Don’t Treat Your Employees Like Normal Caterpillars in a Jar…

Maren Hogan Culture, Maren Hogan, Recruiting, Retention

This week my boys found the most amazing caterpillar. As thick as your thumb, brightly colored and very movity. In short, everything a little boy wants in a creepy crawly thing. So, they did what any self respecting child would do. They dumped this extraordinary creature into a jar, poked some holes in a lid and decided it would be our pet. They then proudly tramped into the house (dad in tow) to show me their prize.

I was stunned. In my mind, this was the worst fate this poor caterpillar could have crawled into (short ofCaterpillar the front tire of the neighbor’s Volvo). Any other normal bug would have been poked at and left to roam free in its natural habitat. Because of this little guy’s (christened Moses) extraordinary beauty and size, he was imprisoned. I thought the whole thing hideously unfair.

As we shopped for a deluxe insect box, clipped branches from the neighbor’s cherry tree and carefully researched the care of a cecropia caterpillar, my husband questioned the wisdom of such a strategy. After all, chances are only 50% that this sucker will live, even in the wild. Not much of a metric, is it?

Sometimes, whether we’re recruiting them, managing them, or firing them, we Talent Pros do the same thing to our extraordinary candidates. It could be that we find an amazing candidate and try to wedge him into a job that’s not quite the right fit. Or managers do not see the hidden talents in their subordinates, and because it would cost time and money to develop those talents, do not seek them out. When implementing a necessary layoff, we don’t equip our workers for their next journey by using a network of contacts carefully cultivated through time in “the trenches”. There are lots of ways we can disservice our clients and it’s scary sometimes to imagine the power we wield.

In truth, for all the talk of work-life balance, it’s often the “work” bit that gets the larger chunk of the pie. Are we ensuring that the talent entrusted to our care is getting what he or she needs?

In the end, as soon as Moses was settled into his (carefully and painstakingly crafted) new habitat, he began the long and arduous process of beginning his cocoon. We were seeing an immediate return on investment! The boys crowed with delight and my husband smiled, but I wasn’t surprised. We had provided ample resources, lots of room, and researched about what would be the best. . . for a caterpillar. Don’t your candidates and employees deserve at least that much?

Now, if your new employee enters his feng shui cubicle and starts spinning an elaborate web of silk with his mouth, don’t come crying to me.