In the last few years prior to the COVID stay-at-home orders, the US experienced more than 25 months of an outrageous unemployment rate below 4.5%. That number represents the “natural low”, meaning there is an inevitable rate of some unemployment because some people are not physically, or otherwise capable of holding down full-time jobs. So even when we get to numbers of 5% unemployment, hiring talent becomes incredibly difficult. Just before COVID turned our lives upside down, the US was averaging 3.5% unemployment but many of our clients were in cities with unemployment below 3%!
During that time, many organizations endured extraordinary periods of time with vacant positions remaining vacant. Some got creative with job-sharing, some made hires they’d ultimately regret, and some limped along with an open seat. The challenge was the economy was thriving and to keep up with demand for products and services, we needed more people. Sure, SOMEDAY, we might be able to automate some positions, but we needed to make hay while the sun shines in order to pay for those automated solutions or other upgrades.
Probably the most frightening quote I heard at that time was from a client I realized was short-cutting the selection process he’d seen work for him consistently. When challenged, he literally replied, “I don’t have time to hire the right way!” Wait…what??? I couldn’t help it. I had to ask, “You mean to tell me you have time to hire the wrong way over and over again, but you don’t have time to hire the right way the first time?” He took a deep breath and finally admitted, “I’m making so much money right now, I can buy myself out of any problems I create, but I can’t have a delay on production.”
Of course, you know what happened. His incredibly admirable culture became diluted, collaboration went down, morale followed, and so did quality of products and services provided.
So in the midst of all the chaos, economic freeze, fear, and confusion that followed with COVID, many organizations experienced what a colleague coined the “Pandemic Cleanse.” Sadly, many very good people lost their jobs, even if temporarily, and many good businesses were unable to survive. However, many organizations realized they needed to part ways with the wrong hires they made to re-strengthen their culture, and re-set the course of the mission, vision, values of their business.
As the economy rebounds, this is the time to upgrade your talent! I’m not necessarily talking about replacing people you currently have onboard, because I believe most of you experienced appropriate staff reductions, when necessary. This clarified your culture and left you with a core group of people who bleed your culture and move mountains to get work done. Now that the economy is rebounding you must take advantage of some very good talent that’s available and may not be for long because the unemployment rate is dropping considerably.
But PLEASE, don’t hire hastily!
Follow a strong process to first give you clarity about what is really needed in the next person you hire by defining a scorecard for the job they’ll perform, and then define the avatar or the ideal person to do that job in your culture. Make it a group effort with some of those key fabulous team members you retained. They want to protect your culture as much as you and will work hard to keep it.
Remember, hard skills are important but those who hire exclusively for hard skills will fire for soft skills every time. To avoid those pitfalls, follow these steps:
- Create the scorecard for the job (tasks broken into accountability buckets, priorities, percentage of time in the buckets, and success factors)
- Create the avatar (think about the behaviors, the personal skills, and cultural motivators of the ideal person to perform this job in your culture)
- Only after steps 1 and 2 should you define the hard skills, but think of these as permission to play, not your holiday wish list (level of education, years of experience, specific skills, etc.) Remember there is always a baseline from which you can train if you have the right cultural fit.
- Align the rest of your screening process to your definition efforts. If you need a sample process to follow, check out our recommended and proven process at www.themetissgroup.com/selection-process.
Of course, some of you found a way to avoid staff reductions while realizing you may have retained some folks who have always modeled your culture but may not be getting the work done. It’s possible through the years, their skills have slipped or they haven’t kept up with personal and professional development. Now is the time to upgrade them as well – I’m not suggesting firing them as much as taking advantage of the non-frenetic pace of the current economy and investing in their development, while you have the time to do that. If you do need to part ways and replace, make certain you allow them to leave with grace and dignity; perhaps you might consider even helping them with resume updating or interview preparation in their journey to find a place they can pursue success.
This is the perfect time to work ON your business and position yourselves for extraordinary success, by taking advantage of some great talent that is still available, and inculcating them into your team so when it’s time to hit the accelerator of your business, you’ll have the right people in the right seats, ready to propel you forward.