Clickbait Reporting on HR Issues in Today's World...Sucks (The HR Famous Podcast)

Look, I get it. We live in a clickbait society designed to write a great title to any story and get everyone enraged about whatever the issue of the day is.

Politics. Masks. All issues on COVID. You can list all your other examples in this box - <insert here>.  It's clickbait all the time, Blizzard-entertainment-cover-photo and few reporters take the time to present a balanced account of the issues at hand.

But I'm an HR leader by trade, and since the clickbait has firmly landed in the world of HR, now I'm mad. 

What am I mad about? The uptick in articles on business sites citing issues in workforces at American companies. Full disclosure, if there are big issues at any company, that's on the company and people like us to get in front of and make better.

But reporters have lost their way in reporting on these issues.  Case in point, this recent Bloomberg article about employees at Blizzard entertainment not making enough to eat.

Things this article didn't do that should be required in standard reporting on workforce issues:

--They didn't share any details to build credibility on source documents provided by a source (in this case, an internal salary spreadsheet created by one or more employees)

--They didn't share how many employees they talked to for the article. I've seen articles describing big problems at a company with as little as 6 employees cited. This one doesn't even say how many employees they talked to.  The company in question (Blizzard) has 5,000 employees. Duh.

--They didn't use publicly discoverable information (Glassdoor, any salary site) to provide context related to what the limited number of employees they interviewed told them.

I could go on. If there are issues, HR is responsible for helping fix those issues and should be accountable if things aren't right.

But reporters should be accountable too. But, in today's world, too often they are not. They get three data points out of 5,000 available, don't do research, write a sexy headline and publish.

Reporters: Do Better. DO YOUR JOB.

This rant is why the latest episode of The HR Famous Podcast features me and Jessica Lee discussing the recent Bloomberg article that attempted a takedown vs Blizzard Entertainment related to pay issues - including some employees passing around a cloud spreadsheet listing salaries they make at Blizzard. Along the way,  we discuss what quality reporting looks like around this type of issue, messaging as part of damage control when a company finds itself under scrutiny, and we also look for clues related to the depth of pay issues at Blizzard on the company's Glassdoor page.

Take a listen below!

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

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS

1:30 - Tim is gone (again) this week on another vacay! KD and Jlee talk about what they think Tim is doing on his Lake Michigan getaway. Ginger people don’t tan!

12:00 - Next topic of the day - Blizzard Entertainment, famous for making many popular video games like Call of Duty, has a situation where employees circulated a salary document internally that showed major pay disparitiesThe salary document was first reported by Bloomberg - but the gang has questions.

15:00 - Jlee praises the person who circulated the Google sheets form for being efficient. If anyone has the link to the spreadsheet, HR Famous would love to see it! KD wonders aloud how many columns are on the spreadsheet?  Are there names? The gang doubts it.

18:00 - An Activision spokesperson says that they compensate their employees fairly and gave their top performers a higher salary increase than in prior years. KD compares this issue to an episode of The Office where they have to decide who to give raises to and how.

21:00 - KD comments on the quote from the Activision spokesperson that says “a 20% increase on salaries compared to other years” was questionable language. KD and Jlee give high marks to this language that is a little clever to the untrained eye. 

25:00 - KD points out that Blizzard has thousands of employees and not everyone could be consulted for this article. He's kind of over articles that splash, but make no mention of how many employees a reporter talked to.

26:00 - What do you think Blizzard’s Glassdoor rating is? KD is a little surprised by Blizzard’s rating and thinks that their rating isn’t indicative of some of the problems this article addresses. 

29:00 - KD finds the reported Blizzard salaries on Glassdoor by job and finds that many aren’t too far off the industry average/ KD guesses the problems are in customer service and QA based on low hourly rates.

32:00 - Jlee feels for Blizzard and their HR department in these tough times for their company. KD wants reporters to tell a full story and do their job right. He encourages them to take their clickbait titles for traffic, then tell whole story.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KD out.


Good Call Center Jobs Teach You a Lot - But We Might Wonder Why You Didn't Get Promoted...

I love what jobs early in our careers teach and say about us.  There's literally 8 million stories in the naked city, and this is just one of those stories.

But in its own little way, it matters - a lot. Workaholics

This story is about what happens when a new graduate takes a customer service job at a big company. You know the person, the company and the type of job I'm talking about.

Person - New college grad or a person with a high school diploma who has had a couple of jobs where they strung a bit of success together.  If you're a new college grad, you probably have a business, marketing or liberal arts degree - you're not a STEM major, which is 100% ok.

Company - A big company with a professionally run customer service function - think more than 100 FTEs, and at times 1,000+

Type of Job - Sit your *ss in that chair and take the abuse make our customers happy through 80 inbound calls a day.

While a lot of these jobs are getting replaced by technology, they still exist, and in the opinion of this humble observer, they are great training grounds for a career in the business world. 

95% of graduates aren't STEM or technology majors, and they don't come from the Ivy League. The call center job is a natural starting point for a career, if you can land this job in a big company along the lines of what I described above.

You know what's sad? We've created an artificial expectation of careers via a cocktail of social media, college propaganda and related bulls**t that these types of jobs aren't good starting points for a college grad. Talk to new grads, and their expectation is that they should come out of the gate earning 60K. It's a lie for most of the world. Fewer kids are ready to work these days.

But (and there is a but) there's a Darwinian thing that happens in a professionally run, modern call center for a reputable company.

Promote or become staler than the 5-day old bread you left open and out on the porch. Career pathing happens, and the reps who do the work and are good at what they do get promoted - both up the ranks in the call center, and out into other areas of the company. That's how it should be.

But it begs another question.  What does someone in the same modern call center role/job with a big company for 3 years (no inline promotion, no career ladder move or anything else) mean?  It means they're well-placed and lost in the generally open bid for promotions, transfers to other departments, etc.

While the current crop of college grads doesn't want to pay dues in the call center, there's another reality. The world is quick to coddle the same grad who's spent 1 year in the same professional call center job and tell them things like this:

It's not your fault. The system was rigged. There's a bunch of favoritism associated with promotions in that arena.

Nope. You got beat, you didn't get it done. The professional grade call center that's internal at blue chip, well run companies knows what it's doing. You weren't good enough. You being in the same role in that company with a LOT of opportunity within the call center (not even looking at promotions to other areas) means you weren't in the top quartile, and you may be closer to the 50th percentile.

If you have a kid with a degree who's struggling to find his path, encourage him/her to find a great company with a good call center/customer service function, apply and win a job, then go compete like crazy.

Promotions for youngsters in well run call centers matter. They're literacy tests for the ability to grind, perform and compete in a career.

All other things being equal, I'd take a person who put on the headset and went to compete over one who hasn't.  


COVID Economy: There's Probably Some Big WARN Notices On The Way...

Our economy during the COVID crisis has been a strange beast. The stock market rebounded in a strong way after dropping 35%, even though unemployment remains high. We're in a recession, and while the layoffs and furloughs have occurred, the federal government acted quickly and provided job-saving stimulus in the way of the Payroll Protection Act (for small businesses) and stimulus for entire industries like Airlines, Healthcare and more.

Those programs came with strings - namely that employment had to be protected to a large degree for a significant period of time, even if work wasn't available. As these protection periods end, we're looking at a lot of big company/big organization moves to potentially layoff tens of thousands of workers.

Case in point - United Airlines, which just submitted plans and documentation required via the WARN act to layoff as many as 36,000 workers, or half of its workforce. More from Business Insider: United

"United Airlines said on Wednesday that it would warn 36,000 frontline employees of potential furloughs and layoffs, representing about 38% of the company's workforce of 95,000.

Travel demand had begun to recover since April, when coronavirus lockdowns drove demand down as much as 97%, but the airline said demand fell again in recent weeks as virus cases spiked in several states.

The affected employees will receive Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notices, or WARN notices, this week, with a final notice about their status in early August. American Airlines began informing some employees of furloughs in late June.

The affected frontline employees constitute 15,000 flight attendants, 2,250 pilots, 11,000 customer-service and gate agents, 800 catering workers, 1,000 contact-center employees, 225 network-operations workers, 5,500 maintenance workers. An additional 1,400 management and administrative employees could also be affected.

While airlines are prohibited from furloughing or laying off workers until October 1 under the terms of the payroll support they received from the CARES Act, most employers are required to give 60 days of notice when possible under the WARN Act.

The airline said that not every worker who received a WARN notice would be impacted and that the final number would depend on how many more employees take voluntary leave and buyout packages, as well as whether demand makes an unexpected recovery by next month."

BUCKLE UP.

I think the federal government did a great job of getting stimulus out in the March/April time period. The longer this thing goes on, the less the government can do.


Talking Politics As A Manager in 2020: The Advice Hasn't Changed...

It's 2020, which means it's an election year.

Of course, there's more going on in 2020 than just an election - pandemic, resulting economic Dudestruggles, social movements and unrest, etc.

