Non-Competes and Non-Solicitation Agreements: You're a Sucker If You Don't Think They Apply To HR

So you locked down your sales team and the techies who drive the value of your intellectual property (IP) with a solid, enforcable non-compete and non-solicitation executed at the time of hire.  Sure they balk and complain, but you get most of those signed.  Congrads, smart move.

What's that?  You're glad you don't have to do the same with your HR team?  Really?  You don't have your HR Managers, Director and VPs and all your recruiters locked in to anon-compete and non-solicitation? Trust-but-verify

You're either a sucker or rationalizing to avoid the conflict.  Of course, your top HR talent and anyone who recruits should have to sign a fair non-compete.

Think about it - we're talking a narrowly drawn non-compete and non-solicitation.  Your top HR team members (I say manager and up) and anyone who recruits should have to sign one.  We're not preventing them from working by signing the non-complete, we're simply agreeing that they won't take all the training, contacts, employees and candidates that they've cultivated during their time with you to your most direct competitors.

A narrowly drawn non-compete and non-solicitation doesn't mean HR pros can't find work.  If fact, the HR game is one of the best in terms of its talent being able to cross industries and work.  That "career portability" means your HR team can sign a non-complete that's properly drawn (example - we're a software company and you can't go to work for another software company in our city/industry or that recruits developers proficent in the same programming language as our company) and find work pretty easily if they're talented in the HR game.

Why wouldn't you ask them to sign a fair non-compete and non-solicitation?  Because you either don't think they're talented enough to get the same job with your top industry competitor, or you don't want the drama of walking them through it and requiring it.

Either scenario sounds dicey to me.  

Draft the non-compete and non-solicitation and put it in front of them.  Explain the narrow parameters and require them to sign it.  You'll be happy you did somewhere down the line.

Should You Let Your Employees Vote About Where To Move Your Offices To? Probably.

I'm p*ssed off but I'm too polite
When people break in the McDonald's line
Mom and Dad you made me so uptight
I'm gonna cuss on the mic tonight

I'm rockin' the suburbs
Just like Michael Jackson did
I'm rockin' the suburbs
Except that he was talented
I'm rockin' the suburbs
I take the cheques and face the facts
That some producer with computers fixes all my sh*tty tracks

--Rockin' The Suburbs, Ben Folds

It's a classic example of "don't ask the question unless you're going to honor the answer."

Let's say you've decided that you're going to move your offices to another location - due to space needs, effective rent issues or other reasons.  You're in the market, looking at 5-6 different locations and you've cut it to two,both with a fairly even number of pros/cons.  

Do you let your employees vote on which location they'd rather be at?  HealthSouth, headquartered in Birmingham, recently did just that. More from

"HealthSouth CEO Jay Grinney surveyed all of his corporate employees while looking at potential sites for the new headquarters: Would you rather work in Liberty Park or in downtown Birmingham?

The company had narrowed down the move to spots in Liberty Park or in an area near Regions Field downtown. But the answer from the 500 employees who work in the corporate headquarters was resounding.

"Something like 70 percent of our employees preferred the [Liberty Park] site over downtown," Grinney said. "A lot of people and other leaders in the community were really urging us to go into the midtown location. I, personally, did not want to make a move where 70 percent of the corporate employees would not be happy."

How do you view that information?  55/45 probably doesn't tell you to go to one location or another.  60/40 might, but 70/30 closes the deal.  I think it's a good idea to ask people how they feel, but only if you're OK with giving that opinion weight in the final decision should the majority be clear and you're willing to report back.  Otherwise, don't ask.  

Grinney went on to take a shot at regional planning in the Birmingham metropolitan area:

"About a decade ago, officials suggested building an elevated toll road over U.S. 280, igniting a years-long controversy over the project. Communities including Homewood, Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills protested the highway. Years later, the project lost momentum. 

"It's sort of ironic," Grinney said. "If we, as a community, had chosen to proceed with the elevated toll road that was being contemplated several years ago, that toll road probably would have been completed by 2018. Had that been the case, we probably would be going downtown, because traffic congestion would be a moot point." 

