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September 2010

HR Tech 2010 and Nebraska: Can Government HR Work Ever Be Considered Sexy?

I'm at the HR Technology Conference in Chicago this week, which is one of my favorite conferences for the following reasons:

-The name implies that technology can actually be used for good in HR, and  Nebraska

-While technology is always front and center, most of the conversations are talent-related - technology is just the delivery mechanism to make it faster, better and cheaper (or 2 of those 3 things, if you believe in the project triangle).

I decided to challenge myself a bit on day one (Wed) and go to a session that I wouldn't ordinarily pick.  Here was the winner:  "State of Nebraska Takes the Trail to Talent Management".  

Awesome.  Stay with me here...

The premise:  Cornerstone On-Demand was the selected vendor to bring a Talent Management suite to the State of Nebraska (vital stats: 20,000 employees, 80 agencies, 3 unions).  Presenting was a rep from Cornerstone, along with the two person team running the implementation show in Nebraska. 

A younger Capitalist would have scoffed at the premise.  It's the government, he would have said.  The older capitalist is wiser.  The older capitalist understands that if you're trying to drive change, there's not a much tougher place than in a state government.  80 agencies?  Good luck with driving commonality there.

Unfortunately, the conversation mainly centered around the implementation of the system, which was solid by the Nebraska team.  Here's what we didn't learn enough about - the state of Nebraska has 150 people in its personnel department (they still call it that, save the emails to me, it's fine - they'll change it when they're ready).  

That means they have 150 FTE's in HR.  In a change management project of this size, one of two things is going to happen.  The HR pros are either weak or strong related to driving the change in question:

-If they're weak, they'll play the victim when challenged by the business leaders in their client group related to why their agency has to comply with standardized Talent Management processes. It's not me - it's them...

-if they're strong, when challenged, they won't play the victim.  They'll engage in a conversation related to what the change will bring to the specific agency from a business outcome perspective and keep working the conversation until they get some form of buy-in.

I left the session feeling good about state government in Nebraska.  They've got enough vision to launch an on-demand Talent Management system, reduce costs, and streamline process. 

But actual business results related to Talent Management?  That only happens if there are some absolute ROCKSTARS at the Director of HR level leading the relationships with the folks running the 80 agencies.

We didn't hear much about the HR Rockstars who were expected to drive the change once the tool (read: Cornerstone) was in place.  

I hope Nebraska has HR Rockstars to drive the change made possible by the shiny new system.  Nebraska deserves it.

And so does your state.  Even if they call it personnel.

The Top 100 Movie Quotes for HR Pros: #97 is "It's Not What You Know, It's What You Can Prove"

New series at the Capitalist: The Top 100 Movie Quotes of all time for HR Pros.  In no special order, I break down the 100 movie quotes that resonate most for me as a career HR pro.  Some will be funny, some will be serious... Some will tug at your heart like when the Fox voice-over guy said, "Tonight - a very special episode of 90210"... You get the vibe... I'll do it countdown-style like they're ranked, but let's face it - they're ALL special...

#97 - From Denzel Washington in Training Day - "It's Not What You Know, It's What You Can Prove..."

Remember this one?  Ethan Hawke's the good cop and he's teamed with Denzel Washington (Detective TrainingDay Harris), the bad cop?  Harris/Washington turns out to be the most crooked cop in the history of man and trains Hawke accordingly, teaching him how to be crooked, trapping him in his own behavior and basically daring him to turn him in?

Whether you liked the movie or not, the money line is #97 in our countdown: "It's not what you know, it's what you can prove" Audio Clip here...

Why is that fitting for the HR pro?  How many times have you had someone come to you with a rumor?  Maybe you know it's true, maybe you don't.  You ask the routine follow up question: "How do you know that?"

Standard response: "I heard it from someone else". or my favorite, "I just know".

Perfect, you "just know"....  Sounds like great footing for me to launch an investigation and stop the business for three days while we sort this out.  Or not.  

Which brings us to the Denzel line: "It's not what you know, it's what you can prove..."

You may not say it that directly as an HR pro, but when you ask, "how do you know?", you're asking the same thing.   You need a little evidence before you start accusing people of things.  Another person validating something that was said.  An email.   Something.

Denzel had it right and that's why he's at #97.  It's not what you know, it's what you can prove...

