How To Not Get Killed In A "What's Wrong" Focus Group At Your Company...

Simple post today.  From time to time, HR pros have to do focus groups to determine the climate of the employee relations environment at their company.  Ideally, this is done before there's smoke in the air.  But at times, especially in a multi-location environment, that's impossible.

So how do you approach a group of 10-12 employees (focus group) to get them to talk about the challenges, but not get beheaded in the process?  You're going to have to ask open-ended Valley
questions to get employees to give you details about what's messed up, so the best approach I've found is this:

--Ask each employee to give you TWO THINGS THAT ARE WORKING WELL FOR THEM AT YOUR COMPANY and TWO THINGS THAT NEED FAST IMPROVEMENT

It sounds simple, right?  I think we'd be surprised how many HR pros who walk into hostile environments don't force the attendees of focus groups to give them some positives.

The positives are there to balance the feedback loop.  It forces people to articulate the positives in their environment, which is important for fellow employees to hear.  

Of course, the negatives/opportunities for improvement are going to be there. You'll get those.  But if you know you're walking into a tough session and fail to be brave enough to ask for the positives, you run a higher probability of losing control of the group.

Some responses you'll hear when you ask for the positives:

"The people I work with"

"The people I work with"

"The people I work with"

"The people I work with"

Not a typo.  Expect that if you're walking into a tough environment, the answers will focus on fellow employees enduring the struggle, not anything that gives credit to the company.  That's OK - you're just looking to balance the feedback loop.  You can accept this answer from as many people as want to give it.

You also might here some smart### responses like:

"I haven't lost any fingers yet"

My advice?  Accept the "people I work with" response from all and if you get a wisecracker, laugh with everyone else and then follow up and ask for a serious one.  Accept "The people I work with" from all and ask for at least one other positive that someone hasn't given the group yet.

Good luck with your paratrooper-like focus group sessions.  Don't be afraid to ask for the positives - it will make your session much more productive.


Use This Quote When Convincing Someone to Decline An Offer From a Big Company...

"It's better to be a pirate than join the Navy."

-Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was brutal in many ways, but with his brutality came moments of pure clarity.  This quote is one of those moments. Johnny-depp

The stale way to make the same point is obvious - "Why do you want to go work for that big company?  They're going to bury your talent. You know all those ideas you have?  You won't get to chase any of them at IBM.  They'll just pod you up in the matrix and suck your energy over the next decade, leaving you a husked-out former version of yourself."

Wait - that's actual pretty good.  A more standard version is "You're going to there and be bored immediately."

Still, I like the clarity of the Jobs quote.  If you're working for a smaller firm, you need every competitive advantage you can get as you fight for the hires you need.  This quote, while not perfect, is a good tool to have.

It just so happens that the only people that it works on are the people who are actually inclined to believe that they're more than cogs in the corporate wheel.  Use this quote on a person who's happy being a cog, and they might dance with you a bit - but ultimately they're going to grab for the security that only thousands (often tens of thousands) of employees can provide.  Doesn't make them bad people or not talented - it's a preference for security and risk management.

But they're looking to enlist with a big entity like the Navy - not roam the seven seas on that cool, but rickety boat you call a company and wonder if you'll be around in a year.

If you're at a smaller firm, the best hires you will make are the people that don't look like pirates - but have it buried in their DNA.  If you think you have one of those people, I'd talk in broad terms about the pirate-like things you're going to do at your company.

Pirates like Johnny Depp, BTW - not Somali pirates.

Go buy some eye patches for your next round of interviews. Dare a candidate to ask you why you're wearing one.


Trigger Warnings on Disney+...Could They Work for Managers?

Did you sign up for Disney+ over the last couple of weeks?  10 million other households did.

You didn't know you needed another streaming service, but Disney+ comes with some unique features, mainly that the entire catalog of Disney is available for streaming. That's a deep catalog.

Of course, even though the catalog is deep, there's some issues. Material sourced from the 1930's, 40's and 50's might have some theme that aren't Lady and tramp warninginline with today's world. For this reason, Disney has implemented a "trigger" warning of sorts on any material that might be challenging.  More from the Washington Times:

Disney’s new streaming service has added a trigger warning to certain classic movies like “The Jungle Book” and “Lady and the Tramp” to address possible “outdated cultural depictions” that could offend viewers.

Disney Plus, which launched Tuesday amid a host of technical issues, issued a disclaimer on some decades-old movies that reads, “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

The warning appears in the movie descriptions for “Dumbo,” “The Jungle Book” and “Lady and the Tramp,” among others that have faced criticism for depicting racial stereotypes.

