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The Pretender, Part II

For those of you who read Part 1 of this series, here’s hoping you’ve forgiven me for taking subtle shots at Dirty Dancing, mullets, and Democrats. But in my own defense, I’m an equal opportunity antagonist, so you can be sure to see future digs at Footloose, the GOP, and whatever hairstyle Curt Gowdy has adopted for the day. If you didn’t read Part 1, quit reading this part & high-tail your ass back to FOT and start from the beginning like a normal person.

But let’s not bury the lead with witty satire. You’re a new leader, remember? You now exist in a situation where your biggest fear is being the embodiment of the Peter Principle. Fact is, you’re vulnerable right now. As such, there are still things of which to be aware:

  1. Be Careful With New Friends: Especially in Human Resources, as a senior leader you need to be wary of those individuals a little too eager to be your new best friend. Better to face an adversary attacking you than be fooled by the “friend” hugging you. You’ll have no trouble finding hundreds of quotes describing this situation, but in HR it’s even more complicated – if your new buddy immediately begins to “inform you” about the problems (and people) to address first, chances are you have a Judas in your midst, and you’ve opened up the channel for informal tattle sessions. You want to be empathetic, but you’re also not the school principal.
  • Slow Your Roll: Pick and choose, prioritize, and don’t over-promise. When I assumed my new role with Sage, one of the things I received was a list of key objectives for 2019. I counted 20 different objectives, and it was already mid-August. A number of these were accented with “we’ve been waiting for you to get started!”, so party on Wayne! If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority, right? Make the distinction between “must have” and “nice to have” and you’ll find your list shrinking considerably. Doing a few things exceptionally well is your goal – not doing everything mediocre. As much as we want to show we were the right choice for the job, resist the urge to be over-committed.
  • Find a true confidant: Remember, it won’t necessarily be the person who offers you the inside scoop on everyone (see #1); that person likely has an angle. Who in your midst has nothing to gain, has a wealth of internal knowledge, almost certainly has tenure, and has a generally positive and forward-looking attitude? That’s your buddy. It’s also a major reason to…
  • Bring One of Your Own: The last two senior roles I assumed came with the pre-qualified makings of my own Dream Team (the 1992 version, not that garbage 2004 group). They know you, know your style, obviously like your style and can be an internal advocate while you’re still getting your bearings. That doesn’t make them better than the people you inherit, but it sure as hell helps you sleep better at night.
  • Forgive Yourself: Let’s get the suspense over with, shall we? You’re going to make mistakes (plural.) That does not validate concerns you might have (or you perceive that others might have) regarding your ability to do the job. Own them, but don’t let mistakes create a cautious driver – you still need to have the confidence to step on the gas. Being indecisive or unable to react, even with incomplete information, is unacceptable. BE BOLD.

Another freebie – who might be a mentor or supervisor from your past who can be safe harbor when you need to vent, doubt yourself, or admit you’re in over your head? Get ‘em on speed-dial, Pancho, there’s no shame in being human.

25 years after accidentally landing in Human Resources, and still miles to go before I sleep. I have worked the wild and changing spectrum of the healthcare segment as a recruiter, generalist, business partner and team leader. Public, private, PE-backed, start-up ventures and merging entities – I’ve worked with them all, As an opinion leader in the Talent Acquisition community, my blog, “HR Hardball” has become one of the most visible and popular sites for transparent discussion on the challenges facing HR professionals. I’m also a featured contributor for Fistful of Talent, co-author of “What’s Next in Human Resources” and now a contributor to the good folks with the HR Exchange Network.

The Pretender, Part 1

If you get things that you desire, there may be unforeseen and unpleasant consequences. Another way to say that, “Be careful what you wish for,” but Google reminded me that’s also the name of a cheesy Nick Jonas flick (redundant, I know.) Whatevs, the spirit of the comment is the same – anyone striving for advancement in their professional life is actively trying to get to the promised land.

But what happens when you get there?

I know many of us have gone through this experience; you’ve mastered your current position and you begin looking intrinsically and saying “ok, NEXT.” If you’re being honest with yourself, that’s an important moment – you’re either ready for “different” or “more,” and the more you avoid either, the less of an asset you become in your current role. So, you begin taking those unsolicited calls from recruiters, update the resume, pay for a couple months of The Ladders or JobLeads, and add a snazzy new photo for your LinkedIn profile. It’s time for Baby to get out of the corner, tell Jerry Orbach adios and off you go having the time of your life.

Then three months later you’re the girlfriend of a mullet-wearing dance instructor, ironing his skinny jeans and voting Democrat.

I kid, I kid, lighten up Francis.

Yes, we want a new challenge…or a new title…or responsibility, money, respect, development, upside, or some other token of advancement. But with great power also comes great expectations that you know what the hell you’re doing.

Then one day you get your shot – you get the validation, the scope, and most importantly you have a new charter; you are now leader. With new people to lead. And a new boss. And possibly a new industry segment, new company, new culture, and let’s throw in a new commute, too – it’s not the same is the point I’m making. And then maybe you have that thought – “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing!”

Now what? Well, funny you should ask. I’ve been through this experience a few times over my 100 years in the business and can share a few revelations that have served me well when thrown in the deep end:

1-Embrace the Fear – If you’re one of those tremendously self-confident people who never blink when you’re thrown into the fire, please move along with my sincerest admiration. Go ahead, I’ll wait……………………………………………………………….are they gone?   Okay, for us non-cyborgs there are plenty of occasions to be anxious, fearful, or downright scared. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, only if it prohibits you from taking a risk, making a mistake, or coming to a decision. 

I remember clearly as a young HR professional when I witnessed the most Senior HR leaders become attached to the chickenshit button. Instead of making a decision that may be different, cause conflict, or (God forbid) be wrong, it becomes much easier to play it safe. Be a little scared – fear means energy, USE it, don’t revert to passivity.

2–Be Honest – You know the phrase, “Fake it until you make it?” No disrespect to Amy Cuddy, but while I don’t totally discount the value of confidence, don’t get over your ski tips, Lane Meyer. Expect to be tested and questioned, even by those lower on the org chart as they examine if you’re the real deal. When you fall into the trap of trying to prove yourself, you start stretching the truth – and when you do that, and you’re caught in a lie….

I remember in one of my first professional gigs a new leader was brought in and she was taking no prisoners; knew everything, was always right, and made a point of being called “Doctor.” What do you think we did? We researched her background and found her PhD was obtained from a degree mill that wasn’t even accredited. May as well ask for the check at that point, you’re done. Be yourself and don’t pander.

3–Big Moments Come Early – Almost unfair, right? You’re still in the honeymoon phase trying to assimilate and you may find yourself in a critical situation that impacts the rest of your tenure. The last two leadership roles I’ve assumed have both featured this scenario – a group meeting where your peers and subordinates are present, when one of your direct reports is obviously & vocally minimizing/challenging/contradicting you amid the discussion. It officially got to the point that others in the room are noticeably awkward as to how to react.

I won’t write about how I handled these for the sake of those involved, but if you want to find me on LinkedIn, I’ll let you know what I did, for better or worse. The point is, be prepared for this, especially if you’ve come from the “outside.”

Remember you may be in the chair somebody else wanted. Of all the things I’ve faced when taking over a new leadership role, this is far and away the biggest learning experience and the biggest litmus test of your leadership style. And people are watching.

25 years after accidentally landing in Human Resources, and still miles to go before I sleep. I have worked the wild and changing spectrum of the healthcare segment as a recruiter, generalist, business partner and team leader. Public, private, PE-backed, start-up ventures and merging entities – I’ve worked with them all, As an opinion leader in the Talent Acquisition community, my blog, “HR Hardball” has become one of the most visible and popular sites for transparent discussion on the challenges facing HR professionals. I’m also a featured contributor for Fistful of Talent, co-author of “What’s Next in Human Resources” and now a contributor to the good folks with the HR Exchange Network.

