April 27, 2022

Sabir x Steve Cadigan


As the news channels keep reminding us, we’re living in a “new normal” right now, and it has initiated some significant and positive changes in the business world.

Employees are working from home, brands are thinking out of the box, and many companies are benefiting from an increase in traffic and revenue.

The pandemic has been devastating for the world on the whole. It has left its mark in a destructive and unforgettable way, but now that it’s winding down, it’s time to escape the darkness and make the best of it.

Steve Cadigan is a recruitment expert who teaches businesses how to do just that, covering topics such as:

  • Embracing the New Normal: As catastrophic as the pandemic has been and as scary as the changes are, there is some positivity to be found here, including the fact that more people are willing to work from home. Cadigan recommends embracing these changes and using them as the catalyst for transformation.
  • New Ideas: If you’re entering a sector that’s swamped with tradition and rigid rules, you may be forced to limit your creativity and place restrictions on yourself. To experience real growth, you need to think like a new business entering a new market—there’s no one telling you what you can and can’t do and no traditions to follow.
  • Think Creatively: Although staff retention is important, sometimes it holds businesses back and prevents them from making the changes that need to be made. Sometimes, employees leave. It happens no matter how hard you try to prevent it. You just have to accept that.

You can learn more about all of these strategies in the following guide and video. Make sure you read to the end, where you will find Cadigan’s $100,000 advice for business owners and recruiters.

It could be just what you need to hear if you’re struggling with recruiting.

#ThisWeekWithSabir Video Interview & Audio Podcast Experience

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Embracing The New Normal In A Post-Pandemic World

If 2020 and 2021 could be condensed into a single word, one that was used the most and describes the most, it would be “unprecedented” (although “shitshow” would get pretty close as well).

If you were asked to use several words, “the new normal” would be one of the frontrunners.

For a time, you couldn’t turn on the TV or radio without hearing those three words, and that remains true today, many months after the world first locked down.

“The new normal” can mean a lot of different things for a lot of different people.

It references the fact that we all now accessorize with face masks and hand sanitizer, as well as the fact that we’re not as tactile or open as we once were. But if you’re a business owner or recruiter, it means something else entirely.

“The new normal” is a reference to the fact that people are more willing to work from home and companies are more open to letting them.

It’s something that Steve Cadigan knows all too well, and while many companies are searching for ways to end this “new” normal and return to the “regular” normal, Cadigan argues that we should be embracing it and moving forward.

Steve Cadigan works in talent management and helps companies through expert recruitment strategies. He builds strong teams that are ready for growth, and if you’re struggling to find the right people for your business, his methods could be just what you need.

In this week’s episode of This Week With Sabir, Cadigan talks about his strategies and methods, highlighting the good, bad, and ugly of recruitment and looking forward to a brighter future.

Take a look below for our full video. For maximum coverage, you can read the accompanying article as well, as I’ll cover all of the same topics and a few more, fleshing out Cadigan’s amazing ideas.

New Businesses And New Ideas

How many times have you been restrained because of traditions? How many times have you been told “We don’t do that in this industry”? As if those words should force you to take a step back, rethink, and adopt a different approach?

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash
Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

I recently spoke with an author friend of mine who had a fantastic idea for a book and a PR campaign. He had everything worked out and it was fantastic. He impressed his friends (many of whom were marketers and business owners) and we all wished him the best as he prepared a proposal for his publisher.

A week later, I asked him how things were going, fully expecting him to tell me that he had signed a new contract and had been given a blank check.

“They rejected it,” he told me. “They said that they’d never done anything like it before.”

That was it. The only excuse they offered. He actually showed me the correspondence and they were baffled. It wasn’t a case of, “This is original—it’s amazing”. Instead, it was, “We’ve never done this before. Are we even allowed?”

Two months later, he submitted a basic proposal lacking any marketing additions or flair, and they accepted it. They “loved it”, apparently, even though it was probably the same as everything else they published that year.

You see the same things happening in other industries and it’s a travesty. They’re scared of change, they’re scared of doing anything new, and so they stick with what they know.

If you’re a new company in a new industry, you don’t have those restraints.

You can’t look up because there’s no one above you. As a result, you’re not forced to abide by strict rules and follow long-cemented traditions. You afford yourself more freedom, take bigger risks, and try to break the mold.

But you can adopt the same approach even if you’re in an industry with a long tradition and a set of rigid rules. Just look at Magic Spoon, a company that succeeded because it was original and unique, even though it was part of an old sector that was set in its ways.

