Perspective on People Surveys &Talent

The Process Damage

Good people aren’t hard to find, they are right in front of us. Across many industries the conversation about talent is top of mind. Over twenty years ago a wired magazine article predicted in 2020 that people would need to evolve quickly in their ways of learning. See the article here https://www.wired.com/2000/07/the-year-2020-explained/ along with other predictions.

Companies knew that learning, development and workforce concerns would evolve over time. It wasn’t a secret and it isn’t a surprise to hear from anyone that talent engagement is critical to the success of any organization. While budgets in human resources and factors shrunk to something a fraction of what it was, there is an investment in people oriented technologies.

Many companies are treating employees like clients and customers instead of treating them like employees. The companies look to monitor organizational health with customer satisfaction scores and surveys. Many companies have automated HR functions from end to end. They have outsourced almost all of HR in many places.

The lack of investment hasn’t necessarily had a scientific correlation with workforce turnover but it’s unclear if anyone is really looking at this. What the companies believe is that they have to appropriately brand themselves socially both externally and internally to meet conditions to attract and maintain the “best” talent.

I offer two simple questions on this:

  1. If you care about the “best” talent, what do you think you hired as you look at your current workforce?
  2. How did the serial takedown of human resources impact your bottom line?

As we consider these fundamental questions, the facts are that turnover is higher than ever. It isn’t because of those pesky kids either. It is because leadership has created distance between the core company and the people who work for it. Many older workers still bleed corporate colors for a lot of reasons but newer workers generally don’t get attached. This isn’t because of corporate culture, this is due to newly accepted behavior.

When the bottom line is literally the bottom line, it doesn’t build loyalty. When I was going for my Masters, there was a discussion of how the demands of the street, market and shareholders would drive out extra spend. What was “extra” spend? Maybe it was having holiday parties, or dinners. It could have been no cost gym or other benefits. The days of pension and people investment have gone. It is fairly common to get nothing more than the job; “I said good day sir”!

The final nail in the corporate coffin on talent is asking people for their opinion when it is clear that the company doesn’t care to take action on it. An acknowledgement of a survey isn’t action. Forming a board to study something, is like sitting in a rocking chair. You do a lot of moving but you don’t go anywhere. The reason is, that the company secretly didn’t want to know.

The end result is companies wind up knowing things and doing very little because it costs too much. If they do anything at all it would be by design for public consumption (because potential talent may see it or hear about it.)

The other result is that they figure out how to ask questions which are not actionable. Scoring from 1-5 how you feel on a Tuesday is not actionable because sentiment is highly variable.

The last issue with surveys and talent trickery, is the measures are all based on indicators which are generally designed by technologists not people who specialize in human factors.

If companies threw out the surveys and started to go back to investing in people and investing loyalty (meaning long term real incentive), the talent problem wouldn’t be what it is today. What do you think?

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