It doesn’t happen that often that a disgruntled top employee takes on their employer in the most public of public
spaces. But with Conan O’Brien speaking directly to millions of viewers in prime time America is like a regular day in the office for the rest of us. This is show business, afterall. For some reason I have been captivated by the explicitly public discussions around Conan O’Brien’s departure from The Tonight Show after less than a year into his new job. In a brilliantly written blog post
Marc Effron and Miriam Ort take a look at the series of decisions NBC and Conan O’Brien have made over the past couple of years that ultimately led to such a public display of resentment and disappointment. Here is what Marc and Miriam suggest NBC and any company that depends on top talent could have done differently:
- Avoid defensive talent strategies: Conan was promised the host role of The Tonight Show in response to efforts by competitors to steal him away from NBC in 2004. Jay was promised the 10PM slot due to fears he would go to another network. Both decisions suggest a defensive approach to talent — keep them because “they’d be dangerous at the competition” rather than “they’re the perfect fit with our strategy.” Talent choices should be made proactively and to hurt the competition, not merely to avoid pain.
- Place big talent bets: It can take new talent a while to reach their full potential. Give them that opportunity. Once they’ve identified their “stars,” organizations should focus all their resources on making them successful. Early missteps aren’t necessarily predictive of failure — it’s often just moving up the learning curve. A little patience can result in a big payoff.
- Diversify succession risk: Lining up successors against individual jobs is a rather outmoded approach. Is it expensive to have two talk show hosts in the succession pool? Of course — just as it was expensive for GE to have three CEOs in waiting. Yet that gave them tremendous flexibility when it came to replacing Jack Welch. Somehow, GE’s succession planning rigor didn’t seem to reach NBC.
No question, more than ever before companies understand how important it is to nurture their Power Employees and to build a culture that allows for top talents to find fulfilment while realizing their full potential. At McNak we have been fascinated by corporate culture and are amazed by companies when they truly get it. But what if a company’s best intentions still have to yield profit-driven directives? Marc Effron and Miriam Ort recommendations can serve as an excellent reminder for every high potential employee:
No organization can make reasonable promises of future placement — you’re setting yourself up for disappointment trusting an organization to honor that agreement. In fact, that’s essentially today’s career deal. The corporation will give you an opportunity to acquire a bundle of experiences that have some market value. They are under no obligation to take advantage of that combined experience but they have the option to do so. If for some reason they choose not to take that option (or to revoke it) you walk away and apply those skills to an employer who values them.
What do you do to ensure that you don’t end up like NBC and Conan?
~ Dennis Wolff
photo credit: Debs
Dennis Wolff presented some timely advice today on the Bill Good Show on CKNW 980. Here’s the expanded version for those of you who missed the interview. You can also find this current post in this week’s edition of the BIV (page 20), or click here to read it online.
Throughout Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, a significant number of companies are experiencing a hiring slow-down, if not a complete hiring freeze. This is the time to re-assess how to handle your most valuable asset – your human capital. It is your ability to retain and attract the best talent which might easily become the single most decisive factor in determining how well you will weather this economic crisis. Here are a few ideas on how to get a head start:
Retain your top talent: The good news is, top talent becomes hesitant to move in tough economic times. But don’t take your employee’s loyalty for granted. Smart employees will ensure they have an exit strategy, and will likely take precautions to find something more stable and rewarding. But not only do you want to retain your top people, you also want to reassure your staff that your company is stable, and set up to succeed in this market.
Think carefully when you have to dismiss: Tough times can call for unpopular measures and dismissing part of your workforce might become inevitable for the survival of your business. Make sure to focus on assessing performance records as opposed to strictly looking at job costing. The average cost to replace an employee can range anywhere between 30% and 150% of the employee’s annual salary. What might look like an instant quick fix can become very costly on a long-term basis.
Go and shop for new talent: Use your competition’s mistakes to your advantage: A lot of them might not be able to retain their most talented people. This is a great time to shop for new talent. Hiring during economic turmoil will also increase your employees’ confidence while setting you up to be way ahead of your competition once the economic circumstances become more favourable again.
Empower your staff: Economic challenges come with their own set of rules, and smart businesses recognize that this is a time to gain market share. In order to get ahead of your competition, you need to make sure that you have your whole team pulling in the same direction. Implementing a “war room” culture to actively tackle your competition and empowering your staff to come up with innovative ideas will drive your business and uncover new opportunities.
~ Dennis Wolff