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June 2013

PODCAST: KD and Bill Kutik (The Godfather of HR Tech) Talk Shop at The CYA Report...

Hey Gang - I don't always make you aware of everything I have going on - for example, did you know that I've got a podcast over at Fistful of Talent called "The CYA Report"?

Now you know.  Check out the episode below as I sling it around with one of my favorite people in the industry, Bill Kutik.  I call Bill "the godfather of HR Tech" because he knows so damn much about the sector and he's built the best HR show on the planet - The HR Technology Conference.

Bill's one of my favorites and it's great to hear his career story and how he built that show, plus everything else he's got going on.  Great fodder for your drive home or a jog - just bring your headphones and press play on the player below (email subscribers may need to click through to see player).

The Case for Training Your Employees To Be Less Sensitive...

"Maybe I'll sue"...

We spend a lot of our time training for increased sensitivity to things that have legal ramifications - Mope think Title 7, any type of harassment, etc.  It's all driven hopefully to do the right thing - but most certainly to reduce risk and financial exposure to your company.

But the things you can get sued for are really only the tip of the iceberg related to lost opportunity and squandered productivity at your company.  The real culprit?  Wait for it... Wait for it...

The real productivity suck is people being too senstitive to imperfect/bad things they should expect.  Like feedback.  Like failure.

It's on my mind because I was recently talking to one of my sons about being sensitive to failure.  His failure was small, but he was lingering on it.  It's hard to see one of your own down, but at some point, they need to understand the truth:

"Nobody cares that you're down about this but you."

His sensitivity was impacting what he did next.  Your employees do the same thing when they fail, when they get feedback (intended or unintended) about how they're doing, when others get positive feedback (a zero-sum approach - if you win, then I lose), etc.  They mope.

What if there was training to help your employees understand how much moping (the best street-smart way to describe being too sensititve) was costing them (as well as the company)?

I'd pay a lot for that training.  You could train to manage how the outside world perceives their reaction to bad stuff and what they do next, even if they still feel the sting.

Because for most things we mope about, no one cares but the person doing the moping.  The rest of the world is moving too fast to care. But they will notice your moping, your sucky reaction to the next task based on what you perceived as a slight.  And they'll just think you suck.

There are some great aspects of being highly sensitive - you're more empathetic to how others feel, etc.  

But rest assured, no one cares that you're moping about routine failure or less than stellar feedback but you.

It's what you do next that matters.  

The New Rules of Tattoos In the Workplace...

The rules - at least from my vantage point - look to be pretty clear related to what tattoos mean in the workplace these days.  My take:

1. Single Tattoos are no longer taboo - you have the cross, the barbed wire, a pacrim symbol for something, whatever.  We've come to expect it and we're no longer shocked by it, and the numbers of people who will Bird penalize you for that in the workplace are at an all-time low, and you probably don't want to work for the people who would penalize you for that.  Exception is retail for the most part, and if you can cover up, who cares?

2. We only assign max creativity to people with large portions of their upper torso covered.  This just in - we're yawning at the single tattoo as a indicator you're something different.  When everyone has tattoos of some sort or another, they're no longer special and if you're not going to spice it up a bit, can actually mean something else.  See #3 and #4 for trends related to upping the ante, or not... 

3. No tattoos is starting to come back in style as "interesting" within some segments of the population.  We've jumped the tipping point with tattoos where in some socio-economic and related strata where someone without tattoos is actually seen as fresh and interesting.  It used to be that tattoos meant you were different and there was an interesting conversation there - now in some groups, especially young folks, it may be interesting if you don't have a tattoo because we've seen so many.  What does no tattoos mean if you believe this?  <Insert hiring bias here>.  A lot of biases can be inserted.  The point is that there are a lot of tattoos out there the younger you are and we've become bored with it.

4. Some single tattoos are seen as weak, meaning follower, etc.  Seriously.  You went with one tattoo and it's not that exceptional and it's small.  Some people smell follower when they see that.  You had to have one and you went single, small and average with the tat.  Yawn. What about the kid without tattoos again?  The younger you are, that approach seems riskier these days.

