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October 2014

The Power of Manager Observation and Your Managers of People

If there's one absolute, it's that young managers of people would like all performance-related items to be black and white.

When's the last time managing people didn't include shades of gray?


One of the most powerful things we can do as HR pros is make our managers comfortable with shades of gray, knowing that they can be the judge and jury when it comes to the statements they make related to someone's performance.

Coaches should coach.  That means your managers of people have to be the experts of good vs. great related to the people/job combinations they manage.

You're doing good, not great.  Good is good.  Here's why you fit that definition.  If you want to get the next level and be great in this area, I've got see more of <insert gold>.

Help your managers do that, and you'll be in the 95th percentile.  The good great end.  

Do College Athletes Make Better Hires?

Some people love to hire jocks.  Is that a viable hiring strategy?

I'm up over at Fistful of Talent today trying to answer this very question.  Bottom line - you can't generalize and there are lots of great hires who come from non-athletic backgrounds.  But, if I was asked to put together a hiring strategy centered around college athletes, here's where I'd look:

1.   If the jock in question wasn’t that good, but they had to work their #$$ off in order to compete and survive in the sport in question, they’re not a Ken/Barbie, and they have the three attributes I’ve outlined above that can make a jock hire special, you should hire them.

2.  Division 2 and Division 3 athletics are full of these types of kids – not elite, but grinders who love to play.  And compete.  And are capable of the consultative sale.

3.   Hiring jocks from non-mainstream sports who fit all the above criteria is another great route. Everyone knows about Division 1 football and hoops, but who cares about wrestling?   They still poured everything they had into it and had some success and achieved academically?  Interesting hire.

Go check out the rest of the post over at Fistful of Talent for more jock talk.  Athletes are interesting hires, but I think it's also broader than that - you're looking for people who are used to competing... and that could come from a lifetime of violin recitals as well as the gym.

HR CAPITALIST JOB OF THE MONTH: HR Business Partner (Fortune 500, Charlotte)

Backstory - Hey Kids - Working to find a great Fortune 500 company multiple HR Business Partners in Charlotte, NC.  Great HR leadership, and you'll be working directly with line of business leaders to solve their people pain/issues.  This is the equivalent of a solid HR Director position in most Fortune 500s, due to the size and title structure my client operates under, the title will be HR Business Partner.  You know the deal - ping me if you are interested by applying here (click the link to apply), then drop me a note to tell me you've applied.  Forward at will to those you think are a fit.  Only looking for the type of HR pro that could be called an HR Capitalist... :)  

The Opportunity

Kinetix is working exclusively with a Fortune 500 company that's looking to transform the way it delivers HR services. If you're a deep, talented HR leader who's frustrated with the shackles in your current role and wants a clean whiteboard, we've got the gig for you as an HR Business Partner for our client based in Charlotte.

Of course, that clean whiteboard comes with implied pressure. Are your ideas and ability to get it done enough to live up to the opportunity?  If so, keep reading.

The HR Director/HR Business Partner Description

--You've always wanted a voice at the top, right? This is a unique opportunity to partner with and support a C-level/Business Unit Leader within a Fortune 500 company. In this role, you're going to ride shotgun with a Fortune 500 leader at our client and deliver a full spectrum of both strategic and tactical HR support and programs to employees and managers in your area of responsibility.

--Note - Our client is a big company, thus the HRBP title. The job is equivalent to a lot of HR Director roles out there, and yes, even some VP titles.

--As an integral part of your business unit's leadership team, you'll need to understand every aspect of the business and be a thought leader on People and Organizational topics. It's your role to create the end-to-end People Strategy that will support your client group in building an amazing team and exceeding their business goals.

--This will require you to think big, use data to guide your work, be comfortable challenging convention, and in some cases reinvent how HR is done within our client's operation. You'll partner with a cross functional group of subject matter experts to design and execute your strategy for how we staff, onboard, develop, motivate, retain and organize work. As part of the culture, you'll also have the opportunity to be hands-on, working side by side with leaders at our client to get things done on a variety of people related areas.

--Bottom line - our client won't burden you with transactions - they have people to do that. But that means you'll be expected to get upstream and deliver talent management solutions that will drive our client's success in the future.

