Perks and Upgrades: Why Occasionally Spending More Makes Sense

Datsun B210I read an article that said that the Datsun B-210 was voted one of the ugliest cars of all time.  Now, just looking at the picture, it would be hard to argue that it is not one of the ugliest cars.  I’m not sure why they have it pictured with a train, because it certainly was not faster than a train- not even close.  And the color choice?  That 1978 burn orange is really attractive, if you’re into pumpkins.

I know it wasn’t the most attractive car of all time.  But, it certainly had its good points.  My dad actually owned a car just like the one pictured.  It was small and had no frills.  No air, no power anything.  It did come with an AM radio, but that was all.  I’m sure he bought it just to get to and from work.  He was a plant manager at a zinc refinery so it was definitely not a place you would want to take a nice car.  The chemicals from the plant ruined the paint on every car in the lot.  The reason I had the pleasure of riding in the car was that my dad thought it would be the perfect fuel-efficient mode of transportation one summer to travel from St. Louis to St. Petersburg Beach, FL.  That had to be about the longest, hottest, 21 hours in a car I can say I have ever had.  But, it got us to our destination and back home again.

We only kept that car for about two years.  Sure, it was practical at the time, but with a growing family it just didn’t make sense.  And based on the amount of time spent in the car, my parents realized that they needed a few perks and upgrades.

Really, the car is symbolic of choices each of us make every day.  In human resources, are we no different.  The economy is bad.  Is your company in the market for new HR technology?  A new recruiting tool?  Do you need help from a consultant?  I know the tendency is to shy away from spending.  But, that is only good in the short term.  If you buy the “practical but cheap” technology, you can bet you’ll be sorry in a year or two.  The economy will rebound.  Your business will grow.  Then, you’ll be back at square one and having to pay much more than if you negotiate today.

Some people will disagree, but I feel strongly about this.  Invest NOW in your company.  The time is right, the pricing is right.  Think about your next five to ten years, not just about today.

What do you think?  Is your company keeping spending on hold?  Are they spending but buying the practical or cheaper technology?  Or, are they visionaries who are taking a little risk and investing in the company’s future?  I’d love to hear in the comments.

Can You Keep Your Career Safe from the Robots?

HR Happy Hour 219 – Keeping Your Career Safe from the Robots

Recorded LIVE from SuccessConnect 2015 in Las Vegas, August 11, 2015

Hosts: Steve Boese

Guest: Karie Willyerd, SuccessFactors

LISTEN HERE

This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve sat down at SuccessFactors customer conference SuccessConnect and spoke with Karie Willyerd, Workplace Futurist (i.e. the best job title ever), and author of the upcoming book Stretch: How to Future-Proof Yourself for Tomorrow’s Workplace.

On the show, Steve and Karie talked about just what a Workplace Futurist does, what are some of the big-picture work and workplace challenges that lay ahead for organizations, and then dove into the the issues and workplace opportunities that increased use of robotics and automation present. Karie laid out 5 key principles that anyone can use to help ensure their continued development, assert their value, and keep themselves and their careers safe from our future robot overlords.

This was a really fun show!

You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, or using the widget player below:

Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlaneon BlogTalkRadio

Thanks to SAP/SuccessFactors for having the HR Happy Hour Show at the event.

Finally, thanks to our show sponsors Equifax – learn more about how Equifax Workforce Solutionscan help you and your organization here.

And really finally, on iTunes or your favorite podcast app just search for ‘HR Happy Hour’ to subscribe to the show and never miss an episode.

Independence, Dependence and the Future of Work

Steve Boese and I recorded a new episode of HR Happy Hour that focused on a hot topic in the HR world- the difference between Independent Contractors and employees.  It then evolved into a full discussion on how the future mix of contractors will impact not only HR, but Talent Acquisition and the organization in general.  Be sure to check out episode #218 HERE, or using the widget player below:

Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio

 

This was a really fun and lively conversation and we hope you enjoy the show!  Many thanks to our friends at Equifax Workforce Solutions for sponsoring us.  If you haven’t checked out what they are up to, please be sure to click through.

