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Recruiting, Redemption, and American Economic Viability

by
Howard Adamsky
Feb 17, 2011, 12:23 am ET

“We would like to live as we once did but history will not permit it.” –John F Kennedy

I was instantly impressed by the tone. By the anger and edgy urban feel. The tag line gave me shivers as the Super Bowl’s “Imported From Detroit” spot knocked me out — an up front, in your face blast from the Motor City. The message? Absolutely gorgeous and ice cold simple. We Are Back. Yes indeed! I too love the smell of napalm in the morning.

Being a boy who loves cars, I have always been a fan of Detroit and made reference to it very specifically in Employment Rage. Case in point: Quoting from a special report in Time magazine, October 5, 2009: “By any quantifiable standard, the city is on life support. Detroit’s treasury is $300 million short of the funds needed to provide the barest municipal services … The murder rate is soaring, and 7 out of 10 remain unsolved …the unemployment rate is 28.9 percent. That’s worth spelling out: twenty-eight point nine percent.” Clearly, as goes the car industry, so goes Detroit.

We have lived through a grisly two years. The causalities have been monumental and the casualties have been deep. Homes, careers, dreams, and marriages — gone. Enough. Enough of what has been because the past is a bucket of ashes.

The time has come to focus on what will be. To find a new sense of pride and a new sense of purpose and a new sense of hope for all we can do to create a vibrant and durable American economy.

Let me go on record here and state the unpopular. I am an American. I care about this economy because this is where my mortgage is and this is where I have to go to work every day and this is my economic reality. My goal is to make this country great. I wish no country ill but I will not stand for one more scintilla of effort or expense that speaks to apologetic economic policy.

As for recruiting, I can only say that the time for new and fresh thinking in leadership is here and now. The time to step out front to meet, embrace, and support the stunning proclamation and galvanizing message of “Detroit is Back” will not wait. It will not wait for waffling on sourcing vs recruiting conversations. It will not wait for endless arguments on the relative merits of ATS’s. It will not wait for measurements or metrics or Tweetups or quality of hire or blogs that whine and bicker, as this stuff is, to quote Covey, “the thick of thin things.” The window of possibility for creating greatness will not be open forever. We need exemplars who will design and create inspired and effective recruiting models that dovetail with senior management to support organizational objectives and create success. Failure to do this is not an option.

But what of the singular recruiter? Can you tap into your inner leadership ability and affect this change? I believe so. For openers, recruiters need to focus on leadership-oriented activities and think long term as opposed to transactional-oriented activities while thinking short term. Do you understand the business of the people for whom you recruit, or do you just match qualifications with specifications? The first makes you a person who can offer insight and observations. The second makes you an errand boy.

Going further, leadership comes from each of us exercising our ability to do what we know is right as opposed to doing what is expedient. Leadership-oriented thinking come not from titles conferred but from a sense of purpose and mission. Churchill said, “the price of greatness is responsibility.” Does the opportunity for greatness interest you?

Finally, go along to get along no longer works. A cute aphorism of a time gone by, we need to cut it loose. The recruiting leader in you needs to worry less about politics and more about substantive dialogue that touches pain points and fixes what is broken. The politics of friendship and nepotism failed millions in our current recession. The next recession will be worse.

Capitalism, democracy, and Americanism itself are clearly in danger as globalization levels the playing field. The days of doing well simply because we are Americans is over. History tells us that every great society since the days of Mesopotamia has fallen. Is this to be our fate? I do not know but I do know this: Things will not get better until we employ the leadership thinking we possess to rebuild our country. JFK said it best; “I do not shrink from this responsibility, I welcome it.” Do you welcome it?

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. Sandra McCartt

    Howard,
    Damn, that,s good!

  2. gregg dourgarian

    Passionate. Well-written. Yet there’s a whiff of nationalism in this Howard that doesn’t sit right.

    Is capitalism really in danger? Is globalism really threatening America and free-enterprise? Is it really bad that China, India and Egypt are throwing off oppression and competing with us? No, that’s all nonsense.

    Search engines, mobile technology, Craigslist AND foreign competition are all manifestations of free-enterprise that both threaten the revenue stream of the traditional recruiter and provide new opportunities.

