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September 2007

Why Enforcing Dress Codes Will Drive All Men Out of HR.....

I like to think of myself as a progressive guy.  Or at least a little strategic at times.  That's why dealing with items like dress code compliance (a cross that all male HR Generalists have had to bear at one point in their careers) will likely drive me from the HR game at some point in the future.  Could be when I am 60, could be next year.  Who knows?

What's the big issue?  The Consumerist recently posted a Dress code it claims is from a Comcast Call Center.  Nothing wrong with Comcast.  However, plenty of challenges when you get 1,000 employees together in 4X6 cubes.  Want to spend your time as a HR pro recruiting?  Maybe developing someDress_code_2 management training?  Great - just go talk to Alice (in Cube 317) first about her non-compliance with the dress code.  Apparently she has on what we believe is one of the "never appropriate" items:

-Tank Top
-Midriff Top
-Body Suit
-Flip Flops
-(shudder) Spandex Pants
-Excessively tight clothing
-House Slippers with nasty toes

Could the manager have had the conversation without getting you involved?  Sure.  Without saying something to get you sued?   Hmmm.   So you walk down to Cube 317 to take care of business.  You pull out speech 17b on what's appropriate or not and BAAAM!!!!  Alice tells you she has a medical condition where the spandex in the pants helps her circulation, and the slippers are the only thing her feet will fit into because of the swelling.  You look up and - I'm not joking but you guessed it - there are 20 Call Center Reps, all dressed the right way, watching what you are going to say next.

Backed into a corner, you do what you have to do.  You tell her she'll need to work through some medical documentation to justify the exception, and 3 hours later, when you think you have that one triangulated, you have 3 more medical "necessities" on your desk.  So much for the upscale stuff you were working on.

And there goes your whole week.  If you are in a big, consumer-based Call Center, rinse and repeat.  If you are a male HR Pro, prepare to be verrrry uncomfortable.

PS - Got to love that Comcast chose to plug their corrective action steps right into the Dress Code Policy.  Now that's efficient!!!


UAW/GM - Notes on the "Back to Work" Agreement

The UAW is back on the assembly line at GM, although assessment of the UAW's brief strike against General Motors will be difficult for at least a few more days - not enough details about the agreement are available for evaluation.

In the meantime, two resources for you now and in the days to come:

--The always reliable Union-Free Employer checks in and will undoubtedly be looking over the small print in the days to come...

--A new kid on the block, The Pay and Benefits Guy, has a thoughtful post on what the agreement looks like on his end - and why there may be only losers in this battle...

Next up?  Ford, who has bet all company assets on the latest turnaround plan....


The HR Blog Power Rankings - Week of 9/24/07 [sponsored by the HR Capitalist]

Brands rule.  Think about your life - you are a brand flunky...

Look at you with your iPod, HBO, "Trucker Hat", SUV and most impressively, that "Members Only" jacket.  Nice...

The HR Blogs you spend time with are no different - they're brands, just like the products you pay aMembersonlyfull 50%premium for.    Rather than pay extra for blog brands, you subscribe via RSS with a tool like Google Reader, or have Feedburner deliver it to your digital doorstep to show your loyalty. 

Which got me to thinking... What world famous brands are some of the top HR blogs most like in my eyes?  Here's my list of blog brand equivalents in the real world:

  • KnowHR Blog - KnowHR is the blog equivalent of Apple.  Stylish and always ahead of the curve from a communication/brand image perspective... Thinking Different...
  • Compensation Force - I've been drinking the Ann Bares Kool-Aid for some time (more sugar in the next pitcher, Ann), and I think the best brand comparison is IBM Global Services.  Solid.  Savvy.  Won't get you fired by selecting them as a vendor.  Might get you promoted.  Cool commercials...
  • 8 hours & a lunch - Let's see, I can get literature, music and quotes at 8 hours.  Sounds like Amazon.  Or Oprah...
  • Evil HR Lady - Evil is eBay.  Lots of people passing through and checking in.  Added bonus of not having to give your name, so you can satisfy your needs to bid on that used Charlie's Angels lunchbox without people judging you. 

OK - that's all I got.... I'll take another run at it on the next poll....

The HR Capitalist is proud to announce the HR Blog Power Rankings for the week of 9/24/07!  Rankings below reflect blog entries from August 26th to September 24th across 112 HR-related blogs.  How do we rank them?  Check out the complete Poll Methodology here...

