The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Old School Ideas

I'm involved in growing a small business that began (literally) in a garage four years ago. One of our major challenges is finding good employees and retaining them over time. Today's Wall Street Journal contains an interview with Bob Funk, CEO of a company that has placed 6.5 million people in jobs across small and medium size businesses. Funks comments are old school but worth repeating:
... Mr. Funk [has] some definite—and timely—notions about getting ahead in today’s America. Like everyone else, he talks about education and skills. But what he means by these words may be a little different from how they are used in the Harvard Business Review.

Start with skills. Hard skills and experience, he says, are only half the equation, and not the important half. He shares a small brochure his company puts out summarizing a recent survey of employers. “So many people do not realize how important the soft skills are to unlocking job opportunity,” he says.

In order, the survey found the top five traits employers look for are as follows: attitude, work ethic/integrity, communication, culture fit, critical thinking.

Drugs are a huge problem today, with many would-be employees putting themselves out of the running when they fail drug tests. A certified truck driver can start at $55,000 to $60,000 a year, for example, but no one’s going to hire you if you do drugs.

If all this sounds old-fashioned, it is—and Mr. Funk isn’t ashamed of it. So many people, he says, are unfamiliar with the fundamentals of work, from knowing how to dress and showing up on time to taking direction from a boss. At a time when employers are complaining they can’t find the people they need, Mr. Funk says being honest and having the right attitude will help you stand out from the pack.
If you talk with other small business owners, virtually every one notes that millennials are a special breed—and I don't mean that in a good way. Some certainly do exhibit the five traits noted by Funk, but many do not. And therein lies the problem.

Take little things like reliability and "on-time" behavior. Businesses rely on those simple attributes to get work done, to meet customer demands, and yes, to operate profitably. Yet many workers seem to think that multitasking is the most important core attribute, when in reality their definition of multitasking means: (1) doing a little work while spending far too much time on social media via their mobile devices, or (2) 'pinballing' from activity to activity without doing a solid job at any one of them. Sure, it the employer's job to train staff and to establish an effective approach to the work that must be done, but sometimes, it seems that you're fighting ingrained culture that pulls in the opposite direction.

And then there's the whole issue of education. Again from the WSJ:
And while education is vital, Mr. Funk says the most important thing for most people is the ability to be trained—which starts with basic competence in reading, writing and arithmetic.
Hmmm. Reading, writing and 'rithmetic." Sounds old fashioned for a touchy-feely education system that seems to seems to emphasize everything but.

Oh well, if our moral betters on the progressive left have their way, a "living wage" will be imposed on all small businesses. The result, if recent data from locales that have instituted a living wage is any indication, will be fewer entry level jobs and an increase in no wage automation. But never mind—it's far more important to do moral preening than it is to actually help young, entry-level workers move up the employment chain.

And the way to help them?

Encourage the old school personal characteristics—attitude, "work ethic/integrity, communication, culture fit, critical thinking." It's ironic that those simple ideas are in such short supply among the supposed leaders of our culture and country.