Let's Look at Open Jobs + Unemployment Benefits Through the Lens of a Recruiting Department...

Do you believe that COVID-related unemployment benefits are preventing people from rejoining the workforce? This became a hot topic when the April 2021 Jobs Report showed one of the biggest misses on record—meaning the actual number of jobs the American economy was expected to add fell dramatically short of the expectation.

Like everything these days, it's been politicized. The GOP is out in force claiming people have been de-incentivized to work because of COVID unemployment. Joe Biden made a rare appearance to defend unemployment benefits policy, citing “There’s been a lot of discussion since Friday’s report that people are being paid to stay home rather than go to work," Biden said. “We don’t see much evidence of that.

Uh, ok.  Help-wanted-sign-on-store-window-vf

There's only two pieces of data that matter, and they're facts, not opinions. 1) Employers can't find the people they need, and 2) Potential employees that remain among the unemployed aren't taking jobs.

So let's get out of the opinion game and look at the numbers, and think about how a modern TA/Recruiting department deals with a sudden rush of openings. I've been through that game many times (as many of you have) and know the following to be true.

Let's start with the facts in the April 2021 jobs report:

--Total Open Jobs in America: 7,000,000+

--Total Number of Jobs Economists Expected to Fill out of that number: 1,000,000

--Actual number of Open Jobs that got filled: 266,000

--Performance vs Expectation: 26.6%

Feels like an F at best. Maybe there's a curve we're not aware of.

But that analysis is just low hanging fruit. Many of you are already aware of these numbers. So let's add some value by thinking about how a modern TA/Recruiting Department tackles a big rush of open jobs.

Many of you have seen your companies experience something similar to this. It goes a little something like this:

1--Your company was doing NO HIRING, THEN THEY OPENED UP 4-6 MONTHS WORTH OF POSITIONS.

You've been there, right? I feel you, friend.

So when that happens to a normal TA/Recruiting function, how do they react?

2--The normal TA/Recruiting Department goes into battle mode with the order to get a big chunk of the jobs filled each month. But remember that normal TA shops are designed to knock out a normal amount—not a peak amount—of positions every 60 days. 

3--Let's say you're dealing with that six month backlog and your TA/Recruiting Team is running at 150% capacity—hero time in the recruiting function. How long does that mean it takes your TA/recruiting team, running hot, to work through a 4-6 month backlog that pretty much got opened all at one time?  Well, it's not 60 days, because the company wouldn't let them hire up to get ready. At the end of the day, great/hero/epic TA/Recruiting performance works through this COVID-like backlog in 3-5 months, depending on staffing levels.  It's just math related to resources they have vs what the business threw on them. Nobody's to blame, but everyone's involved in the solution. Patience is required.

4--That means that a TA team dealing with a COVID-related backlog is operating at SUPERHERO levels if they are dispatching 1/3 of that backlog a month and doing very well at 1/4 of the backlog dispatched per month. That means it takes them a quarter or more simply to get back to normal, and that assumes the position volume dump gets back to normal. Show them some love at these levels.

Got it? Cool.

Now, let's compare that valid expectation of a crisis mode TA/Recruiting function kicking ass with what the economy just delivered:

--The Post-COVID dump of open positions: 7,000,000 (This is the economy acting like starved hiring managers.)

--The economists' expectation of what would get filled, aka the monthly target: 1,000,000 (at this rate, the backlog gets taken care of after 7 months, so seems like a low expectation, but we'll count it as reasonable based on the whole economy, what I laid out above, and the fact many are desperate for candidates.)

--What the market delivered: 266,000!

--Time to remove the backlog in TA/Recruiting terms at that pace: 26.3 months. W.T.F.

Yeah, that's a problem. To say nothing of the fact that the economy is not going to stop opening jobs—kind of like your hiring managers.

THE BOTTOM LINE IS THIS: Policy matters. We talk all the time about whether to add sign-on bonuses and other features to make our hiring more successful. But you can't have incentives (COVID-based unemployment benefits) that go against people reentering the work marketplace and expect better results.

The situation will improve. States are already moving to eliminate their COVID-related unemployment benefits, and the federal benefit runs out in September.

But, this is for sure: if the policy and the folks who ran it were a TA/Recruiting department leader, they'd be under the gun to make sure April's performance level didn't happen again.

KD out.


