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June 2008

Do You Need the SPHR to Become a VP of HR?

I've written on certification before, so for what it's worth, I answered the above question as part of an "Ask Workforce" series over at www.workforce.com.  I couldn't find the published article, so here's the answer I gave for the question:

Dear Workforce:

I aspire to be a Vice President of Human Resources one day and I was wondering if I need a certification (such as that offered by SHRM)? How important is it in pursuing my career goal? Please advise, thank you...

To reach your goal of becoming a VP of HR, you'll need to be among theCarnac best at what you do as a HR professional who rises through the HR Rep, HR Manager and HR Director levels in an organization. The HR discipline is filled with great VP examples on both sides of this question - those who have certification and those who don't. You've got to be progressive, business-savvy and results-oriented, and you can do that without certification as many have.

So here's the bottom line from my perspective: Certification is valuable to everyone, but common sense dictates that the economic and career path value is greater for those who are early in their careers. If you are at the HR manager level or below, and can make the time to pursue
certification, do it now. You'll differentiate yourself from the herd, whether you plan on staying forever in your Fortune 500 HR shop, or intend to switch jobs and companies in the next couple of years.  Certification can and is used as a "resume sorter" by many companies when it comes time to hire their next HR Manager, HR Director, or VP of HR.

Certification isn't required to get where you want to be. That said, if a significant portion of companies use it to evaluate candidate criteria, it makes sense to have it. The quicker you gain the necessary experience at the rep, manager and director level, the quicker you'll get to your goal of being a VP of HR. Expand your pool of opportunity if you have the time and resources to pursue certification.

Good luck!

See also:



Let me know your thoughts/perspective in the comments.  Many paths lead to the same place...

Put The Krispy Kreme DOWN! Because Ulrich Says So...

Going through Medical Plan renewal in our company, so living healthy, and the cost of not living healthy, is kind of on my mind.  Then I got the latest issue of Time, which confirms that the unhealthy trend is a lot bigger than what I can influence with Consumerism in my medical plan...

From Time, focused on the supersizing of America:

"We're not only programmed to eat a lot," says Sharman Apt Russell, author of Hunger: AnSuper_size_me_poster Unnatural History, "but to prefer foods that are high in calories." What's more, the better we got at producing food, the easier it became. If you're a settler, you eat a lot of buffalo in part because you need a lot of buffalo — at least after burning so many calories hunting and killing it. But what happens when eating requires no sweat equity at all, when the grocery store is always nearby and always full?

What happens is, you get fat, and that's precisely what we've done. In 1900 the average weight of a college-age male in the U.S. was 133 lb. (60 kg); the average woman was 122 lb. (55 kg). By 2000, men had plumped up to 166 lb. (75 kg) and women to 144 lb. (65 kg). And while the small increase in average height for men (women have remained the same) accounts for a bit of that, our eating habits are clearly responsible for most. Over the past 20 years in particular, we've stuffed ourselves like pâté geese. In 1985 there were only eight states in which more than 10% of the adult population was obese — though the data collection then was admittedly spottier than it is now. By 2006, there were no states left in which the obesity rates were that low, and in 23 states, the number exceeded 25%. Even those figures don't tell the whole story, since they include only full-blown obesity. Overall, about two-thirds of all Americans weigh more than they should."

The first thing I thought of after reading that is what a muscle-bound cat I would have been in college back in 1900.  6"2", 170, and I would have looked HUGE!!!

Second thing I thought of was that not many cats went to college back in 1900.  No Internet either...

Third thing, and the most sobering thought, is that I'm limited in my ability to control the lifestyles of employees via adjustments to our Medical plan.  It's a society thing, and the most progressive of programs are going to struggle against that.  Even with the headline focused on the guy losing 80 pounds eating nothing but McDonalds....

Dave Ulrich said it best in the most recent issue of Workforce when he said the following about his own weight loss - "Those who have not seen me for five or six years almost always remark that I have lost a lot of weight.  They want to know how I did it, and are suprised when I tell them that I have in fact discovered the secrets of losing weight.  With bated breath, they listen to my secrets: Eat less, eat right and exercise more".  As the reality of these "insights" sinks in, they are disappointed".