Since all of these things in an election year have been politicized, it seems like a good time to remind you of how to communicate your political views to your team and the rest of the company as a manager of people.

It's simple for best results as a manager of people. You don't routinely share your political views or hot takes on things that could be considered to be political with direct reports.

The reasons are pretty simple. As a manager of people, you're responsible for shepherding a group of direct reports through a given week, quarter or year.

If you've done a good job of hiring, you're leading a diverse team - which broadly defined, means your people don't all look, sound or think like you. You're in a position of power, so the more you broadcast polarizing information like political views, the more you risk alienating good people who aren't a carbon copy of you.

That's true any year, but especially in an election year. Since the events of 2020 have become polarized politically, you also need to be aware of polarizing your team on current events as well.

I'm not saying you can't be you. And note I'm 100% saying you should be clear that you're against racism and for safety related to COVID. You can and should share those views, and it's an important part of leading on issues.

I'm saying that the stronger/hotter you are on a polarizing take - whether you come from the hard left or hard right - the more you risk shutting someone down on your team from talking to you, which almost always results in lower engagement and one foot out the door.

Managers from both the hard right and the hard left struggle with this. For best results, remember that in competitive election years, the country is split pretty much evenly between two political parties.

Some of you will email me and say, "But Kris, how do I find the line?" Well, if you're manager of people, that's what the money is for.

Your job is to keep all the good people on the bus. The team that successfully navigates 2020, 2021 and arrives at 2022 at a different place with the highest percentage of talented employees retained and rowing in the right direction wins.

Leadership is art. I'm sorry I'm saying you shouldn't share that op/ed you loved from The New York Times or Fox News with the team. 

Listen more than you talk. Connect with everyone on your team on a 1/1 level. Show empathy to all.

Play to win in 2020.


COVID Has Been Hard on my Friend: Jim, The Shoe Addict...

I'm back with updates on work clothes. As a primer, I'm the same guy who was unafraid to bring you uncomfortable fashion classics like the following:

BEST PRACTICES IN BLUE BLAZERS FOR THE CONTEMPORARY WHITE PROFESSIONAL CLASS MALE

BEYOND BLUE BLAZERS - THE PANTS CHOICES OF PROFESSIONAL WHITE MEN IN AMERICA

If you don't remember these classics, go take a look. There's nothing more fun than busting on how white guys dress. Shoes

But I'm back with an update that goes beyond gender and race. Let's talk about the dopamine hit we all get when we find a great deal on clothes, especially for work. I think it's safe to say that there have been some deals out there as retailers got roughed up by the pandemic-caused recession.

One friend of mine has a long history as a complete shoe addict. To prove this affliction knows no gender, this friend of mine with the shoe jones is a guy.

I'll call this friend, "Jim". The pandemic recession hit Jim's addiction hard. Cole Haan, his long primary source of shoe style, starting pumping emails touting 75% off from late March on. Jim couldn't resist. He kept ordering and stockpiling shoes and his closet looks like what you would expect from a hoarder, with probably 10 boxes of shoes, never worn, waiting for action.

His wife would walk by him at home and he'd hustle to another browser window - BECAUSE OF THE SHAME. He kept going back to the crack pipe of shoes that is Cole Haan, and they were happy to use Jim to relieve themselves of fixed inventory costs.

Jim's addiction seems innocent enough. But of course, addictions impact everyone around the addict. He kept forwarding me emails with sales. I ordered a couple of pairs of dress sneakers in early April - at the time I thought, "I'm going to be totally set up when this pandemic is over."

Flash forward to late June. As I look at the two unopened boxes of work shoes in my closet, I'm like, "####, when am I actually going to wear those shoes?"

Great sales on work clothes don't mean a thing right now. If you know someone like Jim, get into their browser history and run an intervention if necessary.

I'm still Jim's friend. I'm boxing up 2 pairs of Sketchers I got for nothing at an outlet mall to send to him. A shoe addict can't break the cycle on his own. I'm hoping the boxes of cheap Sketchers will be like Methadone on his road to recovery.

Good luck Jim. 


HR Book Review: The Office (The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History)...

On my summer reading list is The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History. I originally grabbed the book because it presented an opportunity to connect with my youngest son, who like a lot of kids, has consumed the entire series 3+ times on Netflix. It quickly became a primer on team-based creative process, where ideas have to come in volume, then be culled down quickly to the point that only the best idea makes it, and everyone on the team is OK with that.

