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August 2012

Resignation 101: "It Is With a Heavy Heart" Means The Following...

Every seen a resignation come across email that includes the phrase, "It is with a heavy heart"?

Here's what that means:

1. I'm resigning before the posse got to town and took me under custody.

2. This is a forced resignation.  My heart's heavy because I don't want to go.  Damn, why do I have to go?

3.  I'm signaling you, fool!  Someone's pissed me off because I didn't agree with their ethical code and I'm resigning to show them how I feel.  This is a stand about morals and ethics.  Please remember me when I network with you via LinkedIn!

It's with a heavy heart that I write this blog post.  Me?  I like the people who leave a company like Keyser Soze

"After that my guess is that you will never hear from him again. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. And like that...<poof>... he is gone."

If you're leaving, don't make a production.  Just go.  Like Keyser Soze.  No drama.


Your CEO Is Dedicated to Building a Great Culture? Here's a Simple Test to Prove It...

Ask him to give you (the HR/Talent pro) veto power on any hire you think isn't a cultural fit.

That's veto power even if the business leader wants to hire the person.  It used to be called the "nuclear option" during the cold war.  Of course, you'd exercise that power with care.  You'd push and prod just like Reagan did back in the day, but you'd stop short of using it - most of the time.  

It's called leverage.  You.  With veto power over anyone who would be a net negative to the culture.

That's the test to see if your CEO is serious, or if he just read that culture is important in last month's issue of the Harvard Business Review.  Not that there's anything wrong with that...


SLIDESHARE: 5 Traits of Successful Marketers That Recruiters and HR Pros Can Learn From...

Can we learn things from marketing other than how to consume a 5-martini lunch and still get work done in the afternoon?

Sorry, marketing pals - you know I'm joking.  I'm just channeling a vibe from Mad Men.  I know you're the bomb, that's why we did a webinar at Fistful of Talent recently (sponsored by iCIMS) focused on how recruiters and HR pros can make their shops look less like ACME and more like Apple by taking a page from the book of successful marketers.

Example - in the webinar we covered The Top 5 Traits of Successful Marketers that Recruiters and HR pros should use to raise their promotional game.  What do great marketers do to generate interest?  What do average marketers do?  What should you do as a result?

Check out the slides below from the webinar for the answer, special thanks to iCIMS for sponsoring (email subscribers, click through to see the slide deck):


A Cautionary Quote - Illustrating Why You Should Have Product Development Trying to Destroy Your Core Business Today...

Was in a board meeting yesterday and the topic of Kodak came up - mainly centered around how hard it is to change a strategic course after your main product line has switched from cash cow to commodity albatross (my paraphrase/words, no one elses).

Then I saw the following quote over at TechCrunch: Screen-shot-2012

"In 1997, when asked what he would do if he were in charge of Apple, Michael Dell famously said, “What would I do? I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.”

Think about that quote for a second.  Here's some more context from TechCrunch:

"At that time, Apple’s market cap had fallen to about $2.3 billion. By 1999, it had risen to $9 billion — still just a 10th the size of Dell. And a 60th the size of Microsoft. Today, Dell’s market cap stands at just under $22 billion. They’ve lost $100 billion in market value while Apple has gained about $610 billion."

That's on the heels of the fact that Apple’s market cap now stands at $623 billion. That’s a new all-time high for a publicly-traded stock in the U.S. The previous record was $618.9 billion, which Microsoft hit on December 30, 1999.

If there's ever been a quote that details the need for your company to have an eye towards developing products and services that don't currently exist, it's that one.  Sure, this is a form of quote gotcha related to Dell.  But it underscores the fact that the only constant is change related to any company's business.  The giants you know today won't all be giants in 10 years.  Your cash cow will probably just be a cow in the future, and you might be lucky to get 10 years of cash cow status.

It's hard to be a champion for new product development in most companies.  Even allocating a couple of FTEs toward new initiatives is hard.

Use Dell's quote in your budget meetings to illustrate the need to take that chance.  


Finance For HR Nerds: How an LBO (Leveraged Buyout) Firm Works

There's been lots of talk in this election cycle about whether LBO firms are net positive or net negative to the economy, and to a larger degree, America in general.  So it stands to reason we should talk about it, right?

