The Worst HR Job in America Might Be At Teller Motors

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, December 12, 2013

(Spoiler alert - if you haven't watched the season finale of Sons of Anarchy, you may not want to read on).

The worst HR job in America might be the HR Director at Teller Motors.  Here's why:

*The job is located in Charming, CA, a town with a death rate that rivals Cabot Cove, ME

*It's family-owned, with a highly unstable family.  The current owner, Jax Teller,  shot and killed the former owner, his stepdad, Clay Morrow.   And the owner's mom, Gemma, just killed the owner's wife, Tara, with a carving fork.

*The owner is involved with many illegal activities, including guns, drug-running, and prostitution.

*Recruiting employees is tougher than a union closed shop in 1939.

*Employees are more likely to get killed by a member of the IRA than receive a company-sponsored IRA.

*Health care premiums are likely to skyrocket in the next year.  Given than Tara was a physician and provided care to the company employees gratis as well as stole supplies from the hospital in which she worked, the employees are likely in the market for a new doctor.

*Teller Motors has a very stringent orientation procedure.

*Most common reason for turnover?  Death.

*Most useless taxes paid?  FUTA and FICA. Most employees are unlikely to be fired and few are around long enough to collect Social Security.

*Forget about the AFT...the latest concern may be OSHA, who may put Teller Motors on their watch list for imminent danger after the company clubhouse was firebombed.

At least the company parties are off the hook.

Best Wishes Curtis Midkiff (@shrmsmg)

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, November 22, 2013

I was saddened to hear the news today of the departure of Curtis Midkiff, Director of Social Engagement, from SHRM for greener pastures at the American Red Cross. 

I, of course, am happy that Curtis found an opportunity that he was excited to pursue, but it will definitely be a loss for SHRM.

I first met Curtis when I was chosen as one of five inaugural SHRM Blog Squad members for the SHRM Annual Conference in San Diego.  No one was exactly sure what the SHRM Blog Squad would do, but it was enough of a success, that SHRM brought it back the next year, and again, and again.  And what was just a small endeavor 4 years ago blossomed into an enterprise comprising 50+ members sharing their insight, tweets, blogs, etc. at the Annual Conference each year.  In addition, he was instrumental in bringing a little extra flair to the Monday night SHRM Tweetup, including a party with DJ Jazzy Jeff.

Without Curtis' vision and efforts, I am not sure SHRM would have embraced social media as readily as they have done, and I hope they continue to do.

So, best wishes in the next step in your career, Curtis.  The American Red Cross is lucky to have you.

Happy Anniversary #HRevolution

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, November 7, 2013

Four years ago today, some 50-odd people (or is it 50 ODD people) descended upon the Hilton Seelbach in Louisville, KY to attend the first HRevolution unconference.  Put together by Trish McFarlane, Ben Eubanks, Steve Boese, and Crystal Peterson as an alternative to the mega SHRM Annual Conference, HRevolution attempted (and continues to emphasize) to bring a new voice to the future of HR.   Topics for that first day included:

  • Blogging Basics - tools, platforms, getting started
  • Advanced Blogging Topics - hosting, building an audience, promotion, aggregation
  • Social Media in HR - building the case, learning the tools, planning the strategy, executing the plan, measuring the results
  • New Technology you can use - Demo and discussion of some exciting new technologies for information sharing and collaboration, low-cost (some even free), low maintenance, and really cool
Since its inception, it has had five iterations, with the latest in Las Vegas.  

For me, it has been a truly transformative event, both personally and professionally, as I have gone from a simple attendee, to presenter, to planner.

Significant friendships have formed.  People who never met prior to the event have taken trips together.

Its spawned the ever popular 8 Man Rotation series.

Its even led to marriage, as 6-time attendees Frank Zupan and Tammy Colson met in Louisville, fell in love one year later in Chicago at the 2nd HRevolution, and married four years later on the eve of the 6th event.

So happy anniversary's to many more.   Anyone interested in St. Louis in May 2014?

How Expensive Will #SHRM14 Hotels Be?

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, October 24, 2013

With the news  that hotel reservations are now being accepted for the 2014 SHRM Annual Conference, I bring you my 5th annual expose of SHRM hotel costs.

I look at selected SHRM conference brochures (i.e., the ones that I still possessed) over the past 14 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 2014, so I use an inflation calculator to adjust costs to today's dollars.  So, how does the 2014 Conference in Orlando compare to years past?

