Saturday, December 28, 2013

And Then He Said

The conversation doesn't end here. Not by a long shot.
CFO tells CEO: We institute Differentiation into our annual reviews and identify skills development as one of the primary criteria that people will be judged on. Then we remove the low performers on that scale and hire in new people to replace them. We take the money that would have gone into the budget for employee development and use some of it to hire people away from our competitors, give some it back to shareholders to goose the stock price and we split what's left over.

CEO: Deal.
Now, my point with this isn't to indulge some passion for cynicism. It's to point out that things aren't as simple as they can seem. The graphic that leads this post (which I can't be certain is correctly attributed), and a few variations on it, have been making the rounds of social media (I encountered a couple of them on LinkedIn) because it fits into a narrative that many people want to believe - that they're factors in whether their companies succeed or fail. But the binary choice that it presents, that companies either invest in their employees or be stuck with them as-is, is a false dilemma. And people who have climbed the corporate ladder to the "C-Suite," even if it's only because they created the company in their basement, are often smarter people than to be corralled into such a black-and-white way of looking at the world. But more importantly, they tend to understand what they're doing. Sure, companies get it wrong at times. And it's likely that many enterprises could, in fact, do better for themselves (at least in absolute terms) by investing in their employees to a greater degree than they do now. But the central conflict originally identified, what happens when employees take that investment and parley it into gains for themselves elsewhere, has been a topic of conversation in my circles for my entire adult life.

The question of whether a business trains for the skills they want, hires them from a company that has trained them or simply places the onus on the employee to purchase their own professional training has many more moving peices than any simple text graphic can capture. And whether or not we understand the nuances of it all, the Powers That Be have to understand them. And they act on them. When we understand them for ourselves, we can better understand, and appreciate, those actions.

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