Friday, July 30, 2010

The I-9: Just a Simple Little Form - Yeah Right!

Back on July 12th I wrote a post called. Feds Getting Heavy on I-9 Enforcement: So Dot Those I's and Cross Those T's where I talked about some of the very nasty results of not properly filing, recording, and storing I-9s. By this time in our working lives there should be no one who has not seen an I-9. If you have started another job since 1986 you have had to complete this form. So you may ask "What is the big deal it is just a simple form." Well the answer to that is that it is not so simple. There have been multiple iterations of the form. (TIP: Always keep a copy of the instructions that accompany the form you used. Since the types of ID that apply have changed you should be able to show an auditor that at that time you were in compliance.) This form is so simple (not!) that the USCIS put out a 65 page handbook on how to complete the form. Yes you read that correctly, 65 pages. You can find this Handbook for Employers: Instructions for Completing Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification Form) by click the underlined title.

On July 22, 2010 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) published a final rule that allows employers and recruiters or referrers for a fee, who are obligated to retain the Form I-9, to sign this form electronically and retain it in an electronic format. This final rule amends and updates an interim rule published on June 15, 2006. It allows you to even have I-9s saved in paper or electronic formats or a combination ot the two. But before you go "great I can scan all these forms from now on" make sure you understand the requirements. You can also fill out a form electronically on the USCIS website. However, there are some hoops you have to jump through to make sure it is correctly done. If it is not done correctly then you will be found in violation of the law.

ICE and USCIS also cleared up a couple of other issues. First was the "three day rule". ICE/USCIS said this is three "workdays" and the three days does not include the first day worked. You can do the paperwork ahead of time.

For some people there has been some confusion about storage. The question is how long do I have to keep these forms. Straight from the handbook comes this statement. "Forms I-9 must be stored for 3 years after the date you hire an employee, or 1 year after the date you or the employee terminates employment, whichever is later. For example, if an employee retires from your company after 15 years, you will need to store his or her Form I-9 for a total of 16 years." This maybe one of the advantages of electronic storage.

The also answered some questions on E-verify and the three day rule. You can find guidance for that by visiting here. E-Verify is a bit more complex than the I-9. The guidebook for it is can be found by clicking on The User Manual for Employers. It is only 78 pages. Yep only 78 pages. Happy reading.

I would suggest you download both of these guides. If you read the post I wrote earlier (link is above) you know that doing this correctly is critical. You screw this stuff up you can be fined, or charged with a felony and go to jail and have your personal property seized. No one wants that. Crap they take enough already without you even doing anything wrong.  

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Highlights in Compensation Thought: Featuring The Compensation Cafe

Because I am a generalist by training and trade I have to work at keeping up on what is happening in compensation. I do so by reading one of my favorite blogs called Compensation Cafe. Created by Ann Bares, who also writes a personal comp blog called Compensation Force, it is a collection of posts from a team of experience compensation pros that Ann has enlisted to write on compensation topics. (Compensation Force is also published in Workforce Magazine's online issue.)

While consistently good, lately there have been a couple of posts that are outstanding and I wanted to highlight a few of them.

First up is 77 Cents and Gender Discrimination: The Wrong Conclusion written by Stephanie R. Thomas. This is the best explanation of the wage gap between men and women that I have ever read. In my opinion this one blog post should be considered required reading, NOW, for all human resources professionals. Current legislation may be passed on the basis of what turns out to be an incorrect interpretation of data presented a 2007 article. In the classes I teach I often address the wage gap and mention that there are many factors that go into that gap beyond discrimination. This article gives me more concrete information to use in that discussion. By Stephanie's review of the data it shows that the vast majority of the wage gap does NOT occur due to discrimination. However, the current proponents of the Paycheck Fairness Act would lead you to believe otherwise. Because this is an issue of immediate importance EVERY HR PRO needs to be well versed in this subject and needs to read this post NOW.

The second post I wanted to highlight is one written by Ann Bares herself. It is called Salary Ranges Must Die ... and be Reborn. It is an excellent explanation of how the age old concept of salary ranges and budgeted increases no longer works in world of talent management. I have long had a problem with pay-for-performance being restricted by wage increase budgets. I am looking forward to Ann developing her concept to a greater extent. But I would check it out.

The third post I wanted to highlight is sandwiched in between the above two. Written by Laura Schroeder, Total Rewards Gurus - Where Are You?, the post discusses the relationship of non-cash incentives and employee engagement and how that fits into a total reward system. Ms. Schroeder wonders aloud why compensation specialist are not leading the charge in arena. The mix in any total reward system is important and research indicates that perhaps now is the time to change the mix. Interesting work.

So there you have it. Three great pieces to educate the rest of us "compensation dummies". Check them out and put them on your reading list.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Are Men In HR Going the Way of the Dinosaur?

I was reading some of my mail this morning as I was wondering what to write about today. One newsletter I get is The Keen Thinker, written by the folks at 800CEOread. (This is a resource I highly recommend. They give you the scoop on all the business books being produced today. I get there Keen Thinker newsletter, their daily blog, and the weekly In Bubble Wrap which gives books away. I have gotten two in the past.) In this most recent issue of The Keen Thinker Carol Grossmeyer, owner of 800-CEO-READ, reviews and recommends The Female Vision by Sally Helgesen & Julie Johnson.

In her review Ms. Grossmeyer writes "Sally Helgesen, bestselling author of The Female Advantage, and Julie Johnson, a pioneer in executive coaching, have written a book that explains the difference in how men and women approach the business world." She further says "Through research, well-documented studies and personal experience stories, Helgesen and Johnson explain in The Female Vision what women “notice,” how they value what they “see,” and how that vision can be a powerful tool at all levels of the business world. But because, for the most part, business schools teach a singular “male” vision (“women's attention operates like a radar, picking up signals across a wide spectrum, whereas men's attention operates like a laser, focusing on a single point in depth”), the traditional workplace is not structured to recognize women’s, often more subjective, observations."

Ms. Grossmeyer quotes several sections of the book that talk about "The lack of attention to and lack of respect for women’s ways of seeing, their holistic approach to motivation, and their perception of worth and satisfaction has put our marketplace—and culture in general— at a grave disadvantage." 
One quote that caught my eye in particular is "The value women place on relationships has increasing marketplace value. Changes in the nature of technology have made relationships—with customers, clients, suppliers, competitors, shareholders, and the community as well as within the organization itself—a far more vital resource for organizations than in years past."

Reading this got me to thinking about the field of Human Resources. It is no secret that in the past few decades that the field has become female dominated. You only have to go to a conference to see that. (Anyone have the figures for male vs. female attendance in San Diego?) My own observation from teaching the PHR/SPHR prep classes over the past 13 years shows that attendance in those classes has been at least 80% female. If you read HR blogs a large number are written by women. (PunkRockHR, The HR Minion, The HR Bartender, Profitability Through Human Capital, the HR Ringleader just to name a few.) There are some notable men, Kris Dunn, Lance Haun and Mike Vandervort, that come to mind. But many of the men are in specialties that might be considered "male" such as labor, technology and recruiting (finding prey?).

So given that and the increasing marketplace value of women's view of relationships I ask myself am I a member of a dying breed, a male in HR? Is the time of Men in HR past?

What do you think? Are men in HR going extinct? And why?

(By the way if you are interested in the book The Female Vision you can get it through 800CEORead here or at Amazon The Female Vision: Women's Real Power at Work. I will be putting it on my reading list. )

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Final Leadership Lesson from the Tour de France

If you follow sports at all or even just glance at the news you probably know that the Tour de France is overwith as of yesterday July 25th. You may have picked up that Alberto Contador won his third Tour. In the news this race was as much about Lance Armstrong's FAILURE TO REPEAT as it was about Contador's win (battling Andy Schleck). Much was made of Armstrong's crashes and flats and his "old" legs. He only finished 23rd, out of 170 riders, thus "failing" at his comeback and a ride to glory.

Armstrong had plenty of personal reasons to withdraw early from the race. It was obvious from the end of week one that he was not going to win. He could have avoided the "embarassment" of not winning. He could have avoided all the press questions about being "old." He could have avoided the physical pain of riding long days with scrapes, bumps and bruises. He could have avoided having to hand over his leadership position to someone else. He could have avoided having to support a teammate who was a "lesser" rider.

But he didn't! He rode everyday. He pushed when he was needed and he supported as needed. He did improve his personal standing but MORE IMPORTANTLY he stayed in a leadership position to allow his TEAM to compete for the championship. And compete they did. The Radioshack team, managed by Johann Bruneel and lead by Lance Armstrong finished as the number one team in the Tour de France.

As a leader Armstrong set aside his personal travails and made sure the team prospered. He set an example that the younger riders learned from and provided an example to all of us of leadership. As a result his team prospered, his team was rewarded (reputation-wise and financially) and he ended his last Tour de France in a manner befitting a champion.

Lesson learned: Leadership is not about personal glory, it is about the success of those you lead.

Photo credit: borrowed from without permission but asking for foregivenss

Friday, July 23, 2010

End of the Week Reading: Great Posts to Read

As we wrap up the workweek (at least the official one.. I almost always do a little work on the weekend) I wanted to point out to you some interesting blog posts. Something you can open on your laptop or IPad at the pool and read while sipping a cool one or a cup of coffee.

  1. Alan's Blog from Alan Weiss, an extrodinary consultant and teacher. He writes On Leading and  how leaders stand their ground.
  2. Suzanne Lucas, the Evil HR Lady, who also writes for BNET talks about 5 Things to Do When the Boss is Wrong. Some good advice for a tough situation.
  3. The folks at Compensation Today over a brief lessons on some compensation metrics that EVERYONE should know, like Compa-ratio. So check out Compensation Metrics Defined.
  4.  Alan Collins of Success in HR, writes about making some extra money in what he calls a "side hustle" and offers some ideas and suggestions for find the right one for you. He mentions teaching, which I do a lot of, but I never thought of it as a side hustle. Interesting article.
  5. Frank Roche, at KnowHR,  writes Where in the Hell was HR in the Shirley Sherrod Case at the USDA. I am sure this will become a classic example of why you don't let managers file on the spot, especially when your boss is the President.
  6. Barbara Hughes at Leading Engaged Companies writes about Making Tough News Inspiring. The story she relates is an excellent one. Barbara writes a smart, well thought out blog. I would put this one on "my must read" list.
A final observation for the week. There have been numerous examples in the news that all HR managers and business leaders can take a lesson from. The Sherrod firing as knee-jerk reaction being the biggest. But last night I was struck by something President Obama said about setting an example. In talking about the Unemployment Compensation bill being passed he said that (I paraphrase here) "Unemployed Americans who have been without help have had to cut budgets, cut corners and manage their money in order to survive. They should expect nothing less from their Government." I don't quibble that people need that money, but how does passing a $34 BILLION measure without finding a way to pay for it demonstrate the governmental fiscal leadership he spoke of?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mid-Summer Carnival of HR: Education for HR

The mid-summer edition of the Carnival of HR is being hosted by Jennifer McClure of Unbridled Talent in her Online Degree edition. There are some very interesting and educational posts to be found and you can get a semester's worth of learning in a few hours just by reading these blog posts.

You can find learning material on leadership, corporate culture, diversity, technology, performance management, psychology, recruiting, social media, talent and much more.

So, if you want to be stimulated, educated, elucidated, and just made plain 'ol smarter then trot on over to Unbridled Talent and grab yourself some learnin'.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Independent Contractor Safe Harbor Now a Minefield

Yesterday I listened to a webinar put on by the law firm of Smith, Gambrell & Russell. There were multiple topics, but the one part that most caught my attention was conducted by attorney Tracie Johnson Maurer. Her topic was Status of the Independent Contractor Employment Tax Forgiveness under Section 530 of the Revenue Act of 1978. Independent Contractor classification has long been, and still is, an area of consternation for employers. Many a company has run afoul of the IRS by improperly classifying workers as independent contractors when the IRS classified them as employees. (I wrote about this most recently on April 15, 2010 in the IRS and HR: Who is an Employee). Of course we all know the reason the IRS argues for employee status is that it is easier to collect taxes from companies than it is to collect from the independent individual. As you can see from Ms. Maurer's topic head this has been an issue since 1978.

In 1978, in the Revenue Act, and again in 1996 in the Small Business Job Protection Act, Congress tried to clarify the issue by creating a SAFE HARBOR provision that protected companies in certain instances of misclassification. The language of this measure is:

The Revenue Act of 1978 produced Section 530 to address the controversies that were arising between the IRS and business taxpayers over whether businesses had correctly classified certain workers as self employed, i.e., independent contractors, rather than as employees. Section 530 "...generally allows a taxpayer to treat a worker as not being an employee for employment tax purposes (but not income tax purposes), regardless of the individual's actual status under the common-law test, unless the taxpayer has no reasonable basis for such treatment...[However, it has been] the position of the IRS, based on legislative history, that section 530 can only apply after a determination has been made that a worker is an employee under the common-law test."

"Under section 530, a reasonable basis for treating a worker as an independent contractor is considered to exist if the taxpayer:

(1) reasonably relied on published rulings or judicial precedent,

(2) reasonably relied on past IRS audit practice with respect to the taxpayer,

(3) reasonably relied on long-standing recognized practice of a significant segment of the industry of which the taxpayer is a member, or

(4) has any other reasonable basis for treating a worker as an independent contractor.

The legislative history states that section 530 is to be "construed liberally in favor of taxpayers".

Ms. Maurer makes it clear in her presentation that the safe harbor has limited use and that you still have to use the IRS 20 factor rules and she says "An employer-employee relationship can be established by one factor (i.e., payment of the worker’s social security taxes; the worker provides services solely and on a full-time basis to the employer) or any combination of factors." So it is a tricky path to try to follow. The safe harbor is in effect even if the independent contractor failed to pass the 20 Factor test if they meet three conditions. These are:

1. The business must have filed all required tax returns, including informational reports such as 1099s, consistently with the employer’s treatment of the worker as an independent contractor.

2. All workers holding substantially similar positions must have been treated as independent contractors.

3. There must be a reasonable basis upon which to believe the worker is an independent contractor.

Now, due to budget pressures (you know that multi-trillion dollar debt we now have) there is a new emphasis on making money. The IRS is once again considering revising their interpretation of the laws. According to Ms. Maurer "Federal budget for FY 2011 contains proposed provisions which would allow the IRS to issue regulatory guidance on employment tax classification and to reclassify workers found to have been misclassified even if otherwise prohibited by Section 530." The IRS will have $25 million more to hire more compliance officers and they have already announced they will be auditing 6000 businesses for IC violations.

So be forewarned. Know whether you are properly classifying workers as Independent Contractors. Guidance can be found in this post Independent Contractor: The Devil in Disguise.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Guest Appearance on DriveThruHR Radio: Is Certification Worth It?

I was the guest on DriveThruHR, hosted by Bryan Wempen. DriveThruHR is the #1 Daily HR Interet radio show in the country. Bryan, who is studying for his SPHR, asked me to talk a bit about the value of the HRCI certification. Of course my answer is yes, on both a personal and professional level. But rather than writing what I said I am giving you the chance to listen to the show. Click on show 91 or the replay of 91.

Listen to internet radio with Bryan Wempen on Blog Talk Radio
Let me know what you think. I will also be appearing next Thursday, the 29th of July talking about recent changes in the regulations surrounding INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS.  The news is not good. So stay tuned.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Strategic Knowledge: Hidden Unemployment and Its Impact

I taught a SHRM prepartion class on Saturday to a new group of students. The first module discussed in the prep course is on Strategic Managment. Part of this discussion centers around environment scanning and one of the areas that all good HR pros should pay attention to is what is currently happening with the current workforce. As part of that discussion I mentioned that unemployment was officially about 9.5% on a national basis and about 10% in Georgia. However, I said that unofficially it was more like 16% because "official" numbers did not count those who had dropped off the rolls and were no longer collecting unemployment benefits nor did it count those who were "underemployed". These folks include people working part-time jobs. For numbers purposes they are counted as employed, but if you ask them they are not working enough or in their field of expertise. They consider themselves unemployed and are holding a part-time job to help pay bills while looking for "real" work.

Well after having made that statement in class I went home and was reading some news where I discovered an article The Jobless Effect: Is The Real Unemployment rate 16.5%, 22% or ...? Author Pallavi Gogoi reports on surveys that have shown that the real unemployment rate may be 22% or even higher. This has led the researcher to question the accuracy of the Department of Labor Statistics numbers and, as the writer reports, this is not the first time. A number of researchers, writers, academics and others have long thought that the government "cooks the books" when it comes to unemployment figures. However, at this time it has potentially devasting consequences. One of these is that lawmakers base their legislative actions on a picture that is less grim than it actually is. Additionally, businesses may ramp up based on such figures only to be disappointed because consumer demand is not there due to the fact that more people are unemployed than was reported.  One writer suggest that one of the reasons that unemployment benefits have not been extended is the much "rosier" 9.5% reported than the actual, near depression level, of 22%.

The research shows that 50% of workers in the US report they have lost a job or suffered some financial impact due to the recession. We all know someone who is out of work and probably know someone who is part of this "hidden unemployement". As part of the response to this another impact on the laborforce is that many seniors have returned to work, often taking positions that would normally go to teens. As a result unemployment among teens is running two or three times the level of the rest of the workforce. The impact of this has been a reduction in teen spending, a large part of the consumer market. However, another impact is that teens are not learning workplace skills, like showing up on time, that will be necessary for them to be successful in the future.

I am not sure of the appropriate solution or solutions to this problem. When you have politics, social influences, education and money all wrapped up into a problem there will be no easy solution. However...

The lesson for HR professionals is to be aware of what is going on and how it will influence what you and your company do in the coming 6 months to 2 years. How does hidden unemployment, teen unemployment, lack of trust in government reporting, lack of consumer spending and the political arena impact your organization? Being aware of these issues and guiding your company through the minefield will improve your worth and help you avoid joining the ranks of the unemployed.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Value of Twitter in a Job Search

I don't usually write about job searching. There are many people out there that already do that. I do offer help when asked and have even coached a few people. Part of what I try to get across to people is the value of Twitter in a job search. There are ways of searching for jobs by job type, field or location. Additionally you can get connected with a multitude of recruiters and start to build relationships. You can also connect with the HR person you may want to get connected to from a particular company. You can also connect with career coachs and people that can help with resume writing and job search tips.

One such person is Miriam Salpeter of Keppie Careers. I point out Miriam for a couple of reasons. First I have met her at a couple of Tweet ups. Secondly I am connected to her on Twitter. Thirdly, she has an excellent blog post entitled Twitter Users are more likely to get job interviews, that I think all job searchers should read. She says that "Sending tweets that inspire people to read, retweet and reply requires an ability to communicate in the short form. It turns out this may be much more valuable than you might have realized!" She then discusses research that makes the point "The company believes job seekers who use Twitter are more likely to be shortlisted because they write interesting, eye-catching and succinct CV summaries which appeals to recruiters."

There is some debate on whether that result is due to the fact that Twitter attracts better writers or if, by writing Tweets, one becomes better at being able to convey information more effectively in short phrases. I believe, as does Miriam, that a bit of both applies. Can you become a better writer through Twitter? Well she discusses Gladwell's Outliers and the 10,000 hour rule of becoming an expert. Practice makes perfect? Maybe not, but practice does make better for sure.

Miriam's post offers some tips and a good number of sites to review to help you get started on Twitter or to use Twitter better. So check it out. Why deny yourself another tool to finding that next job?

And for those of you that aren't looking for jobs, well Twitter is an excellent tool for a good number of other things. Check out my post on The Value of Twitter: Putting Some RICE in Your Social Media Diet.

By the way, I would like to hear of success stories on using Twitter to find a job if you have one.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Key Factors in Strategic Decisions: Decisiveness, Timeliness and Risk

I just finished a brief article written for the McKinsey Quarterly by Anne Mulcahy, the chairman and former CEO of Xerox. They had asked her to reflect on strategic decision making. One of the points she made in her article dealt with timeliness of decisions. She said "Decisiveness is about timeliness. And timeliness trumps perfection. The most damaging decisions are the missed opportunities, the decisions that didn't get made in time.... all the decisions you didn't make because you missed the window of time that existed to take advantage of the opportunity."  There are a lot of lessons there for management and HR in that statement. Have you missed a great hire because you took too long to make a decision? Have you dealt with a major lawsuit because you did not address a problem, such as harassment, until it was too late?

She also made the comment "These days, everyone is risk averse. Unfortunately , people define risk as something you avoid rather than something you take. But taking risks is critical to your decision-making effectiveness and growth..." She made a comment as well that exemplfies many HR departments "... we got very conservative, very risk averse, and also too data driven."

Have you avoided making a decision because you wanted to look at one more candidate? Avoided firing someone because you wanted to give them "one more chance"? You need to remember that decsions have "shelf lives." The cure for this is to put tight timeframes on your decision-making process. Collect only some much data and avoid "paralysis by analysis." Only solicit so many opinions and do so from a balanced group of people some of who have a stake in the decision and from some that don't.

And lastly remember to listen to your own "inner voice." As Mulchay says "... when trying to take the bias out of decision-making, you need to be really cautious NOT to take instinct, courage and gut out as well." (my emphasis). If you have any mileage on you at all you experience, skills and knowledge that you should listen to. So don't discount your ability in making key strategic decisions.

Can anyone provide an example of a missed opportunity for lack of timeliness or due to risk averse behavior?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tour de France's Lessons on Teams: More for HR and Management

As the Tour de France riders slug their way through the Alps in France more lessons for Human Resource and Management become apparent. These include:
  • Anyone on the team can assume a leadership role on a temporary basis as needed by the circumstances. You have to have team your members trained to lead when their strengths are most needed. And the overall leader needs to direct when the member needs to step up.
  • Sometimes the "big picture" changes and you have to be adaptive. Having flexibility built into your plan and your team members will allow you to weather the difficulties.
  • Team members cannot quit just because they are no longer the "star." Ego has to be supplanted with loyalty to the team and the goal. Even though his chances of winning are gone Lance Armstrong rides on to support the team.
  • There is an old saying and t-shirt slogan that says "Age and treachery overcomes youth and strength." Knowing how to play the game, knowing the shortcuts will often get you there first. But not always. Sometimes you have to have the strength and stamina to pump your legs to get up the hill. So make sure you team has "young legs" to instill the energy needed.
  • Remember, often what you are trying to achieve is not a one-day race. It is often an extreme event like the Tour de France and you cannot lose sight of your strategy and plan. It just has to adapt.
So there you have it. Lessons from Stage 9 of the Tour de France.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Feds Getting Heavy on I-9 Enforcement: So Dot Those I's and Cross Those T's

I have written several times on the new emphasis that the Feds, specifically the USDOL, the EEOC, the OFCCP, and ICE of Homeland Security, are putting on clamping down on employers. Well I picked up my copy of HRMagazine today and read the column "Federal Enforcers Wield Big Sticks". Writer Beth Mirza provides more ammunition to what I have been saying. She is talking in particular about the I-9 form. She quotes attorney Mary Pivec, of Keller and Heckman LLP as saying employers are "carrying extreme liability" in their I-9 forms because aggressive agents are "looking for people to prosecute."

According to Mirza and Pivec the volume of I-9 audits will be stepped up considerably in 2010 and , get this, THEY ARE NOT SEEKING CIVIL REMEDIES, THEY USING CRIMINAL ENFORCEMENT AGAINST EMPLOYERS! This means business owners can have their PERSONAL PROPERTY SEIZED and middle managers (aka HR) can be charged with THE FELONIES OF CONSPIRACY AND HARBORING.

That is not the only arena. Wage and Hour class action suits are on the rise, OSHA is getting very aggressive and seeking criminal remedies and a friend told me today that federal contractors are now being told by the OFCCP that the will be found guilty of discrimination if they source candidates through social media sites since the majority of social media users are white. I have not confirmed the last bit of information, but I will let you know if I do. But the other stuff is fact.

So your HOUSE had better be in order! Unless you think you look good in an orange or blue jumpsuit.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Tour de France's Lessons for Human Resources and Management

I am a big fan of the Tour de France. My wife and I had the good fortune to be in France for Lance Armstrong's historic sixth win. Watching it on TV is not the same, you just don't get an appreciation for how big of an event it really is. But what you do get to see on TV is the back stories which gives you a much differenct appreciation for how well organized and how efficient the teams conduct their business. As I watched one broadcast I thought "there are some lessons here that management would do well to pay attention to." Here are some of my thoughts:
  • TALENT matters. Riders are carefully recruited for the value they bring to the team.
  • EVERYONE matters. Everyone plays a role in the success of the team. You start losing members you run the risk of failure.
  • You can handle some loss of talent because of cross training. But too much and you are done.
  • There can only be a small number of "stars." In fact on a cycling team there really can only be one and the rest of the team is there to make them successful.
  • The team is made up of a variety of talents and skills. You need climbers, you need sprinters.
  • Management team is important. They provide direction, pay attention to strategy and make sure the details are taken care of.
  • Planning is critical. Every detail of the course is paid attention to. They talk about the day at the beginning and they talk about it at the end of the day.
  • Flexibility is critical. You cannot control everyone around you. Someone else crashes you need to be ready. Tire goes flat you need to get it fixed right away. So planning for what may go wrong is important. (Is anyone from BP reading this?)
  • Resources are important. The riders drink 21 bottles of water per race day and eat 400 calories per hour. They have to do that on the bike and someone has to have all that prepared and they have to get it to them at the proper time. You cannot do good work without resources.
  • Rewards are fairly distributed. Money is earned by various successes, typically by the star. But they are evenly distributed because the star would not have gotten there without the team.
These are the lessons I take away from the Tour de France. If you watch what else would you suggest?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Silver Tsunami: A Follow Up To Yesterday's Ageism Post

After I wrote my riff (actually more of a rant) on AGEISM I came across a blog post on TomorrowToday's blog entitled The Silver Tsunami- Managing Older Workers. A very, very interesting blog post. Writer Graeme Codrington talks about the work of Martin Amis and Christopher Buckley who are writers who are entering their silver years and are worried about the costs of an ageing population. He says few people really grasp what is going to occur, especially people in the corporate world. Some of the facts he points out include:

  • "Companies in the rich world are confronted with a rapidly ageing workforce. Nearly one in three American workers will be over 50 by 2012, and America is a young country compared with Japan and Germany. China is also ageing rapidly, thanks to its one-child policy. This means that companies will have to learn how to manage older workers better."
  • "Most companies are remarkably ill-prepared. There was a flicker of interest in the problem a few years ago but it was snuffed out by the recession. The management literature on older workers is a mere molehill compared with the mountain devoted to recruiting and retaining the young."
  • Companies are still stuck with an antiquated model for dealing with ageing, which assumes that people should get pay rises and promotions on the basis of age and then disappear when they reach retirement.
  • Companies will have to do more than this if they are to survive the silver tsunami. They will have to rethink the traditional model of the career. This will mean breaking the time-honoured link between age and pay – a link which ensures that workers get ever more expensive even as their faculties decline. It will also mean treating retirement as a phased process rather than a sudden event marked by a sentimental speech and a carriage clock.
He gives several examples of companies that are starting to catch on. These companies, like BMW, are making changes to make older workers as productive as younger ones with minor changes.

This blog post is a great follow up to the admonition I gave you yesterday about looking at skills and abilities of older workers. If you have an aging workforce THIS IS REQUIRED READING.

So go off and read this blog post on managing older workers, but be sure to come back and leave your thoughts, ideas or even better yet your programs you have instituted to deal with managing older workers.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Age is Just a State of Mind: At Least I Think So Because Today Is My Birthday

Today is my birthday! (Not soliciting well wishes, but if  you must I will accept them, however, gifts and money would be preferred.) I am 59 today, an age that for a long time I would have considered old. But I don't feel old, at least not as old as I once thought 59 would feel. Granted physically I am not as fast as I used to be, though I was never really fast, just quick. I am not as strong as I used to be, though I think you might still think twice before picking a fight with me. I can ride a bicycle 50 miles in a sitting and will be returning to triathlons next year to celebrate my 60th birthday.

I am smarter than I used to be, primarily because I have learned I don't know it all. I have learned to listen better and ask better questions. I have a lot of knowledge but also realize being smart is not just about "knowing" things. I respect traditions but embrace "new". I am computer savvy, social media savvy, and device savvy (My daughter was blown away the first "text" she got from me).

I make these points because I am pretty certain that, if I were to leave my consulting position, I would be unable to find a position in HR. Even HR professionals, who should know better, look down on age. (See my series on AGEISM) I have several friends, excellent professionals all, who have similar capabilities who are having very difficult times finding HR positions. If gray hair is seen, or no hair is seen, or you have some wrinkles, or a decade is mentioned you get tagged as "old." Sure you hear "Well you look great for your age" (which not quite the compliment it is meant to be), but that statement is loaded with implications. Companies are making mistakes by not hiring those people. Some company would make a mistake by not making me a CHRO if I sought such a position. And as a result they miss out on tons of experience backed by great ideas, high work ethic, creativity and enough backbone to stand up to the most difficult of employees.

Now take a look around at candidates you are considering, for whatever position you have open. Do you have the same biases when you see a bald head, a gray pate, a wrinkled brow or crows feet around the eyes? Is this coloring your perception of their abilities? Are you really making a decision without consideration and hiding behind "overqualification'? For if you are then you may be cheating your company out of one of the best employees you may ever have.

Yes I realize some people who reach 50 or 60 or 70 act old, look old, think old. But I have met many 20 or 30 or 40 something who also think "old" and act "old." OLD is a state of mind. It is how you approach life. To me if you embrace new ideas, new ways of doing things, are open to possibilities then you are not "old" regardless of physical age. So look at those candidates again and reassess who is really the "old" one.

As a final word on the subject just remember someday you too will be in that position. How would you want someone to decide on you? Abilities or age?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Your Skills Are Obsolete and Now We Cannot Hire You: A Proposed Solution

A New York Times article published Friday July 2nd, entitled Factory Jobs Return, but Employers Find Skills Shortage, it was pointed out that many factories are in a hiring mode again. They are ready to restaff and get production cranked up. So what is the problem? Just call back those folks laid off a year or two ago and put them to work! Well, unfortunately that is not the solution. During the intervening time between layoff and current need these factories have retooled. They are now more automated and computer controlled and the people that used to work in the factories DO NOT HAVE THE SKILLS to do the work as currently needed. And the employers who spent all their money to retool probably are not able to spend the money to retrain people. Employers expect workers to get their skills up-to-date using available programs, such as the Workforce Investment Act, which provides money for retraining. Unfortunately it is not working. Perhaps for a couple of reasons.

Many of the job cuts that were made involved unskilled labor. Many of the workers in such jobs may not have the education, or the "smarts" or the desire to learn a new skill that requires a higher level of education, or math skills, or computer skills, etc. Many of these workers, and even some semi-skilled workers, continue to look for the type of work they have always done, not realizing or refusing to realize, that the work they have done in the past has gone forever. Kind of reminds me of Einstein's quote on Insanity. "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Some of the people I know refuse to get education or to change fields. This attitude has been listed as one of the root causes of male unemployment being higher than female unemployment. (See my post on the Great Sex Divide in Unemployment and Retraining.) They get frustrated, discouraged, or lazy and never start or quit quickly. So for these folks unemployment will be long. And the bad news is the benefits have dried up. So what is the solution? Unfortunately the voluntary programs are not working, at least not as well as they should.

I offer this solution as an alternative. Congress needs to get their act together and decide how they can pay for unemployment benefits. Once they do, offer unemployment benefits under the following condition, MANDATORY TRAINING. You only get the benefits if you get into programs that will give you the skill sets you will need to work in an industry that is looking for workers. Everyone gets math, science, language and computer skills. You don't want to spend time in a classroom? Fine, your choice. But you don't get money from the taxpayers to finance your sloth.

For some people this is going to require a MAJOR ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT. Many employers are reporting that part of the reason they are having a hard time finding the right workers is ATTITUDE. People who don't want to learn are not going to get hired. I know you may have spent the last 20 years doing (fill in the blank) but it is not working and you have to decide it is time to move on.

I know my solution is much more complex than what I stated. There would be alot of logistics involved in such an educational movement. But it needs to start, sooner rather than later. And if it doesn't we will be in a world of hurt as a country. Making "shovel ready" jobs is not a long term solution. I think politicians and many unemployed workers need a good swift kick in the pants, especially the politicians.

So how do we get this started? "Buhler?"