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August 2016

Gladwell on The Arrogance of Elite American Universities...

Here's a good podcast for you to pick up - Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History, where Gladwell breaks down topics that we previously thought we understood completely, but now looking back it appears we were wrong.

I've listened to two episodes - the first one was a fascinating recount of the Toyota stuck accelerator scandal, which now shows that it's user error (the driver) and panic 99% of the time.  Toyota just settles the lawsuits because it's pragmatic from a PR perspective.

The one I listened to last week talks about the efficiency of rich people giving money to colleges to prop up endowment programs.  Here's the description of that one: Gladwell

In the early ’90s, Hank Rowan gave $100 million to a university in New Jersey, an act of extraordinary generosity that helped launch the greatest explosion in educational philanthropy since the days of Andrew Carnegie and the Rockefellers. But Rowan gave his money to Glassboro State University, a tiny, almost bankrupt school in South Jersey, while almost all of the philanthropists who followed his lead made their donations to elite schools such as Harvard and Yale. Why did no one follow Rowan’s example?

In the podcast, Gladwell breaks down Rowan's decision and what's happened since the gift, as the school has built an accessible Engineering program that has helped thousands of local kids get the education they need.
 
Gladwell then pivots, and breaks down the gift that Nike founder Phil Knight gave Stanford University and what that gift was used for. Here's a description of that gift from the San Jose Mercury News:
 
"With a $400 million donation from Nike co-founder Phil Knight, Stanford University is creating an ambitious graduate-level scholarship program -- larger in scope than the Rhodes Scholarships at Oxford -- for the "world's brightest minds" inspired to tackle global challenges.
 
The gift from Knight, who experienced his "aha!" moment to become an entrepreneur while pursuing his MBA at Stanford in 1962, is the largest cash donation from an individual in Stanford history. On Wednesday, Stanford will unveil the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program, which, with donations from dozens of alumni and members of Stanford's Board of Trustees, will grow to $750 million, the largest fully-endowed scholarship in the world."
 
That sounds fine, right? Here's what had Gladwell riled up:
 
"The Knight-Hennessy program will admit 100 high-achieving students each year -- one-third from North America and two-thirds from the rest of the world -- who have shown themselves worthy of helping to solve issues ranging from global warming and human rights to poverty and affordable health care. Applicants must be nominated by universities.
 
"The world needs more great leaders willing to take on the complex challenges we face," Hennessy said. "We hope to educate people who will go on to that kind of role."
 
Let that sink in a bit.  The Knight gift was a part of a 750M dollar endowment that will admit 100 students a year.  
 
Damn...  Oh, yeah, here's one of the problems that Hennessy said they might tackle that Gladwell covered: 
 
"One problem Mr. Hennessy said he might assign to a team is to analyze the $100 million donation that Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, made to Newark public schools in 2010, and that has not been widely seen as a success. “Nobody understood the real difficulty in making significant change in the public education system,” Mr. Hennessy said. His scholars would be asked, he added, “ ‘How do you build a structure that will successfully deploy those funds for the benefit of all?’"
 
That's right!  Mark Zuckerberg makes a Hank Rowan-like decision to give a gift to a public system in need.  Stanford's creating a $750M endowment to work on big problems - like second guessing the effectiveness of Zuckerberg's gift to public schools.  
 
Brilliant!

Is Anonymous Feedback From Employees OK?

Who here is tired of seeing disgruntled employees rip your company on Glassdoor?  Wow..almost everyone.  I can't say I'm surprised.

Anonymous feedback is rapidly being recognized for what it is.  The newspaper industry entered the digital industry with the Trollthought that readers commenting on articles online would unlock a form of community unlike any other.  That happened, but in a negative way, with trolls and racists and every other type of creep posting whatever they wanted under anonymous accounts with zero chance of being outed.

It's so bad that responsible publications online have gone one of two ways - they've either eliminated comments altogether or moved to Facebook comments, where commenters have their thoughts tied to a primary Facebook account.  

Let's move back to the workplace.  A deep thinker, expert on employee opinion and a friend of mine - Jason Laurtisen - recently did a guest post over at Fistful of Talent and called for an end to anonymous employee feedback.  Here's a taste:

"When it comes to feedback, anonymity is less effective, and frankly, out of style in today’s workplace. We expect our leaders to be candid and transparent, particularly about the important stuff.  We expect them to tell us the whole story and to openly share their failures and missteps.  Yet, when it comes to asking employees for feedback about something as important as their work experience, we use completely different standards. Why? We’ve convinced ourselves that employees just aren’t up to the task."

I'd encourage everyone to go read Jason's post - because most of you do employee surveys and he's an expert in that area.

Me?  I'm here to give you some comfort in employees savagely ripping you - either internally in surveys or at company rip sites like Glassdoor.  Here's the dirty little secret that will make you feel better:

Employees and Candidates viewing anonymous feedback are increasingly immune to ultra-negative reviews. They're maturing and giving much greater weight to harsh comments that are found as a part of balanced feedback - outlining the good, the bad and the ugly.

I'm increasingly hearing that candidates viewing rip jobs by the disgruntled on Glassdoor don't take them seriously.  They're increasingly looking for the sane commenters on the rip sites, allowing themselves to only be influenced by the rare bird that gives insightful, balanced feedback on life at a company.

That makes sense.  When you see the rip jobs on reputation sites, take a deep breath. The more extreme, unfair and personal it is - the less likely it is to be taken seriously.

When it comes to employee surveys, here's what you can learn from this.  Instead of letting your employees rip away in the verbatim comments section - force them to be balanced and give you a good thing for every bad thing.  Then show the mixture of feedback as the entire verbatim - rather than splitting up good and bad feedback.  

While most of you don't share open ended employee feedback with the entire company, showing the totality of each employee's feedback will show your leadership team which feedback segments should be taken seriously - and which ones could possibly be ignored as a lunatic fringe.


Olympic Swimmers and the Trials/Tribulations of the Low Cog Employee/Candidate

By now, you've heard all you need to hear about the Olympic swimmers who were robbed/not robbed at gunpoint/not at gunpoint after vandalizing/barely vandalizing a convenience store in Rio.

Who's to blame?  Like most of the stuff we deal with in HR, the truth is somewhere in the middle.  And it's messy. Rio

There's one thing that's certain, however. Whatever happened, we're dealing with the equivalent of a log cog employee/candidate when it comes to the response of the primary swimmer in question.  I'm going to refrain from naming names, because some of the stuff that follows could be viewed as unkind.  Let's call the swimmer at the middle of the firestorm "Bryan Rochte".

Bryan is responding to the controversy in a way consistent with the low cog employee/candidate.  Let's break it down.

First up, what do we mean by "low cog?"  Low Cog means Low Cognitive.  If you're into testing candidates before you hire them, most of you will do behavioral assessments and as a part of that, some of you will measure cognitive skills.

High Cognitive candidates can take in large amounts of information and make quick accurate decisions.  Low cog candidates aren't comfortable making choices that quickly - they need some soak time to arrive at the best possible decision.  Cognitive tests most often require a candidate to complete X number of problems in a limited period of time - often making the candidate feel it's impossible to complete all the items in the time given.  

Flash back to "Bryan" first responding to the reports that he had been robbed at gunpoint.  However that story got started, he had a chance to set the record straight when Matt Lauer showed up to interview him the first time.  Instead, he went with the story he shared earlier.  That's consistent with a low cog candidate in an interview, or a low cog employee under pressure at your company. 

What you say next will set up multiple dominos in the next couple of days. You've got 5 minutes to figure it out because Matt Lauer is coming up the elevator.  Go!

Instead of backing off, he doubled down.  Couldn't make the right decision in a restricted timeframe under pressure.  Make the right decision - tell the whole truth about you ripping down a sign and in response to that, guns being drawn - and you're OK.  A little black mark on your history but you likely keep the endorsements for no other reason than.... guns being drawn on you and everything that implies.

Low cog makes poor decisions under pressure.  It's not about being dumb. It's more about processing speed and having the ability to make quick, accurate decisions under pressure.

But wait, there's more. Bryan the low cog swimmer had another chance when the story broke bad. During the "mea culpa" interview where he apologized, it was a great time to get some of the facts out that related to what happened while still taking full responsibility.  To the contrary, low cog can't see the game and what's possible with the second interview, instead simply apologizing rather than doing a combo apology/let me tell you all the details session.

Low cog employees and candidates don't perform well under pressure.  They need time to soak in the details and talk through options, hopefully arriving at the right decision/course of action after unlimited soak time.

You can hire people like Bryan - they can be good employees.  But you should never put them in a spot where they have to deliver on demand.

And for the record, I'd like to know whether the security officers in Rio kept the money or if it made it back to the store owner.


The Top 100 Movie Quotes for HR Pros: #71 is Jeffrey Lebowski: "Yeah, Well That's Just Like Your Opinion, Man"...

New series at the Capitalist: The Top 100 Movie Quotes of all time for HR Pros.  In no special order, I break down the 100 movie quotes that resonate most for me as a career HR pro.  Some will be funny, some will be serious... Some will tug at your heart like when the Fox voice-over guy said, "Tonight - a very special episode of 90210"... You get the vibe... I'll do it countdown-style like they're ranked, but let's face it - they're ALL special..

Data and analytics - they're everywhere, right? 

What I love is when some dufus comes directly at you as an HR Pro, explaining to you that he has a unique understanding of the talent game - with the implication that you are nothing more than a transactional, payroll coordinator.

If you're a transactional HR person, you might have to take that.  If you're more than a transactional HR pro, you CAN'T take that. You've got to go back at that guy.

Option #1 is obviously to break some human capital knowledge right over his freaking head.  

Options #2 is today's quote:

Quote #71 is from The Big Lebowski: "Yeah, Well That's Just Like Your Opinion, Man"...

When you don't have anything to say, the right move is always to challenge the validity of the argument.  In today's world, that means pointing out that there's nothing analytical about what the person in front of you said.  It's just their opinion, man.

Use this quote when you don't have anything to say. You'll get bonus points from the part of the crowd that has sampled The Big Lebowski.

And yes, that rug really did tie the room together.

(video clips below, email subscribers click through to view)

And for the graduate students, below is the full Jesus clip from the movie - caution, NSFW...


Want to Be a Great People Manager? Don't Watch The Ball...

I've got a simple post today.  It starts with sports and rapidly moves off that.  Hang in there.

You know what separates good and great coaches in team sports from average ones?  They don't watch ESPN_Gruden_ the ball.  Regardless of the sport, the best coaches are the ones who spend 80% of their time watching the activity off the ball.  They figure the guy with the ball is going to react to what's going on and do what's necessary.  But the people without the ball?  That's where the action is.

Off the ball is where you have people reacting to what's going on in front of them, behind them, to what they hear - all in an effort to be prepared and be in position to make a play when the opportunity presents itself.  There's a world of activity going on off the ball, but almost all fans and many average coaches focus almost exclusively on the ball.  

You want to be a great manager of people?  A great coach in your organization?  Find the equivalent of "off the ball" for the people you manage and coach.

Examples:

  • A direct report's prep (or lack thereof) to talk to an influential person in another department at your company.
  • Abruptness in email communication that doesn't fit the culture of your company.
  • Giving "gifts" of time and effort in an organization that your direct report doesn't have to - because it's good for them, you and the company - and almost always gets repaid.
  • A direct report's ability to give feedback to people up and down the organization in a way that makes everyone feel like she's looking out for them rather than telling them they suck.

There are a million examples, so let your mind flow.  

Real coaches don't watch the ball.  They coach off the ball.  In sports and in companies.

Be a better manager.  Don't watch the ball.   


On Walmart's Commitment To Creating 1 Million Jobs by 2023

If you watched a lot of the Olympics (and didn’t fast-forward through the commercials), you probably saw an ad for Walmart that blasted Aerosmith’s “Dream On” over video of American factory workers. It was part of the retail giant’s 10-year commitment to buy $250 billion in American-made goods. Walmart made the pledge in 2013, and while the company won’t reveal an exact figure, says it is on track to meet its goal.

The commercials feature a variety of people working in manufacturing jobs to support their families - including one who looks like Eminem's brother.  

The implied point? Walmart is creating jobs in America, SO MAYBE ALL OF YOU HATERS SHOULD STEP THE #### BACK AND SHOW SOME RESPECT - or maybe just be a bit more neutral to Walmart.

Me? I like the fact that Walmart is playing offense, and let's face it - it's long overdue.  Walmart has the power to be an incredible force in American manufacturing.  I'm old enough to remember when tons of Walmart products used to come with "Made in the USA" stickers or tags.  It used to be a badge of honor for Walmart.

Then everything got off-shored and those stickers went away.  I'm hoping that Walmart will be brave enough to use those stickers again for the products in their store that are a part of this initiative.  Walmart claims that the $250B commitment will create 1M American jobs.

Your job? If the sticker comes back, buy the hell out of those products, even if they cost a bit more than what you can do with Amazon Prime, Target or any other retailer.  You can't complain about harm that Walmart has inflicted and then refuse to show your support when they do something pro-America.  Not supporting WM in initiatives like this just tells them the market doesn't care - so why try?

Congrats to Walmart for going on the offensive.  Pictures from the commercials below (email subscribers click through for images) 

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What Will The People Do When All Jobs Are Done By Robots?

The answer to the question that's the title of this post is simple.

Chill, my friends. That's what we'll be doing when the Robots are doing all the jobs - chilling. Trucker

Or we'll be running for our lives - caught in an AI apocalypse looking for a dude named John Connor to bail us out.

But rather than be scared about the future reality where robots/AI takes over, I'm more interested in what happens to big chunks of the workforce along the way. As most of us hear about self-driving cars from Google and Uber, we're intrigued. But the zig to that zag is a bigger play that happens after cars.

What happens when self-driving trucks take over the trucking industry and displace millions of trucking jobs?

To say that change "is going to leave a mark" is an understatement.

Google has long held the spotlight in developing driverless technology; however, with the emergence of Otto and Elon Musk’s announcement of a Tesla Semi, “driverless trucks” are coming to the forefront of the autonomous vehicle conversation (I'd encourage you to click on both of those links, they're pretty interesting). One major reason the trucking industry is so interested in driverless technology is a chronic shortage of truck drivers, which is threatening to get worse as the Baby Boom generation hits retirement age.

But beyond shortages, when truck drivers can be replaced by technology, it's going to be one of the biggest issues we've dealt with in America since offshoring really became the de facto choice. 

There are approximately 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the United States, according to estimates by the American Trucking Association. The total number of people employed in the industry, including those in positions that do not entail driving, exceeds 8.7 million. About one of every 15 workers in the country is employed in the trucking business, according to the ATA.

Closer to home, I'm from the midwest, where countless families who once held jobs in manufacturing reacted to offshoring by - you guessed it - hitting the road to become truck drivers.

You can't say that driving a truck cross-country is your first choice from a work/life balance perspective and raising a family.  But you do it to provide, and it's a reasonable pivot when there are no jobs left in your rural area that pay a decent wage if your highest diploma is of the high school variety.

If you're looking for an honest conversation on why people would support Donald Trump, look no further than economic opportunity, my friends.  What's going to go down soon in the trucking industry will only increase the pressure that can make candidates like Donald Trump look like a reasonable choice.  


Here's A Free Change/Innovation Exercise to Use With Your Managers

I've been working on a new training program for managers of people at Kinetix - on Change Management.  It's part of the BOSS Training series.

Change Management is a pretty hard topic on which to keep managers engaged.  So instead of making it incredibly theoretical, we're taking a page from the software development industry and talking about Change Agile - bringing Agile principles to your change efforts.

