by Matthew Stollak on Monday, July 18, 2011

One of my favorite books about the film is Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman.  In it, the screenwriter of such films as Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, and The Princess Bride, writes:

"The "go" decision is the ultimate importance of the studio executive.  They are responsible for what gets up there on the silver screen.  Compounding their problem of no job security in the decision-making process is the single most important fact, perhaps, of the entire industry:


*Every studio except Paramount turned down Raiders of the Lost Ark.  The studio wanted Tom Selleck to play Indiana Jones instead of Harrison Ford, but Selleck couldn't get out of his Magnum P.I. contract.

*Universal turned down Star Wars
*Columbia passed on E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.

We see the same thing happen in the sports arena.   Scouts in the NFL battle over whether to draft Ryan Leaf or Peyton Manning as the 1st pick.  Tom Brady gets drafted in the 6th round.  Michael Jordan was not the first pick in the draft when he came out of college.

Physics has the Law of Gravity
Chemistry has Boyle's Law and the Laws of Thermodynamics
Even Economics, the dismal science, has the Law of Supply and Demand

But, does human resources have any laws or universal truths that all abide by?  If so, what are they?  Or, like their Hollywood and sports counterparts, NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING.

Getting Away With It

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, July 14, 2011

I would love to attend the 2011 Illinois HR Conference on August 22-24 and/or the 2011 Ohio SHRM State Conference on September 21-23.   John Jorgensen (Illinois) and Steve Browne (Ohio) have put together a really stellar program for each of these states.

Check out the agenda for Illinois here
Check out the agenda for Ohio here

The quality of line-ups alone justifies attending.  Add the networking, entertainment, and food, and it a must-see event.

So, why am I not going?  I'm conferenced out.

One of my best friends says I am one of the luckiest people in the world.  My job gives me a really flexible schedule, I get to teach 18-22 year olds, and I get to do a lot of traveling.  Looking over the past 12 months, I have attended the following conferences:

August 5-6, 2010 - WI SHRM State Leadership Conference in Sturgeon Bay
September 23-26, 2010 - AABRI Conference in Orlando, FL
October 6-8, 2010 - WI SHRM State Conference in Appleton, WI
November 18-20, 2010 - SHRM Leadership Conference in Arlington, VA
February 24-27, 2011 - ASBBS Conference in Las Vegas, NV
March 4-5, 2011 - WI SHRM Student Conference and HR Games in Fond du Lac, WI
April 8-10, 2011 - SHRM North Central Region Student Conference in Romeoville, IL
April 29-May 1, 2011 - HREvolution in Atlanta, GA
June 24-29, 2011 - SHRM Annual Conference in Las Vegas, NV

Intermingled with the above is travel for family, weddings, sporting events (Brewers baseball, NFC Championship, Super Bowl, Final Four) as well as other work and volunteer related functions.

Looking ahead, I already have the following conferences scheduled:
August 4-5, 2011 - WI SHRM State Leadership Conference in Green Lake, WI
August 12-16, 2011 - Academy of Management Meetings in San Antonio, CA
September 30 - October 5, 2011 - HREvolution/HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas, NV
October 12-14, 2011 - WI SHRM State Conference in Madison, WI
November 17-20, 2011 - SHRM Leadership Conference in Arlington, VA
January 5-7, 2012 - AABRI Conference in Orlando, FL
March 2-3, 2012 - WI SHRM Student Conference and HR Games in Platteville, WI
June 22-27, 2012 - SHRM Annual Conference in Atlanta, GA

and....who knows, there might be another conference or two in that time frame.

So, yes, I am lucky.  I get to do a lot of traveling and attend a lot of conferences.  However, while I would love to be in Illinois and Ohio over the next two months, I am not sure I have the time, energy, or resources to make it there.

However, on behalf of John and Steve, I highly encourage you to go to those great events.  And, if you can't, come join us in Madison, WI, on October 12-14.  Check out the Learning Sessions here and early bird registration ends July 15.

Feel Every Beat

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, July 13, 2011

For the past few weeks, I have been suffering from a clogged right ear due to the excessive build-up of earwax (perhaps too much information, and I am sure one of the first things you want to read about is earwax).   Despite the efforts of over-the-counter remedies, the problem was not being resolved, so I finally went to the ear doctor.

Technology has certainly improved since the last time I went.   Instead of flushing it out (NO Q-TIPS!), they now have what seemed like a micro Dust Buster to clear out the ears (maybe Dyson has patented this technology as well).   After the successful removal, I decided to have my hearing checked to see what was the impact of 20+ years of rock concerts, blasting New Order and Orbital in the car while driving, and listening to music on headphones.

While cleaning ears might have changed, having a hearing test appears to have not since the last time I had it checked a couple decades ago.   You sit in a supposedly soundproof room, put on a pair of headphones, and are given a Jeopardy-style buzzer that you are to press when a series of tones are played.

Here's the thing.   I'm sure the test is completely valid, but as you are going through the test, there are times where I was listening, and I was not sure whether a tone was being played....or I thought I might have heard a tone when there wasn't one.  You start to question whether you are hearing things (maybe its just the voice in my head).

So, what does this have to do with HR?

1.  Well, you can't spell hearing without HR.  I'm thankful I have insurance to cover the test.
2.  As always, are we asking the right questions?  Like the hearing test, do we have content validity?    As we continue our metric quest, are we measuring what we purport to measure?

In the end, the concerts and loud music have had an effect, particularly in the upper registers.  I am now contemplating purchasing a customized pair of noise-canceling headphones.

Tighten Up

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, July 8, 2011

Like many of you, I have trouble keeping up with all of my contacts on all the social networking platforms as well as the information that accompanies them and it.  Twitter, Facebook, Empire Avenue, Quora, etc. and now Google Plus has entered the picture.   I limit my followers on Twitter to around 500, as I have difficulty keeping up with my Twitter stream if it exceeds that number .  Unless I have met you in real life, I am unlikely to follow you (apologies to those who have recently followed me and I haven't reciprocated).  Even as I try to put a cap on all this, it is still difficult to separate the signal from the noise.  Am I effectively using my network to hear about the latest and greatest information?  What is the must read set of blogs for the day?  Am I missing something crucial?

One of my daily website destinations is Quickish.   Launched in early January 2011 by former ESPN Page 2 writer Dan Shanoff.  Shanoff used to write the "Daily Quickie," which highlighted the important stories from the previous day in sports, as well as previewed the potential big stories of the day ahead.   Quickish attempts to take that to the next level by providing real-time sports tips as the day progresses.  It could be a blog, it could be something on Twitter, it could be a must see highlight on YouTube.  While there are a lot of news aggregators, the key difference for Quickish is that is editor-vetted.

Something similar is needed in the HR arena (perhaps there is, and I am simply missing it, making this whole post moot).  While there are sites like or Twyleh, they are too reliant on hashtags and do not filter the wheat from the chaff.

Take the recent SHRM Annual Conference, for example.  With the increased emphasis on social media, the content being produced was enormous.   Someone following the #shrm11 hashtag was likely to be overwhelmed.  What was needed was someone choosing the best tweets and blogs at the particular time.  A Quickish for HR would serve that purpose.

So, if any venture capitalists are out there...this might be something worth pursuing.

#shrm11 - Melinda Riechert - Social Networking in the Workplace

by Matthew Stollak on Saturday, July 2, 2011

When I looked at the title of the presentation, "Social Networking in the Workplace: Untangling the Web of Employer Risks, Employee Rights, and Management Best Practices"  and the person presenting the session was a lawyer, my hackles were immediately raised.  Would this be a balanced presentation on social media, or one dominated by the dangers that would immediately strike fear in the audience about these tools.   Unfortunately, the session was the latter.

I have no doubt Ms. Riechert is an excellent lawyer.   She had a firm grasp of the case law; many of the audience members were truly engaged in her talk, and laughed at many of her more light-hearted remarks.

She discussed what is social media.  She discussed the rights of employees in terms of working conditions, whistleblowing, privacy, employee monitoring, and legal off-duty behavior.  Similarly, she discussed the risks to employers from social media, including damage to reputation, loss of priviliged information, defamation, violation of FTC rules, and loss of employee productivity.  She concluded with a discussion of management best practice to minimize risks and how to structure a social media policy.

So, what was/were the issue(s)?  First, her social media understanding was limited, by her own admittance. She noted that she signed up for Twitter only recently, and she was unfamiliar with many social media tools that might, for example, restrict protected information during the recruiting process.   Further, if I were a neophyte in regards to social media usage, any thoughts of leveraging the benefits would have been thrown out the window.  For example...

*She mocked Tony Hsieh and Zappos social media policy, which is to be real and use your best judgment.
*She advised supervisors not to friend subordinates on Facebook
*She warned against giving a LinkedIn endorsement to a colleague

After a SHRM Conference that seemingly embraced social media, from it being mentioned in the keynote addresses of Tony Hsieh and Arianna Huffington to the vibrancy of Social Media Lounge, this session was certainly a sour way to end a conference after such positivity.  And, who knows how many potential voices were silenced because of the cautionary approach endorsed by Ms. Riechert?

Bizarre Love Triangle

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, July 1, 2011

So, I just got back from a showing of "Larry Crowne" with 100 of my 70 year old friends.

I'm going to spoil the first 5 minutes of the movie for if you're going to see it, be prepared.  Over the opening credits, we see Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) as a model organization citizen for a Wal-mart clone called U-Mart.   He's excited to go to work, he picks up trash from the parking lot, he demonstrates a lot of camaraderie.   He spouts that even without organizational policy, sorting the clothes before leaving for the day is the right thing to do.

Over the loud speaker, he hears his name being called to the common break room.  He thinks he is going to receive employee of the month, an award he has won 9 times!  However, once he gets there, he is met by HR and the suits.  He learns that because he does not have a college education (he entered the Navy after high school where he served the country loyally for 20 years as a cook), he is not "management" material, and can't move up the corporate ladder.  Because the company doesn't want to prevent anyone from moving up, they decide....TO FIRE HIM.

That's right...they fire him.  No thought that the policy might be a bad one.   No thought that other positions might plateau.  No offer of tuition reimbursement to possibly keep one of their supposedly best employees.  No progressive discipline/warning that this might be a possibility sometime in the future if he doesn't start working toward a college education.  They fire him.

I understand that they needed the plot point to get him to go to community college to meet cute with Julia Roberts, but its just lazy writing by Tom Hanks and Nia Vardalos to get the movie going.

*But the 70 year old ladies loved the movie anyway