October 31, 2005

Attracting, Retaining, and Motivating- What’s in it for them?

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:50 am by scottmaxwell

Note:  This posting was lost due to a drive failure at WordPress.  this is a reposting. 

 

Put this in the category of “getting it off my chest via a rant.? I got into a debate with a CEO recently, where he seems convinced that compensation is the only thing that matters. I tried several ways of explaining that compensation is not close to being enough (yes, important, but only one aspect). This posting adds nothing new on the topic, but at least I feel better getting it off my chest (and, perhaps, reminding myself of what it takes to set up the right environment).

There are several fundamental elements to setting up the emerging growth company to attract motivate and retain high caliber (?A? type) people (For what it is worth, I have never seen all of the elements in place at an emerging growth company, but I have seen one or two come close.):

  1. Once you find them you need to court them during the hiring process. The best candidates have many options and they want to understand that you really want them and are going to take the time to give them the rest of the items on this list. Ideally, they know that the CEO is going to take the time to do these things (note: this can’t just be lip service, or you are going to get them and then lose them). Some basic activities are taking them to dinner one-on-one, taking them to lunch with a group of managers, if they are moving for the role, invite them with their spouse out for dinner (better yet, over for dinner). The key is that they get to know you, you get to know them, and that you put the time into building the relationship that they (and you) will need once they start working for you.
  2. Give them a meaningful vision of what you are trying to accomplish (note: you better make progress against this vision over time, or they will be demotivated).
  3. Surround them with other “A? type people. The best people like to work with the best people, and they like to see meaningful progress!
  4. Give them meaningful work. Enough said.
  5. Set high goals with short-term deadlines. High caliber people need a high bar and need to know that you are counting on them to deliver. Short deadlines also tend to get people focused on the real work.
  6. Involve them in important conversations/planning sessions. People want to contribute and know what is going on at least a level or two above them! (note: do not overuse this theme with large, meaningless meetings.)
  7. Stretch them (without breaking them). Think of stretching a rubber band as far as you can without breaking it. This is the fastest way for top caliber people to develop…getting their goals met becomes difficult for them, which they like!
  8. Give them hard-hitting, constructive feedback. Everyone loves feedback, especially constructive feedback, and most managers shy away from giving it. Instead of hoping they will do the right thing and ignoring when they get off track, tell them what you observe and how you what you think (note: you can do this without being a micromanager by focusing on the themes rather than the details). High caliber people can and do want to do the right thing, so it is up to you to help define what that means (btw, you might be wrong, so giving them the feedback and being open to theirs is even better. It can get you aligned with you taking on their view of right quite often. It also clears the air really nicely).
  9. Reward them with compensation and other vehicles. The best people have 10x the productivity of average people. You can afford to pay them well relative to average (cash vs. option compensation is for a different posting). Also, a number of other rewards, such as being given a great new assignment, a larger territory, or a junior staff member, are highly appreciated and it gives your company even more productivity (for sales types, trophies or other things they can display also are great motivators).
  10. Advance them over time. If they already have the highest available title, you can advance them by giving them more responsibility. If they are truly top caliber, your business will benefit!
  11. Make all of them work as a team (A.K.A. play well with each other in the sandbox). To do this, you need to watch carefully and give feedback to those that are not playing well together (if you have kids, you will get the analogy). No one wants to play with the kid in the sandbox throwing sand or hitting the other kid in the back when he isn’t looking…

That is all I have. 10 elements that do not involve compensation, 1 that does. If you hire “A?s and manage them all this way, you are going to have one hell of an extreme execution engine.

I feel better now. Rant over…

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10 Comments »

  1. Ben Neumann said,

    Scott, I’m the CEO of Globat.com and a friend of Brad (came here through his post on feld.com), who acquired one of my earlier companies.

    Having been in the CEO, President, or Chairman seat for most of my past 15 years as an entrepreneur I have to agree with your take on this issue. I’ve personally hired virtually every management position up to appointing successors for my own jobs, and while the basic rules of finding great and talented executives (and non-executives for that matter) pretty much are still the same, the overall attitude of folks that qualify for these positions seem to have shifted a bit. At times it appears as if we’re seeing a much stronger entitlement attitude as it used to be. Now it might, of course, be a view point issue, but to underline your posting and from my “view from the trenches” in only a few cases did entitlement attitude = compensation (or maybe I should say money as not everybody I ultimately hired considered compensation as strictly dollars and cents). In summary, among a few other things, it takes a good product, a solid vision, a great team, a true opportunity, and plenty of room to grow to attract, retain, and motivate the power guys and gals who hit it out of the ballpark.

  2. shadow said,

    I was just curious what you think of as “A” people. Are they Type A people or people who are grade A? If you have blogged on this topic I would love to read your post.
    Dewayne Mikkelson
    blog: http://www.shadowcentral.net/

  3. scottmaxwell said,

    I think the A people are people that are grade A (although many are also type A). I have not blogged on the topic yet. I believe the core issue is what characteristics differentiate an A caliber person for a given position/role (the characteristics are different for each position/role). Let me put the idea on the list!
    S

  4. […] I received a question on a recent posting about what constitutes an “A” caliber person from a recruiting point of view. In my view, this is one of the toughest questions faced by management teams. I had been thinking about the issue when I read Friday’s New York Times article on Tiger Woods, “Tinkering With Success.” The basic theme of the article is that Tiger has been an excellent golfer for a very long period of time (winning eight major championships through 2002), but has spent the last 20 months changing his swing (and his coach). The results have been tremendous this year…he has won two major championships and six tournaments. Tiger is an “A” caliber person! […]

  5. […] Ensure that you are set up to attract, retain, and motivate them. please send me comments if you have suggestions for improvement on any of them. […]

  6. […] Attracting, Retaining and Motivating. What’s in it for them? [Now what?] Scott Maxwell […]

  7. hamza said,

    Acknowledgment is a key motivator for retention. There are plenty of people who leave jobs for more money, however over time there is the realization that if they were appreciated for what they brought to the table. This also improves team building as everyone is not made to hog the spotlight.

