The Big Lie of Microsoft Office Tracking Your Work-Life Balance/Well-Being

"You don't know me, son!"

--David Goggins

I'll start with a shout out to the benefits of tracking my s**t everywhere on the web. I don't mind it. I like when Google knows, based on the time of day, where I'm going and tells me how long it's going take to get there. I'm fine with the running shoe recommendations and more I get from Instagram. Helpful. 

Track me all day long, because I live an honest life. You're going to be freaking bored if you track me for dirt. 

But don't judge me.

You know who's in the business of tracking AND judging? Microsoft Office.

Google and Instagram don't tell you that you could be a better person. Microsoft does, and it should bother you as an individual, and if it doesn't, you might want to put on your strategy hat and think about the judging and influencing that's going on across your organization. You know—the leadership thing.

WHY I'M TALKING ABOUT MICROSOFT ACTING LIKE MY PARENT

Last week, I was just minding my own business and got an email from the MS Office Suite from a toolset called "My Analytics."  The email was titled "My Analytics/Well-being Edition" and was sent at 1:27 am.  I'll let you soak for a second on that combination. 

The email sent by the MS Office 365 engine proceeded to give a reading on my state of well-being.  

Ready for my stats? Remember, I didn't opt into this, it just came to me as an individual employee.  Here's what MS Office thinks about my work habits related to their expertise in "well-being."

1--MS Office is not impressed with my commitment to excellence/world domination/crushing it.

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In this case, well-being is defined as not allowing yourself to be interrupted after hours, which means outside the normal office hours you set up in Outlook. Apparently, I'm one step away from working in the Nike/Phone factory in China when it comes to well-being, given the fact that I've had two Quiet days protected from disruption

What Microsoft doesn't measure: how I define work-life balance. It doesn't show when I'm not working during the day, instead showing that as "focus" time. If you call looking at NBA trade rumors as focus time, you're 100% correct. I kid—the point is that this indicates I am outside of some PhD's "boundaries for clean living" but does nothing to show that I work hard during the day.

2--MS Office is also concerned about my health when I'm online in some fashion "past midnight."

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At least one to two times a week I wake up in the middle of the night, and I know me—I'm up for ninety minutes at least. Sometimes I grab the phone and scroll. Sue me.

Here's an idea: if you are going to lecture me about looking passively at my email at 2 am, maybe you shouldn't send me your wellbeing email at 1:27 am. Just saying.

3-- MS Office would like to admonish me for being too responsive to email.

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MS Office thinks reading 75% of emails is obsessive. That's just me kicking some ass, Redmond. I'm guessing while I hear this, feedback on the well-being front doesn't flow to people who are awful at email. You know, something like, "you have ninety unread emails that are more than a week old. Your employment may be in danger."  That's a well-being note for sure, and one that some people need to hear. Who's going to give them that message? I doubt that it's Microsoft.

4--While MS Office is quick to judge my hours, it only reports on the number of emails I receive and send; it has no opinions on this topic.

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OK! I send 160 emails a week! Is that a lot compared to my peers? Are people taking action on my emails? I read 1,000 emails a week. Am I responding to the right ones? MS Office doesn't have input for me here. Too bad, lost opportunity.

WHAT'S THE POINT? I THOUGHT YOU'D NEVER ASK.

The point is this: this is less about you and me as individuals and more about the messages flowing in your organization. If you're not aware of the messaging that "MyAnalytics" might be sending to your team, you might want to consider the following realities/impact of this type of reporting (that you didn't ask for):

1--This type of well-being reporting is one-way and doesn't have context. If you give a lot of great flexibility for people to figure out how they want to get it done, the standard version of how MS Outlook won't cut it. They could be doing their own thing during the day (approved by you as long as the work gets done), and that will show up as "focus" time. Translation: your org will be framed with the negative (hey, buckaroo, why are you looking at email at 9pm), with no credit given for the positive (I don't micro manage my people's hours).

2--The standard MyAnalytics Package aims to reduce responsiveness under a cloak of "focus time." You reply to emails with a lot of urgency? Hey, you might want to lay off providing great responsiveness. The problem, of course, is that MyAnalytics won't take on the other side of giving feedback. It won't tell someone they should be worried about further employment because they suck at responsiveness. 

3--Performance isn't considered. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. High performers everywhere work harder than average performers 99% of the time. While MyAnalytics makes broad recommendations to cover well-being, a braver tool would not only cover well-being but would give some line of sight for where you fall in these measurements in your company, which makes the guidance culture-specific. That guidance would go something like this: "Hey Kris, you're answering 75% of your email within 30 minutes, the average at your company is 150 minutes. Why don't you still do great things in this area but only check email once an hour? The benefits of doing this are ___________. Plus, consider this: only 13% of people you respond to that quickly look at your email within 150 minutes."

I like the idea of well-being tools. But well-being doesn't exist in a vacuum. It has to be placed in a package with performance, organizational culture, and great recommendations based on data that compares you with others in your company.

Think about those things, Microsoft. And maybe stop sending me wellness emails at 1:27am—if you're going to preach to me about reading emails past working hours.

KD out.


GHOSTING BY CANDIDATES: It Sucks, So Let's Make it Happen Early

Post-Covid. Summer of 2021. The tour you wish you didn't have a ticket for.

You thought the market would be employer driven coming off of 14% unemployment. You (we) were wrong. Ghosting

Here we are. The recruiters, the HR pros, the talent leaders. At our best, we like to think about candidate experience and, at times, even take action to make it better. If the internet has taught us one thing, it's that it's probably too easy to apply for a job you're not qualified for via technology. That means hundreds of applications—way too many to treat people with any modicum of respect.

So from a candidate experience perspective, the entry level action item is, "I told everyone who didn't get the job they applied for where they stood." To do anything else is a form of ghosting.

I gotta be fair to my recruiting and HR brothers and sisters. If people are applying for a hundred jobs a day through Indeed Easy Apply, I'm not sure they should expect that courtesy. 

Still, ghosting candidates is bad, and we'd like to avoid it.

Especially now that candidates HAVE THE NERVE TO START GHOSTING US.

It's true that in the post-COVID world, especially at the $20/hour, 40K and under range, candidates are increasingly ghosting good natured recruiters by not doing one of the following:

1) answering an initial note to talk,

2) showing up to phone screens,

3) showing up to live interviews with hiring managers, or

4) showing up to their first day of work.

It hurts, right? Every time a candidate ghosts us or a hiring manager, it's time to do what comes naturally, which is to blame COVID-period federal and state unemployment benefits for de-incentivizing millions of Americans from truly wanting to work. That reality means that those in the marketplace can act horribly as candidates, confident that another job is available the same day if they decide to pass on your scheduled call.

Getting ghosted by a candidate sucks.

But I'm here to tell you that they're actually doing you a favor, and your job when you recruit is to make someone who is inclined to ghost DO IT AS EARLY IN THE PROCESS AS POSSIBLE.

Why should that be the goal? Simple. Because the later they do it in the process, the more it hurts your business and your reputation as a recruiter.

With that in mind, I'm giving you the following 3 rules FOR PULLING THE GHOST OUT OF A CANDIDATE as soon as possible, if it exists inside them:

1--Give as many critical details that might make the candidate ghost you as early as possible.  Money, hours, and any other critical decision point should be shared with the candidate as early as you can. Don't assume just because you shared these details in a posting that they've actually read them (see note above about applying for 100 positions a day). If a candidate has the ability to ghost you, sharing details as well as hard facts is the best way to get them to do it early.

2--Make the candidate do some form of work to get to the next stage. What's up, automated calendar? If a candidate can't do something as simple as pick a time rather than you spoon feed them, they're probably a) not the candidate for you, or b) they were going to ghost you any way. Do some simple task for me, candidate. In later stages (but not too late!), taking the time to complete an assessment you have is a great way to see who's going to ghost you later and get it out of the way.

3--Challenge them to commit to showing up to the next step. Turns out, simply talking to candidates about showing up and how others have ghosted you is a great way to increase your show rate. It's behavioral science, if someone commits after you ask them for a specific commitment, they're much less like likely to blow you or your hiring manager off.

Let's say that four out of every ten candidates you interact with in this post-COVID environment has something in them that might lead to ghosting. You want to get that out of the way and DARE THEM TO GHOST YOU as early as possible. Remember, them applying and then never replying when you reach out is a form of ghosting. That's when you want it to happen, so get the party started right and give them the hard details in your first text/email and make them pick a time to talk to you rather than you serving them like a 100K waiter at the Four Seasons.

Ghosting by candidates is bad. Ghosting by candidates late is worse. 

Let's embrace early ghosting, then blame the government for this mess like we've always done (insert evil laugh).


Taking Sides Politically: Wrong For Your Company and For You as a Manager of People...

I'll start this post by saying this: I've been on the corner of "no politics at work" way before 2020 happened. I've been on this corner so long that I questioned the wisdom of many small business owners pressuring their employees to vote GOP in the 2016 election for reduced taxation and concerns about Obamacare.

Ah, 2016. Ah, Obamacare. So long ago, such a simpler, innocent time. Mitch and nancy

When you choose political sides at work, you're alienating and decaying trust with close to 50% of your workforce. Go back historically and look at the vote splits. We're a 50/50 nation.  To choose either side politically is a bad look for any leader. You shouldn't do it. The great ones don't choose, because they know it's a suckers game from a leadership perspective.

"But, KD," you say, "times have changed! There's right and wrong!" I hear you, so let's dig into the topic a bit on 3 levels:

--The post 2020 escalation of what politics at work means

--The trap of picking any political side as a company—big or small

--Managing diverse sets of employees as a manager of people

Ready? Let's discuss.

The Post 2020 Escalation of What Politics at Work Means

It used to be that talking politics at work meant comparing, discussing, and arguing simple GOP vs Democratic platforms. You know the issues: taxes, government, social programs, etc.  Those days are gone. Discussing politics at work has exploded into nuclear identity politics and more. Regardless of what you believe, endorsing a political view as a company or a leader polarizes people more than it ever has and forces people to take sides.

In addition, allowing politics to be discussed in the workplace or taking a position as a company invites future employee activism that detracts from your goal—to serve customers/clients and be great at what you do. We'll talk more about that in the company section of this post.

Finally, if you have people in your company who aren't for opportunity for all, a world without racism, and other issues being discussed these days, you should get rid of those people. But that's not really the issue we're facing inside our companies when we talk politics and social issues identified with political platforms. Both major political parties weaponize the issues, which decreases meaningful conversations inside our companies, because the weaponization makes the issues (DEI, BLM, etc.) too hot to debate.

That loss of meaningful conversation means many view company positions as one of two things: 1) a call to make a portion of the business and their time about the political/social issues, or 2) empty virtual signaling. Neither outcome is great.

The Trap of Picking a Side or Allowing Politics/Causes to Be Discussed as a Company

Do Black Lives Matter? Of course, they do. Is BLM as an organization the carrier of the message we want to get behind? Uhhhh....

No one I know (including my GOP friends) argues with the fact that we need opportunity for all, a world without hate, and reasonable approaches to all the social issues on the table. Be about that 100% as a leader.

But the world, organizational life, and humanity gets in the way the more you try and formalize and activate your support of a platform. Are you in the business of focusing all your energy on your clients, or are you ready to channel 10-20% of your time talking about social/political issues (increasingly the same thing these days) whether you want to or not?  

You'll have a cross section of employees in any company who want you to formalize this support of social/political issues. The last year has shown us that formalizing your support for any political platform or cause creates activism inside your company.

Case in point: you're a US-based global company, and you promote Pride Month in the USA (good) complete with a logo change for the month, only to be reminded by a small section of your employee base that you didn't change the logo for all of your other country-based social accounts. Turns out, there are parts of the world that don't want anything to do with Pride month or what it stands for, and from a business perspective it's problematic to push this promotion in those parts of the world. Your employees on the left are disappointed in you and active in telling you about it, and your employees on the right think the whole show is PR. It's complicated.

As you wade into the political waters, a small percentage of your employees will become vocal activists, wanting to spend a percentage of their time at work active on politics. This has become a big enough issue that two companies with liberal, left leaning founders—Shopify and Basecamp—recently reversed course and sought to put firm limits/eliminate time spent at work on political/social issues, reminding employees that the company mission to serve clients was what work was about. While the Basecamp communication was bungled in many ways (link to outcomes here), the bigger of the two companies, Shopify, locked down the politics at work discussion hard.  See the entire note from Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke here.

Summary of this note to employees from Tobi Lütke:

We're not a family, we're a team. You came to Shopify to work with great people. Our record on liberal values and equality of opportunity. Sometimes we see opportunities to help nudge these causes forward. We do this because this directly helps our business and our merchants and not because of some moralistic overreach. Slack trolling, victimhood thinking, us-vs-them divisiveness, and zero sum thinking must be seen for the threat they are: they break teams. Teams survive and thrive on the actions of the collective, and the cohesiveness of the whole. Poor performance and divisiveness cannot be tolerated.  

How do I insert 1,000 handclap emojis? Magnificent. Get back to work and stop wasting time on things that aren't in support of our business goals.

Managing Diverse Sets of Employees as a Manager of People

It's simple for best results as a manager of people. You don't routinely share your political views or hot takes on things that could be considered to be political with direct reports.

The reasons are pretty simple. As a manager of people, you're responsible for shepherding a group of direct reports through a given week, quarter or year.

If you've done a good job of hiring, you're leading a diverse team - which broadly defined, means your people don't all look, sound or think like you. You're in a position of power, so the more you broadcast polarizing information like political views, the more you risk alienating good people who aren't a carbon copy of you.

I'm not saying you can't be you. And note I'm 100% saying you should be clear that you're against racism an a supporter of other ideas of note. You can and should share those views, and it's an important part of leading on issues.

I'm saying that the stronger/hotter you are on a polarizing take - whether you come from the hard left or hard right - the more you risk shutting someone down on your team from talking to you, which almost always results in lower engagement and one foot out the door.

Managers from both the hard right and the hard left struggle with this. For best results, remember that in competitive election years, the country is split pretty much evenly between two political parties.

Some of you will email me and say, "But Kris, how do I find the line?" Well, if you're manager of people, that's what the money is for.

Your job is to keep all the good people on the bus. The team that successfully navigates 2021 and arrives at 2022 at a different place with the highest percentage of talented employees retained and rowing in the right direction wins.

Leadership is art. I'm sorry I'm saying you shouldn't share that op/ed you loved from The New York Times or Fox News with the team. 

Listen more than you talk. Connect with everyone on your team on a 1/1 level. Show empathy to all.


Five Questions to Determine if a Potential Boss Will Invest in Growing Your Career

The best candidates don't want a boss or a manager. They want a Career Agent.

A boss/manager of people who is a Career Agent is there to get the job done and get business results, but they'll accomplish something very important along the way. A career agent, as a manager of people, approaches every assignment to the team, every task, and all feedback through a simple lens related to the team member/employee in question.

What's in it for you to do what I'm asking you to do? David-Costabile-billions-interview-gq

Think about that for a second.  Whether you're assigning work, talking about a project, or giving hard feedback for improvement, a boss who is also a career agent isn't simply telling you what to do. They're telling you WHY doing what they are encouraging you to do is good for you.

There's a big difference between normal bosses/managers of people and ones who are actively career agents.

That difference? The direct reports of Career Agents think their bosses actually give a shit about them. I'm not talking about empathy, which is a cheap word these days. I'm talking about advocacy.

Advocacy over empathy in a manager means this - "I care about how you feel, but I'm more interested in pushing you to see the game and absolutely crush it in your career, so you can thrive workwise, take care of your family, and feel great about who you are professionally."

Of course, not everyone is ready for Career Agent-type advocacy. Some just want their manager to leave them alone, to let them do the basics and not think about what's next, where they want to go, etc.

To the average employee, that sounds exhausting.

To the high performer with ambition, that sounds like the boss they want and need.

A funny thing happens with managers who are Career Agents for those who work for them. Word gets around, and they end up with stronger teams.

