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April 2013

PEACOCK ALERT: What it Means When an Employee Competes to Be "Best Dressed" at Work...

Let's start with a picture.  See below and then come back after the jump...


That's a picture of 2 employees of the Houston Rockets - Chandler Parsons and James Harden.  They're pro basketball players and they got the memo - you shouldn't be showing up to a post game press conference in normal clothes.  Thus, Parsons with the Russian mafia apprentice club wear, and Harden with the scarf in late April Houston.

But it brings to mind an important question. What's it mean when an employee in your organization suddenly becomes fashion-aware and starts taking chances with his/her wardrobe?  

I'm not talking about stretch pants in the call center or Nirvana-gear.  I'm talking about an otherwise historically standard employee suddenly looking like their trying to win the cover of Esquire or Vogue.

Here's my experience with what the change in dress (up the fashion curve, not down) could mean:

1. High performer is looking to make a move, and to get mentally prepared, they've decided that changing up their wardrobe is the best way to get their game face on;

2. Low performer who can't get love from anyone in the organization, but they consider themselves a player outside of work, so they're bringing their outside game to the office park in a desperate cry for attention; or

3. (Dudes only) Otherwise normal guy who's never really had many girlfriends now has significant other, and she's working at Express, Banana Republic, etc.  She's taken over his life and since there's not a long history of having a significant other, he allows it.

Your task is how to deal with the Peacock.  It's pretty simple, and somewhat Darwinian:

1. High performer - you put up with it, but maybe make sure they're comped right, feeling the love, etc, to limit flight risk.

2. Low performer - goes on performance plan.  It was overdue anyway. The super skinny jeans and the Russian club button up just serves as a strong reminder.

3. Guy who just landed rare or highly dominant girlfriend - you make fun of him without mercy, and see if grows a backbone.  If not, you call him "Boris Nitkin" and explain that's his Leningrad club name.  Find your Russian name here.

You thought Dress Code issues were all about short skirts, the fact your policy still has a panty hose rider in it in 2013, etc.  You were wrong.

BENCHMARK YOUR RECRUITING PRACTICE - A Great Offer for HR Capitalist Readers...

If you're in HR, you know how hard it is to get data and metrics on where you stand with any part of your Talent Practice without spending money.  Sure, you can go get some SHRM data off the national site, but good luck with putting it in context.  I get emails all the time from organizations like that telling me the average employee turnover in Alabama is 11%.  Which is - how should I say this - wishful thinking.  Wishful thinking designed to get me to click through and buy some enhanced data, but wishful thinking nonetheless.

That's why I'm excited to introduce a quality, cost-free option to readers of the HR Capitalist from a company I've become familiar with called APQC - The American Productivity & Quality Center I Apqc_logo_hires_624 first met the APQC team when I led an HR Consulting engagement for Kinetix at their Houston headquarters.  I got to know the team and the business they're in, part of which includes benchmarking and best practices for HR practices at companies across the United States.

They help companies understand best practices in the world of HR.  They do the same for other functional areas, like Finance and Supply Chain Management, but let's face it - you and I are most interested in the HR Stuff.  At the heart of their business, APQC's model is to be a really strong research shop where they provide data and best-practice insights to members of APQC.

But you're a reader of the Capitalist - that means you're special.  With that in mind, here's an joint offer from APQC and the HR Capitalist with a basic trade in mind - if you take 30 minutes of your month to collect data you probably already have on your recruiting function and input that data into an online survey tool, APQC is going to reward you by provided you with a slick Benchmark Report that shows you where you stand in your peer group - sliced by company size (revenue), industry, etc.

Data you'll get back for participating in the benchmarking study includes:

  • Total Cost of the Recruiting Process Per New Hire
  • Recruiting Outsourced Cost as a Percent of Total Recruiting Process Costs
  • First-Year Retention Rate (by Job Position Level)
  • Cycle Times for:
    • Identified need to approved job requisition
    • Approved job requisition to acceptance of job offer
    • Acceptance of job offer to new hire begins

In addition to those valuable metrics, APQC is also going to include some really cool stuff if they get enough data - testing some hypothesis to see if certain practices (like outsourcing, use of social media, etc.) have an impact on the cost, cycle time, and productivity measures of the recruiting process.

It's a great way to get some insight on how you're doing with your recruiting function by partnering with a great research firm in a way that doesn't cost you thousands of dollars.  One of the great things about participating in research like this with a company like APQC is that the metrics are defined - time to fill, annualized turnover, etc.  The report you get will be a valid comparison across all companies in the survey.

The HR Capitalist isn't compensated in any way to market this to you.  I just like the team at APQC and access to the database they have isn't cheap, so we crafted an exchange/barter offer that makes sense - you give some data on one company and help grow the already strong APQC database, you get data back from hundreds of other companies like yours that helps you benchmark how you're doing in a way that you haven't had time, or possibly budget, to do.

CAPITALIST MAILBAG: What's the Most HRish Thing to Come Out of Boston?

Hey Capitalist/KD:

What's the most HRish thing to come out of the Boston tragedy? I'm betting you've got something to say about the media coverage...

Becka from Charlotte


Hey Becka - 

Media coverage? Talking at length when you know nothing?  Sounds like HR, right?  Or maybe marketing... Hey now!

Actually, if we're talking about the media coverage, the most clairvoyant point in the whole thing is when Brian Williams pitched it to a local reporter, and, not knowing he was on national TV, had this to say about where he was at (email subscribers may need to click through for video):

"We don't know S###"

Which sounds like either the best or the worst HR pro in the world. You choose.  KD likey.  I'd promote that one to HR Director.

But the most HRish thing was all about reputation, influence and performance.  It involves someone who knows something about the performance of the brothers in question, kind of like a manager from another department who had run into the dumb### duo in a cross-departmental project in an office park near you.

Meet Uncle Ruslan! Who had this to say about his nephews: 

"You put a shame on our entire family -- the Tsarnaev family -- and you put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity," Tsarni said.

When asked what provoked the bombing suspects, the uncle stated: "Being losers, hatred to those who were able to settle themselves -- these are the only reasons I can imagine.

"Anything else, anything else to do with religion, with Islam, is a fraud, is a fake," Tsarni said.

Of course, anytime I hear someone call someone a loser, I automatically go to Beck, who penned this classic that was played at the end of every sporting event where the home team was winning through the 90's and early 2000s:

But I couldn't hear Beck come up when Ruslan was talking, because he was yelling - not as much because he was angry (although he probably was), but because the two helicopters you can hear in the background we're probably louder to him than they appeared on tape.

Want people to understand we're all more alike than different in your next diversity training module?  Play Uncle Ruslan. People who know talent know the deal.  Don't judge everyone that looks or sounds like these two - because they're losers.  

Uncle Ruslan would make a sweet Director of HR.  A Director of HR that doesn't tolerate fools and talks loudly because of the choppers circling his house, but a pretty straight-talking Director of HR nonetheless.    


BE A PLAYER: What the C-Level Wants When They Tap You On The Shoulder For Help...

Today's joint is a self-help post for the kids out there who can't keep their cool when someone with power taps them on the shoulder for help, or for an opportunity that's going to be good for their career.

First, here's what you need to know about that person who tapped you on the shoulder for help:

--They're a player and they have power in whatever pond you live in (which is all extremely High maintenance relative, btw)

--They need help.

--They thought of you, and that can't be a bad thing.

--They don't have a strategic plan behind the request.  They just need help. They don't know where it might lead.

Got it?  Good.  Them tapping you on the shoulder for help is a good thing.  

But that's not enough for you. You have to know what it means. You're like an actor who just got a big break showing up to the set and asking an award-winning director, "What's my motivation?"

Your motivation?

Your motivation should be to engage and make the power broker love the way you ball.  But you've read too many career journals and start to ask momentum-killing questions like:

--Is there a new title with that?  If I do well, would a new position or title come in play down the road?

