3 Quick Book Reviews (featuring @incblot @sepinwall) #popHR

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"You're Not That Great" by Dr. Daniel Crosby

 In "That's Interesting: Towards a Phenomenology of Sociology and a Sociology of Phenomenology (1971)," Murray Davis distinguishes between two types of theories: "Interesting theories deny certain assumptions of their audience, while non-interesting theories affirm certain assumptions of their audience."

Building off his well-received TEDxHunstville talk (see below), Crosby takes the former approach to theory-building by taking on traditional assumptions about our daily lives with catchy chapter titles such as "You Are Not That Special," and "Your Ideas Aren't All That Original."  Similarly, Crosby discusses many psychological biases with well-placed examples and anecdotes that make the often abstract material accessible.  Highly recommended before you make your New Year's resolutions.

"Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality" by Jacob Tomsky

I always enjoy a peek into other people's jobs, and Jacob Tomsky's memoir provides an interesting look at the job of a hotel employee.  In "Heads in Beds," Tomsky describes what it is like to be a hotel valet, and a front line check-in clerk, as well as the inevitable run-ins with management figures, both the good and bad.  While he does give some pretty unethical advice about getting out of paying for your hotel movies and that minibar raid, the bottom-line, as with most service employees, is treat them well, and you will be treated well in return.

"The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers, and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever" by Alan Sepinwall

I'm an avid TV watcher....enough so that I often like reading recaps/reviews of the episodes soon after they appear.  The one TV critic I turn to most frequently is Alan Sepinwall, who posts his reviews at Hitfix.com.  So, when I read he had published a book, I knew it was a must grab...and it doesn't disappoint.  In "The Revolution Was Televised," Sepinwall examines 12  shows, such as "The Wire," The Sopranos," "Breaking Bad," and " "Battlestar Galactica," that have transformed television over the past 15 or so years.  What makes the book stand out is the behind-the-scenes look at the origins and evolution of each of the shows.  Check out this excerpt about the origins of "Lost."

The library is now closed.

Credibility and the 2012 Election

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, November 26, 2012

Imagine, if you will, your sales and marketing team making broad claims of success for your organization - gaining significant market share, increasing sales volume, what have you.  However, at the end of the year, not only were they wrong, the were widely off the mark.  

What do you do?  Fire them?  Pat them on the back and say better luck next time?  What is their responsibility for their inaccurate claims?  Do they remain credible?

With that in mind, its been interesting to see the fallout from the 2012 election of a similar group of claim makers - the political pundit.  Think about it - their one job during an election year is to analyze the race.  They have the inside connections, the ear to the ground, the background that should be able to make more accurate predictions than simply throwing a dart at a dartboard.

On the one hand, you have Nate Silver, whose fivethirtyeight.com blog at the New York Times. Using statistical analyses and poll averaging on a daily basis, he laid out the likelihood of the outcome of the Presidential outcome as well as who would win the electoral votes in each state.  He was pilloried, particularly in the last few weeks of the race.  Joe Scarborough, on the Morning Joe show on MSNBC, took particular offense, stating on October 29, “Anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a tossup right now is such an ideologue, they should be kept away from typewriters, computers, laptops and microphones for the next 10 days, because they’re jokes.”

Mr. Silver was more than willing to back up his claims, offering Mr. Scarborough a bet on Twitter of $1000 on the outcome of the race.  

On the other hand, take Peggy Noonan, for example.  In her Wall Street Journal blog on November 5, she wrote:

Who knows what to make of the weighting of the polls and the assumptions as to who will vote? Who knows the depth and breadth of each party’s turnout efforts? Among the wisest words spoken this cycle were by John Dickerson of CBS News and Slate, who said, in a conversation the night before the last presidential debate, that he thought maybe the American people were quietly cooking something up, something we don’t know about.
I think they are and I think it’s this: a Romney win.....All the vibrations are right.....

And, what did these not-so-good vibrations cost Noonan?  Was she taken off the Wall Street Journal beat?  Did she take a two-week humility break to contemplate how she could be so wrong?

No...she was on "Face the Nation" the Sunday immediately following the election.  Yesterday, she was a panel member of This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC.  

In essence, the political and professional price paid was...NONE.

One of the more interesting creations in the aftermath of the elections is this tumblr: Pundit Shaming.

Review the list....speak to me about the importance of credibility in business, and I'll point you to this list, and ask why should I care.

Crowdsourcing #SHRM Speakers

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, November 16, 2012

On Tuesday, the monthly #SHRMChat focused on the vexing topic of chapter programming - where do you find your speakers?  The lack of collaboration among chapters sharing information about successful speakers was noted as well as a desire for a Yelp-like tool where chapters could identify good (and not-so-good) speakers.  Hearing about this, the St. Norbert College SHRM chapter sprung into action and put together a tool using list.ly for chapters to utilize in addressing the programming issue.  Sharing the details is guest blogger, Jenna Ray Hines, President of SNC SHRM: 

Have you ever had a difficult time finding a quality speaker in your region for your SHRM Chapter or Conference event? 

We have created Crowdsourcing SHRM Chapter Speakers for that exact reason. 

We wanted to create an outlet for chapters to find and recommend quality, cost efficient speakers within their respective regions. After a chapter has a quality speaker, they can post on their list.ly regional page to promote the speaker and presentation topic as well as mention if it was HRCI-approved. 

This social media tool will be useful for chapters to collect ideas, collaborate, and share successes. 

We are using list.ly, a social media website that allows users to create and share lists that other users can build upon, to host our five regional lists. Each one of the regional pages represents one of the five SHRM HR regions and can be used by them to collect their list of recommended regional speakers:

As you can see, not only are details such as speaker name, date he or she spoke, HRCI-credits, SHRM event, who recommended the speaker, and details about his or her talk included, you can give thumbs up or down to a particular speaker.

To learn more about Crowdsourcing SHRM Chapter Speakers go to your regional page below:

Southwest Region

Southeast Region
North Central Region
Northeast Region
Pacific West Region

Of course, this tool is only as good as the people who contribute to it.  Be sure to add a speaker who you felt excelled, and share the list with chapter leaders in your region.

Thanks to Jenna for the post.  If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact Jenna (@jennaray21) or me....and, note, Jenna will be graduating in May of 2013 and looking for a job in HR.

Target, Thanksgiving and Work

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dear Target Employees,

We hear you (as well as your friends at Toys R Us and Wal-mart) are upset about the possibility of working on Thanksgiving day, taking time away from your families.

If Target corporate backs off, will you be joining us for some popcorn and a showing of "Life of Pi" or "Red Dawn" that evening?


Your local movie theater employees

Politics and Work: On the Folly of Rewarding A, While Hoping For B

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, November 7, 2012

One of the classic pieces of management literature is Steven Kerr's 1975 (updated in 1995) piece, " On the Folly of Rewarding A, While Hoping for B."  Kerr's central point is that the behavior that is often desired is not necessarily the one that is rewarded.

Kerr highlights a number of examples:
*War - In World War II, soldiers did not return home until the war was won.  In Vietnam, soldiers had the same goal - to get home - but that reward was earned when the tour of duty was over, not with a victory

*Health care - As costs continue to rise, we want doctors to look at providing health care more efficiently and effectively.  However, physicians over test and overserve, perhaps in fear of malpractice suits.  Similarly, what incentive is there as consumers to keep costs down and demand less testing, particularly when they bear so little of the costs with insurance.

*Universities - The job responsibilities for a professor are to teach and advise students, conduct research/engage in scholarship, and serve the community.  While the student probably values the first option most highly, the route to tenure and promotion is through successful research.  Hence, when time is tight, the astute professor will dedicate his or her time to research at the expense of quality teaching.  Further, mediocre teaching is rarely punished.

Which brings us to this week's topic - politics.  Kerr writes:

The American citizenry supposedly wants its candidates for public office put forth operative goals, making their proposed programs "perfectly clear," specifying sources and uses of funds, etc.  However, since operative goals are lower in acceptance, and since aspirants to public office need acceptance (from at least 50.1 percent of the people), most politicians prefer to speak only of official goals, at least until after the election.....Instead, however, the American voter typically punishes (withholds suport from) candidates who frankly discuss where the money will come from, rewards politicians who speak only of official goals, but hopes that candidates (despite the reward system) will discuss the issues operatively.

Kerr's words were prescient for 2012.  How often did either party give specifics on how they would fix entitlements, how tax cuts will balance the budget, etc.?  For the first time in ages, a major party candidate limited the amount of tax information made available to the public. 

And what happened when candidates got a little too real on abortion?  Ask Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock.

But, does this create ominous overtones for future elections?  Is Romney being punished for not being more forthright with regard to his taxes? Or, will we see greater obfuscation on the part of candidates from here on out as they see what happened to Akin and Mourdock?

Politics and Work: Participation - Voting, 401(k)s and Wellness

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Yesterday's post dealt with the issue of why we vote on Tuesday and its impact on the workplace.

Another challenge is simple voter participation - how do we increase the number of people turning out to the polls?  Civic duty has long been perceived as the reason most people vote.  Yet, a significant portion of individuals choose to ignore this duty; an estimated 50 million Americans won't vote today.  Only 56.8 percent of the voting age population cast a ballot in 2008.

Beyond changing the date, what might increase that participation?  In "Get Out the Vote," Donald Green and Alan Gerber found that automated calls only generate one vote per 900 calls (yet, the constant ringing at my home this past week suggests campaigns haven't learned this lesson).  Campaign flyers, they suggest, are not much more effective than doing nothing.  E-mails are useless.

If those don't work...what does?  


In "Social Pressure and Voter Turnout:Evidence from a Large Scale Experiment," Gerber, Green, and Christopher Larimer sent out four different pieces of campaign mail to nearly 300,000 people urging them to vote in the 2006 Michigan primary. All four treatments carried a similar message - "DO YOUR CIVIC DUTY  - VOTE," but differed as follows:

  • "Civic Duty" - Households receiving this type of mailing were told, “Remember your rights and responsibilities as a citizen. Remember to vote.”
  • "Hawthorne Effect" - Households receiving this mailing were told “YOU ARE BEING STUDIED!” and informed that their voting behavior would be examined by means of public records.
  • "Self" - The “Self” mailing exerts more social pressure by informing recipients that who votes is public information and listing the recent voting record of each registered voter in the household. The word “Voted” appears by names of registered voters in the household who actually voted in the 2004 primary election and the 2004 general election, and a blank space appears if they did not vote.
  • "Neighbors" - The fourth mailing ratchets up the social pressure even further by listing not only the household’s voting records but also the voting records of those living nearby. Like the “Self” mailing, the Neighbors” mailing informed the recipient that “we intend to mail an updated chart” after the primary,showing whether members of the household voted in the primary and who among their neighbors had actually voted in the primary.
The result?  The "Neighbors" mailing increased turnout by as much as 8 points.

If social pressure can impact voting that significantly, could it also be applied to 401(k) participation or wellness programs?

For example, in "The Power of Suggestion: Inertia and 401(k) Participation and Savings Behavior," Madrian and Shea (2001) found that when employees were give a choice to opt-into their 401(k) program, participation rates were 20% after three months of employment, which increased to 65% by the end of year three of employment.  However, when employees were automatically enrolled, and had to make an effort to opt out, participation was 90% immediately and increased to more than 98% within 36 months. 

As with voting, pressure was placed, this time by the employer, to participate.

So, with the election being held today...get out and vote....somebody's watching you:

Politics and Work Week: Why Do We Vote on Tuesday?

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, November 5, 2012

With the U.S. national election tomorrow, its going to be politics week on the blog.

Today - Why do we vote on Tuesday?

According to whytuesday.org:

In 1845, before Florida, California, and Texas were states or slavery had been abolished, Congress needed to pick a time for Americans to vote. We were an agrarian society. We traveled by horse and buggy. Farmers needed a day to get to the county seat, a day to vote, and a day to get back, without interfering with the three days of worship. So that left Tuesday and Wednesday, but Wednesday was market day. So, Tuesday it was. In 1875 Congress extended the Tuesday date for national House elections and in 1914 for federal Senate elections.
Check out this infographic:

However, this is not 1914...we have the opportunity to change when and where we vote.  Millions have already taken advantage of early or absentee voting.  But, in 15 states, Tuesday is the ONLY day that voting will be allowed.

This means, for many of us, voting may interfere with time spent at work.  One must arrive at the polls and brave long lines in the hopes of getting our vote cast without missing our morning check-in at work.  Or, we hope to get out early enough from work to make it to the polls before they close.

So, what is your workplace doing to ensure people vote?  Are you giving time off to employees to let them make their political choice?  Would you support making Election Day a national holiday?