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August 2007

Is America Being Outworked by...(gasp) Switzerland??

We're heading into Labor Day weekend in the US, so what better time than now for a little pants-adjusting, back-slapping, "damn we work hard in the States" rhetoric?  After all, no one works harder for the money (apologies to Donna Summer) than the average American worker, right?

Except when we don't.  Fortune's Geoff Colvin recently explored a recent UN report analyzing working hoursPatton across the globe.  Don't waive it off automatically just because it's from the UN.  Take a look at following data from the report that suggests we are most definitely chilling:

"The surprising report of our relative sloth arrives in new research from the UN's International Labor Organization, which looks at working hours around the world. When it comes to what we might call hard work, meaning the proportion of workers who put in more than 48 hours a week, America is near the bottom of the heap. About 18% of our employed people work that much.

That's a higher proportion than in a few other developed countries like Norway, the Netherlands, and even Japan. But it's actually lower than in Switzerland and Britain, and way lower than in developing countries like Mexico and Thailand. It's drastically lower than in what may be the world's two hardest-working countries, South Korea and Peru, where the proportions are about 50%.

Put it all together, and the researchers figure we're getting about 117 hours of leisure per week (including sleep), vs. 110 hours in 1965. That's more than 360 additional idle hours per year. We are a couch-potato nation."

After reading that, your thoughts are probably similar to mine.  We've earned more leisure time because our productivity has never been higher.  Capital investments in technology to generate gains in productivity have paid off, and as a result our country can back off the grind a little bit.  That's a good thing, right?

For now, yes.  For the future - maybe not.  One of the wacky things about this digital world is that US workers increasingly compete with workers from other countries for opportunities.  That trend isn't just about NAFTA - it's increasingly about every segment of the workforce, especially those sectors that revolve around knowledge:

"The problem isn't what has happened, unless you figure we've just explained the obesity epidemic, but rather what might happen next. Every day more of us work in a global labor market, competing for jobs with people around the world. One thing markets do really well is fix disequilibriums; when anything tradable sells for different prices in different places, those differences soon disappear.

More important, in the growing number of jobs not paid by the hour, people who work harder may just produce better results. General Electric chief Jeff Immelt put it bluntly while recalling a trip to Beijing last year, when he got a big order from the Transport Ministry: "The whole ministry was working all day on a Sunday. I believe in quality of life, work-life balance, all that stuff. But that's the competition. So unless we're willing to compete ..."

So enjoy the BBQ, watch some college football and if you don't have cable, there's always the Jerry Lewis telethon (great cause, but growing up I knew the 3 channels we had were going into lockdown mode at 5pm on Sunday of Labor Day Weekend - drat!!). 

While you're at it, think about the best way to prepare your kids for pitching business to someone in Asia at 2am as a normal course of business. 

Somewhere patriot George Patton is rolling in his grave.... Switzerland!!

Press '1' To Eliminate Yourself As a Candidate...

First up, I'm a Gen X'er, so don't tell me I don't understand because I am too old... Is being in your 30's too old now?

Why do seemingly quality candidates insist on leaving inappropriate greetings on their voice mail?  Do theyVoice_mail_ understand recruiters like me might call their number and get voice mail?

I've been known to be hard on voice mail.  If I am calling a candidate off a resume and get voice mail, I treat it like a freebie.  Good energy and kind of dynamic sounding in your voice mail greeting?  Cool, I'm more interested than I was when I called.  Sound depressed and seem like the whole thing takes too much energy?  I'm out - you lost the opportunity.  I rate your voice mail - if you are rated 5 or worse, you'll never hear from KD again..

Just called a strong candidate back after a phone interview to set up a face-to-face session.  Hadn't gotten her voice mail yet in the process.  Got it this time - BAM!!!  I'm treated to 30 seconds of a profane Notorious B.I.G track before the innocent, professional voice I was expecting comes through over the track during the chorus.  Professional position, 50-60K job.  Bye-Bye...

It'd be the same deal whether it was Marilyn Manson or Larry the Cable Guy.  Market to me, the recruiter.  Don't take risky chances with your brand when I call. 

The HR Blog Power Rankings [sponsored by the HR Capitalist]

The HR Capitalist is proud to announce the first installation of the HR Blog Power Rankings!  Rankings below reflect blog entries from July 30th to August 29th across 103 HR-related blogs.  How do we rank them?  Check out the complete Poll Methodology here...

