What We Can Learn From the Kohl's Response to the Amazon Crack Pipe...

Hi Capitalist Readers - 

I'm up at Fistful of Talent with some notes on what we can learn from the recent decision by retailer Kohl's to become a return center for Amazon. Here's a taste, hit this link to get to whole article at Fistful of Talent:

"In case you missed it, Retail – at least of the normal variety – is on life support.

We’re all to blame. That big sucking sound you hear? It’s the gravitational pull of Amazon, giving you two-day one-day delivery you didn’t even know you needed, but now expect. Amazon has a history of innovating, taking the long view of changing your behavior completely, reinvesting profits in the business to keep you coming back to the crack pipe of unlimited choice and immediacy and yes, paying almost no corporate taxes.

What could go wrong?

But I digress. I’m as guilty as anyone, seeing how I recently ordered two sizes of the same jacket from Amazon because I couldn’t be bothered with a single one not fitting and having to repeat the process. So I ordered two, then got the jacket and decided like an impatient aristocrat of the KG3 variety to send both of them back because I didn’t like it. The humanity!

I was an Amazon Aristocrat until I returned the jackets. You know how I returned them?

I went to ****** ******* Kohl’s."

Get the whole post at Fistful of Talent by clicking here!


The Movie "JOKER" is a Story about You, Me and Our Complete Lack of Empathy...

With all the workplace and school violence in our world over the last decade, I've picked up on a theme from a few deep thinkers - from students and employees alike.  The chilling wisdom goes something like this:

"I go out of my way to talk to Ricky. When he comes to the school with a bag of guns, I want him to look at me and keep walking."

"I always talk to Nick. He's going to get fired and there's a 50/50 chance he's coming back to take some people out. If that happens, I think he'll let me go."

Crazy, but real. The probability players among us are treating individuals they think are prone to violence differently, planning for a day we all hope will never come to our Arthur fleckneighborhood.

They see someone struggling, and perhaps left behind or given up on by most. They aren't giving real engagement/friendship, but instead performing some type of risk management by acknowledging them by saying hello, sharing a laugh or pretending to be interested.

Is that empathy for those on the outside looking in?  No. But it's a start that might actually result in a conversation or two that leads to real empathy.

These quotes are the first thing I thought of as I watched JOKER starring Joaquin Phoenix last weekend. It's clear that the character played by Phoenix (Arthur Fleck) suffers from mental health issues. The origin story of the Joker, future nemesis of Batman, tracks Fleck through hardship after hardship in the early 1980s.  It's a hard watch as he struggles with mental illness, his treatment by others and ultimately turns to the dark side.

The villain doesn't come out until the movie is almost over.

Let that sink in for a second. A movie - even one as committed to telling a deep story like Joker - can only show you 15-16 meaningful interactions, which generally lead to a good place or a bad place.

In real life, that's more like five thousand negative interactions that a struggling individual has before he turns to violence, goes in cave of depression/addiction or take his own life.

I'm pretty good at holding doors open for people. Like most of you, I kind of suck when it comes to people who don't fit in. I don't do enough to make people who are struggling feel better about themselves.

When you see someone on the outside looking in, empathy and connection is really the only answer. We can have the usual conversations after negative events about drugs, guns, etc. - or we could slow down, reduce our anxiety and try and connect long before those things occur.

I recommend Joker as a movie, but not because the story is a great tale of how a super villain came to be.

The story is about you and me, and the lost opportunities that are everywhere around us.  

We gotta do better.


Here's What Job Security/Being Untouchable/Arrogance as a Leader Looks Like...

If you've lucky, you've felt it at some point in your career. The swagger and incredible self-confidence that allows you to throw caution to the wind, confident you have the ability to provide for yourself and your family. 

"If you don't like they way I do it, find someone else to do the job."

To be sure, we've all thought that. But how many of us have actually said it? That's rare air for any working professional, and it usually means one of four things:

1--You're incredibly confident in your ability to find another job. In fact, you may already be on the market and have turned down a few offers Dantonio recently.

2--You at the tail end of your career and you've stored up enough acorns for a long winter (i.e., retirement).  You're daring someone to take you out.

3--You're an incredible ****, full of arrogance, disagreeable with all and really a negative force within your organization.

4--You're tired. You have to work, but you're at the end of your rope. You won't quit, so you're daring someone to make you go find another job.

I'm reminded of some leaders feeling untouchable by this report from last weekend's college football slate. Michigan State was at Wisconsin and just got drilled.  Here's how the post-game presser with Mike Dantonio went via ESPN:

"The Michigan State head coach drew even more attention to his inept offense in the aftermath of a 38-0 loss at Wisconsin, if that was even possible.

In his postgame news conference, Dantonio was asked if his offseason staff changes — he shuffled his offensive staffers’ responsibilities but did not fire any existing coaches or bring in anyone new — might have been a mistake.

