One Month Until #HRevolution

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, October 8, 2014

On November 8, one month from today, leading HR professionals will be heading to Grapevine, TX and Symbolist HQ to have a little BBQ and discuss the latest HR issues at the 7th iteration of HRevolution.  The full agenda can be found here, but I wanted to give you a taste of what to expect from a couple of sessions.

Bold HR with Broc Edwards

We all know what bad HR looks like. Bad HR hides behind policy, embraces mediocrity, creates bureaucratic fiefdoms, and becomes a barrier for managers and employees alike. But HR has a bigger vision for itself – we want to be recognized as a player in the business, not just an administrative check box. So we strive to be a strategic business partner with a seat at the table (whatever that all means), but we get bogged down in clich├ęs, “best” practices, and infighting that holds the field back rather than moving it forward.

What if we tossed all that aside and just decided to be Bold?  Easier said than done. Boldness exists as a virtue in myth and legend, but in the everyday it’s easier and safer to say “no” than “yes”. It’s more prudent to replicate the past than create the future. We choose safe over meaningful, stable over fulfilling, secure over interesting, known over opportunity, and comfort over making a difference. And it’s keeping us trapped in mediocre sameness. Enough.

In this highly interactive session we’ll take a look at what Bold HR is and what it isn’t. We’ll explore what it would mean for our employees and managers, for our companies, and for us if we drew a line and started practicing Bold HR. And we’ll come away with practical ideas and plans to put into action when we get back to the office on Monday.

HR Half-Baked Ideas with Matt Stollak & Sir William Tincup

The problem - everyone loves having an office refrigerator to store their drinks and food, and a microwave to cook their meal.  It's both a cost and a time saver for those constantly on the goHowever, after a few weeks, no one wants to open up that brown bag containing a mystery meat with a fresh coating of mold, or clean the crusted tomato sauce off of the roof of the microwave from an unprotected Lean Cuisine.

The Half-Baked Idea: "Mom's Got This," a company that will come in once a month to clean the refrigerator and microwave. 

That's a HR Half-Baked idea that is not quite complete.   Will "Mom's Got This" work?  Is it a viable business?  Come to the session to find out this, and 20+ other half-baked ideas, as well as bring your own.

If these kind of sessions appeal to you, the planning team of Steve Boese, Ben Eubanks, Trish McFarlane, and Matt Stollak would love to have you attend.

Good tickets are still available here.

Thank you to all our sponsors for helping us make the dream a reality. With the help of Mercer, Symbolist, Small Improvements and personal contribution from Lois and Ross Melbourne, this will be a great event.

Hope to see you in a month.

Is Looking at GPA Lazy HR? The Role of Grade Inflation

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, August 27, 2014

As a professor, I am vigilant in examining my grading practices to ensure students are receiving a fair and deserved grade.  I want to ensure that the grade reflects the work and performance a student demonstrated over the course of a semester.  Last semester, I taught two sections of the same course - one section earned an average grade of 3.12 (on a 4.0 scale), the other a 2.67.

Unfortunately, grade inflation has been a major problem at many colleges and universities.  As Libby Nelson at notes:

By 2007, 83 percent of all grades at a sample of 200 four-year colleges and universities were A's and B's. And research from a former Duke University professor found that A's have been the most commonly awarded grade at four-year colleges since the 1990s:
grade inflation

One school, Wellesley College, attempted to combat grade inflation by enforcing an average grade for an introductory class: a B+.  If a faculty member exceeded this grade, he or she had to explain, in writing, why the higher grade was justified.

What was the impact of such a policy shift?  Research by Kristin F. Butcher, Patrick J. McEwan, and Akila
Weerapana in the Journal of Economic Perspectives

found that results were immediate; average grades were brought down in previously high-grading departments.

Further, not only did it impact choice of major, but evaluation of teachers; with tougher grades, teachers received lower ratings...SHOCKING!

However, where HR should take note is how GPA is used for hiring decisions.  Wellesley students were obviously concerned that lower grades would impact hireability, particularly if they were the only college instituting such a change.   As Butcher, et al, note:

"They point to examples of web-based job application systems that will not let them proceed if their GPA is below a 3.5," the authors wrote. "The economist's answer that firms relying on poor information to hire are likely to fare poorly and to be poor employers in the long run proves remarkably uncomforting to undergraduates."

In the absence of other universities replicating Wellesley en masse, is using GPA as a criterion for hiring lazy HR?  Do firms have evidence that the higher GPA is not only necessary for the job being performed, but distinguishes good performers from poor performers?  Further, if all colleges (other than Wellesley) engage in grade inflation, is the GPA really meaningful for hiring purposes?


"The Leftovers" and HR

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I'm 100% in on HBO's "The Leftovers." 

The basic premise is that three years ago, 2% of the world's population simply vanished without a trace.  Three years later, there are no answers for what happened, and much of society is still coping and grieving over the loss of friends and loved ones.  A hierarchy of sorts develops (as well as a hidden backlash) based on the number of people one lost.  It is grim, but fascinating viewing (aside: I haven't yet read Tom Perrotta's novel for which the show is based).

Of course, I couldn't resist putting on my HR hat and imagining what the world of work looks like in the aftermath of the event.

The world's economy continues unabated (or does it?)

No mention is made of the initial economic impact of such an event.  Was GDP disrupted?  Three years later, grocery stores are still stocked with the usual array of cereals and other durable goods.  Pharmacies are still stocked to address appropriate medical needs.  People are still working and earning an income.

Of course, we see the rise of new businesses that attempt to profit from the situation.  There are conferences that host discussions on the possible causes of the event.  One company produces lifesize replicas of the departed for up to $40,000 (depending on how detailed you want the body to resemble the person you lost) that can be used as substitute body in a casket for a funeral.

Is it a recruiting boon or bust?
If 2% of the world's population disappeared, it is likely that, on average, organizations lost 2% of their employees.  Some may have lost more than others.  How do organizations replace that lost talent?  Does it thus lead to a war on talent?  Does it give recruiters a little more job security?  There are also many more individuals who decide to drop out of working altogther, but more on that later.

How are bereavement and leave policies applied?

With so many now "gone," how do organization deal with people taking time off from work to deal with the loss(es) they are grieving?  Do they apply sick leave?  Are EAP investments increasing?

How are survivors benefits handled?

The show noted that insurance companies are refusing to pay as there is no evidence the individuals actually died.  The government has stepped in and created "departure" benefits.  Bureaucrats go to the survivors homes and ask them a detailed 150+ question survey (in part to see if there is some commonality or correlation among those who left) to sift out frauds.

Is there career planning?

It doesn't appear to be a major concern for Generation Z, as there has been little to no discussion of career plans or college.

Your most engaged individuals will not necessarily be working for your organization

Perhaps the most fascinating part of the show is a group created in the aftermath of the departure called the Guilty Remnant.  They are comprised of individuals who essentially have dropped out of family and societal obligations; who feel guilty for not being chosen to be one of those who departed.  They do not speak.  They dress in all white (to set them apart).  They chain smoke (ostensibly because they believe the world ended on that fateful day three years ago, and so, why not smoke, since they believe they are likely to be raptured long before the smoking kills them).  They are 100% committed to their cause (though I em not sure where there economic support comes from).

What are your HR thoughts if 2% of the population disappeared?


Yield Ratios, NASCAR, and the National Guard

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, August 8, 2014

If you are responsible for recruiting at your organization, I hope you are paying attention to your yield ratios.  At its core, yield ratios tell you how the various sources you target for recruiting (i.e., newspaper ads, job postings, college job fairs) are delivering candidates that you hire at what cost.  

The National Guard has been under fire of late for its excessive spending.  One area what the National Guard has been particularly profligate has been its sponsorship of NASCAR.  According to Justin Boyer in yesterday's Washington Post:

USA Today reported the Guard spent $26.5 million to sponsor NASCAR in 2012, “but failed to sign up a single new soldier to its ranks,” according to Senate documents. Between 2011 and 2013, the Guard spent $88 million, but “it is unclear how many new recruits, if any, signed up because of it.”
“How can you justify the fact that nobody is getting recruited?” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) in hearings. “The facts speak for themselves. The data is very clear. You’re not getting recruits off of NASCAR.”

 Tom Vanden Brook at USA Today noted:

The Guard received 24,800 recruiting prospects from the program in 2012, documents show. In those cases, potential recruits indicated the NASCAR affiliation prompted them to seek more information about joining. Of that group, only 20 met the Guard's qualifications for entry into the service, and not one of them joined. 

In 2013, the number of prospects associated with NASCAR dropped to 7,500, according to briefing materials for the Senate subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight led by McCaskill. The National Guard needs 1 million leads to meet its annual recruiting goal of 50,000 soldiers.

Landing only 20 potential candidates out of nearly 25k, and actually hiring none of them is a yield ratio no one should be happy about.

So, what might be responsible for generating such poor return on that recruiting investment?  Age of the audience:

"The Army, the Navy, the Marines and the Coast Guard all canceled their sponsorships with NASCAR due to cost, ineffectiveness and difficulty in measuring results," according to the briefing document. "The Army specifically stated that NASCAR was declining against the Army's core target audience and that NASCAR sponsorship had the highest cost per engagement in the Army's portfolio of sponsorships — three times the next highest program."

About one-third of NASCAR's audience is aged 18-35, the Guard's target audience for recruiting, according to the document.

Quick Lessons Learned from the 2014 #NBASummerLeague

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I'm back from the now annual trip to the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas with most of the 8 Man Rotation (Steve Boese, Kris Dunn, Lance Haun).  The trip was filled with good food, conversation, music (in the form of Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails in concert) and, of course, basketball.  So, what can be gleaned from a 3 day trip watching exhibition basketball?  You can read Steve's take here and Kris' take here.   Here's mine:

"You'll be pleased" is the new "Fine."
Over burgers at Bobby Flay's Burger Palace, discussion turned to reference checks and performance reviews.  A little less than two years ago, K.D. wrote that "neutral is the new negative," meaning that if the person giving the reference is only sharing basic info, the candidate is not likely to be a star at your organization.  Further, like "awesome," "fine" has become overused and lost any authenticity when it comes to praise.  If a person says an applicant or performer is "fine," are you buying that he or she is of quality?  So, what did the group settle on as an authentic phrase of praise?  "You'll be pleased."  For example, to Atlanta Hawks superfan K.D., "You'll be pleased with 1st round draft pick from Michigan State, Adriean Payne."   

EVERYONE is looking to make an impression
Not only are players looking to become one of the chosen 450 to make an NBA roster, coaches are trying to move up the ranks, and refs are trying to make the big show.  But, even behind the scenes, moves are trying to be made.  You have the overenthusiastic announcer trying to show off his chops, "Dennis Horner from the Corner!" 
"P.J. Hairston with the flush!"  You also had the singer of the national anthem.  Who was he?  Not sure?  Did he do a competent job?  Yes.  Was he paid?  Probably not.  But, like the HR blogger being told that writing on a blog will give him/her valuable "exposure," I'm positive someone somewhere gave the singer advice that such a performance will lead to gigs down the road.

EVERYONE thinks they know talent
Rodney Hood, formerly of Duke, and now part of the Utah Jazz...not a fan.  Here's his stats for the 5 summer league games he played:

Game 1: 3-of-13 from the floor, 1-of-10 from 3, nine points
Game 2: 11-of-16 from the floor, 7-of-10 from 3, 29 points
Game 3: 1-of-9 from the floor, 0-of-2 from 3, three points
Game 4: 7-of-11 from the floor, 1-of-3 from 3, 19 points
Game 5: 2-of-8 from the floor, 1-of-3 from 3, seven points 

Needless to say, I pointed out his shortcomings rather loudly during his mediocre game 5 performance.  Who took exception?  The trio of 10-year-old boys in front of me who knew he was the best player on the court.

If the three takes regarding the 2014 Summer League are not enough, feel free to listen to the 27-minute HR Happy Hour podcast summing up the weekend here 

True Faith HR Replay: Why #HR Should Care About the NBA Summer League

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, July 14, 2014

On Thursday, I will join three of my colleagues behind the 8 Man Rotation in Las Vegas (we always leave one behind to keep it going in case something befalls the rest of us) for two to three days to catch some NBA Summer League action.
Why do we want to head to the desert in summer time to spend 8-10 hours a day in a gym watching exhibition basketball when those games don't matter?
Because, in actuality, the games DO matter....for those playing.   In his piece on Grantland, Steve McPherson describes what it is like for those involved:

These are guys who have worked their entire lives to be one of the 450 players in the top basketball league in the world. Guys who spent their whole lives being one of the best basketball players in any situation they ever found themselves in. And now it’s just the grind. They’re simply looking for their shot.
The ones hoping for that shot are almost universally flawed in one way or another: undersized or stuck between positions; not good enough at one specific thing to be useful to a team; dogged by problems we can’t even see, the kind of stuff many of us carry around.........
But for these players — who are among the top one or two percent of basketball players in the world — it’s their big chance. Not to become something they’re not, but to see their years of work turn them into what they’ve always been striving toward.

Those playing over these few days in Orlando and in Las Vegas are no different than the applicants to your organization.  They're polishing their resumes,  taking your work sample test, engaging in your role play or simulation, trying to impress you enough to take a chance on them.

For us watching, it will be passing entertainment...but for those involved, it will be all too real, with stakes that truly matter to them.

Should Your "A" Players Recruit For Your Organization?

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, June 30, 2014

Its long been mantra that great employees want to work with other great employees.  The organization can only be better when great employees see others putting out quality effort.  In "First, Break All The Rules," Marcus Buckingham wrote that one of the critical 12 questions that measures the strength of an organization is "Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?"

Interesting news, then, from the NBA, as the star of the Chicago Bulls is shying away from selling the organization to prospective players - in particular, talented free agent Carmelo Anthony.  According to Yahoo Sports

The Chicago Bulls are expected to pursue Carmelo Anthony in free agency. They just shouldn't expect Derrick Rose to participate in the recruiting.

Rose told Yahoo Sports on Sunday that he doesn't plan to recruit Anthony – or any free agent, for that matter – even though he likes Anthony's game and thinks they can play alongside each other.

Rose's reason is simple: He said it's "not his job."

"My thing is if they want to come, they can come," Rose said.

The goal of every player and team is to win that world championship (though some would rather make that max contract).  Each player should be looking at how they could make their team better.  Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose's teammate, has been doing everything possible to get Carmelo to come to Chicago:

According to several sources, including a teammate, Noah's All-Star Weekend “conversation'' with New York Knicks standout Carmelo Anthony didn't end in New Orleans. They had discussions via text the rest of the season, including the day after the Bulls were eliminated in the playoffs by the Washington Wizards.

“I was kidding Jo that they were boys now,'' a source said in a phone interview Friday. “ ‘Well, get your boy to come to Chicago.' ''

Sources said Noah has been in Anthony's ear as often as possible, and he has told other Bulls to push hard for Anthony this summer. But there is one condition: Backup big man Taj Gibson can't be sacrificed.

So, what is the obligation of your superstar to sell your organization to prospective candidates?  Does he or she have any responsibility, particular when fellow employees are making a strong push as well?

Its less than 2 weeks until the start of the NBA Summer League, and the 8 Man Rotation is looking forward to its annual trip to Las Vegas, June 17-20.  If you're interested in joining us, let me know.