On "Too Hot to Handle" and Opening Colleges

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, August 17, 2020



Today, our campus begins to welcome students back for the Fall semester.  One week from today, classes begin, for the most part, with face-to-face instruction for the first time since mid-March. A lot of time, energy, and resources were spent over the last several months by many well-intentioned people to get to this point.  Classrooms were redesigned to maximize social distancing.  Policies were put in place to try to minimize the likelihood of getting sick. Even dining was reconfigured to accommodate students (Hi, CNN).


If people wash their hands, wear masks, and socially distance this may very well work.  So, what is the issue? 


This spring, Netflix had the "reality" show, "Too Hot to Handle."  In the vein of such dating shows as Love Island and Temptation Island (sadly, I know all these shows exist), several twenty-something, attractive single men and women were brought together in a tropical setting for the chance to find true love.  They gather and mingle and sparks begin to fly.  However, a virtual assistant named "Lana," the inexplicable "host" of the show, suddenly informs them they can split a $100,000 prize (though it was unclear how it was to be split) if they make it four weeks.  The catch - NO PHYSICAL CONTACT.  Every intimate act that occurs reduces the overall prize pool (and they don't know what each act "costs.)" A kiss? $3,000 deducted from the overall pot.  Something more....?

With $100K on the line, how long do you think you could last? How long do you think those contestants lasted before penalties were incurred?  For two of the cast members, they didn't make it through the night before violating the rules.

For our small, liberal arts college of 2,000 or so students (though we are expecting smaller numbers given the environment), we are suddenly expecting 18-22-year-olds, many of whom who have been quarantined for 5+ months to continue to take appropriate measures to ensure that face-to-face instruction continues. 

In the last week alone, there have been 28 cases of COVID-19 at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. A Oklahoma State University sorority house is now under quarantine after 23 members test positive for the coronavirus. The University of Alabama AD tweets a photo of locals gathering at bars without distancing and patrons not wearing masks.  The University of North Carolina had their fourth(!) cluster of cases; the student newspaper is none too pleased. The list goes on.

So, count me as a little bit leery we make it through the fall semester without seeing a repeat of spring.


The Intriguing #HR Implications of a Cancelled College Football Season #NFL

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, August 10, 2020



There is likely no organization that has more information about selecting its employees than the National Football League's collection of 30 teams. They have hours of game tape where they can witness their potential future employees actually perform; a rigorous scouting, observation, and interview process to prioritize their options.  Yet, even with almost every built-in advantage, teams miss all the time. QB Tom Brady was passed over several times before being selected in the sixth round of the NFL draft. History is rife of "can't miss" players drafted in the top 10 picks flaming out.

As of this morning, the Mid American Conference has canceled its fall football season.  The Big Ten and Pac-10 are on the verge of canceling theirs as well.  The impact on NFL teams is likely to be far reaching.  Let's explore a few:

1.  What does a NFL draft look like in 2021?

For most NFL teams, draft picks are like gold.  With only 7 rounds, they are, for the most part, scarce items.    They represent opportunity: to fill a position of need...as leverage in a trade...to improve the quality of one's team.  First and second round picks are even more valuable as they are one's you can least afford to gamble on.  

There are certainly some players that are locks for the first round regardless of whether the college football season occurs or not.  There is enough information available for teams to make a reasonable assessment of their qualities. However, how far into the pool of available players do questions about quality begin to arise?  Without a season of play, teams are more likely to whiff on any single pick, and teams may emphasize volume rather than

Confounding matters is the likelihood that many players will retain their eligibility for another year, and choose to stay on campus to improve their stock.  Take LSU QB Joe Burrow, for example.  He was seen as a late round pick at the beginning of the 2019 season.  A National Championship and Heisman Trophy later, Burrow was the #1 pick in the 2020 NFL draft.  Meanwhile, Georgia QB Jake Fromm was projected to a 1st round lock heading into last season, and ended up a fifth round pick.  How many current college players think they will be the next Joe Burrow by returning to college for another season?  And, how many view Fromm as a cautionary tale?

2. Scouting becomes more critical...or does it?

Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star writes “I’ll tell you this, scouts now become more important,” Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard said. “Let’s say the disaster happens, and we’re evaluating all of last year’s tape. It’s going to take real work and real skill to get that done.”   

“This is where your connections as a scout become very important, because if you can’t get on the road, you have to have enough connections where you are able to pick up the phone and really dig and call, and people have to trust you to really give you the accurate information,” Ballard said.

However, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com finds this won't be easy: 

Even if NCAA teams were only going to practice and not play games until the spring, the front office people I have been talked to figured that sending scouts on campus to try to talk to these players and see them up close would be a moot point. It's always looked like diminishing returns to them, and rethinking how they evaluate players has long been in order. 

"These campuses are going to be closed to outsiders for the most part and some won't even really be open at all," said one NFC personnel exec. "And we're going to have guys going all over the country watching them up close and talking to them and watching film in their facilities? I can't see it. We aren't planning on it. I just don't see that happening."


