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April 2009

The DISC Profile of the HR Capitalist... I Hear the Sirens In The Background...

Dr_Evil One of the cool things about DAXKO is that we run a DISC on everyone when they come in the door.  I suspect I'll be writing a good bit about the process of figuring out how to use the tool in individual and team development as I dig in, but for now, my full DISC is available for you to analyze and scrutinize at the link below.

<sob><gasp> Don't judge me too much when you read this...

So, I'm a developer.  Apparently, the only way I could be a higher "D" is if I contracted Dr. Evil to build me a special laser controlled by angry sharks.  A direct hit in many ways, although as a product of my parents, I could never be as brash as the profile suggests.  I care, trust me.  You're doing great, and the pat on the back is right around the corner...

Hit me in the comments with your thoughts.  I could use the therapy. 

After the Interview, We'll Just Need You To Jump On The Treadmill....

I'll admit I don't have a lot of hard-core manufacturing experience.  That's why I had one of those "What the..." moments when I read that a Black and Decker plant uses their pre-employment screening package to determine, among other things, whether production candidates have a high probability to develop carpel-tunnel syndrome via the required job responsibilties.

From CNN's Coverage:

"Victor Breehe has filed a class-action suit against Black and Decker in Tennessee, claiming theCarpel_tunnel company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Breehne, who applied for a job last year at a Black & Decker plant in Jackson, Tenn., that manufactures Porter Cable brand power tools, said in a court filing that he was offered the job contingent on passing a medical exam.

A company doctor stimulated forearm nerves that control hand muscles and concluded it would be inappropriate for Breehne to work in a "highly wrist- sensitive job," the filing said.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also challenged the tests, which aren't uncommon in manufacturing settings, on ADA grounds. The agency lost a federal lawsuit in 2001 against Rockwell Automation Inc. (ROK) after that company denied jobs to 72 applicants at an Illinois plant.

The EEOC believes the test doesn't reliably predict the likelihood of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, or whether it would pose an imminent threat to the person's safety, Chris Kuczynski, assistant legal counsel and director of the ADA policy division at EEOC, told The Baltimore Sun."

Wow.  "Company doctors stimulated forearm nerves that control hand muscles" kind of caught me off guard.  My first thought is that, positioned the right way, this could be spun as some sort of spa treatment.  My next thoughts are the obvious ones for a HR person and more grounded in reality.   Is having weak hand and forearm muscles a disability and covered by the ADA?   If the employee can do the job today but is simply more probable to develop a condition down the road, can you eliminate them from consideration?  Should the companies using these type of tests conduct them pre-offer, so it becomes one of 10-20 hiring criteria?

So, today, it's testing to limit liability that can be caused by a specific job activity.  With health care becoming more and more expensive, does tommorrow bring testing to see if the company can afford to provide medical coverage to the candidate in question?

Just need you to get on the treadmill after the second round of behavioral interviews.  Don't worry, we'll do it last and then you can go.  If you break 20 minutes in the 5K, there's a signing bonus involved....

Introvert Please... Will You Take the Meeting/Call, Please?

Let's face it, lots of HR pros are introverts.  When I run my Myers-Briggs through the machine, I consistently come out as an ISTJ, but the interesting thing for me has always been that I'm borderline I (introvert) vs. E (extrovert) on that first letter.  I've never come out as an E, but it's always been close. 

As time has gone on, I've become more aware of how that I vs.E designation impacts how I view theIntrovert world.  Here's the crazy thing - being borderline I/E, I find myself dreading some group activities (which you would expect from an introvert), but not serious dread.  Just the dread that makes me think it would be great to avoid it, but not enough to make me bail on the event or activity.

Then a funny thing happens.  Once I get to the event in question, my batteries aren't drained by it, they're actually charged.  That's where the borderline I vs.E comes into play - I'll dread it a bit as an "I", but I'm borderline "E", so I actually enjoy it once I'm involved.  The event could be a phone call, an association meeting, anything that involves interaction with people.

Which brings me to the point of the post.  If you're an Introvert, you have to get your paranoia in check.  Let's say you're a deeper Introvert than I am.  With that in mind, you loathe networking, presenting, etc.  I get it because I've felt the twinge.  The problem is that the world doesn't work like that.  You've got to get involved in the professional community to which you belong, especially with this whole thing going global. If you don't, you won't make the cut from a career progression standpoint.

Being out there as a blogger over the past couple of years, I've come to grips with my Myers-Briggs.  Here are my rules of things you have to do if you are a borderline (or extreme Introvert) to grow professionally and set yourself up for success moving forward:

1.  Never eat alone - Damn, does that sound like a cliche', but it's true.  Pick somebody and, even if it's once a week, break bread with someone from outside your company.  You'll need the network.

2.  Don't avoid callbacks.  I know, they're painful.  You don't have time to call back vendors.  Do it anyway.  Do it enough and there's probably a job offer down the road as a result.

3.  Force yourself to get involved locally and nationally.  Do you think the professional association you most likely should belong to is lame or not cool enough?  Join, attend and help them raise the game.  You need to stop whining about the limitations of the association and get involved.  Find a web-based community and start to meet some folks nationally as well.  The online version might be a good warmup to help you get prepared for the face-to-face stuff you dread.

That's my list.  If you've read this far, you're likely an introvert.  I feel your pain.  Don't let it define you - train yourself to do the things that will grow your network, grow you professionally and perhaps, just perhaps, move your Myers-Brings "I vs. E" score closer to the middle over time. 

PS - don't comment, because I'm dreading the interaction...

Managing Fear in a Landscape of Layoffs and The Van Down By The River...

It's a double-edged sword if you work for a company that's impacted by the economy and perhaps has already gone through a round of layoffs.  On one hand, the resulting paranoia can be a good thing if folks are putting their nose to the grindstone and working hard (as well as smart).  On the other hand, as a manager you really don't want to be the armchair psychologist and field all the CYAs that can come with that situation, do you?

More on the tightrope that is fear in the workplace from Michele Conlin over at BusinessWeek:

"For some bosses, managing the fear and loathing has become a job in itself. Trevor Traina, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has sold startups to Microsoft (MSFT) and Intuit (INTU), now heads DriverSide.com, a Web site that provides drivers with everything they need to know to manage car ownership. Since the downturn, the offices of the San Francisco company have become a tableau of Boy Scout-like diligence. "I'm getting e-mails all day long that say 'I'm doing this and I'm doing that,' and it makes my job harder," says Traina. "Every time I turn around, there is someone sticking their head in my office reminding me what they are doing for me." Traina has taken to informing his staff on a daily basis that the company just secured another round of funding and that they should lighten up on the oversharing.

For some leaders, the paranoia is a kind of blessing. "The world's best innovation comes from the greatest desperation," says Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle, a Trenton (N.J.) company that makes organic fertilizer and other planet-friendly products. Times are tough for TerraCycle, as they are for a lot of companies that supply hard-pressed retailers. "We have no money to hire anyone," says Szaky. He put the challenge out to his charges: Do more with less. Amp up sales without spending any money.

Of course, some managers are open to letting the fear work it's magic.  You know the type of magic, like employees sleeping in their back seats rather than at a Best Western:

So the TerraCyclers decided to become their own marketing machines, hitting the road and visiting stores in person. Normally, when TerraCycle staffers visit far-flung Wal-Marts (WMT) and Home Depots (HD) to check on displays and chat up customers, they take a plane, stay in a hotel, and expense their meals. But last month three members of the marketing department drove their cars more than 1,000 miles each instead. As if that weren't Grapes of Wrath enough: They also slept in their back seats.

Szaky says he has already seen a revenue jump. "Money is easy," he says. "It's good to starve companies sometimes. That's where innovation comes from."

Me?  I couldn't look any of my friends in the eye and tell them they shouldn't keep their boss posted on what they're working on and the value they provide.  The secret is finding the sweet spot at the intersection of communicating the value, the communication style of your boss and the tolerance for information overload that your boss has.  Some bosses don't mind the data, it's a simple "delete" on their email.  Others think you're a brown noser if you try that stuff.  Figure it out.

As for the backseat sleeping, are you kidding me?  What manager in his right mind thinks that's cool or appropriate, regardless of the times?  A Best Western costs 60 bucks.  You can't spring for that?

At least he could always recruit Matt Foley...


The Top 3 Clowns (Real Ones) to Hire to Run Your HR Department...

I was in a team meeting last week when the subject of clowns came up.  Some people are scared of them, some people went to a performing arts school where they got into the character of a clown for a full year.

Me?  I'm the sick one.  The question that came to mind for me was, "if you could be clown, which clownHomey would it be and why?  I tweeted that, got some interesting responses and DMs.  That process has built to the point where I'm now comfortable releasing my list of the "Top 3 Clowns (Real Ones) to Hire to Run Your HR Department".

I don't mean that in a negative way.  Like coaches, movie stars and performing artists, clowns have behavioral traits that would be good to have in your HR leader.  They've also got a wide array of props and tricks that might be effective in distracting attention from sliding benefits and salary freezes if your company has been knocked around by this economy. 

Here's my list of the TOP 3 Clowns to Hire to Run Your HR Department:

3.  Bozo - The gold standard.  Develops long term- relationships and is trustworthy. Understands the value of old media, so he's probably good at running print ads.  Good choice if you want low risk, medium return.

2. Krusty - The standard from the Simpsons, Krusty's the long-time clown host of Bart and Lisa's favorite TV show, a combination of kiddie variety television hijinks and cartoons including The Itchy & Scratchy Show. Krusty is often portrayed as a burnt out, addiction-riddled smoker who is made miserable by show business but continues on anyway.  Strengths - Accessible to the people.  Resilient.  Not perfect, but approachable and conversational.  Nice choice if you've had Gestapo HR for a few years and you're looking for folks to start coming back through the open door.

1. Homey - My personal favorite, Homey, played by Damon Wayans who plays an ex-con who works as a clown (real name Herman Simpson) for his parole agreement, but lashes out at anyone (usually by hitting them on the head with a tennis ball-filled sock) who attempts to make him perform the standard antics of the role - "I don't think so... Homey don't play that!". Near the end of most sketches, Homey would lead a group of children (played by the adult cast members) in a call and response sing-along, which would end with him degenerating into an angry/paranoid rant then intimidating the children into repeating verbatim. Strengths - toughness - great choice if the company has run roughshod over effective people practices and you need someone to reestablish the HR function and not get run over.  Great for the manufacturing or Call Center environment.

Here's a clip to show you why a tough clown might make sense for your next HR hire:

Beer Bong Pictures, Google Profiles and the Double Standard for Google/Microsoft...

Can I get a monopoly busting lawyer over here, stat?  Google's now helping those with potentially damaged online profiles get control of their career messages via Google Profiles.

Not familiar with Google Profiles?  From Google - "A Google Profile is simply how you represent yourselfAustin-hill-google-profile-1 on Google products — it lets you tell others a bit more about who you are and what you're all about. You control what goes into your Google Profile, sharing as much (or as little) as you'd like."

Profiles are public and contain basic information about yourself: a nickname (the real name is displayed only to your contacts), your occupation, your location, a list of links, a photo and a short description. They are embedded as iframes in pages that showcase user-generated content (personalized maps, shared bookmarks).

I guess that is a good thing.  Of course, if you don't sign up with Google, you can't control what appears first in an online search on your name - THEY control that, people.  Kind of like the Matrix, without the questionable acting of Keuna Reeves, which we all overlooked in the first Matrix, but noticed once the meandering, lost sequel that was "Matrix Reloaded" was released back in the day. 

From the New York Daily News:

"When you Google your name, what's the first thing that pops up?  Is it something you'd rather people not see? Or is your name so common your mere existence is lost in cyberspace?

While you can't completely erase those results, you can now better control your Internet identity - as long as you're willing to share your private information with Google. The world's dominant search engine has tweaked its famed algorithm to give a featured spot to users with "Google profile" pages. In other words, sign up with Google and get noticed online."

Google announced the new functionality, which will apply to name-based searches in the U.S., on the company's official blog Tuesday. Searches will include a new section, at the bottom of pages, that will show Google users' headshots, job titles and other biographical information."

First up, I think it's fair.  Sign up with Google and get the benefits, and I'm fine with that.  I can't help but point out, however, that if Microsoft controlled the same piece of the pie and attempted a similar innovation/leverage, the trustbusters would be circling Redmond in black helicopters.

People have a choice, you say?  They can use products other than Google?  Right - just like people can   use products other than Windows.  How'd that work out?

For the record, I'm OK with it.  Capitalist principles, develop a market and leverage it - I'm down with the sickness.  Just don't tell me Balmer wouldn't already be in handcuffs for the same thing if it was Microsoft that was controlling the search pipes.  Because he would...

--sent to you via my Google Account!

Let's Consider Prosecution of the True Waterboarders - Those Who Go Negative in an Interview to Get the Info...

By now you've heard, President Obama is considering allowing the prosecution of the legal eagles who allowed aggressive interrogation techniques that some consider torture, but others consider necessary in a world gone mad. 

I'm probably like the majority of America.  I don't like the concept of torture, but I sure sleep better 24 knowing that if we need to get info to prevent Charlotte from being ground zero for a dirty bomb, we can get it. 

In short, I like to have some Jack Bauer types around. You never know when you need them.

Of course, there's a similar game going on inside your company right now with important, but obviously less severe consequences.  It's called aggressive interviewing techniques.  Most people don't teach them and wouldn't support them if they heard a Jack Bauer of the interviewing game use them.  They'd say it's the equivalent of waterboarding in the recruiting scene.

But, like Jack, in the global terrorism scene, you need to find some CIA-type thugs who will do what's necessary for you to figure out if the candidate is the real deal.  To really do that, you have to ask for negative information as part of the interviewing scene.  Here are some thoughts about what that looks like in the behavioral interviewing scene:

--"That's good (referring to an answer), but it doesn't really answer my question.  Tell me..."

--"I need more detail about what you did in the situation.  What you're giving me is very high level, I need to dig into the details with you".

--"That happened a long time ago.  Do you have a similar experience that's happened in the last year?"

--"Most of the examples you are giving me are team oriented.  We value teams here, but for purposes of you being a candidate, I need to know what you did, not what the team did.  Focus me on what you did".

--"That's a great example with a good outcome.  Now tell me about a situation where you used a similar strategy but it didn't work out for you".

--"Tell me about a time where you've been fired or taken off a project due to your performance."

--"I'm struggling to understand the details of what you've done in these situations.  Once you tell me about a scenario, start giving me deep, deep details of what you did, not what the team did, not what you usually would do in that situation, but what you actually did."

--"You keep telling me what you usually do in situations.  I'm not interested in hypotheticals, I'm interested in what you have actually done."

I know, I know.  That's not exactly waterboarding, is it?  But here's the thing.  At least 99% of your hiring managers and HR pros won't go negative on a candidate, even if the essence of what they are doing is asking the candidate to answer the question the way they need it answered.  From the standpoint of interviewing, you need to change the culture of your interviewing process.  It's good to be professional; it's good to develop rapport.  Those are all things you need.

But, when you're not getting the info you need, you better have some Jack Bauers of interviewing who can pull the wiring out of the wall and do what it takes with the candidate to get what YOU need.  It's what your company needs, and it can be accomplished without putting a single candidate's head under water.  They may feel like that's happening because the technique is so rarely used, but it's not.  It's OK to go negative, in fact, you're supposed to mix that in to get the best results for your company.

Or you can let the dirty bomb go off in Charlotte and deal with the sucky hire.  It's up to you. 

Mommas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Commodity Labor...

When it comes to a furlough, not all furloughs are created equal in this economy.  Here are the two kinds:

1.  The "feel good that the news isn't worse" type of employee furlough.  To get you warmed upFourlough on this one, here's a clip from a John Hollon riff over at the Business of Management:

“Furloughs are really coming under much greater consideration by employers,” says Julie Gebauer, managing director at human resources consulting firm Towers Perrin, in a recent USA Today story. “Historically, industries such as heavy manufacturing, retail and airlines have furloughed employees when demand for their products or services slowed,” the story adds, “ but a growing number of other sectors have put this option on the table when analyzing ways to slash expenses.”

For example, the nation’s largest newspaper company, Gannett (corporate parent of USA Today) did so well in saving $20 million in the first quarter of the year by requiring unpaid employee furloughs, that the company “mandated a second round of unpaid furloughs for most of its 41,500 worldwide employees, this one during the second quarter,” according to the independent Gannett blog.

That's right - the unpaid furlough is the one that's been forced on someone you know.

2. Then there's the "maybe you should do a budget vacation of Europe" furlough.  If you've had friends or family laid off in this economy, be prepared to vomit in your mouth a little bit.  From the New York Times:

"This year may be a disastrous one for the global economy, but it’s shaping up to be one of the best that Heather Eisenlord has enjoyed in a good long while. Granted, that might not be saying much: For the past five years, Ms. Eisenlord has been an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, a notably grueling place for a lawyer to work.

But even by more stringent standards of fun, the coming year looks pretty good. Ms. Eisenlord, 36, who works in Skadden’s banking group, will be buying a plane ticket that will take her around the world for a year, and she’s been stocking her apartment in Brooklyn with Lonely Planet travel guides.

Although she’s not yet sure exactly what she’ll be doing on her trip, she has some ideas. She would like to teach English to monks in Sri Lanka and possibly help bring solar power to remote parts of the Himalayas. She’ll probably hit 10 to 15 destinations around the world, most likely practicing not-for-profit law wherever she can be helpful.

The best part of all: Skadden is paying her about $80,000 to do it.  For a sixth-year associate at a New York law firm, $80,000 isn’t exactly competitive pay. But for someone cruising around the world, doing good wherever she sees fit and, let’s face it, probably hitting a beach or two, the pay is excellent.

Only in a financial world turned upside down would an arrangement like this one make sense. Looking to cut costs like everyone else, but not prepared to lay off associates, Skadden has chosen instead to offer all of its associates — about 1,300 worldwide — the option of accepting a third of their base pay to not show up for work for a year. (So far, the partners have no equivalent arrangement.)

Good work if you can get it. 

Mommas, don't let your babies grow up to be commodity labor.  Make 'em be lawyers at firms that can afford to do a smart financial hedge in a down economy, resulting in your offspring taking a year to give back.  Of course, giving back is always sexier when it's done in the third world rather than in your own metro area.  Travel benefits and such...

LinkedIn Recommendations - Legit or Fraudulent?

Do you view the LinkedIn recommendation feature as legit or fraudulent?  Clue Wagon hates the feature.  What say you?

As you might expect from a service that can hijack your outlook and push out a thousand invites to join Linkedinyour 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. 

What's the Lifetime Value of an Email/LinkedIn/Twitter Contact?

Pappa's got a brand new bag, and the Capitalist is at a new company.  One of the strengths of DAXKO is a willingness to think about new approaches, especially when it comes to social media, and as a result, I have found myself thinking a lot about the following question:

What's the lifetime value of the connections each employee, department head or alumni has fromSix_degrees_of_separation a talent perspective?  (connections = contacts in Outlook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. - anywhere connections can be quantified)

Heady stuff for sure, maybe impossible to solve.  As it turns out, IBM has taken a pretty good run at this across a block of their consultants.  The nice thing about IBM is they seem to be a data-mining machine, and also are looking for new, innovative ways to manage their unwieldy workforce.

More on the IBM study from Read Write Web:

"In a recent study conducted by IBM, researchers from IBM and MIT found that the average email contact was "worth" $948 in revenue. This is believed to be the first time a specific monetary value has ever been assigned to social network contact. To arrive at that number, the researchers dove into the address books and emails of 1600 IBM consultants (identities withheld, of course) and compared the communication patterns with the consultants' performance in terms of billable hours, projects participated in, and revenue generated.

In addition to determining the value of an email contact, the researchers also found that those who had strong email ties with a manager enjoyed greater financial success than those who kept themselves more distant. In fact, those with strong links to a manager produced an average of $588 of revenue per month over the norm. (So maybe you should start emailing the boss more?)

Another value tied to greater financial success was network reach. A more diverse circle of correspondents - specifically, the number of people reachable in three steps - was also tied to higher performance."

Thoughts on my mind as I try to get my head around the concept for my organization:

1.  What's the best way to encourage the development of deep networks across your employee-base?  Can incentives play a part, or are those empty dollars spent?

2.  Can you embed network development as a performance management component moving forward, confident that it brings value to the individual employee (good for their career regardless of where they work) as well as to your company?

3.  Do managers at your company have a bigger need to build their networks given the fact that they are the ones with direct recruiting needs?

4.  What roles do broader networks have for individuals regarding their professional development ? (note - not getting another job, but using their networks to get better at what they do for your company)

5.  How does a traditional company let go of the fears of having talent poached in order to embrace the concept of employees building their external networks?

Thoughts?  I'm deep today, right?  Cartoons to return tomorrow in this space, for now, tell me what questions I need to ask that don't appear above. 

Answers are appreciated as well...