The Candidate Cocktail

Next week (June 10-12, Denver) I am honored to deliver a keynote at the HCI event for “Strategic Talent Acquisition.”
The title for my presentation? “The Candidate Cocktail, How Sweet It Is.”

I’ve got a theory, and it’s a pretty good one – this competitive hiring market is no accident. It’s a confluence of events (past and present) that created a job-seeker we’ve never encountered before.

If you can’t make it to the #hcievent in Denver, check back in with HR Hardball for my follow up posts on this subject over the coming weeks!


Women, Hear Me Roar!

Human Resources provides one of the handful of opportunities for a man to work in a corporate profession dominated by women. As such, I’ve had the opportunity to work with (and for) a multitude of women over my 20 years in the HR arena. By and large the experience has given me an extremely satisfying and fortuitous professional history. I think it’s fair to consider that maybe I was well suited for this career dynamic – raised by a single Mom who is one of five sisters and I have a wife who is one of four sisters – every damn one a redhead, by the way. Yessir, I think I’ve got some credentials that allow me to share some insight on women (as much as a man could possibly have) in general, and my first-hand experience in Human Resources has given me quite a vantage point on the treatment of women in the workplace.

Spoiler alert – it still ain’t great.

This feedback may be a little harsh. So before reading this, I’d like to remind all you male readers to please refrain from getting emotional.

Or hysterical.

Or defensive.

Or take this personal.

Or make a “big deal” out of this.

Or over-react.

Yes, gents, we’re still doing it. 100 years after the suffragette movement and twelve months removed from the #MeToo movement, and still a lot of us (menfolk) just can’t (or won’t?) recognize the very different ways we continue to communicate with and about our female colleagues. Maybe you’re familiar with some of the verbal slights listed above; you might think it’s clever or well disguised, i.e. – “defensive” is an example of a characteristic meant to diminish the opinion of the person across the table. It’s not exclusive to women, but “defensive” indicates an irrational, emotional response, and you know how women are (author quickly performs a duck & cover position.)

I’m still learning, too. Some of the conversation fillers men use (myself included) regarding the role of our women colleagues seem colloquial but are actually diminishing. Have you ever introduced one of your female peers as the person “who keeps us in line?” Or called a subordinate or administrative employee “the real boss”? Does she “babysit us” at meetings? How about “clean up” our mistakes? Or, my personal crutch, “she takes care of the details.” You know, while the smart guy comes up with the important stuff, somebody has to do the work, amirite?

We’re ridiculously far from the mark is the point. I truly don’t believe that these remarks are made with malice, mostly ignorance, but that particular excuse doesn’t hold much water. Women are still paid less for the same work (my wife reminds our sons of this all the time, btw), marginalized and categorized into roles (official and other) that are more gender related than skill dependent. This isn’t one of those “well, I guess it’s not safe to say anything” men suck posts. Men don’t suck, but we’re pretty good at being oblivious. Try to be conscious and in the moment; don’t over-accommodate and be patronizing, the world already has its quota on weenies. Be a person; a respectful, thoughtful person who tries to treat others as he himself would like to be treated.

Not talked over. Not as your admin (unless I’m your actual admin.) And not crazy, dammit,or there’s going to be trouble.

So, back to the first paragraph – I’ve been fortunate to have worked long enough to accumulate that “short list” of people you have on that mental list – you know the one, the “if I ever get the chance to hire this person for my team” list. Would it surprise you that my list is comprised exclusively by women?

This is my tribute to all of them (my wife included, she’s a bad-a**) for their role in my modicum of professional success. If I can do the same for each of you, my work is done. To succeed in a culture that continues to under-value your skills and efforts is an unbelievable accomplishment.

Signed, a work-in-progress.

5 Signs It’s Time to Update Your Compliance Training

Compliance training has come out of the shadows and into the spotlight, following high-profile sexual harassment scandals that have dominated the news cycle for months. As a result, many organizations across industries are more aware of the risk of ethics and compliance violations, and the damaging consequences on their reputation, productivity, employee engagement, recruitment and retention and financial viability.

