Charlene’s Problem: An Interactive Case Study

Charlene was faced with a challenge. Twelve days ago, she had been hired into a new company to a work with a hiring manager who had about 200 sales-associate requisitions to fill in a 90-day window. The positions weren’t unusual or particularly hard to fill. In fact, over the past few months, several retirees and a handful of experienced sales associates had been hired with varying degrees of success. Yet turnover is an issue – it runs to more than 100% each year. At first blush, Charlene felt confident she could meet the challenge and fill the positions.

After all, the skills she was seeking were basic, and experience was not a requirement. The training programs the company had put in place were quite well-received. This training was supplemented by a handful of experienced senior sales associates who acted as mentors. Charlene figured that she could round up additional retirees and probably even attract some top-notch associates from competitors. But in an effort to reduce turnover, she immediately began to probe into the characteristics of those who stayed. She arranged interviews with many of them and spent time with the mentors and senior sales associates in order to recognize the traits that seemed to go along with longevity.

Now, almost one month into it, things look different. The hiring manager hasn’t liked anyone she has brought in and has complained to Charlene’s boss about her inability to meet his needs. She obviously feels that this is completely unfair, as she has only been on the job for a couple of weeks. However, her boss says, “Charlene is too focused on process and hasn’t even posted anything on the job boards. All she wants to do is dig into what makes some of the associates stay.” He also mentions that the hiring manager said, “Find me good, motivated people, and I’ll train them on what to do. I don’t need to have everyone psychoanalyzed.”

This company has more than 10,000 employees, all located in the United States, with sales of more than $1 billion. The average age of employees is around 35, with only the CEO and a few other top managers over 40. The hiring manager is close to Charlene’s age, hovering around 30. There are a couple of recruiters who focus on other types of hiring needs, including IT, but they’re not very friendly and stay on the phone almost all day. The company has a good reputation for customer service and is very proud of its high standards of service. Customers find that service is generally very good and their issues get resolved quickly. This is a big difference from other companies for which Charlene has worked. She feels it is necessary for her to really understand the competencies needed and assess candidates against those competencies.

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This company has a good performance feedback process and knows how much each associate sells in a given time frame. It also has customer feedback and augments this with its own observations. Those who have been at the company for more than a year make good pay and have a balanced work-life. New employees, however, face the daunting prospect of meeting the time and quality demands of the position and are asked to work holidays, weekends, and evenings. Charlene really wants to understand why some have stayed and what their profiles look like so that she can look for others with a similar set of skills. The issue is how can Charlene satisfy her boss and hire high-quality people. Is it even possible to do this? Can she profile candidates without alienating them or her boss?

If you were Charlene, what would you do in this situation? How can Charlene succeed? I will collect your responses and incorporate some of them anonymously in a future article. I will also provide an expert opinion about what Charlene should do. You can provide your comments by clicking on this link: Charlene’s Dilemma.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


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