  3. Maureen Sharib

    I hope Washington, D.C. sees this. They should also mind these words, also from Churchill:

    Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

  4. Brian Kevin Johnston

    REMARKABLE Howard… Your ability to INNOVATE or SALE/MARKET your A*S off, will be the difference in Your success or failure moving forward…

    EX. In Recruiting/HR, a “creator/innovator” of new information, processes, systems etc. (Ultimately sold/marketed to Recruiting/HR Community) or Read every blog, business book, etc. on how to WIN in this economy and use the tactics in your niche, or BOTH.. :)

    If you subscribe to the “Applicant/Client CONTROL” mantra of the “old skool” HR/Recruiters, be ready to lose BIG, folks are way to smart these days…

    Best to ALL, Brian-

  5. Dave Pollock

    You had me until the first two lines of the last paragraph.

    1) The “globe” is, and always was, the playing field. Why we choose to write laws and policies that put our own American businesses at a disadvantage is the real question.
    2) We did well because we earned it, not “simply because we are Americans”. Unfortunately we’ve become an entitlement society that now thinks we *deserve* things rather than having to work for them.

  6. Howard Adamsky

    @gregg

    “…a whiff of nationalism in this Howard that doesn’t sit right.”

    A “whiff of nationalism? If there is only a whiff, I have failed to express my opinions. I am an on point jingoist as it relates to the country of which I am a citizen.

    “China, India and Egypt are throwing off oppression” CHINA? You are joking right? India is rife from a standpoint of oppression.

    Egypt? Look at the history of the middle east. One dictator is tossed out and another is ensconced. Do not be fooled the throngs of smiling faces you see on TV. Give it a year before you draw conclusions or commentary.

    “Search engines, mobile technology, Craigslist AND foreign competition…” I do not see the relationship between the first three examples and the concept of foreign competition. Please explain.

    I sense that you feel my article is opposed to foreign competition. Is that correct? If so, where in the article did i say that?

    As an aside, from a standpoint of style, to refer to the opinions of others as “nonsense,” is simply sad and disheartening.

  7. Dave Pollock

    Spot on. Go get ‘em Howard.

  8. gregg dourgarian

    Howard, when one’s patriotism or love of country crosses the chasm into nationalism then we’ve truly encountered the hatred that fueled the holocausts of the 20th century.

    I trust that your self-proclaimed nationalism is an attempt to get attention (this is after all the attention economy!) and not part of your life philosophy. Nevertheless let me point out that nationalism is the unmitigated source of power that has kept the oppressors you speak of in power over the decades.

  9. Dave Pollock

    Gregg – I believe you’ve cherry-picked your definition of Nationalism on the negative side in the same manner as Howard has cherry-picked his in a positive way.

    Although your definition is valid and can be construed as valid, there are many more definitions of Nationalism than the one you picked.

    As found in a quick Wiki search “…nationalism might also be portrayed as collective identities towards imagined communities which are not naturally expressed in language, race or religion but rather socially constructed by the very individuals that belong to a given nation”.

  10. Todd Raphael

    Gregg, I didn’t get the sense he was advocating hatred in any way — I took it that he wanted his country to do well, and similarly that he didn’t want it to become less capitalist and democratic (as he said in the last paragraph). He’s not hoping other countries perform poorly, only that oppressive governments have limited shelf lives. That’s what I took out of his article and comments at least.

  11. Keith Halperin

    @Howard: The past is not a bucket of ashes when you do not work to understand what happened, repair it, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    The US is no longer in a position (either economic or moral) to tell other countries how they should run their economies. Maybe WE should see what other countries do well and learn from THEM.

    Cheers,

    Keith

  12. Howard Adamsky

    Thank you Todd. I suspect that the line that reads “I wish no country ill” was lost on Mr. Dourgarian.

    I will no longer comment on Mr. Dourgarian’s input as I do see and understand the nature of his euro-centric orientation. To intimate that we as a country are somehow responsible for keeping the “oppressors you speak of in power over the decades.” is bizarre.

    I will end by saying that I find it fascinating anyone should be so deeply put off by a person who acts in the best interest of his own country and corresponding self interest. It makes me wonder if we have become so bizarrely twisted that we are actually offended by this sentiment.

  13. Martin Snyder

    Forgive me, but I thought the piece incredibly weak on multiple levels: this from one who usually argues the thick of thin things. You can get entirely too far in modern America by randomly assembling clichés, imbuing the mix with a passionate delivery, and believing that you have illuminated anything.

    All I got from this item was that if America somehow recruits better, we can cheat death (the fate of all who have lived since Mesopotamia, including every not-so- great society that has passed away) and solve our economic problems while not worrying about politics (inconveniently the means by which we make our economic arrangements).

    There is so much more here to unpack: why will the next recession be worse? Statistically, since the last one was our second worst ever, the next one may or may not be as bad. Have Americans always expected to do well just for being Americans? From 1929-1939 and 1857-1870 included? Are Capitalism, democracy, and Americanism itself clearly in danger from globalization, as opposed to homegrown greed, complacency, ignorance, ossification, and the historic rebalancing implied after the 1914-1945 world war?

    Frankly, watching Jeopardy last night I saw in Ken Jennings a great American, and in IBM’s Watson, a great American company and its finest work; both at the peak of their powers.

    When I look at corporate profits and the standard of living this nation yet enjoys, I see massive material success. When I look at the salaries of Jamie Dimon and LeBron James, I see a nation that can afford just about anything it wants to buy.

    So you really want to touch pain points and fix what is broken? Quit babbling nonsense and get out and do it.

    -Raise the marginal tax rates back to historic norms from our “great period”, so shareholders can earn value from ownership and our fiscal house can reflect the values provided to each class by our society.

    -Remove the payroll tax cap

    -Nationalize the funding and curriculum of public education and separate it from local property values/taxes

    -Tax our international protectorates for defending them, or stop defending them

    -Do anything and everything to stop being dependent on foreign oil

    -Handle health care the way the rest of the entire world does, via a single payer, to eliminate a parasitic insurance industry costing a trillion a year (minimum)

    -Return the ability of the justice system to sanction the elites of the society for lawbreaking

    -Let the markets set the value of money, rather than a central economic authority (duh!)

    It’s pretty simple really. There has been a 40 year class war in the nation, and the rich have won. It’s just mopping up time now (for all intents). That’s what has to change, it’s a political problem, and all the bluster presented here, no matter how well intentioned, is just more propaganda from the winning side obscuring the truth.

    So maybe it’s just better to talk about ATS and Assessment and getting more from what is already the hardest-working and most effective workforce in the history of the world, and yes, even recruiting better, because we don’t REALLY want to touch pain points and fix what is broken, do we ?

  14. Howard Adamsky

    Actually Martin, I do wish to fix the pain points. I am well aware of our class warfare but that, and much of your politics of which I totally agree, are beyond the preview of this article.

  15. Martin Snyder

    Howard, those problems ARE the heart of what’s wrong with America right now, and unless I can’t read at all, I thought that’s what your article was about.

  16. gregg dourgarian

    Anyway, can we get back to recruiting? And if so, what is with all of Howard’s defeatist whining?

    Everywhere I look in the staffing and recruiting space I see prosperity. Within a stones-throw of where I am in Minneapolis I have two competitors – Jobs2Web and Knowledge Infusion – that are just killing it, that are keeping me and my devs up at night so that our clients stay well positioned. And thank you globalism because without sales to China and India, my company wouldn’t have the fuel to do it.

  17. Keith Halperin

    @ Martin: I largely agree (except about the fed and the necessity of a single-player health insurance system).

    @ Howard; Could you re-state your point? If I understand it correctly and that you are advocating bold, innovative behavior in recruiters who work in most organizations, there’s a term for folks like that. It’s: “UNEMPLOYED”.
    As our friends at http://www.despair.com say:

    “Get to Work

    You aren’t being paid to believe in the power of your dreams.”

    Cheers,

    Keith

  18. Martin Snyder

    @ Keith- ironic, those are the big ticket items ! Life without the fed controlling the cost of money would be scary, but its more scary with them doing it…. and that trillion a year wastage is real, and we are the only ones on Earth paying it.

    @Gregg I love our overseas revenues too and I’m glad to see many players in our biz doing well- beats the other way around !

  19. Sandra McCartt

    Holy hell, the way i read that it was a motivational piece for recruiters to stand up and do something new as leaders in our space. Quit thinking that just because we are Americans we don’t have to get with the global program.

    But i’m just a little girl from West Texas tryin to get by in the harsh,cruel world so i seldom look for hidden messages.

  20. Keith Halperin

    @ Sandra: Dang, I grew up so close to West Texas you could smell the feedlots (or were those recruiters?). Anyway, we in the High Plains of Eastern New Mexico said: “God created West Texas to as to be a warning for others.” On the other hand, some West Texans said: “Why are West Texans such good people? Because the land was so flat that the Devil just slid on into New Mexico before he could tempt folks.”

    Cheers,

    Keith “Lived 40 miles from Muleshoe, Texas” Halperin

    …….

    Winners
    Because nothing says “you’re a loser” more than owning a motivational poster about being a winner.

    Motivation
    If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon.

  21. Sandra McCartt

    Bless your heart Keith, if you had made it 40 more miles West you would know that was not the smell of recruiters or feed yards. Honey, that’s the smell of money. God was right on both counts.:)

  22. Tarek Pertew

    My comments typically lack structure as my mind goes from one thing to the next, but nevertheless…my thoughts:

    I imagine that Howard is just trying to do what so many others on ERE and elsewhere in the industry are, but with more sauce. It’s clear that the recruiting industry can use a change of scenery in the way we approach our jobs and accomplish our tasks.

    We seem to always come back to sharing a ‘recruiting dialog’ that probably already happened many times over the course of the past decade…namely because not much has evolved by way of oboarding talent (save a graduated approach of scraping profiles on social networks to couple standard cold-calling practices and job board postings).

    There have been developers trying to innovate in this space in batches every 3 or 4 years and get so much resistance they flounder before a fraction of a % of the industry can play with it. Eventually the long term result could be irreparably negative, as people may stop trying to truly innovate (by innovate I don’t mean bring out the next series of upgrades to an ATS or create another niche job board, but innovate in a disruptive manner). Ask most venture capital companies which industry they are most afraid of and ‘employment’ will likely be at the top of the list.

    So I’m certain Howard is just trying to inspire some methods that don’t dole on comparing ATS systems and “cold-calling” best practices, but actually inspire some deep founding desire to change, innovate oneself or at least seek out innovation, and help evolve an industry that touches such a significant % of the globe.

    These are my observations. Being such an important industry could be why innovation is so stalled. It can be a dangerous thing to experience a drastic shift in the ‘way things are done’ when the effect can be so global. Nevertheless, I think that as the education system begins to see some true signs of disruptive innovation, the employment space will go hand in hand in doing the same.

  23. Manny Rao

    Yes, Terek, we can be “an industry that touches such a significant % of the globe.” Face it, our clients are global yet most of us in the USA operate in our own backyard, be it a city, region or just all the US.
    We need to (my firm has)find global recruiting partners to work with to enable us to service our US based client who have global jobs.

    PS: Martin….brilliant comments!

  24. Martin Snyder

    Tarek, recruiting is a basic economic function. It’s as old as mankind. There is only so much innovation possible- it’s kind of like sex in that regard.

    Now WHICH kind of recruiting is getting done, and by whom, is another story, and two things seem to drive that: tehnology and politics.

    To me, leadership means being informed and aware of whats going on, and working for political and technical change that will, (in one major way I agree with Howard on this topic) touch pain points and fix what is broken.

    Your point that education drives just about everything else is strong.

  25. Patrick Boyle

    This is an excellent article Howard.

    It touches on a number of points which are particularly important at this point in the history of this country.

    I would like to see you expand more upon what leadership means to those in your field. To me it seems that some important aspects would be the realization that we (all Americans) are in this together and the willingness to do what is best for the country not just what is expedient.

    I believe that sometimes leadership is about taking risks and doing things because they are right not necessarily because they are popular.

    We all (American businesses, recruiters, workers and even those not involved in the job market) need to work together to get the country back on track. Part of that is coming up with new solutions to maximize employment and create en environment where we will be less likely to again experience the terrible shock and the associated trauma that we have all been through.

    We all know what has happened. We now need to work together to move towards healing the wounds that have resulted.

    I am interested in what you think about this.

  26. Tarek Pertew

    @Martin I see your point. I also like your example. Edginess helps one remember, although I don’t want too many people committing your point to memory just yet, as attitude begets behavior and I absolutely believe there is room for disruption in recruitment, even though it hasn’t really evolved (at least from a behavior perspective) in 2K years…

    I don’t know exactly what will drive true innovation just yet, but I’m working on it. Let me get back to you… :P

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