HR Capitalist Definitions: "Bespoke" (as Used in Corporate America)

I'll start you off with the regular definition, which is what you know:
 
--------------------------------------------------
be·spoke
/bəˈspōk/
 
--made for a particular customer or user.
"a bespoke suit"
 
--making or selling bespoke goods, especially clothing.
"bespoke tailors"
--------------------------------------------------
 
Sounds awesome, right? You're going to customize it to fit me? Could not be better! Thank you!
 
But there's a slippery slope going on in the corporate world. Providers, especially of technology solutions, are increasingly referring to implementations that aren't supported or standardized as "bespoke".
 
Which is code for, "this could go horribly wrong and cost much, much more in both time and expense than you're ready for."
 
Here's how you'll see it referred to:
 
"Our solution has a standardized integration for iCIMS and Workday. For bespoke implementations, we offer webservices SOAP API to utilize the functionalities of integrated ATS systems".
 
Translation: This is going to hurt you more than it hurts us.
 
But we're using the word "Bespoke" to make it sound like you're getting a custom suit from a London tailor.
 
If someone uses the word "Bespoke" with you to describe an integration, they're talking down to you and downplaying the level of sh#t you're going to deal with.
 
Proceed with caution. 

MORE MUSIC TO WORK BY: Anna Meredith

Who out there likes to work to music?

When you're working on your laptop, music can either help or hurt your attention.  For me, Anna it's always felt better to have the TV in the background as music has generally interrupted my flow.

I've found exceptions to that rule - most notably, the soundtrack from the movie "The Social Network", created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.  You remember the movie from 2010, chronicling the rise of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. 

What makes for good music in the background to work to?  One word - "ambient".  Here's the definition of ambient music:

"a style of gentle, largely electronic instrumental music with no persistent beat, used to create or enhance a mood or atmosphere."

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross created great ambient music for work with the soundtrack from "The Social Network".

Good news - I have another recommendation for music that's great for the background while you work - Anna Meredith.  Here's a description of who she is:

Anna Howard Meredith MBE (born 12 January 1978) is a British composer and performer of electronic and acoustic music. She is a former composer-in-residence with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and former PRS/RPS Composer in the House with Sinfonia ViVA.

In 2016, Meredith released her debut studio album, Varmints, to widespread critical acclaim. An electronica-based release, the album won the 2016 Scottish Album of the Year Award.

Meredith first came to widespread public attention through her work froms created for the 2008 BBC Last Night of the Proms which was broadcast to 40 million people. She has since written another BBC Prom commission, her first opera (Tarantula in Petrol Blue – with libretto by Philip Ridley) and collaborated with the beatboxer Shlomo – writing the Concerto for Beatboxer and Orchestra. Meredith has been a judge for BBC Young Musician of the Year, a mentor to Goldie for the TV show Classical Goldie and is a frequent guest and commentator for the BBC Proms and other BBC Radio 3 and 4 shows.

As an alt rock/hip hop guy, Anna Meredith would not ordinarily be on my radar , but I caught a fragment of one of her songs - Orca - in the background of the Paul Rudd Netflix series "Living with Yourself", which I also recommend.

Link to the Anna Meredith cut "Orca" here, spotify player below (email subscribers click through to see player). To check out the catalog of Anna Meredith, use this Spotify link.


Cards Against Humanity Buys Small Company, Makes It Employee-Owned...

Interesting pull from the news for you today with a little Capitalist analysis.

You've heard of Cards Against Humanity. Have you heard of a acqui-hire?  It goes a little something like this: Clickhole

ac·qui·hire
/ˌakwiˈhīr/
noun
noun: acqui-hire
1. an act or instance of buying out a company primarily for the skills and expertise of its staff, rather than for the products or services it supplies.
"this would appear to be a straight acquihire to pick up an engineering and product design team"

The art of the acquihire is alive and well for companies like Google with unlimited resources, who often buy companies strictly for a key group of talent - often 10-20 key employees - even though they think the product of the company they are buying is trash. Put some wealth in the pockets of the targeted talent, lock them in with employment agreements and slowly push them towards projects/lines of business you think have more value.