It's a good lesson that a lack of regional government will effectively slowly choke out the urban core of any city (in the case of Birmingham, affluent suburbs the toll road was going to have to be built through effectively killed the project).

As a result, HealthSouth will be rocking the suburbs - like Ben Folds.

Cut the B.S. and Evaluate The "Fit" of Potential Hires With Just 2 Questions...

We're doing a Cultural/Motivational Fit Month over at my company - Kinetix.  Re-running this post today here since it fits that theme.  Head over to our blog at Kinetix, Tremendous Upside, to get more nuggets on evaluating cultural and motivational fit on your candidates and sign up to see the themes we talk about each month...


When it comes to interviewing, Larry King you are not...

When it comes to the workplace, there's a lot of theory out there regarding the best way to interview candidates.  Whether it's a Behavioral Interview, a Skill-Based Interview or an interview filled with hypothetical questions, everyone's got a system.  Most hiring managers in my experience ask way too many hypothetical questions (examples - "How do you deal with low-performing employees?"), a style I'm critical of since it's so easy to BS your way through that type of interview.

The fact that hypothetical questions are easy to fake (No strengths?  Just make some up and sell it baby!) gave rise to the behavioral interview, which attempts to cut through the hype/spin by asking candidates about specific experiences they have had.  Unfortunately, the Behavioral Interview is only as good as the interviewer.  You can ask a behavioral question ("Tell me about a time you had to tell your boss they were wrong), but if the interviewee gives you hypothetical soft stuff back, you've got to have the ability to interrogate/grind on them about what they actually did when faced with that situation.  In my experience, even those with a lot of in-house training are limited in their ability to grind on a candidate.  Feels too much like interrogation.  Most of us hate confrontation...

What's my solution?  I'm a believer in the Behavioral Interview, but if I had only five minutes with aLarry_king2 candidate, I'd ask them the following two questions:

-Tell me when you have been most satisfied in your career...

-Tell me when you have been least satisfied in your career...

Those two questions measure Motivational Fit and are stunning in their simplicity.  Assuming you like the background and experiences of the candidate and are confident they can do the job, you really only need to evaluate if your company, the specific opportunity and the candidate are a fit for each other.  So ask these questions one at a time.  Once you get the response from the candidate, ask "why?" and say "tell me more" multiple times.  Then, s.h.u.t. u.p.   Seriously - stop talking.  Don't bail the candidate out, but rather force them to tell you what really jazzes them about jobs and companies, and subsequently, what drives them crazy.

Once you get that, you'll have what you need.  Candidate likes a a lot of structure, but all you can provide is that circus you call a company?  Move on.   Candidate likes to play ping-pong for 4 hours a day, but your CEO walks around evaluating if people are working hard enough by how unhappy they look?  Probably not going to work out.

Give it a try and spend at least 5 minutes on each item.  You'll be shocked at the value of what candidates tell you in response to these simple questions. 

The Time The CEO Raised the Minimum Salary to 70K and Found Out This People Thing is Kind of Complex...

This post is about unintended consequences.  Also about salary compression when a CEO decided to raise the minimum salary to 70K in his company.  

What could go wrong? More from the New York Times: YPO-Dan-Price-Gravity-Payments

"Three months ago, Mr. Price, 31, announced he was setting a new minimum salary of $70,000 at his Seattle credit card processing firm, Gravity Payments, and slashing his own million-dollar pay package to do it. He wasn’t thinking about the current political clamor over low wages or the growing gap between rich and poor, he said. He was just thinking of the 120 people who worked for him and, let’s be honest, a bit of free publicity. The idea struck him when a friend shared her worries about paying both her rent and student loans on a $40,000 salary. He realized a lot of his own employees earned that or less."

You're a hero Price.  Trump would consider you a commie, but screw Trump.  You're a humanitarian.  All the people who matter will love you for this.

