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  • Writer's pictureLacy Starling

#39: Lifetime Employment

A few nights ago, I was reading Simon Sinek's Leaders Eat Last, and, like all his books and talks and presentations, it gave me a lot to think about. But one concept really stuck out to me—the idea of Lifetime Employment. One of the companies he profiled in that book had a policy that anyone they hired had a job for life. The only way you could get fired was if you violated their moral and ethical code. Otherwise, once you were in, you were IN. (You could obviously choose to leave—this isn't a horror movie setup, I promise.)

Mind. Blown.

At first, of course, as someone who has run a business with turnover (most sales businesses have turnover, right?), I marveled at how that would work. Wouldn't you be stuck with duds? But then, as I thought more deeply, I realized, if you got stuck with a dud, that was your fault. Knowing that someone you hire is gonna be around forever would, I assume, put more pressure on the hiring process. Gone would be the days of "what the hell, we'll give this person a chance and if they don't work out, we can always get rid of them."

Instead, you'd live in a world where the consequences of your hiring decisions would be much more long-lived, and you'd have to be REALLY REALLY REALLY sure that the person you were hiring was the right one. And if they didn't immediately live up to your expectations, you would be committed to doing the kind of coaching many managers avoid because it is a lot of WORK to get an under-performer up to par. This company did not tolerate mediocre performance, either, so managers were strongly incentivized to not only select the right candidates, but to grow them as well.

This company noticed another benefit, too, one that I hadn't thought of. Employees, knowing they would not be arbitrarily fired, were MUCH more likely to ask for help, admit mistakes and seek assistance on issues before they became critical. The openness of the process allowed this company to provide much better customer service because people didn't live with the threat of termination hanging over them all the time. The loyalty the company demonstrated engendered loyalty in return.

It is an interesting concept, and one that I intend to put to work at my own business, and recommend to my clients. The focus, determination and weight of knowing that your hires are truly permanent would do wonders to help many companies' hiring processes.

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