The discussion  Steve and I had reminded me of a post I wrote several years ago about the difference of being independent and dependent in general.  I think it still applies today, and maybe even to a greater degree than it did then.
 
“Independence means rebellion, risk, tenacity, innovation, and resistance to convention.”

revolution-global-voicesI first heard this quote during a conversation with Steve Boese.  He was reading the book ‘Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture‘ and it struck him as a meaningful quote.  Since then, he has written about it on his blog and even had the author, Kaya Oakes, on the HR Happy Hour show to talk more about independent thinking and indie culture.  What’s interesting is that the quote keeps rolling around in my head and coming back to me.

Why?  Because as much as I like to think I’m independent, I believe that as humans, we gravitate to being dependent.  It’s our natural state of being.  Although, it seems as if admitting that you are dependent is equivalent to career suicide.  However, as long as I can be influential in a positive way while still feeling support, I’m content depending on other people.  If I can be persuasive and respected while collaborating and my voice is still heard, I’m ok with dependence.

Dependence CAN be a positive experience.

It’s that feeling of being cared for or knowing that someone has your back.  The best teams are built off this interdependence as a core value.  It’s the way I feel when you read this blog.  Regardless if you agree or disagree with something I write, I still feel your support and I am in a dependent relationship with you.

Dependence is ultimately what drives business.  It’s being able to work together to meet someone else’s needs.  It’s the backbone of the economy.  So, why is it so attractive to tell someone that you are independent? Here are a couple reasons:

  • It’s the “cool” thing to do- Who doesn’t want to claim that they are part of the indie culture in their industry.  There are times when we feel like breaking out on our own is the ultimate way to be cool.  We can do our own thing, make all our own decisions, take greater risks, and ultimately, not have to rely on anyone else to make things happen.
  • It feels fluid– Being able to be agile and go with the flow more quickly is an appealing model for many of us.  However, with that also comes great risk that a majority of businesses that we deal with have bureaucracy that prevents or hinders their agility, thus affecting ours to some degree if we are their vendor.
  • Entrepreneurial spirit– Like many of the founding forefathers in US history, being able to have the ability to be independent and start out on a new course, over uncharted ground, is exciting.  That spirit is appealing.

I argue that at the end of the day, even the most independent person is still predominantly reliant on others whether that be as customers, as those that provide financial funding, or those people in your circle that act as your advisory board.

What do you think?  Is it ever really possible to be independent?  Or, it is the spirit that initially drives certain people who then ultimately become dependent like the rest of us?  Weigh in over in the comments section.

HBR is Getting it Wrong: The Internal RISE of HR

I love HRThis HR lady is fired up!  Lately, there is no shortage of posts and articles about Human Resources not being strategic, not being valued, and needing to change in order to make everyone else in the C-Suite feel better. From articles in  HBR (including their current magazine cover saying “It’s Time to Blow Up HR”), to Forbes to the Korn Ferry Institute, people are questioning whether or not HR can be strategic, what they need to do to become strategic and whether we should just start over from scratch.

As someone who has dedicated my entire career to working in HR and trying to further our profession, I can assure you HR leaders are strategic.  The issue as I see it from the trenches is a lack of respect for the value HR brings to the organization and for that, I don’t believe that “blowing up HR” is the way to correct it.  What HR needs is a re-brand.

If I were asked to describe my “ideal” HR department, it would be one in which every HR pro would:

  • Know the business- Speak the language of the particular industry they support.
  • Understand the financials- This is key to being able to strategically advise leadership on people issues. Ensuring you have a solid understanding of exactly how your organization makes and spends money, then be able to equate the people costs to the bottom line.
  • Get honest– They wouldn’t sugarcoat what is going on.  The only way to really make things better is to examine the issue at hand by being honest and transparent.
  • Encourage innovation– Include HR at all levels in brainstorming to truly challenge the traditional ways of doing things.  Some processes will remain the same.  Others will be taken to new and better levels.
  • Be recognized publically (internally AND externally) – Other work teams publicize their “wins”.  So should HR.

