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November 2007

HR Capitalist Now a Featured Blog at Workforce Management (Workforce.com)

I write a column a couple of times a month over at Workforce.com in addition to the day job, and slogging it out on a nightly basis at The HR Capitalist. That makes me a glutton for punishment.

Here’s the crazy thing – before Workforce approached me in mid-2007 about giving the column thing a shot, I had very low awareness of their online and print content.  After digging into the content, I quickly came to the conclusion that Workforce.com and Workforce Management blows the usual suspects away. The content is fresher and more relevant than anything you can find at the other outlets.  It’s got street creditability for HR and Talent Management types that can’t be found anywhere else.  With the possible exception of a good blog. Which brings me to my next point...

In writing the periodic column, it became evident that a lot of the content at The HR Capitalist was a great fit for the mission at Workforce.com.  One thing led to another, and I am proud to announce that The HR Capitalist will become a featured blog at Workforce.com, joining a quality lineup of in-house blogs that includes the The Business of Management by Workforce editor John Hollon. We started a soft launch 5-6 weeks ago (that’s when you started seeing the ads here), and it has gone well enough that we’re officially announcing the partnership.  Kind of like a probationary period for bloggers.  I showed up on time, didn’t take the last of the coffee without making more, etc.

The cool part? I don’t have to change a thing.  The HR Capitalist site stays the same, and I continue to post about what interests me (and hopefully you). Workforce.com will feature the Capitalist by linking directly to the content found here. To reciprocate the relationship, we’ll continue to have ads (but only the human capital type of ad, no Viagra spots) and we’ll be writing from time to time about what’s going on over at Workforce.com. I’ve also added the Workforce Management logo on the banner above, so traffic from Workforce.com doesn’t think their PC has been hijacked by a renegade blogger.  I’m a featured renegade blogger...

Special thanks to the crew at Workforce Management, who have been great to work with over the past few months.  If you haven’t browsed through their online and print versions, do it now.  It’s the best original HR/Talent Management content on the web, and I’m thrilled to be partnering with them.

Workplace Poll - Men Need More Pats On The Head Than Women...

Can you imagine yourself sliding up to your grandfather and thanking him for a job well done?  No?   Join the club - there's something about the greatest generation that is uncomfortable with that type of praise of PDA (public display of affection).

So what the heck happened to men of my generation?

A new workplace poll is out from Harris Interactive and Adecco (survey of 1,455 workers by Harris Interactive for the staffing firm Adecco) on the topic of saying thanks in the workplace.  Some of theStuartsmalleyposters results are what you would expect, others are a little bit surprising.

The breakdown from the survey:

What we knew:

-Workers want to be thanked in person more (Thank-you letters, cards, bonuses and gifts were not covered).  Two-thirds of workers who responded to the survey said they would like more thanks and appreciation on the job.

-Most don't want to see it in an e-mail, they want it live... I guess I knew that...

-Appreciation works best to motivate 18-to-34-year-old workers -- 68 percent said they would hustle harder with more thanks.  Like my kids, this generation got a trophy for showing up, so be sure to say thanks, perhaps even when results aren't there...

-The wily veterans on your team don't necessarily need as much praise - hence the lead about my grandpa.  Only 42 percent of workers 55 and up said more thanks would motivate them.

-It's not those polled who have the problem with saying thanks, it's "those other people".  Three-quarters of respondents said they pass out enough thanks to colleagues, but only half said their boss "does a good job" of thanking them.  That's a disconnect similar to self-evaluation of performance....

What Surprised Us From the Poll:

-Gen Y likes their thank yous in person, not via technology.  Almost three-quarters of workers ages 18 to 34 said appreciation in e-mail is not as good as in person.  No word if they'll put down their iPod long enough to make eye contact with you...

-Men were more likely than women to say the extra thanks would make them more productive.  What??? 

Men of the world, what have we become?  Is Stuart Smalley our new role model?  (Note - I'm speaking of the affirmation theme, not anything to do with orientation, so please don't plow me in the comments)  Come to think of it, our grandfathers and fathers probably had an affirmation routine of their own.  It was called confidence, self motivation and getting the job done... They just wouldn't talk about their jobs and didn't want anyone showing any emotion to them about it.

