Thursday, November 13, 2008

Everyone is a staffing professional

Just a thought since I haven't posted in a while. The market is down and will be down for a while, so that means boomers who where going to retire in the next year and a half or so will be holding off while their 401k or IRA recovers. This means that instead of a gradual transition of workforce replacement we will instead have a mass exodus of boomers retiring once the market comes up again. I would put the clock at two years for organizations to invest in training, outside recruiting and succession planning before you start to feel the pain. Even then old succession planning models will not be enough. You wont just be able to plug people into slots like before and slowly work to get the right people in the right spots, instead you will need to be two or three people deep as the quick movement upward will cause some of your personnel to fail and you will readily need a bench for the bench as people move in and out of positions, also outside recruiting will boom as some companies who have not prepared for this scenario will attempt to "buy" their way out of the problem stealing YOUR talent. I don't care what your niche is in HR you will be focused on training, recruiting, and retention whether it is compensation, benefits, or training. I admit this is a nightmare scenario. However, I am preparing. How prepared are you? More to come on this; I need to think on it more to post more effectively. Might be time to move into the recruiting feild though.

Monday, October 13, 2008

On Discipline

As I was moonlighting as a manufacturing supervisor an interesting issue came up. Often times union contracts will have supposed "deadly sins" usually there is a number associated with them i.e. 8 deadly sins (we have 12 I think). Supposedly these are violations of company policy, law, or simple good conduct that would not have a requirement for progressive discipline. Usually fighting on company property and harassment are on there as well as others depending on your company culture.

There is a fine line between being a jerk and harassing people. I am not sure many people would even be able to define where that line is. My definition is when a person's behavior creates an intolerable/unsafe/hostile environment for another employee. When someone has been talked to about being a jerk to more than one person, it should shoot up red flags in supervisors minds. Maybe he gets one get out of jail free card (they should still record the incident though), moves and acts like a jerk so much that again it is brought up to a supervisor. Now, I would say you probably have harassment of some sort going on. When you throw in employees moving to different shifts or crews this can become infinitely more complicated. Honestly, I would hate to tell supervisors to not use disciplinary discretion with their employees. If supervisors believe it is a one time thing or just a bad mix of personalities I can see some coaching going on to fix the situation. However, if it happens over and over with different supervisors you are asking for trouble as an organization in the form of broad harassment claims from multiple people.

So there you go blue collar supervisors. Some form of documentation allows your brethren to put the pieces together later if they need to while no documentation may keep a jerk on the job longer than necassary. I personally like problem discussion forms. They also help organize your thoughts before you talk to the employee. Get over the fear of "putting something in his/her file". In the end that is what it is there tell you the past of the employee. In other words CYA.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Development Obsession

I have been absolutely submerging myself in development and training literature for the past few days. I am wondering if I am getting a little obsessive about this program I am creating. Today I created a draft leadership competency model for my organization and began to create a developmental model using a mix of 360 degree feedback, goal setting, mentoring, and classroom curriculum. Right now, I think I am at the point where I can shop this for input from various leaders. Then it is just a matter of figuring out how to sell this thing.

Part of me is wondering if I am getting too into the details. I am so new to the organization that I don't feel like I can create those lines that get specific decision makers ears perked up. I also need to re look at the proposal and decide what the most important parts are to include in some sort of future presentation to the executive team. That is all after I see if it is even feasible for the local community college to get involved as facilitators of the classroom part of the curriculum. If you have any questions about my whole process at this point let me know. I might post the whole plan once it is complete just for kicks.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Leaders Made not Born

A quick one to stir up some thought. The age old question of whether leaders are made or born has always struck me as quite asinine. While there may very well be people who are more outgoing or have a higher aptitude in leadership type tasks, people never seem to think about character when they bring up this question. True leaders are servant leaders and it takes more than a silver tongue and charisma to pull that off. Leading by fear and lies can only hamstring an organization in the end. To me, the real question is whether you are born with character or it is made within you. I think that most people will agree that character is a product of experience and upbringing rather than being born as some sort of shining light. I could not follow a leader without a good amount of character. Maybe when I was young I might have, but as I get older and gain responsibilities of my own I want to know that I will be taken care of and my efforts will be rewarded. If you look at your leaders and do not respect their character my advice would be to run as fast as you can away from the situation. A person like that cannot be convinced or persuaded past their own ambition and will leave you in ruins without a second thought. Better to take less money and be happy (although I believe you can have both). I have been blessed in my life to be surrounded by people of character...not perfect, but good. If you aren't surrounded by these types, you might want to re-evaluate your situation.

Monday, September 29, 2008

First OSHA Audit

Interesting experience today. I was able to take part in my first OSHA impromptu Audit. Here are a few lessons I gained from the experience.

1. Your attitude during an OSHA audit should be dictated by your relationship with the local compliance officers and your company's history with OSHA issues. If you have had a somewhat combative relationship I would suggest you make things more organized, while at the same time being open with the inspectors. If you have a freindly relationship or simply a good history with OSHA related issues you might be able to get away with less organization and make it into more of a tour like visit.

2. Understand quickly if your compliance officer is out to get you or one of the ones that is a true believer in making people safe. Do not overly fear or overreact to the audit this will be seen as concealing behavior.

3. While being open and honest is good, don't feel like you need to show him every corner of your business. If he looks like he is going to pass an area by there is no need to bring this to his attention. They WILL charge you for non-compliance issues so lets not air out all of your dirty laundry.

4. I would rather even a surprise visit be organized. Have a plan. If they will need to visit more dangerous areas make sure proper precautions are planned for and ready to be executed. Having an organized meeting before the audit begins in a conference room can buy your supervisors time to make things organized (for example a look at rolling stock having vehicles staged and ready for the inspector). Plus it is nice to give your supervisors a heads up during that time.

5. Your front line supervisors should be involved in the audit process since it is their areas. They don't have to lead the tour, but they should be listening and taking notes on what is being discovered.

6. A safe work environment is the ultimate goal...even if you have a gotcha auditor who is being a jerk, plaster on that smile and thank him for making your workforce safer and giving excellent feedback on your plants safety program.

7. There are programs through OSHA that relive you of being on the Audit list. I highly recommend that you look into these programs (i.e. SHARP or VPP). Even if you have a GREAT relationship with your local OSHA, audits are still a pain.

I am sure there are more things I learned today, but I am still partially digesting, but these are the things that stood out.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Yah my last post....

Apparently I am now in charge of creating a development strategy for talent within our organization...This was not my intent at the beginning, but I guess I will take it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Thoughts Going Through My Head

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about talent development. I don't think my company has an overall strategy for this. This is frustrating because when I come up with my "great" ideas I am having a hard time deciding if it fits with our company culture and attitudes or not. Discuss......

Monday, September 22, 2008

Have You Given Up?

It is interesting in my line of work how many different types of people I get to talk to in all stages of life. Most interesting to me are the ex-high performers who for some reason or another have simply given up on fighting the "good fight". They are most likely near retirement or have had some bad experiences that have tainted their desire to attempt change of any sort. Plenty of HR professionals out there who would tell people that you need to get rid of these people and replace them. For me, I am more interested in how these people are created and how to break them from the mold and push them to perform again. It is not just for the company either. These are most likely the people, who at an earlier time, took great pleasure in their work. In one of my college english classes I was told that "mysogenists were almost always disallusioned romantics". In many ways it is the same way with disallusioned high performers they end up not coping with stress well and hating their work because the pleasure they once recieved from the work is no longer there. All they have is the bad aspects of their job with no intrinsic reward.

As an HR professional it is extremely frustrating to talk to these individuals because usually these people are the ones I most respect and admire for their knowledge and experience. They are the people I often go to for advice as well. But, when faced with beauracratic or organizational obstacles, they simply throw up their hands and stop pursuing success. They know that they are being set up to fail and they often know the changes needed to fix things but, somehow they feel like they will be betrayed and punished for attempting such an action. One of the most sad things is that, most often, this is only a perception and not the truth of how the organization will react. There will always be organizational resistance to change, but where some people get energized at the prospect of overcoming these obstacles, these people become frustrated and worn down by it.

I have had the fortunate opportunity to be backed by my leaders as I sought significant change in an organization that I knew was needed or made decisions that were controversial. In return, I have supported my supervisors when they made decisions or changes. When leaders lose that support they simply begin to "go through the motions" and maintain the status quo without adding anything to your organization.

One of the first things I do when I take over a leadership position is talk to my leadership and ask them "What are the biggest obstacles to doing your job?" I do this relatively quick so that I they will see me as not having a stake in the status quo. I talk with them about their issues and when I find agreement with them I act quickly to resolve the problems they are faced with....or task them to fix it and let me know how it works. Most importantly I FOLLOW UP soon after to see if their perceptions are the same or not on what their real issue is. This immediately sets the tone that I will support their ideas and vision and value their perspective. I hope this also allows me to be more approachable in the future when other issues arise. Even small results garner a lot of respect. Food for thought if you are starting a new job or attempting change somewhere.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Reposting because people love me

I have recently been tagged by Mark Fogel , The Venting HR Guy, and The HR Maven coincidently all of those three have great blogs so this is worth me reposting if you go and read them.
And here are the rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on the blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post.
5. Let each person know they have been tagged.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
Six random things about myself
1. Dabbled in Mixed Martial Arts when I was in College and directly after. Fought for minor associations like the Full Contact Fighting Federation and The North American Grappling Association among others.
2. Was an Army Hand to Hand Combat Instructor for part of my military career.
3. Play the Harmonica badly, but I enjoy it.
4. Ashamed to say that I play World of Warcraft.
5. I am not "handy" and usually break something worse than it was when I try to fix it. I prefer to make enough money to pay someone to do it for me.
6. I love, love, love beer.

So here is the thing, I have been tagged three times in the last couple of days, Being so new to the blogosphere all of the people I know have been tagged already as well. So let me know and I will tag you. Hopefully, I will not die in three days or for that matter anyone else......Anyway, I spent too much time in the Army to totally play by the rules.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Developing a Learning Culture

For some reason I have been fascinated with programs that pair Industry with local colleges to help train leaders within the organization. I feel that these partnerships are extremely advantageous when your geographic area are single industry dominated. In my case, I have been working on a side project at work to develop an Associates degree program that is specific to my industry and basically have it become a supervisor training program. Because we are not the only show in town the local community college will hopefully see this as an opportunity to bring in many adult learners who are on a stable career path and more academically focused. To create the two year program I looked at other business programs and forestry/wood products programs and combined the highlights of both to create a basic level of competency we, as an organization, would like to see our beginning managers have. The ultimate goal of this is to push our younger talent to go back to school if they do not have a degree and begin to broaden their horizons a bit while practicing computer skills and other core competencies they will need if they choose to advance in the company. The program I created has a couple different parts:

1. Basic curriculuum and program philosophy (self directed learning, networking, sharing of information).

2. Mentorship program within our company to track academic progress and encourage participation.

3. Both a pay boost and tuition assistance while enrolled, pay boost becomes permanent once graduated.

4. A plan to communicate the benefits of this with upper level leaders and encourage buy-in.

5. A solid explanation of why this program is needed.

Honestly, the main reason why we need a program like this is because we are in the middle of a culture change that has not been communicated very well. It used to be that if you kept your head down and did your work you would be taken care of. Nowadays the current leaders are looking for people to push to broaden their scope and skills themselves. The lower level managers are used to having development opportunities spoon fed to them without asking and now there is this new expectation that they need to find it themselves. I don't feel like this message is being communicated apropriately. The feeling like they don't really need to develop themselves outside of what they learn at their job is prevalent. I think that the above program will help to create some inertia for leaders to start to seek out learning opportunities whenever possible.

Best of all, the technical work of curriculuum development is done by the college and all we have to do is pitch what we want out of it and give input on the results. Before you start developing some crazy training program it is good to look around and see if someone else can do it better and at a lesser cost to the company. Not to mention the fact that the program will be open to other organizations and students will be able to share lessons learned from a broader perspective than just one particular organization's.

Something to ponder

We in HR often talk about leadership and even complain about peoples lack of it. However, people on a straight HR track do not often have great opportunities to develop leadership skills early in their career. I look around even in the blogosphere and many of the professionals out there have had other experiences that drive their HR expertise. Experts are not grown overnight, and just because you have taken X amount of classes on teambuilding does not mean you can actually build a team. I know the phrase "Those who cannot do, teach" but shouldn't there be SOMETHING behind what we preach and coach and mentor to our managers? Something I struggle constantly with is not IF I should cross train as an operations leader, but how much? Especially, when I feel like I am giving up educational opportunities in the HR field for operational ones. Personally, I think all HR professionals who are not chest deep in a specialty need to be able to move in and out of operations to keep their leadership competencies current. I like the generalist role for now and that means engaging, coaching, and mentoring leaders and hopefully knowing what you are talking about.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

So When Do We Lead?

As always, my friends over at HRM Today got me all inspired. I participated in this post on the forums and it brought up, yet another one of my pet peeves on leadership issues.

Very rarely in life when dealing with personal issues between employees, and especially managers, are people going to break through professional communication or interpersonal barriers on the first shot. Jenn Barnes from HR WENCH provides the argument that explaining the standard in a forceful and productive manner should be enough to fix the problem without additional oversight or coaching. While I think perhaps that HR managers may often feel that this is enough, I cannot in good conscience begin to coach or counsel someone without additional follow-up or oversight as a manager. Very rarely is having one discussion enough to fix a complex problem and, even if it happens to work out, I have always made a point to follow up even if it is just to "see how things are going". It is way too easy to simply give someone your take on something or issue directives and simply release them to succeed or fail. As a manager, I have always approached failure as not being an option. Therefore, if an employee brings an issue to my attention....I am involved and invested in the outcome now. I need to coach, I need to train, I need to create an action plan to solve the issue so that I can achieve positive outcomes for my organization as well as the parties involved.

Too often I think we forget to follow up on these issues. We let other priorities take control and as leaders forget about the little ankle biter "personal problems" until it comes to a negative climax of some sort. If an employee comes to you with a problem, most likely it is not just to get your opinion or to get some new set of marching orders, it is to get your involvement in some way. With involvement comes oversight.

I am not saying that it is possible to solve every problem that comes across your desk, I am simply saying that when you choose to help an employee solve a problem you now are making a commitment to that employee to see it through to the end. The WORST thing that can happen is for you to simply give lip service to how and what they are supposed to be acting or doing and then not show them or coach them to success in this endeavor you are requiring them to accomplish.

As managers, I encourage all of you to think about your day to day activities and the employees you talk to and start to police up the issues people have brought up to you in the past few days. Check in with the employee and ask questions to see if a situation has been resolved. Just because they have not come back into your office does not mean the issue has gone away, it may only mean they have lost confidence in your ability or will to deal with the situation which is the absolutely worst outcome you could conceive.

Coincidentally, I think this is something that will make all of us better PEOPLE as well as leaders. Write peoples names down on index cards when they come to talk to you about an issue if you have to, and daily and weekly go through those cards to make sure that your advice or action plan was followed and was positive in the situation. Your employees will immediately notice the difference and so will you.

Coincidentally, sometimes the best thing to do is to refrain from helping someone because of a need to show confidence in a person's abilities or to make them more independent....this is another way of giving someone a challenge and learning opportunity, even if it is covert and you still need to take responsibility for that person's success or failure and make sure your original outcome is achieved.

Monday, September 15, 2008

AHH the good things

I, at first, wasn't going to write about this experience but, Lance Haun's post motivated me to be a little sappy. Please read his post because with so many jerk husbands out there it is nice for the good guys to get some press.

Tonight I pulled myself away from the blogosphere for a little bit to put my young son to bed. As I talked to him and played with him doing the pre "nite nite" routine I was surprised how happy I was just changing a diaper and exchanging funny looks with him. As I put him to bed and he continued to smile up at me waiting for the blanket I would eventually drape over him in the final ritual, I admit I got a little misty eyed. It is the simple things that make my life great. So fellow bloggers and internet addicts, unplug a bit, turn off your phone, I am sure there are people waiting for you to come join them. God bless you all.

Define Success Before Someone Else Does

How can you prove to your boss you are doing a good job? While I know most of those in the blogosphere can readily rattle off metrics and measures to define success I still see too many HR professionals floating in the wind as far as their basic HR duties. On the basest level many HR pros simply are reactive to the wills of their partner managers and because they meet their needs after they ask they say they are doing well. Here is a tip: If you cannot define success and how you measure it; YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG! While their are many subjective aspects to good HR management, if you have absolutely no measures based on cold hard cash you are setting yourself up for failure.

If you really want to succeed in the HR arena you have to prove that you are saving the company money or adding value in some way. Talk to your manager about what his/her priorities are and add to those priorities your expertise on what HR needs to manage to accomplish or execute those priorities. Some people call this an HR scorecard, I simply call this being proactive verses reactive. Define early what exceptable turnover ratios are and track those numbers, do the same for retention. There has to be someone in your organization who can tell you what acceptable numbers are and, if not, make some up by using your business knowledge about where your organization is in the market and what it's goals are.

Business people like to talk in money. While HR pros tend to opt out of this means of conversation, it really is to our detriment despite any high and mighty ego we have. It takes some work but an ROI can be ballparked for almost anything. Sometimes starting with the goal helps as well, such as wanting to increase employee engagement by %30 thereby (insert study here) increasing profit levels and efficiency apropriately.

If your boss is distant from HR processes develop the metrics you would like to be evaluated on and start the conversation based on those metrics. He/She can never say that you didn't fulfill their expectations if you are that forward with what you think is important and force them to either accept or change those metrics.

It is good to be flexible, but if all you do is react in your HR job you are doomed to failure.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I have been Tagged!

Thanks for Mark Fogel for tagging me although looking around the Blogosphere the pickings for new vixtims are slim. First I am supposed to tell you guys six random things about myself and then I am supposed to "Tag" six other people. I am on the road, so I will start with the six random things and I hope to tag my six people by tonight when I can get home.

1. Dabbled in Mixed Martial Arts when I was in College and directly after. Fought for minor associations like the Full Contact Fighting Federation and The North American Grappling Association among others.

2. Was an Army Hand to Hand Combat Instructor for part of my military career.

3. Play the Harmonica badly, but I enjoy it.

4. Ashamed to say that I play World of Warcraft.

5. I am not "handy" and usually break something worse than it was when I try to fix it. I prefer to make enough money to pay someone to do it for me.

6. I love, love, love beer.

There you go. When I get a bit more time tonight I will tag 6 others if there are 6 left.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Generational workforce presentation

I had to sit through a presentation of generations in the workforce today which made me want to scream. I usually don't have anything against Boomers, but whenever they talk about generations in the workplace and they don't mention that Boomers tend to be self important and self absorbed you should beware. The guy brushed over the veteran/mature generational description and spent twice as much time on the Boomers and their experiences. He also brushed over X'ers and Millenial/Generation Y descriptions. At the very least I was expecting a little coverage on why Gen X'ers have less loyalty than Boomers (namely their parents were the ones laid off in the 80's). Also none of the sources were any newer than 2000 which is when most of the Millenials were graduating high school and people were only guessing at how they would act in the workplace. If you are going to give a presentation, make sure you can do the subject justice. I might be a bit biased because I have researched this a bit, but I found the whole presentation to be a bit of a waste of time. I mean they didn't even cover communication/motivational strategies which is the heart of the whole issue in my opinion. So frustrating.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Do you have a leadership philosophy?

There always comes a time when you are expected to know your leadership style and be able to verbalize this during not only job interviews but during meetings with employees as well. For beginning career folks once you have gained a little experience leading people and teams it is important to take note of what works and doesn't work for you and be able to form the successes into a leadership strategy. Here is my leadership philosophy as an example:

I foster continuous learning among my staff. I lead by example, but I also force my staff to work outside of their comfort zones and take on projects focused at least one level up from the position they are currently working. All employees have goals, and I like to structure employee tasks and responsibilities around achieving these goals. I push my employees to engage in outside learning opportunities whenever possible. I do not make learning an option. If an employee comes to me with a problem I will ask them for a solution as well and will focus the discussion on their proposed answer. I expect employees to be experts in their field and treat them with that in mind.

Honestly, if I can do it anybody can do it. The above statement took me about 30 seconds to type, if you can't do the same you might want to think about what you have learned from your career and find some defining values to verbalize the way you treat people. The above statement is a living document and will change as I gain experience and, I hope, become more and more refined.

The point is: If you want to get in a position to lead people you better be able to tell people how you will accomplish that goal. By verbalizing a leadership philosophy you are also making a commitment to yourself to live up to the above values. Nobody is perfect, but at least we should be able to define what our definition of perfection is.
I welcome critiques to the above statement...still learning :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Career Decisions

Apparently I will never take a three day weekend again. After a relaxing long weekend at the beach, I received an interesting opportunity today to take a semi-lateral promotion (if there is really such a thing) at a plant in a different town. There would be no increase in pay and it would be much more production focused than my current job. The idea behind it would be to prepare me for a future job at that plant which IS HR focused, namely the plant HR manager position. My company is very focused on giving all of it's leaders production type experience before they put them into staff type positions, which I like, and I would be doing similar work (nicer title though) to what I am doing now. The upsides are:

1. I would be able to learn about an organization I might be taking a key roll in before I do so.

2. Spend some time being more production focused and therefore (hopefully) being more valuable as an HR leader.

3. My current role as a management trainee requires that I have multiple projects in many different disciplines. The new job would be a more narrow focus and hopefully give me more ownership. De facto titles I could currently claim if I cared:

A. Environmental Coordinator

B. Plant Hiring Manager

C. Relief Supervisor

D. Special Projects Guy

4. Boss's boss brought up the idea and thinks it is great.

The downsides are harder to put my finger on and at this point are only guesses:

1. This job would take me away from corporate headquarters where there tends to be more development opportunities for HR types.

2. Not sure if the job fits in with my preferred career path....I can't help it if I like HR and am good at supervising....I spent 6 years as an Army Officer supervising/managing soldiers I have the skill set, people are always surprised by this.

3. I just moved my wife and son (2 years old) in February and would have to ask my wife to move with no promise as far as how long it would be....again. She would do it, but she wouldn't like it....did I mention she is 5 months pregnant? (For those uninitiated in the art of marriage and procreation read: new doctors, new hospital, new friends, new "wiggles and giggles" group, wife has to start picking up random women at the park to be her friends again, etc)

So there it is people, when is a "lateral promotion" ok? I am all about delayed gratification if it makes me more valuable to the company in the long term, but so far I have received some wishy washy answers to that question. Assume my company will take care of me with the move and relocation bonuses...they are pretty good at that stuff.

Blogging will continue until morale improves.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What I Like about HR

So here is the deal...we are the gatekeepers to the exceptions to policy. What do I mean by that? Too often I hear HR professionals get worn down by the fact that they:

1. Have to enforce policies

2. Have to explain policies to people

3. Have to explain policies to the people who are SUPPOSED to be enforcing those policies

I am sure there are more but they all tend to revolve around those three concepts.

The reason I LIKE HR is that while we are the caretaker and often creator of these policies we are most often the judges of when we make exceptions to those policies. I think many of you forget that often our nagging about precedent can create a fear among leaders that will override their sense of what is RIGHT for fear of hurting the company. You can be the most amazing policy crafter of all time and you will never be able to cover 100% of the circumstances that may arise among your employees.

Create trust in your managers so that when they feel like someone is being treated unfairly or a miscarraige of justice has occurred they come to you and talk about it. THAT is the kind of counselling I like to do.

Live for these exceptions, learn to encourage people to talk to you about when and when not an exception is apropriate. This is where the leadership comes in. This is also how you begin to give confidence to your managers on interpreting these policies themselves...and hopefully being proactive in the success of their employees.

The goal is not to have a policy that covers 100% of circumstances...neither is it for us to be the moral and ethical arbitor of the workforce...the goal is to interpret you organizations values into a common sense and fair set of policies and train your managers to look at them critically and know when the VALUES and the POLICIES do not coincide.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Applicant Etiquette

Whoever put the information out there to keep calling a business even after you have initially been told no should die. I don't mind a few phone calls here and there, but most of the time there is a really good reason why we didn't hire you. Recently, out of the good of my heart, I attempted to coach an applicant on what he needed to do to become more competitive. He was a young guy with little work history and it consisted of these comments:

1. Keep working where you are working or find a production type job similar to ours and work there for a bit.

2. Get some letters of recommendation from various people you have worked for (even part time jobs) and have them send them in to us.

He called me the next day with a phone number for some grandma he did small jobs for in high school and proceeded to harass me for the next week asking if I had called her or not.
I was very polite in my responses, but here was what I was thinking:

"Look buddy, if you can't even get someone to write you a letter of recommendation I am not going to take time out of my day to call some lady who may or may not be expecting me only to get "He is a good boy" out of it."

I have had a horrible experience hiring "persistant types". Mostly because the really good ones tend to get fast tracked to hire anyway. I really do hate explaining to people "Why they Suck" as well. Maybe I am just remembering the bad ones. Either way, more than one call and you are becoming annoying.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lets Talk About Something I Know

When I got out of the Army I signed up with four seperate headhunting firms to find me a job. Whats amazing about that was it actually worked. After interviews with about 15 different companies over the course of 3 weeks I had about three competing job offers...which was nice.

There is this constant hunger in some elements of the private sector for military type leaders. I am by no means saying I am complaining but, I see very few of these companies having a good idea of what types of military experience mean what and how to compare one military type experience to another. I am going to list some of the most common misperceptions I have seen and how to avoid them.

1. Know what type of person you want and specifically what type of experiences you require. People come into the Military from all walks of life. There are Ivy Leaguers, Academy Grads, Distance Learners and everything in between. Don't be afreaid to be picky. If you want a technical expert an officer may or may not be your best bet. There are some warrant officers out there that have some excellent technical skills that may fit your needs better.

2. Know the difference between an officer, a Non-Commissioned Officer, a Warrant Officer, and enlisted person. Breifly Officers are 95% of the time managers and develop managerial type skills (the other 5% being pilots of some sort), Non-Commissioned Officers as a rule are experts in frontline supervision and conducting training. Warrant Officers are technical experts in some field for the most part. Enlisted people are the employees, the "Joe's", and the entry level positions.

3. Even some officer's with excellent education just decide to get out of the Army without developing a good plan. There has been a rash of military types waffling in and out of the private sector because they find out that the military wasn't really so bad, and they most likely will take a pay cut when they move to the private sector. Ask specific questions during the interview process designed to reveal how they have prepared for this career change. I can use myself as an example: In the Army, as a Captain, I was making the equivalent of $75k a year with tax bonuses and housing allowances. The job I ended up taking paid $60k (without about $10k relocation bonuses) with an automatic $5k per year raise at the end of the first year of employment. In order to prepare for this I went back to school to get my Master's Degree and socked away as much as I could in savings to ease the transition. It was still extremely difficult to take the cut in pay and my family is still wrestling with the impact. There is a lot of Myths out there that all Military types are barely making it. Officers (at least in my experience) get taken care of pretty well.

4. During my Master's coursework I was shocked to have a professor tell me that military types have a hard time getting a job in HR. Since I was already $5k into a Masters Degree in Human Resources Management I was a little perturbed. There are plenty of different types of leaders in the Military we are not all like R. Lee Ermey (*language warning*, but worth a click if you have never seen "Full Metal Jacket"). I was an infantryman, I earned the Combat Infantry Badge and spent a year long tour in Iraq. I never have acted like a cartoon of a military guy and treated my soldiers like dirt.

5. Ask questions about policy decisions they have had to make or programs that they created and implemented. They should have plenty to discuss. The Military is very good about giving practically free reign to relatively young professionals. They should have experimented a little and have a well defined leadership style do NOT be afraid to ask them these questions.

6. Learn what a DD-214 is, you can't get a reference check from the big Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines. The DD-214 is in lieu of that. It will tell you everything you need to know about where that person has been, awards recieved, and character of discharge (honorable, other than honorable, dishonorable, etc).

I am sure there are more, but those six are the ones that first come to mind. Let me know what you guys think.

Monday, September 1, 2008

What makes me Upset about How Women are Treated

I am by no means a feminist (for one I am a dude). I usually am against legislation that attempts to artificially "level" the playing field and would much prefer an education type approach to descrimination at all levels. Here are the issues concerning the recent treatment of Sarah Palin that makes wonder how we are ever going to get equal rights for women in this country.

1. She has already and will continue to be caricatured as a ditz. Some will say this is because she is young, however, I do not see many 44 year old men being caricatured this way (I will grant you MOST 44 year old men have not been a contestant in beauty pageants). Especially, recently after Camille Paglia, a Democrat called her acceptance speech "the best political speech I have ever seen delivered by an American woman politician. Palin is as tough as nails.” Yet, she will be cartooned as a backwater ditz out of her league. I don't agree with her %100 politically. I do NOT find it funny to say she is stupid.

2. People already have seized upon the fact that her 17 year old daughter is pregnant out of wedlock. This was released to the public after viscous rumors that Sarah Palin had faked her entire fith pregnancy to cover up her daughter being pregnant. The whole media firestorm about this issue smacks of the whole "if you can't take care of your household, how can you take care of the country" argument that was equally distasteful when used against Hillary Clinton. Women who decide to have a career will never have the confidence to be successful if, as soon as something goes wrong in their homelife, they recieve the sole blame and responsibility.

Those two are my main points, although there may be others. There has fortunate benefit of having some excellent female role models and mentors in this chauvinistic male's life. Frankly, the only time I want to "burn a bra" is when I see these types of stereotypes so prevalent. I would rather people just say she is a bad person....that way she would at least be given the credit of control.

Sarah Palin...Talent Aquisition NOT Succession Planning

Just to let it all hang out. I am not particularly a Sarah Palin or John McCain fan. My feelings are mostly "lukewarm". There has been a few articles and blog posts that want to try to frame the argument as a succession planning issue, most notably here. Also, I have to give my wife the credit for shifting my thinking on this more than a bit (also to let me know when I get a bit aggressive).

