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December 2008

3 HR Capitalist Resolutions for 2009 - Show Up, Kick ***, and Take Names...

That's right - yesterday I was a snarky HR pro with a blog.  Today, I'm Tony Robbins telling you that you can be anything you want to be.  Of course, I believe that, but it's hard for me to say it without the vision of Tony in a 22nd Century headset, pumping up a crowd of commercial real estate pros as the keynote at some forgettable convention in Reno.

Props to Tony - getting 50K for a 90 minute keynote rocks, regardless of the locations and who you areAnthony-robbins1 talking to.

Still, 2009 is almost here, and like everyone else, I'm making the list of things I'd like to do better in 2009.  Among my resolutions in my professional and personal life for 2009:

#5 - Have more patience with my kids, and with the folks in my life who have little things about them that drive me crazy.  After all, they're likely asking for patience about me...

#4 - Get 40+ hours of family video edited and viewable online/on demand.  Wish me luck on that one.

#3 - Do something digital to generate a higher end community in the HR world, specific to true HR practitioners.  SHRM's not going to do it, so why not me?

#2 - Get my LinkedIn game on in a much bigger way.

And the simplest, yet most important resolution comes in first:

#1 - Show up every day, kick *** and take names.

Before you label me as a jock, frat boy or redneck, let me explain #1.  Most of the moderate success I've experienced in my life has come from me being willing to outwork others.  I always knew that, but the fact that grinding it out is responsible for most of my success has been crystallized by reading Geoff Colvin's "Talent is Overrated", which I hope to review in a multi-post series either here or at Fistful of Talent in January. 

Colvin's big idea?  That the path to greatness (or at least success) is formed by the concept of deliberate practice.  Find out more about deliberate practice here.  Reading the book has convinced me more than ever that you and I can work our way to our goals, IF we work/practice smart, make good choices about what to pursue with our time, and most importantly - show up to work on it every day.

So, I'll be grinding it out every day in 2009, including practicing the craft featured here.  The goals/resolutions?  They'll take care of themselves if I take care of #1.

How about you?  I don't even need the DVD set from Tony to know what to do come Monday, January 5th.   

LinkedIn - Now Commoditizing the Recommendation Game Within the Talent Scene...

OK - two days to go until the new year is here - what are your professional resolutions for 2009?  I've got a couple, and as you might expect from a blogger, at least one of them involves 2.0 technology...

#1 - I'd like to get my LinkedIn game on in a much bigger way.

Check out my profile and you'll find that I'm not a total novice. Couple hundred connections, have had a Linked_in_logopro account at numerous times to try and unlock LI's potential as a recruiting tool, etc.  Still, I'm no power user, so I intend to ramp it up in 2009.

Here's where it gets interesting.  I've got lots to do to become a power user - become more disciplined at inviting warm contacts I encounter to join my scene, complete my profile in full, get the LinkedIn logo back on the blogs, etc.   One thing I thought I could get started on right away is getting recommendations from the people who know me best in the professional world.  To do that, I've got to track down the folks from my past and also determine a strategy for my current co-workers (doesn't it seem a little weird to have your current co-workers singing your praises?).

With all that in mind, I started by asking a few folks in the human capital blogging space who have been positive about my work at the Capitalist and FOT to recommend me.  I put out some emails before Christmas, and the community was very kind and gracious in the response.  Then I got a gracious response that included the following snippet - "I've got a no-rec policy on LinkedIn".

That one stopped me dead in my tracks.  Not because I was offended, because it came from a super-cool pro who I look up to.  Instead, I was intrigued because it reminded me of the commoditization of recommendations that can be caused by LinkedIn.

Here's how it works.  As you might expect from a service that can hijack your outlook and push out a thousand invites to join your network, LinkedIn has an automated recommendation tool.  That means if you are like me, you've received at least 20 automated invites to recommend people that you had marginal knowledge at best regarding the quality of their work.  Those requests always hit me a little cold, as did the fact that the LinkedIn technology makes it super simple for anyone to view every recommendation you make.

Clearly not the old days of the talent game, when requesting a recommendation meant you had to have the guts to actually contact someone personally to write a recommendation for you.

Instead, with LinkedIn, you can point and click.  It's like Internet Marketing, with the exception that your "close rate" will likely be smaller than the guys pumping out 100,000 emails touting Viagra for $5.