Everyone's looking for the gimick.  Ulrich's advice sounds simple, but it's hard to implement for so many people.  For a variety of reasons. 

So take your double digit trend increases to your Medical plan, and sit down... There's not a big turnaround in sight....

Crazy Energy Stats Related to Telecommuting...

I've riffed in the recent past about the craziness of gas guarantees for employees in the face of rising fuel prices.  Not exactly the most progressive way to handle the cost of energy.  With that said, here are some cool stats on telecommuting from Sun Microsystems as reported by Green Car Congress (hat tip to Kevin Grossman at HR Marketer):

  • Employees saved more than $1,700 per year in gasoline and wear and tear on their vehicles byTraffic_jam working at home an average of 2.5 days a week.

  • Office equipment energy consumption rate at a Sun office was two times that of home office equipment energy consumption, from approximately 64 watts per hour at home to 130 watts per hour at a Sun office.

  • Commuting was more than 98% of each employee’s carbon footprint for work, compared to less than 1.7% of total carbon emissions to power office equipment.

  • By eliminating commuting just 2.5 days per week, an employee reduces energy used for work by the equivalent of 5,400 Kilowatt hours/year.

  • Working from home 2.5 days per week saved the employees in the study an average of 2.5 weeks of commute time (8 hours/day, 5 days/week).

Through this program, Sun has nearly 19,000 employees around the world work from home or in a flexible office, representing more than 56% of Sun’s employee population. 

WOW.  Compelling stuff.  Add to that tally, as I'm reminded by Kevin, the increase that can occur in productivity if employees treat the arrangement professionally, and the business case is strong. 

While we have some telecommuters, I've been working on something to help institutionalize the approach.  I need to wrap that up and get it to market, ASAP...

What Does a CC Email Mean - FYI or CYA?

I'm fascinated by what things mean in corporate America.  You know, the big things - what it means when the company takes the sugar buns out of the vending machine, when my boss subscribes to my blog and yes, even the meaning of the tag line "please consider the environment before printing this email" (good thing the last email I printed was in 2006).

Of course, the significance of those items pales in comparison to this one - the meaning of being CCdCya Fyi_logo on an email.

To some, the CC is the heart of the CYA.  That camp claims every CC is a land grab to avoid future accountability.  That group can be a little testy about the topic. 

To others, the CC is a necessary component of FYI.  On this end of the spectrum, there's always a CC on the email, because someone could always use the FYI. 

You know both the camps in your company.  You are probably like me - somewhere in the middle, trying not to overdo the CC's but aware there are times when it is necessary.  The extreme views of all CYA or all FYI, all the time, don't fit most of our lifestyles.

Here's where I come down on the topic:

1.  If I know someone has a strong interest in the topic and the information isn't confidential, they'll get a CC. 

2.  If that person's not on our team, I'll generally take the time to explain to the "To" why I am CCing the rest of the gang to drop the political shields before they are raised.

3.  If I think there are folks who have felt left out or have been critical of not getting enough information in the past, I do the CC, then follow step #2.

4.  If I think I can shortcut future emails and questions with a CC to certain parties now, I do the CC and follow step #2. 

5.  If I'm dealing with a group outside of my own who has some finger pointing going on within their own team, I CC those necessary to avoid holding the bag at a later point, then follow #2.  This isn't a CYA, it's good business. 

Of course, if you're concerned about being tagged a CYA type of professional, you can always use the snarky BCC. 

I'm joking, of course.  Use the BCC, then someone can "reply to all" on the "To" line and blow the whole thing up.

Just walk away from the BCC, people....

Would You View Employee Text Messages If You Could?

I'm not big on throwing up every court decision on this blog (I'll leave that to the employment law experts), but here's an interesting one from last week. 

From a Workforce report:

"A unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco alsoText_messaging held in its decision June 18 in Quon v. Arch Wireless Operating Co. Inc. that the city of Ontario, California, had violated the constitutional privacy rights of a police officer and the recipients of his text messages when it obtained copies of the messages from Arch Wireless Operating, a unit of Westborough, Massachusetts-based Arch Wireless Inc. Arch provided two-way alphanumeric pages under contract with the city.

