Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Gifts for Everyone: The Carnival of HR

Getting great gifts at Christmas time is always fun. Well here is your Christmas gift from HR bloggers. April Dowling at Pseudo HR, hosted this early Christmas version of HR Carnival – ‘Twas the night before.

Read about Twitter, laughter, company parties, eggnog, jobs, bonuses, hiring clowns and several Top 10 lists. So sit down and rip off the paper and take some pleasure in this gift of knowledge.

If you celebrate Christmas then MERRY CHRISTMAS! And even if you don't celebrate Christmas then Merry Christmas spirit to you anyway.

(BTW, the picture is me dressed as Santa.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Are Growing Waistlines a Sign of Diminishing Employee Attitudes?

Yesterday I heard a radio commentary by Clark Howard. He was talking about his post Recession enabling Americans to make unhealthy food choices. He was discussing a piece of research that said that Americans are saying that the recession is making it more difficult for people to buy healthy food. The premise was that healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food. Thus there is an increase in the size of waistlines of Americans.

Clark, however, rejects this premise, noting that there are many cheap, yet healthy, choices in the grocery store. He feels that the trend toward unhealthy foods is not one of cost but one of comfort. The recession is causing people to be stressed. And time after time research has found that when we are stressed we seek "comfort" food. These are things that taste good and that are generally not nutrionally good for you. I think of my own example. Several years ago, as my mother was declining in health and eventually dying I was at her bedside. Each night as I left the hospital to get something to eat I returned to a restaurant that I had found that served "home cooked" meals. I ate chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes and gravy each night. I was seeking comfort food during that very stressful time. Today I have a tendency to  grab a bag of peanut M&Ms (a big bag) when I get stressed. I think many of you are the same way.

So I agree with Clark. I think this tendency to growing waistlines is a signal of stress. So look at your employees. If they are getting heavier you may have some morale problems. People may be ill at ease with what is happening at work. It may be a signal that you have to do some damage control with employee attitudes.

A side note: This is my only post this week. I am heading on a short vacation to celebrate my wedding anniversary. Even though this our 38th, I still do not want to take any time or attention away from my beautiful wife, so I will not be posting until mid-week next week.

Friday, December 11, 2009

End of the Week Reading: Great Stuff from Great Blogs

I missed the Carnival of HR this time. (Need to do something about that darn calendar.) There are some very good posts there. Here is the link Carnival of HR. This is one is hosted by Rowan Manahan.

Additionally, here are several posts that I recommend you read.
  1. Fran Melmed wrote an excellent piece called "We Don't Need No Stinking Diversity Training." It is so good it got picked up by NPR. She prompted me to write my piece on Removing the Ethnicity from your name.
  2. Kris Dunn wrote some required reading for anyone considering committees called Are Committees in Your Company Ever a Good Idea? If this one does not make you think twice, then reread it.
  3. Becky Regan, compensation pro extrodinaire, offers her 2010 predictions in The Compensation Cafe. "Top 4" Total Rewards Predictions for 2010  See if you agree.
  4. Wally Bock, of Three Star Leadership, blasts Notre Dame and Brian Kelly for the very poor example of leadership they exhibited in Values, schmalues, there is money at stake.
  5. And Ann Bares of Compensation Force writes on Throwing in the Towel: Are Employers Resigned to Impending Departures?
That is probably enough reading for the end of the week. But believe me, you will be better off for it. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Getting a Job by Hiding Your Ethnic Name

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." So says William Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. But many people today would disagree. In the New York Times Michael Lou writes about "Whitening the Resume" (Free registration required to read) In this article he talks about African American job candidates taking the "blackness" out of their names, schools, experience and references in order to get a foot in the door for an interview. Although regrettable, it is not a new phenomenon. A couple of decades ago women were taking the "femaleness" out of their names by using intials. Asians and Middle Easterners were "Americanizing" their names. Even earlier many Italians and Germans were doing the same thing. Hispanics were/are reducing the size of their names by dropping the several family names in their complete names. People will do what they perceive will give them an edge, especially in these "downturn days." In the 80's even young white men were changing their names by initializing their first name and going by their middle name because that "appeared more executive." People even do it regardless of age, sex, race, etc. just because they have a name they don't like. Agnes Susan Smith may is not going to feel her name says youthful and vibrant, so she drops the Agnes and becomes Susan. (Apologies to all Agnes out there.)

Is it right that they feel compelled to do this? Not really. Is it reality, perhaps, the research says so, anyway. Names are very powerful. What we hang on our children can boost or scar them. They can be trendy for the time but become dated with the passage of time. My contempories, many of whom were hippies, named their children Bridge, River, Summer, Spring, Flower, Dweezil, MoonChild, Chastity, etc. I am surprised I have never met "Oh Wow Man". So you parents out there think about what you are going to do to that little child who will someday be an 80 year old with that moniker.

Back to the potential discriminatory decision made on the basis of someone's name. I would hope that recruiters would look beyond that. Perhaps we should have a universal process for just calling someone "Candidate #_____". ( I do seem to recall something like this in the past.) But let's face it, discrimination, though somewhat diminished from three decades ago, does still exist. (See my post on The Big ISM: Racism.) But not all recruiters are lillywhite males. Many are female, many are "of color." So my question to them is "How do you react when you get a resume with an obvious ethnic name?" "Do you screen for 'whiteness'?" The same holds true for managers. Not all are white. Not all are males. Will a black female manager with a name like Mary Wilson have a negative reaction to a black female candidate named Eboni?

I don't know the answer to this. I would like some guidance. Someone tell me that ethnicity is totally ignored in their organization and people are only hired on the basis of their qualification. Make us feel good that progress is being made.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Who Is HR's Customer? The Correct Answer Will Improve Your Performance

In any HR class I have taught I have always asked this question. "Who is HR's customer?" The answers given vary, but usually include the CEO, the employees, the supervisors, the managers, or some combination of these. Occassionally, but not often enough, someone comes up with what I think is the right answer. To me the ultimate customer of HR is the customer who actually spends money to buy your company's product or service. And if you are not paying attention to them, and understand their needs, wants and desires then you cannot fully understand what kind of employee your organization needs to have. If you do not have this information you are guessing who will make a good employee or you are making the assumption that the hiring manager knows. And that is not a sure thing!

To my way of thinking you need to spend time with these customers to be a better HR professional. Work in a retail environment? Ever worked the floor? Work in a hospital? Ever spent time with a patient? Work in a plant that makes wrenches? Ever talked to a buyer or user of the wrench? If the answer is "NO" then you are not doing your best job. "But I don't have time to do that, I  have to do my job." My response is that is an excuse and not a reason. Spending time with those customers is part of your job. And one of the most important parts. So get it on your calendar. Get out from behind your desk and learn what customers want in a good employee that interacts with them, their process or their product.

I am not quite sure if where he learned it, but Dave Ulrich agrees with me. LOL So resolve to follow Dave and Mike's advice in 2010 and get out and meet your "real" customer. It may open your eyes and it will definately make you a better HR professional.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Have a VOICE in HR and Use It: Being a Credible Activist

I had the very good fortune to spend a day, yesterday, with professor, author, consultant, and HR thought guru, Dave Ulrich. (Of course there were another 200 people there as well). He had a long "conversation" with us about the field of HR and what it takes to be an HR professional today. He talked about how HR can transform organinzations and what competencies it takes to do so. Much of this is detailed in his book HR Competencies (shown at the right). If you are serious about your career in HR and you feel you need to take it to the next step then you need to read this book and internalize what you learn.

I could write a very long post on these competencies, but I won't. But I do want to mention the NUMBER ONE competency that Ulrich et al. have determined to be most important in the 21st century. That is the competency of CREDIBLE ACTIVIST. Credible is believable, credible is knowing what you are talking about, credible is knowing about business and your business in particular. Alot of HR people consider themselves credible. The jury is still out on whether their CEOs consider them credible. (Mostly because of the business knowledge requirement.) One of the reasons the CEO does not consider HR credible is HR has NO VOICE. Many HR people "speak when spoken to" and do not offer opinions on the business. 

This is where the second word in this competency comes into play. ACTIVIST. This does not mean that you have to be a rabble-rouser (click the link for the definition). It means that you have to stand up and offer opinions and points of view. And you don't  wait to be asked. Offer your points of view BEFORE anyone asks you what you think. And have opinions and points of view on more than just HR topics. If you know your business (another competency) then you should be able to talk about operations, marketing, branding, finance, etc. Being an activist means you are not afraid to be contrarian. Your management "partners" may not listen to what you have to say, particularly at first, but you need to use your voice regardless.

Some of the people sitting at my table indicated they were afraid to do that. They were afraid to speak up, even when they knew things being done were wrong. One person said she "picked her battles carefully." Another said she did not speak up because she did not really know the business because she had NEVER spent any field time with employees. She was "too busy" doing her work. (I probably rolled my eyes big time at this.) I know many HR people are not activists because they naturally are "conflict avoiders". And speaking up can lead to a confrontation. But if you know you are right you need to have that confrontation and you don't need to, and should not, back down. I used to work for an HR manager that had so little back bone I was surprised he was able to stand up. Well I don't need to get off on that rant.

Many of the credible activists I know are also bloggers. Two of my favorite (among many) are Laurie Ruettimann of PunkRockHR and Kris Dunn of The HR Capitalist. I call Laurie a "beast sticker". She is not afraid to take a sharp stick and poke the "beast of HR". She can be profane, and I don't always agree with her, but she is fun to read because she riles people. She has been accused of not being "credible" because she does not currently hold a "real" HR position. HOGWASH, this lady knows her stuff. Kris is also a beast sticker. He is in my opinion as close to being the ultimate HR pro there is. He is what I want to be when I grow up, despite the fact that I am 20 years older than he is. In fact he beat me to this same topic. As I was driving home to Atlanta from Birmingham last night and thinking about this topic he had already beat me to the punch. You can read his very well written take on CREDIBLE ACTIVIST by clicking on his name above.

BTW, Dave Ulrich says that one of the first steps in being credible in the 21st century is certification. So think a second time about getting that PHR or SPHR.

Closing thought- Become a pro, find your voice and exercise it frequently. Learn from Laurie, Kris, and a myriad of other bloggers on what to say, how to say it, and in the words of Nike, "JUST DO IT."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

HR Carnival of Giving

Mike VanDervort, of the Human Race Horses, put together a group of 86 blog posts on a wide variety of HR topics in the HR Carnival of Global Giving. He also combined each with the writer's favorite charity in the spirit of the season. He also personally donated to these charities and encourages everyone to think of someone less fortunate. So far $1765 has been collected for the charities. Good information and tugs at the heartstrings. What more can you ask for?

(He did make an error on mine, however. He listed the Atlanta Childrens' Shelter as my charity. It is a fine charity, but I had put a link in my post to the National MS Society. Either way someone benefits.)

So spend sometime, get educated and feel good at the same time.