Employees Are The Source – Not A ‘Resource’

“…companies announce a position for Chief Innovation Officer but would throw out Steve Jobs because he does not pass the Innovation-Mindset Universal Measurement Test (IMUMT).”

The CV-based system of recruitment is evidently broken, writes our guest writer, Meursault. What can employers do differently?  

What should “employers” bear in mind?

First of all, employers barely exist: companies are an aggregation of individuals, so talking about a company as if it were a single person with feelings is misleading. Companies do not have feelings. If you view them as such, you will be as disappointed as an innocent co-ed after a date with Patrick Bateman. Some decision makers have a greater influence on the way things are done in organisations. When I say employers, I mean them.

1. Employees are the Source, not the Resource

Instead of looking at and thinking about people as Resources, employers should look at them in a different way: as the Source of their wealth. Resources you exploit, Sources you nurture. Sources need to be kept happy, well fed and coddled. The resource you squeeze out once and no more.

2. People are unique and constantly change

Simple as it is, but employers seem not to understand.

People continuously change their preferences, their tastes, their expectations and dreams. People have multiple talents, and many of these talents might have never come up during a 30-years-long employment cycle. It is possible that in today’s world Diogenes would end-up being a janitor, writing a blog no one would ever read and die at the age of 40 due to malnutrition. Why? He would definitely not be a “good fit”.

He might even say writing a cover letter is useless. After filling out the third online application form he would break his laptop on the pavement and go back to have a nap in his barrel. I dream of not having to write a cover letter anymore.

People make mistakes. People have doubts. It is standard expectation in today’s society from a 20-year-old to know “what he wants to become”. 30–40–50 year-olds should not even ask this question. I did an internship in a large financial corporation during my MBA. We were put together for a training with some undergrad interns. The trainer asked us the following question:

“Can everyone put up their hands, who have already decided they want to do this job after the internship? Of course, with an exception for the MBAs”. 

He took for granted that an MBA should be 100% clear on what (s)he wants in life. In fact, I have had more doubts after my MBA than ever before. We are expected to sit down in our cubicles, take on our roles as a straitjackets and abide. To be fit as our CV fits the bullet-point description of our “position”. Be stretched to fit a frame. Sounds like hell to me.

Bottom line: Let people reinvent themselves. Give them the right to change. Empower them to fit their role to themselves and not vice versa. Don’t assume you hire someone for a role and (s)he will not change his or her preferences over time. Give people creative time. And for themselves: to go to the post office, to pick up their children, to go to have a nice shit undisturbed.

It is likely to benefit your organisation too.

3. Hire Revolutionaries

This sentence tastes like a gum already chewed by a squadron of riot police, but is still true: to create a revolutionary organisation, hire revolutionaries.

As per the terminology of Mr. Paul Arden, firms look for Steady Eddies, instead of Reckless Ericas. Eddie is reliable, closer to the foot soldier archetype. He slowly, but gradually moves up in the corporate hierarchy. Erica is a troublemaker, thus does not have a linear career path (gets frequently hired and fired), but breeds innovation. Eddie is the safe choice in the short run. Without Ericas the firm will not exist in 10 years.

Do not standardise the process. Where most companies make a mistake is that they announce a position for Chief Innovation Officer but would throw out a potential Steve Jobs from the candidate pool because he does not pass the Innovation-Mindset Universal Measurement Test (IMUMT). Please don’t Google it.

Be bold enough to question your own processes. Do not use stupid psychological tests, they actually make normal people crazy, and the results will confirm that they are crazy indeed. In reality, if someone nails your tests at 100%, chances are that (s)he is a psychopath or has some other type of personality disorder. Or you simply could not spend more than five minutes with him drinking beer in a pub.

4. Hire someone with a gap!

Go for people with gaps. They might have a better understanding of themselves and the world than the ones who were always running after meeting others’ expectations and fulfilled them.

Hire people with battle scars.

5. Repeat: Do not overestimate the power of tests

Do not act like you have the infallible model to filter candidates. The more complex skills you want to “measure”, the more fallible your test will become. Odds are that people have attributes that your infallible test is not even capable of measuring — or attributes you as an HR manager did not know existed at all. Some things you can easily measure (basic language skills or if someone can add two numbers), but the potentiality for success is hardly or not measurable at all.

6. Do not let recruiters do the recruiting

The business manager should take responsibility of his or her hiring decision, and shall not blame it on the outcome of a test or on the opinion of the recruiter (which is based on looking sheer % match between the description and the most frequent keywords in the CV).

You might be super busy with actual business, but ignoring the task of choosing your battlefield companions is a mistake that will cost more time and money in the future if not done properly here and now. Allocate time for recruiting and be the ultimate responsible for the decision.

Do not delegate recruiting to recruiters. You as a business manager should be able to say YES or NO in the end, on your own account.

 So it goes…

People often say: we are bombarded with information. This is not true. We are bombarded with unfiltered data, by noise. As a result, it is harder than ever to distill information. That is why I am also perplexed and not sure in which direction things are going.

Will we end up in the dystopian world of Bridgewater Associates’ Ray Dalio (who, as Mr. Spock, views emotions not as something that makes us human but a disease that separates us from becoming efficient machines), where a computer algorithm will decide on the fate of employees instead of a manager? Or is there any chance to de-bullshit, simplify and re-humanise the way we operate companies, including the hiring process, embracing more difficulties now for the sake of long term stability?

Will we able to abandon the concept of “shareholder value maximization” as the ultimate goal of corporate existence? The ideology of eternal growth drives the world, financial markets and, ultimately, hiring decisions. Does it have to be? Is it possible to operate a company as a community of human beings? Or we have to become a brainless robot army without the trace of any characteristic that makes us human? Is there any way to stick out from the crowd as a job seeker in the age of data overload?

I have the feeling that the currently predominant way of operating companies (and recruitment) will eventually fail, for the same reasons communism collapsed: you can never be smart and well-informed enough as a central controller to “beat nature” in the long run and not to accumulate errors over time, causing the demise of the system. Your algorithms will fail where you least expect them: in complex decisions, simple heuristics are better. Mainstream media, pundits and experts will continue to tell the opposite  and  we will surely see many more start-ups trying to optimize our poop-time or reading habits by shrinking War and Peace in a page and telling you it is equivalent of reading the real thing.

Would Alexander the Great choose his weapon carrier from LinkedIn?

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One thought on “Employees Are The Source – Not A ‘Resource’

  1. Pingback: “I dream of not having to write a cover letter anymore” | Meanwhile in Budapest

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