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October 2010

HR: "You Play to Win the Game"...

I had another post ready to go this morning, but then I read this masterpiece by Paul Hebert of FOT and i2i (an influence consultancy).  His was so much better than mine that I'm simply marketing his post today...

The theory of Paul's post is so money... HR plays too much defense.  Let's work to not get sued, instead of taking some actions to help our organizations win.  Go read the post now, one of the best I've seen this year... Nice work, Paul..

The only thing I'll add to get you in the mood for his post....This classic clip of former NFL head coach Herm Edwards reacting in a crazed way to a reporter who dared question his strategic intent on the sidelines... Like Herm (and Paul) says (repeatedly), you play to win the game...

VIDEO: If Broken Employees Could Attempt to Fix Their Image Problem, It Would Look Like This...

Broken employees.  You know what I'm talking about.  Whether the pain is self-inflicted or comes from a worldly source, they've got image problems.

Think Scarlet letter.  Maybe they've left the organization and blazed everyone who remained with a ring of fire comprised of scathing emails, un-returned calls (can we get our laptop back?) and damaged relationships.

Then, a funny thing happens on the way to continued career success.  The word gets out that they screwed a bunch of people at their last company and showed a general lack of class, and as a result, customers don't want to do business with them like they used to.  The "Q rating" of life has taken a dive.

Whoops. Maybe that bridge should have remained unburned.  Maybe they shouldn't have dropped a good-bye email to "DL-All Employees" that said it was all BS and named names.  Maybe they shouldn't have started working for the other company before they let everyone know they were leaving. Maybe they should have realized that life is hard and everyone around them is, for the most part, doing the best they can.

Question:  What would it look like if that person had access to a multi-million dollar ad campaign to repair their image?

Answer:  It would still be all about them.  See video below. (email subscribers click through to see video).

Go Celtics.  Go Magic.  Do it again Lakers.  Anybody but the Heat.

Are HR Leaders Considered HR Generalists?

If you lead an HR practice - either overall for a company, a big division of a company, or a small firm -you're in a position of HR Leadership.

The bigger question - are you an HR Generalist at that level?

As with most things, it probably depends on your definition.  I run into people all the time who feel like the term "HR Generalist" is a career level rather than a state of mind or a scope of responsibility.  For these folks, the HR Generalist tag refers to an HR Coordinator-type role, or an individual contributor who has no direct reports and is serving a client group with strong specialist help from a HQ-type entity.

For me, though, the tag "HR Generalist" has always been a state of mind.  If you're paid to be the jack of all trades in HR (master of some, rather than none), I consider you a Generalist in our profession. Regardless of career level.

HR Leaders, by the very nature of their all-inclusive roles (responsible for it all), are Generalists in my view.  What's your view/lens say?

Long live the HR Generalist. 

Notes from Vader: 2 Proactive Ways to Tell Who's Bolting After a Takeover/Acquisition...

There's been a lot written in the past 2 decades about human capital when it comes to acquisitions.  After all, companies buy competitors not only for intellectual property and market share, but also for economies of scale.  "Economies of scale" is code for "via this acquisition, we can slash $100M in duplicated payroll costs".

Ugh... economies of scale = fear, backstabbing and guys ending up in the lifeboat instead of women and Darth-vader-NYSE children, Titanic-style...

With that in mind, there are winners and losers in every acquisition.  Most of what's been written focuses on the resulting purge and layoffs that address duplication and cashing in on the aforementioned economies of scale.

But somewhere in the deep underbelly of the company, there are folks trying to make a call whether life is better or worse under the new company, and if the new company fits their values and world view.  That's especially problematic when the folks trying to make the call hold the keys to your competitive advantage. The issue is currently in play at the former Palm, as some key people who could have stayed with the HP/Palm combo (HP recently bought Palm) decided to get the hell out of HP.  More from TechCrunch:  

"Back in August, while we were in the middle of confirming an exodus of talent from Palm after their acquisition by HP, I specifically asked them about the status of two guys: Ben Galbraith and Dion Almaer. Palm refused to say anything about them. Perhaps now we know why.

As both have confirmed on their personal blogs today, as well as the HP/Palm Dev Center blog, they’re leaving the company as well. So why are they leaving? Almaer compares working for a big company to a wedding, and a small company as a first date. As he writes today, “I am not looking to dance down the aisle just yet, no matter how pretty the bride is ;)“. As such, he and Galbraith are starting their own new company. They aren’t sharing too much just yet beyond the fact that they’re interested in mobile, HTML5, JavaScript, and the idea of “open”.

