Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Watch Out Compensation Specialists: Your Jobs Are On The Way Out

On March 29th, on Meet the Press, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner appeared and answered questions about the current economic crisis. He made one interesting comment that I think does not match the motivations of most of the people I know. He said "But we're going to emerge stronger than this. When we get through this people are going to care less about what they make, more about what they do, what they achieve with what they make, and that will help make this country stronger." Click here for the transcript.

So we are going to care less about what we make! Well all my comp friends, Ann and Frank and Phil and Barbara, you had better start looking for another line of work. Compensation will be unimportant. Find something you like to do. Find something that will make the country stronger. Hmmm.... know how to handle a shovel?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Suggested Reading: Some Blog Referrals

As I have been brousing some blogs today and here are some posts I thought you might find interesting, I did.
  1. The HR Capitalist starts a discussion on Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers in a post called How Your National Origin Can Impact Your Performance.... He discusses the concept of the Power Distance Index, a concept developed by Geert Hofstede in his Cultural Dimensions. This discussion is in terms Korean Air Lines pilots and a series of accidents. Make sure you read the comments.

  2. In Dan McCarthy's Great Leadership blog he writes about The Only Reference That Really Matters . The Dilbert cartoon is worth the trip and Dan's discussion of the reference process is excellent. I agree with this assessment.

  3. Ann Bares writes in Compensation Force about Bonuses and Other Profanities and the impact on current events on the proper definition and use of bonus dollars and what a commuication and PR problem HR now does have.

  4. At Fistful of Talents, Kris Dunn (in his alter ego), writes about All Workplace Jerks Don't Have to Scream - The Information Hoarder... I don't know about you but I have worked with some people like that before. "I am more valuable because I know something you don't know."

  5. Over at Slacker Manager, Phil Gerbyshak has a guest auther, Steve Farber writing on How Do You Get Back Up? A Counterintuitive Approach to Thriving in Challenging Times. Some good advice on what to do when things don't go your way.

So take a look at these I think you will find them interesting, insightful and useful. I did.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Compromise, Old Ways and Reform: Why EFCA Is So Important

I know alot of people are tired of the discussions on the Employee Free Choice Act. Laurie Ruettimann of Punk Rock Human Resources is a leader in this respect with her blog post of EFCA: I'm Bored. She says this is a tired discussion and that labor and management both missed an opportunity to come up with a new way of conducting labor relations.

Arlen Spector, the Republican Senator from Pennsylvania and a key vote on EFCA, has publicly announced he will not support the bill, thus eliminating the possibility of a vote of cloture. (Cloture means closure. Here is an explanation of it from the Senate.) In his remarks Specter also suggested that the National Labor Relations Act needed an overall. Michael Moore, at the Pennsylvania Labor & Employment Blog, gives a detailed explanation of Specter's remarks. My reading of this overall actually sounds still too biased in favor of unions and is not much more than another way of institutionalizing EFCA.

I am in agreement with both Ruettimann and Specter. It is time to look at modernizing and revising labor laws passed in the 1930's and 1940's. The world is a much different place now with a much different workforce. However, in order to do that both sides of the table must be interested and UNIONS are not interested in doing that. They see this time and this administration as an opportunity to regain power, using old methods and old tactics that perpetuate old union points of view. Why negotiate a new way of doing things if you think the deck is stacked in your favor? (explanation of that idiom)

That is why it is important to defeat this law! Passage will not bring about a new, even way of doing things. It will bring about a new way of doing the old things and it will be in favor of the unions. And once that is done it will be a long-time before we get reform.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Networking as Relationship Economics: David Nour

I had the very good fortune to hear David Nour, of the Nour Group, make a presentation on the value of networking and social media. David has a very compeling personal story, see his bio here, which makes his success all that more remarkable. For David networking and business building is all about relationship building. Personal contact bolstered by a superb use of social media (and smarts, drive and ambition) has made David a sought after speaker, consultant and trainer worldwide. His combination of the personal touch and the high tech touch has lead him to develop the concept of Relationship Economics.

David has a lot of insight on how to use many forms of social media, some which I already used, some I have now been able to alter to get better use of them, and some new ones with which I was unfamiliar. He talks about the concept of "relationship currancy" (helping others) and "relationship capital" (being able to ask others for help.) He gave a great example of the supposed "networker" who comes asking your for help finding a job, takes names, and then disappears, never offering you anything in return. The only time you ever see them is the next time they need a job. I have met many like that.

David also talked about what he called the 1-9-90 rule. This is the concept that 1% of the people you know are the "life of the party", in social media these are the posters/bloggers/twitters. The 9% are moderately engaged, they are the commenters, the occassional responders. And the 90% are the casual observers. These are the readers who never comment. The 1% is your high value contacts.

