Archive for August, 2012
Last month a young woman named Cathryn Sloane posted a blog in the NextGen Journal titled “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25″. In this piece the author argued that because the youngest adults grew up with social media, it became part of their fabric in a way no other group could claim, which entitled that group to suspend more mundane requirements like work experience in order to be successful in that particular job.
As you might suspect, there was a huge backlash of comments about the arrogance, absurdity and ageism of the premise that only people under 25 could possibly be effective social media managers. The outcry was so great that the very next day the founder of NextGen Journal posted his own response, which continued to draw negative comments (“just as entitled as the original post”). Finally, NextGen posted a rebuttal from an outsider that somewhat summarized why the oldsters were so upset with both posts.
But what all of these posts and counter-posts and comments seemed to miss was that Cathryn Sloane had a valid point. Yes, her youth, inexperience and poor communication skills made her miss that point entirely – but so, it seems, did all of the other writers. This is the point:
Job descriptions and requirements for social media managers suck.
HR writes countless job descriptions based on outdated templates that keep getting used over and over again, despite the fact that those templates are not based on any proven correlation between the stated requirement and the actual skills needed. Instead, you see advertisements that require things like this, an actual social media job posting on LinkedIn:
- BS/BA: Marketing, Advertising, Communications
- 3-5+ years Social Media experience
- 3+ years Ad Agency Experience
- Proficient in social media monitoring and analyitcal software/resources
Who cares if you have a BA in advertising? Your advertising degree could be 20 years old and irrelevant. Ad agency experience? What for? There are tons and tons of people on the net having extraordinary conversations via social media that have never set foot inside of an ad agency. Instead, HR pros should create job requirements that really address what people need in order to be successful community managers:
- Exceptional communication skills
- A dynamic personality
- Large amounts of creativity
- Empathy, reason, intelligence
These may vary a bit from job to job or by brand, but the point is the same: successful social media management has a lot to do with personality and intelligent expression, and almost nothing to do with degrees and professional experience. And it certainly has nothing to do with age – a point missed entirely by poor Ms Sloane.
Job posts and ads for social media managers are not the only ones that suck, though. Tom Brokaw, in his keynote closing address at the recent massive Society for Human Resources Management conference (#SHRM12), told a story about a military captain returning from 12 years in Afghanistan. He is told by an HR pro that he has “no experience”. He replies to that criticism by listing all of the things he did in Afghanistan that were certainly key competencies for many jobs: he rooted out bad guys, he helped locals create better systems, he learned to live off the land and available resources, and he did it with minimal loss.
He got the job, but the sad truth is that in most HR departments that military captain would not have even landed an interview, because a ridiculous job description with boilerplate language that said nothing about real world skills and competencies would have kept him out the door. Job descriptions or posts would have asked for a college degree, with possible project management certification, a number of years at a Fortune 500 company, and all kinds of statistical proof of his claimed accomplishments.
And that really sucks.
Suppose you had an employee who put a magentic Jesus fish on the outside or his or her locker at work. You know, one of these:
Now let’s say that another employee saw the Jesus fish and responded with their own magnetic fish on the outside of their locker. But theirs looked like this:
Or even this (which is my personal favorite):
Let’s skip the “HR is not the religion police and we should let these adult employees work out their issues” discussion. Because my concern is not about figuring out how to monitor any differences these employees may have. My concern is this: are the gefilte and Darwin fish a symbol of religious intolerance that needs HR intervention?
This is a relevant question even in the world at large, if you think about it for a minute. After all, would you tolerate someone who mocked a Muslim for wearing traditional clothing? Or would you make fun of a person wearing a piece of crucifix or cross jewelry? These are basic outward symbols of a person’s religious beliefs, and HR would likely not tolerate an employee who made fun of them or the employee that embraced them. Nor should you tolerate it from anyone in the world at large.
But is a gefilte fish or a Darwin fish an outward mocking of the Christian religion? I never thought of them as mocking Christianity, but as alternative expressions of faith. Or, in my case as an atheist, as an expression of a lack of religious faith. There aren’t many ways to publicly proclaim that you are an atheist, after all.
