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December 2007

Career Exercises for New Year's Eve....

Let's face it - if you are in the office today and not tethered to a headset, it's going to be a slow day.  About 50% of America is packaging the day into a four-day weekend, and you'll be out of stuff to motivateTimes_square_ball you by Noon.

No better time to think about the future and about the past.  To help with your brainstorming, I'm offering up two articles to get the creative juices flowing from a Career standpoint:

-The always solid Paul Herbert at Incentive Intelligence advises us how to get excited about our future potential by looking at everything we've accomplished in the past.  The tool?  A Life-Map of Achievements, which will shock you with all the cool stuff you've accomplished in your lifetime, regardless of age.  Draw it up during your downtime this afternoon and feel good about what's coming up in 2008. (from Paul, via LifeHacker, via DIY Planner)

-Lest you get too comfortable with the past, Seth Godin re-posts this oldie-but-goodie, asking the question "What did you do back when interest rates were at their lowest in 50 years, crime was close to zero, great employees were looking for good jobs, computers made product development and marketing easier than ever, and there was almost no competition for good news about great ideas?".  The moral, as you might expect, is don't wait to chase the dream (whatever it is) any longer....

Have a great New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.  See you in 2008....

Impact of Mutual Fund Fees in Your 401k to Employees....

Think the fees charged by the mutual funds in your 401k don't matter?  Think again.  Fees always matter, as evidenced by the following chart provided by Alliance Bernstein via the Retirement Plan Blog.  The skinny of the chart?  Lower fees by 1% (which increases return by 1%) translates into about $220,000 extra at retirement—and an extra 10 years of spending.


Curious about the methodology to arrive at the findings?  Here's the breakdown of the AB chart courtesy of the Retirement Plan Blog:

"For the mathematically inclined, following is the methodology Alliance Bernstein used to develop their chart:

Results are simulated. This is a hypothetical illustration only and its results are not indicative of any specific investment, including any AllianceBernstein mutual fund. The savings phase simulates a defined contribution participant salary of $45,000 at age 25, linearly increasing to $85,000 by age 65, making yearly contributions of 6% of salary at age 25 increasing by 0.5% per year to a maximum 10% with a 50% company matching contribution up to the first 6% of salary. In the spending phase, $63,750 (75% of final salary) is deducted at the beginning of each year. A yearly investment return of 9% is assumed at age 25, linearly decreasing to 6% at age 80 and remaining constant thereafter. In the “1% Greater Return Scenario” a yearly investment return of 10% is assumed at age 25, linearly decreasing to 7% at age 85 and remaining constant thereafter. Inflation is assumed to be a constant 3% and dollar values are expressed in real purchasing power terms."

So buck up and make sure your 401k fund selection includes some low-fee funds.  For me, fiduciary responsibility can be summed up in 2 words:  Index Funds, which typically feature low fees with returns beating 70-75% of actively managed funds. 

Top 20 HR Articles of 2007 - The Industry Radar

Want to see what people were reading in 2007?  A great source of what was hot is up over at The IndustryRadarlogo_ir2_2 Radar, where John Nail has listed the top 20 posts from 2007 (i.e., most hits/views).

See it here - http://www.theindustryradar.com/Home/index.cfm?currentHome=/Accounts/radar/layouts/ORT.xml

Love the Industry Radar, and I'm thrilled to make it on the top 20 list. 

The only problem with The Industry Radar is you can start browsing, then look up and realize you've just burned 45 minutes of your day browsing the headlines.

I try and manage that by subscribing to the newsletter and budgeting my time to that.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

Thanks to John for providing a great aggregator of content.  If you haven't checked out the IR yet, bounce over and take a look over the holidays during your down time.   Or during your first day back when you are avoiding work...

HR Capitalist Off Today - If You Are Working, See How Your Holiday Policy Stacks Up....

I'm off today, so if you are reading this on Christmas Eve, welcome to the world of automation. 

If you're working today, I suspect it's going to be a light productivity day for you.  So, you may as well dig into the details about what workers across the country receive in the way of official paid holidays.  From AL.com, examining the 13 official holidays in the state of Alabama:

"The Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, released in August, said the average number of paid Carl_spacklerholidays per year, for private-sector workers who get paid holidays, was seven in businesses with 99 or fewer workers and nine in larger businesses. The survey said 12 percent of full-time workers in the private sector don't get paid holidays."

Not really sure what to make of the numbers, since comparing one staple of Paid Time Off (with the other components being vacation, personal day and sick time as well as official holidays) is basically useless.

For example, I thought for a split second about getting on my high horse regarding Alabama actually granting some workers Fat Tuesday (that's Mardi Gras parade day for you teetotalers), but then I reconsidered.  After all, the State of Alabama has 13 paid holidays, which sounds like a lot, but I don't know if they grant any personal days.  If I add up my company's official holidays (7) and personal days (7), I have 14 days, half of which I can take when I need them.