The short version of our methodology is that I have my Google Reader set up to read all 103 blogs for the period in question.  Using the star feature, I identify the entries I would recommend to my HR colleagues.  The more recommendations, the higher the power ranking and the poll position. 

In our opinion, the top 25 and those also receiving votes represent the best of the HR/Human Capital Blogs.  Thanks to all listed here for your committment to HR/Human Capital community!

Ranking/Blog Name (Power Rating, Last Poll Ranking)

Also Receiving Votes: The Future of Work Weblog, Evil HRIS Guy, People Signals, SittingXLegged, Employee Handbooks, cheezehead, Race in the Workplace, Michael Specht, Stanley Bing, Bob Sutton, Complete Potential, Workstream, Execupundit, Gruntled Employees, Donald H Taylor

On Probation/Not Eligible For Poll - The HR Capitalist (Please Read Anyway!!!)

In future polls, I'll highlight posts that make ranked blogs special.  For now, here's a tagline for why these blogs are the best for HR Pros....

Methodology - The HR Blog Power Rankings [sponsored by the HR Capitalist]

Methodology for "The HR Blog Power Poll Rankings" sponsored by The HR Capitalist


--Poll is based on 103 HR-related blogs, including properties focused on HRM, recruiting, compensation, rewards/recognition, benefits, vendor products, leadership, workplace culture, employment law and related legal issues.  Oddly enough, the search continues for the world's first payroll blog.  Go figure...

--Blogs seeking inclusion in the HR Blog Power Poll may submit their site to The HR Capitalist for voting moving forward.  Blogs seeking inclusion must support RSS via Google Reader.

--Poll Sponsor (HR Capitalist) has all eligible blogs loaded into latest version of Google Reader and pledges to read, or attempt to read, every post from every eligible blog moving forward.

--Upon reading blog entry, Poll Sponsor determines if entry contains news/thoughts/humor/entertainment exceptional enough to recommend to HR colleagues for consideration.  In short, the entry must have data/news/opinion/reflections with substance to improve the life of an average HR Manager/Director/VP as judged by poll sponsor.

--If entry is judged as exceptional, entry is starred for the record moving forward.

--Per the structure of Google Reader, all eligible blogs are sorted according to the number of exceptional entries judged to be created by ownersBlogs are then ranked from #1 to #25 based on this criteria.

--Blogs in Top 25 will receive overall ranking, a power index noting the number of starred entries, an indicator noting last position in poll and some quick-hitting notes regarding what makes them special. 

--Blogs not in Top 25 but receiving starred entries will receive a "shout out" in the "Also Receiving Votes" section of the poll, meaning they are players in the eyes of the poll sponsor.

--Ties among blogs with same number of starred entries are broken according to even more subjective criteria than those listed above.  Kind of like the College BCS poll in this area...

--Power Index/Number of Starred Entries always reflects the body of work for the last 30 days.  With this in mind, blogs consistently generating great work are rewarded, those having one strong month out of twelve are destined to become another "Tone Loc".

--Quality posts are what is measured via the poll, but blogs are not penalized for posting more frequently than their peers.  If it takes you 10 posts a day to crank out the masterpiece, cool.  If you can become #1 with two posts a week, more power to you.

--Blogs with lots of political humor or dirty words generally won't be ranked high in the poll since I can't recommend them to all my HR friends.  Sensitive bunch, those HR people.  Additionally, Q&A from employees generally won't generate a recommended post unless it includes content a HR Generalist can appreciate.

--Blogs from specialists in areas like recruiting, vendors, benefits, etc. may have more excellent posts than reflected in this poll.  The Poll Sponsor will only count as exceptional those posts with strong projected interest to the HR Generalist community at the Manager/Director/VP level.


Mothering and Caring in Leadership/Coaching... By Steve Nash...

Lots of opinions out there regarding the most critical skills to build effective managers.  Coaching Skills?  Sure.  Performance Management skills?  You Bet.....

Mothering skills?... Excuse me?

