What Does A $10 Toaster Have To Do With Your HR Strategy?

© frank peters - Fotolia.com
© frank peters - Fotolia.com

Editor’s note: The TLNT Radio show is a weekly podcast where we talk to the top minds in talent management. New episodes are posted here at TLNT every week. Make sure you subscribe to TLNT and get our daily newsletter for the latest, or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes to automatically get updates. 

If you walk into a friend or family member’s kitchen, the first thing you notice probably isn’t their toaster. In fact, in most cases, it is probably a ubiquitous part of their kitchen. It is likely a white or black plastic or maybe a flimsy stainless steel. It probably matches the rest of your appliances in the kitchen and on a day-to-day basis, you probably hardly notice it.

So what does that have to do with HR strategy?

NBA labor woes and the HR connection

This week, I had the opportunity to catch up with Steve Boese, one of the original people who helped put together the TLNT Radio show.

We started off talking about the NBA labor woes and the possibility of a locked out season. As someone who is willing to dabble into the occasional sports analogy or story to create an HR lesson, both Steve and I find very little to learn from the negotiations taking place right now. Even if the labor disagreement is the most relevant thing to what HR deals with, there aren’t too many comparisons. For example, how many businesses and unions could easily withstand the suggestion of a year off from doing business?

There are probably many more lessons from the recent autoworker negotiations that were finalized this month. The reality of having any significant work stoppage in this environment has made unions and businesses much more willing to come to the table, even if it is with the idea that they will be pushing for more at the next meeting.

The toaster, HR connection

For those who may be less than enamored with sports will be pleased to know we moved on quickly to talk about the connection between the devolution of toasters and HR and technology, a post Boese recently wrote on Fistful of Talent:

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For most of us, the ‘perfect’ piece of toast from the Toastmaster 1B14 isn’t really all that much better or more memorable than the ‘just average’ piece of toast that the ten-buck machine can fairly reliably spit out.

And whether it’s a hiring or internal talent management decision, an allocation of scarce leadership development funds, access to mentoring time from busy senior executives, or the tough decisions that we make around workforce technology purchases – we have to make these ‘perfect vs. good enough’ trade-offs all the time, even if we don’t want to and even when we don’t like to admit that’s what we are actually doing.

Is a $10 dollar toaster good enough for most people? Sure. But most people don’t delude themselves in thinking that they are making the best toast in the world either with it.

To the larger point, it is fine to make investments (or divestments) in areas of the company. But let’s not pretend you have a “world-class workforce” when you pay below median in every critical position at your company. Or if you haven’t kept up on the most recent updates to your HRIS system, let’s not pretend that the decision has no impact either.

We also talk about the importance of knowing about “good enough” processes and technology, especially when it comes to HR. It was a fascinating discussion and we were glad Boese could make it back on the show again.

[buzzsprout episode=”34317″ player=”true”]


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