“I think that’s sort of a dumb-a** question,” Dantonio replied."

That's taking "it you don't like it, find someone else" to a whole new level.

Let's put in context what 38-0 feels like in the corporate world.

--38-0 is being the incumbent provider in a renewal process and not making it to the final four and presenting live.

--38-0 is opening up a new call center and not taking a single call your first day - but you're not sure where the calls went instead - nobody got the calls.

--38-0 is agreeing to ship the new software release and when your CEO hits the site to test it, it crashes his Microsoft Surface.

Now imagine you're the manager in the call center scenario. Someone from corporate fixed the problem routing calls that your team couldn't fix. You go a meeting on the second day to revisit what happened.  Someone from corporate asks you, "Do you think you have the right people on your team moving forward?"

You don't miss a beat.  “I think that’s sort of a dumb-a** question,” you reply.

That's next level Job Security/Feeling Untouchable/Arrogance as a Leader.

"Next Question"

May you reach the level of success in your career when you can play offense and be belligerent rather than answer questions/concerns after failure.


Amp Up Your Employment Brand Like Domino's...Or Maybe Not...

When it comes to attracting candidates to your employment brand, purpose matters.

Candidates are increasingly seeking a sense of purpose in their work, so it makes sense to embed purpose in your values through connection to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) themes.  Companies like Unilever have gone all in on this approach and even mandated executives assign a purpose to every product in the company's portfolio. An examination of how Uber's company values changed after a period of turmoil show a transition from focusing on winning to working with others, serving community and valuing differences. Intent of your messaging matters.

BUT.... and there is a but....It's dangerous to reach when it comes to the purpose you assign to your business. If you're simply a nice business/company with a good product, don't suggest that you're trying to save the world.

I was reminded of this danger when Domino's used footage of employees as they marketed their Delivery Insurance/guarantee, which says that if your order isn't right, they'll make it right quickly and free of charge.

That's good business, but not a 8.3 on the Richter Scale of CSR and corporate purpose. Watch the following video (email subscribers click through if you don't see the player below) and we'll break it down afterwords:

Amp up your employment brand like Domino's... or maybe not.

“we're going to be expediting this order, people”

If I close my eyes on that audio, it feels like I'm in an emergency room and someone's life is at risk.

Then I remember, "no, Jenny just called to complain and she didn't get the cheesed stuffed crust".

Flash forward from the pizza oven room to drivers running up steps to help get Jenny's calorie count up. What really happens when that complaint comes in? I'd imagine it involves talking about who screwed it up. But someone's Netflix night is in peril, so let's expedite the order and send the fastest sprinter in the room, but let's make sure we obey all relevant traffic laws.

Somebody's going to blow out an ACL if we're not careful.

You get the vibe. Mission and purpose for your company is important. But don't chase world-defining purpose when showing your employees if it doesn't exist. But showing pride and the love of the craft for the people who make the product?  That never goes out of style.

Don't chase world defining purpose with your employment brand if it doesn't exist.  Just be you.


LEADERSHIP SIGNALS WEEK: Tilman Fertitta On Business Over Politics...

Capitalist Note: It's "Leadership Signals Week" here at the HR Capitalist, where I talk about things I've seen leaders communicate over the last couple of weeks that speak volumes about what they want their followers to think.

Communication matters if you're a leader. It's the most visible sign of what you believe, and it drives the intensity and beliefs of those that choose to follow you. Don't be fooled into thinking all communication is part of a formal plan. Some leadership signals are purposeful, others just happen organically. (see earlier leadership signals covered from Steph Curry and Elizabeth Warren)

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Do you know who Tilman Fertitta is? I didn't until he bought an NBA franchise. Here's his bio from Wikipedia:

Tilman Fertitta (born June 25, 1957) is an American businessman and television personality. He is the chairman, CEO, Tilmanand sole owner of Landry's, Inc., one of the largest restaurant corporations in the U.S. He also owns the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s Houston Rockets.

In 2018, his net worth was estimated at $4.5 billion, placing him at No. 153 on the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans; Forbes calls him the "World's Richest Restaurateur".

Fertitta is chairman of the board of regents of the University of Houston System. Fertitta became the star of Billion Dollar Buyer on CNBC. On September 5, 2017, Fertitta reached an agreement to buy the Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion.

Fertitta is an opinionated guy and not one to shy away from the limelight. On September 17, 2019, Fertitta released a book, Shut Up and Listen! Hard Business Truths That Will Help You Succeed, in which he details his journey to success and offers advice to other entrepeneurs on their business ventures. Each chapter contains "Tilmanism's" which focus on 6 important rules for any entrepreneur to follow.

Wow. That's a lot to take in. Go ahead and soak on that last paragraph. I'll wait.