According to the decision, Jeff Quon exceeded his monthly allotted characters in his text messages several times. He was told the Ontario Police Department would audit his messages unless he paid an overage fee, which he did. But the city still asked Arch Wireless to send it transcripts of his messages to ascertain whether they were work-related.

Quon and the recipients of his messages subsequently sued, claiming violations of the Stored Communications Act and the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unlawful seizure."

From a HR standpoint, I'm surprised.  I've always thought that if an employer paid for a service, which it appears is the case here, they have a right to the call detail or volume reports.  I suspect the real issue is that the employer asked for transcripts (not volume, but actual messages) of the messages under the umbrella of "work-related", even after he paid for the overage. 

That's not a great decision from a management standpoint.  Looking at the content of the messages opens the employer up to a world of liability, etc. that they didn't have before they had access to the content.

Sounds like a jaded/vindictive manager or department to me.  Bad stuff when you mix business with pure privacy issues.  Reading text messages is the digital equivalent of listening to phone calls that employees make.

Bad stuff, whether it's legal or not.... 

Lionel Richie? For Those About to Rock at SHRM, I Salute You...

The always reliable John Hollon reports from Chicago that the new CEO of SHRM hasn't yet been named...

Maybe I haven't been contacted yet because I haven't made my platform clear.  Here's my platform - In my first move as the incoming SHRM CEO, I'm booking the entertainment for the 2009 SHRM Convention in New Orleans.

My pick?  A superband that can bring together young and old, cool and challenged, digital and analog, andAngus_young yes, even compensation specialists and HR generalists.

If you said ABBA, please turn in your membership card today.  We'll prorate your refund accordingly.

No, the group I'm turning to connects with every generation - Boomer/X/Y/Whatever...

AC/DC.  That's right, the group who brought you Back in Black, You Shook Me All NIght Long, etc.

Here are the reasons:

1.  Every generation knows the songs.  I'm X, and the boomers seem to get AC/DC.  On the other end, I went to a couple of high school basketball games last winter, and the kids are now playing the classics from AC/DC to warm up to.  Interesting...Surely Y knows them as well...

2. Key Point - It's all about themes, images and the branding campaign the music brings moving forward.  My branding campaign moving forward is going to include some AC/DC rifts.  Here's the vision.  Running commercials of attractive/professional (and of course diverse) HR Pros doing what they do in hip professional and manufacturing environments as business partners - various demographics.  All to the tune of "For Those About To Rock, We Salute You".  Think about it, HR's suddenly hip via imagery with an assist from Angus Young (guitarist for AC/DC).  The next generation takes notice.  So does Accounting....

3.  Angus Young performs in a schoolboy outfit - it's just fun.  Great show for the hard working profession that is HR...

Welcome to my branding, my fellow HR Pros.  Are you about to rock in your job?  Of course you are... That's why I'm saluting you...

Why Salary.com and Glassdoor Don't Equal Pay Transparency

John Hollon at Workforce has a good, quick primer on Glassdoor, the latest entry into the Salary.com space.  You know the space - the one designed to arm employees with everything they need to determine if they are underpaid, fairly compensated, or overpaid (have the last two ever happened?  Any HR pros out there who have experienced the fulfillment of an employee approaching them and saying, "My wife looked up my job on salary.com last night, and I just want to say, thanks for fairly compensating me for what I do"?  That was reassuring...)

No reason to recreate the wheel here, so I'll go with JH's description, with my take after the jump:

"The Internet has done a lot to give workers more information about salary levels, including suchMo_money_3 well-known sites as Salary.com and PayScale.com. Another one debuted this week: Glassdoor.com.

“It’s like a Zillow for jobs,” says a blog post on Good Morning Silicon Valley. “People who derive pleasure from finding out how much their neighbor paid for his house might be just as interested to know, for free, how much that neighbor makes, although the site doesn’t disclose names. Still, if you know he’s a software engineer for Google—and isn’t ‘So, what do you do?’ one of the first things you ask someone— you can get a pretty good idea by going to the site.”

