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April 2011

New eBook: The 8 Man Rotation (Who Says Sports and HR Don't Mix?)

Today marks the release of The 8 Man Rotation, an ebook focused on the intersection of talent management and sports.

Put together by Matthew Stollak with contributions from Steve BoeseLance HaunTim Sackett and myself, along with forwards from Bill Kutik and Laurie Ruettimann, it’s an excellent resource for anyone looking to get some more of the game into your talent management strategy (or just a good reason to read about sports while on the clock). You can read it online or download your own copy.

Go get it.  Seriously, what are you waiting for?  It's a peanut butter and chocolate like combination....

The 7 Biggest Lies In Recruiting...

In DC today doing the opening keynote for recruitDC.  Topic: The 7 Biggest Lies in Recruiting.  

Check out one of the scenarios below.  Can you pick out the lies in this rundown of Rick?

"The Story:  Rick is a Sr. Account Executive for Kruk Brothers Recruiting.  As a member of the Kruk team, Rick has been a high performer, making the President’s Club for Sales (given to those who hit 200% of quota within the budget year) every year he’s been a part of the company.  Rick is directly responsible for 19% of the recurring revenue that exists in the 10M Company, and he keeps adding to that stack.

More on Rick’s pitch:  Rick makes sales for Kruk Brothers because he’s goooooooood.  Rick learned early in his career never to lead with the actual price, and he’s quick to tell you how the Kruk Brothers recruiting team is different.   What’s that?  You want to know what he says?  OK… The team is hardworking, they’ve got recruiters specializing in every vertical that’s important to your company, they’re in touch with the best candidates in the areas you need and they’ve got a sourcing group that does nothing but locate hard to find candidates.   If you want to engage Kruk Brothers, get ready to enter into a retained search agreement that’s going to cost you at least 30%.  Rick drives a 700 Series BMW to work that has fantastic integrated Bluetooth.

Hint: He really does have fantastic integrated bluetooth in that car.  So, that's not the lie...

Screw Up Access To Your HR System? Write Up Everyone Who Dared to Take a Look...

Let's face it - there's nothing scarier to an HR pro than a digital error of severe magnitude.  You know the one I'm talking about - the document that goes out to the masses that has too much information in it.  Pay data being slung around a location that was distributed on your watch.  

And of course, wide open access to a HR system that should have been locked down to HR only, but rank and file employees find themselves with access to it.  One employee tests it out (never thinking they'd get in) and presto!  They're in.  

They immediately tell two people.  Those two people tell two people, and well, you know how this is going to end.  The thing mushrooms to critical mass until someone at the top of the mushroom cloud tells someone in HR, who moves in a panic to shut the access down.

Too late.  Angel over in Accounts Payable now knows that your CFO has two garnishments and a court order against him from his first marriage.  That's going to leave a bit of a mark on the creditability of the HR shop.

Think it never happens?  It happens more than we'd like to admit. Check this out regarding the Chicago Police Department from the Chicago Sun-Times:

"More than 1,000 Chicago police officers could face discipline for viewing the arrest reports of two fellow cops accused of assaulting a North Side woman.

Police department officials said Saturday they are investigating why so many officers accessed the arrest reports, and said the officers could face disciplinary action. The police union, however, says the officers did nothing wrong.  According to a memo sent department-wide Wednesday by the Internal Affairs unit, accessing the electronic report constituted “misuse of department equipment.” The memo warned that “access of information for personal or other reasons is strictly prohibited.”

The memo said officers had accessed and printed the reports “without reason or authorization to do so.” It recommended that those officers receive a written reprimand that would stay on their personnel record for a year."

Whoops.  You messed up on access to the system and your first reaction is to...wait for it... write them all up.

Wrong answer.  Good luck with that one, especially with a union involved.  Wipe the egg off your face, do a systems security review and move on.  

Here's the memo on the recommendation to write everyone up.  Classic.  It's them, not us.

Microsoft Provides More Fodder For Those Who Hate Performance Reviews....

It's trendy to say that performance reviews are broken and must be eliminated from corporate life.  What the people who call for an end to performance reviews won't tell you is that they don't have any good ideas on how to make the feedback loop better.  After all, the primary problem isn't the system, it's the coaching skills of the managers you have in place to deliver feedback.  

Repeat after me:

Managers = Feedback Delivery System

IF <your managers suck at giving feedback>/THEN <it doesn't matter how you deliver feedback, it's going to suck>

I feel better for getting that off my chest.  Thanks for listening.

But wait - there's more.  Microsoft just provided more ammo with its revamp of its performance review system.  Check out the flavor from the Seattle Times:

"Microsoft said this morning it is overhauling its performance review system for 89,000 employees, and the new system echoes the old performance system Microsoft used for ranking employees before Tees-300x238 2006.