You kind of get the picture right? Fertitta a person that would never shy away from sending leadership signals, and a recent one that he sent is all over the news. 

Last week, one of Fertitta's execs at the Houston Rockets, general manager Daryl Morey, issued a tweet that supported the 2019 Hong Kong protests which drew criticism from Fertitta who said that while Morey was the best general manager in the NBA, the Rockets were not a political organization.

Morey since has deleted the tweet. Here was Fetitta's response, a tweet that happened in lighting fashion after Morey tweeted his support of the protests in Hong Kong (email subscribers click through if you don't see the tweet below):

Fertitta's leadership signal here is that no single employee gets to provide political direction for the organization (except maybe Fertitta, I'm guessing).  I've written in the recent past about employee activism, what it means and how to handle. Check out that post in the link, because you've got some things to figure out as a leader.

There's also an element of "please shut up and do the job we pay you for - only" in Fertitta's tweet.

The Daryl Morey tweet has since blown up into global news, as the Chinese government and state-run agencies that cover the NBA have reacted in a very negative way, causing an important market to be at risk, not only for the Rockets, but for the entire NBA.

Should human rights violations and what we think about the communist system in China trump the need to do business with the Chinese? That's a post for another day, and I'm probably the wrong guy to analyze that.

What I can tell you is that Fertitta was on this quickly, understood the risk and sent a leadership signal ASAP. Whether you and I agree with that signal in these circumstances is up to is, but one thing is for sure:

You need to think as a leader (at any level) how you're going to handle situations where employees attempt to dominate conversations on political and social issues.

Right or left, capitalist or communist, it doesn't really matter. You need to be prepared as a leader for this, because employee activism in our social age is only going to continue to rise.

Good luck!


How To Know If Your Defined-Benefit Pension Plan Is In Trouble...

I'm not an expert on pension plan funding. But if you're relying on a pension in retirement, you might want to take a look at what % of obligations are funded currently in your pension plan.

Why would I say that? Because while I'm no expert, I can tell you when your pension plan is in trouble. Here's how you know: Ge1

You know your pension plan is in trouble when your company announces they're freezing pension benefits, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BIGGEST ECONOMIC EXPANSION IN HISTORY.

More specifics from the Wall Street Journal:

"General Electric Co. GE +0.06% said it was freezing its pension plan for about 20,000 U.S. workers and offering pension buyouts to 100,000 former employees, as the conglomerate joins the ranks of U.S. companies phasing out a guaranteed retirement.

GE’s traditional pension and post-employment benefits programs, which were underfunded by $27 billion as of the end of 2018, are one of the company’s biggest liabilities. The company said the latest changes could reduce its pension deficit by as much as $8 billion.

GE is still responsible for lifetime payments to more than 600,000 retirees, workers and beneficiaries. The latest changes won’t affect retirees or others already receiving pension payments.

The company’s pension plan is the second largest by projected obligations, only behind International Business Machines Corp.’s,according to consulting firm Milliman Inc., which compiles data on the 100 U.S. public companies with the largest pension plans.

GE had funded 76% of its projected pension obligations at the end of 2018, according to Milliman, compared with 91% funded at IBM. The median funding level was 89% for the group.

Man. While freezing pension plans has become a common technique to reduce risks and shrink corporate balance sheets, when you're doing it in the middle of the biggest expansion in history, you kind of know you're screwed. 

Let's do story time and look at another classic buy high, sell low type of investment fund for the common good.

My state has a Prepaid Affordable College Tuition program, created by the Legislature in 1989 and managed by the state treasurer. It almost collapsed during the last recession. Imagine the Dow at 14,000 in early 2007. Well, that investment group was struggling to meet the member requirements in 2007, and the Dow went to 7,000 during the recession, at which time they exited securities and went to a cash position. Buy high, sell low.  Great work, team! That decision combined with sharp tuition increases (healthcare costs as a comparison in a pension, anyone?) caused the fund to go insolvent and require a state bailout.

The point? If you're freezing pensions at the Apex of the market and the biggest expansion is history, sh#t's going to get real in even a moderate recession of any length.


Leadership Signals Week: Steph Curry Says "Bye" to an Unlikable Peer...

Capitalist Note: It's "Leadership Signals Week" here at the HR Capitalist, where I talk about things I've seen leaders communicate over the last couple of weeks that speak volumes about what they want their followers to think.

Communication matters if you're a leader. It's the most visible sign of what you believe, and it drives the intensity and beliefs of those that choose to follow you. Don't be fooled into thinking all communication is part of a formal plan. Some leadership signals are purposeful, others just happen organically.

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Next up on Leadership Signals Week - Pro Basketball (NBA) star Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors).

This isn't a sports post. It's a post about the signals that leaders send when important team members Curry (unpopular to some or all in your company) decide to leave the company.