The founders weren’t part of the cereal industry, and that gave them the freedom they needed.

It’s something that all new businesses can learn from because true innovation is only possible when you see things from a fresh perspective.

If you think outside of the box, don’t stay within the constraints of your industry, and hire people who are hard-working and innovative without necessarily being from that industry, you can reap the same benefits.

The Importance Of Being Human

Everything is about tech and analytics these days, but the whole point of that tech is to enrich our lives; the point of those analytics is to find better connections with consumers and employees.

Photo by Andriyko Podilnyk on Unsplash
Photo by Andriyko Podilnyk on Unsplash

It’s a point that Steve Cadigan has pushed for many years now. His book, WorkQuake, is about finding the human connection and creating the emotional and social experiences that we crave.

Your employees and your customers are not just numbers in an Excel sheet. They’re more than your CPA and ROAS metrics, and their experiences go much deeper than staff turnover rates.

It’s important to focus on the human connection when trying to grow your business.

Metrics are important and they can definitely help. But there’s much more to a business than numbers and graphs.

New Energy And New Ideas

High turnover rates are a problem for many businesses, but as Steve Cadigan argues, sometimes that’s a good thing.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

The industries and regions with the highest turnover rates are also the ones with the most innovation, including Silicon Valley, where it’s one of the highest in the United States.

The turnover rates are high because they’re constantly evolving and changing. It doesn’t mean that the businesses aren’t training their employees enough or doing enough to retain them, it just means that those companies are no longer what they were when those employees first joined.

Imagine that you join a small bakery run by a friendly married couple.

Every morning you open the doors, receive the delivery of raw ingredients, and make fresh bread. When the shop opens, you split your time between managing customers and baking sweet treats, and at the end of your shift, you clean up, chat with the owners, and lock the doors.

But the business doesn’t stay small for long.

It grows and expands. Before you know it, you’re now the head baker and the store is part of a massive chain. You spend all of your days baking bread and delegating all other tasks. The enjoyment has been sucked out of the job and you’re basically just a breadmaking machine.

Would you stay? Or would you look for a job with more responsibility and more variety?

Probably the latter, and that’s not the only issue.

In Silicon Valley, many of the best employees are headhunted while the most talented ones leave to start their own businesses.

You also have to consider the life events that can force people to change their professions. They suffer bereavements that force them to take stock of their lives. They get married, have kids. Sometimes, they just get bored and want a change of career while other times, world events like the recent pandemic force a change upon them.

The point is that you can’t really legislate for any of this as a business owner. Employees will leave, and you need to accept that.

In Your Shoes

A number of years ago, I managed a company (technically a division of a company) that had between 400 and 500 workers. I was fortunate in that I was heavily backed by the CEO and owner and was given a great degree of freedom.

Photo by Drew Coffman on Unsplash
Photo by Drew Coffman on Unsplash

One of the things that I implemented was the In Your Shoes Program.

Of the 22 days that they worked every month, 1 was devoted to switching their role and doing another job within the company—literally experiencing life in someone else’s shoes.

If you’re a writer, go and sit with the web developer for a day. If you’re in distribution, try your hand at sales.

It’s a technique that can work wonders and one I would recommend for all business types.

They weren’t assuming complete control and they still knew what they were doing.

It’s not about giving the nursing assistant a scalpel, pointing them to the anesthetized patient, and telling them to figure it out. It was about giving them a structured, ordered, and controlled role that was completely different from their own and allowed them to understand how the company operates on multiple levels.

In the hospital analogy, it’s more of a “surgery drive along”.

They don’t get their hands dirty (or bloody, as the case may be) and they don’t place lives at risk, but by the end of the day, they will have a greater understanding of what those surgeons do and will respect them more as a result. They may even decide that they want to become surgeons themselves.

Other businesses have adopted similar strategies, and some (including Spotify) have taken it to the extreme, insisting that employees can’t assume the exact same role for more than 2 or 3 years.

Employees Need To Learn And Be Stimulated

Traditionally, businesses have seen workers as cogs in a machine, but that’s not how you keep employees on your side and in your team.

Photo by Chris Benson on Unsplash
Photo by Chris Benson on Unsplash

One of the greatest discoveries in the 20th century was the assembly line.

Workers would assume a single highly skilled role and adopt that role as part of an assembly line. It meant that huge numbers of cars could be rolled off the assembly line and out of the factory, and it helped to kickstart the automotive age.