For HR, now’s the optimal time to review and update your compliance training programs. If you’re wondering whether your compliance training needs a reset, here are five signs that it probably does:

  1. Your compliance training doesn’t include a message from your CEO
    Training can have a greater impact on employees when it includes a strong, clear message from your CEO that compliance training is a strategic priority for your organization. The “tone from the top” message should amplify your organization’s commitment to creating a positive, respectful, diverse workplace. It should also convey the expectation that all employees, at every level, are held accountable for acting ethically and speaking up when they see or hear about inappropriate or unlawful behavior.
  2. Your training doesn’t encourage employees to report misconduct
    Training is one of the best ways to educate employees on your internal complaint process, while ensuring them than your organization prohibits retaliation against individuals who report misconduct. Your compliance training should explain what employees need to do if they observe or experience harassment, discrimination, bias and other inappropriate or unlawful behavior, and what reporting channels are available, such as an ethics hotline or dedicated email address.
  3. Your training isn’t tailored to your workforce and industry
    Your compliance training program can be more effective and efficient when it’s tailored to your specific industry or sector. One way to achieve this is to use examples, terminology, images and graphics that are relevant and relatable to your specific workforce. And for organizations with a global workforce, consider what regional, cultural and language differences to incorporate in the training.
  4. Your training focuses too much on laws and regulations
    Compliance training designed to avoid liability has proven to be ineffective as a tool to change employee behaviors and attitudes. Today, thanks to cost-effective eLearning technologies and techniques, there are many creative ways to translate compliance principles, laws and policies into high-quality, interactive videos that immerse employees in stories and challenge their decision-making skills. For example, the old model would show a slide with the legal definition of religious harassment in the workplace. The new model would feature an interactive video dramatizing an employee harassing a Muslim co-worker, and the consequences that follow.  Interactive quizzes, assessments and engagement points are other ways to keep employees focused on what’s important and boost knowledge retention.
  5. Your employees say they don’t have time for training
    Even though compliance training is mandatory for many employees, it’s one of those “must-do” things they often put off. The reasons may vary, however, it doesn’t help that compliance training has a reputation of being dull, boring and long. Look for compliance training that is flexible and adapts to your environment and the needs of your workforce. Mobile-friendly courses, with targeted, bite-sized nuggets of content is a new way to reach and teach today’s distracted, interruption-prone employees.

Time to step up
In light of the scrutiny that compliance training has come under since the #MeToo movement, there’s no better time to explore ways to make your compliance training program more effective and appealing to your workforce. Look for visually-rich, interactive solutions that focus on raising awareness, changing behaviors and attitudes, and sparking conversations about the issues that are most important to your organization.

About the Author:
Jeffrey Frankel is the Vice President of Marketing for Traliant. The company is revolutionizing the way compliance training is experienced by transforming it from boring to brilliant. Traliant creates online training experiences that motivate employees to act ethically, to speak up against harassment and discrimination, and to help promote positive, respectful workplaces.


When in Doubt, Swing the Bat

One of the great joys in my life was coaching Little League baseball…with two boys of my own, I’ve been lucky enough to have over a dozen seasons on the diamond with little guys wanting to learn the great game. Spend that much time on the field, you will observe any number of coaching styles as you develop your own. Once you find your sweet spot, your team starts to take on the personality of the coach (for better or worse.) If you’re lucky, occasionally you might have the magical situation of TWO coaches cut from the same cloth.

For four wonderful seasons, I had that experience with my brother in arms, Matty Bryant, the Caveman Coach. It was always pretty easy to recognize our teams after a ballgame – we intentionally drafted “dirt bags” – kids that loved to get dirty, play hard, play fast, and (wait for it) – kids who want to have fun playing the great game of baseball.

            Angels with dirty faces…..

