Attempting to Build Consensus or Get Change? Watch this Helpful Seinfeld Video...

The older I get, the more I know absolutes rarely work. 

The HR Leader/Generalist motto is true - the clear path always lies somewhere in the middle. Case in point - 2020! What a year, and it's only going to get better!  An election coming up in a less than 2 months! #freakshow Seinfeld

Examples from 2020 that the truth is always somewhere in the middle (listing the extremes on each side below, and all of these things impact the workplace, which is why they're being discussed here):

-People who can work from home are never coming back to the office/WFH and isolation is crushing people

--We need to go on lockdown until Covid cases are at zero/The economy is the most important thing

--Masks and face shields are mandatory at all times/I should never be forced to wear a mask

--Big Ten Football/SEC Football (gotcha!)

This list goes on, plus it includes all the issues our country has dealt with in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.

2020 is hard. For everyone seeking to build consensus, get change and generally make things better, I present a group you'll need called "the middle":

The middle is an interesting group. They're watching and listening and agree with most or all of what you say, but many in this group are wary of extremes. The more your position is framed as non-negotiable and you refuse to include them in the dialog, the more they fade away. You'll never even know they're gone.

Conversation is key. For my visual friends, I offer up the following classic from Seinfeld called "The Ribbon Bully" (click on the link if you don't see the video below, it's a keeper). Let's stay together, have conversations, get meaningful change and figure this out. And for all my friends in the middle, when someone surprises you and wants to have dialog, it's non-negotiable to engage and try to listen more than you talk.


HR Capitalist Definitions: "Success Theater"

2020 has been a bear. For many, there haven't been a lot of wins or success to focus on. But as the economy stabilizes and you realize the new normal, you may find the team around you slipping back into some habits that were normal in the 10-year economic expansion that happened between 2010 and 2020. Those habits are likely counterproductive in a post-COVID world, even if your company goes from being on the brink to being "safe" (whatever that means these days). Success theate

One of those habits is called "Success Theatre".  Below is a quote from John Flannery, the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of GE who took over for Jeff Immelt (the guy who followed Jack Welch):

“Flannery had taken to uttering a new mantra around the company’s shiny new offices in Boston: “No more success theater.””

— from Lights Out: Pride, Delusion, and the Fall of General Electric by Thomas Gryta, Ted Mann

Success theater. There hasn't been a lot of that for most of us in 2020, but as stabilization occurs, it's likely to sneak back in. Success theater happens when business units and departmental leaders report the good stuff that's happening in their area, but don't report a lot of challenges. This condition is a big part of operations reviews during up periods, where groups use result readouts as PR campaigns, emphasizing the good and hiding/minimizing the bad or challenges.

2020 has been a terrible year. As you get back to normal as a leader, don't lose sight of the new muscle memory you were forced to develop regarding asking for bad news - either before the good news or closely following a brief golf clap of the good news.

A lot of us had success theater around us from 2016 to March of this year. Remember the hard times, and ask for the bad news early in any operational review you're doing. Institutionalize that ask.

Be paranoid once your company has stabilized or recovered. No success theatre in 2021 or 2022, right?


WORST BOSS EVER: Just Watch How They Treat Others When Off Camera...

It's a line as old as time itself. The wisest person in your family gave you the following advice when it comes to the true test of any individual:

"If you really want to know who someone is, watch how they treat others when they think no one is watching"

Without question, you've heard that saying or a variant of it. And it's 100% true. 

This wisdom was on full display last week on a virtual Senate hearing. Here's the rundown from New York Mag:

In the middle of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s testimony before (a video-chat version of) Congress on Friday morning, Delaware senator Tom Carper experienced the kind of tech hiccup so many of us have while working from home over the last few months. And Carper — not realizing his screen and audio were being recorded for everyone to see — didn’t hold back his frustration.

After being called on to speak and almost missing his window because of the technical difficulties, Carper suddenly appeared, directing his ire over the problems at a masked staffer to his left. The senator intoned “f**k, f**k, f**k,” after which the poor man fiddled with Carper’s setup — which had already been restored.

What's interesting about this is that the Twitter mob, quick to cancel almost anyone, played it off and said words to the effect of "that's so 2020" and "who has not faced this?" - which are both correct sentiments.

