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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.

Is The Impact of Asian Diversity Undervalued in American Workplaces?

Of course it is.  That's to be expected due to the narrative on race in America.  I alluded to this in a post awhile back called "Thank God for Asians - Google Releases Workplace Diversity Numbers".  Affirmative action plans pack a lot of nationalities into the Asian classification, and the classification does nothing to really show the level of cultural diversity that's present in what the EEOC would call "Asian".

I'm back on this topic after I ran into a great interview with Marc Andreessen (founder of Netscape, venture capitalist, etc) in New York Magazine. Here's a taste of how he responds to critisim that the tech workforce isn't diverse enough:

The critique of Silicon Valley is also that it isn’t very diverse. At Twitter, for instance, 90 percent of the tech employees are male and more than 50 percent of them are white.

I think these discussions are totally valid. Now, I disagree with many of the specific points.

What’s your take?

Shall we? Let’s launch right into it. I think the critique that Silicon Valley companies are deliberately, systematically discriminatory is incorrect, and there are two reasons to believe that that’s the case. No. 1, these companies are like the United Nations internally. All the diversity studies say that the engineering population is like 70 percent white and Asian. Let’s dig into that for a second. First, apparently Asian doesn’t count as diverse. And then “white”: When you actually go in these companies, what you find is it’s American people, but it’s also Russians, and Eastern Europeans, and French, and German, and British. And then there are the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Thais, Indonesians, and Vietnamese. All these different countries, all these different cultures. To believe in a systematic pattern of discrimination, you’d have to believe that we’re discriminatory toward certain people without being discriminatory at all toward an extremely broad range of ethnicities and religions. Because of Pakistanis, we’re seeing a higher-than-ever proportion of Muslim employees in a lot of our companies.

No. 2, our companies are desperate for talent. Desperate. Our companies are dying for talent. They’re like lying on the beach gasping because they can’t get enough talented people in for these jobs. The motivation to go find talent wherever it is is unbelievably high.

So what explains the numbers?

There are two fundamental problems that are resulting in what a lot of people believe is discrimination, and these are the problems that I think need to be solved. One is inequality of education. If you come up through a path that’s sort of a stereotypical upper-middle-class American path and you go to Stanford and you get a really great technical education and your professors really care about you, then you come to Silicon Valley and you’ve got the skills and you’re golden.

But, of course, most people in the world—including most people outside the U.S. but also people in the U.S., like where I grew up in rural Wisconsin, or people in the inner city—never have access to that kind of education.

Preach it, Marc.  I saw the original workplace numbers at Google (click through the first link in this post to see the chart) and thought - "wow, that Asian number is high and there's a lot of stuff packed into that we never really think about".  I think Marc did a nice job of describing the impact of that diversity.

We think about diversity a lot in America related to two races only.  Is diversity brought to life more in an environment similar to what Marc describes or by a workforce that's entirely made of White and Black?  Which one would you want your kids to be exposed to in order to acquire a global perspective?

It doesn't solve some of the noted issues.  But the system doesn't give tech companies enough credit for the diversity that's present.  Education needs to catch up to the problem in the US before it's going to get better.

BONUS:  Film Clip from HBO's Silicon Valley breaks down Tech "Bro Packs" (email subscribers click through for video) 

GOING GLOBAL: How to Be Global in Today's Workplace Even If You Only Speak English...

I know.  You're expecting something brilliant here, maybe a flow chart or a strategic Malcolm Gladwell video.

Wrong post.  I'm simply going to tell you how to start looking like a global manager or employee even if you're locked in to Peoria as your home base 100% of the time.  The basics to get started - check it:

Rule #1 to looking global:  ALWAYS DO THE MATH FOR THE PEOPLE YOU TALK TO RELATED TO THE TIME ZONE THEY ARE IN.  That's actually rule 1-5.  Being global, or even being bi-coastal in the states means that the people you talk to should be comfortable that you're dependable, accessible and in many ways, just like the people they're talking to across the hallway.

That means you don't tell them, "let's meet at 1pm" - and you're referring to 1pm your time.  Or even say, "let's meet at 1pm my time".  You want to be on their team even though you're not there - DO THE MATH FOR THEM.  Especially if you're requesting the meeting or are the leader.

Time zones mean friction.  You job with remote folks is to take friction out of the system.  Make them want to work with you by at least taking the time zone friction off the table.

Rule #2 to looking global, even when you're not:  Don't do all the meetings with people in time zones other than yours at times that are simply convenient for you.  I can't say it any better than my friend, Gerry Crispin, who laid out the following comment on this post of mine over at Fistful of Talent:

"Don’t make weekly calls of your team (matrixed or not) at times convenient for you simply because you are the team leader. Spread them around and get your tail out of bed at 3am on occasion."

