer and/or with some further assurance of no retailiation -they would give you at least one name. Note: silence is also an answer.
Sometimes these people are at the staff level. In the eyes of their peers, they are disruptive to an otherwise healthy work environment. They do very little or sometimes they do a lot. Whatever they do, they are not interested in assimilating and working cooperatively, because they don’t have to. Despite any complaints or even visual cues that they are contaminating your ecosystem- you, the employer continue to reward poor behavior by promotions that they aren’t worthy of. You offer these “untouchables” opportunities that your other employees would die for. In fact, they may be dying for said opportunities- as they continue to work painfully hard hoping that it will someday be recognized and rewarded.
What of the untouchable leader?
This is probably the most damaging of all of the untouchables. You all know at least one leader that you have encountered that shouldn’t be allowed to lead anyone- let alone be employed by a company in such a capacity. They are not always the vile characters we often think about. Sometimes they are just cunning, undercutting, always playing and dealing a card at the right time. Everyone on their staff sees them for who they are. Internal and external partners even see it. The trouble is when HR ignores the smoke and the C-Suite is blinded completely by charm and other artificially-sweetened personality trickery. There are usually attempts to dethrone this person, but they are usually thwarted by a lengthy list of reasons why the person cannot be fired.
You may be saying: “this is how it is”. If that is your stance, you should also be made aware of the damage these people cause.
Here are some reasons why you should stop salvaging bad employees now:
1) You are setting a precedent that good performance and showing up everyday in a positive manner has no bearing on an employee’s success in your company.
2) These people disrupt the office environment. People tip-toe around them, avoid them and are sickened by having to share in office events or the presentation of yet more accolades for someone who really isn’t deserving of any of it.
3) It causes a slow and painful deterioration to both employee loyalty and effort. Some will hang in there with you unwavered, but many will see your allegiance to an untouchable as a personal affront to their career aspirations. If the sentiment is the latter, you will either lose people or see people do less, because they will figure working hard isn’t a worthy approach in your company.
It’s important to be cognizant of the messages you send about what success looks like in your organization. It’s fairly easy to write down a mission and values statement, but what does that look like in practice? Be sure that the picture of success that you woo candidates with is the same view they have as they progress through your organization.
More insights on this topic will be on The Aristocracy of HR You Tube Channel tomorrow. Click here to tune in.
A study released in the Employee Engagement Series developed by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated and WorkplaceTrends.com, states that the boomerang employee is being reevaluated by employers. To be clear, boomerang employees are the alumni of your organization. They are people who worked for you at some point, that would rejoin your company at a later date. It is reported in this study that 76% of employers are more accepting of hiring former employees now than in the past.
While it is admirable and even interesting that company alumni are being seen in a different light all of the sudden, we need to examine the underlying factors to understand why this trend may be emerging and has longevity.
Employers like it easy…
Considering a former employee for rehire is fairly easy. Sure, they could have picked up some bad habits elsewhere, but they are a known entity. There is a familiarity that puts both the employee and employer at ease. Training is more of a refresher than actual training. Assimilation into the the company ecosystem is fairly seamless as both parties have a sense of what makes the other tic.
The trouble with all of this “ease” is most employers have nothing in place to either keep tabs on alumni or to even rehire them without any hiccups. To effectively keep in contact with former employees, companies would actually have to change how they view voluntary terminations/resignations. Regardless of how well people perform on the job, there is often a stigma left behind when a resignation is tendered. Some companies see it as an affront when an employee leaves their company. Bad feelings, a lack of interest in knowing what motivated the resignation and poor system tracking- usually impede most companies ability to adequately follow the alumni footprint.
Got a Corporate Alumni Network?
Companies like Deloitte, IBM , KPMG and Microsoft have them. Beyond the hurt feelings and resentment often felt when employees move on, corporate alumni networks allow you to keep in touch with your former employees, so as to not have them stray too far from your grasps. It also creates a secondary pool talent pool that can act as a direct and/or indirect talent pipeline for your company.
You may be thinking you need to manage another talent community like you need another form to fill out. However, there are significant benefits to creating these networks- so long as you have the resources to manage them effectively.
Here are some of advantages to having a corporate alumni network:
1) Continued rapport and connection with former employees.
2) The ability to disseminate hiring opportunities to a network of people you already know and who understand what makes for a successful hire in your organization.
3) Creating a proprietary place for former employees to connect, share ideas and rally around your company.
From a systems, tracking and incentive perspective, there are some things we need to get right before we can even tackle a network. Watch this week’s Ask Czarina below for tips on properly tracking and incentivizing alumni/boomerang hires.