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May 2008

Paying People $1,000 to Quit Isn't Enough...

Lot's of folks have covered the the story of Zappos and their practice of paying employees to quit.  The practice?  Get people through the initial training, then offer them $1,000 to quit.  The thinking behind the practice is we'll take the disengaged and give them quick money to leave voluntarily, which makes the company stronger. 

Me?  I love the practice and the fact they're thinking differently, but I don't think that's enough cash if you want to get rid of the deadQuit_3 wood/non-engaged.  Here's the rundown from Taylor at Harvard Business Blogs:

"So when Zappos hires new employees, it provides a four-week training period that immerses them in the company’s strategy, culture, and obsession with customers. People get paid their full salary during this period.

After a week or so in this immersive experience, though, it’s time for what Zappos calls “The Offer.” The fast-growing company, which works hard to recruit people to join, says to its newest employees: “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you’ve worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus.” Zappos actually bribes its new employees to quit!

Why? Because if you’re willing to take the company up on the offer, you obviously don’t have the sense of commitment they are looking for. It’s hard to describe the level of energy in the Zappos culture—which means, by definition, it’s not for everybody. Zappos wants to learn if there’s a bad fit between what makes the organization tick and what makes individual employees tick—and it’s willing to pay to learn sooner rather than later. (About ten percent of new call-center employees take the money and run.)"

First up, let me say that I love the practice but don't do anything like it, and don't think I would be able to implement it if I wanted to.  It's easy to be critical of a practice and tweak it to death when you aren't the one who's trying to execute it, right?

That disclosure out of the way, let's rip it apart!! The article also said the offer had been increased from $250 to $500 to the current $1,000 over time.  I'm assuming that's because they didn't feel like they were getting enough takers.  My sense is that they'll likely be increasing it again as they get more data back.

Here's why.  Assume the call center employees make $30,000 annualized at the Zappos facility.  That means the $1,000 offer represents a little less than two weeks pay.  If you just landed the job, weren't feeling the Zappos vibe, but needed to work, would you quit?  Probably only if you thought you were ultimately going to be fired in the near term or if you had another job waiting.

So, if you really wanted to trim the folks who weren't getting the Zappo vibe, you'd up the quitting bonus to really entice those, who decided shortly after joining, that they weren't thrilled about the culture, didn't want to be in a call center role, etc. 

Of course, the problem with any voluntary package is that as you up the offer, you're going to get more of the talent you don't want to lose taking the offer.  That stinks.  With that problem in mind, perhaps you'd be better off being Darwinian at the end of the probationary period and cutting those you thought didn't think got it, and bonusing the ones who made it.

Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.  Kudos to Zappos for mixing it up...   

Is HR The Best Choice to Run a Talent Management Program?

To answer that question, I'd have to know your definition of talent management.  I'd like to think that many of our tribe are skilled and progressive enough to handle the transformation, but I'd have to agree that our bench is not as deep as it should be. 

New opinion on this topic, from Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership:

"Management Issues just ran a piece titled: "Don't trust HR to manage your talent." There's a lot of good stuff in this post which reports on a survey by Deloitte and leads with the following.

"When it comes to talent management, three quarters of firms obediently listen to HR and put all their time and effort into grooming their top performers. But if they are going to have any hope of coping with the twin challenges of an aging workforce and a new generation of workers with different priorities, they are going to have to change tack - and fast."

There are three parts to this. All are worth your attention."

Click through to get Wally's analysis, which is pretty spot on.   

9 Things Every Manager Should Learn From "American Idol"...

Another season of American Idol is gone.  I like the way I view Idol these days, which is to say my wife runs through an episode of the thing on our DVR in about 10-15 minutes, watching the performers she wants to watch and all of the reviews.  Perfect.  Just don't make me watch the whole thing...

Without question, managers and HR pros alike have much to learn from Idol.  Here's my rundown of 10American_idol  things every manager should remember in the workplace as a result of watching Idol.

