Monday, January 31, 2005

Is Free Speech Important?

Research on the "Future of the First Amendment" found that of nearly 100,000 students surveyed, only 51% of students agreed that newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.

Also, 83% of students compared with 98% of teachers and principals agree that people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions. One can only guess at what the other 17% think.

This raises a real alarm. As employers, we need a nation of thinkers and those who are not afraid to question.

Let's all do our best to raise awareness of the importance of the first amendment.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Monday, January 24, 2005

It's the People, Stupid

Shelly Lazarus, the CEO of advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather was given this great advice from her legendary boss David Ogilvy
"No matter how much time you spend thinking about, focusing on, questioning the value of, and evaluating people, it won't be enough. People are the only thing that matters, and the only thing you should think about, because when that part is right, everthing else works."

Remember that next time someone tells you that HR doesn't matter.

More here.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Do Females Lack Innate Aptitude in Math and Science?

There has been a lot of hubbub around Harvard University President Lawrence Summers' recent ponderings on why there are so few women in the sciences. One of his speculations was that maybe men and women have "innate differences" in science and math aptitude.

To his credit, Summers wasn't stating this as fact or as his personal belief but suggested it as a possibility worthy of further study. Where did he come up with this hypothesis? At the January 14th conference he shared an anecdotal tale about his daughter playing with toy trucks by turning them into a truck family. (Daddy truck - baby truck.) I'm not sure how Summers then made the grand leap from play differences to a lack of innate scientific abilities. I'll bet his daughter won't be thrilled to hear his conclusion.

According to recent articles, women make up 35% of the faculty at American universities but only 20% in science and engineering.

Along with innate ability, other suspects according to Summers are whether or not women are willing and able to work the hours required to advance in scientific disciplines and discrimination that is holding women back.

Having only observed and not studied, my guess is that Summers has mistaken lack of interest for lack of ability. And why the lack of interest? The most likely culprit is that it is a reflection of the innate misperceptions of educators and professionals. I imagine that it's hard to find interest in a subject when those whom you respect provide little encouragement, when hiring managers don't take you or your work seriously and when you have to watch as inferior colleagues are promoted faster because of gender bias. I think most girls and women would find that somewhat repellent when it came to making career choices.

I wonder if men would continue to find the sciences interesting if the universe discombobbled and scientific fields were suddenly considered to be the domain of females (think secretaries)?

Other interesting links on this story are located here and here.


Friday, January 14, 2005

Buzzword Alert: Part 2

A quick follow up to yesterday's post about Onboarding. It looks like someone reached the HR buzzword czar before me. The new word for the termination process has already been selected. And you really have to like the word Onboarding in order to appreciate this new word. In fact if Onboarding ever changes then we will find ourselves in a bit of a buzzword crisis. Any guesses for those of you like me who haven't kept up on the terminology? Let me be one of the first to introduce you to, "Offboarding."

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Buzzword Alert: Onboarding

Anyone have any idea who is in charge of creating HR industry buzzwords? I really want to have a talk with him or her.

The word I'm thinking about today is "Onboarding." What is employee onboarding? It's what we used to call the hiring and orientation process. I'm not sure exactly why we need a new word to describe this but I bet it will make it easier to sell products and services related to this function.

If I was the HR Buzzword Creator Czar I would have come up with a more friendly term to describe this process. Onboarding sounds a little like what you do when you get onto an airplane. It has a cold, cattle-call ring to it, doesn't it? If I was the buzzword czar, I would have chosen the word WELCOMING instead of onboarding. That would still cover all the things we must do in the hiring and orientation process but not feel so institutional.

Since I'm in the exit interview business, I think I better work quickly on coming up with a good word for the termination process. Otherwise we might end up with a word like DEBARKING to describe the termination paperwork, collection of company property, deletion from the HRIS, goodbye party and exit interview. I hope the current buzzword czar comes up with something better than that. Anyone have his or her phone number?