Cost of an Average SHRM-Affiliated Hotel (per night)
San Francisco (2001): $262.71 (standard deviation of $57.92)
Chicago (2008): $262.19 (sd of $30.18)
Chicago (2013): 248.49 (sd of 20.58)
San Diego (2010): $250.22 (sd of $43.07)
Washington DC (2006): $238.34 (sd of $40.95)
Philadelphia (2002): $223.02 (sd of $559.63)
San Diego (2005): $210.37 (sd of $51.29)
Atlanta (2012): $202.33 (sd of $22.57)
Las Vegas (2007): $171.69 (sd of $33.09)

Orlando(2014): $162.07 (sd of $36.07)
Las Vegas (2011): $132.56 (sd of $18.38)

On average, Orlando looks to be one of the best hotel bargains in years for SHRM attendees.  Half of the hotels are below the median cost of $151.50.  The first quartile is at $139, and the 3rd quartile is at $186.   The lowest price hotel is at $99 with a top price of $244.

Given that the average price of a Chicago hotel was $248.49 last year with significant hotel and food taxes, SHRM14 attendees will be saving an average of $86.42 a night...more than enough to buy a ticket to Universal Orlando or Walt Disney World.

See you in Orlando

#HRevolution 2013 is in the Books

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, October 7, 2013

The 6th iteration of the HRevolution event took place on October 6 in the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas.  As a different HR conference, HRevolution has strived to provide 1) quality content that is entertaining, informative, and thought provoking, 2) opportunities to network, 3) opportunities for conversation to break off from the prescribed agenda, and 4) all of the above at a more than reasonable price.

All was accomplished with aplomb.

The agenda kicked off with a range of topics, from a discussion of generations with Matt Charney and Ben Eubanks, to early technology adoption with China Gorman, to global HR with a panelist of HR professionals from New Zealand, Canada, the UK and the US.

Craig Fisher once again provided the latest and greatest in HR Tech tools, while Lois Melbourne provided an important lesson on the importance of passion in what we do in HR.

At lunch, HR Improv made its triumphant return, much to the delight of the audience.  A bevy of volunteers had to give a 5 minute presentation from a PowerPoint deck of slides they had not seen before.  From the difference between English and French Cheese, to "what is a birthday?"  the audience had a rollicking good time.

Seasoned television veterans Kelly Kahl and Phil Gonzales gave their unique perspectives of HR from an industry few in the audience were familiar, while Teela Jackson and Crystal Miller kept the audience engaged with their session on employer branding.

The last set had Tincup and Sackett talking about the problems of "A" Talent, while Dwane Lay led a raucous session where HR professionals tried to top one another with their HR horror stories.

Anne Meath provided a fitting close with how Wegman's provides a great place to work.


With over 100 attendees, HRevolution provided not only an opportunity for old friends to reconnect, but to welcome new attendees to, what Trish McFarlane describes, as the 'family.'  From 9 6-time attendees to over 50 first timers, the opportunity to discuss the latest in HR as well as their own personal experiencing, provided a warm, inviting environment.

Extended Conversation

As recommended, it was not surprising to see conversations go beyond the agenda.  Lance Haun led an impromptu session on "Not Talking About HR For An Hour," while Bill Boorman broke off with "Every Time You Talk About EVP, a Puppy Dies."  As always, one never knows where the conversation will go at HRevolution.

Thanks again to SumTotal for sponsoring the evnt, fisherVista for sponsoring the Saturday evening Tweetup, and co-organizers Steve Boese, Trish McFarlane, and Ben Eubanks for their tireless efforts over the past few months to pull the event together.


September #SHRMChat on College Relations Recap

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On Tuesday, September 10, a lively chat was held regarding the relationship between SHRM professional chapters and volunteers, and student programs.  Nearly 129,000 impressions were made, and nearly 36,000 accounts were reached according to

Here are the questions and answers that took place:

Q1 - What are the benefits of working with a SHRM student chapter? 

The participants found a number of reasons to engage with student chapters:

  • Students were going to be their future peers; the professional chapter's future depended on them
  • Student chapters provide quality access to interns, as well as served as a source to fill future vacancies
  • To break down generational barriers
  • To fill a programming niche at the professional chapter, as students choose and present a topic of interest to professionals

Q2 - What are you, your professional chapter or State Council doing to support your SHRM student chapter?

