Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Holiday Post... which, instead of writing a new post, I link to several other posts and sites.

(What, you've never done that?)

But first, I'd like to wish all my friends a wonderful holiday...

Of course, many of you I know only as a small thumbnail but that shouldn't stand in the way of friendship or admiration.  I trust many of you are actually life-size and hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday season with friends and family.

 We had a full house this year with Christmas coffee, a Bavarian breakfast for my husband's soccer team and a family Christmas Eve featuring a fondue with seven sauces and more presents for the kids that I remember getting throughout my entire childhood.  On Christmas morning the kids shook out their stockings, played with their new marble run and we started a new family tradition: building a robot.

My husband bought Lego Mindstorm for our 8-year-old daughter, who inexplicably understands electric wiring, motors and things of that kind.  Not from me, I assure you.  She assembled and programmed her first robot in about a half hour.  My husband helped at first but at some point he was just slowing her down.

The robot has a sensor.  As it approaches a wall it backs up and tries a different direction.  Then it asks for a color.  If you show it the right color it says, 'Fantastic!'  If you show it the wrong color it shoots you with a marble, thanks you and tells you to have a nice day.

That's my girl.  Her robotics skill is her own but she has my eyes.

Now then, here's some don't miss holiday reading for those golden hours while you're sitting around the fireplace with your family and an iPad in your lap, thinking that checking email feels too much like work:

Women of HR is running a 2-week 'Best of Women of HR' series.  Check it out!

Paul Smith has posted a wonderful holiday HR Carnival over at Welcome to the Occupation, full of  thoughtful and expensive presents.

Compensation Cafe is always worth a read but since this is my blog I'm going to point you to my own most recent post on creating value with a limited rewards budget.  While you're over there be sure to check out a few other posts, too - the Cafe is a great multi-writer resource for rewards, fair pay, appreciation, employee motivation or talent management.

And while we're on the topic, Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

German Companies Doing Good Things

Just a quick hat tip to three German companies that are blazing environmental and modern workforce trails for the rest of us:
  1. Siemens for opting out of the nuclear business, a brave decision that shows big companies can do the right thing.
  2. Deutsche Telekom for providing flexible working hours and supporting a family-friendly work environment.
  3. Volkswagon for turning off Blackberry email after hours to promote a better work life balance for employees.
Well done, you! And Merry Christmas (or happy holidays) to everyone.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Project Social: The Happy Post

I recently read an article called 12 Things Happy People Do Differently, and was struck by how closely it mirrored my recent thoughts.  In fact, here are my tips for having a magical holiday season and a happier year to come.  You’ll be amazed at the similarities.

No, I didn’t copy, it’s just that great minds think alike!  (And speaking of great minds, be sure to check out what Dave and Lyn have to say this holiday season over at HR Official and The HR Bacon Hut).

Here are my tips for leading a happier life - In all honesty, I don't always follow them but I am happier when I do:
  1. Assume the best - Assuming the best - even if you’re wrong - can give you the confidence and positive energy you need to find the best.
  2. Be grateful - There are countless people who have helped you get to where you are today.  Be grateful to them and let the rest go.
  3. Be generous - A friend once said to me, ‘We are here to help each other.’  Is there anyone you can help or share with today, in the spirit of those who have helped and shared with you?  
  4. Ask for help - No one can do everything alone, which is why the most successful people get lots of help.  Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need and say thank you, in case you didn’t learn that one in kindergarten.
  5. Treat yourself - Obsessing about your own comfort or convenience is not the road to happiness but a facial or a little cake at the right moment goes a long way toward making everything right with the world. 
  6. Make time for people - People are social animals and die sooner without meaningful social contact.  Don’t make a habit of neglecting family and friends for things that don't matter - and if you tell yourself you're 'doing it for them' on a too regular basis, give yourself the hairy eyeball.
  7. Be in the moment - You're sitting here reading this post, breathing air on a planet that circles a sun in a solar system in an enormous galaxy that is actually a tiny blip in an enormous universe made up primarily of nothing - or maybe bozons, I wasn’t totally clear on that.  Let the shopping list go for a minute and really look at what’s around you. 
  8. Be still - Shh!  The health benefits of stillness are well documented.  Find some time every day to be still and watch your thoughts.  Get to know yourself.
  9. Believe in yourself - You will fail sometimes.  That’s OK.  Plan what you can plan and prepare what you can prepare.  If it doesn’t work out, take it on the chin and move on.
  10. Have faith - Things have a funny way of working out.  Be ready for that open door.
One more thing: I was once driving on an icy road when my windshield fluid ran out.  My window promptly started to fog, making it difficult to see the oncoming traffic.  And wouldn’t you know it, my cell phone was dead, so pulling over wasn’t an attractive option.  I was just on the verge of getting really worried about the fact that I was driving 80km/hr on a 2-way road  I could no longer see when a truck rattled by, narrowly missing me and splashing my windshield with some extra windshield fluid.  The ice promptly melted and I could see again.  Was that a miracle?  I’m inclined to think it was, just like my kids are a miracle, autumn leaves are a miracle and social networks are a miracle.

Miracles are all around us.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Good Management: How Do You Measure Up?

The importance of good management for engagement, retention and overall company performance has been a central theme of the blog from the very beginning.

In fact, one of my early posts on talent management boldly asserted that 'the quality of managers is the single most important thing you can get right.' 

Periodically I get sidetracked by other HR-related topics but I always have a hard spot in my heart for inept managers.

Which isn't entirely fair because most managers don't set out to be bad managers.  It's not the master plan, so to speak.  It usually just sort of happens through a combination of stress, neglect and poor communication skills.

