Category Archives: career

Back Into The Frying Pan

For the last handful of years, I’ve been a free-range chicken, roaming from roost to roost spreading good cheer and occasional wisdom. The life of a consultant is one that doesn’t suit everyone, but for me it felt like a worn-in Birkenstock. Unfortunately, it’s a lifestyle that didn’t have the resiliency of a worn-in Birkenstock. Daddy needs new shoes.

Yes, for a lot of us, “living the dream” can’t last forever. So, hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s back to work I go. Corporate America, say hello to your old buddy. And, predictably, things are quite a bit different when you have an office to report to—and not just because you no longer take conference calls in cut-off sweat pants (that’s a thing, right?).

  1. First, you have this damn thing called a “clock.” Do you know that some people sit and watch this device as if it were a productivity meter? It’s true. Not that it’s a problem to come to the office, don’t get me wrong—but the impact on the the habits of the other worker bees is pretty amazing. How did I forget about this dynamic? You have the early birds, the 5:01 crowd, the chronic late arriver, and the “no-lifer”—that’s usually the nickname given to the boss that just can’t seem to find a reason to leave in the evening. As a consultant, hours are erratic in many cases, but I also didn’t know a single colleague who wasn’t still working long past Jimmy Kimmel. That stupid “clock” acts as a start-and-stop mechanism for the workday, a lot times when I’m just getting started.
  2. Titles matter. Chances are no one is a “Ninja,” Dreamweaver, or Fun Captain in your office. Back at the office, titles are matched with compensation, benefits, parking, status, and less obvious perks like “having your email answered.” Don’t be frustrated, that’s just part of the game.
  3. Meetings. This one explains itself, no?
  4. Colleagues. These people are no longer “clients.” The decisions and actions you take and make could impact them long after the length of your contract. I’ll be honest, I missed this part more than I expected, but found myself having to adjust to the pace, protocol, and unwritten rules that existed before I arrived.
  5. Blogging—yup. We can’t all be Matt Charney; there’s a certain decorum that is necessary no matter how many “opinions are my own” statements you’ve attached to your profile. More good news—if your arrival is announced, there’s a better-than-fair chance that your entire catalogue (which, like Michael Bolton, I celebrate) will have been combed over by a few of your new water cooler buddies. You may have a few hot opinions to explain, so you might want to have a few talking points ready to roll.

My buddy Jessica Merrell is another recent convert, and we chatted about a few of the re-entry dynamics, and not just the challenging ones. There is plenty of good news, too, “former” consultant. There’s a real affinity for bringing your consultant background in-house. You’ve seen the other side of the fence (or several fences, if you will) and can share the best and worst of your experiences.

So even while you navigate the new realities of things like “dress codes,” don’t lose the mindset of a consultant—speak up, that’s why they hired you.

Force = Mass x Acceleration (+HR)

“F = M x A (+HR)” is the fourth in a 10-part series outlining the concepts included in “The Physics of HR; Mastering the Laws of Motion,” the Whitaker joint set to publish in mid-2016.

“My job is to make people move.” That’s been the overall theme to this discussion to date, in case I haven’t bludgeoned you to death with imagery already. That’s my job as an HR professional and as a leader of people, as it is for all of you. But the really good ones have also mastered the next part of the equation; “how?”

Newton’s Second Law of Motion sounds more complicated than it is, but can be summarized into a fairly simple explanation; “if you exert the same force on two objects of different mass, you will get different accelerations.

Pretty simple, right? Except the fact that our “objects” are people; that requires that we flip our thinking on this particular law to allow for reverse engineering. Meaning that before any “force” is exerted, we need to determine the desired outcome.

not to be confused with FLMA
not to be confused with FMLA

We see this happen quite a bit in Merger Integration – established deadlines and expected outcomes drive the method of combining two (or more) separate entities. Communicating a 90-day window to realize $2M in efficiencies will effectively drive the forcefulness of the process and will also help target the appropriate “objects.”

Where this process gets muddier is when we don’t have the same structure surrounding a situation. Employee Relations issues are a great example; a situation occurs that requires our immediate intervention, so we will (in most cases) revert to an established protocol we have used in the past. In other words, we’re using the “same force on objects of different mass” but we’re expecting the same acceleration to a desired result.

