Hiring is Part of What a Manager Does

The unemployment rate is below 4% and technical positions are remaining open for up to a year at a time. Hiring managers need to up their game.

My consulting practice consists of human capital management transformation projects, so I spend a lot of my time around HR people. Many HR professionals will tell you they are fighting a “war for talent.” Employee turnover rates are higher and average tenure shorter than at just about any time in history for most organizations, for a variety of reasons. Employees with advanced technical skills are not staying in jobs as long as they used to, and every open position represents an opportunity cost. When the work has to be spread among other employees, the negative effects accumulate quickly. As a result, both recruiting and retention get a lot of attention—except from the managers they work for.

Suzanne Lucas, who writes as The Evil HR Lady for Inc. and number of other publications, recently touted an article by Chip Cutter on the practice of ghosting—job applicants cutting off communication with corporate recruiters and hiring managers. There has always been a fraction of new hires that don’t show up on their first day in retail and restaurant jobs, but this is now a growing phenomenon for technical and white-collar positions, too. Lucas and many other HR practitioners say this is a behavior that the applicants learned from employers, especially hiring managers, during the era of high unemployment. Now, there are more open positions than unemployed workers and the tables have been turned.

Perfection is Over-rated

“I couldn’t pass an audition to join my own band.” Frank Zappa

Every manager wants to hire someone who has exactly the right skills and personality, experience and education, and can hit the ground running. And just about every HR executive complains about managers who won’t choose among the candidates they’ve been presented for open jobs. They point to managers who admit that “This one is perfect,” but they want to see a few more. They forget that outstanding candidates have other opportunities. Unemployment rates in technology are much lower than the rates in the general population, which is now at the lowest point in this century. Even those managers who have successfully “poached” employees from another company underestimate the competition for talent. The hiring manager must be decisive and communicative to be effective.

Understand the Hiring Process in Your Organization

Job ApplicantsMost large employers these days go through an extensive HR-managed process that includes everything from drug testing, credit, and criminal record checks to nondisclosure and IP agreements. Equity grants and other compensation approvals add steps and approvers. This introduces a certain amount of latency, and the longer it takes to get someone on board, the greater the exposure to cold feet. I know of one Silicon Valley employer that had a 10% no-show rate among candidates who had already accepted offers, and that was several years ago. If your organization allows the hiring manager access to the applicant management system, you should monitor the workflow for each requisition, and if necessary, nudge those who have aging actions in their inbox. After you decide on a candidate, maintain contact with that new team member right up until their start date. Keep them informed and feeling wanted, or you might see them snatched away by some other firm.

Make the Landing as Smooth as Possible

Studies have found that the ‘new employee experience’ largely drives tenure. In exit interviews with people who decided to leave their new job in the first six weeks, most organizations hear reasons that amount to ‘disappointment.’ It’s not just onboarding, but fitting in. Excellent teams make a point of getting their new members to feel comfortable asking questions without fear of being judged.  Excellent managers don’t just delegate the new hire experience to a ‘buddy,’ they work to establish a new relationship.

Retention Starts on Arrival

Say what you want about the job-hopping habits of the Millennials: they’re just applying the rules of the modern marketplace. Can you really blame a twenty-something for wanting to develop her resume? The challenge for the manager is to help her develop that resume without leaving. Special projects, additional responsibility, and training aren’t exactly golden handcuffs, but don’t you really want to retain the ones that are engaged? Understand that new hire’s personal goals and make that part of your management plan for them.

Getting to Team Stability

Most managers will tell you that continually re-forming the team as people come and go is a strain on everyone. It helps to engage the group in onboarding and retention. It’s a drag for the new hire to follow someone who was perceived as a valued colleague and trusted friend—no one can match up on the first day. Sensitize your team to the needs of the new starter and enlist them in helping her be successful.

The pace of business picks up a bit more each year. Don’t expend your valuable time as a manager being indecisive, and don’t let someone surprise you with a resignation. As tough as this year looks, next year will be worse, and you won’t like to face it with only half of a team.

Survey: State of Software Development

Survey TakerI don’t normally promote surveys, even those pushed by PMI. But Tamas Torok and the folks at Coding Sans are collecting data for the 2018 update to their State of Software Development report. Last year’s report was probably the most interesting of the 40 or so I read in 2017, in that it included both utilization and aspirational data on technologies and methods and practices for recruiting and retention. However, it was hampered by the fact that their responses were heavily weighted toward Europe. I suspect that if they can get more responses from the Americas, India, and Oz / NZ, the results will be even more accurate and actionable.

So even if you don’t manage software development projects, please pass this link along to one of your colleagues who manages development teams. The list of questions is comprehensive but it shouldn’t take more than 7 minutes to complete, assuming you don’t ruminate over “What have you done about it?” I believe they will close the survey around March 9. When they publish the report, I’ll include it in the weekly round-up.

Commonly Observed National and Religious Holidays 2018

As I remind everyone each year: if you haven’t already done so, it’s time to update your project schedules with non-working days for 2018. Below is a list of commonly observed national and religious holidays, and the dates they are commonly observed. Naturally, you’ll need to confirm which holidays apply to your project team.

And here are instructions for updating the working calendar in MS Project.

Holiday Weekday Celebrated
New Year’s Day Monday 1/1/2018
Martin Luther King’s Birthday (US) Monday 1/15/2018
Republic Day (India) Friday 1/26/2018
Ash Wednesday Wednesday 2/14/2018
Chinese / Vietnamese New Year Friday 2/16/2018
President’s Day (US) Monday 2/19/2018
Holi (India) Friday 3/2/2018
Good Friday Friday 3/30/2018
Beginning of Passover Saturday 3/31/2018
Easter Monday (UK) Monday 4/2/2018
May Day (China: Labor Day) Tuesday 5/1/2018
Early May Bank Holiday (UK) Monday 5/7/2018
First day of Ramadan Wednesday 5/16/2018
Shauvot Sunday 5/20/2018
Victoria Day (Canada) Monday 5/21/2018
Spring Bank Holiday (UK) Monday 5/28/2018
Memorial Day (US) Monday 5/28/2018
Eid al-Fitr Friday 6/15/2018
Canada Day Sunday 7/1/2018
Independence Day (US) Wednesday 7/4/2018
Pioneer Day (Utah, US) Tuesday 7/24/2018
Independence Day (India) Wednesday 8/15/2018
Eid al-Adha / Festival of Sacrifice Wednesday 8/22/2018
Summer Bank Holiday (UK) Monday 8/27/2018
Labor Day (US and Canada) Monday 9/3/2018
Rosh Hashanah Monday 9/10/2018
Yom Kippur Wednesday 9/19/2018
Sukkot Monday 9/24/2018
National Day (China) Monday 10/1/2018
Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday (India) Tuesday 10/2/2018
Columbus Day / Indigenous People’s Day (US) Monday 10/8/2018
Thanksgiving (Canada) Monday 10/8/2018
Dussehra (India) Friday 10/19/2018
Veteran’s Day (US) / Remembrance Day (Canada) Sunday 11/11/2018
Diwali (India) Saturday 11/17/2018
Thanksgiving Day (US) Thursday 11/22/2018
Day after Thanksgiving (US) Friday 11/23/2018
First day of Chanukah Monday 12/3/2018
Christmas Eve Monday 12/24/2018
Christmas Day Tuesday 12/25/2018
Boxing Day (UK, Canada) Wednesday 12/26/2018
Kwanzaa Wednesday 12/26/2018
New Year’s Eve Monday 12/31/2018