Wait. Maybe not all of the people... Consider:

"The New York Times reports that two of Gravity Payments' "most valued" members have left the company, "spurred in part by their view that it was unfair to double the pay of some new hires while the longest-serving staff members got small or no raises."

Maisey McMaster — once a big supporter of the plan — is one of the employees that quit. McMaster, 26, joined the company five years ago, eventually working her way up to financial manager. She put in long hours that "left little time for her husband and extended family," The Times says, but she loved the "special culture" of the place.

But while she was initially on board, helping to calculate whether the company could afford to raise salaries so drastically (the plan is a minimum of $70,000 over the course of three years), McMaster later began to have doubts.

"He gave raises to people who have the least skills and are the least equipped to do the job, and the ones who were taking on the most didn’t get much of a bump," she told The Times. A fairer plan, she told the paper, would give newer employees smaller increases, along with the chance to earn a more substantial raise with more experience."

Salary compression. Damn.  Forgot about that.  Is there an HR pro in the house?  Probably not.  Well, at least the people who got the raise love what happened.

Wait- them too?  Sigh:

"The new pay scale also helped push Grant Moran, 29, Gravity’s web developer, to leave. “I had a lot of mixed emotions,” he said. His own salary was bumped up to $50,000 from $41,000 (the first stage of the raise), but the policy was nevertheless disconcerting. “Now the people who were just clocking in and out were making the same as me,” he complained. “It shackles high performers to less motivated team members.”

Mr. Moran also fretted that the extra money could over time become too enticing to give up, keeping him from his primary goal of further developing his web skills and moving to a digital company.

And the attention was vexing. “I was kind of uncomfortable and didn’t like having my wage advertised so publicly and so blatantly,” he said, echoing a sentiment of several Gravity staff members. “It changed perspectives and expectations of you, whether it’s the amount you tip on a cup of coffee that day or family and friends now calling you for a loan.”

Oh...right. High performers don't like socialism, and lots of people don't like others knowing what they make.  Got it.

Go read the whole article.  The lesson?  Capitalism works - for a variety of reasons.  Start compressing the difference between the most important employees and the masses, and you're going to have lot of unintended consequences.




VIDEO: What's Wrong with the Assessment Platform You're Using Today?

I had the chance to appear on the HireVue “Weird Science” Series as week, with Fistful's Tim Sackett pinging me on assessments and the data/insight they give you around hiring the right candidate for your company.

Listen to Tim and I talk about the science behind assessments and how to implement them with your team to get the greatest return on your investment (email subscribers click through for video that appears below)..

My takes in the conversation:

--Assessments that take over 25 minutes to complete kill the candidate experience.

--If you give a hiring manager a 10-page report, you'll guarentee they read none of it.

--If you want real ROI with assessments, do something with them once a candidate is onboarded into your company...

Enjoy!  I'm especially proud of the freeze fame picture they gave me below as a placeholder to the video....

STUDY: Engagement Down, But Retention is Relatively Stable?

Quantum Workplace reports that despite an improving economy, the US workplace dipped to an employee engagement low - an eight-year low for that matter.  You can get all the details in the Quantum Workplace 2015 Employee Engagement Trends Report.

What's interesting about the report is that while employee engagement is down, employees’ feelings on remaining at their employers have remained relatively stable. While the majority of retention-related items trended down, 76.1 percent of employees said it would take a lot to get them to leave their employer, which was a 0.23 percent improvement from the previous year when engagement was higher.

What the hell does that mean?  First, I think retention rates probably trail engagement levels, meaning that I would expect to see relative retention drop (turnover rises) in the quarters trailing this type of low tide in employee engagement.

Second, I think it's probably an opportunity, right?  If looks like the axiom "do more with less" continues to be the reality – with employees less engaged but more willing to tolerate it based on stable retention rates.  

I'm going to go "glass half full" and say that simply means there's never been a better time to to zig - while others zag - and invest in your workplace culture and climate.  This study shows there's never been a better time for that investment.

