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January 2008

Use This Handy Girl Scout Template to Sell To Your Co-Workers and Drive Your HR Person Insane!!!

A couple of weeks ago, I riffed on the difficulties of maintaining a balance between enforcing your non-solicitation policy and not being a buzzkill as a HR person.   The line is even more important based on the recent NLRB decision related to email.

Last week I was walking to the school bus stop with my son and did a quick check of my blackberry.  GuessGirl_scout_cookies2 what was waiting on me?  That's right, a blast email solicitation from someone I know asking me to buy Girl Scout cookies.  Oddly enough, I have never received one of these from an employee in a company I work for.  I guess those that blast the emails away are probably smart enough not to copy HR people on their marketing blasts.

Still, I didn't recognize the name and had a momentary increase in my heart rate wondering if one of our employees had used the "All Employees" distribution list to conduct their marketing campaign.  After further review, it was someone outside the company, but they were using their work email to conduct the campaign, including a bunch of people at their company.  So that's someone else's problem to deal with.

Message appears below with names and email address changed to protect the guilty... Plus if you ever want to mix it up with the non-solicitation policy, it's a nice template, good product positioning...

Once again people, verbal/casual conversations GOOD, email and bulletin board postings BAD when it  comes to ye old Non-Solicitation Policy....  HR people like organizations like the Girl Scouts, but trust me - 70% of all the people who got this email didn't want it.....


From: Smith, Rhonda [mailto:rsmith457@gmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, January 09, 2008 10:58 PM
To: List removed by KD

Subject: Girl Scout Cookie ordering time is here!!!

If you haven't placed an order with a Girl Scout, please consider ordering from my daughter, Sally.

The cookies are $3 per box and payment due upon delivery the week of 2/11/08 - just in time for Valentine's Day!!!  For those of us dieting...these do well in the freezer for very long periods of time...hint...hint...

Your choice of cookies are:

Thin Mints: The most enduring and universally familiar Girl Scout cookie. These round, mint-flavored cookies covered with dark chocolate perennially sell the most boxes of any cookie. Thin Mints have never changed their name. Little Brownie Bakers and ABC Bakers both make Thin Mints.

Do-Si-Dos® or Peanut Butter Sandwich: A sandwich cookie. The round, bumpy perforated oatmeal cookie top and bottom surrounds a peanut butter-flavored layer inside. Do-Si-Dos® (formerly Gauchos) are baked by Little Brownie Bakers. ABC Bakers calls them Peanut Butter Sandwiches.

<List Ended early by KD - 9 other choices were listed, all with pictures.....>

Please let me know if you want to place and order and thank you in advance for your support for Sally and Troop 745!


Work Culture Death Watch - The "New" AOL.....

Remember AOL?  That company used to rock.  Pay your $9.95 a month (only $14.95 for unlimited, or was it $19.95?), and you could dial in to that great "walled garden" of content and have that trendy @aol.com email address as well.  I held onto "Prodigy" (give a shout out if you remember that DOS-looking screen) for awhile, but finally moved over to AOL as well.

Then, broadband happened.  AOL first reacted as all market leaders do initially to critical threats, byAol  ignoring the trend and thinking their market leading position would get them through the storm.   Then, they thought that loyalty of all the users longing to hold on to their email addresses would stop the bleeding.  By the time they finally opened up content to non-subscribers, Google had already built the ad-driven model and figured out how to make money without subscribers.  And AOL has slowly become less relevant each month.

Need more evidence AOL is dead?  What if I told you that the CEO of AOL was asking employees to reach out to all their friends and tell them about all the cool stuff they can find by cruising AOL?  Still not enough?  What if I told you the same CEO was unsatisfied with the employee response to his request, and asked for examples of how they forwarded the marketing pitch, with those examples sent directly to him?

By now, you are surely grimacing.  But the story appears to be true according to emails forwarded to the Silicon Valley tech gossip rag, Valleywag:

"Before the holidays, AOL products chief, Kevin Conroy, urged employees to send a form letter to their friends, family members, and business contacts talking up AOL's new products. "Team, excitement about the work we are doing ... starts with each one of us," Conroy emailed. His top down directive did not spark any bottom-up fervor, it seems, as he had to forward the message again on Friday, asking employees for examples of get-out-the-users emails they'd sent."

If you are a glutton for punishment, you can also see the emails with the request and the follow up here.

