Unlimited PTO - More For the Employer or the Employee?

Check out a recent post I did at my other site - Fistful of Talent - on the optics of unlimited PTO - what it means for companies over employees and more.  Here's a taste:

In my darkest moments, I’m a bit of a skeptic.  And I think unlimited PTO might just be a scam to not pay out accrued vacation and sick time.

With me?  Against me?  As with most things, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.  Here’s 5 things I know about vacation/sick time and the connection to the concept of unlimited PTO:

Unlimited PTO is limitless in its attraction as a component to “Best Place To Work”.  It’s hard to hear the concept exists at a company and not view said company in the top quartile of places to work.  Whatever the reality is, WHO CARES PEOPLE – THEY HAVE UNLIMITED PTO.  That’s how it comes across – in all caps, being shouted from the mountaintop.

I’ve worked for incredible CFOs in my career, and they all would evaluate Unlimited PTO with a form of glee reserved for Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.  The exchange is simple – you tell them you want to do unlimited PTO, and after they blast the dead weight in the company they think is going to abuse it, they get that thoughtful look in their eyes as they say, “wait, that means we’ll never pay out banked time again, right?  Hmmm…”

Get the whole post by clicking here.  Regardless of your opinion on unlimited PTO, let's just agree there's at least mutual benefit, OK?


Sometimes Great Teammates Decide To Let Co-Workers Live With the Consequences of Stupid Decisions...

Sometime after your first year with your company, you start to settle in.  All the onboarding is complete, the honeymoon is over and you've accurately assessed your job as a mix of positives and negatives.  If you're still there and not on the market after a year, that generally means you're content.  Hopefully you're learning and things are starting to click related to your role and how you can have success.

Another thing happens after the one year mark - you've settled into a clear understanding of who your teammates are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and if applicable, the circumstances/topics/conditions that will make them absolutely self-destruct.

You're a good teammate - so you've likely tried to make the self-imploding teammate aware of his self-destructive, hot button issues. 

But.They.Just.Won't.Listen.

So you do what a reasonable human would do after getting nowhere.  They next time the mushroom cloud is getting ready to go up, you grab some popcorn, a Fresca and get ready to watch the show.

That's what happened to Buster Posey (catcher of professional baseball's San Francisco Giants) last week.  A hothead teammate picked a fight with an opponent, and Buster decided to take this scrum off.  If you don't see the picture below, enable pictures or click through to the site to see the setup.  Buster's the one that's standing behind home plate while the #### is getting ready to go down:

Posey

Pretty good analysis from the Mercury News in the Bay area:

Oh, crap. Why do I have to deal with this knucklehead? Whatever.

Buster Posey can say whatever he wishes with his own words about what happened Monday afternoon. He can speak out loud and put his own spin on the way Giants’ reliever Hunter Strickland’s purpose-pitch hit Washington Nationals’ star Bryce Harper in the butt and sparked a bench-clearing meltdown. But anyone who watched Posey’s body language during the play could read and see exactly what was happening inside his brain.

Really, dude? And you expect me to defend you after . . . that?

The unwritten rules of Major League Baseball decree that when an angry batter leaves the box and charges at the pitcher, the catcher is supposed to sprint out and make an effort to hold back the batter before he reaches the mound.

Posey did just the opposite when Strickland plunked Harper, who reacted with a stare and then a sprint toward the pitching rubber. Watch the video. Watch Posey. As Harper storms toward Strickland, the Giants’ catcher actually takes a half step backward, not forward. Then he watches.

You’re on your own, pal. I can’t believe this. But you deserve whatever happens next. 

As everyone knows, Posey is the center of gravity inside the Giants’ room. He has been almost since 2010 when he joined the team full time. He calls the pitches on the field. He calls out teammates when needed. He has a dry and wicked sense of humor but is a very serious man. We don’t see everything that happens when the locker room door shuts. But you get the impression that before any other Giants’ player speaks up, he at least glances over to Posey to see how he’s reacting.

Odds are you've got a couple of people like that pitcher in your organization.  They've got talent.  But they've got a hot button that limits them career-wise.  You've probably already gotten splatter on you from the fallout when you tried to help them.  Either they lashed out at you or someone else in the organization accused you of being in their camp.

