Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How HR Should Respond to Glassdoor

Glassdoor, like the earlier Vault.com, allows employees to anonymously rank and rant on their employers publicly.

Even in today's world of transparency and social media, this is one area that companies would be wise to take an immediate stance against and prohibit the use of posting on this site. The employers being targeted, particularly Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, should create a firm policy with infractions leading up to and including termination.

I'm sure a lot of social media gurus are squirming at what I am saying and itching to fire off a nasty-gram about how I don't understand the new workplace. I know the argument. You must show you are an open company and rather than squelch the anonymous backstabbing you should use the information to improve your organization. Or maybe you should encourage happy employees to drown out the unhappy.

That sounds great but it's not realistic. Here's my counter argument.

Employee satisfaction levels (and salaries which are also posted) are confidential, internal-only information. When one person posts on a forum or in their blog it might be irrelevant but when aggregates of employees post it creates a dataset that is company confidential information. There is absolutely no benefit to the company of having this information made public.

Here's the problem:

- It's anonymous - people do not have to be honest.
- It's likely to be by the disgruntled minority rather than the happy employees.
- It's more fun to complain.
- There are two sides to each story. As any HR person will confirm, the employee's side of the story is often exaggerated, incorrect or based on faulty information.
- Inevitably specific confidential information will be exposed.
- ANYONE, including people (and competitors) who never worked for your company can pretend to be from your company and post ratings and reviews.

I'm not sure why Glassdoor is getting so much hype when we saw the exact same thing with Vault.com. Here is what I wrote about Vault in November 2004.
Airing Your Dirty Laundry
Did you know that there is a website where employee satisfaction surveys are made public?

I can only imagine what would happen to me if Nobscot's clients' exit interviews were made public. (I'm thinking something like public flogging or maybe root canal without anesthesia.)
You can read the rest of Airing Your Dirty Laundry here.

Companies should be smart and react quickly before this one gets out of hand. There is $6.5 million dollars of second round venture capital money being used to fund this rumor and gossip spreading site. Don't let your company become a victim.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Holiday Inspiration

One delightful and unexpected outcome of Nobscot's Charity Holiday gift is how it inspired one of our employees and her family to change the way they celebrate the holidays this year.

I am very enthused to share this guest post from Ashley DiFlorio.
My name is Ashley DiFlorio. My mother, Laura works for Nobscot Corporation. We sat around the dinner table one night and my Mom was explaining how Nobscot was not going to send out the usual Christmas baskets to their clients. They decided to donate the money to charity with the help of their clients. Every client would vote on which charity they wanted the money to go to.

This conversation sparked my family into a discussion about Christmas and how fortunate we are. We also started to think about how there were many other families who were not so fortunate. It was an amazing revelation. We basically decided at that moment that we wanted to do something. We decided to forgo our own gifts and use the money to give a Christmas to someone else. My brother suggested that we keep it local.

About a week later, after doing some investigation, we decided to give the local Women and Children’s Shelter a Christmas. My Mom called the shelter to get all the information required. It was determined that they have 27 beds and we were going to purchase presents for the Mom’s and the kids. The coordinator suggested that we give the gifts to them early enough so that the Mom’s could pick out a gift for their child, and the children could pick out a gift for their Mom’s. We also provided all the wrapping paper and tags and tape and bows so that they all would have a gift to open on Christmas morning.

This experience has changed the way I feel about Christmas. It truly is the season of giving! I am very proud of my whole family for contributing to this fantastic cause!
Thank you for sharing your story, Ashley. I am very proud of the DiFlorios as well!

It's really a wonderful reminder about how one act begets another and so on and so forth. Every charitable act, kind word spoken or smile on your face has the opportunity to ripple forward and spread happiness to people and places that you never imagined. That is something that we should remember at all times of the year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ten HR Ideas to Beat the Year End Blahs

For many people, the end of the year brings on a nasty case of the blues. According to Monique Rissen Harrisberg of The Stress Clinic, "Most nervous break-downs, burn – outs, illness and depression occur just before Christmas."

This can spill over into the workplace and create a slowed down, negative environment just when you are looking for a fresh, bright start for the new year.

The good news is that motivational strategies can be implemented easily and cost effectively by almost any organization. Things like communication, thank-yous and recognition cost virtually nothing but provide more reward and motivation than expensive company gifts.

Here is my list of low-cost, high value motivation strategies for year end 2008.

