How To Not Get Killed In A "What's Wrong" Focus Group At Your Company...

Simple post today.  From time to time, HR pros have to do focus groups to determine the climate of the employee relations environment at their company.  Ideally, this is done before there's smoke in the air.  But at times, especially in a multi-location environment, that's impossible.

So how do you approach a group of 10-12 employees (focus group) to get them to talk about the challenges, but not get beheaded in the process?  You're going to have to ask open-ended Valley
questions to get employees to give you details about what's messed up, so the best approach I've found is this:

--Ask each employee to give you TWO THINGS THAT ARE WORKING WELL FOR THEM AT YOUR COMPANY and TWO THINGS THAT NEED FAST IMPROVEMENT

It sounds simple, right?  I think we'd be surprised how many HR pros who walk into hostile environments don't force the attendees of focus groups to give them some positives.

The positives are there to balance the feedback loop.  It forces people to articulate the positives in their environment, which is important for fellow employees to hear.  

Of course, the negatives/opportunities for improvement are going to be there. You'll get those.  But if you know you're walking into a tough session and fail to be brave enough to ask for the positives, you run a higher probability of losing control of the group.

Some responses you'll hear when you ask for the positives:

"The people I work with"

"The people I work with"

"The people I work with"

"The people I work with"

Not a typo.  Expect that if you're walking into a tough environment, the answers will focus on fellow employees enduring the struggle, not anything that gives credit to the company.  That's OK - you're just looking to balance the feedback loop.  You can accept this answer from as many people as want to give it.

You also might here some smart### responses like:

"I haven't lost any fingers yet"

My advice?  Accept the "people I work with" response from all and if you get a wisecracker, laugh with everyone else and then follow up and ask for a serious one.  Accept "The people I work with" from all and ask for at least one other positive that someone hasn't given the group yet.

Good luck with your paratrooper-like focus group sessions.  Don't be afraid to ask for the positives - it will make your session much more productive.


WHEN THE BOSS BULLIES THE TEAM: METH, I'M ON IT...

By now, most of you have seen the anti-drug campaign coming out of South Dakota with ads that show regular people with one of two tag lines:

"Meth, I'm On It"

"Meth, We're On It"

There's a lot of layers to the visual campaign, including:

1--South Dakota, like many states, has a huge Meth problem. Meth+we're+on+it

2--The ads show regular people. The assumption is that by being on "it", the people show are either using Meth and you don't know it, or the people shown are mobilizing to fight the epidemic.  A double entendre, perhaps.

3--When the campaign launched, there was laughter. Ridicule, even.

Here's some analysis from the Huffington Post. Take a look and I'll give you my take after the jump:

South Dakota’s governor on Monday unveiled what she considered a powerful new anti-drug campaign to combat the use of methamphetamine in the state. Now, TV spots, billboards, posters and a website featuring South Dakotans saying “Meth. We’re on it” is going viral ― for better or for worse.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem launched the campaign to raise awareness about the meth epidemic in South Dakota. The state spent $450,000 for a Minnesota ad agency to come up with the slogan and campaign, reported the Argus Leader. Noem also requested more than $1 million in funding to support treatment services.

But the new slogan is being ridiculed by many and attacked on Twitter in viral hashtags.

Bill Pearce, assistant dean at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, criticized the campaign. “I’m sure South Dakota residents don’t like being laughed at. That’s what’s happening right now,” he told The Washington Post. 

Noem defended the new slogan, saying all the uproar suggested the campaign was working. “Hey Twitter, the whole point of this ad campaign is to raise awareness. So I think that’s working,” she tweeted.

When I've brought this up to my friends and laughed about it, they've brought up a good point- if people are talking about it, isn't that the goal? Hasn't South Dakota already won with the coverage?

To that, I say, NO.  Somewhere in South Dakota, here's how the decision making process went:

1--The ad firm pitched the boss the idea for "Meth, We're On it".

2--The boss adopted the idea as her own and sponsored it HEAVILY.  The message was clear, "Meth, WERE ON IT, right? I love this idea", said the boss.