See what rants and riffs spurred my recommendation here...

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 commitment to HR/Human Capital community!

1.   Fortify Your Oasis (Power Rating- 8, Last Poll - #8)
2.   Incentive Intelligence (Power Rating- 7, Last Poll - #9)
3.   KnowHR Blog (Power Rating- 7, Last Poll - #1)
4.   Compensation Force (Power Rating- 6, Last Poll - #1)
5.   Pennsylvania Employment Lawyer & Attorney (Power Rating- 6, Last Poll - #3)
6.   Execupundit (Power Rating- 6, Last Poll - #12)
7.   8 hours & a lunch (Power Rating- 5, Last Poll - #4)
8.   The Business of Management - John Hollon (Power Rating- 5, Last Poll - #6)
9.   All Things Workplace (Power Rating- 5, Last Poll - #16)
10. Three Star Leadership - Wally Bock (Power Rating- 5, Last Poll - #17)
11. Knowledge Infuser (Power Rating- 5, Last Poll - #7)
12. Jon Ingham's (HCM) Blog (Power Rating- 5, Last Poll - #10)
13. Evil HR Lady (Power Rating- 5, Last Poll - #13)
14. The Career Revolution (Power Rating- 4, Last Poll - #14)
15. HR Thoughts (Power Rating- 4, Last Poll - #15)
16. Employee Evolution (Power Rating- 4, Last Poll - #22)
17. Trizle (Power Rating- 4, Last Poll - #5)
18. Talent In China (Power Rating - 4, Last Poll - NR)
19. McArthur's Rant (Power Rating- 3, Last Poll - #24)
20. systematicHR (Power Rating- 3, Last Poll - #18)
21. Ask a Manager (Power Rating- 2, Last Poll - #19)
22. Jim Stroud 2.0 (Power Rating- 2, Last Poll - #11)
21. Taleo Blog (Power Rating- 2, Last Poll - #21)
22. Suits In The Workplace (Power Rating - 2, Last Poll - NR)
23. Stanley Bing (Power Rating - 2, Last Poll - NR)
24. JibberJobber (Power Rating - 2, Last Poll - NR)
25. The Human Capitalist  (Power Rating- 1, Last Poll - #20)


Also Receiving Votes: The Union-Free Employer, Marketing Headhunter, Guerilla HR, The Work Clinic, The Future of Work Weblog, XpertHR > Homepage, Brazen Careerist, People Signals, SittingXLegged, Employee Handbooks, cheezehead, Race in the WorkplaceComplete Potential, Gruntled Employees, Donald H Taylor, My Global Career

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

See the game by game results here....


Mike Gundy - New HR/Anger Management Project or Passionate Leader?

Anger is a funny thing - a word here, a twist there, and people are speed dialing the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) line on your behalf.  Add some references and context, and you're a passionate, "fire in the belly" leader.  Which one is Mike Gundy?  The Oklahoma State coach refused to take questions after Oklahoma State's 49-45 victory against Texas Tech on Saturday, instead expressing outrage at a newspaper column that suggested a quarterback's demotion was a result of his attitude more than his ineffective play.

Take a look and make the determination yourself:

So which is it?   Is Gundy a candidate for an Anger Management intervention, or is he a leader to be praised for standing up for his team?

Couple of side notes for your consideration as well.  You can take a look at the column that provoked this response here.  Additionally, Gundy has been taking heat this week since his comments were directed at a woman, causing some to question whether his response would have been as strong if he was dealing with a male journalist.  Either way, you can bet his team is circling the wagons and loving the passionate defense of a "direct report".

Of course, in athletics you can lash out at external individuals in defense of your team and be a hero.  Harder to pull off in corporate America, where other departments, customers and even vendors are partners you have to work with to get things done moving forward.

I'm tagging Steve at All Things Workplace, Wally at 3-Star Leadership and Michael Moore at PA Employment Lawyer for their thoughts.  What about it guys, is Gundy a true leader or EAP poster child?


Wal-Mart Medical Plans - Better, But Still Not Competitive...

It's easy to beat up on Wal-Mart from an "employer of choice" perspective.  They churn through employees, use as much part-time labor as possible to keep total costs down, and generally haven't offered much in the way of benefits for their workforce.

