#humanresources

The ABC shows its shocking political bias

The ABC loves to say it has no political bias. Yet one of its leading journalists posted this tweet essentially encouraging people to vote Labor or Greens to ensure they get more funding.

As CM wrote at the start of the month, the ABC’s own internal staff survey showed how poorly run the corporation is. It doesn’t need more funding but better managers to improve efficiencies. Moreso the staff satisfaction is below 50%. Read on…

The ABC conducted its second Corporation-wide employee engagement survey in late 2017. The previous survey was conducted in November 2015, with outcomes reported in the 2016 Annual Report.

The overall employee engagement score from the 2017 survey was 46%, down six points from the 2015 results. 6% down!!!!

This moved the ABC from the median to the bottom quartile when benchmarked with other Australian and New Zealand organisations. Bottom quartile!!! 

Employees expressed the need for improvement in several areas, including:

• that the ABC Leadership Team needs to be more visible, accessible and communicate more openly.

 that the ABC needs to do a better job of managing poor performance. Even the staff want to move duds on. A commercial spirit among the staff?

• that employees want to know what action is being taken to address feedback received in the survey.

The ABC management (no longer with us) conducted sessions on the back of the survey.

Three key priorities were identified from these sessions:

1. The way in which the ABC recruits, contracts, inducts, develops and manages its people needs a huge amount of work. Inefficiency!!!

2. More communication is needed between teams – employees want to know what other teams are doing, and want less top-down, hierarchical communication. Bureaucracy!!!

3. Many of the ABC’s processes, tools and technology don’t work effectively for its people. Obsolescence!!!

So instead of giving the ABC more money, perhaps an efficiency drive driven by a change manager could achieve the same outcomes desired by the market for far less cost. This reads like an organization that has too much fat.

To that effect, the annual report also noted:

Bureaucracy Stop was launched in March 2018 with the aim of creating a working environment with less bureaucracy and red tape. The program wrapped up three months later with 147 ideas on simplification of processes, 55 of which were resolved by the end of the financial year.Where a simplification solution wasn’t available in response to an idea, an explanation was provided as to why that process needed to remain.

What were the dollar savings for these 55 improvements?

Maybe the government should say to ABC management for every dollar saved, the ABC keeps 50c? For a broadcaster with over $1.1bn in funding, 10% of savings would mean they keep c.$60m. Morrison’s $44mn is easily covered.

Digging a bit deeper into the stats of the ABC reveals a big need for overhaul. Comparing 2017/18 and 2015/16 we see that TV audience reach for metro fell from 55.2% to 49.7% and regional slumped from 60.3% to 54.0%. If we go back to 2007/8 the figures were 60.1% and 62.4% respectively. For the 2017/18 period, the ABC targets a 50% reach. Hardly a stretch.

Since 2008, the average salary of ABC’s staff has risen 18% from $86,908 to $105,219. Total staff numbers have risen from 4499 to 4939. Therefore salaries as a percentage of the ABC revenues have risen from 37.1% of the budget to 50%. The ABC’s ability to generate sales from content has fallen from A$140mn in 2015/16 to A$46mn last fiscal year.

It is a breach of charter for the ABC to be using taxpayer dollars to advertise political messages for its own purposes. If it was managed properly it could comfortably do more with less rather than ignore the realities that improvement is required across the scale rather than chucking more money at it.

ABC Staff Engagement Survey – less than 50% engaged

The Morrison government is promising $44m in extra funding for the ABC for “enhanced news gathering” over 3 years. When will the Coalition realize that this treat will not make the ABC show any leniency in the lead up to the federal election? Did they even bother reading the ABC Staff Engagement Survey buried on page 94 of the 2017/18 Annual Report? Less than half are engaged.

The ABC conducted its second Corporation-wide employee engagement survey in late 2017. The previous survey was conducted in November 2015, with outcomes reported in the 2016 Annual Report.

The overall employee engagement score from the 2017 survey was 46%, down six points from the 2015 results. 6% down!!!!