So what makes Glassdoor different from other salary sites? “What’s different is that Glassdoor gathers content by asking users to submit their information in order to access other information,” says Good Morning Silicon Valley, “something the company’s press release calls the ‘give to get’ model. The site, which for now is starting with companies in the San Francisco Bay Area, may come in handy for job seekers and career hoppers. Besides finding out salary ranges, you can also look for reviews and ratings. It might temper your lust to work for Google, for example, because, as TechCrunch notes, ‘even at Google, it’s not all happy faces.’

Bounce out and take a look at John's entire post, because it's a nice mix of his dual role as manager and employee.  He wants ALL the info as an employee, but would rather not have the headaches that come with transparency as a manager.  I suspect he's part of a large club in that regard.

Here's the deal with sites like Salary.com when it comes to salary data - employees never assume they should be paid near the minimum or really, even the midpoint.  Any time you give an individual comp data, even with a clear and meaningful explanation of ranges in comp theory, the employee always looks at the highest number.  Human nature.  The only reason I am immune to it is because I have all the data and have lived life as a HR pro for the last decade.  Shins kicked, heart hardened...

So we have the salary surveys and pay people competitively, but for the most part, companies don't publish ranges (public sector excluded).  At the end of the day, your worth in the market place is equal to the salary you accept to do the job.  Not the max on the range, or depending on your experience, the midpoint, but the salary you accept as dictated by the market.

Once that's done, it's up to the comp and HR pros to make sure you're paid competitively and retained.  With that in mind, salary.com and glassdoor are good because they keep HR pros accountable to that goal.  Usually using different and more in-depth tools, but accountable nonetheless...

But, it doesn't mean anyone is really ready for transparency, which is a two-way street.  What the market says...and also what you are worth...

You Just Fired Jimmy. What Should You Say?

Jimmy was a nice guy, but Jimmy didn't get it done.  You talked to Jimmy, you coached him, made him aware of the issues, but Jimmy didn't improve.  Jimmy also didn't leave under his own accord, so you ended up doing formal warnings to Jimmy to try and shake him into making meaningful change. 


It ended today.  You had to fire Jimmy for performance reasons.

Jimmy knew it was coming, and was really nice about the whole thing.  He asked you for aLeavingwork_2 positive reference.  Not sure what you could actually provide, you told him you would do everything you could in that regard based on the circumstances. 

Now, Jimmy's gone, and you start to think what you are going to tell the world about Jimmy once you open the door.  Some may ask you, some may not. 

What do you say about Jimmy?

Note that I'm not talking about your legal obligations, I'm talking about your HUMAN obligations.  The rest of your team, that used to include Jimmy, wants to know you're the leader.  Those on the next ring out of the organization are wondering where Jimmy is, and/or who's going to do Jimmy's work.  What about those further removed?  Do you owe them anything?

Thoughts?  Here are some of mine, because to say that everyone only gets mimimal information isn't leadership:

1.  The Team - Your team, that once included Jimmy, needs more than the "Jimmy has separated from the company" mantra.  Most of them already know the deal, and may have been wondering why it took so long.  Giving them the minimal response of "Jimmy's no longer with the company" erodes trust and makes them feel like you're insincere.  Give them more, be honest without putting yourself in peril.  Talk to your HR pro, or if you are the HR pro, talk to your General Counsel/employment law person about how to be real without exposing yourself to unnecessary legal risk.  It's possible to get both done....

2.  The Customers - Whether the customers are internal or external, they don't need to know why Jimmy's gone.  They just need to know that Jimmy's no longer with Dunder Mifflin and how they'll be served moving forward.  If you're slick enough with the phones and email, you can communicate those messages on an "as needed" basis without having to do a blast email that makes your team look like it's falling apart.

3.  The Company/The Rest of the World - Thinking about sending that unit/division/company-wide email saying Jimmy's no longer with the company?  Don't, because no one really cares and it makes your team look like the wheels are falling off, even though you're being proactive by removing Jimmy.

The bottom line - find a way to take care of the direct team with as much truth as your company will let you get away with, and treat Jimmy with respect while you do that.  Take care of internal and external customers, but don't send out the blast email saying "Jimmy has separated from Dunder Mifflin".