  • Providing free professional chapter membership to students
  • Mentoring
  • Providing for discounted, or free, registration at chapter meetings, or the state conference
  • Providing speakers
  • Job shadowing opportunities
  • Offering the opportunity to tour a company's plant or workplace
  • Financial support - $500 if the chapter earns a Superior Merit Award, $250 if they earn a merit award
  • State Council offers $100 to each student chapter that submits a merit award

Q3 - What are the biggest challenges you face in working with a SHRM student chapter?

  • The schedule often made planning difficult with the academic calendar running from August-May, which the professional chapter goes from January to December.
  • Student turnover made building relationships difficult
  • Students often lacking the time to connect or showing interest in the professional chapter 
Q4 - What could SHRM be doing to help address those challenges?

  • Make working with student chapters a bigger part of SHAPE
  • Address current chapter bylaws to create a student member category
  • Examine new ways for chapters to communicate with students
  • Be clearer with professional chapters about the challenges inherent in working with student chapters

Q5 - Based on tonight’s discussion, what is one thing you will do to help your student chapter this year? 
  • Create a Student Core Leadership Area representative for the chapter
  • Create a membership category for students
  • Be more aggressive in connecting with the student chapter(s) in the area
  • Expand opportunities for students at the state level
  • Encourage greater volunteering among professionals with the student chapter
  • Utilize Tara Fournier, SHRM's Manager of Member Engagement, as a resource 
Per usual, SHRMChats will take place at 8PM EDT, 7 PM CDT, 6 PM MDT and 5 PM PDT on the second Tuesday of the month.  Look for the next SHRMChat to be held October 10, where the focus will be on SHRM Chapter Membership issues.

September #SHRMChat on College Relations

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, September 6, 2013

With September in full swing, it means a return to campus for students.  And, for some, it means getting ready for year with their SHRM student chapter.   Student leaders are perusing their 2013-2014 Student Chapter Merit Award planning guide in an effort to not only provide quality programming and services to interested students, but to earn recognition for their efforts as well. 

Some of the critical components for the success of a student SHRM chapter include a dedicated advisor, a supportive professional chapter (with a dedicated liaison), and State Council support.  From assisting student chapters with speakers sharing insights on the HR profession to providing mentors or financial support, SHRM volunteers play a crucial role in developing student leaders and future HR professionals.

With that in mind, here are the questions for the College Relations #SHRMChat

 Q1 - What are the benefits of working with a SHRM student chapter?

Q2 - What are you, your professional chapter or State Council doing to support your SHRM student chapter?
Q3 - What are the biggest challenges you face in working with a SHRM student chapter?

Q4 - What could SHRM be doing to help address those challenges?

Q5 - Based on tonight’s discussion, what is one thing you will do to help your student chapter this year?

Per usual, our chat will take place at 8PM EDT, 7 PM CDT, 6 PM MDT and 5 PM PDT on the second Tuesday of the month (in this case, September 10, 2013).

Monitoring Employees? Big Data? The NBA Has You Beat

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, September 5, 2013

Watching the number of keystrokes your data entry operator makes?  Scouring Foursquare or Facebook place check-ins to see if employees are honestly missing work?

Well, the NBA is taking employee monitoring to a whole new level.

They are installing data-tracking cameras in all 29 arenas that will enable them to gather intriguing information.

If you are a referee, you will be monitored to see whether you are getting in position as well as making the right call:

one reason the league acted fast was to immediately enhance its ability to monitor referees — always a touchy subject. The cameras represent the most precise way to grade the three on-court officials based on how consistently and early they get into the league’s three set positions — called “lead,” “slot,” and “trail” — and whether they make appropriate calls from those positions based on their exact sight lines. This is the next stage in seeing which officials are the best, and thus deserving of high-stakes assignments, and in quantifying that in ways that are hard to dispute.

The league has already started using the cameras to check on the enforcement of defensive three-second violations out of concern that defensive players routinely break the rule by lingering in the lane too long. (The results of said studies are inconclusive so far, say several sources familiar with the inquiry.)