If you think that’s always the case in Little League, I can assure you it is not. Even in recreational level ball for 10-12-year-old boys, you have the coach who makes practices and games much, much too serious. Conversely, Matt and I had two over-arching goals for the season:

  1. Make the game about the kids.
  2. Whenever in doubt, make the game about the kids

That means teaching moments and coaching moments – including the lessons we garnered from the young men we coached. Think I’m kidding? We had more than one revelation that transcended baseball:

  • Swing the dang bat – “No one ever walks off the island.” That’s a phrase coined by Dominican MLB players when asked about their aggressive hitting style. Likewise, the game doesn’t really start until the ball is put in play – so while we played several teams who were on strict orders to “don’t swing until you have two strikes,” our kids were given the green light. Walks are for your dog, we’re here to play baseball, pal. Kids aren’t practicing every day in hopes of taking a 6-pitch walk,
  • Seeing kids support and pick up their teammates is about the sweetest thing you could ever witness. They learn that from you (coach, parent), or they learn to yell & blame – it’s your choice, please choose wisely. I can remember on more than one occasion when one of the kids made a visit to the mound to chat up the Pitcher. Pretty sure we both shed a sports tear on that one (*sniff*).
  • It’s okay to use “fun” and humor instead of threats and demands, after all, it’s just baseball (or work/or school/or money/or life). The power of encouragement and specific praise can make a huge impact. Don’t spread peanut-butter compliments, and don’t let unacceptable behavior go unnoticed. Pat ’em on the butt, sit ’em on the bench, both work.
  • Attitude does count…a LOT. Give us a team of scrappers who come off the field every inning with more dirt on their uniform than the inning before – give me THAT team any day.
  • Getting a trophy is great. But getting a trophy on the field in front of everyone is THE coolest thing in the world. You better recognize, and not always in private.
  • It’s important to realize, even as a kid, that EVERYONE makes mistakes, even the Coach. Even your parents. Even YOU. And yes, even the umpire.
  • Kids (people) do rise to the occasion. We saw plays in the field every week during a game that we NEVER saw during practice – people will amaze you.
  • Last one – celebrate successes! You have the naturals ballers who make the game look easy, and then you have the kids struggling to find their place. When that kid has a moment – a hit, a catch, a hustle play – ring the bell man, that’s a special thing.

For most kids, this is their first refuge – parents stay outside the fence, kids cluster in the dugout and (for the boys, at least) get a membership to their first exclusive club. And that’s the vibe we created for the teams we coached – this was the place to be, and with a little luck we may even win some games. Our end-of-the-year celebrations were always a mixed bag of emotions – we fell in love with every squad of kids we managed, so the end of the year was bittersweet. Every season we went into the draft with the same strategy – “let’s get the band back together.” Draft as many of the same kids, no matter the rank on the draft board, because the team is more powerful than the individual.

When I saw the announcement on Facebook informing me of Matt’s candidacy for the CISD School Board, it made perfect sense – he still wants to contribute to the kids of this community. I saw him do exactly that for 4 years between the chalk lines.

Do you remember your favorite coach from childhood? I do – Coach Steele, my baseball coach for two years in middle school. He taught me things, yes, but what I remember most is that he cared about us. You can bet that a lot of kids in Southlake are going to remember Coach Bryant for the same reason.

3 Things We’ll See in HR by 2022

On Friday of last week (10/20), I was a guest on Michael Cameron’s daily radio program “Win-Win@Work” and had the opportunity to speak about my favorite topic– building and leading a world-class recruiting team. It’s a wonderful thing when you find yourself leading a team that has hit its collective stride. It’s a magical place, a place where the beer flows like wine, and where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. Building and leading a team is the most satisfying part of the job for me, and when things are good, they are really good.

But we know in this crazy Talent Acquisition life, every day is a snapshot – who knows what tomorrow will bring, much less what might happen in 2022. So when Mr. Cameron (makes me feel younger to call anyone “Mister”) asked me at the end of our interview, “where do you see Talent Acquisition in five years?”, I’ll admit I chewed on my tongue a bit ~ five freaking years??