If the state workers in Alabama have 13 paid holidays but no personal days and vacation and sick time schedules are comparable, I have a better benefit.  I can use half of the holiday/personal days when I want to.   So I got that going for me, which is nice (hat tip to Bill Murray in Caddyshack).

If you're working, here's hoping you're out of there by at least 2pm.  Merry Christmas.

Christmas Eve Notes - Hug Your Family as You Read About This CIGNA Claim Denial....

I'm not very political when it comes to the topic of Universal Healthcare.  Like Mongo from Blazing Saddles, I'm just a pawn in this game of life...

But as a media/news consumer, I know a potential tipping point when I see one.  And a sad story thatCarpe_diem makes you value a lot of the things you take for granted.  Especially during the holidays.

Here's the headline - "Health Insurance Company Denies, Then Belatedly Approves Liver Transplant That May Have Saved The Girl".   Here's a clip from CBStv in Los Angeles:

"A 17-year-old girl from Northridge died Thursday night, just hours after insurance giant CIGNA reversed itself and agreed to approve a liver transplant for the cancer survivor.

CIGNA originally declined to pay for the transplant for Nataline Sarkisyan because her plan does not cover "experimental, investigational and unproven services," her doctors said.

The reversal was announced at the rally attended by a crowd estimated by organizers at 150. Hundreds of telephone callers also clogged lines at CIGNA offices around the nation Thursday on Nataline's behalf.

"This is an incredible turnaround generated by a massive outpouring around the country that proves that an engaged public can make a difference and achieve results," said Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses Organizing Committee, one of the rally's organizers."

Unfortunately, the reversal came too late:

"Nataline was diagnosed with leukemia at age 14. After two years of treatment the cancer went into remission but came back this summer, Sarkisyan told the Daily News.

When doctors said Nataline could use a bone-marrow transplant, the Sarkisyans discovered that her only sibling, Bedig, 21, was a match, and he donated his bone marrow the day before Thanksgiving, the newspaper reported.

However, Nataline developed a complication from the bone-marrow transplant and, because her liver was failing, doctors recommended a transplant, according to an appeal letter sent to CIGNA earlier this month, the Daily News reported.

The Sarkisyans filed an appeal with the California Department of Insurance, which sent a letter this week saying it needed more information."

So hug your family over the next couple of days as you celebrate Christmas or whatever holiday your faith recommends. 

A nice gift idea for you last minute shoppers?  How about a Carpe Diem T-Shirt to remind you and your loved ones that tomorrow isn't guaranteed?

CompUSA Closings - WARN Letters, One-Week Stay Bonuses and More...

Headline - CompUSA To Close All 103 Stores After the Holidays....jeesh...

After the wear-it-out coverage of the Circuit City fiasco, I should write about more uplifting stuff duringCompusa  the holidays.  But from a HR standpoint, notification of closure during the holidays is a big deal.  Fortunately, I don't have to do a rundown of this - Jay Sheppard at Gruntled Employees has a great rundown over at his site...  Starting with a link to what appears to be a WARN letter to CompUSA employees from Engadget.

Reaction to the letter from Gruntled Employees:

"Now I can't personally vouch for the authenticity of the letter, and Engadget describes its source as an anonymous CompUSA employee. Nor could I confirm the identity of CompUSA's HR director, although there is an HR person with that name in the DFW metropolitan area. It certainly looks like an authentic WARN Act letter, which the government requires.

But what a letter. I appreciate that CompUSA had a lot of employees to fire, but couldn't they have bothered to insert the unlucky recipient's name in each letter? (You know, guys, they have computers that can do that now.) Did they need to keep reminding the fired worker that CompUSA is incorporated (at least for now) — four times in a three-paragraph letter? Couldn't they get a human being to actually sign the letter? Repeating the name in boldfaced italics doesn't count.

You're firing people. Have the decency to act like it means something to you. It certainly means something to the employees."

That pretty much sums it up.  Thanks to Jay for the coverage and notes, and if you really want to feel like you need a shower from an ineffective communications perspective, check out this offer of one-week's salary to any non-exempt employee who stays until their store closes.

Merry Christmas HR Team!! Here's an Enthralling Book To Say "Thanks"...

I was going to let this list go.  But, try as I might, I can't help but be a cynic regarding the the top-selling books of the year at the SHRM store.