Requests like this represent a work culture, and a company, in free fall.  Asking for your non-sales associates to push product kills morale and has the smell of death all over it.  After all, folks are in careers outside of sales for many reasons - one important one being that they consider the sales process very confrontational and it doesn't fit what they want to do professionally.

Still, I understand why a company in trouble would ask for the help.  All hands on deck and all that.

But, when you ask for proof that employees are pushing themselves on their friends, the end has to be near.   

Career Changes - Maybe HR to Pro Wrestling?

Here's the reality of the workplace - get your degree, then get ready to figure out what you want to do in life.  I started with a degree in exercise physiology and ended up in HR.  Nice traditional career path.  It just goes to show you - where you start out is rarely where you end up.

Most of you know that already, but I felt compelled to provide a glaring example that got pushed to me inThe_places_youll_go the past couple of weeks.  Because it's CRAZY....but that's how careers work....

Consider, if you will, the case of Glen Jacobs.  A monster at 6'8", 260 pounds, I roomed with Glen in college and we were college basketball teammates at Northeast Missouri.  Obviously, Glen anchored our inside game, and ultimately was the best man in my wedding, which happened a long time ago, in a galaxy... you know what I mean.  A great guy and a great friend, although like a lot of friends, we don't get the chance to talk much anymore.

Here's the unique thing about Glen.  A monster physically, he is one of the nicest guys I have ever met.  Always calm, he remained patient while all the perimeter flakes (like me) were running around on the court, running their mouths and generally causing chaos.  A very smart guy, Glen was an English Ed major and ultimately graduated and did his student teaching.   People loved him, but the problem was that Glen got to the end of the degree cycle in 1991 or so and figured out he didn't want to teach.  That happens.

So, Glen ultimately used his skills in another area, first by volunteering across the Midwest, then using that experience to find paying jobs and ultimately climbing the corporate ladder to reach the heights of his chosen profession.  The industry?  PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING.  Glen's alter ego in the WWE is the character of Kane, who is the brother of the Undertaker, etc...

Take a look at the video below of "The Rock" and Hulk Hogan talking about him, then watch as Kane Glen enters the scene and performs.   Regardless of how you feel about wrestling, just know that Glen could easily be sitting in the cube/office next to you and you would love him as a teammate.  Cool guy, could babysit your kids.

Where you start is rarely where you finish... Having lived with Glen, this clip makes me feel like Charlie Heston in the Planet of the Apes when he looks up and sees the chimps on the horses....

(PG-13 Warning for posterior references for those of you watching at work....)

The Many HR Uses of the Word "Dude"...

I was watching the wild card playoff games in the NFL over the weekend.  The clear winner?  Not the Chargers, Jaguars, Giants or Seahawks.  For me, the clear winner is Bud Light and their series of "Dude" commercials, which show a specific person using "Dude" in at least ten different contexts in his life.

That got me thinking - how many different ways do HR Managers, Directors and VPs use the word "dude" inFast_times their day-to-day professional lives?  The number has to range in the hundreds, but here's my top 5 after doing a little brainstorming:

-After hearing of an event sure to result in a termination ("Dude" with a sense of disdain, slow head nod in the "no" motion)...

-In an effort to correct someone on the fly who is making a career limiting decision/statement ("Dude" with a sense of urgency and alarm, eyes wide open)...

-In a moment of weakness after seeing a large, self-insured medical invoice for your company ("Dude" with a sense of despair and an external locus of control, falling back in your chair from the upright position)...

-In an effort to get a little privacy when you are holding a private meeting with an employee and someone does a quick knock and walks in ("Dude" with a sense of disbelief, hand out with palm pointing upwards to show the fact you need a little privacy)...

-To confirm with hiring manager that you have found the perfect candidate for the open spot on their team (Walking into their office after both of you have interviewed the candidate and you're stopping by to compare notes.  "Dude" with both hands open as you walk in like you expect to hug it out)...

I'm sure you can think of others that rule your workday.  Hit me in the comments with your freshest example and enjoy the many meanings of "Dude" below...

Big Career Event Coming Up? Prepare Like Tony Romo and Relax in Mexico!!!

OK - Imagine this scenario with me.  You are a member of a project team at work with a single goal in mind.  Maybe it's a team in Product Development, maybe its a Major Account/Sales team that has been working on an RFP to sell someone like Exxon or Google a whole bunch of whatever your company does.  If your product launch goes well or you close the deal, you're a hero.  If it doesn't go well, the last 3/6/12 months of your life are a wash, and maybe you have to look for a new gig.