3. "Buy or Make?"

Companies often have to decide whether to choose workers who already have the skills necessary to be competent immediately or invest in developing lesser-skilled employees. With so many unknowns in the draft, does this give leverage to upcoming free agents in improving the team.

One also has to consider the ripple effect of no season.  Not only is the college season possibly being canceled (or delayed until spring), but many high school sports have been put on the backburner as well.  How much development is going to occur during this lost season? Will there be a log jam at many colleges as players return, particularly with scholarship limitations; there is only so much room at the inn.

The Green Bay Packers were much maligned for moving up in the draft to select QB Jordan Love, when All-Pro Aaron Rodgers still may have several productive seasons remaining.  Instead, the Packers staff may have been prescient in seeing an unpredictable QB market over the next several years due to the market and wanted a more known commodity.

4. People analytics has its time to shine

With reduced game tape, and scouting possibly being limited, using data may be the best way for organizations to find inefficiencies in the market for players.  People analytics will become that much more critical for NFL teams to find that diamond in the rough, or to avoid taking on a player who is on the decline. 

Support the @SHRMFoundation, and get one of @SHRMCallieZ's books #SHRM #HR

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Last year, we lost a shining light in HR - Callie Zipple - to stomach cancer at the far too young age of 32 (and you can read my thoughts about her from a previous blogpost here).  As a student and as a representative of SHRM, she was always striving to advance the profession and make HR better.

I was contacted by her parents last week wondering if I could find a home for the HR and business books she had accumulated over the years. Given her push for HR education, and the recent announcement by the SHRM Foundation to create a student scholarship in her name for future HR leaders, I thought the best use might be to help support the scholarship through support for SHRM Foundation.  

So, here's the deal.  If you make a donation (no matter how large or small) to the SHRM Foundation in 2020, and send an email to me at matthew.stollak@snc.edu with some proof of donation, I will send you one of the books from Callie's collection (while supplies last) free of charge.  You can make a donation to the SHRM Foundation here.

I have 54 books to send out...can we find 54 kind donors to help support HR research and education?

Helping Callie (@SHRMCallieZ)

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, July 8, 2019

I've been teaching for nearly 25 years, and have probably taught over 5,000 students.  Few, if any, have combined the wit, charm, and intelligence of Callie Zipple. Callie is simply one of the best students I’ve had the opportunity to teach.   

Sitting in my statistic course, she knew she could earn extra credit for attending bi-monthly meetings of the St. Norbert College SHRM student organization.  After hearing from a HR professional in the area, and learning more about the profession, she was hooked.  She became my advisee, chose to pursue HR as a career, and soon became President of that organization, and intern for the College's HR department.

Through my conversations with Callie, she has demonstrated a strong respect for other people’s values and opinions.  She greets others with an open mind, interested in learning their viewpoint on a variety of issues.   Callie is also incredibly level-headed who handles conflict with remarkable aplomb.  She is empathetic to her friends' concerns.  She remains relentless in developing a portfolio that will help her succeed in this field. 

One moment stands out.  I remember sitting in the parking lot of Time Warner Cable to get my cable box fixed, when my phone rang, and Callie was in tears on the other line calling me excitedly that she passed the PHR exam. It meant so much to her.  As a teacher, you cherish and celebrate these success stories.

Her career has grown and flourished as she continued to pursue new opportunities and learn more about HR.  She started in staffing and became a HR manager and generalist.  She also gave back to the profession by volunteering in a number of roles with the Wisconsin SHRM State Council and as an inaugural member of the SHRM Young Professional Advisory Council.  Today, she serves as the Field Services Director for SHRM for the upper Midwest.  Very accomplished for someone so early in their career.

So, I was crushed to learn this weekend that she was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer.  At age 31. Stage 4 stomach cancer.

If anyone can fight it and succeed, it will be Callie. 

However, even with great health insurance, the costs can be enormous here in the United States.  So, like so many others, a GoFundMe account has been started in her name.  You can learn more about it here.

So, if you have seen her speak at your chapter meeting, chatted with her at the SHRM booth, or simply been charmed by her in conversation, I hope you can help assist her in this fight.

Kawhi Leonard, the #8ManRotation, and the #NBASummerLeague

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, July 5, 2019

Bringing the blog out from the mothballs for a couple of reasons.

First, check out this clip of the NBA whisperer, Adrian Wojnarowski chatting with Scott Van Pelt about the free agency status of the mercurial Kawhi Leonard.  As of this writing, Kawhi still has not signed with an NBA team.

Why should you, the intrepid HR professional care about this story?  As always, it covers everything that is the apotheosis of the #8ManRotation - the intersection of sports and HR.  Recruiting.  Talent. Compensation.  Decision-making. Opportunity cost.

Here we have three franchises competing for one of the top five players in their field.  Like any organization, they are trying to figure out what is going to attract him to come to their business over a competitor. 

Complicating matters is the presence of the salary cap, the collective bargaining agreement, and the start of free agency.  Kawhi Leonard can only receive the maximum, hence the three finalists for his services (Toronto, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Los Angeles Clippers), cannot outbid each other for his services.  So, compensation will not be the determining factor.

Further, free agents cannot begin signing contracts until Sunday, July 7 at 6 pm Eastern.  Each of the three teams involved risk missing out on other available top talent by waiting on Kawhi to make his decision.  The opportunity cost of waiting is huge.

Which brings us to the second reason for the post - the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas begins TODAY! For the past nine years, members of the 8 Man Rotation (Steve Boese, Kris Dunn, Lance Haun, Tim Sackett, and I) have made the trek to watch 9 hours of basketball a day, and opine on the HR implications.  Think I am kidding?  Check out this history of posts:

From Steve Boese:
1. Five quick 'Sports and HR' takes from the NBA Summer League 

2. NBA Summer League Part 1 - The Relative Value of Talent  
3.  Observations from the NBA Summer League 2013

From Kris Dunn:
1. My Week at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Part 1 (featuring Lessons on Talent) 

2. My Week at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Part 2 (featuring Lessons on Talent)
3. My 2016 Vegas Weekend at the NBA Summer League
4. Stuff the Capitalist (aka KD) Likes - The NBA Summer League
5.  My Vegas Weekend with the 8 Man Rotation (featuring How Pro Hoops Misses On Talent...Just Like You 
6.  My Vegas Weekend via Instagram (featuring James Harden and Bro-Packs...)

From Lance Haun:
1. Finding "A" Talent is Overrated

From Tim Sackett:
1. Different Leaders for Different Situations

From Matt Stollak:
1.  Quick Lessons from the 2014 NBA Summer League

2.  Why #HR Should Care About the NBA Summer League 

Look for posts from Steve, KD, Lance, and I in the coming weeks (Tim, as always will be the designated survivor).

Was There Ever A Golden Age of Conversation?

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, September 28, 2018

The Killeen Chair of Theology and Philosophy Lecture Series kicked off its theme of "Technology and Community"with Dr. Carol Bruess discussing "Our Love-Affair With Technology: Some (Inconvenient) Truths."

Given the topic, it was not surprising to hear both the positive and negative aspects of technology.  From the McCann study that indicated that 53% of people aged 16-22 would rather give up their sense of smell than their phone or laptop, to the rise of "technoference" - everyday intrusions and interruptions due to technology devices, people have, perhaps, developed too much of a symbiotic relationship with their smart phones.

Dr. Bruess relied heavily on the work of HR Happy Hour favorite, Sherry Turkle, to discuss the increasing role technology has played in making us feel that much more lonely:

“Technology is seductive when what it offers meets our human vulnerabilities. And as it turns out, we are very vulnerable indeed. We are lonely but fearful of intimacy. Digital connections and the sociable robot may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. Our networked life allows us to hide from each other, even as we are tethered to each other. We’d rather text than talk.” ~ Sherry Turkle, ― Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other

However, after the talk I was left with a number of questions to ponder:

Is this necessarily a new phenomenon?

Robert Puttnam, in his book "Bowling Alone (2001)" was already documenting the decline of social capital and increasing isolation, prior to the rise of smart phones, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Are we simply substituting one distraction for another?

Dr. Bruess relayed a number of anecdotes about a child competing for his/her parent's attention at the dinner table with Mom and Dad's face buried in their phone. However, is this any different than Mom and Dad reading the newspaper at the breakfast table (a common occurrence at my home)?  Is the parent checking sports updates on their device at a child's soccer game any different from the Sports Pager of a decade ago, or a parent knitting or reading a book at the event?

Was there ever a golden age of conversation?

A classic scene from "Back to the Future" shows Marty McFly going back into time to the 1950s and ending up at the home of his mom as a teenager.  The family is gathering for dinner, when the TV is rolled out and the Dad tells everyone to quiet down so they can watch "The Jackie Gleason" show. 

Were city buses or subways these Algonquin Round Table-style settings of rich conversation prior to the rise of smart phones?  When I went to the doctor's office in 1979, I don't recall any rich discussions over Jimmy Carter's "malaise" speech, just a bunch of magazines and people silently waiting their turn.  The only difference today is Fox News blaring on the TV in the background as people shun those magazines (probably from 1979) for their phones.

Even in 1887, the sociologist Frederick Tonnies discussed the comparison of the communal Gemeinschaft versus the much more impersonal Gesellschaft.

Are the loneliness and distraction really that different from decades ago?  Is our love affair with technology really to blame?

True Faith #HR Replay: Why HR Should Care About The @NBASummerLeague #8ManRotation

by Matthew Stollak on Sunday, July 8, 2018

I'm heading to Las Vegas today and meeting up with the whole (?) 8 Man Rotation folk (Kris Dunn, Steve Boese, Tim Sackett, and, possibly Lance Haun) to take in a couple days of NBA Summer League action.  Worth revisiting this July 2013 post.  If you're in the area, come join us.
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.