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August 2016

Gladwell on The Arrogance of Elite American Universities...

Here's a good podcast for you to pick up - Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History, where Gladwell breaks down topics that we previously thought we understood completely, but now looking back it appears we were wrong.

I've listened to two episodes - the first one was a fascinating recount of the Toyota stuck accelerator scandal, which now shows that it's user error (the driver) and panic 99% of the time.  Toyota just settles the lawsuits because it's pragmatic from a PR perspective.

The one I listened to last week talks about the efficiency of rich people giving money to colleges to prop up endowment programs.  Here's the description of that one: Gladwell

In the early ’90s, Hank Rowan gave $100 million to a university in New Jersey, an act of extraordinary generosity that helped launch the greatest explosion in educational philanthropy since the days of Andrew Carnegie and the Rockefellers. But Rowan gave his money to Glassboro State University, a tiny, almost bankrupt school in South Jersey, while almost all of the philanthropists who followed his lead made their donations to elite schools such as Harvard and Yale. Why did no one follow Rowan’s example?

In the podcast, Gladwell breaks down Rowan's decision and what's happened since the gift, as the school has built an accessible Engineering program that has helped thousands of local kids get the education they need.
Gladwell then pivots, and breaks down the gift that Nike founder Phil Knight gave Stanford University and what that gift was used for. Here's a description of that gift from the San Jose Mercury News:
"With a $400 million donation from Nike co-founder Phil Knight, Stanford University is creating an ambitious graduate-level scholarship program -- larger in scope than the Rhodes Scholarships at Oxford -- for the "world's brightest minds" inspired to tackle global challenges.
The gift from Knight, who experienced his "aha!" moment to become an entrepreneur while pursuing his MBA at Stanford in 1962, is the largest cash donation from an individual in Stanford history. On Wednesday, Stanford will unveil the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program, which, with donations from dozens of alumni and members of Stanford's Board of Trustees, will grow to $750 million, the largest fully-endowed scholarship in the world."
That sounds fine, right? Here's what had Gladwell riled up:
"The Knight-Hennessy program will admit 100 high-achieving students each year -- one-third from North America and two-thirds from the rest of the world -- who have shown themselves worthy of helping to solve issues ranging from global warming and human rights to poverty and affordable health care. Applicants must be nominated by universities.
"The world needs more great leaders willing to take on the complex challenges we face," Hennessy said. "We hope to educate people who will go on to that kind of role."
Let that sink in a bit.  The Knight gift was a part of a 750M dollar endowment that will admit 100 students a year.  
Damn...  Oh, yeah, here's one of the problems that Hennessy said they might tackle that Gladwell covered: 
"One problem Mr. Hennessy said he might assign to a team is to analyze the $100 million donation that Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, made to Newark public schools in 2010, and that has not been widely seen as a success. “Nobody understood the real difficulty in making significant change in the public education system,” Mr. Hennessy said. His scholars would be asked, he added, “ ‘How do you build a structure that will successfully deploy those funds for the benefit of all?’"
That's right!  Mark Zuckerberg makes a Hank Rowan-like decision to give a gift to a public system in need.  Stanford's creating a $750M endowment to work on big problems - like second guessing the effectiveness of Zuckerberg's gift to public schools.  

The Top 100 Movie Quotes for HR Pros: #71 is Jeffrey Lebowski: "Yeah, Well That's Just Like Your Opinion, Man"...

New 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..

Data and analytics - they're everywhere, right? 

What I love is when some dufus comes directly at you as an HR Pro, explaining to you that he has a unique understanding of the talent game - with the implication that you are nothing more than a transactional, payroll coordinator.

If you're a transactional HR person, you might have to take that.  If you're more than a transactional HR pro, you CAN'T take that. You've got to go back at that guy.

Option #1 is obviously to break some human capital knowledge right over his freaking head.  

Options #2 is today's quote:

Quote #71 is from The Big Lebowski: "Yeah, Well That's Just Like Your Opinion, Man"...

When you don't have anything to say, the right move is always to challenge the validity of the argument.  In today's world, that means pointing out that there's nothing analytical about what the person in front of you said.  It's just their opinion, man.

Use this quote when you don't have anything to say. You'll get bonus points from the part of the crowd that has sampled The Big Lebowski.

And yes, that rug really did tie the room together.

(video clips below, email subscribers click through to view)

And for the graduate students, below is the full Jesus clip from the movie - caution, NSFW...

On Walmart's Commitment To Creating 1 Million Jobs by 2023

If you watched a lot of the Olympics (and didn’t fast-forward through the commercials), you probably saw an ad for Walmart that blasted Aerosmith’s “Dream On” over video of American factory workers. It was part of the retail giant’s 10-year commitment to buy $250 billion in American-made goods. Walmart made the pledge in 2013, and while the company won’t reveal an exact figure, says it is on track to meet its goal.

The commercials feature a variety of people working in manufacturing jobs to support their families - including one who looks like Eminem's brother.  

The implied point? Walmart is creating jobs in America, SO MAYBE ALL OF YOU HATERS SHOULD STEP THE #### BACK AND SHOW SOME RESPECT - or maybe just be a bit more neutral to Walmart.

Me? I like the fact that Walmart is playing offense, and let's face it - it's long overdue.  Walmart has the power to be an incredible force in American manufacturing.  I'm old enough to remember when tons of Walmart products used to come with "Made in the USA" stickers or tags.  It used to be a badge of honor for Walmart.

Then everything got off-shored and those stickers went away.  I'm hoping that Walmart will be brave enough to use those stickers again for the products in their store that are a part of this initiative.  Walmart claims that the $250B commitment will create 1M American jobs.

Your job? If the sticker comes back, buy the hell out of those products, even if they cost a bit more than what you can do with Amazon Prime, Target or any other retailer.  You can't complain about harm that Walmart has inflicted and then refuse to show your support when they do something pro-America.  Not supporting WM in initiatives like this just tells them the market doesn't care - so why try?

Congrats to Walmart for going on the offensive.  Pictures from the commercials below (email subscribers click through for images) 



What Will The People Do When All Jobs Are Done By Robots?

The answer to the question that's the title of this post is simple.

Chill, my friends. That's what we'll be doing when the Robots are doing all the jobs - chilling. Trucker

Or we'll be running for our lives - caught in an AI apocalypse looking for a dude named John Connor to bail us out.

But rather than be scared about the future reality where robots/AI takes over, I'm more interested in what happens to big chunks of the workforce along the way. As most of us hear about self-driving cars from Google and Uber, we're intrigued. But the zig to that zag is a bigger play that happens after cars.

What happens when self-driving trucks take over the trucking industry and displace millions of trucking jobs?

To say that change "is going to leave a mark" is an understatement.

Google has long held the spotlight in developing driverless technology; however, with the emergence of Otto and Elon Musk’s announcement of a Tesla Semi, “driverless trucks” are coming to the forefront of the autonomous vehicle conversation (I'd encourage you to click on both of those links, they're pretty interesting). One major reason the trucking industry is so interested in driverless technology is a chronic shortage of truck drivers, which is threatening to get worse as the Baby Boom generation hits retirement age.

But beyond shortages, when truck drivers can be replaced by technology, it's going to be one of the biggest issues we've dealt with in America since offshoring really became the de facto choice. 

There are approximately 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the United States, according to estimates by the American Trucking Association. The total number of people employed in the industry, including those in positions that do not entail driving, exceeds 8.7 million. About one of every 15 workers in the country is employed in the trucking business, according to the ATA.

Closer to home, I'm from the midwest, where countless families who once held jobs in manufacturing reacted to offshoring by - you guessed it - hitting the road to become truck drivers.

You can't say that driving a truck cross-country is your first choice from a work/life balance perspective and raising a family.  But you do it to provide, and it's a reasonable pivot when there are no jobs left in your rural area that pay a decent wage if your highest diploma is of the high school variety.

If you're looking for an honest conversation on why people would support Donald Trump, look no further than economic opportunity, my friends.  What's going to go down soon in the trucking industry will only increase the pressure that can make candidates like Donald Trump look like a reasonable choice.  

CAPITALIST QUOTE: "Great Recruiters Are Like Stockbrokers"

Tons of positive reaction to this quote from a post earlier this week:

"Great recruiters are like stockbrokers - we help clients understand whether someone's a buy or a sell based on their price."

Good stockbrokers - not the sleazy kind. Stockbroker

The reaction to that quote alone was reason enough to call it out in a single post.

That's really how I feel as a recruiter, and it mostly puts pressure on the highly comped, not the lowly comped.

People progress in their careers and reach a certain earning level, and their expectation is that level should never go down.  But unless they keep adding value related to knowledge, skills and abilities, at some point their potential as a new hire looks flat compared to other alternatives.

Great recruiters are stockbrokers. We help clients understand who's a buy or a sell based on their price, which is a statement of value.

Some clients are risk adverse and only want to be in the S&P 500.  Others are willing to diversify as they look across their team.

What can you do as a candidate?  Keep developing the upside to your price, my friend.

Otherwise, you'll be Apple - quarter after quarter of great performance but unable to answer today's question, "what's next?"

5 Ways To Successfully Manage Older Direct Reports If You're a Millennial..

I'm Gen X, so almost no one I manage these days is older than me.  But as a driven, achievement oriented 30-year old, I started managing lots of people who were older than me for the next decade.  As a result, I learned a lot about how to piss the old folks off.  I'd like to think I adapted pretty quickly.

Gather around the monitor, young ones, because I'm about ready to drop some knowledge. Here are 5 Ways To Successfully Manage Older Direct Reports If You're a Millennial:

1.Don't try to micro-manage them unless they really, really deserve it.  You're young. You may think you need to follow up on every detail or task with the people who report to you.  You don't.  There's only one out of five who needs that, and micromanaging the rest of the old folks is more about you than it is about them.  Take a step back and understand that you have to give them some space to work, which is something no one teaches you the first time you're a manager.

2. Respect the knowledge of your direct reports who are older than you. They know stuff you don't.  You should acknowledge Intern this early and often, even if it hurts your ego.  You'll find the turds in the group may use that against you from time to time, but again - that's one out of five.  Stating you realize that they know things you don't actually makes the other four want to help you succeed.

3. Learn their history.  The Breakfast Club and Caddyshack are movies you need to watch.  They'll have terrible production values.  Try to see the art in the stories and understand that Danny is now grown up and damn, he's on your team. #rightinthelumberyard

4. Put them in charge once in awhile.  Once you get comfortable with #1 and #2, you should let some of the older direct reports lead projects.  You stay in charge by knocking down obstacles for them.  Don't give up everything, but reward the best dinosaurs with this perk.  They won't see it as weakness - they'll understand that you are ultimately promotable three levels above where you are now.

5. Assume positive intent. It's human nature to see threats everywhere related to how older direct reports interact with you, go around you, etc.  Breathe deep.  Understand the workplace is a scarier place for them than you because they have more to lose.  They've got bigger mortgages, tuition to pay for and the red Miata they bought in a mid-life crisis making them feel like a jackass.  Breathe. Most of what they do is about them and not about you.

The sun doesn't revolve around you, my millennial managers - yet.  Take this guidance from a Gen X pro who once was where you are.

You can thank me later by hiring me when you've arrived in the C-Suite.

BEYOND BLUE BLAZERS: The Pants Choices of Professional White Men In America.....

You're just a walking billboard for all the latest brands
You've got no taste in music and you really love our band
You're haircut is atrocious, it's been the same since '83
Your glory days are over and so's your stonewashed jeans

--Local H

Stereotypes. Sometimes they're out there because they're true.

The safest place to talk about stereotypes in the workplace involving race and gender is to to talk about the demographics you belong to. Skinny-jeans

In May, I did this breakdown of professional white guys and the Blue Blazer.  You're welcome.

But it’s time to go deeper (or lower)…Can you make equally useful generalizations about white guys and pants in the workplace?  

I think you can.

Let's do this.

The choices of white guys and pants are broken down by four factors - fabric, fit, pleats and cuffs.  Breaking it down below:

--Pleats and Cuffs - I'm old Gen X, so I grew up mentored by boomer guys who taught me how to dress.  For the most part, that meant slacks with pleats (double pleats for the really serious) and cuffs (anywhere from 1 inch to 1.5 inches with 1.25 inches being the most widely accepted.  If I see you in pleats or cuffs, that means you're a boomer or a Gen X that got taught about fashion by boomers - and has refused to move to skinnier models.  Shine on you crazy diamond.

--Fit - You've got loose fit (also known as classic), modern fit and skinny fit.  Generally speaking, the older the white dude the looser the slacks.  If you're Brontosaurus Rex and you're trying to adapt after the slacks asteroid hit the earth, do yourself a favor and go to modern fit.  Your wife, your family and your nation are going to snicker if you try to go to skinny.  And for you skinny fit guys - I see you - and yes, you are living the metrosexual dream. And there's nothing wrong with that. 

--A little bit more about Pleats - I know, white guy dad. You went no pleats and it's a great thing.  But you're still kicking about in the Jos A Bank loose fit dress slacks.  No pleats and loose dress slacks?  I'd rather you be you - and just kick it with the pleats and cuffs.  Somebody's got to be in charge around here.

--Fabric - The older you are, the more wool or polyester that looks like wool you have in the lineup - that's the area code for dress slacks. The younger you are, the more you're rolling with skinny khakis. Are they cotton or a poly/cotton blend? Whatever let's you flex a little bit is my hope, my man.  Also, jeans are the play in a lot of workplaces these days, but that's a whole other post about how white guys dress. My boys from Local H wrote this little ditty about stone-washed jeans, so suffice it to say, nothing makes me happier than when the boomer boss man goes blue dress shirt, light toned wrangler jeans and yes - the blue blazer.  Winner/winner/chicken dinner.

I'm the Marlon Perkins of how white guys dress. Look it up Millennials.

3 Candidates Walk Into a Bar and a Recruiter Asks Each One Of Them What They Make...

I love all of you who read this blog - Thank you!

But you've lost your minds if you think the reason we want to ask for salary is so we can lowball someone and perpetuate discrimination. Greatvalue1

I'm posting about this based on the reaction to my post on the Massachusetts law that outlaws asking a candidate what they currently make. See the post and some comments (received many more via email) here.

Some of this comes down to whether you view the world as an HR person or a recruiter.  I've always had to be both. 

If you're a recruiter serving a client, you get paid for a higher level of service. The expectations aren't the same as your internal recruiting group, who are more conservative and risk adverse as a rule.

Say you have 3 candidates with different sets of experience and different abilities to impact the business. Assume for now - and I know it's hard for a lot of you - that protected class has nothing to do with it.

Knowing the salary that it's going to take to land each of those candidates means opportunity for a candidate. Let's say you're an  up-and-comer and there are some things we like, but you don't have all the things we need. You needing 70K in salary instead of 95K can make a difference in you getting the job. And no, you won't add the same value that the more experienced candidate will provide in most circumstances.  You're not as deep.

But if my client likes the potential and can save money to deploy elsewhere on their staff, that's a viable option.

For a recruiter worth their salt who has to plow through the market, having salary info specific to the candidate isn't about screwing someone. It's about making the best match possible.

The workaround is obvious.  I'm going to tell them what my client can pay for their experience.  Then I'm going to ask them if they'll accept the offer at that level if we get to the end of the process and they're my candidate.

And yes, males get the same treatment.  Every time.

Great recruiters are like stock traders - we help clients understand whether someone's a buy or a sell based on their price.  

Amazon Is The Model For Investing For Your Company's Future

Last week, I talked about the collapse of Monster in the job board wars, which basically came down to them not attempting to invest in the future - even if they weren't sure what the future was.

That's part of the deal when you spend profit on R&D.

What can you learn from that as a leader or HR pro?  Investment in the future is kind of important.  So the next time you need 2K to send some employees to training, here's some more "guilt fodder" you can use with the powers that be to at least get some crumbs for training.

Amazon. I've written before about how they invest so much in R&D that net profits are almost always close to zero, which is amazing.  Check it out in the chart below from Business Insider (email subscribers click through on post title for picture):


Here's what I wrote three years ago:

Amazon has managed to reinvest in the business to the point that they have basically no net income run rate 18 years later with a 60 Billion revenue run rate.  That type of infrastructure investment is what should make FedEx and UPS pretty damn distrustful of Amazon.  60 distribution centers?  You think at some point they just might add planes and vans and cut the middle man out?

Guess what was announced this week?  Planes at Amazon. Check it out:

The first freighter jet to carry the Amazon brand is primed for its public debut in Seafair’s sunny skies, after making a stealthy flight from New York to Seattle in the middle of the night.

The plane, emblazoned with “Amazon” on its belly, “Prime Air” on its sides and the Amazon smile logo on its tail, will fly over Lake Washington during the Boeing Seafair Air Show at around 1:15 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Until now, the big reveal was kept so hush-hush that Seafair organizers referred to the event only as a “Special Guest Flyover.”

The Boeing 767-300 jet is part of what will eventually become a fleet of 40 planes, transporting cargo between Amazon’s distribution centers for delivery to customers. Clark said the planes will mesh with Amazon’s network of 4,000 branded truck trailers, the Uber-like Amazon Flex delivery system, and the services provided by transportation partners such as UPS and FedEx.

You think the people at UPS and FedEx aren't thinking about the eventual hole in revenue that's going to be caused by Amazon creating its own shipping network?  You think they aren't wondering if at some point Amazon isn't going to try to take ALL THE BUSINESS?

Interesting times.  Monster yawned when Indeed started scraping every job they could find for free.  I'll guarantee you UPS isn't yawning about Amazon's planes.

The Top 100 Movie Quotes for HR Pros: #71 is Don Draper: "That's What the Money Is For"...

New 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..

At some point in your career as a manager or HR pro, you'll have an interaction with a direct report who thinks that you're taking the credit for their work.  At that point, you'll remind them of what they contributed, how the team made that better and how when they win, the team wins.

Then, if you're really direct - you'll have an honest conversation about what they contributed and the relative merit/value of that contribution.

Don Draper (Mad Men) is that guy.

Quote #71 is from Don Draper: "That's What The Money Is For"

Peggy Olsen is a direct report of Don's.  She's coming at him and accusing him of a lot of things.  Don loses his patience and tells her, "That's What The Money Is For".

You've got two clips below. The first one is 3 minutes, and it includes Don being more patient with Peggy - telling her he took the idea, made it better and through that process, it became a commercial.

The second clip is a simple cut of Don being an ass without context.

Me? I think you can tell them "that's what the money is for", but I think context is important.

So, what is the irony in your ability to give direct feedback and add the right amount of context without losing the heart of the message?  You guessed it - "that's what the money is for" (in your role as a manager)...