FACE IT: We Build Cool Space Because We Don’t Know How to Build Great Managers…

Kris Dunn Employment Branding and Culture, Kris Dunn

That’s right, I said it.

Whether we can afford to build it or not at our company, we focus on thinking about the office layout and how tricked up we can make it look because we don’t have the guts to build great managers of people.

Keyword:  Employer of Choice.

What’s employer of choice mean?  Lots of things to lots of people.  At its core, though, is the thought that we’re going to do things differently enough at our company to make you want to work “here” for the same money as our competitors would provide – mainly because we’re cooler than they are.

We get it.  Those guys?  Not as much.  Just look at our space vs. theirs!!!

Of course, there’s more to consider than just space. What’s the stuff you can do to enhance your chances at being an employer of choice?  First, a list of the the easy stuff:

1. Provide great health care benefits that require no employee contribution for employee or family coverage.

2. Offer some killer benefits that look great but are hard to use.

 3. Broaden your approach to time-off policies.

 4. Invest in your workspace.

What do all these things have in common?  You just need to write the check as a company.  But, becoming an employer of choice to any degree over the long haul also means you’ve got to do some things that can’t be bought.  Most of them have to do with figuring out a way to grow how progressive your managers of people are related to their interactions with the “talent”.

The next list is hard as hell, with all of the items being mind numbing and requiring cultural transformation.  Good luck, sucker, because you and your company probably don’t have what it takes.  I don’t mean that personally, but as far as the bell curve goes, we’re all more “top of the curve” (translation: average) than we’d like to admit.

For example, to truly become an employer of choice you need:

1. True Organizational Transparency.

2. Real (and frequent) Two-way performance conversations.

3. Selfless Organizational Promotion of talent.

 4. Portable capital investment in talent that invests in associates without regard to the fact whether they’ll be there in 2 years.

Those last two also require an $$ investment of sorts, but the bigger burden is getting to the point where all your managers are rowing in the same direction and are actually willing and capable of having the types of conversations necessary to pull off all four items.

My college basketball coach used to trip on us by saying the following about our struggles with executing an offense or digging in on defense.  He said it in a way that sounded like Clint Eastwood in any movie:

“You think this is hard?  This isn’t hard.  Riding a bicycle on the freeway?  That’s hard.”

We used to laugh our a## off at him in the locker room about that go-to statement.  The old man is so funny.  What’s he know about fun?  About freeways?  We’re the youth gone wild.  He’s washed up.  Why can’t he just let us play?”

Then we grew up and found out he was right.

You think building great managers is tough?  It is.  So tough that we grew up and looked at that opportunity and needed a nap after pondering the complexity of making it happen.  So we write the check and build cool space instead.   Ping-pong table anyone?  The good news is the noise will make it even harder for the managers to have real conversations about performance and potential.

Which is exactly the way they want it.  Make it two ping-pong tables, Johnny.  We’ve got recruits to sign.

FOT Note: This rant is brought to you by the good folks at Halogen Software who like us enough to be an annual sponsor at FOT for all content in our performance management track (and don’t expect that we run any of this by them ahead of time). 

Kris Dunn

Kris Dunn is a Partner and CHRO at Kinetix, a national RPO firm for growth companies headquartered in Atlanta. He’s also the founder Fistful of Talent (founded in 2008) and The HR Capitalist (2007) – and has written over 70 feature columns at Workforce Management magazine. Prior to his investment at Kinetix, Kris served in HR leadership roles at DAXKO, Charter and Cingular. In his spare time, KD hits the road as a speaker and gives the world what it needs – pop culture references linked to Human Capital street smarts.