Having read an interesting, yet seemingly obvious article written in The New Yorker, I wanted to do a quick post. The article deals generally with HR practices and I especially wanted to talk about it in light of some of the interview stories I’ve heard from my fellow, soon to be post-graduate school, colleagues. In business school (and surprisingly in one of my law school classes even) I’ve heard HR advocates talk again and again about how the Immelt’s of the world say they wish they had paid attention during their Human Resources classes as they now believe it to be the most important part of running their businesses.

Perhaps, it’s my natural leaning toward a particular kind of management style, but I’m amazed to hear the defensiveness with which these cries still need to be made. Given some of the head-scratching stories about the hiring process I hear from my classmates, I guess it has to be expected.

Ex. I wish companies would publish their hiring protocols. I would go out and short the stock every company that believe screening potential employees based on their answer to bizarre “Would you say your desk is neatly arranged organized or messy organized?” questions is an effective way of finding future organizational leaders.

In the NYer article above, the author uses the low-cost retail business segment as his battleground. Obviously, these are sales models that are highly dependent upon sales staff and employee-customer interactions. So of course hiring and compensation will directly impact sales. It’s hard to imagine, however, a business model where it’s okay to a) not care about who you pay and/or b) have those you pay feel unhappy/under-utilized.

The article finishes with some explanation that its a problem of misaligned incentives for management. Oh the irony!? To me, investing in hiring strategy and properly aligning incentive mechanisms with your company goals are endeavors that need no justification. Who can’t relate to the misery of working in a job that sucks? How different would those experiences be if in those same roles, we felt appreciated and challenged? How much better would that company be if we had actually devoted ourselves to the job? You don’t have to go out and pay your bar-back or shelf-stocker $80K a year, but don’t be surprised when you find that you’re being smoked by a firm that has spent time thinking about how to get the most out of their team.