Friday, July 29, 2011

No Comment

Dave Ryan and I were chatting the other day about how our recent project social topics have generated lots of new traffic but little in the way of comments so we decided our next PS topic would be, ‘Why do I comment?’  

Of course, we don’t know if our reasons for commenting are the same as yours but we're both so typical they probably are. 

So here’s why I comment:

1.    Your post made me laugh or struck a chord
2.    I’m letting you to know I stopped by
3.    I have an alternative point of view
4.    I recently blogged about the exact same thing
5.    I thought of the perfect one-liner

And here’s why I don’t:

1.    I can’t think of a darn thing to say
2.    I’m not sure what your point is
3.    Leaving a comment requires a password
4.    Your post is too long

Anything ring a bell?

You can check out what Dave Ryan has to say about commenting over at HR Official.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Project Social: What Is Influence?

I recently came across a couple of posts on social media that made me go, hmmn.

The first was about how to use LinkedIn to grow your social influence.  I made a mental note to read the post again in more detail and perhaps try out a few of the recommendations.

That's when I thought, hmmmn.  On the one hand, it makes total sense that the LinkedIn users who are the most active are also the ones who are most visible to peers, recruiters, hiring managers, etc.

On the other hand, unless your job involves using social media, your online presence is what is known as a hobby.  Remaining active and visible on multiple social media platforms requires a significant time investment, which either comes out of your personal life or your work life.

Or both.

Which made me wonder if spending more than an hour a day blogging, tweeting and 'liking' things really makes you more attractive to potential employers... if so, it's kind of ironic.

The other post that caught my eye was  a harsh dismissal of so-called 'experts,' accusing them of forming circles of adoration and  promoting each others' work in order to perpetuate the illusion that they have actual expertise.

Naturally, having a network of connections that sycophantically share everything you say - as long as you return the favor - precludes any real expertise. 

Which brings me to Klout: brilliant, seductive, a bit scary.  You can log on and see your score immediately, along with a cool visual representation of your 'influence.'  You can compare your influence to others.  You can drive up the influence of your friends, hoping they will reciprocate. 

You may tell yourself you don't care but you can't help feeling compelled to take action when your score drops.  So you spend more time on social media. Or you give Klout access to all your other social media platforms and now they OWN YOU.

What is influence, anyway?  These days it seems to mean getting people to click a button on your behalf, which sounds lame but actually makes a kind of sense.  I mean, if you can't even get people to CLICK A BUTTON FOR YOU, you don't have much chance of getting them to hire you or buy your product.

That's why Dave Ryan, Lyn Hoyt and I decided to form our own 'circle of adoration' (really more of a triangle) to inflate our online influence.  Amazingly, as soon as Dave gave me a '+ K' my Klout score jumped 5 points without me getting any new knowledge or experience.  

(Of course, I've always been very influential.  People just didn't know it.)

What does all this mean?  First of all, it seems fairly clear that influence has more to do with popularity than expertise.  Of course, this doesn't mean that influential people lack expertise but it also doesn't mean that the people who influence you necessarily know what they're talking about.

I'll leave you with that thought but be sure to check out Dave's and Lyn's posts on this topic over at HR Official and The HR Bacon Hut, respectively.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

HR: Ready to Relocate?

Guest post by Kim Urban, MSHR

In 2005, a company that had been located 38 years in the small town of El Cajon, California, made a decision to move out of state.

The company was the famous Buck Knives, known worldwide as one of the finest manufacturers of knives.  Besides employing over 250 employees, Buck Knives was the type of company a small town like El Cajon could use to lure other business into town.

No one guessed at the time that the Buck Knives departure would be just the start of an exodus, a trickle that turned into a flood of businesses leaving California. In fact, the year Buck Knives packed its bags, the Public Policy Institute of California issued a calming and reassuring report stating that business relocations cost California less than a tenth of 1 percent of all the state’s jobs.

