Monday, March 31, 2008

The Dr. Phil Personality Test As a Selection Tool

I received a copy of the Dr. Phil personality test supposedly given to Oprah. And as touted in the opening paragraphs "This is a real test given by the Human Relations Dept. at many of the major corporations today. It helps them get better insight concerning their employees and prospective employees." Here is the link to the Snopes page that talks about it. You can also take it if you want. Dr. Phil Personality Test.

While it is cute, it is also relatively uninformative. It reminds me of the magic number problems that always picks the number you selected. If there is a major company HR department out there using this as a selection tool I think they had better rethink their strategy. I see a very difficult time in proving validity under the standards of the Uniform Guidelines On Selection Procedures. Though they may have reliablity down pretty good.

So anyone using this as a selection tool? Tempted? LOL

Friday, March 28, 2008

"Reasons to Be Proud You Are In HR"- A Personal Balance Sheet

I try to pay attention to how and why people come to visit my blog. Many come because I have invited them to. Others, generally from countries other than the US, arrive via Google or some other search engine. Often the search terms are things like organizational charts, unions, employee relations, employee excuses and generational differences (a BIG one.) Yesterday however, one showed up that really intrigued me. So I used it as my title for today.... "reasons to be proud you are in HR."

It got me to thinking. Is this someone who is struggling with their own job? Or are they thinking about getting into HR and want to see if anyone is proud of what they do? Then I got to thinking about myself. Like many HR people my age (I am mid-US Baby Boom) I sort of "fell into HR." I did not pursue it intitially as a career. In fact I started out in college with the desire to be a primatologist with a Ph.D. in Comparative Psychology studying primate learning. But like many others I got derailed by life and found myself looking for work, with too much education and not enough work experience (unless I was applying at a zoo.) I went to an employment agency and tried to get them to help me. They could not (no background to sell), but they saw something and offered me a job there trying to place clerical candidates. I disliked the work, but I enjoyed dealing with the people in HR (actually it was personnel at that time) that I talked to on the phone.

Eventually I ended up in an HR department, oops.. Personnel Department, and started my career in HR. It has now been far longer than I would have ever expected. But the search phrase gave me reason to look back over that career and reflect. Did I have reasons to be proud I was in HR?

The answer was decidedly YES. Though there are some things, well many things, I don't like about HR as a profession there are many things I am proud of. These include:
  • Knowing I made a difference in someone's career by recognizing them as having talent and recruiting them to my company.
  • Seeing someone I recruited progress to mid-level and senior-level executive postions.
  • Knowing someone improved their ability by taking the advice and training I gave them.
  • Knowing I have kept my company out of trouble by making decisions on not hiring or firing at the appropriate time.
  • Knowing that I have been able to make people OK with themselves even though they may not have been successful in their jobs and thus lost them.
  • Knowing that I have educated many professionals that went on and successfully got PHR and SPHR certification.
  • Knowing that I have helped HR departments "see the light" with strategic alignment and helped them get their managers to "see the light."
  • Knowing that over the span of my time in HR I have made more "right" decisions than I have made "wrong" decisions.

I could probably keep on and name a few more and could probably name some times I have not been proud to be in HR as well. But in the totality of the situation it has been a good career and will continue to be.

So, if at times you wonder about this yourself make a list and you may be pleasantly suprised. In sales there is an old technique called the Ben Franklin Balance Sheet. You list the positives on one side and the negatives on the other in order to show someone why they should by your product. Well do the same thing with your HR career. Make a balance sheet. If you have more positives then be happy. If you have more negatives, well then perhaps a bit more soul searching needs to be done to improve your situation.

What does your balance sheet look like?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Summer Jobs Will Be Hard to Find, Plus No Work Ethic

According to an article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle teens will have a tough time finding summer jobs this year as a result of the current economic situation. In a survey, conducted by, teens will have fewer opportunities and more competition for summer jobs. Many of the jobs that will be available will go to teens who worked last year in the same position. Shawn Boyer, CEO of, says there will be jobs but teens need to get started early on looking for those jobs.

An interesting comment in the survey said that over half of the over 1000 managers surveyed felt that teens today do not have the work ethic that previous generations have had. Well that is not a new complaint about Gen Y.

I wonder however, if it is not so much a comment about work ethic as it is engagement. In this era where teens live in a short-attention span world work just may not be interesting enough to hold a teen's attention. If you are constantly bombarded by stimulation from music, TV, phones, etc. is stuffing fries in a bag really going to be that interesting? And if it is not interesting do you really want to do it? Not me.

