CEO’s have once again listed human capital as their top challenge for 2014. Woo hoo! Victory for HR! And what specifically are they worried about? 1. Insufficient talent coming in and 2. Insufficient leadership talent. This all sounds great right? Focus on your people, develop your people, and you will move your business forward. We can now wash our hands of this and move onto “real business activity.” I say wait a minute…
Did CEO’s just recently find out that even an automated process had to be created by a person? Is corporate America unaware that the movie “her” is a fictitious film? Outside of the beginning of time, regardless of how you think that came to be, every product, service, or idea came from someone’s mind. This logic makes it seem necessary to declare that PEOPLE MATTER. If people didn’t exist there would be no products, services, or ideas. And voila, I give you the year 2014 and the biggest challenge in a CEO’s mind is still human capital, but why?
We as humans have this inherent uncertainty and that level of uncertainty is magnified when your name is tied to the bottom line of your business, Mr. or Mrs. CEO. There’s pressure for your people to perform. Can you trust them? You want to… but there’s just something that’s keeping you from fully committing.
We can find this inherent uncertainty when we watch historical events. One thing we cannot change is history, unless you have a Delorean of course. However, as we watch instant history replays, we know the outcome and yet we may still be unsure if that outcome will come to fruition. Don’t believe me?
Example 1: Argo
In the film, as the hostages and Ben Affleck’s character were navigating the airport in Iran, slowly making their way through security with bogus identification, I was clenching the armrest in the movie theater, probably perspiring, and unknowingly grinding my teeth, rooting for the fake film crew to make it out of Iranian airspace. Well folks, they made it! The only problem is, I already knew they would make it, everyone did. However, if you were recording a video of me watching you would have thought I was watching live events on a newscast.
I have probably watched the clip of the three-point prayer thrown up by Dereck Whittenburg, that is then snatched out of the air by Lorenzo Charles and dunked for the win about 124 times. Yet again, here I am wondering if the prayer will fall to the ground, short of the bucket. Maybe this time Charles isn’t around? Maybe this time, Houston boxes out? Nope. NC State wins every time.
If the name doesn’t ring a bell, this is the guy who walked across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope in June of last year. It was a television event on the Discovery Channel garnering 8.5 million viewers. The big players in TV were reluctant to show a live account, as they were uncertain if Mr. Wallenda would fall to his death. If you can watch a replay of this event and not have your heart rate spike as he’s wobbling 1500 feet above the ground, I congratulate you and also question whether or not the FBI has trained you. It’s one of the most stressful and anxious videos to watch and you more than likely were shifting your weight back and forth on the couch as you completed the feat yourself. I know I did.
We as human beings are unsure of events that are already written in history. Let alone relying on a company, department, or team of people who are responsible for delivering results that do not exist yet. CEO’s are concerned because they understand they need their people. But people are scary and a challenge. It’s not enough to state human capital is a challenge; the true question is what are we doing about it?
You can never be 100% sure you are acquiring, developing, and retaining the best. But, what you can do is commit time and resources to finding and using better information to increase your chances of doing so.
After all, your people matter.
A wise man once said, “Offering a candidate a job is very similar to proposing to your soul mate.” That wise man may or may not be my boss, but this is beside the point. If you’re ready to be at the altar and can’t wait to begin your life with THE ONE, there is excitement, nerves, anxiety, anticipation, and for some of us out there (who don’t lie to ourselves), sweat, bullets of sweat.
Finding your husband or wife is one of the greatest fulfillments and one of the most important milestones in your life, or so I’ve heard. Treating the hiring of employees as one of the most important milestones in a company’s life though, seems a bit of a stretch, right? Wrong. No matter the level, open headcount costs companies each day its jobs are not filled. Even worse, the wrong hopeless romantic (candidate) says, “Yes! I do!”, only for everyone to find out one month later it was the biggest mistake of their lives.
Last Monday was the anticipated prelude to The Bachelorette finale on ABC. The Bachelorette is a reality TV show, which I’m clearly not afraid to admit I watch where a young lady is presented with 25 handsome devils to choose from with the ultimate goal of marrying a final lucky bachelor. Desiree, the bachelorette, has narrowed her pool of men down to three.
Brooks is one of the three remaining men. Des thinks she’s going on this magical catamaran date but Brooks has other plans. I guess if you’re going to break up anywhere though Antigua is not a bad draw. I won’t get into details of how Brooks breaks up with Des; however, I will say it was similar to a 9th grade break-up with the boy you’ve been dating since the 7th grade.
It’s been long enough you think you can marry him and when he tells you his feelings aren’t the same you act as such: you begin to sob uncontrollably, pull your legs into your chest onto the bench you’re sitting on, cross your arms on your knees, bury your head into your forearms, and pout like you’ve never pouted before. “No, this just isn’t fair! This isn’t how it’s supposed to go! I love you and you’re supposed to love me back!”
Similar to hiring candidates into a company, hiring managers wait with baited breath when an offer is sent out. On the other side of the relationship, candidates wait to receive the offer. We typically hear about companies not interested in the candidate. But, what if the candidate tells the company they don’t want to get “married”? If a company wants to avoid being surprised with rejection like Des (you can’t eliminate all turndowns) there is one, proven overarching strategy.
Talk about deal breakers early and often.
There are more in-depth steps to the secret recipe I MIGHT reveal in a later blog, but if companies use this as a rule of thumb they’re well on their way to curbing their turndown rate.
Compensation. Relocation. Benefits. Title. Career path. Window seat. Flexible work hours. Company car. Summer Fridays. Trailing spouse. Children. Direct reports.
These are deal breakers. I know recruiters / hiring managers don’t want to scare off the “perfect” candidate and candidates don’t want to disappoint a potential employer but discussing deal breakers on the first, second, third, and fourth encounters will help avoid extending offers that aren’t accepted. Everyone is on the same page and at the end of the day no one wants a surprise, a surprise break-up that is.
If you don’t want to be left in despair on the island of Antigua like Des (or maybe you do, but you’re not in Antigua so snap out of it), think about deal breakers and talk about deal breakers early and often.
With summer breaking through in the Midwest, I drive home after work with my windows down, country music flowing through the speakers, and dream of being in shorts and a T-shirt at last. Throwing my bag down on the floor, I then immediately find the right Nike Tempo shorts and T-shirt to put on. Black, white, or festive crew socks? Whatever best matches the color scheme I have put together that day. Now that I’ve assured anyone coming within 0.3 miles of me will be able to see me with my assortment of neon hues… I grab my headphones, GPS watch, iPod and head for the door.
But, before I can make it down the stairs there’s a collie following my every move. By slanting his eyebrows down and making well thought out whimpers just at the right cadence, Rex pleads, “Take me with you, take me with you. Please?” I mean really, how do I say “no” to that! I just can’t. And even though he always completely throws off my run with his half mile sprint to start, I snag his leash, take off, and prepare myself for the insane amount compliments about to take place regarding the majestic pup pulling me along. Can you blame them though?
As most of us in the workforce (I won’t say all, because being that assumptive can get you in trouble) do not have beautifully groomed locks of fur, a snout that allows us to secretly knock food off of the counter and eyes that you just can’t say “no” to – we must understand that rejection is inevitable at some point. Yes, Jesse Williams (Jackson from Grey’s Anatomy), you do have eyes that can make any gal melt – but nothing competes with man’s best friend. Trust me.
When talking about my own career I’ve often been candid in sharing that recruiting was not my first choice as a starter job, but the right choice. You learn how to deal with “no” very quickly. Along with, “You’re getting ‘no’ because you need to do ‘this, this, and this’ better.” This morning, my Twitter feed offered up an interesting blog title related to this, “On Losing Your Fear of Rejection and Embracing ‘No.’”
The blog specifically discusses rejection as it pertains to jobseekers. Resumé after resumé peddled out, e-mail after e-mail with thanks but no thanks. But I think it’s important for Millennials to understand that when you’re a new grad beaming with your college degree, you’re going to hear “no” even when you do land that job. It could come from customers or co-workers but be prepared for when it occurs. Whether it’s a rejected sale, project idea, or vacation request – it’s going to happen.
Taking rejection and criticism is a trait Millennials are not typically ready to deal with appropriately. However, I think this lesson is not solely for 18-32 year olds but can be learned at any age, it’s never too late.
To highlight this, earlier this week I attended an event where Gene Smith, Athletic Director at The Ohio State University, was a guest speaker. He mentioned Gen Y and Z having issues with discussing rejection or criticism face-to-face. As an example, his student-athletes would rather send an e-mail or text to their professor questioning why they got an “A-” instead of an “A” rather than meet in person. Regardless of generation, if you understand face-to-face communication is the best way for you to deal with rejection or criticism, this is what can separate you from the pack. If face-to-face is impossible, make the phone call.