STEAL THESE SLIDES: I'm Making PPT Decks on HR/Recruiting With No Formatting For You to Use (as your own)...

STSEMailArt

Admit it – you loved the Netflix Culture deck back in the day, right? The simplicity, the great ideas, the black and white slides. But you don’t have enough time to spend on presentation decks. You have other stuff to do.

That’s why I created the Steal These Slides series!  Hit this link to get the first deck!

Every time we do a roadmap, a tool kit, or a whitepaper at Kinetix, we're going to create a simple deck for you to use in any way you see fit, delivered in the black and white spirit of the Netflix Culture Deck.

No Kinetix logo (after the title slide, just delete that one), but plenty of Kinetix thoughts. Start with our deck, add your own thoughts, delete what you don’t like or need, add art and presto! You’ve got a great deck to help you be the talent expert you are.

Our first set of slides in this series is How to Ramp Your Recruiting in a Post-COVID World. If you need the bigger white paper this deck is based on for background, click here to download. Otherwise, just click the button below and you'll be taken to the page with the slides.

Hit this link to get the first deck!

Keep being awesome. 


Amazon Employees (BHM1) Crush Union - 10 Things You Need to Know...

I’ll start this post with what should be obvious. Twitter’s not the real world, and neither is today’s version of the news. There are extremes on both sides of the news industry and what you read is likely to be more Op/Ed than true reporting. It takes real work to find true reporting these days.

A related issue is the unwillingness of normal people to share their thoughts and beliefs on any news topic of relevance in the world for fear of one side—generally the left these days—looking to shame the source for any thought not believed to be progressive enough.

It starts with dialog on race (hard topic coming off of 2020) but has spread like wildfire to other areas.

Simply put, the world needs all of us to be vocal when we can add value.

Which brings me to the topic of this post. Amazon

For months now, we’ve heard about organized labor (known as unions to the layperson) bringing justice and representation to Amazon workers at an Amazon Distribution Facility in Bessemer (Birmingham), AL. (In the case of the Amazon vote, the union in question was the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which I’ll simply refer to as the “union” from this point forward.)

 Last week, employees at that Amazon Distribution Facility voted “no” to that union representing them. 

But they didn’t just say “no”. Based on the numbers and the circumstances, the employees actually said, “HELL NO” (all caps to express the sentiment).

What’s been represented by the mainstream media over the past 4-5 months related to this union campaign is very different than the outcome. Due to that, I wanted to share some things that I want my HR, Recruiting, Talent and Business leader friends, who haven’t had much experience with organized labor, to know about the Amazon union drive in Bessemer/Birmingham and about organizing activity in general.

Before we get it into it, let me say this: every employee deserves an opportunity to earn a great living based on their performance. They deserve a safe environment that respects all people and provides maximum opportunity to all, regardless of race, gender, orientation and any other identifier.

If a union is the best option for a group of employees (because the company has failed), so be it. 

But a union wasn’t the best option for workers at the Amazon DC in Bessemer, AL, regardless of the pounding on the topic that happened from politicians and the media.

Let’s dig in and understand why something we were told was great (employees saying “yes” to a union at Amazon) was met with such strong opposition by an incredibly diverse set of Amazon employees in the Birmingham area. 

Buckle up, friends—this is a long one but an important one.

HERE ARE THE 10 THINGS I WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT THE UNION ORGANIZING PROCESS AT AMAZON (BESSEMER DISTIRUBTION CENTER):

1—Let’s start with the basic of how union organizing works, shall we?

The process of organizing generally works like this: a limited number of employees at any company are dissatisfied and reach out to a union organization wondering about representation. A process is followed, and if there’s enough interest, an election is held asking employees at the location/unit inside the company if they want the union to represent them.

If employees vote no, things remain as is. If the employees vote yes (simple majority is all that is needed), collective bargaining (negotiation) starts between the company and the union to create an agreement on all employment stipulations. There are 100 more things experts could tell you about this process, but let’s keep this high-level to make sure you’ve got the base.

Got it? Great.

2—The Union Organizing process at the Amazon DC had a lot of friends on the left, including POTUS, most mainstream media, Hollywood and more. 

Most of the people listed above assumed what they wanted to happen (employees vote “yes” to bring in the union) would happen based on the narrative they were building. It didn’t.