This is a common trap for Human Resources. We are prone to following a set protocol without necessarily applying the right Science. Sometimes we don’t feel empowered to change the methodology, sometimes we feel hemmed in by the all-encompassing fear of “legal” ramifications, and sometimes we just don’t know any other way.

By modifying the equation, we can start looking at the desired result, then factor in the “mass” of the object (no fat jokes here, please), before determining the amount of force needed to get there. As #WorkplaceScientists we can still experiment without blowing up the lab, but experiment we must!

Next up: Newton’s Third Law of Motion, where the fun really starts…

 

HR – A Force To Be Reckoned With

“The Force of Human Resources” is the third in a 10-part series outlining the concepts included in “The Physics of HR; Mastering the Laws of Motion,” the Whitaker joint set to publish in mid-2016.

You probably guessed we would arrive here. In the first post of this series, I crystallized the HR function into a four-word statement – “We Make People Move.” Is it an over-simplification? Maybe, but keep listening and see if I can bring you around.

For two years, those of you who have been paying attention have commented on the prominence of Newton’s Cradle in my branding, my imagery, and even in the background of my webinars. That’s no accident – Newton is my muse. Watching a set of silver balls in motion was THE seminal moment in my belief in the Science of Human Resources; the whole kit and caboodle illustrated by a desk toy.

Middle-ball-change-uncertainty

  1. An object A person at rest will remain at rest unless an external force acts upon it.
  2. An object A person in motion will not change its velocity unless an external force acts upon it.

Get it? Is that amazing or what – how many times have you felt like a “force?” Not a common descriptor for Human Resources in my 20+years of service, but that’s what we have the ability to be.

An organization, an individual, an employee – each either at rest or in motion, respectively, and each subject to change should an external HR Force act upon it. You could probably list a dozen ways of the top of your head where Human Resources has played a part (sometimes unintentionally, by the way) in changing the uniform motion that exists at a point in time. Pulling, pushing, stopping, starting, attracting, repelling – we’re a force, man, believe it.

This idea of how we can consciously and purposefully change the course of employees and organizations is the veritable hamster running on the wheel inside my head.

Tell me – are you feeling it? If not, keep reading – my hamster’s just getting started.

Next up: Newton’s Second Law of Motion, making it matter…

 

The Feeling is Mutual

“The Feeling is Mutual” is the second in a 10-part series outlining the concepts included in “The Physics of HR; Mastering the Laws of Motion,” the Whitaker joint set to publish in mid-2016. The first installment, “We Make People Move” can also be found on HRHardball.com

I’d never join a club that would allow someone like me to be a member.” – Woody Allen

What kind of employees is your company attracting?

Like begets like. What we transmit to the universe will dictate what we attract. Lest I sound a little too closely aligned to “The Secret” or other like-minded books on the power of visualization, my focus is strictly on the presentation of your organization to the potential candidates (and, by default, potential customers) in the marketplace.

Is the company you think you are aligned with the company others see from the outside? The corporate culture that your corporate leadership chooses as your “brand” may not jibe with your real corporate personality. It’s like those first half-dozen dates with your husband-to-be; he’s opening doors for you, having deep conversations for hours, and treating you like a queen – six months later he’s clipping his toenails on the couch while sitting in his boxers. So despite good intentions, your corporate culture is not represented by your Vision or Mission Statement. It’s represented by the people in its employ.

Your culture is defined for you, not by you.

Get over here you....
Get over here you….

So when the topic of “culture change” comes about, Staffing becomes the catalyst, not a new word cloud, acronym, or “jeans day.” You can define any culture you want, but it all starts with the people. This is where we, as the talent gatekeepers of the company, can earn our keep in multiple ways:

  1. Candidate Intel – Do you ever ask your job candidates about the reputation of your company? I know it’s common place to ask a job-seeker “tell me what you know about Acme International,” but changing that question a little bit can provide some amazing information about how your company is perceived outside the walls. “From your perspective, what do you know (or think) about the culture here at Acme International?
  2. Recruiter Intel – Even if you don’t utilize external recruiting assistance, it’s never a bad idea to keep an open communication with a few trusted external sources. Believe me, THEY definitely have an opinion to share about how candidates view your company. They can also give you an idea of how you are faring vs. the competition.
  3. New Hire Intel – The people you have brought into your company over the last 6-12 months are going to be potential ambassadors for your company. What has their experience been to date? How is the company different/the same as what they believed it would be?
  4. Former Employee Intel – Good golly, keep your eyes on this demographic. It’s there for the taking if you look for it, and not always in the kindest language – go getcha some tough love, you’ll be better for it.