Back to Cards of Humanity - they're in the news with an acquihire, but with a twist - they're giving a large part of the acquired company to the employees of the company. More from BuzzFeed:

Cards Against Humanity, the card game company, purchased ClickHole.com from its owners at G/O Media on Monday for an undisclosed amount in an all-cash deal, BuzzFeed News has learned. ClickHole’s employees will become the majority owners of the site. Although terms were not disclosed, the Wall Street Journal reported in November that the sale price was likely to be less than $1 million. The Onion, which created ClickHole, will remain a part of G/O Media.

Max Temkin, the cofounder of Cards Against Humanity, told BuzzFeed News that the deal will allow ClickHole to bring on additional staff — it currently has only five full-time employees — and explore new revenue streams. He also said the site would operate independently, with financial support from Cards Against Humanity. ClickHole staffers will not be involved in writing any Cards Against Humanity content.

“We’re giving them funding, and if they ask us, we’ll be an advisor,” Temkin told BuzzFeed News, saying that the ClickHole team will operate independently, with financial support. “We just want to give them a chance to do their thing. They’re really capable — really smart and innovative. And I don't know if they’ve had that opportunity before to try all these creative [ideas for the site].”

The Onion launched ClickHole in 2014 as a send-up of sites like Upworthy and BuzzFeed. It moved on to satirizing online political discourse with PatriotHole and ResistanceHole. Yet it has consistently transcended mere parody and created its own sublimely absurd universe. Quizzes like “Which One of My Garbage Sons Are You?” or its running series of fake banal quotes from celebrities earned it a loyal, independent following.

Cards of Humanity is doing an acquihire with a twist with this acquisition - they found a troubled company for sale, and believed in the talent that existed. BUT - this form of acquihire transfers wealth to the talent not directly to their bank account, but by giving them ownership in the company.  That's a powerful retention tool, and if for some reason they can't make it work, the talent is sure to remember that Cards gave them a chance to save the company and turn it around through their investment and subsequent transfer of ownership.

Moving acquired talent to ownership positions is a powerful play.  And by "talent", I mean people that make up quizzes like "Which one of my garbage sons are you?" It's 2020 - quizzes like these matter!

For great point of view on all things employee ownership and ESOP, follow who I do - Jennifer Briggs.


What Does Being an HR Capitalist Mean?

Had a couple of people reach out to me in the last week with the express purpose of getting help to describe to others what being an HR Capitalist means.

It's a cool question. I like "HR Capitalist" as an identifier, and while all great HR pros and leaders aren't HR Capitalists (there's more than one way to be good at HR), I do believe that all HR Capitalists are great HR pros.

The readers that reached out to me were both non-HR execs who needed help describing to others what good HR looked like. It's a cool compliment that they reached out, and their question is humbling and one I take seriously but don't pretend to know the answer to.

For me, being an HR Capitalist means you identify yourself as an HR pro who does the following things naturally:

--Understand the business your company is in better than some or all of your peers in other departments.

--Understand the truth that the best talent wins, and anything you can do to help your company upgrade talent is win/win.

--You're not afraid to admit that recruiting isn't a burden, it's a necessity as part of your identity as an HR/Talent pro.

--You are a source of counsel for employees, peers and the C-level alike. They all know you're practical as hell, don't sugarcoat your feelings and generally give great advice. They also know you can put the conversation they have with you on complete lockdown from a confidentiality perspective.

--Understand the need for rules and process, but you don't let it run your life as an HR pro.

--Try to say "yes" more than "no" as a HR pro, even if the "yes" is a list of things that the person in front of you might have to do to in order for you to help them.

Those are the highlights, but I wrote a book that explores the lifestyle of an HR Capitalist as well - The 9 Faces of HR. 

