by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, July 30, 2009
In the morning, I usually do a morning surf of the blogosphere to read the latest missives that have been published. One of my regular stops is Glenn Greenwald's column at salon.com. As usual, he has an excellent post on journalism and the Constitution. Here is an excerpt from today's column:
He goes on to write:
By the design of the Founders, most American political issues are driven by the vicissitudes of political realities, shaped by practicalities and resolved by horse-trading compromises among competing factions. But not all political questions were to be subject to that process. Some were intended to be immunized from those influences. Those were called "principles," or "rights," or "guarantees" -- and what distinguishes them from garden-variety political disputes is precisely that they were intended to be both absolute and adhered to regardless of what Massing calls "the practical considerations policymakers must contend with."
We don't have to guess what those principles are. The Founders created documents -- principally the Constitution -- which had as their purpose enumerating the principles that were to be immunized from such "practical considerations." All one has to do in order to understand their supreme status is to understand the core principle of Constitutional guarantees: no acts of Government can conflict with these principles or violate them for any reason. And all one has to do to appreciate their absolute, unyielding essence is to read how they're written: The President "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed." "[A]ll Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land." "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech." "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause." "No person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." Even policies which enjoy majoritarian support and ample "practical" justification will be invalid -- nullified -- if they violate those guarantees.
Those principles are absolute and unyielding by their nature. Garden-variety political questions -- what should be the highest tax rate? what kind of health care policy should the government adopt? to what extent should the government regulate private industry? -- are ones intended to be driven by "the practical considerations policymakers must contend with." But questions about our basic liberties and core premises of our government -- presidential adherence to the law, providing due process before sticking people in cages, spying on Americans only with probable cause search warrants, treating all citizens including high political officials equally under the law -- are supposed to be immune from such "practical" and ephemeral influences. Those principles, by definition, prevail in undiluted form regardless of public opinion and regardless of the "practical" needs of political officials. That should not be controversial; that is the central republican premise for how our political system was designed.With that in mind, what are the core premises that HR must follow versus the practical considerations must follow? What are the "MUSTS?"
by Matthew Stollak on Monday, July 27, 2009
After a week of excess (trip to KC for BBQ and baseball, bachelor party in Chicago, Coldplay at Alpine Valley in WI, Brewers baseball), its back to reality and thinking about fall classes.
One of the things I am pondering adding is a social media component to my intro to HR class. I would like it to be more than having everyone join twitter or start a blog.
What ways should social media be added into a HR curriculum?
by Matthew Stollak on Friday, July 17, 2009
I'm often asked "what is my most interesting teaching experience?" Well....
For me, the most interesting student interaction I've experienced was in my early career. I was in the middle of a Thursday morning lecture/discussion when a student started to get up to leave the class.
The student behind her asked, "Are you okay?"
She replied, nonchalantly, "Oh...my water broke."
Needless to say, I was dumbstruck. I do not remember the grad school class that provided any sort of discussion of what to do when a student goes into labor. Do I get some hot water? Towels? Calipers? Somehow, instinct kicked in, and I walked her to the dean's office where an ambulance was called to take her to the hospital.
I managed to amble back to class and finish, half-heartedly, the day's discussion. More surprisingly, the student was back in class Monday morning ready to dig into learning yet again.
by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, July 16, 2009
Summer is always a good time to catch up on TV shows that I miss during the fall or spring, and haven't found the time to fit into my busy schedule. One of the shows I am catching up on this summer is "Burn Notice." The tag line for the show is "When spies get fired, they don’t get a letter from human resources....they get BURNED."
Michael Westen is a McGyver-esque spy who finds himself without a job, no access to his bank accounts, and no idea for the reason behind his dismissal. In his quest to find out the rationale, he takes on a number of side projects that utilize his intelligence, charm, and spy abilities to earn money.
I am only a few episodes into the first season, and I am sure it will move closer to Michael finding out the answers (though it is now in its 3rd season, which makes me wonder how long they intend to drag it out). However, it makes wonder why someone at his level of competence would get "burned?" Is he simply just another at-will employee? He demonstrates compassion through the first few episodes, he shows excellent performance on the job. What might be the reason?
by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Like most organizations, colleges and universities want their employees to be as high-performing as possible. The question, like in most organizations, is how do we do it? Unlike other organizations, however, is that the job of professor is one that plateaus. The lowest rank is assistant professor. Tenure and promotion are often tied together and the employee moves to the rank of associate professor. The highest rank a person in this job title can secure is professor.
With such limited mobility, administrators are challenged to motivate professors (aside from one's own intrinsic desire and pride in being a contributing member to his/her own profession) to produce unique, quality research, teach at a high level, serve and contribute on committees, and advise students on a regular basis.
At most research-based institutions, promotion is primarily tied to the quality of their scholarship, with those other factors, while important, are perceived as secondary. Beyond the promotion, however, there are relatively few incentives offered to most professors to exceed in the classroom. Further, mediocre performance is not often punished once a professor reaches tenure status.
In addition, some of the incentives that are offered are often of little value:
- Service awards - they recognize the number of years with the institution, but only recognize longevity, not quality of performance
- Year-end awards for research, teaching or service - While it is nice to be recognized by one's peers for these contributions, the monetary award is often small, and the criteria for achieving the award are often unknown to the recipients.
What if teachers were paid based on the future income their students make. For example, student A grows up to make 100k a year. We look at the records and find the 20 teachers that taught student A and compensate them based on that. Compensation could be based on number of months spent with student.
That way the students would turn into "investments" for the teachers.Would this create the necessary effect of improving teaching in the classroom? Would finance/accounting or science faculty have an advantage over those teaching in the humanities or fine arts?
So, compensation professionals, what incentives do you think would motivate professors to improve their quality and productivity?
by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, July 14, 2009
When I attended the 2008 SHRM Annual Conference in Chicago, I had the opportunity to see Steve Gilliland. Very entertaining speaker with a lot of humorous, applicable anecdotes for the workplace. I decided to see him again at the 2009 SHRM Annual Conference in New Orleans (and I needed something to counteract the negative experience watching Dave Ramsey).
Once again, it was entertaining, but one thing resonated with me - he said to "cut the e-leash." He argued that individuals need to go out and meet people and read more.
On one hand, I agree with Mr. Gilliland. People should be socializing and networking. They should be spending less time on the computer and reading more novels. On the other hand, I have found sites like Facebook and Twitter has expanded the number of people I interact with on a daily basis. I have made a number of new contacts through the medium. Similarly, I probably read more now, reading blogs, web pages, etc., then if I had my computer shut off.
I still read novels, magazines and other non-fiction regularly.
With that in mind, do you agree with Mr. Gilliland? Has Social Media impacted your sociability and reading habits? Do we truly need to cut the e-leash?
by Matthew Stollak on Monday, July 13, 2009
Hard as it is to believe, the fall semester for my school begins seven weeks from today. I've already been working on my syllabi for two of my classes. I am also thinking about my advising responsibilities for my SHRM student chapter. Many of my HR colleagues have commented to me that the students they meet and interview have a good understanding of the HR basics and knowledge base. However, they are lacking in those "soft" skills that would help them in the workplace. One of the ideas I thought I would bring to the students is to have the chapter focus on a year-long program on these "soft" skills. Programs would include:
- Developing critical thinking skills
- Developing time management skills
- Developing a responsible work ethic
- Communicating effectively
- Using mathematics effectively
- Working cooperatively
- Respecting diversity
- Integrating technology
by Matthew Stollak on Friday, July 10, 2009
This summer, I am working on a little research project examining the career paths of college basketball coaches,. My love of college basketball began on a cold January day in the mid-1970s, when my parents took me to a game at Jenison Fieldhouse on the campus of
I attended MSU from 1985-1989 and quickly joined the Spartan Spirit (the precursor to today's Izzone). Once again, it was a joy to watch the skill of Scott Skiles, one of the best players ever to put on a Spartan uniform. And, I have been extremely fortunate to have seen all five Final Four appearances of the MSU/Tom Izzo era, including the national championship, in person (thanks calibadger!). Speaking of which...
I continue to watch Spartan basketball, and am constantly amazed at what Tom Izzo has done with the MSU program.
Most studies of top management teams focus on what happens when the CEO leaves, or there is wholesale change, but there is little work being conducted on what happens when key top management players leave, while the CEO remains intact.
As new assistant coaches enter and former assistant coaches depart, will the team become more similar or dissimilar as a result of the change? Further, what will be the impact of these changes on performance? Will new assistant coaches quickly be subsumed into the head coach's style of play, or will the new assistant coach(es) provide wrinkles that might enhance (or detract) from team success? What will the impact of the previous assistant or head coaching experience have on performance?
by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, July 9, 2009
A central tenet of major sports is deception. In baseball, for example, the catcher and pitcher exchange signs so they are on the same page in attempting to fool the batter on what pitch will be thrown. First and third base coaches create elaborate signs they send to the runner in attempting to fool the defense regarding whether a stolen base will occur.
In football, both the offense and the defense are in a constant battle to deceive each other. Will the defense disguise its coverage or call a blitz? Will the offense call a running play or a pass? Will they line up for a field goal and kick it, or run a fake?
A common theme at the 2009 SHRM National Conference was trust and transparency. Jack Welch emphasized it as a critical component of HR in his comments in the opening general session. Bill Cawood, in his session, referenced a cosmetics company that had trust has its mantra, but was continually checking bags and purses for potential theft.
As HR practitioners, where does the line between transparency and deception exist? Do your employees have faith that you are looking out for their best interest? the company's best interests?
- Are realistic job previews given to potential employees, so that expectations aren't dashed when they are hired?
- Does the organization have an open or closed pay policy?
- Is the merit pay program communicated and the objectives understood by all participating in it?
- Are organizational policies, rules, procedures handled in a fair and impartial manner?
by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, July 8, 2009
With SHRM's shiny new curriculum in place, undergraduate students can demonstrate their mastery of this knowledge base by taking the PHR exam upon graduation. However, the HRCI has recently mandated new changes to the qualifications to take the PHR certification exam. Currently, undergraduate students can take and pass the PHR exam, but they wouldn't be considered certified until they earned 2 years of exempt-level experience in a 5-year period. In 2011, undergraduate students will no longer be eligible to take the PHR exam until they have earned the 2 years of exempt-level of experience.
To that end:
- Should undergraduate students be allowed to take the PHR certification exam before entering the workplace?
- To what extent should the profession of HR encourage new entrants to possess reasonable command of the body of knowledge prior to entry into the field?
- What do you see as a LEGITIMATE replacement for the PHR-certification for undergraduate students?
- If another form of exam is given, what should it cover?
by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, July 7, 2009
While I haven't done what appears to be the obligatory 2009 SHRM Conference wrap-up (plenty of options can be found here, here, here, and here), one of the main things that made this conference different for me (compared to the previous eight I've attended) was the availability of Twitter. Many of the sessions and events were made much more compelling by having "real-time" conversations with others in attendance. Reaction was immediate, and it was fantastic to see a community rise up and share their opinions that would have been dissipated in the absence of such technology.
Reading the reflections, it seems that I was not alone in finding this advance as a positive experience for all those involved. But, is there a danger involved in such consensus?
In a recent article, and recently published book, Cass Sunstein argues that when like-minded people spend more time with each other, their views may become more extreme:
Some years ago, a number of citizens of France were assembled into small groups to exchange views about their president and about the intentions of the United States with respect to foreign aid. Before they started to talk, the participants tended to like their president and to distrust the intentions of the United States. After they talked, some strange things happened. Those who began by liking their president ended up liking their president significantly more. And those who expressed mild distrust toward the United States moved in the direction of far greater distrust. The small groups of French citizens became more extreme. As a result of their discussions, they were more enthusiastic about their leader, and far more sceptical of the United States, then similar people in France who had not been brought together to speak with one another.Why does Sunstein think this "group polarisation" occurs?