My super-conservative friends view that as more political correctness. I view it as a masterful stroke by Disney. Let me share the warning/disclaimer again, by itself:

“This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

That's solid communications work by Disney. It allows them to share the material and satisfy fans, but also warns that this stuff is from another day and time, even another world. It's even educational and can drive conversations in households with reasonable people who want that type of conversation. And of course, the warning allows you not to watch as well.

Of course, I'm a HR/recruiting/talent nerd. The first thing I thought of was this:

Could we use the same type of trigger warning for good people in your organization who are insensitive to the needs of others and seem to run afoul of public opinion at least once a quarter?

I'm not talking about people who are blatantly racist, etc. I'm talking about the people who are likable but grew up different from you and me and haven't made the complete turn to the 2020. They mean well. But they can't get out of their own way.  We don't want to give up on them.

Let's say you've got an incoming email from this person. There could be a pop-up that could say the following before you read the email:

"This individual is presented as a work in progress. He/she may contain outdated cultural norms, beliefs or depictions. We believe they're evolving, but it's a work in progress."

That's truthful for a lot of people in the average organization. It feels right.

Of course, some of you would snap the warning or share it in your IG story and ruin the feature.

This is why we can't have nice things. Continue about your day without organizational warnings that could make our work life better. LOL.


Work with KD: Content Creator/Brand Accelerator Job at Kinetix in Atlanta...

Attention Atlanta Connections - Cool opportunity to do fun brand and marketing stuff with yours truly. Please share this with folks you think might be a fit!

Click this link to apply - full job posting at link and also below:

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

Content Creator/Brand Accelerator

As a Content Creator/Brand Accelerator at Kinetix, you’ll work with our team to amplify the already strong primary and secondary brands of Kinetix to create brand awareness and help us fill the top of our sales funnel. We’ve got great brands at Kinetix and have long believed in content marketing. Kinetix We’re looking for you to help us ramp up the unbelievable assets we have in place and send a consistent, daily message to the marketplace.

The right person for this role will be someone comfortable using content and thought leadership in B-to-B marketing capacity. Creative and editing skills in video and graphic design are preferred, as is an intermediate to expert level on social media platforms. An appreciation of brand voice is required, as our brands have a point of view that should be present across all platforms.

Still reading? Here’s some stuff you’ll focus on:

·        World Domination – There, we said it. But the good kind, not the bad kind.

·        Create and manage editorial and social content calendars - designed to accelerate the primary and secondary brands of Kinetix (kinetixhr.com, hrcapitalist.com, fistfuloftalent.com, bossleadershiptrianing.com and more!)

·        Run pre and post production project management of all big content pieces (BCP): videos, podcasts, white papers, blog posts, etc. to end with amazing large form content pieces designed to promote thought leadership at Kinetix. (Bonus points if you have writing skills to participate in the creation of the BCP. Subtract bonus points if you like corporate acronyms like “BCP.”)

·        Digital skills to run any of the pre and post production elements using the Adobe Suite or InDesign is a bonus. We’re giving a lot of bonus points here - we’re like that teacher in college that’s really hoping you make it.

·        Independently create short-form pieces of content from BCP (posts, images, IG or FB stories, quotes, remixes, GIFS) - We’re looking to create great content pieces (BCP) and then chop them up and reuse them like the place your used BMW went to the time it got stolen.

·        Create and execute distribution of all content (big and small) on relevant social platforms - Social platform skills will be a big deal in this job. We’ll also want you to learn paid social as part of this gig if you don’t already possess that skill.

·        Community management when you’re not tied up with the content machine - Community management means helping us grow the social channels in a smart, authentic, non-sleazy way, as well as helping us grow our email marketing list. We’d also want you to help our thought leaders be uber-responsive on social as part of the job.

·        In your spare time, run a bootstrap speaker’s bureau - designed to put our thought leaders in front of audiences that are interested in our message.

·        Work with a cool existing creative marketing team at Kinetix - you’re not alone, although this posting made it sound like that. Our Kinetix marketing team does great creative work on behalf of our client brands, and they’ll help with delivery on your projects as needed. We won’t let you touch the client brands, because we’re being incredibly selfish.

