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June 2007

Carnival of Human Resources - Top 10 Benefits of a Career In HR/Talent Management...

Welcome to the latest Carnival of Human Resources!   We welcome all HR, Business, Training and related blog posts, with the only requirement being that you have to be topical, opinionated and bring your "A" game to the table...  Or two out of those three...

This installment moves from the fairground to the network studio, as we present the "Top 10 Benefits of a Career in HR/Talent Management", Letterman style. 

Paul, can I get a drum roll please?

Here are the Top 10 Benefits of a Career in HR/Talent Management:Paul_shaffer

10.  Buying a Xbox for the lobby is now an acceptable budgeted expense.  Don't believe me?  Check out Michael Wolfe at Career Revolution as he explores why gaming is good for teamwork at places like IBM...

9.  You can open channels of communication, then watch them fill with water as a thunderstorm moves through your area.   Fortify Your Oasis profiles a CIA initiative to put all the laundry up on an internal blog, only to watch it implode... 

8.  You'll Feel the warm satisfaction at listening to people vent and then being creative about finding ways to make them feel valued.  That's what Mabel and Harry focus on in reminding us that the customer is always right, even when they aren't

7.  Treating people with respect is always reinforced, except when it's not.  Especially when you are going the extra mile to call a candidate you won't be moving forward with, only to have them crush you with their disappointment.  Of course, as The Career Encouragement Blog points out, that probably means you made the right call in selection....

6.  Candidates will show you the love for letting them know where they stand in the process via email - except when they don't - Ask A Manager illustrates that a scorching email is only a mouse click away for the candidate who feels scorned.  And they can do it with a straight face while using an email address like [email protected] as well!  Nice!!

5.  Doing your job means sometimes watching customers squirm.  Ann Barnes atLetterman_ap Compensation Force brings the money view to the table by linking bad performance management to the standard 3% raise.  The solution?  Force managers (even those of the HR variety) to give smaller increases to low performers to ensure proper rewards for the stars...

4.  You get to pick leaders, but you also are responsible for growing them.  As Wally Bock points out, leaders are born and made.  So don't slack off on the recruiting or development front.  You get to do both!   Lucky you!!

3.  You get to pick out your own chair at the table.  But of course, the Evil HR Lady reminds us that some people don't think you should sit there, so get to the meeting early and remind people you do more than manage forms.

2.  Your Business Card can have a groovy title like Chief People Officer, Minister of Morale, or maybe "Gatekeeper" - Deb at 8 Hours & a Lunch tries to walk a lost candidate through the web of candidate screening.  My favorite part of this post - Deb explaining to the candidate that a "strong work ethic" position on a resume isn't exactly a differentiator in the recruiting game.  So true...


1.  You'll become adept at disagreeing with your non-HR boss without getting fired.  But of course, as Lisa at HR Thoughts reminds us, it's more of an art than a science, so you might want to observe some behavior before you jump in there...

And of course, if you do your job well and are a player, in addition to these benefits you'll also generate enough internal currency to move to a non-HR job to recharge your batteries.   But you'll come back eventually...  They always do....

Lisa at HR Thoughts has the next Carnival in 2 weeks.  Lisa, remember who had you #1!!!

It's True - Socialists Love Weak Performance Management...

Why do socialists love weak performance management cultures?  Because they de-emphasize the individual - especially the performers - and make everyone look the same.   Next thing you know, national GDP is flat, the best jobs are in government and it takes 60 minutes of standing in line to get a loaf of bread...  It's like the Soup Nazi, no tolerance for deviation, even the positive kind....

Well... Maybe that rant is a bit overstated.   But compensation pro Ann Bares of Compensation Force knows a Soupnazi lame trend when she sees it, linking weak performance management to the clustering of merit pay towards the mean.  Why do managers give in and provide a 3% increase to all their direct reports?  From Ann's List: 

"A lack of confidence in the underlying performance management program and its results, so that management is hesitant to differentiate pay treatment based on performance assessments.

An unwillingness to award smaller (or even "zero") increases to workers at the bottom of the performance ladder, which ultimately takes money from the merit budget which could have bolstered the increases of top performers.

The lingering presence of a culture and philosophy that dictates treating everyone the same (despite rhetoric about paying for performance)."

Love Ann's list.   My take?  Managers at all levels hate confrontation, so much so, that they will avoid providing lower merit rewards to poor-performing employees so they don't have to deal with delivering the rejection.  For the high performing employees?  Why not deliver a great review and deliver the standard 3%, then blame it on the "budget", or use my favorite tag line - managers using "they" to talk about the company, as in "They only let me give 3% increases"...

Check out Ann's blog ASAP.  I added it to my ultra-exclusive blogroll on the right (aka "Sweet Links"), so click through and check it out early and often... 

HR Blogging - Reporting on the Story Without Being the Story...

I've received 6 or 7 emails wondering where a entry on the Capitalist was they have seen referred to elsewhere.   The whole story made me wonder "What would Ron Burgundy do?"  Here's the deal:

Last week I wrote an item entitled "When Employees Blog About Pending Harassment Claims", detailing a blog putRon_burgundy_2 up by an ex-employee on a harassment situation that ultimately drove them from their company.  From the post:

"Scorned ex-employees and even current employees can (and do) blog about events in your company.  Even previously off-limits topics like harassment claims are now fair game.  This blog looks to be established for the sole purpose of telling the story related to that charge."

In addition to that, I also clipped the most non-objectionable content from the blog as an example of what employees can put out there regarding their version of events at your company.

Then the fun began.  By noon the next day, I had a comment that provided a link to photos, supposedly of the employee to prove they were a real person.  Click through to the link and viola!  Pictures of a strip club reported to be the hangout for company executives and a nice picture of a reported marketing manager doing questionable things.  I pulled the comment and explained why in the blog post (don't trash up my Disney-approved blog, etc), only to get another comment pitching how the marketing manager was a freak, liar and a cheat to boot.

So I pulled the whole thing.  Nice.  Looking to report on the trends, not be the trend.  As Ron would say, stay classy, San Diego...

Ulrich's "Business Ally" HR Competency - Can You Get Another Job At Your Company?

From time to time we're profiling the latest HR Competencies from Dave Ulrich here at the Capitalist.  Next up for discussion?  "Business Ally" as a key competency for HR pros. 

Forget the stuff you have been exposed to for the last decade in the push to become a "business partner". King_of_queens  A business partner sounds like the UPS guy (my favorite UPS-like business partner in the picture at the right) stopping by two times a day to pick up the boxes. The real question we have to ask ourselves as HR Pros is whether we be welcomed into a non-HR position in our company.  Why do I say that?  From Ulrich:

"HR contributes to the success of a business by knowing how it makes money, who the customers are, and why they buy the company’s products and services. For HR professionals to be Business Allies (and Credible Activists and Strategy Architects as well), they should be what Ulrich describes as “business literate.” The mantra about understanding the business—how it works, the financials and strategic issues—remains as important today as it did in every iteration of the survey the past 20 years. Yet progress in this area continues to lag."

Sometimes all the strategy talk gets me a little drowsy.  Here's what it all comes down to for me.  Can I (and you since most everyone reading this site is an HR person or in a related position/industry) get a job in another department of my company?  Can I use what I know to move my career into Sales, Marketing, Client Services, etc?  If the answer is yes, than I'm a business ally.  If the answer is "no", then you've got work to do.  It's as simple as that.    You may have no intention to move to another area, but if the answer is yes, you are a business ally to the people you serve. 

Workforce Management is doing a daily magazine at the SHRM conference - check it out and sign up for the daily distribution.  In Sunday's edition, an article on Page 2 notes that a high-end session on project management skills was half full, and some industry insiders wondered aloud whether HR people understand that skills like project management are key to survival for HR pros in the outsourced world we are evolving to.

Could you secure an offer in a non-HR department in your company based on your knowledge of the business?

When Cutting Pay Doesn't Hurt - UAW/Delphi/GM

Like Doctor Evil, I get confused when talking about millions and billions - it's like I've been frozen for 30 years....

A week or so back I profiled the hand wringing at Ford related to their upcoming labor talks with the UAW,Dr_evil  noting Ford would seek to cut hourly labor costs by 30 percent, from about $71 to around $50, including wages, pension and health care - in an attempt to compete with the foreign automakers in the states who have annualized total comp cost of $85,000 per FTE vs. $148,000 for Ford.  (not a typo).

The optimists at Ford might have thought they would get a little help from the current round of talks between Delphi and the UAW, but it appears not to be.  The Wall Street Journal reports that while the tentative agreement reached by Delphi and the UAW has slashed wages on the surface, GM has agreed to bankroll the difference in lump sum payments to veteran workers to make it all go and help the company emerge from Chapter 11.  From the Journal:

"Specifics details of the labor deal weren't disclosed on Friday.  But the agreement is expected in include payments by GM  (a total of $300 to $400 million annually) to higher seniority workers to offset cuts in wages and benefits paid by Delphi.  Delphi could pay workers as little as $14 per hour in wages compared to the previous average of about $27 per hour."

The reason for the supplement to pay by GM?  GM has previously said its financial exposure to Delphi equals $7 Billion.  With that in mind, it seems reasonable to throw some money in the kitty to make the deal work.  Average wages come down, but the UAW can sell the deal to veterans by ensuring their current total comp (or something close to it) via the annual payments from GM.