For a great rundown of the historic attitude towards employee benefits at Wal-Mart, take a look at this memo.  It's a confidential memo that was leaked out from a board meeting in 2005, when a VP of Benefits gave a "state of the state" address on benefit costs to the Wal-Mart board.  If you haven't read this before, it's a must-read.  Among the brainstorming to keep health care costs down in 2005?   To discourage unhealthy job applicants, the VP of Benefits suggests that Wal-Mart arrange for "all jobs to include some physical activity" (e.g., all cashiers do some cart-gathering).  Seeing that in print makes me say, "yikes"...

But change is underway, and Wal-Mart is attempting to position itself as "kinder and gentler" toWalmart2 employees. 

First, the good newsMultiple media outlets recently reported that Wal-Mart is improving the benefits they will offer employees in 2008.   Looks like Consumer-based plans will rule the day, with Wal-Mart indicating it would give each employee or family that signs up for coverage a grant of $100 to $500 to defray health expenses, while charging premiums as low as $5 a month. The new program, for which workers can sign up starting this month, offers 50 ways to customize coverage with varying trade-offs like higher premiums and lower deductibles.

In one plan, for example, an employee would pay premiums up to $79 a month, receive a health care credit of $100 and pay a deductible of $500. In another, the employee would pay premiums of $8 a month, receive a $100 health care credit, but pay a deductible of $2,000. Though many generic drugs will be available for $4, brand-name drugs will cost $30 to $50.

About half of Wal-Mart workers have coverage from the company, while 40 percent more get their coverage elsewhere — through a spouse, a parent, a second job or a state program like Medicaid. About 10 percent have no health coverage.

Now for the bad news.  While the plan is a positive move, it doesn't go far enough.  The biggest limitation?  Waiting Periods.  Full-time employees must still wait 6 months to be eligible for coverage, and part-timers must wait one year for coverage.  While it's easy to pile on Wal-Mart for the one year requirement for coverage for part-timers, the reality is many companies don't offer benefits for part-timers (it would be interesting to see the number of hours a week on average required for eligibility).

I'm more focused on the full-time equation.  If Wal-Mart would move the eligibility mark to one month for full-timers, they'd limit the majority of what's left to criticize.   


What HR Pros Need to Know About the UAW/GM Strike...

By now, you're hopefully aware that members of the United Automobile Workers union walked off the job today at General Motors plants across the country after union leaders and company officials failed to reach an agreement in contentious talks on a new contract.  That's a big event - one that hasn't happened since 1970.

As usual, the disagreement is over money.  But the primary focus of this round centers around the ongoing cost of benefits as part of the total compensation package.

Here's all you need to know as a HR pro about the strike, and why GM feels compelled to ensure meaningful change this time around.  From the Wall Street Journal prior to the strike:

"This time they mean it. The Big Three (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) have talked toughFord before. They were going to wring concessions out of the UAW in contract negotiations, only to retreat and agree in the end to a costly new labor deal. This time things are different. The Big Three are hemorrhaging money. They say they have to eliminate or narrow the $30-dollar-an-hour cost disadvantage between themselves and their Asian rivals like Toyota, Nissan, and Honda. They have to do something about legacy costs. If the UAW doesn't bend, the companies say they are willing to move investment in plants and people outside the US. The UAW leadership understands the problems and has agreed to some work-rule changes and benefits cuts designed to save money. But the concessions have been small potatoes compared to what the companies say they need. The UAW's leadership has been maneuvering for a couple of years preparing members to cuts. But how far will they be willing and able to go?

That got me wondering what the total talent cost structure was for Detroit automakers.  Here's a clip from the AP I found:

"Detroit News columnist Daniel Howes, citing people familiar with the auto industry's bargaining strategy, reported earlier Wednesday that car makers would seek to cut hourly labor costs by 30 percent, from about $71 to around $50, including wages, pension and health care.

The costs then would be comparable to those of Asian automakers, who pay similar wages but have far lower pension and health care costs, and make thousands of dollars more per vehicle than the Detroit automakers do."

For those of you scoring at home, that's an annualized total comp cost of around $148,000 per FTE for the American automakers, vs. $85,000 for the foreign automakers.

And that's why GM allowed the strike.  The US automakers won't survive intermediate to long-term with the current cost structure... 


Oprah Loves You - So Much She'll Work You 87 Hours a Week....