So let's break this down.  The two cited former Palm employees who chose to jump from HP/Palm are high profile folks, but there are hundreds of duplicates of this morality play at lower levels at HP/Palm and in any acquisition of significant size. 

Those folks are trying to make a call on whether they should stay or not.  Additionally, many more that you want to retain are going nowhere - they're happy and not pre-dispositioned to move.

How do you figure out who's likely to bolt on you once an acquisition goes down and who you need to invest in to have the best shot at making them stay?

If it were me, I'd do the three following things:

1. As part of the due diligence, I'd get multiple data points down and across the organization on who we absolutely can't lose in the company we just acquired.  Multiple data points - not just their manager, because let's face it, that's often tainted.  But too often that's all that organizations do - simply get a list from the manager.

2. I'd then ask my OD and/HR folks to do an analysis of every one of those individuals using their LinkedIn profiles.  The main question in play - does the background and career arc for each person indicate they are a flight risk?  Do they have a history of jumping when things get more corporate? Do they have a history of jumping for other reasons that would indicate they won't put up with the acquiring entity long? Subjective?  Yes, but I could do this in 2 days across 1000 people if you give me the list and most of them have LinkedIn profiles or you give me resumes.

3. I'd then call Josh Letourneau of Knight & Bishop and ask him to use our email servers and other tools to tell me who the most connected and active people are on that list with the outside professional world.  Some custom Social Network Analysis (SNA) in this step, but I'd want to know who's most connected and active, because if I know that, I likely know who could leave tomorrow and have a lateral gig by the end of the week.

Step #1 builds the list of who I need to worry about.  Steps #2 and #3 give me data to tell me who's at risk.  Score a high flight risk in both #2 and #3, and you get the retention attention via more ego stroking, stay bonuses, etc.  Score high in #3 alone, you're next on the chart - you're a stealth one - you're building your network to give you options even though your past doesn't suggest you're going to jump.  Score high in #2 but not in #3, you get some attention, but you're at the end of the line behind the first two profiles because your ability to flee is not as high as the others.

Score low in both #2 and #3 - thanks for being a loyal corporate citizen.  I hope we get to keep you for as long as you want to stay.  When it comes to retention bonuses, however, "no soup for you".

That's right, I'm using your email, maybe even phone and web traffic to determine if I need to be concerned at a high level about retaining you.  In an ironic twist, if I can do the analysis without you knowing, I have no intention of paying the people most likely to be loyal.

It's a crazy world, but if I were the Darth Vader of HR for the acquirer, that's how I would roll, assuming I could deal with the inconsistencies and the word of mouth problem in the organization (those most solid getting nothing - a bit of a PR problem for any young Vader of HR).

Don't hate me because I've got a plan.  How would you do it if you had limited resources and wanted max retention of your best talent?

The Top 100 Movie Quotes for HR Pros: #93 is "I Don't Want You To Be The Guy in the PG-13 Movie"...

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..

# 93: "I Don't Want You To Be The Guy in the PG-13 Movie"... Vince vaughn

Full Quote: " I don't want you to be the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone's *really* hoping makes it happen. I want you to be like the guy in the rated R movie, you know, the guy you're not sure whether or not you like yet. You're not sure where he's coming from. Okay You're a bad man. You're a bad man.You're a bad man, bad man."

--Trent (Vince Vaughn) talking to Mike in Swingers

This one is so simple.  It's money, baby.

HR pros are coaches.  We coach the good talent.  We coach the bad talent.  We coach the good talent that's acting like mediocre talent because they can't get themselves to move.

Softies.  Introverts.  Those who appear to be paralyzed but have full functioning bodies.  

You know the people I'm talking about.  The folks who might be giants, but they're not assertive enough. The money goes to the bold.  These folks would rather stay in the background and get run over.  But we see the talent.

So we step out and talk to them.  "Rick, you know you're getting run over here, right?  I'm your friend in this situation.  You need to step up and deliver some opinion, or you're going to get run out of here. Take a stand - just do it once and see what happens."

Translation: "Rick, when you go in there to fight for your budget,  I don't want you to be the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone's *really* hoping makes it happen. I want you to be like the guy in the rated R movie, you know, the guy you're not sure whether or not you like yet. You're not sure where he's coming from. Okay You're a bad man. You're a bad man.You're a bad man, bad man.  Now go threaten Steve from Strategic into believing you're going to put together a coalition to reduce his departmental headcount by 9% unless he sides with you on your R&D budget"

All in a day's work for the new age HR pro.


