Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Qualities of an MBA in HR? Why Not??

The Tuesday, September 30th issue of the Wall Street Journal had a section ranking Executive MBA programs. One of the articles was entitled Are They Worth It? An inset listed the most important skills that an EMBA program should have, according to those surveyed. The list read:
  1. Strategic thinking/planning

  2. Ability to work across multiple functional areas

  3. Ability to drive results

  4. General leadership

  5. Core financial understanding.

My first thought in reading this was this is how the job description of the VP of HR should read.

Basically this is thinking ahead, understanding your business, measuring your work, providing leadership and talking the language of business. How many times have we heard that?

So if you want to make an impact in your organization THINK, WORK AND ACT like an MBA. Even better, convince your company to send you to an EMBA program. Of course before they will do that you already have to be thinking like an MBA. But being sent to that EMBA program would be the ultimate acknowledgment of your value in HR.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Management Middle Ground: The Mythical Unicorn of Business

I have seen, over my consulting career, a lot of managers, owners and supervisors. I have watched their decision making and I have watched them steer their "ships of commerce" both large and small. Many have had to make tough decisions and most make decisive, yet measured business decisions. EXCEPT WHEN IT COMES TO PEOPLE.

When it comes to people you get two camps. One camp makes quick decisions, regardless of the situation.
  • Hire immediately and on "gut."

  • Promote or give a raise at the drop of a hat.

  • Fire on the spot.

The second camp takes FOREVER to make a decision.

  • Can't decide to hire, because they are not sure what or whom they are looking for.

  • Don't ever discipline or they issue warning after warning with no consequences. Don't want to upset someone, don't want to face the employee, afraid of them, etc. You pick the reason.

  • Won't EVER fire anyone despite that the person drags down morale, lowers productivity, drives off the good employees.

Both camps of managers are bad for the company. The "hair trigger" types make decisions that result in turnover, incompetent management and run the risk of discrimination lawsuits. The "drag-on forever" types don't make decisions and this results in lower quality candidates, poor performing employees, lowered morale, turnover, and the threat of lawsuits. Both types result in dragging down the reputation of the company.

Why is there no middle ground? Probably lack of training. Bigger companies may train managers, but most small and middle size companies don't. Having a well trained HR person may help this situation, but only if they have credibility within their organizations, and many HR folks in small companies don't.

So what do we do? Well we can point out the financial consequences of their behavior. That means HR has to be on the ball. You have to be able to put the need for a change of behavior in financial terms. Hopefully that will catch their attention.

Anyone have another suggestion. Let us know. Leave a comment on this blog page and educate us in what we might be able to do. Your HR brethren will appreciate it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

HR Communication: More Important Than Ever

In the turbulent times that we are experiencing today our employees may be wondering about their future, your future, future of the company and who knows what else. Are you communicating with them? Are you letting them know the how the state of the economy affects the company? I guarantee they are wondering. So communicate. Here is some guidance on what you should be considering from Michael Moore of the Pennsylvania Labor & Employment Blog. His blog on HR communication in a finanical crisis is required reading. So read it and pass it on. (You can do that by forwarding my blog email.)


Monday, September 22, 2008

Days Off Are NOT Vacation!

Maybe it is just Monday blahs but I don't feel rested. This was supposed to be a relaxing weekend but I don't feel relaxed. I have had days off this year, beyond just the weekends, but I have spent them moving ( a couple of times) and getting settled in a new house. These were days off, away from work, no mental stress, at least work related. But days off are not the same as a vacation. I need a vacation! And I am sure I am not the only one who feels that way. I am definately in the school that says people need to get away from work and have sufficient time to unwind. I personally need to get away entirely. Go to the beach or the mountains. How about you? I am certain you see employees showing stress from lack of vacation as well.

I like the approach of a company called Bluewolf. They allow their employees to take vacation anytime they want, as long as they are productive and get their work done. Check out this article on Businessweek online. Think this might work for you?

BTW, I realize this is a pretty weak post, I told you, I need a vacation!
(Photo credit: Its mine, took it in Utah.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Latest Carnival of HR

Here is the link to the latest Carnival of HR, the compilation of some great HR blog posts. This one is done in an interesting Q & A format. There are posts on leadership, jobs, thinking and using technology in HR. Give it a look.

What Is The Right Ratio? Is This The Right Question?

I was on a flight Wednesday evening. As we were preparing to take off I was chatting with the guy sitting in my aisle. Turns out he is an HR Manager. So before settling down to our individual work we talked "shop." I was floored when he told me that the company he works for has 8000 employees in 80 different locations and he was one of THREE HR managers they have in the company. That is a ratio of 1:2667. His comment to my amazement was "Well obviously we have decided we are not a strategic partner." For the most part they fly around the country putting out harassment and discrimination "fires." He had resigned himself to being the HR detective.