9 facees

In The 9 Faces of HR, my forward to the book is a bit of a private letter to the people who do great HR, many of whom are HR Capitalists. I'll leave this post with a clip from the forward to The 9 Faces of HR:

If I’ve learned one thing over twenty years as a manager, director, and VP of HR for big and small companies alike, it’s that great HR matters. While HR has long been considered a backwater by the salty characters from other departments, we all encounter in our daily corporate lives great HR pros who have a way of making people standup and take notice, often causing the following reaction: “WTF?”

When the non-believers curse, they don’t curse because they find the HR pro in front of them non-credible. They curse because they didn’t expect to be challenged. And that’s the whole point—non-believers love bad HR. They love bad HR because it means they either do what they want as quickly as possible, or inaction and delays get blamed on someone else.

Great HR, on the other hand, is a revenue producer. No, I don’t have the return on investment (ROI) study on that—stop reading now if you need that. I didn’t need the stat sheet to know that Steph Curry was different or that Carrie Underwood was going to be the most successful American Idol contestant. Like great HRPros, Steph and Carrie were just different. They had “it.”

Great HR pros and HR Capitalists have "it". If you've ever been told that "you're not like other HR Pros I've known", odds are you do HR in an unexpected way.  

Being told that also means there's a high likelihood I would define you as an HR Capitalist.


Are There Any New Ideas in HR and Recruiting? The Difference Between Trademark/Copyright/Patent...

There's gon' be another cat comin' out
Lookin' like me, soundin' like me, next year I know this
They'll be a flipside, do whatchu you do
Somebody'll try to spin off like some series

--Everlast, "Rock Superstar", Cypress Hill

We love to talk about doing things differently in the worlds of HR, Recruiting and Talent. Innovation matters, and that's a good thing.

But what if you truly came up with something new? How would you protect your IP? Let's start with a refresher course on the differences between trademarks, copyrights and patents, because these are referred to horrifically wrong about 50% of the time in our industry.

For those in need, here's the difference:

--A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.

--A copyright protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. 

--A patent is a limited duration property right relating to an invention, granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in exchange for public disclosure of the invention. Patentable materials include machines, manufactured articles, industrial processes, and chemical compositions. 

(email subscribers, click through for graphic below on the differences between the three, including length of protection)

Trademark vs copyright

Innovation naturally begs the question whether you're doing something truly different or simply repackaging someone else's past ideas.

Does most of your innovative work in HR, Recruiting or Talent rise to the level of a Copyright or Trademark?  The answer is no.

You might have a new company - with a logo, descriptive tagline and color palette - go to town, pay an attorney and get a Trademark if you think that's necessary. If your revenue is under 1M, I'm not sure you're focused on the right things.  But you do you.

When it comes to ideas, most of the work we do in HR/recruiting and talent doesn't rise to the level of a copyright. You put a new program together, but you're like the Cypress Hill lyric above - you're borrowing from others, and when you're at your best, you create your own flavor - a flipside of the work of others, with some value added by you.

When we're at our best in HR, we're stealing stuff from the smartest people - and proud to do it.

It's interesting to get clarity on the difference between trademark/copyright/patent.

It's humbling to know that most of us will never have the need to file for any of these creative protections.

It's smart to acknowledge the most talented of us are repackaging the ideas of others and focusing on communications and execution.

Alot of a...sharks out there...try'na take a bite of somethin'
What's hot
Lot of chameleons out there...try'na change up
Anytime somethin' new comes along...everybody wants a bite
Don't happen overnight

--Chino Moreno, Cypress Hill

 


2020 Is The Year of HR Playing Offense...

Welcome to 2020. New year, new decade, new YOU.

I don't have resolutions as much as I have needs. And my biggest need in 2020 is to not be a victim.

Of course, I'm not really a victim in the clinical sense. I have 1st world problems, I'm not currently impacted by health issues, depression, crime, etc. But, when I think about the things that are causing me stress, I can almost always track it back to my own accountability in getting in front of issues and trying to resolve them.

That's just me being vulnerable. But when I look around, I see everyone else with the same problem. It's not just me.