Get the full infographic from the study by clicking here.

CHART ART: This Picture Says If You Want a Good Raise, Get Another Job...

Take a look at this one:

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 11.57.06 AM

The analysis that I have on this one is pretty simple.  Look at the chart and you can only come to one conclusion - broadly, there is no such thing as "pay for performance".  For supervisors or normal worker alike. Interesting to see that worker pay spiked post-recession but managers continued to decline.  But I digress.

For the most part, employees have to change companies to get a big raise.  That remains true.

How much of a raise does it take to steal someone out of your company?  That depends how bad your company is or how shitty your managers are, right?

My rules of thumb for how candidates change jobs:

0% increase - candidates only change if they're desperate.

5% increase - you can get average candidates to change jobs for this amount if they're disengaged.

10% increase - where the bidding starts to get a happy productive employee to change jobs.

20% increase - gold standard for what it takes to rip a happy, productive worker out of a company and a job.

Happy hunting out there.  Look at the chart and you should be encouraged.  On the recruiting side of the house at least - the retention side?  That's another story...

Believe This? Poor Performing Employees Use Internet Explorer...

It's a mantra that's right up there with "Choosy Mothers Choose JIF".

Except it sounds like this: "Poor Performing Employees Use Internet Explorer".  

I know what you're thinking.  This is complete BS.  YOU, after all use IE, even though you've spiffed up and are now on IE4.  And yes, we know your IT function has you on complete lockdown.  So many objections, so little focus on performance.  

Would you believe an HR vendor actually has data to back this up?  Come on in here, Cornerstone On Demand, and DEFEND YOURSELF. More from The Atlantic: Ie

Cornerstone OnDemand, a company that sells software that helps employers recruit and retain workers, analyzed data on about 50,000 people who took its 45-minute online job assessment (which is like a thorough personality test) and then were successfully hired at a firm using its software. These candidates ended up working customer-service and sales jobs for companies in industries such as telecommunications, retail, and hospitality.

Cornerstone’s researchers found that people who took the test on a non-default browser, such as Firefox or Chrome, ended up staying at their jobs about 15 percent longer than those who stuck with Safari or Internet Explorer. They performed better on the job as well. (These statistics were roughly the same for both Mac and PC users.)

Michael Housman, the chief analytics officer at Cornerstone, said that while the company’s research hasn’t identified anything to suggest causality, he does have a theory as to why this correlation exists. “I think that the fact that you took the time to install Firefox on your computer shows us something about you. It shows that you’re someone who is an informed consumer,” he told Freakonomics Radio. “You’ve made an active choice to do something that wasn’t default.”

Let the tomato throwing begin in the comments from all the IE loving HR Pros.  

But if you stop thinking about yourself, there's probably some real truth in these findings.  First, Cornerstone took the data from job seekers, not actual employees, so the sample size is limited to that.  Hopefully that gets you off the ledge.  But more importantly is Housman's comment that "I think that the fact that you took the time to install Firefox on your computer shows us something about you. You’ve made an active choice to do something that wasn’t default.”

That's a pretty powerful statement, and while the study stops WAY short of connecting a correlation, I think he's hit the nail on the head.

To take something other than the browser default means you're naturally curious.  You're looking for a better way of doing things.  I'm not surprised there's a bit more retention with this group, because I think they (overall, individual exceptions will occur) will stay engaged for longer periods of time than a normal employee.  They don't need you to engage them - they're already curious enough to be engaged without whatever you're selling.  

On the performance front?  Doing something rather than default is an example of the holy grail - DISCRETIONARY EFFORT.  That's the most powerful thing you can have from a performance perspective, and if this group does it in their own life, you can bet they're going to do it elsewhere.

Use IE and are happy?  It doesn't mean you're a poor performer.  It's not always about you.

Well, yes it is.  Interesting study anyway.  Let it soak in.  There's truth there.

RELATED: My own research shows candidates who own Toyota SUVs, drink Blonde Venti Red Eyes and have a BMI of 22.5 make the highest performing employees.  Of course, that's based on a smaller sample size that what Cornerstone has above...

--Sent from my Google Chrome Browser

Organizational Turnover Paranoia: What Would David Ogilvy Do?

I'm plowing through a book from Advertising giant David Ogilvy called Confessions of an Advertising Man.  Ogilvy was considered the "father of advertising" and a creative genius by many of the biggest global brands. First published in 1963, this book revolutionized the world of advertising and became a bible for the 1960s ad generation and is still considered required reading by many in the ad game.

As you might expect, Ogilvy had some opinions related to the management of people.  One area he dips into is the paranoia that can accompany resignations.  Here's his strategy: David

When a good man quits, his cronies wonder why, and generally suspect that he has been mistreated by management.  Recently I have found a way to prevent this misunderstanding.  When my young copy chief resigned to become Vice Chairman of another agency, he and I exchanged letters in the style of a cabinet minister resigning to a Prime Minster, and they were printed in our staff magazine.  The dear defector wrote to me:

You must accept the blame for what I am as an advertising man.  You invented me and have taught me how much I do not know.  You once said that you should have charged me tuition all these years, and it's true.

I replied in kind:

It has been a grand experience to watch you grow in 11 short years from cub writer to Copy Chief.  You have become one of our best campaign builders.  Your vitality and resilience make it possible for you to remain clam and cheerful - contagiously cheerful - through all the tribulations which buffet copy chiefs.

Now - I'm on the record as HATING long, one-say email missives that someone is leaving the organization.  But getting permission to print an exchange between a manager and departing employee in which the employee acknowledges they have learned much from the experience at your company and the manager says a few nice words?

Gold.  We should do more of this.  It won't fit in every situation, but for voluntary terms where you like the person leaving, it has power.  The power is in the two-way exchange of gratitude.  Ogilvy says nothing about having a heavy heart related to the employee leaving (which can cause panic and strife), he's actually taking credit for GROWING the person in question - and the exiting employee is giving him credit for having done that.

Think like a marketer - even when someone resigns...

Paying Fast Food Workers $15 Per Hour - 4 Capitalist Thoughts...

There's been a lot of press recently about raising the wages for fast food workers to $15 an hour.  If you want a sampling, click here for some quick aggregation via Google....

The move to raise wages in this fashion polarizes the dialog.  Most people generally belong to one of two camps:

1. You're a capitalist.  You think the market decides, and any artificial, non-market related move to raise these wage levels is complete BS, or; Fast times

2. You've got a big heart.  You like the idea and think it needs to happen.  Who pays?  Who cares?  Get it done and let the economic impact fall where it may.

Of course, as with anything, there's a middle ground.  Related to raising the wages of fast food workers to $15 an hour, I don't think it's safe to assume that employers would just pay the money and everything would remain the same.

Things I wonder about include:

1. The employment scene is a marketplace.  If fast food workers are paid $15 per hour, does that mean fast food franchise owners now can hire different people?  If so, that really doesn't help the people we thought we were helping.

2. What do owners get for their bigger investment?  Seems like all the advocacy groups really don't talk about this.  I think they should.

3. What's the impact on turnover?  Cost of turnover studies are notoriously opinion-laded, swag-style guesses.  If turnover doesn't really go down, the change would be a failure.

4. If owners get more productivity, can you staff a location with fewer people?  That's a better way to get to the math.

Like the moderate Republican I am, I'm somewhere in the middle on this debate.  I think the liberals making this call are missing the boat by not attempting to answer some of these questions and frame the argument as such.  I think the pure Capitalists who are refusing to consider and cite the pure market forces are tone-deaf from watching too much Fox News.

The truth is somewhere in the middle.  What business benefits happen with the move to $15 per hour?  Prove the benefits or simply get to break even, and most reasonable people would support.  

Refusing to talk about what business owners get for their money?  Good luck with that stance - I wouldn't want you representing me.