Of course, that won't help Ford, who has banked all of its assets on the latest turnaround plan.  They desperately need to reduce their cost structure, and they won't have someone behind them writing checks.  Should be interesting to follow over the summer and fall.

Even with the supplemental payment, I would imagine any deal endorsed by the UAW that cuts the Delphi check of a long time employeee from $30 to $20 would be a tough sell.....

When Is Proprietary Info Proprietary? Dell Tries to Force Former Kiosk Manger to "Zip It"...

Dude, here's how to get a Dell!

In what should become a case study for MBA classes on the definition of proprietary information, Dell Delldude_2 recently chased down a former Kiosk Manager who was sharing common sense in addition to some details on how kiosk reps are compensated.  It seems the former Dell employee was sharing the data with a site called The Consumerist to assist the masses with the best way to maximize value when shopping with Dell.  A clip from the advice:

"Play with the web site - There are many different pricing packages for the same product throughout the various sections, typically three or more per segment. If you're buying a Dell soon, configure a unit from a link off the main page, from the product listing on the drop down and from the "As Advertised-Newspaper" drop down. Configure the same system each way at the home, small business and the Direct (kiosk) site (http://www.dell.com/directstore). It is very likely you will end up with nine different prices."

Not exactly like stealing the formula for Coke - but there are some juicier details as the former manager gets into items like incentive comp structure for the kiosk reps, etc.  Worth checking out, find the whole article here.

The bigger point involves how far your company will go to protect what you consider proprietary or confidential information.  In the legal society we live in, all of us know that restrictive items like non-competes are flimsy at best.  However, protection of trade secrets and other proprietary data seems to hold up better, as long as the company feeling violated is willing to litigate and do what Dell initially did - fire off the cease and desist letters, get an injunction going, etc.   

Of course, if the employee in question is reporting on things that can be uncovered by the layperson experimenting with the company's website, it's probably not worth chasing.  It seems that Dell figured that out after a couple of days and posted the following message on a PR communications site.    Good for them.  I envision the scenario at Dell happening like this - initial reaction of a few managers is outrage, lawyers are brought in to do the "cease and desist" thing.   Once the letter is fired off, cooler heads prevail and start asking the question "is this info really proprietary?", and which point they go with the earnest communication strategy.  Decent recovery.  Take a look at the list from the kiosk manager and tell me what you think.

Two disclaimers from me regarding Dell.  #1 - Two Christmas seasons ago I was in the market for a laptop for my father in law, and used the Dell employee discount program and configured what I wanted.  I then put up a side by side with the normal consumer site to see how much I was saving through the employee program.  The consumer site was actually $200 cheaper.  Yikes!

Disclaimer #2 - I am writing this on a Dell, and I am happy with it.  A Dell laptop is like dial tone - solid and always there to take the beating in the corporate world....

Ask the HR Capitalist - Are Same-Day Offers A Good Idea?

Dear HR Capitalist -

Saw your recent post on the need for speed in the hiring process.  How about giving a same-day offer to a candidate who is in for a round of interviews?  Is that a good idea consistent with the need for speed?

Thoughts? - Sheila, St. Louis, MO


Sheila -

Thanks for the note.  As I noted in the post cited above, a lack of speed is usually the issue that can causeDickjane16_2  you difficulty in landing a candidate.  The need for speed is important enough that is you don't close quickly after a round of interviews, it can cost you a close.   At best, delays can cost you $$ in terms of the offer it will take to land a candidate spooked by a round of interviews that went well, only to be followed by two weeks of silence on your end.  I always think about the job search process of Jim Carey in Fun with Dick and Jane to push myself to keep candidates updated on their status.

Your question is a good one, but unfortunately the answer is not clear cut.  As a general rule, the lower level the position in question, the more a same-day offer may be appropriate.  For example, with a call center or production level job, you will roll through hundreds of candidates and if you find one you like, a same day offer will probably help you close with no ill effects.  The job is a commodity, so if the candidate likes your company you'll close the deal with a same day offer and all will be happy.

It's more complex with a professional level job.  You have to distinguish what same day means for starters.  Are you talking calling them at the end of the day after a morning round of interviews or handing them an offer packet as they walk out the door?  The latter would spook a lot of professional level candidates and make you seem a little desperate.  Even calling them at the end of the day may suggest you a) are desperate, or b) don't have any other options.  For the spooked candidate used to weeks of delays after interviewing, its so rare to get to the offer stage in the same day it will feel weird.  The savvy candidate may take it as desperation, so even if they aren't spooked they may counter-offer and try to drive up their sticker price as a result.