One example of lessons from this book is how the writer room was structured and how they blended ownership of ideas from individual to team. Here's the explanation from Office Aaron Shure, co-executive producer and writer for The Office:

"During my tenure [seasons five, six, seven, and eight] we had around fifteen writers, usually three rooms going, and we had inherited the Greg Daniels style of idea generation, which focused on manifesting and externalizing ideas in a physical way, usually in the form of three-by-five cards that came to festoon the walls of the writers’ room if they were worthy enough by Paul and Jen’s estimation. We also had a process called “blitzing” where the writers would hunker down in their offices for an hour or two and come up with as many ideas as we could on a given topic. For instance, a few blitz topics I have in my notes: “Obstacles to Erin and Andy dating.” “Ways Andy and Kelly can try to subvert Gabe.” “What happens with Hay Place?” We’d come back with as many ideas on those topics as we could, read them aloud, and put the promising ones on the wall.

Out of those ideas a few would be selected to move closer to a storyboard. It was a big bubble-sort played out on the walls. While writers would campaign for and champion various cards, it was hard for there to be specific ownership of any given idea, with plenty of duplication and accidental repitching. Similarly, stories were broken in rooms with five or so writers all working on the beats. We’d come back to the room and pitch those boards. There’s a lot of working in a writers’ room that’s similar to improv, where it’s like “Yes, and . . .” You want to be able to keep your mind incredibly open and think of all the possibilities.

Greg actually called it “blue-skying.” Let’s take an example: “Michael is being broken up with and he’s going to handle it like a fourteen-year-old boy because he’s at the emotional level of one. What does he do to process it? How does he deal with something like that?” Sometimes there’s a tendency to just go for the first good idea, but we would spend a lot of time trying to find the best version of something. We would send people off to think and say, “Let’s keep in the blue-sky zone. Don’t put restrictions on yourself. How would a person deal with that?” And every once in a while, something just brilliant would come”

Translation - traditional brainstorming followed by team activity to further develop ideas not only lead to a strong creative process, but it removes the sting of your idea not being chosen - you have ample opportunity to contribute to other idea streams, and when the whole thing is done it's hard to remember the originator of the idea in question.

Recommended book if you liked/loved the office and need a summer read.

PS: The Office probably couldn't be made in 2020.


You Think Your Work Enemy Has Declared War: She Just Thinks It's Thursday...

"Some men just want to watch the world burn."

-Michael Caine in "The Dark Knight"

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Intent is a funny thing.  You're in the workplace, and the workplace has established norms: Some men

--We talk to each other before we make decisions or take meaningful action

--We give people a heads up before we announce something that won't feel good to them

--We try to play nice and if confronted, we try to make the person confronting us feel good about our intent.

Of course, those are norms - guidelines if you will, not hard rules.  Every once in a while, you run into someone that does not give two ****s about your norms.  They do what they want, when they want and generally don't give you heads up that it's coming or make you feel better if you ask them about it after the fact.

You know, ass####s.  We're pretty quick to assign full villain status to people who don't play by the rules.

What's interesting about the people like this you think are enemies in the workplace is the following:

You think they're out to get you based on chaos they cause.  They probably think it's Thursday.

They aren't even thinking about you.  Tearing shit up is just what they do.  In the age of Trump, we're likely to cast them as villains and think they're out to get us. That might be true, but in my experience, people who cause chaos can be factored into 3 categories when it impacts you:

1--They're out to get you.  It's what you thought.  They hate your guts, you're in the way and it's takedown time. 10% of the time, this is the reality.

2--They have a plan and a place they want to be unrelated to you.  They have a POA (plan of action) that's bigger than their relationship with you. You're taking it personally, but the "tearing shit up" and chaos impacts multiple people, not just you.  They're not even thinking about you, Skippy. 70% of the time, this is the reality.

3--They don't have a plan but love to keep everyone off balance as part of their managerial DNA.  Again, it's not about you.  Their business is chaos and by the way, the more positional power they have, the better that business is. 20% of the time, this is the reality.

Unless you're experiencing flavor #1 above, your best strategy is to keep an eye on it but ignore it.  Go about your business.  You do you, let them do them and save your emotional reaction and gun powder for when it really matters.  

If you're high sensitivity, this is going to be hard.  They're going to wear you out.  You think it's the workplace version of Normandy.

It's actually Thursday.  What's for lunch?


THE HR FAMOUS PODCAST: e15 - Is Your Company Ready for RTW?

