Saturday, July 2, 2011

Never Let Your Employees Down

At the age of 23 I found myself at a construction camp of over 15,000 multi national inhabitants outside of Ras Tanuara, Saudi Arabia.  My superior was a 72 year old retired Marine Corp General and I worked with three other Americans who were all a minimum of 25 years older than I was; thus I was "the kid." 

We were reponsible for providing construction workers with healthcare, food, recreation, living and housekeeping accomodations, shopping, utilities, infrastructure, and of course security which we did with a work force of 600 third world nationals.

One time, and rather by surprise, I found myself in charge with our camp Engineer as support.  With a vacation schedule of two weeks every three months, there was always someone going on and or returning from a vacation out of country, there had been times when two of us were on vacation at the same time, but never had their been three and never had the other two ever taken a vacation at the same time as the camp manager.

So, I found myself behind the desk of a retired Marine Corp General; heady times for a kid!  The first thing I found on the taped to the desk and displayed under a piece of glass was a quote:  "Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill" and the next thing I found was a pile of memos from headquarters that I had to follow up on.

There I found a bombshell;  due to the fall in oil prices I had to terminate 150 employees and it would have to be accomplished before the three amigos returned!  Well, that explains why the three were in such a hurry to get out of country!

Basically, I was the one who was going to have to select 150 people out of a pool of Indian's, Pakistani's, Bangladeshi's, Sri Lankan's, Thai's, and Filipino's, people who had had to pay bribes to get the jobs they currently had and in some cases continued to pay bribes to keep the jobs they had, but I was sending them back to their homelands;  places where they would most likely never have a job again.  These employees were not only supporting their family with their wages that they sent home regularly but in some cases they were supporting entire villages; and that was coming to an end.

To fire an employee is hard, but to reduce grown men to tears, to pleading, to bribing, to throwing themselves at your feet in desparation to not be fired is an experience one never forgets.  After that experience I promised myself that I would never hire an employee unless I was for certain that I could commit to them a promise of long term employment; thus I have learned to justify a position before seeking applicants.  Everytime a position opens up I will analyze the tasks and responsibilities of the position and see if they are really necessary; we hire for the future not for the past, so any hiring decision should always be based upon a review of current practices and future business rather than an organizational chart of prior operations. 

The key to avoiding downsizing is actually not to oversize in the first place.

Remember, a business, a company, an organization, is a team; regardless of everything else, no task is ever achieved, no success is ever realized, without people working together.  Now, you can focus on finding the candidates who have the best fit inregards to skill set, or keywords, or who has the experience that best matches the position being filled but the reality is if you do not look at the whole person, and or if you do not analyze the needs of an organization beyond the tasks accomplished by a position; if you look at a job as a cog, a wheel, or an organization as a machine, then you are going to find yourself hosting seminars and or providing training in an attempt to bring your organization together. 

You may find yourself hiring the ideal candidate but the wrong person.  Sometimes you need to hire someone who is "overqualified" because it never hurts to challenge the others in an organization to improve their skills.  Sometimes an organization needs an older person or a younger person.  Sometimes an organization needs the perspective of someone who has been unemployed a while; the success of an organization is not only determined by what the individuals do at their desks but also what is done in the breakroom or discussed around the water cooler.  Sometimes its attitude and perspective that make a difference; sometimes you have to hire someone from outside your industry to improve an organization.

Organizations are not just the sum of keywords, or skill sets and neither are individuals.

"Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill"  

Don't confuse old age and treachery with wisdom and or expertise nor should youth and skill be confused with innovation.

No comments: