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.

What Robert Galbraith Can Teach Us About #HR

by Matthew Stollak on Sunday, July 14, 2013

In late April, Robert Galbraith published his first novel - a mystery called "The Cuckoo's Calling" -  to rave reviews but relatively few purchases.  Yesterday, Robert Galbraith's book was languishing at 4,709 on Amazon's bestseller list with 1500 sales. Now, the book's sitting at number 1; a 156,866% sales increase in 1 day.

What was responsible for such a dramatic change in fortune?

Robert Galbraith was revealed to be the psuedonym of a little known author named J.K. Rowling.  

How often did people pass by the book at their local Barnes & Noble (they still exist, right?) and not give it a second glance simply because of the name of the author?

And, how often do we in HR look over a resume or judge performance simply by looking at the name of the applicant or employee?

It's an all to familiar lesson -  you can't judge a book by its cover - literally.

Why #HR is the Villain

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference." - Elie Wiesel

"Repeat after me: "Not everyone is going to like me and its not my job to make sure they do." " - Charlie Judy, SPHR 

As a fan of Chuck Klosterman's writings, I had to pick up "I Wear The Black Hat: Grappling With Villains (Real and Imagined)," a fascinating series of essays on the notion of evil and villainy.  As he posits in the premise, "Why would anyone want to be evil?"  What separates a villain, from a crook or a bad boy?

In Star Wars, Klosterman argues as a youth are we drawn to Luke Skywalker (who's pure good), we gravitate toward Han Solo (who is a good bad boy), but find the only intriguing figure in adulthood is Darth Vader? 

In Purple Rain, we are supposed to root for the pure, suffering Prince, but find ourselves more interested in the confident Morris Day (Why? narcissicism scans as charisma).

Why do we find ourselves empathizing with Tony Soprano or Walter White?

What makes Machiavelli truly Machiavellian?  According to Klosterman,

The Prince can be read like a self-help book for someone who openly aspires to be depraved: This is what's important to believe, this is how the powerful should act in public, this is how you need to behave in private, et cetera.  It's a clinical dissection of how to be tyrannical.  Whether Machiavelli believed these things is beside the point - what matters is that he presented them as pure stratagem.  It was not an emotional reaction to a specific circumstance; it was a calculated design for life, usable by anyone, applicable anywhere.  He turned an autocratic template into entertainment.  This is what makes Machiavelli culturally unlikeable. It make him cold.  The mere fact that he could conceive of these strategies - even if he'd never have used them himself - is what makes him sinister forever.

 And, this leads to Klosterman's premise for the book:

 In any situation, the villain is the person who knows the most but cares the least.

Machiavelli "didn't need to commit evil acts.  He didn't need to be evil. That was just how his mind naturally worked, and that's what discomforts people."

And, this is why HR is often perceived as the villain.

In most employee relations issues, the HR representative should be the person who knows the most. He or she understands the HR body of knowledge.  He or she should be most familiar with the appropriate rules and regulations.  

However, by always looking out for the best interests of the organization, by being objective in its approach, the HR representative can be perceived by the employee as dispassionate or uncaring.

Hence, HR is the villain!

Should an Author's Resume/CV Be on His/Her #HR blog?

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Short post, and inside baseball.  

I was taken to task by a reader regarding my use of LinkedIn to examine the educational background of the HuffPost Top 100 Most Social HR Experts on Twitter.  Her argument is that LinkedIn is a glitchy marketing tool, that shouldn't be confused with a resume.  

So, it got me wondering...if not LinkedIn, where can I find the evidence of the expertise and background of the HR leaders of today?

Combing the list and perusing the many HR blogs and personal websites out there, one of the things I have noticed is how few have the author's resume (or a link to one) detailing employment history, skills, educational background, etc. There might be a bio, some background info, and a link to LinkedIn to connect, but rarely is there information demonstrating their bonafides.

Why might that be?
  • Despite the reader's contention above, has LinkedIn replaced the traditional resume for most, and individuals should be directed there to see the details?
  • Personal preference?
  • The author hasn't updated the resume in quite awhile? 
With that in mind, should an author's resume be part of the blog (mine's at the top)?  Would knowing such information enhance the credibility of the author's blog? Does it matter?

