2012 Pop Culture Year In Review #pophr #HRMusicShare

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, December 20, 2012

With 2012 coming to a close, its time to look back on the year in movies, TV, books, music, videogames, and food.  Over the course of the year, I viewed 107 movies, read 55 books, watched countless hours of TV, played countless hours of Angry Birds, listened to a lot of music, and ate a lot of food.  So, what tops the list in 2012?


The Best Things I Saw In 2012

  1. Sherlock: Season 2, Episode 1 - A Scandal in Belgravia - The most exhilarating hour and a half of viewing this year.  Well-acted, great script.  Well-worth your time
  2. Key & Peele: East/West College Bowl - I've seen it well over 30 times and it never fails to make me laugh out loud each time.
  3. Bill Clinton, Democratic National Convention - One of the best speeches I have ever seen.
The Best Movies I Saw In 2012
  1. Argo - Excellent effort from Ben Affleck
  2. Moonrise Kingdom - A return to form from Wes Anderson
  3. Cabin in the Woods - Forget "The Avengers," this was the better Joss Whedon film
The Best TV Shows of 2012 
  1. Sherlock Season 2
  2. Justified
  3. Louie
  4. Breaking Bad
  5. Parks and Recreation
  6. Mad Men
  7. Boardwalk Empire
  8. Game of Thrones
The Best Books I Read in 2012
  1. Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn - Page turner featuring two despicable people at odds in their marriage
  2. Ready Player One - Ernest Cline - Science Fiction/Quest novel based on video games (like Zork) and nostalgia for all things pop culture in the 1980s.  
  3. Back in Blood - Tom Wolfe - A bounce back from the disappointing " I Am Charlotte Simmons"

My Favorite Songs from 2012
  1. Bad Girls - M.I.A. - the best hook from 2012
  2. Bad Religion - Frank Ocean -  his performance on Jimmy Fallon was amazing
  3. Under the Westway - Blur
  4. Speed the Collapse - Metric
  5. Distractions - Orbital
  6. Pyramids  - Frank Ocean
  7. Beezledub - Orbital
  8. Flesh and Bone - The Killers
  9. Popular - Saint Etienne

My Favorite Albums/CDs of 2012
The Best Thing I Ate in 2012 
  1. Charburger with Cheese at Edzos in Evanston, IL
  2. Wiseguy Pizza at Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, AZ
  3. Cheeseburger at Redamak's in New Buffalo, MI
That's it for me in 2012.   Here's to a happy holiday season and an even better 2013 in movies, TV, music, and food.

The Connecticut Conversation We're Not Having

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, December 17, 2012

Like most, I've been ruminating over the weekend over Friday's tragedy in Connecticut, and watching the various pundits pontificate on the various issues (gun control, mental illness, violent videogames and movies) and potential solutions, many of which I mentioned in yesterday's post.

However, a crucial conversation has been missing.  

Much of the discussion has been about gun rights to the point where gun rights advocates feel they are victims as well.  However, what is being ignored is while we have a 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, why do so many choose to exercise it?

The purpose of gun ownership, as far as I can tell, is two-fold:
1.  For hunting and sport
2.  For protection

We have a strong police force that supposedly serve to protect us.
We have significant laws that supposedly serve as a deterrent to crime.

We have an insurance system that most of us pay a significant amount of money to supposedly protect us in case of loss.
Many communities have adopted neighborhood watch programs to look out for one another.

In other words, we have a strong web of support in the community that should mitigate our need for gun ownership.

Yet, estimates indicate that U.S. citizens own nearly 270 million guns, most of which, I would guess, are NOT typically used for hunting or sport.

So what is driving this passionate need to own a gun?  What are we needing protection from?  What is driving our fear?

For example, a portrait of Nancy Lanza, the mother of the Connecticut shooter Adam Lanza, is coming to light:

Last night it also emerged Nancy was a member of the Doomsday Preppers movement, which believes people should prepare for end of the world. 
Her former sister-in-law Marsha said she had turned her home ‘into a fortress’. She added: ‘Nancy had a survivalist philosophy which is why she was stockpiling guns. She had them for defense.
‘She was stockpiling food. She grew up on a farm in New Hampshire. She was skilled with guns. We talked about preppers and preparing for the economy collapsing.’

Obviously, this is an extreme example.  But, we are still going through a lost decade of economic growth.  Millions of Americans have been added to food stamp rolls.  Thousands upon thousands found their homes were foreclosed or their mortgages were underwater.   For most, pensions and retirement plans have stagnated, been reduced, or eliminated altogether.  Wages remain stagnant as well.    Meanwhile, health care costs continue to rise and, if provided by the employer, employees are expected to carry a greater share of that burden.

Nationally, we are continually in crisis mode.  A SHRM e-mail arrived in my mailbox this morning (cue the scary music) with the subject heading "The Fiscal Cliff is Looming."  If its not handled soon, the debt ceiling will need to be raised and the nation's full faith and credit will be threatened.  Social Security will go bankrupt in 20 years if we don't do anything NOW!!!!!

Yet, no one over the course of the past three days has talked about the role economic insecurity as well as the marketing of fear has played.

On Arming Teachers

by Matthew Stollak on Sunday, December 16, 2012

I come from a family of educators.  One uncle was a math teacher for 35+ years with Milwaukee Public Schools.  My cousin teaches AP Chemistry in Green Bay.  My wife is a school psychologist.  My mom taught choir at the K-12 and college level.  My dad was a Psychology professor for 40+ years at Michigan State.  I've been teaching for 18 years.

The curriculum in which I was trained was focused on Labor Economics and Human Resource Management theory and practice.  It did not prepare me for the event when a pregnant student's water breaking in the middle of class discussion.  It did not prepare me for attending the funeral of a student who died in an automobile accident. 
Even with my dad's background, it did not prepare him for when a mentally ill student attacked him in his office for some supposed transgression by throwing eggs at him.  And, it certainly didn't prepare any teacher, even with drills, for the horror that occurred in Connecticut last Friday.

Sadly, my reaction was not of anger or sadness, but numbness, with the only surprise that it doesn't happen more often.  Columbine, Paducah, Bart, and Jonesboro.  It was not "a" school shooting.  It was "another" school shooting.  ANOTHER.  Yet, the news seems to treat such an event like a hurricane or earthquake, as if nothing can be done.  It's all too depressingly normal

There has been a lot of discussion about what to do...more extensive background checks, banning certain types of firearms, increasing waiting periods, increased public health funding, particular in mental health.

However, the most ludicrous proposal I've seen is the suggestion that we need more arms, more guns....that teachers should be armed.  Why?

1.  I'm sure the belief is that an armed gunman or gunmen will enter a classroom guns ablazing, and the heroic teacher will have a gun at her ready and fire accurately to take him/them down, saving ALL the children.  U.S. House of Representatives member Louie Gohmert stated this very point on Sunday talking to Chris Wallace on Fox:  "Chris, I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids. [...]"

That is delusion of the highest order.  It is fantasy that even J.R.R. Tolkien would reject.

  • It assumes the teacher will have firepower sufficient to take that individual or group of individuals down
  • It assumes that the gun is quickly and readily available at the teacher's side instead of being locked away in a desk or closet that might take some time to access when the assailant enters
  • It assumes the teacher will be able to accurately identify whether the person entering is a threat or simply another student or colleague.
  • It assumes that even if the teacher was able to access the weapon quickly enough, and make the correct identification, she will be able to act both quickly and accurately enough to get off shots that will not only disarm/diable/kill the assailants, but conveniently does not hit one child.

Instead, as I have noted on the blog before, performance under stress is very difficult.  "In the typical fight-or-flight scenario, scary high-pressure moment X assaults the senses and is routed to the amygdala, aka the unconscious fear center.  For well-trained athletes, that's not a problem: A field goal kick, golf swing or free throw is for them an ingrained action stored in the striatum, the brain's autopilot.  The prefrontal cortex, our analytical thinker, doesn't even need to show up.  But, under the gun, that super-smart part of the brain think's its so great and tries to butt in."  Basically, no amount of drills will prepare a teacher for a scenario where he or she is trying to protect a class full of children, and taking out an assailant, while attempting to be accurate.  It will not happen in most occasions.

Further, peer reviewed research indicates that having that weapon will increase the risk to the students and the teacher.  Its better to NOT have the gun, than to try to be John McClane.

Finally, the scene is more likely to resemble the bank robbery shootout from "Heat" than a peaceful face-off.  As a parent, do you want to have your child in a classroom such as this?

2.  Its not been a good couple of years to be in the education business.  In Wisconsin and Illinois this fall, and Michigan this past week, teachers have been portrayed as union thugs who are parasites on the taxpayers and are indoctrinating students in communism or atheism.  They cannot be trusted to fairly evaluate themselves, students, or their colleagues. They cannot be trusted to have collective bargaining rights, and they unfairly force its members to pay dues into the union.

But, you trust them to pack heat in the classroom?

3.  We've just seen right to work legislation passed in Michigan that no longer "forces" bargaining unit members to pay dues that were negotiated for and accepted by a majority of the union members.  Yet, who will pay for the firearms (the gun that Gohmert describes costs at least $800) that teachers are supposed to carry?  The schools?  With Wisconsin cutting nearly $800 million from the education budget, where will the funding for this come from?  Are teachers going to be forced to pay for guns they will be expected to carry as a condition of employment?

4.  What is the insurance liability going to be for the school and/or teacher?  What's going to be the reaction when a teacher mistakenly identifies a child as an intruder?  Will the NRA come running to protect that teacher?

5.  Will arms training now be part of a college or technical school curriculum?  There are many things a teacher recognizes will be part of his or her job...teaching, wiping a student's nose, cleaning up after a young student if he or she soils him/herself or vomits, discipline, hours spent outside of school prepping and grading for classes, even, as we saw, serving as human shields for them....all for very little pay (Substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau, one of the victims, earned $75 a day, or less than $10/hr).  

Gohmert assumes many of the teachers will go on willy-nilly with his scenario.  However, I think a requirement to carry a weapon would cross a line for many teachers, both current and prospective.
As Dave Brockington writes, I have the right to concentrate on excellence in pedagogy and not in SWAT tactics.  I have the right as a university professor to assume that when the door to my lecture hall opens, as it does five times per hour, it's another late student, and not my long awaited chance to unholster the Glock I'm packing in order to pop off a couple untrained rounds in playing hero." 

Teaching is my passion, but I would quit my job before being expected to carry a gun as part of my job. I imagine many of my colleagues would as well.  Similarly, I would expect that the attractiveness of become an education major would decline as well.  As noted above, you vilify us, cut our salary and budgets significantly, and now you want us to take on this added, significantly dangerous, requirement?  I don't think so.   

The result?  A potential nationwide shortage of teachers.  And, as the law of supply and demand indicates, the cost to hire teachers rises.  Prepare to pay.

6.  Then again, it may be mitigated by the decreased number of students.  How many parents will be willing to send a child to a classroom where the potential for gun violence has skyrocketed with the presence of potentially accessible weapons?  

And there is your challenge, HR.  How are you going to handle the demand for greater work/life flexibility as many parents request more time off to homeschool their children?

Surprising Answers to Simple Questions

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Growing up, it is not uncommon for many of your childhood friends to be the children of your parents' friends.  The parents would get together for dinner and drinks and, inevitably, the kids would be thrown into the mix.

A couple of years ago, we had a holiday gathering with some of those long-time family friends.  We were reminiscing on the many memories we shared, and the question arose from one of our parents, "What do you feel was the worst thing we did as parents?"  The grown-up kids went around the room sharing what they felt was the biggest transgression they experienced.  Looking around the room, jaws were agape, as the parents were not expecting the answer that was given.

So, we turned it around and put the burden on the parents; "What do you feel most guilty about as a parent?"  Again, stories were told, and, much to their dismay, we had little no recollection of the things that haunted them. 

With that in mind, you may want to ask your employees or boss similar questions.  You just might be as surprised as we were with the answer you get.

Say "Seat At The Table," Pay @shrmfoundation $100

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, December 6, 2012

As I have written several times on this blog and elsewhere, I appreciate the SHRM Foundation.  Their products and work are outstanding.  

One of the videos from the SHRM Foundation I used to show in my HR class was entitled "HR Heroes: What it means to be a Strategic HR Leader in the 21st Century" (later renamed HR Role Models) It featured Libby Sartain and others discussing, as the title suggests, strategic leadership at both high-tech and low-tech companies.  The SHRM Foundation even produced a nice little discussion guide with it which you can see here.

The introduction to the guide contains the following gem:
There is a lot of talk about HR being a strategic partner/leader today.  Yet in most organizations HR is not part of the executive team.  So, what is required to be a strategic HR leader?  And what must HR do when it has a "seat at the table?

Seems reasonable, particularly to someone new to the HR field.  So, why have I stopped showing it?  

It was created in 2003.   

The role of the strategic HR leader has changed...yet, in 2012, there is still conversation about that piece of furniture.

At the 2012 Leadership Conference in November, Jose Berrios, Chair of the SHRM Board of Directors, mentioned "seat at the table" in his opening remarks.

Yesterday at the HR Fishbowl, guest blogger Christopher de Mers used that same phrase in an excellent piece. 

Nearly 10 years later, we are still having that same conversation.

So, how do we change it?  How do we get rid of that dreaded phrase?

Do we go all Samuel Jackson - Snakes on a Plane-style "Enough is Enough, I've had it with this M@#&$%F*#*ing seat at this M@#&$%F*#*ing table?!?!?

Here is what I propose...treat the phrase like a swear jar you had as a kid.

If you hear a HR talk where that four word phrase is uttered, groan loudly and say to that person that he or she MUST donate $100 to the SHRM Foundation (here's the donation link).  End of story.

Similarly, call the person out on Twitter with the hashtag #SHRMFound100:  "At today's #SHRM luncheon, John Jorgensen used the dreaded phrase, "seat at the table."  $100 to the @shrmfoundation #SHRMFound100"

It is hoped that such an approach will not only banish the phrase from the HR profession, but it will raise some money toward a good cause.  And, who knows, perhaps the SHRM Foundation could use the funds to make an updated DVD!

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?

How expensive will #SHRM13 Hotels be?

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, October 24, 2012

With the news today that hotel reservations are now being accepted for the 2012 SHRM Annual Conference, I bring you my 4th annual expose of SHRM hotel costs.

I look at selected SHRM conference brochures (i.e., the ones that I still possessed) over the past 13 years to see what it would cost a person to book a single room on a per night average.  Clearly, prices in 2001 will be different than in 2013, so I use an inflation calculator to adjust costs to today's dollars.  So, how does the 2013 Conference in Chicago compare to years past?

Cost of an Average SHRM-Affiliated Hotel (per night)
San Francisco (2001): $258.73 (standard deviation of $57.04)
Chicago (2008): $257.38 (sd of $29.63)
CHICAGO (2013): 248.49 (sd of 20.58)
San Diego (2010): $247.86 (sd of $42.66)
Washington DC (2006): $234.27 (sd of $40.25)
Philadelphia (2002): $219.58 (sd of $58.71)
San Diego (2005): $206.89 (sd of $50.45)
Atlanta (2012): $198.36 (sd of $22.13)
Las Vegas (2007): $168.68 (sd of $32.51)
Las Vegas (2011): $130.04 (sd of $18.04)

I ran a simple one-way ANOVA (i.e., a fancy way of comparing multiple means simultaneously) to see if there was a significant difference across the means of these 10 sampled years.  The results showed a statistically significant difference overall with F = 23.58 (p=.0000) with an R-squared of 38.48% (hence, nearly 39% of the variation in hotel costs can be explained by location).  The result is not surprising, given that San Francisco and Chicago is nearly twice as expensive as Las Vegas.

