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September 2010

The Top 100 Movie Quotes for HR Pros: #99 is "I don't know how this is going to end, I know how it's going to begin..."

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...

#99 - From the first Matrix (the only one that matters) - "I don't know how this is going to end, I 007_h_NeroFlying know how it's going to begin..."

Which is actually a modified quote of the original from the movie, which is taken from the last words Neo speaks on a phone call to the Matrix before he flies away.  The original:

"I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know that you're afraid. You're afraid of us. You're afraid of change. I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin. I'm going to hang up this phone, and then I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world … without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries; a world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.

Why this line and my modified version is a classic for HR pros everywhere: We're coaches.  We tell people in tough circumstances what they should do, even if they're not sure what's going to happen next. We can't tell them what will happen down the road, but we can confirm that they need to do the right thing now.  For themselves.  For their own sanity.

Sounds preachy doesn't it?  Guilty as charged.  At least I act better than Keanu Reeves.  The first Matrix was perfect for him.  Act confused.  Get in your Karate stance...

Plus, the clip ends with someone flying and Rage Against the Machine performing "Wake Up".  Which includes a bonus quote of note: "How long?  Not Long. Cuz what you reap is what you sow"


See the whole Matrix scene the quote is based off of by clicking here... Couldn't get the video - damn studios...

Side note - I'm in Seattle at the Social Recruiting Summit today.  More stuff to run here and on twitter. Spent some time with The HR Bartender and The Cynical Girl, and they said there was no way I make it through 100 of these quotes.    I don't know where's it going to end, but I know where it's going to begin.

At #99 ladies.  So there.

Email Signatures and Sneakers: The Perfect Place for Employees to Wear Their Cause...

In case you missed it - and you probably did since Steve Boese, Lance Haun and Tim Sackett and I are probably the only freaks following the USA Men's Basketball team at the World Championships in Turkey - NBA rising Megastar Kevin Durant wrote "1972" on his sneakers before the quarterfinal with Russia this week.  

Not down with what that means? What's it got to do with HR? Check out the former via Yahoo Sports and I'll cover the HR angle after the jump:

"Really, anyone who has ever laced up his sneakers for an NBA game -- whatever their background, Durant shoes home country, rooting interest, or age -- should at least have a passing knowledge of the controversial finish to the gold-medal men's basketball game in the 1972 Munich Olympics.

But when you actually see the best player on the 2010 Team USA men's team reference a game that happened 16 years before he was born by writing "1972" on his sneakers -- in a game against Russia played 38 years ago to the day that then-USSR beat the USA on a disputed series of calls -- well, this is just beyond cool.

That's what Kevin Durant(notes) did Thursday. He wore "1972" on his shoes while dropping 33 points in his team's 89-79 victory over a game Russian squad. The fact that a 21-year-old superstar is referencing that medal-less (by choice) 1972 team in such an understated way? And not in a showy, jingoistic stance; but in (to use a term familiar to those who were around for the years leading up to the dissolution) a show of solidarity with that 1972 team?  Fantastic."

Let's cover what's important first.  Durant goes by the handle "KD", which I think is ultra-cool.  Sounds great doesn't it?  SB, TS, LH, KD - which one you are you going to migrate to?  The answer is obvious to me...

The fact that a kid is referencing the history of the game is cool and shows why Durant is likely to be the NBA's top star in 2 years.  Mad skills plus humility/respect for others ultimately will elevate him to that level.  How can you not have Durant at the top of your list?  Holding 1972 against the Ruskies?  His moms was probably 10 at the time. Priceless.

Now for the HR angle.  What's the equivalent of writing a message or cause on your sneakers in the workplace?  It's hard to write on dress shoes, so the most visible avenue becomes.. You guessed it - the email signature.

Why don't we see more employees trying to represent causes important to them via email signatures?  You can say it's against policy, but let's face it - it's the wild wild west out there, and someone has to complain before it would have to come down.

For added effect, consider the following:

1. If an employee has passion, it's likely to be a cause that many consider to be worthy.

2. The cause may have a connection with a polarizing topic - like lower taxes or the environment.  So if it's worthy, it might cause some division...

3. The employees most likely to be passionate are more likely to be your best employees (they've got passion to care).

4. If they're repping a cause and you make them take down the message, you risk a PR nightmare.  If they keep it up and you fire them, it's really a nightmare.

At the end of the day, you want employees like Kevin Durant.

I'm shocked more employees don't use their sneakers email signatures to send messages related to what they believe in.  Regardless of what our Darth Vader policies say.

They're Luke Skywalker, you're Vader.  If they forced you to fire them, they'd find another Death Star.