But each year since 2005, the number of businesses leaving California has grown exponentionally. Today, a recent report by Joseph Vranich, an Irvine-based business relocation expert, indicates the exodus is 5 times greater than it was just two years ago.*

So what does this mean for a California HR professional? Well, it means, at the very least, you need to be aware there is a very real possibility your company might be considering a major move. And at the most, assuming you’re in the loop (and let’s hope you are), you need to start the huge process of transferring a company’s biggest asset—its people—to another state.

Each company will present its own unique challenges, of course, but it helps to look at what another company did, in this case Buck Knives, and perhaps get an idea of what could be involved.

Buck Knives had at the time of the move over 250 employees but only 58 employees - about 20% - actually ended up relocating. The remaining employees were laid off. When Buck Knives set up again in Idaho, it filled over 200 jobs from local applicants.

Naturally, one has to wonder about this. Only 58 employees relocated and the rest were laid off? What exactly happened here?

From what I gathered, Buck Knives was offering buy-outs and early retirement to the senior, long-term employees who didn’t fancy the idea of moving at this stage of their careers. Other employees, who worked part-time and sometimes had a second job that anchored them locally, simply could not afford to move. Some employees, married to a spouse who perhaps had a higher-paying job locally, refused to go; others didn’t want to leave the San Diego area or agree to a pay adjustment.

Local incentives may have also played a role in the decision process. Idaho, as part of its program to convince Buck Knives to locate there, offered to give Buck Knives $690,000 to train new workers. I have to assume that Buck Knives considered this when it accepted the money and that this played at least some part in the layoffs in El Cajon.

All in all, a challenging time for HR.  There was the relocation selection process, the layoffs before the actual move, the recruiting and hiring process that took place once the company arrived at its new home, not to mention all the training that needed to be done.

If I were to face a relocation task, I suppose I’d break things down this way:
  1. Find out if there is a limit of employees who will be allowed to relocate.
  2. Determine which employees simply cannot or will not relocate
  3. Of the employees willing to relocate, determine which of those will be allowed to go.
  4. Conduct the layoffs at the old location.
  5. Pack my bags and grab one last fish taco.
  6. Recruit and hire at the new location.
  7. Put in place any training plans needed for the new hires.
Having never undertaken such a project, I’m sure my list is woeful and incomplete but I’d love to hear from any HR professionals who’ve actually handled a company relocation project. What were your biggest challenges? What went right? What went wrong? What advice would you give?

*Besides my conversations with Buck Knives employees, I relied on Anne Krueger’s article, “Buck Knives enjoying a better business life in Idaho than El Cajon,” dated March 26, 2006, for the San Diego Union-Tribune; and also Tami Luhby’s article, “California companies fleeing the Golden State,” dated July 12, 2011, for CNNMoney at

Friday, July 15, 2011

Diversity: It's All About Critical Mass

*Picture courtesy of Bad Stock Photo of the Week at Know HR.

Some of you may have seen this spirited debate on diversity at  There seem to be several schools of thought:
  1. ‘I just want to hire the best candidate’ – People in this camp accuse diversity proponents of foisting less skilled employees on them in order to meet some meaningless quota.
  2. ‘Diversity isn’t just about race, religion or gender’ – People in this camp like to broaden the definition of diversity to include people who work and think differently, claiming that these differences inspire greater creativity and performance. 
  3. ‘People who assume diversity means hiring less qualified people are the reason we need diversity legislation in the first place’ – People in this camp are stridently pro-diversity and insist that minorities aren’t asking for a handout, just a fair shot. 
All of these have merit but are incomplete.  There’s actually a 4th camp that I didn’t see represented in the debate, although I may have overlooked it: Companies that embrace diversity have higher performance.

It's pretty easy to make a 'common sense' business case for diversity:
  • Your customers are diverse and the leadership strategy of the 50s may not help you relate to them or inspire them to buy your products. 
  • Competition is more fierce and new ideas are needed, wherever they come from.
  • Teams have become more important in a business context, which means that managing diversity has become a critical business skill.