But you know me. I like to dig a little bit deeper. My folks did tell me to watch how someone treats others when they think no one is watching - because it matters. Let's run through what I saw.  First, watch the whole video multiple times below (email subscribers click through to view or click this link):

OK, got it? Here's what I saw:

1--Yes, this can happen to anyone. Which is why patience is valued in these circumstances.

2--It's not so much that he said the F word, it's how he said it. He turned directly to a staffer who was there to help him, and he didn't say words to the effect of "please help me" even with some cursing included, he basically turned to the staffer (turning away from the camera) and just started abruptly saying, “f**k, f**k, f**k"

3 - That whole deal - turning to a staffer and doing the whole grumpy, abrupt, “f**k, f**k, f**k" without actually asking for help basically puts you on the list of worst Bosses alive. It's a big list, but act like this and you're on the list.

4--Also notable is the fact that he couldn't handle the tech after being coached 100 times, and then clicks on something as he's turning to lambast his help and opens up the mic right before he turned to the staffer to drop f bombs - classic. It means he took responsibility for the tech, but then couldn't handle it, then kind of bullied someone under pressure.

The mob that usually cancels people was quick to play it off. To be clear, I'm not into the cancel thing, so I'm not interested in that angle. I'm not calling for anything.

But dig a little deeper on the mannerisms and call it for what it is. Powerful guy with awful habits related to how he treats people.

Worst Boss Ever - he's on the list.

 


The Best Study I've Seen on How Work is Changing in a COVID World...

There's been a lot of guessing related to how the world of work is changing in a COVID world, especially for white collar professional jobs who have the ability to work remotely in the lockdown. Hot takes include the following:

--Remote work is here to stay, pack up the office.

--Productivity is at an all-time high! 

--Everyone hates Zoom.

Are any of those true? Maybe, maybe not - I find the truth always lies somewhere in the middle. 

But the best study I've seen to date is the one below from NBER, which looks in depth at the impact of the COVID lockdown on a specific topic - meetings - across meta-data from 3 Million users. Yes, 3 million!  So meaningful that we talked about it on a segment of one of my podcasts, HR Famous.  See the top line notes from the study below and then take a listen to the podcast for discussion.

More meetings. More participants in those meetings, shorter meetings in length, longer workdays.  Best study yet, check it out and take a listen to the pod segment as well.

More from Marginal Revolution:

Using de- identified, aggregated meeting and email meta-data from 3,143,270 users, we find, compared to pre- pandemic levels, increases in the number of meetings per person (+12.9 percent) and the number of attendees per meeting (+13.5 percent), but decreases in the average length of meetings (-20.1 percent). Collectively, the net effect is that people spent less time in meetings per day (-11.5 percent) in the post- lockdown period. We also find significant and durable increases in length of the average workday (+8.2 percent, or +48.5 minutes), along with short-term increases in email activity.

That is drawn from data from Europe, North America, and the Middle East, in this new NBER paper by Evan DeFilippis, Stephen Michael Impink, Madison Singell, Jeffrey T. Polzer, and Raffaella Sadun.

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

In episode 27 of The HR Famous Podcast, long-time HR leaders (and friends) Tim Sackett, Kris Dunn and Jessica Lee discuss theories on why meeting times have decreased during the pandemic (but the number of meetings is up) and workplace relationship issues that have reemerged surrounding former McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook (McLovin from episode 2 of HR Famous).

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

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS

1:00 - The resident ginger of HR Famous is back from vacation! Welcome back Tim!

4:40 - Tim got some flowers for his wife and tried to share the great deal with the HR Famous crew and Jlee had to kindly reject (she doesn’t like roses!) and KD had bought flowers for his wife 30 minutes prior to Tim's text. Jlee also implores her vast knowledge of flowers onto the men of the group. 

7:00 - First topic of the day - a new study was released from the National Bureau of Economic Research about changes in the workday. The study shows that the number of meetings and number of attendees per meeting have increased during the pandemic, but there is a reduction in meeting length. 

9:20 - Jlee thinks the reduction in meeting time can be attributed to less travel time from meeting to meeting and the convenience of meeting remotely. How far do you have to travel to get to meetings in your office? KD thinks the reduction is due to having more meetings. Tim thinks it can be attributed to the digital platforms. 