Two-time MVP of the NBA Steve Nash was on Charlie Rose, and talked at length about his job. One of the most under-appreciated aspects of his role, says Nash, is the need to be a mother and a psychologist to his teammates.   From the "True Hoops" breakdown of the interview:

"The Phoenix guard knows a lot of stuff and talks about mastering the kinds of skills you might learn in some communications class, including non-verbal things like how his teammates are holding their shoulders, what's in their eyes, and what they're talking about. Who is frustrated? Who has lost confidence? Nash sees it as a key to his job to "take them all in at once."

What's the hardest part of all that? I'm guessing a lot of people can tell when Shawn Marion is feeling low, just watching on TV. Reading body language need not be rocket science. But the difference with Nash? He put his finger right on it: "To care."

That's the crucial difference. That's the special part. We all see Marion upset and think it's his problem. Nash sees Marion upset and sees that as, at least in some manner, Nash's problem.

Caring about his team like that, Nash says with the smirk of the understater, "takes some effort."

The emotional element of being an effective manager is probably the one we talk least about, and is likely the most difficult for a lot of first-time managers.  That's especially true when young managers are frozen by HR demands to watch the interpersonal side of work relationships in an effort to avoid being sued.

Great leaders like Nash seem to transcend the normal models, and do it in such a classy way it's rarely misinterpreted.  Not sure you can teach this type of instinct.... Video of the interview below is worth your time if you want to see what a humble superstar sounds like... 

Tom Brady, Baby Daddies, FMLA and Dependent Eligibility....

It's getting close to NFL time in America, and that means the Capitalist is keeping a close eye on all things football when not polishing up the HR skills.  With that in mind, it's preseason, so instead of game scores and injury reports, items like NFL superstar Tom Brady's fathering skills get more airtime than actual football

Here's the rundown for Brady.  The ex-girlfriend of Brady, actress Bridget Moynahan, gave birth to theirTom_brady_and_bridget baby boy on Wednesday. Brady flew out that day to visit mother and child in Santa Monica, Calif., where Moynahan lives, but he shares a home in New York with his current girlfriend, model Gisele Bundchen, who is also rumored to be pregnant.

Two HR Questions from the world of Brady:

1.  Should Brady apply for FMLA leave even if he is willing to take banked time off to cover the absence?  Ever notice how most dads don't apply for FMLA even if they are going out on any form of paternity leave?  Would you make him certify under FMLA so you could count the time?

2.  Assuming Brady isn't legally married to either woman, under what circumstances would you cover either child as a covered dependent?  Need some type of legal document establishing paternity?

Of course you need the legal paperwork to cover Brady's son.  You are trying to hold the line on medical expenses.  No one, including a golden boy like Brady, sneaks on your medical plan without paperwork.... Plus, you're probably a Colts fan....

What HR Can Learn From the Michael Vick Saga...

What's that?  "Don't hire people who are running dog-fighting rings."  Thanks Aristotle... Is there a box I can check with my background vendor to cover that?

You've got another one?  "The problem with employees having large entourages is all the access badges youVick have to create."   Good advice, Nostradamus...

Seriously - there are at least three strong HR takeaways from the Mike Vick saga currently showing at a news channel near you. 

First, the ones that are most obvious:

1.  It's always a good idea to think about whether you want an employee who has been charged with a crime still in the workplace.  This one comes in a million different flavors.  Misdemeanor/Felony, Violent Crime/Non-Violent Crime, Substance Abuse/No Substance Abuse, and every combination in between.  Do you want the employee in the workplace while they get their life in order?  Depends on the charges, of course.  Regardless of the charge, your company should be asking this question for anyone who is charged with a crime.  If you decide you are better off without them until things are cleared up, your handbook probably supports a suspension based on the charge, but you'll probably have to grant them paid leave to stay entirely clear of legal considerations.

2.  It's nice to have a succession plan in place.  John Hollon hit this topic late last week over at Workforce.  The Falcons had drafted a stud quarterback in Matt Shawb a couple of years ago to backup Vick, but it recently became too expensive to retain him, so they traded him away, effectively eliminating their plan B.  Now that Vick is getting ready to report to Leavenworth, they are stuck with Joey Harrington, now with his third team after flame outs with Detroit and Miami.  As a result of the lack of succession, the local experts in Atlanta are already calling sellouts at the Georgia Dome a thing of the past.  Who's on your bench for key positions?

