Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Year of the White Male - MidTerm Election Roundup

When it comes to the US midterm elections, 2014 was definitely not the year of Diversity.

Here's my quick roundup of the demographic statistics for the Governor and Senatorial Races.

There were 36 Governor races.
Male versus male: 27
Male versus female: 9
Female versus female: 0

Male wins: 31
Female wins: 5  (3 Republican women, 2 Democrat women)

African American Candidates: 0
Mixed Race: 1 (?) (Male Democrat Maryland)
Mexican: 1 (Republican Female New Mexico)
Asian: 1  (Male Republican RI)

Plus Hawaii's 3-way race between:
Japanese - David Ige
Hawaiian/Chinese/Portuguese - Duke Aiona
German/Samoan - Mufi Hannemann

There were 36 Senatorial races.
Male versus male: 22
Male unopposed: 1
Male versus female: 11
Female versus female: 2

Senate Results:
Male wins: 32
Female wins: 4  (3 Republican, 1 Democrat)
Male - Female: Requires Runoff: 1

African American Candidates: 2
Wins: 1 (Male against White Female)
Losses: 1 (Female against White Male)Other Races: 0?

So what's going on? Gender/Race bias? Women uninterested in being politicians? Losses for Diverse Candidates from the Primary Elections?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Treats on Fridays Might Retain THIS Employee at KLM

Looks like KLM airline is going to have to change the name of their HUMAN resources department to accommodate this employee in the lost and found department....


In this case, treats on Friday might just be the perfect employee retention strategy.

For more Canine Resources, see this earlier post: Something Much Better Than Robots Replacing Workers

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Why Does Our Competitor Hate Hawaii??

One of Nobscot's competitors has a photo of a Hawaii guy in an aloha shirt and slippers (flip-flops) leaning back in his office chair throwing paper airplanes unprofessionally at his suit-and-tie clad co-worker. The article is about the types of exit interview consultants you should avoid, with the implication that the Hawaii guy is one to stay away from.

The not-so-subtle dig on Nobscot got me thinking about vendor corporate culture. Working in HR we are all well attuned to the importance of internal corporate culture on employees, particularly on employee retention.  But what about the corporate culture of the vendors with whom we choose to work? Does the internal culture of a vendor impact the customer experience? 

If, for example, a company's internal culture is overly formal, bureaucratic with aggressive sales goals does that translate into a vendor who is difficult to work with, not flexible to attend to a client's unique needs, insincere with nickel-and-dime pricing, and dishonest about capabilities in sales presentations?

When I think about Nobscot's culture, it's clear that so much of our internal culture informs our performance with our clients. Our competitor may have gotten it all wrong about what it means to be a Hawaii company but they were right about Hawaii setting the tone for our culture and what it is like to work with us.  Not in a paper-plane throwing (?) unprofessional (??) way but in our unique aloha spirit.

Noscot's Hawaii-style is what drives us to work hard and smart while still having fun, to be passionate about what we do, to care about each other, to minimize red tape, to be upfront and honest and to go the extra mile. This translates into a unique experience for our customers.  We (genuinely) care about their success. We surprise them with more service than they expect.  We laugh (a lot) with them. We go to extreme lengths to provide fair pricing with our "pricing fairness policy" and all inclusive pricing. We take away stress rather than produce it. In a nutshell, we like to spread a little aloha with each customer interaction.

The only real sad part about the photo is the stereotypical vision of Hawaii being a place where people slack off or are incompetent. In reality, Hawaii is a place of great diversity, remarkable work ethic and very smart people. Hawaii has been my home for more than 20 years and although my former Boston accent may rear its head from time to time, I'm glad to have added a little bit of Aloha into my work style and how my team treats each other and our clients. Aloha!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Staff Application Form: "Have you ever been involved in prostitution, homosexuality, illegal sex, or any sexual perversion?"

I ran across the Job Application for the "Church" of Scientology dated 1999. For those in HR, some of the questions might surprise, shock or simply make you giggle.

 Here are baker's dozen of them:

1) Where were you born?
2) Nationality?
3) Any children? If yes, give details. If they don't live with you do you still pay child support?
4) Are you currently taking any drugs or medicine? If yes, list what drugs and for how long you've been taking them.
5) What street drugs have you been taken and how many times have you taken them?
6) Have you ever sold drugs? If yes, give details. When was the last time you sold them?
7) Please list any self-betterment or religious groups you belong to.
8) Do you have any debts? If so give complete details including to whom, amounts, when due and how you propose to pay them off.
9)Have you committed any felonies for which you weren't caught?
10) Have you ever been involved in prostitution, homosexuality, illegal sex, or any sexual perversion? Give who, where when, what on each instance.
11) Have you ever had electric shock?
12) Have you ever had any other shock treatment or psychiatric brain operation?
13) Are you related to or connected to intelligence agencies or either by past history or immediate familial connections?