After a couple of days of thinking about this (and some insightful comments by Lance Haun), let me tell you why I think McCain was thinking more about Talent aquisition and development than succession planning. The Republicans are getting old. Some would say that they have always been old, but the George W. Bush presidency has left the party without any talented Bullpen. There are no rising stars or youth to speak of that are particularly setting the party on fire.

So pretend that you are interviewing for your organization and you look around at all the "experts" and all you see is mediocrity and old ideas. When you see someone young and with the kind of grit Sarah Palin seems to have, do you wait for her to get the experience or put her where she can most benefit your organization immediately? Something about her impressed McCain enough to select her above plenty of other options. And honestly, if you were really paying attention to the Republican field in the primary you can see why they started thinking "outside" the box a bit. Most of that primary was just sad.

Americans honestly have always seen the Vice-Presidential slot as a developmental position anyway. Al Gore and George HW Bush have shown this to be true. It was George W. that broke the mold by selecting a VP that had no presidential designs or desire. Even if McCain only serves one four year term Palin would be approaching the leadership "sweet spot" as far as age. Maybe it IS time to think about the future a bit.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Empathy verses Sympathy in your Professional Life

So there has been alot of talk lately about hearing peoples problems and how to react to people who may share too much. I have been fortunate to learn some important lessons on this front and will share them with you. I was told early in my professional career when hearing employees problems you want to empathize with them and not sympathize. For a refresher here are the definitions of each:

Empathy means the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
Sympathy means in a relationship between persons in which the condition of one induces a parallel or reciprocal condition in another.

There is a difference in identifying how a person is feeling and feeling what that person is feeling. By identifying someones emotions and why they feel the way they do you are able to understand that persons point of view. The key to this is to NOT sympathize with them as well. By giving someone sympathy you are feeling what that person is feeling and losing your objectivity in the emotion-fest that the discussion has become.

When dealing with difficult personal issues of employees you need to set boundaries within yourself. Be careful not to get so wound up in their emotional state that you start to make decisions on how they are feeling. Understand their emotions and attempt to understand why they feel that way, but keep in mind the objectivity you will need to help them accomplish a desired outcome (whatever that may be). Emotions are a normal part of life, however, if you go through your professional career feeling every single strong emotion that comes through your office you will quickly become burnt out. I sense this alot in HR professionals and Human Service workers in particular.

It is fine to care about your employees and I am not suggesting that everyone become an unfeeling automoton. What I am suggesting is that you acknowledge those emotion, have enough life experience to understand what that emotion feels like, and finally act without those emotions getting in the way of good judgement and solid decision making.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Performance Management and College Football

Ok, lets talk. I was never a football player in either high school or college. Also, I never started liking football until my mid-twenties. The NFL, to me is easy to analyze, you suck and you get fired. I can understand that. There are some very smart business people that own NFL teams (Even if you hate their guts). Heres the problem, I am a University of Washington fan. Yes, I said it UW Huskies. I didn't graduate from there (although my dad and a bunch of my friends did), but I just inherited a love for the team.
So here is my issue, Tyrone Willingham is the current coach of the UW football team. Even though he has had mediocre success with the three seasons he has coached so far, he has brought a sense of class and discipline that the UW football team has been lacking in the years prior. This season is a make or break season for his job, many pundits say that if Tyrone Willingham does not get a winning season he will not be retained. College football is one of those "semi-businesses" out there. College Presidents feel the pressure to make money with their big ticket sports to pay for a myriad of other extra-curricular activities that the university provides. However, Tyrone Willingham has been set up for failure ever since he took over the team. He was hired for the position with a brand new Athletic Director after many scandals had plagued the UW athletic system:
The above article gives some highlights that are a bit more than bad grades and college tomfoolery (ie rape and domestic violence to name a few). What we had was a culture that was completely anti-social in it's nature.
So the question is: "How long does it take to change a criminal culture into a healthy one?" I think those in business would say quite a bit. Merely creating a culture of respect and discipline in an organization when it has sunk that low is quite difficult.
I find it amazing that since Willingham has taken over the team he has completely changed the attitude and reputation of the team while still attracting big name talent.
So in the case of this college football environment, is a results only metric for measuring Willingham's success fair? Four years in any other culture, business or otherwise, is a short time in which to work. The mere fact that rape and abuse allegations have stopped under Willingham's tenure should certainly count for something. The Athletic Director that hired Willingham was also recently fired. Was Willingham ever given the tools he would need to truly succeed amidst scandal, fines, and leader turnover.
Leaders need to be judged according to realistic goals and expectations. The above story shows that while results and business success certainly matter, long term strategy is also important. When one is facing extreme cultural barriers to success and change, success is the least of their worries and creating a functional organization takes precedence. When the support structure is ripped away from that leader it makes the task almost impossible.
Class is worth something I would hope that supposedly non-profit institutes of higher education would realize that.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sir, you need to STFU

I was watching the news tonight and the coverage of tomorrow's impending Democratic nomination of Barack Obama as their candidate for president struck me. Here is a link in case you missed it.