Giving Feedback to Your Boss When You're In HR...

You're in HR - a partner to whomever you serve... Guess what?  That means you're supposed to tell people when they're messing up.  For a lot of us, that's easy when it's employees and even the managers we serve in other departments.  It gets trickier when we have to tell our boss that there's something rotten in Denmark related to... well, them.

If you've been faced with giving your boss needed feedback as a HR pro, it comes in two different flavors -your boss is either a HR professional or a line manager to whom you report directly.  I've always found itAri2 easier to give straight feedback to a line manager I reported to.  After all, they aren't in HR, so the people/culture related stuff you usually coach them on can easily be rationalized as, "well, you know, that's why I've got you".

It's harder for the HR boss to hear what you have to say.  You know why - they're in HR, so they should likely be aware of what you are reminding them of.  Except they aren't.  Is anyone else uncomfortable?

But like the Discovery Channel points out nightly, humans HR people ain't nothin' but mammals.  With that in mind, here's my list of things to keep in mind once you decide to give the boss an "opportunity for improvement":

1.  You've Got to Give to Get - Mix positive reinforcement often - it's a good practice and money in the bank when you need to make an "opportunity for improvement" withdrawal.  If they've heard good stuff from you periodically, you'll automatically have credibility with the challenges you point out.

2.  Timing is Everything - Financials just came out and the division missed revenue by 20%, but you've got "talk to boss" in your day planner.  Don't be a sucker - kick your Franklin Covey binder across the room and live to fight another day.

3. Don't Roll Someone Else Under the Bus - Own your observation, don't say, "Johnny mentioned that you had an anger problem in the meeting".  By putting your observations on someone else, the boss wants to go tackle Johnny, not listen to you about the issue.  If you've done a good job with positive feedback and being there, your boss will listen to you when you need help from them - even regarding their own actions.

4. Have the Boss's Back Once in Awhile - Similar to the need for positive feedback, you've got to be there to take a bullet for the boss once in awhile, or at least identify a sniper before you go into a dicey meeting.  If you've been known to act like a secret service agent when needed for the boss, they'll listen when you have something to say.

And the most important factor to consider when giving negative feedback to your boss:

5. You're Not Judging Them, You're Their Agent - No one likes to feel judged when getting negative feedback from a subordinate.  Everyone likes to have an agent looking out for their corporate image.  That's why you're going to lead with the following - "Susan, as you know, I'm out there making it happen, but at the same time, I'm looking out for you.  That's why I have to make sure you have visibility to the fact that you shouldn't have fired that coordinator on the spot in front of 25 people".

Be the Gladys Kravitz of the office, and the boss will hate you.  Be his/her personal agent in charge of their corporate image, and you've got a chance to be heard and maybe.. just maybe.. get improvement in the area you need.

Finally, always end with the following to your boss - "You wanna hug it out?  Let's hug it out"....

Why Do Email Disclaimers Have to Be So Crappy?

Email disclaimers really suck, don't they?  Boring, written in a foreign language called legalese and so...so...pedestrian and expected...

Seems like fertile ground for some real marketing, as well as some real writing.  

I Recently caught wind of a cool disclaimer from an Atlanta-based company called 22squared, so I started playing around with one for our company.  Here's what I've come up with so far, complete with Comic San font (which I won't subject you to in this post):

Title: Legal Hates Comic Sans 

Intro Text: Sure we had to have a disclaimer… Legal made us, but we didn’t go down without a fight.  We thought to ourselves, “what would make legal withdraw the need for a disclaimer on all emails?” The answer was right in front of our faces: Comic Sans.  Legal hates smiley-type fonts.  So we put this entire disclaimer, written by legal, in Comic Sans.  Take that, suits.  If you don’t see this disclaimer in our next email to you, we’ve won.

At that point, I could either continue writing in this voice and spice up the standard disclaimer, or simply list out what legal wants me to say below this text.

Either way, I've won.  

Of course, the entire disclaimer (what's above and the legal language) would be in actual Comic Sans font.  Take that, suits.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Social Network (The Zuckerberg/Facebook Story)

Had the chance to go see The Social Network over the weekend, which is the Facebook/Mark Zuckerberg story.  Good movie, go see it if you have any interest in how ideas matter in today's economy.

