Archive for May, 2012
When I was still working at my former company, I was continually trying to hire meat trimmers. Hand trimming large pieces of meat and poultry to exacting specifications with a knife is a skill not easily learned and no longer taught. And the best meat trimmers are usually taken by large grocery store chains with an in-house meat department, so finding qualified candidates was always a challenge.
After the resume review and a phone screen, I would ask those still in the running to come into the plant for an interview. I always warned the candidate not to wear professional or business clothes, because the main reason I wanted them at the plant was to do a cutting test to see if they truly had the knife skills they claimed to have. Cutting meat in a wet, refrigerated space is sloppy work, and I certainly didn’t want anyone ruining their good clothes.
You see, I was interested in the applicant’s skills and abilities, and not at all in their appearance. In fact, throughout our entire building, even the office, I had one clothing rule: clothes should be reasonably clean.
But if you are a job candidate and asked me advice for what to wear to an interview, I would tell you the same thing everyone else would: wear business attire. Maybe business casual, if you were certain it fit in the company culture. I would never think of going to a job interview or even certain business functions dressed in shorts and flip flops, or blue jeans and a hoodie. All kinds of articles and blogs are written about what to wear, or not wear, to a job interview, like this one from Alison Doyle, who says “dress professionally for an interview, even if the work environment is casual.”
I find that incredibly sad. As HR pros we claim to be interested only in applicant’s KSAs – knowledge, skills, and abilities. We supposedly don’t care about their body type, hair and skin color, clothing choices, or sense of style.
But we do. Oh, yes. We do very much.
We do because our rational, intellectual behaviors are often at odds with our emotional reactions. So we use our rational selves to justify the sometimes erroneous assumptions or conclusions reached by our emotional selves. We reject applicants for their “poor judgment” or “lack of business sense”, when we are really faulting someone for their clothes, or the poor fit of their clothes, or their ugly (but comfortable) shoes. Unfortunately, we perpetuate that bias by forcing job candidates to conform, instead of forcing ourselves to change.
Think of it like this: If Mark Zuckerberg walked into your office as a job applicant, wearing his customary hoodie and blue jeans, would you hire him? What about Steve Jobs, who seemed to wear nothing but a black shirt and blue jeans his entire professional life?
You may say yes, because they are public figures whose achievements are known and transcend appearances. But what if it were someone else, a non-public figure whose resume, phone interview, and other screening devices were good enough to bring him into your office, wearing the same hoodie or black shirt and blue jeans. Would you hire him then?
Be honest now – you probably would reject him.
Isn’t that tragic?
HR pros need to find a way to confront and eliminate their emotional biases about clothes and appearance and concentrate on what really matters – whether the candidate’s KSAs are going to help their company promote its mission. Stop making the candidate conform to your sensibilities in order to land a job.
Otherwise you might miss hiring the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. Besides, HR has more important things to do.
There was one theme that the tweeters returned to frequently in the busy hour that was the May SHRMChat:
Marketing to and educating businesses without an HR function is a huge opportunity that is generally overlooked by most state and local SHRM affiliates.
Most of the chatters admitted that they have a healthy number of members or function attendees that are small business representatives and not specifically HR pros. Some chatters felt that their program offerings were targeted to generic business issues that would benefit everyone, even if their audience was not HR specific.
But more felt that their SHRM affiliate didn’t do enough to market to small business, and needed to reach out to them more specifically instead of waiting for the business to come to the chapter. Some of the suggestions for increasing non-hr attendance at events and programs were
- Direct marketing and announcements to Chambers of Commerce and local business schools
- Marketing and reach out efforts through local business press sources
- Meeting attendance incentives such as free guest attendance and free student admission
- E-books or other publications on basic HR topics for small business
- Make sure the Board and volunteer positions includes business pros who are not necessarily HR pros
There was also a robust discussion about the type of programs that would be of interest to small business without an HR function. One of the chatters, Alicia Arenas, a small business strategist, offered some specific suggestions regarding the types of topics or issues that small business wants to address
- How to have a performance discussion with employees
- How to motivate employees
- How to tell when an employee is lying
In short, chapters and councils need to think basic when considering how to attract and educate the business without a dedicated HR pro or consultant.
Finally, the chatters – ever vigilant about how to get their chapters to buy into increased involvement in the non-HR community, discussed how chapters tend to do things that get measured. SHAPE plans that require some type of initiative to reach small business was discussed. One of my favorite comments was that an initiative that focused on educating and engaging the small business community would be “ripe for a Pinnacle Award.”
Although it wasn’t the last discussion of the chat, this probably best sums up the feelings of the May SHRMchat participants:
Small business access to chapter and council initiatives doesn’t have to mean an increase in membership or revenue. Connecting to your community, and improving human resources business function should be the ultimate goal.
Join us for a special two-part June SHRMChat. Our June topic is “SHRM national – what can they, will they, and should they do for the state/local affiliate?” We will be chatting on Tuesday, June 12, at 8 pm EST/7 pm CST to flesh out these issues in preparation for a special live chat from the SHRM conference in Atlanta. The Atlanta date and time will be announced as soon as it is finalized.
