Kobe the Mentor

I live in Los Angeles and the city is still coming to grips with the death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and 7 others in a helicopter crash.  Like most humans, he left a complicated legacy.  His included: Championship basketball player, accused rapist, entrepreneur, a selfish driven competitor, devoted father, philanthropist, Academy Award winner, and mentor.  LA is a city of rediscovering and remaking yourself, and we gave Kobe that opportunity.

On the basketball court, he was more like Michael Jordan (his idol), but in his brief second act, Magic Johnson comes to mind.  Kobe knew that during his basketball career he could learn things that would help him for the next 40 years of his life and he prepared for that as he would for any opponent—with relentless determination.  In this forum, I want to talk about how he mentored others.

Kobe’s passion was his craft.  He wanted to dominate each opponent and play the game better than anyone.  This approach did not lend itself to friendship on the court, or sometimes even in his own locker room.  But, in the latter stage of his career and after he retired, Kobe wanted other talented players to try to achieve what he did.  His last public tweet was congratulating another player eclipsing him on the all-time scoring list.

He was particularly interested in reaching out to players (male and female, college and professional, basketball and other sports) who had suffered career threatening injuries.  He would recommend doctors, talk about his approach to rehabbing, and instill in them the confidence that they could recover and succeed.  You can go online and read the testimonials from all kinds of people he directly impacted in this way.  He wanted the best players to love basketball as much as he did so they could make the game better.

Kobe’s second act shows us that great mentorship is more than providing knowledge and advice.  Great mentors excite our passion and challenge us to be the best we can be.  We can look for those who do that for us.  And, like Kobe would want, we can be the ones who lights the fire for others.

Adjusting Your HR Strategy When Your Company Decides to Train For Basic Job Skills

There is a presumption that the US education system will provide employers with workers that possess requisite job skills.  Companies are then responsible for providing more advanced ones through apprenticeships, job training, and leadership development.  But, what if job seekers do not possess the skills for tech jobs?

This article describes what lengths some employers are going to get people in their talent pipeline.  In many ways, there is nothing new here.  It comes down to searching for talent where they previously hadn’t and providing training rather than expecting people to come with skills.  It’s the latter that I find most interesting.

When designing selection programs, particularly for entry level positions, we tend to focus on what knowledge or skills the candidates needs on the first day.  Those expectations are higher if we expect someone to come with experience than if we are going to be providing a lot of training.  This has important impacts on how we select candidates, including:

  1. Use of aptitude tests rather than knowledge tests.  Aptitude tests are terrific measures of basic skills and are quite valid.  However, speeded ones can lead to adverse impact, so they require good validation studies, meaningful passing scores, and adverse impact analyses.
  2. Alter interview questions so that a wide variety of experiences can be used to answer them.  If you are hiring people who don’t have experiences in your industry, you should be asking valid questions that people with little or no job experience can answer.  For instance, instead of, “Tell me about a time when you led a team project at work and…” use “Tell me about a time when you had to influence a group of friends and…”
  3. Focus on reducing turnover.  Training is EXPENSIVE, so hiring mistakes in a boot camp environment are very costly.  Take special care in developing realistic job previews and other ways that allow candidates to decide if they are not a good fit.  Collect information (previous experiences, referral sources, school majors, etc.) that may be indicative of future turnover and validate them.  These can be part of very useful pre-employment processes.

What this approach really presents is a change in HR strategy from one that relies on people to be able to start on day one to taking time to get them up to speed.  By having recruitment, selection, and development leaders involved in the execution, organizations can adapt their tactics for identifying and selecting talent and have a smoother transition.

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