One key point that David left the group with, and actually started with as well, was that regardless of how much you use social media for networking or business development you can NEVER replace the "face-to-face" in a relationship.

If you ever have the opportunity to hear David Nour I strongly recommend you do so. I have bought his book and I await its arrival. Become familiar with David Nour, you will be the richer for it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

ZAG: A Book Review

If you are looking for a book to spark your creativity center let me recommend ZAG by Marty Neumeier. The book is a small, quick read about branding. It is based on the idea of distinguishing yourself by zagging while everyone else is zigging. He talks about markets, names, "truelines" and brand as a system.

While he talks in terms of companies I think the lessons in this little book are applicable to both individuals in a job search and to HR departments that want to be more than the standard HR department. One of my favorite quotes in the book was " Forget best practices. Best practices are usually common practices. And common practices will never add up to a zag no matter how many of them you apply." We often see HR departments trying to apply what works for others without really determining what works for them. So if you are in that "rut" take a look at ZAG, The #1 Discipline of High-Performance Brands. I think you will find his "whiteboard" presentation interesting.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Telecommuting: Diminishing Due to Job Cuts?

I heard a report on the radio the other day that many people who work from home as telecommuters are giving up the opportunity to do so in order to protect their jobs. The people interviewed thought that without the office "visability" they would be considered expendable. One quote was that "Having the jacket on the back of the chair 14 hours a day was the best way to show that you were irreplaceable." A article from over a year ago, in the Wall Street Journal reported similar feelings. In Some Companies Rethink The Telecommuting Trend writer Sue Shellenbarger reports that many companies, considered leaders in the use of telecommuters, are calling those telecommuters back to the office. In many cases cutting telecommuting to one day per week. And this was before the recession hit.

In both cases, the employee's and the employer's, I think cutting back on telecommuting is a mistake. Study after study has found that telecommuters are more productive than if they had stayed in the office. Here is a good report, put together by a student at Kennesaw State University, that covers the upsides and downsides of telecommuting. Telecommuting: Does It Work? Many workers are concerned about visability. Well your best visability is your effective and productive work. Shellenbarger, from the WSJ article referenced above, offers these tips:
  • Perform well. In explaining the callbacks at Hewlett-Packard, Chief Information Officer Randy Mott said last year that telecommuting "had gotten applied more broadly than really made sense," and would be limited to "people who are proficient and who've shown they can perform over time." Make sure measurable objectives are set for your job, then meet them.
  • Increase your visibility. One behavior sure to irk managers is to use work-at-home freedom to move to a location so remote, such as Hawaii, that travel costs soar. Although Intel disputes the assertion, people familiar with the callbacks there cite such abuses as a factor. Wherever you're located, find ways to remain visible.
  • Make an effort to collaborate. Elliott Masie, head of the Masie Center, a Saratoga Springs, N.Y., research organization, says many younger managers are comfortable collaborating online. But as pressures mount, older managers may revert to the notion that to build teamwork, "it's important for everybody to sit around and sing 'Kumbaya' together," he says. It may be wise to join that chorus.

There have been studies that there are some problems with telecommuting. The suprising issue is not with the telecommuters, rather it is with those left in the office. New study says telecommuting can hurt office morale writer Richard A. D'Errico reports that a study "...found that the greater the number of telecommuters at an organization, the less satisfied the office workers were with their jobs."

So the HR challenge is making sure that the entire process gets managed appropriately. The study suggests that "...managers work to ensure that there's more face-to-face contact among telecommuters and office workers, and provide office workers with more autonomy to do their jobs. "

What have been your experiences?

  • Do you fear for your telecommuting job?

  • Have you seen cutbacks in the numbers of telecommuters?

  • Do non-telecommuters have morale problems in your workplace?

  • What have you done to make yourself more "valuable"?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ledbetter: The Perpetual Paperwork Act

On Thursday the 19th of March I attended a good seminar at at great venue. The seminar was hosted by the lawfirm of Drew Eckl & Farnham and was held at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. One of the sessions was lead by a long time aquaintence, Joe Chancey. The format for this session was different any other session I have attended. Joe and his fellow attorneys used a scenario presentation that brought home the point they were trying to cover. The scenario that really caught my eye was the following:

  • Ten years ago, my supervisor game me a bad review because I had complained about him sexually harassing me. I received no raise that year, as a result. He was fired shortly after that, and I've gotten good raises since then, but I don't think I've ever caught up. Can I do anything to recover the difference?

How do you answer this? What do you think? Well prior to the Lily Ledbetter Act the answer would have been "no." The statute of limitations for reporting the act of discrimination, 180 days, would have long been passed. But now, with the passage of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the answer would be different. As Joe and his collegues responded "Every new paycheck tainted by the discrimination is a new violation and restarts the statute of limitations clock." Thus our employee in the above scenario would now be able to go claim sex and pay discrimination and recover some of the money she feels she had missed out on. I say some, because the law only allows retroactive claims back to May 28, 2007.

To make a further point, if this woman had already retired, and was receiving a pension check based upon the amount of her income, then potentially she may still have a claim, since each pension check is a repeat of the act of discrimination and thus resets the statute of limitations clock.

What does this mean for HR? You:

  • Must make sure that pay and promotional decisions are documented and are business related, including the business justification for having made that decision.

  • May not be able to purge paperwork files for much longer periods of time. If you have someone receiving wage or pension payments in any way shape or form you must retain that paperwork in case someone decides to file a claim. Thus, my title of The Perpetual Paperwork Act

  • You need to review any possible such situation you may currently have and see what paperwork or justification you have in the file.

So get to it. Get that work done now before someone files against you. Besides, we have more laws coming later in the year and if you don't do this now you may not have the time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Newest Carnival of HR: A MUST READ for HR Pros

The newest Carnival of HR is at the IC4P Productivity Blog. This version is full of some very interesting blog posts. Full of information about productivity, labor law, leadership, use of social media, engagement and performance management. It is a MUST read of links these great topics on some great blogs. So read up, learn something and be a better HR professional.

Employee's Perceptions of Benefits: Good or Bad

The results of a Fidelity Investments’ Consulting Services survey were posted on Talent Management on Monday. The survey dealt with perceptions employees have of the benefit packages their employees provide. The good news was that the "...study that found that 72 percent of people believe that the benefits they receive at work are better than or as good as what most other companies offer." The bad news was "...most feel the value of benefits has dropped, with 61 percent of workers reporting they are paying more for benefits, but getting less or the same as they did in 2007." Unfortunately employers are increasingly put between a rock and a hard place. (If you are not sure what this means click on the link) Omega HR Solutions, the company in which I am a partner, helps companies with their benefit programs. My partners are group health insurance experts. They constantly struggle with this issues of coverage, group experience, desired coverage, employee retention and COST. In many cases employers have to make choices between coverage or no-coverage or reducing the amount of coverage.

The article goes on to say "Most workers surveyed underestimate the employer cost of providing health insurance to employees. A majority (53 percent) believe their employers pay less than $5,000 annually per person to provide health insurance. In fact, health plans typically cost employers $5,000 to $15,000 per employee on an annual basis." If this describes your company you need to make sure you are communicating the cost of benefits. Many employees do not have any idea what their employer spends on them. It can be a big retention tool. It certainly makes it easier to explain why benefits may be reduced if employees understand the money crunch those benefits may cause an employer.

Another section of the study talked about the view that many workers have about the future of their benefits. "The study found almost half of American workers surveyed (48 percent) believe their benefits, including health insurance, retirement savings plans and pension plans, won’t be provided by their employer 10 years from now.
The study found that 30 percent of workers surveyed think they will be responsible for obtaining their own benefits by 2019, 18 percent think the government will provide benefits, 28 percent think employers will still provide benefits to their workers, and 24 percent are not sure. Yet, benefits are so critical to today’s employees that one out of four surveyed said they are working more to receive the accompanying benefits than to receive the income."

An interesting future view. I wonder what the mix will be? What do you think?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Not Thinking and The Consequences: Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

I have had several times in my life when I looked at someone and said or thought "What were you thinking?" Occasionally I said that looking in the mirror. There are always consequences to actions. Sometimes they are minor, sometimes they are major. Sometimes the consequences only have an effect on you, such at those times when, as a kid, you knew you should not stick your hand down that hole. Sometimes the consquences are suffered by many, and we can all think about examples for that.

Companies often suffer the consequences of a supervior or manager's action. This is the concept of vicarious liability. (Click on the word for a good explanation.) A supervisor commits an act of quid pro quo sexual harassment and the company gets sued under the concept of vicarious liability, meaning the company was responsible for his (or her) actions. This is one of the reasons that supervisory training is very important.

A friend of mine used to say "You can do whatever you want to do, you only have to be willing to live with the consequences."

Here is a story of someone who needed to hear those words of wisdom, because she violated them twice. First she stole $173,000 from a university and got caught. Action and consequence Number One. Secondly, her lawyer negotiated a plea deal of three years in jail and some probation and restitution. Accepted the deal, until her day in court when she backed out of the deal. She got "cold feet" over the jail time. Action Number Two. The consequence for the action of turning down a three year deal? Ten (10) years in jail, with ten (10) years probation and restitution. Read the article here if you want more information.