Full application in PDF here via wikileaks:

Saturday, June 21, 2014

How I Put My Group Through Extreme Team Building - Amazing Race/Survivor Style - PART TWO

In the last post I detailed the beginnings of our team building adventure where Nobscot team members landed in Lihue, Kauai with no idea where they would be staying for the week. They each received a clue from one of their clients and had to put them together to figure out their next steps. You can read Part One here:  How I Put My Group Through Extreme Team Building - Amazing Race / Survivor Style - Part One

When creating team building activities there is always the concern about making it too easy or too hard. We had to get that balance right. If it was too easy, we would have wasted an important opportunity. Our remote workers only get to spend limited time with each other each year so it's important that the time be used well. On the flipside, if we made it too difficult, we're not quite sure where they would have ended up for the night!

As a side note, when hearing about the activity someone on our HR forum said that the concept of getting somewhere without plans in place would have caused extreme anxiety. That's something I hadn't thought of but will keep in mind in the future. We don't want to freak our employees out TOO much.

But we did want to freak them out a little bit. Working in HR technology can be unpredictable so being able to work when things are ambiguous is important. To keep them guessing (and worried), instead of the clues sending them to a beautiful resort, it sent them to a vacant lot. A beautiful vacant lot across from the beach --- but void of any hotel, house or accommodations. Having earlier alluded to the group about the reality show Survivor and possibly camping, we were hoping they might think they would be in tents for the week.

Meanwhile, Bruce and I were waiting for them at their final destination.  Time was passing and they hadn't arrived when we expected. (Looks like WE were the ones worrying not them!) We finally gave up and drove down to beach lot where they were supposed to arrive first. We parked at the end of the road under the pine trees fronting the bay and looked around. No sight of them. Not more than 3 minutes later as we were sitting in the car trying to decide what to do, two cars of Nobscotians came down the road and parked RIGHT NEXT TO US. We hid our faces and tried not to look conspicuous while listening to them.  "I think this it!" And off they ran. 

They went onto the lot and found the secret clue box.

Laura finds the Clue Box

Bruce had tucked some match sticks in the box as a red herring.

"Uh Oh. We're going to have to build a fire."

The scroll inside the box had instructions. I think this was my favorite part of the activity. The scroll included 10 things they had to do. At the top it said to read all the instructions first before getting started. Tucked in one of the ten steps was one that told them they could skip all the steps and proceed. This was to test if they paid attention to detail and read instructions before beginning.  If they hadn't, they would have spent a lot of time doing some useless things. Luckily, they read everything first!

Step 6. Skip all ten tasks!

The last step was plugging in their secondary clues into a Madlibs type directions sheet. This gave them directions to their final destination.

They filled in their clues and they were off!

Awaiting them was their home and our workspace for the next 7 days. (Thank you, Glenn!)


The "We found the Key" Selfie

 It was a lot of work putting together the adventure but as you can see from those smiles it was well worth. It was a great way to kick off our week and exemplified how much they can achieve when everyone works together.

As for me, my reward was when they secretly threw a birthday party for me the following the night!

Many thanks to our AMAZING team. Love you guys!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How I Put My Group Through Extreme Team Building - Amazing Race/Survivor Style - PART ONE

Clearly I had been watching too much Survivor and other reality TV when I concocted this year's "Nobology 2014" event. Nobology is our annual meeting in Hawaii for our senior mainland group where we do strategic planning, product roadmapping, team building and training activities.  Rather than providing trip details, photos and directions to some lovely place where they would be staying, this year I posted a note on our internal forum that they were going to have to solve some Team Tasks to figure it all out.

To get them started with their main task, each person needed to call a specific client of theirs by telephone and ask him or her for their Secret Clue. And just for fun we "accidentally" scrambled the names of the clients.

We had names like:

Vinke McNodal
Rhyar Loofir
Airs Froste
Riggen Ocely
Lelimi Wallyaca

I chose some of our fun clients that I thought would get a kick out of playing along with us. They were instructed to await a call from the Nobscot employee and then read them their clue verbally over the phone. After they read the clue, they were to email the clue image along with any other images provided. They were all great sports about participating and I'm very grateful for their help. Thank you Vinke, Rhyar, Airs, Riggen and Lelimi!  I'm absolutely sure that Nobscot has the best clients on the planet.

The clues would lead our team on their journey but since this was designed as a team building activity, none of the clues on their own were very helpful.  They only became meaningful once they were all put together. Much like any successful business, united they stand, divided they fall. 

The team was not allowed to share their clues with each other until they landed in Hawaii. And from what I gather they all lived up to that rule. That foiled the plans of one colleague who came out a day early and was going to do some scouting in advance (I'm talking to you, Adventure Dan!) 

Here is a look at all the clues and images:

Prior to this activity, they had a Team Task to secure their flights. They were given an overall team budget that they needed to stay within and they had hints about it being important to come in at roughly the same time and early in the day so they could find where they were going.  Even though they were coming from all across North America, they managed to coordinate their times pretty well.

Little did I know that at the Toronto airport, Laura would be required to provide an address of where she was staying. Luckily she knew my address and used that. A similar situation occurred with the immigration forms that need to be filled out when flying into Hawaii.  Luckily the team was resourceful! Kerrie's seat mates, a couple that was going to vacation in Princeville was confused when they asked her where she was staying and she said, "I don't know!" They were concerned that she didn't have any reservations.

Upon arriving in Lihue, the team made plans to meet up and review the clues and start their adventure.

Would they be led to a nice hotel? Some lovely condos? A house at the beach? Or would they be sleeping outside and learning how to build a shelter and create fire?

See Part Two for the rest of the team building Nobscot style story.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Donuts on Fridays

We always say that Donuts on Fridays won't retain employees --- But these ones might! 

Lovely photo:  Chocolate donuts and milk by Brkati Krokodil | Stocksy United 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Why High Performers Are Your Worst Source of Employee Feedback

In a recent conversation among HR practitioners, the talk turned to employee feedback. One HR Manager stated that he was going to stop conducting exit interviews and instead switch to Stay Interviews of High Performers.

What he doesn't know is that high performers are your worst form of employee feedback.

Here's why: 

a) High Performers are optimists.  High performing employees always see the cup as 3/4 full, even when it's half full. That's one of the reasons they perform so well.  They naturally focus in on all that is right while problems roll right off their back without them ever noticing.

b) High Performers don't complain. One of the things we love so much about high-po employees is that they are not complainers.  They don't gossip. They aren't dragged into the muck like ordinary employees. If you ask a high-po about some of the challenges they face, they are likely to smile and say that everything is just fine, thank you.

c) High Performers have a higher breaking point than others.  Things have to be really bad before a high performer will begin to consider other external opportunity.  Because of this high tolerance level, high po employees are not impacted by 80% of the irritations that are driving others out the door.

d) High Performers usually leave due to Pull not Push factors.  Because high performers are generally satisfied and find happiness in whatever they do, they themselves are unable to articulate what would cause them to leave. They can not tell you what is wrong because nothing is wrong, until an amazing opportunity elsewhere presents itself.

There is simply no way that high performing employees can help identify future reasons for turnover among themselves and other employees.

Does this mean that Stay Interviews with top performers are a waste of time? Absolutely not.  Stay interviews are something that every good manager should conduct with their staff. Especially their high performers. It's Management 101 to get to know what motivates your staff.

HR Managers, on the other hand,  should not rely on stay interviews to uncover systemic weaknesses across the organization that drive employee turnover.  The time for HR and Senior Leaders to be listening to high performers (and others) is by examining their exit interviews.  Only when high performers are leaving, are they able to see, understand and express the challenges that cause other high performers to consider opportunities that come there way.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Employee Retention is always tricky but more so for some (vintage) professions............

How would you like to be their Managers or "Personnel Officers?"

Bulletproof Vest Tester, 1928

Dog Food Tester

Human Alarm Clock 

Human Radar Detector

Bathing Suit Measurer
(Those in HR who have managed the company dress code might relate to this one.)

Odor Judge

 And from Hawaii........
 1930 Tour Guide at Volcano Crater at Kilauea

1940's BeachBoy at Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki

Please review the full line-up of historical photos and other fun info at the following sites:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Research Uncovers 1 Emotion that Causes Employee Turnover, Another Retention

A paper by Tobias Kraemer and Matthias Gouthier explores the roles of emotion in employee turnover, specifically in the high turnover world of Call Centers.  They identify two emotions that impact employee retention and turnover.

The first emotion is ANGER.  They have discovered that anger causes "emotional exhaustion" which increases intention to leave. Anger includes feelings such as annoyance, irritation, fury and rage and is one of the most common workplace emotions.  In the Call Center study, anger inducing events included personal attacks, incivilities, unjust treatment, task interference, unaccomplished work goals, corporate policies and personal mistakes.

Interestingly they found that while the most intense anger comes  from customer interactions, anger that is produced from supervisor interactions causes stronger negative emotions. The reasoning is that employees become used to negative interactions from customers. Anger that arises from supervisor's actions are less frequent but carry much more weight with employees.

Conversely, the emotion that leads to employee retention is PRIDE. Their research confirms that feelings of pride increase organizational commitment thereby reducing turnover intentions.

Pride producing events include:

performance acknowledgement
company success
recognition of potential
"socioemotional" feedback

Of all the pride producing events, performance acknowledgement was the most important. This can come from customers, supervisors, co-workers or the employees themselves. Like with anger, acknowledgement from supervisors was shown to be the most important source of pride.

Some of the suggestions provided for reducing anger include regular open discussions between managers and employees and other methods to detect what angers employees.  Exit interviews can be used in this way as well. Exit interviews can determine the factors that produce enough anger to have actually caused someone to leave rather than create a stated "intention" to leave which might dissipate over time once the anger is forgotten.

To increase pride the researchers suggest offering active feedback and reward outstanding behavior. Since self-acknowledgement is also critical, providing employees with benchmarks with which to evaluate their own performance can be helpful. Acknowledgement from co-workers can be achieved through creating an environment of team spirit and team recognition.

For updated US Employee Turnover Rates by Industry and Geography, download Nobscot's EE Turnover Tracker app.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Something Much Better than Robots or Machinery Replacing Workers on these Ranches

On the short flight back from Oahu to Kauai, I enjoyed the article in the Hawaiian Airlines magazine Hana Hou called "Canine Cowboys."  

The in-depth article details the use of work dogs in place of cowboys on some Hawaiian ranches.

My fellow HR professionals will appreciate this line which is quoted from Kapapala Ranch owner Lani Cran Petrie:

“In this country three dogs will do what seven men could barely do,” she says. “They’re happy little souls if you give them a job. And no workmen’s comp.” 