--Is there more money with that?  What about if I do well - could more money happen then?

It doesn't matter that you didn't ask them directly - it will get back to them. They should call you #selfassassin - the questions you feel compelled to ask are that destructive to your career.

Players perform and pledge not to ask questions when powerful people ask them for help.  I've never seen a situation where a powerful person asked for help and a true player performs - where it wasn't good for their career in a multitude of ways.

Don't ask what the reward is when someone way up the food chain asks you for help.

Just perform in a way that will make them ask again.

Do that and the rest takes care of itself.

ORG CHART 101:What Who HR Reports To Really Means in Your Organization...

Does who HR reports to in the organization have a lot of meaning?  Many people think it does, and here's what one of my readers thinks it means.  Take a look and let's talk after the jump:

--HR reports to CEO: people are our biggest asset; culture is important, as is engagement.  Why_dont_you_just_PAY_ATTENTION_TO_ME_xlarge

--HR reports to COO: people are our building blocks; urgent resource needs for delivery of product or service, tactical.

--HR reports to CFO: people are our biggest expense; headcount is a dirty word, bottom-line.

--HR reports to GC: people are our biggest liability; why-we-can’t policy administration, risk aversion.

I like the list - a lot.  But it's not absolute - one of the best direct reporting relationships and the most support I ever had was when I reported to a CFO.  I'd venture a guess to say that the reporting relationship that's set up has more to do with the value the CEO places on HR than it does how the entire org views HR.  After all, reporting to a COO of CFO doesn't have to be a death sentence for HR - you can do cool things and having access to the guy/gal who controls the purse strings (CFO) can't be all bad, right?

One thing I totally agree with is the General Counsel thing.  Let's get out there and limit some risk, people!  That's probably not fair, but it seems like the least progressive place to be...

So I leave you with this question - would you rather report to a CEO who goes through the motions or a COO or CFO who gets it and is fully engaged?  Hit me in the comments with what you think.  

COGNITIVE PROCESSING SPEED - Everyone Wants Talent That Is Fast On The Uptake...

On some client calls late last week and everyone wants candidates who are "fast on the uptake."

This just in - "slow on the uptake" is not desired in today's world.  Go figure. Brain freeze

To try and figure this out on candidates, we're using an assessment that has a timed cognitive portion.  Best way I can describe it is cognitive processing speed.  It's not IQ, because you can score low on our cognitive portion and still have an IQ of 140.  The cognitive portion we use throws a bunch of items at you, and it's timed.

It measures your ability to deal with a lot of incoming data in short period of time and make quick, accurate decisions.  

Totally unscientific, but my observations about candidates, even great candidates, who score in the bottom half of the bell curve for cognitive processing speed are pretty consistent.

Those candidates usually:

1. Have a 2-3 second delay when a lot of data is flying in and they're a part of the conversation.  Someone hits them with data and then stops.  There's a delay.  Their preference is to take their time on the analysis.  The pregnant pause is noticeable.

2. They may have a form of conversational Tourette's, which I define as someone who's trying to process quickly (against their natural preference to take their time and come back later with analysis) blurting out conversational reactions that really don't match the conversation going on.  They've attempted to do things on the fly and their response is just off - the contextual understanding isn't there.  They needed more time.

Again, it doesn't have to mean low IQ.  Fast on the uptake means you're just naturally wired to take in lots of data and make quick accurate decisions on the fly.  

Remember the days when it was OK to take your time with incoming data?  

Yeah - me neither.

The Wisdom of The Pod: Making Your Culture Survive Past 200 FTEs...

Does your company really have a culture?  Are you sure?

