We want the best until we want the most good
The past 18 months of layoffs pointed out the disconnect between how we hire and what we value in employees.
(We being the larger business community. Not me and Jeff blabbering in this clip.)
We’ve all become experts in layoffs. The hard way. From experience.
Whether or not you were affected, we’ve all seen it first hand. Either in our own companies, or with clients, family members, friends, old colleagues, etc.
There’s a lot of different reasons how companies determine who stays and who goes. Performance, tenure, function priority, project load, luck of the draw, etc.
But there’s one in particular that illustrates this dichotomy: range. People with more broad based experience – the ability to simply do more things – have a higher value when budgets are tight.
We’ve all heard the career advice of “become indispensable.” It’s valid. When you’re the go-to person in multiple high value areas, the company can’t do without you.
And we’ve also all heard when companies need to “do more with less.” As annoying as the subtext is for workers (i.e. you’re gonna do 2 jobs at once), it’s also logical. If you’re running the firm, you’re going to make the same call.
These two concepts align perfectly. The problem is: that’s not how companies hire.
Everyone wants an expert. A specialist. No one starts their hiring search by saying “let’s find someone who is pretty good at a lot of things.” Even if they do start there, it evolves (devolves?) into “ok but we need to prioritize XYZ who is the best at that?”
When companies start losing money, those perfect fit hires end up on the outside looking in. Their narrow focus is the very thing that did them in. (Especially when there’s more than 1 ‘expert.’)
Companies will start building back soon. Will they prioritize the things they really need? Or the things they think they want?