Posts Tagged ‘human resources’
One of the many – and there ARE many – reasons I love this show is that it makes me think a lot about women in the workforce and their struggles. Some people dismiss those struggles as historical issues, because the show takes place in the 1960’s. But to believe that things are so different now is to deny that women still fight to overcome traditional attitudes about their abilities and suitability for the upper echelons of business.
Last season (“The Other Woman”, Season 5), one of the female characters was asked to sleep with a potential client in order to help her advertising firm land a lucrative account for Jaguar. The character, Joan Holloway Harris, is the Director of Agency Operations at the ad agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, a title given to her for a lot of extra work, but with no additional pay, recognition, or reduction of her secretarial duties.
So despite her initial protestations that she was being asked to prostitute herself, Joan ultimately agreed to sleep with the client in exchange for a 5% voting partnership in the agency. She agreed because her marriage was crumbling, she had a young child to support, and she had been unsuccessful in her efforts to break free of the female chains that bound her to a continually subservient position at work, even though she had repeatedly demonstrated her business smarts and talent.
Initially, I was shocked. I didn’t believe the character Joan (one of my two favorites on the whole show) would have made that decision, and I was terribly judgmental about her sleeping with the ultimate boss – the client. In fact, Joan had already slept with one of the partners (Roger Sterling, father of her baby) with absolutely no positive impact on her career.
“Where’s her self-esteem?” I cried. “How could she possibly do this to herself?”
But the more I thought about her situation – it aired in May 2012 so I have been thinking a long time – I thought “who am I to judge this woman?”
This was not a case of sexual harassment, where negative employment consequences were going to rain down on her if she didn’t consent, presenting her with a false choice. Her career was already suffering because simply she was a female. Joan chose to use the best advantage she had to further a stalled career. She chose to do with her own body what she thought was best for her.
This was not a case of rape, like the recent Steubenville case where a teenaged girl did not have enough physical and mental capacity to consent, or make a choice.
If I believe that a woman has the right to make a choice NOT to use her sexuality and to maintain control over her own body, then I must – MUST – believe that she has the right to do the opposite. If I believe in the right of a woman to control her own body and have an abortion, then I must give her the right to control her body to sleep with her boss if she wants to, for whatever her reasons. I will feel sad for our working women that are still confronted with the sexism that makes these choices necessary, but I will no longer judge the woman for doing what she thinks it takes.
Her body, her choice.
It’s not a lot different than landing a job because your partner is in a position to influence the person doing the hiring. I went to work for my husband’s company, so I guess I got a job because I slept with the boss.
I was a good hire for my employer and good at my job – so who should care?
Back in my uniformed police officer days, I once responded to a call at a home our department had visited many, many times. The calls were always of the neighbor/family/kid trouble kind, and the woman who called was often unreasonable and irrational.
I was walking up the driveway alone, because our department was a small one, and working in a double car – two officers – was rare. As I approached the house, the occupant came out her front door and onto the porch. She pointed her finger at me and yelled, “NO! I want a real cop here!”
I stopped and said, “Ma’am. I am a real police officer. If you don’t want ME here, then I presume you don’t need the services of the police.” She continued yelling that she wanted someone “real”, so I returned to my patrol car. I radioed into the dispatcher that the caller didn’t want my services. Then I left.
You may be able to guess what happened next. The woman had apparently called the station and spoken with a supervisor, and another police officer – a male – was sent to take the call instead.
I was livid.
I thought – and think to this day – that she should have been told that a competent, sworn police officer was available to handle her complaint, that she didn’t have the right to choose on the basis of sex, and that no other officer should have been dispatched.
I was recently reminded of this incident after reading about a Flint, MI hospital that allegedly granted a new father’s request that his baby not be looked after by any African-American nurses, one nurse in particular. There is some dispute about whether the father’s request was actually granted, but one statement from the hospital CEO said, “We regret that our policies were not well enough understood and followed . . .” I don’t think this statement leaves much doubt that the nurse in question was somehow prevented from doing her job for this white baby.
HR writers and thinkers – including me – implore HR to have a larger sense of the business that employs them, including an increased awareness of and attendance to the customers that fund them and their departments. But cases like mine, and the hospital in Flint, should serve as a cautionary tale to be sensible about what the customer is asking the employees to do. HR managers should train their employees to managers to ask one simple question:
Is the customer’s request reasonable and non-discriminatory to the employee?