Pick the statement about Oprah Winfrey from the list below that doesn't belong:

A. Oprah Loves You...
B. Oprah Respects You and wants all to have a work-life balance...
C. Oprah has hosted shows depicting the deplorable working conditions in third world countries...
D. Oprah works production assistants in her company 87 hours a week...

I bet you picked "D", right?  WRONG!!  Trick question.  The correct answer is "B".  Oprah wants most ofOprah_and_cruise you to have a work-life balance, unless you are a production assistant in her company, Harpo studios.  The New York Times reported recently that Carla Bird, an assistant at Harpo Studios, is working a LOT of OT for Oprah:

"A woman in a Chicago workplace caused quite a stir recently when she submitted her time sheet. She had worked 800 hours of overtime in 17 weeks, meaning she had been on the job about 12 or 13 hours a day, seven days a week, January through April.

Because the woman, Carla Bird, is an assistant at Oprah Winfrey’s production company, Harpo Studios, and because some seemingly jealous co-workers spread the word to the news media, her $32,000 payout was the talk of those who pay attention to workload for a living. The work/life experts were predictably appalled that Ms. Bird had logged so many hours."

OK, some quick math to see what we are dealing with here.  800 hours of OT in 17 weeks means Bird was working 87 hours a week for Oprah, and regardless of whether we are talking about a 5, 6 or 7 day schedule, that's a lot.  Also, you have to love that since the report was public, we can back into what assistants in Oprah's shop make.  About $26.40 per hour if my math skills are right...

It's easy to have fun with the story, but hard to know for sure what's going on.  It could be the employee popped up and reported this overtime in bulk, and the right thing to do was to pay it. 

Perhaps Oprah has put a "pre-approval" process in place for all OT requests from Bird moving forward?

I doubt it...


All Stars, No Ditchdiggers - The Ocean's Eleven/Netflix Staffing Model

Remember Danny Ocean from Ocean's Eleven?  Ocean had all stars because he had referrals (he knew exactly who to hire for each job), he was offering lots of cash and gave each specialist lots of flexibility to run their part of the show.

I recently riffed in my Workforce.com column that the world needs ditchdiggers too, meaning all of us need to value the contributions of the steady, if unspectacular, employee.  After all, you've got limited resources, so it's hard to fill all your open slots with stars.  Someone's got to make the donuts, and be content with that 3% average increase you're laying out there.

Ditchdiggers are a necessity, if you run the normal company, when it comes to three areas - Oceans11_cover
1) Compensation, 2) Flexibility, and 3) Performance Management.   If you're dealing with normal compensation restraints, you're going to field a team comprised of a few stars and a bunch of solid performers.  Maybe you'll throw some flexibility in the work environment to keep it fresh, but at the end of the day, you can't afford to be too hardcore with the performance management cycle - you're giving 3% average raises.

Unless you're committed to a fresh approach in all three areas, like NetFlix.  From a recent article in BusinessWeek on the talent strategy of NetFlix, which compares the DVD rental shop to Ocean's Eleven:

"Netflix is where Hastings (Netflix CEO) is trying to revolutionize not only the way people rent movies but also how his managers work. Hastings pays his people lavishly, gives them unlimited vacations, and lets them structure their own compensation packages. In return, he expects ultra-high performance. His 400 salaried employees are each expected to do the jobs of three or four people. Netflix is no frat party with beer bashes and foosball tables. Nor does the company want to play cruise director to its employees. Rather, Netflix is a tough, fulfilling, "fully formed adult" culture, says marketing manager Heather McIlhany. "There's no place to hide at Netflix."

And what happens when someone doesn't live up to expectations? "At most companies, average performers get an average raise," says Hastings. "At Netflix, they get a generous severance package." Why? Because Hastings believes that otherwise managers feel too guilty to let someone go."

The article's a good read and provides a solid follow-up to past articles detailing the "we don't care when or where you work" experiments going on at places like Best Buy and IBM.  The twist to the Netflix model?  Netflix will pay big for your contributions in addition to giving you the flexibility you want, but you either perform or you're out the door.  Like Danny Ocean in Ocean's Eleven, they'll get who they want and pay them well (what did the Ocean's Eleven crew get?  Something like 11M per convict?), but the stakes are high and the pressure is likely on all the time.  Jail or death in the movie, performance termination at Netflix.  Can't be an 8 to 5 person in Vegas or at Netflix.

