The other day, my friend couldn’t find her Droid. So we looked and looked until we found it. …in the back pocket of the pants she’d been wearing the whole time. And then there was last weekend, when I searched what seemed like every nook and cranny of the house: My Jeep’s keys were nowhere to be found. …until I remembered I’d left them in the ignition; my home is in the sticks, on a dirt road where nary a bad guy lurks to take away my stuff.
The palm of my hand traveled to my forehead. So, too, did hers. Together, we experienced a “double facepalm.” Employers have them all the time, and especially when they realize that the talent they’re looking for is right there, inside.
Here’s a pet theory: Employees work to make money. I know: I could be wrong. But money is probably the primary reason a majority work, and for a majority, money used to be one of the only reasons.
Employees would look for the greatest amount of security in making that money over the greatest amount of time — ideally, a lifetime’s worth of time. And they found those conditions almost everywhere. They found them in big corporations that paid well and provided room for advancement — to be paid even better, over several decades, till retirement knocked. They stayed because they wanted to, and for these conditions specifically. But they also stayed because society told them they had to. Seeing to it was an ingrained, shared ethos that honestly couldn’t fathom anyone wanting to leave a secure job.
And here’s another pet theory: Today, it’s Maslow’s world, and we just live in it. Employees stay because they want to. But they don’t have to — unless they really do have to, but for reasons entirely divorced from that old ethos, which has faded into memory. In an economy that is weak, employees stay for security, but they may resent the security, especially if the pay just barely provides the security. And they will concurrently pine for work more self-fulfilling, more self-advancing. As a world of work, we’ve moved further up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, above survival to self-actualization.
Here’s one more point, before we get to the main one:
A common bit of advice says to look within for answers to the spirit’s ailments. Looking outside one’s self for answers rarely brings authentic or lasting happiness, the saying goes. And that’s true. And a kernel of the saying’s truth applies to the topic of recruiting. Yes, the answer to an organization’s ailments often is a need for talent that’s outside, waiting to be recruited; just as often, however, a relentless recruitment of talent not there yet is a symptom of deep unhappiness within the organization, or lack of appreciation for the talent already there.
Or (and?), this unending need for outside talent reflects the organization’s inattention to self. When an organization neglects its self, looking outside to fix what’s broken inside is an unconscious cry for help. An addiction to new employees sets in, a salve for the continual pain wrought by the organization’s dysfunctional home life — the dynamics intended and unintended that govern workers’ daily grind. The organization must instead acknowledge that the inside is broken — and focus on fixing the inside with inside parts.
Those inside parts are your employees, and many are chomping at the bit to self-actualize, in their jobs. Individuals have self-help books and mentors to help fix what’s broken inside. Organizations have HR and HR technology. HR people implement processes to heal an organization, and HR technology provides more and better tools than ever for organizations to see, understand and cater to their talent inside.
Right In Front of You
My keys were where I left them, and my friend’s Droid was in her back pocket. We each searched a long time before realizing those items were right there, right in front of us. Where is your talent? It might be right in front of you. Remove your palms from your foreheads, like we did, and get on with it. She made a call. I fired up the engine in my truck. Organizations, provide your employees with the conditions that’ll lead them to want to stay.
Thank you for joining us last night. Your tweets ran the gamut of good thinking, as always, and below is a slide show of them. We thank Rob Garcia (@robgarciasj) for his peerless guest moderation. Did you miss this week’s preview? Click here. We look forward to seeing you next Wednesday.
Image Credit: Facepalm-Picard by DarkUncle