At some point, you have to back away, let them implode and let nature take its course.  It's Darwinian in nature.  They've got a flaw and try as you might, you can't help - and you certainly can't fix it.  They couldn't adapt.

You're a vet now.  Sometimes you have to do what Posey did.  Just let it happen and stay above the fray.

The honeymoon is over, right?  


The Trap of Non-Specific Feedback As a Replacement For Coaching...

If you look around long enough in your life - especially if you have kids - you'll see a pattern emerge.

People are trying to coach others as much as they can, but they default to non-specific feedback that is unhelpful at best and counter-productive at worst.

Want some examples?  Sweet!  Here you go:

"Try Harder"

"You Just Need To Work More"

"Focus"

"Be Patient"

"Give Them What They Want"

Read that list.  Odds are that you've used most, if not all, of these in the course of your day to day life coaching someone - a friend, a kid, a parent, a team member at work, and yes - someone you manage.

Those non-specific words feel like coaching, but they're not. They're proxies for you actually taking the time to figure out why someone is failing (big and small), as well as analyzing how they could help themselves.

Most coaching tools engage the person who needs coaching to ask them what they can do differently.  That's a start for getting to specifics that might make a difference.

But in the corporate world as well as non-work life, it's easy to be prescriptive and tell the person what to do in order to get better results.

That's failure #1 if you're responsible for coaching someone.  You didn't engage them, you told them what to do based on what you see.

Failure #2? Using any of the phrases above or anything similar.

You gotta really try harder.  Focus on it.  Be the ball, Danny.

Non-descriptive feedback sucks.  Stop telling people to focus and try hard. 

Lead them in a conversation about what they can do (specifics!) to get better results in any circumstance/scenario you're coaching them in.


Some Thoughts on Recognition for Blue-Collar Workers...

Recognition. We've been trained to believe that everyone needs it.

Do they?

I think so, but something that's lost in the recognition/engagement market is that for many blue collar workers, getting recognition in front of their peers actually makes them feel Blue collarlike a dork/brown-noser.

Some notes from my life follow...  My dad, Kent Dunn (RIP CKD), was a lifetime telephone/telecom lineman. One of the greatest things he gave me was a work ethic.  The memory of hearing his boots hit the floor and go out the door while I was still in bed before school are riveted in my mind.  He had a bunch of positive qualities you'd want in anyone you hired from a pride of work prospective.

But one thing he never would have been comfortable with is public recognition.  Here's some things that are widely talked about today related to recognition he wouldn't have been comfortable with, with his likely reaction in parenthesis to whoever was trying to reward him with any form of praise:

  1. Recognition in front of his peers in a team setting (Don't ever do that again)...
  2. Recognition 1/1 from his boss (So what? That's my job. That wasn't special)...
  3. Recognition in a company communication (Nobody reads that stuff)...

Kent Dunn would have been uncomfortable with many of the recognition strategies we take for granted in white-collar America.  I think many blue-collar workers we have today in America are a lot like Kent.  When I think about alternative/best ways to do recognition to those folks (mostly older males in blue-collar jobs focused on making a living, not changing the world), I came up with the following two strategies:

  1.  Rather than recognize in front of the group, tell some of Kent's friends the feedback you got on his work when he's not around. Hearing that the boss was talking about your great work in a casual way among your co-workers is a passive, low impact way for the Kent Dunn's of the world to feel good.  It saves them the public humiliation (in their eyes) of praise, but the message is still delivered.
  2. To make sure the Kent Dunn's of the world hear the praise, share what the customer told you directly with him.  The strategy here is this - you praise Kent in the normal way and it feels like you are expecting to hug him, which repels Kent.  You tell Kent that 81-year old Mrs. Adams praised Kent, he knows you don't expect to hug it out and you talk about how Mrs. Adams is a hoarder and has 30 cats, but she's a nice lady.  Trust me, he heard the work context of the praise. 

In both scenarios, the recognition is still there.  The macho blue-collar worker still hears it, but based on how it's provided he doesn't feel like you expect him to come in contact with his feelings.

Feelings are scary for blue-collar employees, especially those of the male variety.

RIP Kent Dunn.  I still hear your boots.


Understanding Your Audience Is the Key to Great Onboarding...