Gerry actually has some deeper comments about working with a global team, so check them out on that post.

But, this post is about the basics.  You can't possible do all the cultural things you'll need to do in a global spot before you have the moxie and selflessness to do the math for the people you're trying to schedule.  

Walk before you run.  Then maybe your company will talk to you about that spot in London.  Or, maybe Lithuania might be a better fit for you.

Is "Guy Love" From Scrubs Good or Bad for the LGBT Cause?

Backstory: I was at a client's HQ a few weeks ago and noticed one of the managers in our training class had on an unusual shirt.  I asked him about the themed t-shirt and he informed me that it was a gift from one of his direct reports, and since he was in town he felt compelled to wear it since the giver was at HQ.

A couple of people around chirped in that it was a "bromance" between the two of them, to which the manager readily agreed with.

So I couldn't help myself, I had to call it "Guy Love" after this classic Scrubs clip about the relationship between Turk and JD (email subscribers click through for the video, analysis below after the clip):

 Guy love.  Here's your lyrics to the start of that song:

Jd: Let's face the facts about me and you, our love unspecified
Though I'm proud to call you "chocolate bear"
The crowd will always talk and stare.

Turk: I feel exactly those feelings too
And that's why I keep them inside
'cause this bear, can't bare the world disdain
And sometimes is easier to hide.

So here's your question - does stuff like this, which is often shared within companies, help or hurt the LGBT community and the causes important to that community?

I can answer the only way I know how - as a straight guy, who like the world, has grown up a lot in my lifetime related to LGBT issues.

Straight guys like to tease each other like this - at least the ones I know do.  It doesn't happen every day, but it's rare for me to go more than a couple of months before I see a couple of straight guys being teased about "guy love".  

I think it's a good thing.  I grew up in time when all things non-straight were taboo.  Seeing a song about guy love between straight guys does more to open up minds than treating the topic like this.

Disagree?  I'd love to hear your perspective.  For me, the humor is a powerful tool to make everyone relax.  You might feel differently and I'm open to learning why - ping me if you think it's counterproductive....

Jd: And when I say, "I love you, Turk,",
It's not what it implies.

Jd & Turk: It's guy love

DUDE VIEWS: On The Facebook/Apple Benefit of Covering Cost for Women to Freeze Eggs....

Hi Gals!  Here's just what you've been waiting on.  A guy to come in and analyze the recently decision by Facebook and Apple to cover the cost of women freezing their eggs.  

You live it, but I report it.  

Here's the decision that Facebook and Apple have made:  FACEBOOK

For those who want to temporarily stop their biological clocks and delay having children, the Silicon Valley tech giants will cover the cost of this procedure that allows women to store their unfertilized eggs to use in the future. This is a generous offer as egg freezing is terribly expensive — $10,000 to $15,000 per round plus $500 a year for storage — and not usually covered by insurance for elective reasons.

Facebook began offering egg freezing under its surrogacy benefit this year while Apple will cover the procedure under its fertility benefit, according to NBC News. Both companies will pay up to $20,000.

Here's 5 things this means to a guy covering the employment industry:

1. It's tough to recruit in the tech industry overall and both Apple and Facebook have trouble finding enough women candidates.  This will help them compete for the women candidates who are considering these companies.

2.  It's a direct play to the tough decisions that career women face related to children - should I start a family?  If so, when?  Tick, tock. This benefit helps them defer that decision and feel OK about it.

3.  It's been noted everywhere that one of the reasons for differences in pay between men and women is the period of non-employment that exists for women when they start families.  This helps that factor at these companies.

4.  It's easier for a 40-year old women to take maternity leave, have a baby, and return with all of her career powers in check - compared to a 32-year old women.

5.  This feels like it creates options.  If you're a career lady and you really don't want to give it up at 34 or 35, you can defer the decision with the help of the company bankrolling it.

Women - what did I miss?

I like the play for Apple and Facebook.  That being said, I'm not sure this helps as many women as we think it does.  It's a great option for the women who are truly leaning into the career track and unsure about what they want to do from a family planning perspective, but it won't eliminate women exiting the workplace to start families.  That's still going to be the option of choice for most women, and that's OK.

But options are great to have.  I expect more companies who are competing for female talent in tech to add this option.  That's great for the women who are leaning in, but it doesn't help the women who want families now, but also want a professional career.  That remains the bigger issue that few have tackled or solved.