This morning's news — that the recovery from the recession is weak and people still cannot find jobs — prompts this post.
Here's how to help if you are in a position of financial and/or professional strength. And how to consider your help an actual tactical step for positioning your company — and your own reputation — now and in the future.
- Recognize that if you have a friend or former colleague who's looking for work, she is vulnerable. Be positive yet candid. Do not shine her on about opportunities that are not there or how quickly you're hiring, but do remind her that you will do whatever you can to help. Then actually put some time to the task.
- Keep an eye out for what's available in your company. If you're on LinkedIn, post it to your contacts there. Spread the word.
- If someone approaches you to help him pursue an open job listing in your company, connect him and stay on top of your HR people. Keep following up with HR and stay in close touch with the applicant.
- If you're in HR, for heaven's sake, reply to phone calls and emails. Even if all you have is bad news. Even if all you can manage is a robo-email. There is nothing more disrespectful — and unkind/inhuman/rude — than ignoring people. For HR, it is nothing short of unconscionable. You are, after all, being paid to deal with a key corporate resource. And in this age of email, it is inexcusable to leave people hanging.
- If you're a marketing executive, make it company policy to be communicative, professional and kind to people who approach your company for a job. Recognize that not returning calls or following up is bad marketing. Encourage your HR people — indeed, all your people — to exhibit only the finest of manners to all who cross their paths. Some day, someone your company has rejected or ignored may be in a position to buy your products and services or influence the decision to do so. You must look at any sort of job negotiation or communication as another avenue of marketing your enterprise. I predict that once this nasty era of business is over, people your company treated well will remember it and become at least an ambassador, if not a customer.
- If you're a CEO, start hiring now. Follow the example of Howard Schultz of Starbucks. Stop looking to Washington. Make some sacrifices, because millions of your fellow citizens are living on sacrifice. Oh. And cut a few hundred thousand from your own paycheck and hire a couple of people.
- If you're a hiring executive and you know you're going to transfer someone internal into a new or open position, suspend the practice of posting the job outside the company unless you are seriously looking. You are wasting everyone's time by making people think they have a chance of employment — the candidates', HR's, yours. And tell external candidates that they have internal competition and where they rank in the queue.
- If you know someone needs cash and you have more than enough, give someone a gift. At least pick up the lunch tab. If no one in your circle is hurting, find someone who is. Ask your coworkers, your religious leader, your friends. Keep it private and put cash directly in the hands of someone who needs it.
- Be kind. It's easy, it's free, it's helpful. My mother used to be the taskmaster in one area of our school report cards: what was called "deportment," at least in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. She used to tell us that the easiest thing to do was to behave. Same principle here: the easiest thing to get right is to remember that if someone is asking you for help, he deserves your respect and attention.
The economy is in recovery. Innovation is happening, and this crash is going to help in the long run. Position your company for that long run. Even if you don't believe in karma, or you don't think it's your responsibility to help others, the very best kind of marketing for your enterprise is based in relationships. Show the world that you know relationships are key to commerce. And that you know the key to good, sustainable relationships is the personal touch.