I'm up over at CareerBuilder talking about how understanding your audience is the key to great onboarding, with some generational twists.  Here's a taste:

As with anything talent-related, generational differences should be considered as you are building your onboarding platform at your company. Here’s what you need to know about generations as it relates to onboarding:

  • Millennials/Z – Hopeful that you don’t absolutely suck as an employer, but actively scanning for signs that you do suck. This group is most likely to make a quick change if their BS meter goes off and their needs aren’t met. For best results, you need to automate the transactional (signing paperwork) part of your onboarding process (they won’t respect you if you’re analog) and consider having follow up sessions that are delivered on-demand. Those two things will go a long way with this segment (as will goal setting and mentoring programs), but you won’t maximize your street cred with this group without talking about corporate social responsibility. Knowing your company cares about something other than itself is huge toward this group sticking with you when the path becomes rough at work.

Head over to CareerBuilder by clicking this link to get the whole article!  Including notes about Boomers and Gen X, which is clearly the best workplace generation that exists today... 


McKinsey Report: Managing Others and Influence Safe From Next Wave of AI/Automation...

McKinsey has a pretty good report out about where machines/AI can replace humans, and where they can't. I'd encourage all in the talent space to take a look - here's the link.

What you learn from the report is that AI and other forms of automation aren't new related to their ability to destroy jobs and cause dramatic restructuring of workforces as we know them.  A recent HBR article shows that between 1900 and 1990, the population of farmers in the United States went from 30 million to 3 million all while the country’s population more than tripled. In other words, 97% of the farmers disappeared, 3% of the jobs were kept but changed dramatically, the cause: automation.  

Smaller examples - the large-scale deployment of bar-code scanners and associated point-of-sale systems in the United States in the 1980s reduced labor costs per store by an estimated 4.5 percent and the cost of the groceries consumers bought by 1.4 percent.  Huh...  Check out kiosks don't work now because humans are generally helpless to learn new things on the fly - once we can scan you walking out the door without you finding a bar code, we won't have check out counters. 

So automation is a fact of life.  The decision you have to help your kids (as well as grown relatives and friends) make is what careers will be viable in the next wave of automation.

If you look at the McKinsey report, you have to be careful when it comes to Skilled Trades.  We'll have those for the foreseeable future, but there will be pressure on these areas for sure. Look at the chart below from the report and we'll talk about it after the jump (email subscribers, click through if you can't see the picture):

McKinsey Work Automation Chart

What the chart says is this - the more predictable the physical work, the more jobs stand to be eliminated by automation.

Self-driving car technology is going to replace truckers.  Low-end recruiters are gong to be replaced by AI technology.

What's safe for right now?  Any position that manages others or requires influence (stakeholder interactions and applying expertise).

Managing others and influence have a lot of overlap.  They're also among the hardest things to get good at in Corporate America.  Unpredictable physical work is much less likely to be automated that predictable physical work.  It stands to reason that predictable work using your brain is much more likely to be automated than unpredictable work using your brain.

You know what's unpredictable work using your brain?  Dealing with those pesky people. 

Which tells me the HR generalist (jack of all trades, master of some - across all career levels) is going to be around for awhile.


Alleged Pay Discrimination at Google Makes Marc Benioff and Salesforce Look Amazing...

Back in late 2015, I reported on proactive moves by Salesforce to do pay equity increases across its workforce to eliminate any and all gender pay issues, job by job. Here's a rundown from the post:

"In a panel at a conference organized by Fortune last week, Marc Benioff, the CEO of the cloud-based software company Salesforce, said that he recently ordered a review of all 17,000employees’ salaries to see if female employees’ pay was in line with those of male employees doing similar jobs. According to Fortune, Benioff said that the company is spending about $3 million extra this year on its payroll to make these adjustments. “We can say we pay women the same that we pay men,” he said the conference. “We looked at every single salary.”

Salesforce has declined to clarify the $3 million figure or provide further details—the size of the average adjustment, how many employees saw their salaries changed, and how they reacted—but is going to put out a report with more information next year."

At the time, I thought the move was brilliant, as it changed the conversation about workforce diversity to one of workforce equality - an equal goal that once achieved, was bound to change the narrative related to how much slack the world was going to give Salesforce for having some work to do on the diversity front.