Article after article has covered the Amazon union vote as a watershed moment for workers, the left, and for organized labor. Most coverage cited hard working conditions in an Amazon DC as being unfair to workers. Is that true? You’ll have to dig in to the results to understand what the workers thought. But the media coverage was unrelenting over the past couple of months and was easily a 90/10 split—90% of articles talking in glowing terms about the union movement, etc. and only 10% actually doing reporting.

To increase the pressure, the POTUS was active, making the following statement.

"Today and over the next few days and weeks workers in Alabama - and all across America - are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace. This is vitally important - a vitally important choice," he said.

"There should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda. No supervisor should confront employees about their preferences."

More to come on that statement, because, as it turns out, unions and the employees who are pro-union have all the opportunity in the world to do exactly what Biden is talking about—pressure and coerce employees—as part of the process. We never hear about that.

And, of course, others weighed in. Bernie Sanders came to Birmingham (Bessemer is in the Birmingham, AL metro) to show solidarity with the workers and apply pressure. Entertainment stars piped in with their support, and some even came to Birmingham to support the union.

3—It’s probably warranted to talk a bit more about the organizing process that a union follows to get to an employee vote to give you more context.

I told you earlier that a union organizing process starts with a limited number of employees at any company being dissatisfied and reaching out to a union organization to ask about representation. Let’s keep adding to those notes.

My experience—and I hold it to be true—is that it’s never the high performers in any company who initiate inquiries about unions. High performers are almost always comfortable with a meritocracy and aren’t open to paying a % of their compensation in union dues. To be fair though, inquiries about unions can begin from departments inside companies with horrific managers. In addition, companies with high performance quotas like Amazon can sometimes incite some normal to high performers to consider union representation as well.

Once the call comes into the union, meetings are held away from work between that small group of employees and union organizers to discuss the issues. If the union sees opportunity, they will seek to invite more people to meetings to continue the evaluation process.

Once the union decides the opportunity is strong enough to warrant the additional effort, something called authorization cards are introduced, which ask employees to sign saying that they are interested in the union representing them. In order for a union to have enough cards to present to the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) and get a union election inside the company, they have to have at least 30% of employees within the “unit” in question sign the card.

4—Most unions want 50-70% of employees to sign authorization cards before presenting to the NLRB, because they understand many of the cards will be signed under duress and employees will flip back to the company side.

Here’s how asking for a card works in many circumstances. A pro-union employee will approach their colleagues and friends, give a little elevator speech about the unfairness on the company side and ask the person in front of them to sign the card as a signal that “you’re with us/me.”

At that point, the person being solicited has a choice: they can sign the card or not. As you might expect, many sign the card to avoid conflict with the pro-union person in front of them. Sounds awesome, right? When Joe Biden said workers should be able to make their decision about union representation without interference from the company, he fails to mention this form of coercion on the union side. That’s really weak.

5—The reason most organizing campaigns never get to a vote is because employees who don’t care for union representation get wind of the secret card signings going on and report it to the company in question.

Names for these employees reporting the presence of cards in the workplace range from “fink” to “hero” depending on your side of this. But once it’s reported that there are authorization cards in the workplace, most companies ramp up their training on what unions are and begin other union avoidance activities. More to follow on this in a bit.

6—Let’s talk about the result at this point.  The union got absolutely crushed in this thing. CRUSHED.

A union needs a simple majority of voting employees in order to win an election and earn the right to represent the employees unit. 50% plus one vote.

If you believed the media reports in the two months leading up to the Amazon DC union election, you either thought it was going to be a close election or it was a foregone conclusion the union would win.

The union got absolutely CRUSHED in this election by Amazon employees in the Bessemer DC.

Here are the results:

  • Total eligible voters – 5,876
  • Voided ballots – 76
  • Number of votes cast for the Union (RWDSU) – 738
  • Number of votes cast against Union – 1798
  • Number of challenged ballots – 505 (roughly 300 challenged by Amazon, 200 by the union)
  • Number of employees not casting a ballot – 2,759

Amazon’s statement on the vote pointed out that only 16% of employees at the Bessemer DC voted “yes” to the union. Amazon also correctly positioned the result: it wasn’t a win for Amazon (although it was); it was an overwhelming decision made by real employees with real jobs—and probably very few active Twitter accounts.

It should be noted that almost half of the employees in the defined unit (in this case, that’s the entire distribution center) did not vote in the election. Not voting in this election is in all practical purposes a “No” vote.

