You've gotta go with the flow of the People Flow Continuum

You know, for a title, you could chant this a few times, put it music and have a great new rap song.  Or maybe I’m a victim of too many Dr. Seuss readings to my 4 kids.

In any leadership role, you are in a canoe navigating the river of human nature and human resources.  You can paddle upstream against the current, across the current, or paddle with the flow of the river.  Most people (average) look at the fact they got across the river, reached their definition and were “successful”.  Be a difference maker and question “success” and find the way to get across with the least effort and resources expended.  “Most successful” is the goal. The People Flow Continuum is the river, (whether you want it to be or not), and you are in it.  The better you understand it, the better you plan your trip, the more you float downstream vs. battle the current. 

Building Block Principles: (from previous postings)

1.  There is a competitive advantage that you are responsible for:  it is the Maximization of your Human System.

2.  There are components that are standardized that give you relatively little competitive opportunity.  There are variable components of human resources that allow for more variation and thus hold greater opportunity to capitalize on.

I have seen pieces of HR done with the wrong emphasis or in the wrong order.  I’m not saying that wrong things were being done; just that maximizing was not accomplished.    I want to give you a model to work from that will help you to better understand, prioritize, and maximize your resources spent in these areas.

  “You’ve gotta go with the flow of the People Flow Continuum”

You’ve got to go with the flow!  I’m not advocating conformity (actually just the opposite), but encouraging that you work in congruence, not in resistance to a natural process.  I call that process the People Flow Continuum (PFC); a model representing each person’s movement through their life cycle with an organization.  It is a model we will continue to use and develop in the future. (postings…not the next mellinium)











It is constructive to take a moment and ask yourself: 

  1. Where do I spend the most amounts of my resources?

  2. Where would I like to spend more resources?

  3. Which of these components do I feel I get the most ROI from?  The least?

  4. Which of these functions do I enjoy working with the most?  Least?

  5. Of these components, which are addressed in formal educational settings at the university level?  The most?   The least?


Back to the river analogy we started with.  Approach the PFC model with the picture of standing on the riverbank with a canoe.  You have a spot you need to reach on the other side.  How is your effort going to be most effectively spent?   Paddling up stream against the current or paddling downstream with it? If it’s really that stupid a question, why do so many business practices and organizations paddle upstream expending tremendous amounts of resources and energy, but really aren't getting anywhere tangible?

Effort can be mistaken for progress. Effort in time or resources expended doesn’t naturally translate to effectiveness. At times, you get just enough positive reinforcement that the person/organization paddling puts on blinders as to what the possibilities were/are that could be accomplished with a little more strategic approach and better understanding of the dynamics of the river.  Reaching your destination can be a mask to how you got there.  We live in a time where it does matter.

On one hand I laugh at those who don’t question success and are content to bask in mediocrity and live down to the norm.  (Yes, live DOWN….you have something you are capable of.  When you don’t achieve it, you are in a “less than” situation.)  We didn’t become the country we are today by accepting norms.  We got here by questioning success and as a result…innovation, growth, development.

FLASHBACK: "The enemy of the 'best' is the 'good'."---   Steven Covey“Good is good enough until you know what better is; then good enough just isn’t good enough anymore.”---Don Rottman’s version

Not to beat this horse too much more, but a little positive reinforcement can be the thing that perpetuates mediocrity most. (Though a whole other conversation, that same positive reinforcement is the very thing that keeps many organizations, even entire industries, from re-inventing themselves and becoming complacent.)  Are you holding a ticket to the land of mediocrity that has “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” stamped on it?

All of this is very true when it comes to strategically addressing your human system. If you choose to take a bit of time, understand some basic principles that govern this system and choose to work in congruence with them, you have the ability to both save cost as well as enhance your success through the development of a superior and more effective human team; maximization. 

I have learned to never take things for granted, thus some quick working definitions:

Recruitment is the process of the developing a group of candidates (sourcing) from which you will select.

Selection is the process and/or set of tools utilized in making the decision  of which candidate should be hired.

***BREAK POINT: at this point, you now "own" these individuals; they are part of your organization.***

Training and Development is the formal or informal process of acclimating people into your organization and helping them to develop their hard and soft skills in order to be successful both in their position, as well as the organization and its culture. This is an initial and ongoing function, though it could easily be separated.

Motivation is the ongoing reinforcement of an individual to be an enthusiastic and productive part of the organization. This can be multi-facetted and is a combination of cultural and compensation components.

Retention is the set of strategies incorporated with the intention of incentivizing individuals to remain a part of an organization. These can be things such as promotions and positional advancement, the development of a positive culture that offers intrinsic value, and/or a set of compensation mechanisms to encourage retention.

One side note example to illustrate:  Many of you have seen or heard of “retention incentive” pay.  If you have a turnover/retention problem and haven’t first addressed the front end of the PFC, its possible that you are paying more to keep bad employees.  A retention incentive isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if your cause of turnover is a toxic manager you don’t want to address (or haven’t diagnosed) and the good people are leaving because they don’t have to put up with it….. Yes, I have seen this happen too.


Truisms and Principles:

How quickly do you lump these things together vs. addressing them in sequential pieces?  All these things, to be most effective, must be perfected IN THIS ORDER.  Any other order is a partial or band-aide practice/approach.  If Recruitment and Selection are done right, then Training & Development, Motivation, and Retention will actually require fewer resources and will yield much better returns.

 Ask yourself (you may have figured out that I like metaphors):

  • If you were a master potter, "What kind of clay am I working with?"   

  • " On whom am I spending my time and money to train & develop?"

  • "Who am I trying to motivate?"

  • "Who am I working at retaining?"

  •  “Why do they need so much time/resources?


Your talent as a potter or any artisan can never be maximized with inferior materials.  You always want to start with the best raw materials. Do you know how to find and evaluate your raw materials?  Do you have a Cadillac training or development program but are investing it in all the wrong people?  All of the makeup in the world won’t make a warthog pretty. (Ok, it would be fun to hear what/who your first visual was there.  Feel free to put in the comment response.  We all need to laugh daily.)  Or maybe you get the right people, only to train them and watch them leave? 

Would you be comfortable using your same methods in your personal investing?  There are people who would be in jail for misappropriation of funds if they invested their company’s pension plan monies with the same haphazardness they use allocating resources within their People Flow Continuum or Human System.

Each part of the People Flow Continuum needs its own strategy based on multiple dynamics AND it must be adjusted for different levels (role dynamics) within the organization.

Too often global, versus position specific strategies are incorporated with the result being a very haphazard human organization. To those, it seems inexplicable as to why some organizations are more effective than others are. 


I’m going to give you just three conclusion statements here.  There are many things to specifically explore with this model, and I will do so in future writings, but globally:

  1. Understand this is a circular model and is highly interactive within itself. For instance, one of your best retention tools is your recruitment program. If you train and develop people properly there is much less likelihood of frustration and turnover; better motivated and retained.

  2. All of these components are facets that reflect and build a culture. Culture, when positive, understood, and distinct is one of the most powerful immunizations an organization can have, aiding in recruitment, motivation, and retention.   

  3. This model is not intended to give specific answers. It is intended to give a frame of reference, a paradigm, and to create a more conscious awareness of these principles. Different strategies and applications are numerous.  This format will give us opportunities to address many of them.  Once these principles are embraced and understood, your process cannot help but to improve. How much it improves will be contingent on the time you devote to it.

It is a choice, so choose to make yours a great day!

Don Rottman

HR Evangelist  

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