What about player performance?  In "Airplane," when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (as Roger Murdock) was questioned on his effort, he said,

"LISTEN, KID! I've been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I'm out there busting my buns every night. Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes" 

Now, with the installation of the data-tracking cameras, NBA teams can now measure work-related hustle:

Teams can pay up to $40,000 extra to purchase (among other goodies) software that helps track a player’s physical exertion. The in-game cameras represent one piece of that. They can tell you how fast a player runs, how often he accelerates on cuts, how often those accelerations end with him reaching top speed, and the height of a player’s release point on jump shots. Some players recovering from injury, including Ricky Rubio last season, have taken significant game time to get back to their previous speed and fitness baselines. And an injury to one star, Manu Ginobili early in the 2011-12 season, resulted in the other San Antonio starters exerting more physical effort with a standstill shooter (Danny Green) in Ginobili’s place.

The other pieces, and perhaps the most important ones in determining a player’s condition, come outside those 82 games and require the use of other forms of technology: sleep and heart-rate monitors, GPS devices and accelerometers players can wear during practice, and the careful tracking of weightlifting, diet, and other day-to-day stuff. Put all that data together, and you can get a fairly complete picture of a player’s condition, and of how indicators of his condition — running speed, jumping ability, etc. — change over the course of a season. “This is where you can start to measure fatigue,” says Brian Kopp, executive vice-president at STATS.

A revealing nugget: Teams really want the SportVU cameras to monitor their practices, Kopp says. That’s difficult, since most teams practice somewhere other than their game arenas. Some coaches and GMs might want the practice data simply to check on which players work hard, and which loaf.

But others will want it to change the very concept of practice. How much practice time do teams really need? And how taxing should those practices be? How should that change during the season? There are higher-ups around the league who are ready to radically rethink these things, provided the next-level data indicates they should.

And, think of the impact these measures can have on contract negotiations:

So imagine a player entering the final year of his rookie-scale contract and his agent beginning contract talks only to hear a team official open with something like, “Our camera data shows you really don’t hustle in the fourth quarter. Your running speed slows down. You just stand around instead of going for rebounds. These are some of the reasons we are offering you only $7 million per year.”

Wouldn’t that agent want to at least cross-check that data, to make sure it’s not B.S.? The players union has already started the fight for access to that data. “All we want is to make sure access is available,” says Ron Klempner, the union’s executive director. “If teams are forming impressions about players that players are not in position to defend, we want to make sure everyone is operating on an even scale.”

New technologies transforming how the NBA does business.  Even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar should be impressed.

Labor Day and the NFL

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, September 2, 2013

Its tough to be a NFL player this time of year.

Teams must reduce their rosters to a limit of 53 players.   Those individuals who made it through training camp and 4 preseason games may have found themselves looking for work.

The 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, Tim Tebow, is unemployed.

The #3 pick in the 2007 NFL draft, Vince Young, was cut by the Green Bay Packers.

According to Peter King,
Five quarterbacks picked in the top 50 of the last seven drafts were cut: Vince Young and Matt Leinart (2006), Brady Quinn (2007) and Tim Tebow and Jimmy Clausen (2010). Brian Billick says picking a quarterback is no better than a 50-50 proposition between success and failure. Let’s see, based on the five drafts between 2006 and 2010. (It’s too early to make definitive judgments on quarterbacks in the league for two or fewer years.) Let’s look at the quarterbacks picked in the top two rounds from 2006 to 2010, and their fate:
Of the 21 quarterbacks drafted in the top two rounds of these five drafts, six are solid starters, and eight are out of football.

Let’s now cut it down to first-rounders only. Billick, it turns out, is prescient. If you don’t count Sanchez as a starter—and I don’t see how you can term him a starter right now—six of the 12 first-round picks over a five-year period are starting in the league. So it’s still a crapshoot.

Meanwhile, despite hundreds of hours of scouting, observation, and interviews, 78 undrafted players from the 2013 NFL draft made active rosters.

As screenwriter William Goldman says, "nobody knows anything."

3 days until kickoff!

Happy Labor Day everyone.

The Schema of HR

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, August 26, 2013

One of my favorite terms in the organizational behavior literature is "schema" - "a person's mental picture or summary of a particular event or type of stimulus (Kreitner & Kinicki)."

When you hear the word "professor," what is the schema that comes to mind?  My guess is that image contains one or more of the following characteristics:

  • male
  • older (45 or older)
  • gray hair
  • tweed jacket with patches on the elbows
  • has facial hair (mustache and/or beard)
  • carries a pipe 
If you do a google image search for "professor" most of the above descriptors are evident.
Today is the first day of classes where I work.  Students will encounter numerous professors that fit the schema.  Fortunately for us, many of my colleagues do not fit that typical image.  This, however, can lead to problems.  Student evaluations of professors have shown that professors who do not fit the schema tend to be rated lower.  