I also looked at hotel minimums (i.e., what is the cheapest hotel available through SHRM).  For 2013, the cheapest hotel is $195.  This is the 2nd most expensive minimum in these 10 years of data (only Chicago in 2008 outpaced it with a minimum cost of $202.23).

Clearly, attending the SHRM Annual Conference in 2013 will be a much more expensive proposition than in 2012.   Hotel costs in Chicago are approximately $50 a night more expensive than in Atlanta (and approximately $119 a night more expensive than in Vegas 2011).  The one saving grace? Given the 2nd smallest standard deviation in the sample, you will be able to find higher quality/higher rated hotels for not much more than the overall average/median.

With the conference tagline being "Bigger!"...SHRM really meant it when it comes to hotel costs!

See you in Chicago.

What we can learn from the M&M's rider

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, October 15, 2012

Most people are familiar with stories about a performer making outrageous demands in their contract, such as having only certain kinds of food and/or drink back stage.  The most famous of these stories involve Van Halen and removal of brown M&M's from the candy bowl.

According to the latest issue of Mental Floss magazine, there was a more practical reason for this request:
Far from a diva demand, the candy clause was a brilliant safety feature.  Van Halen shows required tons of gear that required specific fixtures to run safely.  One look at the M&Ms told the band's manager whether the venue had read the whole contract: Brown candy meant potentially deadly working conditions.

So, what's the lesson?  Check your assumptions.  Could the person you are working with truly be a diva?  Sure.  But, there might be some method to his or her madness....or you could be like Nigel Tufnel:

#HREvolution No. 5 Recap

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, October 11, 2012

Last Sunday, the fifth iteration of HRevolution took place in the West Wing of the McCormick Place with over 100 attendees and guests in place.  Already, reviews have come in fast and furious - check out:

After attending all five events, speaking and presenting at the last three, and co-planning the last two, here are my impressions from Chicago.

The Good
  • High-Quality Content - We'll have to wait for the conference evaluation survey to go out, but I heard few complaints about the sessions were offered.  At each breakout time, attendees were offered at least two quality breakout sessions.
  • Cost - Given the quality provided, the registration fee still feels like a bargain compared to many SHRM day long conferences
  • Many New Attendees - Nearly 50% of attendees had not been to a previous HRevolution event.  It's always great to see fresh faces and new perspectives.
  • Sponsors - Aquire, Ceridian, Pinstripe, and SilkRoad were helpful in keeping attendee costs down.
  • McCormick Place - While it is an expansive locale, we only needed a small number of rooms in a confined space, and McCormick Place fit the bill (other than having no Diet Coke and being far away from coffee)
  • The planning team - As always, Steve Boese, Trish McFarlane, and Ben Eubanks were dedicated to making sure the event was a success and were wonderful to work with.
The Not-So-Good
  • Chicago - As much as I like the city, putting the event on the same day of the Chicago Marathon made travel to McCormick Place difficult, as well as hotel cost prohibitive.
  • Missing Friends - While I loved seeing many new attendees, I missed seeing some usual attendees as well as there input.
  • Combative Conversation - Perhaps it was the quality of sessions, but for the ones I attended, there was a lot more one-way presentations with questions than discussion about the HR issues of today and tomorrow.
The Future
We are no sure what the future of HRevolution will be, but here are a few items I wouldn't mind seeing if a sixth event comes to fruition:
  • New speakers and content - While our sessions and speakers were great, there were many familiar faces who have spoken at HRevolution before.  Then again, the 1997 NBC campaign for reruns comes to mind - "If you haven't seen it, it's new to you."  With so many new faces, it was great for those attendees to see some of the best in the business.
  • Sponsored Bloody Mary Bar - I don't know why we haven't seen it before, but given the inevitable Tweetup the night before, providing Bloody Mary's the next morning seems apropos...and I believe at least one potential sponsor has already been identified.
With this in mind...Whether you attended or not, what would bring you back for a sixth HRevolution? What would you like to see differently?

Aquire and #HRevolution

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, September 28, 2012

In a little over a week, many great HR professionals and thought leaders will be heading to Chicago to attend the fifth iteration of HRevolution.  This can't miss event continues to challenge attendees to look at human resources in a new way.  One of the companies that make such an event possible is Aquire.  Here are three things Aquire is currently doing that truly improve HR:

  1. Hire the greatest employees with a passion to solve customers problems.  Aquire has a dedication to its employees that has placed it on several"Best Places to Work lists."  In addition, through initiatives such as the "Aquire culture club," employees can give back to the community.   This has enabled Aquire to not only maintain a strong retention rate, but serve the customer in a meaningful fashion.  Click here to learn more about working at Aquire.
  2. Aquire InSight - Taking workforce planning and analytics to the leaders of organizations in a visual and powerful way, Insight allows individuals to determine the root cause of performance issues, without keeping that valuable information and knowledge in a back room with only the data crunchers.  Click here to learn more about InSight.
  3. OrgPublisher mobility - Aquire's OrgPublisher has long been a leader in organizational charting and workforce reporting software.  Now, like the Who, it is "Goin' Mobile" by enabling OrgPublisher to be used in on the iPad and putting talent data in the executives hands.
In addition, if you are attending the HR Technology Conference and view a demo of OrgPublisher Executive or InSight Executive at the Peoplefluent/Aquire booths, Founders Ross and Lois Melbourne will donate $10 per company viewing to No Kid Hungry.

Note that tickets are still available for the HRevolution event on October 7th.  Register now and not only do you get to attend a great event, but you get a code for $600 off registration for the HR Technology Conference. 

Hope to see you there.

The Academic Version of "Unemployed Need Not Apply"

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, September 24, 2012

Check out this recent ad for a Humanities position at Colorado State University.   Focus on the following:

Required qualifications:
1. Ph.D. in English or American Studies or closely related area awarded between 2010 and time of appointment.
2. A promising record of scholarship/research in pre-1900 American literature and culture.
3. Ability to teach a range of subjects in American literature and culture between 1600 and 1900.

A similar recent job posting at Harvard University for an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature, “Applicants must have received the PhD or equivalent degree in the past three years (2009 or later), or show clear evidence of planned receipt of the degree by the beginning of employment.” 

What do you notice? Go ahead...take a minute....
Well, items #2 and #3 do not seem out of the ordinary - these seem like reasonable requirements for the position.  However, #1 for CSU, as well as the Harvard ad, is interesting and has ginned up a little controversy (note...both ads have changed).

Much like we've seen in the private sector, academics were not immune to the vagaries of the economy.  If you completed your Ph.D., and entered the job market in 2007, 2008, or 2009, you may have had difficulty finding a tenure track academic position.  Now, with ads such as those filed above, we have the academic equivalent of "unemployed need not apply."

Are there reasons to narrow the candidate search in such a manner?  It could be economic.  Someone with 3 or less years of academic experience will take longer to apply for tenure and promotion, and the accompanying bump in salary.  With an average salary increase of 1.4% from 2009-2010 to 2010-2011, earning tenure and promotion is often the only way for professors to see a significant bump in compensation.  As a result, delaying the promotion decision can positively affect the bottom line for colleges and universities.

Another reason may be that CSU or Harvard might already have an internal candidate, such as a visiting assistant professor, and are trying to keep the applicant pool small.  

A third reason might be similar to the NBA draft, where a team would rather take a chance on a college sophomore's "tremendous upside potential," than a college senior's "experience" that's good, but not great.  In this instance, a college might prefer the freshly minted graduate, than a less malleable individual with a couple of academic years under his or her belt.

However, the start of such a trend is worrisome for an already difficult job market, where it might take as many as 3 years to land a tenure track position.  One might have spent two or three years serving as an adjunct while trying to publish an article or two.  I might be a promising academic who might have had an illness, or family issues (such as caring for a sick parent), or served in the military that might adjust one's tenure clock.  Or, I might have found a tenure track position, and simply want to relocate to another area of the country.

It also affects the time one spends in graduate school.  Future academicians may delay the time that they finish so they will have a more established publication record, to, subsequently, become more competitive in the job market. 

When I entered the academic job market in 1994, supply of labor exceeded the number of jobs available, and it took 6 months to find a visiting position. When I finally found a tenure track position, and built up a number of years of experience, I wanted to find a job a little closer to my parents. Such mobility may be a thing of the past.

What we learn about replacement labor from the NFL

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Two weeks of the NFL season are in the books.  Are you enjoying the slow-paced action as replacement refs try to figure out what is going on?   Difficulty spotting the ball, clock operation mishaps, and some basic misunderstanding of the rule book have made a typical fall Sunday afternoon somewhat less enjoyable....particularly if your team is on the losing end of a bad call.  I believe there is almost universal accord that the current replacement refs are not working.

But, a larger lesson to be drawn is that, perhaps, not all human resources are easily replaceable.  That a race to the bottom in terms of labor might not be the wise path to take.  Certainly the "scab" refs are cheaper than the refs that are striking, but they are also pretty bad.

So, I wonder how many of those who are disgusted with the incompetence being displayed by the replacements are still looking at Chicago and the teachers strike thinking, fire them and bring in someone new?  There are so many unemployed, and, hey, anyone can teach 3rd grade.

Be careful what you wish for.

September 12 Carnival of HR

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Welcome to the latest edition of the Carnival of HR.  There is a veritable cavalcade of HR knowledge provided from a bevy of HR Subject Matter Experts ready for your perusal.  Cue the Deer.

Some Questions

Mervyn Dinnen at T Recs wonders "Is Success Overrated?"  Check out the link to find out his perspective.

Chris Young at the Rainmaker Group asks "Employee Engagement: Just How Screwed Up Is Your Team?" 

Ian Welsh at Toolbox.com wonders "Could We Improve Recruiting Quality By Recording Interviews?"

Our own HR Minion, Shauna Moerke, examines career transitions and queries "Who Do You Want To be Tomorrow?"

At Lean HR, Dwane Lay asks "The Santa Claus Question."

Some Answers

At Envisia Learning, Wally Bock gives us "Two Simple Ways to Help Managers"
At the HR Schoolhouse, Robin Schooling gives us the skinny on "What the 'HR Community' is REALLY Talking About."

At the HR reMix, Melissa Fairman provides some life lessons in "Everyone Should Get Laid Off Once."

At Insight, Nancy Saperstone looks at "Office Politics that Work - Improve Employee Productivity."

With the 2012 American football season in full swing, Tim Gardner, in his The HR Introvert blog, looks at "One Employee's Passion is Another's Loss of Inclusion."

At Upstart HR, Ben Eubanks examines the "Benefits of Team Building."

At Julie WG, Julie Winkle Giuloni gives us the lowdown on "Creative Crossings: Where Employee Development and Career Development Converge."

At Canadian HR Reporter, Stuart Rudner warns us to "Beware the Dangers of Templates."

At Everyday People, the Godfather Steve Browne tells us to ditch the labels and "Go Tagless!!"

At Great Leadership, Dan McCarthy gives us some history in "Managing Remote Employees: Lessons from Ancient Rome and Today."

At the Curious Cat blog, John Hunter wants us to "Manage Better By Managing Less."

At Mentoring Mullarkey, Patrick Mullarkey gleans some good HR info from the Police Academy movies in "Carey Mahoney: The L&D Professional That We All Want To Be."

Some Numbers

At her self-titled blog, Jesse Stoner gives us "The Five Steps of CRISP Decision-Making."

At Thin Difference, Jon Mertz examines "How to Navigate Life in Work - Six Considerations."

At the Inflexion Advisors blog, Mark Stelzner provides us with "7 Steps to Surviving HR Vendor Consolidation."

At Tribe HR, Paul Baribeau demonstrates no triskaidekaphobia with "13 Ways to Get Your Employees To Tune Out."

At People Equation, Jennifer Miller goes from A to Z in "26 Ways To Be A Better Boss."


Don't forget - there is a special Carnival of HR next Wednesday, September 19.  It is being hosted by Ann Bares at the Compensation Cafe.  So tune in next week....same time, different channel.