And So It Begins: Starbucks Sued in Massachusetts

In my last blog about Starbucks being sued by baristas I said that we were going to see more of these lawsuits, given the $100 million settlement. We here it is, Starbucks Sued Again Over Tips. I predict we will see more and more of these suits.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Smell the Coffee: A Couple of HR Observations

Must have been a tough day today, perhaps due to a 3-day weekend for some, because at least two blogs had a coffee theme. (Ah coffee.. that aromatic nectar of wakefulness).

Kris Dunn, The HR Capitalist, weighed in on the Starbucks story about a court decision requiring Starbucks to pay baristas $100 million in back tips and penalities, for letting shift supevisors share in the tips customers put in the tip jar. Apparently that is a very big "no-no" in California (and now will embolden other employees in other states to bring the same lawsuit.) Starbucks has announced they will appeal the judges "excessive" judgement. However, I am sure we will see some fundamental changes in the way compensation is handled around Starbucks, win or lose. Personally, I never used the tip jar often, unless I got exceptional service, and I mean exceptional. One could argue that employees want tips then they should be willing to take a tipped wage of $2.13 an hour as well. I doubt many would be willing to make that trade.

The other blog with a coffee theme was that of Slacker Manager, Phil Gerbyshak. Phil gives a Monday Morning Management tip, which is: "Instead of having coffee alone, every day this week take a member of your team to coffee with you and find out a little more about how each associate on your team feels things are going. Start with the most junior member and work your way to the most senior." Great idea! In fact, if there is a Starbucks nearby, walk them over and spend sometime getting to know them.

This method is also good for getting to fellow executives and a great way to expand your "network" within the company. If you don't want to ask them out, then bring coffee to them. The point is that making allies and friends within the organization is VERY important to an HR professional and that can be done most effectively by taking a little bit of social time. It does not always have to be business. You are in the business of dealing with humans so put that social skill to work. (And by the way, Starbucks does serve other things than coffee and you will not be automatically be labled a snob. Unless of course you order a venti, no-whip, three shot, double-dipped, pat your head three times latte. Personally, I drink the coffee.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Carnival of HR

Wally Bock is hosting the Carnival of HR at his blog. So click here to read the wit and wisdom of a good size group of HR bloggers on employee relations, compensation, labor, leadership and management and much, much more.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

And You Thought HR Was Easy- Are You a Competent HR Professional?

I was reading an excert from The HR Scorecard: Linking People, Strategy, and Performance, by Brian Becker, Mark Huselid and David Ulrich and thought it would be instructive to pass on some of this information. The excert was Chapter 7, Competencies for HR Professionals. One thing is clear it is not easy to be an HR professional!

From a comprehensive study they determined that there are five competency domains that are necessary. These are, in order of importance:
  1. Knowing the business
  2. Mastering HR practices
  3. Managing culture
  4. Orchestrating change
  5. Demonstrating personal credibility

A bit about each.

Knowing the Business

They state that HR professionals add value to an organization when they understand how the business operates. Understanding this allows them to adapt HR and organizational activities to changing business conditions. Only by knowing the financial, strategic, technological and organizational capabilities of your organization can you play a valuable role in any strategic discussion. Further, business acumen requires knowledge, if not direct operational experience, in functional areas such as marketing, finance, strategy, technology and sales, in addition to HR. My experience has been that not enough HR people know this and make no effort to learn it.

Mastering HR Practices

This means you have to "know your stuff." According to the authors "Knowing and being able to deliver state-of-the-art, innovative HR practices builds these professionals' credibility and earns them respect from the rest of the organization."

Managing Culture

This is being the "keeper of the culture" as they say. Understand, deliver on it, preserve it, reflect it.

Orchestrating Change

According to the authors an "HR professional must demonstrate the following abilities: the ability to diagnose problems, build relationships with clients, articulate a vision, set a leadership agenda, solve problems, and implement goals. This competency involves knowledge of change processes, skills as change agents and abilities to deliver change."

Demonstrating Personal Credibility

This is "walking the walk and talking the talk." You have to be credible both in and outside of the organization. HR professionals that violate company policy, such as getting sued for sexual harassment, will not have any credibility, regardless of how much HR knowledge they may have. (Think Elliot Spitzer here.)

So, as you can see, this is not any easy job. I dare you to print this off and take it to your boss and ask if you are fulfilling this role and demonstrate these competencies. If not, you know what your improvement plan needs to look like.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Emergencies: Are You Prepared?