3--The underlings couldn't bring themselves to tell the boss what they really thought. As time passed, the stakes were higher. Costs were sunk.

4--The campaign launched and what everyone around the Boss thought happened. The state took a huge "L" and the mockings dramatically outweighed the benefit.

My friends, this is what happens when a leader has a reputation for having to have all the best ideas and operates as a non-collaborator.  When direct reports can't win debates and arguments - even when they are right - really bad decisions get though and big failure happens.

Was the campaign worth the attention? Ask the 2,000 families in the state that got a mock Christmas card of their family created by relatives outside the state. Their family is pictured, with the now famous font "Meth, We're On It" superimposed and distributed to 100 other people in the family outside the state of South Dakota.

Good times. But that leader got what She wanted - and for good effect, immediately requested 1M in funding for the epidemic, which is like you and me requesting $1 for help with our annual cost of health insurance.

Always ask and listen to your team. Give them a chance to help save you.


Trigger Warnings on Disney+...Could They Work for Managers?

Did you sign up for Disney+ over the last couple of weeks?  10 million other households did.

You didn't know you needed another streaming service, but Disney+ comes with some unique features, mainly that the entire catalog of Disney is available for streaming. That's a deep catalog.

Of course, even though the catalog is deep, there's some issues. Material sourced from the 1930's, 40's and 50's might have some theme that aren't Lady and tramp warninginline with today's world. For this reason, Disney has implemented a "trigger" warning of sorts on any material that might be challenging.  More from the Washington Times:

Disney’s new streaming service has added a trigger warning to certain classic movies like “The Jungle Book” and “Lady and the Tramp” to address possible “outdated cultural depictions” that could offend viewers.

Disney Plus, which launched Tuesday amid a host of technical issues, issued a disclaimer on some decades-old movies that reads, “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

The warning appears in the movie descriptions for “Dumbo,” “The Jungle Book” and “Lady and the Tramp,” among others that have faced criticism for depicting racial stereotypes.

My super-conservative friends view that as more political correctness. I view it as a masterful stroke by Disney. Let me share the warning/disclaimer again, by itself:

“This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

That's solid communications work by Disney. It allows them to share the material and satisfy fans, but also warns that this stuff is from another day and time, even another world. It's even educational and can drive conversations in households with reasonable people who want that type of conversation. And of course, the warning allows you not to watch as well.

Of course, I'm a HR/recruiting/talent nerd. The first thing I thought of was this:

Could we use the same type of trigger warning for good people in your organization who are insensitive to the needs of others and seem to run afoul of public opinion at least once a quarter?

I'm not talking about people who are blatantly racist, etc. I'm talking about the people who are likable but grew up different from you and me and haven't made the complete turn to the 2020. They mean well. But they can't get out of their own way.  We don't want to give up on them.

Let's say you've got an incoming email from this person. There could be a pop-up that could say the following before you read the email:

"This individual is presented as a work in progress. He/she may contain outdated cultural norms, beliefs or depictions. We believe they're evolving, but it's a work in progress."

That's truthful for a lot of people in the average organization. It feels right.

Of course, some of you would snap the warning or share it in your IG story and ruin the feature.

This is why we can't have nice things. Continue about your day without organizational warnings that could make our work life better. LOL.


Who Sucked Out The Feeling? You Did.

Look around could it bring somebody down
If I never made a sound again?

Who sucked out the feeling?

--Sucked Out by Superdrag

Quick thought while I'm on vacation.  Let's say you're on a conference call, you've got 3 people in a room and either another person or team on the other line.  Something comes up you're not sure about or perhaps you have a disagreement on your end - in your room.  To resolve the issue, you make the decision to mute your line so you can discuss on your end without being heard.

You just sucked all the good times and trust out of the relationship.  If not forever, for awhile.

I'm not talking about two sides battling on an issue.  I'm talking about two or more parties working for a common good, be it a project, an initiative or a product launch.  

You muted your line. #Interesting

Who sucked out the feeling? You did.  We'll be on the other end feeling small.  Holler when it's time for the kids to come back in the room!

