Lean Office

Lean Office “Open Room” Foils Unethical Recruiter

By Jon Miller Published on January 24th, 2006

At Gemba we do our best to practice what we preach. This means that we turn our Lean tools inwards on ourselves and work hard to develop a kaizen culture. One of the most visible ways we do this is through our “open office”. There are no walls in our office, so whenever there are consultants in the office we can see and hear each other from our desks. There are rooms for when private meetings or conversations are needed, but the majority of time everyone work in the same big open room.
We added “pokayoke” or “mistake proofing” to the many benefits of the open offices recently. A person named Craig Miller from Craig Miller Associates called asking for one of our consultants. He knew who he wanted to talk to, and he was friendly. He was glib. He got right through. He was a poacher.
I could only hear this side of the conversation but it was clear that our consultant was being offered a job with another consulting firm, was being asked about his salary, and was being asked if he knew anyone else who might be looking for a position
If we had cubicles or even individual offices with walls dividing us, the recruiter may have been able to hire away a valuable member of our team. He failed because in an open office environment it’s awkward to take a call from a recruiter and talk numbers, during work hours. Everyone can hear you.
In this case we learned that the open office is an effective pokayoke device for this type of call. The cost of hire is not insignificant for us, so every poach prevented is a major cost savings. Incidents like these make me a believer in Lean office and in practicing what we preach.
I’m not at all opposed to people taking better offers and moving on to positions that are more fulfilling. I’m not against recruiters who help people who are struggling to fill positions. I’m against people who find names of employees by any means possible and call during work hours in the expectation that the person at the end of the line is walled in and able to discuss a job offer. It’s unethical, in my opinion.
This incident raised my blood pressure for a while. It occurred to me to call Craig’s client (another Lean consulting firm whom he was foolish enough to name) and to offer their consultants more money (since he disclosed to our consultant the salary his client was offering) to join our firm. But that would be vengeful. Besides, I don’t really want to hire anyone from a consulting firm full of people easily lured away from their jobs by just a phone call from a stranger and the promise or more money.
If you are a consulting company and you would like to avoid having this recruiter call your employees and try to hire them away during work hours, call Craig Miller and ask him never to call you. Better yet, block your phone system from accepting calls from his firm.
If you are a consulting company and you are struggling to hire more consultants, call Craig. His technique will work on most consulting companies, so long as they don’t practice what they preach, like Gemba does. But I can’t vouch for the quality of people this will get you.
The next kaizen for Gemba is to strengthen our call screening process. Craig got through, and that was a failure of our call screening process. Stay tuned for an A3 Report of the results of our root cause corrective action for the call screening process in the near future in this blog.

  1. Ethan

    January 24, 2006 - 2:12 pm

    In this case we learned that the open office is an effective pokayoke device for this type of call. The cost of hire is not insignificant for us, so every poach prevented is a major cost savings.
    I suppose, however I’m hesitant to agree that this office layout “prevented” the poaching. I’m thinking that the quality of your company prevents poaching. Physical layout concerns like private conference rooms and low cube walls just delay the inevitable, if better offers are to be had.
    I may be in semantic la-la land, but I had to pipe up. 🙂

  2. Mark Graban

    January 25, 2006 - 5:46 pm

    I wouldn’t blame the recruiter. They are doing their job. They aren’t a “find jobs for unemployed people” service. They “recruit” away from others to fill open positions.
    The only defense against recruiters is to keep your employees happy, including a wage that is competitive.
    One company I read about (I can’t recall the name) FORCES each employee to interview for an outside job once a year. The CEO said “it keeps them informed of what’s going on ouside and maybe they’ll appreciate their job here more. if they can leave for something better, so be it.”
    Jon, your workplace doesn’t sound very progressive if you’re trying to spy on them and block them off from the outside world.

  3. Jon Miller

    January 25, 2006 - 7:42 pm

    I didn’t realize it was “their job” for recruiters to hire employed people away from other firms. Silly me.
    They could easily find qualified candidates who are actively looking by simply posting on Monster.com, like the rest of us do.
    But why go to all of that trouble, I suppose, when a recruiter can let other employers do the work of posting the job, interviewing candidates, hiring the best ones, training them, etc. and then hire them away with a sly phone call?
    There’s a link to Craig Miller Associates’ website on this blog entry. The site lists the Lean consultant position and salary range. We’re hardly blocking off people from the outside world (as if we could). In fact, you could say I’m saving Craig the trouble of calling.
    If visual management in the workplace is “spying” on people then aren’t all of us Lean practitioners KGB agents?

  4. Mark Graban

    January 26, 2006 - 6:49 am

    More constructively, have you done a “5 Why’s” analysis for why that consultant would consider an outside position? That’s an exercise you could do with him/her.

  5. Jon

    January 26, 2006 - 8:40 am

    Thanks for the constructive comment. No, we haven’t. As I’ve said in my post, I’m not at all opposed to people taking better positions at other firms, so I probably won’t.
    I was just irritated at this telemarketing recruiter. I completely agree with your earlier comment about how being a good place to work is the best way to keep good people, and we will continue to focus on that.

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