This moved the ABC from the median to the bottom quartile when benchmarked with other Australian and New Zealand organisations. Bottom quartile!!!

Employees expressed the need for improvement in several areas, including:

• that the ABC Leadership Team needs to be more visible, accessible and communicate more openly.

that the ABC needs to do a better job of managing poor performance. Even the staff want to move duds on. A commercial spirit among the staff?

• that employees want to know what action is being taken to address feedback received in the survey.

The ABC management (no longer with us) conducted sessions on the back of the survey.

Three key priorities were identified from these sessions:

1. The way in which the ABC recruits, contracts, inducts, develops and manages its people needs a huge amount of work. Inefficiency!!!

2. More communication is needed between teams – employees want to know what other teams are doing, and want less top-down, hierarchical communication. Bureaucracy!!!

3. Many of the ABC’s processes, tools and technology don’t work effectively for its people. Obsolescence!!!

So instead of giving the ABC more money, perhaps an efficiency drive driven by a change manager could achieve the same outcomes desired by the market for far less cost. This reads like an organization that has too much fat.

To that effect, the annual report also noted:

Bureaucracy Stop was launched in March 2018 with the aim of creating a working environment with less bureaucracy and red tape. The program wrapped three months later with 147 ideas on simplification of processes, 55 of which were resolved by the end of the financial year. Where a simplification solution wasn’t available in response to an idea, an explanation was provided as to why that process needed to remain.

What were the dollar savings for these 55 improvements?

Maybe the government should say to ABC management for every dollar saved, the ABC keeps 50c? For a broadcaster with over $1.1bn in funding, 10% of savings would mean they keep c.$60m. Morrison’s $44mn is easily covered.

Digging a bit deeper into the stats of the ABC reveals a big need for overhaul. Comparing 2017/18 and 2015/16 we see that TV audience reach for metro fell from 55.2% to 49.7% and regional slumped from 60.3% to 54.0%. If we go back to 2007/8 the figures were 60.1% and 62.4% respectively. For the 2017/18 period, the ABC targets a 50% reach. Hardly a stretch.

Since 2008, the average salary of ABC’s staff has risen 18% from $86,908 to $105,219. Total staff numbers have risen from 4499 to 4939. Therefore salaries as a percentage of the ABC revenues have risen from 37.1% of the budget to 50%. The ABC’s ability to generate sales from content has fallen from A$140mn in 2015/16 to A$46mn last fiscal year.

The multicultural SBS has seen its budget grow from A$259mn in 2008 to A$412mn in 2017. SBS staff numbers have grown from 844 to 1,466 over the same period with average salaries rising from A$82,689 to A$88,267 or 7.2%. Which begs the question why is the SBS able to operate at 31% of the budget in salaries while the ABC is at 50%? Surely the ABC’s economies of scale should work in its favour? Clearly not.

Australia’s largest commercial terrestrial station, Nine Network, has 3,100 employees against revenues of $1.237bn. So to put that into context, Nine can generate c. A$400,000 per employee whereas the ABC generates A$238,168 in tax dollars per employee. In a sense the ABC could be shut down, and each employee paid $108,000 in redundancy costs annually for two years simply by selling off the land, buildings and infrastructure. The SBS generates A$281,000 in tax dollars per employee. The ABC will argue it deserves $400,000/employee revenues rather than a 46% headcount reduction to be on equal terms with the efficiency in the private sector.

Stop throwing more money at the problem and get an aggressive MD who will make a real difference. Pay him/her millions to save $100s of millions. The taxpayer deserves no less. So do over half the 5,000 employees at the ABC who are dissatisfied with the very organization which is so terribly run.

NYT hires fab new editor who hates “dumbass f*cking white people”

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Zerohedge reports that The NY Times has hired a fab new addition in Sarah Jeong to the ranks of the board of editors. It has been unearthed that 48 months ago Jeong said some pretty incendiary things about white people. From a personal standpoint as a white person, CM is not in the least bit impacted or offended by her statements. Alas it is just words and free speech. On the contrary the tweets say more about Jeong than any dumbass f*cking white people.

