INTRODUCTION:

This first full week of May is Emergency Preparedness Week (EP Week)[1] across Canada, as led by the federal government and coordinated with the provinces and territories. Everyone should be involved in assessing and testing their own preparedness – family contingency planning, businesses continuity planning, and disaster planning and preparedness at various levels of government. As part of these contingency plans and contingency preparations, it is highly advisable for both governments and businesses to also have a series of crisis management and crisis communication protocols in place.[2]

Let us take a very brief look at some best practices and lessons learned in Corporate Crisis Management.

 

LOGICAL STRATEGY PROGRESSION:

Crisis management for corporations is an art that can be done well, or badly. Specific examples abound, but whether dealing with adverse public events such as a food or vehicle recall, a transportation incident or disaster, a regulatory issue, industry mishaps in manufacturing or energy or natural resources – including spills and leaks, service outages, catastrophic fires and explosions, or suspected human error, the generalized strategy is the same and must be a logical progression of A, B-C, D, E, F&G, H-I.

– Advocacy,

– Building Coalitions,

– De-escalation,

– Ensuring Efficiency and Effectiveness,

– Funding and Guarantees, and

– Honest Interest.

The company should show honest interest in the event, finding the causes of the event, and ensuring the efficiency and effectiveness of a comprehensive response. Funding must be in place (in a combination of self-funding, insurance, and asset sales) to do this, and adequate guarantees against any recurrence – including through such corrective action as is necessary – should be provided to both the public and the regulator(s). Tensions and temperatures should be de-escalated, and the company should work very hard to build coalitions with all stakeholders from the very earliest point, as it advocates for both itself and the impacted (including through funding or support of victim services and social media campaigns).

However, those overall goals need not be achieved in that exact sequence, as the tactics to get there must first be operationalized.

 

TACTICS:

Tactics are and must always be, crisis-specific, and so they will vary greatly. However, the operationalization when everyone around you is unfocused, unbalanced, and under intense pressure, is always the same. Using the first letters of each of the eight tactical sub-operations …. CALM-DOWN!”

 

CAUTION your control persons:

This should go without saying. Too often, however, the Chief-something-officer will publicly speak-out on behalf of the company without knowing – either the background and underlying facts,[3] or the potential fallout that will eventually result from those inopportune words spoken, buried deep within written submissions and missed in the editing,[4] or placed in the public domain through social media;[5] even when apparently said in private.[6] It is better to have a dedicated spokesperson who is trained in media and public relations, and knows not to over-share or make inflammatory statements, despite intense public or media queries.

 

ALWAYS involve advisors:

Too many times you will see a company, even a sophisticated one,[7] stumble or make mis-steps in response to an adverse public event. Crisis consultants and advisors are there for a reason, and they can bring the accumulated (and updated as technology progresses and social sentiments change) body of knowledge (BOK), to bear in your efforts to: (i) devise a plan;[8] (ii) practice the plan; and (iii) make the process work, on point and on time, in your crisis management and crisis communications as essential components of any comprehensive Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) strategy.

 

LITIGATION (and escalation) love leaks:

The advisors who “should” be consulted include legal advisors, of course, because certain practices may lead to problems; especially in the conduct of internal investigations.[9] The pretexting and email tracing tools used by one company in the course of its internal leak investigations in purported compliance with governing national laws, still landed it in hot water.[10] On the other hand, the highly-questionable and ultimately illegal, apparently standard business practices of yet another company that were leaked and escalated, brought a grinding and humiliating end to that malfeasing company.[11] Use extreme caution to create, customize, operate, and update all GRC (governance, risk, and compliance) programs.

 

MUTUALIZE the message:

Sometimes, different teams, groups, or geographical sub-divisions will operate with incomplete or a lack of information, and make public statements that are a little (or even, very) off-message. Having one dedicated source to which all the parts should defer (and know and acknowledge that they must defer), is critical to project a uniform and mutualized message across the company. People may need to be trained in place, pre-positioned, regularly rotated, or sent-out – depending on scope, size, and span.