The union and organized labor got crushed by this outcome.

7—Amazon was helped by expanding the number of voters in the election. This is called defining and expanding the “unit” in any union election.

Here’s another thing to know about the Amazon outcome. When unions get the initial call from a disgruntled employee, they only want work units that maximize their chances of winning an election. This reality means that unions want to keep scope small. Better to keep the group small and win an election than expand the size and lose is the practical thinking.

A common employer strategy is to expand the size of the group voting on whether to be represented by the union. It’s counterintuitive to think employers would want to put more people at risk of being organized, but the bigger the group, the harder it is for pro-union pockets to have influence.

The NLRB hears arguments on this topic and provides rulings on the appropriate scope of a unit for any organizing process/election. For the most part, common locations or work units are the most frequent rationale in expanding the size of the unit that will vote yes/no on whether they want to be represented by the union in question.

One of the things I’ve read in the media was that when the union presented the authorization cards to the NLRB, they assumed the size of the workforce was 1,500 workers. Amazon responded that it was 5,000+, which meant the union had to go out and get more cards to get to 30%. It’s never a good sign when the union in question isn’t aware of the employee count at a facility.

A lot of workers are going to sign the cards under the “you’re with us, right?” peer pressure. Let’s assume the union needed 1,800 cards (30% of 5,876) to get to 30% (after they incorrectly assumed the facility size was 1,500 employees). They ended up with 738 votes in the election. Ponder that. Then add the fact that this whole union vote was conducted over a two- month period via mail-in ballot.

That means that 1,800 employees signed a card when someone rolled up on them and asked them to, but only 58% of them (I added the 300 votes Amazon challenged to the 738 for this math) followed through and mailed in their ballot.

Let all that that sink in. Then think about the pressure the union side puts on an employee to get an authorization card signed based on those numbers. But sure, employers are the only problem in this equation. LOL.

8—It’s obvious that the employees at the Amazon DC voted in a way that suggests for many that working for Amazon is one of the best jobs they’ve had related to pay, benefits, etc.

Only 16% of employees at the Amazon Distribution Center in Bessemer voted “yes” to union representation. The other 84% voted “No” or couldn’t be bothered to vote in such an election.

Why did 84% vote “No” or abstain in supporting a union? There are multiple reasons for this. First up, employees voting “No” or abstaining from voting indicates that they didn’t believe union representation to be in their best interest. They voted for a direct relationship with their supervision and Amazon over union representation.

Another reason for the blowout win is that the jobs in question are pretty good jobs. Consider the following rundown from Yellowhammer:

“On top of Amazon’s $15 minimum wage, the company offers industry-leading benefits to full-time employees, which include comprehensive health care from day one, 401(k) with 50% match, up to 20 weeks paid parental leave and Amazon’s innovative Career Choice program, which pre-pays 95% of tuition for courses in high-demand fields. Since the program’s launch four years ago, more than 25,000 employees have pursued degrees in game design and visual communications, nursing, IT programming and radiology, just to name a few.”

Add base wages, OT, benefits and more, and you’re suddenly looking at a job worth 45-50K+ that grows over time. Amazon is already one of the best-paying jobs a non-skilled laborer can get in Alabama.

A diverse employee base at the Amazon Distribution Center trusted that more than they trusted the union in question.

9—After this result, the Biden administration and the media will push the narrative that employees were influenced in an unethical way by Amazon and will use that as a narrative to push through new laws and NLRB rules. Don’t believe it, remember “FOE”

Scan the news and you already see this: complaints about interference from Amazon in the union election process are widespread. For the uninitiated, the law and NLRB rules and regulations protect the employer’s right to be proactive in telling their side of the story to employees during a time period known as the “campaign period.”

During this period, employers can hold mandatory/captive meetings where they can share their thoughts on why voting “Yes” for union representation is a bad thing. Simply put, employers can provide “FOE” (Facts, Opinions and Experiences) but cannot engage in “TIPS” activity (Threaten, Interrogate, Pressure or Surveil).

The Biden administration will use the Amazon outcome as a proxy for why employers should be limited in telling their FOE-based perspectives and will attempt to change the law and NLRB rules and regulations as a result.

Don’t believe it? Remember that unions conduct their initial activities in secret and routinely use pro-union employees to pressure peers to sign authorization cards (no secret ballot in that!) that lead to elections.