1.  The negative manager in the group (Simon, or your Simon) has a talent for cutting to the chase.  As long as he/she isn't a liability in other ways, you need them.

2.  The soft-hearted manager (Paula) can't be relied on to lay it on the line.  If they are talented in other ways, keep them.

3.  Lots of people get confused because it rarely seems like the critic and the soft-hearted teammate are on the same page.

4.  The moderate manager in the group (Randy) is usually the tie-breaker and holds the greatest power.  The moderate is like the swing vote at the Supreme Court, often analyzed and looked upon to validate the polar opposites present in the critic and the soft-hearted teammate. 

5.  Every breakout session needs a good facilitator (Seacrest).  They don't have to be good at anything else, they just need to keep things moving.  Dance, monkey, dance...

6.  Professional Coaching is tough to get your arms around and measure.  Dolly Parton working with all the candidates is the equivalent of a professional coach.  She said all the candidates had great potential.  If they all are great, how do you know who is expendable in a forced choice situation?  PS, I saw Dolly driving through a Nashville Jack-in-the-Box about a year and a half ago.  Weird sighting...

7.  Some employees don't take feedback well, some do, and some are going to react the same way no matter what you do - I love it when contestants start shaking their head "no" when Simon gives negative feedback.  I've had that happen to me, and it's obvious it's not going to go well.

8. Programs have a shelf life, then they start to die.  You can almost feel like the inevitable slide is going to escalate very soon watching Idol.  Just like in your company, got to keep it fresh.  Can a prison-based Idol be far behind?

9.  You get 10 candidates together for anything, and some of them are going to look like they are L.A.M.E.   Just the way it works once you see the best talent.  Doesn't mean the others aren't servicable, you just don't want to settle once you've had time to compare...

Hit me in the comments with your lesson for corporate America gleaned from Idol.  I think this one has about jumped the shark....   

VIDEO - Why Can't Gen Y Admit They Are Difficult?

In a sure sign that we all may be taking the differences we see in Gen Y just a LITTLE bit too seriously, the Gen Y clique has started doing parodies of the coverage.

Millennial YouTube spoofster, cynicallytested created this video, saying “Lately our generation has been labeled ‘Millennials’ and the media is having a field day trashing us for being lazy and self absorbed. In this 60 Minutes Spoof our own “Me” reports on how Generation Y has evolved into an alien culture known as ‘Millennials’.”

Watch the whole thing for some great perspective.  Still thinking you need that consultant to help you connect?


My Blackberry, My Vacation, My Way... No Need to Protect Me, I've Got a Mom...

I'm on vacation this week.  Guess what?  My blackberry's on, my laptop is out and I'm raining posts like a malcontented Kobe Bryant takes shots at the Staples Center.  Which is to say early and often...

Within reason, of course...I did most, if not all, of these posts last weekend... But I guess that's a work/life balance story for another post...

Why are vacation work habits on my mind?  There's a new study out, and I'm just bracing for the Blackberry_on_the_beachwork/life balance specialists to tell me I HAVE to turn my devices off. 

My Mom's with us at the beach.  If she doesn't care, why should the worklife balance people?

CareerBuilder has a hand-wringer survey out.  John Hollon's got a good rundown on it at www.workforce.com and The Business of Management:

"CareerBuilder released its annual vacation survey this week, and it shows that 25 percent of all workers plan to stay in touch with work while on vacation, up from 20 percent last year. The survey also found that nearly 10 percent of workers were expected to be checking e-mail, voice mail and staying in touch with the office while on vacation, and that 15 percent of workers gave up vacation days last year because they didn’t have time to take them.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, but I am one of those people who can’t let go when they are on vacation. I’m the guy who always checks his e-mail. Funny thing, though: I find I come back a lot more refreshed and rejuvenated the more deeply I can withdraw and get away from the office. The times I have managed to completely get away with little or no contact, the better I feel—and perform—when I return."