In theory, it’s a great method for running a factory and a business in general, but it’s heavily flawed.

If your only job is to take something off a line, make a few additions, and then place it back on the line, you’re going to get pretty sick of your career and your life.

After a few months, you’ll be ready to quit and desperate for an alternative option. Factories remedy this issue by rotating their employees, but they still have high turnover rates as not everyone is prepared to do the work.

As a business owner, you need to remember that employees are not just numbers and ideals. You can’t just assume that a skilled writer will be happy to write mindless Facebook posts all day or that a skilled designer is a content with an endless succession of banner ads and brochures.

Employees need freedom and stimulation. They need to enjoy what they do and get a sense of achievement from it.

If you move that writer onto more complex copy, teach them about design, and ask them to come up with their own ideas, they’ll be more likely to stick around. If you teach that designer new skills and get them excited about new roles, they’ll be happy to come to work in the morning.

Many employers are worried about over-teaching their employees. They fear that teaching them new skills will cause them to jump ship and go in search of bigger and better jobs. Sure, that might happen, but they are just as likely to leave because they are bored and unstimulated.

A 30-something university-educated man is less likely to be accepted at a fast-food chain than an 18-year-old kid fresh out of high school.

The restaurant knows that the 30-something employee will leave as soon as something better comes along. They know there’s a good chance they’re already looking for other jobs and will continue looking. They also know that the money they pay and the opportunities they provide won’t mean much to that person and will always be seen as a stepping-stone.

On the flip side, minimum wage means more to an 18-year-old, as does the promise of free fast food. They can train that teenager, dazzle them with hopes of a future supervisor/managerial role, and keep them at the restaurant for years. As a result, all of that training won’t go to waste, and they don’t need to look for a replacement in a few months.

It makes for some very awkward job interviews, as you have super knowledgeable and educated adults who basically try to convince interviewers that they love the restaurant and have always wanted to work there, even though they’re only thinking about the paycheck and will leave as soon as they can.

Chipotle is a little different, though. It knows that it’s a stepping-stone.

Chipotle will happily embrace employees—young and old—and teach them what they need to know. If they leave, so be it, but if they want to stick around, there will be opportunities for them to do so.

Chipotle’s model works well because it’s honest and means they are more likely to attract a wide range of applicants. It also means that they will be recommended by those applicants.

Most of the time, if someone tells you that they used to work at a fast-food restaurant, they follow that by saying, “I haven’t eaten there since, and I would never work there again”. They warn you away, and in doing so, they reduce the potential applicants available to that chain.

But with Chipotle’s model, employees are more likely to leave happy and to recommend the employer to all of their friends and family members.

As Steve Cadigan notes, if you’re struggling to attract employees, you don’t have a recruiting problem, you have a creativity problem.

The problem is that you’re not thinking creatively and you’re not trying to make those human connections. You’re adopting a strict and rigid approach—you’re being less like Chipotle and more like the other fast-food chains.

The $100,000 Question

Don’t go back to the way things were and embrace change.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

That was Steve Cadigan’s advice—his answer to the $100,000 question.

The pandemic has forced us to find new and creative ways to keep our employees happy, and for the most part, those methods are working.

We just need to keep it that way.

For more information on successfully managing your team and using it to grow your business, check out Art of Scaling a Business with Habib Salo.

About Steve Cadigan

Steve Cadigan is a highly sought-after talent advisor to leaders and organizations across the globe. He speaks regularly to conferences and major universities around the world and is regularly retained by Silicon Valley’s top VCs for his talent expertise. Steve is frequently asked to appear on TV and is a regular guest on Bloomberg West and CNBC.

Prior to launching his own firm, Steve worked as an HR executive for over 25 years at a wide range of top-tier companies including ESPRIT, Allianz, Cisco Systems, Electronic Arts, and capped by serving as the first CHRO for LinkedIn from 2009 through 2012.

His culture work at LinkedIn led Stanford to build a case study for their business school. Today Steve serves on the Board of Directors to three companies and sits on the Advisory Board of several others. In the summer of 2021 Steve published his first book: Workquake- Embracing the Aftershocks of COVID-19 to Create a Better Model of Working and even before its official release it hit #1 on the Amazon list of Hot New Releases. He holds a BA in History from Wesleyan and an MA in HROD from the University of San Francisco.
Visit Steve Cadigan on the Web: stevecadigan.com.

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