Tuesday, August 29, 2006

New Analysis Shows HR Improves Profitability

In a nice counter piece to HR being reptiles, new analysis is about to be published in Personnel Psychology that reveals that rather than HR being detrimental to an organization, it in fact adds real bottom line value.

Using mathematical analysis of 92 previous studies, researchers have found that human resources activities created a 10% - 20% improvement in employee retention and employee productivity as well as a similar improvement in profitability and stock price.

Even more telling perhaps is that companies that cut back on human resources activities can expect a 10% - 20% reduction in their bottom line.

"Over the last 25 years, corporate America has debated whether the human resources function adds value or if it is just a necessary evil," noted Dave Ketchen, study co-author and Lowder Eminent Scholar at Auburn University. "Our results show that negative images of human resource managers miss the mark. Skilled HR managers can make the difference between a company making a profit or losing money."

There are no more snakes on this plane.

The Great HR Herpetologist

Dr. John Sullivan, the great herpetologist.

Dr. John Sullivan is at his headline grabbing best this week with a new article likening Human Resources people to snakes. No, I'm sorry, I got that wrong. He's found HR people's actions "scarier and more despicable than any real snake I’ve come across."

He has always shown his disdain for the profession but in this article he is just downright mean.

And this from a man who professes on the subject of HR at San Francisco State University.

Of course his rhetoric is just silly and purely for Dr. Sullivan's own attention getting purposes. (Maybe he should switch to teaching PR instead of HR?) Every profession has employees who are lousy at their job but that's no reason to condemn the whole profession.

Apparently the good Dr. has been asleep at the switch for the past decade.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Do you look like your dog?

I don't know what this has to do with HR but I thought it was funny.
An "I Look Like My Dog" contest winner over at HRWhatnot.

I always start my work day there for an amusing look at things in the workplace.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Awash in Data

Our Blogswap guest post today comes from Frank Mulligan of recruit-china.com. He presents us with some common sense thinking on data and metrics. Thanks, Frank!

One of the more useful elements of service offerings like Exit Interviews is the hiring metrics that repeated, measured operations will generate.

But which hiring metrics?

We can always look to the net for information but checking out articles on the internet is not necessarily of much help to us here. Over the past 4-5 years I have noticed a distinct bias in articles on the issue of metrics, and little agreement. Different individuals or organizations emphasize different approaches to metrics and there is a strong tendency to emphasize one metric over another. In some cases it seems to be because it fits the author's business model. In other cases it seems to be a desire to evangelize a particular metric, or respond to a competing article.

As someone who has a need for these metrics I just carried on regardless, pinching a bit from here, and grabbing something else from there. The different metrics that I discovered along the way each taught me something different. Some taught me the most important lesson, and that is the limitation of metrics.

So in the end I altered my approach.

What I have learned is that when the price of capturing a metric approaches zero all data is equally valid. I thought this many years ago as well but expressed it as ‘just grab everything and let’s see what we can do with it.' Once you have the data you can turn it into information or knowledge later but if you don’t capture it you cannot do anything.

Data Sources

To reiterate, you can’t have too much data. Information and knowledge are a different thing. Fortunately, most Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) or Talent Management Systems (TMS) capture data as part and parcel of the way they work. For example, when a recruiter sets up a job requisition the date and time is captured. Equally when that same recruiter screens the first candidate the date and time is captured again.

So immediately you have the basis of a metric called Time to Screen. You may not see a need for such a metric but the data for it is there anyway. And the price? Close to zero. (For offline systems data is difficult to capture and does not comply with the ‘all data is free’ rule. That’s a pity but given that there are free ATSs online it is no excuse for inactivity.)

For other, more useful metrics, the process is much the same, and the cost is equally low. All that is needed is that you export the information to a spreadsheet and create the necessary graphs. If you feel a little nervous at the prospect of pushing your knowledge of Excel to the limit check out Statistical Analysis with Excel for Dummies. Most of the tools that you need for statistical work are already available in Excel.

The good news is that having the data that you need does not in any way constrain the way you work with it. You are in the fortunate position of knowing what your final outcome is supposed to be. With this final outcome in mind it shouldn’t be so difficult to take the data you have and make a start towards turning it into the kind of metrics that you can use to drive your business.

If you are in a cost-down, high-volume, mass production environment then Time to Hire might be a good place to start. Equally if you are unsure of the efficacy or diligence of your recruiter you might consider the Time to Screen metric cited above. Or you could, and probably will, create your own metrics.

This is only the start and you still have more work to do of course. Your end-game solution requires you to iterate, check the metric, modify actions and behaviors, and repeat the whole hiring process. Once you start on this path the only thing that you can do is learn, and learn, and learn. That can’t be a bad thing. So dive in the deep end.

The alternative is to let all that free data to go to waste.