The real work starts after that – updated job descriptions, interview guides, attraction statements, performance documentation, annual reviews….you get the picture. 

As #WorkplaceScientists, we must first determine what message we are sending before we can truly make an impact on the culture of our company. Align that with the culture you desire and begin to make the changes needed.

 

My Job? I MOVE People

“We Make People Move” is the first in a 10-part series outlining the concepts included in “The Physics of HR; Mastering the Laws of Motion,” the Whitaker joint set to publish in mid-2016.

We make people move.

That’s the answer.

The question? “What does Human Resources really do?”

Our profession is blowing up. In addition to our traditional role(s) within the organization, technological advances continue to expand our reach, our capabilities, and have also provided a platform for collaboration and idea-sharing via digital and social media. We now concern ourselves with things like branding, engagement, culture, and the “candidate experience;” big, ethereal, global concepts that we’re continually trying to get our hands around. You could easily make the case that at no time in our history has Human Resources been so expansive, so strategic, and/or so complicated. The “art” of HR is now a science, too.

Our own governing body has actually spent the last several years building a new competency model for HR professionals (not coincidentally, they have also created a new certification model to grab more of your HR dollar – that’s another column.) In fairness, the effort was needed – the job is changing to the point where an identity crisis could develop. All you have to do is browse a selection of LinkedIn profiles to see the titles and job descriptions various HR pro’s are using to attempt to explain what they “do.” We’re all over the map trying to capture the breadth of our responsibilities. So here’s how SHRM defines the role of Human Resources:

– “The formal structure within an organization responsible for all the decisions, strategies, factors, principles, operations, practices, functions, activities, and methods related to the management of people.”

Pretty comprehensive, yes? My goal was to simplify the message, while still capturing the essence of the job – here’s the #WorkplaceScientist definition of Human Resources:

– The study of the properties and nature of people and processes, focusing on “how” and “why” people move.

move-people-hardball

It need not be any more complicated than that. Over the next 10 weeks, I’m going to share some of the thoughts that led me here.

Let’s move.

Be The Top Banana…(or at least one we’ll remember)

My oldest son is 13. He and a couple of his (wonderful) knucklehead buddies like to record original songs whenever they are goofing around. This band incarnation goes by the handle Velvet Banana. Most of their current material revolves around the digestive process, but they are certain to reinvent themselves as they grow.

Now, if the name Velvet Banana sounds oddly familiar, you’ve obviously got some appreciation for the history of modern music. It was in the late 1960’s that Lou Reed and John Cale collaborated to begin what would come to be known as The Velvet Underground. Their debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico (released in 1967) was an acquired taste, to be sure, but would go on to later be recognized as one of the most important albums in rock history. Even if you’ve never cared to listen to the music, chances are you are familiar with the album cover…you know the one – the “banana” album.

Andy Warhol, who managed the band during this period, presented the band as performance art, rather than just a musical group. That’s why a record that sold a relatively small amount of copies in its day still resonates as one of the most memorable. “Stickiness” personified.

So why did it work? There are a million bands toiling away, trying to establish a name, a niche, a message, or maybe just a buck…how did this group, which included an electric violin player, a female drummer, and a lead singer who sounded like he was reading the telephone book, succeed?

