TEN THINGS I LEARNED IN 2014

This will probably be our last White Paper of the year. It’s been an interesting 12 months here at Right Recruiting. We’ve added two business units- a Contingency Recruitment Division and a Non-Profit Division. There has been a lot going on here in Blue Bell, PA.

 

Most end of year publications tend to do predications for the upcoming year. I am going to do a quick but undoubtedly accurate predication and then transition into another topic.

 

My prediction is always correct. Next year will be mostly like this year with some things that will be different. That is true in most things. It is definitely true in employment and business.

 

The changes occur in the margins and only become visible as they accumulate over time. Predications are fool’s gold. At best they are valueless and at worst they are harmful. Please consider the folks who decided that a major in alternative energy was worth a $100,000 college tuition. An unforeseen technology called fracking and a removal of alternative energy tax credits changed the game. One thing I am sure about is that there is always something unseen.

 

My end of year theme is more backwards looking than forwards looking. Let’s examine some of the things I learned this year from both a personal and business perspective.

 

Here is a list of 10 things that I learned in 2014:

  1. Vinyl is much better than digital. It is not even in the same league. I knew there was a reason I carried my 1970’s record collection around from city to city and continent to continent. A good record cleaner was all I needed to hear sounds unheard on a digital facsimile. Amazing.
  2. Hiring good people is hard. It is very hard. There is a new element to employment now that has become visible to us here at Right Recruiting. Put simply, most employers have learned that it is bad business to let their good people leave. Over the last 10 years, large and some mid-sized firms have invested to create career tracks, positive cultures and managerial metrics that keep people in place when they would have otherwise left. Cynical me needs to point out that some of these programs are just Potemkin Villages, false facades of caring. But, the fact of the matter is that prying a 26 year old out of a major company is a very hard thing to do. Much harder than it was 10 years ago. Your employment process needs to be exceptional to overcome what will inevitably occur; an aggressive attempt, both culturally and financially, to keep the person who you want to hire.
  3. That leads us to our next lesson. HR is much more important than most people think. Your HR people are battling everyone else’s HR people for talent. It is not an intra-industry competition. It is a discipline/geographical competition. If your town has two employers in two different industries but who both hire mechanical engineers, the one with the best engineers is the one with the best HR people. It is the HR staff that designs programs that make the managers better managers. It is the HR staff that design strategies to eliminate turnover. It is the HR staff that treat recruitment like a primary function rather than a secondary function. Put simply, if your top HR manager thinks recruitment is running a Monster ad or giving an assignment to 10 contingency firms, your staff will get weaker every year. Frankly, those are the companies we recruit from, assuming they still have anyone worth recruiting.
  4.  Breaking Bad was the best TV series ever. Most complex characters and one of the few shows to actually wrap up all of the loose ends in its finale.
  5. The hardest message to deliver to a client, especially a business owner, is that their company is not as great a place to work as they think. Many of our clients are entrepreneurs who have poured their lives into their businesses. They take great pride in that, as they should. It is very difficult and dangerous to try to tell them that candidates have a different perspective. Candidates want to hear about cost of benefits, 401k plans and other non-entrepreneurial data points. We lost a client this year because the business owner got angry that a candidate turned the job down over a minimal company 401k match. Our client felt that was silly and we had to tell him it wasn’t. Messenger. Bad news. Inevitable result is someone gets shot. Bullet holes abound.
  6. There are no lions in South Africa. Christina, on our staff, moved to South Africa and works very very remotely now. When I warned her to be careful of lions she told me there are no lions. There are, however, monkeys that will steal your garbage like raccoons. I did not know that.
  7. There are a lot of ambitious 25 year old professionals out there who want to be Vice Presidents but who don’t want to work more than 8-9 hours a day to get there. The generation gap in the responses to our Work/Life Balance White Paper was startling. Maybe we can re-visit that in 20 years and see how the answers have changed.
  8. Last winter was brutal here near Philadelphia. It was the worst that I can remember – constant snow and cold. In April I learned one thing. Snow always inevitably melts. Always. I forgot that in March. It was good to be reminded.
  9.  Project management is hard. Real hard. Especially for a small company. Ours is a process driven business so we rarely have experience with major projects. But last December we moved into new office space, redesigned our web site and started our Contingency Division. For a small company, having a dedicated skilled project manager is a luxury. Having gone through that experience, I am truly respectful of any company or client with a larger workforce and more capital equipment that goes through a relocation. I learned that I need to delegate more. Candidly, I made very few correct decisions. All worked out in the end but it was an overwhelming experience.  Bull. China shop. Breakage. Glue.
  10. Fear of failure is the best motivator, at least for me it is. Last year we were named in the top 20 of the region’s retained recruitment firms. We were number 12.  I was surprised that we were even noticed.  I’ve been in this industry for over 30 years and Right Recruiting was opened over 10 years ago. Yet, there is not a day that I go into work and don’t worry about failing.

 

This ties in with something I learned from a client this year. They do a very comprehensive personality test for people for executive level jobs. One of the things they test for is self-esteem. They look for low self-esteem.  Tests show that most successful people have low self-esteem. They are never satisfied. On the other hand, most criminals rank very high in self-esteem. Criminals feel that they can do nothing wrong. I did not know that.
As we close out the year we all wish everyone a happy holiday season and a wonderful 2015. Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly with any questions or comments.

Jeff Zinser
jeffzinzer@rightrecruiting.com

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