Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Success on a Shoestring

Even with electronic media that does everything but pump you full of information intravenously at night I just can't seem to keep up with everything that either interests me or which while it may not interest me so much is nonetheless stuff that I feel I should be paying attention to anyway.

All of which is the only excuse I could think of for posting something the impetus of which was driven by the special issue of BusinessWeek that came out the last week of August.

As I am sure we all immediately recall this special issue was the one with the cover headline: Trouble at the Office? and the picture of Rainn Wilson on the cover. Why it took BW this long to realize that there is indeed "trouble at the office" I have no idea, but I was glad to see that at least it was starting to show up on their radar.

Being in the business we are at ExecuNet and are talking with both recruiters and senior level executives on a daily if not hourly basis as we do, the fact that there are "issues" in the workplace comes as no surprise, and while there are any number of keywords that could be thrown out to try and capture the essence of the challenge, at the moment, the two that come to my mind were: recruitment and retention.

The habitual cry we hear all the time is the "war for talent" is getting worse not better (the economy notwithstanding) and keeping my "A" players feels like a losing battle.

Given that as a business we find ourselves very much in the middle of this discussion, I read each article on this topic in this particular issue. I read them with great interest and great hope. When finished I found myself still interested but not particularly hopeful. I was looking for answers and instead found lots of wringing of hands and articles reporting on but not suggesting a whole lot of "to dos" regarding things of which I was all too painfully aware before I had read word one.

I should also say at this juncture that if I had access to the universal solvent to fix these ills, I would have shared it long ago. Unfortunately my approach to life is too simplistic to conjure up such stuff, however, so as much as I wish it were the case, I don't have any silver bullets to offer up. That said, however, there was one article in the issue that I thought at least expressed what struck me as pretty cogent advice in trying to overcome the core issues.

The article was entitled Success on a Shoestring authored by Richard Clark, the CEO of APTARE, a company in Campbell, California and in a tad more than 800 words, Mr. Clarke said two things that I tacked up on the bulletin board above my desk.

1. Establish the DNA of your company and then hire people that fit into that DNA., and

2. Because we are a small business, we cannot afford to lose time, energy, or capital on hiring and rehiring.
Magic? Certainly not. Revolutionary? Hardly. Critical to keep you on the right path? You betcha!


Steve Levy said...


"Establish the DNA of your company..."

The challenge for small businesses is to objectively identify what their DNA is and should be; the "should be" is critical for future growth. The inherent problem for small businesses wanting to be something that may read about in journals or biz books. A logical way to ID who you are is to survey your employees, customers and competitors.

"... and then hire people that fit into that DNA."

Ah "fit" - as defined by who? Fit is typically an HR exercise when it should really be a collaborative one. There is overall fit, there is level fit, and finally functional fit. Easier said than done - but recruiting can help objectify the process by training people who are part of the interview team in behavioral interviewing techniques and by working with the hiring managers to identify what specific problems will be solved by each new hire (no, the job description is not the job; the real job solves problems - do your JDs describe these problems?). Even small companies can administer psychological tests to their employees and have the employees discuss the results as part of a process to identify fit variables. No one said it was going to be easy.

"Because we are a small business, we cannot afford to lose time, energy, or capital on hiring and rehiring."

Which is why recruiting - or more specifically social networking - is a 24/7/365 activity. Always be on the lookout for talent and don't be afraid to interview people even when no position is available. Always ask for referrals - even when no position is available. Regularly attend association meetings. Make it your business to attend one major conference annually. Blog about your company. Print up t-shirts for your employees to wear to the gym that brand your company as a superior place to learn, contribute and grow.

Just don't sit back and what for it to come to you.

Sorry we missed meeting. Perhaps Thursday?

Anonymous said...

great reading.the only problem is the human being.cordially,notsosmart