Got it?  Great...

Now flash forward - you've worked hard for 6 months and your are two weeks away from the big event - product launch or the final pitch to Exxon/Google.  In other words, CRUNCH time.   You call and email aRomo member of the team for some details on an adjustment you are making to your piece of the project, only to find out the team member has taken a quick trip to Mexico for a little R&R before the big launch/pitch. 

That's right, the team member is in Mexico two weeks before the critical event you've been working towards for the last 6 months.  You slowly IMPLODE as you try to figure out how to get what you need.

Sound reasonable?  Yes?  No?  Sound far-fetched?   It happened to the Dallas Cowboys last week.  Two weeks away from the playoffs, and their quarterback, Tony Romo, heads to Mexico for a quick trip with a new girlfriend and a couple of teammates.  From NBC11 in San Francisco:

"Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and pop star Jessica Simpson vacationing in Mexico just days before a playoff game.

The couple were vacationing in Los Cabos, Mexico, with a few friends, including fellow Cowboys Jason Witten, Marc Columbo and Bobby Carpenter. The photos show the group relaxing on a patio and Simpson spending time in the pool.

Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips instructed his players to take advantage of the first round playoff bye and to get away from football for a few days, NBC reported.

"People will look for blame if you lose and will basically let all that stuff go when you win because they don't think it was relevant and it isn't," said Phillips

Uh...That's right Wade.  You have to wonder if Phillips, in effect the manager for the team, isn't biting his lip once he got the news.   He encourages his players to get some rest and get away from the game, and his most visible team member takes that as an invitation to travel out of the country?  And with a girlfriend the shareholders (i.e., Dallas fans) are already concerned is robbing Romo of his focus.

If Terrell Owens is playing it safe, playing Xbox at the house in Dallas, I think the end may be near... TO is now the responsible one...

All this after a well-documented miscue in a playoff game last year (See clip below).   I don't think the trip has anything to do with performance, but man does it look bad if the Cowboys lose.  I just hope he drank bottled water exclusively.  Even then, there was probably a Giants fan (their opponent in the playoffs) down there trying to sneak him a bottle filled with tap water. 

Meisinger Stepping Down as SHRM's CEO... Time to Get Innovative With the Search Process....

Is this the time for succession planning or outside search?

That's the question for the Society for Human Resource Management after the announced resignation of SHRM president and CEO Susan Meisinger, who is stepping down after 6 years as the head of the mother ship that is SHRM.

For a quick rundown of the coverage, hop over to Workforce.com, and be sure to check out John Hollon's take here....

I'm inclined to agree with many of John's points as a HR person in the field.  While I recognize SHRM as the big database in the sky of indexed information about HR, I can't say they've provided me with a piece of information or a program that helped transform me as a HR professional over the last decade. 

They're good, but not critical to my day-to-day professional life. I get more out of making a list of good blogs and loading them up in Google Reader.

So here's to the search process at SHRM.  It seems like Sue did a fine job, but the legacy is unclear.  It feels like the time is right for an outsider, perhaps even a former CEO or business-type who understands the value of human capital and can help our profession market our value proposition more effective.

Are Jack Welch, Tom Friedman or Seth Godin available?

Lie on the Job Like Ferris - Is It OK to Use Sick Days for Job Interviews?

Everyone loved Ferris except for Ed Rooney.  How about you?   Do you look the other way when people use sick days to kick back?  Do your feelings depend on what the person is using the sick days for?

A BusinessWeek Interactive Case Study recently asked the following question - Is it OK for a solid, high-performing employee to use sick time, for non-illness related events, in order to save their vacation and personal days, for other uses?

Here's the crux of the case from BusinessWeek:

"In this case scenario, we visit a senior IT director at an insurance corporation. Although he has aFerris  great relationship with superiors and subordinates alike, he wants a new job (BusinessWeek.com, 10/16/07). The top brass consistently skimps on the funds needed to upgrade the company's technology to the state of the art, and he fears he will get stale in his present position. Plus, he's moving out of the city and buying a house in the suburbs. The commute would be an hour-and-a-half each way. He owes it to himself to move on.