Today in Atlanta, Georgia many businesses are opening their doors to find that their offices have been damaged by a tornado that struck the downtown area of the city. This literally hit very close to home, as we are located in the Atlanta area. As I hear reports today I wonder what people are going through as they walk into their downtown offices only to find the windows broken out and all the paperwork in their office sucked out and gone. What will be the disruption to their business? And how long will they be in a state of chaos? I wonder if they are prepared? Did they have a plan in place to handle this disruption? Do you?

It is fortunate that this tornado struck at night, even though it was during a basketball tournament. The game had gone into overtime and thus the fans were still in the arena rather than being on the street, thus injuries were limited. If this had occured during the day, when the offices that were damaged were open, the results might had been different. So HR departments need to make sure that there is an emergency plan in place and that it is practiced. All employees need to make sure they are familiar with the plan as well. This applies to fire, flood, tornado, hurricanes, earthquake or whatever.

Although they were much maligned because of Hurricane Katrina FEMA does have an emergency plan that can be used. So be aware, be prepared and be trained.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Secret Ballot As a Foundation to Freedom: Not to Unions!

Kudos to Kris Dunn of the HR Capitalist for reminding us about the so-called Employee Free Choice Act. (Click the link for a Wikipedia explanation.) While currently idling in Congress waiting for the November elections to take place, this insidious piece of legislation will be raised again, probably next year. To read a better analysis of this go to the Employee Free Choice Act Blog.

The title of the legislation is totally bogus. In fact the EFCA seeks to take away any concept of free choice by requiring employees to make a public declaration of their support, or lack there of, and sign a card or petition for union representation. Up to now employees have been allowed to sign (or not) and then, after a campaign by both sides, decide by secret ballet whether they wanted a union or not. The EFCA seeks to take that away and give employees no opportunity to hear the merits (or lack of) union membership and then decide in a private way to vote for or against. Having to decide openly in a public forum opens the process to the use of intimidation or coersion. And for those of you that don't think unions do that anymore watch the following video.

So watch this legislation carefully.

Monday, March 10, 2008

"Yawn": Lack of Sleep and the Benefit of a Power Nap

Like alot of other people in the United States, the Spring change to Daylight Saving Time made me groggier than usual. Plus an early wake up call today, the late onset of daylight and exercise all contributed to me feeling like a nap was necessary. A study just released by the National Sleep Foundation entitled Longer Work Days Leave Americans Nodding Off On the Job: Sleepy Americans Doze Off At Work, In the Car and On Their Spouses, showed that "Prolonged work days that often extend late into the night may cause Americans to fall asleep or feel sleepy at work, drive drowsy and lose interest in sex, according to a new Sleep in America poll released today by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Spending an average of nearly 4.5 hours each week doing additional work from home on top of a 9.5 hour average workday, Americans are working more and are trying to cope with the resulting daytime sleepiness. In fact, 63 percent state they are very likely to just accept their sleepiness and keep going, while 32 percent are very likely to use caffeinated beverages when they are sleepy during the day and more than half (54%) are at least somewhat likely to use their weekends to try to catch up on sleep." (Click on the title to read the entire study.)

I know alot of people who fall into this catagory. And obviously Starbucks, Caribou and others all count on this in their strategic plans. The only good thing I can see in the statistics stated above is with people losing interest in sex maybe sexual harassment complaints will go down. (Said tongue-in-cheek.)

As a result of airplane travel I have become a big believer in the 20 minute power nap. (That is about the time you get to close your eyes between waiting for take off and the drink cart coming around.) Stress management expert Elizabeth Scott, states that "Studies show that 20 minutes of sleep in the afternoon provides more rest than 20 minutes more sleep in the morning (though the last two hours of morning sleep have special benefits of their own). The body seems to be designed for this, as most people’s bodies naturally become more tired in the afternoon, about 8 hours after we wake up."

Scott points out that there are major problems with sleep deficits, "...a ‘sleep deficit’, ... impairs the following:

  • Reaction time
  • Judgment
  • Vision
  • Information processing
  • Short-term memory
  • Performance
  • Motivation
  • Vigilance
  • Patience

Fatigued people also experience more moodiness, aggressive behaviors, burnout and more stress."

An issue of Men's Journal stressed the benefits of the power nap and said that high performers such as Lance Armstrong and Around the World pilot Steve Fossett are regular power nappers. Not only does it make you more alert and productive but also "..Napping in general benefits heart functioning, hormonal maintenance, and cell repair..."

I have read of several companies that encourage naps. What a great employee relations and productivity tool.

So do yourself a favor and go take a nap. But don't make it too long because then you will just be having to take more work home and staying up later. A "Catch-22" situation. (Some of you may have to Google that.)

Ok, time for my snooze....