  • THEY FOCUSED INWARD ~ A quick search on LinkedIn shows over a half-million recruiters with active profiles. Choosing to look at your competition as a half-million people would be self-defeating. Look inward, not outward, when determining “who” you are. This band looked inward, and then gave an honest assessment of who they were, not who they thought others wanted them to be.
  • AUDIENCE AWARENESS ~ “Acquired taste,” remember? The “Underground” were not immediately embraced by a large audience….but that was the plan. They played for the audience they desired, even at the cost of numbers. Who is your audience? Are you playing for the client? For the candidate? What are you doing for that audience? Trying to play for broad appeal makes you Nickelback…you don’t want that to happen, do you…DO YOU?
  • DIFFERENTIATION ~ The freaking “banana,” the non-traditional instruments, the experimental records, the Warhol circus, “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable,” this was all part of the brand (and band) experience called Velvet Underground. Look at your industry peers in recruiting sometime – how many profiles/pictures/messages stand out to you? What about any recruiter makes he or she memorable? What makes you memorable?

So, 649K recruiters on LinkedIn; 158K “Executive Recruiters;” 258K Sales Recruiters; 232K IT Recruiters; 20K headhunters – how in the world do you stand out?

I know where you can start; May 8th, 2pm on the “Recruiting Makeover” webinar. Jobvite and Fistful of Talent present a look at how recruiting has become more and more dependent on marketing skills. 

Learn from the best and steal ideas…that’s pretty much what we’re saying here, right?

Rock on. 

Register HERE!

Happiness Means Letting Go

All in.”        Duffy-Clock-Logo

What? You haven’t even looked at your cards!”

"Tell her I'm on my way."
“Tell her I’m on my way.”

Don’t care, man…I’m tired, need to go home…all in."Tell her I just left!"

This is not an atypical midnight conversation at Duffy’s Double Down Emporium (serving your Texas Hold’Em needs since 2010). It’s getting late, we’re getting old, somebody’s wife sends a text asking “Where ARE you?”, so the natural response is to start playing loose as a goose by pushing your chips in on every hand.

Instead of sneaking a look at the hole card, determining pot odds, calculating the number of “outs” available, etc., they just lean back and push in. To the rest of us, it’s a blank slate. Nothing to read. Nothing to bluff, bully, or chip-whip. The short-timer just grins his tired grin & checks his Twitter feed. And inevitably…he starts to rake a few pots.

It’s maddening.

And it’s brilliantly effective, at least in the short-term. Why? Because now they aren’t playing the game, they are just letting events take their course without fearing loss. You see, somewhere around hour 5 of the evening, the reality sets in – it’s just money; the Sun will still rise tomorrow morning.

Have you ever been close to someone at the office who is short-timing their current job? Happy, carefree, amiable, seemingly at peace with the world. Maybe they have an offer from another company. Maybe they decided to go back to school. Maybe they hit the lottery. It’s all the same though; they stopped playing the game, and the scent of freedom is all over them.

It’s maddening.

And it’s also brilliantly effective, at least in the short-term. Suddenly you hear real opinions and feedback, instead of the highly curated version of corp-speak or gossip. You see smiles and relaxed laughter instead of angst and politicking. For a brief respite, clarity sets in ~ It’s just a job; the Sun will still rise in the morning.

Basically, you get a real view of what this person may actually be like when they’re happy. And happy people are productive people. Obviously, you can’t keep playing blind for too long, that’s just nuts – at some point you need to look at your cards again. But when you do, try to keep the same perspective – you may very well lose this hand, but there’s another deck being shuffled; a new hand is coming.

It’s a simple concept we often forget in our workplace. Be happy – don’t wait for midnight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Act Like You Belong…

In recruiting, you can feel like your hair is on fire 24 hours a day. Today was one of those days, so as I grabbed the stack of JVR’s (that’s Job Vacancy Requests, y’all) cluttering my desk to add to my ever-expanding pile of “Priority One” tasks, I managed only a quick glance to see the Meeting Reminder populating my computer screen: “Staffing Strategy Meeting, 1:00pm, C101.”

Not good. I had roughly two minutes to make it to a meeting room five minutes away.

Blue flame following me, I managed to get to the room just as the door was closing, my eyes focused on the one empty chair remaining in the room. Avoiding eye contact with everyone, I quickly sat down, still breathing heavy from the sprint. I slowly gazed up at my meeting partners and saw something unexpected. Suits. Ties. EVP’s, SVP’s, VP’s, and other very important, distinguished looking gentleman with whom I had rarely, if ever, had the opportunity to meet. I didn’t know what meeting this was, but it most certainly wasn’t a “Staffing Strategy Meeting.” 