When his first interview comes up—with the human resources department, at a corporation 50 miles from his office—our executive can't stomach the thought of using his little remaining vacation or personal time. The morning of the interview, he calls his supervisor and says he's not feeling well, that he suspects it's bronchitis, and he'll need to use a sick day to see a doctor.

His boss is understanding, of course. The man rarely calls in sick, so there must be a good reason for it now. But did our executive do the right thing?"

This case hits you with an extreme from the start- not only is the guy telling a lie, but he's doing it to take time off from work to get another job.  That's an emotional powder-keg for the people charged with enforcing policies.  Bad style point #1 on his part.

Here's my take on bad style point #2.  He's a mid-to-upper level manager.  Since he's answering his blackberry in the shower (details from the case study when you click through), I'm assuming he's not a 9 to 5 guy, nor is he viewed as that.  With that, and the fact that he's a technology professional, I'd hope that he could wrangle the ability to work remotely for the half-day he needs for the interview (hour to and from, 2 hours for the initial process at the company).  I'd also hope that he could remain productive and do this occasionally without anyone getting anxious. 

If he can't figure that out, I probably don't want him as my Director of IT - with new technologies leading the charge for IT professionals and all...  As a HR person, I want to manage performance - not office hours here and there for a solid, well-regarded professional.

Of course, if he can't work remotely when he has to in his current culture, maybe that type of inflexibility is the real reason he's looking.

PS- From the HR perspective, I like to be liberal with the use of sick time.  Use it for anything related to illness - including the care of others.  Just do me the solid of not showing up at Outback that night.  Or me seeing you walk in a corporate office park across town where I have a meeting.   Also, to my PTO friends out there who never have to deal with this scenario, track the Healthy Families Act closely, because you may be tearing down your PTO policy if the HFA becomes law...

And you're correct - it's never OK to lie about that type of thing.  Unless you have the max cool factor like Ferris.  Then you'd make the HR people chasing you look like Ed Rooney  (PG-13 language warning on the clip below)...

San Francisco Universal Healthcare - They're Going To Need More Ca$H....

There's been a lot of coverage lately about San Francisco and Universal Heathcare, namely the city's Health Benefits Ordinance, which would provide coverage for 73,000 uninsured adults in the city.    Lately, there's been some volleys back and forth whether the plan is legal.

Not sure if the plan is going to make it or not, but I am assuming it eventually will.   If it does make it andEmergencyroom the city implements the plan, my layperson math indicates their best case assumptions will result in a plan that is dramatically underfunded. 

Check out these notes From SF Gate:

"As written, San Francisco’s ordinance would require private employers with at least 20 employees, and nonprofits with at least 50 employees, to provide health coverage at certain minimum levels or to pay a fee to the city. The fee would pay part of the cost of a $200 million-a-year program of care for the 73,000 uninsured adult city residents.

Without the employer fee, city officials say they will limit enrollment to those making no more than three times the federal poverty level, or about $32,000 a year for an individual."

Here's what I don't get.  By math, the city is planning on spending about $2,800 per covered individual annually.  That's great, but there's no way that's going to cut it, right?

Why won't it cover it?  By the very nature of the risk pool, the cost per covered individual is going to skew higher than average.  The uninsured includes people who can't work or are otherwise deemed uninsurable due to heath concerns.

A similar program for universal coverage in Connecticut failed, in part because the legislators were shocked about what the cost was (from Managed Care Matters):

"An effort in Connecticut to implement a single payer, universal coverage program is just about dead, after the state's Office of Fiscal Analysis determined it would cost as much as the entire state budget.

Politicians were shocked by the estimated total cost, which ranged from $12 billion to $18 billion (cost range per covered individual - $4,000 to $6,000).

I'm shocked that they were shocked."

That's why I don't get the plan in San Francisco.  The State of Connecticut runs the entire risk pool for the state and comes up with 4k to 6k per covered individual, and SF handles a risk pool that skews more severe and they're only going to pay $2,800?

When people underestimate things, I also think of that great line in the original "Jaws" - "We're going to need a bigger boat..."  That seems to fit here.... 

The Boss's Pool Party - Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Since this site is geared towards HR pros and others charged with the responsibility for managing components of human capital , I generally don't do a lot of Q&A from employees.  I'd rather focus this site on dialog with HR people and others charged with managing workforces.

