There’s this old idiom that says something along the lines of “the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else.” Let me say up front that has never been a tact I’ve been interested in taking when it comes to my “love life.” For the couple of broken hearts I’ve had in my life, I wasn’t really into the whole concept of emotional transference. If there was something I needed to feel, needed to work through? I’d rather do take the time to do that so when I step out onto the dating diving board the next time… I’m able to really give it all I’ve got (1) and minimize the amount of baggage I bring along with me.
I’ve been thinking that on the professional side, though – that’s a different deal. Time is often a luxury that we can’t really afford… because usually? We have to bring home the bacon and nothing can interrupt that. Especially in the United States, where we are just NOT good “savers” and the average American household has a savings rate that has fallen below 4% of combined income. We don’t have the financial security to be able to ‘take time’ and figure out what could, and should, come next in our careers.
While there are plenty of surveys that will tell you that the number one reason for accepting or leaving a job isn’t money – I’m not sure I buy off on that. There are roughly 852k search results on finding challenging jobs and 1.2MM on finding high-paying ones. The majority of a recruiters time isn’t spent negotiating increased responsibilities – it’s spent in salary & benefit negotiations. Simply put? We can’t afford for compensation to not be foremost on our minds when it comes to our careers. So too, does money once again end up being the primary concern when that job comes to an end. Rarely do I hear people say, “I don’t know how I’m going to be challenged now??” It’s “How do I pay my bills?” I’ve got to think this is something employers know.. or at least should.
Personally, I tend to work with start-ups and small businesses, so more than once in my life have I have heard the phrase “We can’t afford to pay you anymore.” That is never fun, but that risk is a reality I had to accept when I chose to work with the size businesses that I do. There have been times I was better prepared for that than others; but over the years I’ve learned how to pivot… how to find a new company that was waiting to love me at least as well as the ‘former professional flame’ did. I don’t have an “employee” mentality, though – I’m an “intrepreneur” at heart. Not everyone is that lucky.
Yesterday, I received a phone call from a former candidate that I placed with a regional homebuilder eight years ago. He was calling to tell me his role was being eliminated at the end of the month. Without severance, vacation payout.. he’s left with a few days head’s up to figure out how to survive. I offered him the assistance I could and thought… “Businesses CAN do better than this.“
And in the Human Capital Industry, where we work with HR/Recruiting day in and out? I think we should.
Before Hiring We Need to Ask:
- What are the cash reserves you’ve allocated for this position? There should be a minimum
of 90 days in the bank that’s set aside for payrolling employees when times get rough. Mary Ellen Slayter, Founder of Reputation Capital Media Services, notes that “I believe in hiring against real revenue commitments. Optimism is great, but it needs to be backed with responsibility.” Her firm operates on the guiding operating principle of having 180 days of payroll reserves in the bank before extending an employment offer. That’s good for everyone – including clients who benefit from that stability.
For Tenure, We Need to Know:
- What do you expect this person to do in order to “meet value” for cost? It is still surprising to me how little clarity there is between employers and employees on what exactly the responsibilities are in a role that the employer finds “of value.” Rank the job description & consider ensuring that your recruit ‘gets it’ by asking them to talk through that with you. After the hire, lay it out again in on-boarding & performance reviews – help your employees help you by continually drilling this in. This also becomes what you walk them through as their value prop for their next job if you have to lay them off.
What’s The “Emergency Exit Strategy:”
- What are you willing to commit to if things go south with the business? I’m fairly sure few people in HR/Recruiting ask this of hiring managers – but I think we should. We don’t live in the land of rainbows & lollipops – things go wrong & we need to talk about it before they do. Employees have little control over what happens to them & their roles when things go south – but there should be some accountability for employers beyond unemployment when they do. I worked for a homebuilder during the real estate bubble-burst & we voluntarily skipped pay & forfeited bonuses to ensure the rest of our staff would have something after an unforseen change in lending dried up credit lines & forced layoffs. Was it enough? No. But at least it was something. Plan for your “rainy day” while the sun is still shining & should the worst hit? You’ll be glad you did.
After the Storm:
- BE THERE. Here’s where recommendations, phone calls reaching out to connections, and swallowing your pride becomes the better part of valor. MOST companies hit downturns and have to pivot at some point. But it speaks very well to the relationship & commitment you have with your employees when you can take the risk to say to connections, “John Smith did great things for us with X, Y, Z – if you hear of anything in that area, he should be the first recruiting call made” or proactively write your former employee a recommendation (2). Don’t make them ask for it – with LinkedIn? You don’t even have to talk about it.. just do it. Is it what your Employment Attorney would recommend? Probably not.. but that is the kind of stuff that lets your workforce know that truly, ‘No One Will Ever (Professionally) Love Them Like You Do.’
(1) or have bandwidth for, at least
(2) preferably with your contact info