Since, “I don’t have a clue, Mike” is a decidedly bad answer to a live broadcast question, the little man started rummaging my subconscious mind for those thoughts I have when allowed to be future-focused. To my surprise, I think I may have made a little sense, you tell me.

Three things I expect to see in Talent Acquisition by 2022:

  1. Talent Networks/Communities Will Explode ~ If you aren’t building a community already, you better get with the program. Building virtual connections by sharing meaningful information is definitely a “long” play, but when those crops start to come in, you’ll have a pipeline of engaged candidates.
  2. Speed Wins ~ The application process is an absolute beating. Everybody seems to know this, but even with technology advances the process takes, on average, 30 minutes. That’s garbage. Find the key to that door and the kingdom is yours. The huge ATS is going to go buh-bye, and the sooner the better.
  3. Blurred Lines ~ With the increased importance of building a people pipeline via talent networks, Talent Acquisition will continue to morph into a Marketing arm of the organization. Candidate or customer, what’s the difference? We’re just scratching the surface of how to maximize the time we engage with a potential candidate, why not also capture them as potential customers? What we have here is another way to tie Talent Acquisition to financial metrics – yay metrics. Same concepts apply – who’s your audience, what kind of persona are you targeting, and how do you most effectively reach them?

There’s also one other fundamental belief I have that isn’t universally shared. Fundamentally, I still see our job being relationship-driven by talented people in recruiting roles. There’s a swell of Orwellian thinking that technology will replace recruiters as time progresses. Here’s the problem –  the HR-Tech boon of the last several years has, in many ways, resulted in white noise. Too many tools, too many gimmicks (too many blogs, consultants, and “experts” too for that matter.) I still believe the recruiting function needs to be internally based and owned by actual employees of the company. The technology that succeeds will be the kind that frees up recruiters to do what they do best – recruit. 

If you want to listen to the conversation, here’s the link. And yes, I really do sound like that.

New Law Coming Soon

“So, [candidate-person], how much do you currently make?” 

How is it that something so obviously inappropriate to ask in any social or professional setting is one of the boilerplate questions asked of every job candidate?

What do you currently make?” Excuse me, but what in the hell does that have to do with the price of grits in Charleston?*

I know the reason the question is asked – or at least I know the spirit of the question – but think about it from a candidate’s vantage point. Why would I offer you information that could be damaging to me?

Compare it to a poker game (and to me, everything can be compared to a poker game) – you’ve got a pretty decent hand, and if you play it right you may rake a pretty fair stack of chips. But the only way to get maximum value for your hand [I’m sure it’s obvious, but to confirm, the “hand” is your value as a candidate] is to raise the bet, thus creating the illusion (or is it?) that you’re holding the best hand. Now imagine you make that raise, but – before your opponent decides to commit money to the pot, they ask to see your hand. That takes the starch out of it, amirite??

Or, even worse – imagine you win the pot, but then you’re only allowed to collect 5% more than you’ve won in the past. Yes, you qualified to receive it all, but you don’t have the experience, sorry.

Now tell me how that ridiculous scenario is different than basing an offer to a prospective candidate on their current compensation. I realize we’re tasked to negotiate a compensation package with a potential employee, but to require the candidate to give you the starting point is hardly a fair negotiation. In fact, it’s blatantly unfair. And guess what? Starting October 31st, 2017, it’s also illegal. Yes, for now it’s a limited scope, but in principle what’s not to like about this law? You either have a salary range established for the position based on experience, or you don’t.

Why do we do ask? Maybe you convinced yourself this is for the benefit of the candidate. A proper “fit,” you see, is only achieved with the appropriate compensation expectations. Or, we might ask this question knowing that our own compensation offering is sub-par and we’re just praying the answer is low? Most likely it’s a simple matter of habit – it’s a question that has been part of the process for as long as most of us have been in the business of asking questions.

Now try the interview without asking that question – it changes the dynamic completely. You can still get the candidate to kick off the negotiation by asking “what compensation are you seeking?,” but the conversation takes on a different tone when you haven’t handicapped the discussion. 

Pull up a chair and deal ’em…NOW we’re playing poker.