If the answer is NO, tell the customer to take a hike.
(Do you have any stories of unreasonable or crazy customer service requests? Share them in the comments.)
JANUARY 2013 RECAP
Last month participants were asked to “think outside the lines.” We wanted to know if chapters/councils attempted to promote programs and conferences outside of their specific geographical area, and if there were benefits or disadvantages to doing so. We asked
- Q1. Does your state or local promote your conference or program to those who live outside of your boundaries? Why or why not?
Most of the participants did not actively promote their programs outside of their geographical area, although many relied on social media and word of mouth to do so in an informal way. Some felt that there were geographical disadvantages to doing this in their specific state and other chatters stated that they were met with some resistance from other councils when they asked to promote their conference. It was suggested that if some locals made an attempt to hold joint meetings, state councils and SHRM national might be able to interact with more chapters.
- Q2. Do you have specific strategies to suggest for promoting your conference to other states without creating internal jealousies or competition concerns?
The chat participants were a little stumped by this question, not seeing why outside promotion of their programs and conferences would cause others to be concerned with competition.
- Q3. Have you ever attended a conference outside of your state (not including SHRM national conferences)? Why?
Most of the chat participants, social media devotees that they are, had attended conferences outside of their state. They were quick to point out, though, that most people were limited in time, resources, and geography, limiting the likelihood of multiple-conference attendance.
- Q4. What are the benefits or disadvantages of attending other conferences?
Cost, travel time, and missed work were mentioned repeatedly as disadvantages of attending conferences or programs outside of traditional boundaries. The most frequently mentioned advantages were networking and the building of personal relationships. I was surprised that the potential diversity of program offerings was not mentioned in this discussion, although I personally believe in that as a major advantage.
- Q5. Based on tonight’s discussion, will you do ONE thing you will do to promote your program outside of the state or to change your attendance plans to include another state? Name it.
Most of the chatters agreed that there was sufficient advantage for them to invest in the concept to some degree. One chatter mentioned running announcements in neighboring states via LinkedIn. Another made a commitment to attend another state conference, and yet another participant vowed to promote their future state conference to neighboring states. Everyone agreed that social media can help chapters and councils think outside of their geographic lines.
FEBRUARY 2013 PREVIEW – Government Advocacy
SHRM National recognizes that it is at necessity for the human resources professional to be concerned about public policy. To that end, they have an Advocacy Team (the “A-Team”) to help create a relationship and dialog with legislators to help them understand relevant issues. But advocacy isn’t just a national issue – it means involving people at the state and local level, too. So we’ll discuss that issue this month, with special guest Chatrane Birbal, who is SHRM’s Senior Member Advocacy Specialist. Our suggested questions are:
- Are you currently engaged in advocacy activities on behalf of the HR profession? If not, why? If yes, what do you find most gratifying about your engagement in public policy?
- What challenges or road blocks do you face in your advocacy efforts? How can SHRM help your group become successful advocates on behalf of the HR profession?
- What HR public policy issues are most important to you and why?
I am only posting a few questions this month because after the 1st half-hour, I am going to add the hash-tag #GATChat to our discussion, which is the official chat hosted by the SHRM Advocacy Team during the State of the Union address. We hope that our participants will stay for at least a while and join in the #GATChat.
Join the #SHRMChat discussion on Twitter – Tuesday, February 12th at 8 pm EST/7 pm CST.
Don’t forget to add a name or three to the “Crowdsourcing SHRM Speakers List here before then!
It was in August 25 years ago – give or take – when the whole family was preparing to attend the Michigan Renaissance Festival. August in Michigan is pretty hot, and usually pretty humid, so summer clothing was the choice I expected my kids to make when they were getting dressed.
My oldest daughter Amy, about 4 at the time, showed up at the station wagon wearing a typical summer shorts outfit but with a strange footwear choice. She was wearing winter boots.
Not those cute little suede Uggs that celebs and other fashionistas wear today, but kid’s Michigan winter boots – rubber with fake fur linings and toppers, suitable for snow and slush. I think they were pink.