That's why I hope that 2020 is the year of you and me playing offense, not defense.

What's playing offense in your career look like?  A couple of thoughts:

--Not letting negative situations linger without trying to proactively resolve them, not matter how sensitive.

--Being proactive with counsel to the people who need to hear from you.

--Taking one action step today on a project rather than waiting for yourself to develop the perfect plan.

--Developing systematic approaches for recurring issues - basically developing products/services that you can repeatedly use because you took the time to deal with something the right way.

--Proactively communicating your take/stance/point of view in a formal way so you're on record with what you believe/recommend and why.

--Doing things today rather than waiting until tomorrow.

--Confronting people who need to be confronted in a professional way - but keeping the message clear.

Playing offense in your career is all about not being a victim.  The world of work is a tough place, and what's generally limiting an individual's success (once the talent is obviously there) is their ability to act, communicate, position and build relationships proactively rather than waiting for feedback from others or the perfect time.

Act today, win tomorrow.  Stop planning - or plan less - and do more. 

If you like this blog and the voice it's written in, pick up my book as a tool for a fast start in 2020. You'll laugh, you'll cry and it will make you want to kick some a**.

My hope for me - and you - is that we play more offense in 2020. 

Good luck, my friends!

 

 

 


New Year's Resolutions For HR Pros Are All About Not Being a Slave to Transactions...

New Year's Resolutions. Seems like they're trending down these days, doesn't it?  Does anyone do them?

The drill is usually about weight loss or some other type of personal improvement. We don't do resolutions as much at work, and that's a shame.

Resolutions at work can be powerful if used correctly.  And the best way to use resolutions at work is to pledge to do less work that doesn't matter, and more that does.

Example - being a slave to email is something we all fall pray to throughout the year. We hear the incoming tone, and we have to look.  And react.  Most the time, it could wait.  The right new year's resolution is to stop being a slave to email, to schedule the blocks of your day that you're going to deal with email, saving you time to work on things that really matter.

For HR pros of all levels, the resolution that matters most is to get out of allowing transactional work dictating the majority of your day.  Most transactional work for HR pros is delivered through email.  Somebody needs an answer to that.  Somebody else has a question about this.  You react all day long - so do I.  We're classical trained to react, to the point we trick ourselves into thinking that always being available is the best way to provide high service levels.

But - that take has more to do with being comfortable being needed and being able to have a sense of accomplishment.

It's like mowing the grass - when you do it, you look at the finished product and it's easy to see your effort led to the result.  That's comfortable.

BUT - it's fools gold. The big value add for HR pros isn't to answer questions, it's to do thinking work that leads to projects and initiatives that lead to added value.

And that added value, my friends, is uncomfortable.  What if we aren't good enough to add value in that type of work?  Most of us fear that subconsciously.

So we let email and other transactional work run our lives. 

My new year's resolution is to do email in three daily blocks - no more.  If I have gaps in my schedule with nothing to do, I'm going to pick the highest value project I can to work on and refuse to go back to email until it's time on my schedule.  

Wish me luck - and consider something similar.


AWAY BAGS: When Your Horrible People Practices Turbocharge Sales...

They say there's no such thing as bad publicity. That might be true.

For proof, look to Away Travel, which is the maker of the ultra-hip and ultra-cool Away Suitcase.  It's a Away trendy product, but one that I had an only passing awareness of.

Of course, that's before the shit hit the fan. My awareness is incredible now - more on that later.

Many of your are aware of a scathing article about Away that published on The Verge, detailing a bullying culture based on the communication tool of Slack. The gist is this - Away promoted radical transparency and attempted to force all communication on the public tool that is Slack, and as a result, there was little to no privacy in communications. When a diverse set of employees tried to set up their own private Slack channel, a high ranking exec popped in to monitor/participate in the group, even though she didn't fit the diversity the group was based on.

A few days later, members of the group started being fired. The Verge article hit, and it was an internet sensation for a couple of days. If you want more detail about what's being called a toxic culture at Away, go read the Verge article now.