Beautyism biases can also creep in, where hiring and rating decisions can be affected by the physical attractiveness of the applicant.

Research has also found that the evaluation of leader effectiveness can be influence by one's schemata of good and poor leaders.

Perhaps the reason HR is often raked over the coals is simply the result of one's schema of HR.  So, what is your schema of HR?  What are you doing at work to ensure that the schema of HR is a positive one?

#HRevolution - What HR Can Learn From the Television Industry

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, August 23, 2013

We're rapidly approaching the 6th iteration of the HRevolution conference sponsored by Sumtotal, October 6th at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas.

Steve Boese and Ben Eubanks have already shared their reasons for attending the event.

While all the sessions will likely be fantastic, for me, the session I am most looking forward to seeing is "What HR Can Learn from the Television Industry" with Kelly Kahl and Phil Gonzales.

Kelly Kahl, Senior Executive Vice President, CBS Primetime, oversees the planning and scheduling of all primetime programming for the CBS Television Network.  He also supervises coordination between CBS programming divisions and the network’s respective operations in sales, marketing, affiliate relations, news, sports and research, as well as with the CBS Television Station Group.

 Joining Mr. Kahl will be Phil Gonzales, Senior Vice President, Communications, for CBS, who oversees the network's publicity campaigns on behalf of primetime series, specials, longform, as well as late night and daytime programming.  He also serves as the media liaison for network activities in program development, casting and scheduling.

So, why should those in HR listen to these two?

To focus on promotion, public relations, and crisis management.  

Whether it is the firing of an employee at AOL or the recent issue with Applebee's firing a waitress over a tip, the importance of crisis management once again rears its head.  The TV industry deals with crises all the time (think Charlie Sheen's outburst and quitting over "Two and a Half Men)".  

Similarly, HR could always do a better job with promoting what it does. What would they suggest HR do to better improve its often battered image?  What is HR's pitch?  Does being in HR make, perhaps, good TV?

Find out the answer to these questions, and more, by attending the HRevolution event in October.  Click here for more information and to register.

The 1% Rule of Candidate Experience

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, August 12, 2013

Imagine you're among the best and brightest at what you do.  Your talent is recognized by nearly everyone.  Any employer wants you to be part of that organization.

If you are truly among the 1%, candidate experience is not going to matter (in the traditional sense).

Say, you're the #1 ranked college basketball recruit, Jahlil Okafor.  346 Division 1 schools would love to have you join their program.  338 know they have no shot.  Eight schools are under consideration, with one believed to be the leader (more below).  

That being said, the critical information (see p. 15) a typical applicant for a job might want to make the candidate experience worthwhile is not applicable

  • Application accepted?  Most likely for Okafor, an offer to play for a particular university has  already been made, and the application process is cursory.
  • Expected time to hear back from a recruiter?  Again, he already knows the "job" is his if he wants it
  • If I have been knocked out of consideration.  Doesn't apply here
  • Next step in process.  The universities competing for your services are waiting for you to come for an official visit and say "yes"
  • If anyone has reviewed your information.  Again, cursory
  • Where I am in the process.  As a top notch college recruit, my guess is that each organization is in constant contact with Okafor, visiting him at basketball camps, calling him on the phone, texting him, and seeing him play during high school competition.  And, this is going on for a matter of not days or months, but years.
  • What criteria is used to determine my job-fit.   You're tall, talented, and skilled. You'll fit.
  • Fit with minimum qualifications.  Uh, yes.
  • How I stack with other candidates.  You're being wooed, and the school would accept you immediately
  • Number of applicants - this almost doesn't matter, except that schools have a limited number of spots.  As Dave Telep, ESPN recruiter noted on Twitter on July 30 after a number of basketball camps, "July reality: if you know where you want to go and you aren't a Top-25 guy, make your decision before someone takes your first choice."  "As of right now, most schools have 2-4 guys they'd take at your position. First one to call gets the spot."  For Okafor, they would leave the spot open.
  • Expected feedback on application - this is almost immediate.
Again, if you're in the 1%, traditional candidate experience is not going to matter.

However, there is a flip side.  What if competing employers believe there is a leader?

