I-9? Oh no…

Just when you thought you had your cats herded, it appears that a major change in the existing I-9 form will be implemented as soon as 2013. For the (fortunate) uninitiated, the I-9 is an employment eligibility document required for all new hires. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is the driving force behind the changes, after 25 years using the current document.

What would change? According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) said, “If the proposed changes are implemented, the I-9 will expand from one page to two pages. In addition, the employer will be required to provide employees with six pages of instructions (up from three) along with the one-page list of acceptable documents.” (Allen Smith, SHRM)

With an increased emphasis on immigration oversight, it’s not surprising that a new document may be needed. The challenges to the internal HR department is learning the new form on the run, explaining the new form (and possible procedural changes) to candidates for employment, and of course the God-awful storage requirement that will double overnight.

Might be a good year to take that long needed sabbatical?

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); like this post? Try this one, this one, or even this one….go ahead, don’t be a weenie.


Culture Club

“who is Derek Zoolander?”

Speaking with a new client, I was shocked when the topic of “culture” was brought up as a matter of importance. Not that the topic isn’t important, but that  a business leader outside of the HR/OD Suite would actually recognize and prioritize a subject matter that is usually viewed as a “soft” (aka “squishy,” “fufu,” “New Age”) component of an organization’s development and identity. Even from the ranks within Human Resources, “Culture Initiatives” are often met with dismissive rolling of the eyes. Let me admittedly throw myself in that category based on much of the experiences I’ve had within corporations when the dreaded announcement about a “culture project team” hit the masses.

But here I was with the opportunity and the audience to have a philosophical discussion about the inherent value of establishing a corporate culture; seeing as I had 30 minutes to kill, it was an easy choice to saddle up and have a dialogue.

Here’s the Catch-22 as it relates to corporate culture initiatives: you cannot, in my opinion, consciously create your company culture. You can create a “brand;” you can create a Mission and Vision (quick test – do you know the Mission/Vision statements for your respective company by heart?). You can promote “Values” and value statements, design learning and development curriculum, have a picnic, write a catchy slogan, or maybe even initiate free “Jeans Day.”

Nope, your company culture will define you. Your company, your department, and/or your team already have an identity. You already have informal traditions and methods; you have ways of getting things done. You have ways of reacting when under pressure; when taking (or not taking) risks; when making (or not making) mistakes, and when assimilating (or not assimilating) new members to the tribe. As a company goes through the different phases of growth, the culture will also change [read “Barbarians to Bureaucrats“]. Not because of a project to establish a new way of doing things, but as a bi-product of the actions and behaviors of the people making up the company. Instead of creating a culture, a company is better served defining their culture.

Be honest with yourself – don’t call your company “performance-based” if you give flat merit raises. Don’t call your company “entrepreneurial” if you require five levels of approval before action is taken.

KISS took off their makeup. Garth Brooks became Chris Gaines. Shelly Long decided to be a movie-star. Remember, just because you wear a badge, it don’t make you the Sheriff.

John “Whit” Whitaker is the Founder and Managing Partner of HR Hardball™. And don’t call him Boy John! To send Mr. Random-80’s music fan an email, or to submit your own thoughts for publishing on this site:



HR – Message from the Top

“…lookin’ good!”

The September issue of HR Magazine arrived at my house yesterday…yes, I’m a big enough geek to actually read something called HR Magazine, but that’s another article entirely.

For me, the most interesting part of the magazine is the message from SHRM CEO Henry G. Jackson. In every issue, “Hank” shares with us a message from on high meant to inspire the HR foot soldiers around the globe; sets the tone of the month’s issue, aligns the current HR mindset, and probably allows Hank to check the box for “to do’s” in September. But this month, ironically enough, the message is titled “Building Innovation With Accountability” [the choking sound you hear in the background is SMFT reflux]. Dear Mr. Jackson – your timing is really poor.

As noted in my last post, SHRM recently held elections for their 2013 Board of Directors. For the first time that anyone can remember, there was a quite a bit of attention on these elections. The SMFT (SHRM Members for Transparency) highlighted several issues they had with the current BOD, including (*gasp*) a lack of accountability.

The article, for the most part, is innocuous, but it does typify the disconnect between what Human Resources professes to be vs. the reality of what many HR practitioners face in the field. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Hank was in San Diego recently speaking to a “group” of CEO’s; this does not make me like him more.
  • Hank spoke to a group of CEO’s about “culture.” A powerful Hank quote, “The full power of culture trumps strategy every time.” This is the kind of quote that leads to HR people being left off meeting invitations.
  • Continuing….”if we develop a culture that fosters innovation and embraces accountability…we can inoculate organizations from disruptive innovation.” What the what? Nonsensical is the first term that comes to mind, but also remember this diatribe comes from the head of SHRM, an organization that maintains a very secretive position regarding their own dealings. The cobbler’s children clearly have no shoes.
  • Mr. Jackson does state that HR has “shared accountability”  for the bottom-line success of the corporation. Agreed. But then he takes a few leaps that may not ring true to the HR masses: “If we separate ourselves…employee engagement will suffer. And HR executives will not have fully embraced their responsibility as keeper of the company’s most important asset, and as the most critical C-suite position.” What. The. Hell.

