Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Managing employees and expectations

Time for another rant about employers and employment.  Not mine, I’ve been very lucky lately have have worked for great companies, but I see a lot of things which make me crazy, and which cost companies good employees.  It is entirely possible that I’ve made some of this blunders myself back in a past life.

First, a bit of background.  There are some InfoSec jobs in some market segments and geographic areas which effectively have zero unemployment, and the headhunters are circling like sharks to pick off those willing to change.  This means you have to treat your people well to keep the sharks hungry.  There are also title/skills/regions which are not in the insane demand cycle.  Sadly, many organizations can’t (or won’t) expand their horizons to grab some of the talented people who “almost fit”, but that’s a whole other discussion which gets into education, relocation, telecommuting, etc.  Bottom line is that if you want to hire and retain the best, it takes effort.

Let’s start with turmoil.  Turmoil happens, organizations grow, shrink, and merge.  Rumors start, and spread fast.  Employers need to calm employees and tell them the truth.  I know that many times secrets need to be kept, but either tell the truth or keep quiet- lying to employees “temporarily” is a short-sighted move.  If there are key employees you really need to keep productive, they need to know more than simply “your job is safe”, but that they are important to the bigger/smaller/merged organization and will be treated as such.

Honesty matters, in times of turmoil as mentioned above, but also at all times. If you don’t know something, admit that, if you can’t tell an employee something, find a gentle way to explain that.  People don’t like being lied to, and when we find out we’ve been misled (which almost always comes out eventually) we are more likely to move on- and tell other prospective employees that the employer can’t be trusted.  Pre-burning bridges is a really bad idea.

Finally, remember that we all talk to each other, word spreads, and if you want the best employees, a trail of disgruntled past and current employees will make it much harder to hire the right people, and it is already nearly impossible.