Go USA.  Go Kevin Durant.  Never, NEVER hold a press conference called the decision.  You've already shown you're better than that...

Real Life Example: Why Social Recruiting Isn't About Having a Corporate Twitter Account...

Read this space long enough and you'll know I'm quick to call out those who are selling snake oil to the HR masses.  Example: Social Media.  I recently encouraged all to hold onto their wallet/purse when approached by someone claiming to be a "social media expert".  It's out in front of the trend where frauds operate best, even if they don't know more than you do.  Social Media is one of those areas.  The smoke and mirrors related to social media are thickest related to branding, etc.

However, when you start talking about solving specific business problems with the help of social media SHRMFL
tools, you get some real-world traction.  Example:  How do I recruit someone who can really make a difference in the functional area I'm hunting?  If the decline of the post and pray model has taught us anything, it's that the best talent often isn't actively on the market, and you need some killer sourcing skills if you really want to have an impact.

Enter: Social Media and a concept called Social Network Analysis.

My friend and certified deep thinker, Josh Letourneau, is attempting to build a business by thinking about how people influence each other via a science called Social Network Analysis.  Hit his site to learn more, but today's lesson is a simple one and it goes a little something like this:

Want to recruit a star?  You don't have to know where the star is, you have to know the people most likely to know... Or with the ability to use their social influence to help you find that person.

Here's more from Josh from a post over at Fistful of Talent earlier this week:

"For another visual that really illustrates just how important Betweeness is, see the following.  Imagine the power of connecting with the 5 most 'Between' people on this map (those with the biggest pictures).  Out of the random 301 phone calls you could make (which is the number of people reflected here), would you believe that 5 alone could earn you immediate access to everyone?  You'd essentially be targeting the broker to a particular talent cluster (signified by the tight groupings around the larger pictures.)  And better, how about the fact that you'd have a warm lead? 

If you're in the world of Recruiting, I don't need to tell you the power of having someone open a door for you instead of trying to open it on your own.  There is a tremendous amount of time spent by Executive Search firms trying to identify and nurture relationships with these people, especially those who share openly.  They're termed "Bird Dogs", and I can assure you that every single search starts with a "Who might you know for this role?" phone call to them.  When you hear about Executive Recruiters filling jobs with 3 or 4 phone calls, this is what they're describing."

Go read the entire post.  Josh is talking about a Social Network Analysis map he created from a conference - SHRM Florida.  He's nailed the science of social recruiting.  You have to know what calls to make to make efficient use of your time and get a great hire.  Twitter traffic from conferences is a great place to start, and if you read the whole post, you'll understand - this is where smart money from a sourcing perspective will go over time.

Not just number of connections - but who actually COVERS the space and has pull.  It may seem obvious, but this is not the way most of us work.  Hit the post in it's entirety to learn more...

Renegotiating Union Contracts: I Got 99 Problems, Pay is Just One...

My friend Ann Bares had a great, thought provoking post over at Compensation Cafe a few weeks ago entitled "Market Downgrades, Bringing Tough Calls to a Conference Room Near You?".  The point of the post follows the trail of tears as Snapple seeks to extract a $1.50/hour wage concession from production line workers at a Mott's plant in New York.

Ann does nice work talking about the conditions and prep work thatMotts  has to be completed in order to consider taking pay away based on market considerations. 

But there's an additional angle to the story that Ann doesn't focus on, so I'll pitch in and add to her post by covering it. 

The angle is simple.  Anytime there's a union contract in play, and renegotiation to be had now or in the future, all is often not what it seems.  Let's get some of the details from a story that ran in the New York Times:

"Chris Barnes, a company spokesman, said Dr Pepper Snapple was seeking a $1.50-an-hour wage cut, a pension freeze and other concessions to bring the plant’s costs in line with “local and industry standards.”

The company, which has 50 brands including 7Up and Hawaiian Punch, reported net income of $555 million in 2009, compared with a loss of $312 million the previous year. Its 2009 sales were $5.5 billion, down 3 percent.

Negotiations have not been held since May, and Dr Pepper Snapple says it has no intention of resuming them. The company has continued to operate the plant using replacement workers and says that production of apple juice and apple sauce is growing each day. Union officials say production is one-third of what it was before the walkout.

The Mott’s workers voted 250 to 5 to strike, walking out on May 23. They were furious about the company’s demands to cut their wages by about $3,000 a year, freeze pensions, end pensions for new hires, reduce the company’s 401(k) retirement contributions and increase employees’ costs for health care benefits. Dr Pepper Snapple said it was merely seeking to bring its benefits more in line with those of its other plants.

