Wednesday, June 30, 2010

No Wonder this Job is So Hard: Contradictory Messages From the Government

Being in Human Resources today is no "bed of roses." (For my non-English speaking readers, this idiom means "a comfortable situation". Though I have often wondered since roses also have thorns.) Anyway, I digress. The fact is that being in HR is tough, especially for the compliance side of the house. Part of this difficulty comes from the contradictory messages the Federal government puts out. On the one hand we have laws that prohibit illegal, or in today's parlance "undocumented", aliens from holding jobs in the United States. This the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act for those of you unsure. This law created that form, the I-9, that so many companies screw up on. In addition to that, we have a whole set of laws designed to deal with businesses that do business with the government, aka Federal Contractors, that prohibit any use of illegal labor. These regulations require that federal contractors even verify legal status by using the E-verify system. So you would think the Federal government would be dead set against ANY promotion of illegal workers.

Yet, in this video, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, announces that even if you are "undocumented" you are to be afforded protection of US laws. Some groups are saying she is violating the law. I don't think that technically correct, but the message certainly is contradictory to what other aspects of the Federal Government (USCIS) and the OFCCP (which is part of DOL) say to employers.

By the way, I dicussed the We Can Help site that this video appears on back on April 6th, when I discussed US Department of Labor: It's War! And Employers Are The Enemy . This video shows definatively that We Can Help is not an employer friendly program.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Five Great Blog Posts to Read for MidWeek

If you are like me you get a ton of things to read. Sometimes it is just INFORMATION OVERLOAD! That is why I like to have colleagues point me to great posts and articles to read. (A good use for Twitter, btw.) So I figured I would do the same for you. Here are five great blog posts that I think you will find useful and informative.
  1. Margaret O'Hanlon, over at Compensation Cafe writes on You've Got Lemons...Time for Lemonade. This is a great take on learning and growing and employee engagement.
  2. Ann Bares, at Compensation Force gives us a reminder lesson on The Perils of Setting Incentive Plan Targets: Revisiting Some Rules of Thumb. In these turbulent times having some guidance on what to do in the compensation arena is always a good thing.
  3. Jon Hyman, at The Ohio Employer's Law Blog, provides us with some advice on what to do when the boss is the sexual harasser in What do you do when the boss is accused of harassment?
    Don't try to pretend you haven't thought of it... so take this advice.
  4. Sharlyn Lauby, The HR Bartender, talks about how Being Selfish is Good for Your Career. Tell me that doesn't grab your attention.
  5. David Zinger, at David Zinger Employee Engagement, has a great formula for employee engagement, Just Add Spinach
Ok, there you go. I have given you 5 great reads that will make you a much better HR professional or business manager than you were before you started reading this. Get to it!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Lesson From Drucker: Sudden Incompetence- A Danger for HR

I was thumbing through my copy of The Daily Drucker this morning. I always read the wisdom for the day, but then I read some other entries that I might have missed. One such entry is the one that appeared on June 7th. It dealt with the topic of "sudden incompetence." Drucker asks the question "Why should people who, for ten or fifteen years, have been competent suddenly become incompetent?" This is a question that managers and HR alike often puzzle over when dealing with people who have been promoted. He answers the question with "The reason in practically all cases I have seen, is that people continue in their new assignmentto do what made them successful in the old assignment and what earned them the promotion. They then turn incompetent, not because they have become incompetent, but because they are doing the wrong things." Basically we have not positioned people to be successful by not making clear to them the things that are crucial to the new challenge, the new job, or the new task.

This concept, however, has a more global meaning to the field of human resources. There are an ever increasing number of calls for  radical change in the field of HR. (See my interview with Kris Dunn on June 23rd and read his answers.) There are many people who feel that many HR departments and HR professionals have reached their level of sudden incompetence. Are you included among these described this way? Are you doing the same things in the past that were successful and got you accolades, but now are the reasons you are failing? If you are then you NEED TO CHANGE. Albert Einstein once said "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".

Today in HR there is a new challenge and a new job. It requires a differenct way of thinking. (Talent vs. headcount) It reqires new tools (Social media vs. Intranet). It requires new tasks (flexibility vs. rules). Things in the past need to be abandoned and new ways need to be embraced. If you don't do this then Albert's definition will apply to you and according to Drucker you will be deemed a "sudden incompetent."

What are the top FIVE things you are doing to stave off sudden incompetence? What can others learn from you?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Unemployment Benefits Bill: FAIL

I don't often talk about politics. I find that, like religion, you are not going to change someone's mind. And I am not really talking about a political view. I am talking here about the political process. The politicians in Washington, on both sides, seem to be unable and unwilling to concentrate or focus on an issue. Case in point: the supposed Unemployment Benefits bill that died in the Senate last night. If you listen to the news it says the Republicans killed it, thus they are the villans. If you dig further you find it is because the Democrats could not come up with a way to pay for the extended unemployment benefits. So that makes them a villan.

If you check even further into the bill you find it is filled with a TON OF CRAP! According to Washington Correspondent Jamie Dupree, in his blog Jobless Benefits Fail, the jobless benefits section of the bill is just one bullet point. Here is a sample of what else has been included:
  • $35.5 billion to continue unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless through November. In a majority of states, the unemployed could have received benefits for up to 99 weeks.  
  • $16 billion for states to help cover Medicaid costs and avoid layoffs of public employees.
  • $6.5 billion to provide a six-month reprieve from a scheduled 21 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors.
  • $4.6 billion to settle long-running class-action lawsuits brought by black farmers and American Indians. One lawsuit concerned the government's management and accounting of more than 300,000 trust accounts of American Indians. The other is a discrimination lawsuit brought by black farmers against the Agriculture Department.
  • $4 billion to expand the Build America Bonds program, which subsidizes interest costs paid by local governments when they borrow for construction projects.
  • $1.5 billion in relief for farmers who suffered crop damage from natural disasters in 2009.
  • $1 billion for summer jobs programs, for workers ages 16 to 21.
That totals to an additional $33.6 BILLION in items not related to unemployment! As much as I know how many people need additional or continued benefits I would not have voted for that either.

To see what else is tossed in to this bill you need read Jamie's blog. I think it is time we tell politicians to focus and quit playing games. Our lives, our livelihoods, our homes and our future depend on it.

Is my frustration showing?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The HR Carnival: Summer Time Edition

The summer time edition of the HR Carnival was published yesterday at Mark Stelzner's blog site called Inflexion Point. It is a great collection of HR related articles. If you are on vacation it will make some good beach reading (unless you follow my advice). If you are not on vacation it a good way to spend an hour and get some extra information and education.

There is NO BETTER WAY to stay current than reading professional blogs. And there in no better way to find them than walking down the midway of the HR Carnival.

Good reading.. and if you are on the beach wear your sunglasses and make sure you are using sunscreen unless you are on the Gulf Coast, in which case you are already covered in Sunblock 5000. (Anyone know what movie that is from?)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Shaking the Foundation: An Interview With Kris Dunn The HR Capitalist

I have been following the work of Kris Dunn for a couple of years. I read alot of his blogs on The HR Capitalist and Fistful of Talent. I watch his videos when I find them (this one on Raising Your HR Game is great. It was done with Tim Sackett, also someone to watch.) I read his presentations when I come across them. I recommend his blog to all my students and have a link to him on my blogsite (look down to the right). I am unabashedly a Kris Dunn fan. The reason? I think he is WHAT THE FUTURE OF HR NEEDS TO BE, only he is there today. (There are others in this arena and I will be trying to interview them as well. The first one I did was with Trish McFarlane.)
So without further ado here is the interview. It is worth reading every word.

MH: How did you "arrive" at HR? Fall in to it or seek it out? How and why?
KD: I fell into it. I was looking to relocate to the Southeast after working in market research consulting in St. Louis, and was working my limited network at the time. Some folks I had worked with in the past basically said, “Kris, we like you and want to hire you, but we don’t have anything in marketing. But, we think you’d be great for this HR Manager spot, and we don’t currently have anyone in mind for the job. Want to try that?”. And the rest, as they say, is history.

That just shows the power of the network and the fact that many jobs are closed without ever opening.

MH: You certainly incorporate social media into HR. How did you become a SM user? Any formal training or all by the seat of your pants?
KD: Seat of my pants. I think with any new tool you need a curiosity to learn, which I’ve always had. If you don’t have a curious nature, all the training in the world with any new tool isn’t going to matter, because you aren’t going to incorporate the tools into your life. I think that’s true with any new tool, and certainly with social media.

MH: Is there a "best" educational background for someone in HR?
KD: Something outside of HR. I’d say marketing, which is a skill that’s going to allow someone to think differently than many incumbents in the field of HR.

MH: Is there a "best" work background for someone in HR?
KD: Line management would be the best background – you’ve managed people and done well in that role. Marketing a close second.

MH: You come across as having a strategic point of view... how did you become "strategic" and how can others get there too?
KD: Read and think. I’ve read BusinessWeek and Fortune since I was 25. The more you read about general business strategy (Fortune) and execution (BusinessWeek), the more you think about the world outside of HR, which is probably required to even appear strategic. Also, go get an MBA at a real university. The school really doesn’t matter once you get down from Ivy League, what matters is that you’re involved in the subject matter in a case study method, which makes you think business first, HR second. I think you get strategic by thinking business first, HR fourth.

MH: You have expressed your opinion in the past that "status quo" HR is not going to make it in the future. What is your vision for the field of HR for the next 10 years? How does the field need to progress?
KD: It’s going to be a continued split between the talent managers (those that can recruit talent, then do cool stuff with that talent) and the administrators. Administrators will always be around, but they’ll have increasingly decreased significance as the ability to attract and leverage talent becomes the core skill set of the upscale HR Pro. (See Raising Your HR Game linked above.)

MH: Have any HR heros? Who in the field do you take as a role model.. if anyone?
KD: Can’t say that I have HR Heros, which is kind of sad. Some of the folks I’ve worked for in the past (Don Sykes, Marilyn Brooks, Lisa Bryant, Eric Freesmier) would certainly qualify from an HR perspective, but most of the heros I have are business and talent focused. I dig folks like Seth Godin and Michael Lewis for the big picture, and folks like Harry Joiner for the fact they’re brave enough to do things that others aren’t.

MH: You like sports both personally and as an HR blog topic. What lessons do you think all HR pros can learn from sports?
KD: I don’t write about sports because I like sports (although I do). I write about sports because it’s the most transparent industry related to all things talent. Whether it’s recruiting, succession, etc – you name the HR topic – you can find a transparent accounting of that topic in the sports world. It’s the best lens we have to talk about real examples in the talent industry.

Plus, I’d give it all up today if an NBA team called me up to work for 1/3 of what I make to be someone’s front office flunky. Believe that.

MH: Any words of wisdom for your fellow HR practioners?
KD: Do something from a project basis that feels like you might be risking your career in the next 6 months. You’ll feel alive, more passionate about what you do and this just in – you won’t really be risking your career – you’ll find that the people around you will be more supportive that you expected.

A little more information about Kris, taken from his bio.

Who am I? That’s an easy question. I’m the VP of People for DAXKO, a software company focused on serving the best membership-driven organizations in America. Prior to joining the team at DAXKO in 2009, I was a VP of HR for SourceMedical, a Regional VP of HR for Charter Communications, a HR Manager for BellSouth Mobility (subsequently known as Cingular and AT&T based on which round of consolidation you are referring to), and a Project Manager in the market research division of Aragon Consulting (gobbled up by IBM Global Services). With that track record in mind, I can now say what I thought I never would – I have over a decade in the HR biz.
A final word. You need to follow this man. He will be a major influencer in HR thought for decades to come. He is progressive, he is thoughtful, he is challenging, and he will shake your HR foundation if you let him. You will be the better person for it..

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bogus Interview Question? Need Recruiter Input

There is an article on answering tough questions that I read today. Since I am providing some advice to a friend I read it just to see what it had to say. Generally some good info. However, one question that they said you need to be prepared to answer is "Where do you want to be in 5 years?" My initial gut reaction was "YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING! PEOPLE STILL ASK THAT?" They said it is an easy one to answer and allows you to communicate your ambition, show that you want to be a pro, etc.

After some thought I realized that you do need to be prepared to answer that question, especially if you are fairly early in your career because INEXPERIENCED INTERVIEWERS who don't know squat about interviewing will ask you this. And this is totally inappropriate to ask anyone with more that 20 years of experience. I think you can ask much better questions to determine what someone's ambition is by investigating how they got to where they are today. (Yes, I am a big believer in behavioral interviewing.)

Now I am the first to admit that I don't interview people on a regular basis anymore. So I am asking you experienced recruiters and interviewers out there. Do you still ask this question? If so what are you looking for in getting an obviously rehearsed answer?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Arrives: The Value of Vacations

Did you feel it this morning? That thump at 7:28 am was summer arriving. Though here in the Atlanta area we are now into about our 10th straight day of over 90 degree F with another 7 or so coming. So summer feels like it has been here for awhile. But heat is not the only thing that arrives with summer. This is also the vacation season. I am a big believer in vacations. Having just returned from a two week vacation (in Greece) I personally know the value of the R & R (rest and relaxation) and the ability to renew yourself. I came back recharged. (Well actually I came back and immediately checked a lottery ticket to see if I had won hoping I would be able to go permanently, but no luck.) But I did return to things feeling much less stressed.

According to Elizabeth Scott, M.S., in The Importance of Vacations, for Stress Relief, Productivity and Health there are seven effects that vacations have. These include:
  1. Vacations Promote Creativity: A good vacation can help us to reconnect with ourselves, operating as a vehicle for self-discovery and helping us get back to feeling our best.
  2. Vacations Stave Off Burnout: Workers who take regular time to relax are less likely to experience burnout, making them more creative and productive than their overworked, under-rested counterparts.
  3. Vacations Can Keep Us Healthy: Taking regular time off to ‘recharge your batteries’, thereby keeping stress levels lower, can keep you healthier.
  4. Vacations Promote Overall Wellbeing: One study found that three days after vacation, subjects' physical complaints, their quality of sleep and mood had improved as compared to before vacation. These gains were still present five weeks later, especially in those who had more personal time and overall satisfaction during their vacations.
  5. Vacations Can Strengthen Bonds: Spending time enjoying life with loved ones can keep relationships strong, helping you enjoy the good times more and helping you through the stress of the hard times. In fact, a study by the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services found that women who took vacations were more satisfied with their marriages.
  6. Vacations Can Help With Your Job Performance: As the authors of the above study suggest, the psychological benefits that come with more frequent vacations lead to increased quality of life, and that can lead to increased quality of work on the job.
  7. Vacations Relieve Stress in Lasting Ways: It should come as no surprise that vacations that include plenty of free time bring stress relief, but research shows that a good vacation can lead to the experience of fewer stressful days at least five weeks later! That means that vacations are the gift to yourself that keep on giving.
I personally experienced many of the effects of vacation and I am still basking in the memories as I edit the 1641 pictures I took.

I know that many of you cannot afford to take a vacation like I did. (Though mine was frequent flier miles, time share and hotel points.) Some of you are not in a situation to be able to do so. But it is still important to try to get that R & R. Even if you are unemployed getting away from your current day-to-day situation will be helpful. Check out Ms. Scott's article by clicking on the link for some ideas.

It does work, don't I look relaxed in the picture?

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Supremes Rule on Privacy Rights

Back on Feb. 16, 2010 I wrote a post entitled Privacy in the Workplace: Email Does Not Equal Texting. This dealt with a police department checking the text messages of a police officer who was using his department device to send text messages to his girlfriend. The department checked on these messages and disciplined him for violating department policy. The policy said that the department had the right to monitor email and Internet activity. After he was disciplined the officer sued for invasion of privacy and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in his favor, saying that the policy did not cover texting.

Well the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on that yesterday (June 17) and overturned the 9th Circuit. (Not an infrequent event by the way.) They held that the employer, the police department, had the right to check text messages and that this was reasonable in the course of business. They did not rule on the issue of "reasonable expectation of privacy" given the rapidly changing landscape of communication, but they did say that even if the officer had had such an expectation the department checking things out was not unreasonable given the circumstances.

Because this was a public sector case the implications for private sector employers is not clear. However, in my opinion, this is clear evidence of  the need for a good policy that clearly states what an employees right to privacy in the workplace is and what the rights of the employer are in checking company issued devices. It means that you need to clearly state that ALL company owned devices used for communication purposes, to include email, Internet, texting, phone, etc. may be monitored and employees should expect that communication using those devices may be inspected. Of course some states are stricter in what they allow, so you need to be aware of state and local law regarding privacy in the workplace.

Click on the link I provided above to my previous post for further information.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Social Media as a School Subject: Guest Post from Ben Eubanks

The following is a guest post from Ben Eubanks.

Newsflash: social media still isn't being taught in college

Sure, some people get a little bit of education in that area, but most of us must go forward learning what we can freestyle. But just because I didn't get it doesn't mean nobody else should.

The changing (social) world
There are some different ideas that are changing our world on a daily basis. Here are a few that could be helped with some social media education.
  • Education is not over when you get a degree-it's just the beginning. Use social tools to continue a lifetime of learning.  
  • One of the greatest tools that hardly anyone is taught in college? Networking. And social media has completely revolutionized the arena of networking.  
  • Free is not going anywhere. For the most part, the available tools are completely free. You no longer have to have buckets of money to get access to top-shelf tech. 
  • Branding (whether corporate or personal) is one of the hottest topics today. Knowing how to use social media means you can significantly influence how people view you or your organization.

My Story 

Social media wasn't taught in my school. In one of my earliest posts I talked about how school didn't seem to teach me much about what a job in HR would be like. If they, as I mentioned in that post, didn't even mention some of the more traditional HR tools like the HRIS, ATS, etc., then they certainly didn't talk about innovative new tools and technologies like social media. 

When Mike reached out to me for this guest post, I was surprised. Why? Because I didn't have much to share on the topic. I didn't hear a single mention of anything social media related in my entire four years of college.

Since then, I have learned an incredible amount simply by allowing my natural curiosity and need to guide my exploration of the social tools available. I don't know how things would have been had I learned some of it in my formal education, but I think it's turned out pretty well so far.

What do you think? Should social media be taught in college? If so, should students be taught based upon their major/focus or just as a general group?

Photo credit: Oversocialized


Ben Eubanks is an HR professional from Huntsville, AL. He pretty much lives online, and you can connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn. He also writes a blog for the entry level pros, seasoned veterans, and zombies in the human resources space.

Ben Eubanks is the author of UpstartHR. He brings a new perspective to the field of HR.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Unreasonable Expectations: You Cannot Be Strategic in Three Weeks

"Strategic" means different things to different people. To some people it implies long-time frames. To others it implies effectiveness. Yet to others it is a scary term and to some their career aspiration. Whatever it is, one thing it IS NOT is IMMEDIATE. You can't pull a switch and suddenly be "strategic." You can decide one day to work toward the goal of being strategic and individuals can certainly transition much quicker than organizations.

To me, being strategic is both a mindset and a process. The "mindset" is understanding what your business/organization/group want to accomplish. It is understanding the mission and vision and how the "ultimate" customer wants to be served.

The "process" is determining how HR supports the the mission and vision. What do they mean to HR? How do they determine what HR does or focuses on daily? How does this translate to structure?

Data is required to answer mindset and process questions. You have to look at the current state. You need to interview staff, internal customers and external customers. you need to know what is working and what is not. If you are small you might be able to collect that data, have those conversations, and do the analysis in short order. It will still take time to consider alternatives and develop structures. And finally implementation and dealing with the fallout of change will take time.

If you are a large organization it will take even longer and for very large organizations it will take considerable time and effort. Time expectations need to be built into your plan and those expectations need to be reasonable and realistic.

Just how much time? Well that will vary on a number of factors. But one thing is certain, NO ONE IS GOING TO BE STRATEGIC IN THREE WEEKS.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Unintended Consequences: Is Your Comp Program Killing Your Employees?

In the classes that I teach on the HR I talk about the importance of understanding that HR is not a set of discrete programs, such at the comp program, the training program, the recruiting program, etc., rather is is an interactive system where activity in one aspect of the system may have, or most likely have, an effect somewhere else in the system. Sometimes these effects are intended, but sometimes they are not.

As reported on Wallet Pop the desire to help the families of workers who have committed suicide while on the job may have had the unintended consequence of actually promoting suicide. Using a number of different sources blogger Aaron Crowe reports that the families of workers receive the equivalent of 10 years worth of the worker's wages if the worker commits suicide. This was meant to help the families, but instead it appears that in 13 cases it may have actually lead to the suicide. Caught in a deadend job and trying to help aging parents workers may see this as an opportunity to repay ol' mom and dad. (Not exactly well thought out, but.. who knows.)

It does make you stop and think however. What unintended consequences do our decisions in HR have downstream somewhere else in the system of HR? What compensation decision has affected morale in a way unthought of? What recruitment decision has affected the ability to attract talent? and so on and so on...

Just food for thought.

Tell me about unintended consequences that you have seen in the past. If I collect enough examples perhaps I will repost them.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Preconceived Notions: Do They Cause Us to Miss Things

I came across an interesting story. It concerns an experiment that involved one of today's premier muscians, violinist Joshua Bell. He is a virtuoso with the violin and sells out concerts around the world. This experiment involved Bell dressing in street clothes and playing his violin in a subway station. As detailed in this Washington Post article, entitled Pearls Before Breakfast, the question was whether or not anyone would pay attention to the man with the fiddle. Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, was asked this question. His response? "Let's assume," Slatkin said, "that he is not recognized and just taken for granted as a street musician . . . Still, I don't think that if he's really good, he's going to go unnoticed. He'd get a larger audience in Europe . . . but, okay, out of 1,000 people, my guess is there might be 35 or 40 who will recognize the quality for what it is. Maybe 75 to 100 will stop and spend some time listening."  When asked how much the musician would make his response was $150.

The reality of the situation was much different. Few people stopped, he only made $32, and as the following video shows only one person recognized him.

For the writers and commenters this raised the question "Are our lifes so rushed that we cannot slow down to appreciate the beauty in them?" To me it raises a question of preconceived notions. In this case we assume that if someone has to ply their musical trade in a subway they are not very good. We don't even bother to listen to see if our preconceived notions and assumptions are true or not. In this case they were not. Bell is superb, yet few bothered to even give him a glance.

How about you. Do you have preconceived notions that should be reconsidered? Do you look at someone because of their age, race, color, education, etc. and assume they could not/should not work for you?


Photo credit: Mike Haberman

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Managing Oneself: A Drucker Lesson

The June 1 entry on The Daily Drucker: 366 Days of Insight and Motivation for Getting the Right Things Done deals with managing yourself and your career. He points out that most knowledge workers, which includes HR professionals, will have 50 year careers (or longer) while the average life span of the typical company is only 30 years. So even if you were to be with one company for that long it means that you will have to have another employer for 20 years. And in reality most of us change companies more often than that. As Drucker puts it "... this means that most knowledge workers will have to MANAGE THEMSELVES. They have to place themselves where they will can make teh greatest contributions; they will have to learn to develop themselves. They will have to learn how and when to change what they do, how they do it, and when they do it." In SHRM's lingo this is what is known as Career Planning.

Drucker recommends you ask yourself the following questions:
  • Who am I?
  • What are my strengths?
  • How to I work to achieve results?
  • What are my values?
  • Where do I belong?
  • Where do I not belong?
He also recommends you measure your own performance. Record what results you expect and compare to your actual results.

Since alot of you may have been through just such an analysis in the past two years what would you add to Drucker's list? What have you done with career planning and how well did it work?