Here's what I got reminded of in the talent world based on the plot, which is based on the story of the founding and rise of Facebook:  The-Social-Network

1. The web has democratized the world.  You want to start a blog, make a video or create a company?  There's a billion people online, and you can hook some of them - IF your idea is a good one.  That's Facebook.  See also Google, Twitter, et al.

2. People with the ability to point intellectual horsepower toward very focused activities can do great things over time.  That's Zuckerberg.

3.  Most of the world doesn't have what it takes to point intellectual horsepower toward very focused activities over time.  That's the world.

4. The people who started the thing with you won't be the ones you finish with if your idea hits big.  They're not right after the first run, and may not have been right to begin with - they just have just been.... There.... That's the co-founder of Facebook and it's first CFO, Eduardo Saverin.

5.  Being born into a wealthy family means less than it ever has, IF you have the ability to do #2.  That's the Winklevoss twins, who had an idea, never executed on the idea and claim Zuckerberg stole their idea.

6.  Ideas can be gold.

7.  But, Ideas are still cheap.

8.  Execution of ideas is hard.

9.  Most people are #3.  When #2 does what's outlined in #2, there's always a bunch of people (those in #5 and #4) who claim they had an idea.  

10.  Those people never execute.  They piddle, but never really execute.

11.  If you want to be rich or simply rock, stop talking and start getting deep into the execution of what you do.

Oh, and there's just this one last thing:

Nerds now rule the world.  Pull your son out of football and send him to programming camp.

The Top 100 Movie Quotes for HR Pros: #94 is "I am Jack's Complete Lack of Surprise"...

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..

# 94: "I am Jack's complete lack of surprise"... Jack-fight-club-image

--Narrator from Fight Club

Fight Club.  One of my favorite movies of all time.  What did you expect here for a quote from that classic?  "The first rule of fight club is?"  Maybe later...

For now, we're keeping it highbrow.  In Fight Club, the narrator (played by Ed Norton) is reading a book that is written as if the body parts and organs of a subject (named Jack) are speaking as to what they do and their general functionality in the human body.

Articles that the unnamed narrator discovers as he reads the voiceover in Fight Club (these are chapters in the book he's reading): 

I Am Jack's Medulla Oblongata 
I Am Jill's Nipple 
I Am Jack's Colon 

As you might expect, the narrator/reader takes license with this format and starts applying chapter titles to what he experiences in life.  

Variations that the unnamed narrator creates: 

I Am Jack's Raging Bile Duct 
I Am Jack's Cold Sweat 
I Am Jack's Inflamed Sense of Rejection 
I Am Jack's Smirking Revenge 
I Am Jack's Broken Heart

And my personal favorite:  "I Am Jack's Complete Lack of Surprise".... 

Why is that perfect for an HR pro?  If you've been in the game a decade, when's the last time you were truly surprised by human behavior?  You've seen too much, been disappointed too often by reactions in the workplace that are all too human.

As a result, you're a bit jaded.  It's OK, that's what happens when you deal with the humanity day in and day out.  You cope.  You evolve.

But there's no reason to be sad about it all.  Instead, you should create references that keep you sane. A way to tip your hat to the total insanity around you regarding human behavior and your role as an actor/cop in that insanity.

Someone commits a crime of judgment or tries to hurt someone in the workplace?  Others are shocked?

You:  "I am Jack's complete lack of surprise"..  The perfect insider reference to the fact that you've seen it all and it's impossible to shock you.

Just Make the Freaking Call...

Fear of confrontation... There's a lot of you who deal with it on a daily basis.

It's OK - we're trained socially to be nice... So when there's difficult news to be delivered or a question Boilerroom that has to be asked, we typically fear the worst.

Which leads to... you guessed it... procrastination.

The impact of procrastination is always worse then the negative aspects of making the call.  For the most part, the person on the other end of the line was raised by similar parents, is human, and you guessed it - fearful (at least to a point) of confrontation as well.  It's hard for them to totally blow you up, even if they want to and have the ammo to do it.

Advantage: You.  But only if you make the call.

Do yourself a favor today.  Make the call that you've been avoiding all week.  Tell somebody no.  Tell somebody they didn't get the job.  Be real and offer up some reasons why that are direct, but talk to them like a friend would.

What you'll find: Nobody dies.

Make the call today.  Then make one similar call you don't want to make every day next week. 

It's P90X for conflict avoidance.  

Make the call.