Things the Right Candidate Will Do In This Role

--Business Knowledge: Displays a depth of understanding of the business organizations, including key business functions and processes and a passion to build business acumen

--Organizational Development and Design: Shows knowledge of reshaping organizational structure and roles. Understands the needs of the organization in terms of achieving maximum organizational performance and efficiencies. Assist the business in alignment of structure, process, rewards, metrics and talent to assist with the alignment of the business strategy. Consults and influences managers on key organizational and management concerns

--Talent & Performance Management: Provides advice and counsel to managers and employees on all performance related issues, including identifying key talent, succession planning, recognition and rewards, performance issues, performance improvement, and terminations

--Special Projects: Contributes to special and cross-functional projects as needed.  Can develop projects from scratch to solve organizational pain based on knowledge, skills and abilities as a world-class HR pro

--Organizational Capability: Understands the training/development needs and acts as liaison with our client's training function to provide appropriate training to the organization

Key Qualifications/Stuff the Right Candidate Has

--Great at influencing through strong relationships, expertise and data and can manage a complex set of stakeholders

--Highly collaborative style. Willingness and demonstrated ability to work in teams, as both a lead and a supporting team member}

--Strong proven leadership skills and experience

--Ability to coach, mentor and advise where appropriate to help employees grow and develop in alignment with business and personal goals

--Ability to execute foundational Project Management skills where needed and appropriate

--Strong analytical and problem solving skills, ability to analyze data, understand trends, develop recommendations for action based on the analysis

--Great communication skills and understand how to communicate large complex change

--Comfortable rolling up your sleeves to get things done and the next moment being part of deeply complex strategy discussions

--Sheepskin/School of Hard Knocks

--We need a BA/BS plus 10 years of experience, or MA/MS/MBA and 5 years of experience, or equivalent

Final Comments From KD/Kinetix

It's a great role. We think the right candidate could come from a couple of different places, most likely a candidate from a big company with great human capital strategy who feels like things have gotten just a bit too bureaucratic over the last couple of years, or an up-and-comer who's built a similar practice at a smaller firm and wants to do it again with more tools and resources. T

Ping me if you are interested by applying here (click the link to apply), then drop me a note to tell me you've applied. 

One Thing We Should Interview More For: EMPATHY

Because it's hard.  You've got a career, a family, outside interests, etc.

And as an employer, we want you to have all those things.  The thing is, others have those things as well. Empathy

When you step back to look at what the average working professional does, it's incredibly hard.  Nothing usually comes with ease.  

Which brings me to the reason interviewing for empathy is so important - Are you someone that's mature enough to understand that, or are you the first to brutally bitch and criticize rather than slow down and understand what it's like to walk in someone else's shoes? 

There's got to be some empathy for how hard it is to generate results in roles other than your own if you're going to be an effective teammate.  Or an effective coach of people.  It doesn't mean you can't coach for performance or hold people accountable.  It's a worldview.  It's a pre-requisite to accountability.

So interview for empathy in your next interview.  Ask them about a team member who let them down.  Wind them up and let them talk - and figure out if they're a potential team member or just another shark looking for a meal.

You're going to need a bigger boat.

Is Corporate Meritocracy Dead As Soon As a Merit Matrix Arrives On the Scene?

Helping a client through the following academic exercise - it's an interesting one:

Is Corporate Meritocracy Dead As Soon As a Merit Matrix Arrives On the Scene?

What do you think?  My gut tells me that when a company is very small (under 100 employees), meritocracy is at its purest.  The owners of the business have the best sense possible on who adds big value, who can be easily replaced and who really helps grow the business.

Then, at some point between 100-300 employees, the company grows to the point where the owners have reduced line of sight to which people are most valuable.  Around this time the owners are no longer scalable in this regard, and in come the professional managers of people.  With that comes a need for control and a sense of fairness.

It's at this point that some form of merit matrix comes into play, usually linked to an annual performance review.  The highest performers get 4-5%, the masses get 2-3% and BOOM.  The ability to truly reward the people who add the most value is dead.

But the culprit in all this isn't necessary the merit matrix tool.  The villain is inefficiency in measuring performance through an increased number of lenses.

When the owners were close enough to the game, performance was measured through a small number of lenses.  That kept consistency high.

But when the number of employees went up and necessitated the arrival of professional managers, the number of lenses went up.

The use of the merit matrix isn't the problem.

The problem is that the more managers you have, the less true, linked meritocracy is possible.

You can't cut down on the number of managers, so what's needed is a real world definition of meritocracy.

The definition probably gets the span of control back to 100-employee blocks, without being constricted by a corporate merit matrix.

Does Your Referral Program Provide the Right Candidate Experience?

My friend Tim Sacket was up over at CareerBuilder yesterday doing his thing - saying the whole concept of candidate experience in recruiting is Slim Shady at best.

His point, and I think its a good one, is that as long as you meet the minimum level of service to candidates, you're probably good to go.  I think at times we probably craft some deep process maps to deliver a great candidate experience, then we fail to deliver on the standard we set.  Which is worse than simply meeting the minimum expectation.