The new rating system assigns each employee a level of 1 to 5. Each level has a set compensation level tied to it, which employees can check out now on the internal Microsoft human resources website. Performance reviews have not yet taken place this year, however, so employees will not know what kind of raises they will receive until later this year. 

Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer wrote in an email to all employees Thursday: "These ratings will be based on the results you accomplished during the review period (assessed against your commitments), how you accomplished them, and your proven capability. Ratings will be a simple 1-5 system with relative performance being assessed across common peer groups."

I'm a Microsoft lover, not a hater.  I'm a PC.  But for the love of Shatner, does anyone have any new ideas?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Here's a rundown of what the system replaced, along with how 99% of people react to this type of change from a blogger called Mini Microsoft:

"The 2006 system replaced a system called the "Commitment Rating," which was a numerical scale ranging from 2.5 to 5. That scale also limited how many employees could be rated by managers at any level, because the number of employees who could receive a top score was fixed. Raises and bonuses were tied to the ratings.

Mini Microsoft, an anonymously written blog about working at Microsoft, posted this about the new performance reviews: "... Let's celebrate saying goodbye to the 10% / Limited rating. Since the 10%-ers were not actually fired you ended up keeping people on staff who were designated as now plateaued and limited in there [sic] career at Microsoft."

The blogger compared the new system announced Thursday to the pre-2006 system that ranked employees from 2.5 to 5: "Old school: with respect to the new Scarlet A, I assume that a 4 is the old 3.0 and that a 5 is a 2.5 and that having either a 4 or a 5 now limits other group's interest in your career, which kind of means that we've gone from making 10% of the employees unattractive to making 20% of the employees unattractive."

New ideas?  Anyone?  PS - don't say we need to abolish the review unless you have a master plan on how you're going to fix the feedback delivery system in your company.

Maybe the best thing is to roll with it and hand out T-shirts that say things like "I'm a three".

Four HR Skills Critical in Turning Around a Crappy Culture...

Your new CEO shows up and observes for 30 days.  One of his conclusions at the end of the observation period: The culture is broken and needs to be fixed. Your HR team is going to lead the effort and help drive the change.

What an opportunity. And what an opportunity for disaster.

Of course, if creating or fixing a company culture that delivers true employee experience were easy, everyone would be doing it. It’s hard, and it requires the commitment of your C-level executives and HR pros who can do more than just process transactions or plan the next company outing.

What skills does an HR pro need to help your company implement a positive, performance-oriented culture? I’ve got a list of four, and they’re not easy to find in the world of HR.

Go hit my recent column at Workforce Management to get the list and see if you have what it takes...

Corporate Values: It's Complicated...

I'm in Vancouver today speaking at the BCHRMA's (British Columbia Human Resources Management Associations) annual conference.  The topic?  Corporate Values.

My take on corporate values is that it's complicated.  We all feel compelled to put up hard to measure values like integrity and expect that it filters down to the troops via our managers of people.  Meanwhile, Value_box countless companies actually have values like integrity embedded in their performance systems, expecting their managers to <shudder> rate employees on how they're doing from an integrity standpoint.

Integrity is super-important.  But how do you rate someone on that who has never had an integrity issue?

Manager: "Jimmy, I gave you a meets on integrity.  You're doing great."

Jimmy: "A meets on integrity?  Really?  I have high integrity.  What do I have to do to get an exceeds?"

Manager: "Umm.  Well, I guess in order to get an exceeds, I'd need you to report things you see that you think aren't right."

Jimmy:  "So I have to be a whistleblower to get an exceeds on integrity?"

I've actually had that reported back to me in the past.  The flip of that is that the manager just caves in and gives the exceeds, so everyone is happy but no conversation of value has actually been exchanged.  Which is not necessary a values issue, perhaps it's simply a performance management issue.

I'll be sharing some research that outlines the most frequently cited corporate values across 100+ companies, but more importantly, I'll also be sharing some research that shows which values the following stakeholders value most and want to see in corporate value statements:  a) the average employee, b) managers of people, and c) high performers.

As you might expect, they all want something different.  Certain groups want values that underscore performance, others want the high-end values like integrity.  Who do you please in that situation?  What gets you the most (pun intended) value as a company?

Say hi if you're at the show in Vancouver today!

Do Managers Who "Do The Work" Get More Respect and Performance From Employees?

Conventional wisdom says that any manager of people who can do the work they're asking others to do has a leg up on a manager who can't.  Do you buy that?

All things being equal, I think it's true.  If a manager can be active in the type of work going on in his shop to show that he or she is a subject matter expert, I think it's going to allow them to be a more effective coach.