Still, it does feel good to hear "thanks".  I prefer to think of the generational change from my grandfather to me as a nice "smoothing" process. 

PS - Thanks for reading this post....(shameless plug to your need for thanks in order to keep you coming back)...

Smoking Discrimination - Truth or Fiction for HR Departments?

If you're like me, one of the things that keeps you up at night is the cost of healthcare.  So much so, I've followed the recent news that companies have begun to penalize smokers and employees with other risk factors (high cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc.) with great interest.  It seems like an eventual fact that those who display voluntary risk factors will pay via higher employee contributions/premiums than employees who don't engage in the same risky behavior.

Of course, smoking's the easy one, since it's safely classified as voluntary.  The other health metrics (bloodDennis_leary_3  pressure, etc) are more problematic, since heredity and other factors are at play.

So, Open Enrollment season is upon us.  I didn't take the leap and consider raising employee contributions for those that smoke, and certainly didn't raise them for poor scores in the health metrics.

The biggest issue for me?  I'm at a startup, and I know all the people who work at our company.  It's one thing to mandate increased premiums for smokers when you are sitting in the Death Star of a Fortune 500, it's another thing all together when you see those that smoke every day.  Much tougher to make the business decision that probably will ultimately be necessary or routine as an early adapter when you are at a place where everybody knows your name...

So, it's no to increased premiums for smokers this year, and yes to finding a toehold for a cessation program sometime soon. 

Then I see the following information - Health Populi puts the true cost of smoking at $222 per pack over a lifetime...

Maybe I'm doing no one a favor by waiting another year to be more aggressive.....

Circuit City Says - We Fired You, Care to Come Back For Less Money?

Companies run into tough spots all the time.  Sometimes, the result is layoffs.  Staffing goes down, but often times it goes back up as the business cycle picks up.  So goes the business world.  It's ugly, but it's capitalism.

Sometimes though, a company badly bumbles the whole rightsizing thing.   Remember the whole CircuitCircuit_city City reorganization thing from earlier this year?  To refresh you, that's the one where the retailer laid off 3,400 experienced employees due to expense concerns, but said they would be eligible for rehire after a couple of months at a lower rate of pay.  Ugh.

Guess what time it is 8 months later?  Time to make the rehire offers at a lower rate of pay.  From the Wall St. Journal coverage:

"A spokesman for the consumer-electronics retailer said that workers discharged in March are among former employees who have received letters inviting them to apply for positions either created by new store openings or routine turnover.

Circuit City has been criticized by employee advocates and some Wall Street analysts for cutting some of its highest paid, and in some cases, most experienced, employees in the layoffs this year.

Company spokesman Bill Cimino said Circuit City has overhauled job responsibilities for all of its roughly 43,000 employees this year to try to improve customer service, making it difficult to compare current openings with former jobs.

Current job openings are largely for two types of employees: "product specialists," who concentrate on sales, and members of the "product flow team," who accept product deliveries and arrange merchandise displays. Before Circuit City's restructuring this year, associates were responsible for both selling and stocking the retail floor. The new structure also gives workers more opportunities for advancement, he said."

Even after 8 months, it's still hard to get my head around this one.  Rehires of laid-off employees happens all the time, and it's a good source of talent when business picks back up.  But rehires of laid-off employees at a lower rate of pay?  How can that end well?  I can't imagined a more disgruntled group of employees than those who are rehired at the lower rate of pay.   

Outsourced Terminations - Let's Go to the Highlights....

Neil Jensen of Knowledge Infusion recently highlighted an article from Inc.com entitled "Meet Rebecca, She's Here to Fire You", which profiled the growing trend of companies to outsource many talent/HR functions, including the termination.  From the Inc.com article:

"Welcome to the final frontier of human resources: the outsourced termination. The popularity of HR outsourcing and consulting, which was in its infancy only a decade ago, has exploded in recent years. Worldwide, the industry now accounts for $88.7 billion in spending, according to IDC (NYSE:IDC), a research firm in Framingham, Massachusetts. Big companies are responsible for much of that spending, but small companies that have traditionally relied on professional employer organizations, or PEOs, to manage payroll are increasingly outsourcing more complex tasks such as recruiting, performance reviews, and, yes, terminations. Rebecca Heyman's boss, TriNet founder Martin Babinec, says that demand for these services is growing so fast that he now does as much revenue in a given quarter as he did in all of 2002, when he booked $22 million."

