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August 2010

Mercedes and the South: It's Called Non-Union Flexibility, People...

Talent moves to the best companies to work for.  Companies move to areas most conducive to business.  It might take a decade or two, but eventually companies figure out where those places are.

Why does every company incorporate in Delaware?  There's a benefit in Delaware they can't get elsewhere.Temp_carusel1 Why does every auto manufacturer that is pondering a new plant build their shining new facility on the hill in the South?  There's a benefit they can't get elsewhere.

I've never been to Delaware, but I live in the Southeast. The reason car companies build their plants here is pretty obvious.  We've got affordable labor, that for the most part, doesn't want to belong to a union.

Where else can you go and have the ability to bring 500 temps into an auto production line to provide just-in-time labor with no commitment to hire those 500 workers full-time?  More on recent moves at the Mercedes plant in Vance, AL (an hour from my house) from the Birmingham News:

"Mercedes-Benz is expanding its operations in Alabama, with a bigger body shop that helps solidify the future of the Vance auto factory, as well as plans to hire up to 500 temporary workers to match the pace of rising vehicle demand.

The German automaker held a grand opening Thursday for a $150 million addition to the plant's body shop, which will be used to launch the next-generation of the M-Class SUV next year, along with other future products.

Officials also used the occasion to announce plans to add 450 to 500 temporary workers across the plant over the coming months. Mercedes will contract with an agency to supply the workers, and ads for the new jobs will go out in September.

The news is a sharp turnaround from the situation at the plant last year, when a global industry downturn forced the automaker to slash production and put employees on four-day workweeks. Part of the cutbacks included the elimination of temporary jobs and buyouts among permanent employees, bringing the existing work force down to about 2,800 people."

It's obviously a good deal for Mercedes, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's an unbelievable opportunity in this economy for the 500 temps, many of whom will be picked up full-time at some point in the future by Mercedes based on their...wait for it... performance.

Think it's unfair manipulation?  Do a poll of the 500 and ask them the following question: Would you rather temp now and have a shot at a full-time Mercedes position ($25-35 per hour), or be hired full-time day one for the wages that are currently being offered by the GM/UAW combo via the two-tiered wage agreement that was part of the last collective bargaining agreement ($14 per hour)?

Advantage: Alabama.  Roll Tide.

Turnarounds Know No Life-Balance: Why Digging Out of a Hole Takes More Hours...

When you talk about the high performers, the stars in your company, what adjectives do you assign to them?

Of course, they're smart, analytical, great communicators, etc.  But when I ask people that question, the4-hour-work_week biggest things I hear are the following tags:

"Driven".  "Passionate". "Motivated". "Determined".

Which brings me to the point of this post.  A former boss of mine had a saying that he kept coming back to related to what it took to be a star:

"I've never seen anyone rise through an organization or create incredible results without putting in more hours than those around them."

The hours paradox is still alive and well.  For all the talk about work/life balance, the cold hard truth remains.  If you want to move the ball, you're going to have to put in more hours than the average Joe.

That's true in normal work, but especially true in a turnaound situation.  Turnarounds generally require even more hours, an almost psychotic, single-minded determination to do what is necessary from a work perspective to make change (and the business results that follow) happen.

Example: New Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.  Fortune paints him as follows:

"Marchionne, 58, is taking a far more personal approach to velocity. It has been evident since Fiat took a 20% interest in post-bankruptcy Chrysler in June 2009 and installed Marchionne as CEO of both companies. Since then he has torn up Chrysler's old-school org chart with its chains of command and replaced it with a flat organization with him at the top. He has handed two jobs to some executives to reduce the need for memos and meetings. And to make sure decisions are made quickly and nothing is overlooked, he supervises them all. Marchionne has his 25 top Chrysler executive -- everybody from engineering and manufacturing to legal and HR -- report directly to him.

Since Marchionne already had 21 direct reports at Fiat Group, and must divide his time between Auburn Hills, Mich., and Turin, most management experts would call his method madness. But instead of becoming a bottleneck, he has turned himself into an expediter because he is always reachable. "They have access to me 24/7," he says, and when they call or e-mail, he makes decisions in minutes -- or seconds. While traveling, he stays in contact with one of his six BlackBerrys. "BlackBerrys are divine instruments," he purrs."

6 Blackberrys.  That really tells you all you need to know.  As you might expect, in exchange for being available 24/7, Marchionne expects his direct reports to follow his lead and looks for the types who are willing to commit to the same lifestyle:

"After taking over Chrysler, Marchionne overhauled not only the management chart but the staff as well. He combed the company for younger managers willing to take on more responsibility, be available at all times, and put the company above their own interests. The last is important to Marchionne. "The hardest job is getting personalities to mesh. Some people become dysfunctional -- their egos become blown out. It is like having an evil spirit in the house.

Marchionne-style management is not for compromising types. He works all the time, subordinates say, and his wife has left Italy to live separately at their home in Switzerland (they have two boys). "The lifestyle I have today is the most abusive way to achieve a lasting impact," he concedes. His subordinates, most in their forties or early fifties, complain about their CEO's all-in schedule but not about the results. "He defines the road, and we have to drive down it," says Scott Garberding, 46, Chrysler's head of manufacturing. "I'm putting in more hours, but there are clear outputs to the hours and we're making progress."

He combed the company for younger managers willing to take on more responsibility, be available at all times, and put the company above their own interests. Welcome to the reality of the turnaround, where you're either all in... Or you're out....

It's Not You, It's Me... Why I'm Leaving a Great Job...

I always coach people to get the hard news out in the first 10 seconds of any conversation, so here it is:  I’m leaving DAXKO.  Giving up the title, the perks, the fame...

Who's going to supply me with free Diet Mt. Dew now?  Maybe I should have thought this through...

I kid. You’ve heard the expression, “it’s not you, it’s me”, right?  Well, that’s very true in this case, and that was the title of the email I sent out to the rest of the company a couple of weeks back.  In the time I’ve been at DAXKO, I’ve had fun, learned a lot and hopefully added some value along the way.  My reason for leaving is pretty simple – I’ve been feeling the tug to do something purely entrepreneurial for over a year, and I’ve made the decision it’s time to do that.  I’m not leaving to take another job, but to own my own thing.  I’ve got interest in doing 2-3 things in the broader HR world/recruiting space, and I’ll be putting those plans together in the next couple of months.  My plan is to take a two to three year run at getting a business off the ground. 

I've talked openly with Dave Gray, our CEO, for months regarding what was on my mind.  The fact that I was able to have those conversations, lead and close the search for my replacement before my final day (annoucement coming soon) and am open to coming back to teach at the DAXKO Leadership Academy tells you all you need to know about how I feel about the company.  DAXKO's a great place.

Tug to do my own thing.  Check. 
Leave a great job.  Check. 
Double-dip recession.  Check. 

What could go wrong?

But you gotta do what you gotta do.  It's up to me to make it happen.  Cue the music.. ("Changes" seems an appropriate choice, but I'll leave it up to you whether it's 2Pac or David Bowie in the background.  I vote 2Pac..)

I'll keep you posted on what's happening with the change.  If you've ever wanted KD to work on something on behalf of your company, organization or you, now is a good great time to ask. 

I'm out...

Moneyball: What's the Right $$$ to Offer to the Perfect Candidate?

Jessica Lee is talking about candidates turning down job offers today over at Fistful of Talent, mixing theory on unemployment benefits in with the fact that some candidates out of work are reported to be turning down decent offers.

Which begs a reasonable question.  What's a good offer?

Pet Peeve time today at the Capitalist - the topic?  Pay and the free agent market....

Here are the scenarios that slay me...

Scenario A - Hiring Manager is contemplating making an offer and wants to know what thePay_here_sign range is.  Two things generally occur for the hiring manager who asks this question.  They either 1) want to pay the minimum, or 2) want to proceed directly to the midpoint.

Scenario B - Candidate wants to know the range for the position in question.  If you give that information up, generally by providing a minimum to midpoint range, guess what the candidate does?  Sets his entry level expectation directly to the midpoint.

Here's what both parties don't understand.  The market level for an offer to a candidate is based on just that - THE MARKET... What's the right comp level for an offer?  One that's consistent with your current comp strategy, fair to both parties, but above and beyond all else - ONE THAT THE CANDIDATE WILL ACCEPT WITH MINIMAL COUNTERS.

Say it with me - the market rate for any candidate is the $$ amount they will accept.  They've got info about what they are worth, you've got info about what they are worth.  When it all comes down to it, ranges give guidance, but you can't rely on the extremes in the offer process.  You use the range to close business.

To be fair, all hiring managers and candidates don't have issues with this concept.  But those who do have a hard time understanding that ranges, and at times pre-dispositions, mean nothing when it comes to the market rate for talent.

The market rate for any candidate is the $$ amount they will accept.  Everything else is noise...

So, if you have a candidate who grudgingly accepts a fair offer, don't feel bad.  Adam Smith would say the acceptance, even with the static, is the free market at work.

Of course, Adam Smith didn't factor 96 months of unemployment benefits into his work.  Hmm....

Want an OD Initiative That REALLY Has Impact? Mandate Meetings Can Last 30 Minutes Max...

Organizational Design (OD) initiatives are a tricky thing for HR pros.  After all, we're generally focused on executing all the stuff that has to get done in our organizations, and if by chance we do find time to get to the value added OD initiative, we're not OD specialists.  Which means that research and planning is always required to be credible when launching anything of the OD variety.

But... and there is a but... OD doesn't have to be that complex.  In fact, there's a giant productivity-suck staring you and your company in the face today that could be easily tweaked with an OD initiative that could be researched, launched and executed in under one week. 

Your meetings are way too long.

Simple right?  How many times do you get meeting requests for an hour of your time?  What % of the meeting requests do you receive that are 60 minutes vs. 30 minutes?  I'd challenge the system and say that the percentage of 60 minute meetings vs. 30 minute meetings is way too high in most organizations.  You should do something about that, and find an executive champion at the C-level who thinks it's out of control as well.

Why's this on my mind?  I got a note from Chris Hoyt (aka TheRecruiterGuy) last night regarding the upcoming Social Recruiting Summit put on by ERE (September 13th at the Microsoft HQ in Seattle - join us!), where Chris is hosting and I'm leading a session.  Chris encouraged us to schedule time with him if we needed to talk about anything via a tool called TimeBridge.  It's one of those automated scheduling solutions that aims to put the last remaining 56 administrative assistants operating below the C-suite in America out of work.  I clicked over to the TimeBridge blog and found the following entry:

"It has been about a month and a half since we first happily stuck our necks out to announce the end of the 60-minute meeting standard, and to propose 45-minutes as the new more efficient default meeting length. To commemorate we thought this was a perfect time to let you know what has happened since May 12, 2010….

Well, we have been amazed by the response. Not only have you written hundreds of positive comments to us and offered your own meeting efficiency rules for the community to consider, you’ve also actually changed your habits and embraced the movement. In fact, in March and April 2010, 52% of meetings scheduled and completed through TimeBridge were scheduled for 60 minutes and only 5% were for 45 minutes. At the end of May 2010 only 29% of meetings were scheduled for 60 minutes and 30% for 45 minutes. What this means is that in just a few weeks the percent of 45-minute meetings has grown by 6X! Wow indeed.

If you like pictures, take a gander."


The simple version of what the TimeBridge people did? They changed the default meeting length setting in their software from 60 minutes to 45 minutes.  You can see the results, which assuming meetings don't run over, means the organization just got a lot of time back.  Remember, when you schedule an hour meeting with 5 people, you're not taking an hour away from other things in the organization - you're taking 5 hours.  Which means all organizations should challenge themselves to be as efficient as possible.

What about you?  All upscale HR and Talent pros want to make a difference.  Are you brave enough to start a campaign to make the default meeting time in your organization 30 minutes?  Are you brave enough to set it up where people can't choose something longer?

If you've got the guts, it might be the biggest OD initiative/win in your lifetime.

Play to win. Be the ball, Danny...

Generalism: Good When Found in an HR Pro, Lacking When Found in HR Tech...

Talked to a couple of folks today about a variety of things related to HR Tech, including the HR Technology Conference (Chicago, Sept 29 through October 1) and the longing among some HR pros for one system that can do it all: Applicant Tracking, Performance Management, System of Record, Payroll, LMS, etc.  While I'm sure there are enterprise level solutions that can make a claim to do all that, for most HR pros in the field, the following truth is held to be self-evident:

If you want best of breed solutions, small to medium sized players have to buy HR Tech ala carte. 

ATS here, Performance Management there... Buy a suite that claims to do it all and only one thing is likely - that solution will most likely do nothing great.  If you want a great solution, you have to buy a specialist in your area of need - ATS, LMS, etc.  Kind of like bringing in Winston Wolfe in Pulp Fiction.

What's interesting to me is the human side of that equation compared to HR Tech solutions.  While specialists in HR departments do great work, no one has more value to the organization than a generalist.  The generalist is still the line HR pro the plant general manager relies on for all the stuff that goes wrong, and in most cases the HR executive representing the function to the C-suite is more generalist than specialist.   If you're the HR leader at any level supporting line managers, leadership teams, whatever - it pays to know something about everything, then have the ability to think quickly on your feet and figure out what to do next, and when to bring the specialists in.

Long live the HR Generalist.  They're providing a suite of solutions that HR Tech can't provide at this point.

In HR, as in Life, the Clock is Always Ticking...

Human nature and momentum are funny things.  Act too quickly, and people wonder about your intentions.  Take too long to deliver, and even the best ideas start looking like crappy decisions.

Example from life: Buying a car. 

Example from HR: The amount of time it takes from a first live interview to get to the offer stage for a great candidate.

Let's break down the car example first.  My buddy Paul Hebert recently pulled out his Tony Soprano-like wad of $100 bills and decided to buy a new car.  Here's what he had to say over at FOT about the delay between the decision to buy and actually getting in the car to drive home:

"Yeah, do the math.  FIVE hours from hitting the dealership until we left.  I don’t care how much you love your new car – 5 hours is a long time to sit in a dealership watching overweight men in tight knit shirts smoke cigarettes and chat up the receptionist.  The bad thing is that during that time I started thinking about the payments, the insurance, the style, the color, the features… everything.  I started losing that “we actually drove it off the freakin showroom floor” feeling.

The time between the decision and the documentation was too long.  It took the wind out of their sales and mine (extremely poor pun intended)."

Human nature is pretty powerful.  When I'm ready to buy, I'm ready to buy.  Take too long to close the deal, however, and I'm going to start creating the mental spreadsheet of pros and cons in my mind, and guess what?  The longer it takes you to deliver, the more the cons are going to grind on me and suggest maybe I should delay making such a big decision.

HR, like life, is subject to the laws of momentum.  The biggest mistake I see on a day to day basis is the delay in making an offer to a great candidate.  The delay can be caused by hundreds of reasons: travel on the part of hiring manager, wanting to see more candidates (most frequent reason), or just getting busy in the business of the day.  Meanwhile, that great candidate you got all jazzed up in the interview process is sitting at home over the weekend after a two week delay and saying the following:

"They haven't called.  What's wrong with me?  What's wrong with them?  Do I really want to work there?"

The clock is always ticking.  Take too long and you cost yourself closed deals.  HR is a lot more like sales than we give it credit for.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.  Or, put in the words of another poet, Check yourself before you wreck yourself... 

Like It or Not, HR is PR...(and 5 ways to prove it)

You've said it before as you've contemplated a tough move on the people front within your company...

"What will this look like to our employees and customers if we take this action?"

"What will this look like to the same groups if we don't take action?"

Like Spike Lee, you always want to do the right thing.  However, it's a tough world, and you have to think about how the move (or lack of a move, depending on the situation) is going to be perceived.Spin

Face the facts - part of the job of good HR is good PR.  Want proof from the big leagues?  HP fires Mark Hurd, and one of the outcomes that came out after the fact was that a DC-based PR firm, named APCO Worldwide, was with the Board at HP every step of the way as they moved to the decision to separate Hurd from the company.  Here's more from Fortune:

"It was PR strategists at APCO who helped the HP board decide how to handle sexual harassment charges against Hurd. Kent Jarrell, an APCO senior vice president who heads the firm's litigation communication practice, presented a mock newspaper article that illustrated the potential damage to HP's reputation if the board didn't nip the imbroglio in the bud.

Global assignments from a broad range of clients--the UPS (UPS) Foundation (APCO's oldest client), Freddie Mac, Pfizer (PFE), to name a few—helped spur the rapid expansion, as has Jarrell's litigation work. He advised Merck (MRK) on its Vioxx lawsuits, WorldCom on its bankruptcy restructuring, and Ford (F) when its Explorer SUVs with Firestone tires were blamed for crashes. A former broadcast journalist at CBS (CBS), he is a PR man with a reporter sensibility -- known for telling clients to "think like a journalist" while presenting mock stories or dummy TV reports to show how the press might treat their crisis."

Some of you are going to reject that on first sight.  "We don't manage by approval polls", you'll say.  I get it.  But you do.  At times, you're a PR person who does HR and Talent Management as a hobby.

Here's five ways you've been a PR hack in the last week:

1. You've assessed the risk of terming an underperformer without taking another step in the progressive discipline process (What the PR person would ask, and what you're asking: "What's it going to look like down the road?")

2. You've thought about internal candidates who will be interested in a new open position, but aren't ready.  You're thinking about what to tell them.

3. You got feedback on the way your CEO is perceived in one of your remote locations.  You're assessing the creditability of the views and wondering if you should present the data to him/her, and you're also wondering if the messenger will be killed.  You know your message has to be right to avoid that.

4. You just got the application pack for "Best Places to Work".  You know your company offers sooo much to employees, but you also know it's not a perfect place.  You're wondering about the positive and negative impacts of chasing that designation.

5. You looked at your LinkedIn profile and think it could use some spice to enhance your recruiting effectiveness.  You're thinking about what you're going to write.

You think you're not a PR person? Some would say you're more PR than HR.

Roll with it.  If you've been in the game for awhile now, chances are you're a pretty good PR pro.

Which Managers Are Responsible for the Reality of Your Culture? All it Takes is One Question...

My new column is up at Workforce.com - it's an expansion of something I've talked about here in the past:

"If you could pick any manager (other than the one you currently report to) in the company to work for (regardless of functional area), who would it be and why?"

That, my friends, is the $100,000 question.  Who do they want to work for and why?  We used this on our last Team Member survey, and rather than being a popularity contest, I was amazed at the clarity of the team members responding.  They're looking for folks who are tough, but fair.  They're looking for managers who seem to care about development of their teams.  Word gets around.  Who's interested in the development of the team members in their fold?

Use the question on your next team member survey, and get blinding clarity.  Then channel marketing and create some manager personas that you need to develop a leadership academy around.  Powerful stuff from a simple question...

See the whole column here....


Integrity as a Value/Potential Factor: Only If You Fire People When It's Missing...

There's been a lot written about the firing of former HP CEO Mark Hurd.  If you're not familiar with the story or need a brush up, go here and read up.  Anyone who's had to deal with nasty employee relations situations understands there's probably more to this situation than has been openly reported.

So, before you clobber me with emails, just know I get that.  There's probably a lot we don't know.  But, let's assume we know everything about the situation based on what's been reported.Family values

If that's the case, then here's what HP did.  They did a harassment investigation on their CEO and found no harassment occurred.  But, as so often happens with investigations, even though the person of interest was cleared on the initial allegation, the investigation uncovered something problematic.

Hurd had submitted expense reports that were less than 100% truthful.

Which brings us to the point of this post.  If you're going to put something like integrity in your company values, you have to be willing to fire anyone for not living up to the value in question.  Even for small breaches of the value in question.

Hurd submitted incorrect expense reports that the board believed showed a lapse in integrity. The board fired Hurd. 

Is there anything that reinforces values more than a tough employment decision to remove someone from the company?  Enron and Healthsouth had integrity as a core value.  They openly publicized it.  How did that turn out for them?

Big, idealistic value statements for your company only work if you walk the walk.  If everyone sees people playing the gray areas or the margins related to the values, they become dead weight.  Everyone knows the values in question mean little, if anything.

How do you get past that cynicism related to a big value like "integrity"?  Simple, you fire people for seemingly small issues with integrity, and then you make sure people know that you've done that.  You keep doing that until there aren't anymore small integrity issues to make examples of. (Of course, you also take care of the big issues, but if you leave the small ones, the value still becomes dead weight...)

Hard decisions, specifically to fire people for small issues related to values, are the only way to institutionalize big, idealistic values.