Monday, November 24, 2008

Elitism and the war for talent

Just a reminder whenever the MIW claim that we must pay for talent crap.

Elitism 401 : Elitism and the war for talent.

Elitism 301 is found here.One day an outstanding resume landed on my desk from a graduate student from MIT. I called his HP number immediately to arrange for an interview. The student said he had already found another job but had not signed his employment contract yet. I told him my company paid competitive wages and may be able to match or better what he was offered provided we selected him after an interview. He told me that it was unlikely that an engineering firm would be able to pay what he was offered. I curiously asked him how much he was getting and my jaws dropped when he told me his offer. He was getting paid what engineers in my firm were getting after working for 8 way I can possibly match that. Defeated in the battle for this talent, I wished him all the best and asked him if he mind saying which company was going to.....his reply : LEHMAN BROTHERS.

" have to pay the market rate or the man will up stakes and join Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers or Goldman Sachs and you would have an incompetent man and you would have lost money by the billions....." - MM Lee April 2007

There was certainly no lack of talent at Lehman Brothers but it collapsed. The economic problems of the world today are caused largely by investment banks who were known to hire to best people who were paid the highest salaries. It turned out the high salaries didn't buy didn't even buy competence and a basic sense of responsibility. It was this collection of "talents" with a lot hubris that brought so much economic pain the world. Lehman failed because they believed they were so good they could do no wrong. When the bank collapsed the former CEO Dick Fuld went to Washington and denied any wrongdoing, put the blame on everyone except himself and kept his millions in salary. A few days later a woman punched him in the face at a gym : [Link] - I guess she was just disgusted. See that is hubris, when the ordinary people can see that something is wrong but they refused to fix it thinking they have the monopoly on wisdom.

Look around you - do you see any other group of men that are just as arrogant...believing they are the only talents in our society that can do what they do? You better becareful because they too will bring you pain. They too will deny their mistakes and blame you for all that has gone wrong. They too will pay themselves obscene amounts of money and do a bad job. They will hide their mistakes from down to you...take away the check and balance, risk our past successes on bad ideas because they don't listen and lead us down the path of destruction - the same path that Lehman Brothers took....after that they are so arrogant they might blame you for not being good enough to support their broken system....afterall they are the "best" men for the job so it has to be others that let them down.

Someone left an interesting article on the war on talent [Link]. It is a paper entitled "FIGHTING THE WAR FOR TALENT IS HAZARDOUS TO YOUR ORGANIZATION’S HEALTH". We all want the best talents for our organisations to do what we do better but we have to be careful not to foster a culture of arrogance that can breed hubris. There is one thing I observe in people - passion, honesty and hardwork can overcome the lack of talent. If we as a society believe that results can be bought with money, just pay money to solve our problems with human resource- we are guaranteed to end up like Lehman.--------------------

What happens in a war for talent?
There is:
• An invariable emphasis on individual performance (rewarding the individual stars), thereby diminishing teamwork, creating destructive internal competition, and retarding learning and the spread of bestpractices inside the company;.
• A tendency to glorify the talents of those outside the company and downplay the skills and abilities of insiders, leading to a loss ofmotivation on the part of those inside the firm and to their turnover(thereby ensuring that the recruiting challenge will be even greater asthe company tries to replace those that has inadvertently sent packingelsewhere);.
• The creation of a self-fulfilling prophecy where those labeled as lessable become less able because they are asked to do less, given fewerresources, training, and mentoring, and become discouraged, in theprocess ensuring that the organization has way too many people whoare in the process of dropping out of the competitive fray;.
• A deemphasis on fixing the systemic, cultural, and business process issues that are invariably much more important for enhancingperformance, as the company seeks success solely through getting the right people in the door;.
• And finally, the development of an elitist, arrogant attitude—once you have successfully competed in the war for talent, you have the best people—an attitude that makes building a wise organization almost impossible; in wise organizations, people know that they know and they know what they don’t know. Companies that think they are winning thewar for talent think they are so full of smart people that they know everything!"

1 comment:

feedmetothefish said...

Hi NSMan,

I chanced upon your blog when I read Lucky Tan's on Chee Soon Juan.

I like what you write here and even as an old fogey (I did my full time NS from '69 to '71), I concur with your view on the high pay talent crap!

The PAPacemaker must be losing sleep now!

Aha, not all uncles and aunties above 55 are carriers of PAP's testicles :)

I can see why PAParkers would call CSJ derogatory names and flash them through MSMs.

I cannot see why CSJ with 3 lovely children would want to spend time in jail, unless his character and belief is strong enough to take on the bullies by the horns and show them that: "You can bully all the people some of the time; you can cheat some of the people all the time; but you cannot cheat and bully all the people all the time"

Yes, If Chee Soon Juan is a psychopath, so am I.