21st Century Alchemy: Investing in your employees will pay dividends

If you’ve been living in Denmark for a while and still haven’t found meaningful employment, your situation is similar to what the ‘long-term unemployed’ face (i.e no-one will touch you). Conventional wisdom says that the long-term unemployed are bad hires, but that conventional wisdom is plain wrong!

These are the rather pathetic excuses that you’ll get from HR managers and prospective employers:

I can’t find the right applicants
If you can’t find them, it’s because you’re focusing on the wrong things and looking in the wrong places. There are plenty of people willing to work hard and make you a profit. There’s no lack of people, just a lack of vision. Why do you think recruiters do so well? Because they’re profiting from your poor hiring practices. Empower your leaders to hire outside the box and/or ‘walk’ into a job search group or employment office and interview a few people there. You’ll find the people you’re looking for.

They’re lazy
Someone who’s been desperately looking for a job for months to years, someone who’s given up on their own dreams and career ambitions and settled for anything that puts food on the table and a roof over their heads, has learned skills that every company will benefit from. If they’ve worked hard at job-hunting, don’t you think that they’ll work hard at their job? Do you really think that any problem your company faces is a bigger obstacle than what they are or have gone through?! They have the character and strength that’s found in only the most dedicated employees (e.g persistence, flexibility, resourcefulness, resilience) and you’d be an absolute idiot not to hire someone who’s proven to be that unbreakable.

They don’t have current skills
Your business won’t be doing what it’s doing now so if you’re hiring for current skills, your business will fail, and if you’re only hiring employed people, you’re not considering all your options. Business cycles are quickly shortening, so in order to maintain a healthy pipeline and correctly respond (not react) to a rapidly evolving market, your company needs to be constantly looking forward. What you’ll need to remain competitive are problem-solvers and people who can still think when everything’s falling apart. That’s the reality of the long-term unemployed.

They’re going to leave when they get a better offer
Your staff will turnover more than you want and, sadly, you’ll probably lose a lot of your best employees. People care more about new opportunities/experiences, professional development and career growth than pay so unless you’re giving them the former, then they won’t give a damn about the latter (you can’t buy someone’s soul). So give them a reason to stay by focusing your development programs in those three areas and you’ll create a good working environment, retain your staff and make money in the process (the best fruit always come from the healthiest plants).

They’re too old or too young
Something that companies are quickly forgetting is the amplification effect produced from teams that are diverse (something that Nova Nordisk has been doing for years). The best staff mix is multi-generational and experientially-diverse so never discount people because they’re too young or too old, too experienced or too inexperienced, or simply too different culturally or professionally (i.e unqualified). You need a team that sees your customers or your market on many levels. You can always teach the necessary skills, but can you find the necessary thinkers and doers? You might find that a philosophy or sociology grad is more appropriate than another business grad. Their brain has been trained to think and they know how to effectively communicate.

They need to be trained
You complain that they’ll need to be retrained. Are you seriously leaving the future of your company and the quality of your future staff in the hands of the government or a competitor? You’re your own worst enemy if you’re waiting for someone else to do your work for you. Don’t you want new employees to do things the way you want them done? Do you honestly believe that a company that’s invested its time and resources in its employees will lose them to a company that’s hasn’t?! Hire people with the right attitude, people who are hungry and invest in them.

Questions & Answers 

Interview Question
Why should we hire you?
Why they’re asking – This question seems unfair, perhaps outright intimidating, but if you’re asked it, you’re in luck: There’s no better set-up for you to sell yourself and your skills to the hiring manager.

How do you answer – Your job is to craft an answer that covers three things: 1) Not only can you do the work, but you can deliver great results; 2) that you’re a really good fit with the team and company culture; and 3) that you’d be a better hire than any of the other candidates. Again, whenever you make a point, describe what you mean and give specific, succinct and concrete examples as illustrations.

Workplace Question
Okay, so I don’t want to be an ass, but a co-worker in our accounting office always ends up crying at some point of the day. It’s not like he’s had some difficult personal loss (we’ve all talked to him about what’s going on), but he just starts crying about something! We’ve all talked about it and most of us find it disturbing and disruptive, even manipulative (I hope it’s unintentional). I say manipulative because some of us have talked to our boss about it and she’s turned a blind eye.

A very unscientific online survey in the US showed that 80 percent of women (4 of 5) and 33 percent of men (1 of 3) have cried at work. In the same poll, 71 percent of women and 53 percent of men don’t think poorly of someone crying at work. But obviously it can be distracting. But workers in typically high-stress careers (healthcare, law, finance, teaching etc) simply disappear over time (quit, fired etc). Instead of focusing on what he’s doing, focus on what the team can do to lower the pressure he’s feeling and ask your boss what she’s specifically doing to support him.