Now, for the not-so-obvious lesson:

3.  He (or she) who controls the spin controls public opinion.  In a little-reported twist to this story, ESPN started buzzing on Thursday night about the possibility Vick would plea, but would not admit to participating in the killing of dogs or gambling.  As a result of this report, the airwaves at ESPN and other outlets were buzzing about the news and focusing on what the plea would not include, which made Vick look good compared to the worst case scenario.  When the plea finally came, Vick admitted to being a part of the killing of animals and gambling on the dogfights.  The ex post facto viewpoint?  Vick's attorney's likely leaked the Vick-friendly version, which dominated the news for a 18 hour period before the actual plea became public.  As a result, countless individuals who heard the "unidentified source" story have a more positive view of Vick than they would if they had read the court documents.

The HR takeaway from #3?  Spin doesn't have to be a negative term or denote lying.  On organizational issues and items that can drive employee morale and organizational effectiveness, timing and the distribution of the message mean everything.   No one is saying you should should lie - exactly the opposite.  The real lesson is to get the truthful, honest message out as fast as you can, then reinforce it through repetition.

Those were my big takeaways, but I know you likely have more.  What's your take on the HR connection to the Vick saga? 

Hiring Jason Bourne via the Myers-Briggs Assessment...

Michael at The Career Revolution has a cool breakdown of HR considerations if you are employing Jason Bourne from the Bourne Ultimatum.    One caught my eye with special interest - Pre-employment testing, and how you would figure out if Bourne was a fit for your organization.

My solution?  Let's figure out if Jason Bourne would be a good match for your team via the tool you know Jason_bourneand love - the Myers-Briggs test. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality questionnaire designed to identify certain psychological differences according to the typological theories of Carl Gustav Jung as published in his 1921 book Psychological TypesMore importantly, it has a strong following with corporate types as they try and figure out who's the best fit for their team...

Here are the Myers-Briggs determinations we have to make to judge if Bourne will play nice with the other assassins in your organizations:

-Introvert or Extrovert?  Can a spy on the run afford to be an extrovert?  This one is the easy one, so the first letter in his Myers-Briggs is "I"...

-Sensing or Intuition?  Bourne trusts only the information he can sense through his tuned up senses.  Don't be fooled that he is acting on Intution.  He's a cyborg, and it's all about what he can validate.  Second letter is an "S"....

-Thinking or Feeling?  Bourne measures decisions by what is reasonable, logical, causal, consistent and matching a given set of rules.  So thinking it is, and he's a "T"...

-Judging or Perceiving?  Like most spys, Bourne is happy to leave matters open, for further input; he may want to leave finishing a task until close to the deadline, and be energized by a late rush of information and ideas; and he is ready to change plans if new information comes along.   "P" it is...

Add it all up and what do you have?  An ISTP.  What's that mean?  From the site typelogic:

"Like their fellow SPs, ISTPs are fundamentally Performers (note the capital 'P' :-)), but as Ts their areas of interest tend to be mechanical rather than artistic like those of ISFPs, and unlike most ESPs they do not present an impression of constant activity. On the contrary, they lie dormant, saving their energy until a project or an adventure worthy of their time comes along--and then they launch themselves at it. The apparently frenzied state that inevitably ensues is actually much more controlled than it appears--ISTPs always seem to know what they're doing when it comes to physical or mechanical obstacles--but the whole chain of events presents a confusing and paradoxical picture to an outsider."

That sounds like Bourne.  Got a place on your Account Management team for him?  He's looking for his next gig....

Great Job Kid! Here's Your 5%, Now Be Happy...

Is a 5% bump for your top performers enough?  That's the 64K question...

My source for all things compensation related, Ann Bares of Compensation Force, has broken down the merit pay side of the most recent Mercer Comp Survey.  According to Mercer's survey, the highest performing employees are expected to receive base pay increases of 5.7% in 2007, compared to 3.5% for average performers and 1.7% for the weakest performers.  Over 1,000 large companies participate, so it feels valid and the numbers seem about right:

Average pay increase percent by rating group according to Mercer via Ann:

  • Highest-rated employees (12% of workforce):  5.7%
  • Next highest-rated employees (28% of workforce):  4.5%
  • Middle-rated employees (52% of workforce):  3.5%
  • Low-rated employees (6% of workforce):  2.0%
  • Lowest-rated employees (3% of workforce):  1.7%

The big question in my mind remains the same.  Would you downsize a low performer and not get the headcount back to thrill your high performers with a bigger increase?