"In an outsourced firing, a consultant typically meets with a CEO to script and rehearse the big conversation. On the day the ax falls, the consultant sits in on the meeting, taking notes and making sure the manager stays on message. "We're sitting right there," says JP Magill, co-founder of the Achilles Group, a Houston company that provides termination and other HR services. "And our client has exactly what they need to say written out verbatim."

Neil correctly points out in his post at KI that companies outsourcing emotional items like terminations face a potential image hit as they try and attract future talent.   My take?  The process described below is pretty close to what a competent HR person would provide for a business leader.  If the company has a viable HR pro, the role should never be outsourced.  However, if a smaller startup has outsourced their entire HR function, looking for some help is a good idea.  The description above is the way to go in this circumstance, with the business owner taking the lead in the communication of the business decision.

A bigger concern is the quality of the outsourcing firm.  Since many PEOs have their roots in transactional processes, like payroll, they may not have the chops to effectively guide the business leader who needs the consulting.  Poor consulting is the bigger risk in this scenario.

Leave it to Jamie Kennedy to keep us on theme but lighten this up a little bit.  If you aren't aware of Jamie Kennedy, he's an actor/comedian (see his role as B-Rad in Malibu's Most Wanted for a gem) and the creator of a show called the Jamie Kennedy Experiment.   JME is a show similar to Candid Camera - and in the episode below, Jamie poses as a business owner who runs an employment ad, then hires a manager after a minute long interview.  The manager's first task?  Fire five employees because Kennedy doesn't want to.  Enjoy the outsourcing clip and have a great weekend....

Oprah - Union-Free, Working You OT, and Proud of It.....

By now, you've probably heard about the 2007 Writer's Guild of America Strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The Guild is made up of two organizations: The Writers Guild of America, East and The Writers Guild of America, West.  These two organizations represent film, television and radio station writers in the United States. The AMPTP represents the interests of the producers and the film industry.

The strike began on Nov. 5. AMPTP and WGA then halted negotiations after WGA began its strike. The twoOprah_and_cruise groups had been in negotiations since July.   Get a solid rundown of the primary issues here... 

Me?  I'm interested in the issues, but more interested in the winners and losers during the strike.

Losers - TV viewers like me.  Probably the writers long term, since the network will jam thousands of hours of reality TV down our throats as an alternative and never come to the table.  Think you saw a lot of American Idol last year?  If the strike isn't resolved, you'll get to see Simon berating the parking attendant at Denny's to fill the programming hours.  Notes of interest from the strike from MSNBC:

"Among the picketers was Greg Daniels, executive producer of “The Office,” who said filming stopped on the show after star Steve Carell refused to cross picket lines. Writers and actors from the show used their time on the picket line to make a video and post it on YouTube.

Production of at least seven sitcoms has been halted because of the strike, and the hit ABC drama “Desperate Housewives” was scheduled to finish filming its latest episode because it had run out of scripts."

Winners - As usual, Oprah Winfrey.  I kid you not.  A sidebar on the same MSNBC article notes that "The Oprah Winfrey Show” doesn’t employ union writers and will continue uninterrupted.  I gave Oprah a hard time a few months ago for being a taskmaster and working her PA an average of 87 hours per week one quarter

Regardless of the work-life balance at the show, it's good to know Oprah runs a union-free shop.  She'll work you hard, but make sure the hours are reported and you get paid.  That's one way to remain union-free.... 

Complaining About Your Pay - Stay Classy, HR Professionals....

I was trolling through my Google Reader over the weekend, and saw the following post from YourHRGuy regarding a manager making less than one of his subordinates.  Ah yes, the pay question.  Always tricky.  Hurt feelings... principles...the burning need inside you to address it via confrontation...