Millennials, you’re competing with peers who are also intelligent, have internships, have degrees and in a lot of cases advanced degrees. Yet, the unemployment rate is currently hovering around 11-12% for this age group. The question I always ask myself is, what are the other 88% doing right? Understanding how to deal with “no” at the age of 22 (an age Taylor Swift made much cooler than it actually is) is a differentiator when it comes to the workforce.
You can try your best Rex impression to turn a “no” into a “yes,” but if you truly want to separate yourself – accept you will hear “no,” understand how to deal with “no,” and learn from “no.”
There are two schools of thought when it comes to hiring athletes. One being they’re just “dumb jocks” and won’t bring value to your organization. Second being they’re an attractive hire because they’ve shown commitment to a cause.
Being a college athlete I have a slight bias and tend to agree with the latter. It is a benefit to the workplace to hire college athletes but not just any college athlete. I recently read a blog essentially classifying the “good” athlete hire versus the “bad.” Pointing to combinations of level of play from Division I-III or NAIA, grade point average, scholarship amount, and playing time.
These combinations only scratch the surface of evaluating a student-athlete. When you have a recent grad or current student in the interview process, you should be asking yourself, “What can this individual add to our company?” In my opinion outside of GPA, the division a player competed in, scholarship amount and playing time, don’t tell you if the candidate “can do this job” – it only tells you about the level of basketball player they were and if they might be able to beat you in a game of H-O-R-S-E.
But not all college athletes are one in the same.
The Myths of Hiring College Athletes
- They all have time management skills: There’s a major difference between knowing how to allocate time to projects in the work environment and knowing that on MWF I have class from 9-11am and 1-2:30pm with practice from 4-6pm. Out of the 8 hours plus left in the day – I somehow have to find time for homework and to study! Trust me… College athletes DO have time (less than non-athletes, you’re right, but time nonetheless) – it’s just a matter of how they use it.
- They’re all coachable: I can think of several individuals I have played with or against who were college athletes and never once did I think they were coachable. Watch an NBA playoff game this week. Coachability isn’t exactly a quality all athletes possess.
- They know how to work with a team: One, let’s discuss all of the individual sports out there – golf, tennis, gymnastics. Yes, I know they can win team trophies too but they don’t need to communicate, “Hey! I’m going to rocket a pass to you under the basket and if you don’t look up I will peg you in the back of the head” in less than 2 seconds. Two, as with time management and being coachable, just because you’re on a team and listed on a roster does not mean you understand how to be a good teammate or how to work effectively in a group.
The above 3 items are typically knighted upon all college athletes who enter the workforce. But, as a hiring manager or recruiter – do not be fooled. They are not automatic traits. And if you’re an athlete – don’t fake these qualities, it will become apparent very quickly that you started all but 4 games in your career, received a full-ride scholarship, but can’t seem to figure out why you’re terrible at sales.
You may now be asking yourself, “So what am I looking for? You’ve told me about several fallacies and yet, I’m left with no action.” Below are the REAL reasons you should hire college athletes.
What to Look For and Questions to Ask:
- Mental Toughness: How were you tested physically as an athlete in college? When you were faced with adversity, how did you handle the situation? The day a teenager or early 20-something says to himself or herself, “Wow, I can’t believe I just did that. I didn’t think it was possible.” You’ve struck gold. Your coach should push you to levels you never thought you could reach and this quality will be one you will use over and over again in the workplace.
- Self-Discipline: What did your off-season workouts look like? When you arrived back on campus in the fall, were you in shape? Did your coach instill a sense of accountability when it came to working out on your own? It’s a lot more difficult to stay on task and push yourself when no one is watching.
- Sacrifice: This is how I define TEAM. You know when to put others before yourself. You do what’s right, because you don’t want to let your teammates down. When have you had to sacrifice for your team?
- Leadership: Describe leadership stories. The title “captain” doesn’t grant you leadership skills. Why were you elected captain? If anything about being a senior or upperclassman is mentioned, that’s a turn-off. You earn the title of captain because you know how to motivate, you cultivate relationships, and not only do your teammates trust you but so does your coach. You can also gain leadership skills without being a captain. The question around leadership boils down to; did your teammates value your opinion? And, when things weren’t going well, did your team look to you?
- Coachable: This is a very important trait but, as stated before, don’t assume just any athlete is coachable. Ask pointed questions – How did you react when your coach pointed out mistakes? When posed with opportunities to improve, did you take the initiative to get better?
For the majority of college athletes who will not be playing professionally, as the famous NCAA advertisement states, it’s important to differentiate yourself beyond that line on your resume reading “Varsity Basketball 2007-2011.” Millennial athletes, did you gain any of the characteristics above? Be prepared to convey more than “common traits” several athletes before you have over-used. Tell them your stories. The resume lines on winning one regular season league championship, two league tournament championships, and two NCAA appearances with a Sweet 16 don’t hurt either. More stories.
Hiring managers, expect more from the athletes you’re interviewing. Get to the important traits and don’t take college athletes at face value.
I think most will find that the clear indicator of the value of a college athlete can be measured by the coach they played for. A coach who runs a program with the goal of not only winning championships but developing contributing members in the real world and teach their players mental toughness, self-discipline, sacrifice, leadership, and being coachable.
Self-made dancers and videographers are swarming the Internet. What’s the next big movement? Well, we won’t know what the next “big thing” in YouTube dance sensations will be until another artist unleashes their genius on the world again. But, whether it’s a teen looking to break into the market diluted with young stars already or a DJ spinning a beat – the world has gone crazy for dance.
Exhibit 1: “Call Me Maybe”
Because I have a personal bias toward “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen, I turned to social media to gather some data regarding how people currently feel about the song when it comes on the radio, do you leave it on or change the station?
- 41% said change the station
- 59% said leave it on
While it wasn’t an overwhelming majority, the majority agreed with me – leave it on. And if you’re me, you turn it up and create your own music video while driving home from the office. It’s catchy and had the whole world hooked on Carly Rae for the summer of 2012.
Abercrombie & Fitch featured the song to promote their global stores and WOW their target audience. Even the London Olympics caught Carly Rae Fever with the US swim team and many others putting their own dance remix to the track.
What is the business impact you ask? “Call Me Maybe” opened the door and offered an inside look, even if just for 3 minutes, into the personalities and “off the clock” antics of some of the most focused, decorated athletes and mega corporations in the world. Their “Call Me Maybe” videos made them real people. People you could identify with.
Social Media allows you and your corporation to be real. Someone and something you can touch. Or at least believe that you can.
Exhibit 2: “Harlem Shake”
As I have previously written blogs about my distaste for LeBron James, the Miami Heat had me thinking after I viewed their Harlem Shake video. These athletes are put on a pedestal of greatness and fame. Through this short video clip, they let the world see they are regular guys who like to have fun just like you and can get caught up in a social craze just the same.
In my opinion, this was the first time LeBron was “real” to me. It made him human and is a pure example of how social media has increased the visibility of those once thought of as unreachable.
Business Take Away:
First things first, you don’t have to go create a YouTube video and please don’t think that is the point of this blog. We are not all equipped with the time and budget to create impressive, creative music videos. However, I do think it is common practice to be present on social media outlets for companies and executives.
Being present on social media is one thing but being real and relatable is another. You want to identify with your peers, customers, colleagues, and overall network. Be yourself and be personal.
Products and services are a dime a dozen.
Social Media is a tool to help build your identity and make your company accessible. People want to surround themselves with not only intelligent business associates but, business associates they like. Keep that in mind.
There has been a common theme since April 2012 when I started my blog; if you work hard and don’t take “no” for an answer you’ll find a job. I still do truly believe this but let’s now discuss putting “working hard” and being “persistent” into practice. What does this really mean? It’s definitely not wishful thinking.
Job Seeker Profile:
- 23 year-old female
- 4-year college degree from a private liberal arts school
- Major: Business Administration
- Student-Athlete and Team Captain her senior year
- Work experience: 1.5 years
Job Search Statistics:
- Moved to another city December 1st 2012 after amicably leaving her first role
- Started her job search prior to this date in October 2012
- Applied to 29 jobs with 2 call backs
- Sent resume to 4 people in her network with 2 call backs
- 9 companies contacted her directly
- 4 phone interviews
- 3 first round face-to-face interviews
- 1 second round interview – led to job offer
- Hired on January 15th, 2013 and start date is January 22nd, 2013
The scenario above is important to illustrate because it’s a blue print for any Millennial (I would argue Xer’s and Boomer’s can also take some notes on this) for their job search. It’s not impossible.
Here in Ohio there are 4 million individuals who are unemployed. This morning I checked Ohio means Jobs and there are just under 100,000 jobs open. Being a former recruiter, there is the mantra of “it’s a numbers game.” The more you have the better the chances you’ll find the right person. Well ladies and gentlemen can someone please tell me why there are 100,000 job openings, key word OPENings, with 4 million people out of work?
