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May 2013

"Killer Service!"

This past week I encountered two extremes of “killer service” worth sharing.

Killer service_000005223394XSmallThe first instance was when a friend, who had asked me to give her a ride because her car was being repaired and would not be available when she needed it, called to say that her car was ready after all. The mechanic had worked on it until 10:30 p.m. on Friday so that she was not inconvenienced over the holiday week-end.

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37 years to go?

I was shocked this week by an email quoting research by British sociologist David Halperin that only 29% of British people believed that others can be trusted. Mind-boggling though that statistic is, even more amazing is the fact that this figure has declined from 60% only 40 years ago. Time Bomb_000021982214XSmall If you assume that trust will continue to decline at the same rate in the future, this means we have 37 years to go until no-one trusts anybody! How depressing is that thought?

Of course no-one can forecast such things precisely and it is in any case hypothesising to a ridiculous extent to think that figure could ever reach zero. Isn’t it? Heavens, I do hope so! No society can flourish without trust.

In any event my first reaction was to check out this research myself. After all, you can’t trust just any statistic sent in an email or that you come across on the internet, can you? (Damn! See how contagious this distrust is.)  Unfortunately I cannot provide a direct link but a Google search on “David Halperin trust” led me to a PowerPoint presentation on the first page called “Why trust is a …” and I thoroughly recommend you see this for yourself.  

This presentation was actually created in 2006 which means that we are already at least 7 years further into our decline, but it reveals some very scary statistics. For instance:-

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Aaarghh! It's enough to drive you nuts!

Chocolate-box pretty! That was our garden when the cherry tree blossomed: the symbol of summer finally arrived. Then last year – nada! Absolutely nothing! We called our local garden guru to ask what could have happened, and he explained that there had been a virus doing the rounds and a number of cherry trees had just died off. Ours apparently was simply another sad statistic.

FrustrationHe warned, however, that it would be under a tree-preservation order and that we would need town council permission to cut it down. That’s right – we need council permission to cut down and replace a dead tree!

Like good citizens we duly phoned the council to explain the position and request permission and were told we had to make the request in writing. We eventually got around to this about a year later when we realised it was almost cherry-blossom time again! (Oh, how time flies!) This week, several weeks later, we received the response in the mail.

So far, so good. But what do you think it said?

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Talent Wars or Talent Waste?

Are people’s capabilities diminishing? Our own observations would suggest otherwise. Likewise science would probably point to the opposite. So why has talk of the “War for Talent” come to the fore over the past 15 years? How can there be a shortage of talent in a world that has more people than ever before?

Something has to be wrong somewhere.

The root of the problem lies in the implicit distinction between talent and people. You can’t actually separate the two. Think of it like this: if your car runs out of fuel the only way you can get it restarted is to refuel. So why do we view 'talent' differently? If you have a shortage of talent the only way you can alleviate that lack is to develop new talent. I am sure you will agree that seems pretty obvious. Yet many people still don’t ‘get it.’ Unfortunately management seem to top the list. They still seem to remain adamant that it is something you go out and buy.

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Talent wars

Talent wars 000015991993XSmallAh, the “Law of Unforeseen Consequences!” It is now 15 years since McKinsey first published their article, “The War for Talent.” I wonder whether anyone – including McKinsey themselves – could have foreseen what this would launch.

At the time of publication McKinsey were responding to the growing global economy, forecasting a looming shortage of people with the right skills to enable businesses to achieve their objectives, and hence predicting an idiomatic ‘war’ as companies ‘fought’ to attract the "talent" they needed. Even with the economic downturn the demand for good people remains and, arguably, has even grown.

Yet, despite this, little seems to have been done to mitigate this need or alleviate the problem. In fact in many ways actions taken by ‘Management’ could be said to have made the problem worse.  Certainly that appears to be the case when the HR Director of a leading international recruitment firm writes about the “War on Talent.” More than merely an ironic spin on McKinsey’s article, this is a not-so-subtle indictment of the manner in which organisations misuse and abuse what they themselves often call their greatest asset. Certainly you need to give more than a little consideration to what the lady says, because she should know. After all, hers is a multi-industry perspective rather than a single organisation one. 

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