My husband told her to take off the boots and put on more appropriate footwear, like sandals or tennies. She refused. I chimed in and said I didn’t give a damn what she wore on her feet and let’s just leave already, which, of course, caused a massive argument between me and the hubby.
We went to the Festival with my daughter in her winter boots, my husband and I barely speaking.
It didn’t really matter to anyone but my daughter what she wore on her feet, did it? She wasn’t in danger of injury or illness or inability to perform her duty to enjoy herself. If her feet got too hot or she was embarrassed – it was her problem to learn from, not mine or my husband’s. And she was old enough to learn that lesson if necessary. And having our family “firm” slowed down over the footwear of a 4 year old was, in my opinion, unnecessary and counter-productive.
But many employers have decided that their business somehow cannot function properly if they don’t tell you what to wear, how to behave, or what kind of pictures you can have on your wall. I once interviewed at a law firm where the lawyer hid his child’s colorful crayon drawings behind a door, so they wouldn’t “offend his partners”. (I didn’t go to work at that law office!)
In other words, employers treat their employees like 4-year-olds – or in ways that parents can treat a 4-year-old, even if they shouldn’t. And HR is forced to write endless policies trying to control behavior that doesn’t really matter to the successful operation of the business.
Remember the Serenity Prayer? It was plastered all over dorm walls and offices when I was young:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
HR should go through every single policy and ask, “Does it really matter if employees do or don’t do this?” Then they should look on their wall or divider and recite my version:
God (or whatever works for you) grant me the serenity to accept the behavior that doesn’t matter
The courage to write a simple policy only when it does
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Do you still think I should have made my daughter change her boots?
All of the footpaths at that Festival were wet and muddy, and it turned out that, despite the fine summer weather, she was the only one who came home with clean, dry feet.
Think of that when you analyze whether your policy really matters to the bottom line of your company.
HR conferences are – or should be – about connecting as well as learning. If you look beyond the person sitting next to you in a session or at the same lunch table, you can find all kinds of people who can give you a different view of things.
During the fall conference season, I had the opportunity to talk to an IT/tech vendor several times when he responded to various issues in the conference venue. I’m not sure if he was hired by the HR group running the conference or by the facility, but it was clear that he had spent a lot of time dealing with the HR community just previous to and during the conference. I won’t tell you which conference, and I’ll just call him Kevin because I don’t want to identify him and possibly get him in trouble.
So I asked him, “What do you think of HR people now that you have worked with them so closely on this conference?”
Do his answers surprise you?
- HR cares only about operations and is unadaptable. Kevin explained that HR is “all about process”. HR wants to follow a script, even when it is clear that the script needs to be adjusted or has failed to work in a particular situation. Thinking strategically and changing things doesn’t happen, even when it is necessary to fix a problem or deal with an unexpected event.
- HR doesn’t understand human value or compensate it appropriately. Kevin was stunned by the fact that there were people working during the conference – volunteers – that had paid their full registration fee to attend. “I work a lot of conferences”, he said, “and no one – NO ONE – works at a conference after paying to get in.”
- HR certification is meaningless. It didn’t take long for Kevin to notice that no one was keeping track of attendance and that many people left the sessions long before the end. “How can someone get certification credits for something they left midway through?”
If you follow the online HR chatter even a little bit, you know that many, many HR writers have similar complaints and make similar arguments over and over again.
What no one seems to be able to address, though, is WHY. Why are people still making the same complaints about HR?
Maybe we should ask the IT/Tech department to fix it, because HR isn’t.
I have a friend who speaks at HR conferences and meetings throughout the country. It is common for the organizers of these seminars and conferences to give speakers a thank-you gift of some kind. When asked, my friend said that the best “speakers” gift s/he ever got was a $25 Amazon.com gift card.
Sounds pretty ordinary, doesn’t it?
My friend went on to explain that many conference organizers try to give things that are tied to the region in some way, or have some type of local significance. For example, a speaker at a conference in Louisville, KY, home of the Louisville Slugger baseball bat, might get a miniature baseball bat from the organizers as a thank-you gift. It sounds cute and thoughtful, until the speaker drags the bat to the airport and then tosses it in a trash can, because there is no way the TSA will let you have a bat on an airplane, and the speaker didn’t really want a baseball bat anyway.