1) Involve the CEO and other high profile executives. Employees in the lower ranks rarely get to interact with the CEO so when they do it's exciting and meaningful.
  • Have the CEO send a heartfelt thank-you email to all employees.
  • Have a CEO/Executives holiday visit to each department (without criticizing the cleanliness, organization, etc) to say "Hi" and shake hands with all EEs.
  • How about a CEO/Executives New Year Breakfast, barbecue or cookie break where the leaders cook/bbq/bake for the staff?
  • Provide an invitation to each employee to visit with the CEO sometime in 2009.
  • Create a funny but inspirational video starring the CEO and other senior leaders that show them as human (and fallible.)
2) Create a special 2008 wrap-up letter or website. Highlight the successes for the year, recognize individual's contributions, include photos (events, people, customers).

3) Organize a "bright future" meeting. Have a charismatic company leader discuss how the future is bright and/or what the company needs to do to create a bright future. Include goals and plans. Don't be afraid to ask for the employees' help (which is surprisingly motivational) and describe the vision of what things will be like when they reach the future goals. If times are difficult now, focus on the light at the end of the tunnel and make sure everyone sees that it is real and attainable.

4) Thank employees for their efforts. Have supervisors write up and submit a "Thanks to _____ for ______" about each one of their direct reports (so there is one for every employee in the company) and them publish 1 or more per day on the company internet or intranet website.

5) Have a contest! Create small or large goals or activities. Everyone can win. Winners get raffle tickets. The more wins, the more tickets. Have three prizes with the grand prize being something really special or valuable.

6) Setup group community service activities that employees can participate in together. Allow employees to participate during work hours or after-hours.

7) Have the CEO blog about the accomplishments of various employees. Start with low level employees.

8) Start a mentoring program for 2009 to assist with career development, guidance, problem-solving, networking and support.

9) Start a corporate social networking program to allow employee's to easily connect with each other, share information, collaborate, thank each other, offer kudos, etc.
Resource: Mentor Scout - Talent Networking Edition

10) Ask employees to provide innovative ideas for 2009. Use an online suggestion type program so employees can share and expand on ideas.

11) Setup "Lunch and Learns" on work and non-work topics. Ask employees to sign up to teach a session on their area of expertise or something for which they have a special talent or interest.

The above are some ideas to kickstart your own brainstorming. I recommend that you put together a team of creative employees both inside and outside of HR to come up with your own customized ideas. Wouldn't it be nice to go into 2009 with big smiles on your employees' faces?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Why Best Buy CEO Should Be Losing Sleep

I admire Best Buy for many of its innovative practices, its growth and success over its competitors and the general quality of its business.

That's why I was surprised to see the enormous Human Resources risk that they just announced that has the potential to cost them greatly for many years to come.

(See my blog post Top 5 Worst Human Resources Practices for Surviving the Bad Economy.)

Workforce Management is reporting that Best Buy is offering "voluntary buy out" packages to almost all of their corporate employees. According to Workforce, the average corporate employee would receive 7 1/2 month's pay. Best Buy is also sweetening the pot by offering healthcare coverage for a full year for those who accept the offer.

While I appreciate the humaneness of the approach, if I were Brad Anderson, CEO of Best Buy, I would be losing sleep at night right now worrying about who is going to accept the buyout. What happens if the best employees in the most critical positions take the money and run?

Some of the questions that Mr. Anderson is likely (or should be) asking himself and his executive team right now are:

- Will the company be able to successfully redeploy the remaining employees to fill the positions of those who leave?

- What is the projected number of positions that the company will need to re-hire due to lack of internal bench strength and what is the projected cost to do so?

- To what degree will the quality of service, productivity and the corporate culture drop if a large number of key employees leave all at once?

These are not trivial matters.

If all the stars align properly for Mr. Anderson, the employees who keep the company running efficiently (at all levels) will not accept the buyout offer. If he is not so lucky, he might be in for a long and painful recovery period to rebuild his workforce.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Feeding America Holds Top Position at the Halfway Mark

It's been very gratifying to receive so much positive feedback from clients regarding Nobscot's Charity Holiday Gift. It appears that HR professionals are both incredibly generous and happy for a good excuse to avoid high caloric treats.

After one full week and approximately 100 votes, Feeding America is holding strong in the top position. Habitat for Humanity made a big leap from eighth place into second place. Big Brothers and Big Sisters remains in the top three in third position.

Feeding America is the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity. Each year, the Feeding America network provides food assistance to more than 25 million low-income people facing hunger in the United States, including more than 9 million children and nearly 3 million seniors.

Feeding America’s network of more than 200 food banks serves all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.The Feeding America network secures and distributes more than 2 billion pounds of donated food and grocery products annually.

For every $1 donated, Feeding America helps provide 20 pounds of food and grocery products to men, women and children facing hunger in our country.

Habitat for Humanity
is a global home-building movement comprising more than 2,000 local affiliates, state support organizations and national organizations in more than 90 countries.

