Monday, September 01, 2008

The Carnival comes back to Guerilla-ville! (Better late than never)

Ladies and Gentlemen..... Step right up and see the Carnival of HR. Nope, no bearded ladies here, but we do have a bearded blogger and whole kettle of interesting posts this time.

First up is a great post from our friend Wayne (the Cranky one) over at Management issues to help spell out the pleasures and perils of the working from home. I'm afraid GOOF is all too often used to describe me, but not for the right reasons!

Susanna at Recruitment 2.0 ponders a question for the ages; why do all HR Systems all seem to be rubbish? Just a guess here, but maybe because most of us HR-types cant seem to make a compelling business case to force the vendors to deliver something better??!

While Susanna's post title is a little provakative , Etienne at the Happy Employee wins the award for the most shocking post title -
"Employees are a necessary evil" . Love the title, but let's keep this little thought just amongst friends in the HR field - if the villagers ever figured out that this is true, they'd be heading to your door with pitchforks and torches!

The Team Doc has a new and no-nonsense approach for us on squelching team member gossip. We seem to be on a very anti-employee thread here - while Etienne says we can do without employees, Denise has offered us a great excuse to clean house by canning folks for gossiping... ooooh, hear me purr!

Alison at Ask A Manager has some good advice on how to find out if you new boss is one to avoid - gotta say I will be taking this advice if I ever change jobs again.

Wally Bock over at Three Star Leadership knows that most managers don't spend near enough time managing their people, and in this post, he explains three reasons why they are not getting this done. Let's all just remember that "reason" does not equate to "legit excuse".

Jon Ingham at Strategic HCM offers a thought provoking (if not a bit depressing) summary and opinion on studies that about the majority of organizational initiatives that fail for lack of a "sense of urgency". Jon is dead on that all the "urgency" in the world will not move the mules unless they have the heart to move... it's all about heart at the end of the day.

And finally - if all the rest were not scary enough - Michael Moore (no... not THAT one), from the Pennsylvania Employment Law blog relates the scary tale about how the American's with Disabilities Act is being applied not just to a businesses physical properties, but to their on-line spaces as well! Wow... kinda makes being a Luddite a bit more attractive, doesn't it?

Well folks, there you have it... the belated September 3rd Carnival!

How'd you like a kick in the butt?

Have you ever noticed how when something is stuck, whether it be a stubborn door or a machine that wont run, we tend to try the "magic foot lever" (aka a simple kick) to get it moving?

I've lately become addicted to an old sitcom titled That 70's Show, in which the curmudgeonly father figure presumes that most people are dumb-asses and would benefit from a friendly visit of his foot on their ass to promote improved performance. Who knew that Red Foreman could be such a wise man??? Out of the mouths of babes... and screenwriters.....

But seriously, there has to be something to this whole kick in the butt phenomena, right? Examples of this are all around us:
  • That really tough English teacher who just hated you. She made you struggle and strain to finish that book and write that essay. She kicked you in the ass... and look at you now! You can read and string words together to form a cogent stream of thought. Looks like that kick worked out ok.
  • How about that maniac coach you had? He made you run laps till you decorated the track with your lunch. But when it came time to run at the track competition, you had the stamina to keep going. Another Kick success story.
  • Finally, what about your first tough boss. You know, the one who made you do it over till you got it right and kept handing you more challenging projects all the time. Now you are managing people ( or well on your way if that's your choice) and more capable than most because of all the foot-traffic your boss left on the seat of your pants.
When you look back on these things, you really did need that kick. While you might not have been a total dumbass at the time, there was a lesson you needed to learn and that kick was just what you needed to get you moving towards learning it.

So, it seems that kicks aren't just for stuck doors - they are to help people like us get un-stuck from the cycle we are in and launch forward for something better.


Remember those who gave you those kicks and consider if someone on your team could benefit from the same care and concern, albeit not necessarily in the form of your foot in their butt - after all, I'm an HR weasel and I don't want you to kick someone literally then say you did so because I told you to.

Friday, August 22, 2008

So this is freedom?

Folks who read this blog will know that I generally try to stay middle-of-the-road on political issues, but occasionally something comes up that is so genuinely repugnant that I just have to take it to task.