But if you're out there as a candidate, you have imperfect information on the potential future boss in front of you. If you have ambition, start with some or all of these 5 questions to figure out if your interviewer is going to be a true advocate for your career:

1--Are you considered one of the best in your company/location/business unit for developing people and seeing them promoted multiple times? (Spoiler alert: avoidance of the question isn't great. Neither is overconfidence, because the true manager as career agent knows how hard this status is to achieve. Following up with examples is fair to the interviewer with great confidence.)

2--How do you approach a direct report you feel has more to give, but you haven't seen the results yet? (Listen closely for the difference between getting the minimum out of non-performers versus developing performers.)

3--What's your approach to the grunt work that has to be done in any job vs. the activities that grow someone and prepare them for the next step in their career? (You want to hear that the manager always has their eye on getting you out of the weeds and helping you grow.)

4--Have you ever made a referral hire from a former direct report who now works at another company? Tell me more! (Testing the fact that they keep relationships warm when someone has the audacity to leave the company nest—average managers hate that.)

5--Who have you managed in your career that you now consider your peer? (Testing for a complete devotion to development and low ego related to hiring people who have the potential to be as good as or better than they are.)

If these questions sound like a lot to spring on someone who is interviewing you, you're 100% right. You'll hear things earlier in the interview process that tells you the manager in front of you is average, and they won't respond well to this line of questioning. It's up to you whether you want that job or not. Sometimes you have to feed the family and just get paid. I get it.

But if you're lucky enough to have options, and you want to be developed (regardless of career level), these questions are fair game. If you ask them and you get average or even slightly irritated answers, you know the deal. Stay where you are.

But if the potential manager in front of you perks up to the questions, is humble about what they are capable of, and engages, proceed and get as much as you can from the conversation. End the session with a request for referrals (current or otherwise) where people will talk about what it is like to work for them.

Find this person, and you've found your home related to who you want to work for.


Geriatric Millennials: The Next Generation Slice That's Supposed to Change the World...

On episode 66 of The HR Famous Podcast, long-time HR leaders (and friends) Tim Sackett, Jessica Lee  and me (KD) come together to discuss the topic of whether geriatric millennials are coming to save the world or not!

Move to minute 21:00 to dig into the topic of geriatric millennials. I might have gone off on a rant or two.

Listen below (click this link if you don’t see the player) and be sure to subscribe, rate, and review (Apple Podcasts) and follow (Spotify)!

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:

1:00 - JLee is in the DC metro area and is currently being overrun by cicadas! 

3:00 - JLee, Tim, and KD were all named one of the top 100 HR Tech influencers of 2021! Our podcast has influence!

6:30 - Tim is getting reached out by not so reputable HR tech companies to be on their “top 10 lists” but he only wants to be on the robust, well-researched lists. 

9:45 - JLee doesn’t know if any of the other hundreds of other HR employees at her company know about her being on this list. She asks the crew the question “does this event matter?”. Tim thinks it’s great for the speaker bio. 

15:00 - JLee hasn’t been on lists for awhile but she’s back since starting HR Famous and starting back on the conference circuit. She says that getting back out there has helped her open her eyes and see what else is going on in the world. 

18:00 - KD says that he may not get more business from being on this list but he’s at the company he’s at now because of being out there in the HR space.  HIs last 2 career opportunities have come from being more active than normal in the HR space.  He also considers the HR Tech/HR Executive Magazine list to be the gold standard.

19:45 - An article has been going around JLee’s office and it’s about “geriatric millennials' ' and their eagerness to go into a world of hybrid work. 

21:00 - What’s a geriatric millennial? They were not digital natives and remember a time before cell phones and other technological advancements. JLee is the resident geriatric millennial of the pod.

23:45 - Geriatric millennials have the ability to go between the online and offline world where older and younger generations may struggle at being online/offline. Also, they have had to learn how to adapt to different digital technologies quickly. 

30:00 - KD calls BS on the concept that everyone in a generational slice is going to have impact in the world, noting that high performers throughout time in the 35-40 range are always "next up" in the world of work. But not everyone within a certain age group is going to save the world. There will always be high potential earners in every group, and they’ll rise to create change.

---------------Jessica Lee, Kris Dunn and Tim Sackett

Kinetix

HRU Tech

Jessica Lee on LinkedIn

Tim Sackett on Linkedin

Kris Dunn on LinkedIn

The Tim Sackett Project

The HR Capitalist

Fistful of Talent

Boss Leadership Training Series


Remembering Facebook vs Google+: The Value of the Rally BHAG...

There's a lot of hate heading Facebook's way these days. But step away from the politics and the obvious corrosive, addictive drawbacks of social media, and you'll see a company that has fought like hell, got lucky at times and generally rallied the troops better than most around BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). See this post for more on the value of a good BHAG.

BHAGs at Facebook include the move from campus focus to the general public, the move to mobile first and more.  But let's talk about one BHAG that most of us have forgot about.

Let's talk about Google Plus (or Google+) and remember the threat and the response. Lockdownlogo

Google+ ------ Man, some kids don't even know what this was. Here's a definition of the social app launched by Google back in 2011:

Google+ (pronounced and sometimes written as Google Plus; sometimes called G+) was a social network owned and operated by Google. The network was launched on June 28, 2011, in an attempt to challenge other social networks, linking other Google products like Gmail, Google DriveBlogger and YouTube. The service, Google's fourth foray into social networking, experienced strong growth in its initial years, although usage statistics varied, depending on how the service was defined. 

Google+ was introduced in June 2011. Features included the ability to post photos and status updates to the stream or interest-based communities, group different types of relationships (rather than simply "friends") into Circles, a multi-person instant messaging, text and video chat called Hangouts, events, location tagging, and the ability to edit and upload photos to private cloud-based albums.

Google+ was shut down for business and personal use on April 2, 2019. Google+ continued to be available as "Google+ for G Suite".

Google+ was perceived as a huge threat inside Facebook when it launched. After all, many of us live our lives through the Google Suite, so it makes sense that a social network that liquified that usage was going to pop in a big way.

At Facebook, the launch of Google+ was scene as a declaration of war. The company had a large sign in its Bay Area HQ that simply said "LOCKDOWN." It was rarely used. The sign was lit up upon the launch of Google+ and it was an all hands on deck moment.

Mark Zukerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, wasn't a great public speaker. But he took the mic during the all hands meeting that followed shortly after the LOCKDOWN sign was lit up. Here's how the scene was described in the book Chaos Monkeys:

"Rounding off another beaded string of platitudes, he changed gears and erupted with a burst of rhetoric referencing one of the ancient classics he had studied at Harvard and before. “You know, one of my favorite Roman orators ended every speech with the phrase Carthago delenda est. ‘Carthage must be destroyed.’ For some reason I think of that now.” He paused as a wave of laughter tore through the crowd.

The aforementioned orator was Cato the Elder, a noted Roman senator and inveigher against the Carthaginians, who clamored for the destruction of Rome’s great challenger in what became the Third Punic War. Reputedly, he ended every speech with that phrase, no matter the topic.

Carthago delenda est. Carthage must be destroyed!"

There's nothing more BHAG than a big ass sign that's the size of a family sedan that says "LOCKDOWN" and your CEO pointing at a competitor and saying, "Carthage Must Be Destroyed."  The internal PR team also went into BHAG mode as evidenced by another passage in Chaos Monkeys:

The Facebook Analog Research Laboratory jumped into action and produced a poster with CARTHAGO DELENDA EST splashed in imperative bold type beneath a stylized Roman centurion’s helmet. This was Facebook’s ministry of propaganda, and it was originally started with no official permission or budget, in an unused warehouse space. In many ways, it was the finest exemplar of Facebook values: irreverent yet bracing in its martial qualities.

The Carthago posters went up immediately all over the campus and were stolen almost as fast. It was announced that the cafés would be open over the weekends, and a proposal was seriously floated to have the shuttles from Palo Alto and San Francisco run on the weekends, too. This would make Facebook a fully seven-days-a-week company; by whatever means, employees were expected to be in and on duty. In what was perceived as a kindly concession to the few employees with families, it was also announced that families were welcome to visit on weekends and eat in the cafés, allowing the children to at least see Daddy (and, yes, it was mostly Daddy) on weekend afternoons. 