Was Jeong not aware that 8 of the 12 board of editors are currently white? Not that the board’s racial identity should have any bearing on disgraceful bigotry displayed by her.

The only point at stake here is whether The NY Times will defend and maintain consistent standards it would certainly hold if a white editor raged on about people of other colour. This isn’t a rally or #boycott (please no more boycotts) to get Jeong sacked. On the contrary. In free market thinking the question is whether The NY Times exercises rational judgement and sees that from a commercial perspective defending the indefensible might not be good for growing the business or encouraging a shrinking pool of paying advertisers to rent more space?

After the election of Trump, the newspaper changed its slogan to “The truth is more important now than ever.” For someone to espouse such bitter hatred so candidly in social media forums which have a half life of infinity, her truths are for all to see. The truth in The NY Times’ slogan is also on display.

How could The NY Times possibly hope to uphold the highest levels of ethics and moral high ground by defending her? In her press blurb the paper is effusive with praise citing, “Sarah has guided readers through the digital world with verve and erudition, staying ahead of every turn on the vast beat that is the internet.“ It is also quite telling that Twitter didn’t think she broke the very standards that would see conservative voices banned for far less offensive tweets.

CM wonders what the Harvard Law School has to say about its deeply talented alumni who served as Editor of the Journal of Law and Gender? Perhaps she just missed the ethics classes because she was too busy battling to make sure the correct pronouns were used in the articles on identity politics.

Lucky for The NY Times, Jeong will remain in Portland meaning should they choose to uphold the highest levels of integrity the paper won’t be required to fork out her relocation costs. CM had higher hopes for the paper. When it hired a conservative columnist in Bret Stevens there was hope that there was an attempt to seek some balance. He spoke of the vile hatred of the left in his first column. Read it here. The outcome of Jeong will speak more about The NY Times defending the side rather than the principle.

‘Hiring outside the box’ – why ‘diversity of thought’ trumps ‘diversity’

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How many times have I heard over my career senior management talk incessantly about the need for new blood yet when it comes to doing anything about it with regards to new hires 99.9% of the time the safe cookie cutter is favoured over the left field choice. It is ever more so the truth in the post GFC world. Managers seem afraid to take calculated risks because the left-field candidate may jeopardize their own positions if he/she fails. Perhaps we really should judge businesses and their long term ability to succeed by the willingness to hire outside the box.

As an example managers in finance often fall foul of hiring exclusively within the industry. The level of inferiority complex can be so overwhelming that they fawn at the idea a Goldman Sachs employee will work for them for some ridiculous sum. Invariably they forget that Goldman hires duds too and usually those that get cast off are in that bucket. If you are properly good, there is no incentive to leave Goldman as the salaries, opportunities and product capabilities are too wonderful vs peers.

Yet many financial firms set upon trying to change the firm into a wannabe Goldman Sachs. They forget that their clients can already deal with Goldman directly should they feel the urge. Why on earth would they choose to deal with a wannabe copy? Surely each firm has a unique selling property that is of value to clients. Why not invest and promote that rather than overlook the talent within. Who honestly values flattery? Besides, there are so many cautionary tales with hiring ex-bulge bracket employees who are so used to being spoon fed every possible product line that they struggle immensely when they are required to actually put elbow grease into the job. It is uncanny.

Some firms occasionally hire from outside the industry with huge success. Instead of financial analysts pontificating about a stock, someone who has worked within the industry has a far better feel for cycles, internal decision processes and strategy that formulates under different points in the cycle. Clients glean that value. They couldn’t care less about the stock target or valuation metrics because that ultimately is the investor’s job. Besides the history of brokers behind the curve is etched in stone. Unique context and perspective trumps commoditization every time.

Some financial (and other) professionals have such checkered histories that one wonders how on earth they get rehired. If companies viewed their hiring decisions as akin to selecting a heart surgeon for a life threatening operation, many of these people would never make the cut (no pun intended) given the body count from previous poor execution. Yet many firms continue to put quacks in their ‘surgeries’ with expected disastrous results. Generally hiring managers run interference on these bad choices to cover their own mistakes.

