Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Negotiating what you can offer as a hiring manager in an ongoing social context

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 28, 2010

A few days ago I posted a first installment to what with this posting has become a short two part series. That first posting: Negotiating What You Can Offer as a Hiring Manager in Building and Maintaining Great Teams looked into the financial and related constraints that hiring managers have to accommodate as they hire and as they manage and maintain their teams. That, as outlined in my earlier posting means understanding and working within a larger business context, and it means communicating and negotiating where costs for hiring can be and usually are more readily quantified than are benefits to the business received in return from this hiring. And this difference in levels of bookkeeping certainty creates negotiating asymmetries that can be very important and certainly when the business is under pressure to limit costs and increase the cost-effectiveness of budget expended.

This first posting in effect set up a baseline for understanding the dynamics of this process, setting a financial bottom line and benchmark as to what can work in setting hiring parameters. The reason why financial consideration per se can only go so far in setting hiring policy is two-fold. First, to pick up on a point made above is the level of quantifiable uncertainty in measuring true value received from an employee and for many if not most types of position. The second reason and the focus of this posting is that there are almost always significant social and interpersonal factors that have to be taken into account in hiring too. In this, any business, for-profit or nonprofit, is a social network and when that business is of any significant scale for headcount it constitutes a goals-oriented community too.

Note that I said “any business” above and I can already hear at least some people contesting that because a lot of individuals go into business and even incorporate as sole proprietor/owner businesses. But they have clients and connect into value chains too. So I write here of this as a more or less universal consideration – the social and interpersonal aspects of business. But I focus on the multiple headcount business in what follows.

And businesses and the interpersonal relationships that develop in and around them develop their own histories and historical perspectives, and these can for teams extend well beyond the tenure of any individual member’s presence.

One very familiar and common aspect to this comes out in full force whenever the overall budget and resource pie that has to be divided up, does not seem adequate to meet all claims of need and priority and from all departments, services and teams. This can even lead to overt turf warfare and the pressure to “empire build” within individual organizational units when taken to an extreme.

There are entire industries where conflict over access to necessary resources seems to be the norm, and I think of my experience with hospitals and healthcare systems as too often falling into that trap. Clinical service chiefs are always in at least potential conflict with their peers in gaining and securing the resources they need for their services in the face of conflicting demands from others, and all too often the conflict is just as intense if not more so between clinical services as a whole and the hospital administration. As a complete digression, I will note that one real point of proof that our healthcare crisis in the United States has been resolved by healthcare reform would be if healthcare facilities could meet the needs of their catchment area populations and without leaving all of those competing voices within these facilities feeling they are always just one step ahead of not being able to keep up for lack of support and resources – the reason why this potential for conflict is so common there, and without continuing the higher-than-inflation-rate costs spiral.

But every business and organization of any significant headcount always seems to have its pressures and this can be between line and supporting services, and it can be between functional areas, and it can be geographic based, and if there have been mergers in bringing the business into its current form this can be cultural and based on where specific teams came from.

When that pie really is too small to sustain the entire business as-is and a downsizing looks to be needed, that is one reason why headcount reductions can be ordered on a quota basis – a less than functional approach that I mentioned in a recent posting on downsizing as a process with Downsizing and Mass Lay-Offs as a Symptom of Strategic Failure. There I posted on a context where social pressures can come to a head catastrophically in shaping Personnel and retention decisions and a straight quota system can be viewed as the only way out for avoiding real confrontation. Here, I write of a more pervasive and much less dramatic phenomenon where social pressures simply shape hiring priorities and objectives – OK, that can have really dramatic implications too. The point is that even when a business is running smoothly and it is financially sound there can be and usually are interpersonal and organizational social networking pressures and these forces help shape decisions both as to who can hire and for what, and with what available compensation ranges approved.

Strategy enters in here, but bottom line, the most important factors in shaping these interpersonal and social networking pressures on hiring and also on retention policy are in execution, and in long term execution and history. Strategy, ultimately, may come from the top but history sets the context and it comes from everywhere – the expectations and assumptions of incoming managers and employees at all levels included.

To bring this wide ranging discussion back to the starting point of hiring and of setting priorities and ranges, yes this can be and is an important source of influencing and shaping factors. These pressures, I add, influence all aspects of any real world business of any size and even when the basic assumptions going into planning and strategy are that all key decisions are based on sound financial principles. And that is why I refer to businesses as social networks and as goals-oriented communities and it is why I brought in a wider range of context for this posting than I would for most added to this blog.

I will probably pick up on this again with a third posting, where the areas of discussion would be on corporate culture as a pervasive and even unifying set of factors, individual interpersonal dynamics in the workplace (between services and managers definitely included) and the continuum of organizing relationships between these more endpoint-scaled factors.

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  1. Social Computing Platforms said, on May 29, 2010 at 2:45 pm

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