Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Next Time, Include HR
in Your Strategy

As an entrepreneur for over 30 years, it has been the cornerstone of my business skill-set to pick the right people for the right job. 

It can be part research scientist, behavioral specialist, parent and witchdoctor. Those of you who have had a few bad hires know that last description is intended as a joke. The truth is, it is HARD to find really great people these days...especially when it comes to getting people to stick around for more than 3 years!

Unknowingly to many, the secret sauce of hiring the right people falls upon the shoulders of your HR department. Find good people, train them well, guide them through your organization's process and bring out the very best in their abilities. Easy right?

At K2, for the first 3 years, from 1993-1996, Doug, David, Matt and I handpicked each and every employee. Out of 35 employees, only 3 didn't work out. Turnaround was almost unheard of. Only one employee had to be fired because he was...what's the polite term? Bipolar with narcissistic rage.

The reason we were successful with our human resource management was because we had several criteria. First, we looked for unusual resumes. One quirky resume from a young man named Colby revealed he taken a year off. Turns out, he wanted a break to be a camp counselor. We hired him as one of our client liaisons.

Another resume from a young woman revealed nothing special, but she was outgoing, willing to learn and had a British accent. At first we hired her as our receptionist. Eventually she became a top tiered programmer. We sent her for Cisco Pro training, Microsoft Certification, C++, PerlScript, etc...Penny is now head of Ogilvy One's IT department.

The second criteria we looked for was creative thinking. How else can you bring technology people, graphic designers and marketing professionals into the same room and have them build a web experience? Many times a persons resume was not aligned with their skill set...so we moved them according to their innate abilities. A key to morale and an increase in productivity!

Eventually, we became too big for us to be
personally involved in the hiring process.

So we hired Rob to be our first HR Manager. Rob looked exactly like actor Chris O'Donnell—conservative, with a great sense of humor, we gave him the secret ingredients to our secret sauce on the hiring of great people.

At first, things seemed to run smoothly. But I began to see a new group of employees that although quirky, and had the creative spark, and tried like crazy to be of K2 caliber, they were a little weird.

Now I know some of you in HR Departments are cringing at my choice of language. Bare with me, it is a teaching aid only.

Things exploded one night when I asked one of these new hires to do a very technical task. He couldn't do it, yet his resume said he could. I was furious.

How come Rob hadn't discovered the new guy was a compulsive liar?

And this happened with 12 out of 15 new hires! I began to realize Rob had chosen people based on what he could see on their resume. Nothing more, nothing less. Intuition was nonexistent. At one point I had to calm down and figure out what had gone wrong with our new HR department. After a few days, it became clear to me. Astounding and simple!

As an executive I had a strategy for the overall company. Between my business partners and board of directors, we KNEW exactly the kind of company we were creating. BUT, Rob did NOT! We had not included him in our overall strategy. Rob was trying to fill positions and fill buckets. While we were trying to create a culture that was vibrant, exciting and self managing.

When Executives or business owners have a strategy,
they NEED to let HR know about it!


Without understanding your culture, your strategy will NEVER get executed. Don't believe me? Try introducing touchy-feely management exercises in a rough and tumble sales group. You'd get eaten alive. Or what if you had a loud, morale-building pow-wow inside a research lab? You'd get a few people just staring at you.

So the next time you have a great strategy, Human Resources NEEDS to be considered as your strategic partner. The more you can share your overall mission and direction, the better they can hire!

You'll save yourself a LOT of time and effort.

One last criteria we used was this: use the power of orientation wisely. David and I would hand out the book The Pursuit of Wow by Tom Peters to each new hire, and we had a prepared speech... "This is YOUR company, not ours. If things aren't to your liking, let us know what can be done better. Give us suggestions and we'll try to implement them."

When the owners of a company take a half hour out of their day to spend time with new employees, guess what happens? Your new people realize they aren't working for some jerk hidden behind a desk. They try harder. They get involved, and, they give their best.

We had 4 divisions at K2 that were employee created. One of those divisions was sold to another company for over $4 million plus stock, and the young men who ran that division went with the deal. They are now CEOs of their own companies respectfully.

Want to engage today's workers? Give them an environment to be creative. And let them know what your strategy is...they will surprise you. And if you let them be the best they can, chances are, they will stay with you for more than 3 years.

A special thank you goes out to The Austin Human Resources Management Association for inviting me down to the Lone Star State of Texas as their keynote speaker...AWESOME time!!! Thank you's go out to Kimberly, Lori, Irma, Monica, Wendy and Mike!!! 

Thanks for reading,

Brad Szollose

PS: I am sorry to have neglected my blog this month. My father passed away at the end of July this year. The Szollose family is so grateful for the cards, letters and support. Thank you.

Web Pioneer Brad Szollose is the *award-winning author of Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia which explores the subject of new leadership styles – mainly how to get the tech-savvy Generation Y and analogue driven Baby Boomers working together. ISBN-13: 978-1608320554

But this is not based on management theory:
Brad is a former C-Level Internet executive who went from entrepreneur to IPO in 3 yrs – co-founding K2 Design, the very first Dot Com Agency to go public on NASDAQ. His Results Only management model was applied to the first wave of Gen Y workers producing great results– 425% profitable growth for 5 straight years and winning K2 the Arthur Andersen NY Enterprise Award for Best Practices in Fostering Innovation among his employees!

Today, through his workshops and keynotes, Brad helps Fortune 500 Companies close the Digital Divide by understanding it as a cultural divide—created by a new tech-savvy worker...and customer.

Mr. Szollose also writes a monthly column on business and marketing techniques that reach Generation Y for A Captured Mind newsletter and is part of The Mind Capture Group faculty.

* 2011 Axiom Business Book silver medal winner in the leadership

* #1 Amazon Best-Selling Author

"I just had my mind blown..." - A.S., Vistage, New York

Liquid Leadership by Brad Szollose is available at all major bookstores and for Kindle, Nook, iPad and Sony ereaders. Internationally published in India and S. Korea.

Leadership Lessons from a Web Pioneer.

The Art & Science of
Leading a 21st Century Workforce

Brad Szollose's (pronounced zol-us), is a globally recognized Leadership Development and Management Consultant who helps organizations dominate their industry by tapping into the treasure of a multi-generational workforce. 

He shares his management strategies within the pages of his award-winning, international bestseller Liquid Leadership...strategies that ignited his own company, K2 Design, beginning as a business idea in a coffee shop to a publicly traded company worth $26 Million in just 24 short months with an IPO on NASDAQ.

As a C-Level executive, his unique management model was awarded the Arthur Andersen NY Enterprise Award for Best Practices in Fostering Innovation Amongst Employees (the phrase Workforce Culture did not exist back then).

Today the world’s leading business publications seek out Brad’s insights on Millennials, and he has been featured in Forbes, Inc., The Huffington Post, New York Magazine, Advertising Age, The International Business Times, Le Journal du Dimanche and The Hindu Business Line to name a few, along with television, radio and podcast appearances on CBS and other media outlets.

Since the year 2010, and the release of his award-winning international bestseller, Liquid Leadership, Brad has created customized training programs for The American Management Association, Tony Robbins Business Mastery Graduates and Liquidnet Holdings, as well as several dozen Fortune 500 companies to name just a few; preparing them for the next generation of business leaders.

Mr. Szollose is also a TEDXSpeaker, and his talk The Age of Radical Disruption, focuses on the impact video games and serious gaming has had on the work habits and behavior of Generation X & Millennials.

Brad’s programs have transformed a new generation of business leaders, helping them maximize their corporate culture, creativity, innovation, productivity and sales growth in the new Digital Age economy.

Brad's work will expose the secrets to managing a cross-generational workforce:

Brad is the author of Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia: Cross-Generational Management Strategies That Are Changing The Way We Run Things and the publisher for Journeys to Success: The Millennial Edition: 21 Millennial Authors share their personal journeys of failure and success…based on the success principles of Napoleon Hill.