BONUS - Cypress Hill had a jam in this soundtrack, one of my #100 cuts of all time.  Video below...

Conference Session Attendance and Who Really Matters...

I got the news this morning:  A coaching icon named Don Nelson is being forced out by the Golden State Warriors, who would rather pay him 6 million not to coach than let him finish his contract.

You and I should be so lucky, right? Nelson_395x255

I won't go into all the positives that Nelson brought to the industry of basketball (good player, solid coach, looks more like Boris Yeltsin than any man alive).  Instead, I'm going to focus on something I saw involving Nelson this summer that told me everything I needed to know about him as a professional.

Here's the breakdown: I went to Las Vegas to attend the NBA summer league with some friends.  All you need to know about that experience was that we watched 8 full length pro games over two days - and liked it.  Don Nelson was there, like a hundred other pro hoops insiders.

Here's what was different.  Most of the insiders flowed in and out of the gym where the league was held.

Nelson did not.  He set up camp in the high corner of bleachers of one side of the gym, and basically never left.  He reacted to good plays.  He reacted to bad plays.  He looked like he was asleep with his eyes open a couple of times.

My point?  HE NEVER LEFT THE GYM.  He's a gym rat.  The industry is what he does.  He was there to evaluate talent, so he put in the hours at this equivalent to a conference in the NBA.

Which brings me to the comparison with conferences.  Look around the room at the next conference you go to.  See who's there.  Then, session after session in the main room, see who the constant people are.  See who looks intent on learning.  See who's taking a few notes.  See who tries to connect for a brief moment with the speaker, then returns to their perch to take in the next presentation.

Odds are those are the people who are really there to learn, to try and get better.  As a presenter at conferences, I don't always do the best job at being a participant, and I get that I'm broken that way.

But I'm always watching.  I see who's there to learn and will pay the dues to pick up the one nugget that's going to make them better next year.  And for those of you trying to network with the people that matter at conferences, I'd suggest that these people are the folks with the real insights.  

Find a way to talk to them.  Just don't prevent them from taking in the next session.  They will Kung Fu your #$# if you get in the way of that.

Your Company's United Way Campaign = Union Avoidance

What do union avoidance, the United Way and captive meetings have in common?

Answer - a lot more than you might think.

Laurie Ruettimann has a post up at TNLT.com wondering why HR always gets stuck with the United Way drive.  Fair question.  I've always hated the big United Way drive at work.  Not because of the United Way.  Great organization.  Because of the smell of solicitation in the air, and because HR was usually in the middle of it from a planning standpoint.

Laurie does a nice job covering HR's involvement and questioning why.  I'm going to add to her post by telling you why the United Way drive is so prominent in corporate America.

Three Words: Union Avoidance and Solicitation.

Work with me here.  This is why the United Way has the opportunity they do annually in corporate United Way 2006 America.  The thought process goes something like this:

1. Employees of all kinds want to do solicitation for charities they're passionate about.  They want to do it formally through the company.

2. They approach their company with their wish to solicit donations, do membership drives, etc.

3. The company is non-union and wishes to remain that way.  Company attorneys rightfully say that if the company sponsors unlimited solicitations, then they would have to allow pro-union employees to openly solicit fellow employees to support a union.

4. No one wants that my friend.

5. But, creating a position that you can do no fund raising for charity inside the organization is a Scrooge-type of position.  So the company stakes out middle ground and says "we have a policy that we can do 2 (pick the number, but it has to be between 1 and 4) fund-raising, solicitation drives to our employee-base per year.  If they're really organized, they let the employees pick which non-profit gets the benefits of these drives.

6. The United Way is always a part of that strategy because they're an umbrella organization to countless local charities and non-profits.

7. The drive begins as scheduled, and the craziness Laurie refers to ensues.  Captive meetings, direct pressure to get to the goal, peer pressure, captive meetings only including those who haven't given, etc.

8.  Employees try to hide.

9.  The company allows it all to happen for the reasons set forth in #5 AND has a position that allows them to maximize their chances of remaining union-free, because they won't be forced to allow access to all employees if pro-union forces ask for it.

So - at the end of the day, the prominence of the United Way in corporate America employee-based fund-raising is linked to your non-solicitation policy and remaining Union-Free.