Laurie , who writes over at The Cynical Girl, had this to say about culture over at Fistful of Talent

"While what your company does may feel very important, you didn’t create a doomsday clock or invent a unique approach to understanding the constellations. You make industrial-sized foodservice equipment. You’re part Entourage-suits-sucks of the defense industry and process oceans of data for the federal government. Or maybe you’re a large chain of hospitals and employ tens of thousands of people. That’s great. Good for you. Someday, a consultant or HBS professor will write a case study about you. But your workforce — from the people who sort incoming mail to the leaders who sit on the board — aren’t participating in a culture. They have individual attitudes, beliefs, and principles that sometimes, but not always, coalesce into a sentiment that helps drive revenue and profit."

My take falls somewhere in between.  I think you can have a culture when you're small as a company because founders and leaders can talk to everyone.  Then, at about the 100 FTE mark, it gets dicey.

My solution to that breaking point?  Go to the Pod.

What's a Pod you ask?  The Pod is really a form of organizational design, and I'm going to define it here as a self-directed work team on the small side, usually no more than 4-5 members.  Pods are popular in consulting, where you have a senior person, sometimes a partner (or think Sr. Manager or Director-level) leading a team that does work on behalf of clients.

Back to culture.  When companies get beyond 100 FTEs, it's hard to communicate what's expected.  The best way to deal with that in my eyes isn't to go macro with how you communicate what's expected, it's to go micro.  Push team size down. Empower the leader of the POD to get stuff done, but also have an expectation that there's 3-4 things that are non-negotiable about how the work gets done and how you serve customers/clients.  

By reducing team size and giving up some power (Pods by their very nature are decentralized), you'd have a shot at maintaining whatever your culture is beyond 100 FTEs.  Most companies wouldn't go to the Pod because it really put pressure on you to find people who can manage (average team size down from 8:1 ratio to 3 or 4:1), but it's probably the only way to influence culture beyond the PDFs you give to candidates, free pizza Fridays and Ping Pong (if you're really lucky).

Beyond finding people that can manage, the real reason your company wouldn't go to a pod structure is that you have to allow the Pod leaders to be themselves.

Which means that your culture becomes small teams empowered to get #@#t done, often in the personality of their Pod leader.  Which is inconsistent with the macro cultural elements of free pizza, all-hands meetings and Miller Lite, but is probably the most powerful type of culture you could ever hope to have.

LOOK SMART HR: Everything You Need to Know About Labor Costs in China...

Let's face it - it's hard to look smart on the global scene as an HR Pro when you're in that mosh pit you call a company on a daily basis. One of the things you need to be literate about is that giant sucking sound - in the old days, it was NAFTA.  Over the last decade, it's really been what's going on in China.

Here's what you need to know about China now. The trend has been there for a few years, but China's no longer the low cost producer of goods in the world, as evidenced by this chart from Business Insider (email subscribers, click through for the graphic):


So Vietnam and Indonesia have always had a cost advantage over China, but let's face it - China wins because of unlimited capacity and billions of workers, right?  Well - costs are going up in China and the unlimited supply of workers is slowing down.  More from the brainiacs at KKR:

"Between 1990 and 2010, urbanization was clearly a major driver of growth in China. The 1990-2000 time period was characterized by a ramp up in rural-to-urban migration, while the 2000-2010 time period was characterized by rapid urban real wage appreciation and home prices. But urbanization also created a massive divergence within the population. Since 1985, the average wage in Shanghai and Beijing has increased 56 times (5500%) versus “only” 25 times (2400%) in rural areas like Gansu and Qinghai4. The other big macro factor relating to urbanization that should be rethought is that the pace is now finally slowing, and is likely to decelerate to less than 10 million annual rural-to-urban migrants by 2030 versus an average of 15.8 million over the past twenty years (Exhibit 39). As this transition occurs, it has implications for, among other things, GDP growth and infrastructure investment."

Translation - the only constant is change, and China's advantage in production, while still substantial, is slipping.  Wages are going up everywhere, and if you want to get production in the areas where labor costs are rising more slowly, you're going to take on other costs - like higher shipping.

Boom - you're now China-literate.  Go talk about slowing urbanization in China with the ops people.  #fascinating

Update - Time's 4/22 edition reports that the average cost to ship a 40-ft container from China is to the West Coast is $2,302, up from $1,184 in 2009.  

