Amazon, People Practices and Cancel Culture . . .

Read the news and it's easy to fall into the trap of what I like to call "Amazon is Bad" and the close cousin, "The Amazon Mob."

Where can you find such news? Simple! Examples: "Amazon is Bad" for having the gall to actually defend itself against union organizing attempts at the company's Bessemer, AL distribution facility. Shocking! How dare they! Amazon is also bad for being led by one of the richest people on the planet—a crime that leads to a small mob at one of his houses with a guillotine in his driveway. Amazon

It's trendy to hate the establishment these days. Unfortunately, not enough people are speaking up to challenge BS when they see it, for fear of some form of being cancelled.

So I'll say it related to Amazon. Just because there was a subset of employees in Alabama interested in a union doesn't mean the company can't defend itself.  The law allows Amazon to tell its side of the story and respond with FOE - Facts, Opinions and Examples.

As far as the guillotine, if you're down with that demonstration in the driveway of any human being, good luck to you and yours. You'll soon have to find another mob to keep the hate alive.

But wait, there's more! And it's HR related:

Business Insider recently published an article entitled "Inside Amazon's Employee Review System, Where Workers Feel in the Dark and Managers expect to give 5% of Direct Reports Bad Reviews." Sounds ugly, right?

Well, Business Insider talked to a dozen employees. We've lost our minds with the narrative- building in reports like this. It works, or they wouldn't keep doing it. You click, I click. Turns out, they talked to only twelve people, probably a few disgruntled folks who were organized by a single person.

Articles like this one get posted, and the narrative—left largely unchecked—is that Amazon is a bad place to work and how they review employees is a big part of the negativity.

The journalists talked to 12 employees, my friends.  Amazon is a company with 575,000 employees!  

But if the Business Insider did anything positive with this article, it did provide some access to 2021 Performance Management design at Amazon. So, while we're here, let's take a look at a couple of items cited as performance management practices at Amazon and analyze them.  Here are a couple that jumped out as relevant:

From BI Article: "One new policy introduces a performance rating metric, with managers telling their direct reports where they rank on a scale from "needs improvement" to "achieves" to "exceeds." The new directive adds a dose of clarity to Amazon's secretive performance review system that left employees guessing about their performance review ratings, as Insider previously reported."

KD analysis: Amazon is making the move many have already made, simplifying rating scales to a 3-point rating scale. Regardless of wording, this is the "Does Not Meet/Meets/Exceeds" 3-point scale many use. It is popular and works because managers have to take a stand, and the 3-point scale forces managers to give real ratings and real feedback. This is a good thing.

From BI Article: "Amazon managers use a secret rating tied to compensation to grade on a curve, according to employees and internal documents, placing those at the bottom on a performance improvement plan, called PIP at Amazon. One document viewed by Insider shows company leaders "expect 20% of Amazonians" to receive the highest rating and 5% to receive the lowest for the current review cycle."

KD Analysis: Guidance on how many employees can get the top rating is expected, otherwise you'd have rating inflation 100% of the time. For fans of the bell curve, you automatically understand that asking for 5% of employees to be identified as low performers is kind, not harsh. Amazon is asking for very little here; still, it's vilified by the media. Weak journalism but representative of the media's treatment of anything real world these days.

From the BI Article: "According to employees, the more important performance measure is what Amazon calls "Overall Value (OV)" ratings because they have a bigger influence on compensation. An internal document seen by Insider said OV ratings were used as an "input into the annual compensation planning process.

Under OV ratings, Amazon managers group their employees in three broad buckets of performance grades — top tier (TT), highly valued (HV), and least effective (LE). Starting this year, Amazon expanded the "HV" rating with "HV1," "HV2," and "HV3" to add depth to each evaluation, Amazon's spokesperson confirmed in an email to Insider.

An internal document provided to managers said: "We expect 20% of Amazonians are TT," 15% are HV3 (the highest of the HV ratings), 25% are HV2, 35% are HV1, and 5% are LE. Another document showed how these OV ratings corresponded to pay. Amazon employees are each put in a pay band with a range for their total compensation, made up of base pay and stock options. The OV ratings are one of the key factors used to determine what percentage of the pay band an employee will get. One internal document said those placed in the top-performing group could reach 100% of their pay target, while those on the HV1 grade got zero upside.

The documents also showed that while managers could disclose where an employee ranked from "needs improvement" to "exceeds," they couldn't share the "input scale" number from 1 to 7 on which those ratings are based. So while an employee might know that they ranked as "achieves," they wouldn't be told specifically if they landed at the high or low end of the score range necessary to obtain that ranking."

KD Analysis: Yeah, that’s called the merit matrix. It’s not a new concept, and if Amazon wants to give its highest performers in the “Meets/Achieves” band more money, that’s a good thing. Do they owe their employees 7 different points on the rating scale to back that up? No, they do not, because that gets in the way of clear and direct feedback on how the employee is doing: bad/good/great. Also, further segmentation can also be used to determine things like succession planning. Simply put, do great work and you’ll be rewarded. It's not that hard.

Summary: I love how a news organization can talk to 12 people and put a headline up that says “Amazon workers feel left in the dark.”

Everything doesn't have to be a conspiracy, especially if you only talk to 12 out of 575,000 employees.

Be better, media.


Your Company's Sharepoint Game Sucks, Right? The Microsoft VIVA Announcement...

If I've said it before, I've said it a million times:

The GREATEST thing about America is that anyone with $5,000 and a hoodie has a chance to start a great tech company.

The WORST thing about America is that anyone with $5,000 and a hoodie has a chance to start a great tech company. Technology

Confused? Don't be. The fact that anyone with 5K and a hoodie has a chance to disrupt our world is the best and worst of us - all at the same time.

That's why proclamations that Microsoft VIVA will dominate the marketplace are..well...it's a bit early declare Microsoft VIVA a pure winner.

Let's start with last week's announcement from Redmond so you know what the hell VIVA is (I'm pulling these from joshbersin.com, who's done a nice job in this post of helping us get our head around it):

Microsoft introduced an offering that is likely to transform the market for enterprise software: Microsoft Viva, a digital platform built on Microsoft 365 designed for the Employee Experience. Developed over several years and integrated with Microsoft Teams, Viva is an Employee Experience Platform carefully architected to leverage a company’s investment in existing systems and Microsoft technology.

Cool?  Let's keep going:

Viva, which is built on Microsoft 365 and delivered in Teams, is a place to pull this all together. While the four core Viva apps are new, they cover many of the employee needs for companies and Viva becomes an integration platform for everything else. Out of the box, Viva covers a wide array of application areas, and the company will offer Glint, LinkedIn Learning, and content from Headspace, Skillsoft, and dozens of others in the experience. I’m sure third-party vendors will line up to join the parade as soon as this is launched.

So Viva, in addition to a suite of applications, is a vastly functional “integration platform” that lets IT and HR departments standardize their EX strategy.

OK - that's some overview stuff - let's dig into the details. The 4 Viva apps (read more about them at the link to Bersin above) are:

--Viva Connections - System that brings Sharepoint and other portal systems together to provide a single place for the employee portal and employee comms! (note, the ! is written as if I'm promoting this as a Microsoft team member)

--Viva Learning - Get your LinkedIn Learning and other tools connected to Teams!

--Viva Insights - Productivity Analysis and Workplace Analytics. Danger, privacy geeks!

--Viva Topics - Crawls through documents and emails to find "topic experts". Interesting!

It's all cool, right?  Before I shoot holes in the whole, "game over, man" thing we do when any of the heavyweights pulls together pieces to make our lives easier, let me say this - Microsoft is making the right move and they are the 800 pound gorilla that can take this swing for the fences.

Our continued reliance on MS Office and the move to Office 365 to take advantage of the cloud means we are more connected than we've ever been. Microsoft has also been helped by the pandemic, as Teams became the Avis to Zoom's Hertz related to video conferencing, which led to great adoption of the Teams collaboration suite.  

It's all good, and Microsoft is important.  But it's early to say this dominates the corporate world, especially for small to mid size companies, but even for large companies. Here's a few reasons why:

1--Implementation is hard. So you say you've got a portal for me, and I can revolve my EX world about the portal. Cool. Do I just install it? No, turns out to really make this work, you're going to have to think, do some stuff and execute. If Sharepoint has taught us anything through the years, it's that the big tools are cool, but the devil is in the details. Shout out to my corporate homies who are on their 4th cleanup of their Sharepoint portal. Godspeed friends - you're almost there - I think.

2--Adoption is hard. You built it. Will they come? Maybe, maybe not. There's a lot of things vying for their attention. Are you sure the boomers and Gen-Xers are using 365 or is all their work local? Yes, you can force that if their work is not 100% on the network. Are you ready to pick that fight? To achieve the promise of VIVA, there can only be one tool set and everything has to be in the cloud. Confounding variable - Google Drive adoption among your employees you don't even know about.

3--People still love their "best in breed tools" and the edges of VIVA will still be nibbled at by the peeps in hoodies. Related to adoption, people love their Zoom, Ring Central, Slack and about 500 other workplace productivity tools. They think many of these tools are better than Microsoft. Depending on the adoption of Office 365 and Sharepoint, to really ramp the promise of VIVA, you're going to have to mandate that people FULLY COMMIT TO THE USE OF OFFICE 365 AND ANY EXPANSION OF THAT DOMAIN, including VIVA. Will competitors (Salesforce, anyone?) allow that messaging to go unchecked? <HELL NO>. Cue the Fight Night music, and watch your adoption linger in the 50% range when you sum up all the productivity tools that are being used across your company.

4--Privacy will continue to rise in importance. Hey! We have some suggestions for how you might be more productive, and we've also listed you in the expert category for "Most Barstool Videos Watched at Work". I kid - but the more you get into productivity analysis and try to make suggestions, the more people are going want to get off the Matrix.

5--Development of strategy (and at times content for the machine) isn't automated.  Really related to #1.  True Strategy and Implementation takes work. You're going to need a bigger boat.

6--The small and mid-cap company world places this initiative and all that is listed above as the 26th most important thing on their list. They'd love to get the goodies - but they're attempting to survive. Thus, the revolution will be slightly delayed.

In short, I think Microsoft VIVA is important and potentially transformational for companies with incredibly large market caps. For everyone else, it's complicated.  Those kids in the hoodies in the HR tech space? They're the snipers in this scenario, and they'll keep taking their shots with micro-solutions that make sense.

Buckle up, VIVA team. What you are doing is cool, but the revolution is going to take longer than you think.  In fact, everyone who's working to compete with you thinks you are "The Man" and THEY are the revolution.

--KD out.


Pros and Cons of Florida Voting in the $15 Minimum Wage - It's Complicated...

By now, most of us have reached a steady state conceptually related to raising the minimum wage. Reasonable people can agree that we should pay people as close to a living wage as we possible can, right?

Then, of course, it all goes to hell.

Consider Florida's recent passage of Amendment 2 on Election Day 2022, which few are aware of and is going to shake things up in a big way.  A few details from the Wall Street Journal:

"Florida voters’ approval of a $15 minimum wage is fueling the hopes of advocates who aim to pass similar measures in other states, though still-elevated unemployment and lower costs of living in rural areas remain challenges.

More than 60% of Florida voters supported Amendment 2 this month, setting the state on a path to a $15-an-hour minimum wage by 2026. The measure’s success was notable because of Florida’s conservative leanings and the struggles its vital tourism industry, where many low-wage workers are employed, has faced this year as it dealt with the shutdowns and travel restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Florida’s governor is a Republican, and voters there backed President Trump’s re-election bid."

States are starting to take things into their own hands as the Federal Minimum Wage sits at $7.25.  I promised you Pros and Cons, so here goes - for Florida, but it really applies to any state looking to elevate the minimum wage to $15.

PROS

--People at the lower end of the labor pool have a better chance to make it on one job.

--That's about it, which is important, BTW.

CONS AND S**T TO FIGURE OUT

--Everything else.

It blew my mind a bit to see Florida carry this 60/40 in November. It's one thing to say you're raising the minimum at Disney, which once the pandemic recedes, has pricing power and leverage over all the people who long to wear mouse ears and eat a big drumstick walking around the park. For everyone else, it's a bit of a sh*tshow from a business perspective.  

Here's my list of the biggest problems that business has to figure out - one that everyone knows and one that no one talks about.

1--Duh - It's a small business killer. Do the math for any owner of a Subway anywhere in Florida or an independent tourist-related business in International Drive in Orlando (the ones living on the edges of the Disney dream), and it's easy to see moving from $10 to $15 per hour is brutal. Where does the money come from?  Well, it's either got to come out of your pocket as a consumer via price increases or the low margin businesses can't work.

2--The big hidden cost here is wage compression in any organization. Nobody talks about this one, but raising the minimum wage and increasing what you pay your entry level workers by $5-$7 not only increases your operating expenses, but it creates compression with all other experienced hourly workers, as well as the low-level salaried workers. The biggest place this hits is in your "leads" (the hourly folks with the most experience) and your first-level supervisors. You know what's coming - you either pay those people as well to eliminate the pay gap elimination that occurs due to a big bump in the minimum wage, or you deal with the festering dissatisfaction. 

What you'll hear if you don't deal with the compression - "Well, why should I deal with all the BS if I can make roughly the same to just clock in and clock out - and I'm OT eligible"!!

Wage compression associated with the minimum wage increase is the storm on the horizon, the Jason from Friday the 13th with the mask/chainsaw.

Don't feel bad for Disney or any big company related to this - most aren't paying their share of taxes anyway, and this is just a redistribution related to what they should have been paying. Feel bad for any company with 100-1000 employees with moderate margins. Consumers aren't mature enough to consciously pay more in a rational exchange for the increased living wage. They migrate to where they get the same product the cheapest.

Hello living wage - a good thing. Goodbye lots of small businesses - a decidedly bad thing.

Get ready to see tenants in strip malls near you with 50% occupancy spaced out - with available spaces between active business - to maximize the appearance of a robust business environment. Good times.


How Buffer Approaches Salary Transparency (It's Kind of Cool)

Attention HR geeks who like to dabble in compensation...

Also, attention anyone who is interested in current events, which finds some highly compensated workers moving out of high priced areas (SF, NYC, LA) to work remote. As you're aware, companies have started communicating they'll be adjusting the salaries of some of this high priced talent to reflect the cost of living in their new locations. Buffer

For those of us used to formal compensation plans, this move is standard - it's called geographical grading, and most formal compensation plans set ranges for jobs, then adjust them upward or downward based on the area the talent lives in.  There are generally 5-6 geographical grades in a compensation plan.

Of course, it's the cancel culture and the "how dare you" culture that's SHOCKED a company would reduce compensation for someone moving from San Francisco to Iowa. 

Many of the same people who would rage against the audacity of a company reducing salaries for lower cost locations would also be huge proponents of salary transparency.

And this is the point where we merge both topics - salary transparency and geographical adjustments.

Consider the technology firm BUFFER.

Buffer does a nice job of describing it goals with salary transparency - you can read up on it here.

But what's super interesting about their view on transparency is how they set salaries within a range and how they adjust them up or down. More from Buffer's page that talks about their philosophy and even provides a <freaking> calculator

This multiplier is still applied by using a teammates’ location to determine one of three geographic bands, based on a high, average, or low cost of living area. We use data from Numbeo to figure out which band applies for each teammate. For high cost of living areas we pay 100% of the San Francisco 50th percentile, average is 85%, and low is 75%.

We figure out each teammate’s geographic band by comparing the cost of living index of a teammate’s location to the cost of living index in San Francisco.

So let's examine that a bit for what we know about formal compensation plans. The fact Buffer provides one salary they pay for each job (they don't adjust for who you are, that's how they keep it consistent and can do transparency) means that they have elected a single point to pay within a salary range recommended by salary surveys from a provider like Numbeo.  I'd assume they're likely paying at the midpoint in the range (ranges have minimums, midpoints and maximums) for anyone in the role to keep it real.  Then, as stated, they are adjusting through geographical grades or bands in the way described above.

So, if you're moving to Denver, you're taking a 15% cut, which by the way, is super consistent with the numbers reported related to VM Ware and Twitter adjustments (widely reported as 18% for a move from SF to Denver). If you're moving to Ames, Iowa - sad trombone - it's a 25% cut.

Geographical grades and band have been around forever. It's interesting to see a company committed to salary transparency be unapologetic for adjustments for geography.

How can they do it? Simple, when you pay everyone in the same job the same $$, the black box of comp mystery goes away. I'm not saying that's the way to do it, but it's a bit of a case study on how simple it could be, and it automatically addressed equity concerns. 

See the calculator online at Buffer by clicking here!!


Cost of Living Pay Cuts for Twitter Employees Moving from Bay Area: Valid or BS?

By now, you're aware that hundreds or thousands of companies have announced that their white-collar jobs won't be returning to the office until 2021, and perhaps until a vaccine is approved, deployed and effective.

That means people working for those companies can work anywhere. Add that the densely populated cities were the first hotbeds of COVID infection, and you've got a recipe for a talent migration - individuals determining that this is a good time to leave coastal areas like NYC, the Bay Area and Los Angeles (click link for one of hundreds of reports). Twitter

But as every HR pro knows, salaries offered via compensation plans get adjusted based on how much it costs to live in specific geographical areas. To no HR pro's surprise, that means companies at some point are going to adjust the compensation of people leaving areas like San Francisco for more remote areas where a 3-bedroom home doesn't cost 2-3 million.

Surprise! The process has started even at the most tech friendly (fair to say progressive) companies.  Last week, Twitter and VM Ware announced the plan to adjust salaries of those fleeing the Bay area was formally being rolled out. Here are some of the details via Bloomberg:

--VMware (NYSE:VMW) offered to let employees work from home permanently, but those who opt in and move out of the Bay Area will receive pay cuts. .

--The salary reductions depend on where the employee relocates. Denver, for example, would come with an 18% annual pay cut (San Diego, 8%), according to Bloomberg sources.

--Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) is using a similar strategy with its newly permanent employees, and Facebook is mulling adopting the compensation scheme.

--Twitter employees who move and lose pay will get a $3,000 one-time allowance

--VMware tells Bloomberg it adjusts pay depending on the "cost of labor" for the region and notes that employees moving to more expensive areas could receive raises.

Is this fair? The talent pros who have been around the block will undoubtedly say yes. After all, if you open up a software developer shop in Denver as a means of relieving recruiting pressure in SF, and your compensation plan tells you the cost of a developer is 98k instead of 120K, that guidance would drive the recruiting plan related to what you wanted to pay. You might use the range based on what you find in the market, but that guidance is there for a reason, and most of the delta is cost of living guidance.

As expected, the Twitter mob is losing its mind. It's unfair, another example of the man attempting to screw the little guy, etc.

It's actually just data and math, folks. And for the most part, it's 100% legit.

Having said that, booming markets where a bunch of California people flee to in order to escape oppressive state taxes (and whatever else they're fleeing from) can lag a bit related to what the best compensation surveys might show. Denver and Idaho are red hot, but 18% still seems in range if you're trying to escape San Francisco.  Austin is another hot location, which begs the question of state taxes (0% in Texas) being included in the calculus.

Of course, what's normal and customary is also an opportunity. Tech companies looking to grab talent could take the market position of "we're not reducing salaries for those who move!", and use it as a recruiting advantage.

But that would cause compression and resentment for those that remain, which is kind of what the whole geographic thing related to compensation was designed to handle in the first place.

Good luck with the move, Twitter people! May your W-2 remain robust and in conjunction with your locale...


Gap Years Are Sexy, But They Come At A Cost...

As COVID drags on, there's a popular topic that's coming up more often in families with college age kids - THE GAP YEAR!

What's a Gap Year? Here's how Wikipedia describes it:

"A gap year, also known as a sabbatical year, is typically a year-long break before or after college/university during which students engage in various educational and developmental activities, such as travel or some type of regular work."

Ah, the Gap Year. If you've had people in your family who have taken a Gap year to travel and "find themselves" and it was even remotely funded by your family, raise Saving-gap-year-backpacker-khaosan-road-thailand-istock your hand. That's a definition of comfort and privilege, regardless of your race or any other identifier.  I'm not hating on it, but it's a very comfortable thing.

As they used to say back in the day, "It's good work if you can get it."

But Gap Years are back in the news, more the result of the pandemic than of privilege.  Two factors make it a hot topic:

1--Remaining fears about the safety of being on campus and in a general college population, and more to the point, 

2--The fact that almost EVERY FREAKING COLLEGE IN AMERICA trumpeted the fact that they would be BACK ON CAMPUS this fall, only to move everyone in, secure the local economy for another 4 months (annual leases on and off campus) and CASH THE CHECKS before announcing they were moving back to a primarily virtual learning environment.

Thus, some people feel smart for taking a Gap Year this term, and others are considering taking one starting in the winter and spring terms, now that the cat's out of the bag related to "yeah, we didn't really ever think we would be back on campus - sorry!"

But the Gap Year ultimately has a cost, primarily in lifetime earnings.  More from USA Today:

A new study out this week  by SimpsonScarborough finds that 40% of incoming freshmen are likely or highly likely to not attend any four-year college this fall. Last week, Harvard reported that more than 20% of its first-year students are deferring enrollment.

But there could be a downside to delaying college by a year: the potential loss of $90,000 in lifetime earnings, according to a study from economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That might seem counterintuitive, given that the pandemic has pushed the jobless rate higher, prompting questions from families about whether it’s the best time to make a pricey investment in a college degree.

The pandemic has made a college degree more valuable, not less, partly because the prospects for people with only a high school diploma are far weaker in the pandemic than for those with a bachelor’s degree.  

So how does that $90,000 in lost income come about? Mainly by foregoing the first year of income earned by a college degree – about $43,000 on average, the study found. A gap-year graduate would start earning that same income a year later, and never quite catch up. For instance, a 25-year-old gap-year student would earn about $49,000 on average, compared with about $52,000 for a grad who didn’t take a year off. That adds up over a career to $90,000, the study noted.

As a parent with a kid in college, it's tough to see him back at school but not getting the true college experience. I'm OK with paying, as his 4-years is a reasonable cost ticket, which I'm thankful for.

But I suspect there's been a lot of trust that's been decayed with Universities in their relationships with families and students.

I suspect the new Gap Year will change over time to the Virtual Year, where families and students pick the lowest cost option to make progress on degrees from virtual locations, wait out COVID and transfer credits in to the brick and mortar school when this is all over.

Congrats colleges - glad you got paid. You should hope this COVID thing gets solved by Summer of 2021, because if not, the economy in your towns and cities is going to crater.


Clickbait Reporting on HR Issues in Today's World...Sucks (The HR Famous Podcast)

Look, I get it. We live in a clickbait society designed to write a great title to any story and get everyone enraged about whatever the issue of the day is.

Politics. Masks. All issues on COVID. You can list all your other examples in this box - <insert here>.  It's clickbait all the time, Blizzard-entertainment-cover-photo and few reporters take the time to present a balanced account of the issues at hand.

But I'm an HR leader by trade, and since the clickbait has firmly landed in the world of HR, now I'm mad. 

What am I mad about? The uptick in articles on business sites citing issues in workforces at American companies. Full disclosure, if there are big issues at any company, that's on the company and people like us to get in front of and make better.

But reporters have lost their way in reporting on these issues.  Case in point, this recent Bloomberg article about employees at Blizzard entertainment not making enough to eat.

Things this article didn't do that should be required in standard reporting on workforce issues:

--They didn't share any details to build credibility on source documents provided by a source (in this case, an internal salary spreadsheet created by one or more employees)

--They didn't share how many employees they talked to for the article. I've seen articles describing big problems at a company with as little as 6 employees cited. This one doesn't even say how many employees they talked to.  The company in question (Blizzard) has 5,000 employees. Duh.

--They didn't use publicly discoverable information (Glassdoor, any salary site) to provide context related to what the limited number of employees they interviewed told them.

I could go on. If there are issues, HR is responsible for helping fix those issues and should be accountable if things aren't right.

But reporters should be accountable too. But, in today's world, too often they are not. They get three data points out of 5,000 available, don't do research, write a sexy headline and publish.

Reporters: Do Better. DO YOUR JOB.

This rant is why the latest episode of The HR Famous Podcast features me and Jessica Lee discussing the recent Bloomberg article that attempted a takedown vs Blizzard Entertainment related to pay issues - including some employees passing around a cloud spreadsheet listing salaries they make at Blizzard. Along the way,  we discuss what quality reporting looks like around this type of issue, messaging as part of damage control when a company finds itself under scrutiny, and we also look for clues related to the depth of pay issues at Blizzard on the company's Glassdoor page.

Take a listen below!

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Listen (click this link if you don’t see the player below) and be sure to subscribe, rate, and review (Apple Podcasts) and follow (Spotify)!

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS

1:30 - Tim is gone (again) this week on another vacay! KD and Jlee talk about what they think Tim is doing on his Lake Michigan getaway. Ginger people don’t tan!

12:00 - Next topic of the day - Blizzard Entertainment, famous for making many popular video games like Call of Duty, has a situation where employees circulated a salary document internally that showed major pay disparitiesThe salary document was first reported by Bloomberg - but the gang has questions.

15:00 - Jlee praises the person who circulated the Google sheets form for being efficient. If anyone has the link to the spreadsheet, HR Famous would love to see it! KD wonders aloud how many columns are on the spreadsheet?  Are there names? The gang doubts it.

18:00 - An Activision spokesperson says that they compensate their employees fairly and gave their top performers a higher salary increase than in prior years. KD compares this issue to an episode of The Office where they have to decide who to give raises to and how.

21:00 - KD comments on the quote from the Activision spokesperson that says “a 20% increase on salaries compared to other years” was questionable language. KD and Jlee give high marks to this language that is a little clever to the untrained eye. 

25:00 - KD points out that Blizzard has thousands of employees and not everyone could be consulted for this article. He's kind of over articles that splash, but make no mention of how many employees a reporter talked to.

26:00 - What do you think Blizzard’s Glassdoor rating is? KD is a little surprised by Blizzard’s rating and thinks that their rating isn’t indicative of some of the problems this article addresses. 

29:00 - KD finds the reported Blizzard salaries on Glassdoor by job and finds that many aren’t too far off the industry average/ KD guesses the problems are in customer service and QA based on low hourly rates.

32:00 - Jlee feels for Blizzard and their HR department in these tough times for their company. KD wants reporters to tell a full story and do their job right. He encourages them to take their clickbait titles for traffic, then tell whole story.


The Unintended Consequences of Federal Unemployment in a COVID World...(Best Boss Ever Podcast)

As I write this, the Federal Unemployment Benefit of $600 per week as part of the COVID stimulus package expired on 7/31, and with the Democrats and GOP deadlocked related to a new stimulus package, President Trump stepped in with an executive order to serve as a bridge until congress could negotiate a deal in the same area.

This post isn't political. But any and all compensation issues in a pandemic are interesting to me, which is why I had one of my Robotsfavorite compensation experts - Ann Bares - join me on my BEST BOSS EVER podcast to talk about managing compensation strategy in a pandemic world.

One of the the things that came up (I asked Ann!) was the fact that a lot of companies felt that the $600 per week federal unemployment benefit was preventing capable people from re-entering the workforce. As a leader in a recruiting company, I would tell you that our clients believe this to be true.  Ann had a great response, telling me that beyond the reality of whether people with access to federal unemployment were slow to return to work, she's more concerned and focused strategically on the 2nd and 3rd order consequences/impact of any comp program (including expanded unemployment as an example of that).

That was a "mind blown" moment for me, and I ended up wondering aloud whether difficulty finding needed labor may encourage companies to invest and go "all in" in areas like automation at this point.  Which ultimately harms employment for the sector of jobs in question.

That's the thing about unintended consequences - you never see them coming.

Check out my podcast with Ann Bares below!

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Welcome to Best Boss Ever, the podcast dedicated to helping you develop managers who build great teams. In this episode, Kris Dunn talks about the issues with Managing Compensation Strategy in a Pandemic World with Ann Bares, his favorite industry compensation expert at Altura Consulting Group and writer at Compensation Force.

Don't forget to subscribe to this podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify or Google Play. Rate and Review if you like what you hear!

On to the show (email subscribers, click here if you don't see the podcast player)...

Show Highlights:

2:00 - Ann talks about her transition from an undergraduate in social work to the world of compensation, where she found an affinity for quantitative methods.

5:30 - Ann and KD discuss what the transition looks like for companies on compensation strategy as we move from a 10-year expansion to the recession we’re already in.

8:00 - Ann talks about unevenness of the pandemic flavor of the recession - some companies are struggling, but some are expanding and thriving.

12:00 - Ann and KD discuss the most likely changes to come for companies that are in pain from a compensation perspective - think prioritized skill set investments for reinvention, etc. Ann and KD also talk about how adjustments are being made to common components like annual increases, etc.

16:00 - Ann and KD talk about when across the board salary cuts might be reinstated in the marketplace.

17:41  - Ann and KD discuss how WFH changes the landscape of competing for talent from a compensation perspective - what's your pay market when a large % of your workforce is remote? Fluidity is a new reality.  Kris also focuses on the fact that flexibility for personal wants and needs related to WFH preferences creates a new standard for HR pros.

24:10 - Ann talks about whether companies become less aggressive in benchmarking compensation vs the market in recessions. 

27:00 - Kris and Ann talk about whether there Is a brand of company out there that thinks of recessions as a great opportunity to pick up talent. How does their strategy differ from a defensive position on comp?

34:00 - Ann and KD talk about the federal unemployment benefit as part of the stimulus plan, and whether it discourages some people from returning to work. The conversation goes beyond that surface-level topic, as Ann and Kris discuss the 2nd and 3rd order consequences/impact of any comp program. KD notes that any difficulty finding needed labor may encourage companies that are slow to invest in areas like automation to go "all in" at this point.

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Ann Bares on LinkedIn

Compensation Force

Altura Consulting Group

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Boss Leadership Training Series

Kinetix

The HR Capitalist

Fistful of Talent

Kris Dunn on LinkedIn

KD's Book - The 9 Faces of HR


HR TROLLS: Thinking Unemployment on Steroids Means You Have a Compensation Problem...

Short post today, but an important one. I belong to multiple online groups covering HR on a variety of platforms - you know the type - people can post questions on problems they're having in their HR shops and get help, advice and recommendations from their peers.

On one of the big forums on Facebook, a HR Director posted about problems she was having recruiting for the Distribution Center she supported, and reported that she believed that part of the issue was Trollthat many candidates who would normally be under consideration were recipients of the $600 weekly employment benefit that's part of the COVID stimulus program. The theory, which many of you know, goes like this - once a potential candidate adds up the state and federal unemployment and is earning the equivalent of 40-55K annualized (depends on your state benefit level), it's hard to get them to come back to a $15-20 an hour job.

That's more than a theory, that's likely reality in many cases.

So our friendly HR Director asks for guidance, and I'd say 20% of the responses went something like this:

"You should look in the mirror and pay a living wage."

There were different versions of that, but they all shared a common belief. The problem wasn't the incentive, it was the company.

What planet did I wake up on as I navigate the 5th month of the COVID experience? Mind you, this wasn't a random message board, it was a members only HR forum. You know, HR people. 

It's a tone deaf, light form of shaming that we've become all too used to in the cancel culture we live in.  How dare you not pay your employees enough to incent them to come back from a historically rich form of government benefit designed to keep the economy going in a pandemic?

Man, those shaming style commenters in a HR forum. Talk about not understanding the business as a limiting factor to HR success.

I'm still a fan of what the US government did. They moved fast, and while it wasn't perfect, the stimulus did what it was supposed to do.

But artificially propped up comp can't last forever, and while I write this it's unclear what type of Federal unemployment benefit will emerge in August after the $600 benefit expires at the end of July. It's likely to be significantly less. There's likely to be pain as a result of the benefit being reduced, and I don't take that lightly.

HR trolls suck. The world has enough trolls - our profession doesn't need our own version.

 


What Are The Compensation Questions Your Managers Should Be Able to Answer?

Putting together an online version of our BOSS Training (Compensation Module) for a client this week, and while our training on the topic is great, there's no question a fully functioning manager or people has to be really knowledgeable on the comp front to successfully answer all tough questions they're going to face.

What questions, you ask? He's a few of the infamous comp questions we base our manager training Boss Redesign - to the right
around on this topic:

--“Why doesn’t our company pay people enough? Can I get a raise?"

--“What is the pay range for my job?”

--“Why are you asking me to do things that aren’t part of my job? Do I get paid extra?”

--“What type of salary do you need to take this job and make a move from your current company?” (LEGAL ALERT. LOL)

--“I worked my tail off last year and all I got was a 3% increase. What do I need to do to get a big increase this year? Why should I try?”

--“Mary just told me what she makes and it’s a bunch more than I make. How is that fair? I need to be raised to her pay rate ASAP!”

--“Glassdoor shows that most companies pay people in my position more than I’m currently making. Why are we so cheap?”

--"I heard Google pays mailroom boys 100K." (not a question, but a test!)

Damn. There's a lot on a manager's plate related to be ready for comp questions from their team. If you have down time during COVID, it's a great time to think about doing some learning sessions to increase readiness and KSAs with your managers of people.

Introduction of basic concepts +role play/skill practice = success.