Buckle in kids, this is going to be a long and bumpy ride!

So much for the American concept of freedom. If the Unions have their way, a critical part of the protection from forced unionization will be taken from employees. A bill deceptively titled The Employee Free Choice Act would change the playing field for Unions and make it much easier for them to coerce folks into joining union against their will.

The current law governing how unions are established in a company have been around for years and are clearly arranged to protect an employee's right to freely choose to elect a union to represent them, or not. The law today provides a very solid balance to allow employees to freely seek to elect or reject a union without fear of reprisals from either the employer or the Union. See this very brief summary of the Employee's Rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

Like most laws, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is a pretty long and complicated tome that spells out things in detail. The key elements of the law related to if and how a union gets elected to represent employees are;
  1. Employee / Union rights to organize and;
  2. The election process which includes a secret ballot.
Simply put, Unions have the right to solicit, market, advertise and otherwise communicate to employees why they need a union to represent them. Likewise, employees cannot be prohibited from, or punished for pursuing union representation. The law very clearly protects these rights and the unions know it. Employers who violate these employee rights are penalized and if such violations in any way impeded a union's attempt to get in, the union election process gets the equivalent of a "do-over". Conversely, employers are prohibited from actions that could be construed as being coercive or retaliatory towards employees who support the union.

Typically a union will attempt to organize workers by holding off-site / off-hours meetings, passing out pamphlets or using other marketing methods. Make no mistake on this point - unions are a business and they invest BIG money into marketing and "selling" their value. They hire full-time organizers whose sole job is to get more dues-paying members into the union. This goal of the unions is to get at least 30% of the targeted employees (referred to as the Bargaining Unit) to sign cards saying that they are interested in possibly making the union their representative. They are NOT signing cards to say, "Yes, I want this union to have full authority to negotiate every term and condition of my employment", but if this bill passes, that is EXACTLY what the cards will mean.

In a world where the Employee Free Choice Act gets enacted, there is basically nothing to prevent union thugs, Organizers.... from accosting you and pressuring you to sign away your right to negotiate terms of your employment to them. You'll also be signing on to allow them to take dues from you which may be used to drive union political agendas, to fund illegal activities or even to personally enrich union leaders!

So why is this a bad thing? After all, isn't the union just moving to the logical conclusion a bit faster? Besides, the unions claim, thousands of employees are discriminated against because they support unions. This is simply a clear case of misdirection. Where employees have been mistreated by ill-informed employers for their union supporting actions, the very cases the unions cite as the reason we need the Employee Free Choice Act, are themselves testimony as to how the current law works. The cases they cite are cases in which employers were sanctioned for coercive or retaliatory acts. The unions want this because it would allow them to unionize a work-force virtually overnight for far less cost and effort than allowing the current process in which both sides can educate the audience and allow for a peaceful, thoughtful and FEDERALLY SUPERVISED election process.

The fact is that if this bill passes, the employees will lose the right to vote in secret and be subjected to the "parking lot politics" of having peers and union organizers directly pressure them to sign a card on the spot or be subject to ridicule or harassment. How on earth is this better? IT'S NOT!!! Simply put, if this bill passes, the very employees it proposes to protect will lose a basic protection and American right of electing representation by secret ballot.


Contact your elected representatives and let them know that the so called "Employee Free Choice Act" is anything but, and that you demand your right to avoid coercion or pressure from anyone through the time tested American standard of the secret ballot.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Gen -"W" as in What the hell?

You've heard all the generational labels being kicked around the past few years - Boomers (the folks old enough to remember when ...), Gen-X (the folks young and hip enough to bring us the internet), and Gen-Y.

Each generation has it's gifts, talents and traits that make them valuable.... up to a point. It seems that many in Gen-Y (and even the odd-Gen-X'er) have taken to the belief that the rules of their parents simply do not apply to them. I have chosen to stop referring to them as Gen-Y; I now call them Gen-W, where the "W" stands for "what the hell are you thinking?". I am seeing alarming numbers of these folks seeking employment and demonstrating behaviors I have NEVER seen in 18 years in the HR trenches. Worse yet, many of my Sales and Technology Manager friends tell me that they see the same traits:
  • Resumes that look like one step better than a third-grade student could do with a red crayon with more typos than you can get out of a band of drunken monkies using broken keyboards.
  • Cover letters (when present) that mis-represent their skills, over-reach for roles they are clearly not qualified for and demanding salaries and perks which they can't reasonably believe they merit.
  • A general failure to take even cursory steps to learn about the company and role they are applying for - here's a hint - if you don't at least know what we make or sell, you are not going to get the job; period!
  • Being completely unprepared for interviews; some of these folks have not even read their own resume to explain their experience!
The list goes on and on....