I’ll concede the “it’s becoming a more skill focused job market” argument, sure, that’s fine. Let’s just cut the unemployment number in half then – 2 million are “unskilled.” They don’t qualify. Well my friends we still have 2 million left, to go after 100,000 jobs. That still means there are 20 times as many unemployed individuals as there are open jobs.
Maybe the above job seeker had the x-factor, maybe she is just better at looking for a job than others, maybe she got “lucky”, maybe it’s because it’s January and staffing departments are excited to hire and use their allocated funds. All of these could be true for those of you trying to find reasons other than hard work to rationalize how she found a job.
I challenge you to say, “I can do that too.” Sure, this may be a former teammate of mine and sure, she has an arsenal of “hard work” in her being solely for the fact she played for Coach Venet. I do have a clear bias toward this experience obviously – but take a look at the bullet points above. They speak for themselves. It is possible.
I am thoroughly grateful for my helicopter parents. Due to their hovering they have successfully put me through college and are ¾ of the way there with my sister. They’ve given me the opportunity to excel in sports and the classroom along with my younger sister. With two college athletes for children I can confidently say I would not be where I am today without the opportunity my parents afforded me.
With that said, when I read the SHRM We Know Next blog Helicopter Parents Descend Upon the Workplace I had to take a step back and think about what was missing. The cited report by Michigan State University and their Collegiate Employment Research Institute startled me even more than the blog itself.
Why are parents directly involved in the employment of their children? Unless it’s a family business this shouldn’t even be a conversation. I’ve been going back and forth whether or not to make a category specifically devoted to what I learned playing for Suzy Venet in college. But, this was the tipping point. This is the debut blog for “Lessons From Coach.”
In the fall of my freshman year, on the first day of class – I had a team meeting with all of the women’s basketball “hopefuls” aka freshman and the rest of the team. We started out with almost 30 freshmen and on senior day there were 4 of us – so yes, I’d call them hopefuls. Our coach was going through rules and protocols and you guessed it – she specifically addressed parents
Fresh from high school, where most of us were the best on our team and an athletic system that is quite political, biased, and can be bought with some cash – our COLLEGE coach wanted to make sure our parents knew where they stood. Also, you realize she didn’t address the parents – she told us, to tell them. Already drawing a clear line of communication between player and coach – no triangle with mom and/or dad.
“If you have a problem with me, playing time, another teammate, get in trouble, have difficulty with grades – I want you to talk to me. I want you to come to my office and tell me. I don’t have time to answer parent’s e-mails and phone calls. I have one job and that is to coach you to a championship,” Coach said. Wide-eyed and nervous, we were getting a dose of what it was like to be an adult. First day of college – welcome.
No more buffer ladies. Solve your own issues. Our coach cared and still does care about our families – but she also understands that in order to grow as an individual we were all 18, legally adults, and needed to start having our own difficult conversations.
Gen Y: We’re the real problem
As much as I’d like to blame helicopter parents who are just too involved in their children’s lives, by the time you’re in college it is up to the student, and now adult, to ask their parent(s) to politely back off.
If you’re a helicopter parent reading this – know your kids love you but, they also need to play the game of life on their own. And if you don’t believe me, you’ll probably continue to hinder their opportunities.
Helicopter Kid: Do’s and Don’ts
- If you value your parents opinions that is most certainly acceptable, ask them for thoughts and advice on companies, career path, and job search
- Discuss their network – they might be able to make an introduction and get your foot in the door
- Let your parents attend the interview
- Let your parents advocate for promotion / salary increases
- Let your parents negotiate salary and benefits
- Let your parents call and complain if the company does not hire you
- Let your parents attend a career fair for you
- Let your parents discuss promotions with the hiring manager
- Ask your parents to submit resumes on your behalf
It’s important to note that all of the “don’t” points were questions in the survey concerning parent involvement by Michigan State. Except for submitting resumes, all other actions are ones that students can prevent. And as for submitting resumes, if you’re not willing to fill out your own job application how in the world do you think you’re going to do the actual job?
If you have a chronic helicopter parent, sit down with them. Explain that it’s time for you to take responsibility for your career. Their interference will hurt you in the long run. Helping you and doing it for you – are two different things. Some Millennials may be saying – if they want to be involved then why not? According to the “grown-up” manual and the study completed by Michigan State – companies do not look favorably upon Millennial candidates who allow their parents to take part in the recruiting process.
Direct communication should always be between you and your employer. Just like player and coach. It’s an A – B conversation, no C.