I've been in the same circumstances as the manager profiled by YourHRGuy.  You're a young manager newPay_sign  to your role, and after 2-3 months, you finally get some payroll data on your team.  You're scrolling through the detail and BAAAAAAM!!!  Sally (your direct report) is making 5K more than you.  How the #$*# does that happen?

The answer?  It's complicated.  Sally was hired for a different role and was slotted into her current job in a reorganization.  Sally has 15 years of experience, you have 5-10.  Sally was hired by Bob in Global Sales, and man, did they like to pay a lot up front.  Lots of factors.

Of course, after you go through the reasons, the reality is the same.  Sally's making more than you, and you're her manager.  That ain't right.

So what's it going to be?  Are you going to suck it up, or are you going to make someone accountable for the issue?  Are you sure you want to go there?  After all, you are a HR Pro and have access to ALL the data... That makes you different...

Here's my list of rules when it comes to determining whether you want to address a pay issue that's comparative in nature (that means you have salary data for someone else in mind).  These apply whether someone you manage, or someone who is a peer, is making more than you are:

1.  If the pay information you have is based on rumor or secured through the access your job provides, you probably shouldn't go into the conversation "guns a-blazing" - Find out that Sally makes more than you via the rumor mill or via your access to payroll provided by your job?  You'll hurt your credibility by identifying the direct issue (the employee who makes more than you) to the powers that be... Nobody wants to hear that you're combing the payroll records, putting them to memory and stirring the pot.

2.  If your career is on a solid arc upward, and the identified issue involves a peer or direct report that doesn't deliver what you do, be confident the market will balance the issue over time.  If you're a player and the other person isn't, don't muddy your brand by starting a negative conversation.  The market knows you're a player, and over the course of the next few years, you'll be rewarded.  If you are managing those that make more than you, that process has already begun.  The only thing that might derail that?  The perception that your work isn't the most important thing to you - the money is...

3.  Stay Classy, San Diego - If you have to have a conversation about money, identify who the best person is for that conversation, then keep the negative emotion to yourself.   No one wants to hear the emotional rant.  Figure out the best way to ask that person to take a look at the issue on your behalf, and ask them for their help without defining the end result you expect or those that make more than you.   Defining what you want indicates if they don't get to your number, they've failed.  All that does is damage a relationship.

I'm a big fan of high-end talent letting their performance define their worth.  That being said, I suppose there are times when a pay conversation is in order.  If that time is now for you, leave the citations about what other people make in your desk.  It will hurt your lifetime earnings more than it will help.  Figure out a better way to get into the conversation.

That goes double for all us HR types.  With great access (to payroll records) comes great responsibility.  You can't be trusted to see all the comp increases flowing across the Matrix, then have the audacity to come forward to complain about what someone else is earning.  For us, and the people who manage us, it's all about trust....

Strategies to Get the Best Candidates to Call You Back....

Buzzphrase - Passive Candidates are the best types of candidates.

Reality - It can be difficult to get a passive candidate to call you back.  After all, they aren't looking for a job, right?

That part of recruiting passive candidates stinks.  Ready to play hardball?  Check out the quick video below as sales guru Jeff Gitomer shares his strategies for getting people to call you back.  I've always found Gitomer's stuff timely, because the best HR people are selling everyday.  Take a look at the clip below and give it a whirl..  Hat tip to Jim Stroud for the clip...

More On... Employee Resigns - Walk Them Out the Door Or Let Them Work a Notice?...

As with everything liability related, it always comes down to consistency...

Last week we broke down a commonly occurring HR issue - once an employee resigns, do you walk them out the door immediately, or let them work out a notice?   In addition to the usual considerations driving your decision on what to do (is the employee a malcontent, going to work for a competitor or needed for the transition period), we also broached a bigger question - should you pay the employee for the two-week notice provided, if you elect to walk them out of the workplace the same day?