The history of the Golden State Warriors has a dramatic arc over the last 5 years. Led by the always likable and role-model worthy Curry, the Warriors won the 2015 NBA Championship, then reached the finals in 2016 - but lost to the Lebron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. Along the way, Steph Curry was the NBA season MVP in 2015 and 2016.

Great success to be sure. But after the 2016 Finals loss, Golden State did the unthinkable, picking up another top five player in free agency - Kevin Durant. The roster addition of Durant resulted in two more titles in 2017 and 2018, before injuries resulted in a loss in the finals last summer (2019).

But along the way there was drama. Durant was known to be moody, petulant and hard to please. While the addition of top talent in Durant made the healthy version of the Warriors all but unbeatable, the work product wasn't the same as in 2015 and 2016.  Less sharing, less collaboration and less fun.  The business version? We're stronger than we've ever been as a company, but man, the old days were the glory days - and that executive sure is grumpy as hell.

Flash forward to late last summer, and Durant chose to leave the Warriors in free agency. This combined with other injuries and competitive pressures means the Warriors aren't the team they used to be.

But leadership signals are still important - so in the Warriors first preseason game (and first game without the moody Durant) in a new arena, Steph Curry sent the following message (email subscribers click through if you don't see the video below or click this link to get the video on Twitter):

The message? "The person that brought everyone down isn't here anymore. I'm in charge and work is about to become a lot more fun for you."

Curry's quote after the game: “That was choreographed since, like, yesterday. I was just going to shoot it. Christen Chase Center the right way. Obviously it went airball, but obviously I thought it was fitting to take a wild shot like that and get everybody excited.”

What Curry doesn't say is that there's zero chance he takes that shot if Durant is still a part of the team. Curry had a long history of trying to keep Durant engaged by deferring to him and making sure he felt like a leader the team needed. It wasn't enough - Durant was moody and difficult as a teammate.

Things that could happen in your company when a leader with low approval levels decides (or is asked) to leave:

--The old leader didn't like any music at any company function. First all-hands meeting, the leaders that take over blast Van Halen from the speakers.

--The old leader had a parking spot upfront. The leaders that take over turn that into an "employee of the week" parking spot.

--The old leader didn't like to participate in recognition activities. The leaders that take over do a recognition event within the first week. With music.

You get the vibe. When grumpy, unlikable leaders leave, a celebration of sorts might be in order.  

Steph Curry sent a leadership signal with his first shot that win or lose, this season was going to be fun. Buckle up! Ding-Dong, the grumpy witch is dead took another job on the East Coast!


LEADERSHIP SIGNALS WEEK: Elizabeth Warren Sends a Signal on Values...

Capitalist Note: It's "Leadership Signals Week" here at the HR Capitalist, where I talk about things I've seen leaders communicate over the last couple of weeks that speak volumes about what they want their followers to think.

Communication matters if you're a leader. It's the most visible sign of what you believe, and it drives the intensity and beliefs of those that choose to follow you. Don't be fooled into thinking all communication is part of a formal plan. Some leadership signals are purposeful, others just happen organically.

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First up for Leadership Signals Week, I present democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren

This isn's a political post (I'm a moderate Republican for the record, in many ways an independent), but an analysis of a recent leadership signal by Warren.

So what leadership signal did Elizabeth Warren send to the world recently? She signaled that anyone that doesn't share her values will be ejected from her Warrenorganization and the reason will be openly discussed. Before you cheer or jeer, let's analyze the signal and we'll discuss it length after this excerpt from Politico:

"Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign has fired its national organizing director, Rich McDaniel, after an investigation into allegations of what it called “inappropriate behavior.”

“Over the past two weeks, senior campaign leadership received multiple complaints regarding inappropriate behavior by Rich McDaniel,” campaign spokesperson Kristen Orthman said in a statement after an inquiry from POLITICO Friday morning. “Over the same time period, the campaign retained outside counsel to conduct an investigation. Based on the results of the investigation, the campaign determined that his reported conduct was inconsistent with its values and that he could not be a part of the campaign moving forward.”

In a statement, McDaniel said, "I have separated from the campaign and am no longer serving as National Organizing Director. I have tremendous respect for my colleagues despite any disagreements we may have had and believe departing at this time is in the best interest of both parties.

"I would never intentionally engage in any behavior inconsistent with the campaign or my own values. If others feel that I have, I understand it is important to listen even when you disagree. I wish the campaign and my colleagues well."

So what's the leadership signal sent here?  The real signal isn't a termination due to something that certainly seems harassment-related (most of us get that and would likely do the same if evidence warranted)- the real signal is the fact that Warren put the reason for the term openly and aggressively on display for the outside world.