12:30 - KD had to lead his first in person, socially distanced, masked up long meeting recently and he said it was horrible. He would prefer to do it through Zoom. 

15:00 - One more stat from this study: the average work day has increased by 48.5 minutes while working remotely. Tim doesn’t believe people are actually working more but they are just working at different times of the day. 

17:15 - How early do you schedule your meetings? Jlee is a fan of 7:30 am meetings. 


How Did You Grow Up? I See My Parents In Things I Do at Work Every Day (The Best Hire Ever Podcast)

At my desk in my home office, I have two things to remind me where I came from:

--A weathered work thermos that was used by my dad in his career as a Telecom Lineman, and JleeBHE 

--A desk bell used by my Mom in her long career as a 1st grade school teacher.

Those items are on my desk to remind me of how much influence both had on me. Not that I need them for that, because I see my parents (RIP Kent and Deanna) in things I do every day of my career. While I'm my own person, there's no doubt that there are tens, if not hundreds, of little influences from them related to how I communicate, react to wins, deal with losses and otherwise navigate through the workday.

I know I'm not alone in this, which is why I asked Jessica Lee of Marriott International to join me on the Best Hire Ever Podcast to talk about the influence of her parents on her career.

Jessica grew up in an immigrant household in Seattle and California - her parents were immigrants from South Korea. It was great to hear all the experiences that Jessica can remember and understands the impact that upbringing had on her life and career - and how she's trying to pass some of it on to her children.

Take a listen below and hit me in the comments or with an email to tell me how you see your parents in you every day you're on the job.

I bet they gave you great stuff. 

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

Please subscribe, rate and review (Apple) and follow (Spotify) to get the latest delivered to you.

 

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:

2:00 - Is it Jessica, JLee or JL?  Not Jess or Jessie, BTW.

3:00 - KD talks about the pressure for college admissions, first jobs, etc. on today's young workers. KD points out that Jessica has done great things, but did not have a master plan at 22 or 23 years old. JLee agrees and talks about going on a date in DC with a guy who wanted to know her 5-year plan.

6:15 - Jessica describes growing up in a household with immigrant parents from South Korea. She talks about being a 1.5 or 2nd generation American. Jlee also talks about her first memories related to work and her parents.

8:35 - KD asks Jessica about her parents' desire to "create something" and whether they communicated that vision. JLee talks about the contrast between her parents' approach and her own relationship with her children.  

10:45 - Jlee talks about her siblings, their achievements from a career perspective and her role as the youngest in a household with Korean heritage.

14:23 - JLee talks about what she sees in herself,  related to work, based on her memories of being raised by immigrant parents. JLee recalls that, while expectations were high, there was an expectation/reality that they had to figure things out on their own, which is a cornerstone of who she is professionally. 

17:45 - KD challenges JLee to find a single trait to attribute to one of her parents and she comes up with a great one - her mother's attention to detail and how everything communicates something specific to the outside world - appearance, communication, running a meeting, etc.

23:40 - Jessica talks about the relationship of how she was raised to how she's trying to raise her own kids. She talks about the positive impact of having no safety net on her and her husband and struggling with how much her kids should be forced to struggle. JLee also talks about her parents' expectation of a professional career vs how she wants to influence her kids related to career choice.  KD asks about what her 2nd generation Korean peers are doing related to safety nets for their children.

30:00 - Jessica talks about how mental illness in her family (peaking in her high school years) also influenced how she was raised and how she views the world, as well as the impact of losing her father when she was 20. All of it combined to provide her with drive and initiative, as well as her worldview. KD asks JLee if the mental illness didn't exist if she would still have the same drive from a career perspective.

35:00 - JLee shares info from her executive coaching sessions.  SCOOP!  KD and JLee talk about how having a limited safety net builds self-awareness and urgency.

39:15 - KD is back to JLee as a parent! How is she going to weave all of it together - background, experiences and more - to get the best possible outcome for her kids?  JLee talks about the balance between "stacking the deck" vs forcing them to bootstrap in life.