In episode 15 of The HR Famous Podcast, long-time HR leaders (and friends) Jessica Lee and Kris Dunn come together to discuss Tim’s extravagant Southern Utah adventure, return to work plans, Twitter’s WFH forever proclamation, and Microsoft Teams. The team discusses the different return to work plans and ideas, new office norms, and a potential boom in the workplace real estate market.

Listen below (email subscribers click through if you don’t see the player) or click here for a direct link. Be sure to and be sure to subscribe, rate, and review via iTunesSpotify and Google Play.

Show Highlights:

1:00 - No Tim on this episode! Are we sad or happy? Stay tuned to find out ;)

2:00 - Is JLee still a kid? Sound off in the comments

3:30 - Tim Sackett is a jerk!!!! His Instagram is making the HR Famous crew jealous with his Southern Utah golfing, jeep trips, and luxurious escapades. Safe travels Timmy!

4:30 - Today’s topic: return to work! Some companies have their plans ready to go but all companies are going to have to get ready for “the new normal”. What is that going to look like? Are you ready?

7:00 - RTW = return to work

7:30 - Jlee sounds off on the differences of work returns there can be and the potential anxiety employees could bring with them. Will there be a major fear from workers?

8:45 - KD is taking the approach of surveying his employees on how they want to return to work. Who wants to stay home? Who wants to return to the office? Who is unsure and has concerns? 

9:40 - One size fits all? Not for RTW plans.

11:15 - KD fills us in on how Kinetix is facing RTW: Branded face masks: check! How do you feel about the decorative/branded face masks?

13:15 - Sexy brand check! Jack Dorsey has announced that all Twitter employees can work remote forever. What really is forever? Jlee thinks it’s a cool idea but may be too early to make this call. Only a diamond is forever ;)

16:00 - Will there be an increased need for real estate for workspace? Due to physical distancing needs, there may need more space needed to ensure employee safety. 

18:00 - Have you ever had an employee sit on the floor in your office during a meeting? Jlee hasn’t but she thinks that cramped small office meetings are on the way out and virtual meetings are here to stay.

20:30 - KD and Jlee are turning this into a Microsoft ad! Microsoft Teams chat is the new norm for Jlee but may be NSFW because of their raunchy gifs.

22:30 - KD thinks that Eric Schmitt’s perception of a workspace real estate boom is a little tone deaf. With more WFH employees and financial troubles, there may not be a real estate boom especially in spaces made for small to mid-sized businesses. 

24:00 - Should we be celebrating companies and CEOs who pledge not to lay off employees? The crew thinks it’s unrealistic to raise the expectation that companies should not lay off some workers in this pandemic, especially in service industries. 

26:10 - “Up your sunscreen game” - KD to Tim Sackett. 


Pro Baseball's Return to Work: A Plan HR & Youth Baseball Moms Can Love...

And now comes Major League Baseball with a 67-page Return to Work (RTW) plan, which includes details about how pro baseball will handle their workplace in a RTW, including testing, travel, workplace details (on the field, in the dugouts), protocol for the road and contact with nuclear family as well as friends.

The plan, which was reported by The Athletic (subscription site, I pay) basically summarizes a day in the life of a pro baseball player as this:

No exchanges of lineup cards. New baseballs any time a ball is put in play and touched by multiple players. Players wearing masks except while on the field, standing six feet apart during the singing of the national anthem and “God Bless America,” sitting six feet apart in the dugout and, if necessary, even in the stands.

These are just some of the proposed protocols in a 67-page document concerning health and safety that Major League Baseball delivered to the Major League Baseball Players Association on Friday night. The procedures outlined in the document are subject to union approval and thus could change.

But my favorite are the diagrams that show how the dugouts are going to be handled. Some of you have been volunteers in youth baseball, and if you've every had a bad day trying to make 5 and 6 year olds keep their hands off each other, you may have tried a plan like MLB is pondering for Post-COVID baseball.

Highlights:

--Assigned seats 6 ft apart in dugout.

--Assigned places for water bottles and gloves.

--Banishing some players to areas outside of dugouts.

--No spitting or smokeless tobacco.

--No standing in entrance to dugout.

This plan is straight from the Baseball Mom handbook for 5 year-olds. 

"If you can't keep your hands off each other, I'll fix it."

See diagrams below for dugout details in 67-page guide (email subscribers click through for images):

MLB1

MLB2

Of Course, HR pros will love this method of brining order to a dugout. Whether it's MLB, a 5-year old dugout or your office break room, you're going to have to tell them what to do and where to go for awhile.

Or no juice boxes after we're done.