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November 2014

What I'm Thankful for....

Friends, family, health, etc... All the regular stuff...

Plus, I'm thankful for all the images from past and present that keep me grounded.  On that note, check out the photo below from the Business Insider profile of the Groupon office environment.  This photo shows a Forbes cover of the Groupon CEO in the middle, then they've smartly surrounded him with great business mag covers from the past of tech startups that have imploded... Netscape, AOL, etc.

I first posted this in 2010 when Groupon was red-hot.  You probably know the rest of the story.

Humble pie.  It's what's for lunch on Thursday while we give thanks for everything we have.  Check out the photo below and then check out Business Insider's photo tour from 2010 of the Groupon offices in Chicago.

Stay thirsty, my friends.




The 2 People You'll Meet When You Give Your Employees Total Freedom on Social Media...

Look, I know you're scared of social media.  People like Tim Sackett and I used to do a year's worth of speaking gigs talking about social media and HR, then we just got bored and moved on.

We'll, I'm back - To introduce you to the two people you'll meet when you give your employees freedom on social media.  I'm still an advocate for allowing this freedom, but there are going to be some failures out there to prepare for.  Here's what you're going to see.

1. Person responsible for your brand and sub-brand attempts humor and as a result, Al Sharpton is knocking at your door.  See the tweet below from Dave and Busters:

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 10.17.56 AM

Yeah, the kids are not alright - feel me?  The kid thought it would be cool to riff off a little hispanic theme in the tweet.  You have kids running your social channel.  Then this happens, and your first instinct is to shut it all down.

That's wrong.  This is actually an opportunity to show how good you are in crisis mode.  Just tell the world you demoted the Gen Z kid running the channel to collections and then tell him how much your white, mid 40's leader spent at Taco Bell last year - in my case, it was over $2,000.  Seriously.  Take action and share some other things.  Then keep trying to promote your brand - you'll be suprised how forgiving people are. 

Juan likes Tacos?  Everyone likes tacos, my friend.

2. The other person you'll meet is the over-eager person to use the tools that doesn't have an understanding of how to use the tools.  Example below - the Twitter CFO tried to use a DM (Direct Message in the twitter tool, not seen by everyone) but instead used a normal tweet to talk about a pending acquisition.  Oops:

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 10.18.17 AM

This one is all about training.  If you're going to have your people using the tools - and you should - you have to train people on the quickest way that they can really screw up.  There's no quicker way to screw the pooch via social than a bad click and intention to use a DM.  

Educate, and you'll have less of these types of situations.

If you're going to use social, you've got to invest time to educate people how to use the tools.  It's worth doing in today's world.

Don't quit when someone blows it.  Because people are most certainly going to blow it via social at your company every once in a while.  Handled the right way, it makes you look human and transparent.  Which is what social is supposed to be about.

Walk Up Music Should Be Required in All Your Meetings...

Yeah, I'll say it.

I think walk up music should be required at all your meetings.  You know what walk up music is - it's the song that plays when a major league baseball player walks from the dugout to the batter's box.  Another version is what plays during dead balls in arenas and stadiums with event personnel who know what they're doing.

Walk up music is designed to the make the event seem bigger than it is by ripping something from pop culture.  It sets a mood.

And if you're a leader, you should ask your people to provide intro music to every meeting.  Here's what you'll learn:

1.  How they're feeling.

2.  What the tone of the meeting is.

3.  How creative they are.

4.  How much they're willing to take risks.

5.  What they're interested in.

6.  Who is a gigantic Bonnie Tyler fan (Hint - most Benefit Managers over the age of 40 are.)

So take a week and mandate that all the meetings you call include walk up music.  You start by providing it yourself.  Then make other people do it.

It's going to be topically, people are going to be ridiculed, and it will make you closer as a team.

Here's my walk up music for you today.  Instrumental version of Wiz Khalifa's "We Dem Boyz".  Why?  Because if you're still reading, this is my meeting.  White guy, over 40, chosing Wiz Khalifa.  Deal with it. (email subscribers, click through for music and video) 


Insert These Classic Jim Mora Sr. Clips Into Your Next Training Session for Managers...

