Myths and Home Truths in Human Resources

human resources


Estimated read time: 3.5 minutes


Human resources is an area which has given rise to a range of adages and sayings over the years, not all of which stand the test of scrutiny. This brief article addresses several of the better known expressions which relate to staffing and recruitment issues.


“If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”


While this concept may apply to many aspects of private enterprise, the not-for-profit sector is generally led and managed by executives who accept the fact that they could earn more in commercial roles. When it comes to the recruitment of a Chief Executive Officer, any board which drives too hard a bargain in negotiating the package for this pivotal role does so at their peril.


If the appointee discovers at a later stage that they are being paid less than their peers in similar organisations, resentment may well arise. The best option for a board is to pay at least the market rate, providing additional benefits tailored specifically to the needs of the incumbent. While bonuses and incentives are not common in non-profit entities, directors should have no hesitation in awarding discretionary payments for exceptional achievement.


Properly rewarding a Chief Executive is far cheaper than all of the expenses and opportunity costs associated with finding a replacement.


“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”
Of course there are people who are so set in their ways that no amount of change management is likely to have an impact on their approach and contribution to the workplace.


However, the extraordinary rate of uptake of new technology among senior Australians is clear evidence that mature staff members recognise the efficiencies and advantages which ICT can offer.


Organisations which appoint tech-savvy employees who are nearing “retirement age” regularly find that they acquire staff who have more wisdom and judgement than their younger colleagues, coupled with a robust work ethic and a commitment to contributing positively in a role which may be their last salaried position.


“The best jobs are never advertised”


All of us have seen examples where people have been appointed on the basis of a “shoulder tap” or a discreet approach, and there are numerous estimates of the size of what is called “the hidden job market”.


Regardless to the extent of this practice, the fact is that advertising for executive positions is alive and well. There has been a clear shift towards online dissemination of vacancies at the expense of campaigns in the press, although newspaper advertising still has its place.


Prominent insertions in the front news section of newspapers are a proven means by which the “passive” candidate can be made aware of an employment opportunity.


The reality is that any organisation wishing to fill a senior position needs to use every technique available in order to ensure that the widest talent pool has been canvassed. Therefore, the combination of electronic and newspaper advertising with true executive search (“headhunting”) still remains the best methodology to attract superior candidates.


Put another way, using any one of these techniques in isolation dramatically reduces the options.


“The best indicator of future performance is past performance”


There are few exceptions to this, with the result that reference checks remain a vital aspect of any recruitment process. Caution should be exercised however in interpreting information gleaned from electronic sources.


Psychometric testing can prove an useful adjunct in assembling an accurate picture of the skills and attributes of a prospective employee, increasing the likelihood that the person will continue to contribute in their new capacity.


“Hiring a CEO is the most important decision any board can make”


In conclusion, few would argue that this is indeed the case. In fact it applies irrespective of whether you agree with any of the statements listed above.

Avatar About Jeremy Wurm

Seven years in senior international roles with pharmaceutical multinationals in England and The Netherlands. Two years with Ruston Poole International, a London based healthcare recruitment firm. After nine and a half years overseas, returned to Australia in 1989, subsequently establishing Brooker Consulting, now a joint venture partner of Ruston Poole. Jeremy has recruited over 100 Directors and CEOs for health, human services, not for profit and research organisations. Former Board member and Director of Vision Australia Foundation for 10 years. Memberships include the Institute of Management Consultants, Australian Institute of Company Directors and Disability Professionals Victoria.

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