Case in point - Shaka Smart, the 33-year old basketball coach at VCU.  VCU had an improbable run to the Final Four this year, and the video clip below is from their public Final Four practice.  The drill is the "Ironman", where each player has to take a charge, dive for a loose ball and then run/jump to save a ball going out of bounds.  It's a drill used to encourage players to provide more hustle, which in the workplace could be called "discretionary effort".  Which is what you want lots of...

Here's the twist.  To pump up the players, Smart did the drill for the players.  Before the cynic in you comes out with the blades, watch the video and observe the players following Smart around the court as he performs the work.  What you observe could easily be catagorized as "engagement".

Doing the work you ask others to do.  Not all leaders are in the position to do it, but when you can, it's certainly an effective leadership tool.

PLEASE SHUT UP: The Idiot-Proof Coaching Tool for Managers (FOT/HR Capitalist Webcast)

Steve Boese (HR Technology Blog, HR Happy Hour) and I are rocking the casbah (that's right, shareef don't like it..) with Sonar6 at this month's Fistful of Talent webinar entitled, "PLEASE SHUT UP: The Idiot-Proof Coaching Tool for Managers".  Sonar6 is hosting this shindig, so I'll link to the registration below and cut and paste the rundown they did.  It's going to be good:

"This month we’re teaming up with Kris Dunn and Steve Boese from Fistful of Talent to bring you The Idiot-Proof Coaching Tool for Managers. Coachingwebinar1

On April 14, 1:00pm PDT (April 15 8am NZ / 6am Sydney) we’ll be introducing the tool at a one-hour webinar that will cover:  

  • When managers should SHUT UP
  • The best time to make team members brainstorm solutions
  • How to wrap up the coaching conversation
  • The top 5 ways managers screw this all up

This isn’t about technology (not even Sonar6!); it’s about having better performance conversations regardless of how you collect performance information.

And if you can’t make the webinar you can still grab the e-book, which will cover the same awesome stuff.

Register for the webinar & e-book today!"

Couple of things to ponder.  You know most of your managers can't coach performance effectively - it's true.  We've got a 6-step tool we're going to share that allows your manager to coach on the spot in 2 minutes or less.

It's pretty good stuff.  They need it.  You're going to look smart if you train your organization on this.  The best things in life are simple to use.

Do I have to beg?  Join Us.  There'll be pictures of Christopher Walken, Run-DMC and Nick Saban with a mullett to make the medicine go down...

Legalities? Here's How References Work in the Real World....

Want to know why I write about sports a lot on an HR blog?  Because it's the most transparent place in the world for talent decisions of all types - by far.  Tune into tonight's espisode of the HR Happy Hour with Steve Boese, Lance Haun, Tim Sackett, Matthew Stollak and myself as we talk about the connection.

Example:  Lots of HR pros wring their hands about whether a manager can provide any negative information on a reference.  They also wring their hands about providing a positive reference that doesn't get into the negative.  To control all the bad stuff, many HR pros tell their people that they can only do name, title and dates of employment. HR Happy Hour

Meanwhile, your managers are blasting away on people they don't like - just play the game and don't ask them for an official reference.  Just say, "what did you think about working with XXXX?", or my backup favorite, "Can you give me a personal, not professional reference?"

Case in point:  The recent reference it appears Maryland hoops coach, Gary Williams, gave multiple candidates on NC State Athletic Director Debbie Yow.  The two used to work together at Maryland (Yow was the boss) and across time, Yow wasn't happy with the often profane Williams.  So she started trying to raise money among prominent boosters to buy him out.  I actually had drinks with a booster who told me the backstabbing story about 6 months ago.

Williams, like your managers, has a long memory.  Yow was recently in the market to hire a new hoops coach at NC State.  Candidates reportedly called Williams for the 411.  More from the World Wide Leader:

"The frosty relationship between North Carolina State athletic director Debbie Yow and Maryland's Gary Williams took a nasty turn during the introduction of the Wolfpack's new men's basketball coach.

Yow -- who spent 16 years as Maryland's athletic director -- called out the Terrapins coach, who won the 2002 NCAA championship working under her, of interfering with the search.

It happened during North Carolina State's news conference introducing Mark Gottfried, who replaced Sidney Lowe. Yow responded to a reporter's question to Gottfried about whether she had a reputation of being difficult to work with.

"I don't have a reputation across all men's basketball of being difficult to work with," she said Tuesday. "I have a reputation of not getting along with Gary Williams, who has tried to sabotage the search. Come on, we all know that. OK, so whatever.

"It's not a reputation. It's Gary Williams out there doing his thing. Whatever."