I've written before about your options related to communicating reasons for terms to the rest of your organization.  Most of us aren't presidential candidates, but we still term people from time to time, and if we communicate that someone is no longer with the company, we generally just throw out a note of "separation" indicating that John Doe is no longer with the company, etc.

Under normal circumstances, the lack of detail that the employee is leaving for another opportunity signals the fact that the term was for some type of cause. But, if you fired the person for a good reason and the company is better off without them, communicating in this type of fashion is a bit of a missed opportunity.

By putting the detail for the term out to the media, Elizabeth Warren sending an extreme signal.  The signal here is not just that "those who don't match my values won't be allowed to work in this organization", but that "I will aggressive eject and tell the team why I made this call in clear terms".

Of course, the cynics will say that this termination/ejection is good for her campaign. Maybe. You never want to term someone for the reasons stated, but doing so and communicating the reason with such clarity does send signals to her voter base.

But we all have a decision to make when terming folks who fall short (in a variety of ways) of our value structure. How do we communicate? Making the decision to fire fast when you see a values gap is a good leadership signal. Many in your organization will understand without you saying more.

Communicating the reason for the term in more specific fashion to your base (for most of us, that's not voters, it's employees) is going hard in the paint.

It's either genius or incredible tone deaf - I waffle. But it's a clear leadership signal, and that's what this series is about.

"Results may vary".


Emerging Skill for Leaders: Making All Feel Welcome & On Equal Ground...

I read this post recently by William Wiggins at Fistful of Talent on Transgenderism. It's a simple, insightful piece on being aware. 

Prior to reading William's post, I finished Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac. It's the story of how Uber rose from humble beginnings to become a Unicorn, then stumble from the top as it's bro-tastic culture caused it to be tone-deaf to the world around it via PR fiasco after PR fiasco.

Both are highly recommended reading. One is 500 words and one is 80,000 words.

There's a lesson in reading progressive takes on emerging workplace issues, many of which have involved orientation/gender, then combining them with cautionary tales.  

The lesson? Being a leader in modern times is tricky. Consider the following realities:

  1. You're a leader.
  2. You're full of personal thoughts, a specific background and some form of bias.
  3. When change comes and you're asked to consider the rights of yet another special class of people, it's easy to react as if it's a burden or worse.
  4. You can say it's all gone too far. Many will agree with you.
  5. But - You'll ultimately acknowledge the rights of the class of people in front of you - or you won't be allowed to lead anymore.

History shows this cycle to be true.

What if you weren't late the game? What if you decided that rather than be late to the game, you made it a priority to make all feel welcome and on equal ground in your company or on your team as a leader?

What if?

I'll tell you what if, my friend.  If that was your approach, you'd find the people in question - the special class of people currently causing others discomfort (the groups change over time) - incredibly willing to work for you and just as importantly, freed to do their best work.  You'd be maximizing your ability to get great work from the resources you have.

When you're early on inclusion, a funny thing happens. Performance and the ability for someone to do their best work goes up.

None of us are perfect when it comes to the change cycle outlined in #1 through #5 above.  But I feel like we're moving quicker through the cycle to acceptance, and that' a good thing.

Performance goes up as bullshit goes down.  Just be crystal clear on what's bullshit in this cycle (Hint, it's the ones slow to acknowledge those with differences).

 

 

 


Your Employment Brand (Once Done Right) Probably Needs Less Refreshing Than You Think...

Quick post today related to employment branding and HR marketing.  The big thought is this:

You get sick of your own stuff at a much more rapid pace than the marketplace does.

Trust me, I'm somewhat of an expert related to being impatient with things that are done well.  But the reality is that once you (or I) create something, we see it more than anyone Brandelse. Whether it's a comprehensive employment brand strategy or simply an analog handout you're using at job fairs, you see the creative related to your employment brand about 1000x more than anyone else.

The result? You and I call for dramatic recasts/redos of employment brand artifacts much sooner than we should.

Let's offer up some realities in support of this:

1--You are responsible for creating the brand around your HR/recruiting/talent practice at your company.

2--You do the work. It's like having a child. It's a LOT of work, and once done, you hopefully feel good.

3--You see the brand EVERY day. The imperfections and woulda/coulda/shoulda grind against you on a weekly, if not daily basis.  A year in, you're sick of it and thinking about doing it again.  It feels necessary!

4--THE DIRTY SECRET TO REMEMBER - nobody gets exposed to your employment/HR/talent brand at the same level you do. You're sitting on Main Street in Chernobyl related to your brand, everyone else is thousands of miles away.  They come around every once in awhile, get what they need, then leave. They come back occasionally.  THEY HAVE NOWHERE NEAR THE BRAND EXPOSURE YOU DO AS THE CREATOR.

