Thursday, October 28, 2010

Carnival of HR: The Bone-Picker Edition

I'm so proud: Someone found this blog using the key words 'Fairyland Compensation Specialist.'  These are the blogging moments I live for.

I also enjoy when someone winds up here with search keywords like 'work' or 'girl.'  But 'fairyland compensation specialist' is just... special.

And speaking of blogs, be sure to check out this month's Carnival of HR over at HR Examiner In the Know by John Sumser.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Project Social - Why is HR Like Ice Hockey?

So we’re into week 2 of Project Social and Dave Ryan and I caught up last Friday to discuss next steps. One topic that came up is that our circumstances are very different and yet, here we are working together. Dave’s a male HR executive living in the Midwest and I’m a working mom living in Munich employed by a California-based software company.

We both have something to say about HR, however, and together we can say it louder.

We decided that this week we would interview each other. Dave wants to know more about what it’s like living and working in Germany and I want to know more about how being an ice hockey ref is a lot like HR.

Dave's interview of me can be found over at HR Official.

And here's my interview with Dave:

Laura: You are an ice hockey referee. What parallels can you draw between being a ref and being an HR executive?

Dave: In both roles the overall objective is to maintain order and provide a sense of fairness. While those are quite esoteric goals, if done properly both will promote an excellent environment in which to work or play. Consistency is another quality that should be demonstrated in both environments, this is reassuring to players and employees alike. In the larger sense this is all part of professionalism. A good official should never demean, or belittle players or coaches, just as a Human Resources Profession should never demean or belittle employees. It is pretty simple stuff when you get right down to it.

Laura: Are you as passionate about HR as you are about ice hockey? If your job was ice hockey referee, would you volunteer as an HR executive?

Dave: To directly answer the question the answer is No. If I could make a good living officiating, I would not dabble in H.R. For the time that I am on the ice all I think about is that moment i.e.: how many players are on the ice, how much time is left in the period, where is the player carrying the puck going to move it to and what is that players number, where is my officiating partner positioned; is the score on the scoreboard correct, all game related things. It reminds me of an old Nike commercial, when the off camera voice asks Jackie Joiner-Kersey what she is thinking about when she competes in the Olympics. The commercial cuts to a scene of Jackie running hurdles and you hear her shouting out 1-2-3- jump (over the hurdle) 1-2-3 jump, and then Jackie says, 'What do you think I was thinking about?'

Laura: What’s the most satisfying thing about HR and ice hockey?

Dave: I once heard a fellow talk about his work who said, 'That is my profession, my day job, but hockey is my passion.' I truly love being involved in both activities. There are probably many folks who would question my ability to perform the job in both roles (and they might be right). But, I try to do the absolute best that I can do each and every time on the ice and in the office!

Laura: Can you describe your biggest challenges in both roles? Are they similar?

Dave: The second answer first -yes. The biggest challenge in both roles is maintaining the sense of fairness and consistency. What is a penalty for one team should be a penalty for the other team. What is a disciplinary offense for one employee must be the same for another - otherwise I will have a coach or union steward taking me to task for the perceived inequities. To give you an example from the ice, a player who is known to commit a lot of penalties, is going to get far more scrutiny than a player who is known as a high skill player. If the high skill player commits an infraction, it may get overlooked because of his reputation as a "fair" player precedes him. This can happen in the workplace too. A problem employees may get more scrutiny that a top performer. Be careful, it is a slippery slope!

Laura: Do you feel like you make a difference?

Dave: Yes, I feel like a make a difference on the ice and one the job. If I didn't feel that way it would be time for me to do something else. I hold myself to that standard, and I feel that everyone else should be held to the same standard. Anyone who does not feel like they are making a difference should move on to something else. Like is too short not to care deeply, and immerse yourself in your passions, whatever they may be!

Laura: Thank you, Dave, for those honest and insightful answers. It sounds like both both roles require a high standard of consistency, fairness and excellence. And I couldn't agree more that people should be passionate about what they do. I'm looking forward to our next topic!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Project Social - Let's Clique

I'm the classic late adopter. I'm the girl who waited for an iPhone before upgrading my ten year old Siemens cellphone that forced me to buy a larger purse if I wanted to leave the house with it.

It's not that I lack technical prowess - I used to be a pretty good software developer before I moved into more functional roles and lost my geek cred. But I do lack patience with early versions that seem to be designed by - and for - unmarried engineers in their twenties.

In fact I insist that an application be developed by at least one harassed new dad in his early thirtees and tested by a team of busy moms before I will even look at it.

That's why I'm relatively new to social media, compared to many people out there. I started this blog about talent management about two years ago, joined the Compensation Cafe team about a year ago and finally caved to Twitter just a few months ago.

When I found Project Social over at Ben Eubank's Upstart HR, I signed right up. After more than a year figuring out stuff on my own it felt like the right time to reach out for some more experienced guidance.

Almost immediately I got a Gmail via LinkedIn from Victorio Milian saying I'd been paired up with Dave Ryan, otherwise known as the HR Czar - a name I recognized from my Twitter contacts. And sure enough, within a few hours of receiving Victorio's email I received a Twitter message from Dave asking how soon we could meet.