But maybe I’m wrong. A recent discussion among Facebook friends over whether a T-shirt that poked a little fun at polygamy was mocking the Mormon religion made me think of Jesus fish. If a T-shirt that gently chides polygamy is intolerant of Mormons – at least in some people’s opinion – what does that say about a gefilte or Darwin fish? They are pretty clearly at least a parody of Jesus fish, the symbol which has existed for centuries.
But some people do believe that they are mocking examples of religious intolerance. If you read the link you may wonder, as I did, if the Jewish blog writer truly believed in the mocking nature of the Darwin fish, or just didn’t like that it is against creationism, which is also anti-Judaism.
I have never thought that any of the many fish parodies were intolerant, but maybe I need to change my tune.
I’ve always felt myself to be tolerant of religion, even though I am not a believer. I don’t belittle Facebook friends who ask me to pray for their loved ones. I just send good wishes and thoughts and skip the prayer language. I don’t refuse to enter churches or synagogs. Many are historical marvels and I love to look at them. Just don’t ask me to pray in one.
What do you think? Are people who use non-Christian fish magnets mocking the Christian believer, or are they merely promoting their own beliefs?
(I am going to be on a short vacation this week – New York City here I come! This guest post was provided by Jessica Edmondson who contributes on business and leadership issues, such as human resource management, for the University Alliance, a division of Bisk Education, Inc.)
Employees rely on employers to treat their personnel records with care and to maintain their privacy, particularly with highly confidential or personal matters. Mishandling employee records can erode trust and lead to serious repercussions, including legal action.
By reviewing some of the more common and most harmful ways that employers mishandle records, you may be able to prevent the same mistakes from happening at your workplace.
Mistake 1: Giving Employees Unfettered Access
This mistake can happen in one of two basic ways: by providing certain employees with unrestricted access to review the files of others; or by failing to secure records to prevent unauthorized access. Personnel records must be kept under lock and key. Otherwise, it can prove to be too much temptation for others who have no business looking through such records. Although there are circumstances in which a manager may need to see a subordinate’s file, allowing open access might mean making the manager privy to more information than he or she is entitled to and may also constitute a breach of the employee’s right to privacy.
You should secure all employee records, including hard and soft copies, with appropriate controls, such as passwords and locks. Access should be closely monitored and recorded, and should be limited only to those who demonstrate a specific, job-related need to review the records.
Mistake 2: Consolidating Records into a Single File
Employees have several types of information on file, including IRS and payroll records, job applications, performance appraisals and medical information. By putting everything into one file, you run a higher risk of a breach of privacy. For example, a supervisor might have a legitimate need to see a performance appraisal and in the process ends up getting access to the employee’s medical records.
A better practice would be to file records separately by type, such as general employee information, compensation information, and medical or legal information. Then limit access based on specific needs. Medical and legal information typically requires the highest level of security and the most stringent review procedures. Separating records by type also helps ensure that they are retained for the appropriate amount of time.
Mistake 3: Misplacing or Discarding Files When an Employee Leaves
Various laws govern how long employers must retain employee records and failure to abide by those regulations can have significant legal consequences. Misplacing files can be worse than discarding them, as the employer has no way of knowing who has had access to private information or how to recover it.
It’s critical to have a retention policy in place that is in full compliance with all applicable state and federal laws. In addition, you should also have a well-designed filing system so that authorized personnel can access the correct files when needed.
Mistake 4: Failing to Document Important Events
If an employee or former employee files a grievance, the company’s main line of defense is all in the personnel file. The easiest way to guarantee a legal victory for the disgruntled employee in such matters is through a failure to document.
Do you and your management staff document performance issues and keep copies of written reprimands? Do you have a signed acknowledgement that the employee was notified or trained on certain company policies, such as sexual harassment, attendance requirements and the like? If not, now is the time to start compiling information so that employees can’t say they didn’t know, and managers can demonstrate employee awareness and the company’s attempts to resolve the situation.