Half of the people reading that won't know what "separated" means (did Jimmy get divorced?  Who got the kids?).  The other half will think that means you fired Jimmy, and they'll email the first half to clue them in.  So, the cutesy email approach actually hurts more than it helps.... 

Work Less - And Save Our Country...Really?

OK, I'm a little late with this one from the April Issue of Fast Company.  Good thing for me that like a fine wine, the story keeps getting better as long as gas prices continue to climb...

The big idea?  David Roberts opines in his "All In A Day's Work" column that Americans should work lessDigital_toys as a means to save energy, and at the end of the day, be almost as productive, once you factor in waste.

"The United States leads the world in two categories: work and waste. American employees put in more hours and take fewer vacations than just about anyone else in the industrialized world, and our individual ecological "footprints" are much larger.

Coincidence? I think not. The way we work drives our habits of consumption and waste. The more we work, the more we drive, the more energy we burn, the more styrofoam to-go containers we use. At the end of the day, we're so tired, we devour more takeout and TV, often falling asleep in front of the latter. If we want to accelerate the recent trend of reducing waste, it may be time to consider the radical step of, well, relaxing more, consuming less, and living fuller lives. May the Wall Street Journal editorial board strike me down.

Working less is a radical notion today, but it hasn't always been. Between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries, work hours declined steadily in the industrialized world. In 1956, then-vice president Richard Nixon said that a four-day workweek was "not too far distant." But men today report working 100 more hours a year than in 1976. For women, it's 200-plus hours. All these extra hours have helped more than double the productivity of the American worker in the past half-century -- but they have also increased our energy consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions."

I don't want to go off on a rant here, but isn't doubling productivity while figuring out an acceptable work/life balance the American way?  Politics aside, I don't want to be France (which is mentioned as a beacon in the article).  I want the backbone of America to be the guy/gal who immigrates here and outworks/outsmarts everyone else, and gives his/her family more than they could have every imagined - based on their effort and performance.

We've got lots of room to improve, in terms of figuring out the consumption of energy in our country, and sure, we've become addicted to oil.  But a call for the country to work less?  As you might expect from a site with "capitalist" in the title, I'm not having it.  Let's let people compete and see what happens.  Let's become more green, but let's reward it via the marketplace.

If folks like David trade in their broadband, cable, Ipods and Apple notebooks, I'll start paying attention to the calls to work less.  I want to have work/life balance, and I want you to have one too - including the choice to work part-time or not at all.  But all the toys and tools of the American lifestyle - they run on energy.   Until you put all the toys down, the argument to work and consume less is hollow...

And rather than push for everyone to work less, I'd rather put dramatic rewards in place culturally for those who help us figure out where the new energy sources will come from, and bring them to market. 

And make them rich for doing it.   Big risk, big return.  It's been a staple of America for two centuries, along with choice and free will.  Not the call to do less...    

The Hidden Career Killer for HR Pros - The EFCA...

My new column up at Workforce is different.  Read it here...

Instead of wondering if the PHR/SPHR is worth your time or why your employees post their résumés in broad daylight, this time I’m wondering if you’ll have a job in 2010.

Did that get your attention? Because in the new column at Workforce, I’m focusing on a stealth piece of legislationVoting_booth that would cripple the competitiveness of American business, limit the rights of employees and eliminate the need for independent-thinking HR pros, all in one easy-to-sign law.

I’m talking about the Employee Free Choice Act .

The worst thing about the Employee Free Choice Act isn’t its effect on us as HR professionals. It's how stunningly anti-employee the act is. Ability for employees to keep their feelings about unionization private? Gone. Ability for employees to listen and carefully contemplate both sides of an argument regarding representation? Gone.

Ability for an employee to vote in an election via the democratic process we all take for granted? Priceless ... but gone if the Employee Free Choice Act is passed and signed into law.

Read the whole article at Workforce.  Educate your teams about what's at stake.  Hard to believe SHRM, who's pretty good at governmental affairs, hasn't organized marches on Capitol Hill over the EFCA.