Hacking Performance Evaluations at HRevolution

Of all the HR conference sessions and workshops I attended this fall (I wrote about couple of them here and here), the one that spoke to me the most loudly was the Talent Anarchy HackLab at HRevolution. As facilitated by Jason Lauritsen and Joe Gerstandt (the team that is Talent Anarchy), session participants were asked to hack an existing HR system.

Wait . . . what?

If you are anything like me, you think that hacking into a system means sneaking and subterfuge in order to create some type of chaos or perform an illegality. On a computer. Not so, explained Jason.  He briefly discussed the evolution of the hack, which in its basic form means to take an existing system and stretch it beyond its original bonds to create a better system. As succinctly explained by The Recruiting Animal while I was live tweeting the session:

So TA offered the group an opportunity to choose and hack one of a pre-approved list of HR systems, accepting the presumption that they were all broken. The group was informed that they would discover some hacks or tweaks that they could take back to their jobs and implement immediately. No asking for approval, no developing a budget.

Despite an impassioned plea (which I fully endorsed) by China Gorman  to choose exit interviews (the whole group had to work on the same system), the class voted – by a narrow margin – to tackle performance evaluations.

So 4 groups of 5 people started discussing performance evaluations – what they should be, what they could be. Groups were instructed to break up and reform 3 times, so everyone could hear and use the ideas from all of the previous discussion. I can’t recreate those discussions here, but I can restate what I found amazing about the process and the end result.

At the end of our time, the whole gathering had essentially agreed on what performance evaluations should and could be. In summary, we found that performance evaluations should

  • be a conversation, not a check mark
  • be in the moment or in real time, not on an annual or semi-annual basis
  • involve managers, customers, co-workers, not just an immediate supervisor or manager
  • be owned by the employee, not HR or their boss
Read those statements, and then go do something in your performance evaluation system that stretches it toward those ideals.  Don’t ask – just do.
Hack it.

 

HRevolution and SHRM – Beauty and the Beast

Every year around this time there is a discussion among my online Human Resources friends about whether to join or renew membership in the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

This disagreement exists because many in the online HR community think SHRM is old-fashioned, out of touch, and fails to deliver real value for the dues charged. In fact, the fine HR pros over at Fistful of Talent are so anti-SHRM that they considered holding their own alternative event.  So what prompted SHRM to sponsor HRevolution, an alternative HR event that is full of what China Gorman coined “HR activists”?

Good question.

Last year, SHRM approached the HRevolution 2010 planning committee late in the planning stages, seeking a small sponsorship. It was late when they came on board, and their presence at the event was somewhat limited. Last month, at the 2011 event, SHRM was a much greater presence, even sending Curis Midkiff, their Social Media Strategist, to attend.  According to Curtis, SHRM supports HRevolution because the event offers us an opportunity to participate in an event that brings together with a diverse cross-section of the HR community who are passionate about the profession and are working in various capacities to shape the future of HR.”

To show their commitment to the HR activists that are the heart and soul of HRevolution, SHRM gave away, by means of a general door-prize drawing, two full-access social media passes to their huge national conference in Las Vegas next month. In addition to full session access, the pass allows the holder to access the social media lounge with WiFi, where social media influencers can gather to tweet, post videos and blogs, and connect. At the time the winning names were drawn, those  passes were worth at least $1,400.

I thought this was an incredibly gutsy move on SHRM’s part. They had no idea whose name they were going to draw, and they could have been inviting an anti-SHRM wolf into their chicken coop. In my view, this is evidence that SHRM knows that they have work to do to make themselves relevant to those that are working to shape the future of HR, and are talking some small steps to do so – and there is nothing at all wrong with small steps. As  Alan Mencken and Howard Ashman said in song:

Tale as old as time
True as it can be
Barely even friends
Then somebody bends
Unexpectedly.
Just a little change
Small to say the least
Both a little scared
Neither one prepared
Beauty and the Beast.

For the record, I won one of those passes to SHRM 11. Needless to say, I promptly renewed my membership, and I am looking forward to watching the Beast try to transform back into royalty.

Attitude of Entitlement = Poor Customer Service

Daughter Amy as sketched by a Norwegian Cruise Line employee on the back of a bar ticket (circa 1996)

Customer service is an important issue in the Human Resources world.  As succinctly stated by China Gorman, former COO of SHRM, “As business leaders and HR professionals, we all know about the close relationship between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.”  In the past week or so, China , Trish McFarlane, Mike VanDervort, and Deidre Honner – exceptional HR bloggers all –  have posted about customer service.

I recently returned from a vacation with a desire to write about the same issue, but from a slightly different perspective.  I want to tell you about genuinely helpful and friendly employees who bent over backwards to service my needs, and I am going to theorize why this type of service is so rare that one is surprised and delighted when it occurs.  Especially because it does not involve Zappos. 😉

I went on a cruise.

For 10 days and nights I was aboard a floating hotel city, where my need for food, drink, sleep, recreation, and entertainment was in the hands of one company and their employees.  For those 10 days, I was surrounded by cruise employees with friendly faces and cheerful greetings.  It did not take the wait staff long to learn that I like iced tea a lot, so when I sat down at a table 3 or 4 glasses of iced tea would instantly appear.  My room steward had the sweetest smile and happiest voice ever.  Her “good morning!” always cheered me, even on the day I had a bad eye infection and was running a fever.  It amazes me that she could display such a consistently positive, upbeat demeanor after cleaning my toilet and shower.  I could bore you to death with other examples.

I have been on well over 20 cruises, so I am not a gushing newbie.  I have found that most cruise line employees try very hard to ensure the customer’s satisfaction, although Regent Seven Seas Cruises (RSSC) (my recent host), did a truly exceptional job in this area.

So why does the cruise industry, and RSSC in particular, excel in the customer service area when so many other companies fail?  The sad answer, in my opinion, is entitlement.  Many US workers feel that they are entitled to jobs, and many US companies feel they are entitled to customers.  That attitude of entitlement causes both employees and companies to forget that they exist to serve their customers, and leads to the online gripes and complaints that they earned.  Remember Dave Carroll and his broken guitar?

Most cruise ship workers come from economically depressed countries where earnings don’t come close to matching the US and other Western countries.  The workers on my recent cruise -and who I interviewed specifically for this blog – came from Romania, Indonesia, Phillipines, Serbia, and India.  They work for cruise ships because they can earn a lot more money than they can in their countries of origin.  They don’t feel the slightest bit entitled to any job.

Cruise companies aren’t entitled to passengers, either.  Only  20% of Americans have ever been on a cruise, and competition for passengers is fierce.  These companies can’t afford to let lousy customer service make them lose a competitive advantage.

I’m not going to talk about other issues with cruise workers – and yes, I know there are many – in this blog.    Whatever the other issues, I am grateful for the RSSC workers who tried so hard to give me a pleasant vacation experience, and wish more companies and their employees would follow that lead.

Weigh in!  Does an attitude of entitlement foster poor customer service?

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