The rule of seven in marketing says that prospects have to hear messaging 7X before they get it.  Whether it's an internal HR brand or an external employment brand you've create, PLEASE RELAX.  If you did a great job on it and are proud of it, don't recreate it every 12 months.

Chill out.  If your brand efforts in recruiting or HR sucked the first time, then by all means, recast it and make it better.  But remember, no one is seeing it as much as you are.

I think a good rule of thumb for a brand done well is to look at a rebrand at the 3-4 year mark.  If you've had the same brand for that period of time, I think it's OK to think about a HR/recruiting brand refresh.

I'm reminded of the power of leaving pretty good alone by our website at Kinetix.  We get comments on how much people enjoy it on almost a weekly basis.  If you asked me or my partner, Shannon Russo, what we want to do differently, we've have a laundry list of items.  But based on the continuous feedback, we'd be suckers to change it too much.

Once your brand is good, don't rush to redo it.  Add depth to the brand components, tools and messaging you already have rather than starting from scratch.

This public service announcement is provided to all my OC friends in HR and recruiting.


Must-Read: The Kaiser 2019 Employer Health Benefits Survey

It's not early October without the Kaiser Family Foundation releasing their 2019 Employer Health Benefits Survey.  It's the best report of healthcare costs and trends available, and a must for any HR leader who wants to be knowledgeable about cost trends.

This annual survey of employers provides a detailed look at trends in employer-sponsored health coverage, including premiums, employee contributions, cost-sharing provisions, offer rates, wellness programs, and employer practices. The 2019 survey included 2,012 interviews with nonfederal public and private firms.

So what did we learn in the 2019 report?  

Annual premiums for employer sponsored family health coverage reached $20,576 this year, up 5% from last year, with workers on average paying $6,015 toward the cost of their coverage. The average deductible among covered workers in a plan with a general annual deductible is $1,655 for single coverage. Fifty-six percent of small firms and 99% of large firms offer health benefits to at least some of their workers, for an overall offer rate of 57%.

Some of you are wondering how that breaks down across HMO, PPO, POS and HDHPs.  I get it, you're nerdy.  I like that you're nerdy - here's the chart you need (email subscribers click through if you don't see the image below):

Kaiser

A few of you look at that and say, "Hey what about EE+Spouse or EE+1?".  That's cute - you know most of us have carved out EE+Spouse long ago.

If you read one thing about healthcare cost all year, this report is the bible.  Go get the full report here!


5 Questions With Sharlyn Lauby - Author of "Manager Onboarding: 5 Steps for Setting New Leaders Up for Success"....

Sharlyn Lauby is an author, writer, speaker and consultant. And a friend of mine!

She is president of ITM Group Inc., a consulting firm which focuses on developing training solutions that engage and retain talent in the workplace. SharlynThe company has been named one of the Top Small Businesses in South Florida.

She's also an incredible, trusted, practical voice on all things related to talent.  That's why I wanted to feature this book today.

She is well-known for her work on HR Bartender, a friendly place to talk about workplace issues. The site has been recognized as one of the “Top 5 Blogs HR Pros Love to Read” by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Sharlyn is the author of “Manager Onboarding: 5 Steps for Setting New Leaders Up for Success” and “The Recruiter’s Handbook: How to Source, Select, and Engage the Best Talent” (both available in the SHRM Store).

Sharlyn previously served as a member of SHRM’s Membership Advisory Committee (MAC) and Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility special expertise panel. Her personal goal in life is to find the best cheeseburger on the planet.

I loved the Manager Onboarding book and wanted to learn more.  Below is my 5 Questions Feature with Sharlyn on Manager Onboarding: 5 Steps for Setting New Leaders Up for Success:

1--Sharlyn, employee onboarding has been a hot topic for a while, but you zigged while others zagged and wrote an entire book on MANAGER onboarding (which I love).  What drove you to write an entire book on the need to properly onboard managers of people?

When it comes to new hire onboarding, there’s no training program that I’m aware of that says, “This is how you effectively onboard employees.” We learn how to onboard from our own onboarding experiences. So, if we onboard managers badly, guess what?! They will onboard employees badly. And there’s a statistic from Korn-Ferry that says 98% of CEOs think the key to employee retention is good onboarding.

The other piece that’s frustrating for new managers (and I’m sure you’ve heard this too) is when managers receive no guidance or instruction on something, then they make a mistake, and then they’re scolded by “Here’s how you do it…” Why not avoid the mistake and just tell managers what they need to know so they do it right the first time?

2--When it comes to manager onboarding, what’s the focus point or activity we neglect that has the biggest return on investment of time or money?

I believe it’s telling managers what their goal is. And I’m not talking about the common functions of management: planning, staffing, organizing, directing, and controlling. A manager’s true goal is to find and train their replacement.

