Monday, August 30, 2004

HR Metrics Guru

In the August issue of HR Executive Magazine, Jac Fitz-enz, HR metrics guru was asked what is the most underused or underappreciated HR metric. His answer: Turnover.

As he explains it:

"Most people know their turnover rate, but not how it is affecting them. It doesn't make much difference how many people are leaving, per se. The issue is, who is leaving, at what point in their tenure, for what reason, and what effect is this having on business? That is, what is the cost of turnover?"

Right on, Dr. Jac. To read the full interview, click here.

Beth C.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Does Birth Order Influence Acceptance of New Ideas?

In the past I haven't paid much attention to theories about birth order and personality, mainly because the things I have read haven't matched with my own personal experiences. That is until I read recently about research by Frank Sulloway that was done back in 1996. Mr. Sulloway was examining the influences that affect people's acceptance of new and radical ideas.

He looked at variables such as:

age, gender, nationality, socioeconomic class, education, physical handicaps, religious and political attitudes, travel, parents' age at birth, birth order, number of siblings, attained awards and honors, date of conversion to the new theory, degree of previous contact with the leaders of the new theory and three independent measures of eminence.

After analyzing over one million data points, he found that birth order was the strongest factor in receptiveness to new theories. Sulloway's research showed that the liklihood of accepting a revolutionary idea is 3.1 times greater in laterborns than in firstborns. This increases to 4.7 times greater for very radical new theories. Sulloway noted that "the likelihood of this happening by chance is virtually nil."

Interesting, isn't it? This research was done on receptivity to new scientific theories but I wonder if it extends to more mundane things like openness to new ideas in the workplace. Are firstborns less likely to embrace change or take risks than laterborns?

Here's how researchers explain the reasons for this difference. Firstborns receive more attention from their parents than laterborns. This parental attention includes rules for rewards and punishment. This reward system reinforces firstborns obedience to authority and acceptance of the "right way" to think. In other words, the firstborns learn to think the way authority figures want them to and not to stray too far into new and radical thought.

Laterborns on the other hand generally have more freedom and therefore less indoctrination and obedience to authorities. Laterborns also have to compete with their older, more powerful siblings for attention. This results in laterborns becoming adept at seeking out alternative methods to achieve their parent's attention. This is said to explain why laterborns are more likely to go into less traditional careers than firstborns.

Makes sense.

PS. In case you are wondering about only children, the research showed them as being somewhere between firstborns and laterborns in their support for radical theories.

Beth C.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Teenagers: Our Future Workforce

I got a call today from a college campus political group. The young man that called -- well actually I think I'll call him the "youth" instead of young man -- was frighteningly unprofessional. Here's how the conversation went:

Youth: Hey, Beth, This is X from Campus Political Party. How's it going over there in Kaylooooooeee. How do you pronounce that?
Beth: Kailua.
Youth: Yah, how's it going over there?
Beth: Fine.
Youth: So what are you doing over there?
Beth: In regard to what?
Youth: Just how's it going. What are you doing. I've never been there.
Beth: I'm sorry. I'm in a meeting right now. You'll have to try me at another time.
Youth: Ok. Sweeeeet.


Inc. Magazine had a small article in the September issue on hiring student interns. It was a good story about how companies are successfully using interns. The part that caught my attention though was this:

"Just 11% of teenagers today (the hiring pool for interns, by and large) say their generation is focused on goals, while 50% say their generation is all about having fun." This is according to Teenage Research Unlimited, a market research firm. The firm's research also said that 71% of teenagers expect to be successful. I wonder how?

These are our future employees. I sure hope we are raising and educated them well.

Beth C.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Hiring Star Employees

I re-read an article recently called The Risky Business of Hiring Stars. It's in the May 2004 Harvard Business Review. The authors of the article followed 1052 of the very best investment banking stock analysts. These star analysts are very high profile in the industry and earn between $2-$5 million per year. The researchers found that when a star employee is hired by another firm, the star's performance plunges dramatically. Plus the rest of the team is disrupted by the newly hired star's presence.

I certainly won't argue with that. Most of us probably haven't had the opportunity to hire $2 million dollar per year employees. We have however probably all had the experience of hiring someone we really thought was going to be one of our superstars only to have him fizzle out below our optimistic expectations. I know I have.

The basic premise of the article is that much to everyone's surprise, there is more to being a star than just innate ability. The company environment, resources, leadership and relationships all contribute to whether or not an employee will shine.

When a company courts and then hires (at great expense) a star employee from another firm, they generally expect the star will immediately begin to produce at superior levels. What the researchers found was that:

- it's difficult and time consuming for a newly hired star employee to learn company procedures, personalities, relationships and subcultures

- star employees have a difficult time being accepted by his or her new coworkers (for a variety of reasons) who might avoid the star, cut the star off from important information and/or refuse to cooperate

- stars tend to take a long time unlearning old procedures

A couple of other interesting tidbits from the article:

1) The research on these star employees confirmed what we all know about Job Hoppers. They found that once the star employee started changing jobs, he or she kept moving to the highest bidder. They also found that every additional job increased the probability of them leaving again the next time. Sounds like confirmation on something I've been saying in Carvin's Rules for Hiring the Best for many years.

2) Hiring a new superstar employee hurts the performance of the team they join. To quote the article, "The arrival of a highflier often results in interpersonal conflicts and a breakdown of communication in the group. As a result, the group's performance suffers for several years. Sometimes, the team (or what is left of it) returns to normal only after the star has left the company."

3) The biggest problems occur when star employees move from a large company with lots of resources to a smaller firm. In most of these cases, the star never recovers to star status. Employees who move to similar sized companies experience a dip in performance but generally recover after two years. There is no dip in performance for employees that transition from small to large firms. I think this points to something else that we generally know in Human Resources about hiring people from similar sized firms to our own.

The researchers conclusion is that companies should focus on growing their own stars internally and then do everything they can to retain them. The article provides additional information on how to do that. If you'd like to read the article, you can purchase a reprint from Harvard Business Online by clicking here

Beth C.

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.

Welcome Back

Hi All,

Since there have been so many interesting things happening in the world of Human Resources I have decided to resurrect Nobscot's blog. I was reading through some of the old posts and there's some good (and fun) information. If you are new to this blog you might want to take a look through the archives.

As a quick update regarding Nobscot Corporation, we're continuing to expand WebExit, Nobscot's exit interview management system. Who knew when we released the system in January 2001 that we'd still be adding to it today. Many thanks to all of our clients for giving us the great suggestions that keep us on our toes.

More later.

Beth C.