« March 2015 | Main | May 2015 »

April 2015

STUDY: Engagement Down, But Retention is Relatively Stable?

Quantum Workplace reports that despite an improving economy, the US workplace dipped to an employee engagement low - an eight-year low for that matter.  You can get all the details in the Quantum Workplace 2015 Employee Engagement Trends Report.

What's interesting about the report is that while employee engagement is down, employees’ feelings on remaining at their employers have remained relatively stable. While the majority of retention-related items trended down, 76.1 percent of employees said it would take a lot to get them to leave their employer, which was a 0.23 percent improvement from the previous year when engagement was higher.

What the hell does that mean?  First, I think retention rates probably trail engagement levels, meaning that I would expect to see relative retention drop (turnover rises) in the quarters trailing this type of low tide in employee engagement.

Second, I think it's probably an opportunity, right?  If looks like the axiom "do more with less" continues to be the reality – with employees less engaged but more willing to tolerate it based on stable retention rates.  

I'm going to go "glass half full" and say that simply means there's never been a better time to to zig - while others zag - and invest in your workplace culture and climate.  This study shows there's never been a better time for that investment.

Get the full infographic from the study by clicking here.

Asking For Stock Options in Your Job Search: You're Doing It Wrong...

Capitalist Note - On the road today, and had a conversation about this again with a candidate this morning.  So I'm re-running my last rant on when to ask (more importantly, when not to ask) about stock options in the interviewing process.  Get it together, high end candidates that read somewhere they need to be hardcore negotiators...


I have friends and candidates ask me from time to time for advice related to job searches they're in.

One of the places they struggle is where/when/how to talk money with a hiring manager.  But if they miss frequently on talking about standard items like base salary Bush_doing_it_wrong_1 and bonus, they are lost children when it comes to talking about stock options.

Repeat after me - Never talk stock options until you've actually been offered a job. 

Why?  3 Reasons:

1. You look like a moron asking for something most of the world doesn't really understand.  It doesn't make you look upscale to ask about stock options on a first or second interview.  It makes you look strange.  When I'm ready to talk to you about ownership in the company, it will probably coincide with me making you a job offer.

2. You're not going to get rich from stock options, and odds are, any options I give you are going to have zero impact on how you live your life and will likely be valued in 5 years at - you guessed it - zero.  Exception shout out to big companies that basically treat option pools like annuities.  For the rest of the world (which is most of us), options will have little impact on our lives.  If it's going to have little impact, wait until you have a job offer to ask if they are included. You're asking for something that has a 1 in 10 chance of actually paying off.

3. The smaller the company, the less they have their act together on standardizing option offers.  Big companies who grant options will have the standard option grant by type of position - most of you who ask for options are doing it because you're going from big to small and one of the reasons you'd like to do that is to get rich.  There's just one little problem - most of the small companies won't have the grant size standardized when it comes to options.  How many options? The answer is usually the number it takes to get you to shut up.

Stock options?  Slow down, Charlie.  How about we date for awhile before we get married, OK?

Stay classy.  Wait until the offer to ask about stock options and look like a grown up.  All the uncertainty will still be there waiting for you.

Real HR Pros Create Interviews That Make Candidates Slightly Uncomfortable...

I'm up today over at my other blog, Fistful of Talent.  Go check out my post there on making candidates uncomfortable via the inbox exercise - as a final stage in your interview process.

I'm not telling you that your entire interview process should make candidates uncomfortable.  I'm really saying that you should treat them like gold until the end, then make them think via an scenario where there really aren't any perfect answers- just preferred paths via the experience and mindset of the candidate in question.

You don't really know who someone is until you make them stretch a little bit.

Go check out my post on the inbox exercise here....

WORK TOOLS: Google Maps with Traffic "On"...

I travel a lot.  As such, I never go anywhere - even at home - without the traffic feature enabled on my Google Maps app.  When you enable traffic on your Google Maps app, you get pretty much real Atltime data from all the suckers who are signed into google in your metroplex.

Basically, Google monitors all those phones on the road, determines how much density there is and how slow/fast they are moving and delivers a color systems to show you what you are looking at.  Picture of the grid to the right (enable photos on your screen or click through), here's what the colors mean:

Green - your commute is going to go great, my friend.

Yellow - it's a little congested, like your 4 year old nephew who can never seem to shake his head cold, even in the summer...

Red - Abandon hope.  Ye are screwed.  

The map to the right is Atlanta.  The Kinetix offices are at the top of the map, at the junction of 285 and 400.  I was coming to that intersection and saw a sea of red between me and Birmingham (my destination).  I actually went other way around the outer beltway - which doubled my milage but saved me 15 minutes.

Only in the ATL.  But I wouldn't have know the real time situation without traffic-enabled Google Maps.

Use it if you like being in the know.  Go to the menu of your Google Maps app and simply hit "Traffic"

WORK: I Had a Call Before The Call to Nudge Someone Forward Before the Meeting..