CAPITALIST WEBINAR: The Ultimate Guide to Mobile Recruiting (You Need This)

OK - Tough love first.  Regardless of the size of your company, you need to get moving to figure out a mobile/smartphone strategy for your careers site - seriously.  

Why do you need to do that?  Check out the new math I shared recently related to how candidates find your open positions in today's world, with a big hat tip to Bob Corlett.  Check it out:

-Ten times more job seekers start their job search on Google than anywhere else. Hire-jenny-webinar-540x320

-Indeed is now reported as the #1 source of hire for employers in the US.

-How did that happen?  Two out of three searches of any kind originate on Google. And Google job searches often lead job seekers to Indeed. Indeed has three times more unique visitors per month than the job boards.

-More than one out of every three minutes spent online is now spent “beyond the PC” on smart phones and tablets. Already 30 percent of Indeed’s total candidate visits are mobile. They encourage it.

-Only 4 percent of job seekers start their job search with a specific company in mind. So if your ads are not in the right place to be seen, you won’t be considered. And if somehow candidates do see your ad, 34 percent will not apply if your application process is too much of a hassle.

So, the call for a mobile-friendly careers site in recruiting is pretty clear.  The chain of command goes like this these days – Google to Indeed to Your Career Site, where a decision on whether to apply is made. At least one out of three candidates are doing that on a mobile device, so why wouldn’t you have a mobile-friendly site ready for mobile users?

One reason you might not have a mobile version of your careers site is that you don't know where to start.  That's why I'm bringing in Fistful of Talent's Jason Pankow (Microsoft, Mariners fan) to help me do a webinar entitled FOT’s Ultimate Guide to Mobile Recruiting, brought to you by the mobile sages at iMomentous.  Join Jason and me (KD) next Wednesday, April 24th at 1pm ET and we'll cover the following:

  • A survey of the mobile recruiting landscape and the factors driving the need for HR and recruiting professionals to develop their mobile recruiting strategy.
  • Mobile site vs. Native App? FOT tackles the great debate, presenting scenarios of how each fit into your mobile recruiting strategy.
  • The five keys to enhancing your mobile recruiting strategy by capitalizing on features like quick apply, SMS, social media and QR codes.
  • The ultimate checklist for selecting your mobile recruiting vendor, including the top questions you need to ask when vetting potential vendors.
  • How to go beyond the optimized screen to attract top talent to your organization by incorporating video content and thought leadership into via your mobile recruiting strategy.

We even incorporate a Tommy Tutone reference, because let's face it, 867-5309 is the most famous mobile number ever - even if it wasn't a mobile number back in the day.

Register for FOT’s Ultimate Guide to Mobile Recruiting webinar today!


That's right - I'm available to give anyone a LinkedIn endorsement - all you have to do is connect with me on LinkedIn.

But buyer beware! It might end up looking like the endorsement I threw in for my professional friend, William Tincup (email subscribers enable pictures or click through - you'll want to see this):

Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 10.24.58 AM

Somehow I ended up on William's profile and it was inviting me to do what it does - create a little engagement by clicking a bunch of recommended endorsements for William, etc.

But instead of taking what was recommended, I experimented with the auto-fill feature - you can actually type what you want to endorse them in, and it will tell you whether that field is pre-existing in LinkedIn.  You can't make them up, but if they exist in the system, you can use them.

I started with a serious search - typing in "closing', because Willam is always Closing.  That's where Closing Business came in - see the Facebook post William did above.

Then I went dark - quickly finding "hugs" and "kicking ###" as skills I could endorse William for.  I hope he accepted them, because I meant what I said.

Just go to an individual profile, and when it serves up the Endorsement box at the top of their profile, go to the bottom of the pre-served skills, and you'll see "Type in another area of expertise".  Start typing and let your imagination deliver the goods.

BTW, I could use a kicking ### endorsement - or five (hint, hint)