The ongoing rumor that Duke is the leader for the recruiting package of No. 1-ranked senior Jahlil Okafor and No. 3-ranked Tyus Jones is ruining the recruiting process for the two players, Okafor's father said on Friday.

"It's disappointing. It's taking the fun out of the process for the two boys," Okafor's father, Chukwudi Okafor, said by phone on Friday. "That's a shame. Let the kids go through the process. I just want them to enjoy it, not the media, not Twitter, not the coaches, not the AAU coaches. Those kids are highly intelligent. They know what to do. Let it play out, and I think the world is in for something special."

"They're going to make their decision. Everybody is saying they say this and they say that. It's not fair to them. It's not fair to the other schools. It's not fair to Duke. They might want to go to Duke, but decide not to go there because everyone is saying that's where they're going. I'd hate for that to happen." 

As Dave Telep notes, "I think a number of kids are genuinely torn about telling a school "no." In August, "no" is the best thing after yes. Both need to move on."  If I am trying to recruit top talent to my school, there is a limit to the amount of resources and time I can pour into every candidate, let alone the 1%.  If I am no longer in the running, I would prefer knowing that than trying to continue the facade of thinking I have a chance.  

Sometimes it is tough out there for the 1%.

Elysium: Even 140 years in the future, there is bad #HR

by Matthew Stollak on Saturday, August 10, 2013

Note: Minor spoilers about the movie "Elysium" are revealed below, though there is nothing that isn't already revealed in the trailer above.

As the trailer above indicated, "Elysium" takes place over 140 years in the future in 2154.   The 1% live on a space station orbiting earth where there is no war, no crime, and health care eliminates all illness.  Meanwhile, the 99% on Earth are living in Rio de Janeiro-like favelas, scraping to get by.

What sets the movie in motion?  A case of poor supervisor-subordinate relations.

Matt Damon plays Max De Costa, a small-time criminal, trying to get his life back on the straight and narrow.  As noted in the trailer, he works in a huge factory assembling robots.  As he loads the pallet of robots into a chamber to be irradiated, the door gets jammed, and production stops.  What occurs next could have happened 90 years ago.

The supervisor tells Max to go in the chamber to fix the problem.  Max is hesitant.   The angered supervisor threatens Max, "either you go into the chamber or I'll find someone who will."  Of course, seeing no other choice, Max goes in, unjams the door, the door closes, and Max gets exposed to radiation, and only has 5 days to live.  And, the rest of the movie proceeds based on this singular incident.

Why wasn't the manager trained to engage his employees more appropriately?  Why weren't better safety procedures put in place?

Even 140 years in the future, we will still be dealing with bad HR.

On A Very Silly Social Media List - the Top 100 Best and Most Collaborative Colleges

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, August 8, 2013

From HR's favorite list maker, Vala Afshar, comes his latest creation - "The Top 100 Best and Most Collaborative U.S. Colleges." (Hat tip to Laurie Ruettimann and John Hudson for bringing it to my attention).

According to Afshar, "the very best schools are also the most collaborative."  So why is this list incredibly silly?

1.  Let's start with the methodology.  According to Afshar,

I researched US News & World Reports list of the best schools. The 2013 national university rankings identified the top 100 universities in the U.S. I then re-ranked the schools based on their combined Klout and Kred scores - a measure of their engagements across all major social platforms.

Let's make an assumption that Kred and Klout scores are legitimate for our purposes.  Unfortunately, Afshar doesn't provide the combined scores for making a comparison.   While he provides an average Klout score and Kred score, he does not tell the audience how he combined the scores.   Are they added together? If so, Klout is on a 100 point scale and Kred is made up of two parts - a 1,000 point Influence scale and a 12 point Outreach scale.  Were the scales adjusted to reflect equal weight? 

Further, what is the threshold score to be considered one of the top 100 best AND most collaborative schools in the U.S.?  While the average Klout score of those 35 schools in the small college category might be 74, what is the variability?  Harvard at #1 has a Klout score of 99.  Meanwhile, Colorado School of Mines only has a Klout score of 47, a far cry from 74. In fact, the bottom 10 schools in the list of 35 do not have a Klout score near 74.  

Finally, instead of an exhaustive look at over 6,000 colleges and universities in the United States to determine which colleges are the most engaged and, perhaps, collaborative, based on the combination of these scores, Afshar simply looked at ONLY U.S. News and World Reports top 100 to make his list.  Are there others who might be more collaborative?  More engaged?  One wouldn't come to that judgment based on this list.