Want to know why so many professional grade people love mowing the grass?

It's because the activity is finite and has a sense of accomplishment.  You mow the grass and look at it Lawn-mower-beer after you're done and say, "I did that. That feels good."

But the normal week of work for professionals?  A sea of gray.  No black and white.  No yard to mow, knowing that after an hour you'll clearly see the results of your action. The higher you go, the more gray it is.  Will what I do today result in any achievement I can point to as the result of my action?

Maybe. Maybe not. It depends.

Sucks to be you.

It's no wonder performance management is such a difficult thing when you try to manage high end, white collar professionals. 

Think about the title of the post - I Had a Call Before The Call to Nudge Someone Forward Before the Meeting.

A lot of your job - and those you manage - as a white collar professional is about influencing people to do things. What's it take to influence someone?  It's different EVERY TIME YOU DO IT.

So you make a call - before the call you had scheduled to talk about the upcoming meeting - to influence someone to do something positive toward the goal you have in mind.


But this is our life.

That makes hiring people - who are comfortable with the gray and understand the value of taking many small actions towards a goal with no guarantee of success - one of the most important things you can do today.

What does that person look like? It depends. High assertiveness and low rules orientation comes to mind.  

Good luck hiring the influencer this week - and have fun mowing the grass this weekend.

If You Want a Culture of Feedback, You Should Measure the Sensitivity of Those You Hire...

Here's a taste of what I'm talking about from the aptly-named Tim Sackett Project:

Here are the types of “critical” feedback people can handle:

“You’re doing a good job, would love it if you could get that big project off the ground. That would really help us out!” Sensitive

Here’s what you really want to say, critically, but can’t:

“You do good at things I tell you to do, and all basic day to day duties of the job. I need more from this position and from you, and I’m willing to help get you there. I need someone who can take a project from scratch and kill it, without me having to babysit the entire thing. You’re not doing that, and that’s what I really need you to do. Are you willing do that?” 

The reality in addition to what Tim outlines above?  If you really wanted a culture of feedback, you'd do a combination of three things:

1.  You'd measure the sensitivity of those you're thinking about hiring through some type of behavioral assessment, because high sensitivity people are divas when it comes to receiving feedback (it's not their fault, it's who they are), and high sensitivity people are also more empathetic to others as well.  That second piece is a positive in many, many ways, but when it comes to giving feedback it means they might delay someone giving feedback if they think there's a chance it's going to hurt the other person.

2. You'd shoot to avoid hiring people who are highest sensitivity, and/or

3. If you hired them, you'd start the on-boarding process by telling them you're trying to build a culture of feedback, and the first time you give them the real deal (Tim's second example in italics above) you're going to break out there assessment and prepare them to not cry on you, or pretend like they're getting ready to jump from the ledge.

Sensitivity.  A positive in many ways when it comes to empathy and a sense of urgency, a blocking characteristic when it comes to trying to get to a culture of direct and honest feedback.

Your job as a manager would be great if it weren't for the people.  That's a joke. OK, it's not.

If you're looking for a team that can take feedback, you better start measuring sensitivity via an assessment as part of your hiring process.

CHART ART: This Picture Says If You Want a Good Raise, Get Another Job...

Take a look at this one:

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 11.57.06 AM

The analysis that I have on this one is pretty simple.  Look at the chart and you can only come to one conclusion - broadly, there is no such thing as "pay for performance".  For supervisors or normal worker alike. Interesting to see that worker pay spiked post-recession but managers continued to decline.  But I digress.

For the most part, employees have to change companies to get a big raise.  That remains true.

How much of a raise does it take to steal someone out of your company?  That depends how bad your company is or how shitty your managers are, right?

My rules of thumb for how candidates change jobs:

0% increase - candidates only change if they're desperate.

5% increase - you can get average candidates to change jobs for this amount if they're disengaged.

10% increase - where the bidding starts to get a happy productive employee to change jobs.

20% increase - gold standard for what it takes to rip a happy, productive worker out of a company and a job.

Happy hunting out there.  Look at the chart and you should be encouraged.  On the recruiting side of the house at least - the retention side?  That's another story...

If I Was Running a Service Business, I'd Follow Starbucks on Tuition Aid So Fast It Would Make Your Head Swim...

What's the value proposition when it comes to people working at your company?  If you have a hard time answering that, you're undoubtedly struggling to find people who want to work for you in this economy - where talent has more options than they've had for awhile, or at least any time since 2009.

Some of creating a value prop comes down to what's valuable to the core positions that make up your company.  That's why I love what Starbucks recently did with Tuition Aid.  More from Bloomberg: Coffee town

"Starbucks Corp. will now pay full tuition for its workers to get a degree from Arizona State University online, instead of just partially footing the bill, giving it another way to entice employees in a tightening labor market.