But there's always an exception to the rule, and I found it at Workplace Management Strategies over the holidays, where Nick recently fielded a question from an employee about whether he/she should go to a pool party at their boss's house.  It's a scream - here's a clip:

"A prestigious physician organization is having a pool party at his home on a weekend. I amFatmanonbeach relatively new with this organization and manage one of the dept. I am finding myself in the middle of a values debate. There are staff who (like myself) feel it is inappropriate to socialize on personal time with subordinates and co-workers. There are other staff who are very excited about going to the bosses’ house and talk about the bikinis they are going to wear, etc.

While I have declined the invitation on the premise that I have other plans, I think this is a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen. In addition, I have worked so hard to have a professional image at work that I cannot imagine either seeing my subordinates, co-workers, and boss in swimming “attire” or having them see me in such a personal state of undress. (Yes, I am modest, but have my share of swimming suits that I wear around friends and family ). How can I assist those staff who are feeling pressured to attend a function they feel is inappropriate or makes them uncomfortable?"

I can't think of a worse combination - a party involving alcohol at the boss's house, requiring people who are already uncomfortable with the shape of their bodies to make decisions about whether to wear a swimsuit, get in the water, drink while swimming, etc.    It's just a nasty combination.

I won't wax poetic too long on this one.  If I were giving advice to a single employee, I would tell them there are three options:

1.  Go and be fully engaged - (break out the speedo).

2.  Don't go and provide a real reason that's acceptable - (schedule a function with the kids or family so you can explain there's a conflict - no one needs to know which was scheduled first).

3.  Do a "drop-in" and then provide the same reason for why you can only stay 30 minutes, and won't be getting wet (no speedo - you're fully clothed with threads that suggest no one should push you into the pool).

If you are repulsed by the idea of the pool party (and I can't stop chuckling about the poor judgment of the manager), whether you choose option #2 or #3 depends on the personality of the manager.  Some managers will hold this type of shindig and respect the fact you aren't coming, comforted by the fact that you are a top performer who's simply opting out of the speedo and belly-fest.  Others (and I think this is more rare) will be upset that you aren't coming and it might impact your professional standing, to which I provide the drop-in option.

So choose carefully.  Go and do a back slap if necessary, but be headed to a wedding or something formal.  I just hope the back you slap is relatively free of hair/suntan oil....

Comparison of 100K Jobs in Organizations.....

Budget season is pretty much past us at this point, which means headcount budgets are set for 2008.  Of course, that doesn't mean the need for staffing justification is final.  Some organizations cut new headcount to zero as part of the budget process, and some organizations allow business units to layer in additional headcount, then vigorously track revenue to determine if the new headcount will be hired in the upcoming year.

Make your revenue early in the year, and maybe you'll get to hire the additional headcount.  Struggle andBoardroom chances are the new talent isn't going to be joining the organization.

One additional exercise used, when needed in headcount discussions, is the creation of staffing metrics.  Customers per Customer Service Rep, Revenue per FTE - you name it, there's a staffing metric that can be created.  Some are useful, some aren't - it's all in the context.

Here one you may or may have not seen - comparison of the raw number of 100K jobs in your organization compared to similar organizations.  Organizations routinely take a look at this simple metric to determine if they're top heavy or not.   Of course, the number itself really doesn't tell you a lot - you've got to have some type of comparison with other organizations (or divisions in the same company) to make it mean anything.

Here's an example.  In my hometown, a new mayor is comparing the Birmingham School Systems to other school systems regarding this metric.  From a Birmingham news editorial on the results of the analysis:

"Look around the area, and it's plain to see that Birmingham taxpayers pay a premium for the top administrators in their school system.

That's especially true when you have an assistant principal making more than the principal at the same school. Also, when the school system has 22 employees, most of those in the central office, making more than $100,000 a year while at Jefferson County, which has 8,000 more students, only half that many administrators make $100,000-plus. Mobile County, the state's largest school system with 65,000 students (almost 2X as many as the Birmingham City District), has just 12 administrators making more than $100,000 a year."

When you see this type of analysis, it's clear which side you want to be on - the lean side. 

Just like analysis of CEO pay, the raw number of highly compensated individuals in an organization is an emotional topic.  More importantly, since it deals with multiple positions, it's a barometer of how efficient an organization is compared to its peers.

Of course, the time to control what the Birmingham school system is experiencing is before the additonal group of highly compensated indviduals is hired.  At that point, it's voluntary.   Later, it usually becomes involuntary.