If you prefer hard numbers to common sense, a Cornell University study found that once diversity reaches a critical mass (20-25%) at the leadership level the company realizes higher performance. 

Interestingly, below this critical mass diversity has a negative impact, possibly because until critical mass is reached everyone treats it like a quota and the company fails to value and leverage the unique contributions of the minority leaders. 

So, to people who want to hire the “best” candidate I say, ‘Perhaps you haven't reached critical mass yet.’  To people with a broader definition of diversity I say, ‘Yes, even wearing plaid or a nose ring can be considered diverse.’  And to people who think everyone should be given a fair chance based on their skills, I say, ‘Aw.  I think so, too.’

And to companies who have truly embraced diversity and inclusion and are realizing the benefits that a diverse workforce and leadership team can bring I say, ‘Yeah, baby!’

For more on diversity, HR luminaries Dave Ryan and Lyn Hoyt also have some choice observations, which you can read over at HR Official and The Bacon Hut.

And if you want to look at a compelling example of diversity in action, check out PepsiCo’s Diversity and Inclusion site.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Cost of Disengagement

A video version of this post is available on YouTube and at Compensation Cafe.

By now it's well accepted that companies with engaged employees outperform companies with disengaged employees. That means they earn more profit, which is what most companies are trying to do.

Here's a formula that expresses the relationship between engagement and profit:

If engaged employees = higher performance and higher performance =  more profit, then engaged employees = more profit. 

I call this the transitive property of engagement.

What we talk about less frequently is workforce disengagement, which is arguably the more important topic because it helps underline why companies have a vested interest in treating people well. 

Clearly, not every organization will have highly engaged employees but many will somehow carry on regardless.  But every company should take steps to avoid active disengagement because disengagement’s really expensive.

How expensive?  Well, there are the obvious costs such as lower productivity and absenteeism, which can be calculated.  For example, Recent Gallup research found that only 13% of Germany’s employees are engaged in their jobs.

“Gallup estimates that actively disengaged employees cost the German economy between 121.8 billion and 133.6 billion euros per year in lost productivity. Absenteeism is also pretty expensive, considering that each day an employee is away from work in Germany costs companies an average of € 247.20 per worker."

These are the obvious costs but there are also less obvious costs, such as the negative impact on company morale and customer care.  The risk isn’t that disengaged people leave, it’s that they stay.  They may even show up and do their work adequately but behind the scenes, subtly bad things are happening.  For example:
  • Fear – Employees withhold important information, such as customer issues or problems with your products or services.
  • Passive resistance - We've all encountered someone who, while being perfectly pleasant, is also completely obstructive.
  • Information hoarding - People don't share information and may even actively withhold it.
  • Lack of initiative- Beyond doing what it takes to stay employed, no one cares enough to go the extra mile for a customer.
  • Suppression of creativity - Creativity obviously doesn't flourish in this environment.
  • Unhappiness - The negative atmosphere is palpable to employees and customers alike.
All of this is very bad for the business and it has a cost.

So firing people with a termination notice on their windshield, making people work extra hours with no extra pay or cheating people out of their expected compensation aren’t just inhumane practices, they're also bad for business.

Even the more common and less extreme example such as micromanaging, hiring externals for more money into the best leadership roles, failing to develop internal talent and generally treating people like replaceable cogs are also bad for business.

What’s good for business are the things that give people a personal stake in your company's success.  Developing people.  Showing people you value them.  Letting them grow and make decisions. In other words, good management is good for business.

I’ve come up with a formula that expresses the relationship between good managers and good business:

If developing people is good for the business and good managers develop people, then good managers are good for the business.

I call this the transitive property of good management.

That means that you need good managers if you want to avoid disengaged employees. And you may want to think about compensating your managers for developing people, because that’s probably not what they’re compensated for today.

