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.

New PM Articles for the Week of June 11 – 17

New project management articles published on the web during the week of June 11 – 17. Beginning with this week, I’ve made some changes to the topic headings. Without a doubt, Agile methods are now firmly established, so rather than artificially differentiating them, I’ll try another approach—distinguishing between managing projects and managing software development. I’ve also renamed the first and fifth sections. I think these labels will be more meaningful but let me know if it needs further tweaking. And this week’s video: Elizabeth Harrin interviews Simon Harris on how to thrive as an “accidental” project manager. 22 minutes, safe for work.

Business Acumen and Strategy

  • Craig Walker, an attorney with lots of experience in mergers and acquisitions, points out some of the potential pitfalls. 4 minutes to read.
  • Deena Zaidi reviews three big data breaches that we first heard about in 2017, even though they might have happened years before. Lesson learned: the coverup is more embarrassing than the breach. 5 minutes to read.
  • Dave Gershgorn reports that Amazon has already begun automating its white-collar decision-making jobs. 2 minutes to read.

Managing Projects

  • Johanna Rothman tries to visualize the organizational constraints that affect our projects. 3 minutes to read.
  • Anthony Mersino explains why most project managers don’t make good Scrum Masters. Yes, it’s a generalization, but there might be something to it. 7 minutes to read
  • Jerry Doucette shares his assessment scorecard for entering consulting / coaching assignments. It can help to understand the organization before you try to change it. 5 minutes to read.
  • Kiron Bondale observes that “traditional” funding models don’t work as well for agile delivery. 2 minutes to read.
  • Leigh Espy gives us a tip for keeping multiple projects all moving forward. 3 minutes to read, plus a 2-minute video, safe for work.
  • Renee Adair concludes her series on six current trends in project management. 2 minutes to read.

Managing Software Development

  • Stefan Wolpers curates his weekly list of Agile content, from metrics that matter to good and bad pressure to why ‘Yes’ doesn’t scale. 7 outbound links, 3 minutes to read.
  • Ian Mitchell addresses something not found in the Scrum Guide: who sends out the meeting invitations?
  • Daniel Elizalde interviews Rich Mironov on his four laws of software economics and his advice to IoT product managers. Podcast, 43 minutes, safe for work.
  • Tamás Török gets six expert opinions on testing distributed systems—both methods and tools—and how their architectures drive their methods. 11 minutes to read.
  • Michael Bolton answers the rhetorical question: which test cases should I automate? 4 minutes to read.
  • Emma Lilliestam describes a way to integrate security requirements with regression testing. 3 minutes to read.

Applied Leadership

  • Alexander Maasik curates his weekly list of leadership articles, from teaching the stars of tomorrow to an ambitious person’s take on work-life balance. 3 minutes to read.
  • Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel share the key points from their new book, “The Long-Distance Leader.” 4 minutes to read.
  • Alex Novkov begins a series on managing a lean team. 3 minutes to read.
  • Lukas Klose explains the “diamond” model of participatory decision making. 6 minutes to read.

Research and Insights

  • Isaiah Sarju gives us a primer on Malware, from the different types to how we can avoid it. This isn’t just about viruses anymore. 6 minutes to read.
  • Georgia Frances King interviews sleep researcher Daniel Gartenberg on how much sleep we actually need—apparently, more than we’re getting. 13 minutes to read.
  • Corinne Putill reports on recent research that indicates that the sunk cost fallacy keeps us tied to other people’s dumb decisions as much as our own. 2 minutes to read.

Working and the Workplace

  • Pawel Brodzinski reflects on the nature of respect, and asks: Can one be too respectful? 5 minutes to read.
  • Robyn McLeod shares her “4P” framework for preparing to have an important conversation. 2 minutes to read.
  • Art Markman points out three ways to identify cultural differences on a global team. 3 minutes to read.