Some Things the Right Candidate May Have:

·        Bachelor's degree in marketing, journalism, public relations, business or digital communications (if you don’t have any, but are a perfect fit – tell us why)

·        Writing skills

·        3-5 years of proven success in marketing, lead generation, digital and social media experience

·        Able to create good working relationships with colleagues

·        An affinity for Gen X leaders and acknowledgement that Gen X is the greatest generation, or the ability to fake this in the workplace

·        Able to work well independently and with a team

·        Complete comfort with social tools (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram)

·        Creative and curious in a wide variety of media

·        Crazy detail orientation that leads to execution

·        Comfortable with chaos and daily changes

·        Working knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator)

·        Location – Atlanta strongly preferred. Would consider Birmingham for the right candidate. Remote only if you worked 2 years for Gary V or the Kardashians.

EOE - M/F/V/D/SO


Google Ends Weekly "All-Hands" Meetings: Here's Why...

In case you missed it, Google has decided to stop holding a weekly "all-hands" meeting they call TGIF in response to leaks and the meetings being dominated by issues considered non-core to the business (my words, not theirs).  I grabbed the email announcing the change from Sundar Pichai, the Google CEO, but before I show you that email, I rewrote it for clarity and impact. Here's my version of his email to announce the weekly "all hands" meetings are gone. Enjoy:

We wanted to talk about strategy. You wanted to talk about politics. TGIF

That was OK, because we wanted to talk about what you wanted to talk about.

Then you started leaking everything we said that didn't live up to your political standards.

Then we realized that the people who only wanted to talk about politics where actually the ones doing the leaking.

Then we realized that the people who wanted to talk about politics and leaked info don't reflect the views of the majority of our employees, which was reflected in the reality that only 25% of our employees now attend the all-hands, an all-time low.

So we said, "Screw this" and decided to shut down the TGIF weekly town halls.

Along the way and before this, we realized that our infamous "20% time" that allowed you to work on your own projects wasn't actually contributing to business results. We also had to restrict political conversations on Google message boards because some of you weren't respecting other people.

In summary: You hijacked this whole thing, and we're shutting it down and finding another path.

This is why we can't have nice things.

That was mine. Here's Google CEO Sundar Pichai's email announcing the same change, let me know which version you like better.

More from The Verge:

From: Sundar

Subject: TGIF and internal forums

[TL;DR - We’re going to make changes to TGIF and offer a new mix of internal forums in 2020. We’ll solicit your feedback along the way.]

Hi Googlers,

The last month has made me proud to be a Googler in so many ways: we’ve substantially improved our core Search product thanks to our advances in ML. And we’ve made an incredible breakthrough in quantum computing that will give us an entirely new way of solving computational problems in the years ahead. Both of these milestones show how our scale allows us to invest in long-term technology problems to drive significant improvements.

But in other places -- like TGIF -- our scale is challenging us to evolve. TGIF has traditionally provided a place to come together, share progress, and ask questions, but it’s not working in its current form. Here are some of the biggest challenges:

First, people come to TGIF with different expectations. Some people come to hear more about Google’s product launches and business strategies, others come to hear answers on other topics. By splitting the difference every week, we’re not serving either purpose very well.

Second, we’re unfortunately seeing a coordinated effort to share our conversations outside of the company after every TGIF. I know this is new information to many of you, and it has affected our ability to use TGIF as a forum for candid conversations on important topics.

Third, as the company has scaled up and spread out geographically, the audience has steadily declined. Only about 25% of us watch TGIF any given week, compared to 80% a decade ago. In contrast, Googlers are more engaged in local and PA all-hands.

This engagement in product and functional area meetings is a natural and positive evolution for us. When we know the people in a discussion and understand their context, we can have more substantive and richer conversations focused around the work we do for our users. We’re going to keep investing in our PA and functional all-hands and make sure that Google leaders (including me) make more regular appearances there. Of course, we still need some company-wide moments to share product and business strategy, celebrate great work, learn from our failures, and ask tough questions. So we’re going to try something different for 2020:

TGIF will become a monthly meeting focused on product and business strategy, with Q&A on the topics being discussed.

We’ll keep holding regular Social TGIFs in offices around the world (this is really important, and is how the original concept of TGIF began).

We’ll continue to hold town halls on important workplace issues.

And, we’ll keep exploring new ways to communicate at scale to a global company of 100,000+ people across multiple timezones. One specific thing we’d like to do is share more videos (like this one on quantum computing) to give insight into the work our teams are doing.

We’re hoping this mix of forums will provide a better experience for Googlers. We know you have only so much time to attend meetings and we want to spend it well. We also have to account for how we spend our time as a company. In fact, we owe it to our users to be relentlessly focused on our mission and our goal to build a more helpful Google for everyone.