It's Friday, so let's keep it light - and since it's football season, let's learn from the great leaders of the gridiron.  

Today's lesson is from the book of Jim Mora Sr.  You know him as the dad of Jim Mora Jr. (UCLA head Coach) and the famous subject of his "Playoffs?" post-game press conference

If you stopped with that clip, you'd be good to go.  But you'd be under-estimating the catalog of Jim Mora Sr.

I've got three clips for you to use in your next training session for managers (email subscribers, click through for video), ordered by hot, then spicy - and of course, ending with fire.  Note - these get gradually NSFW, so if you don't like a little language, don't listen.  If you do like a little language, please use headphones:

1.  The Real Jim Mora Protects a member of his team.  Nothing makes your people love you like protecting them when you have a bad day.  Watch Jim Mora Sr. and learn kids:

2.  The real Jim Mora hows how to answer questions about "how's that big project going" without giving up anything that could be held against him, while still letting you know that's its actually going s##ty and no one is safe:

3. And the grand finale - Jim Mora Sr. picks a fight with a internal rival and attempts to make him the bad guy by jumping on the guy's use of phraseology - rightness indignation with just a hint of aggression to perfection.  The best of them all, but highly NSFW.  


Learn from the best kids. Like your mom and dad, they don't make them like the real Jim Mora anymore.

I'm declaring today Jim Mora Sr. day.  He's a national treasure we must preserve at all costs!

MAC MILLER, BIG WINS AND YOUR CAREER: Or Are You On The Couch Watching Cartoons?

Ay yo, the flyest ************ in the room
Yeah, you know it's me
******** hating on him, cause he started out here locally
Hopefully, I'll be at the top soon
For now I'm at my house, on the couch, watching cartoons..

--lyrics from Donald Trump by Mac Miller

I'll give you a short post today.  It's about your career, so it could be for an HR pro, a recruiter, a manager or someone that has maintained the common sense that being an individual contributor is the best way to go.

At some point, you're going to interview for your next gig.  The whole process is designed to get to the following point:

Can I see this yahoo doing the job in question at my company?

With that in mind, there's two ways to approach it:

1.  Be prepared to talk about what you did, with an emphasis on your knowledge, skill and abilities.

2.  Do #1, but be able to clearly articulate the "big wins" you've achieved in your role.

Let's be clear - you can get a job by doing #1.  But the real way to show you're better than other people is to share the big wins you've worked on and delivered in your role.

Call it the nuclear effect.

The Mac Miller lyrics I led with breaks down your average candidate.  They're thinking they want to be on top, but let's face it - from a career perspective, they're on the couch watching cartoons.

If you're in the market for your next HR role, what I really want to know is what you're biggest 3-5 wins from a project perspective are.  What did you do that had the greatest impact?  Share slides, spreadsheets, etc.  Entertain me - whether I have a need for the specifics or not doesn't matter.  You're telling me you hunt big game.

Ballers ball.  Big game hunters shoot animals with horns and pose for pictures. The best candidates get big wins in addition to making the buses run on time and drive value - and they can tell that story.  

What were your 3 biggest wins in your current/last job?  Could we talk in depth about each for 15-20 minutes? If you can't articulate the bigs wins, you're like Mac Miller - dreaming of the big time, but dozing off on the couch.

Last but not least - don't wait for someone to ask for the big wins - you weave it into your narrative whether they ask or not.

Instrumental version of Donald Trump by Mac Miller appears below (email subscribers click through if a white rapper from Pittsburgh is interesting to you - promise it has a good hook...) 

GREAT HR METRICS: Innovation Spend/Effectiveness at Your Company...

I'm on the record as liking Revenue Per Employee as the best macro metric on HR effectiveness.

But that's macro, let's get micro.  Training $$ per employee?  Turnover percentage?  Does that include involuntary?


Let's roll out something cool, like evaluating innovation spend vs peers.  Check out this chart from Business Insider that shows R&D spend as a % of revenue (email subscribers, display images or click through for the post):


As they say... daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn.