I don't count John among the hard core work-life balance folks.  He's a worker who likes to compete.  He acknowledges he generally can't let go.  Neither can I.  And I don't really want to.  That being said, my vacation will be WAY scaled back (check email once or twice a day, same with the phone) compared to my normal week, so I'll end up with the same refreshment that John describes.

When it comes to the folks who would shake their heads and tell me I have to put it down completely, I've got this to say.  I'm a digital guy.  This is how I get my information, how I connect.  The tools don't only keep me hooked into work, they keep me hooked into my hobbies and the news/info I need and want. 

So I'm proposing the following middle ground around all the blackberry angst:

1.  People who like to be connected (I'll start with folks like me) - don't judge others who want to disconnect.  Let them enjoy it and don't feel or act superior because you are always on...

2.  Folks who believe you have to disconnectDon't treat someone who is always "on" like he/she has a moral issue.  It's America.  If they want to check their device to read news while you are reading a book, let 'em.

3.  Members of both tribes - understand that the tools blend life and work.  The same tools I check at the beach are the ones that make it possible for me to coach my son's baseball team without feeling an ounce of remorse for leaving early.   Thank god for the BB making that possible.  If you want a life without a digital leash - go find it.  I'm guessing retail (because you'll be at the store all the time) and government work maybe?

Everyone should get the rest they need on their vacation, on their terms.  Both tribes shouldn't judge the other....As for the folks in the middle like John, me and possibly you, it's up to us to figure out what we need, and end up refreshed...

Compensation Transparency - Like the Guys On "Jaws", You're Going to Need a Bigger Boat...

Ann Bares thinks Pay Program Transparency is a good thing, and she's usually right:

"A funny thing happens in the course of moving these compensation programs to (hopefully) a better place.  More involved and informed employees are more likely to voice concerns, question and even challenge elements of the program.  That's right.  Which, to the HR or reward professional who has invested so much time and energy (and sometimes even political capital) in making the programs better and more open, can feel like taking two steps back after taking three steps forward.  But it's not.  This is simply part of the new paradigm that the organization has entered.  Transparent and participative pay programs can be messier and more complicated to manage than secret, dictatorially designed programs.  But they are ultimately better for it."

I like the idea.  It's hard for a HR pro to embrace, because you know that you are going to take a beating from an Employee Relations standpoint.  You're the one who's going to be in the workplace equivalent of Fight Club.  But if you took the total transparency route, you could end up in a pretty cool place.

But until you get there, let's just say the water would be a little choppy from an employee relations standpoint.

Like the guys from this classic clip watching the oncoming issue, you're going to need a bigger boat....

Stinky HR - Is there a Difference between the VP and Manager level?

First up, you know my position about the studies - past, present and future - that say HR stinks and doesn't get any respect.  Stop whining and be different than the HR people those whitepapers talk about.  It's pretty easy when you think about it.  Know the business you support, be functionally excellent and look for business problems to solve.

So everybody do that... Please...

Most of the folks talking about the latest study agree with that take.  You've got Ann, Frank, Dan andSleeping_at_desk Deb basically saying the same thing - which is good.  I like it when voices I know and respect have the same (or similar) take...

One voice I like to read had a different take - Jon Ingham from the UK.  Here's part of what he said in reaction to what Deb wrote, (Deb's points in bold, Jon's reactions follow):

"2) too many HR folks can't speak the CFO's language / HR people expect others to understand “HR Speak”

Well, OK, we need to understand our businesses and be comfortable with Finance, but we need to educate the rest of the business to use the CPO's language too!

We shouldn't expect our business colleagues to understand debates around grandfathering or red circling, but they do need to understand how reward influences motivation, and 'engagement' is no more jargon than 'balance sheet'."

3) too many HR folks are all about the party planning

Sorry, I don't see them. I think this one's a myth. (But note, the early results of my Social Connecting survey suggest that physical, connecting activities like parties are likely to be more effective at building social capital than virtual ones using social media tools).

If you read Jon's site, he's a strategic guy.  There might be some "across the pond" differences as well, but I doubt those are significant.  For the most part, his reaction should be viewed in the same context as ours.

