Earn Respect or Live With Disrespect -
Take Your Pick

by Dr. Wendell Williams

The Chinese symbol for "crisis" is a combination of two symbols: danger and opportunity. HR is faced with both. Recently I delivered a webinar that addressed ways for HR to respond to an emerging organizational crisis. Here are the highlights:


Organizations are in turmoil; the majority of reorganization efforts fail; attending training workshops seldom "fixes" hiring mistakes; hiring mistakes cost between 20% and 50% of base payroll annually; mergers and acquisitions are often major culture clashes; senior managers have no idea of their employee bench strength; managers are selected based on ability to produce, not manage; and, so forth. There never has been a greater opportunity for HR to rise to the occasion and make a meaningful contribution. But, where are they?

One HR Manager, complained, "Managers have no respect for HR. You have to come from Operations to get respect." I asked, "What do you know about the '1978 Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures' or the 'Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing'?" He replied, "Huh?"

This kind of response has the same implication as asking an engineer, "What do you know about calculus?” asking a physician, "What do you know about chemistry" ...or, asking an attorney, "What do you know about the Constitution?" The HR manager was not only “asleep at the switch”; he was snoozing on the tracks waiting for the train to arrive!

"Expert" Solutions

There an overwhelming number of experts offering "sage" advice to solve these problems such as hire people with business acumen, develop a branding strategy, market your company, and so forth. Here is the problem. How many business professors have ever hired staff and successfully managed a business? How many recruiting managers consistently hire high producing recruiters? How many trainers know how to measure human skills? Are these people so dense they think HR is not already doing the best it can? We have to remember that "common sense" platitudes are as effective as instant-diets [e.g., "Margo M. from Minnesota lost 300 pounds in 30 days ...but, her results may not be typical"].

In our hearts, we know nice words and easy solutions will never solve problems that need special expertise. Moreover, special expertise means extra work.

Special Expertise

I know I keep hammering this to death, but management selection and employee hiring is the SINGLE MOST POWERFUL contributor to high performance. Although we all know this, poor hiring and promotion practices continue to be the norm. When skilled people are hired, pointed in the right direction, and managers do not interfere, turnover drops at least 25%, productivity doubles, and training drops 25%. A fluke? No, IT IS THE NORM!

Look at any sports team. Regardless of the quality of coaching, the stadium, the practice sessions, or the incentive, it takes talented players to reach the championships. This is not a platitude. There simply is no way for an organization to become better than the people it employs. For each big-name coach who sells tapes promoting his or her "secrets of success", there are dozens of skilled talent scouts sending the coach the "best of the best”. Good coaching my foot! A skilled coach is nothing without talented players...and this is where HR and recruiting has the opportunity to shine.

Picking talented players means abandoning time-favored interviews (they are only effective at sorting out the riff-raff), abandoning the idea that hiring managers can assess job skills (they cannot) and abandoning the idea that individual performance predicts management skills (it does not). Anyone with experience knows these are facts, not personal opinions.

Getting Smart

Getting smart means doing a better job screening and evaluating job skills BEFORE employment. This involves: 1) gaining a comprehensive understanding of job requirements (no “talking to the manager and reviewing a job description”); 2) doing a better job interviewing (using situational or behavioral interviews, only); 3) using tests and simulations to probe mental and interpersonal skills; 4) and, being motivated to do thorough pre-screens –not just “tossing” candidates to line managers.

Earn respect or live with disrespect. Take your pick.

Dr. Wendell Williams is Managing Director of ScientificSelection.com, LLC; 770.792.6857. Visit http://www.scientificselection.com/ for additional information.

Many more articles in The HR Refresher in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2004 by Wendell Williams. All rights reserved.

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