Bottom line: Not every company may aspire to workforce engagement but every company has a vested interest in treating people well.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective 5-Year-Olds

It recently occurred to me that there’s a lot leaders can learn from 5-year-olds.  For example:
  1. Use what you have – Don’t have a dollhouse?  Use a shoe box!
  2. Don’t be afraid to use stuff in a new way – Ignore that nice stable mommy bought you for your toy horses, make your own using a bead necklace.
  3. Be insatiably curious – Enough said.
  4. Make time to play – As Mary Poppins taught us, the potential for fun lurks where you least expect it.
  5. Always be closing – Children are born negotiators.  It never hurts to ask.  And ask again.  And again.  
  6. Shake it off – So you got egg all over the kitchen counter, that shouldn’t stop you from knowing you can break the eggs perfectly next time.
  7. Don’t stereotype or judge – Everyone is a potential friend, playmate or someone to help you paint your wall with fingernail polish.
And one bonus habit:

Be in the moment - The place is here.  The time is now.

Friday, July 8, 2011

I Storyvite You

When I saw this article on TLNT about creating a visual resume from your LinkedIn profile I was intrigued and decided to give it a whirl. 

I signed in using the free registration code offered in the TLNT article (spoiler: it's 'tlnt').  Not surprisingly, the first step is to pull over your LinkedIn information.

After this things got a little bumpy.  I was advised to update my profile, which I ignored because my LinkedIn profile – while not my best work – is fairly complete.  Instead, I opted to cut to the chase and go right into the visual profile.

At this point the user experience was reminiscent of working in Powerpoint only without all the options you expect.  The tag cloud depicting my strengths and experiences is self-generating and I could never get it to look quite the way I wanted.  The slide templates leave you on your own with sizing and alignment and the examples offered for each type of slide weren’t always relevant.  The preview looked like a slide show that swirls around in a cluster instead of advancing sequentially.

My first impression was that I could have done a better job in Powerpoint.

So I took a break and came back to it, determined to give it a fair shot.  Again I was asked to update my profile and this time I did it, not wanting to be one of those users who ignore polite procedural reuqests and then complain when things don’t work.  Suddenly the user experience improved.  For example, this time when I elected to ‘play’ the visual profile I got a groovy carousel:

‘OK, this is pretty cool,’ I thought.  Powerpoint can’t do that.  (Er… can it?)

I think this product needs some work on the user experience side and I’m not sure who wants to watch the Laura Schroeder story but the basic idea of simplifying information is a good one.  The result is less complete than my LinkedIn profile but it’s also more inviting.

One more thing: When you update your information you get to this page, which I think would be a good alternative public profile option to offer for people who aren’t into swirling clusters of slides or carousels. Sad, lonely people.

Why not give it a try? It’s free, it's kinda fun and for another few weeks it’ll help you stand out from the crowd.  As an added bonus, having your work experience fly around like that will help distract the reader from any missing skills you might have. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Carnival of HR is Up and Running

Abhishek Mittal hosts this month's Carnival of HR with a very timely theme: The Talent Race.  Check it out and leave some comments.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Missing Talent or Goldilocks Syndrome?

A recent talent survey published by the Economic Intelligence Unit reports a global shortage of critical talent.  You can read more about what companies are doing to bridge the talent gap in my recent post Where Has All the Talent Gone?

At the same time, public opinion seems divided about whether it makes good business sense to hire superstars, with superstars taking a beating in favor of solid team performers.

To summarize an extremely complex and multi-faceted problem: We don't want underqualified people and we don't want overqualified people.

Now, what does that remind me of?

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Star Spangled Leadership Development Carnival

Forget buying leadership books because everything you need to know about leadership is covered in the July 3rd Leadership Development Carnival over at Great Leadership!  As an added bonus, match your favorite leadership guru to the correct firework. 

I think I got the best one, although 'Boom Boom' also isn't bad.

Laura 'Emerald City' Schroeder

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