LBO firms are another name for private equity firms that practice leveraged buyouts - meaning they borrow money (leverage) to buy controlling positions in companies. Gekko  

What they do after they gain control is something you'll hear a lot about in the election from now until November.  Still, it's hard to get your head around how an LBO firm operates.  Here's the best explanation/example of classic LBO firm activity I've seen from Allan Sloan's column in Fortune Magazine:

"Let's say an LBO firm spends $300 million to buy a company and borrows $200 million - two thirds of the price - to finance the purchase.  The buyout firm's investors thus have only $100 million invested.  The company's value doubles to $600 million because of luck, skill or both.  

The company then borrows another $200 million - two thirds of the increased value - and uses the cash for a payout to investors, who have now recovered more than they put in and still own the upside potential (Managers  get a piece of the profit, I'm ignoring that to keep the math simple).

Employees of the now more heavily indebted company are at greater risk because the company is more vulnerable to failing if anything goes wrong.  But the buyout firm's investors have already made out well.  Then the company runs into trouble.  Workers lose thier jobs, but investors and the LBO firm nevertheless come out ahead."

Sloan goes on to say there's no evidence on whether LBO firms add more jobs than they destroy, or vice-versa.

That's all you need to know about how an LBO performed by a private equity firm works to look smart.

Of course, after reading that and soaking on it, you may wish you didn't know.


The Downside of a Seat at the Table: You're Fired, HR...

When HR people say they want a seat at the table, they should understand that comes with some potentially uncomfortable side issues...

Example:  Marissa Mayer (new CEO at Yahoo) just fired the SVP of HR at Yahoo. Mayer

Why?  Because that's what you do when you're the new CEO and everyone says the culture is messed up. Let's go through the culture change stuff going on at Yahoo.

--Free meals for people at HQ and NYC.  Check.

--Hire a bunch of people from your previous gig at Google.  Check.

--Overhaul the HR shop that's been on watch through countless reorgs and layoffs that didn't work.  Started it last week... Check...

More from All Things Digital on the West Coast:

"As I reported earlier today, new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is shaking up the human resources unit at the company. Consider it shook and definitely not stirred: Leaving the company, by mutual agreement, is its longtime head David Windley, several sources said.  Also out is his No. 2 exec, several sources said, talent acquisition head Grant Bassett. Windley’s tenure has included a huge brain drain at the Silicon Valley Internet giant and a series of layoffs at Yahoo, as well as an ongoing musical-chair series of top leaders.

Windley’s leaving comes as exactly no surprise, since Mayer has arrived and taken control of its culture and recruiting, which have basically boiled down to making a Yahoo version of the search giant. Before taking the top job at Yahoo, Mayer worked at Google for her entire career."

Another leading indicator of a change - Mayer is now reviewing all new hires personally before offers are made.  The  company has 12,000 employees. Does that sound like a vote of confidence in the HR function to you? Its' a morality play as old as time itself.  It's doesn't matter how good Windley is, he had to go.  

The Yahoo situation is a big, hard to untangle mess and while Windley is probably as sharp as Mayer on the people front, the truth remains as advertised - he was there for the downward slide before Mayer showed up. The winners right the history books.   The new boss gets to bring in his her own team.

Want a seat at the table?  This is the downside of what it means - you get your HR head handed to you when it doesn't work out.  No glossing over that your previous CEO wasn't nice to work for, etc. You couldn't overcome the bad karma.  Great HR people transcend the bad karma and protect the culture.  

Is that even right?  I'm not sure - but I know that what just happened at Yahoo, and it what it means in that industry. HR and Talent is as important as any other function, maybe more so.   And that means even good people get fired when things don't go well.

You want the proverbial seat at the table, right HR pros?  Get ready to get fired when the company's on a downward slide, regardless if you had any control over that.  What about you, HR Managers with client group responsibilities in the field?  Ready for that?

In some ways, news of an HR firing in a Valley journal like All Things Digital is a complement to the profession.  Now if we could just see more of this in the local business journals in your city, we'd know that the HR function has truly arrived.

But it comes at a cost.


Here's What an Anti-Employee Poaching Legal Letter Looks Like.. (With No Visible Case Behind It)

You know I'll rip something from the headlines anytime it makes sense.  Here's an anti-employee poaching from Groupon (daily deals provider) to a firm called Top Hat Monocle.  The jist of the argument here seems to be "you've recruited our Groupon salespeople, and now you're using our former Salespeople to poach more Groupon employees to your company."

Note the industry is non-competitive, so the non-compete doesn't apply, and they're not saying that.  They're saying that you hired Susie, and then you engaged Susie to call 5 of her friends at Groupon to join her at Top Hat.

Easy to say, hard to prove.  What's Groupon after here?  They'd like Top Hat to blink and stop hiring Groupon salespeople for awhile.  If you think non-competes are hard to enforce, try a non-solicitation.  Hard to prove.  Top Hat has a couple of choices based on the letter below:

1.  They can stop recruiting Groupon employees cold.  This is what Groupon wants.

2.  They can tell the Groupon employees they've hired that anyone interested in a job at Top Hat needs to apply directly.  Once they've applied, Top Hat is more free legally to have conversations with the former Groupon employees they've hired about the other Groupon folks who have applied, including asking them to help interview, follow up, etc.  "How did you learn about this opportunity?" is the key question here...

3.  They can keep doing what they're doing, which may be what Groupon suspects or it may be closer to what I described in #2.

What would you do?  Enjoy the legal eagle-ing.

Groupon's Letter to Top Hat Monocle


What Would an "HR Store" Based on the Apple Retail Concept Look Like? (w/August Webinar Offer)

(HR Capitalist Note - If you like thinking about HR stuff in this manner, sign up today for the HR Capitalist/Fistful of Talent August Webinar entitled, "That’s Your Pitch?  How to Raise Your Social Recruiting Game By Acting Less Like ACME and More Like Apple on Wednesday, August 22nd.  We're not talking Apple-type stores for HR on that one, but we are talking about thinking differently for everything under the sun related to your recruiting messaging. Register here!)

No, wait - stop laughing.  I'm serious.

I was browsing Fortune Magazine over the weekend and saw a brief feature on the fact that IT Apple-store departments in big companies are setting up walk-in locations in major buildings to take the fear and loathing out of two things - technology for the non-techie as well as the loathing of having to deal with the traditional IT department.

Does that sound like something HR might need as well?  Dramatic change of what's expected in happening elsewhere as well.  Apple retail leader Ron Johnson is now heading JCPenny and doing everthing thing he can to dramatically change the look and feel of the traditional retailer - to the point it seems he's trying to get fired as quickly as possible.

Why not an Apple-type store for HR?  Who says that couldn't happen?

But what would it look like?  First, a few ground rules:

1. The Apple HR store wouldn't be for everyone.  It would only be for those folks that really, really want something high-end out of HR.

2. In order to meet that expectation, the service, products and services at the store would have to be STELLAR.  For real.

3. I'm tempted to say only big companies need apply (big location, you could rotate 3 members of the team in the store), but I'm not sure that's right.  I can see a small HR shop of three people at a tech company having a store front and working out of it to redefine how they want to provide service.

Of course, the ability to pull off an Apple store for HR would really depend on having service and products that wow people.  A couple of thoughts about that:

1.  Generalists would rule the day at the Apple-type store for HR.  Think about all the things under the sun that someone could walk into the store for - no way a specialist could handle that range of stuff.

2.  Focus on the individual career would have to be front and center.  While you could always get transactions completed and questions about existing HR stuff answered, the real service that would have to be on display for the concept to seem like it transcends HR is a mind-numbing focus on each individual's career.  Which means HR would have to get a lot better at being an agent for the career of the individual employees they support.  Learning and Development would need to be featured prominently.

3.  The folks who just want to pick up a paycheck would never stop by the store.  They don't want development, they don't want to give discretionary effort.  They just want to pick up the paycheck and go home.

The Apple Store for HR wouldn't be where you pick up a manual check.  It would be the place where those who were really jazzed about their career and want to get better would drop by for help too figure out how.

No scrubs who be hanging around the Apple Store for HR.  And only the top 1/3 of HR is really capable of working at that type of store with a Careers/HR slant.

Which is exactly why someone should do it.  


The Capitalist Olympics Summary: What We Need Is a Big Enemy...(Celebration Dance Included)

I'll admit it, I'm a homer for America.  If that makes me insensitive, less likely to have global impact, etc. - whatever.