...With this possible exception.  It seems like Jon spends most of his time on strategy and less time focused on the basic HR Manager type of work.  If Jon, based on his practice, doesn't see the same things Deb and I do (and I agree with Deb's points), does that mean there's a difference in the competency level and the ability to connect with the business when it comes to the average VP of HR vs. HR Manager?

Your first reaction is probably "duh" - that there should be.  After all, you're paying VPs to be VPs.  I'm not sure - I think there's some weakness within the titles of HR Director and VP of HR as well.

In agreeing with Deb's points, I'm going to say that unlike Jon, I see a lot of what she described in many HR Managers, Directors and VPs that serve client groups of 500 or more employees.  That's large enough to have some scale, and also a critical mass where the HR Manager/Director/VP has an opportunity to be at the table, to be the peer of the Marketing, Engineering, or Customer Service leads for the company or unit in question.

I like Jon's perspective a lot.  I'm thinking that if he doesn't see some of the fundamental weaknesses where he's at (the cheerleader thing, inability to connect with the business, the over-focus on transactions and administration, etc.), he may be in the stratosphere of the profession in Europe.  That's OK - the SVPs need friends too, but in the next decade it's the folks who take HR client groups of 500-2000 employees who will shape the reputation of the profession.   

$4.00 per Gallon Gas - Why Aren't More Companies Telecommuting?

Last week, I riffed on the worst benefit idea of 2008 (it's early, maybe someone can top it), which was the The Gas Price Guarantee - where a company locked all their employees in 2.85 per gallon, pledging to compensate them for the difference in their daily commute...

Of course, it's a NASCAR-related company that made the pledge.  Somewhere, an OPEC analyst isTelecommuting laughing uncontrollably...

My thought was/is that a reasonable alternative is telecommuting.  Don't pay for gas, find a way to keep some folks home, even for a day or two a week.  Perfect thought from the think-tank, right?

Hold on there, KD/Dave Ulrich wannabe... It appears that there are actual practical considerations that can derail something as cool as telecommuting.  I like to let my readers do the heavy lifting as much as possible, so here's what a Capitalist reader (Scott) had to say in the comments of that post related to telecommuting:

"Some of us in the IT world were talking about the tele-working.

Say I have two accounting employees. Both can work from home. One has nothing but trouble, constantly calling for IT support. The other has no problems at all.

When do you tell the one with constant troubles that they must come in to the office and work?

You are essentially taking money back out of her/his pocket since now they have to pay the gas cost. The other employee got a "gas raise" since she/he can still work from home.

I think this is the kind of situation that causes some companies to not want to deal with working remotely.

I have no solution, just wondering what the HR Pros would do and how they would handle it."

Great point on telecommuting.  I've been thinking about how to propose a program, and Scott has nailed the primary issue - in any company, it will be the case of the Haves (the telecommuters) versus the Have-Nots (those not eligible to telecommute for whatever reason).  It's enough to get you to ponder the program for two weeks, then give it up.

The issues start with mere eligibility.  What jobs are eligible?  Which ones aren't?  Don't managers deserve the ability to note who's eligible based on performance?  How do you modify your performance management system to ensure you get what you need out of the resource?

Then, should you be strong enough to get people working from home after you said "no" to those in spots not eligible, here come the technology issues.  Eddie's cable provider stinks and he's trying to do it through dial up (nice thinking, Eddie).  Sally lives outside of DSL land, but is doing a 200 foot drop from her neighbor's house that has high-speed.

Lot of considerations, to Scott's point and beyond.  The bottom line - telecommuting as an individual issue/benefit is pretty cool.  Telecommuting as an institutional force?  That's going to take a little work and a strong hand to say "tough" when folks aren't eligible, or when they don't have the technology at home to make it work...

Are you tough enough to make that happen?  Or is it just easier to take a nap and hope that the requests go away?

HR Wench and a LOA Specialist Position - A Match Made in Hades...