“This is the new paradigm for compliance programs in modern business, but one should always bear in mind that any Compliance Program should be structured with due consideration for the Scope (range of products and/or services offered), Size (number of employees), and Span (geographic spread, and number and range of legal regimes to which it is subject) regarding the entity; including any and all subsidiaries and any cross-national requirements.”[12]

 

DEAL with the damage:

When companies delay in dealing swiftly, efficiently, and effectively with the damage caused by an adverse public event, they will feel the impact, although it might not be immediate. That blowback will be particularly harsh if media and social media latch-onto the aftermath,[13] and focus on the preventable additional suffering of the victims in the interim, the disparity in profits made vis-à-vis the damage actually done[14] and compensation costs promised, or both of these. If the event recurs, that media and social media mauling will be equally harsh, if not harsher. Whether that recurrence is in the same place and vicinity, or elsewhere, attention will definitely be drawn back to that earlier, other similar incident. A flash mob or a social media boycott call may not start right away. Once it does though, watch out!

 

OWN the outcomes:

Even when there has been a shoddy,[15] or a botched outright[16] initial response, all is not lost if the company at least owns the trilateral outcomes (victim services; investigations and changes to internal culture, chiefs, or controls; and the legal and regulatory impacts). Totally downplaying the event and outcomes (including the alleged or disputed disastrous outcomes of ongoing controversial practices with disputed science for- and against them),[17] trying to weasel-out, or simply closing-up shop and walking away, will not be very well accepted. Indeed, bad behaviour in one jurisdiction may well, thanks to the speed of modern communications, act as a calling card to have the entity disallowed into, disavowed by, or dismissed from, some other alert jurisdiction with an awake and internet-savvy population that does not want to be treated in that same way.[18] It pays to play fair everywhere; it costs to gloss over any ugly blotch – especially if it is in a disadvantaged or low-cost jurisdiction where you think nobody will notice.

 

WORK (and work well) with stakeholders:

Complex disasters caused by adverse events that are coupled with intervening natural events, are generally the most devastating when a failure to work well, or even work at all with stakeholders, occurs. Please note: this stakeholder group will (and must) by definition, ALWAYS, include the victims – along with traditional or tribal authorities; local governments and municipalities; regional, state, and provincial or prefecture governments; the business sector and charitable entities; federal authorities; and foreign nations to the extent that the victims include their Citizens, or they wish or are approached, to render assistance. The very broad range of victim services that can be made available by these many non-victim stakeholders, if and when working together in a coordinated way, includes combinations of:

(i) construction and demolition;

(ii) search and rescue, and salvage;

(iii) sanitation, nutrition, and shelter;

(iv) medical treatment and rehabilitation;

(v) debris removal and decontamination;

(vi) job training or retraining, and placement;

(vii) registration, and document replacement;

(iix) evacuation, relocation, and resettlement;

(ix) animal and wildlife services, and firefighting;

(x) legal and consular assistance, and financial aid;

(xi) interim and replacement goods and/or services;

(xii) movement control, security, and electronic security;

(xiii) crisis counseling, mortuary services, and clergy affairs;

(xiv) call centres and communications for victims, friends and relatives, or to coordinate reunification; and

(xv) media/social media relations, and public notices, alerts, or early warning of future/further perils.

Even while responding to an ongoing crisis on the spectrum of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM), it is still possible, through horizon scanning and interaction with peers and stakeholders, to retain a good grasp of the bigger picture and work with them to plan for a far better result in the event of any future occurrence of a similar or dissimilar adverse event.[19] Others can then follow that positive lead to further grow the numbers, experiences, and geographic dispersion of contributors to a dynamic and responsive DRRM body of knowledge on proven, recommended, or potential best practices.[20]

 

NEVER run and hide:

When this occurs, the victims, the regulators and the public all join in escalating matters and unilaterally, jointly, and severally expanding that “A though I” strategy specified above, to go for J – meaning Justice (some might also term this as going for the jugular vein); and they will stop at nothing to reel-in and deal most resolutely and ruthlessly, with such a callous corporate entity that does not even care enough to show its face at or in relation to, the impacted space. Even when one is not literally running and hiding, but simply absent or so slow or uncoordinated in responsive action to the extent that the image given is one of running and hiding or being hopelessly ineffective (even if partly or mostly due to massive primary technology and utilities outages, failed or absent backup systems, and significant overloads and service delays in the barely functioning remnants of these critical items of public and business infrastructure), [21] then the end-results from both the long-suffering victims and actual or virtual onlookers with rising empathy and incivility to responsible responders, can be the same – (J)! This small step for the victims in one little letter of expansion, can mean a galaxy of problems for the allegedly offending and non-defending company (or government entity, as appropriate), and it may well have been avoided by taking time to CALM-DOWN, and making a concerted effort to properly prepare, practice, and put-into effect its contingency, crisis management, and crisis communication plans in Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM).

 

SUMMARY:

A logical, and effective approach such as the above becomes even more necessary with this week’s release of a United States government report showing that the increasingly severe impacts of Climate Change are already well underway on the North American continent, and globally.[22] Challenges will continue to mount as those conflicting, co-mingling, and increasingly calamitous effects increase. Everyone and every business must therefore play it part, and the leaders have to lead.

In Canada, Emergency Preparedness Week with its solid political support through Public Safety Canada and coordination at the highest levels across the nation, is indeed a good start. However, contingency planning and contingency preparation, with detailed crisis management and crisis communication protocols for more comprehensive and all-hazards[23] Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM), really and urgently need to become a 52-week affair, every day of every year.

 

*********************************************************************

Author:

Ekundayo George is a sociologist and a lawyer. He has also taken courses in organizational and micro-organizational behavior, and has significant experienced in business law and counseling (incorporations, business plans, contracts and non-disclosure agreements, teaming and joint venture agreements), diverse litigation, and regulatory compliance practice. He is licensed to practice law in Ontario, Canada, as well as in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., in the United States of America (U.S. business advising, outsourcing and cross-border trade, technology contracts, and U.S. financing). See, for example: http://www.ogalaws.com. A writer, blogger, and avid reader, Mr. George has sector experience in Technology (Telecommunications, eCommerce, Outsourcing, Cloud), Financial Services, Healthcare, Entertainment, Real Estate and Zoning, International/cross-border trade, other Services, and Environmental Law and Policy. He is a published author on the National Security aspects of Environmental Law, has represented clients in courts and before regulatory bodies in both Canada and the United States, and he enjoys complex systems analysis in legal, technological, and societal milieux.

Mr. George is also an experienced negotiator, facilitator, team leader, and strategic consultant- sourcing, managing, and delivering on large, strategic projects with multiple stakeholders and multidisciplinary teams. Our competencies include program investigation, sub-contracted procurement of personnel and materiel, and such diverse project deliverables as business process re-engineering, devising and delivering tailored training, and other targeted engagements through a highly-credentialed resource pool with several hundred years of combined expertise, in: Healthcare; Education & Training; Law & Regulation; Policy & Plans; Statistics, Economics, & Evaluations including feasibility studies; Infrastructure; and Information Technology/Information Systems (IT/IS) – sometimes also termed Information Communications Technologies, or ICT). See, for example: http://www.simprime-ca.com.

Hyperlinks to external sites are provided to readers of this blog as a courtesy and convenience, only, and no warranty is made or responsibility assumed by either or both of George Law Offices and Strategic IMPRIME Consulting & Advisory, Inc. (“S’imprime-ça”) including employees, agents, directors, officers, successors & assigns, in whole or in part for their content, accuracy, or availability.

This article creates no lawyer-client relationship, and is not intended or deemed legal advice, business advice, the rendering any professional service, or attorney advertising where restricted or barred. The author and affiliated entities specifically disclaim and reject any and all loss claimed, no matter howsoever resulting as alleged, due to any action or inaction done in reliance on the contents herein.