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Discrimination in the Workplace: Double Digit Increases

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published a News Release on March 5th detailing the bias claims from 2007 compared to 2006. With one exception, bias claims in all areas saw double digit increases. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Race continues to be the largest number of claims, with 30,510 claims, an increase of 12%;
  • Retaliation claims had the largest increase, up 18% to 26,663;
  • Age discrimination has the second largest percentage increase, up 15%;
  • Sex/Gender claims were the only area with a single digit increase of just 7%, however, during FY 2007, pregnancy charges surged to a record high level of 5,587, up 14% from the prior fiscal year’s record of 4,901. Sexual harassment filings increased for the first time since FY 2000, numbering 12,510 – up 4% from the prior fiscal year’s total of 12,025. Additionally, a record 16% of sexual harassment charges were filed by men, up from 9% in the early 1990s.
  • Disability claims reached the highest level in 10 years.
  • The EEOC recovered $345 million in monetary relief for the charging parties.

So why this increase in activity? Here is my take on some of them:

  1. More sexual harassment charges by men- More women bosses?
  2. Retaliation charges- Lack of training in companies to reinforce that retaliation is as illegal as the harassment and lack of follow up by HR to insure it is not occurring.
  3. Slow down of sex/gender claims- better balance of male/female ratio in the workplace.
  4. Disability claims- a greater willingness of the disabled to enter the labor force and a result of an aging workforce as baby boomers age;
  5. Age claims- well.... I think everyone probably knows the answer to that one.

What is your take on this? You have any alternative explanations?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Cornucopia of HR Topics: The Wall Street Journal

The Tuesday, March 4, 2008 issue of The Wall Street Journal has a plethora of topics dealing with HR issues. In the MarketPlace section you will find the following:

  • The New Workplace Rules: No Video-Watching: This article talks about companies clamping down on employees watching videos online during work hours. The primary reason is the amount of bandwidth the videos take, negatively affecting the performance of the company's entire network. YouTube and Yahoo are the main culprits. Missing in this article was the comment that employees must be taking a tremendous amount of productive time to do this as well. Yes, some of this may be productive, but my guess is that much of it is not.
  • How to Hunt for Jobs As Time Out of Work Drags On and On: This article points out that some people are having a hard time finding work and it is taking longer and longer. The article does point out that alot of this is due to poorly presented skills requiring rewriting resumes. One point made was that many people spend way too much time using the Internet for their job hunt.
  • Smaller Firms Offer More Responsibility, Credit: This article bascially points out that not everyone has to work for a big company, not even the "high powered." People find that small companies may not offer as much money, but they may "... provide alluring tradeoffs, such as shorter workweeks, less travel, and work-life balance incentives including telecommuting arrangements and flexible schedules." It is nice to see the "big" world discovering what many of the rest of us know.

In the book review section of the Personal Journal section you will find a review of Critical, a book written by Senator Tom Daschle. It provides a glimpse of what the next "solution" to the healthcare crisis may become. Another crisis in the making in my opinion and not much of a solution. But read the review and form your own opinion.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Importance of Environmental Scanning: A Dose of Daily Drucker

I read alot. I get alot of newsletters. I read several blogs on a daily basis. I get alerts from the Feds, SHRM, and several other organizations. I think it is important to know what is going on in the world. It helps me make informed decisions in my daily business as well as in my daily life. SHRM calls that "environmental scanning" and in the material it puts out for PHR and SPHR education it stresses that this is a skill that is important for the strategic HR leader. I agree and in the classes I teach I try to stress how important it is. Many times I skeptical looks and under-the-breath comments about "not having the time."

Today's entry from "The Daily Drucker" lends some credence to my emphasis and personal actions. According to Drucker, "The technologies that are likely to have the greatest impact on a company and an industry are technologies outside its own field." It goes further by saying "Many changes that have transformed enterprises have originated outside the specific industry of that enterprise." He gives several examples, such as the zipper, which had a major impact on the clothing industry was originally for closing bales of heavy goods. No one ever thought it would replace buttons.

By extension we can apply this principle to human resources. The changes that will have major effects on how we deal with people will come from outside the field of HR. It will be social trends, legal trends, technology trends, economic trends, political trends, educational trends, etc. If you are not monitoring these on a regular basis you will have no opportunity to prepare to deal with changes. As usual you will be left to be reactive (the bane of HR) and executive management in your company will continue to see you as the "file cabinet."

So invest some time each workweek to read outside of HR. Review newsletters, blogs (see my list of favorites), magazines, technology items and social happenings to be alert. Take a look at The Futurist, Wired, The Economist, Freakonomics, and more.