  8. scottmaxwell said,

    Agreed 100%

  9. sandrar said,

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  10. […] Venture Partners in New York recently posted something interesting on his new blog about what it takes to hire the right people. As this goes along the lines of my earlier Temporary Authism post, it made me think about this […]


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Attracting, Retaining, and Motivating- What’s in it for them?

Posted in culture, management, recruiting at 1:33 am by scottmaxwell

Put this in the category of “getting it off my chest via a rant.” I got into a debate with a CEO recently, where he seems convinced that compensation is the only thing that matters. I tried several ways of explaining that compensation is not close to being enough (yes, important, but only one aspect). This posting adds nothing new on the topic, but at least I feel better getting it off my chest (and, perhaps, reminding myself of what it takes to set up the right environment).

There are several fundamental elements to setting up the emerging growth company to attract motivate and retain high caliber (“A” type) people (For what it is worth, I have never seen all of the elements in place at an emerging growth company, but I have seen one or two come close.):

  1. Once you find them you need to court them during the hiring process. The best candidates have many options and they want to understand that you really want them and are going to take the time to give them the rest of the items on this list. Ideally, they know that the CEO is going to take the time to do these things (note: this can’t just be lip service, or you are going to get them and then lose them). Some basic activities are taking them to dinner one-on-one, taking them to lunch with a group of managers, if they are moving for the role, invite them with their spouse out for dinner (better yet, over for dinner). The key is that they get to know you, you get to know them, and that you put the time into building the relationship that they (and you) will need once they start working for you.
  2. Give them a meaningful vision of what you are trying to accomplish (note: you better make progress against this vision over time, or they will be demotivated).
  3. Surround them with other “A” type people. The best people like to work with the best people, and they like to see meaningful progress!
  4. Give them meaningful work. Enough said.
  5. Set high goals with short-term deadlines. High caliber people need a high bar and need to know that you are counting on them to deliver. Short deadlines also tend to get people focused on the real work.
  6. Involve them in important conversations/planning sessions. People want to contribute and know what is going on at least a level or two above them! (note: do not overuse this theme with large, meaningless meetings.)
  7. Stretch them (without breaking them). Think of stretching a rubber band as far as you can without breaking it. This is the fastest way for top caliber people to develop…getting their goals met becomes difficult for them, which they like!
  8. Give them hard-hitting, constructive feedback. Everyone loves feedback, especially constructive feedback, and most managers shy away from giving it. Instead of hoping they will do the right thing and ignoring when they get off track, tell them what you observe and how you what you think (note: you can do this without being a micromanager by focusing on the themes rather than the details). High caliber people can and do want to do the right thing, so it is up to you to help define what that means (btw, you might be wrong, so giving them the feedback and being open to theirs is even better. It can get you aligned with you taking on their view of right quite often. It also clears the air really nicely).
  9. Reward them with compensation and other vehicles. The best people have 10x the productivity of average people. You can afford to pay them well relative to average (cash vs. option compensation is for a different posting). Also, a number of other rewards, such as being given a great new assignment, a larger territory, or a junior staff member, are highly appreciated and it gives your company even more productivity (for sales types, trophies or other things they can display also are great motivators).
  10. Advance them over time. If they already have the highest available title, you can advance them by giving them more responsibility. If they are truly top caliber, your business will benefit!
  11. Make all of them work as a team (A.K.A. play well with each other in the sandbox). To do this, you need to watch carefully and give feedback to those that are not playing well together (if you have kids, you will get the analogy). No one wants to play with the kid in the sandbox throwing sand or hitting the other kid in the back when he isn’t looking…

That is all I have. 10 elements that do not involve compensation, 1 that does.  If you hire “A”s and manage them all this way, you are going to have one hell of an extreme execution engine.

I feel better now. Rant over…

3 Comments »

  1. John Doe said,

    I agree with you, although it was only recently that I came to the same conclusion. I was in the other camp for a while.

    Since we both agree, next question is: You’ve only seen one growth company get it perfectly and 1-2 others have come close. Of all the rest of the companies, are there some common reasons why they couldn’t get all the elements in place? Is it mostly due to lack of focus/investment in hr?

  2. scottmaxwell said,

    Great question. I am not sure what the answer is, but believe at least part of it is due to the manager not having participated in or observed a situation similar to the one I describe. Probably many other contributors, with different mixes of importance for each situation…

  3. Len said,

    Point seven is right on the button. I’ve been most fulfilled, and seen the excitement light up my colleagues, at those times when I’ve been racing to get a BIG job finished on time. It has always brought out the best in me, because it calls for my utmost efficiency and forces me to deliver to my best possible performance. Same with the teams I’ve worked with. And all this is way beyond the effect of so-called “team building” exercises and reteats. Not even the BEST teambuilding ideas” can replace the thrill of achieving a demanding task on time in the company of your work colleagues.


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