I didn't get the email with the list, but John Hollon blogged about it a few days ago over at The Business of Management.  Here's what John offered up earlier this week:

"Here are the Great 8 books of 2007, which I offer without comment, but would love to hear any thoughts you might have on the underlying message (if any) of this list:

  • U.S. Master Human Resources Guide (Ninth Edition), by Donald W. Myers,Grinchxmastree4 D.B.A.
  • Human Resource Management (12th Edition; textbook), By John H. Jackson and Robert L. Mathis, SPHR.
  • Effective Succession Planning: Ensuring Leadership Continuity and Building Talent from Within (Third Edition), by William J. Rothwell.
  • Auditing Your Human Resources Department: A Step-By-Step Guide, by John H. McConnell.
  • From Sex to Religion (Employee DVD version), G. Neil (publisher).
  • 101 Sample Write-Ups for Documenting Employee Performance Problems: A Guide to Progressive Discipline & Termination, by Paul Falcone.
  • Performance Appraisal Sourcebook: A Collection of Practical Samples, by Mike Deblieux.
  • The Carrot Principle: How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their People, Retain Talent and Accelerate Performance, by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton."

The name of my site is the HR Capitalist, so I suppose I should appreciate the fact that these books generated the most sales at the SHRM Bookstore.  But they do seem a little on the mundane side.

Strategic they're not (with the possible exception of the Carrot Principle Book).  If someone gave me one of these books for Christmas, I'd reciprocate in kind in 2008 based on what they did for a living.  Maybe a small calculator or a used version of Quicken for the accountant in my life, or an AM Radio for the IT Pro on my "friends list".

As for my team?  They can expect that catchy "Auditing Your HR Department" title.  I hear you can't put it down and it even has a surprise ending....

I Kid You Not - Wisconsin Bill Would Require Instruction on Unions/Organizing...

From the "truth is stranger than fiction/special interest groups are running amok" file - A Wisconsin state legislative bill, sponsored by Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, would require every school board to incorporate the history of organized labor and the collective bargaining process into its curriculum.

I kid you not - it's a real bill.  More from Forbes:

"It's appalling how little high school graduates know about unions and labor history, said David NackBen_stein with the Wisconsin Labor History Society. A law is needed because current teaching on the subject isn't sufficient, he said.

"When we're talking about the history of working people, we're talking about the history of the United States," Nack said. "I think there are people out there who do not think that the history of organized labor is that important."

The struggles of working men and women often get left out by teachers trying to cram in other required material, said Mary Bell, president of the 98,000-member Wisconsin Education Association Council. The state teacher's union supports the bill because it would force schools to teach that history, Bell said."

Time for a little balance - I'll report, you decide.  Teaching isn't sufficient on this topic or about 100,000 others, because our schools are swamped trying to teach the basics so our workforce can compete globally.  You know, the basics - reading, math, science, etc.   It's not exactly a shocker that a teacher's UNION would be supportive of the bill - know what I mean?

Based on the reporting, it seems the best thing to do in order to ensure the defeat of this bill is to champion a school system's autonomy in determining curriculum and focus on the conflicts regarding this type of legislative mandate.  More from the Forbes article:

"It makes no sense for the Legislature to dictate to schools what specific subject areas they should teach, said Ryan Murray, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau.

"We could do organized labor today and the history of the Republican Party tomorrow. In a time when we're having trouble teaching our kids the basics of history, is this really the time to be putting another mandate on when we're not even doing the current stuff well?"

Yikes.  Please give me patience if my son gets off the school bus a few years from now, and has a sample authorization card from a mock organizing drive at school.    I hope he can be the HR Manager running through the FOE (Facts, Opinions, Experience) methodology... 

Here's Another Reason Why You Don't Have Google's Employment Brand...

I was talking to someone on my team about the prospect of a boomerang hire - an ex-employee who had left our company, only to find the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the hedge.  In any event, we talked for 5 minutes or so about all the reasons why our company is a good place to be.

One thing we don't have - Matchbox 20 concerts cruising through our campus...Matchbox_20

From the latest issue of Fortune:

"Filmore East and the Apollo were once some of the legend-making venues of rock and roll.  Add a new locale to that vaunted list:  The Googleplex, Google's Silicon Valley HQ's 2,000 seat auditorium, has become the latest stop for touring musical artists, including John Legend and crooner Tony Bennett.  In October, Matchbox Twenty paid a visit and played a few tunes from its new album."  (see video of the performance here)

Ugh.  Here's the thing about all the perks at Google and the employment brand it creates - it's great, but it's not the real world.  If you are a HR person at Google for any length of time, more power to you.  If I see you in the marketplace a decade from now, I know you had a good time and everyone loved being there.  I also know that you probably didn't have to grind it out very much. 

Employee satisfaction scores down a fraction?  Let's roll in the Foo Fighters.  Didn't get the developer you wanted?  Here's another 25K, go back and get them. 

It's not that way in the real word.  Ten years from now, I'm as likely to hire the HR Manager who kept the union out at Whataburger than the HR Manager who was the human perk dispenser at Google.  Unless I'm at Google, in which case that perk design expertise might come in handle.   But of course, the growth rate at the big G will have cratered by then, and it will probably be the union avoidance skills of the Whataburger generalist that will be the most valuable then and there as well.

But hey, who doesn't like Matchbox 20?  My favorite cut from them is ironically named "Real World."  Wonder if they played that at Google?