So let's talk about a single piece of the recruiting process - Employee Referrals.  You love employee referrals. You want employee referrals.  When it comes to delivering on the candidate experience (and the employee experience - the person who referred) for referrals, it probably makes sense to do more than the minimum.

But be careful about process mapping more than that- because it's a freaking trap.  Here are your choices related to candidate experience with referrals:

1.  You treat them like normal candidates.  If you have the same processes as most of the country, that doesn't seem like a great choice.  They apply or they get emailed to you, and you treat them like normal people.  FAIL.

2.  You roll out the red carpet for employee referrals, even going to the extent of making the organizational commitment that every referral is going to get at least a phone screen, if not a live interview.  This is common in founder driven companies of both the small and medium variety.  I've seen it in the last month in a company with 2.000 employees.  FAIL.  That's a colossal waste of time, because even though there's gold in employee referrals, there's still plenty of fool's gold and bad candidates.  You've got better things to do with your time.

3.  You hit the middle ground.  You don't treat them like normal candidates, but you don't treat the toothless guy with bad breath like he just matriculated from Google either.  SUCCESS.  Best way to do this?  Make the organizational commitment to give all employee referrals a quick read on whether they are a candidate or not within a week of applying via the employee referral process.  Could be email, could be phone.  Don't wait, handle that 3 minute piece of business early in the process, and you're a winner.

Are you doing #1?  You're broken and need to fix that.  Are you doing #2?  You need to stand up to the leader who's requiring that and give him/her analysis of how much time is being sucked out of the org by attempting to deliver on that standard.  

Candidate Experience doesn't mean you should over-promise.  It probably does mean you should over-deliver.

The Saga of the Jimmy John's Global Non-Compete...

In case you HR pros who long for legal catfights and PR missed it, your neighborhood Jimmy Johns is taking a PR hit based on the fact they mandate every employee in the company sign a general non-complete.

Yes, even the guy that puts up with your crazy, funky, obsessive compulsive sandwich request (please microwave for 17 seconds only, my friend) has to sign a non-compete. 

And all the normal liberal press is piling on - HuffPo, Gawker and more.  Here's the rundown from the Huffington Post: Jimmjohn

A Jimmy John's employment agreement provided to The Huffington Post includes a "non-competition" clause that's surprising in its breadth. Noncompete agreements are typically reserved for managers or employees who could clearly exploit a business's inside information by jumping to a competitor. But at Jimmy John's, the agreement apparently applies to low-wage sandwich makers and delivery drivers, too.

By signing the covenant, the worker agrees not to work at one of the sandwich chain's competitors for a period of two years following employment at Jimmy John's. But the company's definition of a "competitor" goes far beyond the Subways and Potbellys of the world. It encompasses any business that's near a Jimmy John's location and that derives a mere 10 percent of its revenue from sandwiches.

From the agreement:

Employee covenants and agrees that, during his or her employment with the Employer and for a period of two (2) years after … he or she will not have any direct or indirect interest in or perform services for … any business which derives more than ten percent (10%) of its revenue from selling submarine, hero-type, deli-style, pita and/or wrapped or rolled sandwiches and which is located with three (3) miles of either [the Jimmy John's location in question] or any such other Jimmy John's Sandwich Shop.

My take?  You have to watch the Pita people.  They steal talent and they're constantly trying to tap into customer bases by stealing a sandwich artist.

But seriously - the real HR pros know that this is simple boilerplate that JJ decided to use as part of it's handbook, stand-alone agreements, whatever.  It means nothing in the big scheme of things.

2 other big observations for the libbies out there:

1.  Most employees aren't even aware they signed that.  The lower down the totem pole you go, the more true that is.

2.  No court in the world would enforce that non-compete for hourly workers at JJ or any other fast food chain.

To be fair, if anyone was aware that they signed this, it might prevent them for looking for an opportunity in the industry.  So the liberal reaction is justified in this regard.  And yes, non-competes can be completely unenforceable and the person/company with the bigger checkbook wins the fight - I know this from previous experience working against solid non-competes in the sales industry.

But the Jimmy Johns non-compete for the person making your lunch means nothing.  Like most employees, they signed that thing without reading it.

Watch the pita people, Jimmy Johns.  They are a tribe without values.  Roly Poly has questionable morals as well.

Let me know if you make sandwiches at Jimmy Johns and you were even aware you had a non-complete.  Film at 11.