Justifying the proposed cuts, management says the Mott’s workers average $21 an hour, compared with the $14 average hourly wage for production, transportation and material moving workers in the Rochester area. Union officials say that 70 percent of the plant’s workers earn $19 or less an hour and that many are highly experienced and deserve well more than $14 an hour."

The lesson here is pretty simple from a contract negotiating perspective and can be summed up like this (with a hat tip to Jay-Z): "When negotiating a contract, you've got 99 problems, and pay is just one".

What do I mean by that?  Anytime a contract is being negotiated, both sides - the union and management - have at least 100 things that they're tracking and thinking about.  As with any negotiation, you're not going to get everything you want unless the party on the other side of the table is very, very weak.  What normally occurs with this in mind is horsetrading: You bargain for things that are most important to you, and in order to get those things, you have to give up some things elsewhere. 

So, the issue in a negotiation like this isn't all about pay.  It's about at least 10 major issues, usually the primary staples of employment (pay, benefits, etc.) and 90 smaller issues (working conditions, seniority stipulations, etc.).  Both sides line up for what's most important to them and they... wait for it... Bargain... That's why they call it collective bargaining.

As for calling a strike, that's one way to go.  But a strike at a plant like this, in a down economy in a depressed area with plenty of replacement workers... well, that's a bad decision by the union.  A better approach would have been to figure out what's most important to the union members, then bargain hard for those items knowing that they'd have to give up something, or multiple things in return. 

In collective bargaining, there may be a lot of emotion tied to headline generating items like pay.  Trust me, there's a lot more under the hood.  Horsetrading rules the day, and if you're not willing to bargain and get the best deal you can for those you represent, bad stuff happens.

Bad stuff like plant worker going on strike and seeing replacement workers take their jobs. 

The Top 100 Movie Quotes for HR Pros: #100 is "I...am out here...for you..."

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...

#100 - From Jerry Maguire - "I am out here for you. You don't know what it's like to be ME out here for YOU. It is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about, ok?"

Why it's critical and timely for HR Pros everywhere: HR Pros work hard for the money.  They get paid to be the voice of reason, the sane one in the pack of wolves.  They clean up messes, tolerate child-like behavior and proactively keep their peers out of harm's way, without being asked.  They understand it's a part of the gig.

However, in everyone's HR life, there's a time where someone's selfish, self-centered, boorish behavior becomes too much to bear.  At that time, the HR Pro drops the veil, and tells the person who's been taking the services for granted for years what he/she really thinks about their lack of moral compass. 

It usually involves language similar to what Jerry uses here.  "I...am out here for you....".  What you don't get from this clip (because Jerry's in no position to do it) is the implied threat that most HR pros would slip in.  "I.. am out here for you... and if you keep taking my efforts for granted, you can deal with it yourself and see how that goes..."

BONUS: At the end of this clip, Jerry uses the famous "Help me help you.." line that undoubtedly would make most HR pros' top 10 list.  I won't use it in this series because it's too obvious.  Aren't I cool?  In any event, this clip is a classic that rings true for every HR pro who's felt unappreciated by a peer in his client group.... (email subscribers click through for the video)

An Amazing Infographic On the State of American College and Universities...

Too good not to share.  If you can't see the scrolling inforgraphic/picture below via emal subscription, be sure to click through the site for the view.  It's worth it.  From onlineschools.org, with a hat tip to Dan Schawbel via the Mad Grad.

Check out this goodness.  Crazy stats, especially that in some ways it's harder to graduate from a run of the mill university than Harvard.  Of course, like many things, the reasons are complicated. 

Schools Online
Via: Schools Online

Hold Onto Your Wallet When You Hear the Following: "Hi, I'm a Social Media Expert!"...

I get asked to speak a lot to HR pros related to social media.  Seeing this post from Chris over at RenegadeHR reminded me of the following statement I almost always make to groups when I'm speaking about HR or recruiting and social media:

"I'm not a social media expert.  I'm an end user who's done a lot with it, but I'm not an expert.  IfSnakeoil  someone tells you they're a social media expert, hold onto your wallett or purse.  Tightly..."

Why would I say that?  Don't some people need a lot of help when it comes to social media strategy and execution?  Shouldn't someone be available to help them?

The answer to both those questions is "yes".  But a social media "expert" is the last thing those people need to create and execute a sustainable strategy when it comes to social media on behalf of their organizations (note - I'm talking about people in charge of thinking how to use social media within companies/organizations).  Here are five quick reasons why a general social media expert won't be able to give you what you need:

1.  Because it's easy and what they can do, they'll slam in a centralized social media strategy.  Won't work, won't be authentic enough, won't, won't, won't.  Your company deserves better.

2.  Your real social media strategy is related to the industry you serve or the profession you're in.  Most "experts" are generalized and don't know anything about your business.  That's why they keep coming back to the centralized strategy.  Lame.  If you need help, get away from the broad experts and find someone who gets what you do to make money.  That expert has a shot, not the generalized guru.

3.  The "expert" can't help you recruit participants in your organization to engage via social media.  Like Public Enemy once said, it takes a nation of millions to hold us back.  You're going to need employees turned writers to make the strategy work.  The expert can't help you do that.  Only you, or people like you in your company, have the credibility to make that pitch. 

4.  The "expert" can't teach people to write.  Ouch.  Probably the toughest thing you'll do in your social strategy is find people internally who can write, because the content/thought has to come from them to be authentic both internally and to the outside world.  The expert will be long gone before you figure out this dirty little secret.

5.  Socail Media isn't rocket science.  You can figure it out, but like any project worth doing, it takes time, dedication and persistance.  The expert's engagement with you is going to last about 30-60 days, at which time you'll be left holding some groovy twitter, facebook and blog accounts, but little else.

You deserve better.  If you really need help or just don't have time to get it going, call me and I'll help you, or call someone like New Media Services that has a lot of experience in the vertical you serve.  That's an authentic voice that understands how hard it's going to be for you.  A Chris Brogan wannabe is not going to help you.  And I like Chris Brogan...

I'm just sayin'...

Separate the Stars From the Turds With a Single Task/Knowledge-Related Question...

If there's anything I've learned from working with software developers over the last 6 years, it's that they are some critical mofos when it comes to the technical skills of those that they interview for open positions.

Sample questions (I'm making them up, but you'll get the gist) from a normal live group technical interview in aUps_guy  software company (that almost always includes a whiteboard - your first sign that this can get ugly quickly):

-Hey Johnny, walk us through how you'd optimize that Oracle database to run in a pure SaaS environment on the whiteboard.

-Moose, glad you're here for the third round.  Let's start by you walking us through how you prevent a class from being inherited in a development environment like ours on the whiteboard.

-Don't you hate it when people don't know the difference between a stack and a heap, Melissa?  Byron here struggles with that, so why don't you take the marker and draw it out and explain it to him.

Translation for the non-techies: "We think you're OK, that's why you've made it this far.  Now we're going to attempt to publicly humiliate you by not only asking you for answers to these questions, but you're going to draw it out for us while everyone watches you.  Then we're gong to pick you apart.  If you survive, we'll move on in the process."

It's a pressure environment, but it underscores something software developers do better than practically any other job class in America - figure out if the person can actually do the job.

Most of us are pretty good at doing an interview and talking about someone's experience.  A few of us are really good at behavioral interviewing.  But the software developers?  They're going to make you work on something and prove that you can do the work, or at the very least that your thought process stands up to their standards.

I'm not talking the legendary braintwisters at Google.  I'm talking about task-related questions that really test your knowledge.

Here's another example from the boys and girls over at RethinkDB:

"In the interest of openness, we’ll post the smoke test that makes us turn away 19 out of 20 candidates within half an hour of a phone conversation (and that’s after screening the resumes). We don’t ask people to code a solution to a complex algorithms problem. We don’t ask to solve tricky puzzle questions. We don’t ask to do complex pointer arithmetic or manipulation. Here is the question that the vast majority of candidates are unable to successfully solve, even in half an hour, even with a lot of nudging in the right direction:

Write a C function that reverses a singly-linked list.

That’s it. We’ve turned away people with incredibly impressive resumes (including kernel developers, compiler designers, and many a Ph.D. candidate) because they were unable to code a solution to this problem in any reasonable amount of time."

Lesson for HR pros everywhere.  Whether it's a spot in your own department or a group that you're recruiting for, what exercise can you put a candidate through that will actually give you line of site to a) what they really know, and b) how they perform?

What if you asked your next HR Manager candidate to create a non-traditional job posting that would help in the marketing efforts to tough to reach candidates?  And what if they had 20 minutes to do it and you were watching as they drew it up on the whiteboard?

Tough?  Of course.  Fair?  By the letter of the law, yes.

Effective?  Depends how bad you want an exceptional candidate.  If you want a great HR Manager as bad as the team at RethinkDB wants great programmers, you wouldn't be shy about trying to embarrass someone.

On to the whiteboard.  And BTW, the development teams I work with would have DISMANTLED that long-haired UPS guy...