Some people just don't think things through! And as a result they deserve a good kick in the seat of the pants.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

March Madness III: My Cinderella Story Continues

Wow! Wow! My cinderella story in the March Madness comes to HR continues. I am in the third round, the Elite Eight. Now I need to go to the Final Four and I need your vote. You can go to Fistful of Talent, watch the video of predictions (HR Observations is mentioned), read the great blogs and then cast your vote.

I appreciate your vote! But the winner is you, the reader, for being exposed to these great blog posts.

Challenges for the Older Job Hunter

I occasionally write a blog post for the Atlanta Journal Constitution online version of the paper. Here is the link to Job Hunting Challenges for the Older Worker, that appeared in the March 12, 2009 issue. Feel free to comment in either area.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

EFCA: Biden, Unions and Congress Start "The Dance"

The Employee Free Choice Act, popularily referred to as the "card check" bill was introduced into both houses of Congress on March 10th. Debate has started, but so far support has eroded for the bill in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The bill’s fate increasingly hinges on Sens. Blanche L. Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) — two wavering moderates who would love to dodge the controversy. But the White House has pulled out the big guns for support. Vice President Joe Biden appeared in front of an executive meeting of the AFL-CIO. He was very vocal in his support of EFCA. According to Politico.com "Vice President Joe Biden wasn’t exactly restrained in remarks to an AFL-CIO gathering in Miami last Thursday, saying, 'You all brought me to the dance a long time ago, and it’s time we start dancing.'"

The bill is significant. According to one study passage of the bill could eliminate over 600,000 jobs. Let me remind you of the provisions of the bill.
  1. EFCA would eliminate the secret ballot election that is normally required for your employees to select a union, and replace it with a much less formal "card check" process that is controlled by the union and is secretive, selective, and susceptible to abuse and coercion.
  2. Even more alarming are provisions in EFCA that would require so-called "interest arbitration" of the first contract once a union gets in. Under these provisions, if the first contract is not negotiated to conclusion between the parties within a relatively short 120-day period, the contract dispute would be referred to an arbitrator who would then determine the contract terms for a two-year period with no right of appeal.

Most of the attention has been focused on the first provision and there has been a backlash against it. Several states are even introducing legislation to preserve secret ballot elections in their states.

However, most labor negotiators that I know and have read about are more concerned with the second provision. Few first time contracts are negotiated in 6 months, much less 120 days. The failure to do so enforces an arbitrator designed contract, one that will not be in the best interest of the company.

I am playing "seer and soothesayer" and making a prediction. I predict we will see an attempt to "compromise" on the "card check" provision to make EFCA more palatable to the public while maintaining the more harmful "interest arbitration" provision.

I have written my Congressional representatives, both House and Senate, and expressed my opinion. I suggest you do the same. Guess we will have to see if President Obama is waiting to tap Joe Biden and cut in to dance with the AFL-CIO on this one. New Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has already been at the dance and has been filling in her dance card too.

Monday, March 09, 2009

March Madness II: The Next Round

Follow this link to Fistful of Talent to vote on the next round of great HR blogs. HR Observations made it to the next round, so vote if you would. I was mentioned as a possible "Cinderella". So take a look and read some good blogs.

Outsourcing HR: Having Resumes Screened In India

With the onslaught of resumes that recruiters are receiving these days it is no suprise that they are looking for ways to make the job easier. An article in the WallStreet Journal online Career section on March 5th, entitled "Did You Get My Resume?" details several methods recruiters are using to streamline the process. These include:
  1. Use of artifcial intelligent software to prescreen resumes. This goes beyond "keyword" searches which is how applicants used to be able to get around resume reader screening. Today an employer can put in a profile of experiences and have the software look for matches.

  2. Use of online personality tests. If you don't match the profile of successful job incumbents you don't make it through the prescreening process. (I might have some questions about validity on this one.)

  3. Finally, many employers are using "offshore" resume screeners. Resume screeners, actual people, living in India or the Phillipines read resumes overnight and have them sorted for the recruiters when they come to work in the morning. Now this is "outsourced" HR!

I am not too sure how I would like to have my resume screened by someone in the Phillipines, but that is just me. I would like to hear from some recruiters about how you handle the resume screening process.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Improve Your Voice To Improve Your Career

How many times have you been suprised by someone who "looks" like they should have a great speaking voice yet ends up having a voice that is unpleasant to the ear in one way or another? Perhaps they have a high pitched or squeeky voice, or too much of an accent or regionality in their voice. I know I have been disappointed a number of times. I expect a leader to "sound" like a leader and a president to "sound" presidential. I think the sound of McCain versus the sound of Obama made a difference in the past election. Some of you may suffer from the same malady. You may not have crediblity in your position because you don't "sound" credible.