You're welcome.

Now, can I get your pledge card by Monday? The average donation seems to be $50....

Why You're More Likely Than Ever to be Held Hostage Over That Office Romance...

Mark Hurd... David Letterman... <Fill in the Blank>...

What do those guys have in common?  They all made choices related to relationships in the workplace that were ultimately leveraged against them.

I'm a big advocate of avoiding workplace relationships of any kind if you're a manager of people.  I Office-romance-poison-pop_2863 know, many of you met your former spouse at your company.  I get it.  It worked well for you and I'm happy for you.  The thing is, for every you, there's 5 people it doesn't work out as well for.  Especially if they're managers of people...

Here's what I've traditionally told managers about workplace relationships starring them:

1. If you choose to have a relationship in the workplace, you at least need to ensure it's not with someone on your team.

2. Even if the workplace relationship you choose to engage in isn't with someone on your team, you're still held to a higher expectation of judgment than employees without direct reports.  You represent the company.  That can always come back to bite you...

3. Your willingness to have a relationship with someone in your company always presents greater risk that you'll be held hostage at a future date.

How could you be held hostage, especially if your fling was with someone from another team?  

Repeat after me....the following formula applies:

Down economy + Employees worrying about their jobs = Complaints against your behavior...

BECAUSE.... Complaints against your behavior = Job protection because your company wants to avoid the expense and drama of a retaliation claim.

Bottom Line - Complaint (whether there is merit or not) = Protection

Third party claims - meaning those filed by employees who weren't even involved in the relationship in question, are on the rise.  Take a look at the logic behind the "Gender Plus" claim now on the rise related to office romance as reported by BusinessWeek:

"Third party discrimination claims have helped further the rise in retaliation and develop the legal theory of "Gender Plus." Regarding the latter, courts have ruled that when a romance enters the office, an employee can prove discrimination based on gender "plus" another particular characteristic. If a manager's failed office romance forces him or her to focus more heavily on the work, his increasing demands on, for example, a pregnant underling could give her the grounds for a lawsuit. Under Gender Plus, the pregnant woman could allege that the office romance had provided an underlying basis for a separate act of discrimination. "When the courts find in favor of the client, then interpretation of the law gets expanded," says Dr. John A. Pearce II, an endowed chairman at Villanova School of Business. "We're seeing the emergence of more and more third party cases. Attorneys go to court and say, 'Following the logic of these laws, we think that you ought to find in favor of our client in this particular new twist.' And that's exactly what's happened."

Is your head spinning yet?  Basically, what this means is your office romance as a manager can and will be held against you.  As the workforce educates themselves on the direction of the courts on this issue, you're more likely than ever to be held hostage by your judgment related to office romance.  The complaint is as likely to come from onlookers as it is from your sweetheart.

If you choose to engage and get used in this fashion, only one phrase comes to mind.  As the poet Ice-T once said, "You played yourself". 

High Integrity - You Don't Know It's Missing Until There's An Explosion...

Capitalist Note:  I'm speaking at The Right Thing's customer conference on Thursday, where I'll be waxing poetic about some research I've recently conducted related to the use of values in company performance management systems, contrasted with the behaviors normal employees, high performing employees and managers actually would like to see used in these tools.  Here's a hint - each group of stakeholders would like to see something different.  With that presentation coming up, I'm replaying this post from last year...

Work with me a little bit on this post... I did a post over at Fistful of Talent a couple of days back called "Want to Define Your Talent DNA? Don't Waste the Values Section Included in Your Performance Review"... The premise of the post is simple: If a company truly wants to drive culture, they ought to put what they really value on the old "Company X Values" section of the Performance Review. 

Unfortunately, it's usually soft things that are included in the Values section, and you have to watch that - even if you value them.  For example, consider the competency "Integrity" that's often included in this section of the review.  How can someone exceed your expectations regarding Integrity?  Here's how the conversation around integrity usually goes when included in the performance management system:

Team Member: I saw you gave me a "meets' in Integrity.  I have high integrity!Two bobs

Manager: I'm not saying you don't, I'm just unsure of how to measure what's meeting and what's exceeding...

Team Member: Well, I have high integrity.  I deserve the exceeds and I'm a little miffed that you have me as "meets"

Manager: OK, give me some examples of how your integrity exceeds that of your peers.