HFHI seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. Habitat invites people of all backgrounds, races and religions to build houses together in partnership with families in need. Habitat has built more than 250,000 houses around the world, providing more than one million people in more than 3,000 communities with safe, decent, affordable shelter. Habitat is founded on the conviction that every man, woman and child should have a simple, decent, affordable place to live in dignity and safety.

Founded in 1904, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is the oldest and largest youth mentoring organization in the United States. Big Brothers Big Sisters mentors children, ages 6-18, in communities across the country. Our mission is to help children reach their potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships with mentors that have a measurable impact on youth. National research has shown that positive relationships between youth and their Big Brothers and Big Sisters mentors have a direct and measurable impact on children’s lives. Big Brothers Big Sisters currently operates in all 50 states, and in 12 countries around the world!

We'll continue the voting for another week and then will announce the winning charities on the 23rd.

Friday, December 12, 2008

One Client's Charity Gift Votes

I woke up to this great email from a Mentor Scout client this morning:

My votes are in:
1. Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, because my niece was a beneficiary of a program like this and I believe it saved her life. (she is currently a thriving Freshman at Smith College on a full scholarship package)

2. Boys and Girls Clubs; supporting this program is an investment in our future - our children

3. Feeding America; the current economic conditions means so many families are going hungry.

Thank you Beth & Nobscot associates for stepping up and modeling the true spirit of our holiday celebrations.

Portland General Electric

It's not surprising that L.S. is a such a great advocate for corporate mentoring over at PGE, is it? Thanks, L!

Note: Email republished with permission.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Gift Update - Day 4

We are four days into the voting and Big Brothers Big Sisters and Feeding America remain in the top three for the Nobscot Charity Holiday Gift poll. There is now a tie for third place between Boys and Girls Clubs, Global Fund for Women and YMCA.

All ten of the charities, which were selected by Nobscot employees, are outstanding organizations. We'll be happy to send the donation gift money to whichever three come out on top when the voting is closed.

Emails about the charity gift went out to clients tonight so I suspect we'll see some big changes in the voting tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Holiday Gift Voting Has Begun

The voting has started for the Nobscot Charity Holiday Gift. So far Nobscot and Mentor Scout clients have chosen Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and YMCA as their top two choices. Feeding America and the Global Fund for Women are tied for third place. Which three will be the final winners?

Monday, December 08, 2008

A Unique Holiday Gift for Nobscot's Corporate Clients

For the holidays, we decided to do something a little different at Nobscot this year. As of today, when Nobscot clients login to their WebExit, Mentor Scout or FirstDays account, they see this:

When they click on that link, it takes them to a holiday message explaining that rather than sending cookie baskets, we're going to spend our holiday gift budget on helping the communities and the world around us. Our gift to our clients this year is the opportunity to select three charities to receive a charitable donation on their behalf.

Our team selected 10 amazing charities from which each client can choose up to three. We provided short descriptions of each charity on the voting page

And detailed descriptions of each charity on a separate page

Before or after they vote, they can review the current voting results.

When the voting is completed, Nobscot will send a donation of $1000 each to the top three charities.

Our team is very excited about this and we hope our clients will be too. I will keep you posted on the winning charities.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Are you LDD? Why We Are All Becoming Listening Deficient

How well do you listen these days? I mean really listen. Like the kind of listening that the old management books used to tell us to do when meeting with our employees. The door closed, good eye contact, mind focused 100% on the communicator kind of listening.

I have noticed that in the past year or so we have all become a little bit listening deficient. I'm sure you have noticed it too. The most egregious example of "Listening Deficit Disorder" (LDD) I can relate happened while I was conducting a demo a few weeks ago. I was on a phone conference call walking some people through an online demo of Mentor Scout. I was showing them the mentoring profile and talking about some of the different kinds of fields and how we customize the profile for each organization. I was really harping on the ability to customize - too much in fact so I told myself to stop talking and I asked if there were any questions thus far. The first question (and I'm not making this up), "Is there a way that we can customize the items on the profile?" I choked a little bit on my cocoa. That wouldn't have been so bad (I realize that people on demos are looking around at the software and not always following along with me) except that the same woman asked 2 more questions during the demo both of which were items I had just covered. The woman's colleagues were noticeably embarrassed.

Where has all this LDD come from? I think it stems from the following:

- The Internet has taught us all to be excellent skimmers. There is so much information out there on news sites, blogs and forums that we have to skim in order to survive each day. We also skim online because for many of us it is uncomfortable on the eyes/brain to read long, complex articles on a computer screen. (Note: some brain researchers suggest that we use different parts of our brain when we read word images on a screen than when we read words on paper.) Thus we skim. Maybe our visual skimming has taught us some kind of auditory skimming as well. Do you ever half-listen and only tune in if something interesting catches your fancy?