Since we’re trying something new, we’ll get your feedback as we roll these forums out. The TGIF team will set up some small group discussions to hear from Googlers across the company. If you want to share input, visit go/internal-forums.

We have become the company we are today by creatively tackling important problems head on -- it’s how we evolve. We now have the opportunity to shape the kind of company we want to be in the future by investing in better ways to communicate at scale. Look forward to working with you all to do this.

--Sundar

So much fun doing "what he said" vs "what he wanted to say."  I'm glad Google is making a change for things that no longer work. Evolve or die.


New Research Show Income Gaps Are (at least partly) Due to Working More Than 40 Hours Per Week...

Hat tip to my homeboy Tim Sackett on the research cite below. Sacks must have crazy email subscriptions and Google alerts to mine this gold.

Cut and paste from Marginal Revolution appears below. Littlefinger

That is a new paper by J. Rodrigo Fuentes and Edward E. Leamer:

This paper provides theory and evidence that worker effort has played an important role in the increase in income inequality in the United States between 1980 and 2016. The theory suggests that a worker needs to exert effort enough to pay the rental value of the physical and human capital, thus high effort and high pay for jobs operating expensive capital. With that as a foundation, we use data from the ACS surveys in 1980 and 2016 to estimate Mincer equations for six different education levels that explain wage incomes as a function of weekly hours worked and other worker features. One finding is a decline in annual income for high school graduates for all hours worked per week. We argue that the sharp decline in manufacturing jobs forces down wages of those with high school degrees who have precious few high-effort opportunities outside of manufacturing. Another finding is that incomes rose only for those with advanced degrees and with weekly hours in excess of 40. We attribute this to the natural talent needed to make a computer deliver exceptional value and to the relative ease with which long hours can be chosen when working over the Internet.

Our good friend Kathy Rapp will be back later this week with analysis of the Microsoft 4-day work week pilot in Japan. While we can all agree that 4-day work weeks are awesome, can we also agree on the following points?

1--There's always going to be some maniacs who are incredibly talented and will work 6-7 days a week for decades.

2--Those maniacs will generally climb the corporate ladder and assume more wealth than similarly talented individuals who worked 40-45 hours a week.

3--There's always going to be some absolute grinders who don't have the natural talent cited in #1, but due to the fact they'll work themselves just shy of having a stroke, will achieve as much or more than the individuals with more talent that those cited in #2.

I'll leave you with this cite from the research above:

"Another finding is that incomes rose only for those with advanced degrees and with weekly hours in excess of 40. We attribute this to the natural talent needed to make a computer deliver exceptional value and to the relative ease with which long hours can be chosen when working over the Internet"

Work-life balance is cool.

But work-life choices are everywhere.

My advice to my sons is to rack up the hours and advance as much as you can in the first 10 years of your career, then make some choices on work-life balance after you've kicked a little ass of the people listed in #2. You might be able to downshift by the time you're 35 and have a family if you do it right.

Don't assume because everyone agrees that work-life balance is good that everyone will opt in,
 or that everyone is limited to 40 hours as productivity and performance is measured.

Littlefinger: "Chaos is a ladder."

The crazy talented/driven people described in #1: "The fascination with work-life balance makes me ever more special."

Good luck with the balance, folks.


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.


Saying "No" Helps Train the Recipient What "Yes" Looks Like...

If there's a big problem in corporate America, it's that we say "Yes" too much at times.

Yes to that request..

Yes, I can help you..

Yes, I'd be happy to be part of your project team...

Yes, your response to my request is fine...

There's a whole lot of yes going around.  The problem?  Only about 1/2 of the "yes" responses are followed up with action that is representative of all of us living up to the commitment we made.

That's why you need to say "no" more.

Of course, simply saying no with nothing behind the no positions you as jerk.  So the "no" has to have qualifiers behind it:

Say "no" more to peers asking you for things, but then qualify it with how the request could be modified to move you to say "yes".

Say "no" more to your boss, and qualify your response to her by asking for help de-prioritizing things on your plate - which might allow you to say "yes" to the new request.

We say "yes" in the workplace when we want to say "no". We do it because we don't like to say no, and because we are horrible at negotiation.

Say "no" and tell people how the request could be modified to get to "yes".

Or just say "no" and walk away.  Either way, you've helped the organization's overall performance by providing more clarity. 


The 4 Rules of Office/Company Romance If You're a Manager of People (McDonalds CEO Version)...

Quick story from the Capitalist.