A trackback to the post by the Workplace Prof Blog underscored an additional consideration - if youExit are going to treat people differently once their employment is scheduled to voluntarily or involuntarily end, you need to make sure the differences are business-related.  The Workplace Prof Blog post cited a recent ruling where five Boston health workers received monetary awards stemming from a 2000 discrimination ruling, for what one of the employees said was "being treated like a criminal" when they were laid off 13 years ago.

From Boston.com regarding the cited case:

"Today the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that five black women who worked for the Healthy Baby/Healthy Child Program run by the Trustees of Health and Hospitals and the City of Boston were treated differently than a white man who was laid off at the same time.

After a series of appeals and reviews, the payments, with interest dating back to 1994, will more than double the $20,000 to $30,000 each woman originally would have received.

Gloria Coney, Marlene Hinds, Victoria Higginbottom, Belinda Chambers and Betty Smith lost their jobs in July 1994. Given no notice of the layoffs, they were monitored as they gathered their belongings and not allowed to speak to their co-workers. One woman had her lunch bag searched while she packed, a court summary says.

Coney "felt humiliated, mortified and angry at being treated like a criminal," the document says, and she believed her employer had acted on a presumption "that black women steal things."

A white male worker was told in advance that he would be laid off and was allowed to walk around the office freely before he left.

The city argued that because the white man's job was different his layoff was carried out in a different manner."

In the original post, we focused on the voluntary resignation, and the considerations managers make to decide whether to allow the employee to work out a two- week notice.  If you haven't checked out that post, check it out and give the comments a read as well - lots of smart people checking in on the issue. 

Oddly enough, one individual checking in (Scott) wondered aloud why more people aren't allowed to work out a notice when reorganization impacts their position.  Good question, and I'd have to say that anytime multiple people are impacted by a reorganization, we always plan for the worst (the employee that might try to lash back at the company by harming physical or intellectual property), which means all impacted employees generally are asked to leave once the news has been shared.

The boston.com story just underscores a simple point regarding how you treat people once you know they'll be leaving the company.  Consistency is key.  Don't like employees going to work for a competitor hanging around after they voluntarily resign?  Fine - make sure you show all of them to the door.  Start slicing and dicing it in a finer fashion, and you might run into litigation similar to the case shown above - regardless if there are good reasons for the differing treatment for individual employees.

Of course, just because people sue doesn't mean they are right.  But litigation cost money and invokes risk, so you might as well avoid it when you can.

Try and have a macro plan and stick to it.  Case by case is fine, but the macro plan should rule the day in this area most of the time.

Performance Management at Microsoft - Moving from 5-point to 3-point Rating Scale

It's been awhile since I waxed about the limitations of the performance management systems most of us use in our companies.  Probably my biggest pet peeve is the 5 point rating scale, where managers invariably use a combination of 3's and 4's to bail themselves out of tough conversations with average employees (click through on the link to get my take). 

I like the 3-point scale better.  With that in mind, it was good to see Microsoft featured in the most recentMicrosoft_1978 print edition of Workforce Managment as having ripped out their 5-point rating scale and installed a 3-point scale.  From the article:

"Under that old system, Microsoft managers assigned current performance ratings of 0 to 5 in half-point increments based on a forced distribution.  Because current performance ratings not only determine annual salary increases but also come in to play when employees apply for another position with the company, the forced distribution approach was a sore spot.

"We also discovered the old system was not fully effective", Ritchie (Microsoft GM for Performance Management) notes.  Consequently, Microsoft trashed its 0 to 5 rating scale and adopted a three point "commitment" scale of "exceeded", "achieved" and "underperformed" with no forced distribution.

"Distribution under the new system is about what we expected," Richie reports.  In the last full cycle, 37 percent of employees received a rating of "exceeded", 58% received a rating of "achieved" and 5 percent were rated "underperformed".  The general rule is that the top group receives a merit increase that is 50% higher than average performers."

Of course, your problems don't end just because you move from a 5-point to 3-point scale.  You still have to have managers that can communicate the difference between a "meets" and an "exceeds", and the distribution of overall ratings can still be an issue. 

But you are taking the "Sometimes Exceeds" crutch away by moving to a 3-point scale, and that's worth the effort alone.