New PM Articles for the Week of May 28 – June 3

New project management articles published on the web during the week of May 28 – June 3. And this week’s video: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker presents her annual internet trends report at the 2018 Code Conference. 33 minutes but well worth your time. Her 294-slide deck is here.

Must read!

  • Mark Johnson tells how Ford is transitioning from auto manufacturer to mobility provider. Noted business disruptor Henry Ford would be very impressed. 6 minutes to read.
  • Mike Murphy reports that Alphabet’s Waymo division is about to put around 62,000 autonomous minivans into a commercialized ride-hailing service. Take a moment to imagine the logistics for this rollout and how these vehicles will be serviced. 2 minutes to read.
  • Alex Hern reports that the first GDPR complaint lawsuits have been filed against Facebook and Google. If upheld, fines could run into the billions of Euros. 3 minutes to read.

Established Methods

  • Esther Cohen provides a detailed set of tips for preparing and conducting exceptionally effective project kickoff meetings. 10 minutes to read.
  • Mike Clayton goes into details of the various risk response strategies, as expanded in the PMBOK 6th 8 minutes to read.
  • Elizabeth Harrin describes the role and duties of project steering groups, sometimes called the Governance Committee. 5 minutes to read.
  • Lindsay Curtis lists the Do’s and Don’ts of project management communications, from plan to delivery. 4 minutes to read.
  • Heikki Hellgren tutors us on proper software requirements. 7 minutes to read.
  • Nick Pisano proposes a software customer Bill of Rights—commercial practices that apply ethics to the process of marketing and selling software. 8 minutes to read.

Agile Methods

  • Stefan Wolpers curates his weekly list of Agile content, from the iceberg of ignorance to misunderstanding Kanban to how amazon quantified the benefits of Amazon Prime. 3 minutes to read, 7 outbound links.
  • John Yorke observes that the enemy of Agile is ego—a belief that we have achieved perfect knowledge and there is no need to learn anything else. 4 minutes to read.
  • Pawel Brodzinski examines the related concepts of autonomy and alignment and emergent purpose. 5 minutes to read.
  • Dmitriy Nizhebetskiy and Leigh Espy discuss the challenges of IT project management when working with complex technologies and Agile methods. Video, 10 minutes, safe for work.
  • John Goodpasture gives a detailed response to a reader who challenged his statement that firm fixed-price contracts are inappropriate for contracting Agile. 4 minutes to read.

Applied Leadership

  • Alexander Maasik curates his list of leadership articles, from walking out of bad meetings to minding feedback to making better decisions. 4 minutes to read, 5 outbound links.
  • Alicia Liu shares a comprehensive guide to influencing behavior, from developing self-awareness and modeling desired behavior to giving actionable feedback. 13 minutes to read.
  • Kiron Bondale examines the three common temporal preferences—larks, owls, and third-birds—to suggest ways we can optimize our team’s work schedule. 2 minutes to read.

Technology, Techniques, and Human Behavior

  • Darius Foroux explains Price’s Law—sort of a variation on the Pareto Principle. 4 minutes to read.
  • Raul Popa posts an FAQ for TypingDNA, a biometric technology that identifies users by the way they type. Useful for two-factor authentication. 4 minutes to read.
  • Igor Ilunin describes two rapidly evolving means of human-computer interaction: voice, and soon thought recognition. 3 minutes to read.
  • Gina Abudi shows how to create and refine a mind map to organize your ideas. 2 minutes to read.

Working and the Workplace

  • Andrew Rundle has analyzed health data to quantify how much impact frequent business travel has on our health. Spoiler: a lot. 5 minutes to read.
  • Michael Deane gives us the marketing executive’s view of how to optimize our use of social media to raise our professional visibility. 2 minutes to read.
  • Hugh Beaulac explains how to procrastinate productively. 3 minutes to read.
  • Gerald Weinberg unpacks the “Anti-esteem toolkit,” a set of tactics people use to maintain low self-esteem. 2 minutes to read.