Transformation of Priorities

_DSC0042Have you ever been through a situation that just radically changed who you are, how you think, and what you value most? In May of this year, I will celebrate my 2 year mark of being declared “cancer free.” It’s been quite a journey, not just physically but emotionally and spiritually as well. What I’ve come to learn is that people don’t know how to take me at times because of the filter that I look through now, especially those people who knew me before cancer and haven’t been around me much after cancer.

One of the very cool aspects of my career is that I get to speak to crowds of people, mostly about recruiting or HR related issues. I do this through a variety of ways – keynote speaker at conferences, webcasts, blogging, writing articles for other sites, etc.  Prior to entering the corporate world, I was a minister for almost 20 years. So, speaking to large numbers of people is something that I am accustomed to, and quite honestly, love to do. Because of the platform that I have, one topic that I’m about to add is far more personal than the others. I am going to speak about the professional side of life and where it fits into the grand scheme of things. A work/life balance type issue.

Prior to cancer, I was a very driven employee looking to rise to the top and make all that I could along the way. I was intense, hard-core, and some would say “mean” at times. I wanted to be the most successful and the most respected person in the company. While I was having success and getting some “wins” on my resume, I’m not sure that any respect that I was getting was the kind of respect that I was seeking. There’s the kind of respect that says, “Wow! What a great guy!” and then there’s the kind of respect that says, “Wow! Be careful around that guy!” Unfortunately, I think to the casual observer of me, I was the latter. Then cancer came.

I was blindsided by my diagnosis. I had what was supposed to be a small, routine, in and out type procedure, and it turned into 3 surgeries in 6 weeks to remove 16 tumors. The third surgery was unplanned and had to be done to save my life in an emergency manner. When you hear the words, “It’s cancer.”, hmm. My response was that of determination and resolve to defeat it. I didn’t get emotional often because I didn’t want others around me to worry. I tried to stay upbeat, fun, and relieve those who came into contact with me, but on the inside thoughts of my wife, my daughter, and wanting to be there for those big moments of life. No longer did my title at work matter much. No longer did the things that I own amount to anything. No longer was the number of successful searches filled of great importance to me. In just an instant, my priorities shifted to faith, family, friendship, and meaningful conversations.

The battle with cancer was extremely tough. The battle scars still remain in multiple ways. But I am thankful for what I went through and how it has reshaped me and the way that I approach life. I believe I have a story worth telling that can inspire and motivate others. Many times a crisis is what it takes to get our attention and to take inventory of our own lives…and tragically, not everyone has the type of ending that I’ve had. I’m looking for places to share this story. If you, or someone you know, might have an interest – please reach out to me.

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2014: Executive and HR Focus

Focus-womanA new year. The flip of a few digits on a calendar and somehow that magically allows us to renew ourselves, our goals, and our ambitions (professionally and personally). Some of those goals seem very good and things that everyone should aspire to. But sometimes the object of our focus is just a smaller aspect of a bigger issue that needs to be addressed. Without taking on the bigger issue, the smaller one will continue to be a problem because we didn’t get to the root cause.

As a kid, my parents made me work on the lawn every weekend. I’m talking 6-7 years old, and it has continued to this day. One of the things that I hated the most were flower beds. Maybe my disdain for them goes back to looking up one day to see a snake looking back at me from the shrubs, but I hated flower beds. In particular, I hated pulling weeds. It was so easy to just pull the exposed part of the weed and dispose of it, but my parents taught me that the exposed part of the weed wasn’t the issue…it was the root that was hidden underground. If I didn’t work a little harder to get to the root and pull it out, then the same weed would be back in a few days and I’d be back out there pulling it again the next weekend.

Business owners, executives, and HR leadership have many aspects of the business that they need to evaluate and determine where improvement needs to take place and what will give them the biggest competitive advantage. In a recent Forbes article, written by Edward E. Lawler, III, he states that the most important thing that HR should focus on are “the skills the organization needs to implement its strategy and the plan for recruiting and managing that critical talent.” Mr. Lawler goes on to say, “It is important to understand what the organization can do to add the right talent: Whether it is best recruited or best internally developed, and whether it is even possible to develop the right talent in order to implement your business strategy.”

I wholeheartedly agree with the need to systematically evaluate where you are and where you could be. That evaluation process can confirm to you that you are doing the best possible job of finding great talent to add to the team, therefore you will need to place more of an emphasis on developing talent internally to accomplish your strategies. Or, you may find that your recruitment efforts have gaps that could be closed, tweaked, or updated that will take you from finding good talent to great talent, thus making the company’s strategy attainable by adding new key people to the team. DX2 Consulting is one firm who is at the forefront of this thinking and takes on the evaluation process for you with a non-biased and objective outlook.  Through their Recruitment Process Evaluation, a comprehensive guide that takes on every element involved in recruitment efforts (strategy, process, technologies used, social media efforts, candidate experience, recruitment spending, metrics used to evaluate, team structure, and team performance), they can shine the spotlight on the areas that can be improved by providing both short term and long term recommendations to optimize your efforts.

The level of talent that you hire CAN BE your competitive advantage in 2014. In speaking with executives and business owners, I will ask about their recruitment efforts and most often the response from them goes like this, “Well, finding great talent is always something we want to do, but it’s been an issue for us. We’re doing everything our competitors are doing though so there’s not much else we can do.” With all due respect, that’s the worst answer you can give. Do you have different expectations for your products? Do you want them to be exactly like your competition’s – no better and no worse? Of course not! You want your product to be better. What about your customer service? Can it be equal to your competitor’s? No! You want your people to treat your customers better than the competition. So why do you accept average when it comes to your recruitment efforts? Why aren’t you looking for ways to separate yourself from your competitors in that area?

Mr. Lawler has a few ideas:

“Some business leaders think they can live without top talent. Others believe talent management is important, but they do not see it as important as finance or technology. Finally, many executives are unable to see the relationship between talent issues and the business strategy of their organization. Many executives do not have a background in talent management. They are trained in finance or engineering and they see them as the major determinants of organizational performance. The challenge for HR is not just to establish the importance of talent, but it is to link talent management to the business strategy.”

What are excellent point. Executives and business owners can’t see the importance of talent in their organizations because they have no background in it. Their expertise lies in other areas and they can immediately spot an issue that needs to be addressed because they know what to look for. But when it comes to the recruitment and development of people, often times they just don’t understand “the roots.” They can see what is sticking up above the ground, but the roots need to dealt with.

2014 could be an incredible year for your company. Companies like DX2 have made the evaluation process simple, quick, and affordable. Your talent matters, so give them a call and let them explain how their service can help you.

Our Faceless Future

Faceless FutureThere is a trend that is sweeping over humanity these days that is somewhat concerning to me. This trend impacts the way we communicate, solve problems, establishing relationships, conduct business, and the paths that our careers will take. Those are some pretty important and life sustaining areas, wouldn’t you agree?

Human interaction and relationships are at the very core of life. The ability to shake someone’s hand, look them in the eye, watch a smile come across someone’s face, or put your arm around someone who is devastated by tragic news recently received – all of these things matter. They create a bond, a trust, from one human to another. They are foundational to the human existence. But more and more, we see an app or a device being introduced that takes these human elements away. Where does it stop? What are the unintended consequences?

I heard news of a new app today that assists you in quitting your job. Once you have decided that it’s time to quit, you install the Quit My Job app. It will prompt you to select one of three reasons for resignation: I’m sick of the corporate world, I want to get rich, or I found a new job. When you’ve made your selection, the app will generate a text message and send it directly to your boss. The same designer brought us the Break Up Text app too…you can probably figure out how that one works based on the description of the Quit My Job app.

While that might get a smirk from you or the thought that it isn’t a big deal, consider that this is, as Pink Floyd would say, “just another brick in the wall.” How often do we walk into a restaurant to see people sitting at their tables where everyone has out their smartphone and they are texting or emailing – and sometimes they are even texting the person across the table from them! I have a teenage daughter and I hear stories of kids that will go out on a date and it will be extremely awkward because they just aren’t accustomed to having a verbal conversation for more than 2-3 minutes. Then it’s time to pull the phone out and see what’s occurred in the world in those last 2-3 minutes since they checked in.

What about customer service numbers that you call that has voice recognition software. You can explain your issue and get it resolved and never speak with another human being. What about Applicant Tracking Systems where you apply for a job, the software scans your resume for certain keywords, or you answer question after question that has been weighted and scored, and after investing a great deal of time and care in the application process, a computer has now determined that you suck and had no business applying for that job and rejects you promptly? When it comes to your career, don’t you wish that another human would at least lay their eyes on your resume…even if it’s for the generous 6 second average of most recruiters?

A new app is set to be released, I believe called “Nametag,” that allows someone to take a picture of you. Then it searches through all online media to find your picture and then will tell you everything about that person. You’ll see their name, where they live, where they work, social media posts, pictures, articles or blogs they’ve written, all without ever meeting the person or shaking a hand. Kind of freaky, huh?

For some, their most interesting conversations of the day occur with Siri. Is this the pattern for how our lives will be? I just can’t see myself having a business that is devoid of the human element. I like technology and gadgets, and apps….I’m a sucker for them. But there’s a line that if crossed changes the entire makeup of how society works and relates. I fear that we are approaching that line.

Am I just paranoid? Am I concerned for no reason? Share your thoughts with me.

If This Then That

jobless-282x300As I watched the news the past couple of days, the newest hot debate is over extending unemployment benefits. The previous extension has expired, and the politicians – as always – are looking for a “winning” argument to score political points for the next election. It seems like the easiest thing to do for a politician is go around saying that the pursuit of happiness includes a free house, free healthcare, free education, free car, free smartphones, free money to everyone….who wouldn’t be for getting all of those things for free? The problem is, they aren’t free even when a politician labels it that way. The money has to come from somewhere…as with extending unemployment benefits. So the Democrats are saying that they need to extend them again and give the unemployed a safety net (even though it was previously a 99 week safety net), and the Republicans are saying that they aren’t opposed to extending unemployment benefits, but they need to be paid for somehow.

This debate continues throughout the media as well. Analyst come on and say that extending unemployment benefits causes people to be less eager to get back to work. Why not exhaust all of the “free money” that you can get, relax a bit, and then buckle down and get back to work? There’s no doubt that some play the system in this manner. I admit that there may be some reason why some would need 99 weeks to find a job, but I would think those cases should be very rare. People can get a job doing something, or maybe even a second or third job – I’ve worked 3 jobs before in the past. They may not be the jobs that they are accustomed to or want, but when it comes to providing for your family, you take what you can get.

But then today, I heard the debate that said there are approximately 4 million jobs available in the US, so why is unemployment still high? I have a couple of thoughts on that:

  1. Some people are playing the system and would rather take the “free money” for as long as possible than to go back to work immediately. Now for those who say there’s no way that’s true, please understand that I work in the recruiting industry. I speak with unemployed all of the time. I can’t tell you how many times I have called someone with a job opportunity and was told straight out that they weren’t interested in working right now, but would rather take some time off and enjoy their unemployment. They did, however, offer to call me back after those benefits ran out and see if I had anything for them then.
  2. The second reason, and really one that not many people have discussed, is that the generational shift in our workforce has also left us with many open positions that Gen Y just aren’t that interested in doing. In 2012, over 10 million skilled labor jobs went unfilled in the US – but unemployment nationally was around 8% during that same time and unemployment for Gen Y at the same time was 11.5%. So we have to ask ourselves “If this then that?”

Jobs are available. Many of them are skilled labor jobs and Gen Y just hasn’t shown much of an interest in take a job that requires them to work long hours, get dirty, get sweaty, or learn a very specialized skill. I don’t know that they are necessarily opposed to it, they likely have never had those opportunities addressed with them before or early enough in their life where they can make it their ambition. Here’s an example of conversations that I have had with unemployed Gen Y when I was recruiting entry level workers for an oilfield company:

Me: What are you doing currently?

Gen Y: I’m looking for a great job, but right now I’m working at a fast food restaurant to get by.

Me: Have you ever considered working in the oilfield?

Gen Y: No. I know it’s a big industry but I don’t know anything about it.

Me: I can get you into an entry level job right now and you don’t need any previous oilfield experience. Now, you would start off making $12-15/hr.

Gen Y: Well, that’s what I make now. Why change?

Me: Well, that’s just your base pay. You get a lot of overtime pay working in the oilfield. Even though you are making $12-15/hr, with your overtime and bonuses and the like, you will end up making around $50,000 – $60,000 your first year. The company also pays for 100% of your healthcare benefits for you and your family. The biggest thing though is that they are going to teach you a trade. You’ll come in entry level and be assigned a more senior team member who will train you and explain to you why they do what they do. You’ll learn all of the tricks of the trade. And if you work hard and will be dedicated for 12-18 months, you’ll have the opportunity to promote into a more senior role.  When you get that promotion, your pay will increase to $18-24/hr, again, with a lot of overtime. You’ll get job bonuses, day bonuses, they pay for your meals and lodging when you are on the road, etc. Now you’ll be bringing in $80,000 to $100,000 in just your 2nd or third year. Now let me ask you, where else can you have no experience, take an entry level job, get the training you need and a career path that leads you to $80,000 to $100,000 a year in just a couple of years of hard work and dedication? Want to stay at your fast food restaurant?

Gen Y: No sir. I think I’d like to know more about the job and find out what I need to do to apply.

I’ve found that when a younger worker is informed about the possibilities that are available in a skilled trade role, they are open to it. Not all will be. Some just don’t want to work long hours and get dirty and the things that go along with it, but many would be interested. If that weren’t true, we wouldn’t have a military. They work long hours. They travel and are away from home for periods of time. They get dirty and sweaty. They work in rough conditions.

Those companies who are in the skilled trades have typically done a poor job of promoting themselves at key influential moments in a young person’s life. Waiting until after they have gone to college, or even completed college, is often way too late to make your pitch. By then, they have spent a lot of money majoring in something and they have this vision in their mind of what their career will look like. That vision often doesn’t include the things that I’ve discussed in this piece.

Gen Y also should investigate the opportunities that are available to them, even though it might not match that pretty picture they’ve drawn in their minds. Not everyone works in an office or from home. Not everyone has a flexible schedule that allows them to work at 3:00 in the afternoon, or at 3:00 in the morning, depending on what is most convenient for you that day. Hard work should never be looked down on or mocked…it provides you with a career, income, self satisfaction, and pride in a finished product.