Those are the new rules of tattoos in the workplace.  Special thanks to people like the Birdman (real name is Chris Anderson and he's pictured to the side) for lowering our sensitivity and making average tattoos normal and at times, average.

GOOGLE: Now Thinks Those Brainteaser Questions Are A Complete Waste of Time...

Can I get a hell yeah?

Google and a bunch of other tech companies are famous for brainteaser questions. You know the Internship ones, the kind that ask something like "Why are manhole covers round?".  Defenders of the practice will say that the questions are valuable because they tell interviewers how a candidate thinks when solving problems, etc.  They've always pissed me off because I really can't get interested in how to solve them.  You can see examples of these questions here.

This just in - Google now views brainteaser questions as a complete waste of time.  More from a New York Times inteview with Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google:

Q. Other insights from the studies you’ve already done?

A. On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.

Two things that tells me about Google these days.  They remain data-driven, so the above statement is based on research on hiring practices inside the Google campus.  And they've grown up to the point where they're now willing to kill things they once held sacred and made for great PR.

But wait, there's more.  Bock goes on to say the secret sauce to hiring effectively at Google is - wait for it - behavioral interviewing.  I kid you not:

"Instead, what works well are structured behavioral interviews, where you have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up.

Behavioral interviewing also works — where you’re not giving someone a hypothetical, but you’re starting with a question like, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.” The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable “meta” information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult."

Smartest people in the room.  Back to behavioral interviewing.  Key phrase.  Drill in, dig deeper, and you win.  

Google's just like you, except with Vince Vaughn as an intern.  And cash - lots of cash.

Hiring For Motivational Fit Vs. Hiring For Culture...

It's pretty simple, actually:

Hiring for Culture - generally means you're looking for people who are like you - or like your brand - People bubble or have something in common with your corporate values.  This generally gets a bit fuzzy pretty quickly, and is full of "like us" bias.  There are people who are hiring for culture effectively, but there are many more train wrecks out there who do it poorly...

Hiring for Motivational Fit - means you're donig a deep dive of when a candidate has been satisfied and unsatisfied in their career, then you're doing an objective assessment on whether your company, hiring manager and open job can provide the good stuff the candidate finds satisfying without a lot of the bad stuff that doesn't satisfy them.

One is cloud level, one is street level.  When in doubt, go for motivational fit.  It's what will deliver true retention over time.

What HR Can Learn From Boiler Room: "Telling's Not Selling"

Capitalist Note: That's right - I'm pulling quotes from the movie Boiler Room (which is Gen X's version of Glengarry Glen Ross), which is a movie you should pull up on Netflix if you haven't seen it.  It's about a renegade brokerage firm, and a lost soul that gets caught up as an associate there.  Good times.

"Telling's Not Selling"
--Greg Weinstein from the movie Boiler Room

What can HR learn from that quote from Boiler Room?  I don't mean to go off on a rant here, but these things come to mind:

1. Telling someone what do to is transactional in nature.  Lowest common denominator.  You're better than that.

2. Letting other people talk is much higher end, and results in more closed business.  Your closed business in HR looks different than sales, but you're still trying to close, right?

3. Solution selling has a place in HR, but you have to ask questions and then be nimble about where you go from there.

4. The best HR pros say "yes" to a lot more things than average HR pros.  But saying yes with conditions involves listening to what others want and then finding a path.  If you're caught up in "telling" people what the deal is rather than listening, you're hosed.

Telling's not selling, people.  Here's a clip from Boiler Room to get you a feel for what you'll see when you fire it up on Netflix...

The SPHR and Money - Chicken or the Egg?

We've talked a lot in this space about value of the SPHR and PHR for today's HR professional.  Is it worth doing?  I've always taken the stance that it's a checkbox - good to do and ultimately will pay off, but it's always been hard to quantify.  

A recent study attempts to quantify it....Below are other highlights from PayScale's Sugar Coating or Career Sweetener? report:

  • HR professionals with an SPHR make 93% more overall than those without any certification (overall median annual pay without any certification is $45,600 versus $87,900 with SPHR).
  • Holding either a PHR or SPHR will boost salaries for HR professionals by more than $20,000, across various metro markets in the US.
  • HR certification has a greater positive impact on salary for HR professionals in cities located on the East Coast than it does for West Coast cities.
  • Certified HR professionals tend to advance to senior roles more quickly; 63% of HR assistants with certification received a promotion within five years, compared to only 34% of those without certification.
  • The likelihood of holding HR certification increases with seniority; nearly half of HR Vice Presidents are certificated with 25% holding a SPHR and 19% holding a PHR.

You can go get the entire report here.  It's pretty interesting and is one of the best attempts I've seen to date at quantifying what certification is worth to HR pros.

But if you take the data outlined above, you can still argue it a couple of different ways, including:

1. HR pros with an SPHR make more than 93% more overall because let's face it, only the best and brightest - or more aptly stated - the ones really, really into the craft of HR - take the time to get certified.

2. It's 93% more duckets for HR pros with an SPHR because only the most experienced get an SPHR.

3. The value of certification is overplayed even with all this data since more than 50% of VP-level HR pros have no certifcation.

Your thoughts?  In any event, it's a good data set to go out and get, then soak on.


Are Your Communication Issues An Excuse for Doing What You Want? (The Million Dollar Question)

Short post today, but a nice reminder based on something I heard on the street last week.

A company and organization has communication issues, perhaps worsened by multiple locations, time zones Failure-to-communicate and a global business spanning multiple cultures/norms.

Then people do things without communicating with others across those time zones.

When that happens, is that a communication issue (based on locations, time zones and different cultures) or simply people doing what they want under the label/rationalization "we need to improve communication?"

It's the million dollar question anywhere there's communication dysfunction.  Sometimes you have to start blaming the people, not the organization's challenges.

People are smart and opportunistic. If an organization with communication challenges has multiple tribes or just some renegade individual contributors, you can bet that people are doing what they want from time to time, knowing that it will get tagged as a "opportunity to improve communications".  
The right answer? Setting the expectation that it's the responsibility of the department or manager to over-communicate on important stuff that might cause friction to ensure a feedback loop.

When you see it, you have to confront it and demand people get better at creating that feedback loop.

Otherwise, you're a victim to people doing what they want - and the communication issues never improve.

Don't be a victim.

Transparency In Performance Management - Should You Coach Talent in Front of Others?

We talk a lot about transparency in organizations.  That usually means the extent to which a leadership team is willing to communicate what's going on downward in the organization.

But - there are some hard knock cultures that think if your employee base desires full transparency, that it comes with some brutal non-negotiables.  One of those non-negotiables might be giving coaching in public.  Case in point - a company called Bridgewater Associates (hedge fund) which approaches transparency with a "cult of personality" flavored after their leader.  More from the New Yorker:

"Dalio (the founder of Bridgewater Associates) asked for another opinion. From the back of the room, a young man dressed in a black sweatshirt started saying that a Chinese slowdown could have a big effect on global supply and demand. Dalio cut him off: “Are you going to answer me knowledgeably or are you going to give me a guess?” The young man, whom I will call Jack, said he would hazard an educated guess. “Don’t do that,” Dalio said. He went on, “You have a tendency to do this. . . . We’ve talked about this before.” After an awkward silence, Jack tried to defend himself, saying that he thought he had been asked to give his views. Dalio didn’t let up. Eventually, the young employee said that he would go away and do some careful calculations.

After the meeting, Dalio told me that the exchange had been typical for Bridgewater, where he encourages people to challenge one another’s views, regardless of rank, in what he calls a culture of “radical transparency.” Dalio had no qualms about upbraiding a junior employee in front of me and dozens of his colleagues. When confusions arise, he said, it is important to discuss them openly, even if that involves publicly pointing out people’s mistakes—a process he referred to as “getting in synch.” He added, “I believe that the biggest problem that humanity faces is an ego sensitivity to finding out whether one is right or wrong and identifying what one’s strengths and weaknesses are.”