How do we get to the ideal? We RISE to a new level of awareness:

  • Reduce or outsource administrative functions where possible
  • Innovate to come up with fresh approachs to business issues about people, then aggressively share with the C-Suite and other leaders
  • Spread the word about what HR is and what it isn’t and  really publicize HR “wins” and successes
  • Engage all levels of the organization

I had the opportunity to speak to a group of HR leaders in Kansas City last night and one conversation was focused on how to rebrand HR in higher education.  This leader was describing how he is taking business principles to rebrand the HR team.  Instead of the employees working off old assumptions, he’s breathing fresh, new life into the HR team and then publicizing the interactions so that the overall opinion about HR changes.  It’s steps like his that will make HR rise….not blowing up the profession or tearing it apart.

All this feels like the culmination of many different approaches all leading to the same result.  A new HR. A refocused, redefined, re-branded HR.  The ball is rolling.  How do we gain momentum?

Grieving at Work- Strategies for Coping

grief2I worked in the HR trenches for most of my career and at every job, the trusty EAP brochure was not far from reach.  The only trouble is, employees just don’t tend to use the EAP (Employee Assistance Program) benefits and resources as often as we would hope.  Honestly, more employees would rather have a chat with someone in HR or a colleague and tell us their most personal troubles than to search online or through a brochure for something to help whatever ails them.  I know EAP has so many great benefits from financial advice, life changes advice (marriage, birth of a baby, divorce) and even bereavement advice, I feel like there has to be more that HR can offer.

I recently lost my grandmother to Alzheimers.  I was very close to her and visited her often, especially during the last ten years of her life.  The company I was with at the time only offered one day of bereavement for the death of a grandparent.  No consideration was given to the closeness of the relationship.  No call was received to give condolences.  So, in my extreme grief, I decided to reach out to my friends on Facebook for some suggestions of how to cope with the tremendous loss since I had never lost someone so close to me.

My friends and chosen colleagues in the HR world first embraced me in the most loving support I could hope for.  Then, they shared their personal tips on how to deal with grief.  Since death is a part of life, I want to share the tips here today in hopes they will help you, someone you love, a friend, or even a co-worker in need.  Here we go:

  • Hugs- Take hugs from everyone you can.  The act of being embraced actually makes you feel better and helps calm your body’s reaction to the grief.
  • A good joke-  It may seem like the wrong time to joke, but laughing launches chemicals in the brain to help you feel better.
  • Getting outside- A nice long walk, a game in the park, or a run may be just what you need to get your adrenaline going.
  • Prayer- While I know not everyone believes the same truth, if you pray, it can really help you.  Some of my most comforting moments were sitting in church.  My grandma died just before Easter, so a challenging time to hear that message, but ultimately very helpful.
  • Good friends- As much as you may want to be alone, the company of a good friend can lift your heart.  It also helps them feel like they are helping you.
  • Remembering good times with the loved one-  This is one I found difficult at first.  I didn’t want to think about her at all because it hurt too much.  Over the months, this one has gotten easier and now, I find that remembering fun times with Grammy really do help.
  • “Embrace the Moment”- My good friend Prudence Kumming told me to do this.
  • Street Wisdom– My sweet friend David D’Souza gave me the advice to read this blog.  So glad he did because I would have never found it without his suggestion.  It’s the story of how you can use the environment where you live to help you work through issues, concerns and thoughts.  So creative.
  • Let people help- One of the hardest things to do, if you’re like me, is let anyone help you.  Of all times, when you’re grieving is when it’s comforting to have someone take care of you.  Embrace it.
  • Care for yourself and be gentle with yourself-  This one comes from a brilliant woman, Heather Bussing.  So often we don’t take care of ourselves in these situations, we are too busy worrying about everyone else.  I was guilty of this.  Once I sat down and focused on this, I started feeling more like myself.
  • Books- My wise friend Margo Rose made several solid book recommendation for dealing with grief.  Healing After Loss was one and books by Kahili Gibran are supposed to do the trick.
  • Grief counseling-  If grief is too much to bear, see a grief counselor.  This is where the EAP can come in handy in terms of recommending local experts to help you.
  • Music- One of the things I found helpful was to listen to songs I know my Grammy loved.  Celebrating them through music is a very uplifting experience.
  • Sticking to a routine- I remember during my first real job, an employee lost a loved one.  I thought they would take the week off as bereavement and they came to work.  To my surprise, he told me that it was easier to continue the daily routine so he didn’t feel so bad.
  • “Living the Full Catastrophe”- My dear friend Geoff Webb made this suggestion.  Allowing yourself to feel and experience ALL parts of the process is the only way to really get through it.
  • Celebrate the person you lost- I’m seeing this more and more.  Sharing pictures and stories of the person who passed is a way to celebrate their life, not grieve the loss.
  • Sleep/ eat/ exercise-  It should go without saying, but making sure you do all the life basics is key to grieving.
  • Time Alone- My amazing friend Eric Winegardner suggested taking 2 days, or so, away.  Go somewhere by yourself and just be.
  • Understanding how Shiva is observed-  My wise and feeling friend Naomi Bloom shared the Jewish practice of Shiva.  Even though I am not of that faith, I admit that learning about it and taking some cues from the steps were very helpful in my dealing with my grief.

