How Far To Go To Make A Point

Over the last 24 hours, an incredible series of events has seen a once-revered brand fall to it’s knees. These events have highlighted what happens when immovable objects meets unstoppable forces.

In this case it is QANTAS that is the immovable object, with the unions and employees the apparent unstoppable force. What has happened as a result is the halting of one of the most iconic brands in the country. However, should things have gone to this extent? Should there have been a complete cessation of services? And should the employees have not been so eager or so dogmatic about their pay demands?

From a employee / employer case study, it is a classic – with incredible parallels to the Patrick’s dispute of the 90’s..

Firstly, under the terms of the Fair Work Act, QANTAS CEO Alan Joyce did everything allowed of him. The action to close down services was a perfectly legit one. So is to place work bans on all unionised (and other) staff.

However, is it a clever move? My view is it is not.

People have a right to expect good working conditions, to expect job security and longevity. If services are to be moved off-shore, there should be adequate information and compensation. If demands for pay rises are not heard effectively, there may be cause for action. In a purely employee engagement view of all this, QANTAS has dropped the ball it the way it has negotiated with employees. Forget for the moment the impact of unions, it is impacting all employees, unionised or not, and the public displays of aggression shown by the QANTAS CEO demonstrates a key lack of proper leadership.

Let me say at this point, that I am not taking sides. The employees have grievances that needed to be sorted out, and QANTAS have a right to respond accordingly as they see fit.

The issues I see is that there is an engagement issue that QANTAS has seemingly ignored. They have effectively alienated the majority of their workforce through their actions, and this will impact very negatively in future recruitment drives.

If you were to look at one of the key engagement areas for employees – leadership – it could be argued that there is a key lack of leadership qualities being utilised here. Perception in the wider market is everything, and the actions by Alan Joyce come across as petulant and childish. These are not qualities a leader has and it will deter numbers of good potential employees from joining QANTAS.

Additionally, there is a overriding sense that the brand of QANTAS has been damaged. This negativity can only impact similarly on their attractability. There is a real problem here for this iconic brand, and it is going to take a lot of work to bring it back up to this status.

But I am not sure if there is any consideration for employee engagement or attraction within the executives at QANTAS as they continually climb an ever-increasing high mountain to retain employee loyalty.

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Say One Thing, Do Another

When I get asked what is the key benefit in recruiting, it is simply to get the right person to inject new ideas and views that allow business to grow and contribute to a culture and environment for which the business wants to encourage. Ensuring the proper mix of skills and fit exists, gives the employer a strong candidate, and a worthwhile employee.

It is encouraging when I speak to clients and hear that they believe they are conscious of the need to locate a strong employee across skills and cultural fit. They, at times, go to pains to identify the strength in their culture, the non-pecuniary benefits and their commitment to finding someone that matches their internal philosophy, even at the expense of some particular skills.

This is great. It gives me a sense that businesses are starting to come around to the fact that a person with a high culture fit will be a far better employee than one who ticks every skills box only. It also demonstrates a true maturing of the recruitment process, leaving behind the skills-match, tick-box approach for a more honest and detailed decision making process.

However, when push comes to shove, it seems a lot of businesses end up not practising what they preach, and that sense of hope for the future of recruitment is replaced by a sense of same-old same-old. The tendency is to revert back to skills-only matching and disregard any emphasis on cultural / behavioural fit and presentation of candidates culturally fitting the employer like a glove, with good (not fully) match on skills, are overlooked in favour of the skills-only candidate.

Why is there so much trepidation to move from the mindset of skills-only matching to embracing culture fit? With research after research suggesting a candidate with poor culture / team fit likely to leave after a short time, at a significant cost to the employer, why do businesses continually fall into the same habit?

The only conclusion I could see is that employers are afraid of going beyond their comfort zone. When a requirement arises, the tendency to replace only the skills of a departing / promoted employee seems to be the most prevalent. The demands of the role, the stale and inflexible attitudes of the past, pointless KPIs demanding attention only on skills, and a denial of the intangible qualities of a positive culture become apparent.

In addition, finding a candidate that matches perfectly the culture and environment of an employer could take time. This time is generally unavailable due to the common panic associated with the majority of new roles. This in turn leads to poor hiring decisions and ultimately bad / toxic hires. As a recruitment specialist determined to invest time and effort in getting the quality candidates over the immediately available ones, I am frustrated by employers who say one thing and do another.

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