And if you're skeptical of the value of a true BHAG moment like LOCKDOWN AND "Carthage Must Be Destroyed," that's cool. Just know it matters when the survival of your company is at question. The final passage I'll share from Chaos Monkeys talks about the difference in moods at Google versus Facebook:

Facebook was not f**king around. This was total war.

I decided to do some reconnaissance. En route to work one Sunday morning, I skipped the Palo Alto exit on the 101 and got off in Mountain View instead. Down Shoreline I went and into the sprawling Google campus. The multicolored Google logo was everywhere, and clunky Google-colored bikes littered the courtyards. I had visited friends here before and knew where to find the engineering buildings. I made my way there and contemplated the parking lot.

It was empty. Completely empty.

Interesting.

I got back on the 101 North and drove to Facebook.

At the California Avenue building, I had to hunt for a parking spot. The lot was full.

Was there any question who would come out on top?

In a time of crisis, BHAGs matter.


Let's Look at Open Jobs + Unemployment Benefits Through the Lens of a Recruiting Department...

Do you believe that COVID-related unemployment benefits are preventing people from rejoining the workforce? This became a hot topic when the April 2021 Jobs Report showed one of the biggest misses on record—meaning the actual number of jobs the American economy was expected to add fell dramatically short of the expectation.

Like everything these days, it's been politicized. The GOP is out in force claiming people have been de-incentivized to work because of COVID unemployment. Joe Biden made a rare appearance to defend unemployment benefits policy, citing “There’s been a lot of discussion since Friday’s report that people are being paid to stay home rather than go to work," Biden said. “We don’t see much evidence of that.

Uh, ok.  Help-wanted-sign-on-store-window-vf

There's only two pieces of data that matter, and they're facts, not opinions. 1) Employers can't find the people they need, and 2) Potential employees that remain among the unemployed aren't taking jobs.

So let's get out of the opinion game and look at the numbers, and think about how a modern TA/Recruiting department deals with a sudden rush of openings. I've been through that game many times (as many of you have) and know the following to be true.

Let's start with the facts in the April 2021 jobs report:

--Total Open Jobs in America: 7,000,000+

--Total Number of Jobs Economists Expected to Fill out of that number: 1,000,000

--Actual number of Open Jobs that got filled: 266,000

--Performance vs Expectation: 26.6%

Feels like an F at best. Maybe there's a curve we're not aware of.

But that analysis is just low hanging fruit. Many of you are already aware of these numbers. So let's add some value by thinking about how a modern TA/Recruiting Department tackles a big rush of open jobs.

Many of you have seen your companies experience something similar to this. It goes a little something like this:

1--Your company was doing NO HIRING, THEN THEY OPENED UP 4-6 MONTHS WORTH OF POSITIONS.

You've been there, right? I feel you, friend.

So when that happens to a normal TA/Recruiting function, how do they react?

2--The normal TA/Recruiting Department goes into battle mode with the order to get a big chunk of the jobs filled each month. But remember that normal TA shops are designed to knock out a normal amount—not a peak amount—of positions every 60 days. 

3--Let's say you're dealing with that six month backlog and your TA/Recruiting Team is running at 150% capacity—hero time in the recruiting function. How long does that mean it takes your TA/recruiting team, running hot, to work through a 4-6 month backlog that pretty much got opened all at one time?  Well, it's not 60 days, because the company wouldn't let them hire up to get ready. At the end of the day, great/hero/epic TA/Recruiting performance works through this COVID-like backlog in 3-5 months, depending on staffing levels.  It's just math related to resources they have vs what the business threw on them. Nobody's to blame, but everyone's involved in the solution. Patience is required.

4--That means that a TA team dealing with a COVID-related backlog is operating at SUPERHERO levels if they are dispatching 1/3 of that backlog a month and doing very well at 1/4 of the backlog dispatched per month. That means it takes them a quarter or more simply to get back to normal, and that assumes the position volume dump gets back to normal. Show them some love at these levels.

Got it? Cool.

Now, let's compare that valid expectation of a crisis mode TA/Recruiting function kicking ass with what the economy just delivered:

--The Post-COVID dump of open positions: 7,000,000 (This is the economy acting like starved hiring managers.)

--The economists' expectation of what would get filled, aka the monthly target: 1,000,000 (at this rate, the backlog gets taken care of after 7 months, so seems like a low expectation, but we'll count it as reasonable based on the whole economy, what I laid out above, and the fact many are desperate for candidates.)

--What the market delivered: 266,000!

--Time to remove the backlog in TA/Recruiting terms at that pace: 26.3 months. W.T.F.

Yeah, that's a problem. To say nothing of the fact that the economy is not going to stop opening jobs—kind of like your hiring managers.

THE BOTTOM LINE IS THIS: Policy matters. We talk all the time about whether to add sign-on bonuses and other features to make our hiring more successful. But you can't have incentives (COVID-based unemployment benefits) that go against people reentering the work marketplace and expect better results.

The situation will improve. States are already moving to eliminate their COVID-related unemployment benefits, and the federal benefit runs out in September.

But, this is for sure: if the policy and the folks who ran it were a TA/Recruiting department leader, they'd be under the gun to make sure April's performance level didn't happen again.

KD out.


KD's Personal Mission Statement on HR/Recruiting/Talent in Troubled Times...

If you're like me, 2020 and 2021 has felt rough in a lot of ways. But I'm incredibly blessed - I had a job, my company survived and my family is healthy. Check, check  and check.

But in a world with so much political and social unrest, it's easy for all of us to feel disrupted in some way. For me, all the change going on around us made me less confident to speak to many of the hard business+talent truths I have learned in my career.  Example - I was hesitant to put my thoughts down on the recent Union Vote at the Amazon Distribution Center (Bessemer, Alabama) because pro-business thoughts aren't super welcome in the cancel culture we live in. The things we think

I wrote the post (you can find it here), but I expressed my reservations of being cancelled, shamed or—God forbid—being called a Republican.

The hesitation that so many people feel toward having real conversations got me thinking - what I really needed to do was to create a mission statement of how I view HR/Recruiting/Talent that addresses the times and communicates what I believe.  I needed to do that more for me than anyone else. So I did it. I kept it short and note this is a living breathing document I'll update and fine tune moving forward.

Here's my personal mission statement for who I am and what I believe HR/Recruiting/Talent should be about in 2021:

I believe every employee deserves an opportunity to earn a great living based on their performance. They deserve a safe environment that respects all people and provides maximum opportunity to all, regardless of race, gender, orientation and any other identifier.

Of course, I'll get emails that say this isn't good enough on a variety of levels in 2021. That's OK. I'm not writing war and peace here, or even a 35-page document similar to the one that got Jerry Maquire fired (read the whole thing from Jerry here).  What's needed for me is a lightweight mission statement to keep me grounded and focused on what the most important things are in the world of HR/Recruiting/Talent in 2021 and beyond, which also allows me to call BS on things that make no sense (spoiler, there's a lot of that these days).

Let's break that simple statement shown above (in green) down a bit so I can tell you what's in my heart:

1--It all starts with performance wherever you are in life. The world is a hard place, and different people have different talents, different work ethic, etc. Someone less talented needs to work harder, and many do and absolutely crush it. Some are naturally talented and skate by without putting in the hours. Put on your helmet and get ready to compete, because this world is tough. Effort, focus and not being a victim matters.  

2--There are crazy talented people from every walk of life - every race, gender, orientation, country and any other identifier you want to name. I know this because I've worked for them and been fortunate enough to have them on my teams during my career - from all walks of life. I want to recruit them all BTW, not because of any identifier, but because they are great at what they do. High performer and achiever is a segment that is not limited by tag, identifier, identity politics, employment law, etc.  It is a DNA strand that elevates above the conversations we're having today.