If you are among this select group - THIS is your wake up call!
If you don't shape up and get your act together, you will not get the job.

** This is aimed just for those of you who got offended by this post -

Please, before you contact a company seeking employment, take a step back and review the goofs listed above.
Take the time to prepare yourself and take a good, hard look in the mirror and be honest about whether or not you just might be as mortal as the rest of us.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Effective management is a "contact sport"!

No, I don't mean "contact" in the sense of how you'd pound on someone in Rugby or American Football... I'm referring to "contact" as in having a deep, personal understanding of, and connection with things like:
  • Your industry; know what it takes for your company to succeed and stay on top of industry events.

  • Your business. Learn all you can about your business; each function and department.

  • Your leaders; what are their goals and aspirations for the company and what you can do to help them achieve success for the company.

  • Your people – personally and professionally to help them grow and contribute to company success.

  • Your strengths – know them and employ them to achieve the better results.

  • Your weaknesses – understand your shortcomings and take an active hand in developing them; maybe you cannot overcome them, but you can improve them.

  • Your competitors: learn who their key players are and who is driving their success in sales, product management, design, etc.
Stop thinking about your role in the business as the silo of just doing your part, and start really analyzing how you (and your team) interact and contribute to the larger picture of your entire business and industry - get in contact with all of it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I'm just a Recruiter.... and maybe you should be too!

I'm just a recruiter. I wasn't born one, never really wanted be one, but here I am... just a recruiter. Given the choice, I'd probably have become an Astronaut, Firefighter or may be a Hot Dog vendor (you know -the little silver cart with the blue & yellow umbrella - yummy!), but I never dreamed I'd become a recruiter. Why? Because recruiters have the unenviable role of living in a business equivalent of the life of Tantalus - trapped between HR and the business. I'm not really HR; I don't warn, threaten or fire people. I'm not really in the business; I don't have a revenue target, I don't make a product and I have little ability to drive business policy... I'm stuck being just a recruiter.

But, I am a good recruiter (yes, they do exist, and especially in the corporate environment, we really do want to help the business succeed). We try really hard to understand your business and what it takes to find the right kind of people to make your business wildly successful. The challenge is that for you, the business managers, the secret formula that make a candidate great seems a second nature. You shrug off the recruiters when we nag you for more info about what a qualified candidate looks like, then bash us because we don't find you the left-handed, purple astrophysicist you wanted a week after you first raised the need.

I'm not writing this post to invoke a pity-party although it feels that way. I'm trying to set the mood here to lend more relevance and emphasis on this article from Fast Company that calls out how important the business manager's role in recruiting the next great player is. Quotes from the article really sound off clearly that the managers need to get into the recruiting process fast and deep: "make clear that hiring great people is not the responsibility of HR. It's the responsibility of every single manager." , "no one outside your group -- no human-resources specialist -- can understand the kind of superstar who will make a difference in your work. Only you can understand that."

You business managers hold the keys to solve your most critical needs, and you don't even recognize it; you need to be recruiters too!


If you are a business manager (or want to be one), start taking stock of what "A Players" in your field look like. Start this exercise before you need to hire someone rather than when the need arises - that's about as effective as closing the barn door after the animals have fled.

Want an easy way to do this? How about turning it into a team project and get everyone to help create the police-artist style description of the type of person you need for each role on your team? That way you will not only have all the answers to give to your recruiter, you will have a profile against which you can start building your own pipeline of talented folks.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Watch what you say

Internet job board, The Ladders ran a survey recently to find out what office-etiquette goofs could get you into hot water, and the top vote getter was.... Bad Language! In fact 38.4% of the managers surveyed cited this as a reason for firing someone. Obviously, they have never worked with me! By the time I get done with an average day in my little HR-domain I've cussed enough to make a Sailor blush.