PS. To read a previous Buzzword Alert, click here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Office Toys - The Cubes

In the We're All Still Kids Pretending To Be Grown Ups department -- Have you seen The Cubes yet? The Cubes are a clever "playset for adults" with miniature office workers and cubicles plus mini file cabinets, computers, phones and cube decor.

The website also has a Job Title Generator so you can assign titles to your workers. You push the button to get three word combos such as:

Domestic Project Processor


Junior Personnel Monitor

I particularly got a kick out of the "Morale Boosters" which include miniature safety and government posters, screens for the computer and dry erase boards.

I have a feeling The Cubes are going to be a big hit and we will see them popping up in offices across the globe.

Have fun!

Monday, January 10, 2005

Even Celebs Wrestle with Work Family Balance

An article in Salon looks at the Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston breakup as an example of how women are still chided for putting their career ahead of motherhood.
Jennifer Aniston failed to reproduce with her husband, Brad Pitt. But her failure -- as reported between the lines of every story we're reading -- wasn't simply a fertility issue. It was an unfathomable -- though possibly temporary, at the precarious age of 35 -- prioritization of her career over her family. It was an instance in which we were treated to the sight of a woman we like, openly wanting to get further ahead professionally before giving over her life -- and yes, her body, which is a serious commodity in her business -- to the demands of childbearing and child rearing. And clearly, it still makes us uncomfortable.

And of course it's not just the movie stars that face this dilemma. An article in Fast Company claims that the wage-gender gap is solely related to women switching their priorities from career to family.
...Then consider the evidence that until kids enter the picture, women earn as much as men -- and often even more. Don't believe it? Check the census data on earnings of never-married men and women. Women don't hit an income gap until family responsibilities factor into job choices.

I have my own ideas on the reason for the wage gap which have to do with women willingly accepting lower wage entry jobs but I'll save that for another time. Suffice it to say that even being rich, famous, beautiful and married to the "sexiest man alive" doesn't exempt you from the difficult decisions related to career and family.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Exit Interviewing by Catbert?

When is the academic community going to learn that HR has no intention of using what you say in an exit interview against you?

In an article in the Washington post, an Associate Professor from the University of Maryland warns departing employees that if they say negative things in an exit interview then the company might in turn say bad things about them in a reference or bar them from future employment.

I'll ask one more time -- why would a company do that? It's the most ridiculous claim and I would really like to know on what this is based. The HR Manager is asking - begging - employees to be honest about their work experience. Do you think they do this so that, like Dilbert's Catbert, they can have the evil pleasure of using it against the employee?

Exit interviews are used to find faults in the organization not to find faults in the employee. I have never, ever, heard of an HR practitioner that has retaliated on an ex-employee for pointing out negative things in their exit interview. In fact it's the opposite. They get frustrated with employees who don't open up and speak the truth about why they are leaving or problems in the company.

Next time I hear someone make this crazy claim, I'm going to ask them to provide some specific examples and data. Otherwise let's put this nonsense to rest.

Shirley Chisholm Inspired Dreams

A quick tribute to Shirley Chisholm the first African American congresswoman. I can remember being back in elementary school when Congresswoman Chisholm ran for President. The first woman ever to seek the Democratic nomination. It didn't seem far fetched when I was at that age that a woman could become President. Shirley Chisholm was a woman who gave dreams to both women and minorities.

According to the Seattle Times, Chisholm was quoted as saying, "The next time a woman runs, or a black, a Jew or anyone from a group that the country is 'not ready' to elect to its highest office, I believe that he or she will be taken seriously from the start."

And an editorial from the Indianapolis Star ends with this description: Shirley Chisholm was often feisty, never shy, but always committed to opening the doors of power to all Americans.

She died this week at the age of 80.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Article Looks at Honesty in Exit Interviews

Don't miss the article about online exit interviews in Sunday's Boston Globe BostonWorks section.

The article discusses whether or not employees are more open and honest in online exit interviews than in face to face exit meetings.


Popular blog Boing Boing posted a link to a funny cartoon animation about procrastination. It's called Get My Stuff Done.

But we're all too busy in HR to procrastinate, right?


Beth C.