It’s not the gift – it’s the thought that counts, right? But gifts like a miniature baseball bat beg the sarcastic question: what were you thinking? That’s the reason a nice, simple gift card from a retailer that sells just about everything was the perfect gift for my friend. It conveyed the proper thought, and was useful and desired by the recipient.
Considering the shopping and buying frenzy that surrounds Black Friday, the entire country is caught up in this idea that they can find the perfect gift at the perfect price, being cute and thoughtful to boot, if they plan properly and get up early enough.
Bullshit. And here’s why:
I love scarves. Anyone who knows me even casually can see this, because I wear them all of the time. But because I love them so much, I buy them a lot and have oodles of them. So if you go to Target on Black Friday and buy a scarf for me, thinking it’s a great gift – you will probably be wrong. Either I won’t like the color, or the weight, or the shape, or I have 3 just like it.
So now I will have to make a trip to Target, where I will exchange the scarf for Sterlite storage containers. I use those babies everywhere, and I never have enough. And they are expensive. But they aren’t the kind of thing that anyone buys me as a gift.
Wouldn’t it have been easier on everyone if you had just gotten me a Target gift card – at your convenience – in the first place? Less expenditure of precious resources, like gas. Most certainly a time saver. And it isn’t any less “impersonal” than the scarf you got up to buy at 5 am. Since it is what I wanted in the first place, it’s highly personal.
Given the lengths of the return lines I see at the stores right after Christmas, I am not alone in wanting something other than what you bought me. So why do people persist in this shopping and gift buying nightmare?
In this digital age, it’s super simple to give gift cards or electronic gift certificates. They save everyone time and resources. They’re always the right color and fit. They save precious resources, including time, which everyone wants more of.
Most importantly, they tell the recipient how you feel – which is what giving a gift is all about.
For the first time in our 25 year marriage, my husband and I will be alone together on Thanksgiving. We will be over 1300 miles from our children and grandchildren, whose number is so large that I am usually required to roast two Thanksgiving turkeys. With just two of us to celebrate the holiday together this year, my Thanksgiving dinner solution was simple.
I live in Naples, Florida, which is mostly a resort town. People flock here from cold climates every November to April to enjoy the beaches and the golf courses. Winter holidays find the area packed with people who all have to eat, so restaurant dining options are plentiful on the Thanksgiving holiday.
Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant gets prepared and served by employees. Working stiffs. Waitstaff and dishwashers and prep cooks – people working on the holiday. I don’t know who will get to share the tip, but I’ll leave a big one, because I will be thankful that their dedication to their jobs allows me to have a meal without worry and bother.
As a former police officer, I have worked a lot of Thanksgivings (and Christmases, etc.), usually responding to family fights at homes where too much liquor was consumed by too many relatives. So I can sympathize with people whose job forces them to bundle up their kids and ship them off with relatives for the day while they work, because I have been there and done it.
I don’t sympathize too much with people who gripe about working on Thanksgiving, though, like the workers from Target. After all, police officers, medical personnel, hotel service, restaurant workers, football players and others* have been working the holiday for years. Everyone seems to have survived just fine.
Maybe the Target workers who are complaining about the loss of ”family time” should think about what they can be thankful for – and it’s not that they have a job. They can also be thankful for others that are working on Thanksgiving, like the police officers who show up if there is a fistfight in their store, or the ambulance driver who responds when a customer has a heart attack. These employees, and countless others, have sacrificed family time for years in order to serve the community, keeping it safe, happy, and entertained.
And serving the community is really what working on Thanksgiving is all about – no matter what your job is.
*(Movie theaters are generally open on Thanksgiving, staffed by workers. Here’s a great letter to Target workers about that. Thanks to author Matt Stollak, as well as Victorio Milian for inspiring this blog. )
It’s been almost 4 years since I fully embraced social media, and 3 years since I started blogging. One of the things I loved about social media from the start was the ability to hook up with a lot of really smart people and hear their thoughts and ideas about business.