At the end of the day, hiring is really all about motivational fit.  If you're a hiring manager, lots of people can do the job you have open.  If you're a candidate, there are a lot of jobs you can do. 

The question is - do really want to take the job that's offered to you?  Is the job, the hiring manager, the department and the company a fit for what motivates you on a daily basis?

Exhibit #1 - The current job search of HR Wench:

"I had my in-person panel interview for the Leave of Absence Specialist position onSquarepegroundhole Thursday. The organization is a large, faith-based, non-profit. Very conservative and formal. Every person on the panel was wearing a suit. They don't even have casual Fridays. Bummer.

I like the hiring manager, but she speaks very slowly and is rather quiet. This made me fidget in my seat. I wanted to blurt, "spit it out, sister!" The other panel members included two peers of the position and a manager in charge of ADA issues.

I felt a bit like a country bumpkin. I mean, a manager (with a TEAM reporting to her) that only handles ADA issues? Holy crap, Batman.
They were just so...professional about everything. I like to show my personality in interviews; laugh and try to relate to people. They were all very pleasant but also very straight-laced. One thing that really turned me off is when it was my turn to ask them questions, they gave me very rehearsed and sugar coated answers. Every time I tried to peer under the rug ("Why do HR professionals leave the organization?") I would get some bull*** answer about how no one ever leaves because it is SO GREAT there."
Right.... That's a match made in heaven.  A HR blogger who riffed this post out about the stodginess of SHRM joins a LOA department.  (BTW, HRW, love that post...)  Part of me knows that it's easy to analyze when you're not the one without a job, and part of me hopes that HRW takes the gig - a rant fest of posts is sure to rain down as a result, which would be entertaining.

HRW - do what's best for you...  Part of me hopes you could go to work for a tech company and wear jeans and flip-flops every day, but part of me hopes you get the offer and take it, if only for the quality content to follow.

The Google Innovation Model - A Festivus For the Rest of Us...

Couple of questions today on Employee Engagement here at The Capitalist:

1.  Do you think you can engage employees in your company who are not currently engaged?  OrAsleep do you feel like I felt a while back, and believe that the best way to ensure employees are engaged is to hire engaged people?

2.  If you don't know who the engaged people are in your department, do you think you can figure it out by making them an offer they can't refuse? (if they are the type who are or can be engaged)

3.   Do you think the best way to engage employees is to offer creative time to all employees, whether they have shown a wisp of engagement or not?

What's got me thinking about engagement in this way? I was catching up on Jon Ingham's blog (UK), and he reminded me of a practice to stimulate innovation at Google by offering up 20% of the workweek to technical projects of the employee's own choosing.  From the Harvard Business Review via Jon Ingham:

"One clear reason for Google’s success at innovation is that the company does what many others do not: budgets for it in employee time. New ideas at Google are often generated by employees, from the bottom up, in a prescribed system of time allocation. Technical employees are required to spend 80% of their time on the core search and advertising businesses, and 20% on technical projects of their own choosing."

If you are like me, you've read about that practice before.  Pretty cool, but not exactly transferable, mainly due to one factor...

I'm not Google... Neither are you.... Our mix of jobs is different.... and so's the talent in many ways...You don't, for the most part, hire PhD's who are expected to create and innovate on a daily basis.  You'd like innovation, would settle for engagement, and want to avoid folks working against you.

Seriously - if you put this practice in place today, what percentage of your employees would come to you to inquire about what the heck they were supposed to spend the flex time on?  30%?  50%? 70%?

Fortunately, there's a festivus for the rest of us - Coffee's for closers, so if you are looking to see who's really ready to innovate, tell the individuals on your team that if they can find a way to get their current workload complete in less time, you would support the use of 4 hours per week at work to pursue any work-related, professional development project that interests them.

Then see who's proactive about pursuing it.  Those are your engaged employees.  Do whatever it takes to retain them.

The good news?  You don't have to brainstorm with Billy in records management about what he should do during innovation time...