But I'm here to talk about what happened AFTER that article hit.  Here's the chain of events that I saw:

1.  Within days, CEO Steph Korey stepped down amid criticism of the ruthless internal culture at the luggage startup she co-founded.

2.  Away named a new CEO.

3.  I listen to a pretty ruthless podcast called Pivot with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway. They had Away on their list of things to talk about during the week it all broke. That wasn't going to go well for Away, because these two are ruthless with bad stuff at companies.

4.  Away didn't run. Instead, they leaned in and sponsored the podcast. I've never heard Away as a sponsor of this podcast, so I'm assuming they bought the ad rights to the episode that aired with their news.

5. Scott Galloway, one of the hosts, did a live read as a result - in his usual personality, having fun with it.  They had already made the call with the CEO, so the talk was more about the action the company took rather than the bad cultural stuff.

The lesson here? If you act quick enough (fire the people in question) and lean in to the coverage, you can actually create buzz around a product and turn the negative talk into a business opportunity.

Here's what I did after hearing the podcast - 

  1. I went and checked out the product.
  2. I'm at least 50/50 to buy an Away bag as a result.
  3. I never would have gotten that close to purchase without the hard lead in on the podcast and controversy by Away.

The lesson?  Act fast when bad stuff happens and don't hide.

If you run the right type of business, you might just end up with a boost to your business. While that's not a recommendation to bully people on Slack, it's a case study on how to react when bad stuff happens.

BONUS READING: A Guide to Away Bag Knockoffs on Amazon


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.


The Tyranny of Accent Walls In Corporate America...

True story for a Monday morning.

My wife said the following over the weekend:

"I'm painting an accent wall in the bedroom." Accent wall

My response:

"Are you ###ing kidding me?"

She was kind of taken aback by the velocity of my response.

Now, for the record, my wife has much better taste of all things design than I do. She has not, however, been slung around by corporate America to the same extent as I have.

It's not that accent walls are wrong. If that's the new trend in home design, so be it. But if you've spent the amount of time I have in office parks and mid-tier hotels across America as I have, you understand the following truth:

Accent walls in corporate America are the opiate of the masses. A design element to trick you into thinking the vibe in a company is upbeat, the sky is the limit and the culture is engaging.

It's not that the presence of an accent wall means those things aren't true - we have some at Kinetix. It's just that the correlation of those positive cultural items and an accent wall is "zero", which is to say there's no relationship at all.

The dirty little secret is that your culture comes down to the quality of your managers of people, and the platform you give them to understand your expectations about how they deal and talk with their employees. I did a whole training series on that being the reality of your culture.

Need some other things that are as cool as your accent wall, but have a zero correlation to great culture? I thought you'd never ask. Here you go:

1--Cool furniture not related to the actual workspace people work at.  Love this one - there's nothing easier to dress up an office than slinging some furniture in corners while Tammy still has gum stuck under her cube desk that's 7 years old.

2--Foosball. Seems cool. Feels cool. I'm undefeated. Zero correlation with culture.

3--Open floor plans that ditched the cubes (even low lying ones) and forced you to work at tables. Man, if you work like that, I'm sorry. Hit me on Slack and tell me about it. I blame farm to table.

4--A proclamation that you are reducing email and putting quick hitting updates and comms on Slack or another similar tool. See what I did there? I presumed if you were working at tables with your brethren that you also work on Slack. So predictable. Sorry homeslice - just because you do less email than your competitors doesn't make you better culturally. Trendy? Yes. More productive? Show me the data.

The quality of your culture really all comes down to the quality of the conversations your managers have with their people. Are they two-way conversations? Does the employee get to come of with some of the ideas?  I could go on, but you get the drift.

As for that accent wall, I'll probably leave it up to Mrs. Capitalist. But if she starts naming the rooms in the house like we do conference rooms, that's where I'm drawing the line. And no, I don't need your recommendations for what a bedroom would be named. That's why the comments are "off" on this post.

KD out.