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March 2016

RULE #1 For the New World HR Pro: You Gotta Ask...

I'm on record as saying that HR pros can learn a lot from Sales Pros.

At the top of the list is learning to negotiate.  Of all the negotiation skills available, the most valuable one is the first-strike position, or more to the point, simply asking for what you want.  Check out the example given by a VC I love to read, then I'll give you three scenarios you can force yourself or your team into to practice the skill.

Because if you get over your fear, you quickly learn that no one dies when you ask.  Most people actually want to give you what you ask for, mainly because they get asked so rarely.

More from Mark Suster at Both Sides of the Table:

When I lived and worked in London my wonderful assistant was Deborah Halliday, who was raised a very “proper” British young lady. Her brother played rugby for the English rugby team and went to Oxford. That’s kind of like having a brother in the NFL in the US.

If there was any society in which being a hustler was out of step with the norm is was England. Yet I was a foreigner so I got away with being different.

I used to ask Deborah to book my travel plans in France and Germany were I went 1-2 times / month. There were online tools to book this stuff but the Internet booking sites were early.

I would tell Deborah, “I found this hotel near the Champs Elysees for 170 Euros. But I don’t want to pay that much. Tell them I’ll stay if they’ll give it to me for 120 Euros.

“What? You want … what?”

“Mark. You can’t do that! You can’t just name your own price.”

Me. “Of course I can. Tell them you found a hotel down the street for 100 Euros but I prefer to stay at their hotel. Haggle. See what you can do.

Deborah. She was mortified. Bless her cotton socks. I put her outside of her comfort zone.

Me. “Deborah. You don’t ask, you don’t get! What’s the worst they can tell you? “No?” If so, we’ll call back an hour later and pay 170 Euros. It’s not like they’re going to tell you ‘no’ in an hour. You might as well try!”

Classic Mexican Road strategy.

Here’s the thing. They NEVER said ‘no.’ Such were the times. They weren’t fully occupied.

She began to love it. It was liberating. I taught her to make it a game. I would challenge her to see how cheap she could get rooms. I can still hear her giggle at how ridiculous it was in her mind’s eye. And yet how eye opening it was that you could have almost anything you wanted. If you just asked.

You gotta ask.  Want to practice as an HR pro?  Here's three scenarios where you can ask for what you want - but most HR pros never do:

1. You have a candidate who has told you they need 75K.  They're currently making 68K.  Offer them 69K and pitch - tell them why it's a great deal.

2. You've got a meeting you're hosting and need a conference room - call a hotel and ask for the room for free, on a date they usually have a hard time filling.

3.  The next time someone tells you that you're holding them up from making a term that needs to happen, immediately tell them you should go talk to the person that manages them- now - to have a robust conversation on the risk and what has and hasn't happened to that point.  

In short, ask for what you want.  If you're part of the 95% that the Suster references in his complete post (and it's probably higher in HR), you need the practice.

Start teeing it up - no one gets hurt.  All they can say is "no".  

Here's How an Acquiring CEO Can Totally Screw Up Onboarding Talent...

Integration of an acquired company.  The playbook is pretty standard:

-Make them feel wanted...

-Celebrate the success of the new team within your company... Nestthermo-logo

-Mock the talent level of the acquired team in all-hands meetings...

-Lightly celebrate their history even as you wipe it from the annuals of time...

OK, so two of those are from the playbook and two are not.  You can tell the difference.  Nest CEO Tony Fadell?  Let's just say it's hard for him.  From a recent article on the paid source The Information:

"At a November all-hands meeting for engineers at Nest’s Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters, co-founder Matt Rogers said he was “losing sleep” over an exodus of staffers—roughly 70 in about six to 12 months, out of its workforce of roughly 1,000.