 

*******************************************************************

[1] Government of Canada. Emergency Preparedness Week (EP Week), May 4-10, 2014. Published on getprepared.gc.ca. Visited May 6, 2014. Online: >http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/ep-wk/index-eng.aspx<

[2] All of these terms, as used somewhat interchangeably her depending on the specific context, are a part of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM), the increasingly common “catch-all” terminology.

[3] British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Lac-Megantic disaster: Engineer blamed for Canada blast. Posted on bbc.com, July 10, 2013. Online: >http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-23264397< Edward Burkhardt, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Rail World Inc., which owns Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Ltd., first spent four days at the Rail World Inc. Chicago head office (saying he wanted to avoid causing a distraction), then traveled to the scene to speak with reporters and immediately blame both those same first responders, and his engineer employee, all before any investigation had taken place whatsoever.

[4] See e.g. Dene Moore. Kinder Morgan clarifies embarrassing oil spill benefits comments. Published on business.financialpost.com, May 6, 2014. Online: >http://business.financialpost.com/2014/05/06/kinder-morgan-clarifies-embarrassing-oil-spill-benefits-comments/?__lsa=d154-7461<

“Pipeline spills can have both positive and negative effects on local and regional economies, both in the short- and long-term, (…). Spill response and clean-up creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and cleanup service providers.”

[5] See Contra Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Report of Investigation Pursuant to Section 21(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934: Netflix, Inc., and Reed Hastings. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

Release No. 69279/April 2, 2013 Release. Visited May 6, 2014. Online: >http://www.sec.gov/litigation/investreport/34-69279.pdf< Although drawing attention in an SEC investigation, the Netflix CEO’s inopportune Facebook post did not result in a harsh penalty.

[6] CBC News. Exclusive McDonald’s Canada CEO calls foreign worker controversy ‘bullshit’. Posted on cbc.ca, April 24, 2014. Online: >http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/mcdonald-s-canada-ceo-calls-foreign-worker-controversy-bullshit-1.2621151<

[7] Anne C. Mulkern, of Greenwire. BP’s PR Blunders Mirror Exxon’s, Appear Destined for Record Book. Published on nytimes.com, June 10, 2010. Online: >http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2010/06/10/10greenwire-bps-pr-blunders-mirror-exxons-appear-destined-98819.html?pagewanted=all<

[8] See e.g. Dr. Mark Cosby. Food Processors – Recovery Before a Recall. Published on domesticpreparedness.com, January 15, 2014. Online: >http://www.domesticpreparedness.com/Infrastructure/Building_Protection/Food_Processors_-_Recovery_Before_a_Recall/<

[9] Robert Mullins, IDGNS. Corporate leak probes walk a fine line. Debate swirls about the ethics of pretexting, investigating leaks. Published on infoworld.com, October 2, 2006. Online: >http://www.infoworld.com/d/security-central/corporate-leak-probes-walk-fine-line-144< See also Adam Widdoes, Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC). QuickCounsel: Privilege in a Global Landscape Part II: International In-house Counsel. Published on acc.com, May 10, 2013. Online: >http://www.acc.com/legalresources/quickcounsel/piaglpt.cfm< This article references the case: Akzo Nobel Chemicals and Akcros Chemicals v Commission, JUDGMENT OF 17. 9. 2007 — JOINED CASES T-125/03 AND T-253/03. Online: >http://curia.europa.eu/juris/liste.jsf?language=en&num=T-125/03< There, it was ruled that in-house counsel have no attorney-client privilege with regard to matters under European law or investigation. However, separate EU member states may still recognize an in-house legal privilege.