Well did you know you can do something about that? It happens all the time. Actors have voice coaches and it works (with the exception of Kevin Costner in Robin Hood.) Hugh Laurie, the actor who portrays Dr. House, has a heavy English accent when he is himself, but he sounds 100% American when in character. Business people have discovered that having a voice coach can improve their opportunities in the workplace.

According to an article in the DallasNews.com more and more business people are using voice and speech coaches. The article, Voice Coaches' Work Strikes a Chord, states that "A great voice makes you sound more interesting, more intelligent and more trustworthy. It helps you get ahead." The article further states that "The Voice and Speech Trainers Association, meanwhile, estimates that a third of its members now work with the general public rather than sticking with actors and voiceover artists."

The training is not inexpensive at about a $100 per lesson for a minimum of 6 lessons and lots of practice. But if you feel your career is being held back it might be worth it.

And for you jobseekers, who make a recruiter cringe everytime you open your mouth, it might be worthwhile to stand out from the crowd. A great voice will not get you a job by itself (unless you are doing voice over), but it will make you noticeable and memorable. If nothing more it may help you feel better about yourself. As one person said "That gives me a level of confidence I never had before – which may be the biggest benefit."

Check it out.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

March Madness Comes to the Carnival of HR

The Carnival of HR is visited by March Madness. It is a tournament of the best of HR blogs. Take a look and vote for the "teams" you find the most interesting. This is a unique way of reading the best and expressing an opinion at the same time. Of course I would like you to vote for me, but I will leave that to your discretion. So go visit March Madness.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Some Inspiration

When you are constantly bombarded from all sides with bad news it is easy to feel down. Just yesterday I posted a comment on Twitter (tweeted) something to the effect that things were so bad I was just hoping to be able to afford the better brand of dog food to eat when I retire. In my consulting practice I have been dealing with many clients who are cutting back and letting people go. I have older friends who are having very difficult times in finding jobs and who have been the object of ageism. The stock market is down and the government is head in a direction I think is dangerous. So this usually very optimistic HR guy is feeling pretty pessimistic. And when you feel that way it leaks into your work.

But then I read Kris Dunn's post 4 Reasons Why Ayn Rand and "Atlas Shrugged" Should Guide Your Career Choices... This is Kris Dunn at his finest. As a result of this excellent post I feel better and more ready to work harder and smarter for my good, the good of my family, the good of my future, the good of my company and the good of my fellow employees. Kris says "... don't get frozen career-wise in a recession. Do what you are good at and do it aggressively." He offers four reasons for doing this. I will let you link to his post to read them. However, I will quote him one more time with this great statement. "The quickest way to become part of the body count? By not bringing your A-game and being selfish when it comes to demanding top performance and creativity when you're on the job."

So read him and get inspired. You might even want to read Ayn Rand, I am going to try.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Networking Is More Than Just Adding A Contact on Social Media

Dan Schawbel, a personal branding expert, put a link about LinkedIn on Twitter. The article is entitled LinkedIn Skyrockets As Job Losses Mount. Apparently more and more people join as they are getting laid off. I have seen alot of people join and I have advised alot of people to join. I think it is important to be connected on social media. Here is my profile. However, there are some fundamentals about networking that are important to remember, regardless if that is done through LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, email, in person or on the telephone. These fundamentals include:

  1. Actually connect with the person, don't just add them as a contact. They really serve no purpose just being on a list.

  2. Don't start off immediately with an appeal to "help me find a job."

  3. Pay attention to what is said about or by the person you are contacting. Try to connect with them through some interest of theirs.

  4. Keep in touch with them by emailing or snail mailing some item about that interest. You may have noticed they went to a particular school or they support a particular team or they have a favorite author, etc.

  5. FOLLOW UP with them, and don't wait to do it. Keith Ferrazzi talks about the importance of this in his Greenlight Community blogs.

  6. STAY IN TOUCH. Don't let the contact die. People are busy. They are not going to remember you and your particular need if they do not hear from you on occassion.

  7. And lastly, stay in touch even AFTER you become employed. You never know, you may need them again and it is much easier to keep the contact than it is to start them up again.

Oh, and a good tip to be interesting to people is to be interested in them. I suggest you read Keith Ferrazzi's Never Eat Dinner Alone or Harvey Mackay's Swim With the Sharks.