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Anything You Can Do They Can Do Better

ethel mermanThe New York Times had an interesting article last week related to the profusion of talent in the market right now – “Tables Turned, Former Hires Can’t Get Hired”  We all understand that there are lots of people on the street right now looking for jobs; what’s different, though, is that a lot of those people are really really good.  It’s easy to think that the lowest performers get let go first, but that’s definitely not true in an environment where the factors driving workforce reductions are dynamic, widespread, and to a large extent uncontrollable.  The other big difference: no one is picking this talent up as quickly as they used to ’cause there’s nowhere to put them.  Or is there (Vincent Price cackle in the background)?  And that’s where my deviousness comes in…

Take a look at your under performers…or your marginal performers…or even your sub-optimal performers and see if now’s the time to upgrade.  Yes, that means involuntarily separating people from the organization simply for the fact there are better people out there to take their place.  This would be the epitome of the “up or out” approach to talent management – Jack Welch would love this.  One of the guys referenced in the article was a former SVP at PNC Bank responsible for providing Human Resources to 3,500 employees.  The guy can’t find a job.  Tell me he wouldn’t be the perfect candidate for that organization where the HR Director just can’t seem to get up the curve, can’t get to the table, can’t play a more vital role in directing the success of the business.  Get rid of that guy already.  And a lot of these guys are willing to take a pay cut just to get back on the playing field.  Why would you drive the Chevy Malibu when you could have the Saab 93 Turbo for close to the same price (I know, I’m the king of mixed metaphors)?  Here’s what the naysayers will throw at me:

  1. You’ll say, “Yeah, but they’ll leave when they find something better.”  And I say, “Maybe…if there’s something better…ever.”
  2. You’ll say, “There’s some employment law risk here.”  And I say, “Maybe, but the decision is based on legitimate business criteria  – we found someone who could do the job better.”
  3. You’ll ask, “But how do you know whether that person is really better?”  And I’ll answer, “my screening process is thorough, my performance management system is reasonable, and I’m a bettin’ man.”
  4. You’ll say, “but that just isn’t nice.”  And I’ll say, “Maybe not, but you know where nice guys finish.” 

Tough times call for tough measures and I say it’s all fair play.  Get that former SVP of HR, who the board squeezed out, to be the new HR Director for your fledgling organization.  Find that HR Manager, who was on the fast track only to be tossed aside during a downsizing, and put them into an HR Generalist role.   Get rid of the laggards, who are doing your HR Team a disservice, and give yourself a makeover.  Your (new) HR Team will thank you, the leadership team will respect you, and your employees will love you.

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