RESOURCES AND SHOW NOTES:

------------Jessica Lee

Jessica Lee

The HR Famous Podcast

------------Kris Dunn

Kris Dunn on LinkedIn

Kinetix

The HR Capitalist

Fistful of Talent

Boss Leadership Training Series

Kris Dunn on Twitter

Kris Dunn on Instagram


RTW: It's Like the Video Rental Scene in "I Am Legend"...

I'm not going to lie. I went back to my office a couple of weeks ago to pick some stuff up. It was f##king weird.

First, note that I work for a recruiting company where all associates can work from home, and our company offices are in Atlanta, which has been a bit of a hotbed with Surge 1B, 2 or whatever the CDC is calling it. We don't have to have Bevi_unitpeople in the office, so for right now, you'll generally find 1, 2 or yes, 0 people in the office on a given day.

The day I showed up (my first time since March), I knew it was going to be weird when there were only 20 cars in the parking lot on a Tuesday, for a building that has 100,000 square feet of office space. Mmmm, here we go.

I went up to the 6th floor, where our offices are. Keyed in, and presto - I'm the only one there. Lights off. Small and dim gray light coming in the windows on an overcast day. Wasn't The Walking Dead filmed in Atlanta? I have a new location for them to shoot from.

I needed some office things, so I roamed around. Lots of choice. I tried to remember who sat where to ensure I wasn't stealing from my teammates in a way that would cause issues.

But it's a pandemic, right? What was I worried about? I grabbed the chair that best suited my needs.

I got my stuff and got the hell out, a bit spooked at the lack of light and the isolation. I'd seen it before on the weekend, but that just meant I'm a workhorse at that time. Now it means we don't know when and if normal office space activity is going to resume.

As I got ready to leave, I went to check and see if there was a soda in the fridge for the road. I turned the corner, and there it was. The flavored water machine we had delivered in mid-March (do the math) as a new feature for the employees in the office.

As I tested the new flavors, I decided that if I come back before the office is officially open, I'm going to bring some friends. Not a firearm or a personal security guard - no, I'm going to bring some mannequins like Will Smith had set up in the video store in I Am Legend (click the link for video). 

After all, flavored water means nothing if I can't bitch that we're out of Peach Mango to someone.

KD out.


Are You Willing to Hire "Athletes" Rather Than Specialists at Your Company?

First up, the term "athlete" in this post is meant to describe hiring those who are generally smart, intellectually curious, quick on their feet, learn quickly, are great communicators and have DNA for drive/initiative - rather than hiring someone with domain experience in a job as your first concern.

With that description in mind, do you and/or your company favor athletes over specialists? Sometimes? Never? In what circumstances? Hfm

I'm drawn to the question since I read this passage from Diary of a Very Bad Year: Interviews with an Anonymous Hedge Fund Manager by Anonymous Hedge Fund Manager:

“HFM: I didn’t go to business school. I did not major in economics. I learned the old-fashioned way, by apprenticing to a very talented investor, so I wound up getting into the hedge fund business before I think many people knew what a hedge fund was. I’ve been doing it for over ten years. I’m sure today I would never get hired.
 
n + 1: Really?
 
HFM: Yeah, it would be impossible because I had no background, or I had a very exiguous background in finance. The guy who hired me always talked about hiring good intellectual athletes, people who were sort of mentally agile in an all-around way, and that the specifics of finance you could learn, which I think is true. But at the time, I mean, no hedge fund was really flooded with applicants, and that allowed him to let his mind range a little bit and consider different kinds of candidates. Today we have a recruiting group, and what do they do? They throw résumés at you, and it’s, like, one business school guy, one finance major after another, kids who, from the time they were twelve years old, were watching Jim Cramer and dreaming of working in a hedge fund. And I think in reality that probably they’re less likely to make good investors than people with sort of more interesting backgrounds.
 
n + 1: Why?
 
HFM: Because I think that in the end the way that you make a ton of money is calling paradigm shifts, and people who are real finance types, maybe they can work really well within the paradigm of a particular kind of market or a particular set of rules of the game—and you can make money doing that—but the people who make huge money, the George Soroses and Julian Robertsons of the world, they’re the people who can step back and see when the paradigm is going to shift, and I think that comes from having a broader experience, a little bit of a different approach to how you think about things.