Team Member: Well, I've never stolen office supplies from the company, or stolen anything large. 

Manager: Have you ever seen anyone take something that didn't belong to them?

Team Member: Sure.

Manager: Did you report it?

Team Member: No, I'm not a tattletale.

Manager: Well, holding everyone in the organization to your high standards regardless of the consequences might be a good example of an "exceeds" in integrity.

Team Member: Well, that's not me.  Wait!  I've got one. You know how we'll waive the contract penalty related to early cancellation if they escalate their call or complaint?  Well, I can't stand the inconsistency, so I tell all customers who call in how it works before they ask.  You can't treat people differently, so my integrity makes me give that info to customers - it's the whole truth...

Manager: You won't report small incidents of stealing, but you'll cause our company to lose revenue based on your integrity?  Really?

You get the point.  Integrity is very important in every organization.  It belongs in the mission statement and core values.  You should talk about it as a company alot and reward the examples you can find.

But Integrity and its step-cousin, ethics, have no place in your performance management system.  Why?  Because they're impossible to give feedback to related to most employee's performance. 

You don't know you have a problem with Integrity or Ethics until they're gone.  Until there's a stench, a report or an explosion.  When you smell the stench or see the explosion, move swiftly and take care of business.

Just don't set your managers up to fail with conversations like the one above...

The Top 100 Movie Quotes for HR Pros: #98 is "Great Kid, Don't Get Cocky..."

New series at the Capitalist: The Top 100 Movie Quotes of all time for HR Pros.  In no special order, I break down the 100 movie quotes that resonate most for me as a career HR pro.  Some will be funny, some will be serious... Some will tug at your heart like when the Fox voice-over guy said, "Tonight - a very special episode of 90210"... You get the vibe... I'll do it countdown-style like they're ranked, but let's face it - they're ALL special...

#98 - From Han Solo in the original Star Wars - "Great Kid, Don't Get Cocky..."

Don't remember this one?  Think back to the original Star Wars, the scene is a space fight where Han Han-solo-200-1 Solo, Luke and the gang are trying to survive a space shoot out with some enemy fighters.  Luke takes the position of tail gunner and after experiencing his first enemy kill, yells, "Got Him!!" with all the hope and vigor you'd expect from a rookie.

Han, the veteran understanding that it's not time to celebrate yet, responds over his headset with "Great Kid, Don't Get Cocky...".

Why is that a great HR quote?  Mainly because in your life as an HR pro, you've witnessed overconfidence that's presented itself in multiple ways.  The rookie who celebrates too early, unaware of the challenges they still face.  The veteran who celebrates because they desperately need a win, craving some attention.

And then there's you.  You have more information than most.  You know the early rookie celebration is premature, because the project's about to be killed.  You understand the veteran celebration is way early as well, since the person in question is viewed as a low performer by some in the organization.  You have the information.  They don't.  They're about to get crushed by what happens next.

So you do what you can, offering up some encouragement mixed with coaching, tipping them off to next steps that would be a good idea to maximize their chances of success moving forward.  The message is your version of Han Solo's advice:  It's not over yet.  Nice job, but you've still got some work to do.  You have to encourage, warn and provide counsel, all at the same time.  Without giving up confidential information that person can't have.

You're Han Solo.  The big brother or sister who's there to guide the youngsters, the ones trying to make their way.  

Good luck with that.  Original clip appears below (email subscribers click through for video)...

The Scarlet Letter of Paid Leave...

Time to talk about a sexy topic here at the Capitalist.  Let's talk about... wait for it...Paid Suspension, or Suspension with Pay for you sticklers to detail.

Why is this on my mind?  There's a high school football coach near myScarlet_letter  home who's been on paid leave (another term for what we're talking about).  He was put on leave for an alleged physical altercation with one of his players DURING practice.  I know, an altercation with a kid isn't a great sounding thing.  I don't know all of the details...Remember that it was during practice.  20+ witnesses at least.  That becomes important as you consider paid leave.

