Those Darn Experienced Hires!

The Sting
Many consulting firms are eagerly recruiting experienced hires with promises of moving quickly through corporate hierarchies.  With all of the economic turmoil subsequent to 2008, many highly qualified and skilled individuals were displaced and had to begin new careers.  As the search for new opportunities commenced, some firms, deciding to take advantage of the opportunity elected to make low-ball offers to prospective employees – anywhere from 30-50% lower – than their previous salaries before the collapse.

Being human, and in most cases having families to support, individuals took jobs that they should have either; 1) Passed on or 2) Done a better job negotiating base and bonus pay for. The short-term benefit to organisations was that they had an influx of thought leadership and IP from these talented individuals.  But as the experienced hire’s rose-tinted glasses began to dim, they realized they had been drawn into machines that did not operate the way recruiters promised they would.  Being fast-tracked is unusual, if not impossible, at some of the Tier 1 consulting firms.  The bureaucracy favors “home-growns” those individuals recruited right out of undergraduate school and trained as analysts into a very disciplined system with guaranteed promotions every 2-4 years and younger MBA recruits who tend to have immediate executive sponsorship.

“If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings and put compensation as a carrier behind it, you almost don’t have to manage them.” Jack Welch

The Reality
Forget labor laws, they are violated every day when the demographics of individuals being promoted are analyzed.  However, instead of making a fuss, it’s easier for this seemingly forgotten group of employees, to find a new job and move on – choosing to maintain amicable relations – than filing a claim as required by the EEOC and asking for the right to sue.  While I can’t say for certain, not having been privy to the risk assessment and reserves former employers had in place, it is evident some companies are prepared to have a revolving door of talent due to poor, or no, inclusion processes for experienced hires. In many cases, these talented individuals are asked to train the younger and less experienced managers they are assigned to work for.  Ouch! That stings, can be demoralizing and lead to workplace relationship issues that no one has time to deal with.

Déjà vu
This isn’t a new phenomenon, but tends to happen when leadership is short-sighted and inferior HR practices are in play.  In the late ’90’s Jacques (/aka/Jack the Knife) Nasser was CEO at Ford.  I have always felt that he almost single handedly set the company up for failure when he tried to make his mark by going on a shopping spree and buying market share with numerous name plates.  Whilst it was nice having Aston-Martin and others in the stable, I was always partial to Jaguar and Land Rover, it wasn’t practical and his deals were ROI losers. The Kwik Fit debacle, sold to shareholders and employees as such a great deal, suffered from either; due diligence not being performed, the people performing it not being qualified to do so or the books were just plain old cooked, leading to hundreds of millions in losses.  Jacques was an elitist (or perceived to be so by many). It was perhaps while taking a break from his Rodeo Drive shopping spree, that he sent out a decree to amp up recruiting at the big name B-schools, Wharton, Harvard, et al, to bring in individuals who allegedly had high potential and would “help” the company flourish.  My opinion on B-Schools can be found here.

What he seemingly failed to recognize were four key points; 1) The buyers who made up Ford’s core client base, 2) That it can take years to master the basics of automotive operations, 3) The rage and bitterness many long-term employees – with high potential – felt at having opportunities taken away and, 4) That these skilled workers would take their IP and years of know-how and walk away.

Ford suffered this loss of IP and and other dysfunctions for several years with share prices plummeting, lack-luster models and Bill Ford Jr.’s attempt at being CEO after “The Knife’s” reign until Alan Mullaley came to town and saved the well-known American icon. But that is another story for another day.

What to Do?
For the experienced hire workforce, which can turn up to 78% in 18 mos., remember who you are.  If your firm is not currently valuing what you bring to the table, you should be looking for new opportunities.  Don’t fall into the trap that was set – where if they can make you believe you are “worth less” than you used to be – that it actually means you are worthless.  Pull up your bootstraps, find your self-esteem and negotiate better next time around.  Find the top two or three areas that you were known for/made your reputation on previously and showcase those skills.  Make yourself so valuable that you have more than one offer to consider.  When you make the move, go to the firm that has the best cultural fit so you don’t repeat the experience you just extricated yourself from.

Organisations, you need to get real. Leaders need to take a serious look at the costs of offering higher salary’s to experienced hires to ensure longer retention versus the astronomical costs (typically one years salary that is just gone- poof!) of recruiting and on-boarding due to high turnover.  It’s tough to go wrong when you embrace valuing employees instead of seeing them as interchangeable commodities. Valuing people through recognition, reward and advancement really does pay off.

One woman who is beginning to make a difference in how both employers and employees perceive and operate in the workplace is Liz Ryan at Human Workplace.  Her mission is to bring  the human factor back into the workplace and encourage leaders to see the harm draconian HR practices ultimately do to their business.  You don’t have to be a slave rowing endlessly under the threat of being whipped, you can find opportunities at progressive firms who choose to value employees as their greatest resource.  As a wise man once said; “Be the change you want to see!” You should take his advice.

Disclaimer: All insights and opinions are my own and have been formed over many years of practical business and personal experiences; as both an employee and a business owner. They do not represent the views of  my current employer. MM