I like living in America, where people have the freedom to say what they want and the free market has the freedom to absolutely crush them for it.  Seems like a nice balance of power.

And when it comes to the Olympics, I like America to have a big enemy out there to think about when it comes to medal count.  The first Olympics I remember being a bit aware of as a very young kid was the 1976 games in Montreal, which I heard Quebec just got done paying off the debt for (let that be an economics lesson of sorts for those who want to host the games - you take the expense, the IOC takes the cash).

In 1976, we had a big enemy - the USSR - and it was head to head time in Montreal.  It was pure good guys vs bad guys.  And we got crushed, by both the USSR and East Germany as well (see the medal count here).  Sure they were raising test tube babies to get that done, but we had overbearing suburban sports parents, right?  The 1980 and 1984 games featured dueling boycotts, and by the time we went head to head again in 1988, it was more of the same.  We got served.

But, the end was near for the USSR as we knew it, which was the real victory we needed.  We pretty much ruled the medal count at the Olympics until China hosted in 2008, with the People's Republic (China, not California) winning the overall gold medal count and the USA winning the total medal count.  That made it more interesting.

Translation - you need big enemy for the Olympic games to be really interesting - just like work.  That, or more athletes who don't have a country coming to the games and doing funky dances in the Opening Ceremonies (see photo here).  

So China's the big enemy now, certainly from an economic standpoint.  I've got a question for China - how's 2nd place taste?

We won the medal count in both golds and overall medals in London.  The picture below represents the dance it made me feel like doing.  Yes - dressed as George Washington with great Stars and Stripes boxers (email subscribers click through for the animated gif of the dance... h/t to a site called "Merica for the gif)

Go.  U...S...A

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The HR Technology Conference: I Don't Often Recommend Conferences, But When I Do...

As has become an October tradition - I’m going to be moderating a panel at the 15th Annual HR Technology Conference in Chicago, October 8th through October 10th.

I like this show a lot, and I'm really happy to be presenting again.  I've attended, and it was really worth Sea of cortez it - something I don't say about a lot of shows.  The best way I can describe the show to you is that it's really a talent conference, with the conversations about talent centered around how technology enables you to maximize the talent in your organization.  Pretty cool stuff.  Among many things that make the conference special is that it’s created by experts and delivered by executives: a couple of years back 54 of the 66 presenters were VPs or higher, including 24 CEOs.  I'm sure it will be more of the same this year.  Check out the full agenda here!

In addition to being exposed to some of the best content you'll find on the conference circuit, you also have a chance to say hi to Bill Kutik, who runs this shindig and is widely considered to be the leading independent analyst of the HR technology marketplace with specialties in HCM, Recruiting, and Talent Management.  If that's not enough, consider for a moment that Bill moonlights as the "most interesting man in the world" featured in those Dos Equis commercials.  Don't believe me?  Take a look at the picture to the side of this post.  That's Bill snagging some big game in the Sea of Cortez a few years back.  He calls it the Sea of Cortez because he has a brain the size of a WalMart supercenter.  I had to look it up to figure out he was talking about the Gulf of California.  Sucks to be me.

"He once had an awkward moment, just to see how it feels. Bill_speaking

His personality is so magnetic, he is unable to carry credit cards.

He once launched a LinkedIn group, just to prove it could be more effective than a social network.

Even his enemies in the HR Tech industry list him as their emergency contact number."

With the economy hurting, the most interesting man in the world understands that it may be a stretch for some to attend, so he's given me a special discount – $500 off – to offer you, which is larger than any advertised discount and is good until the day the conference opens. Your cost would be $1,295 for two-and-a-half days.   That's a lot of money, but I'm a believer in this conference and don't mind pitching you on the value of this one.  It's worth it if you like to think about talent issues and find yourself thinking about how technology can help you on the talent front.

I don't often attend recommend conferences, but when I do, I recommend the HR Technology Conference.

Want to go? Cool - simply use the the Promotion Code HRCAPITALIST (all caps) when you register online www.HRTechConference.com to get $500 off the rack rate of $1,795. The discount does not expire until the conference ends on Oct. 10.

Let me know if you have any questions - if you are in Chicago, let's connect!