As a point of comparison,
On the list
Colorado School of Mines: Klout score of 47, Kred score of 694/4
Stevens: Klout score of 49, Kred score of 706/5

Not on the list 
Swarthmore  College (the #3 ranked Liberal Arts College): Klout score of 55, Kred score of 740/6
St. Norbert College (my school and #138): Klout score of 52, Kred score of 744/6

One might want to check out the list of top Social Media Colleges over at for comparison purposes.

2.   Is there a relationship between school ranking and social rank?

Even if we give credence to Afshar's methodology, does his claim that "Not surprisingly, the very best schools are also the most collaborative"carry any weight?  For this to be credible, we should see some sort of linear relationship between social rank and school ranking (i.e., those with a higher school ranking should also be at the top of the social rank list; we should see significant overlap between the top 10 or top 20 or top 50).   Check out the scatterplot below (with U.S. News ranking on the x-axis and social rank on the y-axis:

Do you see ANY sort of relationship whatsoever between social rank and school rank?  Any? 

Even if one runs a correlation on the two variables, one only gets a correlation coefficient of .32, which indicates a weak to middling relationship at best.

Very silly, indeed.

On Challenging the 10,000 Hours Rule

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, August 5, 2013

I teach intro to business statistics usually every semester.  While students grasp the concept of the mean rather easily, the notion of variance and standard deviation often takes a little longer.

Take the 10,000 hours "rule," for example.

Popularized in Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers," the 10,000 hours rule basically states that through dedicated practice, reaching this "magic number of greatness" allows one to achieve a professional level of proficiency regardless of talent or skill.

In the fascinating new book, "The Sports Gene," David Epstein (that will likely provide a number of posts to fulfill my #8ManRotation quota), challenges the belief in 10,000 hours.

What is often ignored in the discussion are a couple of items.  First, is the notion of sampling and research design.  In the original 10,000 hours study of musicians, most individuals were already screened out, making it difficult to discover evidence of innate talent.  It is extremely hard to create a longitudinal study where groups are divided into those who receive 10,000 hours of training against those who do not.

Second, variability is not often discussed.  Is 10,000 the hard rule, or do some take a longer or shorter time.  In the Sports Gene, Epstein highlights the work of Guillermo Campitelli and Fernand Gobet who recruited 104 competitive chess players of varying skill for a study of chess expertise.  They found that it took 11,053 hours to make it as a professional chess player.  Much more interesting was the range of hours it took to attain master status.   "One player in the study reached master level in just 3,000 hours of practice, while another player needed 23,000 hours."  As a result, Epstein notes about the musician study, "it is impossible to tell whether any individual in the study actually became an elite violinist in 10,000 hours, or whether that was just an average of disparate individual differences."

Epstein also shares an anecdote about the skilled Swedish high jumper Stefan Holm.  Holm fastidiously practiced - 12 hours a day for years on end - to become a world class athlete, winning the Olympic gold medal in 2004 and equaling the record for the highest high-jump differential between the bar and the jumper's own height.  However, in 2007, he faced Donald Thomas, a jumper from the Bahamas who had only just begun high jumping.  In less than 8 months of training, Thomas cleared 7'7.75" to win the NCAA indoor high jump championship.  Despite such insignificant training time, Thomas defeated Holm, winning the world championship.   While not the sole reason, it was found that Thomas had an incredibly long Achilles tendon that better serves one's ability to rocket throught he air.

Nonetheless, being fat, 45 years old, and 5'9'' with a limited vertical leap, LeBron has nothing to worry about, even if I practice 10,000 hours or more.  Much like Thomas had an incredibly long tendon, you can't teach height!

#ILSHRM13 - A Sort of Homecoming

by Matthew Stollak on Sunday, August 4, 2013

I'll be there
I'll be there...
A high road
A high road out from here

In two weeks from today, the 2013 14th ANNUAL ILLINOIS HR CONFERENCE & EXPOSITION will begin at Drury Park in Oakbrook Terrace, and I will be serving on their social media team, hopefully bringing you the highlights of the events.

Much like a person has a bucket list of seeing all the Major League Baseball or NFL Stadiums, this will be my 4th state SHRM conference (having attended the Wisconsin, Mississippi and Texas (aka HR Southwest).  I'm not sure I will hit all the state SHRM conferences, but a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step, as the adage goes.