Sunday, February 16, 2014

"Scientific Management" Circa 1910

The methods of motivating workers have changed dramatically since 1910 when Frederick Winslow Taylor advocated the following approach...

The task before us, then, narrowed itself down to getting Schmidt to handle 47 tons of pig iron per day and making him glad to do it. This was done as follows. Schmidt was called out from among the gang of pig-iron handlers and talked to somewhat in this way:

"Schmidt, are you a high-priced man?"

"Vell, I don't know vat you mean."

" Oh yes, you do. What I want to know is whether you are a high-priced man or not."

"Vell, I don't know vat you mean."

" Oh, come now, you answer my questions. What I want to find out is whether you are a high-priced man or one of these cheap fellows here. What I want to find out is whether you want to earn $1.85 a day or whether you are satisfied with $1.15, just the same as all those cheap fellows are getting."

"Did I vant $1.85 a day? Vas dot a high-priced man? Vell, yes, I vas a high-priced man."

" Oh, you're aggravating me. Of course you want $1.85 a day--every one wants it! You know perfectly well that that has very little to do with your being a high-priced man. For goodness' sake answer my questions, and don't waste any more of my time. Now come over here. You see that pile of pig iron?"

" Yes."

"You see that car?"

" Yes."

"Well, if you are a high-priced man, you will load that pig iron on that car to-morrow for $1.85. Now do wake up and answer my question. Tell me whether you are a high-priced man or not. "

"Vell--did I got $1.85 for loading dot pig iron on dot car to- morrow?"

"Yes, of course you do, and you get $1.85 for loading a pile like that every day right through the year. That is what a high- priced man does, and you know it just as well as I do."

"Vell, dot's all right. I could load dot pig iron on the car to- morrow for $1.85, and I get it every day, don't I? "

"Certainly you do--certainly you do."

"Vell, den, I vas a high-priced man."

"Now, hold on, hold on. You know just as well as I do that a high-priced man has to do exactly as he's told from morning till night. You have seen this man here before, haven't you?"

"No, I never saw him."

"Well, if you are a high-priced man, you will do exactly as this man tells you to- morrow, from morning till night. When he tells you to pick up a pig and walk, you pick it up and you walk, and when he tells you to sit down and rest, you sit down. You do that right straight through the day. And what's more, no back talk. Now a high-priced man does just what he's told to do, and no back talk. Do you understand that? When this man tells you to walk, you walk; when he tells you to sit down, you sit down, and you don't talk back at him. Now you come on to work here to-morrow morning and I'll know before night whether you are really a high-priced man or not."

Read the full story here:  F.W. Taylor, Scientific Management


Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Pope's 3 Words for Happy Marriages Also Applicable for Employee Retention

Pope Francis summed up a happy marriage to three words:

According to an AP article, "Francis told fiancés gathered in St. Peter's Square for a special papal date that expressions of courtesy, gratitude and contrition go a long way toward conserving and enhancing love over time."

From what we read in exit interviews, these three simple actions would also go along way toward reducing employee turnover.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Unhappy About Feeling Happy

In the Employee Retention field we like to think that if we do everything right -- identify irritations and systematically work to reduce them -- that our employees are all going to be happy. And it works well for the most part. But did you know that there is such a thing as a fear of happiness?

In a recent article in Scientific American Mind  researchers explain that for some people, happiness can create feelings of deep discomfort.  Here are some of the reasons why people might feel unhappy about feeling happy:
  • Feeling unworthy
  • Believing that good fortune means something bad is bound to happen
  • Guilt that they must not be striving hard enough
  • Underlying depression
  • Discomfort if they are not always worrying
This is considered a potential clinical problem as the article states, " an aversion to positive emotions often coexists with mental disorders."

Are you  afraid of happiness?  The article includes a simple quiz you can take to find out. The quiz has 9 questions rated on a scale of 0 - 4.  Here are a few of the questions:
  1. I am frightened to let myself become too happy
  2. I don't let myself get to excited about positive things or achievements.
  3. My good feelings never last.
To take the quiz and see your results, click HERE.

So while it's true that some people will never be happy and some people will fear their happiness, it's still an important part of Human Resources to create an environment where employee can feel self actualized, happy and engaged.

Monday, January 06, 2014

15 Traits that Define Entrepreneurial Companies...and How to Invest in Them

Professor Joel Shulman of Babson College has sussed out the 15 traits that define an entrepreneurial company compared with a non-entrepreneurial company...and he's betting on them in a big way.

 15 Attributes That Define Entrepreneurial From Non-Entrepreneurial Companies

1. Organic growth opportunities
2. Above average ownership stake among key stakeholders
3. Low SG&A
4. Above average return on invested capital
5. Sustainable growth
6. Manageable debt
7. Active strategic alliances/partnerships/licensing
8. Aligned executive compensation packages
9. Low executive turnover
10. Transparent governance
11. Long duration of key managers
12. Low or no dividends
13. Family involvement
14. High EBITDA Margin %
15. Other significant stakeholder relationship


Professor Shulman, also the Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer of EntrepreneurShares LLC, is so certain of these qualities that he has started a fund (ticker IMPAX) that screens a database of more than 30,000 companies and invests based on these traits. 