Amazon said in a statement that “the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true.”

“Our employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from us,” the company said. “And Amazon didn’t win — our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union.”

The union got blown out in this one. Companies should be able to tell their story on such an important topic before the employee base votes.

10—To really blow your mind, consider the fact that this election was held 100% by mail-in voting due to COVID. Let’s dig in on what opportunity that provides for a union attempting to organize.

My friends, consider this. NLRB-sanctioned union votes are generally held in similar fashion to pre-COVID federal and state elections. Employees go to a polling place run by the NLRB and vote in secret-ballot fashion. It’s on lockdown.

The union vote for the Amazon Distribution Center in Bessemer was held over a two-month period via mail-in voting. Let that sink in—a distribution center where the work is 100% on site (no remote employees) was allowed to do 100% mail-in voting for a union vote. Amazon protested this (rightfully so) and lost its challenge.

What does mail-in voting mean? It means the union in question had the opportunity (if they opted to or asked pro-union employees to act as proxies) to approach employees, ask them to complete their mail in votes (pro-union of course) and offer to drop the ballots in the mail for the employee. It basically offered the same opportunity for influence, pressure and more in the voting process that I described earlier when pro-union employees approach their peers for a signed authorization card in the stage before a vote.

Still, only 16% of employees voted for the union. Crazy.

THE BIG FINISH

I know about 100 people who know more than I do about unions, organizing efforts by unions and strategies to remain union-free on the company side.

But none of those people feel like they can share their expertise publicly. Why?

Because all of them fear being attacked by the digital mob.

That’s where we’re at in America in 2021. Good people with great knowledge and a perspective the world needs to hear won’t share their expertise on a variety of topics for fear of being cancelled, shamed or—God forbid—being called a Republican.

The Amazon union vote is a great reminder that the vast majority of America isn’t aligned with the extremes—on either the right or the left. They’re simply looking for opportunity that they didn’t have last year, and when someone treats them fairly—even if the work is really hard—most Americans are going to be very skeptical of someone telling them it’s a bad thing.

As for me, I’m going to try to be less fearful of the digital mob moving forward. I’m going to try and write and have conversations that respect how the vast majority of America thinks.

To the Amazon employees in the Bessemer Distribution Center: congratulations on the outcome that left no doubt on what the vast majority of you value, and thanks for the reminder that at the end of the day, we all need to be less afraid of speaking the truth on a day-to-day basis.


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.


How To Ramp Your Recruiting in a Post-Covid World (an HR Capitalist Whitepaper/Roadmap)

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I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that vaccines are in play, winter is ending, and leadership teams like the one you support are in recovery mode and starting to ramp hiring in 2021.

The bad news is recruiting in a post-COVID world takes different skills. That’s why my team at Kinetix is giving you Ramp Your Recruiting (in a Post-COVID World) where we provide the following goodies:

  • How to Hire Recruiters that perform post-pandemic
  • Keys to Tweak your 2021 Recruiting Process for results
  • How Company Values & EVP positions have changed post-lockdown
  • Why the right Assessment Tool = Better Matches in 2021
  • Keys to update your Employment Brand for a post-COVID world

As an HR or recruiting leader, you know it’s time to get serious about hiring in a post-COVID world. Download our roadmap at Kinetix to make sure your recruiting efforts match the new world!

Enjoy it and let me know if you have questions.


COVID Life: On Schools and Not Missing Opportunities

Let's get some level-setting items out of the way first, shall we? Here's some bio info about me and my family during COVID-19:

--We were in hard lockdown mode for the spring and summer of 2020.

--My family consists of me, my wife, a sophomore son in college and a junior son in high school. IMG_4944

--We wear masks everywhere we go where there are people.

--I live in Birmingham, AL.

--I identify as a moderate Republican.

--I never voted for Trump, but I'll automatically tune out anyone who throws all who did into a bucket labeled "evil". Life's not that simple, my friends. Not by a long shot.

--As it turns out, the point that appears above this one is important, because the rest of this post is about how the extremes of our system dominate these days and rob 90% of our citizens the chance to live their best lives.

I think COVID is a serious thing. I hate the fact that so many lives have been lost, and I'm supportive of President Biden flying the flag at half-mast as the death count passes 500K.