[10] Robert Mullins, IDGNS. HP lawyer gives blow-by-blow of leak probe.   Independent investigator determines Dunn authorized two separate investigations into leaks. Published on infoworld.com, September 25, 2006. Online: >http://www.infoworld.com/t/business/hp-lawyer-gives-blow-blow-leak-probe-992?page=0,1<

[11] British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Q&A: News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Published on bbc.com, August 4, 2012. Online: >http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-11195407<

[12] Ekundayo George. GRC: An Overview (Part 1). Published on ogalaws.wordpress.com, October 21, 2012. Online: >https://ogalaws.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/grc-an-overview-part-1/<

[13] Tanya Talaga. Rana Plaza survivors get first compensation payments. One year after deadly Bangladesh factory collapse, $700 payments seen as far too little, and clothing brands criticized for not contributing to trust fund. Online: >http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/04/24/rana_plaza_survivors_get_first_compensation_payments.html<

[14] Stella Kim, Jason Hanna and Ed Payne. Ferry disaster: Too much cargo contributed to sinking, police say. Published May 6, 2014, on cnn.com. Online: >http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/06/world/asia/south-korea-ship-sinking/<

“Since the Sewol began the Incheon-Jeju route in March 2013, the ferry carried excess cargo 139 times, investigators said. Cheonghaejin Marine earned an extra 62 million South Korean won ($62,000) for the excess cargo on the April 16 voyage, and nearly 3 billion South Korean won ($2.9 million) in extra profit for all of the excess cargo that the ferry carried since March 2013, investigators said.”

[15] See e.g. Micheline Maynard. 3 Things GM’s Mary Barra Must Do To End The Recall Crisis. Published on forbes.com, April 1, 2014. Online: >http://www.forbes.com/sites/michelinemaynard/2014/04/01/3-things-gms-mary-barra-must-do-to-end-the-recall-crisis/<

[16] Amber Hildebrandt. Malaysia Airlines MH370: How to make a crisis worse. Company needs to apologize for mistakes, give only the facts and liaise with governments. Published on cbc.ca, March 12, 2014. Online: >http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/malaysia-airlines-mh370-how-to-make-a-crisis-worse-1.2570213<

[17] Edward Broughton. The Bhopal disaster and its aftermath: a review. Published on ehjournal.net, May 10, 2005. Online: >http://www.ehjournal.net/content/4/1/6<

[18] Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus. Fracktivists for Global Warming: How Celebrity NIMBYism Turned Environmentalism Against Natural Gas. Published on newgeography.com, March 7, 2013. Online: >http://www.newgeography.com/content/003549-fracktivists-global-warming-how-celebrity-nimbyism-turned-environmentalism-against-natural-gas<

[19] See e.g. Santha Oorjitham. Japan reflects on triple disaster. Published April 4, 2012 on nst.com. Online: >http://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnist/japan-reflects-on-triple-disaster-1.70726< While still dealing with the after-effects of the 2011 deep sea earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima Daiichi radiological explosion and release, the Japanese government planned to host a July 3-4, 2012 “high-level international conference on large-scale natural disasters”. According to Kenji Hiramatsu, director-general for global issues at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), the conference would “look at both “hard” and “soft” infrastructure for disaster preparedness, business continuity planning and how to secure supply chains, and better international cooperation on such disasters”. See also Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MoFA). World Ministerial Conference on Disaster Reduction in Tohoku – Joint Endeavors for Solutions: Wisdom of the World to the Disaster-Affected Areas, Lessons of the Disaster-Affected Areas to the World (July 3 and 4, 2012). Published on mofa.go.jp. Online: >http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/environment/warm/cop/wmcdr_2012/index.html<

[20] Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).  ASEM Manila Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) –   Post-Haiyan – A Way Forward, on 04-06 June 2014, in Manila. Published on aseminfoboard.org. Visited May 6, 2014. Online: >http://www.aseminfoboard.org/upcoming-events/event/479-asem-conference-on-technology-and-innovation-for-disaster-risk-reduction-and-management-and-climate-change-adaptation.html<

“The Manila Conference aims to highlight the lessons learned from Haiyan and other mega disasters, identify gaps and challenges, share best practices in technology, innovation, systems and procedures and produce the “Tacloban Declaration” which will contain proposals for the Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.”

