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July 2008

Succession Planning - Let's Set Up a Boxing Ring and Make Them Compete for the "Ready Now" Tag....

I like to think about succession planning - it's fun.  Who's up next?  Who's going to replace Bob when he gets the cushy gig in strategic planning?  Can we set up a boxing ring in the lobby and have Dorfman and Squire (not Billy, you 80's rocker you) slug it out for the treasured "ready now" tag?

I jest because it's true.  Nothing causes more gossip than a formal succession planning initiative running loose in a Division.  See them carrying the binder out of the big conference room?  That's the list!  I heard my name was on it.  What about you?

We'll talk about whether you tell people they're included in a succession plan in a week or two.  What'sSuccessionplanning1 on my mind today is whether you can actually measure the ROI of succession planning.  Erik Berggren, senior director of customer results & global research at SuccessFactors, thinks you can and gives some examples here:

"The first step is to make sure there is a sound assessment process loaded with integrity to provide this data. To be able to accomplish this in any scale, organisations are integrating this workforce planning or supply-based succession management process, if you will, with their performance review process. An integrated and fully automated talent management process makes life easy for managers and employees and is the starting point.

A FTSE 500 financial services customer (that we have been recently working with) has been able to improve their internal fill rate from 60 per cent to 75 per cent with an estimated direct financial benefit of $11.5 million on an annual basis, which is a direct cost saving (and is also a conservative estimate). This example aims to highlight that for companies, the stakes are high.

A major retailer was able to find 15 new regional managers when tapping into the talent pool after assessing individual staff members from the store manager level and below, including assistant store managers using the right tools and technologies. The external cost of hiring to fulfill the need for regional managers was well above a million dollars per year. The 'ready bench', as it is sometimes called, also put to use, grew by 20% during the first year. For this company, this was key for overall growth, and furthermore provided significant cost avoidance benefits from not having to hire so many managers externally.

Again, there is a direct cost saving attached to this initiative but the real strategic value for this company was that they improved their employee engagement score by 7%. So the ripple effects of these investments are instrumental."

If you read the article by Berggren, you'll see it's nicely done, and I kind of expect SuccessFactors to make a compelling case for Succession Planning.  I wish the article gave a little more depth regarding how performance management ties into clearly identifying the best candidates across the enterprise.  Common competencies that can be "dragged, dropped and rated" into the rating schemes across multiple jobs? 

It would be interesting to understand more, and I'd love to hear more regarding how smaller companies can leverage automated performance management in this way as well.

Until I get that clarity, I'm still thinking about Dorfman and Squire in the ring for the "ready now" tag.  I'll even put the succession planning binder on the ropes of the ring for dramatic effect...  Imagine if Jack Welch would have used the boxing ring.  Is there any doubt Nardelli pummels Immelt for the crown?


Economic Crack for Employees - The 401k Debit Card....

Gas prices are up, food prices are up.  The pressure is on from all corners...

Tough economic times mean that your employees will be looking for nickels and dimes in the sofa but also in the the workplace - by looking to tweak their tax withholdings, opt out of medical employee contributions, and other extreme measures.

It's up to you to provide counsel to them.  One tool, that some take advantage of in times like these, is the 401k loan.  It's a bad idea from a retirement standpoint, but part of the plan.  Most 401k loan programs have enough hoops and come with enough penalties and poison pills that employees look elsewhere for cash. 

A new kind of economic crack has hit the streets - the 401k Debit Card....From the Wall Street Journal:

"Debit cards are straightforward. You use them for purchases and money is deducted from401kdebitcardsretirementplans1271 your bank account. But when the debited account is your 401(k) retirement plan, critics angrily line up to take a swipe at that piece of plastic.

It isn't hard to see why. The 401(k) debit card lets you borrow from retirement savings and pay yourself back with interest over time, much as you would with a typical 401(k) loan. Only the card makes it much easier to crack your retirement nest egg; all you do is shop, swipe and sign.

To the advisers, brokers and financial institutions pushing workers to save more for their futures and consider the 401(k) sacred, this debit card isn't just objectionable, it is blasphemous.

The rub is that employees evidently like the ability to borrow; studies show it actually makes them more likely to contribute to a retirement plan. Most 401(k) participants have access to loans and about 20% have gone through hoops and hassles to get one.

Yet employers seem to be drawing the line with the debit card. Although the product has been around for several years, few companies offer it. They are focused more on automatically enrolling U.S. workers in plans, not handing out quick and easy loans.

One advantage of a debit card is that if you are laid off or leave the company, there may be no pressure to reconcile the debt immediately. With a typical 401(k) loan, the outstanding amount must be repaid in full, usually within 90 days. Otherwise the loan amount is considered a taxable distribution."

I'm sympathetic to those that need cash, but the 401k Debit Card makes it too easy.  When a vendor comes around to sell you on these, do humanity a "solid" and just say no...


Malcolm Gladwell on Why Your Retention Stinks...

Hint - it's because your recruiting has nothing to do with true demands of the job you put people into... A scenario Gladwell calls the "mismatch problem" - "the criteria we use to to assess someone’s ability to do a job is radically out of step with the actual demands of the job itself".

Click here for the video of Gladwell riffing on the "mismatch problem" and a comparison of your process toGladwell_malcolm_f the scouting combines that exist in professional sports. 

Hat tip to Alice Snell at Taleo, who has a nice rundown on the wisdom of looking at the unique competencies your highest performers in a certain role possess and using the resulting profile as a road-map for the types of candidates you are looking for on the recruiting trail.

Good stuff and worth the read, as is similar material over at SuccessFactors.

Couple of additional thoughts on the subject:

1.  Gladwell's point, as well as the thoughts at SuccessFactors and Taleo, is a good reason to budget time in your selection process for the final candidate to do some actual work for you.  No assessment beats a final candidate spending a half day on the job so you can see them react and they can get a vibe for what the role and the workplace is actually like.

2.  While the points are excellent, don't forget that candidates from multiple backgrounds and with different skills can succeed.  When in doubt or without a road-map, figure out who is most likely to be engaged....

And while you're at it, grow your hair out like Malcolm.  You'll be more memorable as a recruiter that way....

As a final nugget, I offer this picture I've shared before of Tom Brady before he was drafted in the 6TH ROUND of the NFL Draft.  Turns out, a stunning physique isn't necessary for success in the NFL.

Who knew?

Tombrady28tr4


Domino's - Spending R&D Money to Destroy the Health of Your Employees....

OK, this video is a total farce from the Onion... But, with recent brainstorms/innovations in the pizza industry, like the stuffed crust pizza and bacon as a topping, can it really be far from the truth?

So, do this - get the double crust WITH Bacon three times a week for the next year.  Cholesterol and risk for a cardiovascular event higher as a result?  Who cares?  You still pay the same employee contributions for health care as the skinny guy eating carrots and running in the heat at lunchtime.

That makes you the clear winner.  Right?


Steve Jobs and the Holy Grail of Hostile Interviewing.....

Without question, Apple is a cool company.  Here's what a lot of people don't know - all that coolness doesn't just happen.  A lot of the attention to design creativity, innovation and product delivery seems to be attributed to one guy you know - Steve Jobs.

After all, Apple was cool with Jobs way back in the day, then Jobs left, and it went downhill.  Jobs returns, and we have the iPod and iPhone as a result, with more cool stuff undoubtedly on the way.

So what?  Well, to deliver that kind of attention to detail in your culture, you're going to have to shake things up and keep people on their toes.  Jobs is famous for being hard on people, often in ways that a lot of HR people wouldn't know how to handle.

So ,what about you HR pro?  If you saw the following exchange and Jobs trusted you, what would you tell him?  Interesting case study in how a drive for perfection can leave some bodies on the floor.  Is that OK?  Or would you be a proponent of toning it down and accept slightly lower performance as a result?

No right or wrong answer.  Check out the video from the Pirates of Silicon Valley (email subscribers will have to click through, warning, some language) and hit me in the comments...


Is Retention Easier In a Down Economy?

A reporter from our local Birmingham newspaper forwarded me a study from SHRM called the "hiring difficulty index."  The running index was an ongoing survey designed to chart how hard it is to hire people at different points in time.  Good idea.  I'm a member of SHRM, why haven't I seen it before??!!

The index suggested that it's getting easier to hire people in a down economy.  I agree that happens,Bellcurve2007  since fewer jobs are available for your talent to jump to.  Voluntary turnover goes down during recessions. It’s a fact that during recessions, fewer jobs are available. It doesn’t take a Harvard MBA to determine that means fewer companies will be actively stalking your talent, which means reduced voluntary churn across your employee base. With unemployment levels in the low single digits for the past couple of years, lower turnover is going to feel like a vacation. The tricky part of this for HR pros is that you can’t sit still. You’ve got to use the time to build your skills and add value in other areas.

Other sources claim your employees are still actively looking to jump.  Ann Bares throws up a study that says your best talent is still actively looking:

"A new study by Leadership IQ reports that 47% of the high performers surveyed are actively seeking another job.  But the news gets worse: Only 18% of low performers and 25% of middle performers are actively looking.

Begs the question: Are we doing enough to retain our high performers, or are we assuming that the slow economy and job market preempt this concern?

The results come from research where Leadership IQ surveyed 16,237 employees on a range of workplace issues, then divided them into high, middle and low performers based on their annual appraisal scores.  In what I find to be an interesting (and somewhat ironic) side note, there were 3,896 self-identified high performers, 8,607 middle performers and 3,734 low performers.  A nearly perfectly balanced bell shaped performance curve - how often do we see that in real organizational life?"

I do agree with the study Ann is citing in one important regard- your best talent will always have options.  I also agree that the lowest performers have some sense of who they are (deep down inside), and prepare to hunker down until jobs become readily available again.

So, protect the best talent, even in a down economy.  It's easy to see your turnover down 50% and think you have the problem licked.  You might just have a different problem.

PS - like Ann, I'm skeptical of any study where respondents rank their own performance and it comes back in a normal distribution/bell curve.  It doesn't happen in real life.

Everyone thinks they're a player on the ranch.  EVERYONE!  Perhaps the polling folks started with a goal of having a normal distribution, and kept making calls until they found enough realists to rate themselves as "low performers".  Tough gig, working that survey.... they had to make a lot of calls to fill that "low performer" bucket....


Bucky Covington, SHRM and 36 HR Bloggers - Headlining the 39th "Carnival of HR"...

Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends....

What show you ask?  It's the Carnival of HR.  Stroll through the midway and soak in the goodness.Swings_3 Look!  It's the Ferris Wheel!   There's the poorly constructed mini-roller coaster, and the "swings" ride.  Oops - Look away kids, there's a carnie washing his clothes in a tub in front of his gaming booth - without his shirt on... ugh...

Who's on the big stage at the Carnival?  Who?  Bucky Covington from American Idol, fresh off an appearance at the Marion County (IL) Fair?  Didn't he finish 8th overall in 2006?  Well, OK...

And the freak show?  It's a little light on shock value, but there is this one exhibit you might have an interest in.  It's something you've heard of before, but you still shake your head every time you see it...

It's an entire profession talking to themselves, preoccupied with having a seat at a mythical table.  Step back, because as part of the exhibit, folks outside the profession get to "egg" the poor creatures who make up the exhibit.  Isn't it sad to see a mob treat fellow humans with such a lack of compassion?  Oh, the humanity....

I've said in in the past, and I'll say it again.  Every time you see an article that says "HR stinks", or isn't at the "table", start a value-added project for your operators/line managers and deliver some value they don't expect.  Don't wring your hands, don't spend energy wondering why.  Instead of saying you deserve the seat, the cool HR/Talent professionals at this carnival are telling you to do something specific to take it.

Even Sue Meisinger finally agrees, encouraging HR professionals in her goodbye speech to "stop asking, and start taking" the proverbial seat at the table as a part of her SHRM farewell.  Glad she said that, but the thing we need from SHRM is for the organization to take a stand and tell members what that means to SHRM, and as a result, what the mid-level HR pros should be doing to become players.

So, the next time you feel like you're not getting any respect, don't talk buzzwords or furniture.  Just doFreak_show_3 it.  But don't wait on SHRM to tell you how.  You can figure it out on your own, and the participants in this HR Carnival have 36 ideas (kind of like Jay-Z's "99 problems", except postive and not profane) on how to do something that creates value out of your HR shop:

-Start forecasting - Strong HR pros are knowledgeable of trends and tell their clients how to prepare.  Alice Snell of Taleo tells you how...

-Remember you are the expert (and act like it) - Ann Bares of Compensation Force shows us how in the area of compensation, related to when a request for a grade adjustment is real, and when it's not...

-Tweak rewards and incentives based on the goal - Wouldn't it be nice to be the expert on the impact of different types of rewards on individual vs. team behavior? Paul Herbert of Incentive Intelligence runs it down for you here.

-Use technology to deliver a customized experience for employees - Wally Bock reminds us that technology exists to customize our programs in many areas, including employee development.

-Become the expert on getting innovation through collaboration - Jon Ingham trots out some thoughts on the value of collaboration.  Maybe you should rethink locking down the social media sites via your web filter.

-Figure out what the problem is before you buy a tool - Rather than rushing to buy the next great tool for your HR shop, you need to figure out what problem you are trying to solve.  Meg Bear sees this issue in the HRMS space, but it applies elsewhere as well.  Why you're at it, make sure that technology isn't seen as a replacement for talent, as Chris Young reminds us.  For a glimpse of what the technology will mean to HR's role, check out Amit Avasthi's look into the crystal ball.

-Use pop culture to teach those around you about talent issues - HR can be a snoozefest to many, so act different and add value by putting it in terms that anyone can understand.  HR Minion displays the skill with this post...

-Tweak the workplace to get the best performance out of individuals with different styles - Scott McArthur gives us a rundown of small tweaks we can bring to the workplace to keep things fresh and productivity high.

-Value the mavericks in your company, but know where to put them - Flip Chart Fairy Tales has some ideas on the best way to handle the change agents that you love, but many hate...

-Use Slides that Don't Suck - That 14 point font with 7 bullet points isn't impressing anyone.  Rowan Manahan tells you how to standout in a boring medium...

-Don't Be the Usual HR Clone  - Anna Farmery makes a case for having passion in what you do in the workplace.   You can't stand out if you don't have passion... Also, if you have to pick one skill to master, Nina Simosko makes a strong case that skill needs to be communication...

-Become a Marketer in HR - Maren Hogan is a recruiter/marketer, and tells us the value of applying marketing concepts in HR or recruitingJanet Walsh of Birchtree HR riffs some thoughts on employment branding in this space as well.  Finally, Kelly Dingee of Fistful of Talent waxes on the benefits of becoming a "twitt".

-Be a Career Coach for those who walk in your door - Being a career coach is more than just patting someone on the back.  Master the 5 C's offered by Steve Roesler, and you'll be a trusted consultant for those who seek and value the truth....

-Own and publish metrics so folks know you're attempting to measure what you do - First up, if you don't measure yourself, someone else will, as Cathy Martin points out.  Who are you going to trust - them or you?  At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if you miss on the measurements from time to time.  Gautum Ghosh has some thoughts on how to get started.

-You can use your lobbying group (SHRM) to rage against the machine - There's no bigger machine than the government, and HR Lori tells us why SHRM membership still makes sense at a macro level.

-Do a little public service and help your friends that have no idea how the interviewing game works - Evil HR Lady helps the little folks out via some timely Q&A, in this case how to answer the softball question "why do you want this job?".  Why you're at it, why not help the needy in transition by answering the ole' "what is your weakness question" like Peggy Andrews.

-You can provide therapy to those marginally unhappy in their current gig - Susan Heathfield breaks down what employees should do if they are unhappy at work, not by telling them that it's all going to be OK, but by taking action for themselves.

-Shake the tree by challenging widely-held beliefs within the corporate infrastructure - Laurie Ruettimann thinks that wellness programs and obesity in the workplace are full of myths.  See her rundown hereWayne Turmel takes a look at commonly held beliefs on middle management and questions whether they are applicable to everything you think they are.

-You can coach your HR peers that confronting employees for something approved by a manager is probably not the best use of organizational currency - Hard to believe that it needs to be said, but HR Wench points out that confronting employees directly for the decisions of an ineffective manager isn't good business.

-Encourage the boomers getting ready to retire to get that knowledge transfer binder ready - Alice Graves at the Institute for Corporate Productivity points out that when the Boomers go, it's up to you to ensure you've locked down the data in their heads.

-You can use your knowledge of economic levers to chat your team up regarding the linkage between Federal Reserve policy and employee increases - Don't know how to do that?  It's OK, Ryan Johnson from World at Work has the rundown for you...

-Warm up your ZoomInfo and LinkedIn paid subscriptions - Because as Mark Stelzner of Inflexion Advisors points out, once you get to the table, you'll be recruiting for C-level talent since the average life span of the CEO, CFO, CIO, etc. keeps getting shorter and shorter...

-If you're feeling especially frisky, attack the whole market segmentation thing - Stacy Chapman is here to get you started...

-Support leaders who show their human side once in a awhile - Natalie Cooper talks about the tendency to expect our leaders to be superheroes.  It'd be nice to show a little compassion to those who fall, but of course, we'll expect reciprocity when that happens...

-Get all the people necessary to provide great training on the same page - What? There are silos in organizations?  Dan McCarthy runs a great breakdown of how to get two critical players - HR and Training - on the same page related to the development of management training programs.  While you're at it, see Art Petty's thoughts on getting a Senior team aligned with the need for a Leadership Development program.

-Write your manifesto on how to change the profession - You've got an opinion on the change that is necessary, so does J. William Tincup at JPIE, and Mike Haberman at HR Observations.  The necessary common denominator is that you have the passion necessary to call for change if things seem stale.  Plus, the word manifesto is cool, and that matters...

-Make sure your organization is treating candidates with respect - Closing the loop is important, as noted by Ask A Manager, even if the candidates throw the verbal equivalent of battery acid on you.  Michael Homula of Bearing Fruit Consulting reminds us to look outside for talent on every search, lest you be compared to Karl Marx...

-Get Green and Get Flexible - It's not easy being green.  Michael Moore tells you how.

-Think down the road and set the right level of expectations - Thinking about increasing your benefit spend by 5% to jumpstart recruiting?   Susanna Cesar-Morton reminds us we might want to make sure we'll still be offering that benefit in 3 years.  No reason to cause employee relations issues as a result of your own actions.

That's it!  Time to close down this midway game, because I hear Bucky's base player warming up over byBucky the porta-potties.  I'm going to the show. 

I heard the band's opening to the Bucky version of Freebird.  Even Bucky knows enough to skip complaining about the circumstances and bring his A-game. 

Be like Bucky and bring your A-game for the HR nation...


Applicants You Never Call - Asset or Afterthought?

Thats' the question a strong new voice on the scene asks.  Lip service is easy, it's hard for most of us to look in the mirror on this one....

William, over at Talent Alchemy points to the concept of finding opportunity for the applicants you neverWaiting_by_the_phone call via resume sharing, etc.  In addition, he points to the business case for treating the non-hired with respect via the following commitment points:

1. Make a commitment, contact and close out candidates when they are no longer viable for your openings. Commitment first, logistics second.

2. Put the logistics into place and train to your commitment. For us, our ATS enables any candidate who applies to check their status. This is helpful at a basic level.

3.  When you first meet your candidates, message to them your organizations selection process including how they will close out. This sets expectations for the candidate and does obligate you to follow through.

Good stuff, click through to see the rest of William's list and subscribe to Talent Alchemy today....