Tony Fadell, the company’s CEO, interrupted, pointing out that many of those departing employees had come from either Google, which acquired Nest in early 2014, or from Dropcam, maker of connected security cameras that Nest bought in mid-2014. Mr. Fadell went on to urge employees who have a problem with the way Nest is run to step up, rather than take on a  “victim mentality.” Victims are “not long for the world,” he added, according to a recording of the meeting made available to The Information."

But wait! There's more.  Then he dropped this gem:

“a lot of the [Dropcam] employees were not as good as we’d hoped…” and “unfortunately it wasn’t a very experienced team.”

To recap, Google acquired smart home devices company Nest for more than $3 billion back in early 2014, and six months later Nest itself acquired video camera company Dropcam for north of $550 million. But all, it seems, has not been well at Nest, with reports circulating of significant unrest among employees that was leading to a mass exodus.

First of all, who calls 7% turnover a mass exodus? I know HR leaders who might trade their grandma (on the in-law side, but still) for turnover under 10%!

But the bigger play here is to never talk about the talent level of a tribe from an acquired company in negative terms.

BTW - keep in mind that Nest is now a Google company - the source of so much Human Capital research, etc and let's be fair - a great place to work on many levels.

As you might expect, the former CEO of the acquired company/Dropcam, Greg Duffy (who left next in 2015) stewed for a day or two and then went public:

“I would almost find such blatant scapegoating amusing if it weren’t so insulting to the team. Given that, I feel compelled to set the record straight.”

Duffy doesn’t pull any punches in his retort today, taking the opportunity not only to tout Dropcam’s success prior to Nest acquiring it, but also his team’s output afterwards. “I can’t publish Dropcam’s revenue, but if you knew what percentage of all of Alphabet’s ‘other bets’ revenue was brought in by the relatively tiny 100-person Dropcam team that Fadell derides, Nest itself would not look good in comparison,” he said. “So, if Fadell wants to stick by his statement, I challenge him to release full financials (easy prediction: he won’t).”

But back to Next CEO Tony Fadell.  What did we learn from his callout of the Dropcam team's talent level?  Surprisingly, he was on track until the end:

  1. He didn't quiver at 7% turnover.  Check.
  2. He told people in the all-hands that a victim mentality wouldn't work. Check.
  3. He said that a significant group in the audience wasn't as good as Nest thought they would be.  Houston - we have a problem.

My take?  That's where the jerk/@@@hole theory comes into play.  You were being a tough leader and not being soft, then you couldn't help yourself - you had to throw stones at the acquired company.

Doesn't matter if it's true or not - you don't say it.  And that says more about you than it does about that group of employees.

And how long this CEO stays leading a Google company will tell you a lot about Google as well.

Being a Leader is Hard. Here's 3 Things That Make You a Good One (#WorkHuman)...

Being a new leader is hard.  Whipping up a bunch of needed change while treating people like humans is even harder.

You probably know what needs to be done.  I get it. The problem is that your wave of change is going to cause stress and panic.  It's up to you to do that change in a #workhuman way.  As it turns out, it's the path that gets you best, most sustainable organizational results over time.

First up, you're probably wondering about the #workhuman hashtag. WorkHuman was a concept started by Globoforce, a recognition and rewards technology solution for your employees. Last year, Globoforce held their first WorkHuman Conference with the focus on how to make our workplaces better for ourselves and our employees. I'm attending the 2016 version of the WorkHuman Conference - this post is part of that coverage.

Back to new leaders.  It's probably mandatory that you tear stuff up, right?  I was doing work last week on a retained search for a lead exec for an organization with a $90M budget. New leaders are going to push change in order to be successful.  As I talked to 5 candidates last week, it became clear to me that the leaders with the best chance to get change with the lowest possible body count (i.e., turnover, both involuntary and voluntary) do three things well.

Here's what I think leaders who get change in a #workhuman way do:

1. They understand the need to take 15 minutes to have a conversation when 30 seconds would have sufficed. I know what I want. I can tell you what to do or I can invest in a conversation, right?  If you feel like you've had input, you're much more likely to be down with the program - whether the ultimate idea was yours or not.  Good leaders understand that the investment of time is a down payment on getting the best results possible.

2. They understand that the best idea might not be theirs. New leaders tend to remember that there's a whole bunch of organizational knowledge they don't have. They put together groups to brainstorm problems and approaches.  They also cool with someone else's idea getting blended with what they already know needs to happen and aren't really concerned about credit for the idea in question.

3. They know that they have to "give" in order to "get" - or "take".  Big change can suck. When a new leader is about to do change with a capital "C", the best leaders understand that the best solutions are ones where they can give something to a group impacted by change.  They know that providing something to those impacted by change - and using it in the communication while being transparent and honest - always beats change that feels like a zero-sum game (you have to lose in order for me to win).

I had long conversations with 5 candidates last week.  2 of them fit the profile above, 3 didn't.  Guess which ones are moving forward in the process?

Want to learn more about creating a WorkHuman workplace?  The WorkHuman Conference is May 9-11th in beautiful Orlando, FL, with speakers Michael J. Fox (I liked him in The Secret to My Success), Mr. Happy Shawn Achor, TEDx start Ann Cuddy, and so much more. $300 off your registration by clicking on this link and using code WH16KD300. 

"I've Got To Give You Some Feedback About One of Your Recruiters"...

"I've got some feedback for you about one of your people."

How many times have you heard that in your career?  More importantly, when you hear that, do you think what I think? Wink2

"Oh man. This isn't going to be good."

Feedback. Too often a synonym for problems.

So imagine my surprise recently when I heard a slight variation of this.  I help run a great recruiting firm called Kinetix - look us up here. An HR executive using our firm reached out to me with a slight customization to the above generalization: 

"Kris, I've got some feedback for you on one of your recruiters."

Ready for the feedback?  It wasn't bad - it was delivered in a neutral fashion, but it was music to my ears!

"Kris, our hiring manager mentioned that one of the candidates said that the recruiter was calling him too late at night."

Wait, what?

Recruiters calling people at night - because candidates are hard to get a hold of during the day, because they're working hard and dedicated to our client, because their sense of urgency is off the charts - is kind of the dream state when you run a recruiting firm.

<insert Hotline Bling joke here>

Do we expect people to be working at night?  No, not under normal circumstances. Do we salute those about to rock (calling candidates) at 8pm because they're in it to win it?

Hell yeah we do.

So yes - I'm following up to make sure the time of night, the context and everything else about the late calls is acceptable on all fronts.  My HR executive client gave me the feedback in a neutral fashion - but I know she got it as well.

To that recruiter? Hey <name redacted>, be careful about making calls too late at night. <picture me with long, hard sustained winking as I finish that sentence>

Amazon Sues Target For Non-Compete: 3 Things We Can Learn (or Remember)...


Every once in awhile we get reminded of the issue of non-competes - this week is one of those weeks. Amazon vs Target this time around, here's your level set:

Amazon.com is suing to enforce a noncompete agreement involving former logistics executive Arthur Valdez, who recently was hired by Target, a key rival in the retail market.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in King County Superior Court, Amazon says it wants to keep Valdez, who until recently oversaw Amazon’s international supply-chain expansion operations, from using the “confidential strategic knowledge” he possesses at Target.

Amazon argues that Valdez, who is set to become Target’s chief supply chain and logistics officer starting March 28, is in breach of an agreement that binds him to an 18-month timeout in which he cannot compete against his former employer.

The lawsuit underscores Amazon’s competitive streak — and the oversight it exerts over its intellectual property as rivals encroach on fields it helped develop. In 2014, Amazon sued Zoltan Szabadi, who left a job with Amazon Web Services for Google’s cloud-computing unit. It’s not clear whether these legal broadsides always work: Szabadi’s LinkedIn profile shows he has worked at Google uninterrupted since May 2014.