That got me to thinking were things stood on the WHAT IS THE RIGHT RATIO question. Common opinion has mostly been that the "correct" ratio is 1:100, that is 1 HR person for every 100 employees. And I run into this quite often. I have also run into situations of 1:250 and occassionally even larger ratios. The problem with this is that there is no single answer. The answer depends on many factors, such as the nature of the work, nature of the business, philosophy of service delivery, dispersion of employee base, upper management's view of the HR function and how much automation exists in the various HR areas. The nature of the economy also has some influence. As cutbacks occur we see HR departments having to do "more with less" and thus the HR ratio has expanded. I am sure there are other factors that play into this as well.

I am not even sure that the size of the HR department is the proper question. Since there are many ways to "skin the cat" of HR ratio perhaps a better measure(s) would be HR EFFECTIVENESS. What can HR contribute and what is the best way that can be done? Once that is determined then proper staffing can be determined. Here is an interesting discussion on this topic from last year on a blog post at breakpoint HR.

Tell me your story. What is your ratio and what is your contribution? Are you strategic?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Jobs of the Future: And You Told Your Kid to Quit Doodling!

Kids that are in high school today and parents of kids in elementary school think every once in a while about what kind of job they may have in the future. Well here is some guidance on jobs of the future provided by The Futurist Magazine, the publication of the World Future Society. In an article entitled "Majoring in the Unusual" they discuss some of the jobs that high schoolers may be able to enter in the future. From a book titled They Teach That In College? these include:
  1. Sustainable or "green" business. Students need to major in biology, environmental sciences and conventional business practices.

  2. Nanotechnology/Nanoscience. Students need to major in science, biotechnology, agriculture, and areas such as energy. All of these areas will benefit from nanotechnology. (Click the word if you are unsure of what it is.)

  3. Computer Forensics. This is supposed to be a hot job and will create opportunities in a number of fields beyond law enforcement.

  4. Strategic Intelligence. Also known as "spying" this will be a big job for smart kids. So if you kid is smart and very computer literate they have a future, mostly in government, but private industry could use them as well.

  5. and my favorite, Comic Book Art. Yes, the job prospects for your doodler are excellent. Many experts consider comics and "graphic novels" to be the biggest area of growth for print publishers. So if your kid is a good cartoonist encourage them!

( A sad side note from an avid book reader. Is the "graphic novel" a result of our TV society? People are no longer capable of sitting and reading a book that doesn't have pictures? Of course I do remember doing a book report on Ivanhoe based upon reading the Classic Comic book. LOL, needless to say I did not do well. I missed some of the finer detail of the book.)

Anyway, getting back to jobs. Kids today will be doing many things their parents cannot even concieve of or think are ridiculous. So be open minded to that skill, talent or interest they may have. Who knows it may get them a good job someday.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Make September 11th Safety Day!

I am certain there are many blog posts today remembering the attacks on September 11, 2001. I think this one might have a different twist. In the days and weeks that followed that terrible day I listened to story after story of the personal stories of pain, uncertainty, terrible certainty, and heroism that followed.
One story really hit me and every year around this time it comes to mind. It was the story of one office in one of the towers. The company in that office made it a regular habit to practice fire drills. They had just practiced one the previous week. As a result of that experience, when the planes hit and the alarms went off, this group of people calmly got everyone in their office out of the building. Additionally, they were able to assist two or three disabled individuals out of the building as well. I remember the president of the company saying he was glad they had done the practice and he was grateful he did not have to call any families to tell them a family member had died.

This was a very powerful story to me. I am sorry I do not remember the name of the company. But I do think of it every September 11th. I have Incorporated this into my HR classes that I teach. I tell my students that I think one of the best ways they can remember that day is to make it SAFETY DAY.

So I give that same advice to you. On this day practice a fire drill. Make sure all your fire extinguishers are in working order. Make sure everyone knows where to meet after they evacuate the building. If you have a large facility have the fire department out to tour the building so they know it and have a plan for it. Commemorate this day by making your workplace safer.

You will be grateful that you do not have to call a family and tell them their love one had died in a disaster at your place of work.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Pitching In When Times Are Tough: OOPS!

One of the things I love about the the good ol' US of A is that, as a whole, we are a generous people. Individually we give ALOT of money to charities that help people across the nation and across the world. And of course the government is very generous with our money, helping countless causes around the world, supplying disaster relief, providing money to governments and charities to make up for the shortfall. This is something the US should be proud of doing. So it goes to figure that when our own country starts to suffer some we pitch in. We send money to areas hit by hurricanes. The government, with our money, bails out the banks. Which is ok, it will be good in the long run. We conserve fuel and start taking public transportation. So everyone pitches in to help make keep the economy whole and get things turned around. Right?

Well wait a minute. Not everyone! How can this be you ask? Aren't we all patriots? Apparently not the 27,000 Boeing machinists, who have gone out on strike. This is a strike which will cost the company $100 million a day according to a Reuter's news story. Additionally it has already had a global impact, depressing some stocks and raising the value of Airbus. In Seattle the local economy will be hit hard, given that is where the machinists are located. The machinists are even angry at their own union for trying to delay the strike in order to reach agreement with Boeing. So they have gone on strike and the effect is being felt worldwide.

The issue is apparently not money (hmmm, really?), it is about subcontracting and outsourcing. It is that Global Economy thing. Well, we will see how this turns out. Here is an Associated Press story which has a more complete detailing of the issues and demands.

You will note that the major issue in this article is money. They wanted more than the 11% increase that was offered. (I think most of us would be pretty happy with an 11% increase.)Given that the average wage for machinists is $56,000 a year before overtime and benefits that raise would have been $6000+. If my calculator is correct that is $162,000,000 in additional wages. It is no wonder Boeing has to outsource or subcontract work.

Anyway, read the articles. You decide if the machinists are helping or hurting our tough economy. USA, USA, USA

(Photo credit: Robert Sorbo/Reuter)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Ageism, Sexism, Racism: Alive and Well

If you have been watching any of the coverage of the U.S. presidential election you realize that people can get pretty passionate about their choices for candidates. That is one of the things that makes the process interesting. People have differences in how they think taxes, energy, war, employment, unemployment, immigration, natural disasters, the economy and a hundred other issues should be dealt with. And discussion/debate on those issues is healthy. Perhaps better solutions are discovered during that process.

But if you have been paying attention you have also seen an ugly side of the process. Rather than healthy debate we have seen biases bared, biases based on race, sex, age, lifestyle and even disability. Biases, for or against a candidate, are, in my opinion not a healthy way to choose a leader. We have seen these biases early on in the Democrat Party process. People wanting Obama exclusively because he is "black" or wanting Clinton because she is a woman. On the Republican side there has been sexism in the critique in the hairstyle of Palin and in her drive and ambition. Who really cares what a leaders hair looks like? Or in asking whether she could care for her family and be a VP. Asked of any male candidates? Not that I have heard. The personal criticism of McCain hits both disability bias and ageism. I have heard people say he looks funny because of the way he holds his arms. Well that happens when they have been broken and not healed correctly. I have heard others call him that "sad, little old white man" and question whether someone his "age" can lead.

Preferring, or not preferring, a candidate based on color of skin, gender, age, or disability is not the way to select your leader. The thing that distresses me the most about this is all those things I have heard or read have been expressed by people in Human Resources. That line about color of skin, gender, age or disability should sound damn familiar!

In my opinion, if you are in HR and have expressed these points of view then I think you should consider a change of profession. If you are going to let these things sway you in your choice of leadership, then in all likelihood they will sway you in your choice of employees, trainees, promotees and demotees. And that has no place in our profession.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Value of That College Degree: Despite Economy Grads Doing Better

Everyone knows that the economy is tough right now. The U.S. DOL put out the report on jobless claims today and it shows that jobless claims rose (as reported in Yahoo! Finance news) reversing previous declines. Despite that the NACE reported that companies are hiring more graduates that in 2007 and, as reported on BLR.com they are finding higher starting wages. Take a look at these:
  • Civil engineering graduates: 6.4 % increase over 2007; average offer of $51,632
  • Mechanical engineering grads: 5.3% increase; offer of $57,009
  • Business administration/management: 5.1% increase; average offer of $45,915
  • Marketing: 4.7% increase; offer of $42, 053
  • Economics majors grads: 4.2% increase; offer of $50,507
  • Accounting graduates: 2.9%; average offer of $48,085
  • Electrical engineering grads: 2.9%; offer of $56,910
  • Finance grads: 2.8% increase; offer of $48,547

Leading the way:

  • Computer science graduates: 13.1%; offer of $60,416
  • Liberal Arts graduates: 2.6%; offer of $36,419

Now, all things being equal, I would just as soon have the salary offered the computer science types, but all of them are decent. It would be nice if HR folks got the higher levels, but many people come into HR from the liberal arts area. It is much better to come to HR from business admin.

If you have been laid off maybe going back to school might be the best option. There is some monetary value to having a college to degree. It would be interesting however to contrast this with trade positions such as HVAC, plumbers, etc. What are entry level wages for those positions after training in the trade? Anyone have those numbers.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The ADA and Recruiting Sites: Is Yours Up To Par?

I was searching for a topic for today and was reading news stories and other blogs. I opened up Michael Moore's Pennsylvania Labor and Employment Blog. His post on August 28th made me sit up and take notice. He wrote on that day about the ADA and company websites. He discusses a case with Target losing a class action suit based on blind shoppers not being able to access the Target website. Target argued that the ADA covered physical spaces and not virtual spaces. They lost!

Mr. Moore points out that this concept can easily be transfered to recruitment websites or a company's section on its website for recruitment. The ADA guarantees access to the recruitment and application process, and Moore feels the Target case can easily be expaneded to the virtual world of Internet applications.

So if you are a recruiter using your company website or a site like Monster.com (which I looked at and could not see any section on what to do if I had not been a sighted visitor) you may wish to review this case.

I would like comments from anyone who has addressed this. How do you deal with sight disabled visitors to your recruitment website?