But let's do some real talk about how the issue has been treated politically. The USA's success rate in dealing with COVID is like most of the free world. If you go to resources like Statistica, you'll see a death rate per capita that looks a lot like our peers globally, with the USA better than the UK and Italy, a lot like Spain, and countries like Canada, Germany and Israel coping much better than the rest of the free world peer group. You can say that the USA sucks, but I'll point to the fact that the rest of the free world is struggling at various levels, and the USA isn't immune to that.

In addition, a quick glance at immunization rates globally is pretty fascinating. The previous administration was widely criticized for their vaccine roll out and generally not having a plan with COVID. Using a great tool called Our World in Data, I checked vaccination rates on 1/19/21 (the day before Biden took office) and the last available data as I wrote this post, 3/5/21.

I found that the truth about vaccinations is more complicated than the media would have us believe, as on 1/19/21, the USA was 4th in the free world in COVID vaccine roll out (as measured by COVID vaccinations administered per 100 people), trailing Israel, United Arab Emirates and the UK. On March 5th, guess where we are at? 4th! Still ahead and trailing the same countries by the same margins. The European Union has about 1/3 of the vaccination rate of the USA, both on 1/9 and today. Use this map to run your own data. My gut tells me we'll still be fourth at the time herd immunity is reached under a new president.

The point—and there is one—is that when it comes to COVID, we look like much of the rest of the free world. Maybe it's not about political platforms, maybe it's about trying to deal with COVID and still have a chance to live your best life. My take is that a pandemic is a challenge that impacts most of the free world in similar ways.

And that brings me to the topic of having kids in schools.

I'm fortunate to live in a state that got a lot of things right during COVID related to school and kids. Here's what's gone down in Alabama:

--Most Alabama schools opened up in Fall 2020 for 100% live instruction.

--As Alabama schools dealt with spikes, they turned to a blended option, where you could send your kid to school or take the virtual option. This pivot allowed them to serve parents who wanted kids in schools while reducing the live student population, which in turn limited risk.

--Just as importantly, most of Alabama went 100% live with all extracurricular activities from August 2020 on. Whether it's sports, band, show choir or something else, kids had the chance to do the things they love with appropriate mask and social distancing mandates.

That last part (sports and other activities) looked dicey as hell in August of 2020. But in the high school district in which I live (1600 students), it went off without a hitch. Kids did these activities masked up as appropriate and coaches had plans for social distancing during practice. As a result, if a kid tested positive for COVID, we didn't shut the programs down. Contact tracing in a reasonable form was conducted, and kids got quarantined from time to time, but widespread shutdowns didn't happen. It was a reasonable and pragmatic approach that's missing elsewhere.

Alabama got it right on every account.  My son is a basketball player. As a result of this responsible and pragmatic approach, his team played all 32 games on their schedule and won the 7A (largest school classification) State Basketball Title. He never would have gotten this chance in Illinois, California, and many other states. These are lifetime memories and life experiences that can't be replaced.

It's easy to make jokes about Alabama. But look around, and you'll see our state got it right during COVID. We found the middle ground and reasonable approach during the pandemic, kids are in school and getting life lessons in the activities they seek to participate in. 

COVID is awful, but the entire free world has struggled in similar regard.  We really aren't different from our aggregate peer group when you look objectively at the data.

The fear mongering and politicization of COVID is a shameful thing. Kids not having the option to be in school and do the things they love to do is the most shameful part of it all. Crushing small businesses takes runner-up position in the shame Hall of Fame.

I'm not an expert on any of this, but I'm thankful to live in a state that got it right. On a side note, as other states were lifting mask mandates recently, our governor announced it would be a month before the mask mandate in our state ended, which is a brilliant hedge—announcing the end, but having the unstated right to come back to the podium and keep the mask mandate going if the situation turns.

Just another way Alabama is getting it right. Welcome to Alabama—where free (and responsible) men/women live and thrive.


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.


RESKILLING: A Good Idea That's Usually a Big Lie...

Let's have some real talk about a daring concept of the media, thought leaders and a bunch of other people who aren't on the ground level of running a business or an HR function.

Let's talk about Reskilling. First a definition:

Reskilling: The process of learning new skills so you can do a different job or of training people to do a different job. Drake

That description of reskilling works. We want people to be trained to do a different job as needed (if their current skills are obsolete), and there's basically two choices. We can rely on individuals to go get what they need, or we can create a program to give larger groups of people the training they need, which seems like an efficient way to get the right skills, to the people, who need them at the right time.

The concept and the intent are great instincts and it's a noble thought. Too bad that's where the practicality of reskilling ends.

Reskilling is hard—like riding a bike on the freeway hard, which is a favorite go-to line of my college basketball coach.

Why is reskilling a good idea on paper yet so hard to execute in real life?  Let's list the reasons:

1--Companies are the best option to reskill workers, but when it comes to the expense required, most companies can't/won't invest. Here's a test: The next time someone at your company wonders if reskilling is an option, ask them if they are willing to increase the training budget from $300 per FTE to $6,000 per FTE, with no guarantee of ROI. The consultants will say, "absolutely", at which point you need to invite them to give a presentation on this need and the cost to your C-suite—where they will either be shredded or treated politely but only to be ghosted after the meeting harder than a first date gone horribly bad.

No one denies reskilling is a great idea. But few with shareholder return responsibilities in the Corporate world can greenlight the cost associated with reskilling. The only company types that can/will realistically embark on a reskilling journey are the mega companies like Amazon that are facing a dramatic talent shortage in a specific area.  

For those types of companies, reskilling might work. But it rarely gets past its capable cost competitors vying for the chance to fill a skill gap—robots, automation, A.I. and offshoring.

2--Talent is mobile and there's no guarantee your reskilling will be rewarded with long-term retention.  Let's say you pull it off. You saw the need in your company and invested heavily in getting a cross-section of employees reskilled with relevant skills and get them the experience they need to be productive in the targeted roles in your company.

Congrats. You made it. You navigated significant execution risk and created a reskilling program that creates real results. It's wasn't easy, and you started from the bottom, and now you're here

On Tuesday of next week, you'll receive the award for innovation at your company.

On Thursday of next week, some smart recruiter outside your company makes a couple of calls and learns there's a class of 20 reskilled employees at your company with a hard-to-find skill she's been searching for without much success. Two months later, you've lost 6 of your original 20 Reskilled U. graduates who gave themselves a 30% pay increase by answering the recruiter's calls. Another 20% will be out the door in the next two months.

You've become an organ donor for the rich. Damn, didn't see that coming.

Always get payback agreements for inclusion in reskilling training, my friends.

3--Reskilling as an adult is hard, and it's hard to find willing participants for these types of programs.  The scenario that I would analyze reskilling to is the Tuition Aid Programs. As business leaders, we love to offer up Tuition Aid programs as a clear signal that we are fully invested in the career development of the people who work for us.

This just in; we can offer up to the max reimbursement allowed by the IRS for Tuition Aid Programs, because we know that only a small percentage of employees will take advantage of that benefit. Turns out, it's really hard to go back to school once you are past 25 years old because you are doing all that adulting stuff—starting families, hitting the gym after work, binging that C-level series on Amazon Prime Video, etc.

Oh yeah, the coursework is a giant pain in the ass too. 

Our experience with Tuition Aid tells us that the only way to make reskilling work is to not only cover the expense but to pay people to be a part of it as well which brings us back to point #1.

By the way, the sweet spot of reskilling probably exists in community colleges across the country, right?  Access to local folks who need to upskill to be relevant in the economy, a grass roots approach, etc. Community college reskilling programs seems like the perfect fit for our government getting involved in reskilling, but to maximize availability, they can't pay people for their time, they can only provide grants to cover the cost of the course. Thus the similarity to Tuition Aid. People have to keep working which makes reskilling hard to make time for. Only the most motivated and those in the perfect situation will be able to be focused on reskilling.

4--Add it all up, and it's easier to get better at recruiting and increase wages for roles with candidate shortages rather than reskill.  I hate to say it, but my advice to any well-meaning business leader interested in reskilling AND success/profitability is to focus on getting better at talent acquisition rather than reskilling.

When it comes to reskilling, you'll read a lot of things from high end sources—HBR, The New York Times and more—that suggest we must reskill for the future.

I don't disagree with the thought. But the people writing the features on reskilling don't work in the trenches, and they don't run companies. Out here in flyover country, it's a hard-knock life and we tend to work hard to remain profitable and not go out of business. Turns out, it's complicated.

KD out.

 


California's Affirmative Action Bill Defeat and the Future of Diversity Hiring...

