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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

No Hiring Thaw

I've received some questions lately about our hiring freeze "thawing out". The inevitable question that follows is when the wage freeze will similarly thaw, and why we aren't giving raises yet if we're hiring. Here are the facts.

We currently have four positions posted. Three are back-fills for people who left the company or were promoted internally to other positions. One is a new position in an area that management has determined was cut back too drastically in 2008 and where lack of a position is holding us back from needed revenue.

Earlier this year we replaced one person who left with two lower-paid people for the same money. Other than that, any new faces you see around the operation are temporaries, interns, etc... We all hope for better days, and soon; meanwhile its important to note that everyone is doing more with less, not just you and your group. All the positions filled recently and all those currently posted add to the company's overhead a small fraction of what it takes to give raises.

I hope this helps. While I can't make the economy better, I can address the one insidious type of rumor that most threatens our company. The "inequity idea", that some people are getting their raises and that the company has no intention of reinstating raises for everyone else is totally false. Not only is there no proof of that, there are no facts to support it at all. The next time someone comes by your workplace to tell you that, please ask them where they got their information. I'll bet you'll get a blank stare or some vague somebody-said-that-somebody-said answer.

Finally, if you hear something that bothers you and want to know the straight of it call or come by to see me. Please don't let something bogus ruin your day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Count to Ten...

Okay, so you are tired and overworked and people are just plain getting on your nerves. The temptation is to blast some idiot who really deserves it and has for some time. You decide its time to fire that "special" someone on your team simply because the law says you can't kill them. You, gentle reader, need to count to 10 before you say anything, and sleep on it overnight before you do anything.

I've seen it already this week. One of our managers started busting the chops of an outside trainer in the middle of class. Another one jumped all over me and didn't care to get the facts. I myself spent most of the weekend in the hospital with my Mom, and came back to work worn out and grumpy. The first three things that happened yesterday tempted me to invite the offending parties into a caged death match.

Acting on such frustrations is neither a Christian reaction nor a good career strategy. So what do you do when you wonder how high a co-worker or your boss would bounce if tossed off the top of the building? The solution, like most problems, starts with planning and ends with good execution (of your plan, not of any person).

  1. You Need a Good Support System - There is a difference in fussing at someone and fussing to someone. Just venting to someone you trust will often get you past the urge to kill. Find that someone or someones now before you get in an angry situation.
  2. Know That You're Not the Only Busy Person Here - Again, this is a pre-anger step. Come in each day knowing everyone has taken on more work, not just you, and that you haven't taken on any more than anybody else. If you approach each person with an appreciation for their burdens you're less likely to become angry.
  3. Walk Away - If the moment seems like it puts you in career danger, excuse yourself and come back another time (or day). If the person truly needs to be straightened out they will still be here tomorrow. Chances are you'll either feel differently about it tomorrow, or you will at least be kinder and more diplomatic.
  4. Apply the True, Kind and Necessary Test - Before you say anything to or about the source of your anger, ask yourself three quick questions: is what I'm saying true, is it kind, and is it necessary to say it at all. This is a post-venting rule; say what you want to your confidential venting partner so your head doesn't blow off your shoulders.

Here's the deal: everyone one of us voluntarily applied to work at the Bible company. None of us were conscripted and we all knew there would be behavioral expectations when we came to the company and said, "Please hire me." To respect those expectations and our company culture, and to be true to our own baptismal promises about who we are and how we will treat others, make kindness part of your work style.

(Disclaimer: all references to violent behavior are figurative and illustrative. No real Nelson employees were harmed in the making of this blog post)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sometimes "None of the Above" is the Best Candidate

As the recession begins to thaw and companies begin to rehire, supervisors and HR departments nation wide are dusting off their recruiting tools and trying to remember how to hire people. In the midst of this two university sports teams in this region have had similar coaching debacles that I believe reinforce a simple but elegant recruiting lesson. Sometimes the best solution is not to select a candidate and keep looking.

A couple of years ago the University of Kentucky lost its embattled basketball coach Tubby Smith, a quality human being and great coach who won about 17 - 18 games a season. This of course was not sufficient for Big Blue Nation which thinks under 30 wins and not making it to the Final Four is a disastrous season. Smith decided to go to Minnesota where he can win 17 games and have a field house named after him.

So when Smith finally had enough, UK needed a coach. Here is where college Athletic Directors are at a disadvantage. Season tickets have been purchased, games have been scheduled, and you have to hire the best person available. In this case it was Billy Gillispie, a hard-drinking professional bachelor who built a solid basketball program at a traditional football school, my alma mater Texas A&M. Gillispie's exploits are well-known, and the teams he built in College Station were street fighters. If your team's players had tattoos, his had brands. He built the program by getting kids too rough to play at more genteel schools like UK. His teams won by bringing a gun to a knife fight. He's a good coach but UK was not the place for him.

Living in Tennessee I can't escape UT football. Unless you're living on the other side of the country, or the world, you know the saga of Lane Kiffin. A self-serving, biding-his-time until he could get back to USC mercenary, he came to UT, committed a string of minor NCAA rules violations, helped the team up to a 7-5 record, and went back to USC about 10 seconds after they offered him the head coaching job. He goes with most of his coaching staff, and prior to signing day for next year's freshman class. UT will not only have to scramble for a coach, but also a coaching staff and will likely lose some of its better recruits.

Kiffin was available when Big Orange Nation threatened a revolt unless then-head coach Phillp Fulmer was fired. Kiffin was available in-part because he'd been fired by the Oakland Raiders in an equally ugly departure (see a pattern here?). Here's a hint for UT's Athletic Director: when Al Davis questions a man's character you should probably look elsewhere.

Both of these cases illustrate that the best person available at the time isn't always a wise choice. In business we don't have to make "a" pick when a position comes available, not if we plan well. When you have an opening, here are a few tips to ward off desperation and avoid a bad hire:
  1. Ask yourself, "What if it takes six months to fill this job; how would we get by?" Put that plan in place and settle in for a long, calm search.
  2. Be realistic about what you need. If you're paying $25,000/yr for a job don't tell HR you need a master's degree and 10 years experience.
  3. With a realistic profile in hand, advertise widely and be patient. Some of your best responses come in 2-3 weeks after the ad goes up, as the first week's responses are almost always dominated by the unemployed and the employed-but-perpetually-dissatisfied.
  4. When you eliminate all but the best candidates, make your decision quickly. Searches build momentum up to a decision point. Your finalists are most likely other companies' finalists too. If you snooze, you'll lose.

The point is, if you're not sure that you see what you want, its okay if the decision is, "I'll pass" and start over again.

Like most companies, the recession has left Thomas Nelson with a solid workforce. Most companies kept their toughest, most flexible, most resilient staff. Any of your people who weren't tough and resilient before 2008 are now. You don't want a drop-off in talent when the rehiring starts, so plan for a long search and be pleasantly surprised if/when you find the right person quickly. There are 15 million people unemployed in this country, and a new crop of graduates coming out every year. Take your time and only select the best.