All that cash and flexibility comes at a price.  Make sure you are an "A" player before you sign up.


Sexual Harassment Trials and the Media: A Cautionary Tale

Talent wins.  Whether the game is business or sports, the managers/coaches can only enhance performance to certain levels.  You've got to have the horses to win the game.

The pressure to have strong talent can also cause you to make decisions you wouldn't ordinarily make.Isiah   Consider the cautionary tale of the New York Knicks (pro basketball) and Isiah Thomas.    Thomas is a former All-Star player who has transitioned into the role of executive for the NBA's premier franchise (the Knicks).

Thomas and the Knicks are also currently embroiled in a nasty lawsuit. Lawyers for a former Madison Square Garden executive suing New York Knicks coach and president Isiah Thomas for sexual harassment, rested her case after four days of testimony portraying him as a foul-mouthed jock who loathed and then loved her.  Details from ABC News on the four days of testimony:

-On Tuesday, Jeffrey Nix a 15-year employee of the NBA team, took the stand in U.S. District Court to recount a series of 2004 conversations he had with his friend and co-worker. Browne Sanders, in tones of disgust, detailed how Thomas initially treated her with contempt shortly after his December 2003 arrival in New York, Nix testified.

-At one meeting meant to resolve any issues between Browne Sanders and Thomas, the two-time NBA champion guard lashed out at her by calling her a "bitch" and reminding her in even harsher language he is the president of the team, Nix said his friend told him.

--Browne Sanders also told Nix, he testified, that Thomas had asked her in March 2004: "What are your job responsibilities, you ... ho?" Thomas added an obscenity for emphasis, according to the secondhand account.

--By the end of the year, though, Nix testified that he saw Thomas embracing Browne Sanders in Madison Square Garden after a Knicks' victory and watched as his friend pushed the coach away. "You're not going to believe what he just said," Nix quoted Browne Sanders as saying. "He just said, 'I'm in love with you. It's like (the movie) 'Love and Basketball."

Making the whole thing nastier is the fact that Browne Sanders was fired by the owner (Jim Dolan) of the club almost immediately after being informed by his VP of HR that the defendant was impeding the investigation by coercing "her direct reports into collaborating her complaints."  Unfortunately, no one ever confronted Brown Sanders with those allegations before she was terminated...

The moral?  Companies have to conduct due diligence with any allegation before they start terminating people, especially those who have filed a complaint in an area like harassment.  Your star performers may be the ones included in the allegations, but you can't let that affect your judgment.   

It will be interesting to follow this one - you don't get a lot of opportunities to see all the testimony in print in cases like this...


When Your Job Offer Process Takes On a "Stalker" Quality....

Two main things to remember regarding your recruiting brand.  Don't expose your candidates to hiring managers that hurt your brand and move fast.  Nobody likes to be interviewed and then put on hold for 2-3 weeks.

Of course, moving too fast might be a bad thing as well.  Lisa from HR Thoughts and Ask a Manager hit the comments yesterday and asked the right question:

From Lisa - "From the queen of sssslllllloooooowwwww federal hiring processes, I throw a question out - do you think a hiring process can move too fast, in effect "scaring off" a candidate with its intensity?!"

From Ask A Manager - "I'd love to hear answers to Lisa's question too. I tend to move pretty quickly, but there have been times when I have consciously slowed myself down, because I didn't want a candidate to think we were overeager. The fact is, when I find the right person, I know it -- and I want to snatch them up ... but I do sometimes pull back a bit so they don't mistake that for desperation."

Moving fast is good.  ABC... Always... be.... closing...  But close too fast and you'll definitely give the candidate that easy to spot "stalker" vibe.  Closing is like the classic dating scenes in the movies.  Get the number, then wait a couple of days to ensure you don't look like a chump.  Call the same night, and the restraining order can't be far behind.

Of course, if you are marketing correctly during the process, the candidate won't mind if you call the next day, because they'll want the offer.  It really depends how good you are at selling.  Have a sloppy hiring manager in the mix, and the candidate might need at least 3 days to get over the lameness hangover.  2 days seems like a safe bet after a round of interviews to make the offer.  Make it sooner and you might miss, or it might cost you $$$ in a counter-offer process.  If you are thinking you need to wait a week, you probably aren't connecting in the process or selling hard enough.

Or you can be like Mikey from Swingers and call the candidate before they even get home.  Watch and wince.....