Looking for the next Jordan

Sometimes I wonder if people, the ones qualified as employees, are seen as a commodity. Selecting the right candidate is a sensitive task, and Human Resources professionals go through complex processes to assist the hiring managers. The interviews get you so far: how can I know whether I will get along with the one I ask typical HR questions for an hour, and if that person will turn to actually be an asset to the project, or the company, I hire for?

I am conscious of ideas developed to ensure people retention, such as feedback and recognition, learning and growth opportunities, telecommuting, access to some social network during work hours for Gen Y and others.

However, I am witnessing a major shift at a client’s, and the transition from the present structure to the desired one looks unsteady. Typical struggle and debate on whom to promote, understanding that demotion is not an acceptable option. Where time sometimes becomes a currency, people, on an organisation chart, become a commodity. This sounds pretty disturbing and ruthless, and resentment on the employee side grows inversely proportionally to the company’s retention objectives. When this happens, the Human Resources department goes out shopping for the pearl, often lost in an ocean of resumes logged in a database with funny filters. The goal is to recruit the best candidate, get a feel for the potential relationship, define and speculate on its future Return On Investment, adequately measure the risk and fill the position. Those are similar ingredients to a valuable procurement process, indeed. Cheap comparison, you may ask?

Recruiting a candidate has lots in common with recruiting a supplier. Finding and managing the talent, and identifying the competency are paramount skills to master at the selection time. Retention comes from the communication, back and forth, existing between both parties: what does one do to grow, with and around the other? It implies work exposure (through results) and recognition. It seems simple, and most Western societies (and then companies) still stumble on that detail: without falling into an over-congratulating scenario, mentioning “good idea” to the one who submitted it can go a long (human) way, and make that person feel more than just a number on the human resources target report. Engaging a supplier pays off as well, knowing that not everyone can be an organisation’s Michael Jordan, and he too had some downs.

Yes, procuring goods, services or people can be perceived as being the same: how to recruit and select the best proponent is a subjective decision point. Succession planning, talent grooming, performance recognition and growth support are just a few key points a client might have overlooked for their transition. The investment in time may reflect on how many Jordans chose to stay: bargaining on people’s lives rarely benefits the investor, and can indeed be more costly in the long run. Knowing the growing quest for a work/life balance, and happiness, some boutique-style recruiting could help some “head” hunters (or brain procurers…).