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VOICES: Culture, the New Discrimination?


Robert Ruff joins The Chad & Cheese for another VOICES episode where they spin through topics like:

- Gaming the system with the Gig Economy

- Culture, the new Discrimination

- The 10x Rule for Work

Enjoy this Voices Series podcast from The Chad & Cheese - HR's Most Dangerous Podcast.​

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Voice Intro:

Voices. We hear them every day. Some voices, like mine, are smooth and comforting. While on the other hand, The Chad and Cheese Podcast is like listening to a Nickelback album. You'd rather stab yourself in the ears with an ice pick. Anyway, you're now listening to Voices, a podcast series from Chad and Cheese that features the most important and influential voices within the recruitment industry. Try not to fuck it up boys.

Intro:

Hide your kids, lock the doors. You're listening to HRS most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark. Buckle up boys and girls its time for the Chad and Cheese Podcast.

Chad:

Welcome back. We're picking the conversation back up with Robert Ruff, president of Sovren, industry veteran and all around smart dude.

Joel:

How does that shake out, Robert? Is there one major player for all jobs because it's very fragmented now, right? And you know Uber lost a billion plus dollars last quarter. How are they going to be profitable? Is anybody going to make money in this business from the gig economy perspective? What does this look like in five years?

Robert:

So I'm not a big proponent of the gig economy. I think the gig economy is just another exploitation of a kind of a desperate and dispossess class in general. Now, having said that, that doesn't mean that if you're driving for Uber there's something wrong with you or blah,

blah, blah. I mean, there's a lot of people that do it and are big advocates of it.

Robert:

But in general, the driver behind it is we don't know your benefits, we don't know your retirement, we can play games in some cases with the rules and how we pay you.

Joel:

They do in California. They're trying, yeah.

Robert:

Yeah, they're trying to crack down on that, but you'll notice that the day after they pass that law, Uber announced that they were not a transportation company. They were an operating system for life to try to redefine themselves out of the tentacles of the law that was passed.

Joel:

Yep.

Chad:

Have you seen Uber Works? Because what they're doing is trying to be just the apparatus for hiring through staffing.

Robert:

Correct.

Chad:

I mean, that's it. They want to get their way out of the actual human part where they actually have to treat people like people.

Robert:

So I think at the gig economy level, at the "can you show up tomorrow for a physical labor type of job" level that there is a lot of use for systems that will replace application systems.

Robert:

So a video interviewing system, which is essentially just asking you the information that would be on an application. Which I am a big proponent of that and here's why. There's a lot of people that aren't fluent enough or literate enough, let's just say literate enough, to fill out a written application in any language. It doesn't mean that they shouldn't have a job and couldn't do a great job. It just means they can't get over the application process.

Robert:

So to have a oral, chat bot interview process or whatever that is that's AI...

Joel:

A robot.

Robert:

Yeah, a robot doing that is fine for those shops. But please do not try to convince us that that is also going to replace hiring for CEOs, mid-level managers. That's just nonsense.

Joel:

Yeah.

Robert:

So when we talk about HR is being revolutionized or disrupted, which my least favorite word on earth, we forget that there's no such thing as HR. HR where? Right? So that's like the whole thing that we talk about about corporate culture. I don't believe that there is a corporate culture. I believe that your accounting department has an accounting department culture.

Robert:

I believe that your engineers over in the engineering department have their own culture and I don't believe those cultures are the same. I don't believe an accountant going and sitting with the engineers for a day, would feel like, "well this feels just like my job over there." They was be like, "wow, everything about this feels different." Right?

Robert:

So this whole idea of corporate culture as being a monolithic thing that people need to fit into. I think it's just another way to discriminate against people. Let's just say I test you and I feel like you're very extroverted and you have these following traits.

Robert:

Surely, in most companies there is a job where that is needed. Why are we trying to apply those traits as a filter for like, "oh, you don't actually fit the overall profile of the corporate culture." That's just some silly average, which obscures the fact that there's a tremendous amount of difference underneath it.

Chad:

But wouldn't you agree that, I don't want to use the word culture, some companies, their purpose is much different? And to be passionate about that specific purpose, not everybody is.

Chad:

So if you're just looking for a job and you're not passionate about building widgets or what have you, then you probably shouldn't apply, but people are going to anyway. Don't you think that is a fair assessment, somebody who really wants to dedicate their life to doing widget building?

