Way of Life

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, January 29, 2010

One of the challenges of teaching human resources is keeping up with the latest trends and laws. The most recent textbook is unlikely to be up-to-date (Lilly Ledbetter anyone?) and even some of the most recent research is likely to have some lag time. As a result, I am taking a different tack this semester and having my students read blog posts by some of the most influential HR practitioners. On Thursday, January 28, for example, they read:

Dr. Drewett. “ An Open Letter to the HR World” (http://blog.drdewett.com/?p=89)

Keith Hammonds. “Why We Hate HR.” http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/97/open_hr.html

Mike Van Devort. “HR – Not Dead Yet” (http://www.thehumanracehorses.com/2009/09/18/hr-not-dead-yet/)

Laurie Ruettimann “HR is Dying – Yes? No? (http://punkrockhr.com/hr-is-dying-yes-no/)

Trish McFarlane. “Making the Rubber Hit the Road – “Rebranding” HR” http://hrringleader.com/2009/09/22/making-the-rubber-hit-the-road-re-branding-hr/)

Mark Stelzner. “The Future of HR – Why “Do Nothing” is an Option” (http://www.inflexionadvisors.com/blog/2009/10/22/the-future-of-hr-why-do-nothing-is-an-option/)

Lance Haun “ Is Human Resources Fatally Flawed?” http://www.rehaul.com/is-human-resources-fatally-flawed

Sharlyn Lauby, “The HR Profession” http://www.hrbartender.com/2009/strategic/the-hr-profession/

Trish McFarlane. “HR – A Call to Action” http://hrringleader.com/2009/09/25/hr-your-call-to-action/

Larry Wilson. CSI Determines HR is Dead.” http://hrcommons.wordpress.com/2009/11/13/csi-determines-hr-is-dead/

Maren Hogan. “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room.” http://marenhogan.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/slow-dancing-in-a-burning-room/

Karen Berman & Joe Knight. “Do HR Managers Have the Skills They Need?” http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/financial-intelligence/2009/10/do-hr-managers-have-the-skills.html

Dr. John Sullivan. “The Current State of Ill Preparedness in HR” http://www.drjohnsullivan.com/newsletter-archives/242-the-current-state-of-ill-preparedness-in-hr

Read “Should you ban the use of social media in the workplace?”


In the future, not only will they be reading more from the above writers, but they will also be reading posts from authors and websites such as:
  • Ben Eubanks (http://upstarthr.com/)
  • Paul Hebert (http://www.i2i-align.com/)
  • April Dowling (http://www.pseudohr.com/)
  • Kris Dunn (http://www.hrcapitalist.com/)
  • Kelly Mitton (http://thryving.com/)
  • Jim D'Amico (http://humanresourcespufnstuf.wordpress.com/)
  • The HR101 series at http://creativechaosconsultant.blogspot.com/
  • Tim Sackett (http://www.fistfuloftalent.com)
  • Joan Ginsburg (http://http://www.joanginsberg.com/)
Finally, I am ensuring they are keeping up with the anyone and anything I might have missed with the twice a month cavalcade better know as the Carnival of HR.

It is my hope that not only will my students stay current, but that they will see the passion about the field the writers express and be encouraged to read even more of the various authors' perspectives.

Broken Promise

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, January 25, 2010

This past week, Mike Vandervort published the pros and cons of having Al Gore as a keynote speaker at the 2010 SHRM Annual Conference in San Diego. Out of curiosity, I went back through my old conference programs to see who SHRM has chosen as keynote speakers in the past and whether Al Gore is truly a controversial choice.

2001 - San Francisco - Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Gary Hamel, Nando Parrado

2002 - Philadelphia - Rudy Guiliani, David McCullough, Gordon Bethune, Star Jones

2003 - Orlando - Madeleine Albright, Jim Collins, Tom Morris, Dr. C.K. Prahalad

2004 - New Orleans - Queen Noor, Magic Johnson (replaced by Christopher Reeve), Marcus Buckingham, Scott Livengood

2005 - San Diego - Bill Cosby, Malcolm Gladwell, David Ulrich, Bertice Berry

2006 - Washington, D.C., Gen. Colin Powell, Louis Gerstner, David McCullough, Liz Murray

2007 - Las Vegas - Lance Armstrong, Linda Alvarado, Dan Pink, Erin Gruwell

2008 - Chicago - Sidney Poitier, Patrick Lencioni, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Nancy Giles

2009 - New Orleans - Jack Welch, Earl Graves, John Kotter, Lee Woodruff

2010 - San Diego - Steve Forbes, Al Gore, Angela Herrin (panel), Marcus Buckingham

So, SHRM has chosen a number of conservative voices as prominent speakers (in Giuliani and Powell). One could say Al Gore is the first political person from the other side of the aisle in over 10 years. Is it really that controversial?

As It Is When It Was

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Often, a good manager is one that has spent more of his career developing others than being coached him or herself. In the NFL, it is common to see coaching trees develop. Bill Walsh, the legendary coach of the San Francisco 49ers, has seen many of his proteges go onto varying degrees of success, for example:

  • Mike Holmgren (won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers)
  • George Seifert (won two Super Bowls with the 49ers as Walsh's successor)
  • Jim Fassel (his 2000 NY Giants team lost to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl 35)
  • Sam Wyche (his 1988 Cinci Bengals advanced to the AFC title game)
  • Dennis Green (who took two Minnesota Vikings teams to the NFC championship game (and discovered "teams are who we thought they were))
This coaching tree grew additional branches as the coaches mentioned above developed a coaching pipeline of their own. Dennis Green, for example, saw a couple of his assistants become successful as well:
  • Brian Billick (won the 2000 Super Bowl as coach of the Baltimore Ravens)
  • Tony Dungy (won the 2006 Super Bowl as coach of the Indianapolis Colts)
With that in mind, what does your organization do to recognize talent development? Have you identified those managers who nurture talent that have helped the organization success in other areas? Do you reward them? What management trees have developed in your organization?


by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, January 14, 2010

Over the past year, or so, faculty at our institution of higher learning have been having discussions about, what we perceive, as "disruptive" student behaviors in the classroom. As a small, liberal arts school, with relatively small class sizes (less than 35 students per class), student actions out of the norm become more noticeable. These behaviors include, but are not limited to,

  • Walking into class late
  • Getting up in the middle of class (and often passing in front of classmates) to go to the bathroom, getting something to eat or drink, answer a phone call, smoke
  • Talking to others (which has always been a problem)
  • Having a cell phone ring in class
  • Surfing the web on a laptop during class
  • Wanting to listen to an mp3 player during an exam
  • Texting during class
This discussion even let to a small conference before the fall semester began to discuss these issues.

So, it was with great interest when I read about a student blog called "Raging Wildflower" and a post he made about cell phone bans. He writes:

"I’m sure others out there are experiencing my pain when it comes to professors and the obnoxious policies they implement regarding cell phone usage during lecture. In the past, I’ve tolerated their dictatorship like authority and snuck messages under the desk or behind my laptop, but that era is over. In my latest course, the professor thinks he has the right to automatically deduct 10% of a students final grade for any single use of cell phones: that means texting, tweeting, facebooking, and the like."

He goes on to say, "I pay their fees for a degree, in turn, respect my decision to text." Very worth reading just for the comments.

Is the student correct? Should a student have the "right" to text during class?

In my own experience, the only penalty I impose is when a cell phone rings in class, as it is an immediate lecture/discussion killer as all attention turns to the phone ringing, and the student has the opportunity to control this action by turning off the phone prior to class. For the rest of the actions, I simply state my expectations regarding their behavior during the semester:

·No texting, twittering, Facebooking, or use of laptop computers during class time

·Use the break prior to class appropriately for restroom, food and drink, smoking, texting, cell phone use, etc.

·To only leave the classroom for an emergency; we have only 50 minutes together

·No iPod/mp3 players on during exams

·To be in your seats and ready to go at the beginning of class

Let's Go

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, January 8, 2010

In a a recent post, "The Errant Pursuit of Quanitifcation," Lance Haun argues that we too often rely on numbers in decision-making, and that some things simply cannot be measured. I'm going to take a different tack and argue that, instead of numbers giving us a false sense of security, that we do not take quantification seriously enough.

Numerous research articles have repeatedly shown that using a blind algorithmic approach does better than human judgment in making decisions and predictions. Paul Meehl, in his 1954 book "Clinical versus Statistical Prediction," asked an excellent question: Are the predictions of human experts more reliable than the predictions of actuarial models? With his colleagues David Faust and Robyn Dawes, Meehl has explored over a hundred studies comparing statistical or computer formulas with human judgment in predicting the likelihood of to criminal recidivism, and in virtually all cases, statistical thinking was better than subject matter experts giving advice.

Why is this the case?

  1. Bounded rationality - as the organizational theorists March and Simon argue, humans are limited in their ability to process, interpret, and act on information. We are easily influenced by others, the order in which information is presented, recent experience, distractions, and how information is framed.
  2. Incomplete information - there are time constraints and information costs that limit our ability to make an optimum decision. Further, in this internet age, we are bombarded with information, and it becomes more and more difficult to distinguish between signal and noise (for example, the recent thwarted bombing on the NWA flight from Amsterdam to Detroit ).
  3. Prior Hypothesis Bias - We tend to stick to our beliefs even when presented with evidence those beliefs are wrong. For example, if I am a conservative, I am more likely to listen to what Fox News has to say than Rachel Maddow.
  4. Escalation of Commitment - we tend to commit more resources to a course of action even when it might be better to cut our losses and run. For example, a gambler at a casino might go to the ATM and withdraw more funds to try to win back his initial stake.
As Atul Gawande once wrote, "You might think that a human being and a computer working together would make the best decisions. But,...this claim makes little sense. If opinions agree, no matter. If they disagree, the studies show that you're better off sticking with the computer's judgment."


by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Welcome to 2010 at True Faith HR. Like Obama, I am looking forward, not backward. Looking at my planner, it looks like I will be accumulating more frequent flier miles than Clooney in "Up in the Air." The only concern is being treated like Derek Smalls by TSA agents:

What does 2010 have in store for travel?

February 19-21 - Las Vegas: I will be presenting a paper with colleagues at the American Society of Business and Behavioral Sciences Conference.

March 5-6 - Oshkosh: It is time for the 2010 WI SHRM Student Conference and HR Games. I didn't say it would all be exciting travel, but watching HR student compete on their knowledge of HR using a Jeopardy-style format is always fun

March 12-16 - Phoenix: It will be spring break at my school and this year I will be taking a trip with some WI SHRM colleagues to see a couple of Milwaukee Brewers spring training games. I've never been to Phoenix, so if anyone has good dining suggestions, let me know.

March 19-21 - Milwaukee: Opening round of the NCAA Tournament at the Bradley Center with friends and colleagues. Last year, we were able to take in the opening round in Minneapolis and see my beloved Michigan State Spartans. Hopefully, MSU will be assigned to MKE this year.

April 2-6 - Indianapolis: Men's NCAA Basketball Final Four. Enough said.

April 23-25 - West Lafayette: The SHRM North Central Region Student HR Conference and HR Games. Take March 5-6 and increase it tenfold as teams from the region compete for the right to a trip to San Diego for the 2010 SHRM Annual Conference. The winning team of 3 undergraduates get free registration along with airfare, hotel, meals, and a scholarship.

May 17-31 - Prague/Xanten/Den Bosch/Amsterdam: Each spring, our school offers to faculty and staff an opportunity to travel to Europe to look at the heritage of our school. So, I decided to take advantage of this opportunity.

June 25-30 - San Diego : 2010 SHRM Annual Conference. Hate the high cost of hotels, but I will likely attend.

October 6-8 - Appleton: 2010 Wisconsin SHRM State Conference.

November 18-21 - Arlington, VA: 2010 SHRM National Leadership Conference.

After this it gets a little more hazy....thrown in the mix:
February 5-8 - Miami - could I find my way to Florida if the Packers make it?
Spring - HREvolution 2: Judgment Day - can I fit it into my packed spring schedule?
Summer - Home to Michigan to visit family?
Fall - "W" Weekend 10 - the 10th anniversary of friends from California, New York, etc., get together for a weekend where there is a Badgers home game on Saturday, and Packers home game on Sunday. Last year, we had special guest Phil Keoghan of "The Amazing Race" as part of the festivities....will he be up for the hijinks again this year?

What travel plans do you have for 2010?

P.S. Don't rob my house when I am gone...ha.