3--The world works hard to try and lure high performers back to the pack. There's a bunch of quotes I could give you here. Whether it's a political conversation about how the business community mistreats labor, a co-worker pissed at you because you're killing it and they can't/wont, or Ricky Bobby's dad in Talledega Nights encouraging students to go fast, it's noted that the world around you wants you to be average.  See #1 and #2.  

4--Safety in the world - inside and outside of work - should be a given.  You should be safe in the workplace and not have to deal with bullshit, whether it's dealing with COVID, personal safety or just not getting tied up with non-work related conversations that make you feel at-risk because you're not in the cool clique, etc. I want people to feel safe outside of work as well, but that's a complicated post that transcends the scope of this work mission statement. Let's just say I'm open to all conversations and feel there's a clear path forward for safety for all - but I'm not drinking anyone's kool-aid. The path is complicated.

5 - Every employee and candidate deserves an environment/experience that provides maximum opportunity to all, regardless of race, gender, orientation and any other identifier.  Couple of things here - I'm no expert in what's required to put all on equal footing as they grow up and matriculate in our imperfect world (yes, that means outside the USA as well), so I'll leave that to the experts - I'm open to a lot of things. But when it comes to the workplace/workforce, I'm open and engaged to force conversations that need to happen to provide maximum opportunity to all.  I believe a proactive approach is needed to get to where we need to be, but note I'll never be a proponent of messaging that seeks to divide us instead of bringing us together. To accomplish both is part art and part science, and we need everyone in the tent to get to where we need to be.

That's it. Note I'll be updating this and I'll try to show a log below on what I add or take out in the future.

Edit Log:

First Created: 4.29.21
No Edits to date.


The Coming Epic Fail of Team Meetings Post-COVID (half in room, half on Zoom)...

There's a million things to think about in a Post-Covid world.  Here's one you don't think about but you might as well get ahead of, especially if your team is going to exist in some type of hybrid existence: White_House_Situation_Room_Friday_May_18_2007

THE NEW NORMAL WILL FEATURE PEOPLE TRYING TO HOLD TEAM MEETINGS WITH HALF THE TEAM LIVE IN THE OFFICE AND HALF ON ZOOM/TEAMS.

AND IT'S GOING TO SUCK.

Think about it. Before we accepted cameras on as the norm during COVID, you generally didn't try and hold a team meeting with half or more of the people live and half on Zoom.

Why not? Because it's impossible for the people who aren't live to have the same experience and rights as those live in the room. If you're not in the room, you are a second class citizen, and it's the way it has to be. Please listen, and we'll throw it to you for your stage banter when you're ready.

The Zoom/Teams rush during COVID changed those expectations. Since most, if not all were remote, we turned on the cameras and everyone was treated equal.

When we go back to the offices, many of us will try and keep the remote team on video, and it's going to be awful.

When half or more of your team is live and in the office for a meeting, you can't make the Zoom people equal. They can't see the room, read body language and know when they can informally interject and organically participate. But man, will they try. The people who are live can't do the same with the Zoomers,

The answer is simple and the new rules should be clear:

If half or over half of your team is live, you require the remote folks to call in (no video) and run their participation in the live meeting like it's 2019. They'll thank you for it.

If a number of people live is less than half (especially if it approaches only 25-33% live and in the room) you hold the entire meeting on Zoom or Teams. The 3 of 10 people in the office join from their personal office via Teams. You'll have a better meeting.

Some of you will try to do the live/Zoom mix with half or more of the people in the conference room on one camera. It will be an epic failure.  

Will you understand how awful it is?  That's a whole other question.

(email subscribers click through for Gary V video on this topic below)


STEAL THESE SLIDES: I'm Making PPT Decks on HR/Recruiting With No Formatting For You to Use (as your own)...

STSEMailArt

Admit it – you loved the Netflix Culture deck back in the day, right? The simplicity, the great ideas, the black and white slides. But you don’t have enough time to spend on presentation decks. You have other stuff to do.

That’s why I created the Steal These Slides series!  Hit this link to get the first deck!

Every time we do a roadmap, a tool kit, or a whitepaper at Kinetix, we're going to create a simple deck for you to use in any way you see fit, delivered in the black and white spirit of the Netflix Culture Deck.

No Kinetix logo (after the title slide, just delete that one), but plenty of Kinetix thoughts. Start with our deck, add your own thoughts, delete what you don’t like or need, add art and presto! You’ve got a great deck to help you be the talent expert you are.

Our first set of slides in this series is How to Ramp Your Recruiting in a Post-COVID World. If you need the bigger white paper this deck is based on for background, click here to download. Otherwise, just click the button below and you'll be taken to the page with the slides.

Hit this link to get the first deck!

Keep being awesome. 


Amazon Employees (BHM1) Crush Union - 10 Things You Need to Know...

I’ll start this post with what should be obvious. Twitter’s not the real world, and neither is today’s version of the news. There are extremes on both sides of the news industry and what you read is likely to be more Op/Ed than true reporting. It takes real work to find true reporting these days.

A related issue is the unwillingness of normal people to share their thoughts and beliefs on any news topic of relevance in the world for fear of one side—generally the left these days—looking to shame the source for any thought not believed to be progressive enough.

It starts with dialog on race (hard topic coming off of 2020) but has spread like wildfire to other areas.

Simply put, the world needs all of us to be vocal when we can add value.

Which brings me to the topic of this post. Amazon

For months now, we’ve heard about organized labor (known as unions to the layperson) bringing justice and representation to Amazon workers at an Amazon Distribution Facility in Bessemer (Birmingham), AL. (In the case of the Amazon vote, the union in question was the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which I’ll simply refer to as the “union” from this point forward.)

 Last week, employees at that Amazon Distribution Facility voted “no” to that union representing them. 

But they didn’t just say “no”. Based on the numbers and the circumstances, the employees actually said, “HELL NO” (all caps to express the sentiment).

What’s been represented by the mainstream media over the past 4-5 months related to this union campaign is very different than the outcome. Due to that, I wanted to share some things that I want my HR, Recruiting, Talent and Business leader friends, who haven’t had much experience with organized labor, to know about the Amazon union drive in Bessemer/Birmingham and about organizing activity in general.

Before we get it into it, let me say this: every employee deserves an opportunity to earn a great living based on their performance. They deserve a safe environment that respects all people and provides maximum opportunity to all, regardless of race, gender, orientation and any other identifier.

If a union is the best option for a group of employees (because the company has failed), so be it. 

But a union wasn’t the best option for workers at the Amazon DC in Bessemer, AL, regardless of the pounding on the topic that happened from politicians and the media.

Let’s dig in and understand why something we were told was great (employees saying “yes” to a union at Amazon) was met with such strong opposition by an incredibly diverse set of Amazon employees in the Birmingham area. 

Buckle up, friends—this is a long one but an important one.

HERE ARE THE 10 THINGS I WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT THE UNION ORGANIZING PROCESS AT AMAZON (BESSEMER DISTIRUBTION CENTER):

1—Let’s start with the basic of how union organizing works, shall we?

The process of organizing generally works like this: a limited number of employees at any company are dissatisfied and reach out to a union organization wondering about representation. A process is followed, and if there’s enough interest, an election is held asking employees at the location/unit inside the company if they want the union to represent them.

If employees vote no, things remain as is. If the employees vote yes (simple majority is all that is needed), collective bargaining (negotiation) starts between the company and the union to create an agreement on all employment stipulations. There are 100 more things experts could tell you about this process, but let’s keep this high-level to make sure you’ve got the base.

Got it? Great.

2—The Union Organizing process at the Amazon DC had a lot of friends on the left, including POTUS, most mainstream media, Hollywood and more. 

Most of the people listed above assumed what they wanted to happen (employees vote “yes” to bring in the union) would happen based on the narrative they were building. It didn’t.

Article after article has covered the Amazon union vote as a watershed moment for workers, the left, and for organized labor. Most coverage cited hard working conditions in an Amazon DC as being unfair to workers. Is that true? You’ll have to dig in to the results to understand what the workers thought. But the media coverage was unrelenting over the past couple of months and was easily a 90/10 split—90% of articles talking in glowing terms about the union movement, etc. and only 10% actually doing reporting.

To increase the pressure, the POTUS was active, making the following statement.

"Today and over the next few days and weeks workers in Alabama - and all across America - are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace. This is vitally important - a vitally important choice," he said.

"There should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda. No supervisor should confront employees about their preferences."

More to come on that statement, because, as it turns out, unions and the employees who are pro-union have all the opportunity in the world to do exactly what Biden is talking about—pressure and coerce employees—as part of the process. We never hear about that.

And, of course, others weighed in. Bernie Sanders came to Birmingham (Bessemer is in the Birmingham, AL metro) to show solidarity with the workers and apply pressure. Entertainment stars piped in with their support, and some even came to Birmingham to support the union.

3—It’s probably warranted to talk a bit more about the organizing process that a union follows to get to an employee vote to give you more context.

I told you earlier that a union organizing process starts with a limited number of employees at any company being dissatisfied and reaching out to a union organization to ask about representation. Let’s keep adding to those notes.

My experience—and I hold it to be true—is that it’s never the high performers in any company who initiate inquiries about unions. High performers are almost always comfortable with a meritocracy and aren’t open to paying a % of their compensation in union dues. To be fair though, inquiries about unions can begin from departments inside companies with horrific managers. In addition, companies with high performance quotas like Amazon can sometimes incite some normal to high performers to consider union representation as well.

Once the call comes into the union, meetings are held away from work between that small group of employees and union organizers to discuss the issues. If the union sees opportunity, they will seek to invite more people to meetings to continue the evaluation process.

Once the union decides the opportunity is strong enough to warrant the additional effort, something called authorization cards are introduced, which ask employees to sign saying that they are interested in the union representing them. In order for a union to have enough cards to present to the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) and get a union election inside the company, they have to have at least 30% of employees within the “unit” in question sign the card.

4—Most unions want 50-70% of employees to sign authorization cards before presenting to the NLRB, because they understand many of the cards will be signed under duress and employees will flip back to the company side.

Here’s how asking for a card works in many circumstances. A pro-union employee will approach their colleagues and friends, give a little elevator speech about the unfairness on the company side and ask the person in front of them to sign the card as a signal that “you’re with us/me.”

At that point, the person being solicited has a choice: they can sign the card or not. As you might expect, many sign the card to avoid conflict with the pro-union person in front of them. Sounds awesome, right? When Joe Biden said workers should be able to make their decision about union representation without interference from the company, he fails to mention this form of coercion on the union side. That’s really weak.

5—The reason most organizing campaigns never get to a vote is because employees who don’t care for union representation get wind of the secret card signings going on and report it to the company in question.

Names for these employees reporting the presence of cards in the workplace range from “fink” to “hero” depending on your side of this. But once it’s reported that there are authorization cards in the workplace, most companies ramp up their training on what unions are and begin other union avoidance activities. More to follow on this in a bit.

6—Let’s talk about the result at this point.  The union got absolutely crushed in this thing. CRUSHED.

A union needs a simple majority of voting employees in order to win an election and earn the right to represent the employees unit. 50% plus one vote.

If you believed the media reports in the two months leading up to the Amazon DC union election, you either thought it was going to be a close election or it was a foregone conclusion the union would win.

The union got absolutely CRUSHED in this election by Amazon employees in the Bessemer DC.

Here are the results:

  • Total eligible voters – 5,876
  • Voided ballots – 76
  • Number of votes cast for the Union (RWDSU) – 738
  • Number of votes cast against Union – 1798
  • Number of challenged ballots – 505 (roughly 300 challenged by Amazon, 200 by the union)
  • Number of employees not casting a ballot – 2,759

Amazon’s statement on the vote pointed out that only 16% of employees at the Bessemer DC voted “yes” to the union. Amazon also correctly positioned the result: it wasn’t a win for Amazon (although it was); it was an overwhelming decision made by real employees with real jobs—and probably very few active Twitter accounts.

It should be noted that almost half of the employees in the defined unit (in this case, that’s the entire distribution center) did not vote in the election. Not voting in this election is in all practical purposes a “No” vote.

The union and organized labor got crushed by this outcome.

7—Amazon was helped by expanding the number of voters in the election. This is called defining and expanding the “unit” in any union election.

Here’s another thing to know about the Amazon outcome. When unions get the initial call from a disgruntled employee, they only want work units that maximize their chances of winning an election. This reality means that unions want to keep scope small. Better to keep the group small and win an election than expand the size and lose is the practical thinking.

A common employer strategy is to expand the size of the group voting on whether to be represented by the union. It’s counterintuitive to think employers would want to put more people at risk of being organized, but the bigger the group, the harder it is for pro-union pockets to have influence.

The NLRB hears arguments on this topic and provides rulings on the appropriate scope of a unit for any organizing process/election. For the most part, common locations or work units are the most frequent rationale in expanding the size of the unit that will vote yes/no on whether they want to be represented by the union in question.

One of the things I’ve read in the media was that when the union presented the authorization cards to the NLRB, they assumed the size of the workforce was 1,500 workers. Amazon responded that it was 5,000+, which meant the union had to go out and get more cards to get to 30%. It’s never a good sign when the union in question isn’t aware of the employee count at a facility.

A lot of workers are going to sign the cards under the “you’re with us, right?” peer pressure. Let’s assume the union needed 1,800 cards (30% of 5,876) to get to 30% (after they incorrectly assumed the facility size was 1,500 employees). They ended up with 738 votes in the election. Ponder that. Then add the fact that this whole union vote was conducted over a two- month period via mail-in ballot.

That means that 1,800 employees signed a card when someone rolled up on them and asked them to, but only 58% of them (I added the 300 votes Amazon challenged to the 738 for this math) followed through and mailed in their ballot.

Let all that that sink in. Then think about the pressure the union side puts on an employee to get an authorization card signed based on those numbers. But sure, employers are the only problem in this equation. LOL.

8—It’s obvious that the employees at the Amazon DC voted in a way that suggests for many that working for Amazon is one of the best jobs they’ve had related to pay, benefits, etc.

Only 16% of employees at the Amazon Distribution Center in Bessemer voted “yes” to union representation. The other 84% voted “No” or couldn’t be bothered to vote in such an election.

Why did 84% vote “No” or abstain in supporting a union? There are multiple reasons for this. First up, employees voting “No” or abstaining from voting indicates that they didn’t believe union representation to be in their best interest. They voted for a direct relationship with their supervision and Amazon over union representation.

Another reason for the blowout win is that the jobs in question are pretty good jobs. Consider the following rundown from Yellowhammer:

“On top of Amazon’s $15 minimum wage, the company offers industry-leading benefits to full-time employees, which include comprehensive health care from day one, 401(k) with 50% match, up to 20 weeks paid parental leave and Amazon’s innovative Career Choice program, which pre-pays 95% of tuition for courses in high-demand fields. Since the program’s launch four years ago, more than 25,000 employees have pursued degrees in game design and visual communications, nursing, IT programming and radiology, just to name a few.”

Add base wages, OT, benefits and more, and you’re suddenly looking at a job worth 45-50K+ that grows over time. Amazon is already one of the best-paying jobs a non-skilled laborer can get in Alabama.

A diverse employee base at the Amazon Distribution Center trusted that more than they trusted the union in question.

9—After this result, the Biden administration and the media will push the narrative that employees were influenced in an unethical way by Amazon and will use that as a narrative to push through new laws and NLRB rules. Don’t believe it, remember “FOE”

Scan the news and you already see this: complaints about interference from Amazon in the union election process are widespread. For the uninitiated, the law and NLRB rules and regulations protect the employer’s right to be proactive in telling their side of the story to employees during a time period known as the “campaign period.”

During this period, employers can hold mandatory/captive meetings where they can share their thoughts on why voting “Yes” for union representation is a bad thing. Simply put, employers can provide “FOE” (Facts, Opinions and Experiences) but cannot engage in “TIPS” activity (Threaten, Interrogate, Pressure or Surveil).

The Biden administration will use the Amazon outcome as a proxy for why employers should be limited in telling their FOE-based perspectives and will attempt to change the law and NLRB rules and regulations as a result.