Robert:

No, because I think you're confusing the job that you identify with that company, with the jobs the company has. So let's just say you work for Tesla. Yeah, there's a lot of people there that have this passion about changing the world and getting rid of carbon-based transportation systems and stuff like that. But there's also a lot of people there that are doing facilities maintenance that all they really care about is facility maintenance. They don't have to buy into the overall vision of the company. They're not actually changing. They don't need to fit into that quote, "vision and culture" in order to be a valuable part of that company. There is a slot for everybody if we'll just quit pretending that everybody needs to fit into one monolithic culture.

Joel:

And do companies that have that goal, are they making a mistake? We talked to quite a few chief-whatever officers that talk about "what is your why," like what is your company purpose. And if a person doesn't fit into that, they don't get hired.

Joel:

So is your sort of theory that companies are overthinking culture and overthinking their "why" when they shouldn't be, they should just be hiring people that can do the job?

Robert:

So yeah, I would agree with that. I think that they are really just in a news form of hire people like me that I'm comfortable with. And let's admit that your culture may be great, but it might be able to be much greater. Your culture may be great today and completely inappropriate tomorrow.

Robert:

So I think what we're doing is we're building in the future to look like the past by too much of this, analyze who we are today and cement that into what we're going to be tomorrow.

Joel:

Interesting. And how does the hiring of robots impact so much of that? Like Chad and I talked about a story. How many workers at Amazon, Chad? 100,000 they're going to hire in the next three months or something.

Chad:

They hired 100,000 in the last three months and they have over 750,000 now.

Joel:

And these are the warehouse, probably automated folks in the near future. That's just one company. What's robotics' impact on this whole hiring workforce thing?

Robert:

Well I think it's crowding out jobs for people that don't have a lot of other job opportunities, unfortunately. A lot of times people that are working in a warehouse don't have the mobility to say, "well, you know what, that's over here. I used to do that. I got replaced by a robot. I think I'll pick up and move 800 miles to this other town."

Chad:

Yeah, not happening.

Robert:

It's just not happening. So at the risk of being the least liked man in America, I would say that I think that this is why we need a more socialist society as we move into more automation. So either all the benefits are going to flow to the 1% of the 1%.

Joel:

Are you going to say universal basic income?

Chad:

Dude, that was my next question, shut up.

Joel:

Oh, damn it.

Robert:

I don't have an answer to it. But there's a lot of approaches to it. We criticize France all the time as Americans. We kind of forget the fact that if it weren't for the French coming over and helping us win the revolution we still would be a colony of Britain.

Joel:

It's true.

Robert:

We want to act like they're cowards, but even though they saved our bacon. But if you look at what they do in France, it's basically illegal to work too hard. You can work smart and you can work hard, but you can't work too long. And that actually makes a lot of sense. So do we want to be competing against people that are willing to distort their personal lives and hurt their families by working 80 and 100 hour weeks? Not really.

Joel:

And it's great for the beverage and tobacco businesses too from my time in France.

Robert:

Yes.

Joel:

A lot of times sitting around smoking and drinking.

Chad:

What about Japan? So we see Microsoft brings in three-day weekends, a four-day work week and they're seeing a 40% productivity increase. So I mean, just what you're saying, and what we've seen not to mention also in Australia where I believe they have the longest sabbaticals that anywhere on earth does, but yet they're still getting great performance and productivity out of their people. Why is it here in the US, this kind of stuff gets laughed at when it actually makes us happier? I don't get it.

Robert:

Yeah. It makes us happier and it actually makes us more productive. So in Sovren, we don't have any offices and we don't have any paper that we file. So it's a completely virtual company. Everybody works out of their house where they are and everything happens electronically.

Chad:

Nice. Nice.

Robert:

Well we had an employee that we hired from one of our competitors and he was just working himself to death. I mean, we could not get him to work more productively and less hours. And finally we had to impose some pretty draconian things. We literally took a lot of his tools that he was using to overwork away from him.

Chad:

All right, I see you're using this over here to help you do your job too much. Okay, and this is going away.

Robert:

Yes, correct, correct. So we had built this really large prospecting tool for him at his request and when we saw how he was using it, we were like, no, no, no, no. So we took the tool away from him and we just had some really intensive training that we want the 40 most productive hours out of your week. I don't care when they are, but I want the most productive 40 hours. And by the way, if you'll give us the most productive 40 you'll actually perform better than when you give us your burned out 80.

Chad:

Yeah.

Joel:

Yeah.