As you might expect, this company outlines how to get over everything you thought you knew about how to operate in Corporate America as part of the onboarding process:

"Dalio is serenely convinced that the precepts he relies on in the markets can be applied to other aspects of life, such as career development and management. And he has enough regard for his own views on these subjects to have collected them in print. Before our meeting, he sent me a copy of his “Principles,” a hundred-page text that is required reading for Bridgewater’s new hires. It turned out to be partly a self-help book, partly a management manual, and partly a treatise on the principles of natural selection as they apply to business. “I believe that all successful people operate by principles that help them be successful,” a passage on the second page said. The text was organized into three sections: “5 Steps to Personal Evolution,” “10 Steps to Personal Decision-Making,” and “Management Principles.” The last of the two hundred and seventy-seven management principles was: “Constantly worry about what you are missing. Even if you acknowledge you are a ‘dumb shit’ and are following the principles and are designing around your weaknesses, understand that you might still be missing things. You will be better and be safer this way.”

Dalio’s philosophy has created a workplace that some call creepy. Last year, Dealbreaker, a Wall Street Web site, picked up a copy of the Principles and made fun of a section in which Dalio appeared to compare Bridgewater to a pack of hyenas feeding on a young wildebeest. In March, AR, a magazine that covers hedge funds, quoted a former colleague of Dalio’s saying, “Bridgewater is a cult. It’s isolated, it has a charismatic leader and it has its own dogma.” The authors of the article noted that Dalio’s “emphasis on tearing down an individual’s ego hints at the so-called struggle groups of Maoism,” while his search for “human perfection devoid of emotion resembles the fantasy world in Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead.'

Natural selection. Inclusion of "dumb s**t" in the employee manual. Comparison of company to pack of hyenas.  Too much?  Probably.

But direct and you know what you're in for when you start, and I would assume you'd know those things as part of the hiring process.

360 Transparency. Only available at private, founder-driving companies for sure. 

HR Capitalist Memories of Dad....

Capitalist Note - An oldie, but a goodie on Father's day.  Miss you dad.

My dad gave me a lot to move forward with in life.  Like most of his generation, my dad was old school - a little bit great santini but nuclear family through and through.  In addition to all the things you expect (food, shelter, TV), my Dad served as a role model for two things in my life - the ability to grind/work hard and the ability to work on skills that would give you a competitive advantage in life.  Although he passed away in 2005, I still think about the memories related to those themes at least a couple of times a week. 

The first memory is a recurring sound- the sounds/vibrations of my dad's work boots going through theKent and KD house each morning at 6am as I laid in bed.  Regardless of what happened the night before, my dad always answered the bell the next day.  With that role modeling, I've always had the ability to grind away at a task or goal once I put my mind to it.

The second memory is skill and talent-related.  I have these memories of my dad guarding me on the basketball court when I was roughly about 10 years old.  I was right-handed, and in an effort to develop skills that would make a difference, my dad would savagely block my shot when I drove to the basket using my right hand.  It was brutal - imagine how Bill Murray would block a kid's shot in that over the top way.... However, he'd let me shoot when I went left and told me why he was doing it.  If you know hoops, you know the ability to use either hand at a high level is required to play at an advanced level and have success.  A couple of years later, I started a self-directed path in basketball that led to a college career, and subsequently, a lot of things in life I wouldn't have had if not for that lesson.  It all started with my dad teaching me a simple lesson on developing skills that matter (which are the ones with market value that other people don't have).

Of course, now that I'm older, I also see that the skill and work ethic lessons are hopelessly linked.  As a result, I try in the best way I can to share the same types of lessons with my sons.  When it's time to do some work with them that will give them a competitive advantage, I've taken to asking the following question if they whine:

"What do people named Dunn do?"

To which they reply (grudgingly at times, but at times with pride):

"We work".

My dad's gone now and that sucks.  However, any time I get down and wish he was here, I think about the role modeling he did why he was here, and it quickly becomes more of a celebration in my mind, although a sad one since he's not around to see the same lessons coming through with my sons.

Work = Success = Enthusiasm to do more work

Thanks Dad.