Suspension with pay is the scarlet letter that's hard to remove once you've stitched it on someone's shirt.  Here's what I know about the difficulties of administering it:

1.  Generally speaking, you only put someone on paid leave if you're pretty certain that they might be terminated from the company once you do your investigation.  Others will tell you that you use it to make sure there's no crazy stuff during your investigation, like a fight or the individual in question manipulating witnesses regarding what you have to investigate.  That's fine, but you still only put them on leave if you think there's a good chance you're terming.

2.  Putting someone on leave means that the pressure is on you to conduct and wrap up the investigation very, very quickly. The clock is ticking.

3.  There's an organizational reality to how long someone is on paid leave and whether they can come back and do their job again, especially if they're a manager of people.  If you're going to bring them back and reinstate them to their job, you better get the investigation wrapped up in 2 days or less.  If you let it drag on, you're reducing the person on leave's ability to do their job effectively once they come back.

People talk.  Guilt is assumed.  The longer someone's out on leave, the more they'll be viewed as broken by those around them once you bring them back into the fold.

Which is why you should only use paid leave if you're relatively sure someone's going to get terminated, or you really, REALLY need time and a clean shot at running the investigation.

The high school football coach I mentioned?  He's been on paid leave for 4 weeks.  He's released statements talking about what happened and the fact he wasn't at fault to the press.  The investigation should have taken a max of two days to interview and make a call on employment.

4 weeks?  The school can't bring him back now (it won't work), and if he's relatively innocent, those who made the decision to put him on leave and drag out the decision just cost the school district at least 100K, if not more, in settlement charges.

Paid leave - don't do it unless you 1) are sure you're going to term, and 2) can wrap the investigation up in 2 days.

ROI in Social Recruiting...It's Complicated

Had the pleasure of taking in the ERE Social Recruiting Summit in Seattle this week, and one of the highlights for me was the presentation by Mike Vangel from TMP Worldwide on the ROI of Social Recruiting.

I'll omit the name of the Fortune 100 client that Mike touted stats for on the off-chance they don't want SRS the data shared outside the conference environment.

Here's the rundown of the social campaign that Mike outlined for us:

-Fortune 100 company

-Created social recruiting strategies from scratch in 2009 on Twitter and Facebook

Now, the Fortune 100 company in question has a big brand that people respect.  That's why the stats shared are so important and should make you think about social recruiting.

Here are the stats of where they ended up from an ROI perspective at the end of 2009 related to jobs traffic and the resulting candidate flow:


-1,500 clicks on jobs posted

-40 completed applications

-16 interviews

-7 hires

-Cost per hire: $1,071


-3,000 clicks on jobs posted

-50 completed applications

-23 interviews

-12 hires

-Cost per hire: $625

So what do you think?  First, let's acknowledge that we only know about 10% of the details necessary to judge whether the campaign was successful or not.

Now, let's judge.

It's a Fortune 100 with a big brand and thousands, if not tens of thousands of open jobs.  I'm disappointed in the overall volume of the candidate flow.  With that in mind, it seems like 19 hires is a very small number for what they have to offer.

BUT:  I'd take the cost per hire any day.  That's not bad, especially since it likely includes some ramp up costs on the development of the Twitter and Facebook strategy...

AND:  One thing that was shared by Mike is that the company in question really didn't have an open philosophy in terms of developing content to really drive traffic and interest in the social media properties.


-Disappointed in the candidate flow and quantity of resulting hires.

-The Fortune 100 needs to sexy up the content to drive more traffic and hires.

-We don't know the influence that the company's social media presence had on other sources of hire - of course, some of the people found opportunities through Twitter and Facebook and then classified themselves as something else later in the process.  One of the hard things about ROI in social media.

So what do you think about these numbers?  It's one of the rare examples of ROI related to direct hires from a social media campaign.  Is it good, bad or somewhere in between?




Picture of the Day: Workplace Suicide Nets In China...

If you ever think your workplace sucks... Well, remember that it's all relative..

Today's post is a simple reminder of that fact... BusinessWeek has a great article on FOXCONN, the company that's always thinking about ways to shave another nickel off the cost of your iPhone... FOXCONN is the sprawling manufacturer that has 300,000 employees - in ONE LOCATION... As you might expect, that many employees, being a low cost producer and having your operations based in China is a cocktail resulting in... well, let's just say it puts some pressure on the people side of the businesss.

Keep it in perspective today... (email subscribers, click through for the picture if you can't see it, it's worth it...)

Suicide nets