Robert:

That's a fact. People need to get disconnected from work. They need to take time off. They need to have real vacations. And when we don't do that, we're operating at a very low level of productivity and innovation compared to what we would be if we allowed ourselves to recharge. It's just like a battery that never gets back above 40%. It goes down to 2, we plug it in, we don't have time, got to go somewhere else, it's now at 38. We just never run on 100 in this country because we run too hard, too much.

Joel:

I recently read about a company that at 5:30, the lights go off, like you have to go home. Which I think is great because people think, oh, if I stay longer then it looks like I'm working harder, blah, blah, blah.

Chad:

Right. Well, we actually heard... We were doing an interview and before that we're talking about going to France and the interview, he actually said, oh, yeah, I was there about a year ago and we were meeting in their office and that's when they said they turn the lights off at 5:30 because everybody had to go home. They pushed everybody out of the office because it was time to go enjoy your life.

Joel:

Yeah, which is probably government ordered.

Robert:

The first time I worked in Paris, I worked at one of our customers headquarters in Paris and I'm there at about, I don't know, maybe 4:30 in the afternoon and I am literally sitting across a table talking to a guy, we're having conversation and while I am talking, he puts his stuff in the backpack, puts it on his back and walks out the door. Never says a word. [crosstalk 00:12:30] and I looked over and I asked the only other person there, I'm like, "I'm not really sure what happened is he coming back?" And he's like, "no, we're done for the day." I'm like, "okay."

Chad:

We'll pick this up tomorrow.

Joel:

Why wouldn't he mentioned that as he's walking out. That seems really odd to me.

Chad:

You should have known you dumb American.

Joel:

You may have said something to tick him off.

Robert:

I might've said something to tick them off or maybe I should have shut up for some time in the hour before. I did tell you that I was talking when he walked out. But I don't know. It's a

different mindset.

Robert:

To my father's credit, he used to tell me all the time when he saw me working too hard in the family business, he's like, "go home. There's no end of work, just make it end. Go home."

Chad:

So that is part of Sovren's culture though, right? So to say that it's not a part, it is. You actually made somebody stop working. So it's a part of your culture and if people don't fit in, you just take stuff away from them or they just don't work out, right? Because they don't work out.

Robert:

Well, part of our culture is we're not going to micromanage you. And you can't impress us by how much work you do. You can only impress us by how you add value to the company.

Joel:

Yeah.

Robert:

Which is different than how much work you can do. We want the smartest work, not the most work. So we're knowledge workers. At least we like to tell ourselves, we do genius-level work. We do some of the hardest AI there is, you know this White Box stuff and I cannot have burned out people or people that are hungover or whatever. So if you're hungover today, please don't feel like you have to work. We don't want that eight hours out of you. Maybe two at the end of the day would be fine. I don't know.

Joel:

I think you just blew my mind.

Robert:

It's not going to be a productive eight hours. We want the best 40 hours, most productive, 40 hours out of your week. And the cool thing is about being in the software business is if you only hire the top 2%, Steve Jobs is the one that first popularized this concept, he'd call it the 10X.

Robert:

He said you could put Steve Wozniak in an office and put 10 other engineers down the street in another office and at the end of the year, Steve had done 10 times what the other one's had done by himself. There's this idea that yes, a guy that paints a house cannot be 10 times more productive than another painter, but a person doing software at the highest level can be 10 times more productive.

Robert:

In fact, Jeff Bezos said about a year and a half ago, he thought the very, very top coders were a thousand times more valuable than the average coder.

Joel:

Wow.

Robert:

And why more people don't seize on that's how you really add value in IT is not by having average. You can have great people that you pay multiples of the average and get multiples of that out of them. They're the cheapest people you have, even though you're paying them way above market.

Chad:

Because the 10 times rule.

Robert:

Correct. So you pay him twice market and you get 10 times. You're five times ahead. I learned this the hard way. So in 2006, I hired a whole bunch of new employees all at one time and they were average people and capabilities and skills and background and we paid them average salaries.

Robert:

And at the end of the year, on average, we didn't get anything done. It was the least productive year in the company's history. I don't really want to tell the rest of that story.

Chad:

Look for more episodes of Voices, this Chad and Cheese podcast series devoted to stories and opinions of industry leaders. Subscribe on iTunes, Google Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts so you don't miss a single show. For more, visit chadcheese.com.

#VOICES #RobertRuff #Culture #Discrimination #Work #GigEconomy #Economy

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