Attending the Illinois HR Conference will also serve as a sort of homecoming as I attended graduate school at the University of Illinois Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations (now the School of Labor and Employment Relations) in Champaign in the early-90s.  This is where my passion for human resources began, and where it continues today with events such as this.

So, if you haven't signed up for the conference, it is not too late to attend.  You can register here.

If you haven't already checked out the great list of talent presenting, check out the lineup here

If you are attending, check out the great mobile app by Bizzabo (and sponsored by Symbolist) to help with planning which sessions to attend and to connect with others at the conference.  Also, don't forget to register for the Monday After Hours Social here.

Hope to see you at Drury Lane in a couple of weeks.

U2 - A Sort of Homecoming

The Dirty Little Secret of HR Education

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Want to know the dirty little secret of HR education?

We do an absolutely horrible job of preparing students for the world of HR technology

  • Pick up a general HR textbook and you'll find little to no reference to HR technology and its importance.  You'll see a passing mention of HRIS, but none of the 2013 textbooks discussed SaaS or CRM, and only one mentioned ERP.
  • Do a search at for books on "Human Resource Technology" and the choices are limited at best.
  • HR Technology is not a primary content area of SHRM's HR Curriculum Guidelines and Templates, and is, instead, relegated to secondary content.
  • HR technology is given short shrift in earning your PHR or SPHR certification.  Those certified are only expected to have knowledge of:
    • Data integrity techniques and technology (for example: data sharing, password usage, social engineering)
    • Technology and applications (for example: social media, monitoring software, biometrics)

As a result, many students and HR professionals are unprepared to make the crucial decisions regarding the appropriate use of HR technology for their organization.  They are subject to the whims and asymmetric information of the provider.

So, what can be done to fill the gap in your HR Technology education?
  1. Attend webinars on the topic.  For example, there is an excellent webinar titled, "Get HR Technology to Work Where the Rubber Meets the Road," today from 2-3 pm Eastern. This session is being led by Robin Schooling and LBi Software President Richard Teed, and moderated by Laurie Ruettimann.   
  2. Attend the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas, October 7-9. If you register for the HRevolution Conference on October 6, you will be given a code for $600 off the registration fee for HR Tech.


When Paternalistic Employers Go Wrong

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I usually applaud employers who go out of their way to help employers improve their lot in life.  So, McDonald's and Visa should initially be praised in their effort to help their minimum wage employees do a better job of managing personal finances (when they are not offering wages on prepaid cards).  However, let's look at the suggested budget journal they've put together for their employees for a sample month (starting on page 3):

Let's start with monthly income.  How many hours at minimum wage does one have to work to earn $1105 a month after taxes?  For simplicity's sake, let's say 1/3 of gross income is taken for state and federal taxes, FICA, and the like.  So, $1105 * 1.33 gives us $1469.65.  Divide that by the minimum wage in Wisconsin of $7.25/hour equals approximately 203 hours in a month or 50+ hours a week.  Unless we assume overtime is offered or the wage is higher than minimum, it will be very difficult to reach that $1105 net income in a month.  In addition, after your nearly 40 hours a week job at McDonald's, there is an expectation to get a second job working an additional 30 hours a week to reach that total income.  How kind.

Monthly Expenses
Some highlights:
Savings - $100: A good start, and at 5%, significantly higher than the U.S. average of just over 2%
Mortgage/Rent - $600; perhaps someplace cheaper or get a rooomate?
Car payment - $150; what kind of car is this person driving?
Health insurance - $20?!?!?!  A month?  The average premium in $201/month in Wisconsin.  What kind of plan is this?  Buy some Robitussin and pray?
Heating - $0;  Yes, no one needs heat in Wisconsin from October until April

Nothing for groceries? Gas for that car? Does this person have kids? Child care isn't cheap when you're working 70 hours a week. And, Wisconsin is relatively will this budget work in New York City or San Francisco?

Again, I appreciate the effort here, but its time to go back to the drawing board and paint a more realistic picture for your employees (who are not typical teenagers; the median age of a fast food worker is 32 years old).  Then again, if McDonald's did provide a realistic budget, it would demonstrate how hard it is to survive on a minimum wage job making fries.

Why #HR Should Care About the NBA Summer League

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, July 15, 2013

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.