As for me, I'll be soliciting LinkedIn invites the old fashioned way - by requesting them personally from people I believe truly know the quality of my work.  I know I'm on the right track when some of the potential recommenders shoot me a note back and say, "Hey, it appears we actually have to be connected on LinkedIn for me to recommend you".  

Hopefully that means I've earned the recommendation, and the technology is an afterthought. 

Employee Generated Videos - If You Want to Make a Hit, You've Got to Make it Quick...

We've been experimenting a good bit on our company-based social network (affectionately named "Sourceapolooza") and I'm becoming increasingly convinced that the killer app for any internal social network is video.  After all, YouTube rocks the casbah, and it's what people now expect/want in any web offering.

The only thing better than video on your internal flavor of Facebook?  EMPLOYEE generated videos.  When employees care enough to create their own videos, in my eyes that's pretty much the definition of engagement. 

Which is why the recent 401k contest sponsored by Best Buy is such a great idea.  More on the contest at BestBuy via HR Marketer:

"Last week one of our team members attended a Webinar about the power of Web 2.0 in talent management. One of the highlights was how Best Buy increased their 401k participation by 30%.

30%? How the heck did they do that?  With a contest. A video contest. They asked employees throughout the retail chain to submit motivating videos that would help increase overall 401k participation. They did just that and the winner is below."

You have to admit, that's pretty sweet, and if you're not the type of HR pro who has their wheels spinning as a result, then... well, you probably need to take a break and find your motivation or consider another career.

If I had to split hairs on the video, I'd say it's too long - if you want people to watch the whole thing, you have to bring a length no longer than a movie trailer - 2:30 tops. 

Still, that's mindless quibbling vs. the impact of employees caring enough to cut a video like this.  What can you do early in 2009 to give control to employees and empower them to get creative on video?

Nickelback - Now Causing a Harassment Suit Near You...

Dateline: Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Location - I-65, somewhere south of Nashville in the early stages of a 12 hour roadtrip from Birmingham back to the Missouri homeland...

Topic: Christmas gifts from the team, which answers the following question from longtime friends of theNickelbackOfficialSite Capitalist - "I know you're in HR and all, but can you please admit it's OK to compliment someone on the fact they look nice today?" (hat tip to the fact that the Capitalist plays it pretty vanilla with his public persona)..

Scene - My wife opens up the new Nickelback CD, which was part of a gift from my team.  For the record, I have a great team and the gift basket included Starbucks, Twizzlers, Diet Mt. Dew and Nickelback, all of which were money in my eyes.

Mrs. Capitalist: (who told them to buy me the new Nickelback, btw) wonders aloud if we can play the new Nickelback with the kids in the car, breaks the CD case open and starts laughing. 

Me: What's funny?

Mrs. Capitalist: Here's the first set of lyrics from the first song (laughing and whispering so the rest of the car won't hear):

"...got to meet the hottie with the million dollar body
they say its over budget, but you'd pay her just to touch it, come on..
pretty little lady with the pretty pink thong
every sugar daddy hittin on her all night long"

Me: I guess we're not listening to that in mixed company, eh?

Mrs. Capitalist:  You got that right...

Me: Nice selection for the gift from the team, honey...

Full disclosure - my team is great, and we thought it was waaaaay funny - not personally offended in the slightest, especially since my wife told them to get it for me.  But think about this.  What if I had a habit of telling a direct report of the opposite sex she looked nice, then I gifted her the CD and she's driving down the road with her husband, and her husband starts reading the lyrics and it all starts feeling creepy?

Too sensitive on their part if they're offended you say?  Perhaps.  Juicy anecdotal fodder for any harassment suit?  Without question.  I've seen it play out for others, and so have you...

I'm just sayin...  The audience ALWAYS decides what's appropriate in the workplace, and that's why we play it to the lowest common denominator related to the "I'm offended and feeling harassed" threshold.  It's a personal thing.  You don't get to decide.  They do.

It's also why you don't play Nickelback CD's (Justin Timberlake, Alien Ant Farm, or whatever . . . you fill in the blank) unscreened in the lobby at work.  Or work the word "thong" into daily conversations.  "Bong", maybe.  "Thong"?  I don't think so...

What is Mrs. Capitalist going to recommend the team buy me next year?  Luke Skywalker's greatest hits?  The Bloodhound Gang?  Like any kid, I'll be running down the stairs to find out....

Have A Mixture of Religions in Your Workforce? Wish Them a Happy Festivus...

True story - we had a Christmas party last Sunday, and when the folks were leaving, I told them "Happy Holidays".  We're Christians, so my wife gave me a look that said I could do better by our friends, who also happened to be Christian.  She had a point...

What can I say?  I told her my broad wish for holiday cheer has nothing to do with Atheists demanding equal time at Washington state nativity scenes, and everything to do with working in a multicultural workplace.  It doesn't bother me to go broad in the greeting, as a HR pro it's kind of second nature for me.  Problem is, all my Christian friends don't swim in my HR waters - they just see CNN coverage of the Washington state atheists and think I'm trying to water down the holiday.  Merry Christmas to you guys if you're reading, sorry for the secular moment.

Next time, I'll channel Frank Constanza and wish everyone a Happy Festivus - nobody gets their feelings hurt if you are channeling Seinfeld.  Enjoy the video, and however you celebrate the holidays, be safe out there. 

Also, check out the space below the video, We've dropped an image of a gift I've tendered in your name,  Thanks for everything you do to make the Capitalist a groovy place to be...


To: HR Capitalist Readers

From: Art Vandeley, Chairman of the Board, HR Capitalist Industries


Now Eligible to Guest Host at the HR Capitalist - Al Sharpton....

Read this blog long enough, and you probably have a sense of how I must vote.  Pro-business, less government, empower and reward the performers, etc. - it's not really hard to figure out, if you think about it.

Here's the problem with trying to typecast me - and probably a lot of you as well.  I'm a moderate in allAl_sharpton things.  When there's an election coming up, I like to hear about the issues and shock of all shocks, I find things to like on both sides.  I'm automatically cynical with the polar extremes of either party, and if you really want to appeal to me, you have to connect me with how your platform is going to help people accept accountability in their lives, while enabling the business community to expand the economy and preparing the local workforce for a global world.

Which brings me to Al Sharpton. I don't know a lot about Al Sharpton, and I've heard people rant about the typecast they claim he represents.  I also would expect him to be a polarized Democrat based on what I heard from people with opinions on him. Like guys who run sites called "The HR Capitalist", Sharpton's got a brand and after a couple of soundbites, most people think they know the platform. 

Based on listening to the opinions of people who claim they know Sharpton, I thought I knew him too.  So imagine my surprise when he went on the record as being against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) on his radio show.  Here's the transcript from the Al Sharpton Radio Program via the National Review:

"Al Sharpton: Yeah, well, what I don’t understand about it which is why I’m in the campaign is why wouldn’t those of us who support workers being protected, why would we not want their privacy protected.  I mean why would we want them opened up to this kind of possible coercion?

Sylvester: Well, and that’s the 50 million dollar question, Rev. Sharpton, it’s a question we’ve been trying to answer but we think that the heart of this issue is not about protecting workers, the heart of this issue is about the decline of union membership that’s been going on in this country for the past thirty years.  The unions at this point are in a death spiral and much of it’s tied to the exportation of production jobs from this country to other countries and the unions…

Al Sharpton: Yeah, the outsourcing, well I’m all for, and as well for those who don’t believe in the right to organizing, clearly I’m for any legislation to give any state the right to organize, but I’m talking about specifically where workers are not protected from coercion, in terms of these card-checks that you talk about, and as arbitration because explain, Charlie King, to me the whole question that you raised, if you have a federal arbitrator who says that this is the deal, even when the union only established out of card-check, is the deal for two years, and there’s nothing you can do about it, I mean, a lot of the business that we afford for the African American community to get contracts and sub contracts and all.  They could face some very serious problems here.

So, Al Sharpton's a vocal proponent for the African-American community, and instead of falling in line with the Democratic line of thought on the EFCA, he takes a stand for African American business interests and questions the legitimacy of the bill, based on those concerns.  OK - that's pretty interesting...

And poof!!!  All the typecasting I had heard by the opinion mongers is gone.  By doing an analysis of how the bill could hurt his constituency and then opting to raise a voice of concern rather than fall in line with the Democratic party, Sharpton has me listening to the rest of his platform. 

So, the next time I see Sharpton on a news channel or on the radio, I'll stop and listen - and try to understand.  That's what makes America the cool place that it is...

Still don't know what the EFCA is?  Check my full rundown at Workforce early this year here, and be sure to hit the links from others here, here, here, and here.

And Al Sharpton?  He's invited to do a guest post any time he wants.  Go get 'em on the EFCA, Mr. Sharpton...

Panel Interviews - Cool Technique or Crutch to Hide Those Who Can't Interview?

I'll admit up front that I've got some biases against group interviewing, also called panel interviewing, in companies.  I've been a part of those types of panels early in my career, and the biggest issue I have with the format can be summarized in one word - "groupthink".  My experience has been that the panel interview is ultimately driven by the friskiest, most aggressive interviewers, why the meek and mild sit back and might throw out one question or follow up when prodded by the person serving as facilitator.

As an interviewer and someone who facilitates the process within a company, if I have 3-4 key peoplePanelInterview who are going to have influence on a hiring decision, I'd rather spend the time and have them interview separately, then ask for feedback from everyone.  My experience is that I get the freshest takes that way.  When you do a candidate review in a panel, the meek and the mild continue to fade into the background, especially when there are vocal individuals with differing opinions at higher levels (ie., the boss) on the panel.

Still, I'd be foolish if I didn't mention that the panel interview seems to be getting sexier in corporate America.  I was at a user group meeting this fall and heard a guy wax poetic on the virtues of the Whole Foods (I've never been in one - I'm a PC) process, which uses a panel that can include more than 10 people. 

More on the panel interview from Anne Fisher at Fortune:

"Panel interviews, an import to the business world from academia, are getting more common all the time. The reason is twofold, according to executive coach Susan Whitcomb (www.careercoachacademy.com), author of Interview Magic (Jist Works, $18.95). First, meeting everyone you'd be working with at once is a big time-saver for everybody. But more important, meeting your whole team gives everyone a better idea of how well (or not) you'd fit into the group.

"When there are half a dozen or more people observing you at the same time, it's a lot easier to compare notes and reach a consensus" about you than in several different interviews, Whitcomb notes.

Whole Foods Market, No. 16 on Fortune's 2008 list of the Best Companies to Work For, has been subjecting all applicants to panel interviews for several years now.

"It was the most difficult job interview I've ever been through," says Ben Friedlander, 34, who was hired last spring as marketing coordinator for the retailer's Rocky Mountain region, based in Boulder. "But it was also the most interesting."  His panel was made up of 11 people, including the regional president, some store employees, the vice president of purchasing, and "basically everyone who would have significant contact with me," he recalls.

I'll concede that you can get a good idea if the person would "fit" the group in a panel interview.  Still, I'd be a proponent, especially in professional grade positions, of keeping the solo interview schedule alive and well.  You need it to get diversity of opinion regarding the candidate's knowledge, skills and abilities, and you also need to teach your young professionals how to interview.

The biggest drawback to the panel interview is that your young stars never learn how to go one-on-one for themselves and make an accountable call regarding who they want to hire and why.  

Keep the solo interview alive and well.  Do a final round that feels like a panel interview if you need to, and that way the peer group can meet the candidates and give feedback on "fit".

And if you're ever in an interview with me on a panel?  I'll be the guy forcing the quiet half of the group to talk.  I'll be evaluating them as much as I'm evaluating you.  Discomfort ensues....

VIDEO - Jessica Lee Doesn't Like the EFCA (and you shouldn't either)

My buddy Jessica Lee (of Fistful of Talent fame) has a video blog up at her personal site regarding the bogusly-named (if it's not a word, I'm creating it) Employee Free Choice Act, otherwise known as the EFCA. 

Nice work, JLee.  You're credible on video, and while I'm CRUSHED that you didn't include me in the rundown of people who have been venting about the craziness of this bill, I'm thrilled you've decided to become active in speaking out against this anti-employee, anti-business bill that may become law in 2009.

For those of you not in the know, the EFCA (Proposed by the Democratic party) will actually remove the right to a confidential vote for/against a union representing workers in the workplace.  It doesn't give rights to individual employees, it actually takes them away.  See my full rundown at Workforce early this year here, and be sure to hit the links that Jessica provided here, here, here, and here.

Then put the cheetos down (I'm currently eating them as I write this, bad for the keyboard), and tell 4 other HR pros about the details of what the EFCA would mean, and be active in whatever JLee's cooking up, per her video notes below.

Know Your Role and Shut Your Mouth <#1> - The Superstar...

In the corporate world, everyone's got a role to play and a natural spot in the pecking order.  With this in mind, we're rolling out a series called "Know Your Role and Shut Your Mouth" (hat tip to Dwayne Johnson, aka "The Rock"), which is designed to destroy the myth that all are equal, or should be treated equally, in society and the corporate world. 