Holy Christ, I was in the wrong meeting, and I was wearing khakis. I looked like the cabana boy at an Executive Retreat.

If you know me, you’d know the thought of standing up and gracefully leaving the meeting was an unthinkable option. Nope, I was just going to act like I was supposed to be there.

Deftly avoiding more than a cursory glance up from my copious note-taking, I managed to survive the hour without having to say a word. As the meeting adjourned, I left a contrail in my wake. I was a ghost.

Back in the warm bosom of my own office, I couldn’t help but laugh deliriously at my experience. Apparently, I wasn’t alone – as I sat there, I received a call from Nick, our CIO. “You were in the wrong meeting, weren’t you?” Busted.

“Yep, I was actually hoping someone would pull the fire alarm.” After he stopped laughing at/with me, he made the moral of the story crystal clear – “Act like you belong, and I guess you do.” 

Prologue: This little escapade happened to me over 15 years ago, but it’s obviously one that stuck and it never fails to get a chuckle. I like to remind my boys (12 and 9) about things like this to share a few pieces of “wisdom” they might retain:

  1. Everybody screws up, get over it.
  2. Roll with the punches, you may end up with a cool story to tell.

 

Playing the Fool

Skip Bayless is a hack.

For those of you unfamiliar with Skip’s work, he can currently be found on the craptastic ESPN production, “First Take.” On the show, Skip and Stephen A. Smith (a buffoon in his own right) debate the current issues of the day. By “debate,” I mean they script a scenario in which they vehemently disagree about a topic, then set about flogging the viewing public with an incredibly loud brand of annoying incompetence. The show is an outright joke to any serious sports enthusiast, and the hosts have become a punchline amongst the credible media, and even among the athletes they cover.

Oh, also this – “First Take” is the highest rated show on ESPN.

So, here’s my hypothetical – what if you could be in a position at work where you are compensated as a star. You bring money to the company (more than your more talented and credible colleagues) and you have complete job security for as long as your performance ratings remain high (minimum 3 years.) Sounds pretty good, right?

Wait, wait, wait – I’m not done.

The tradeoff for this position is this – you are a joke. A boob. A fool. No matter your success, you will always be viewed this way by your peers and colleagues. You will continue to be the bell cow for your company, but you are ridiculed as an incompetent jackass.

Would you do it?

I wouldn’t, and my guess is that most of you would refuse as well. How are you treated in your current job? Are you appreciated, respected, and valued? Have you made the rationalization to accept poor treatment in exchange for a paycheck?

What would Skip do?

November Reign

Ah, glorious November…step outside and you can literally feel the changes all around you as the mercury drops and the days get shorter.

Professionally, we are fully engaged in Q4 objectives ~ strategically speaking, we have two more months remaining in the year, complicated by the reality of six “real” weeks of productivity available. In that window, performance reviews and 2014 budgets are due, and, (should you find the time) it would be really nice to see your 2014 objectives ready for review.

Besides that, the calendar is wide open…

In times of overwhelming responsibility, many of us will actually show a tendency to assume more ownership for the situation, despite the critical mass we are accumulating. Fearing the failure of any one of these tasks, we will instinctually try to control the situation with more involvement. This can make the last two months of the year especially stressful and we haven’t even reached the silly season yet.

My friends, now is the time to resist the urge to dive into the weeds ~ instead, use the multiple objectives due in November as development opportunities for your team. These are meaningful assignments to be given to the people you are viewing as potential leaders in the company.

Performance reviews, budgeting, and goal-setting are key components of any managerial post, yet they are rarely experienced prior to assuming the role – here’s your chance to offer a glimpse into the world of leadership, separate the wheat from the chaff, and give yourself a break at the same time.

“Ready Now” is a philosophy to embrace when considering organizational succession planning. One of the real challenges of assuming a management position is the lack of actual experience in the merit review and budgeting processes, respectively. Well, November is the month to offer an incredible opportunity to include your talented pipeline in actual strategic planning.

It can be difficult to relinquish ownership for such important tasks, but the benefit to the development of your people (and of you as a leader) more than equals the discomfort.