As you can see, there are many ways to deal with grief.  So, next time someone comes in your office and is struggling, feel free to give them the EAP brochure, but make additional suggestions.  They’ll welcome the input and information they may have never considered.

Be good to yourselves and feel free to share your tips on dealing with grief in the comments.  We’d all love to learn from it.

The Future of Performance Reviews

May2014_ValueOfPeerAssessment_TNA question that I’ve wrestled with as a HR practitioner over the years, and one I am often asked about now, is what is the value of performance reviews.  It’s been something that employees and managers dread in most organizations I’ve worked with.  For many, the review never even happens and the employee is blindsided if things go south.  For other employees, they get the review once a year and it’s a time of having the boss go over every single thing you did wrong, even though the boss never mentioned those things to you throughout the year.  Either way, there is certainly room for improvement in the way employees receive feedback.  Organizations today are debating whether to keep the process as it is, make an overhaul, or throw out the whole concept.

Steve Boese and I invited guest, Eric Mosley, CEO of Globoforce, to the HR Happy Hour to discuss this topic because the negativity often associated with performance reviews continues to grow world-wide. According to Eric, most employees hate having their performance reviewed and most managers hate giving them.  Eric says it’s a business process that seems cast in stone, but that can change.  You can check out the podcast here:

In addition to the podcast, I want to provide a list of some of the pros and cons of performance reviews. While not an all-inclusive list, these are just a few thoughts to get you thinking about the aspects that work if you use performance reviews, and what may not, so you can begin to make changes to your organization’s process and approach.  Many vendors are beginning to incorporate some of the best aspects into their technology, so be sure to check out the Talent Management vendors for the latest in this area.

PROS

  • Employees still desire feedback and the review process, if more frequent and positive, can inspire employees to reach greater heights in the organization.
  • Feedback can help people improve their skills.  Many employees like guidance from a mentor who can provide a framework for them to develop.
  • Companies who can actually tie performance to pay are more trusted.  Employees trust leaders when the leaders are transparent about company performance, leader performance and employee performance.
  • Companies who have multiple raters give a more holistic view of the employee’s performance (Crowdsourced Review as mentioned by Eric Mosley).