Boom.  That's why I use sports.  Where else are you going to get that type of info on reference checking gone horribly wrong?  Check out the video below for the venom.  Also, it's an onboarding issue as well.  What can Mark Gottfried (the new coach) be thinking as his boss publicly tries to hurt someone's career in such a direct fashion?

PS - your managers are giving mind-blowing opinions on references every day.  Someone is doing it right now...

Fortunately, managers in the private sector don't have access to a camera and media outlets to document their feelings on how they've been wronged (or wronged others).  

Thank whatever God you pray to for that.

ISN'T IT IRONIC: A Pitch on Elevator Pitches...(Let's Break It Down!!)

Elevator pitches are important.  In my new role at Kinetix, I get at least 4-5 opportunities a day to tell people what Kinetix does, because let's face it - the name tells you nothing (it's a synthetic name for a firm, more on that at another time).

Embedded in my elevator pitch (which I'm sure is far from perfect) is customization for what I think I know about the audience.  I'm going to tweak it based on who I think you are, and if I know anything about your business, I'm going to try and make a connection that way as well.   While I might have portions of it that are standard, I'm going to rapidly move the conversation to what I think your individual connection is to my pitch.

I know - duh.  What's the point?

Bloggers like me get at least 5-6 pitches a day, usually informational downloads asking us to cover a new product, a book, or service that a PR firm thinks is a fit for our readers.  The best pitches to me try to start a conversation about my audience (aka, customers).  The middle ones are just spam that aren't customized in any way.  The really bad, challenged ones are written in a way where you have to say, "What were they thinking?"

Case in point - I got the following pitch last night.  It's from an individual asking me if I want a copy of a book on the topic of  - wait for it - elevator pitches.  Get it?  A pitch on a reference source that should help anyone (you, me, we) deliver a better pitch.  Ironic. I've changed the names to protect the client, but take a look at the pitch and let me know what you think.  My notes appear in italics.  Good luck and godspeed.


Hi Blogger,  <I'm immune to people pitching me without reference to my name - doesn't even bother me anymore.  But using a category like this would be like me starting an email to potential customers "Hi Potential Source of Revenue">

I usually sit down and pour some serious time into my notes to you (especially when I have a new author I really care about). But right now I'm in Washington DC on a whirlwind book tour. <First email I've receieved from this person.  He usually works hard to give me what I need, but I guess this is the substandard version - he's busy.>

Its one of those book tour launches that is non-stop: appearances, special speaking gigs and interviews at all hours. So anyway I'm holed up in a quiet corner of the Renaissance Hotel with a great story to share with you. <He's clearly living the vida loca. Appearances, media interviews on the reg.  Glad the folks at the Renaissance were able to move him to the quiet corner to get the email out.>

I took on a new client. <I edited this part to take out the author's name and book title - it's probably a good book> She is the ULTIMATE elevator speech guru. Anyway – I picked up the manuscript and burned through it on the plane out here to the tour. This was the first book I've read in the past two years that I put into action immediately. I mean literally. <The most effective part of this email - personal experience>

On the first day of the tour before the fireworks start I get a meeting with publisher of a major house. My purpose is straight forward. I think publishing is screwed. This whole system isn't working and something has to change. I was there to pitch something totally new. I'm watching what Seth Godin has done with the Domino Project and I think it is all wrong. I've got my big idea and I'm racking my brain for how to get this guy to buy into my point of view. <How about the part where I get pitched 5 books a week?  Is that part of publishing screwed?  Because this email would be, as the sugar hill gang used to say, "perpetrating the fraud">

Between the plane ride and my meeting – I took the book and rewrote my Mr. Big Pants Publisher pitch in a cab from JFK. I completely nailed the meeting. I walked out of what was a 20 minute meeting a hour and a half later with an agreement to launch a new deal for authors (more on that in the future). <He's cutting deals on the reg.  I'm lucky to get this email.  What's in it for my flock at the blog?  Whoops, I missed that connection.  I'm sure it's in there because there's a reference that he used it effectively and got paid - cash money>

So my point in all this....? If you are looking to pitch someone – don't wait until you're on your way to the meeting like I did to read this book.  Oh – and if you want a free advance reader copy – shoot me a reply with where to send it and I will get you one of the 30 copies I have for my blogger friends. <This email is either brilliant or a car wreck.  I'm still thinking it through.>

Again, thanks for letting me bring you these little gems. <You're welcome.  No, wait.... Thank You!>

All the best,

Ricky Davis

I do like the gusto of this guy.  That said, maybe the pitch on the pitch should be a little more about who I serve than about him.  Like I said in the email, it's either gold or the equivalent of nuclear waste.  Not much room for in between...