So, you can measure your spend on innovation as a percentage of revenue.  And when you do that, it tells you some things you would expect - namely, that your competitors are doing what you thought they were doing.  Microsoft, Cisco and Google - all leading the pack at over 10% of revenue spent on R&D.

But that of course, tells you nothing about effectiveness.  Apple?  <insert evil laugh>.  Spends about as much Dell - YES DELL - on R&D.


Things that make you go "hmmm"

On to the next one.

Signed - in search of metrics that provide clarity on talent issues.

ASK THE CAPITALIST: How Do You Hold Corporate Managers Accountable When They Act Illegally or Unethically?

A reader asks...

How do you hold the highest level corporate managers accountable when they make decisions that are illegal or unethical?  What do you say to them to make them know you are correct and their decision is wrong?  Using the threat of a penalty/fine for the situation would typically be the way to get the attention of a VP of Finance/Budget, but that does not seem to work. 

--Sarah from Syracuse


Hi Sarah -

Thanks for the question.  I'm going to stay true to the webinar you pinged me about and tell you what HR Doctor people I know and respect have learned from Sales Pros in this area.

The problem you're trying to solve is that someone you're serving is talking in circles and generally being slippery/slimy.  

Sales pros/Sales leaders have a way of cutting through the BS when someone is being slippery.  They ask for a forecast or probability that something is going to happen in the future.  In doing that, they box people in and refuse to let them off the hook with what I'll call glittering generalities.   Here's how the conversation would go:

You – What's the probability in your eyes we're going to get sued for that decision?

Them – Not much.

You – General is not going to work for me this time.  Give me a percentage chance/likelihood that we're going to get sued?

Them – 10% - minimal.

You – Well, in my eyes, the probability is more like 50%.  And if we're disagreeing on the probability, I have a responsibility to get another set of eyes on this for us, so I'm going to ask <insert name of that person's skip level, not an HR skip level> to help us look at this.  Or, the solution I have in mind is <describe what you need and tell them that reduces the probability to zero – you also have to tell them how it still fits their business need>.  If you go that route, there's no need for me to get the other set of eyes on this.  

You use probabilities to either get them to acknowledge the risk, or as an avenue to get you own number in there and intro the need for the skip level review.  

You have to tell them you're going to skip level based on the probability play.  If you're not willing to do that, there's not much you can do – but the above is what a sales pro would do.

Learn from the sales pros in this area - get a probability, intro your own as needed and then use the threat of skip level to try to get them to move off the bad decision.  And never skip level to anyone who's not more conservative than the person you're dealing with who's saying the business equivalent of "when am I going to be in Haiti again?"

Happy hunting.  Confront!

Great Inappropriate Ad Campaigns of All Time...

You ever see an old commercial and say, "what the"... from the lens you have as a HR professional or manager of people?

Case in point - my son is doing a project where they've been asked to plan to build a segment of the Great Wall of China.  He has to name his company and went with the always hot "Dunn Construction Company".

My big idea?  I tongue in cheek told him he should name it "Ancient Chinese Secret", after an old Calgon Detergent commercial that only people in their 40's and up remember from their childhood.  The video appears below (email subscribers click through, it's worth it), comments after the jump:

Could this commercial appear on today's television?  I doubt it, although slang is always considered more appropriate when used by members of the culture/nationality being identified by it.

While I'm on topic, my kids (FYI - they are decidedly white and middle class) are also dealing with the proliferation of the use of the N-word in the circles they frequent.  The good news is that their school district has more diversity than many affluent suburbs around us.  The bad news is they have to learn young/quickly related to the use of that slang word and others.

One of the big changes related to the use of this slang word is the proliferation of the use of the word in today's music world.  I was an early convert to what is now considered old school rap, and the word was almost never used.  In today's mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop world, it's used more than conjunctions.  BTW, if you didn't get the memo, rock is dead.  

Further confounding this is the fact my sons have a heavy interest in basketball. As white kids, the older they get, the more they become a minority in that world, which comes with some unbelieveable learning opportunities and is generally a positive to open their minds to hundreds of angles of life.

One of the those opportunities is understanding context and what's appropriate related to their use of the word.