Managers can’t work on the CEO’s super-secret pet project, take a vacation, or participate in training if every time they leave their office, their department falls apart. Managers need to learn how to develop talent and delegate. And they need to realize that doing this will not make them dispensable. It will make them more valuable.

3--What are some tips you have from your deep experience in helping organizations perform at a higher level related to introducing a new manager to an incumbent team?  How can we create a form of trust/transparency/authenticity with the team earlier with a new manager through onboarding?

I believe it starts with the hiring process. Does the incumbent team know what’s going on? Are they a part of the recruiting process? I’m a big fan of collaborative hiring. It allows key stakeholders – like the incumbent team – to get involved and be invested in the new manager’s success.

Then when it comes to onboarding, there’s an opportunity for the new manager and incumbent team to start building camaraderie. I recently read about a concept called a “personal guide”. It’s what you would think it is – a personal guide of how someone likes to work. Years ago, I had a boss who every time he took a profile or assessment, he would copy the results and distribute them to his direct reports. At first, I thought it was weird. Then I came to realize that he was teaching me how he liked to work. And how he wanted me to work with him. I could see that type of activity being a great way for new managers to build relationships and create a sense of team.

4--What’s 3 things that new managers do (without the help of your onboarding blueprint) that undermine their ability to be effective?

Here are three but let me say that I don’t know that all of these are the new manager’s fault. Organizations need to take some responsibility for setting the right expectations with new managers.

    1. They focus on the technical aspects of the job and not relationship building. The biggest mistake organizations make is hiring/promoting the most technically competent person and not giving them the people skills to do the job. Many managers think they’re being given the job for the technical expertise and forget they need people to get the work done.
    2. They forget to manage up. I learned a long time ago that I needed to build a relationship with my boss. And if I wanted them to support me that we needed to agree on A) when I could do something and never tell them B) when I could do something and drop them an email later and C) when I need to go to their office and have an immediate conversation. It builds trust.
    3. And they forget to develop their team. We’ve already touched on this but if managers want to move up in the company, they need to start thinking about developing their team. Otherwise, when they get a promotion, there will be no one to take their job. That leads to a new manager doing their “old job” and their “new job” until a replacement is found. No one wins when that happens.

5--Think about TV or the movies – and give us 2-3 Managers featured in Hollywood that are so good at managing others that you’re wondering if they’ve gone through proper onboarding for managers.

Wow! This is a toughie. Especially since there are so many ineffective managers on TV or in the movies who are simply portrayed that way to make us laugh – like Michael Scott in The Office or Director Ton in Aggretsuko.

I would point to a couple of managers like Morgan Grimes in Chuck who start out as a total goof but as he grows professionally, he really begins to deliver for his team. And he’s willing to admit and apologize when he makes a mistake. Another one is the Commissioner in Death in Paradise. He’s not actively directing all of the police investigations, but he’s there when the team needs him and seems to say just enough to help the team keep moving in the right direction.

Sharlyn Lauby is awesome.  You can order this book here - she's real people and a voice you should be following - Subscribe to her blog and follow her via the social accounts below:

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The 5 Ways You Intimidate People Without Directly Threatening Them...

I know - that post title feels ugly, dirty and any other identifier you want to put on it. But yet here we are - in the workplace, trying to do things the right way but under siege by the nature of humanity.

The art of influence has been covered by many people smarter than me.  But like you, I'm a student of the game as people attempt to get things done in the Succession workplace inside your company, an environment that's harder to navigate the bigger and more complex it gets.

This post title could easily say, "influence" rather than "intimidate", but that's just a nicer word for what's usually going on.  Your covert actions as a person of influence (at any level, but certainly the power is greater the higher up the org chart you go) make people see shadows and take actions based on attempts to read the tea leaves, your intent as a leader and more - without ever having a conversation with you.

I'm watching Succession on HBO (highly recommended), so maybe that's influencing me to think about this with this framing.

Here's my 5 ways you intimidate people and get them to take action without directly threatening them:

1--Say nothing. Given the circumstances, you should say something. Yet you fail to seek out the person in question and fail to address the issue at hand, even when you're having a 1/1 conversation with them.  Sometimes it's the awkward silence that matters most.

2--Talk to other people, or tell your subject of your intent to talk to other people. That issue at hand?  You didn't address it with the person you should, but you're talking to other people about it.  Or you fail to have a meaningful conversation with the person most impacted, simply telling that person you're "going to check the temperature of others."  You're just dangling them out there.

3--Show favor and affection to others and make a public display of it.  Who's up? Who's down? Who are you taking to lunch?  If there was a scoreboard, somebody would be falling from the top spot. How far will they fall? Only you know.