The most important reason for group polarisation, which is key to extremism in all of its forms, involves the exchange of new information. Group polarisation often occurs because people are telling one another what they know, and what they know is skewed in a predictable direction. When they listen to each other, they move.Looking back at the conference, one example stands out. I decided to attend the Dave Ramsey session (by myself) and found the message and tips appropriate, but the presentation absolutely brutal. Most likely, I would have given it a "meh" rating when colleagues and I compared notes on the sessions we attended. However, with the presence of Twitter, I easily found others like-minded, and it only served to exacerbate my disappointment in the session. In the end, I probably rated the session worse, than if Twitter was available.
Giving the increased feeling of community that has arisen, has HR blogging and Twittering made your views more extreme (such as one's view on the efficacy of conferences or SHRM, in general)? What dangers does this pose, if true?
by Matthew Stollak
Yesterday, I discussed the curriculum undergraduate students often encounter when preparing for a career in HR. In addition to this core HR content, students have additional opportunities to enhance their understanding of human resources through participation in SHRM student chapters. If we are to discuss what HR education is, or should be, it is helpful to know where we are.
SHRM student programs indicates that there are now 450 SHRM student chapters with more than 15,000 members. Of these chapters, approximately 25% submit a student chapter merit award. Similar to the chapter achievement plan that SHRM professional chapters complete, the merit award program focuses on four areas:
- Basic Student Chapter Requirements
- Chapter Programming and Professional Development of Members
- Support of the Human Resource Profession
- Partnership with SHRM
Basic Student Chapter Requirements
This section focuses on four areas:
- Professional operation of the chapter - students must submit a MBO statement, chapter bylaws and chapter information form to SHRM. A cope of ethics should be adopted, and the e-board should meet at least four times a year
- Chapter leadership - this section details the list of officers, position descriptions, and succession planning
- Chapter Communications and web presence - pretty self-explanatory; does the student chapter produce a chapter newsletter, publicize its meetings, provide internship and job openings info, and maintain a web site?
- Promotion of SHRM - does the chapter display the appropriate SHRM logo, provide members with updates on SHRM member benefits, display a SHRM banner, and highlight SHRM activities?
This is the heart and soul of the SHRM student chapter as it serves to supplement a student's "classroom learning with real-world education/experience and increased opportunities for networking." This section includes:
- Program variety - does the chapter offer a number of programs on a variety of subjects related to the HRM field?
- Workshops, seminars, conferences, or HRGames sponsorship - does the chapter offer or host such events?
- Participation in workshops, seminars, conference or HRGames - does the chapter particiapte in these events?
- Internships, mentoring, and career development - does the chapter provide or support internships, job-shadow programs, company visits, mentor programs, or create a resume book?
- HR leadership in the community - does the chapter engage in a project to benefit the community?
- Advancing the HR profession - do the student chapter members conduct a research survey or special project (external from class requirements), promote the profession to non-HR majors, promote careers in HR to local high-school or middle-school students, or participate in other student organizations?
- Certification - do student chapter members promote the value of HR certification, participate in a HRCI exam prep group, or sit for the PHR exam?
- Legislative activity - do students write to members of a local, state, or national legislative body taking a stand on a particular piece of legislationa ffecting the HRM field?
- SHRM Foundation and scholarships - does the student chapter contribute to the SHRM Foundation and/or a scholarship benefiting a student in the HR field?
Student chapters can enhance their networking skills by work with their sposnoring professional chapters, state councils, and SHRM.
- Support to sponsoring professional chapter(s) - do students attend professional chapter meetings, assist the sponsored chapter with programs, and/or have a SHRM leader visit a student chapter meeting?
- Chapter activities - does the student chapter sponsor a joint chapter activity with another SHRM student chapter or other student organization, and/or promote the chapter activities in various media?
- Chapter membership - does the student chapter detail the number of local and national SHRM chapter members?
While not required, SHRM awards up to ten Outstanding Student Chapter Awards each year to chapters whose programs or activities are particularly distinguished. Activities can be in the areas of promotion of certification, campus/community service, innovation/technology, programming/education, or recruitment. Winners and details of their programs in the 2008-09 academic year cam be found here.
With that long introduction, what programs offered do you think are particularly useful? Where are student programs missing the boat? What should student chapters really being doing that will help their members prepare for a career in human resources?
by Matthew Stollak on Monday, July 6, 2009
It was with great interest that I read about Ben Eubanks’ “Introducing the HR Education Series,” at UpstartHR.com. As someone who has taught HR for 14 years, and who has been intimately involved with SHRM College Relations at the local, state, regional and national level, the subject is near and dear to my heart.
Working in small, liberal arts college, I am the sole proprietor of our HR program. Its success or failure is dependent on how well I carry out my job. It is up to me, in most cases, to decide what to cover, when to cover it, and how it will be carried out. Today, I want to focus on the HR content in the classroom (I will discuss the practical aspects of things such as internships, job shadowing, SHRM student chapters, etc. later in the week). Further, my discussion is limited to undergraduate HR education.
In its HR Curriculum Guidebook, SHRM details 13 content areas which they believe students should master:
- Employee and labor relations
- Employment law
- HR’s role in organizations
- HR and globalization
- HR and mergers and acquisitions
- HR and organizational strategy
- Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS)
- Measuring HR outcomes: metrics and the bottom line
- Risk Management: occupational health, safety, and security
- Performance management
- Staffing: recruitment and selection
- Total rewards
- Workforce planning and talent management
- Career planning
- Employee benefits
- HR and downsizing
- HR and the entrepreneurial firm
- HR and the high-tech firm
- Internal consulting
- Job analysis
- Managing a diverse workforce
- Organizational entry and socialization
- Training and development
Given this background, what holes in the curriculum need to be addressed? What material is missing? What advice would you give to professors as they prepare their syllabus for the fall?
by Matthew Stollak on Friday, July 3, 2009
Let's get it out there: I have no sense of smell (what the medical community calls anosmia). It is not the result of taking Zicam or some strange head injury. I don't ever recall having the ability to tell one odor from the next. I cannot tell you the difference between a rose or a daffodil. Despite beliefs to the contrary, I can still taste. I can distinguish between sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and Umami. A Reese's Peanut Butter Cup tastes better than brussels sprouts. However, I am sure my taste buds are not as refined as others.
Luckily, I chose a career (or, perhaps, it was chosen for me) that did not require that I utilize that particular sense. I knew early on that a career as a cook, fireman, or forensic expert was not in the cards. So, don't expect to see me on any future episodes of Top Chef, Rescue Me, or C.S.I.: Milwaukee.
However, much of the work in human resourses is often "extra"-sensory. We operate and use a lot of constructs. Most, if not all of these constructs in human resources are hypothetical. They are not "things." We cannot take one and put "it" on a table for examination. The keyboard I am typing on can be touched. I can see the keys I am typing on. I can hear the noise when I press my fingers against their black veneer. It may have a scent (I'd have to rely on others to confirm that fact; I know 'Eau de Logitech' is not a popular perfume). And, if I so chose, I could lick the keyboard and see how it tastes, but I will leave that up to others .
We want to encounter "authentic" applicants, clients, customers, suppliers, co-workers. We try to identify those employees who are "leadership" material. We demand "quality" products and services and try to achieve "equality" and "diversity" in the workplace. We want to deliver pay "equity" so that employees are "satisfied."
Lest I be misinterpreted, note that hypothetical constructs CAN (and do) have biological, cognitive, and affective correlates, causes, consequences and dimensions. Rather, the distinguishing characteristic of a hypothetical construct is that it has no arbitrary definition. The definition must be 'made up' by theorists, and theorists can disagree as to what should be included in the definition or if the construct even has any utility to begin with.
Can we truly find "objective" measures to assess and evaluate employees and applicants, or will we continue to rely on common "sense" to guide our decisions?
by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, July 2, 2009
Having just returned from the 2009 SHRM Annual Conference in New Orleans, I will have a few blog posts in the upcoming days highlighting my thoughts from the 5 days in NOLA. However, I will start off my inaugural post discussing an event that just preceded the SHRM Conference - the NBA draft.
With a background in HRM, I find the NBA and NFL drafts to be quite fascinating. As a fan of the Milwaukee Bucks (ugh!) and the Green Bay Packers, I have a vested interest in how "my team" selects its future employees. In almost no other industry does an employer have the opportunity to measure and assess a future hire quite like a major sports team. Players are poked and prodded through a variety of mental and physical tests. General Managers pore through hundreds of hours of game tape (can one imagine Proctor and Gamble calling Pfizer for performance footage?). Family, friends, colleagues, coaches, peers are all interviewed. Virtually anything measured can and will be measured.
One should expect, given this background, that the success rate of the draft should be incredibly high, particularly given the amount of money involved with such a choice. Every top 5 pick should be an All-Pro or All-Star selection, right? Yet, history is littered with misses - Tony Mandarich, Ryan Leaf, Michael Olowakandi, Joe Smith, Alex Smith, Tim Couch, just to name a few. Similarly, future all-stars are repeatedly passed over (Terrell Davis - 7th round pick, Mike Piazza - 62nd round, Kurt Warner - undrafted)
One study has found that heavier players do not help NFL teams win more. Another study shows that the NFL combine has no correlation with NFL success.
Is this an opportunity for SHRM to enter the fray and assist these general managers with their hiring decisions? If the NFL and NBA can't get it right, what hope do HR Managers have with much less information at their fingertips?
by Matthew Stollak
As should be customary, an introduction is in order. My name is Matthew Stollak and I am an Assistant Professor of Business Administration at St. Norbert College (SNC). I received tenure in 2006.
I received my undergraduate degree in Economics and Urban Policy from James Madison College at Michigan State University, my Masters in Management of Human Services from the Heller School at Brandeis University, and my Ph.D. in Human Resource Management from the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations (now the School of Labor and Employment Relations) at the University of Illinois.
I have taught a variety of Business and Human Resource Management-related classes at SNC, Ohio University, and Mississippi State University, including: Foundations of Human Resource Management, Strategic Compensation, Labor Relations, Foundations of Management, Organizational Behavior, Organizational Theory, and Statistics for Business and Economics.
I have also been active as a volunteer at the local, state, regional, and national level of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) for over 10 years:
- At the local level, I served on the Green Bay Area SHRM Board as President-Elect, President, and Past-President from 2006-2008, earning Chapter Member of the Year Honors in 2008. I also serve as the Chapter Advisor for the SNC Student Chapter. Our student chapter has earned the Superior Merit Award for the past six years, including a top 10 chapter award in 2007. In addition, the SNC SHRM chapter won the Regional HR Games in 2003 and 2004, and were national co-champions in 2003. I also was named Student Chapter Advisor of the Year in 2006.
- At the state level, I have served as the WI SHRM College Relations Director from 2002-2005 and the WI SHRM Foundation Director from 2005-2008. I currently serve as the District Director for the Northeast Region of Wisconsin and the co-chair of the 2009 WI SHRM State Conference, which will take place October 14-16 at the Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells (Register now! Early bird rates still available!).
- At the regional level, I served as the Area IV College Relations Director from 2002-2004
- At the national level, I served as a member of the SHRM College Relations Committee from 2002-2004, and have served as a judge at several national HR Games.
And, in full disclosure, I have never worked a day in human resource management. Whether that serves to diminish my creditability despite the above credentials is up to you, my constant reader (as Dorothy Parker used to write). I know I do not know a great many things. Any errors that I make in the writing of this blog are mine.
On with the blog....