My advice is never use that word or it's equivalents in other cultures.  Listen and be in it but not of it.  Which is to say that you must be patient when you hear it, yet understand why you can't use it.

Even if you see it used on a Calgon commercial - or in a Top 40 song by Drake.

Are Your Employees Ready for Democracy?

That's what I call a Veteran's Day-related HR Capitalist post title.

It's Veteran's Day.  I'm hawkish when it comes to the military.  A Grandpa I never knew died over Germany in WWII when the Super-Fortress he served on got shot down.  Strong % of GDP towards military spending?  Check.  Bullish on the ability to launch planes from America and go anywhere on the globe?  Check.

Here's where it gets complicated.  Go in and overthrow a dictator or deal with a chaotic region because the people of that country deserve democracy?  Che....wait...

On Veteran's Day, we'll see countless stories of the sacrifice our soldiers make when we deploy them to foreign lands.  It's frustrating when you see what's happened in Iraq.  All those lives, limbs and a Trillion dollars later, it's anarchy.  It's almost like all the sacrifice and investment made by the American people never happened.

Of course, the real issue isn't the effectiveness of the American efforts - it's whether people in question were ready for - or even wanted - a democracy.  We've got a great tradition of promoting democracy - but not everyone shares our world view and values.  

It's the same in your employee population.  You expect people to want to act like owners and be accountable in the same way that you are.  But is your employee base really ready for the workplace version of democracy?  Probably not.  Better to lead and meet them in their comfort zone - just tell them what do do and treat them with dignity - but don't expect them to act like owners or anything more than what they are.  Most of the time, employees aren't looking for that responsibility.  The ones that are have a name - future leaders.  The ones that aren't?  They're simply well placed.

If you served in the military, thank you for your service.  The older I get as a moderate Republican, the less willing I am to support you being in harm's way unless I'm convinced the risk and sacrifice has a good chance of being rewarded. 

Not everyone deserves a democracy.



TEST YOUR PEOPLE: What Are You Working On?

Want a great way to understand if someone's truly engaged by what they do for a living?  Ask them the following question:

What are you working on?

The answer tells you all you need to know about whether someone's engaged in their job or not.  Let's do a quick rundown of the possible responses and what it tells you about the person in front of you: What you do

1.  The person is quick with an answer and is excited to tell you about it.  You've got an uber-engaged person in front of you.  What am I working on?  I'm working on a freaking killer project, and after I'm done there's a good chance I'm going to rule the world.

Slow down, sparky.  I'm glad you're fired up.  You're fired up, am I fired up?  Sounds like a bad cheer from high school.  But it's still cool that you're whacked-out engaged.  That's probably half due to who you are and half due to the job/company you're in and possibly your manager.  Plus, you're a Tony Robbins-like freak.

2.  The person can tell you what they're working on specifically, but isn't excited.  Welcome to the border of engaged and what Gallup affectionately would call "neither engaged nor disengaged."  Ugh - I can't believe I just wrote that.  Anyway, you know the deal - the person really isn't fired up, but is still enough of a professional to tell you that the revamp of the TPS report platform is going "as planned" and should "be ready for deployment" at the end of the 4th quarter.  

This person is interesting.  They're engaged enough to tell you that, but not really engaged.  I think this person needs a manager to help them work on something meaningful in addition to making the donuts to determine if they can bring back that loving feeling (Yes - Hall and Oates/Top Gun reference - deal with it).

3.  The person tells you "I don't know" or tells you "the same old s##t".  You tell me, is that disengaged?  Probably, but it doesn't mean the person should be discarded like the Laffy Taffy at the bottom of your kid's Halloween candy barrel.  Sometimes, the job sucks and they've been in it too long.  What do you do with that?  If you're simply asking them what they are working on and don't have any other responsibilities to this person, you run like hell.  If your the person's manager, you've got to think about this.  Can they be salvaged?  How can you salvage them if they're in a crappy job with limited ability to give them meaningful work?

Ask somebody what they are working on today, then judge them on the response.  What comes out of their mouth will tell you all you need to know about their level of engagement.

You don't need no stinking survey.