4--Talk openly and honestly about outcomes that don't match the needs of your subject, without addressing the fact that their needs aren't being met. Oh, OK - you're having a conversation, but it's a subtle counter to what you know the conventional wisdom is accordingly to the person in front of you. Also notable, you seem pretty locked in to the path you're recommending, which makes it unlikely the person you're trying to intimidate influence is going to speak up.  <insert bulldozer emoji>

5--Be erratic as hell. You're happy. You're sad. You're angry. You're forgetting things. You're a unlovable mess, and damn, who really wants to try and be direct with you related to talking opening and honesty? You're like a rouge state with limited economic options that just took another round of sanctions. At most, people will only ask you questions they know the answers to, and they'll just accept and try to figure out the rest. You're a mess. Congrats on the ups and downs as a management philosophy.

There are more strategies related to this for sure.  Hit me in the comments or reply via email to tell me what I missed.

I see you, Machiavelli. And the first task with figuring you out is understanding the game being played.


FLSA Games: Exempt Salary Threshold Moves from 23K to 35K...

Heads up, HR friends at all levels...

Employees who make less than $35,568 are now eligible for overtime pay under a final rule issued today by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The new rate will take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

To be exempt from overtime under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employees must be paid a salary of at least the threshold amount and meet certain duties tests. If they are paid less or do not meet the tests, they must be paid 1 1/2 times their regular hourly rate for hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek.

The new rule will raise the salary threshold to $684 a week ($35,568 annualized) from $455 a week ($23,660 annualized). A blocked Obama-era rule would have doubled the threshold, but a federal judge held that the DOL exceeded its authority by raising the rate too high.

The new rule is expected to prompt employers to reclassify more than a million currently exempt workers to nonexempt status and raise pay for others above the new threshold. 

My experience is that the new law impacts small to medium sized business the most, as they'll have a good number of employees labeled as exempt who have a salary in the low 30k's.  They'll be some exposure to huge companies that still have salaried supervisors in places like call centers in the low 30k's as well.

Feel bad about this?  Remember that the Obama rule was going to raise the threshold to 47K, my friends.

More details here from CNBC.

A good rundown here from SHRM of second-level details you'll need to know behind the broad threshold change.

 


Chick-fil-A: Observations from the Road About Talent and Culture...

I travel a lot for work. Over the last nine years, that's meant a bit of travel fatigue and recent attempts to reduce my total number of nights in hotel rooms.

Reducing nights in hotel rooms generally means getting up as early as needed and hitting the road for mid morning meetings - rather than going in the night before.  Being up early means a need for coffee and food somewhere along the way - especially on trips where I drive into the meeting in question.

Enter Chick-fil-A

Most people know Chick-fil-A for specific reasons:

--Kick Ass chicken sandwiches (you're weak, @Popeyes. Don't @ me).

--Great service at the counter.

--You say thanks, they say, "My pleasure".  You can say thanks 5 times, they're always going to come back and say that phrase.  You could say, "I appreciate how you're going with the company line to such extremes, you robo-cop of chicken sandwich love" - you know what they're going to say?  "My pleasure".

But I'm here today not to applaud Chick-fil-A for the normal things you associate them with.  Instead, let's talk about subtle signs of how they treat people.

I generally walk into Chick-fil-A's in the morning because the restrooms are always clean, etc. I'm around about 4 or 5 Chick-fil-A locations during my normal power commutes of 3 hour trips in the car, and you know what I always see?

I ALWAYS SEE GROUPS OF ANYWHERE FROM 3-6 CHICK-FIL-A EMPLOYEES IN THE SIDE SECTION OF THE SEATING OF THE  RESTAURANT, EATING TOGETHER AND GENERALLY TALKING TO ONE ANOTHER.

I don't want to go off on too much of a rant here, but when's the last time you consistently saw that at a fast food location? 

Try never.  And I see it all the time at the Chick-fil-A locations I'm around.

I've never seen it at another fast food franchise.  It's haunted me a bit, because like any HR geek, I want to know the people practices behind what I'm seeing. I thought about asking the employees but paused due to the jeepers/creepers factor, and have thought about asking to speak with a managers and then I saw this in a social post (email subscribers, click through if you don't see the photo below):

IMG_0058

Makes sense - free food every shift.  Taking care of people, and a meaningful perk for many they employ.

I'm sure other chains offer that as well but DAMN - I always see these Chick-fil-A employees eating with each other and they're actually engaged with each other. It's staggering and meaningful from a cultural perspective.

It all comes down to how they hire. If you know anything about the company, you know franchise are owned by individual operators who are highly vetted. A living wage doesn't hurt. They're offering family discounts as well as free food and you don't have to work Sundays.  All of those things add up to provide a place as an employer of choice, one you see in the service you experience vs other chains (airport locations excluded).

You love the chicken sandwich. I say "screw the chicken sandwich, did you see what's happening on the side?"  They have people engaging each other on THEIR OWN TIME.

Staggering. Well played, Chick-fil-A.  I see you.