It's early in my career, and there I am one night - trying to outwork what I don't know as a young professional. I'm in the office about 930pm (no one else there, humblebrag), doing work for a VP level partner who had taken me under his wing. I'm heading back from the restroom, where I have to go the edge of the elevator corridor to hit the main doors of our office and there it was.

The president of our division (mid 50's) getting into the elevator with a mid-20's administrative assistant from a department managed by one of his Romance direct reports. Meh. Like a pro, I kept moving and acted like I saw nothing. It never came up. 

Of course, it doesn't mean they were heading to a Holiday Inn Express or had just treated his office as the same. But c'mon, he was kind of a sleeze towards women and they didn't really have any reason to be connected for work.

In case you missed it, McDonald's has fired CEO Steve Easterbrook over his relationship with another employee, according to a press release from the company over the weekend. McDonald’s shares sank 2.3% in premarket at 10 a.m. in London, or 5 a.m. ET, which could wipe about $3.4 billion off the company’s value.

McDonald's had been in a period of success under the leadership of Easterbrook.  Now, it's thrown into a period of turmoil and 3.4B is gone.  Crazy.

Seems like a good time to set up some rules for office romance. Note that these rules don't apply to everyone - if you're a rank and file employee, you do you.  No, these rules of office romance are for managers of people only - let's face it - you're different, the stakes are higher and there are special rules for you.

Here's your 4 Rules of Office/Company Romance If You're a Manager of People:

1--Never date someone who reports to you. This seems obvious, and they'll be some who email stories of lifelong romances that started this way. I hear you. I'm glad you found love in all the wrong places. For everyone else, especially in the time of #metoo, it's a bet - your job/career vs your rationalization that your "in-team" romance is going to lead to Mr./Mrs. Right.

2--Don't date someone in the company (on someone's else's team) if you're a manager of people inside a company with less than 250 employees.  That number is a bit random, but it feels right. The standard line will be don't have a relationship with someone on your team, but people on other teams might be OK.  Key word is "might".  The bigger the company, the more conflicts with people on other teams won't be a problem.  Get below 250 people in your company (and certainly in companies with 100 or less employees), and you might as well be dating someone on your team.

3--The bigger your job, the less latitude you have to date people in your company. It's called leadership, and your decision to reach down 2-3 levels in your division to find love and companionship looks weak and sleazy. We thought you were the one to lead this (business unit, division, location, company), now we've got people talking about how much time Jan is speaking time in your office. Unfair? Maybe. That's burden is what the money is for.

4--Report any relationship to HR and consider getting acknowledgements and waivers signed. So here we are - you're in a relationship in the company, and you've had the wisdom to drop by HR and let them know. Without knowing what policies you have on this, I can tell you you've done the right thing.  As a manager of people, you need to transfer the ticking time bomb of office romance to the HR team. What will they do?  Probably nothing - but disclosing the relationship means you were above-board and sought counsel on the right way to proceed. 

5--(Bonus) - Don't be sleazy or give people the creepers as you consider office romances.  Or just don't even consider it as a leader/manager of people, maybe?

Welcome to the show, kid. You're a manager of people, and when it comes to office romance, managers of people get treated differently. You have more power than you think you do, and with that in mind, there are rules.

It's not show friends, it's show business.


Is What I'm About To Say Going To Blow Up In My Face? A Simple Guide...

I know.

You're a straight shooter. A truth teller. A no-BS kind of guy or gal.

We love that about you. You do you. But based on your position in the middle of the political machine in which you operate, that truth teller vibe can blow up in your face.

Saying what needs to be said is admirable. But so is staying alive in the game and living to fight another day. Stakes vary based on the issue at hand and the power of those involved. 

Here's a few questions that need to answered before you shoot the bastards straight on the issue in question. Enjoy:

Does it need to be said?

Does it need to be said by me?

Does it need to be said by me right now?

If the answer to any of those questions is no, don’t say it.

Additionally, answer this question:

Who is present (or will get word of my truth telling) that has a different position than me and do they have power? Will they react in a negative way and perhaps try to stop the form of direct deposit I've been receiving and enjoying as a result? (either now on in the future, because they have a memory like an elephant)

I could write 10 more questions in this guide about whether to blown them up with your crazy accurate and disruptive thoughts. I'll stop at 4.

Sometimes you gotta pull out the Bazooka and shoot 'em straight and be the sole voice of dissent. Sometimes you gotta fold and live to fight another day.

Knowing what to say is science, based on your subject matter expertise and the fact you're always right.

Knowing whether to say it is art, based on your accurate read of 107 factors, none of them reasonable or rationale.

Good luck players. The game needs you.