Unless you're negotiating an armistice to an armed conflict or a legal matter, just tell people you're going to discuss and get back to them.  That feels 100 times better than a 2-minute mute session.

Enjoy the Superdrag video below.  If you've heard this cut, tell me you haven't screamed the chorus along with the lead singer of average talent.


Work with KD: Content Creator/Brand Accelerator Job at Kinetix in Atlanta...

Attention Atlanta Connections - Cool opportunity to do fun brand and marketing stuff with yours truly. Please share this with folks you think might be a fit!

Click this link to apply - full job posting at link and also below:

----------------------------------------

Content Creator/Brand Accelerator

As a Content Creator/Brand Accelerator at Kinetix, you’ll work with our team to amplify the already strong primary and secondary brands of Kinetix to create brand awareness and help us fill the top of our sales funnel. We’ve got great brands at Kinetix and have long believed in content marketing. Kinetix We’re looking for you to help us ramp up the unbelievable assets we have in place and send a consistent, daily message to the marketplace.

The right person for this role will be someone comfortable using content and thought leadership in B-to-B marketing capacity. Creative and editing skills in video and graphic design are preferred, as is an intermediate to expert level on social media platforms. An appreciation of brand voice is required, as our brands have a point of view that should be present across all platforms.

Still reading? Here’s some stuff you’ll focus on:

·        World Domination – There, we said it. But the good kind, not the bad kind.

·        Create and manage editorial and social content calendars - designed to accelerate the primary and secondary brands of Kinetix (kinetixhr.com, hrcapitalist.com, fistfuloftalent.com, bossleadershiptrianing.com and more!)

·        Run pre and post production project management of all big content pieces (BCP): videos, podcasts, white papers, blog posts, etc. to end with amazing large form content pieces designed to promote thought leadership at Kinetix. (Bonus points if you have writing skills to participate in the creation of the BCP. Subtract bonus points if you like corporate acronyms like “BCP.”)

·        Digital skills to run any of the pre and post production elements using the Adobe Suite or InDesign is a bonus. We’re giving a lot of bonus points here - we’re like that teacher in college that’s really hoping you make it.

·        Independently create short-form pieces of content from BCP (posts, images, IG or FB stories, quotes, remixes, GIFS) - We’re looking to create great content pieces (BCP) and then chop them up and reuse them like the place your used BMW went to the time it got stolen.

·        Create and execute distribution of all content (big and small) on relevant social platforms - Social platform skills will be a big deal in this job. We’ll also want you to learn paid social as part of this gig if you don’t already possess that skill.

·        Community management when you’re not tied up with the content machine - Community management means helping us grow the social channels in a smart, authentic, non-sleazy way, as well as helping us grow our email marketing list. We’d also want you to help our thought leaders be uber-responsive on social as part of the job.

·        In your spare time, run a bootstrap speaker’s bureau - designed to put our thought leaders in front of audiences that are interested in our message.

·        Work with a cool existing creative marketing team at Kinetix - you’re not alone, although this posting made it sound like that. Our Kinetix marketing team does great creative work on behalf of our client brands, and they’ll help with delivery on your projects as needed. We won’t let you touch the client brands, because we’re being incredibly selfish.

Some Things the Right Candidate May Have:

·        Bachelor's degree in marketing, journalism, public relations, business or digital communications (if you don’t have any, but are a perfect fit – tell us why)

·        Writing skills

·        3-5 years of proven success in marketing, lead generation, digital and social media experience

·        Able to create good working relationships with colleagues

·        An affinity for Gen X leaders and acknowledgement that Gen X is the greatest generation, or the ability to fake this in the workplace

·        Able to work well independently and with a team

·        Complete comfort with social tools (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram)

·        Creative and curious in a wide variety of media

·        Crazy detail orientation that leads to execution

·        Comfortable with chaos and daily changes

·        Working knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator)

·        Location – Atlanta strongly preferred. Would consider Birmingham for the right candidate. Remote only if you worked 2 years for Gary V or the Kardashians.

EOE - M/F/V/D/SO


Google Ends Weekly "All-Hands" Meetings: Here's Why...

In case you missed it, Google has decided to stop holding a weekly "all-hands" meeting they call TGIF in response to leaks and the meetings being dominated by issues considered non-core to the business (my words, not theirs).  I grabbed the email announcing the change from Sundar Pichai, the Google CEO, but before I show you that email, I rewrote it for clarity and impact. Here's my version of his email to announce the weekly "all hands" meetings are gone. Enjoy:

We wanted to talk about strategy. You wanted to talk about politics. TGIF

That was OK, because we wanted to talk about what you wanted to talk about.

Then you started leaking everything we said that didn't live up to your political standards.

Then we realized that the people who only wanted to talk about politics where actually the ones doing the leaking.

Then we realized that the people who wanted to talk about politics and leaked info don't reflect the views of the majority of our employees, which was reflected in the reality that only 25% of our employees now attend the all-hands, an all-time low.

So we said, "Screw this" and decided to shut down the TGIF weekly town halls.

Along the way and before this, we realized that our infamous "20% time" that allowed you to work on your own projects wasn't actually contributing to business results. We also had to restrict political conversations on Google message boards because some of you weren't respecting other people.

In summary: You hijacked this whole thing, and we're shutting it down and finding another path.

This is why we can't have nice things.

That was mine. Here's Google CEO Sundar Pichai's email announcing the same change, let me know which version you like better.

More from The Verge:

From: Sundar

Subject: TGIF and internal forums

[TL;DR - We’re going to make changes to TGIF and offer a new mix of internal forums in 2020. We’ll solicit your feedback along the way.]

Hi Googlers,

The last month has made me proud to be a Googler in so many ways: we’ve substantially improved our core Search product thanks to our advances in ML. And we’ve made an incredible breakthrough in quantum computing that will give us an entirely new way of solving computational problems in the years ahead. Both of these milestones show how our scale allows us to invest in long-term technology problems to drive significant improvements.

But in other places -- like TGIF -- our scale is challenging us to evolve. TGIF has traditionally provided a place to come together, share progress, and ask questions, but it’s not working in its current form. Here are some of the biggest challenges:

First, people come to TGIF with different expectations. Some people come to hear more about Google’s product launches and business strategies, others come to hear answers on other topics. By splitting the difference every week, we’re not serving either purpose very well.

Second, we’re unfortunately seeing a coordinated effort to share our conversations outside of the company after every TGIF. I know this is new information to many of you, and it has affected our ability to use TGIF as a forum for candid conversations on important topics.

Third, as the company has scaled up and spread out geographically, the audience has steadily declined. Only about 25% of us watch TGIF any given week, compared to 80% a decade ago. In contrast, Googlers are more engaged in local and PA all-hands.

This engagement in product and functional area meetings is a natural and positive evolution for us. When we know the people in a discussion and understand their context, we can have more substantive and richer conversations focused around the work we do for our users. We’re going to keep investing in our PA and functional all-hands and make sure that Google leaders (including me) make more regular appearances there. Of course, we still need some company-wide moments to share product and business strategy, celebrate great work, learn from our failures, and ask tough questions. So we’re going to try something different for 2020:

TGIF will become a monthly meeting focused on product and business strategy, with Q&A on the topics being discussed.

We’ll keep holding regular Social TGIFs in offices around the world (this is really important, and is how the original concept of TGIF began).

We’ll continue to hold town halls on important workplace issues.

And, we’ll keep exploring new ways to communicate at scale to a global company of 100,000+ people across multiple timezones. One specific thing we’d like to do is share more videos (like this one on quantum computing) to give insight into the work our teams are doing.

We’re hoping this mix of forums will provide a better experience for Googlers. We know you have only so much time to attend meetings and we want to spend it well. We also have to account for how we spend our time as a company. In fact, we owe it to our users to be relentlessly focused on our mission and our goal to build a more helpful Google for everyone.

Since we’re trying something new, we’ll get your feedback as we roll these forums out. The TGIF team will set up some small group discussions to hear from Googlers across the company. If you want to share input, visit go/internal-forums.

We have become the company we are today by creatively tackling important problems head on -- it’s how we evolve. We now have the opportunity to shape the kind of company we want to be in the future by investing in better ways to communicate at scale. Look forward to working with you all to do this.

--Sundar

So much fun doing "what he said" vs "what he wanted to say."  I'm glad Google is making a change for things that no longer work. Evolve or die.


Video Interviewing: It's OK to Love It, Just Know S**t Will Probably Get Real...

It's hard not to like video interviewing solutions as an HR Pro or Hiring Leader. After all, what's better than seeing how someone communicates on a basic level with some simple questions before you invest your time to bring them in and commit a minimum of an hour to interview them live?

We've all been to the bad place - you phone screen someone and it goes fine, then bring them in live and within 5 minutes, you know it's not going to happen. Video interivewingVideo interviewing can prevent that.

To be clear, I'm not talking about Skype or similar solutions when it comes to video interviewing - I'm talking about robust situations designed for the top of the funnel - when the candidate applies, they are getting a chance to answer 5-7 questions, the audio of which is designed to really replace the phone screen, and the video of which is to make sure they have the command and presence necessary to do well with your hiring manager if you bring them in live.

Of course, there are some issues with video interviewing. The first one is obvious - even in 2020 (I'm rounding up, folks), most people in the world today aren't comfortable firing up the smartphone or laptop camera for an on-the-fly, taped 1-way interview. It freaks them the F out, which means you're losing good talent because they can't deal with this digital test.

The second issue is one related to bias. There's been a lot of discourse lately about the presence of unconscious bias, and if that topic continues to trend and cause us to do things like redact certain portions of resumes, then showing all identifiers via a video interview can't really happen. In a world concerned with unconscious bias, a solution with risk of straight up, old-school bias seems destined for the scrap heap.

The third issue? The video interviewing solutions really stretching the boundary claim to have AI in mix that can measure items like "personal stability".  If that seems like more than our legally challenged world can bear, you're right. The FTC is being asked to investigate HireVue (a leader in the video interviewing industry) for their use of AI in the hiring process. It’s probably one of the first of a series of challenges to the use of AI in HR. More from TechCrunch:  

"The Electronic Privacy Information Center, known as EPIC, on Wednesday filed an official complaint calling on the FTC to investigate HireVue’s business practices, saying the company’s use of unproven artificial intelligence systems that scan people’s faces and voices constituted a wide-scale threat to American workers.

HireVue’s “AI-driven assessments,” which more than 100 employers have used on a million-plus job candidates, use video interviews to analyze hundreds of thousands of data points related to a person’s speaking voice, word selection and facial movements. The system then creates a computer-generated estimate of the candidates’ skills and behaviors, including their “willingness to learn” and “personal stability.”

Video interviewing solutions have long listed bias concerns and generally non-progressive, non-rationale hiring managers who make flippant decisions as threats to their future.

It will be interesting to see where the privacy world's issues with video interviewing go in the future and how those concerns stack with unconscious bias to impact this industry.


Saying "No" Helps Train the Recipient What "Yes" Looks Like...

If there's a big problem in corporate America, it's that we say "Yes" too much at times.

Yes to that request..

Yes, I can help you..

Yes, I'd be happy to be part of your project team...

Yes, your response to my request is fine...

There's a whole lot of yes going around.  The problem?  Only about 1/2 of the "yes" responses are followed up with action that is representative of all of us living up to the commitment we made.

That's why you need to say "no" more.

Of course, simply saying no with nothing behind the no positions you as jerk.  So the "no" has to have qualifiers behind it:

Say "no" more to peers asking you for things, but then qualify it with how the request could be modified to move you to say "yes".

Say "no" more to your boss, and qualify your response to her by asking for help de-prioritizing things on your plate - which might allow you to say "yes" to the new request.

We say "yes" in the workplace when we want to say "no". We do it because we don't like to say no, and because we are horrible at negotiation.

Say "no" and tell people how the request could be modified to get to "yes".

Or just say "no" and walk away.  Either way, you've helped the organization's overall performance by providing more clarity. 


Is What I'm About To Say Going To Blow Up In My Face? A Simple Guide...

I know.

You're a straight shooter. A truth teller. A no-BS kind of guy or gal.

We love that about you. You do you. But based on your position in the middle of the political machine in which you operate, that truth teller vibe can blow up in your face.

Saying what needs to be said is admirable. But so is staying alive in the game and living to fight another day. Stakes vary based on the issue at hand and the power of those involved. 

Here's a few questions that need to answered before you shoot the bastards straight on the issue in question. Enjoy:

Does it need to be said?

Does it need to be said by me?

Does it need to be said by me right now?

If the answer to any of those questions is no, don’t say it.

Additionally, answer this question:

Who is present (or will get word of my truth telling) that has a different position than me and do they have power? Will they react in a negative way and perhaps try to stop the form of direct deposit I've been receiving and enjoying as a result? (either now on in the future, because they have a memory like an elephant)

I could write 10 more questions in this guide about whether to blown them up with your crazy accurate and disruptive thoughts. I'll stop at 4.

Sometimes you gotta pull out the Bazooka and shoot 'em straight and be the sole voice of dissent. Sometimes you gotta fold and live to fight another day.

Knowing what to say is science, based on your subject matter expertise and the fact you're always right.

Knowing whether to say it is art, based on your accurate read of 107 factors, none of them reasonable or rationale.

Good luck players. The game needs you.


Here's What Job Security/Being Untouchable/Arrogance as a Leader Looks Like...

If you've lucky, you've felt it at some point in your career. The swagger and incredible self-confidence that allows you to throw caution to the wind, confident you have the ability to provide for yourself and your family. 

"If you don't like they way I do it, find someone else to do the job."

To be sure, we've all thought that. But how many of us have actually said it? That's rare air for any working professional, and it usually means one of four things:

1--You're incredibly confident in your ability to find another job. In fact, you may already be on the market and have turned down a few offers Dantonio recently.

2--You at the tail end of your career and you've stored up enough acorns for a long winter (i.e., retirement).  You're daring someone to take you out.

3--You're an incredible ****, full of arrogance, disagreeable with all and really a negative force within your organization.

4--You're tired. You have to work, but you're at the end of your rope. You won't quit, so you're daring someone to make you go find another job.

I'm reminded of some leaders feeling untouchable by this report from last weekend's college football slate. Michigan State was at Wisconsin and just got drilled.  Here's how the post-game presser with Mike Dantonio went via ESPN:

"The Michigan State head coach drew even more attention to his inept offense in the aftermath of a 38-0 loss at Wisconsin, if that was even possible.

In his postgame news conference, Dantonio was asked if his offseason staff changes — he shuffled his offensive staffers’ responsibilities but did not fire any existing coaches or bring in anyone new — might have been a mistake.

“I think that’s sort of a dumb-a** question,” Dantonio replied."

That's taking "it you don't like it, find someone else" to a whole new level.

Let's put in context what 38-0 feels like in the corporate world.

--38-0 is being the incumbent provider in a renewal process and not making it to the final four and presenting live.

--38-0 is opening up a new call center and not taking a single call your first day - but you're not sure where the calls went instead - nobody got the calls.

--38-0 is agreeing to ship the new software release and when your CEO hits the site to test it, it crashes his Microsoft Surface.

Now imagine you're the manager in the call center scenario. Someone from corporate fixed the problem routing calls that your team couldn't fix. You go a meeting on the second day to revisit what happened.  Someone from corporate asks you, "Do you think you have the right people on your team moving forward?"

You don't miss a beat.  “I think that’s sort of a dumb-a** question,” you reply.

That's next level Job Security/Feeling Untouchable/Arrogance as a Leader.

"Next Question"

May you reach the level of success in your career when you can play offense and be belligerent rather than answer questions/concerns after failure.