You're either yawning at this point, or you're interested - so I'll make it quick. Dig deep into this article from the Seattle Times and you'll see some key things we all should remember (or learn if you don't have a lot of experience with these things).  Lessons include:

1. Non-Competes are there to DARE you to go to work for a competitor.  Who's a competitor? Hell, we're not going to tell you that. We're daring you, after all.  Better than you think we'll frame anyone under the sun as a competitor. That's enough to keep most of our talent from jumping ship, even for a better offer.

2. You can still hire a person under a non-compete, and there are ways to mitigate your risk. One of the best ways to protect your company after hiring someone under a non-compete is to put them in a role that won't use the IP under the agreement.  If you're hiring a sales person, it's to let the former company know that the sales pro in question won't be calling on former customers for the duration of the Non-Compete.  Target claims to have tried to do that:

Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said in an email: “We have taken significant precautions to ensure that any proprietary information remains confidential and we believe this suit is without merit.

3. If both companies are hard-headed about their positions related to the Non-Compete, the company with a significantly bigger checkbook wins.  Always remember this kids. Amazon vs Target is a couple of heavyweights who will spend what they need to, and a judge will ultimately decide. But, if you're a small company and you decide to pick off key talent from a bigger company, get ready to get drained. The company with the bigger checkbook will win, because they'll just bleed you dry on legal fees. Eventually, your C-level folks in a smaller company are going to say, "enough", and you might even be in the position of terminating someone you hired that had a non-compete - which is probably the worst position you can be in.

Can you hire someone under a non-compete?  Yes!  If you think the company in question might balk at it, you need to be prepared. 

Optics related to the role they're going in at your company matter.  

So does the size of your checkbook.  Lawyers cost money. Film at 11.

Nobody Wins When C-Level Leaders Agree To Dance at Company Events (Windows 95 Version)

I know. You've been brainstorming as a HR leadership team, maybe looking at the results of your latest employee survey.  It said they never see the leaders of the company.

You took that as meaning they wanted to see them.  Potential mistake #1.

You then brainstormed, and came up with the following idea. Potential mistake #2.

You: "We know Bill, Steve and the gang are great guys - we need to make them more accessible."

Your Minions: "How can we do that.  They're so busy..."

You: "I've got it! Let make sure everyone gets to see them at the next all hands meeting. But they need to be a little bit vulnerable, and it would be great if we can make them look cool at the same time."

Your Minions: "Everybody loves to see guys like that dance at weddings.  Let's bring them out for the initial remarks to some rock music, and we'll have them dance a bit. The Stones just released Start Me Up - that would fit the theme!"

You: "Genius!!! They'll be vulnerable and cool at the same time. Book that idea and make it happen.  Get Bill (CEO) to sign off, because if he does it, all the others have to do it"

This conversation happened at Microsoft back in the 90s. The result was a dumpster fire of forced old guy dancing, white man overbite and general harsh discomfort for all parties involved - dancers and audience.

If you can't see the video below, click through for the best :24 seconds of your life. Play it multiple times, and look at each person trying to force what's been requested.

People go to NASCAR events to see the big wreck. I look at product launch presentations for the same reason.

And the next time you want your C-level to look accessible - set up a day of roundtables in a controlled environment - and make sure music is not involved.

Hat tip to PW at Kinetix.... 

CAPITALIST SLANG: "There Are 8 Million Stories in The Naked City"

I love to tell people who think they've figured out that a single profile, worldview or mindset rules the day the following:

"8 Million Stories, my friend"....

That's a call out to watch the stereotypes. Each of us has a unique set of motivations and influences that make us who we are.  Spend time learning the real background, motivations and influences of any single person, and you'll have more ability to connect with them and get what you need for your company, your own career and of course, be a better friend at times.

8 Million Stories is actually a shortened version of a longer pop culture stamp from the past.

The full reference is "There Are 8 Million Stories in The Naked City".  It's from a artsy film that won Academy Awards back in the 1940's. Here's your breakdown:

The Naked City (1948) is a policier-style film noir, directed by Jules Dassin. Based on a story by Malvin Wald, the film depicts the police investigation that follows the murder of a young model. A veteran cop is placed in charge of the case and he sets about, with the help of otherbeat cops and detectives, to find the girl's killer. The movie, shot partially in documentary style, was filmed on location on the streets of New York City and features landmarks such as the Williamsburg Bridge, the Whitehall Building, and an apartment building on West 83rd Street inManhattan as the scene of the murder.

The film received two Academy Awards, one for cinematography for William H. Daniels, and another for film editing to Paul Weatherwax.[2] In 2007, The Naked City was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

The callout to the phrase comes at the end:

"The movie ends as aerial and street shots of New York are shown, the narration concludes with the iconic line: "There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them."

Of course, I know it from a standard of my youth. 1980's rapper Kurtis Blow did a cut by the same name featuring Run-DMC.  Hear the cut below (email subscribers click through for video), and the next time someone is stereotyping, show your depth by exclaiming,"There Are 8 Million Stories in The Naked City".

March Madness Means Half Your Employees Are Mailing It In…

I'm up over at Fistful of Talent talking about the hard reality - it's mid-March and the bloom is off the 2016 rose, which means your employees are floating from a performance perspective.  Among my less than serious ideas to get them back on track:

1. Calling everyone an Irish name this Thursday (limited impact, could cause employment law issues down the road. “The HR people thought I was Irish. That’s why I didn’t get the same raise as the Italians.”)

2. Run a huge gambling pool around March Madness, pump the money you were planning on spending on free vaccinations into the kitty (borderline illegal unless your company name is DraftKings and people were looking forward to the shingles vaccine—that stuff is painful.)

3. Buy 100 Fitbits, hand them out and tie them into a centralized database (Laugh at the drop off in physical activity in week 4.)

I've actually got some serious ideas as well, so click over to the post for the whole dialog.  And always bet a 13 seed to drop a 4 seed...

4 Things You Can Say When An Employee Prints Out Salary Data From the Interwebs....

I'm on the record as saying you ought to get engaged with Glassdoor and figure out how to be more of a marketer with sites that include employee reviews.

HR people need to be in the game to win the game.  

But that doesn't mean it's all sunshine and puppy dogs.  Example - take a look at this charge on employee salaries for IBM consultants - and let's talk after the graphic (email subscribers click through for picture below)

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 2.34.44 PM

Ah yes, salary info.  IBM's going to be one of the better patches of salary data, and there you go - the range for a IBM consultant is 45K to 170K.

Which means you have to arm your managers with a plan to tell your employees how your comp strategy relates to fragments of competitive info they may find on the interwebs.  Here's some things you can arm your managers with to say when employees bring them pay data from a 3rd party site:

  1. The data being cited is mostly self-reported and that’s dangerous. Most of the new models are based on incumbents in the role in question self-reporting what they earn. That’s crowdsourced data, which is not exactly scientific in nature.

  1. The data being reported in a wide geography and most zip codes don’t have the volume to truly help you determine what’s real. Even if the data is accurate, in most cases, there’s not enough volume in the zip code in question to give you an accurate picture of a compensation range in the employee’s geographic area.

  1. The biggest challenge with accuracy is related to the match with your specific job. Many of the third-party sites rely on the end user to report what job they’re in and match it to a certain job description on the site. The challenges associated with that means that you’re not always comparing apples to apples. Sometimes there are multiple lemons thrown in there.

  1. The ranges being used on third-party sites are just that—ranges, and you shouldn’t assume that you should be at the max, or even at the midpoint based on your experience level in this job. You can go back to range theory and remind them that a range is used to progress someone through 15 years in the same job.

You have to get your managers prepped via the training you provide them.  

By the way, I heard that mailroom boys at Google make 100K.   I looked it up and they only make 90K - you can use that..

(but it's a lie - I made that up.  The rest of this post is real.)