One of the recurring themes that I have heard repeatedly during this social media journey is that innovation and movement, whether personal or professional, requires taking risks and willingness to fail. People in the social media business space are fond of quoting other smart people like Wayne Gretzky (“You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”), Frederick Wilcox (“Progress always involves risk. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.”), or Jim McMahon (“Yes, risk-taking is inherently failure prone. Otherwise it would be called ‘sure-thing taking.’ “)
So why do we make exceptions when it comes to HR and the adoption of social media? I have been told many times that the adoption of social media requires baby steps, and that I am wrong to suggest that we push our associations and HR business units harder to adopt effective social strategies.
Real change and innovation in companies, organizations, and associations doesn’t come from acting like a baby who does not have the physical or mental ability to leap. It comes from leaders who are not afraid to leap when it is necessary, knowing that failure is possible but that any failure will bring even more opportunities to learn and change.
Today, Curtis Midkiff, Director of Social Engagement for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), announced that SHRM was a finalist for a 2012 Social Media Leadership Award. SHRM isn’t a finalist for this award because Curtis took baby-steps to introduce social networking in tiny increments – he took giant leaps since taking his job with SHRM in 2010. Yes, he had some help from volunteers, as he acknowledges in this Facebook post, but the vision and execution – and risk – was his. From 5 bloggers at the annual conference in 2010, he moved to a massive social media team in 2012, with 100 bloggers, a dedicated space where attendees could get social media training, knowledge, and networking, and a special website specifically for social media news, blogs, and Twitter before, during, and after the conference.
Those were the decisive moves of a leader, not the tottering steps of an infant who is going to fall down many times, while we all smile and take pictures.
HR and its related organizations should be following this type of leadership, and not making claims that baby steps are a more appropriate strategy.
That scrambling paid off well, because they found a great opening keynote speaker in Jim Knight. Jim was with Hard Rock Cafe for over 20 years, most recently as the senior director of global training and development. His presentation was titled “Create a Rocking Corporate Culture” – or something like that. His engaging and lively discussion centered around the idea that developing a corporate culture is an important part of business success, and that there are specific, positive steps that can be taken to develop that culture.
Now I don’t have an issue with that general premise, and I certainly don’t know anything about what Hard Rock does specifically to hire people who are the “proper” cultural fit, so I am not claiming that they engage in discrimination. But I can tell you this: one of Jim Knight’s early slides showed a 30-ish white female waitress. His explanation for that slide was that when Hard Rock first opened in 1971, they wanted to hire the 30-ish, more mature-looking female so that diners could feel like they were being served by their mother. That slide was their hiring target.
Sounds a little – no, a lot – discriminatory to me. Both sexist and ageist, as a matter of fact.
But Jim went on to say that it was different today, and that Hard Rock hired all kinds of people. And while he was explaining this shift in hiring philosophy, he showed a different slide. That slide contained pictures of 3 or 4 people. All were youthful, with tattoos and piercings and what an older person (like me) would call a “punk rock” appearance.
Not one middle aged white guy wearing a buttoned-down shirt in the picture. That’s a little – no, a lot – discriminatory, too, isn’t it?
I will repeat that Hard Rock may have all kinds of boomers and traditionalists working in their stores, but Jim Knight didn’t choose to show them on his slides because they aren’t as visually appealing when you are giving a talk about rocking corporate culture. So this is not a condemnation of his presentation or former company. But I do believe that anytime an organization hires for any reason other than knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs), there is an exponential leap in the potential for discrimination.
In fact, this current emphasis on hiring for cultural fit can, by itself, create a corporate culture of discrimination. If Hard Rock were to hire only the youthful and tattooed, does that not create a work culture that by itself discriminates against the aged?
Some scholars have pointed out the discriminatory pitfalls of over-emphasis on work culture. One legal scholar even argued that organizational culture or work culture was actually a tool for controlling employee behavior as opposed to empowering employees as some organizations suggest. In calling for more thorough judicial review of discrimination claims, that same scholar stated:
Recognizing the discriminatory potential of work culture and the increasing importance of conformity with work culture to job success should, at the very least, trigger modest reforms in the way courts and litigants think about traditional discrimination claims.
Since no one wants more lawyers involved in determining their employment practices, be very careful when stepping outside of traditional KSAs and hiring for “culture”.
Does your organization hire for cultural fit? What do you do to ensure that those hiring norms are not discriminatory?
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.