I am wondering how many HR pros or other business types out their shudder a little bit when their boss wants to make a big speech to his employees. Obama is making a speech on a stage that was created to resemble an ancient Greek temple or the Capitol depending on who you talk to. This may or may not go over well (we shall have to wait and see). But, I am more concerned with the business community. I have had bosses whom I just wished would not talk at all. I have heard the gamut of campy, meandering, and useless drivel come out of supposedly motivating speeches. As HR people or subordinate managers should we tell them that they aren't connecting to their employees when they speak? Almost as bad as the people who can't string a coherent thought together are the people who want to make sure all the staging, lighting, timing, etc are perfect for them to distribute their pearls of wisdom to the masses.

On the other hand, I have also experienced people who can just jump on a picnic table and motivate the hell out of me and everyone else in attendence. I will admit since I was in the Army most of the time their were a good amount of swear words involved. Interesting to get people's thoughts on this.

Where is this Going to Lead To?

Read an article from Bloomberg News about Boeing using the internet to begin an informational campaign to convince their machinists not to strike. Address: than anything I find this quote indicative of why organized labor in the private sector is on the decline in this country:"Boeing has ``shot itself in the foot'' by involving workers in the give-and-take of early talks rather than letting labor leaders sell a negotiated -- and better -- deal to them, said Wroblewski, president of Seattle's District 751 for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.I am sorry, but when has providing information to anyone who wants it, going around the Union? Granted, the employees need to know that it is the company putting out their point of view. But, the ability to see each offer presented in real time is bad? As an employee I would love to see the process as it unfolds.The fact is, that while we often talk about holding large corporations accountable for their actions and push free flowing information, why don't we expect the Union to do the same? In the future I believe that it is going to be near impossible to hide contract negotiations from employees. No more back room deals or pretending like everything is a victory. Ultimately this strategy might fail for Boeing, but I firmly believe this is where we are all going in collective bargaining.

What the Heck Does one DO With a Daughter??

So after a long string of boys in my family (I am one of 3 boys and my father is one of 8 boys) my wife and I found out that our second child will be a daughter come January. Besides having no clue what to do with a female child (My hobbies include coaching wrestling, boxing, martial arts, and guns), I am wondering if any successful females have any examples or moments in their professional or personal development that had a positive impact in their lives. Specifically, what in your life boosted your confidence? What hurdles did you have to break through? How many times have you been called "sweetie" in the workplace? I am curious what the difference is between the professional development men and women recieve if any. Any light bulb moment will be much appreciated. I might be able to pass these lessons along.....but.....I will probably just teach my daughter how to kill men with her bare hands and hide the body real well.

Here we go

I fell into the blogosphere as I made a recent career change. I read alot and it was natural for me to start to read some of the great philosophies out there by sites like HRCapitalist, PunkRockHR, and many others. I have to say that there is no hate in my relationship with the HR profession. Although there are many people who will say they "love to hate it". I have found nothing but pleasure in my recent HR studies (finishing up a masters degree) even though I recieved my bachelor's degree in Political Science. I like HR because we are the people who are supposed to bring ethics into the corporate world. I also like HR because it is a broad enough field where one can find a niche or not according to personal preferences. I also have to admit I tend to like being an "expert" and HR professionals are expected to be those experts whether they have the chops for it or not. I enjoy having a "plan" and a communications strategy...and not just because someone told me that it is a good idea. But, above all I am entirely fascinated with the idea of organizational culture and how to change it.

One of my current pet peeves and tirades has been on the idea of a push verses pull culture in regards to communication. A push communication culture requires information to be given to you by random overseers who dole out information in their expertise as they see fit. They are the masters that decide who should know what and how much. If you do not know this person (or department) or are not a person considered in the "need to know", you will never get a single piece of information. More importantly once you know that this person has information that you need, you must ask this person to give (push) this information to you which may take some sort of process as he 1. Tries to figure out who you are and 2. Decides if you are worthy of his effort and time.A pull culture is the opposite of the above. Through the use of open source information, company intranet, etc one can create a communications culture where everything is available "on demand". If I need the sales figures from last month I search on the intranet for the data and retrieve it. I do not have to ask for access or request it to be sent to me, I simply grab it and use it.This applies to any large organization that has semi-decentralized operation. Odds are you reinvent the wheel alot. As a leader, do you really expect your employees to struggle to solve problems that other people have already figured out? By sharing information on basic business processes that are similar across the company, the time and effort spent doing the simple stuff will be minimized so that your employees can focus on the specific problems facing your organization. HR people talk alot about a learning culture (hold on one second, I threw up in my mouth a bit)................................................................................................................................... However, I think too often we expect people to just learn what we want them to. By allowing full (to a reasonable point of course) access to all aspects of an operation you are allowing your employees to better utilize their point of view to possibly make connections that you wouldn't have made. I don't want a bunch of people like me working for me (for one, I am lazy). I want different perspectives that force me to conclusions I would not have made on my own. In order to facilitate this, I cannot control the information they choose to use to reach their conclusions.This is a pet project of mine and I welcome comments :) Not very "Blue Collar" to start out but so you know where I am coming from.