Employees who work at least 20 hours a week will be eligible to have full tuition, the company said in a statement Monday. Starbucks founded the college program in 2014, with full-tuition reimbursement available only to juniors and seniors, while students in their first two years got a stipend of $6,500 to cover about half their fees.

Now, Starbucks is making full tuition available to more than 140,000 U.S. employees."

There's a lot to love here.  First, Starbucks is keenly aware who their target is from a talent perspective.  Young people on the way up, at times underemployed and/or in the process of figuring out what a full-grown up life looks like.  Next, what's most valuable from a benefits perspective to that group?  Building for the future, while I serve these godforsaken middle class people their coffee.
Going all in on tuition makes so much sense for Starbucks it's not even funny.  Especially when you consider that Tuition Aid is one of the classic benefits that looks great on the brochure, but is hard as hell to use - you actually have to be committed enough to enroll and do the work.  That means Starbucks knows exactly what % of their associates will use the benefit - and that number is waaaaay below 100% utilization.
If you're in the service business for 80% of your positions, full tuition aid is a great thing to add.  Whatever your business, find a value prop and clearly communicate it - and don't be afraid to spend.
By the way, if you haven't seen the low budget pic Coffee Town, you need to check it out.  Office Space meets Starbucks.  And yes, that is Josh Groban as a Barista..(email subscribers enable pics or click through)

The Best Quote About HR You've Never Heard...

"The best thing you can do for employees—a perk better than foosball or free sushi—is hire only ‘A’ players to work alongside them. Excellent colleagues trump everything else."

--Patti McCord, former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix

Admit it - when you think of HR and Netflix, you think about this 124-slide culture code, which Sheryl Sandberg famously described as “one of Silicon Valley’s defining documents.”

It's full of s### like unlimited vacation and grown up accountability.  It's fun to look at.

But your most important job in HR?  Find better talent and get it in the door. 

Don't fool yourself that other things are as important.  Go get talent in the door, HR leaders.  While you're longing for a more progressive CEO, people just like you are doing a better job selling candidates on the opportunities they have - and their companies are just as broken as yours.  You need to sell - that's the only way to get better talent in the door.

Worried about overselling?  That's an excuse or rationalization about why you don't recruit better.

Go get them to sign on the line that is dotted.

When In Doubt: Hire the Best Writing Skills...

That's right.  I'm taking the stand that, all other things being relatively equal, hiring the best writer is always the right thing to do when faced with a tough choice between worthy candidates.  I was reminded of this when I re-browsed through "Rework" by the gang at 37 signals, an interesting software company that's dedicated to writing productivity software that's easy to use.   Rework includes a brief chapter that speaks the truth - hire the best writer.

Why does hiring the best writer make sense?  Let me count the ways:

1. People talk like they write and vice versa.  If someone has trouble putting a good, topical sentence together, you can bet that they're going to have trouble talking to folks verbally at times.Home school

2. Have you heard of this thing called email?  Apparently it's a somewhat important business tool based almost entirely on the ability to write.

3. Apparently when used incorrectly or without context provided by effective writing skills, email can piss people off faster than Rush Limbaugh at the Democratic National Convention.  Advantage: Writing skills with a sprinkle of judgment.

4. The ability to use the written word to share ideas, motivate and gain acceptance makes any employee more valuable to your organization.  Writing skills can influence almost anyone - customers, fellow employees, media outlets and competitors to name a few - and we don't pay enough attention to the value it provides in the hiring process.

When I say hire someone with writing skills, I'm not talking about someone who can write term papers, because let's face it, no one reads those. I'm talking about the ability to write down some thoughts in an engaging, personable, influencing manner.  You know it when you see it.

The problem is you probably don't see it in the interview process.  So you need to create a way to engage the candidate in a writing exercise that doesn't even feel like an exercise.

My favorite way - pick something you didn't talk about in person on the candidate's resume.  Drop them a note and ask a detailed question about the school or company you're referring to.  Make sure the question is detailed enough to warrant a 3-4 paragraph response, and make sure you ask for some opinion as well to get the level of detail you need.

Example Email to generate writing sample: "Rick, have an interview coming up with a kid who was in the Forestry program like you at (you guessed it readers) Wake Forest.  Based on this guy's limited experience and the fact he's applying for an entry level role, can you drop me some notes today to help me understand the top three things a kid coming out of that program should have competency in and maybe your thoughts on the transferability of that degree to an entry-level customer service role?  You'd help me a bunch with the notes you provide.  Thanks in advance, KD"

I'm not asking you to lie.  I really did have a Forestry grad that interviewed for a support role.  As far as you know.

Keep it truthful, but find a reason to ask for the detail related to something.  And make sure you make it clear that you want it in a response to the email. 

Then take what comes in and judge accordingly.  Add it to the overall profile of your candidate (save the email, you folks who say I'll get sued, blah, blah, blah...) and make your hiring decision accordingly.

And hire the best writer when all other things are relatively the same.