With all that said, a better solution is to set expectations of the candidate in terms of when they will hear from you with feedback (appearing non-committal all the way), then hit the general time frame 1-2 days later that you committed to touch base with them and surprise them with an offer.

It's an art, not a science.  Good luck!

HR Customers Ungrateful? Try this Speech...

Lots of heavy stuff flying around about HR people being Dinosaurs, not adding value, yadda, yadda, yadda...  Lisa at HR Thoughts reminds us that people still need us.  Unfortunately, they occasional come looking for her in the bathroom.   That's got to be uncomfortable...

So, whether someone is tracking you down for the termination update in the "john" or questioning the viability of your profession, try this quick speech to the customer to feel better.   After all, some days it is a pride swallowing siege..


Ulrich on New HR Competencies - Why Attitude is Required...

Imagine a world where HR folks were as aggressive and opinionated as media-types like Jim Rome or Bill O'ReillyJim_rome_sm

Maybe that's not such a good idea...  But Dave Ulrich would tell you a lot of us need to migrate in that general direction.  Ulrich is back in the spotlight with a recent research study entitled "New Competencies for HR", profiled in this month's HR Magazine.  The result?  After grinding through 10,000 participants (1,700 HR types being evaluated, 5,000 associate raters (HR peers and colleagues of the HR types being rated), 3,300 non-HR associate raters), Ulrich found the top competencies driving relative success of HR professionals to be the following:

  • Credible Activist
  • Cultural Steward
  • Talent Manager / Organizational Designer
  • Strategy Architect
  • Business Ally
  • Operational Executor

Couple of quick thoughts on this, then I'll come back to the survey and the new competencies over the next couple of weeks.  First, only two of the competencies involve activities most HR-types see as part of their core role - Operational Executor (payroll, benefits, policy, etc.) and Talent Manager (some would say that a lot of us don't focus enough on the Talent side). 

The other competencies will seem a little fuzzy at first - for example, Credible Activist, Cultural Steward, Strategy Architect and Business Ally?  Ulrich's explanations of these and their relative importance is pretty sound and definitely worth a print and read.  The main thought is similar to what Ulrich and others have been saying for years - get the transactional stuff handled (can't ignore it) and move forward in your evolution.  For items like the Credible Activist, it actually means ceasing to worry about being liked and whipping out a little opinion/attitude - or as I like to say (credit to Jim Rome) - Have a Take (similar to opinion for all you non-clones out there)...  That's a tough transition for some HR types. 

Also, if you like Ulrich, find him quarterly in the print version of Workforce Management beginning on June 25th.  More info at www.workforce.com    

Presenteeism - Are you working your employees when they are sick?

Here's a new term I just picked up but hadn't heard before - "presenteeism"..

Michael at the The Career Revolution picked up this term at a wellness conference (he's got a emerging blog, check it out).  The definition?  Michael cites WikiPedia - "Presenteeism is the opposite of absenteeism. In contrast to absenteeism, when employees are absent from work illegitimately, presenteeism discusses the problems faced when employees come to work in spite of illness, which can have similar negative repercussions on business performance". Headaches7

So there's a nifty term for what we all tell our employees (don't come to work and get everyone else sick...) - that's cool...

What's not cool about the term and the associated research behind presenteeism?   The biggest limitation in accepting presenteeism as a real factor in productivity loss is the research behind it.  From a Cornell study on presenteeism:

"For such conditions as allergies and headaches, on-the-job productivity losses could account for over 80 percent of employers' total illness costs, the Cornell and Medstat researchers report in the first study to add the cost of on-the-job productivity losses from common health problems to total employer health-related expenses."

"All in all, this means that from about one-fifth to three-fifths of the total dollars attributable to common health conditions faced by employers appear to be the result of on-the-job productivity losses," says Ron Goetzel, director of IHPS. He notes that headaches, allergies, arthritis, asthma and mental health-related problems such as depression incur the greatest on-the-job productivity losses.

So work with me to get your head around the body of knowledge on presenteeism.  We know that we don't like folks coming in sick and getting others sick - that seems like a cut and dry scenario where when a virus goes through an office, there's a lot of productivity loss.  Right?  I agree..

But take a look at the list of conditions that are cited as being the biggest contributors to presenteeism.  headaches, allergies, arthritis, asthma and mental health-related problems such as depression

Not exactly a lineup from the cold and flu season.  Aren't all those conditions treated through Rx (maybe withe exception of mental-health problems, but even those are as well) to allow the person to make it through the day as long as they controlling the condition?   None of these would seem to be a productivity drain on the team members around the individual (maybe with the exception of the mental health category).

Click through to Michael's blog for more detail on Presenteeism and some of the cited research.  Based on what I have read, it seems like the reason the term hasn't made it to Hollywood is due to the limitations of the conditions used in the definition - they don't get others sick....