Just Who Are You Asking For a Raise? (It Matters)

Catch me today over at Fistful of Talent, where I'm up with a post called "Influence 101 – It’s Not Enough To Ask For A Raise: Understand Who You’re Asking"... Here's a taste:

The most important thing you need to know when you negotiate? Who you’re talking to. Here’s a rundown of the people you’ll ask for raises in your career:

-The Leader of the White Guys Club. OK, it exists. There’s still a segment of society that thinks unless you’re a white guy (bonus points if they drive a Miata convertible), you shouldn’t be comped at market level.

What this person is thinking when you ask them for a raise: If you’re a white guy, they’re embarrassed you had to ask. If you’re not a white guy, it pisses them off a bit.

How to get what you’re looking for: The good news is most white guys have seen some of their peers go down for being bigots, so calmly letting them know that the apples-to-apples comparisons aren’t equal is enough for them to have the emotion you want them to have—FEAR.

(BIG NOTE TO THE PEOPLE – This is not your normal white guy.  This is the leader of the club that thinks – wait for it – white guys are special.)

-The Self Proclaimed Talent Broker. This person exists as both male and female. They believe that the market will naturally take care of money issues, and they’ll also tell you it’s not necessary to threaten to do anything in order for the invisible hand of your company to correct the situation. You just have to be patient. This is Microsoft’s Nadella, by the way.

What this person is thinking when you ask them for a raise: “Hey dude(ette), just chill, it’s all going to work out.”

How to get what you’re looking for: Play the card that unless you get what you need, you’ll likely leave, and that’s not going to help their self- proclaimed Talent Broker status. Then refer them to a couple of articles that help your case in INC or Fast Company mags. That’s the language they speak.

Got a couple more profiles waiting on you over at that post - head over to Fistful of Talent to take them in by clicking here.


Always Pause The Wiz Khalifa When Coaching (Especially If You Like the Cut Playing)...

Most people would tell you that you need to turn off any background noise when you coach an employee on anything - music, the TV, people talking loudly, etc.  Complete attention on the task at hand is required for the most part, and I agree with that.

I'm going to take it a step further - I think you ought to PAUSE the media in question when in feedback mode if it's playing something you're interested in.  I'd even ask for their permission.

Here's your back-story - on the road with another Kinetix team member recently, and we were driving to a client's location.  We were talking about how it was going and what needed to be adjusted.  Things were going well, but I had some feedback on how my partner could do even better, so I started to coach.

10 seconds into the feedback/coaching, I look down and see the cut playing on Pandora (email subscribers click through for photo):

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 12.07.40 PM

I find myself in a big Wiz Khalifa mode right now, so I didn't even miss a beat - I stopped coaching and asked for permission to pause the Wiz Khalifa.  Not turn it down - pause it - for later consumption.

Permission was granted.  Laughter was a part of that. The coaching felt less formal as a result.  It wasn't corrective in nature, it was just things to explore how to get better.

The message - I think the more you do to be human and less formal when you coach, the better it is.  Asking for permission to pause something that was playing is a part of that.  Unusual request?  Maybe.  Could you be critized for not having full attention to the employee in question?  Sure.  

But would you rather send the message that coaching means the world stops, or that it's a normal part of life and other things can preserved while you give feedback?  I like the second option.

BONUS - I tied in the desire to pause based on the fact the employee in question actually made a Fast and Furious reference the night before.  

Feedback should be informal enough to pause media rather than turn it down and lose the cut.  

Pass the Wiz Khalifa.

(Note - I like Wiz because he seems non-violent and has a great voice.  I wish his songs didn't have as many drug references as they do.  KD is drug free and wants you to be too.)

The Top 100 Movie Quotes for HR Pros: #75 is Harvey Dent ("You Either Die a Hero, or You Live Long Enough To See Yourself Become the Villain")...

Recurring 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..

"You Either Die a Hero, or You Live Long Enough To See Yourself Become the Villain"

--Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight

Today's quote is all about not overstaying your welcome.  It's about the shelf life of talent.

"You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the Villain."

New employees and new managers can have great starts in your company.  At some point, their effectiveness starts to wane.  Conditions change.  They're not the star any longer.

At that point, they've got a choice to make:

1. Get the hell out.

2. Reinvent themselves and stay.

3. Stay and do nothing to increase their waning effectiveness. 

Should you stay or should you go?  If you stay, you better do something to reinvent yourself, because if you don't, the pack is going to turn on you.

Your game becomes old.  Either die a hero (that means you leave) or get ready to see yourself become the Villian (you stayed but refused to start the clock ticking over via some type of reinvention.

Which one is it going to be?  (if you want to go right to the quote on the clip below, go to the 1:10 mark - email subscribers click through for the video clip...)