Human Resources does have shared responsibility for the company’s results, just as every support function within the company shares responsibility. Try as we may, HR is not a core competency of an organization. We do not sell anything. We do not buy anything. We do not process anything (salute to Lloyd Dobler). I can appreciate the spirit of the statement, Human Resources is most definitely not “there” at this point in time.

Perspective may be part of the issue here. It should be noted that Mr. Jackson is a CPA. A worthy designation, but one that doesn’t impress the SMFT, which would much rather see SPHR or GPHR as a certification for the governing body CEO.

That’s the challenge with preaching for “accountability” ~ the mirror may show a splinter in your own eye.


John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); like this post? Try this one, this one, or even this one….go ahead, don’t be a weenie.



“No comment.”

Anyone involved in the Human Resources profession is familiar with the governing body, SHRM (Society of Human Resources Professionals). What many HR folks may not realize is there exists a current rift between SHRM and many of its practitioners. The main group of dissenters has branded themselves “SHRM Members for Transparency,” or “SMFT.” This group wants more access to the financials and practices of the managing body.

The basis? SHRM’s Board of Directors, for a start: the elected officials making up the BOD are salaried employees. SMFT notes that in the same year SHRM dues were raised, it’s become standard MO for the Board to fly Business or First Class when attending member events. Petty? Maybe, but still not a smart practice. More alarming to most SHRM members is the lack of HR certification by the Board members. Only 38% of the elected officials actually have a PHR or SPHR certification. An issue within itself, there’s a debate over the necessity of an HR certification to be a successful HR practitioner: regardless of your stance on that issue, it’s a certification that is sponsored and promoted by SHRM thru its sister organization, HRCI (Human Resources Certification Institute.) Understand that the SHRM mission is the advancement and betterment of Human Resources via the certification and continuing education programs for its paying members (over 260,000); is it fair to expect the governing Board of the organization to also possess the same certification? The CEO of SHRM is actually a Finance professional ~ not a bad thing for a company (which SHRM most definitely is), but a perceived slight to the membership.

Have a complaint? Well, the Board has the power to dismiss any claim or complaint levied against them, individually or collectively. Social platforms like LinkedIn have seen discussion threads and individual posts deleted and removed on official and unofficial SHRM discussion groups. It appears these actions have awoken the sleeping lion. The upcoming SHRM elections have now drawn heavy interest from the SMFT. They have work to do, as historically only 4-5% of SHRM members actually vote in these elections. My guess is those percentages increase dramatically in the next election. The SHRM BOD has made the tactical error of acting as if they have something to hide, which of course brings on the perception that there is something to hide.

“Uneasy lies the head who wears the crown.” – William Shakespeare

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); like this post? Try this one, this one, or even this one….go ahead, don’t be a weenie.


Brother, can you spare a dime?

“Have you given to your local HR Department?”

Within the Human Resources industry, a common thread exists in any discussion regarding the role HR plays within an organization: “how does HR become a strategic business partner?”

The key is to dominate in September.

In Dallas – Ft. Worth, September is a special month. High school football takes over Friday nights. Temperatures cool considerably, sometimes topping off in the low 90’s. Parents finally exhale as their kids are back in school, and at the office it’s “budget time.”

In Human Resources, budgeting is traditionally done from the historical perspective. Utilizing last year’s budget, approximate increased pay & bonuses and send it up the chain. As a pure SG&A expense, HR is rarely in the position to request additional headcount or appropriate the money needed to launch any number of the “strategic” initiatives that are critical to Human Resources getting the opportunity to show their strategic value.

That’s life in Human Resources, plenty of good ideas but little in the way of capital to make the ideas into reality. It’s a dynamic within a company that is very similar to the process a start-up company faces when generating seed money from potential investors. It’s a process that requires HR to leave the comfort zone of the Ivory Tower, put on an entrepreneur’s hat, and start selling their plans to internal clients.

The key is the timing of the pitch. In a tight economy, it’s critical to be on the front-end of the funding process: that means getting your dollars included in the budget, and that means you need to be prepared to succeed in September. Failing to do so means battling a zero-sum mindset during the year. You want a mid-year Talent Assessment meeting with a Team-building workshop? Don’t ask for it in Q1, where your project can be funded only at the expense of another; get your project on the books in September.

These are the actions of a strategic business partner. Identify a need, build your proposal, sell the Return on Investment, and close the deal.

That doesn’t sound like HR, does it?

Well, that’s the point.

John “Whit” Whitaker is the Founder and Managing Partner of HR Hardball™. Do you know your Finance partner? Figure it out! To send Mr. Knows-it-All an email, or to submit your own thoughts for publishing on this site: