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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?

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....

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.

Payback - The J. William Tincup (JPIE) Blog Story...

Editor's Note - If you haven't checked out the blogger profile series over at www.jpie.com, jump over there today.  J. William Tincup's spent the better part of a month profiling bloggers in the human capital space, and whether you're a reader, a blogger, or a reader considering becoming a blogger, the profiles are worth your time to check out.  Additionally, JPIE is a must add to your google reader...

As a sidenote, I found www.jpie.com shortly after JWT launched JPIE, and his old "about me" profile at Starr Tincup remains one of the premiere pieces of literature created by an American born in the 20th Century.  Check it out - It was that good.  JWT was kind enough to bring it out of the National Archives for this celebration of JPIE.  Also check out JWT's mellow new profile here, and browse the Starr Tincup website as well, which proves they drink the Kool-Aid since it's based on the Ning platform. 


J. William Tincup (http://www.linkedin.com/in/tincup), JPIE (http://jpie.com)

1. Why did you start your blog?

Talk about being shot with your own gun. This sucks. Ha.

I conceived the idea for the blog on a flight toWill Tincup Boston after about 7 Red Bull & Vodkas in May of 2007. Once I had fully ideated it – then I talked with our development team about what I should and shouldn't do - blog technology wise. That odyssey took about 2 months and the blog went live in October. I started JPIE as a way to track human capital vendors. I'm going to sound like a real homer but I really love human capital marketers - the people behind the brands we trust and love. So, in some ways the blog was a way for me to talk about them. My first post, now that I have re-read it, does a decent job of explaining what I was trying to accomplish with the blog way back then.

2. What keeps your blog going?

Desire. I'm totally obsessive compulsive. Those of you who know me - stop laughing damn it. I want to know everything that is going on in our space. I love following other human capital blogs. I love the communities that have developed over the last few years. I like the inherent conflict of interest between HR practitioners and marketers that represent folks that are selling to said practitioners. I think what keeps me going the most is - every once in a while - someone mentions me or my blog in a conversation. I know how ego-oriented that must sound. But think of why people play golf. Most people play golf for that one perfect shot. One shot. 5 hours on a Sunday away from friends and family to have one feeling of greatness in the midst of 100 failures. And even then it isn’t guaranteed. So, occasionally, I do something "right" and folks notice. That’s why I do it. And that's the sound of me smiling.

3. Any scheduled changes to your blog in 2009?

I really enjoy blogging about other human capital bloggers and/or communities. I think I might focus on that for a few months. Outside of that, I enjoy the consultants, analysts and marketers in the human capital space - I might focus on them for a while as well. Beyond that, who knows? Maybe I’ll blog about people who blog about bloggers. In terms of technology, I need to get my most dominate technologies / communities to link to one another. So, how does one integrate Twitter with Facebook with LinkedIn with RecruitingBlogs.com. etc. Also, I want a more robust tag cloud. I'll probably dump some of my less-necessary widgets like MyBlogLog and ClustrMaps. And I love the Yahoo Finance thingy but it sure is depressing these days.

4. What’s your favorite human capital blog?

Four blogs inspired me when I first thought of creating my own blog: Strategic HCM (www.strategic-hcm.blogspot.com) , systematicHR (www.systematichr.com), HR Capitalist (www.hrcapitalist.com), and Human Capitalist (www.humancapitalist.com). I still read these blogs daily.

Portable Medical Histories - Is Walmart Now Progressive with Employees?

The company many of you love to hate - Walmart - hit the headlines recently for being progressive via a company-wide rollout of digital medical history technology across its employee-base. 

Why's that news?  A quick jog of your memory might have you recall this is the same company thatWalmart_supercenter once wrote a memo to its board on controlling healthcare costs and - get this - recommended job redesign so checkout employees had to go retrieve carts in the parking lot during their shifts.  The thought was that the most unhealthy in the ranks wouldn't be able to do that part of the job, so they'd have to leave the company and take the high cost of sponsoring their healthcare elsewhere.

Nice!  If you forgot that blast from the past, you can see the entire memo of Darwinian ideas here.

Still, Walmart's been doing better on the PR front lately, so let's give them a chance.  More on the e-Health initiative from Walmart from BusinessWeek:

"Starting early next year, Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) employees will spend less time filling out forms in the doctor's office. They'll be able to log on to the company's intranet to download and print any medical records their physicians require: allergy information, prescriptions, blood tests, entire health histories if necessary. After nearly a year of pilot tests, the Bentonville (Ark.) retailer made this option available to 1 million U.S. staffers who are eligible for insurance under its benefits enrollment program this fall. Thousands of employees have signed up, making this initiative one of the most ambitious thrusts into digital medical records, or "e-health," by any U.S. company.

Wal-Mart's program is part of a larger strategy embraced by incoming Chief Executive Michael Duke both to improve the company's image as an employer and to cut long-term costs. The retailer faces steadily rising health-care expenses, and it's not alone. A recent survey of nearly 3,000 U.S. companies by global consulting firm Mercer found that health-related costs are up 6%, on average, for the fourth straight year. Linda M. Dillman, Wal-Mart's executive vice-president for benefits and risk management, believes digital records will help by fostering "healthier associates who are more productive." And the move has an impact on other companies wondering "how to make a business case," she says. "It's easier when someone like a Wal-Mart goes first."

Walmart's biggest challenge with potable medical histories will be getting past the employee trust issues based on the PR of the past.  Even though the service is provided by a non-profit technology collective, as long as Walmart is footing most of the bill, many employees will remain skeptical of the service.

Also, as someone who pays medical costs for my employer, I don't know how the medical histories create healthier associates who are going to save the company a lot of money.  As the article says, I know accurate medical histories enhance the accuracy of care, but to really have healthier employees, you need them to do two things - exercise and eat right. 

Sadly, I don't think the software will create opportunities in either of those areas.

Merit Pay Circus- "If I Had My Druthers, We'd Pay All Teachers Equally"...

You can't turn around these days without seeing an article on Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the DC school system and all-around advocate for shaking things up.  Many of the things Rhee is doing center around getting the right talent in place to teach kids, lead teachers and manage schools.  Beyond that, she’s been out to to get merit pay in place for her teachers to help change the culture.  

So, she's been celebrated, of which I'm an advocate.  The problem is that the concept of merit pay forRhee cover teachers has trickled into the rest of the primary educational system, where progressive leadership towards pay for performance is..... well, let's just say that it's not exactly embraced,

More on merit pay and teachers in the non-Rhee world from the Pensacola News Journal:

"About 340 Escambia County (FL) educators have opted out of the merit pay program, about 160 fewer than last year.

The Florida Legislature appropriated around $38 million for the Merit Award Program, which gives bonuses to high-performing educators and administrators. Escambia received $2.1 million, which has been distributed in bonus checks of about $2,000 to more than 900 of the 1,800 teachers and administrators who qualified.

Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said the rub comes from figuring out how to distribute the $2.1 million. "If I had my druthers, we'd take it and pay all teachers," he said.

"People do the best they can no matter what," she said. "On the other side, there are people who have moral issues with it and absolutely are not going to take it. I have respect for both sides."  Escambia is one of nine districts with a merit pay program. Santa Rosa County does not have one. Participation is voluntary, and criteria are set by district officials.

The program has been controversial because some believe it does not reward all deserving teachers. A number teachers who opted out declined to comment for this story.

Problem number one - when you have a leader saying ""If I had my druthers, we'd take it and pay all teachers," you're hosed from the beginning.  That can't be the talking point from the leader on pay for performance.  It blows me away that's the quote from this guy in a leadership position.  I'll stop there, I could rant on that for days.

Still, all I have to do is run the numbers, and it's clear that the total comp mix doesn't provide enough skin in the game to make a conservative group of teachers embrace merit and pay-for-performance.

Here's why.  When you think about an average teaching salary of 40-45K, the bonus amounts represent between 2-3% of the teacher's salary.  Not enough for teachers to give up the across the board increase that's long been the domain of the union. 

Contrast that plan with the DC plan, where a two-tiered system would allow confident teachers to "opt in", and potentially earn bonuses of reportedly up to 20K per year (over 50% of the base if you use the numbers above), with raises based on student test scores and other evaluation measures, regardless of degrees. Opting in to the DC plan would require teachers to give up their seniority rights and tenure, however, and enter into an initial probation period.

Contrasting the DC plan with the Florida model provides a nice case study on change and pay for performance.  Which one do you think has a better chance of improving the schools?  The answer is obvious... 

Video Resumes - Now Playing at an Over-the-Top Laptop Near You...

I'm on record as saying that while I love the technology that drives video resumes, I don't think they're in the best interest of most candidates, or for that matter, most hiring managers.

Josh Letourneau has a great rundown of the drawbacks related to the video resume over at Fistful of Talent, the best of which is the concern that by creating a video resume, you're risking seeing yourself plastered all over YouTube by some spiteful HR Coordinator who thinks you're a dork - or dorkette.  See the history behind the Impossible is Nothing video resume as a springboard into Josh's top 8 things NOT to do on a video resume:

A. Don't banter about your philosophies of what defines "success".
B. Don't include clips of yourself lifting weights in short shorts.
C. Don't show clips of yourself doing anything that might resemble X-Games stunts.
D. Don't say anything along the lines of "Ignore the Losers".  (Did I really have to mention this one?)
E. Don't include clips of yourself doing any form of dance moves (Whether ballroom or hip-hop, it's the wrong place).
F. Don't show clips of yourself executing any Martial Arts maneuvers, to include breaking bricks.
G. Don't put anything resembling the following after your name: "CEO and Professional Athlete".
H. Don't proclaim yourself as "A model of personal development and inspiration to those around you".

Hilarious.  If you know about the Impossible is Nothing video resume, get in a good mood for the weekend with the following video resume spoof by Michael Cera (Superbad, Juno) entitled "Impossible is the Opposite of Possible".

Classic - Have a good weekend, and remember - Ignore the Losers....