That's putting your money with your mouth is!

The only one of Professor Shulman's traits that I would adapt would be expanding #9 from "Low executive turnover" to "Low Employee Turnover."   It's not just executive employee retention that matters.

And if you are looking for employee turnover rates (benchmarks) by industry and geography, be sure to see Nobscot's new app - Employee Turnover Tracker.  It's available for both Android and iPhone devices at a special introductory rate of $1.99.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hiring Convicts and Morons

I'm reading a fascinating book from 1921 on "Personnel Relations." It's a 200+ page manual or perhaps textbook applying "scientific principles" to the personnel industry.

In a chapter on Interviewing, it talks about how every adult should be capable of being hired and the focus should be on finding the proper "adjustment" between the worker and his job. The text literally states that the only reason to reject an applicant would be if the worker would be injured by the job or would injure his fellow-employees and/or society.

It goes on to say,
"Establishments that a few years ago were hiring a small percentage of applicants and yet had a turnover of 400 and 500 percent now boast of their ability to use such exceptional classes as discharged convicts, morons, disabled soldiers, and industrial cripples, with a lower turnover and improved production."
Work really has changed over the years, hasn't it? In the 1920s there was evidently and unlimited number of unskilled jobs that needed to be filled. For "personnel professionals" of the day to be even suggesting that there was a job for every person who applied is incredible.

Wouldn't it be nice if in today's world that the job openings across the globe were exactly equal in number and requirements to the skills and qualities of all the people who are unemployed and job seeking?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Equal Pay for Less Work? No Thank-You

I have just read one of most demeaning things toward women since Larry Summers ventured to open his mouth about girls and boys.

In a cleverly written piece which purports to be even keeled toward both men and women, Professor Roy F. Baumeister, Professor of Social Psychology at Florida State University, states the following:

Likewise, I mentioned the salary difference, but it may have less to do with ability than motivation. High salaries come from working super-long hours. Workaholics are mostly men. (There are some women, just not as many as men.) One study counted that over 80% of the people who work 50-hour weeks are men.

That means that if we want to achieve our ideal of equal salaries for men and women, we may need to legislate the principle of equal pay for less work. Personally, I support that principle. But I recognize it’s a hard sell.

Wow. Equal pay for less work....because our poor little women just aren't motivated to work enough to earn it the way men do?

How about we start with equal pay for equal work, Professor?

According to a 2009 article in Psych Central, "The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cites women working 41 to 44 hours per week earn 84.6% of what men working similar hours earn. It gets worse as women work longer hours — women working more than 60 hours per week earn only 78.3% of what men in the same time category earn."

Although I don't believe it to be true, let's suppose men are at the workplace more hours than women. Could it have anything to do with the fact that women continue to have the greatest burden of caring for children, putting food on the table and keeping a house relatively free from germs, dirty socks and fast food plates?

Continuing with the (likely erroneous) supposition that men are at the office more hours than women - Is there anyone who doubts that women are accomplishing the same amount (or more) work per week than their peer men?

Women less motivated? I don't think so.

I am not a "feminist" nor a "man-hater" but my hat has always been off to the many superwomen I encounter year after year. These super women work their tails off at work putting in long hours and performing random miracles. At the same time, they are often raising multiple children from infancy though teenhood. These superwomen do not need to be handed equal pay for less work. They are doing the same work for less pay and usually, I might add, with less complaint.

Please, Professor, don't try to do us any favors. We don't want your condescending hand-out.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

When 1950s Home Technology Enters the Workplace

I came across this article from the 1950s.

"What started as a passing technology fad has taken hold. The younger generation in particular is taking to it very quickly. "My children spend all day on it. In fact the teenagers have given up everything else to use this technology."

It all started with Uncle Miltie. After the debut of Milton Berle's show, sales of television sets doubled to 2,000,000 in 1949. Today, kids want and expect to be entertained.

What does this mean for the workplace?

We need to keep up with the needs of the changing world. Some day every household will have 2 or 3 television boxes. We can even expect advances like television programs in color. Clearly the workplace needs to keep up. Entertainment through the use of technology is becoming an important communication avenue for our younger workers.

"A happy, unstressed workforce is going to be more productive. We started by having television in the lunch room but today we are providing TVs for every employees desk. Sure,there is a risk but think about the benefits?"

Executives take note. Can you afford to ignore the needs of your next generation of workers?"

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tweeter, You're Fired!

The following Tweet showed up on my twitter search for the term "Nobscot" this morning:

Happily for me, my Nobscot is an HR technology company and we don't serve food in which to spit. But what about the owners of this Nobscot restaurant? If they see this tweet, should they fire @aspensullivan? Where do things cross the line from venting online to putting customers at risk?

A few days earlier, @aspensullivan tweeted this:

Was she at work when she tweeted that threat? Was it a threat or simply a harmless vent?

Does the fact that she's using her own phone rather than company resources make a difference? Should she be free to vent if she's only kidding? Is her speech protected? Should be tweeting during work? Is she a threat to her co-workers and customers? Should she hear the words, "Tweeter, You're Fired?"

We've seen highly publicized incidents of tweet terminations but what about the likely hundreds of tweets similar to this that are posted every day? This was one random tweet that I stumbled on because I happen to keep a search for Nobscot.