When you think about hedge funds, the book quote above displays a common trend. In the early days of any industry or specialty, it's easier to hire the best athlete available, mainly because domain experience doesn't really exist or is generally unavailable. The industry is too young.

But as the industry matures, risk taking on new hires goes down - because candidates with domain experience are widely available.

We could all probably stand to hire more athletes who are capable of not only doing the job in question, but become an agile talent asset for the company. But just saying that you're open to hiring an athlete doesn't mean you'll have success.

For best results in hiring "athletes", you'll need to define what makes someone an athlete. You won't generally find that on a resume, you'll need an assessment package.  For me, a candidate would qualify as an athlete if they have a high cognitive capability, low rules orientation (because I want to throw them at anything I want, they can't be hung up on that), high details (drives execution) and great writing and verbal skills.

They'd also have to be familiar with the term, "fake it 'til you make it", which I think is the mindset of any "athlete" worth her salt as defined by this post.

What did I miss?


What Is Your Pettiest Reason For Being Lukewarm On A Candidate?

Updating this post for COVID-19, although most of you are bigger than that. But that doesn't mean we're not all small in some way...

I'm asking. You know you have some type of petty thing - that's caused you to rank a candidate lower Pettinessthan they should have been.

Candidates who got impacted by COVID? You'll get through that and not hold it against them. But you'll still be holding something small against a cross-section of candidates.

I'm not talking about bias with a capital "B".  I'm talking about bias with a smaller than lower case "b".   It's so petty that the "b" in bias is actual two font sizes smaller than the rest of the word.  

Mine?  I have a hard time with candidates who take me out of my normal messaging environment.  Namely, the ability to use iMessage across different devices and communicate with team members is a preference - not a necessity.  I've hired people that I can't message on the iMessage platform before, and will in the future.  Best candidate wins. 

But when I pick up my phone to SMS a candidate rather than iMessage from my mac, I need to remind myself best candidate wins.  Twice.

What's your pettiest reason for being lukewarm on a candidate?  Hit me in the comments, or message me.  Unless you're not IOS - if that's the case, definitely hit me in the comments.


Working From Home: Can You Give Me Some More Energy Please?

We know that post-COVID, more work from home is reality. We'll still have offices, but it's going to be hard to get all the way back, right?

How do we know that Jenny and Mike aren't feeling great and maybe aren't giving it everything they need to on a random Monday?  

Simple! Emotional Recognition Software! One provider in this field has the following stats since call center reps went to mostly virtual work during COVID-19:

--Average Customer Experience Scores have fallen by 4% Hugs

--Prompts to call center reps from Emotional Recognition providers to show "more energy" have increased by more than 30% during COVID-19.

Think about that last note for a second. You're doing your thing at work, and a virtual agent pops up and asks you/reminds you to show "more energy."

You probably have two thoughts to that on a random Monday during the COVID lockdown:

1--"###k off, Siri"

2--"Hmm. I wonder what my composite approachability score is compared to the rest of the team?" (becomes a happier person on the next call intro).

Emotional recognition was making great strides prior to 2020, but in an environment with more remote work, rises in importance to business outcomes. More from Bloomberg:

Cogito’s software monitors every call agents make, analyzing metrics like tones of voice to see how the conversation is going. It’s found that since the start of the pandemic, average customer experience scores have fallen by 4%. It can respond by giving agents prompts to, say, be more empathetic to a raging caller. As virtually all call center agents shifted to work from home, Cogito’s prompts for them to show more energy at a work increased by more than 30%. 

This kind of technology, which Cogito calls “emotion recognition,” is controversial. The AI Now Institute, a research center at New York University focused on ethical issues related to artificial intelligence, questions its validity as science, and has urged governments to make sure the tech won't "play a role in important decisions about human lives.” 

Joshua Feast, Cogito’s president and chief executive officer, says he understands the trepidation, but frames the tool as a way to give employers insight into how to improve people’s jobs. “How are my people doing? I want to know. But I don’t want to surveil them,” he told me in an interview last week. When I responded that it seemed hard to argue that Cogito wasn't a surveillance tool, Feast offered a more nuanced take. “There’s a difference between surveilling the work and surveilling the human,” he says. “It’s fine to monitor the call—that’s what we do. That’s the work.” 

Few of Cogito’s clients allowed people to work from home before the pandemic, but Feast thinks that’ll change. This is a big opening for a tool like Cogito, which can be a stand-in of sorts for human management. As workers' stress levels increased, says Feast, Cogito changed the mix of automated feedback it provided to include more positive reinforcement. It also designed new alerts for managers, directing them to give workers attaboys when the tech determines they’ve done a good job on a call. 

Make no mistake - emotional recognition software exists to drive business outcomes. But, if used correctly, it can also drive the need to recognition and other positive interactions - more carrot, less stick.

But there's no hiding when Siri (or whatever they call the agent that pops up) tells you that you need to be more positive. #bigbrother

Another positive application of this type of technology is underscoring the need for broad deployments of mental health initiatives inside companies - note I said "broad initiatives" because eventually emotional recognition will be able to monitor remote comms of all types and tell you who is primed or a breakdown or has bipolar tendencies.

Welcome to the new world. Good luck, HR friends.


Opportunity for Great HR Pros: Making Remote Work Recommendations Post-Covid While Cutting Rent...

It's all going to change! Once people have worked from home for this long of stretch, they're never coming back to the office!

If I could short the stock of every expert who has made these proclamations in the COVID-19 Cubeslockdown era, I would. That being said, the world of work IS likely to change based on what we've learned. But offices aren't going away. They'll change.

In white collar America, the trend has long been leaning towards more remote work. Some companies have taken the full plunge, some have barely dipped their toe in the true "remote workforce" water.

The most likely outcome in a post-COVID world? Companies with large white collar workforces are likely to ask the following questions after we're through this crisis:

What did we learn about our people's ability to work 100% remote?

What adjustments do we want to make to our previous assumptions about using remote workers?

What positive financial implications can this have for our business?

Ding! Ding! Ding! Hey HR leaders and HR pros! Some of the your companies will be late to ask these questions because everyone is in survival mode, even after people return to the office. That's why thinking about the future of work at your company should be something you own. So let's work through what your game plan should be.  Ready? Here we go.

1--Get the number of white collar professional FTEs at any location in your company. For sake of this exercise, I'm going to use "200 FTEs"

2--Get lease info - the amount of rent you pay to a landlord to support those FTEs with office space. For our exercise, I'll use this calculator that says on average, a 25 person company with average space requirements would need an estimated 6,250 square feet (25 people x 250 sf/employee).  Do the math for 200, and you arrive at 50,000 feet of space for a company/location with 200 white collar workers.

3--Calculate your current cost - I'll use an average of $24 bucks per square foot for decent space in Atlanta, which means the annual cost for 50,000 feet is $1,200,000 (note this is an effective per square foot rate after rebates, free rent and T&I).

4--Now you - the HR/Talent Pro - make a recommendation to you leadership team on that we learned a lot about working remote during COVID, and your company should take advantage of more remote work as not only a recruiting advantage, but a financial advantage.  

Run the numbers based on your current state/future state. If your company was almost 100% work in the office, you make the recommendation that we're going to drop the number of days worked in the office by your workforce by 40% (moving from 5 days a week in the office to 3), and the impact is clear. If you already had some remote days, do your own math but make the cuts related to time in the office significant.

5--Calculate the savings and make your recommendation. If your annual cost for rent is $1,200,000, and you propose to drop days in the office by 40% - and you state that over time, that equates into an opportunity not just offer remote work as a recruiting advantage, but as a financial advantage that could deliver $480,000 in savings.

Some of you will say your lease has 5 years to run. That's what subleases are for, Sparky. Some of you will say the owner/founder of your business owns the building. Sounds like a sweet deal for Tommy. You can still sublease, my friend. If you sublease the space you don't need at $12 per square foot, you're looking at $240,000 in annual savings in the example above.

And of course, if your lease and your agreement is up for renewal or will be in the next year, you should do this math quickly and make your recommendation.

THE WORLD OF WORK WILL CHANGE due to the Shelter in Place lockdown we experienced via COVID-19. It just won't go 100% remote.

Grab this opportunity as an HR Leader and make your recommendation for remote work. Regardless of your current position as a company, more remote work is a recruiting advantage - and a financial one as well.