- Our minds are thinking about many things as once. Today, we don't just multi-task tasks. We also multi-task our thinking. I know that some of you can type a post about dogs while thinking about what's for lunch while sitting in a phone conference call and listen to a colleague that has just barged into your cubicle to ask you about something important like what happened on 24 last night.

I notice signs of LDD in more and more interactions and I am guilty of it as well. If I am working on a project or thinking about something and someone interrupts me with a question, a part of my mind stays tuned to my original task (so as not to lose the train of thought?) while I attend to the new issue. While at the time I feel like I'm listening carefully, in hindsight I'm probably not. How many balls can your brain juggle at one time? It takes some time to transition completely from focusing thoughtfully on one topic to another.

Some might say that Listening Deficit Disorder is a helpful tool for working effectively in the new 21st century workplace? I don't think so. A bad case of LDD sets us up for:
  • misunderstandings
  • incorrect conclusions
  • less meaningful discussions
  • a loss of good ideas that come from careful listening and participating
  • time wasting due to the need for repetition
  • frustration both from and toward the person with whom you are half-communicating
  • sending subtle (or not so subtle) messages that you don't care about what the other person is saying
How does one overcome LDD? I suggest making the extra effort to go back to old-school form of listening. Do not multi-task when communicating with others. Drop everything fully, even things floating in your mind, when someone is speaking to you. Give 100% to your listening. Be aware of your mind wandering (starting to skim) and pull yourself back to listening. Make virtual eye-contact with those on the other end of the phone or IM. Show the listener you care and respect them by focusing completely on them. I think that you will find this strategy pays off in both better relationships and greater business success.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Solving Organizational Challenges with Enterprise 2.0

Interesting post from Enterprise 2.0 thought leader and academic Andrew McAfee on his prescription for restoring the operational and financial health of the big 3 US automakers. Mcafee imagines himself a newly appointed auto industry IT Director and discusses what he would do to heal his ailing company.

His solution is to implement a corporate wide talent networking type program which he calls an "emergent social software platform" or ESSP. He call for a comprehensive suite to include:
  • blogs
  • wikis
  • discussion boards
  • social networking service
  • microblogging
  • prediction markets
  • praise and recognition
Why does he recommend this approach? Mcafee suggests that the answers to the company's challenges reside in the minds of the employees dispersed across the organization. Individuals themselves may not have the best answers but technology can be used to pull together the bits and pieces of employees' knowledge to find the right solutions.

Complicated buzzwords aside, I think it's a great approach. We are already beginning to see this kind of organizational social collaboration at non-troubled companies using talent networking. There is no reason to believe that it wouldn't work equally well with companies that have greater challenges to solve.

There are a few caveats though that Professor Mcafee turned imaginary IT Director should heed:

1) The initiative will not succeed if it's driven by the IT department. Although on the surface it seems like a technology solution, in reality it's a people solution that uses IT. As such, a good strong HR and/or Talent Development department needs to be the one spearheading and nurturing the implementation of the program. I have nothing against IT people but they do not have the appropriate skills and knowledge for this.

2) Because it's a people program, it needs to be nurtured - a lot. Really cool technology with all the requisite components is still just a platform - the "P" in McAfee's ESSP. The more challenging aspect is directing and focusing and shaping the use of the platform to create the end result that the company is seeking, that is actionable solutions. In this case, success is not in the journey, it's in the destination.

3) Beware of information overload. Companies that utilize suggestion and feedback systems often become overwhelmed with the amount of information that they capture. Be prepared to deal with an abundance of both good and bad information.

4) Remember that the Wisdom of Crowds only works when each individual in the group is more likely to be right than wrong. As Cass Sunstein pointed out in When Crowds Aren't Wise, crowd think fails if each individual is more likely to be wrong than right. Therefore, it's important to address the right questions to the right people who have the information to be correct, individually, more often than not. Making decisions based on faulty group think will not help the company succeed.

5) A company like any of the big automakers comes with a lot of baggage. There is a history, a corporate culture, there are long standing policies, long service employees and union contracts. The roll-out of the program will need to be integrated in such a way that does not conflict. The employees need to be enthusiastic about participating. If it's not handled well, they will end up with lots of employee eye-rolling and complaints.

Therefore, I suggest the following:
The organization should prepare in advance the objectives and specific challenges they wish to solve with the system. They should identify a team from HR that will work with divisional managers on tailoring the program to meet the objectives. A senior executive should be found to help champion the program. A methodology should be in place for reviewing the information and separating the wheat from the chaff. An ongoing plan should be made for keeping the program energized. Tools should be available for reporting and analyzing on usage and results.