My guess is that if you read this blog, you suffer from the same "potty mouth syndrome".

Since this blog is about managing our careers better, I figure we should explore a way to improve on this. One interesting resource I found is the Cuss Control Academy. In my little web-dive to find more on this topic, I found it really amusing that there are lots of articles out there about profanity in the office that call out the behavior as being a detraction to how the work world views you, with even more articles from the academic world that explain how cussing can get you expelled. Seems to me that maybe the same gravitas should apply in the workplace as in the school, but then I'm in HR and that's just how I am wired.

Take a quick pulse-check of your vocabulary. Are you dropping the F-bomb every time someone hands you a task? Have you cussed out your computer before 10 a.m.? Does your "pet name" for the boss begin with the letter "A" and end in hole?

If so, try the following:
- Replace the "F" word with "Monkey" - it'll still be inappropriate to blurt out, but at least it wont get you canned!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Take the test - I double-dog DARE ya!

I'm not one for on-line tests - they tend to be too general, statistically unreliable and don't reflect reality (not to mention the fact that I usually fail them). I recently saw this quiz and figured it would be harmless to give it a go - guess again my friends.....

The quiz, which you can apply to yourself, a "friend" or even a whole group is about bullying behaviors and if you answer yes to more than 5 of the 25 questions, you've got a big red flag flying. When I first looked at the questions, I thought "oh, that's silly, no one in the office is really unethical, are they?" ,but after a bit more thought, yes.... some really are. As I scrolled down this list of 25 preposterous behaviors, I was alarmed that I have actually seen more than half in my business - some of which even I have been guilty of.

The scary part is not the shame at our behavior, it's the risk we place upon our organizations. Simple workplace bully behavior doesn't make the top-10 list of most HR leader's greatest fears and THAT is what makes it so dangerous; it's insidious and endemic in the organization. People know the behaviors go on, but don't address them because it's not stopping the flow of revenue and no one is threatening to sue, yet...

The fact is that by ignoring or allowing the behaviors, the company is actually making a statement that the behaviors are ok. THAT is the real problem - how can you defend your company from a discrimination or harassment suit when the very behaviors that prompted the claim are accepted by your management every day?

Create a culture that does not tolerate uncivil behavior. Take a stand for decency no matter who the offender is - if it's your CEO or top grossing sales person - nip it in the bud! The payoff for doing so extends well beyond the obvious risk reduction; you'll see better morale, better results and lower turnover - and those things are NEVER bad!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Managing "Whack-a-Mole" Goals

Wow, has it really been 2 whole months since my last post?? Yikes! Sorry about that folks - but it does highlight the conditions that drive this post, so maybe it's not so bad after all.We've probably all seen or played the arcade game "Whack-a-Mole". It's an annoyingly addictive game. If you've never played it, go here, then come read this post - it'll make a whole lot more sense that way. Really,..... go ahead...... I'll wait.

Now that you've got a sense of the game - lets go on.

The theme here is that the moles keep popping up out of different holes, and at an increasingly fast tempo; the faster you knock the little buggers down, the faster they pop back up. There's no pattern or order to they way they pop up and if you miss enough of them, you lose the game.

Does this sound familiar? It seems to me that business planning is becoming more like this every day. The pace of change continually increases, the markets & opportunities swing at a break-neck pace and the price of missing a business opportunity is potentially devastating..... just like game.

For good, or bad, we have to accept that this is the way things are and that they are not likely to ever go back to the comfortable old way of establishing annual or long range plans and then living by them. Our reality is that things do and will continue to change VERY fast, and our goals will change with market conditions. Those of us who don't keep pace will have a very rough time of it.

Now, apply this theme to goal-setting for yourself and your team. This means that you should consider setting goals with the inevitability of change in mind. This also means that you've got to keep "whacking " your goals continually {read that as reviewing with your business and your team}.

This agile approach will help you ensure you are whacking the right moles at the right time with the right mallet.

As you set goals for yourself and your team (which I just know you are doing because your are a good manager) make a very clear point that these goals are subject to change and get everyone prepared to review and revise goals often to ensure that your goals are always aligned with the goals of the company.

Carry on!