Dave is in the process of launching a new blog "The HR Official" and has already written a great post about our first international, Skype-based meeting. Since Dave already described our project goals and game plan in his post, I thought I'd cover why I recommend Project Social to any HR folks who want to get more involved with social media:
  1. Social media techology has reached a tipping point where social has overtaken technology - in other words, you can be a technology dunce and still get your voice out there.
  2. It's a terrific way to 'take the pulse' on topics you care about, find out what people are saying, and even chat with them about it.
  3. Project Social will give you access to someone who knows the ropes and can help you take the first steps.
Dave asked me a great question while we were chatting: Do I think people in social media are cliquey?

I can only speak from my own experience. For the most part people are friendly and welcoming but many of them are business people and their time is valuable. You can't just sign up for Twitter and expect that everyone you follow will follow you back.

For example, I tend to follow people with similar interests, i.e., HR technology, talent management, compensation, etc. Selective following gives me more time to focus on topics and connect with people.

When it comes to building a social network I've encountered three kinds of people:
  1. People who mostly ignore you, either because they are so well-established they don't need to cultivate new followers or so busy they don't have time.
  2. People who respond to comments on their blog and thank you for re-tweets but never comment on your blog or re-tweet anything of yours. Some of them are good bloggers and you can learn a lot from them but don't expect to establish much of a relationship.
  3. People who reciprocate, taking the time to comment on your blog or tweet your links to their own followers. These are the people who form your 'real' virtual network.
This list will be different for each person because different people 'attract' each other. Generally speaking, I passively follow the first group, spend a bit more time on the second group and make an effort to actively interact with and support the third group.

Just like in real life, I spend more time with the people I 'clique' with.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"I Thought of it First!" - The Movie

Remember this post about how a fake phone call can get you out of pointless, boring tasks and show ex-partners we've moved on?  Well, it was so popular I turned the first vignette into a movie using online xtranormal software.

It's super easy and free to use.  You pick your actors, write your script, add gestures, facial expressions, a sound track and voila!  It isn't perfect - I couldn't accessorize my actor with a cellphone, for example, or have her walk offstage at the end of the dialog - but the price is right.

Here's the movie - it's less than a minute long and only took about 5 minutes to make:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Getting My SaaSy On: Upgrades

In a previous post I wrote about designing a new compensation product for a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) software solution but I didn't explain what SaaS is or why it has business relevance.

SaaS is basically a delivery model of business software that lets people use software over the Internet without installing it. A fair whack of the business value of SaaS can be illustrated by talking about software upgrades and what it means not to need them any more.

I spent several years as a global project manager leading on-premise HCM implementations.

On-premise means the vendor sends you the software on a set of disks and it's your problem to get it installed, get your data into it, manage your technical architecture, etc.

Customers could change the product to meet their business requirements and a large part of the implementation involved designing their 'ideal' business processes, building new transactions, workflow and business logic, and creating myriad reports and interfaces to external systems.

The average implementation took about a year and a half and right about then the vendor would release a new version of the product and the fun would start over because now you had two versions.

The process of merging the two software versions is called an 'upgrade'. Here's how it works:

Let' say the vendor delivers a new process that you like better than your current process. If you decide to adopt the vendor process, you may need to back out the changes you made to the old version during the initial implemetation. Or selectively back out some changes but keep others.

Or you may decide to keep your process. Fine, but now you have to make sure you don't apply the new process from the vendor and overwrite your own.

In other words, you have to compare the two systems field by field, line of code by line of code, page by page... ... and that's just the analysis part. You also have to implement your intended changes, which requires great documentation, an alert technical team and a back up environment, in case you run the wrong script.

Then you have to TEST the application. Of course, the vendor tested the new version but you're no longer on that version because you changed it. You have to make sure the changes you made still support your business requirements before the extremely tense moment when you cut over to production.

(Not to be a killjoy but depending on how long that all took, the vendor may be releasing a new version right about now.)

With a SaaS solution you don't need to do any of this for two reasons:
  1. You don't customize SaaS solutions, you configure them, which means you change processes by adding data rather than changing the structure of the application. Since all customers are on the same version, the same update process works for everyone.
  2. SaaS solutions are hosted, which means the vendor manages the software and technical infrastructure for the customer. SaaS vendors apply the changes needed for the new version centrally without disrupting customer business.
Aside from the obvious cost savings associated with supporting a single version of software and sharing technical resourses, SaaS customers save big time by avoiding the upgrade treadmill.

Pretty SaaSy, huh?

'No more upgrades' is just one of the many benefits of SaaS solutions. If you want more information about how SaaS solutions create business value feel free to check out this white paper on 'Real SaaS' I co-authored with a colleague.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

HR and Leadership Carnivals

Be sure to check out this month's Carnival of HR over at Rethink HR and Great Leadership Carnival at Aspire Collaborative Services.

Lots of great topics, posts and authors!

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