This was originally published in Linkedin Pulse on May 10. 2015
I remember the original movie of, “The Producers.” Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel were the leads in this hysterical movie that no one saw at the time. The accountant (Wilder) and the producer (Mostel) realized that a Broadway show producer could make more money if the show was a flop by overselling shares in the show and having it close immediately to awful reviews. They are betrayed by their choice of plays, “Springtime for Hitler,” a play so bad it is good.
Eventually, “The Producers,” was remade into a successful musical on Broadway and into a movie with Nathan Lane in the Mostel role and Matthew Broderick in the Wilder role ad that is where we pick up this story.
Broderick as accountant, Leo Bloom has a critical decision to make; should he leave this enormous bullpen of public accountants that all hate their jobs and are ridiculed and oppressed by their CPA boss (a man so shallow he lauds over them that he is a certified public accountant and not just a public accountant like they are) or fulfill his dream of being significant (a Broadway producer).
Realizing his insignificance is no small feat. Like most of us, he has been conditioned to be insignificant and a cog in an organization and to live a life without real meaning for the benefit of no one in particular.
He quits his job in a scene so many of us can relate to (exaggerated for theater, of course)
Leo Bloom: [sung] I wanna be a producer… ‘Cause it’s everything I’m not
Accountants: [sung] Unhappy… unhappy… So unhappy
Leo and Accountants: [sung] Very very very very very very very…
Accountants: [sung] Sad.
Leo Bloom: [sung] I wanna be a producer…
Leo Bloom: Hold everything! What I am I doing here? Mr. Bialystock was right! There is a lot more to me than there is to me! Stop the world, I wanna get on!
Mr. Marks: Bloom, where do you think you’re going? You’ve already had your toilet break.
Leo Bloom: I’m not going in the toilet… I’m going in SHOW BUSINESS! Mr. Marks, I’ve got news for you. I quit! And you’re right about one thing… You are a CPA – a Certified Public ASSHOLE! Here’s my visor… my Dixon Ticonderoga number two pencil… and my big finish!
Leo Bloom: [sung] I’m gonna be a producer Sound the horn and beat the drum I’m gonna be a producer Look out Broadway, here I come!
Chorus Girls and Accountants: [sung] Broadway, here he comes!
American business is facing an enormous dilemma. A large part of the population of Millennials never entered the workforce and even more look at corporate life like the hippies did in the 60’s . . . a bad bargain that no amount of marketing is going to change their minds about. You may believe your social marketing and YouTube videos showing a happy group of workers will convince them of the wonders of working at your firm but Millennials and many GenX, GenY and Baby Boomers look at it as little more than propaganda from North Korea showing happy cheering people looking up their leader as the tanks roll by.
This is creating a huge problem for American business. The Boomers are starting to retire and die off and there are fewer people to remain them because of the perceived excesses of corporate life.
What can be done?
- Sell your firm to a multinational. It’s someone else’s headache. Cash out and go to the beach; live in a tax haven nation. It’s a pretty nice choice.
- Ignore it. Maybe I’m being too gloomy. Even the hippies caved in and joined the establishment when their hormones kicked in, they decided to reproduce and with that decided to buy the house, coop or condo and put their children in private school. Paying mortgages has a way of changing behavior.
- Start making changes. Turnover has become a problem for a lot of firms. Finding new people with particular skills has become increasingly hard. Firms are starting to complain about labor shortages in skilled markets.
I had a client who is tried to hire a half a dozen Java developers and planned to relocate them to Hawaii and help them get a government clearance. They are finding it hard to find any takers for a life in paradise.
So how can firms change?
Unless your firm is small and management involved with every aspect of the firm, it will need to be a bottom up effort to make change.
And it will need to take “the rebel” in you to re-surface.
You as a manager, a VP, Director or C level executive are going to discuss the impact of the work that is to be done and do it frequently. It is not enough to tell people once, “What you are doing will help the firm earn (or save) $5 million.” You will need to add in, “and the experience you will receive here will help improve your value to us by helping you learn and develop skills that we will value, too. When the project is over, we think your skills will improve by 4% and we will pay you more than that to keep you. As a matter of fact, if you succeed here, we are already starting to think of the next effort we will want to have you work on. And if you are not interested in it, we’ll still want you here and work to find something else for you. And if that doesn’t interest you, I will be your biggest champion finding something else at another firm.”
Putting the interests of the employee on the same footing as the employer is unusual (to say the least) yet that is something that will help your firm standout in the competition for talent I envision.
It tells the employee that their success matters to your firm as much the firm’s success does. It says you support their professional development.
And, as you can see, I’m not speaking about raises as much as I am speaking about supporting staff in their career development.
And as people outside your firm learn how you treat employees with respect, suddenly you have true social media marketing in support of your hiring and business efforts. You have an army of advocates telling their story AND your firm’s story (Remember: Do not betray your people and not keep your promise).
There are many ways that a firm can demonstrate it values people. Yes, there is training or paying for their education. Those are certainly appreciated and valuable as well as valued.
However, speaking from personal experience, people have gone the extra 10 miles for me when I took time regularly to tell them that what they did mattered to me and showed appreciation.
What can you see yourself doing?
What is your firm doing that matters to you?
© The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC 2015, 2021
ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2000 episodes.
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