Well, here's another reason to go for pay equity if you're a company like Salesforce - to keep the DOL from knocking on your door and playing hardball, like they just did at Google.  

"In their efforts to bring wage equality to Silicon Valley, government officials have accused one of the tech industry's anchor firms of large-scale gender discrimination.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), available data suggests that women who work at Google suffer from "systemic compensation disparities" compared to their male peers. As part of an ongoing lawsuit, the DOL alleged that the company, a frequent recipient of federal contracts, has violated federal law by discriminating against female employees in the salary department.

In recent years, Google has reportedly been well averse to sharing such data with the DOL, which seeks to compel the company to disclose wage and other information under federal employment laws. Testifying in San Francisco on Friday, DOL regional director Janette Wipper told the court that the government had uncovered "systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce" in its investigation of available company data from 2015, The Guardian reported."

The fact that Google's taken this DOL charge show's how brilliant the 2015 move by Salesforce and Benioff was.  Not only did they change the narrative related to diversity (important, but so it equality, people!), they didn't get sued.

Did Google have the money to do something similar to the Salesforce move on pay? Of course they did. But leading means you're proactive, even when you don't have to be.

Well played, Salesforce.  Good luck, Google.  You'll likely end up making the same equity increases Salesforce did, but it will look forced and you won't get credit for leading.


"The Villain Is The Person Who Knows The Most, But Cares The Least."

"The Villain Is The Person Who Knows The Most, But Cares The Least." I-Wear-the-Black-Hat-jacket_612x612

--From Chuck Klosterman In I Wear The Black Hat

When it comes to Employee Relations, any investigation you do of general bad stuff is going to uncover a lot of ugly things.  Human nature takes over and people do things they shouldn't.

However, at times you still need to look at all the bad in any situation and determine, who's really responsible?  Who is the bad guy/gal in this situation?

I think this quote gives us the best guidance in those situations.  The true villain is the person who knew the most about what was going on, but never had his/her sense of doing the right thing kick in.  

If you're thinking about firing people for conduct unbecoming of a professional teammate, let this quote be your guide.


Why I Had To Have The "There's No Crying In the Workplace" Talk With My Son....

When you read the title of this post, you might think I have sensitive sons.  Problems with emotions, crying, etc.

That's not true. I think they're pretty emotionally balanced, in the normal range, and generally OK.

I didn't have to have a talk about "there's no crying in the workplace" with one of my sons because I'm afraid his current behavior will transcend into softness in the workplace.

No - I had to have this talk with my son because all of the business reality shows feature business owners crying.  If not all the time, waaaaaay too much.

The worst offender is CNBC's The Profit.  I like this show, as it features a business investor (Marcus Lemonis) evaluating a business that's broken to decide if he can invest, take control and make money while he helps someone out.

The show goes through the process - Lemonis asks questions, challenges the owner and ultimately invests and takes control.  Along the way, there's always a shot of the owner crying, touting some hardship.

Now crying itself is not a bad thing. But if you were an alien evaluating how business gets done on Earth solely through The Profit, you'd make the assumption that the road to business success is making yourself vulnerable by crying.

Thus, the brief conversation with one of the Dunn boys who always is around and interested when I'm watching The Profit.  Here's what I was compelled to tell him:

  1. Normal people don't break down and cry when things get tough in the business world.
  2. PRO TIP - If you've got to cry, a nuts and bolts conversation about your financial statement isn't the place to do it.
  3. Instead of wanting to help you more, many people will believe you're unstable when you cry and treat you like you have a disease they can catch from you.
  4. Probably the only time its OK to cry in business is when you're showing empathy for other people.  In that way, it's acceptable and you'll be treated as someone who JUST CARES TOO MUCH.  An acceptable fault.
  5. Crying at any other time is risky.  And contrary to what this show illustrates, crying among business leaders is not common.  It doesn't happen every day - in fact, it rarely happens.
  6. PS - Man up.  You'll thank me when you're 30 for this advice.

I love The Profit featuring Marcus Lemonis.  But the crying thing might be teaching young folks things that can get them benched in life.

Clip of The Profit below if you haven't seen it.  Highly recommended for viewing with your kids with the above caveat made clear.