Recalibrating Entitlement into Something Meaningful

John Roden, CIO, Brunnerworks
John Roden, CIO, Brunnerworks

John Roden, CIO, Brunnerworks

For many companies, corporate risk is identified as attrition, business loss or regulatory infractions. But perhaps the most underrated risk of them all is entitlement. Yep, I said it. It’s entitlement. It’s not a forecasted business risk, it’s the shift in attitude making finding great talent harder and more competitive to secure. The shift in attitude – with many workers wanting everything upfront without putting in the effort to learn before receiving accolades – is as destructive to businesses as a huge client loss. Perhaps more so. What happened to paying your dues? What happened to being an eternal student? What happened to patience? Let’s a take look at the current recruiting landscape.

Where we are

When interviewing a potential employee recently, I was informed he attended a two-week tech boot camp rendering him an expert on a particular piece of technology. The expectation of my company in return for that skill? Double what we were prepared to pay to bring him onboard. And this isn’t a unique situation. With many jobs looking for skilled talent, and willing to pay the price, this attitude is becoming more common. Because just as the company may feel there are other talented applicants, so too are the applicants secure in the knowledge there are plenty of other employers out there willing to pay their price. And rather than feeling like I’m pulling out all of the stops to onboard top talent, I always feel like I’m negotiating a huge multiyear contract rather than a new hire benefits package. And it all relates back to the candidate’s mindset.

Everyone deserves to be rewarded with a fair salary and benefits for a job well done. Unfortunately, we seem to be in a situation where good old expertise takes second place to rewards and fast career growth. After 40 years in this business I’ve recognized quick wins often offset the things only age and experience bring. Rather than focus on the long game, many emerging candidates are only interested in the fast track to glory, except that’s not quality work. It’s just money and benefits.

Where we should be

Ask yourself these two questions as a leader:

• If it was 20 years ago, would I feel better about delegating important tasks to my team?
• How comfortable am I letting go of critical functions now compared to years ago?

I’m betting your answers likely depend on your age. During college I was taught the value of research including a true self-assessment of my skills and areas for growth. But not just assessing them. Understanding and being honest about my shortcomings, too. This self-evaluation piece is important in many industries but critically important in technology. I review dozens of resumes and applicants each month and on many occasions, I struggle with the cost and value output of what is presented to me. It seems I’m being asked to pay high rates for low expertise. We need to flip that model on its head.

Finding the balance between dedication to work, work-life balance and value derived through a candidate’s output at work is the ideal trifecta. We’ve all had to learn to work within the new paradigm by including benefits like flex-time and work-from-home options. These approaches have actually benefitted all of us. But the time isn’t the issue; it’s the output. The quality is what constitutes effective work.

Do I want to go back to the “good old days”? Well, no. They weren’t that great. But there was a different mentality around work ethic, expertise and value, and paying your dues before higher level rewards. We need to get back to some of the basics and reposition experience as the highest accolade of them all.

How to get there

Recalibrating the attitudinal shifts abundant in today’s workplace is no small feat. But that’s what must be done. We have to stop taking the easy way out and giving a lot of responsibility to employees with grand titles but little expertise. We have to stop promoting employees before their skills are fully developed. We have to stop looking for an immediate solution ourselves and trust a patient process.

Rather than recruiting or promoting employees that just believe they can do a higher-level job with grander titles and salaries, test them to make sure they’re a good fit for the role, organization and growth structure. Instead of putting employees in a difficult position, where they’re out of their comfort zone and refuse to acknowledge it, clearly, outline their responsibilities and coach them. There is an opportunity to turn the entitlement led conversations into tight career paths and motivating performance plans. This will put more pressure on managers to become more engaged with their employees, at a time when it’s perhaps most difficult. But if you don’t, and you allow entitlement to get in the way, quality suffers, clients suffer, managers suffer and the employee struggles to grow.

I can’t help thinking spending time learning your trade, crafting skills over time, learning about yourself and your limits, paying your dues, building your expertise in a controlled way and setting your reward expectations in line with your true skill sets builds much more well-rounded, and ultimately higher value, employees. That’s what we should be aiming for.

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