Which raises another question - if we can not control employee's online behavior, should HR monitor employee tweets to screen for potential risks? Should we have a Tweeter Termination Policy? Or in today's modern world is public venting and hollow threats inevitable and acceptable?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Short Lesson About Opportunity

I'd like to ring in the new year with a reprint of "Where is Opportunity" from August 2004.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Where is Opportunity?

On Sunday we went to hear a friend sing and play guitar at a private club. We were introduced to a very friendly gentleman who looked like he had been planted in the lounge for several weeks. After he bought us a couple drinks, he pulled out a slip a paper and said to me, "Dear, tell me what this says." The paper said


I wasn't sure what the trick was so I read what I saw.

How would you have read it?

Opportunity might be nowhere but opportunity might also be now here.

Beth C.

Monday, December 27, 2010

$80 Million HR Technology Project Gone Wrong - Very Wrong

It's being called an "$80 million information technology fraud scheme" against the New York City government. The technology, known as CityTime, is a custom made time and attendance system which includes online timesheets and biometric devices.

The story begins in 1996 when the city contracted with Science Applications International Corp (SAIC) to build a timekeeping system that would track schedules for 165,000 employees in 5000+ job titles. The city comptroller at the time estimated that the project would take 2-3 years to complete. The city budgeted $63 million. This alone sounds like a hefty price tag but we can give them the benefit of the doubt since newer technology was not available in 1996 that makes projects like this much less complicated and time consuming. (Though one wonders if they would ever realize $63 million dollars in savings from such a system.)

In 2003 SAIC put their hands in the air and said they would not be able to complete the project. But the city wanted to finish and offered to up the budget to $114 million. (Now one really wonders about the ROI. Throwing good money at bad?)

SAIC still balked but made an offer to scrap the project and start from scratch. The new project would be delivered to the city at cost -- based on hours worked by the contractors to complete the project. No cap was placed on the number of hours and no one could say how many hours would be likely.

Uh oh. The project designed to make sure everyone is on the up-and-up with their work hours just created a blank check for the contractors. Seven more years and $722 million later, the mayor abruptly stopped payments this year when the fraud came to light.

(Now we're REALLY beyond any possibility of ROI for this system.)

Six people have been indicted for $80 million fraud and $850,000 was seized from one of the consultant's bank deposit box.

The responsibility for overseeing the project fell to Joel Bondy, the current Executive Director of the Office of Payroll Administration. Bondy had been the lead on the project prior to being tapped by Bloomberg for the position in 2004. Bondy managed over another contractor Spherion, whose role it was to monitor SAIC for quality assurance. On performance reviews, Bondy rated Spherion (who happens to be his former employer) as excellent. “The contractor’s work has consistently exceeded expectations.”

Unfortunately, criminal charges suggest the opposite.

Investigators said that from 2005 through this December, Mark Mazer, Spherion’s lead quality assurance consultant on CityTime, awarded lucrative contracts to people he knew who then kicked back about $25 million to him. Prosecutors said these individuals also billed for work that was never performed and hid the money in shell companies that were in the names of Mazer’s mother and wife."

Bondy is reported to have links to Mazer as well. According to news reports he worked with Mazer in the past in another city office. Bondy was placed on unpaid suspension. He has since resigned effective December 31, 2010.

With the complexity of HR technology contracts it's hard to imagine such a thing happening. Perhaps it's a good reminder to everyone who purchases HR technology that your contracts are only as good as the people involved in carrying out the work behind the contract. That means good, trustworthy managers internally and impeccable vendors who are committed to exceeding your expectations, not your budget.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Two Very Simple Techniques for Innovation

I read a lot about "Innovation." Classes on innovation, books on innovation, b-school programs on innovation. Creating cultures of innovation. There is currently a huge mystique around innovation as if it's something terribly complex that must be studied and learned.

Here's a secret. Being innovative is incredibly simple. We are built for innovation. We only need to open our minds and look and listen to the things around us.

Here are two simple techniques that I live by everyday:

1) "I wonder if...."

For everything you see throughout the day, you should always be thinking about how things could be better. This applies to every store you enter, every service you engage, every interaction you experience, every thing you see as you walk or drive down the street.

"I wonder could see the products better if this store had better lighting? I wonder if... LEDs would work better? I wonder if... a different color lighting might work?"

"I wonder if... I would feel better about this company if the customer service person had a smile in her voice?"

"I wonder if... I'd be more likely to buy this product again if the @#$% package was easier to open? I wonder if they could seal it with a different kind of material so that it would still be strong but easy to open?"

You don't have to do anything with your wonders. The act of curiosity develops your mind to always be creating ideas and innovations for improvement. Soon you'll be able to "wonder if" for every facet of your own business as well.

Plus some of your wonders about other interactions will translate over to ideas for your own life or business.

2) Connect All Dots to You. Every time you read a book, study an article, listen to a podcast, watch a video, or sit in on a webinar keep your mind open for a kernel of wisdom that can be applied (in a completely new way) to you. Even if the topic seems to be absolutely unrelated. Always be thinking, "How could this connect to me? What could we do with something like this?"

