During this time of year, many holiday traditions and folk tales come to mind. One of the most instantly recognized and popular figures of Christmas folklore is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The tale of this loveable, but often undervalued and maligned young buck has been recounted by generations of Americans for 75 years. People throughout the U.S. love to celebrate the legend of how the seemingly meager and shunned Rudolph eventually grew into an irreplaceable force on Santa’s reindeer sleigh team.
The message in Rudolph’s journey offers a lot of merit. There are lessons from his story that can be applied in the workplace. On the diamond anniversary of this holiday classic, it is important for HR managers to identify any Rudolphs at their workplaces. What is more, employers should make sure that they have implemented the policies, practices and resources required to cultivate the unrecognized assets, or Rudolphs, of their organizations.
Employers need to address the following three things in order to ensure that they are discovering and properly developing their own Rudolphs:
- During every hiring cycle, employers typically attract a wide variety of job applicants. In some situations, there may be an applicant who stands out due to their distinctive sense of style, physical appearance or way of communicating. Like Rudolph, they could even conspicuously stand out as “different” based on palpable attribute.
- The traditional, often unspoken, protocol in hiring practices has been to summarily disregard candidates that do not meet certain appearance standards.
- Under current employment law, employers still have a broad license to make hiring decisions based on appearance. This past March, the National Law Review reported “existing jurisprudence does not automatically prohibit appearance-based discrimination in the workplace. No comprehensive state or federal law prohibits an employer from making adverse employments decisions when an employee or prospective employee is too heavy or too thin, revealing unconventional body art, or is generally unattractive.”
- However as industries and workplace cultures have evolved, employers are increasingly realizing that they may be foolishly rejecting valuable candidates based on an outdated premise. Even though a job candidate’s appearance, or ability to verbalize their thoughts, may seem a bit unorthodox, they may bring an undetected devotion to the advertised job.
- Any employer who chooses to establish their own employment screening program, needs to incorporate this philosophy into their hiring process.
- Visier Founder and CEO John Schwarz recently told Business News Daily, “it’s easy to write off candidates based on their appearance, but it’s more important to consider how well they can do the job and if they’re a good fit in other ways.”
- Originally, no one, including Santa, comprehended Rudolph’s future ability to guide the reindeer sleigh. They had rushed towards an unfair judgment about the young buck based on his appearance. As an employer, you want to be sure that you are not making the same mistake.
- Workplace bullying
- Throughout Rudolph’s story, he is repeatedly bullied by his peers over his shiny red nose. The inherent value of his peculiar trait is overlooked by both his fellow cervidae and Santa. In fact, Rudolph is mocked and estranged from the team. The popular song, which came out 10 years after the Montgomery Ward Company first published Rudolph’s story, exclaimed:
- “All of the other reindeers
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games”
- Similar to our artiodactylian friend of Christmas folklore, some people are often alienated in workplaces over what is unfairly perceived as an idiosyncratic characteristic or personal trait. What is more, their colleagues’ oppressive obsession with this unique quality can easily overshadow the person’s true value and talents. Even worse, a herd mentality can develop that further exacerbates a hostile work environment. Under these conditions, no one’s unknown skills or talents can be allowed to flourish.
- Workplace bullying is an issue that has existed in organizations for decades. Up until the last few years, it continued to slowly germinate the American workplace landscape without much public initiative being taken to address the issue. By the beginning of this decade, it had grown into what executive coaching expert Ray Williams described in Psychology Today as “a silent epidemic”.
- A recent study by Vital Smarts showed that 96 percent of people say that they have been subjected to bullying in the workplace. If the problem is truly this pervasive and pernicious, than in all likelihood it is stifling the talent segment that goes unnoticed in even the healthiest of work environments.
- There are several things employers can do to target eliminating episodes of bullying at their workplace. By establishing a background screening program, that includes criminal background checks, employers can limit their chances of hiring or retaining workers who relish preying on assailable colleagues.
- In addition, The Network’s General Manager for Training and Communications Strategy Julie Moriarty lately described to CIO how organizations need to have an ethics officer, or an independent “team of ethics and compliance specialists”, who can make objective decisions about disciplinary measures around bullying. She also explained the importance having a clearly defined reporting process that is spelled out to every employee.
- These types of measures will empower the unfettered Rudolphs in your workplace to let their talents come to fruition.
- Reevaluate Your HiPo program
- One of the most frustrating incidents of Rudolph’s journey occurs when he reaches adolescence. He tries to participate in the Reindeer Games with the hopes of being selected to get trained to pull Santa’s sleigh. Yet after his shiny nose is discovered, he is no longer allowed to “join in any reindeer games.”
- Rudolph’s potential strengths to the team are completely misunderstood and unfairly unconsidered. In truth, the evaluation process at the Reindeer Games is flawed, and its formula for appraising potential is awry.
- Over the last few decades, many organizations have dedicated resources towards creating and advancing high-potential (HiPo) programs.
- In their report titled The Pearls and Perils of Identifying Potential, researchers Rob Silzer and Allan Church documented how an increasing number of organizations had implemented HiPo programs over the last 20 years. In 1994, they reported that 42 percent of the 21 major corporations that they surveyed had HiPo programs. By 2008, they found that 100% of the 20 major corporations that they surveyed reported having a HiPo program.
- Likewise, recent research conducted by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) found that 68 percent of organizations had increased their investments in HiPo programs since 2012.
- But many HiPo programs are not implemented or managed properly. In certain cases, some organizations may be placing too much weight on poor predictors of potential. They are likely overlooking the Rudolphs of their organizations who possess other underutilized critical attributes that make them promising HiPo candidates.
- Earlier this year, the CEB’s Robert Morgan explained why many HiPo programs have proven to be ineffective. His post served as a complimentary piece to CEB’s HR Guide to Identifying High-Potentials and its accompanying infographic. Morgan emphasized the additional criteria that organizations frequently fail to look for when identifying and selecting HiPo candidates.
- And, he further stressed the importance of using vital hard data on HiPo candidates during the intake process. This is a practice numerous organizations fail to do in their HiPo programs. As a result, they presumably end up improperly assessing any Rudolphs that they employ based strictly on anecdotal observation.
- The CEB’s Improving the Odds of Success for High-Potential Programs report found “only one in three organizations use hard assessment data to identify employees” for their HiPo programs. And that 46 percent of organizations do not have any type of “systematic process” in place to identify and develop their HiPo candidates.
- The aforementioned report also explained how most organizations have not even adopted a clear definition of “potential.” It showed that two-thirds of companies are misidentifying their HiPos.
- So it would be quite easy to surmise, given all of this research, that the Rudolphs of most workplaces are overpassed for development opportunities.
Disclaimer Statement: All information presented is for information purposes only and is not intended to provide professional or legal advice regarding actions to take in any situation.