Many HR surveys (including Harvard) show that bad hires end up costing way more than the salary when the cost of onboarding is included. Not only do companies potentially have to foot the cost of a headhunter (25-30% of salary is a standard fee) , what follows is poorer output, the potential for incumbent employees to become disgruntled at the new hire’s lack of ability and most worryingly an increase in dissatisfied customers. If they land a toxic employee that can damage team productivity to such an extent the best performers will seek challenges elsewhere.

So in a world that is getting harder and harder to succeed in, on what basis does conventional thinking bring anything to the table but more of the same? What does hiring a competitor do other than bring similar tactics? In fact, the more telling question is if they were knocking the lights out their success would permeate within their current employer. Unseating happy employees requires dynamite way over and above what they can probably afford.

What hirers often forget is the extent to which internal human capital plays a part. How awful does one’s human capital creation have to be to consider jumping ship regularly? So the idea of hiring a team or individual that is desperate to flee their current employer before their failures eventually catch up with them and get them fired or demoted, has the hiring management really checked and confirmed their performances at their old shop? If they have achieved so little at the old company what on earth makes hiring managers think they can miraculously turn around at the new company? It is a serious question and I have seen it rife across a raft of industries not just finance.

That is where the left field choice comes into its own when hiring. A person genuinely looking for career change may well be doing it because they’ve tired of several decades of the same industry. They’ll likely come full of fresh ideas, out of the box solutions and lessons from a completely different background with the passion of a new graduate. For as different as many industries may seem from the outside, the connectivity with great customer experiences is ubiquitous.

Usually it is the small stuff that actually matters, not 50 page PowerPoints with data points which actually completely miss what really matters. It is almost ironic to think employees have to prove their worth by making simple things complicated.

Many companies fail to adapt because the stupid questions don’t get asked by the incumbent staff for fear of ridicule. Yet someone eager to learn may ask the most basic of questions and ask “does it work?” One company I consult had a new boss join from HQ and he questioned why staff had meetings on such trivial matters? One staff member said “we’ve been doing it this way for 15 years!” When the boss said “does it work?” all replied ‘not really“. Yet they offered little in the way of proposals to change what was broken.

In a sense I see many businesses that operate in status quo mode where change if ever happens on a trivial or traumatic basis not through consistent due diligence and proactive leadership.

Think of it like asking an elderly person “if you had one more day to live what would you do?” “Well I’d play golf, take my wife to an expensive dinner and drive a Ferrari” If you asked him “why don’t you do it now?” the response would likely be “well I’m not dead yet!”

Look at the successful businesses around the world today and invariably the corporate culture is likely to be open and flexible. Bosses are prepared to hire people more qualified than them because they want to learn. Show me a company where inferior staff are hired to protect a manager and I’ll show you a dud business.

I was fortunate enough to have lunch with an utterly inspirational CEO in the automotive field in Japan this week who has rebuilt a brand from nothing to a point where his dealers are almost biting his hand off for extra product! Why does this matter? Well pretty much all of his competitors have dealers who aren’t part of the  family! His competitors seem to treat dealers as outsiders where there is no relationship built on foundations of mutual trust. How can long term targets have any mutual meaning if the OEM forces its dealers to positions which do not take into account individual conditions. Here is a target – if you don’t meet it then we’ll keep shipping you more cars even if your business suffers!

Which then goes back to the most important ingredient in a tech savvy smartphone world. Analog relationships. Look at the latest recruitment sites which ask candidates to fill in fields where a computer will sift through algorithms to screen. These systems remove the most important skill in selecting good candidates – gut feel. A good recruiter can understand a client’s needs far better than a computer. Besides if a computer is searching for terms fixated on what you’ve done and not what you want to do it will screen you out every time. What a wasted opportunity!

Human nature is uncanny. Risk taking is inevitable but instead of most people becoming victims of change only a mere few will end up being agents of it and there will be no second guessing who dares wins! So instead of screening for the textbook definition of identity based diversity how about focus on diversity of thought!