Don’t believe it? Remember that unions conduct their initial activities in secret and routinely use pro-union employees to pressure peers to sign authorization cards (no secret ballot in that!) that lead to elections.

Amazon said in a statement that “the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true.”

“Our employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from us,” the company said. “And Amazon didn’t win — our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union.”

The union got blown out in this one. Companies should be able to tell their story on such an important topic before the employee base votes.

10—To really blow your mind, consider the fact that this election was held 100% by mail-in voting due to COVID. Let’s dig in on what opportunity that provides for a union attempting to organize.

My friends, consider this. NLRB-sanctioned union votes are generally held in similar fashion to pre-COVID federal and state elections. Employees go to a polling place run by the NLRB and vote in secret-ballot fashion. It’s on lockdown.

The union vote for the Amazon Distribution Center in Bessemer was held over a two-month period via mail-in voting. Let that sink in—a distribution center where the work is 100% on site (no remote employees) was allowed to do 100% mail-in voting for a union vote. Amazon protested this (rightfully so) and lost its challenge.

What does mail-in voting mean? It means the union in question had the opportunity (if they opted to or asked pro-union employees to act as proxies) to approach employees, ask them to complete their mail in votes (pro-union of course) and offer to drop the ballots in the mail for the employee. It basically offered the same opportunity for influence, pressure and more in the voting process that I described earlier when pro-union employees approach their peers for a signed authorization card in the stage before a vote.

Still, only 16% of employees voted for the union. Crazy.

THE BIG FINISH

I know about 100 people who know more than I do about unions, organizing efforts by unions and strategies to remain union-free on the company side.

But none of those people feel like they can share their expertise publicly. Why?

Because all of them fear being attacked by the digital mob.

That’s where we’re at in America in 2021. Good people with great knowledge and a perspective the world needs to hear won’t share their expertise on a variety of topics for fear of being cancelled, shamed or—God forbid—being called a Republican.

The Amazon union vote is a great reminder that the vast majority of America isn’t aligned with the extremes—on either the right or the left. They’re simply looking for opportunity that they didn’t have last year, and when someone treats them fairly—even if the work is really hard—most Americans are going to be very skeptical of someone telling them it’s a bad thing.

As for me, I’m going to try to be less fearful of the digital mob moving forward. I’m going to try and write and have conversations that respect how the vast majority of America thinks.

To the Amazon employees in the Bessemer Distribution Center: congratulations on the outcome that left no doubt on what the vast majority of you value, and thanks for the reminder that at the end of the day, we all need to be less afraid of speaking the truth on a day-to-day basis.


Amazon, People Practices and Cancel Culture . . .

Read the news and it's easy to fall into the trap of what I like to call "Amazon is Bad" and the close cousin, "The Amazon Mob."

Where can you find such news? Simple! Examples: "Amazon is Bad" for having the gall to actually defend itself against union organizing attempts at the company's Bessemer, AL distribution facility. Shocking! How dare they! Amazon is also bad for being led by one of the richest people on the planet—a crime that leads to a small mob at one of his houses with a guillotine in his driveway. Amazon

It's trendy to hate the establishment these days. Unfortunately, not enough people are speaking up to challenge BS when they see it, for fear of some form of being cancelled.

So I'll say it related to Amazon. Just because there was a subset of employees in Alabama interested in a union doesn't mean the company can't defend itself.  The law allows Amazon to tell its side of the story and respond with FOE - Facts, Opinions and Examples.

As far as the guillotine, if you're down with that demonstration in the driveway of any human being, good luck to you and yours. You'll soon have to find another mob to keep the hate alive.

But wait, there's more! And it's HR related:

Business Insider recently published an article entitled "Inside Amazon's Employee Review System, Where Workers Feel in the Dark and Managers expect to give 5% of Direct Reports Bad Reviews." Sounds ugly, right?

Well, Business Insider talked to a dozen employees. We've lost our minds with the narrative- building in reports like this. It works, or they wouldn't keep doing it. You click, I click. Turns out, they talked to only twelve people, probably a few disgruntled folks who were organized by a single person.

Articles like this one get posted, and the narrative—left largely unchecked—is that Amazon is a bad place to work and how they review employees is a big part of the negativity.

The journalists talked to 12 employees, my friends.  Amazon is a company with 575,000 employees!  

But if the Business Insider did anything positive with this article, it did provide some access to 2021 Performance Management design at Amazon. So, while we're here, let's take a look at a couple of items cited as performance management practices at Amazon and analyze them.  Here are a couple that jumped out as relevant:

From BI Article: "One new policy introduces a performance rating metric, with managers telling their direct reports where they rank on a scale from "needs improvement" to "achieves" to "exceeds." The new directive adds a dose of clarity to Amazon's secretive performance review system that left employees guessing about their performance review ratings, as Insider previously reported."

KD analysis: Amazon is making the move many have already made, simplifying rating scales to a 3-point rating scale. Regardless of wording, this is the "Does Not Meet/Meets/Exceeds" 3-point scale many use. It is popular and works because managers have to take a stand, and the 3-point scale forces managers to give real ratings and real feedback. This is a good thing.

From BI Article: "Amazon managers use a secret rating tied to compensation to grade on a curve, according to employees and internal documents, placing those at the bottom on a performance improvement plan, called PIP at Amazon. One document viewed by Insider shows company leaders "expect 20% of Amazonians" to receive the highest rating and 5% to receive the lowest for the current review cycle."

KD Analysis: Guidance on how many employees can get the top rating is expected, otherwise you'd have rating inflation 100% of the time. For fans of the bell curve, you automatically understand that asking for 5% of employees to be identified as low performers is kind, not harsh. Amazon is asking for very little here; still, it's vilified by the media. Weak journalism but representative of the media's treatment of anything real world these days.

From the BI Article: "According to employees, the more important performance measure is what Amazon calls "Overall Value (OV)" ratings because they have a bigger influence on compensation. An internal document seen by Insider said OV ratings were used as an "input into the annual compensation planning process.

Under OV ratings, Amazon managers group their employees in three broad buckets of performance grades — top tier (TT), highly valued (HV), and least effective (LE). Starting this year, Amazon expanded the "HV" rating with "HV1," "HV2," and "HV3" to add depth to each evaluation, Amazon's spokesperson confirmed in an email to Insider.

An internal document provided to managers said: "We expect 20% of Amazonians are TT," 15% are HV3 (the highest of the HV ratings), 25% are HV2, 35% are HV1, and 5% are LE. Another document showed how these OV ratings corresponded to pay. Amazon employees are each put in a pay band with a range for their total compensation, made up of base pay and stock options. The OV ratings are one of the key factors used to determine what percentage of the pay band an employee will get. One internal document said those placed in the top-performing group could reach 100% of their pay target, while those on the HV1 grade got zero upside.

The documents also showed that while managers could disclose where an employee ranked from "needs improvement" to "exceeds," they couldn't share the "input scale" number from 1 to 7 on which those ratings are based. So while an employee might know that they ranked as "achieves," they wouldn't be told specifically if they landed at the high or low end of the score range necessary to obtain that ranking."

KD Analysis: Yeah, that’s called the merit matrix. It’s not a new concept, and if Amazon wants to give its highest performers in the “Meets/Achieves” band more money, that’s a good thing. Do they owe their employees 7 different points on the rating scale to back that up? No, they do not, because that gets in the way of clear and direct feedback on how the employee is doing: bad/good/great. Also, further segmentation can also be used to determine things like succession planning. Simply put, do great work and you’ll be rewarded. It's not that hard.

Summary: I love how a news organization can talk to 12 people and put a headline up that says “Amazon workers feel left in the dark.”

Everything doesn't have to be a conspiracy, especially if you only talk to 12 out of 575,000 employees.

Be better, media.


How To Ramp Your Recruiting in a Post-Covid World (an HR Capitalist Whitepaper/Roadmap)

BookArt_Banner-02

 

I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that vaccines are in play, winter is ending, and leadership teams like the one you support are in recovery mode and starting to ramp hiring in 2021.

The bad news is recruiting in a post-COVID world takes different skills. That’s why my team at Kinetix is giving you Ramp Your Recruiting (in a Post-COVID World) where we provide the following goodies:

  • How to Hire Recruiters that perform post-pandemic
  • Keys to Tweak your 2021 Recruiting Process for results
  • How Company Values & EVP positions have changed post-lockdown
  • Why the right Assessment Tool = Better Matches in 2021
  • Keys to update your Employment Brand for a post-COVID world

As an HR or recruiting leader, you know it’s time to get serious about hiring in a post-COVID world. Download our roadmap at Kinetix to make sure your recruiting efforts match the new world!

Enjoy it and let me know if you have questions.


GOAL SETTING: A Question on OKRs/KPIs/SMART Goals from a KD Client...

CAPITALIST NOTE: The email below is a summary I sent to a client last weekend. For background, the client is a technology company with 500 employees, and they've made a real run at goal setting in 2021. They rolled out training on SMART goals with my BOSS Leadership series, have really stayed with it post training, and the CEO has gone through her own key area +KPI (Key Performance Indicators) process to establish some "big rocks" designed to measure progress apart from the SMART goal activity that's going on at the grass roots level.

Investors in the company have introduced the concept of OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) to my leader in the last two weeks, and she asked me for my take on how OKRs, KPIs and SMART goals can play together. Below is the rundown I sent over. I thought it was a meaningful question, and my response reinforces that terminology/methodology can often get in the way of just getting stuff started and done. Enjoy!

-------------------------------

Jill -

Good connecting with you on Friday.  I spent some time this weekend thinking about your question on OKR/Smart Goals. I think they can go together 100% from my perspective. Okr

I could write up something from my research and claim it as my own, but here’s the best rundown I could find, which directionally sets up what I would have told you on Friday if I was on a call with the consultant in question and forced to take a position.

https://www.perdoo.com/resources/okr-vs-smart-goals/

Simply put, I think you can have both. I think your process at the top—where you are focused on KPIs—is similar in my eyes to OKRs.  With your KPIs, you’re identifying a broad area, then you're setting a measurable goal (the KPI). I think any adjustment to looking at OKRs should probably first address the question: What additional work do we need to do on these KPIs to modify them and evolve them into OKRs? I feel like you’ve already done a good bit of this work at the company level.

There might be an opportunity to create departmental KPI/OKRs at the next level down in your company, but candidly, I feel like you’ve done that with your work at the company level.

I think the SMART goal process still works. As the referred link mentions, it gives your people a consumable process that’s easy to understand with goal setting. That’s a good thing. Also you’ll see in the referred link that they say SMART goals exist in isolation. I think that’s true but necessary. You want the manager and employee to work on goals together and figure out what the most important things are to create goals within the employee’s area.

But the link between OKR/KPIs that we had talked about—going out and collecting SMART goals that contribute to individual OKR/KPIs—still stands. In this way, you can create a OKR/KPI and track it, and talk openly about the “big goal” but reward linkage that happens with the SMART goal process.

As I mentioned on the call, execution is still the key. The hard work of your managers working through the goal setting process with their people is where the true magic happens in my eyes.

To summarize from my view:

  • Your KPIs are close to OKRs.
  • You’ve already done a lot of the work if you want to move to OKRs.
  • The SMART goal process is still a great way to make goal setting accessible for the masses and get some traction.
  • The hard work is still at the manager/employee level to use goal setting to get better results and velocity at the ground level.

Does this help? Ping me back with questions or we can jump on a call.

--KD


COVID Life: On Schools and Not Missing Opportunities

Let's get some level-setting items out of the way first, shall we? Here's some bio info about me and my family during COVID-19:

--We were in hard lockdown mode for the spring and summer of 2020.

--My family consists of me, my wife, a sophomore son in college and a junior son in high school. IMG_4944

--We wear masks everywhere we go where there are people.

--I live in Birmingham, AL.

--I identify as a moderate Republican.

--I never voted for Trump, but I'll automatically tune out anyone who throws all who did into a bucket labeled "evil". Life's not that simple, my friends. Not by a long shot.

--As it turns out, the point that appears above this one is important, because the rest of this post is about how the extremes of our system dominate these days and rob 90% of our citizens the chance to live their best lives.

I think COVID is a serious thing. I hate the fact that so many lives have been lost, and I'm supportive of President Biden flying the flag at half-mast as the death count passes 500K.

But let's do some real talk about how the issue has been treated politically. The USA's success rate in dealing with COVID is like most of the free world. If you go to resources like Statistica, you'll see a death rate per capita that looks a lot like our peers globally, with the USA better than the UK and Italy, a lot like Spain, and countries like Canada, Germany and Israel coping much better than the rest of the free world peer group. You can say that the USA sucks, but I'll point to the fact that the rest of the free world is struggling at various levels, and the USA isn't immune to that.

In addition, a quick glance at immunization rates globally is pretty fascinating. The previous administration was widely criticized for their vaccine roll out and generally not having a plan with COVID. Using a great tool called Our World in Data, I checked vaccination rates on 1/19/21 (the day before Biden took office) and the last available data as I wrote this post, 3/5/21.

I found that the truth about vaccinations is more complicated than the media would have us believe, as on 1/19/21, the USA was 4th in the free world in COVID vaccine roll out (as measured by COVID vaccinations administered per 100 people), trailing Israel, United Arab Emirates and the UK. On March 5th, guess where we are at? 4th! Still ahead and trailing the same countries by the same margins. The European Union has about 1/3 of the vaccination rate of the USA, both on 1/9 and today. Use this map to run your own data. My gut tells me we'll still be fourth at the time herd immunity is reached under a new president.

The point—and there is one—is that when it comes to COVID, we look like much of the rest of the free world. Maybe it's not about political platforms, maybe it's about trying to deal with COVID and still have a chance to live your best life. My take is that a pandemic is a challenge that impacts most of the free world in similar ways.

And that brings me to the topic of having kids in schools.

I'm fortunate to live in a state that got a lot of things right during COVID related to school and kids. Here's what's gone down in Alabama:

--Most Alabama schools opened up in Fall 2020 for 100% live instruction.

--As Alabama schools dealt with spikes, they turned to a blended option, where you could send your kid to school or take the virtual option. This pivot allowed them to serve parents who wanted kids in schools while reducing the live student population, which in turn limited risk.

--Just as importantly, most of Alabama went 100% live with all extracurricular activities from August 2020 on. Whether it's sports, band, show choir or something else, kids had the chance to do the things they love with appropriate mask and social distancing mandates.

That last part (sports and other activities) looked dicey as hell in August of 2020. But in the high school district in which I live (1600 students), it went off without a hitch. Kids did these activities masked up as appropriate and coaches had plans for social distancing during practice. As a result, if a kid tested positive for COVID, we didn't shut the programs down. Contact tracing in a reasonable form was conducted, and kids got quarantined from time to time, but widespread shutdowns didn't happen. It was a reasonable and pragmatic approach that's missing elsewhere.

Alabama got it right on every account.  My son is a basketball player. As a result of this responsible and pragmatic approach, his team played all 32 games on their schedule and won the 7A (largest school classification) State Basketball Title. He never would have gotten this chance in Illinois, California, and many other states. These are lifetime memories and life experiences that can't be replaced.

It's easy to make jokes about Alabama. But look around, and you'll see our state got it right during COVID. We found the middle ground and reasonable approach during the pandemic, kids are in school and getting life lessons in the activities they seek to participate in. 

COVID is awful, but the entire free world has struggled in similar regard.  We really aren't different from our aggregate peer group when you look objectively at the data.

The fear mongering and politicization of COVID is a shameful thing. Kids not having the option to be in school and do the things they love to do is the most shameful part of it all. Crushing small businesses takes runner-up position in the shame Hall of Fame.

I'm not an expert on any of this, but I'm thankful to live in a state that got it right. On a side note, as other states were lifting mask mandates recently, our governor announced it would be a month before the mask mandate in our state ended, which is a brilliant hedge—announcing the end, but having the unstated right to come back to the podium and keep the mask mandate going if the situation turns.

Just another way Alabama is getting it right. Welcome to Alabama—where free (and responsible) men/women live and thrive.