While some would say we're crushing the audacity of hope, we think you're playing it smart by knowing where and how you fit in, whether as an individual or as a HR pro trying to deal with divas and grunts as defined by this series.  With that in mind, we'll give you a brief rundown of each role (which apply to any functional area - sales, engineering, even HR...), what the player drives, who they eat lunch with, and the career path each can aspire to.

Role Description - "The Superstar"

The Rundown - You're the best among all the peers you have, both inside and outside your company.  You're more than an All-Star in your field of expertise, because the All-Stars you know come to you for clarification on the career stuff they don't understand in your area of expertise. They'd also follow you if you decided to switch companies, those lemmings. When junior level recruiters are lucky enough to get you on the phone, they're quickly uncomfortable because the details you want to know about are related to the capitalization and equity structure of the company, and heck, they just wanted to set up a phone screen. They've never heard of a vesting schedule.  If you don't hang up, you tell them to write down your questions and DM you the answers on Twitter.  You're that much of a freaking rockstar.

But the recruiters are wasting their time, aren't they?  If you move, its going to be a big play, like setting up your own shop with someone else's money.  When it comes to networking, you've lost interest in professional groups within your area of expertise, and you're looking for broader groups where the monied people gather. 

Around the office, you're an icon, so much so that's there's a good chance that the pack in general loathes you, but has to put up with you because of the positioning of your personal brand within the company.  Your manager handles you as if you were a fine piece of china, picking his spots to approach you with issues based on your mood, even though he's the boss.

Toyota Product That Brought You to Work - Depends.  Toyota doesn't really have a product that helps define you, even in the Lexus family.  If you have a Toyota product in your garage, it's probably a Land Cruiser, because there are a lot fewer of those out there than the pedestrian Lexus.

Who's Going to Lunch? - You don't lunch with the little folks much in the company, and when you do, it's generally C-level. 

Dream Corporate Toy - Your own IT network at the office.  You're tired of all the peons slowing you down by watching YouTube clips of American Idol and the Simpsons. 

Pet Peeve - When your company provided laptop is more than one year old.  Or when someone less talented than you has a newer model.  What the **** is going on?

"I know it's Miller Time When" - When you haven't been approached to rescue the team by 4pm on a given day.  Rough day, and it's hard for you to get motivated, if someone hasn't asked you to save the company.

Where You Go From Here - You could grab a C-Level gig at a smaller company, but that sure seems like a lot more accountability than you have now.  You like the idea of setting up your own shop, but rather than putting your own cash in, you continue to talk to others about funding you.  You've got "Angel Investor" set up as a Google Alert - you never know what you might find....

Dream Date - Beyonce for the guy superstar, Clooney for the ladies.  Character actors need not apply.

The Market Apparently Doesn't Care About Title 7...

It's a global world baby, and if you want to keep your relationships local, or even in the states, you're going to have to pay to play.  Want proof?  Companies like Dell have felt consumer's pain regarding the outsourcing of customer service overseas, and now will guarantee your customer service call is answered by someone in the states. 

For a price, that is.  More from the Washington Post:

"If you prefer a customer service agent who speaks "American," then computer maker Dell has aIndia call center deal for you.

Catering to consumers put off by the accents of Bangalore, Manila and other call-center hubs around the globe, Dell will guarantee -- for a price -- that the person who picks up the phone on a support call will be, as company ads mention in bold text, "based in North America."

The Your Tech Team service, with agents in the United States, costs $12.95 a month for customers with a Dell account, or $99 a year for people who buy a new computer. It also promises that wait times will average two minutes or less. Without the upgrade, a customer is likely to get technical help from someone in India, the Philippines or the other places where Dell has operators.

Though some have suggested that the friction between U.S. consumers and foreign operators arises from prejudice, some observers see it differently.

"I hear people say all the time that people who complain about call centers in India are being racist or nativist -- but it's not as simple as that," said Sharmila Rudrappa, a sociology professor at University of Texas at Austin and native of Bangalore, India. "If you need tech support, it already shows you're having a crazy time getting your Dell computer to work. And when things go haywire, you want assurance, you want familiarity, you want someone to hold your hand and say it's okay. What you don't want is to have to work at understanding the person on the other end of the line."

Hard to tell where this is going for the future, although as the cost of living continues to rise in places like India and the cost differential narrows, it's hard to imagine we won't see some onshoring occuring as more companies bring call center jobs back.  I'm wondering with technology shrinking the globe if call center jobs aren't effective solutions for the thousands of more rural towns in America that have lost manufacturing jobs.

Time will tell.