Mistake 5: Backfilling the File to Replace Missing Records
If you do find yourself in a legal dispute with an employee and discover that his or her file has no evidence of a history of performance issues, the worst thing you can do is to add or alter documents after the file has been reviewed. Most attorneys are skilled at evaluating the chain of custody of an employee’s personnel file and “missing” documents that are suddenly found almost always backfire on the employer. You’re better off just taking your lumps for failing to properly document issues. Even better, follow the advice in the previous step and establish a policy for employee documentation.
By learning from the errors of others, you can prevent making these same missteps and inadvertently losing the trust of your employees, as well as putting your company at risk for legal action.
Anyone who thinks that boycotting Chik-fil-A because of their anti-gay sentiments is a violation of their free speech rights needs to go back to high school civics class.
If you were walking down a public sidewalk on a busy street and you saw someone holding a sign that said “no rights for gays” or “donate to prevent gay marriage”, would you donate money to their cause? What if the sign said “donate to repeal all civil rights laws and put blacks back into their 1950 status”? Or ”women belong in the kitchen and not in the boardroom”? Maybe the sign says “support the Nazi party”.
Every one of these people have a right to be on a public sidewalk demonstrating for their cause, barring rules about permits and other administrative issues that help maintain order.
That’s because the First Amendment of the US Constitution states that government cannot make any laws that abridge the freedom of speech. So people get to stand out in public places and demonstrate and chant about all kinds of things that many reasonable people might find offensive. Remember the Westboro Baptist Church and their loud anti-gay demonstrations at military funerals? Perfectly legal, according to an 8-1 decision of the US Supreme Court.
I have been an ardent supporter of these free speech rights my entire life, and there is a reason that it is one of the very first rights listed the Constitution. It is one of the cornerstones of our republic form of government. I supported the neo-Nazis right to protest in Skokie, Illinois in the mid-70s.
But the right of free speech means the government can’t interfere with that right. As a private citizen, I am free to do whatever I legally want in order to voice my opposition to a position. Because I have free speech rights, too. So if I saw one of those people on a sidewalk with one of those signs – I would pass them by. I certainly wouldn’t give them any money.
People who claim they are supporting Chik-fil-A because its right to free speech is more important than gay rights are seriously confused or incredibly ignorant. Choosing not to support Chik-fil-A’s position on gay marriage or any other gay rights issue does not in any way impede their right to free speech – which is only about government intervention. No government has stopped Chik-fil-A and its executive from saying exactly what it wants, and contributing to causes as it wants. They have free speech, and have exercised it appropriately.
But as a private citizen, I am free to disagree with their position in any legal way that I want. Remember the Westboro Baptist protests? People finally became outraged enough to organize their own counter-demonstration, blocking the protester’s access to the funeral. That is the American way.
Consumer boycotts against companies whose practices or philosophies are disagreeable have been around forever. In the late 60′s, I was an ardent support of the grape boycott supporting the United Farm Workers. In the late 70′s and early 80′s I refused to buy from companies that invested in South Africa, because of their system of apartheid. No one ever claimed that these were free speech issues. They were about principles, and which principles any individual or company was going to uphold. I chose to follow my personal principles on these issues, and protest in the most civil and peaceful way I know – by withholding my money from their pockets.
If you were to give money to one of those people on the sidewalk holding a sign, what does that say about your position or principles?
No one says you can’t give money to Chik-fil-A. But if you do, it’s your speech supporting their anti-gay agenda. It’s not one bit different than throwing money in a bucket to someone standing out on a street holding a sign. You’re not defending the First Amendment, because it’s not in jeopardy in this instance. If it was, you can bet Chik-fil-A already would have been in court. But you are telling everyone around you what principles you choose to support. Because people are their principles.*
Pretty plain and incredibly simple.
*The full quote, from the movie The Way We Were, is
Hubbell Gardner: People are more important than their principles.
Katie Morosky Gardner: People ARE their principles