Copyright 2006. Frank Mulligan.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Pile People are from Pluto, Neatniks are from Neptune

I have a pile problem. Paperwork piles I mean. Piles crop up around me; on the desk, on the floor, overflowing on tabletops. I have piles of magazines, piles of books, piles of articles, piles of mail, piles of things I am in the middle of working on. You name it, I have a pile for it. When I worked in HR and recruiting, the resume piles alone were overwhelming.

For years organized people would take pity on me and try to help. They would construct elaborate organizational systems for me that ought to have turned me into Brie from Desperate Housewives. A place for everything and everything in its place. What I learned though is that pile people are from Pluto, neatniks are from Neptune. I will never be able to work with a file for each day of the month - moving items from one file to another based on when they need to be accomplished. It just won’t happen. In general, those of us who are disorganized can not keep up with a neatnik’s systems for more than a couple months.

I did however manage to create a system that keeps my work piles organized and out of sight. I call it the piles in files system. It takes a little bit of pre-work but once you get it going, it's easy to keep up with. Here's how it works:

1) First you have to do some initial cleaning. I know pile people have already done this over and over on previous organization attempts but you have to do this one more time. This time, though, it will stick.

To start, make 3 piles. One for stuff to throw out, one for stuff to save, and one for stuff you're currently working on. Throw out the throw out pile.

2) Buy a new file cabinet. You could clean out the old ones but you'll never do that so just buy a new one. While you are out, get a few boxes of hanging files, manila folders, a stapler and staples. Buy some cookies, candy or ice cream too. You'll need to eat this before you get started.

3) Start with the “save” pile. Make hanging folders that cover all the main subjects in your “save” pile. Then make manila sub-folders. Go through your “save” pile and distribute the items into these folders. These become your stored piles. Put them in your new file cabinet. Feels good, doesn't it?

4) Do the same for your “current work” pile. Make hanging files and manila folders. Since this is your working area, try for just 4 or 5 hanging folders. Otherwise you won't use them. Add a miscellaneous folder. This will be your catchall pile. Put them in your desk drawer.

5) Last you create the engine for your system; the to-do list. Take a manila folder and staple a piece of paper to the front. This paper is where you will write your to-dos. Forget fancy online systems. Write down bullets of all of the things you need to get done. Don't worry about prioritizing. Inside the folder put scrap paper. This will be used for notes and for blank paper to add for your to-do list. Keep this in the top drawer of your desk or somewhere easily accessible.

To work the system, each day work from your to-do list. Add new tasks as they come up. Cross off tasks you finish. Put the paperwork you are working on at any given time in the to-do folder. When you finish, move it into the appropriate current folder in your desk. When the task is completely finished move it to the stored piles in your file cabinet. The to-do list will be your guide for what paperwork you need accessible in your desk and what paperwork can be stored away.

That’s it. Easy, isn’t it? Here is a quick sketch I drew of the system:

With this method you have 3 sets of piles that are organized and put away nicely. You have the up-to-the minute pile at hand, the current work piles close in your desk and the stored piles in your file cabinet.

One other final tip - Learn to love your stapler. When I was recruiting, my manager gave me some great advice. She said, "Beth, you're a mess. Use your stapler. Staple everything related to a particular applicant together." She started stapling all the papers on my desk. From that point on, I became a staple maniac. (Not quite like Milton, I didn't care which stapler.)

Why is the stapler a godsend for the disorganized? Because if things don't get back into their files, at a minimum, everything is together when you need it. You only have to search for the item once. Once you find it, you have everything you need.

Between the stapler and the “piles in files” method, even the messiest person from Pluto can keep clean and organized like Neptunian.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Secret of Why Hoppers Don't Add Value

I recently wrote a guest post on Your HR Guy's blog about Why I Still Don't Like Job Hoppers. One of the reasons that I noted is that employees don't generally contribute much to the organization in their first 6 to 18 months. Job hoppers leave before they have the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way. New research is beginning to explain why it takes so long before even highly experienced people add value to a company.

Today's companies run effectively not through individual efforts but through interconnected networks of people. These complex (though usually undefined) networks can speed through red tape or solve a complex problem. A new employee does not have access to this network. It takes time before an employee is accepted and allowed entrance. The new employee's co-workers have to evaluate and judge the employee's skills, abilities, intentions and commitment to understand where he or she fits in to the network.

Job hoppers, by definition, are usually not with a company long enough to gain access to the network. This hampers their ability to contribute to the company in a meaningful way. Job hoppers will plod along doing their best as an individual but they will not have the power to pick up the phone and speak to the person who can make things happen.

It's a cruel paradoxical cycle really. The employee's lack of acceptance into the network is more than likely the thing that precipitates the hopper hopping. Perhaps if job hoppers could be coached on improving their interpersonal skills (or being more patient) and if companies could facilitate access to networks through mentoring and peer-to-peer connections then we could break the cycle of the unproductive job hopper.