A few weeks ago I was volunteering an afternoon with the Humane Society Naples, helping set up a garage sale/flea market fundraiser they were holding the next day. One of the jobs that the group of volunteers had was to determine the asking price for the item being sold.
As the group was discussing whether to price low for swift sale or higher to try to maximize the amount raised for this non-profit, one of the other volunteers said, “You know someone is always going to try to Jew you down.”
No one in the room said a word. Including me.
I’m still beating myself up for not saying anything to this woman, and I can’t stop thinking about the incident. I keep wondering why no one else said anything, either. Would it have been different if this was a group of paid workers? What if she had said, ”There’s always going to be a wetback around trying to steal something”? Would that have changed the group reaction?
Sadly, I think that the answer is no on all counts. Even in a work situation with a group of paid employees in the discussion, bigoted remarks like this are often going to remain unchallenged.
HR pros often ask their employees to be tolerant of each other’s differences, to minimize tension and to avoid conflict between employees. Tolerance is defined as “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude towards opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.”
But in the name of workplace harmony, we often accept behaviors and attitudes which are clearly racist or bigoted, and should not require us to be “tolerant.” Have you ever heard someone in your workplace joke about gays, blacks, or Muslims? Yeah, me too.
In our heads we say we don’t accept these attitudes, because by definition acceptance means we approve. But if we don’t actually say anything to the offender – it doesn’t matter if we disagree silently. We have approved of the racist or bigot by failing to show others our dislike. And HR, by encouraging employees to refrain from behaviors which cause tension, aggravates this problem. By encouraging tolerance, we are often encouraging people to accept.
Some things should never be acceptable. Like bigotry, racism, and discrimination. And HR should be leading the charge to ensure that people don’t confuse tolerance with acceptance.
When I lease a new vehicle, I make a point of telling the dealership before I take delivery of my car that I do not – do not – want a license plate guard or decal or any other form of advertisement of the dealership on my car. I have never understood why I should advertise this dealership for free for the next 2 or 3 years. I may not even be pleased with them or their service, but they’ll put their rolling advertisement on your car unless you take the initiative to remove it.
Yes, I can be a grumpy bitch.
I always felt that if a dealer offered to compensate me in exchange for my endorsement, like give me a certain amount off the price of the vehicle, or free service of some kind, I might feel a little differently. Then, at least, I wouldn’t feel like I was being taken advantage of and the dealer would be forced to recognize my contribution to its advertising effort.
And this is the reason that I like Klout.
Klout recognizes what all of the car dealerships in the country fail to – your endorsement has value.
Okay, the Klout algorithm is flawed and people can game the system and Klout pays too much attention to Twitter, and . . . I get it. There are issues and maybe it shouldn’t be taken super seriously yet.
But at least someone is trying to show that most people have some amount of influence. They influence friends and family in the decision making process. And Klout (and their sponsors) is willing to reward people in a tangible way for that influence. Mark Schaefer, adjunct professor of marketing at Rutgers and author of the book Return On Influence is quoted by Wired as saying, “This is the democratization of influence.”
I’m not a celebrity. I don’t have millions of Twitter followers and thousands of Facebook friends. I’m a pretty average Jane. But Klout recognizes that I talk to more people online than an average Joe or Jane does, and their sponsors are willing to pay me with two Stephen King books and a t-shirt for that potential conversation.
I’ll find a way to pay that perk forward, and advertise both Klout and Stephen King’s publisher in the meantime. I won’t be mentioning any car dealers, though.
According to the US Census Bureau, there were just under 5 million “employer firms” in the US that employed less than 10 employees. Add another 1.2 million firms to that total to include those employers with less than 100 people. I don’t need a statistical study to tell me this: the vast majority of those 6 million plus firms have absolutely no formal or traditional HR presence. In fact, I began my HR journey in one of those companies.
Unfortunately, formal HR organizations, including SHRM, tend to market themselves to people who are already established HR pros with degrees and certifications. How the small business copes with employee engagement or professional development is just not very high on their to do list, even though the numbers suggest it should be.
This month our SHRM chat will take a look a that issue and discuss how SHRM state and local chapters can help non-HR business people “do” HR. Joining us as a guest will be Lyn Hoyt.
While Lyn is an avid supporter and participant of SHRMChat on behalf of her local (Middle Tennessee SHRM), many people may not know that Lyn, by profession, is not an HR pro. She is a graphic designer and co-owner of a small business that designs and manufactures framed recognition products. So her experiences through the back door are perfectly suited to our discussion of the following questions:
1. How many or what percent of your chapter members are not traditional HR pros? Do you feel that your chapter/council adequately represents business without a dedicated HR function?
2. Do non- HR pros attend your meetings and functions? Why or why not?
3. What services or programs does your council/chapter offer to help non-HR business people find the resources they need to help them with their HR needs?
For a sneak peek of Lyn’s thoughts on this subject, check out her blog post here.
Join us on TUESDAY, MAY 8th at 8 pm EDST/7 pm CDST for this #SHRMChat! Encourage a friend to come, too!