Leave your thoughts below.

On the Need for HR Certification Research

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, July 8, 2013

In the wake of the HuffPost Top 100 Most Social HR Experts list, and the significant number on the list who do not have HR certification, was a comment made by one of those top 100 members:

As a recruiting practitioner I really see no value personally or professionally in being a SHRM member or gaining a certificate. Unless someone could give me a really good reason to the contrary.

Certainly, if one goes to the Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) website, the benefits are laid out:
  • show you know the most current principles and core practices of HR management
  • become more marketable when you compete for top HR positions
  • raise your professional confidence among your staff and your peers 
What, unfortunately, is lacking is demonstrable evidence showing the true impact of certification both professionally and on the organization, such as:
  • certified HR professionals earn 13.2% higher salary than their non-certified peers
  • organizations with certified HR professionals have 12.2% greater retention of high performing employees
  • organizations with certified HR professionals have 14.6% less EEOC complaints than organizations led by non-certified HR leaders
In December 2012, Human Resource Management Review dedicated a special issue to the value of HR certification research (Sadly, it is likely that 99.9% of HR professionals will not read the several articles contained therein, as it is behind a paywall).  Of particular note, is the lead article, "What is the value of human resource certification?  A multi-level framework for research" by Mark L. Lengnick-Hall and Herman Aguinis.  They state:

With the increasing popularity of the SHRM certification program as well as the proliferation of other similar certifications, it is time to determine (1) what certification measures and how well it does it; and (2) what difference having certification makes to individuals, to organizations, and to the HR profession.

To answer the above, and as the title of their article suggests, Lengnick-Hall and Aguinis create a multi-level framework for research shown in the figure below:

According to Lengnick-Hall & Aguinis,
The figure depicts three important elements: (a) time, (b) macro-level effects, and (c) micro-level effects. First, the starting time begins with the implementation of the organizational staffing practice of using HR certification as a selection tool. This staffing practice represents a contextual (top-down) effect on the organization's individual KSAOs because all potential HR professional employees will be recruited using the HR certification predictor. HR certification is used as a selection tool because it measures human resource management knowledge

Accompanying the figure are 14 testable propositions, including:

  • Proposition 2: Individuals with undergraduate or master's degrees in human resource management or related disciplines will not benefit as much (increased hiring probability, higher salaries, and faster promotion rates) from an HR certification compared to individuals without such degrees
  • Proposition 3: As assessed by longitudinal research, we predict that individuals with undergraduate or master's degrees in human resource management or master's degrees in business administration will obtain more C-suite positions and perform more effectively in these roles compared to individuals who have certifications such as SHRM's PHR or SPHR
  • Proposition 4: Using HR certification as a selection tool will be positively associated to individuals' HR management knowledge
  • Proposition 5: Certified HR professionals will perform better (i.e. effectively diagnose and resolve HR problems, design and implement HR programs aligned with organizational objectives, etc.) on the job than do non-certified HR professionals
  • Proposition 6: A greater proportion of certified HR professionals who have shared HR knowledge in an HR department will lead to higher unit-level performance
  • Proposition 11: A greater proportion of certified HR professionals in the HR function will lead to more favorable perceptions by multiple constituents regarding the value-added contribution of the HR function in the organization and thereby enhance HR department reputation
  • Proposition 13: A greater proportion of certified HR professionals in an HR department will lead to higher HR department effectiveness

Certainly, answering the propositions listed will be a difficult process, and perhaps this is why such research is lacking.  As Cohen (2012) notes in the same issue:

In order to test Proposition 2, data would need to be collected from a single huge organization with a large enough population of HR professionals who are covered by the same compensation plan to test the proposition. You would need archival data of salary trends, certification status, educational achievements, promotions, performance data, and so forth to comparatively test for the differences in salary and advancement.  A study of just HR professionals, outside of the archival factors mentioned many not provide accurate or generalizable information.  Titles may or may not be comparable across organizations so unless the data comes from a single organization where title, responsibility and other variables can be controlled, the results may not reveal anything meaningful.

Nonetheless, these questions are of critical importance to the profession, and I echo Aguinis and Lengnick-Hall's (2012) challenge to the SHRM Foundation: Issue a call for proposals for empirical research on the value of HR certification.

Why the @huffpostbiz Top 100 Social #HR Experts on Twitter Should Be a Wake-Up Call to #SHRM

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Congrats to the 100 individuals who made the Huffington Post Top 100 Most Social HR Experts on Twitter this week.  Lots of worthy individuals on the list, including 14-15 people I had never heard of before, so it provides the opportunity for new connections.

However, if I am the Society for Human Resource Management, I'd be very worried about this list.  


I went through the LinkedIn profiles of all 100 individuals and found:
  • Only 21 individuals had listed they had earned PHR or SPHR certification (none listed GPHR).  This number could be higher, but some either chose not to list it, or they may have let certification lapse.
  • Less than 60 had a formal business education (i.e., a BBA or post-graduate degree in a business-related field).  Some only listed their college, but did not list their educational background.  Others did not have education as part of their LinkedIn profile. 
  • Of that 60 or so, less than 25 concentrated in human resources as part of their undergraduate or graduate education.
So, why should this bother SHRM?
  1. Is pursuit of certification perceived as valuable?  If a significant portion of those who are perceived as being knowledgeable on the field of HR (or at least a major subset of the field) do not possess certification from SHRM, will some choose not to pursue it as well, as they do not see it as necessary to succeed in the industry?
  2. Barriers to entry in the field of HR continue to be low.  Again, many of the individuals on this list have demonstrated through on-the-job experience and success that they deserve to be lauded.  But, it should concern SHRM that many apparently do not need a HR education to be successful in HR.
  3. The need to embrace social and its impact on membership.  SHRM has done a wonderful job over the past couple of years of working with many on this list.  Over 50 on the list served on the social media team at the 2013 SHRM Annual Conference in Chicago.  However, with many on the list having little to no affiliation with SHRM, will some HR professionals wonder why they should join SHRM when others are possibly providing valuable information for free?

Carnival of HR - July 3rd Edition

by Matthew Stollak

Given it is the eve of the U.S. Independence Day, nothing is more fitting than a this case a celebration of great HR content.

So what makes a great July 4th celebration?

Travel - Whether to visit family or friends, many will take the July 4th break to head out on the open road.  So, it is fitting that Naomi Bloom shares the great HRM she experienced in her recent travels from Istanbul to Vienna (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

Music - As background to the cookout or conversation, or to accompanying the explosions overhead, music plays an important role to any July 4th celebration.  Mervyn Dinnen provides some choice tunes with his top 6 albums of 2013 thus far.  Amit Bhagria shares his Job Description of a Karaoke Artiste.

Movies - For some, July 4th provides an opportunity for some to catch up with the latest films at the cineplex.  With that in mind, Robin Schooling informs us that "Even 007 Can't Work Alone."

Guests - Usually, any celebrating is done with others.  But, unfortunately, it doesn't always work out.  Shauna Moerke tells us "How To Connect in Non-Creepy Ways on Social Media."  Mike Haberman suggests "7 Reasons You Have Toxic Employees." 

Games - No July 4th celebration is complete with a little gameplay.  At the Dovetail Software blog, Dwane Lay highlights with his wrapup of the SHRM13 kickball game and its impact to raise support for No Kid Hungry.  Of course, you need great players to make a successful game, and at the Teleos Consulting blog, Joan Kofodimos suggests that we need to banish the cult of the A-B-C player.  Similarly, Susan Heathfield tells us to "Do Powerful Internal Training."  But, if these players come together, Julie Winkle Giulioni wonders are they a team, a group, or a train wreck?  And, if you don't play as well as expected, John Hunter ponders "What is the Explanation Going to Be if this Attempt Fails?"

Food - Whether it be a picnic, cookout, or barbecue, food is critical for any successful July 4th enjoyment.  In this case, there is plenty of food for thought; just chew on the following:

Fireworks - The end of the July 4th evening is typically capped with a fireworks explosion.  Hence, it would be a shame if there was no big bangs.  Karin Hurt shares "10 Ways to Zap Energy and Squash Enthusiasm." 

This concludes the July 3rd edition of the Carnival of HR.  Be sure to head over to mentoring Mullarkey for the July 17th edition.

Recruiting When Money is NOT the Object - The Case of Dwight Howard

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Time for an #8ManRotation Post

For the most part, firms compete for talent on the basis of salary - if you pay more than the next guy, you usually win out.  When recruiting ace pitcher C.C. Sabathia, the New York Yankees made a major splash by offering $40 million more than other teams.

But, what do you do when money is not the centerpiece of the discussion?  With free agency bidding opening yesterday, take the current recruitment of mercurial NBA center Dwight Howard.   Unlike most organizations, the NBA has a salary cap with a maximum contract that can be offered.  In other words, all 30 NBA teams could offer Howard the same salary, and not a dollar more.

With that in mind, what can a team do to make their case?

  1. Is the boss someone you want to work for?  The Los Angeles Clippers recently brought in coach Doc Rivers from the Boston Celtics in order to retain free agent star guard Chris Paul.
  2. Can you reach the pinnacle of success in a short period of time?  Obviously, the goal for any NBA team is to win the Championship....does your team provide the best opportunity to do so in the next 2-4 years? 
  3. Can you show that the talent is truly wanted?  If you are the Los Angeles Lakers, do you put up billboards pleading for the talent to stay?  Do you photoshop your employee's image over iconic locations in your city?
  4. Are there other ways to make those salary dollars go further?  The Houston Rockets might be attractive to Howard, as, unlike California, the state of Texas has no state income tax.  Or, if you're Dallas, you have a restaurant willing to offer free chicken fingers for life (nearly $200,000 in food that Howard would not have to pay).
So, take a look at the recruiting efforts in your organization.  What would convince an applicant to come to your organization when salary is not the main driver?

I Owe My Soul To The Company Store

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, July 1, 2013

Those were the days:

Today, the lyric is now "St Peter don't you call me, cause I ain't free, they sold my soul for a kickback on the fee:"

A growing number of American workers are confronting a frustrating predicament on payday: to get their wages, they must first pay a fee.

For these largely hourly workers, paper paychecks and even direct deposit have been replaced by prepaid cards issued by their employers. Employees can use these cards, which work like debit cards, at an A.T.M. to withdraw their pay.

But in the overwhelming majority of cases, using the card involves a fee. And those fees can quickly add up: one provider, for example, charges $1.75 to make a withdrawal from most A.T.M.’s, $2.95 for a paper statement and $6 to replace a card. Some users even have to pay $7 inactivity fees for not using their cards.

These fees can take such a big bite out of paychecks that some employees end up making less than the minimum wage once the charges are taken into account, according to interviews with consumer lawyers, employees, and state and federal regulators.

Devonte Yates, 21, who earns $7.25 an hour working a drive-through station at a McDonald’s in Milwaukee, says he spends $40 to $50 a month on fees associated with his JPMorgan Chase payroll card.

Many employees say they have no choice but to use the cards: some companies no longer offer common payroll options like ordinary checks or direct deposit.

At companies where there is a choice, it is often more in theory than in practice, according to interviews with employees, state regulators and consumer advocates. Employees say they are often automatically enrolled in the payroll card programs and confronted with a pile of paperwork if they want to opt out.

“We hear virtually every week from employees who never knew there were other options, and employers certainly don’t disabuse workers of that idea,” said Deyanira Del Rio, an associate director of the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, which works with community groups in New York.

Obviously workers have been taking advantage of free payroll overhead for way too long.  Why should the employer bear the brunt of paying for the ink and paper needed to produce checks?

C'mon HR people...really?  With median weekly wages now less than a bottle of Cristal champagne, a fee laden card is the last thing employees need.

  • Help employees find credit unions where there is direct deposit and free checking
  • Offer financial literacy classes to employees

Advocating this approach for your business is lazy HR and it should be illegal.  Employees should not have to pay to get the money they rightly earned.