This is either a wake up call or a golden opportunity for HR.  If talent matters, and surveys tell us that talent is both scarce and pretty disgruntled at the moment, corporate focus will inevitably start shifting to the people who manage that talent. 

Mediocre managers will need to evolve into leaders who can inspire people to give their best... and it'll take more than a memo or a KBO to make that happen.

Someone will have to offer managers the same support and leadership that is expected of them.  Someone will have to mentor managers and actively measure how effective they are, not just in terms of output and deadlines but also in terms of team performance, engagement and retention. 

Remember this: Poor managers tend to be poorly managed themselves.

As more is expected of them, managers will also demand better tools to support their improved management style.  Think about it: If you ask a manager to lead a modern global team (multi-generational, multi-cultural, remote, contingent, etc.) then saddle him or her with a cumbersome annual performance management tool or make it really hard to access workforce information from anywhere except an office computer you are failing that manager.

So here are some fun HR projects to consider that will help managers manage better and have the potential to create real business value in 2012:
  • Define metrics to measure manager quality today and measure it.
  • Put a manager mentoring and development program in place and execute on it.
  • Provide managers with better management tools and access to relevant business data.

Did I forget anything?  Please, poke holes!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The OD Post: Squandering Talent and Hoarding Information which I point you to my two most recent Compensation Cafe posts:

Turkey Talk: Squandering Talent - It was the day before Thanksgiving, OK?  I was fresh out of turkey puns.  Even to me, it happens.  This post includes a book review from Malcolm Gladwell's latest book Outliers.  Since Malcolm Gladwell was recently named one of the ten top business thinkers of 2011, if you don't plan to read his book at least read this post so you don't sound ignorant about the whole '10,000 hours' thing.

Why Should I Help You?  I'm just nice that way.  Really, I'm very helpful.  Several people have said so.  Unfortunately, not everyone is as helpful as I am, which is why the topic of this post is how organizations can inspire people to share what they know.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Modern Manager: What's Your '-ity' Strategy?

Diversity.  Mobility.  Productivity.  What are they good for, besides ending with '-ity'?

Not so very long ago, most people came to the office at the same time every day, dressed the same, acted the same, left at the same time and kind of meandered through the day at a steady pace.

You knew where you stood.  You knew where everyone else stood, too.

Not that there wasn’t any diversity, no sir.  You had women in a low-paid clerical roles,  the proverbial ‘new kid’, a couple of older folks who'd been around forever and maybe even one or two people of a different race or ethnicity.

There was mobility back then, too.  I mean, you could totally work from home, just not during office hours.  And productivity basically meant meeting your deadlines with a couple of minutes to spare. 

Back then, becoming a manager was either a matter of past achievement or favoritism and being a good manager mostly meant looking the part and telling people what to do.

Oh, wait, that part about managers is still mostly true, even though pretty much everything else has completely changed.  And it worked OK back then because things were slower and the workforce was more homogenous so you didn’t need as much… finesse to lead people.  But today?

Today it’s a different world.  And when the world changes, the things you need to do to be successful also change.  Let’s take a closer look at these same ‘ity’s’ that - if we really think about them - make it clear that the old ways of selecting and evaluating managers won't cut it any more:


People eating spicy food and going to church on different days is the least of it.  You’ve got up to 4 generations on your team, 20% contingent workers (on average), different races, ethnicities and attitudes, team members all around the world and all of a sudden everyone’s an ‘individual’ and wants special attention, fabulous development opportunities and flexible working hours.  Not to mention half of them aren’t even THERE on any given day. 

But there it is.  We can either see all this diversity as a management headache or as an opportunity to foster new ideas and ways of working.  Here are some ideas about good diversity management as well as a short post about what makes diversity pay. And don't miss Tim Sackett's foundational guide to white people.

The good news is that good diversity management looks a lot like good management so we can think of good diversity management as a twofer.* 

*Please note this is the ONLY time we will ever use the word ‘twofer’ in conjunction with diversity.  Seriously.


WFH. OOO. AOAC.  If you don’t know what at least one of these acronyms stand for you might want check your pager in case 1990’s trying to reach you.  Given new innovations in mobile technology as well as recent studies correlating autonomy and engagement, isn’t it time to  let people work when they want, how they want and where they want?  Just a thought. 

If you're just getting started with the whole 'mobile' thing, here are some tips for managing remote workers.  I also recommend Patty Azzarello’s various blog posts about how to be effective working remotely.


In an uncertain economy where doing more with less has become the new corporate black, productivity is clearly a business imperative. So why is American productivity at an all-time low?  There are several culprits, although this list is not exhaustive:

  • Meetings - A poorly run or unnecessary meeting costs more than you may realize in terms of productivity and opportunity.  Check out this post about the hidden costs of meetings and next time you call a meeting think 'brevity,' another 'ity' word.
  • Tools - As soon as you reach a critical mass of people and/or locations, the cost of not having proper collaboration tools - such as a corporate wiki where information can be shared, web and video conferencing, Internet and device access - will start to add up.
  • Committees - Nothing is quite as big a time sink as not having a clear topic owner.  Assign one and let them do their job.  Enough said.
  • Admin - A certain amount of paperwork is everyone’s lot in corporate life.  However, once dealing with admin exceeds 10% of the standard work week, there’s a problem, Houston.  

And guess what?  If you're the manager, it's your job to help very different people - including 'locationally challenged' people - work well together and do their jobs quickly and effectively.

Diversity.  Mobility.  Productivity.  Like I said, you need an '-ity' strategy.

It isn't always easy.  But hey, that’s why managers get the big bucks and absolute power, right?

For more on the perils of modern management, click over to Dave Ryan's post at HR Official, which is always worth checking out.

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