On Seasonal Employment and PAAS Easter Dye Kits

by Matthew Stollak on Sunday, March 31, 2013

It is Easter Sunday, which means that many of you spent the past couple of weeks dyeing Easter Eggs.

Most likely, you used the PAAS Easter Egg Color Kit.  

Is there a company more synonymous with a holiday than PAAS?  No big brand name for fireworks for the 4th of July.  Lots of competition for your Halloween and Christmas dollar. 

If you dyed eggs, it was with PAAS:

PAAS, an Ocala-based egg-coloring company owned by Signature Brands, accounts for 80 percent of the egg-decorating market, said Brittany Lacey, PAAS brand manager.

The company, which has made egg-dying kits for more than 130 years, sells about 10 million kits every Easter season, according to its website.

I wonder, however, does being so tied to a single day impact employment.  What do the workers at PAAS do for the other 10-11 months of the year?  Build 10 million kits of inventory?  Look for other jobs?  At least for one, it is a full-time job:

Lacey has been researching the latest trends and creating new egg-dying ideas for this Easter since August, she said.
“I’m obsessed with Pinterest,” she said, “so I’ll go on there and see how people are decorating eggs.”
This year, PAAS released new kits ranging from bedazzled, velvet and marble themes, and the “Eggsplosion” volcano, among others.
Lacey has already begun preparing for next year’s Easter, she said.

Happy Easter everyone!

There's Still Work To Do When It Comes to Firing Employees

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, March 27, 2013

You're Tubby Smith, head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers.  You're successful in your job, leading your teams to 20 win seasons in 18 of the 21 years you've been a head coach.  You've won a National Championship in 1998.  You just led your team to a NCAA appearance and a 2nd round victory over the UCLA Bruins.

You would not only think that you would be able to keep your job, but if you were to be fired, you would at least get the courtesy of knowing before the rest of the world.  

Alas, being a Hall of Fame-caliber coach buys you none of that.

According to Andy Katz at ESPN:
Tubby Smith and his staff had no idea they were about to be fired Monday morning as they sat in a staff meeting at 10 a.m. going over recruiting, offseason workout plans and evaluations of the Gophers' loss to Florida the previous day. Members of the Minnesota staff said they were sitting in the meeting when they started receiving text messages from coaching colleagues telling them they had been fired. Smith told them that he had to meet with the administration at 1 p.m. It was then, according to the staff, that Smith and ultimately the staff found out they had been fired.

When others outside the organization are finding out about your termination before you do, HR is not doing their job (or the very least, being kept out of the loop).

One wonders as well about the impact on future hires.  Would you take a job with an organization that treated its high profile coach in such a manner?  If you're thinking about taking the Minnesota head coach job, my guess is you should be able to negotiate an extra hundred grand or two as a result.

On Googling Candidates and Laurie Ruettimann (@lruettimann)

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Earlier this month, Laurie Ruettimann wrote a nice piece for TLNT.com entitled, "Are You Googling Job Candidates? When You Do, Everyone Loses."

As always her advice was spot on, but it really hit home today when I arrived at work and received an e-mail from a former student who had run into a troubling situation where the personal and professional often crosses - romance and work.

This former student was romantically involved with someone outside of work.  However, the ex was none too pleased that my student was involved with his/her former flame, and began to engage in some despicable behavior. To wit, attempting to hack into my student's Facebook and Twitter accounts.    

However, the straw that broke the camel's back this morning was discovering a duplicate LinkedIn account created with my former student's name and location, with a false profession (think bank robber or prostitute).  Now, when someone does a LinkedIn search for that former student's name, not only does his/her real account show up, but the fake account shows up as well with a false title and false interests (i.e., defacing public property or sleeping around).

Given that this student is trying to establish him/herself in a new position and growing his/her network, this is extremely troubling.  His/her colleagues may want to connect on LinkedIn, and could come across this less than flattering profile.  Or, he/she may want to start looking for a new position, and future employers could look up my student and dismiss him/her based on this profile.

So, as always, listen to Laurie - be careful out there when googling candidates....you may come across a false profile or two.

Note:  The scenario has been changed to protect the innocent.  Don't bother searching my LinkedIn connections - this former student is not among them.

On Base Rate of Success

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, March 14, 2013

One of my favorite terms in HR is "base rate of success."  Its also rarely discussed, but absolutely critical.

Simply put, the "base rate of success" tells us the proportion of employees who would be successful on the job if we hired randomly instead of applying some predictor.

As Gatewood and Feild (2010) write in their book "Human Resource Selection:"

If 100 percent of the applicants would be successful if hired, there is no added information provided by the predictor; one would simply randomly pick from the pool of superstar candidates.  Conversely, if every applicant in the selection pool would fail if hired, the predictor cannot help identify even one applicant who would be successful; none are successful.

We invest considerable time in our selection tools.  We apply certain assessment tests believing they provide added information that would help differentiate amongst qualified candidates.  We spend countless hours interviewing the "best" applicants hoping it will give they final impetus on who to choose.

How much better are these predictors than simply throwing darts or picking out of a hat?  Have you looked at your measures to see if they are providing you that edge?  How much would your company pay improved your ability to select by 3%? 5%? 10%?

On Absenteeism and Due Dates

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, March 4, 2013

Last Friday, I discussed my battles with absenteeism in the classroom.  Not only do students suffer in their performance by missing class, but it creates more work for me in terms of time grading poor answers on exams.

Where absenteeism poses a particular problem beyond just missing class is when assignments are due or exams are scheduled.  Students may have legitimate reasons for being absent; as a result, my policy takes into account three situations:

Homework assignments, exams, or computer work will not be accepted after the dates and times when due except from those persons:

(1)   who must attend a required school-sanctioned event (varsity sports, concert, etc.), and have provided me, one week before the event, with a letter from the instructor, coach, etc., indicating the reason such attendance is required.

(2)   who are too ill to attend class when homework is due, or the exam is scheduled, and notify me within 6 hours of the due date (i.e., no later than 3:00 p.m.).  Further, you have provided me, within one week after the illness, with a letter from an appropriate health care professional describing the illness, and its relevance to not meeting class requirements.

(3)  who have a personal problem or confront an emergency that prohibits them from attending class, contacted me within 6 hours of the emergency (i.e., no later than 3:00 p.m.), and have provided me with a letter from a credible authority, their academic advisor, or from the Dean verifying the personal problem or emergency.

Situations arise during the course of the semester that will cause me to revisit the policy and make changes.  Take this sterling example:
  • A student commutes to class from his/her off-campus home.  On the day an exam is scheduled, he/she e-mails me that his/her car has broken down and he/she will not be able to make it to classPer the policy, I required a note from an appropriate party - in this case, the auto repair shop.  The student provides the note, and I notice the home address of the student on the receipt.  It turns out the student's "commute" was less than a mile from a campus, and he/she could have easily walked to class.
As a result, I may have to consider adding a sentence or two about commuting to campus, including a commuting range, for the next semester.

As always, the policy is a dynamic, not static, instrument, and students will find inventive ways to find loopholes.  Sigh!

On Battling Absenteeism

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, March 1, 2013

Like most managers, I engage in a semester-long battle with absenteeism.  I have the enviable position of teaching two sections of business statistics.  Combine that with a time slot of 8:00 A.M. and/or 9:00 A.M., and you can envision the long waiting list of students at registration.

Students are over 18 and they're paying for the class, so why should I care whether or not they attend?

1) After 18 years of teaching, and thousands of data points collected, a clear picture emerges - attendance and doing one's homework matters.   After every exam, I can see a clear correlation between amount of points earned on a chapter problem set and the subsequent exam score.  At the end of the semester, I can see a clear correlation between points earned and a student's final grade.  Similarly, attendance is a predictor of success in the class.  

Over the past several semesters for a class that meets 4 times a week, 50 minutes a day, for 15 weeks:
*The average grade on a 4.0 scale for zero absences: 3.21
*Average grade for 1 absence: 3.23
*Average grade for 2 absences: 3.08
*Average grade for 3 absences: 2.68
*Average grade for 4 absences: 2.30
*Average grade for 5 or more absences: 2.01
*Average grade for 8 or more absences: 1.67
*Average grade for 12 or more absences: 1.25

Shocking, I know.
2) Students often think professors revel in student's poor performance; that we want to force rank students into something resembling a normal curve.  Here's the secret....we really don't.  I'd much rather see success on exams than failure.  As most managers know, giving quality feedback takes time.  It is much, much easier to grade an exam where a student gets an answer correct, than when he or she has made a number of mistakes.  A student's absence, more likely than not, means less success on an exam, and subsequently more work for me.

So, my attendance policy is a continual work in progress:

As attendance is significantly correlated to performance, there is an expectation you will be present for each class.  Unless your final grade is in the A range, the following penalties will be assessed (except under extreme circumstances):
1-4 absences – no penalty
5th absence – 2 points
6th absence – 4 points (for a total of 6 points lost)
7th absence – 8 points (for a total of 14 points lost)
8th absence – 16 points (for a total of 30 points lost)
9th absence – 32 points (for a total of 62 points lost)
10th absence – 64 points (for a total of 126 points lost)
11th absence – 128 points (for a total of 254 points lost)

If you are not present for 80% of the time class meets, it will be considered an absence.  I do not distinguish between “excused” or “unexcused” absences.  In essence, you have 4 absences to do with as you please.  However, if you burn them early, and a situation arises later that might cause you to miss class, do not expect a lot of sympathy from me.

I think that it provides significant flexibility (though students might think differently). Stuff happens during a semester - illness, job interviews, travel, car breaks down, a competing college-related event.  Four absences (essentially a week of classes) should be sufficient to meet most circumstances that a student might face over the course of a semester.  Similarly, the exponential penalties are significant enough to discourage more absences than that.

Yet, there are always new excuses and challenges that cause me to revise it yet again....but you'll have to wait until Monday to read about it.

So, have at it, people.  What flaws do you see?