This could be one of my favorite ERE blog posts (9.15.2005); notice how “candidate experience” isn’t anything new?
“Is a gruntled employee one who is not disgruntled?” -something Heather Hamilton may be thinking
Your ERE article was a home run [note from Steve – link no longer live] – not because others may use it to bolster their position on “ethical recruiting” but because it supports who you are – “The honesty part is compulsive, the responsiveness I have to work harder at.” After all, when you close your eyes at night, you have only yourself to answer to – ah, integrity (it’s what you do when no one is looking). Perhaps ethics guides outward behavior and integrity inward behavior. Ah, Philosophy 101…
Remember Nigel Tufnel’s line, “You can’t really dust for vomit” from This Is Spinal Tap? Ethics is as messy a subject as political party affiliation or in-house recruiter versus TPR. Ethics is also one of those amorphous concepts that for most only becomes concrete when a person comes face-to-face with a situation that directly impacts them. Most other times, ethics is like a new word you come across when reading a book – some will take out a dictionary and look it up but most will mumble it and perhaps figure out the meaning in the context of the story. There’s quite a bit of out-of-sight, out-of-mind when it comes to ethics.
Then there are the value statements: Who writes these for companies? I know many are written by PR/Communication staff as a means to soften the outward appearance of a company. The value statement is often like the organizational brand that is supposed to complement the product/service brand. Most of the turnarounds I’ve done had such statements; most were internally laughable because the rubber just did not meet the road. Yes, somewhere along the development process they were what the company stood for but consistent late performance reviews, mass layoffs, bloated compensation packages, SEC scandals, etc. have turned many value statement pages into rusting hulks – reminders of more “ethical” times in a company’s history.
Yet, if these values are so important, why is it that most companies don’t screen for them during interviews? There are many highly valid and reliable assessment instruments that are better than BEI – but these cost money and may deep six a favorite candidate of your hiring manager (note to Dave Arnold of Wonderlic/Association of Test Publishers – See? I believe in using these tests. Surprised?). I suppose recruiters weren’t getting too far with “Tell me about a time when you were honest and exhibited personal integrity in a business situation?” so they just dropped it altogether. And what happened next? Lay, Skilling, Rigas, Winnick, Kozlowski, Ebbers?
[Personal value statements are another matter and anyone who doesn’t have them needs to introspect until they do find them]
I wholeheartedly concur with you’re belief that “corporations were created to further the interest of shareholders, that is, to generate value.” But let’s be truthful about hiring managers neglecting “a culture of integrity”, encouraging deceptive recruiting, “and not performing their roles as stewards of shareholder value.” While most companies may have integrity and ethics as part of their performance management system, how many really hold feet to the fire – gosh, and are these reviews always conducted on time? I’m wondering out loud now: How many Wall Street analysts have employees and candidates in mind when they talk about CEOs maximizing shareholder value? We joke about Enron now – not in human terms but perhaps as a business case – but Wall Street sure did like how the Enron brain trust generated shareholder value. Heck, Enron once traded 70 times earnings! The adjusted share price climbed from $19 in early 1997 to $82 at year end 2000. Enron is not an outlier when it comes to investing and shareholder value. Yes, it is sad. I don’t mean to sound boorish but this is how business is played.
Then there’s goodwill – ah, what a wonderful intangible. Reputation, community stewardship, brand name, trademarks; goodwill is the difference between the market value of a company’s assets and the higher amount paid at the time the company is purchased or merged into another organization. M&A activity always includes a substantial HR component that may assess the impact of recruiting processes on goodwill. But this rarely – deceptive recruiting or not and I may even be understating here – results in a lower goodwill value. Ultimately, there’s an abyss of a difference between what CEOs and Wall Street accept (or even know about) and what candidates find objectionable – or even unethical.
But what if we look at the bigger picture? What does looking outside-the-box, as John has consistently done during his consulting career, offer the candidate? This argument has become an internal battle between two sides that has the potential to incinerate the entire profession. It seems that that while many believe that some (or all) of John’s ideas come across as dark and unethical – but if people like John didn’t think like this who would ultimately feel the pain?
Yes, the candidate.
Ideas for sourcing people generate more ideas and even if these ideas are dubious, many are embraced by recruiters enabling them to find the “best” person for the job. I remember how many recruiters cursed the early Internet because it enabled the savvy ones to generate names that would take a “smiler and dialer” days or weeks to uncover. Personally, I always enjoyed printing coffee sleeves with company slogans and “Work for Us” type sayings and distributing them to coffee shops near competitors. Some folks thought this was unethical; my bosses thought it was clever. Business card bowls at restaurants? Most managers give them away at the end of the week. Conferences? During set up, I walk around and hand out coffee and donuts to those setting up company booths.
What these all have in common is that they resulted in people being hired, people who have succeeded beyond their expectations. There will always be bottom dwellers in any profession but for some to assert that the entire profession is morally corrupt because some believe that Michael Homula’s recruiting organization has irrevocably aggrieved job candidates is to go back to the late 1800’s and side with horse owners because someone has managed to link the internal combustion engine to four wheels and a steering mechanism. It would be great if no candidate was ever left behind but not everyone gets to work for their dream company.
I believe that John is all about innovation and NOT empowering recruiting organizations to become unethical implementers. This should be part of our message as a profession:
- Our message really should be about showing candidates how we are innovating to help us find them easier and find the best person for the job.
- Our message should be about showing candidates how we recruit, how our workload sometimes impacts responsiveness, how our use of technology will help us become better customer services providers.
- Our message should be about showing candidates how our personal value statements push us to find the best fit for a job rather than going with the squeakiest wheel.
We are a profession that constantly runs headlong into a brick wall comprised of human beings who are in need. Many of these people expect us to forego our responsibility to our immediate stakeholders. Most times, it is heartbreaking. We’ve all had to let candidates know they aren’t right for the job and experience the resultant questioning. And some still think the entire profession is heartless? Please.
By the way, did you read Tom Burt’s (Microsoft’s Deputy General Counsel) comment about the court’s ruling in the Google v. Microsoft case that Kai-Fu Lee was in effect converted from a technical leader to a “highly overcompensated head of human resources”? Thanks Tom – that make us who are in HR and staffing roles feel good about ourselves in terms of our impact on corporate culture.
Heather, there will be more gruntled employees out there when our profession communicates how and why it acquires talent. As long as we fight over techniques and value systems we will debase all our great accomplishments.
In the end, we really should keep in mind the words of David St. Hubbins (This is Spinal Tap again)?
It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever