(P)review of @CBS "The Job"

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, January 28, 2013

Are you ready for a HR gameshow?

With unemployment hovering above 7%, and millions of people looking for a new opportunity, it was inevitable that someone would create a show focusing on the job search.  Premiering on CBS on Friday, February 8 at 8/7 Central,, Mark Burnett of "Survivor" fame and Michael Davies, the Executive Producer of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" have created "The Job," which centers on five qualified applicants who compete to land their dream job.

In the first episode, five individuals with varied restaurant experience vie for the Assistant Manager position at a legendary Palm Restaurant.  With a panel of three high-ranking Palm employees observing the candidates, a number of selection exercises are employed to cull the field:

  • A work sample test - At a Palm Restaurant, the candidates are asked to carry several of the tasks that an Assistant Manager would be expected to perform
  • A knowledge test - candidates are quizzed by the panel of three on their knowledge of the restaurant and the type of food served (for example, "Littleneck and Cherrystone are types of what food item?")
  • Co-worker familiarity - Given the Palm's emphasis on a family work environment, 7-8 employees from the Palm are brought forward and the candidates are asked to give the name of three of the employees as well as their position at the Palm
  • Final Interview - the panel asks the candidates typical questions about their fit for the job
After each exercise, a candidate is eliminated from consideration

And, there's a twist?

There are three other employers observing the selection process who have the opportunity to buzz in and offer a job to one of the candidates.  The candidate is then given a difficult choice - take the guaranteed job from the guest company or remain in the running for the dream job.  However, the main employer (in this case, the Palm) does have an opportunity to "protect" their leading candidate by writing down the name of that person and sealing it in an envelope.  Once a candidate is chosen by the guest company, the main employer can open the envelope and let that candidate know he or she is in the lead.

Besides giving insight into the selection process, one of the commendable aspects of "The Job" is that as the show goes to commercial break, a short interstitial appears with one of the panelists offering job search advice (see an example here: #jobtips) for those looking for work.

It was also not hard to fall back on one's own selection biases.  I found myself trying to predict who would eventually end up winning based on the short introduction of each of the candidates at the top of the show (my choice did win...huzzah).

Lisa Ling does a pedestrian job as host of the show; she keeps the process moving along.  I could have done without any speeches from the losing candidates.  HR folk may also blanch at one of the interview questions (a single mother of 6 kids is asked whether she is willing to relocate her family to New York for the job...it could have been phrased differently).  It'll also be interesting to see if they change some of the tasks the candidates are expecting to perform, such as running the knowledge test Jeopardy-style, instead of each candidate getting their own set of questions.  Similarly, could they make the distinction between the dream job and the one offered by a guest company clearer - is there a difference in compensation, for example, that might make the choice even more difficult?

Nonetheless, the show appears to be a win-win for all involved.  As with CBS' other workplace reality show "Undercover Boss," companies get an hour of free publicity to highlight the great things they do, as well as what a wonderful opportunity it is to work for them.  Similarly, qualified candidates get a national stage to show their knowledge, skills, and abilities.

So, check out "The Job" on CBS on Friday, February 8 at 8/7 Central. 

Please don't talk about HR issues, @JoeNBC

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, January 25, 2013

On the drive into work this morning, I happened to tune into an all-male panel discussion on Morning Joe of the recent change in military policy to allow women in combat.  

Joe Scarborough was skeptical that women should be put on the front line given physical differences, and if lives were lost as a result of the policy it would by on the hand of the Pentagon.

Joe, Joe, Joe....

Ignoring the fact that military warfare is much different from the days of trench fighting where the need to drag heavy bodies has lessened, let's look at another similar, physically demanding job where the need to move bodies is present.


To become a firefighter, many municipalities have adopted the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT), which consists of eight separate events across a predetermined path.  It is a timed event (candidates must complete the events in 10 minutes and 20 seconds) and candidates must wear a 50-pound vest to simulate the equipment they would wear in the event of the an actual fire.  The CPAT includes:

  1. Stair climb - candidates are required to wear additional weight (two 12.5-pound weights on the shoulders) and to walk on a StepMill, which is situated between a wall and an elevated platform, at a stepping rate of 60 steps per minute for three minutes. The handrail of the StepMill opposite the wall is removed. Prior to beginning the timed event, each candidate performs a 20-second warm-up at a rate of 50 steps per minute. There is no break between this warm-up period and the actual timed test event. If the candidate falls or dismounts the StepMill three times during the warm-up period, he or she fails the test. If the candidate falls, grasps any of the test equipment, or steps off the StepMill during the timed event, the test is concluded and the candidate fails the test.
  2. Hose Drag - the candidate grasps a six-pound nozzle attached to four lengths (200 feet) of attack hose (1 1/2 inch diameter), places the hose over the shoulder and across the chest (maximum 8 feet), and drags the hose 75 feet along a marked path (cones) to two pre-positioned 55-gallon drums that are secured together and weighted. The candidate makes a 90-degree turn around the drums, continues an additional 25 feet, and then drops to at least one knee at the finish line.
  3. Equipment Carry - the candidate removes two 32-pound saws from a tool cabinet, one at a time, and places them on the ground. The candidate then picks up both saws, one in each hand, and carries them 75 feet around a drum and then back to the starting point. The candidate then places the saws on the ground, picks up each saw one at a time, and replaces them in the designated space inside the cabinet.
  4. Ladder Raise and Extension - This event uses two portable 24-foot aluminum extension ladders, one ladder is lying on the ground and hinged at one end to a wall and the other ladder is secured in a vertical position. During the event, the candidate lifts the ladder on the ground by the unhinged end and walks underneath the ladder while raising it to a stationary position against a wall. The candidate then proceeds to the other ladder and stands in front of it with both feet inside a marked-off area and extends the fly section of the ladder hand-over-hand until it hits the stop.
  5. Forcible Entry - the candidate uses a 10-pound sledgehammer to strike a forcible entry machine calibrated to measure the cumulative force of 300 pounds of pressure based on the effort required to force open a door. The candidate's feet must remain outside a toe box assembly. The forcible entry machine is mounted 39 inches on center from the ground (typical location of a standard exterior door knob).
  6. Search - the candidate crawls on hands and knees through a dark tunnel maze that is approximately 3 feet high, 4 feet wide, and 64 feet long, with two 90-degree turns. At various locations in the tunnel, the candidate must maneuver around, over, and under obstacles. At two additional locations, the candidate is required to crawl through a narrowed space where the dimensions of the tunnel are reduced.
  7. Rescue - he candidate grasps a 165-pound mannequin (the minimum weight a firefighter must be able to drag to meet the physical demands of the job) by one or both of the harness shoulder handles (simulating the shoulder straps of a firefighter's SCBA) and drags it 35 feet to a pre-positioned drum. The candidate then makes a 180-degree turn around the drum and continues to drag the mannequin an additional 35 feet totally across the finish line.
  8. Ceiling Breach - the candidate removes a pike pole from a bracket and stands within an area inside the framework of the equipment. The candidate places the tip of the pike pole on the target area (a ceiling assembly eight feet above the ground containing a hinged door and handle) and pushes up (breaching action) on the hinged door with the pike pole three times. The candidate then hooks the pike pole onto the handle of the ceiling assembly and pulls downward five times. The candidate repeats the set (three pushes and five pulls) four times. The standard ceiling height of a residential structure is eight feet. The force required to breach the ceiling is 60 pounds and the force required to pull the ceiling is 80 pounds. Three breaches followed by five pulls will provide a four-foot by eight-foot examination opening within a structure.
Again, candidates must be able to complete the above tasks in sequence in a short amount of time.  If they are not able to complete all tasks as demonstrated with only occasional room for error (for example, in event 4, if a candidate misses any rung during the ladder raise, one warning is given; the second infraction constitutes a failure. If the ladder is allowed to fall to the ground or the safety lanyard is activated because the candidate completely releases the grip on the ladder, the test time is concluded and the candidate fails the test).  

Many women will fail this test.  So will many men.  But, many women will succeed.  

Today, the U.S. Fire Administration estimates that there are nearly 11,000 women firefighters in the country.

If 11,000 women can pass the CPAT, many military women can pass whatever physical test the Pentagon throws at them, and should be given the opportunity to do so.

So, please Joe...leave the HR talk to the professionals.

I Need No Incentive to Write About Paul Hebert (@incentintel) #timsackettday

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Last year on this day, the HR community came together to celebrate one of its own - the unheralded, unlistable Tim Sackett.  Some highlights can be found here, here, here, here, and my own contribution here

But, that was last year....

Today, it is all about the great Paul Hebert.

If you do a Google image search of the man, you get a lot of pretenders who have the name "Paul Hebert...." but there is only one who carries the influence and weight of the HR community on his shoulders.

When Commissioner Gordon summons Bruce Wayne to Gotham Police HQ, he sends out something like this:


However, when Commissioner Hank Jackson at SHRM needs a particular kind of HR expert, he summons Paul with the "Hebert signal."  Perhaps you've seen it?  

Reflected on the moon, it looks something like this:

When behavior needs to be influenced without rewards, Paul is there....

When there is a gift card to be purchased for an employee, Paul is there....

When an employer wants to offer cash, instead of non-cash awards, Paul is there...

When a drunkard takes a walk, Paul is there....

Like Billy Batson shouts "Shazam" to transform into Captain Marvel, Paul utters "Cialdini" to transform from the mild-mannered Greenville, SC native into HR influence superhero.

So, if you know what is good for you, you'll need no incentive to follow Paul on Twitter at @incentintel, or check out his wonderful blog here (for now).

Happy #timsackettday, Paul! Cialdini!

The State of College Recruiting 2012-2013

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, January 21, 2013

Each year, the College Employment Research Institute, under the leadership of Dr. Phil Gardner, puts together a look at the current state of recruiting with regard to college students (check it out here).

Based on a sample of 4,300 employer representatives, their reports indicate that "the new college labor market inches ahead with a 3 percent gain over last year across all degrees.  Strong demand for marketing finance, human resources(!), and advertising majors as well as the inclusive "all majors" group will push up hiring for Bachelor's degrees by 5 percent."  The large surprise in the report was the strong demand for Associate's degrees, which were up 30% from the previous year, and were outpacing four-year degrees for the past several months.

Its a long report (57 pages), but one of the interesting highlights was asking employers which talent management strategies they were likely to incorporate over the next three years to circumvent potential skill shortages in their organization.  The authors narrowed it down to six options (from an array of possibilities):

  • Moving operations.  Few organizations (4%) identified this as a strategy they were pursuing.
  • Mergers and acquisitions.   As with moving operations, only a small number of employers (6%) chose this approach
  • Partnering with other organizations.  Nearly 16% of employers were considering this, with educational services, non-profits, and healthcare services most likely to pursue this option.
  • Investing in technology. Here, less than 25% of employers indicated they were likely to pursue this choice, with larger organizations the most likely to make the effort.  
  • Participating in early talent development programs on college campuses.  As with technology, organizational size made a difference with 50% of large employers (< 4000 employees) adopting this strategy compared to only 15% of very small organizations (< 10 employees)
  • Increasing amount spent on training.  Nearly 45% of employers plan to expand their efforts in this area, with small organizations (100-500 employees) leading the way.
  Is your organization planning to increase spending on training?  Does this jibe with your 2013 recruiting plans? 

On Sleep and Drugs

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, January 15, 2013

For many of us, there just isn't enough hours in the day.  Pressures to keep up with work deadlines, taking care of the kids, and, in this modern technological world, being mobile means being on call 24/7, and something has to give.  This usually means less hours of sleep, followed by copious amounts of coffee, Diet Mountain Dew, and 5-hour Energy Drinks.

Now, better living through chemistry strikes again with the new drug, Modafinil.

The newest wake-up pill has all of the benefits of caffeine and amphetamines with none of the down sides. It has elicited so few complaints of side effects from users -- they claim it has no side effects at all except for the occasional slight headache -- it's the closest thing to a miracle the pharmaceutical world has seen since Viagra, if Viagra didn't sometimes cause blindness, heart attacks and five-hour erections. It's called modafinil, and it's FDA-approved to treat narcolepsy. But the drug has gained a dedicated off-label following as a "lifestyle drug." Doctors all over the country are reporting record numbers of sudden narcoleptics showing up in their waiting rooms. (As it turns out, you can get diagnosed as a narcoleptic online.)

Unlike caffeine, which floods the body with dopamine (and the accompanying crash when it wears off), Modafinil has all the benefits of a cup of coffee, without the negatives.

One of the most mysterious things about modafinil, even in view of its multi-pronged, targeted approach to sleep avoidance, is that it appears to trigger no "sleep debt." People who stay awake for a day or two on modafinil report no need to catch up on sleep when the dose wears off. They can just sleep the usual seven or eight hours and get back in the game. People who take amphetamines typically need to sleep for half a day when the high wears off.

So, what will be the impact on the world of work if such a drug becomes more common place?

  • Will there be an expectation for salaried individuals to put in 18-hour days?
  • If people work longer hours, will that push unemployment even higher, as the need for more labor decreases?
Would you take Modafinil if it became available?

On Obamacare and Restaurants

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hey restaurants owners.

We get you're unhappy about some of the regulations in Obamacare that require you to provide basic health care to your employees who work over 30 hours a week.

How about you Taco Bell?
Johnna Davis has worked at the Taco Bell in Guthrie since September. She's seen a 200 dollar cut in her paycheck since a new store policy went into effect.
"What we were being told was one thing, and that was, ‘we're going to offer benefits, we'll just keep all of our full time employees and then come December, their whole story changed," Johnna Davis said.
She says her manager held a meeting before Christmas, saying employees' hours would be cut in the new year.
"They informed everybody that nobody was considered full-time any longer, that everybody was now considered part-time, and [they] would be cutting hours back to 28 hours or less due to Obamacare," Davis said.
Under the Affordable Care Act, companies are required to provide insurance to its full-time employees, or face fines. Davis would've qualified for an insurance plan.
What about you, Wendy's?

A fast-food chain is slashing employee hours so franchise owners don't have to pay health benefits. Around 100 local Wendy’s workers have learned their hours are being cut. A spokesperson says a new health care law is to blame.
“Thirty-six to 37 hours a week.” That's how many hours T.J. Growbeck works at the 84th and Giles Wendy's restaurant. The money he earns helps him pay for the basics, but that’s not the case for all his co-workers. “There are some people doing it trying to get by.”
The company has announced that all non-management positions will have their hours reduced to 28 a week. Gary Burdette, Vice President of Operations for the local franchise, says the cuts are coming because the new Affordable Health Care Act requires employers to offer health insurance to employees working 32-38 hours a week. Under the current law they are not considered full time and that as a small business owner, he can't afford to stay in operation and pay for everyone's health insurance.
A Denny's franchise owner threatened to put a 5% Obamacare surcharge on the menu, noting customers can take it out of the waitstaff tip

An Applebee's franchise owner threatened a hiring and building freeze. 

Papa John's CEO John Schnatter threatened that he has to raise the price of pizza $.14 to cover the costs (even though the company can afford to give away 2 million pizzas and the actual cost would be no more than $.10 a pie to provide health care to his employees).

Here's the thing...

1.  Costs go up all the time for restaurants, particularly when it comes to changes in the cost of ingredients to make the meals.  Just ask Buffalo Wild Wings, who've had to raise the cost of their chicken wings to offset the soaring price of chicken.  We as consumers are not happy about it...but we understand, particularly if you are transparent about the cost increase.

2.  When I, and other consumers, go to restaurants, not only do we hope for a delicious meal, we also hope that we don't get sick from it.   When 90% of employees in the food service industry are not provided sick leave, and you are now making it known that you are cutting hours to avoid providing health insurance to your employees, it lowers my confidence in the quality and care of what you are offering.  

If employees do not have health insurance, they are also not seeking health care when ill, and, with reduced hours, they are coming to work and handling the food that we all eat.

So, enjoy that pizza from Papa John's during the Super Bowl.  Just remember, you don't know who's been touching the cheese and whether they are healthy or not.

#TalentNet Live: The Academic Approach - #HR in the Classroom

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, January 7, 2013

In case any of you are interested, I'll be on Talent Net Radio tomorrow at 7PM Eastern/6PM Central to discuss the nexus of human resources and the classroom. 

Here is the link to the show

Here are the questions we'll be discussing; you can join the conversation with me and the #TalentNet team of Craig Fisher (@fishdogs), Crystal Miller (@theonecrystal) and Matt Charney  (@MattCharney) by using the #TalentNet hashtag or calling in live.
Q1. Do you think that there's a skills gap within HR and recruiting?  Why?
Q2. What is the ideal educational background for an HR leader - or is there one at all?
Q3. Are graduates ready to step straight from the classroom to the HR frontline?  Should they?
Q4. Which matters more in HR and recruiting: education or experience?
Q5. Where do organizations like SHRM fit into the development equation?
Q6. What's your advice to someone beginning their HR career?

Hope you'll join us.

What Do Professors Do All Day?

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, January 4, 2013

So, I was a bit snarky in yesterday's post about the Careercast.com study that found being a university professor the least stressful job in 2012.

Why snarky?  If you ask many of my fellow academicians, particularly those untenured assistant professors at Division I Research Universities, they'd scoff at the results.

Think I'm kidding?

Susan Adams highlighted the results of the study in Forbes.  While the article is a pretty basic summary, the real reason to check it out is the outrage in the comments section from those very individuals.

Philip Nel, a Professor of English at Kansas State University, attempted to break down how much work he does in a typical week during the school year, as well as what a professor does during the summer (when he or she is unpaid). 

It's enlightening and (anecdotally) accurate.

I Knew There Was A Reason I Liked My Job

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, January 3, 2013

The good people at Careercast.com have come out with their list of the top 10 least stressful jobs in the United States.

Topping the list?

University professors.

The field's high growth opportunities, low health risks and substantial pay provide a low-stress environment that's the envy of many career professionals.
Americans are going to college in record numbers. In fact, 63.3% of citizens ages 18 to 30 have or are on track to earn degrees, according to PayScale.com. And the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows job seekers with college educations are still twice as likely to land a position as those without. These facts combine to create rising job opportunities in the college ranks, which help make teaching jobs less stressful than ever before.

Other reasons for its ranking?  Being at the pinnacle of one's field, students choose to be there, performance isn't based on standardized tests, and the opportunity to earn tenure.

So, everyone else....enjoy your stressful jobs...I'm going to relax here at my desk.