For example, some years ago I was speaking at a Conference Board conference on Recruiting and Retention. In between speaking I sat in on a couple of sessions. There was one interesting session conducted by a Sr. HR Manager for a major corporation. He was talking about various recruitment techniques his company was using successfully.

I was no longer involved in recruiting but as a former practitioner it was interesting to hear what the big companies were up to. At one point the speaker talked about their "rebounding" efforts. He talked about how they had been very successful in bringing back high performers using a postcard campaign. The postcard had a field of grass and asked, "Is the grass greener?" (Love that!) It invited the high performers to re-explore opportunities with the company. I can't recall the details now but it was very successful. A large number of high performers returned and their metrics showed they were even better and more loyal employees the second time around.

Interesting. But what did this idea have to do with me? I was no longer involved in recruiting as I was earlier in my career. I was now running an HR technology company that automated the exit interview process.

But wait ---

Could the exit interview process be used to facilitate this "rebounding" effort? If the exit interview is the last place we "talk" to the departing employee, could we could find out if high-performers would be open to the company keeping in touch to see if the grass is greener? Could we use the system to automatically schedule a follow-up so HR didn't have to keep track of when to send out postcards? And thus the idea for our innovative "Rebounding Module" was developed.

In 2003, I watched the HR Talk online bulletin board for SHRM members as the members were attempting to match newbies in HR with more senior HR mentors. People were making posts with their background and desire to be a mentor or mentee. Some of the old-timers on the board were attempting to match people together. It was a great idea to match members up in 1 to 1 mentorships. Watching this though I couldn't help but notice how slow and cumbersome the process was. It was a lot of work for a handful of volunteers. There had to be a better way.

At the same time, we were seeing that many of the problems being identified on our clients' exit interviews could be solved or minimized by Mentoring. The spark was lit and Mentor Scout was born. (And subsequently donated to the SHRM HR Talk group.)

In 2006, MySpace was all the rage. Every where I looked, everything I read had mention of MySpace. I wasn't a teenager and I'm not all that into music -- but could some of the concepts of MySpace be borrowed to solve problems or enhance my field of Human Resources? The result was Mentor Scout's Talent Networking Edition, one of the very first internal corporate social networking platforms for employee collaboration, information sharing, recognition and retention.

How do you know if your ideas are innovative? One of the amazing things about how our minds and bodies work is that when you get a truly inspiring idea, it comes with a burst of energy. (Lucky us!) I don't know the biology behind it (adrenaline?) but presumably the energy is a way to help us immediately begin implementing the idea. Be forewarned, the energy may fade by the following day so when you get the idea and the energy burst, write the idea down right away with as much detail as you can. More ideas will continue to flow for a few hours after the initial idea.

Once you get into the innovation habit, you'll have many more ideas than you have capacity to achieve them. I wish I could give you advice on how to handle an overload of ideas but my idea notebook is overflowing right now. We'll have to save the post on prioritization for another day.

Related Posts from the Archives:
1.Mind Your Own Business
2.Does Birth Order Influence Acceptance of New Ideas?
3.Are you LDD? Why We Are All Becoming Listening Deficient
4.Thinking Strategically
5.Ten HR Ideas to Beat the Year End Blahs [Dec 2008]

Saturday, December 11, 2010

HR in da Office - Hawaii Style

You think you have Employee Relations challenges?
Hilarious short story about office life in Hawaii written in Pidgin English. It ain't easy being in HR in Hawaii!

Check out this excerpt:
We jus rag on poor Michelle. But das how, ah? Pretty much, once you make one mistake at da office, you going forevah be reminded.

And we could probably get written up by Human Resources for doing dis all da time, but whenevah somebody makes one mental error we play da race card and we blame ‘em on top their ethnicity even though we know dat their ethnic backgrounds nevah have nahting for do with their screw up. Like if Lisa Kim forgets for put da ting she Xeroxing underneath da cover of da Xerox machine and makes 246 copies of nahtingness before she realizes her mistake den we say “Eh, you stupid Yobo,” cuz Lisa’s Korean. Or if David Hiromoto files one folder under da first name instead of da last name, cuz sometimes people get confusing names like Parker Bryan where dey get one first name dat sounds like one last name and one last name dat sounds like one first name, and so eventually when da missing file turns up undah P instead of B we tell “Eh, you stupid Buddahead.” We do dat for everybody at work. You stupid Buk Buk. You stupid Pa-ke. You stupid Popolo. You stupid Haole. You stupid Kanak. You stupid Potagee. You stupid So-le. For little while dat new girl Debra Miyashiro had immunity cuz nobody knew what for call one stupid Okinawan, until finally somebody came up wit “You stupid Chewbacca” and so it stuck.

In our office get people who is of da kine mixed race ancestry too, so we usually jus go by dominant ethnicity. Or if dey hapa, if dey half half exack, we be nice about it, we let dem choose which of their ethnicities is da more stupider one.

Da Boss, she ej-u-ma-cated, but I no tink she catch on dat we only making fun. She jus tinks she surrounded by one office full of racists. Das why no one in da office has dared for tease her yet. We dunno how she would reack. Plus nobody knows what her precise ethnic background is and everybody too sked for ask. She no catch on we only fully tease da people we know good. But I guess no can blame. I tink she extra nerjous cuz when she first came ova hea had dat parking space incident in Waikele dat wuz in da news. So now everytime she hears somebody in da office calling somebody one stupid someting, she automatic tink going get beef. But ironicallies if had one beef she might not even know, cuz I no even know if she know what one beef is. One day people in da office might start yelling “Beef, beef” and she might jus very well tink we all celebrating da deliciousness of da new McDonald’s McTeri Burger. I gotta remembah if anybody starts fighting I gotta yell, “Altercation, altercation.”
You can read the rest of "Some Kind of Jedi" by Lee Tonouchi at Hawaii Business here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Where Are The Bathrooms and Other Things New Hires Need to Know

One of the secrets to successful onboarding and socialization of new hires is to make sure they are fully informed on everything that they need to know. Let me amend that. New hires need to be informed on not just what they need to know but also what they want to know.

Most companies fall short on this one because we rarely stop to think from the newcomer's perspective. Instead we focus on all the goodies that we think are important.

A few years ago we put together this list called the 5Ws. It includes all the Who What Where When Why and How questions that your new hires want and need to be able to answer.

To whom do I report?
Who reports to me?
Who else does what?
Who can help me?

What are the job priorities?
What should I accomplish daily, weekly, monthly?
What are my goals; what is expected of me?
What is the department's role in the company?

When do I need to be at work?
When do I take breaks?
When is lunch?
When do I leave?
When can I get help from my manager?
When is my work due?

Where do I park?
Where do I sit?
Where do other people sit?
Where are the resources I need?
Where are the bathrooms?
Where are the conference rooms?
Where do I get lunch?

Why is my job important?

How do I do my job?
How do I use the equipment?
How do I handle questions?
How do I handle mistakes?

Pass this list along to your Managers. Getting them answered may involve a combination of direct supervisors, the former incumbent in the position, senior peers and/or a new hire buddy or mentor.

Having a good grasp on all the various items helps an employee move from feeling like the lost newbie to being an important member of the team. This kind of socialization and embeddedness is directly correlated with satisfaction and employee retention.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Lessons from The Amazing Race: Building Successful Teams

Never mind The Apprentice. We have learning lessons galore from another reality competition The Amazing Race. If you want to learn about winning teams, this is the place to go.

Race 17 has three top contender pairs whose team dynamics are very different from one another. Let's take a look.

Team: Thomas and Jill

Thomas and Jill, a dating couple, have been strong contenders from Race One. He, the Ad Sales Director and graduate of Notre Dame. She, the very fit hair stylist whose spelling Thomas feels compelled to correct. They don't yet seem completely comfortable with each other and one might question the degree to which Thomas respects Jill. Though we may worry for the longevity of this relationship, this imbalance may be exactly the catalyst that propels this team to success. For Thomas and Jill, winning is partly about proving themselves to each other. Thomas has to succeed because he has presented himself to Jill as the one who knows all. She on the other hand is determined to show Thomas that she is as good (and better) than he. Thomas, the self-established leader, pushes Jill hard and she (though perhaps frustrated) responds well his verbal barbs. As an added dimension to what drives this team to success, it would go against Thomas' self image to perform less than Jill. So while he's externally pushing Jill, he's internally pushing himself to make sure he performs as well or better than her.

Team: Nat and Kat

Nat and Kat are two female doctors and close friends. Their success is the opposite of Thomas and Jill's. They succeed by mutual respect and support. Both of them are equal in terms of smarts, fitness and willing to do what it takes to win. This kind of long term close friendship pair is risky in teams. Research has shown that as team members get comfortable, they are less likely to rock the boat by challenging each other. (See link 1 at the bottom of this post which includes the following statement, "congeniality taking precedence over the introduction of ideas that might prove unpopular.") This can lead to mistakes, lack of creative thinking and/or laziness. Luckily for Nat and Kat, each member of this duo is individually self-motivated. They remind me of the slow and steady wins the race concept.

Team:Brook and Claire.

Brook and Claire. The Home Shopping Co-Hosts. Their success is clearly a function of the overwhelming, never-ending energy and enthusiasm (and fitness!) of Brooke, the exuberant blond and the tireless do-what-it-takes-to-please-Brook persistence of Claire. Brooke is a tough but loving coach. Claire can be fainting or vomiting and Brook will shout out, "You can do this, Claire Bear" and do it she will. They both deserve a lot of credit; Brook for her contagious excitement over each little win and Clair for hanging in and succeeding against the odds.

Our lessons on creating winning teams

1) Members who are not yet comfortable with each other often strive extra hard to succeed.
2) Long term teammates can be successful if each member is individually motivated for the team to succeed and are mutually supportive
3) When skill levels are unequal, unbridled enthusiasm can propel each member to give more than they have to give for the team's success

Who am I cheering for in The Amazing Race finale? I'm hoping for one of the two-women teams to win. I like Nat and Kat a lot but it would also be fun to see Brook and Claire go wild at the finish point.

More on Teams here:

1)The Power and Challenges of Group Wisdom

2)1954 Psychology Experiment Provides Clues for Cooperative Work Among Distributed Work Environments

3) Managing Remote Employees

4) Group Mentoring: Keys to Success