Had the honor of talking to California reporter and resident John Hollon on my podcast (Best Hire Ever) about the November defeat of Prop 16 in California, which would have overturned past bans on Affirmative Action style quotas and preferences in public hiring, contracting and education in California.

Regardless of your position on any of the related issues, America is becoming increasingly multicultural, and there's a lot to unpack and think about with this surprising defeat in the Golden State. Worth a bit of time to consider for sure. #hrleadership #hr #diversityintheworkplace #diversityandinclusion #californialaw

Full podcast rundown appears below - something for everyone, regardless of your politics or view.

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In Episode 22 of BEST HIRE EVERKris Dunn talks with California resident (born and bred) news editor and professor John Hollon about the defeat of Proposition 16 in the November 2020 election, which would have allowed the reinstatement of affirmative action style quotas and preferences in public hiring, contracting and education in California. Voters in the Golden state rejected it by a margin of 57% to 43%, even though proponents of the bill outspent the opposition by a margin of 16/1. 

John and Kris have a wide ranging conversation about the bill, including John's rundown of the history of such legislation in the state and his reaction as a California resident. The conversation then turns to an examination of California's multicultural makeup and the fact it is a preview of the future version of America - and what we can learn about multicultural attitudes towards Affirmative Action and the impact of those diverse views to corporate DEI programs today and in the future.

Please subscribe, rate and review (Apple) and follow (Spotify) to get the latest delivered to you.  Click here if you don't see the player below!

RESOURCES AND SHOW NOTES:

------------John Hollon

John Hollon on Linkedin

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


Building the Perfect People Manager: Assertiveness and the Introversion/Extroversion Scale...

Had the opportunity to present/workshop on "Leveling Up Your Managers of People" to a Vistage CEO group earlier this week.

We had a great two-hour conversation about the best way to build a people manager development program, and it left me more convinced than ever that an investment in your core managers of people - the ones actually interacting with your employees - is a key investment in 2021 and beyond.

That's obvious, right?  Too bad we talk all day long about "leadership" (it's sexy, no doubt!), but we rarely get around to what our first time managers actually need to survive and thrive in their daily conversations with their direct reports on the front lines. Vistage-600x400-20190131_6f16da50af95e8511ca2a9e6a50991c9

Sucks to be them.  But it's right there, waiting for time, attention and investment from HR and the leadership team of any company you're a part of.

With do much opportunity, where do you start? Well, how about at the beginning, starting with how you choose/hire managers of people?

Domain expertise is important, but overvalued in the hiring process for first time managers of people. We're addicted to the fact that the best individual contributor in your business must be the best candidate to fill an open first-level people manager role.

It's a lie. At my Vistage talk this week, I showed the C-level a chart of 7 behavioral characteristics that comprise the behavioral DNA of any employee.  I asked them to rate the most important ones to getting great results as a manager of people.  They didn't need my help, they got it, and they selected the following:

--Assertiveness. YUP. Let's face it, being a manager is all about confrontation. That's confrontation with a small "c", not a big "C", folks. To the mid to low assertiveness person, every conversation needed to get a small change or tweak from an employee feels like it might be a massive thing. The result is these folks will delay necessary on the fly coaching. It's not that big of deal, and delivered with a quality coaching tool, employees will be connected and actually engaged by the feedback.

--Introversion/Extroversion. This one's a bit trickier, because we naturally feel that extroverted people are more likely to engage their direct reports. That's true in a broad sense, but the downside is highly extroverted people talk more than they listen. If you want behavioral change from your direct reports, you have to make the employee talk and be part of the solution. Better to have a mid-range person on the introvert/extrovert scale from this to happen. While the C-levels in my group correctly picked this one, they followed the conventional belief that max extroversion is a good thing related to managing people. Turns out, it's more complicated than that.

To close this post up, the most important behavioral trait in my eyes in hiring managers of people is ASSERTIVENESS.  Low assertiveness means your people manager will feel conflict at every turn and will rationalize reasons not to have the conversation they need to have today.

Can you hire a low assertive person to be a people manager? Sure, but you'll have to tell them what's required and to perform as they need to, they'll likely feel their batteries drained on a daily basis.

There's a thousand things that go into building a team of effective people managers at your company. The best place to start is to evaluate candidates in a more intense way when hiring managers of people.  Once you accomplish that, you can build your leadership academy on your own or use a system like the BOSS Leadership Training platform to jump start your efforts.

Good luck getting your manager development program in place in 2021!