What does that mean? Well, the first thing it means is that you don't get to tell people what to do related to the change that needs to occur.  Change Agile is about managers engaging their teams on a team vision, project or perhaps just something that's broken - bringing their teams into the idea process to unlock the innovative powers of a team.  After an idea is selected, agile suggests that you have to run tests that are as small as possible to make sure the idea you selected actually works before layering too much complexity into your solution.

Here's a free exercise from the training. This one's from a tour of traditional change management theories including Kotter, The Rogers Adoption Curve, the ADKAR model and the Satir model. Mix all those theories together and you can start to make great assumptions about why some people pick up on the change being presented quickly, as well as why others are happy to stay in the shadows. 

You can run the exercise below referencing a technology change at your company (which almost everyone has had, right?) or use change that is very specific to your company - your products, services, etc.

Feel free to use this one - and let us know if you want to talk about what we do with the BOSS training series for managers.

 Change agile exercise

 


CAPITALIST QUOTE: "Great Recruiters Are Like Stockbrokers"

Tons of positive reaction to this quote from a post earlier this week:

"Great recruiters are like stockbrokers - we help clients understand whether someone's a buy or a sell based on their price."

Good stockbrokers - not the sleazy kind. Stockbroker

The reaction to that quote alone was reason enough to call it out in a single post.

That's really how I feel as a recruiter, and it mostly puts pressure on the highly comped, not the lowly comped.

People progress in their careers and reach a certain earning level, and their expectation is that level should never go down.  But unless they keep adding value related to knowledge, skills and abilities, at some point their potential as a new hire looks flat compared to other alternatives.

Great recruiters are stockbrokers. We help clients understand who's a buy or a sell based on their price, which is a statement of value.

Some clients are risk adverse and only want to be in the S&P 500.  Others are willing to diversify as they look across their team.

What can you do as a candidate?  Keep developing the upside to your price, my friend.

Otherwise, you'll be Apple - quarter after quarter of great performance but unable to answer today's question, "what's next?"


5 Ways To Successfully Manage Older Direct Reports If You're a Millennial..

I'm Gen X, so almost no one I manage these days is older than me.  But as a driven, achievement oriented 30-year old, I started managing lots of people who were older than me for the next decade.  As a result, I learned a lot about how to piss the old folks off.  I'd like to think I adapted pretty quickly.

Gather around the monitor, young ones, because I'm about ready to drop some knowledge. Here are 5 Ways To Successfully Manage Older Direct Reports If You're a Millennial:

1.Don't try to micro-manage them unless they really, really deserve it.  You're young. You may think you need to follow up on every detail or task with the people who report to you.  You don't.  There's only one out of five who needs that, and micromanaging the rest of the old folks is more about you than it is about them.  Take a step back and understand that you have to give them some space to work, which is something no one teaches you the first time you're a manager.

2. Respect the knowledge of your direct reports who are older than you. They know stuff you don't.  You should acknowledge Intern this early and often, even if it hurts your ego.  You'll find the turds in the group may use that against you from time to time, but again - that's one out of five.  Stating you realize that they know things you don't actually makes the other four want to help you succeed.

3. Learn their history.  The Breakfast Club and Caddyshack are movies you need to watch.  They'll have terrible production values.  Try to see the art in the stories and understand that Danny is now grown up and damn, he's on your team. #rightinthelumberyard

4. Put them in charge once in awhile.  Once you get comfortable with #1 and #2, you should let some of the older direct reports lead projects.  You stay in charge by knocking down obstacles for them.  Don't give up everything, but reward the best dinosaurs with this perk.  They won't see it as weakness - they'll understand that you are ultimately promotable three levels above where you are now.

5. Assume positive intent. It's human nature to see threats everywhere related to how older direct reports interact with you, go around you, etc.  Breathe deep.  Understand the workplace is a scarier place for them than you because they have more to lose.  They've got bigger mortgages, tuition to pay for and the red Miata they bought in a mid-life crisis making them feel like a jackass.  Breathe. Most of what they do is about them and not about you.

The sun doesn't revolve around you, my millennial managers - yet.  Take this guidance from a Gen X pro who once was where you are.

You can thank me later by hiring me when you've arrived in the C-Suite.