CONS

  • If only one rater is used, there is a lack of objectivity in the overall review.  The person performing the rating can be tired, have only partial information or knowledge, can have bad motives, etc.  Many factors lead to lack of objectivity.
  • The myth of pay for performance is pervasive.  Even companies with the best intent tend to miss the mark of actually tying pay increases and/or promotion to actual performance measures.  HR technology is helping in this area.
  • Managers are not always the best judge of what is needed for career development.  If a manager is struggling in their own career, which many are, they are not equipped to give career advice and guidance to their staff.
  • Managers have their own agendas.  Organizations have their own internal politics and a manager’s agenda or standing within the organization can have drastic impact on your review (both positively and negatively).
  • Managers are unprepared.  Whether they claim not to have time to prepare and conduct the review or if he just doesn’t have a solid understanding of how to give feedback, the manager’s ability greatly impacts your review.
  • Employees know it can be a black mark on their career.  Many managers do not know the things you achieve daily or weekly.  If they miss giving feedback on some of your more important work, it can make it appear that you are not doing a good job when you really are.
  • For many organizations, the same form they have always used has been made available online.  The form and what is measured has not been changed from an experiential standpoint.
  • Managers use books and sample text instead of writing their own reviews and comments.
  • Annual is not often enough.  Too much time passes and the rater tends to focus on either the most negative aspects or only the most recent.
  • Time spent on reviews is not showing a high ROI or actual improvement on performance.
  • Reviews are often used to specifically counsel people out and provide the documentation to back up the decision.

The pros and cons of performance has been debated over the years.  Just last year on the March 19 episode of The Diane Rehm Show  on NPR, a discussion was led by Frank Sesno on the topic.  The panel discussed the pros and cons to performance reviews in today’s workplace and the impact they have. One of the experts, Brian Kropp (managing director of the HR practice at CEB), said this, “Most of the time, it’s backward looking and negative.  And, one of the things about the backward looking and negative part of it is that you’re usually getting performance feedback about things that you did three months ago, six months ago, nine months ago, 12 months ago.  The applicability of that backward looking information to your performance today is actually pretty low.”

As you’ll see from my list, I was able to come up with more Cons than Pros.  That’s ok because it gives us a place to start improving.

Solutions for the Future

If you’re in the position to review your organization’s approach and make changes, what are some steps to take right away?  There are a few:

  • Feedback needs to be reciprocal.  Make sure that multiple raters are used for the employee.  Additionally, give the employees the ability to rate the performance of the managers.
  • Make it constructive and forward-looking.  Provide training so that all managers and staff understand the goal is to be constructive, not to tear each other down.
  • Make it often.  Don’t just review someone once a year or never.  Give feedback all the time so that the employee knows when they do something well and when something needs a bit of improvement.

What have you seen work in your organization?  Be sure to share in the comments.

Do You, or Your Company, Screw Up Meetings?

no_meetings_funny_office_saying_sticker-r8f98b046a5c14c4eb859a1553d1b3360_v9waf_8byvr_512A friend recently shared a funny video about conference calls and what they would look like if they were in person.  It’s made the social media rounds, but was still good for a laugh one more time.  It got me thinking about meetings… specificaly conference calls, since I work from home.  I pulled up my calendar and just looking at 2015, it appears I spend anywhere between 10- 50% of my week sitting in some type of meeting.

Like many jobs, the meeting has turned into the commonly accepted way of disemminating information as well as a way to bring people together.  The issue is that it has become the most irrelevant mode of communication for many reasons.  Here are just a few:

  • Employees don’t have time to get their other work done.  I don’t know about you, but when I am stilling in a meeting or on a call, there is no way I can do anything else.  I sit there the whole time thinking about all the other work I need to be doing, especially if I’m one of the people in the meeting who doesn’t really need to be there.  This leads me to…
  • The wrong people are invited.  How many meetings are you asked to attend and when you walk out (or hang up) you’re thinking “Why was I just in that for an hour?”  All the time!  Meeting organizers need to think long and hard about who is invited.  As a rule of thumb, if you don’t plan on the person making a verbal contribution to a decision, don’t invite them to the call.  Find another routine way to send information for those who need to know, but don’t need to make the decision.
  • The meeting takes too long.  I was listening to a show about the TED talk recently and they said that TED landed on the 18 minute presentation because it’s about how long an adult can remain focused without drifting to thoughts of something else.  Seems about right when I think of my own attention span at a meeting.  Try this….make your next meeting 18 minutes.  Your colleagues will thank you and be much happier to attend any future meetings you organize.
  • Speaking of time….it doesn’t end when it’s over.  One of my biggest pet peeves in work life is that meetings are scheduled for an hour.  Often, even if the agenda has been gone through, people still hang in there and add more.  We’re all adults here.  If you tell me we’re going to talk about these four things and we finish, end the meeting.  Employees have 20 other things on their plate they can go back and work on.  Don’t drag out what isn’t necessary.  If this means that one meeting is 18 minutes and the next is 31, great.  At least you won’t be keeping everyone the full hour.  I used to have a boss that would say he was “gifting” the time back to us.  I love that and always walked out with a smile on my face.
  • Distractors ruin the moment.  This is a BIG no-no in my book.  If you’re leading the meeting and a person (or two) derail the meeting with nonsense, stop them.  It’s disrespectful to everyone to let that happen.  We’re not all here for fun and chit-chat, it’s work.
  • Late people interrupt the flow.  This is a related cousin of the last one.  If you’re arriving within 2 minutes of the start time, ok.  Anything after that, just don’t come.  You disturb the flow of the conversation and distract everyone.  ESPECIALLY on conference calls…”DING!” Trish has now entered the call.

When I worked at PwC, I had a good policy that if I attended a meeting and I was clearly not needed, I’d discretely get up and leave.  After making it known to colleagues not to invite me if I wasn’t needed, I had fewer meetings to attend.  The ones I attended, I was able to weigh in and add my ideas.  The rest….well, somehow the company still ran without me in them.  It all worked out.

What are your tactics for managing through the meeting madness?  Share them in the comments.

Not Haunted

It’s been a whirlwind of a week as I am in New Orleans for the first time.  I must admit, that it is surprisingly “homey” for me as it is very similar to St. Louis in terms of history, French background, good food, and Mardi Gras.  I made time to stroll the streets of the French Quarter when I arrived and was struck by the architecture, sounds, and mostly good smells of the experience.  Keep in mind that I’m here at a time post-Mardi Gras so the party atmosphere is greatly reduced.
As I walked up and down cobblestone streets, ducking in and out of small shops hawking everything from antiques to voodoo dolls, I noticed a sign hanging for an apartment for lease.
20150413_134248~2
As you can see, one of the main pieces of information given to potential leasees and passersby is the fact (or maybe just hopeful claim) that the place is “Not Haunted”.  Not haunted?  Really?  I never knew that was a selling point.  That aside, what do you think about using a tactic like this in the work you do?  Personally, I am not a fan of focusing on the negative, especially in employee communications. Can you imagine how this could play out in the workplace?
  • Dear employees, your 2016 benefits will NOT COVER X, Y, nor Z.
  • Dear employees, as your employer we will NOT offer paternity leave until you have been employed here 2 years.
  • Dear employees, DO NOT use your computer for social media interactions during business actions because you might say something we don’t like.
  • Dear employees, the company will NOT OFFER any benefit plan cost reductions.
How could you change this by rewording?
  • Dear employees, we are excited to share your 2016 benefit plan options and are now covering several new benefits such as X, Y and Z.
  • Dear employees, we know that spending time with a new baby is an important part of a baby’s development and bonding.  As such, we will now offer paternity leave for any employee who has completed 2 years of service.
  • Dear employees, we know that as social media outlets have grown in recent years, many of you use them as part of your daily interactions.  We expect you to use good judgement and realize you represent XYZ company at all times.
  • Dear employees, we are excited to tell you that for plan year 2016, any employee who enrolls in a fitness program at a certified gym will now be offered a $300 discount on healthcare premiums for the plan year.
Now, those may not be the best policies, however, purely from a communication standpoint, it is a much more positive spin on issues that could arise.  In my HR career I have seen far too many companies use the tactics in the first examples as they tell employees how NOT to behave, what NOT to wear, etc.  I would strongly recommend a handbook policy revamp if yours resemble the first examples. I guess the alternative is to just tell your employees that the company is “Not Haunted” and go from there.  Good luck!