[21] Paul Piper and Miguel Ramos. A Failure to Communicate Politics, Scams, and Information Flow During Hurricane Katrina. Published on infotoday.com; visited May 6, 2014. Original in: The Searcher, Vol. 14 No. 6 — June 2006.  Online: >http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/jun06/piper_ramos.shtml<

[22] United States of America, The Global Change Research Program. National Climate Assessment 2014, at Introduction. Published May, 2014, on globalchange.gov. Online: >http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/downloads<

“The observed warming and other climatic changes are triggering wide-ranging impacts in every region of our country and throughout our economy. Some of these changes can be beneficial over the short run, such as a longer growing season in some regions and a longer shipping season on the Great Lakes. But many more are detrimental, largely because our society and its infrastructure were designed for the climate that we have had, not the rapidly changing climate we now have and can expect in the future. In addition, climate change does not occur in isolation. Rather, it is superimposed on other stresses, which combine to create new challenges.”

[23] See generally Government of Canada. Emergency Preparedness Week (EP Week), May 4-10, 2014, at “Publications”. Published on getprepared.gc.ca. Visited May 6, 2014. Online: >http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/index-eng.aspx<

Advertisements

As this New Year starts and we all get back into the swing of work, or looking for work, or retirement, as the case may be, now is as good a time as any to reflect on what it means to be an ideal employee.

                Committed (old school):

There was a time when the ideal employee only needed to be “committed”, to his or her employer – whether in the public sector or private sector, and to a lifetime of employment with that employer.

                Conscientious:

Then the environmental movement came about, with the growth surge and popularity of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which led to a search for “conscientious” candidates for employment, in some industries and service sectors.  Truth be told, there are certainly a good number of employers who could care less, or who would even, perhaps, prefer those with no pre-set views or that fully reject prevailing “environmentally-correct” or “socially-responsible” or “politically-correct” or “anti-globalization” platforms; which platforms in some cases have brought-out quite extreme and obnoxious behaviours on both sides of the fence, as adjudged by the fence-sitters in that space, place, and time.  To be conscientious about the fighting issues and only those issues, is the raison d’être at one end of the spectrum.  At the other end, however, to be conscientious about the bottom line and solely the bottom line – to the point of blatant, repeated unethical behaviour or illegality in some cases, is highly valued.

                Connected:

Now, we have the “Social” phase, with potential employers themselves or through contracted third-parties, trolling criminal record and other databases, the Internet and social media in an effort to develop a better picture of the person and the “contacts or connections” of the person, who’s paper resume, personal video, multimedia resume, or LinkedIn or Facebook profile has been sent to their inbox, pasted on their private wall, or delivered by hand.  As a result of this highly disruptive paradigm-shift, the 5 (“five”) recurrent questions in HR circles, have now become:

(i) to whom are they connected;

(ii) where;

(iii) how;

(iv) what causes or entities do they like or follow; and

(v) how will any or all of this help or hurt us if we bring them onboard?

Alas, if you have no online profile, or too few connections but years of experience, then “some” HR professionals may well think you are hiding something due to the assumption that “everyone” now has an appreciable online presence and a large connection group through all of which the original data subject may itself, be or become far better known to them through open source and standoff means.

Unfortunately, the lack of an online presence or even a large connection group does not necessarily signify an issue.  I am sure that there are many people who have simply never gotten around to it, face restrictions on what they can post online due to current and former employers or their specific lines of work, or who have simply rebelled against what they feel is over-sharing and information overload.

To counter for this potential bias, it is likely high time to go back to the basics and focus on the “Committed” aspect, as in Committed (new school), in looking to the core of what an ideal employee is, or should develop into.

Committed (new school):

With a resounding yes, we can all agree that (at least in the western world and other parts that sincerely follow the western model), two core work assumptions are now gone, forever:

(i) that there is lifetime employment on offer; and

(ii) that the employment relationship is one with more obligation of employee to employer, than employer to employee.

Today, people will have more than one career, and often simultaneously; and there are a mix of mutual obligations and rights between the employer and employee – now codified by law and custom.  On account of this, the assessment of commitment is multifactor, multidisciplinary, and always in flux.  We can look at it through the 3 sub-elements of that commitment; being: (i) Culture; (ii) Competence; and (iii) Coordination.

(i) CULTURE.

Culture is a system of values, beliefs, and norms that guides worldviews, behaviours, and relationships. The employer will have a culture, and the potential employee will have taken in the culture of one or more societies or prior employers; resulting in quite a complex of motivators.  Organizations tend to be rather intolerant of newcomers who try to change the culture from the inside-out, once allowed inside.  If a person joins an employer after being attracted by the culture, then a later discovery of mismatch, or that the culture is not quite as it seemed, can lead to disillusionment, acting-out (in performance issues or whistleblowing), or separation – whether voluntary or involuntary.  Where HR speaks of “a good fit”, they are referring to their culture, and the likelihood that the potential recruit will both say “ok”, and actually decide to stay.

Behavioural interviewing is one way of assessing how the candidate will fit into the established order.  However, some veterans of the process can be very good at giving the right-sounding answers, only to be and present a later disaster.  This is why it is essential for the employer to project its true culture to potential hires, and for jobseekers to be true to themselves in their search and responses to interview questions.  If this is just to be a survival job, then what’s your problem?  Go with the right attitude and don’t try to change the whole place around you, if you know you won’t be there for the long-term.

(ii) COMPETENCE.

Competence is that mix of skills, abilities, certifications, and knowledge (SACK) that makes the candidate attractive to a potential employer.  The potential employer may have listed a specific requirement, or the potential candidate may be targeting that employer, or working with a third-party recruiter who does the match-making as go-between.  However, in all cases, the goal is to get a match and have as many SACK-points in common as possible.

Here, we can get a better appreciation of that mutuality of obligations mentioned earlier.  If the person is hired to do a specific job because of his or her SACK, then where the SACK is not used or under-used, due to any or all of re-tasking, lack of work, or disorganization and mismanagement, then the new hire will not be happy.  Mental muscles not used will tend to atrophy over time; especially in fast-moving infotainment fields such as IT and graphic design.  In this way, candidates who are under-used, will soon become candidates again, so that they can get meaningful work that they enjoy.  While it is true that this is not always the employer’s fault, especially in a slowed economy where work can be scarce in some lines, the truth of the matter is that employees are now more focused on their own longevity and their own bottom line, as lifelong loyalty to the employer – even a government employer– is no more.  It is one thing to grow with the company ….. but the company has to be growing (or at least stable) when they get there, and not just presenting a promise of growth or stability at some indeterminate point in the future.  There are, however, differences of individual risk appetite, and so this factor may still vary.

(iii) COORDINATION.

Where the employee has accepted the culture and has the right SACK, then the only remaining questions are – (I) can he or she demonstrate an ability to coordinate these in delivering for the employer; and (II) at what level can he or she do this, and with or without additional training or supervision.  There are four levels: Planning, Leading, Undertaking and Understanding, and Managing (PLUM), and we will consider them out of order.

(a)          Understanding and Undertaking:

This is the résumé or covering letter excerpt that speaks of undertaking tasks with minimal supervision.  Can the employee understand simple instructions and undertake the work to deliver a satisfactory (or preferably above satisfactory) end-result?  This is at the basic level.  For the intermediate level, the question is can the employee understand the results of a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis and independently apply his or her individual effort to capitalize on opportunities and strengths (product placement or service excellence), or address weaknesses and threats (brand recognition, market penetration, or negative publicity).  For the advanced level, can the employee both plan and conduct a detailed SWOT analysis, and then coherently communicate the results to others?

(b)          Planning:

This is the capacity of the employee to plan or co-plan any combination of events, projects, compliance programs, or succession.  It would clearly include the planning of a program to address the results of a SWOT analysis at an advanced or intermediate level, or the planning of a discrete employee initiative – such as a training seminar, a new product presentation or service rollout, or a packaging concept or promotional design competition in an environment where the employer had initially encouraged such collaboration and input.

(c)           Leading:

Of course, these factors are presented in no particular order, and so the employee may be given a managerial role (over strategic projects, such as social media outreach) before a purely leadership role (of a shop floor team, for example), and at a multitude of available levels from front-line supervisor, through middle management, to executive assistant.  Specific roles will be determined by the available talent, and the organizational need for leaders of change, projects, teams, events, or training, amongst others.

(d)          Managing:

Some people have natural interpersonal skills, whilst others will have to be coached or trained.  The “naturals” will be easily and speedily recognized in those environments where management is alert and open to its in-house talent, and additional opportunities will be presented to further hone and apply those innate skills as and when found.  Employees can also be or become skilled at managing resources (finance, logistics, human resources) or compliance (legal and regulatory affairs, or shareholder communications) through education and training, and past or current work experience.

SUMMARY.

Committed, Conscientious, and Connected are still valid macro-level descriptors of ideal employees.  However, “Committed” is dynamic, with its own micro-keys of culture, competence, and coordination.

Constant growth, constant learning, and constant expansion of the SACK (skills, abilities, certifications, and knowledge) that one possesses and brings to the job negotiation table is mandatory – because everyone else is doing the same thing and competition is only becoming more intense.  Rent-seeking is also a new constant, as the worker should be constantly seeking-out and plucking the juiciest and most demonstrable PLUMS (planning, leadership, understanding and undertaking, and management) as assignments and means by which to deliver value to the employer, and further fill-out the proprietary and portable sack on the employee’s back.  “As I help you, I also help myself”, but in a non-selfish way!!

For the prospective and current employer, the key to recruiting and retaining the “right fit” is to have and communicate the right culture, seek-out (and actually use once onboard) the right competencies, and have enough “plums” in the air to offer:

(i) sufficient;

(ii) meaningful work; and

(iii) personal growth opportunities; with

(iv) job satisfaction; and

(v) benefits and work-life balance;

to keep people (and the sacks on their backs) around.  I refrain from saying “the right people”, because everyone who wants to and is given the opportunity, is capable of growing into a series of increasingly responsible roles.

It has often been said that the more things change, such as the “committed” employee, the more they remain the same.  Do you agree?

*********************************************************************

Author:

Ekundayo George is a sociologist and a lawyer.  He has also taken courses in organizational and micro-organizational behavior, and has significant experienced in business law and counseling (incorporations, business plans, contracts and non-disclosure agreements, teaming and joint venture agreements), diverse litigation, and regulatory practice.  He is licensed to practice law in Ontario, Canada, as well as in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., in the United States of America (U.S. business advising, outsourcing and cross-border trade, technology contracts, and U.S. financing).  See, for example: http://www.ogalaws.com.  A writer, blogger, and avid reader, Mr. George has sector experience in Technology (Telecommunications, eCommerce, Outsourcing, Cloud), Financial Services, Healthcare, Entertainment, Real Estate and Zoning, International/cross-border trade, other Services, and Environmental Law and Policy.  He is a published author on the National Security aspects of Environmental Law, and enjoys complex systems analysis in the legal, technological, and societal milieu.

Mr. George is also an experienced strategic consultant; sourcing, managing, and delivering on large, strategic projects (investigations, procurements, and diverse consulting engagements) with multiple stakeholders and multidisciplinary project teams.  See, for example: http://www.simprime-ca.com.

Hyperlinks to external sites are provided to readers of this blog as a courtesy and convenience, only, and no warranty is made or responsibility assumed by either or both of George Law Offices and Strategic IMPRIME Consulting & Advisory, Inc. (“S’imprime-ça”) including employees, agents, directors, officers, successors & assigns, in whole or in part for their content, accuracy, or availability.

This article creates no lawyer-client relationship, and is not intended or deemed legal advice, business advice, the rendering any professional service, or attorney advertising where restricted or barred.  The author and affiliated entities specifically disclaim and reject any and all loss claimed, no matter howsoever resulting as alleged, due to any action or inaction done in reliance on the contents herein.

%d bloggers like this: