How do we feel about government student loan foregiveness?

President Biden this week announced some college loan forgiveness for certain individuals holding federal student loans. There are a bunch of details, but I’m not going to get into those here. You can read about them on a thousand different sites in detail. I want to talk about whether forgiving student loans is something we agree with or don’t agree with.

There seem to be two camps. On one side, most holding current student loan debt, but not all, think this is a great thing. Those who have this burden now have less and can move on with their careers and build their lives with a little less burden.

On the other side, you have folks who went to college, incurred debt, went to work, and paid that debt off. The government didn’t help them, but that was what they signed up for, and they made it work. They might have had this debt decades ago when attending college was much less expensive, or maybe they went got only a few years ago but worked like crazy to ensure they paid it off.

The fact is, student loan debt for all those who have it can be crushing. The reason most people decide to take on that burden is that they believe getting that college education will lead them down a path to a better life. The ROI on a university education is still pretty good in the U.S.

I’m in both camps.

I went to university and had parents who couldn’t help me. I left with student loan debt, and my wife and I worked very hard to pay off that debt. We laugh about how we would come home to our first apartment and go sit in the bedroom because we had no furniture but a bed. We couldn’t afford furniture because my monthly loan payment took up our extra money.

Yeah, yeah, and I forgot to tell you I walked uphill, both ways, to work…cry me a river, right?

When I started in HR, we never spoke about the burden of student debt for those we hired. It wasn’t as big a portion of the monthly expenses of new grads, so while they had the debt, they could still handle it. Now, it’s a major topic of conversation when HR talks about talent attraction and retention. It’s a major topic of conversation when we talk about benefits and incentives. The amount of student debt has become outrageous.

This question of forgiving student debt is very difficult.

There’s a piece of this that is about individual accountability. I took as few loans as I could while I was in college because I knew I had to pay them back. I worked multiple jobs all year while going to school. I chose a school that was inexpensive because I knew I had to pay for it. I didn’t go on Spring Breaks. I had a beater of a car. I bartered meals for services I could do. I was accountable for the debt I took on.

As a person who hires people now, I frequently will ask new college grads how they paid for their education. What part did you pay for through work? What part did you have to borrow? What part did your family cover? What about scholarships? The effort you put into paying for your burden speaks a lot about how you will be as an employee. I’m not saying that if you are fortunate to have parents who were able to help you pay for school, you can’t be great. You can. I rarely meet someone who worked their way through school on their own and doesn’t have a great work ethic.

What does this have to do with student loan forgiveness?

There’s no difference in having someone pay your debt if it’s not you paying for your debt. It’s not teaching you to value the commitment you made. You committed to a loan that had to be paid back. Mom paid it off. Your company paid it off. The government paid it off. You got from under your debt through no work of your own. You will be more likely, moving forward, to take on debt believing somehow, in the future, someone else will bail you out.

The problem with the thinking above is it’s still really f*cking hard to start life out in a hole, and too many people in our society are starting out in a hole. Some were hard-working enough to make it out of one hole and get into college, only to find themselves in the next hole. And often, that hole is just too deep to escape from.

I believe every single kid in our country who puts in the work in school should have access to a great college education, and that education should not bankrupt their future. At the same time, I’m not sure just giving them a get-out-of-college debt Monopoly card is the answer. Our country has a crisis when it comes to federal, state, and local government hiring. What if students could do some kind of government job corps that gave them a fair salary and experience, and for that, each year, they had a portion of their student debt forgiven? Or come up with some other sort of plan that taught with any debt you purposely decide to take on, there is accountability to pay it back.

These are your tax dollars.

Let’s face it our government is historically bad at spending our tax dollars. If you were to go out and ask the US population, do you want your “personal” tax dollars spent on paying off someone else’s student loan, you would be lucky to get a 50/50 split. Going to college and incurring college debt is still a privilege in our world.

What about paying off the car loan a single mom has that she had to take on so she could go to work to pay her rent and put food on the table for her kid? Should we pay that off as well? It’s a slippery slope when we start paying off individual obligations people make. Great, you want to be an Artic Beetle History major, and now you can’t find a job. That’s okay. Let us pay off that awful decision you made with my hard-earned tax dollars.

The real solution isn’t paying off student debt. It’s a political stunt!

The real solution is taxing colleges and universities that have become empire builders under their tax-exempt status. We, the U.S. population, allow higher ed to continue to build world-class structures and increase prices to the point that is ridiculous. Dorm rooms have become five-star hotels, okay, 3-star, but definitely Courtyard by Marriott level accommodations! My dorm room was more akin to a prison cell.

Why has this happened?

Universities are in the business of keeping kids in college as long as possible. The longer you stay, the more tuition and fees they will get. No longer can a normal kid make it out in four years. God forbid you to change majors and move schools. You will definitely be on the five to six-year plan. Higher education in the U.S. has become the biggest racket outside of health insurance in the entire country!

The crazy part about this is it seems like no one in politics is talking about this fact. We care that it costs too much, but we never do anything to make higher ed run like a real business.

Student loan forgiveness isn’t about helping students. It’s about votes. If we really wanted to help students, the government would go after our “non-profit” colleges and universities and create a system where all students could go and afford a proper education for a respectable cost. Like Taylor Swift wrote, paying $10K in student loan forgiveness is like putting a bandaid on a bullet hole. We aren’t solving the problem, and we are partially addressing a symptom and then acting like we cured cancer. In the long run, my fear is this behavior just will make the problem worse.

The Big Regret! How’s that new job working out for you? #HRFamous

On episode 104 of The HR Famous Podcast, long-time HR leaders (and friends) Madeline Laurano, Jessica Lee, and Tim Sackett come together to discuss catalogs, the follow-up to The Great Recession, and Tesla’s latest drama. 

Listen below and be sure to subscribe, rate, and review (iTunes) and follow (Spotify)!

2:15 – Does anyone still get catalogs? Tim and Madeline still get tons sent to their houses. 

4:30 – Tim thinks that a mailer would work well as a recruitment tactic, even better than email or texting. 

5:15 – Tim shares a story that he’s going to put in his book! You heard it here first, folks. 

8:30 – Tim’s story revolves around a marketing study where they asked a community what the top realtor in their area was. They created a fake realtor, did some marketing, and then re-asked the community who the top realtor was. 

10:00 – Studies are showing that a large number of people who left their jobs during The Great Resignation are regretting their decision to leave their previous position. Madeline thinks that these shifts were pay-driven, and people didn’t take into account other factors. 

13:40 – Tim said he had regrets when he left Applebee’s. Although it seemed like the right decision, he felt the repercussion of the decision almost instantly. 

20:30 – Tim was at SHRM a few weeks ago, and a lot of the discussions had “The Great Recession” in their title. 

21:30 – Tesla and Elon Musk are tracking office attendance by following the “office ID swipe-ins.” If you can’t come in, employees are supposed to email in a message that they won’t be in the office today. Tim thinks this is draconian and feels very similar to calling in sick for your kids at school. 

24:45 – Tim says that he’s embarrassed by the number of people he’s had to fire by “pulling swipes”. 

30:00 – JLee hired someone recently that was affected by the Tesla layoffs, and the new hire said that the reports of the layoffs are pretty accurate. 

33:00 – JLee mentions how often, when layoffs are happening, HR professionals are given scripts for legal reasons, but there are ways to make it seem more human and empathetic. 

36:30 – Madeline was a part of an analyst firm where there were secret talks about layoffs, and she felt like they handled it poorly in comparison to JLee’s Marriot example. 

HR Technology Conference Unveils 2022 Top HR Product Awards! @HRTechConf #HRTechConf

The HR Technology Conference is right around the corner, September 13-16, in Las Vegas, and today, they announced the winners of this year’s Top HR Products! I will be attending this year’s conference, and I will be a judge at HR Technology Conference’s startup competition, The Pitchfest, which runs throughout the event.

Here are the winners of the 2022 Top HR Products:

ADP Intelligent Self-Service

ADP Intelligent Self-Service anticipates, solves and reduces employee issues before becoming a problem. Combining artificial intelligence, deep HCM knowledge and intuitive experiences, ADP Intelligent Self-Service proactively nudges employees to resolve potential issues.

Compa 

Compa is offer-management software to help talent teams make smarter offers and gain real-time market data. When recruiters use Compa, they can skip spreadsheets and automate workflows to find pay guidelines, navigate pay conversations and build custom offers that get approved quickly.

Eightfold Job Intelligence Engine

The Eightfold Job Intelligence Engine provides an AI-powered foundation for role definitions that dynamically learns from internal and external talent insights. By replacing archaic and ineffective job descriptions with centrally defined roles, the tool combines AI, automation and human expertise for better decision-making.

Gloat Workforce Intelligence

For many organizations, workforce strategy is often encumbered by fragmented systems and manual processes that make it difficult to meet the demands of increasingly agile talent and business needs. With this in mind, Gloat built the Workforce Intelligence suite to solve the challenges of accessing scalable skills, jobs and talent insight, empowering organizations to understand and adapt to market needs.

iCIMS Marketing Automation 

Amplify sourcing and engagement efforts with sophisticated lead scoring and conditional, behavior-based campaign personalization to address the toughest talent and recruiting challenges. iCIMS Marketing Automation redefines recruitment marketing by helping recruiting teams adapt to the age of the candidate.

Joyous

Joyous is an app that unlocks the expertise in large workforces to solve strategic challenges. It works in four steps: it breaks a big challenge down into small conversation starters; reaches out to a cohort of the workforce who will have the knowledge needed; routes their responses to subject matter experts and leaders who turn it into conversations, asking for clarification or offering support; and finally, AI analyzes all those conversations to identify the actionable themes that will make the biggest impact.

Oracle ME

Oracle ME is a complete employee experience platform designed to elevate employees’ growth, connections and ability to thrive in the new ways of work and workplaces today. Part of Oracle Cloud HCM, Oracle ME enables organizations to deliver personalized experiences to every worker based on their unique characteristics and situations. .

Paradox Animated Assessments

Paradox has built the fastest, mobile-first assessment on the market, requiring just 90 seconds to complete and boasting a 95% completion rate. By using animated images rather than words, candidates provide accurate information in a fraction of the time, reducing candidate drop-off and increasing satisfaction.

Plum Leadership Potential 

Plum Leadership Potential enables organizations to identify high-potential talent using proven science combined with scalable technology. By leveraging the results of Plum’s single assessment, organizations can instantly measure leadership potential in every employee, ensuring each member of the workforce is equitably considered for their aptitude.

PTO Genius

PTO Genius helps organizations transform the employee experience and boost profitability by unleashing the power of PTO. The AI-powered software helps optimize and automate time off to uncover hidden opportunities to decrease burnout, improve employee wellness and reduce churn.

ServiceNow Manager Hub

Manager Hub delivers a purpose-built destination for people leaders to stay informed and engaged with their teams by leveraging personalized resources to guide their leadership journey. Managers can view a summary of team insights and action items for employee journeys, daily team stats, important dates, tasks and requests.

Talview Interview Insights

Talview Interview Insights maximizes the effectiveness of the Interview. The AI-powered solution works by analyzing conversations and behaviors to assess the candidate and the interviewer, helping organizations continuously improve the quality of interviewing.

Workday Scheduling and Labor Optimization

Workday Scheduling and Labor Optimization is an intelligent, worker-first scheduling solution that leverages artificial intelligence to match labor demand with worker qualifications, availability and preferences to optimize schedules for both workers and the business automatically. By analyzing data across the organization, Workday Scheduling and Labor Optimization helps managers and operations leaders optimize schedules to meet both the labor demands of the business and numerous business parameters—such as labor regulations—and worker scheduling preferences.

There will be over 600 HR Technology vendors at this year’s conference! These products definitely stood out as a few of the must-see technology advances across the HR tech stack. For me, The HR Technology Conference is one of the conferences I will not miss on an annual basis in our industry. Having a great understanding of HR Technology and the impact it has on running a successful business is a must-have skill every HR leader must have in our current environment.

“My company” vs. “Our company”

I was listening to some of my recruiters talk to candidates the other day. I like to do that from time to time. You learn a lot about your team, your jobs, your hiring managers, and your engagement levels.

One of the things I overheard was something like, “I’m going to tell you about the benefits that “MY” company offers.” There was another conversation where someone used “our,” “I’m going to tell you about the benefits that “OUR” company offers”.

It seems like a small difference, right? Both are positive, for sure.

I will tell you, as a leader, “my company” brings me to tears. The one thing I consistently hear from senior executives is, “I can get my team to care about this company the same way I do”. It’s a very common issue that comes up all the time. How do we get employees to take ownership when they don’t have ‘real’ ownership?

It’s a cop-out and too easy to say, “oh, just give them some real ownership”! Having an employee-owned company isn’t simple or easy. It’s very complex.

Using “My company” says to me that this employee is 100% in. Onboard. Wearing the logo! Reppin the gear! It’s not that saying “our company” doesn’t say that, but “my company” definitely says that!

It’s similar to when you hire a new employee from a competitor, and it takes some time to get them away from “we” vs. “them” vs. “you guys,” etc. “So, I know ‘you guys’ do it this way….” Oh, you mean “us guys,” right!? You’re now on the team. You’re not a ‘them.’ You are a ‘we’!

Sometimes some of the biggest changes we make to culture are simple changes in our own language and what those changes end up meaning to all those stakeholders in an organization.

Want to be happier at work?

In 1942 Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist, was taken to a Nazi concentration camp with his wife and parents.  Three years later, when his camp was liberated, his pregnant wife and parents had already been killed by the Nazis. He survived and, in 1946, went on to write the book “Man’s Search For Meaning. “  In this great book, Frankl writes:

“It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.”

What Frankl knew was that you can’t make happiness out of something outside yourself.  Riding the Waverunner doesn’t make you happy. You decide to be happy while doing that activity, but you could as easily decide to be angry or sad while doing this activity (although Daniel Tosh would disagree!).  Frankl also wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

I get asked frequently by HR Pros about how they can make their employees or workplace happier.  I want to tell them about Frankl’s research and what he learned in the concentration camps.  I want to tell them that you can’t make your employees happy.  They have to decide they want to be happy first. But I don’t. People don’t want to hear the truth.

Coming up with ‘things’ isn’t going to make your employees happy. You might provide free lunch, which some will really like, but it also might make someone struggling with their weight very depressed.  You might give extra time off, and most of your employees will love it, but those who define themselves by their work will find this a burden.

Ultimately, I think people tend to swing a certain way on the emotional scale.  Some are usually happier than others.  Some relish in being angry or depressed. It’s their comfort zone.  They don’t know how to be any other way.  Instead of working to ‘make’ people happy, spend your time selecting happy people to come work for you.

In the middle of a concentration camp, the most horrific experience imaginable, Frankl witnessed people who made the decision to be happy. Maybe they were happy to have one more day on earth. Maybe they were happy because, like Frankl, they discovered that the Nazis could take everything from them except their mind.

Provide the best work environment that you can.  Continue to try and make it better with the resources you have.  Give meaning to work and the things you do.  Every organization has this, no matter what you do at your company.  Don’t pursue happiness. It’s a fleeting emotion that is impossible to maintain.  Pursue being the best organization you can be.  It doesn’t mean you have to be someone you’re not.  Just be ‘you’ and find others who like ‘you.’

Why do you suck!?

There’s an interactive questioning technique called The 5 Whys.  The theory is that if you continue to ask ‘why’ enough times, you’ll get to the root cause of every issue.

  • Timmy is a bad performer. Why?
  • He doesn’t follow through on anything. Why?
  • It seems like he gets things started well and then moves on to other things before the first thing is finished. Why?
  • He likes the energy of starting new projects. Why?
  • He thinks if he’s on the front side of the project, he’ll have more influence on the direction the project is going. Why?
  • Because that has been his experience with our organization.

Oh, so he might not be a bad performer. He just has an opportunity area that we might be able to help him out with – getting projects across the finish line.  And we’ve taught him to behave in this manner.

I don’t know if you have to use to 5 whys each time. I do think you have to ask at least three whys to get past the emotion of any decision.  We tend to make most decisions with some element of emotion.  Getting to the third why will get the emotion out in the open.  That is important in any decision-making process.

Does this technique seem a little ‘parental’?  It does, which is why you probably don’t want to make a habit of using this technique too often.  It is definitely a tool, though, that can be very effective for a leader to use from time to time.

  • “We need to change our hiring process!”
  • Why?
  • “We have had three consecutive failed hires.”
  • Why?

“Well, one person was a referral from an executive, so we hired without really checking references. One hire totally aced our pre-employment testing but had a sketchy work history but tested off the charts. One was a knockout in the interview, marginal testing, and just didn’t pan out.”

So, do we really need to change our hiring process? Or should we just start following our hiring process?

3 Whys takes the emotion out of any decision-making process.  It gets out everyone’s inner issues about the problem.  We tend to lead with a crisis statement that will lead to action.  If we take action based on incomplete information, we will unnecessarily start doing things that we might not need to do or make changes that really don’t make sense to the organization.

Next time you are facing a tough decision, start asking ‘Why’ and see where it leads you. You might be surprised where you’ll end up!

5 Signs You Should Not Make That Job Offer!

If I have learned anything at all in my HR/Recruiting career, it’s that everyone has an opinion on what makes a good hire. If you ask 100 people to give you one thing they focus on when deciding between candidates, you’ll get 100 different answers!

I’ve got some of my own. They might be slightly different than yours, but I know mine will work!  So, if you want to make some better selections, take note, my young Padawans:

1. Crinkled up money. Male or female, if you pull money out of your pocket or purse and it’s crinkled up, you’ll be a bad hire!  There is something fundamentally wrong with people who can’t keep their cash straight. The challenge you have is how do you get a candidate to show you this? Ask to copy their driver’s license or something like that!

2. Males with more selfies on their Instagram than all other photos. I don’t even have to explain this (also, don’t go do a count on my IG!).

3. Slow walkers.  If you don’t have some pep in your step, at least for the interview, you’re going to be a drag as an employee.

4. My Last Employer was so Awesome! Yeah, that’s great. We aren’t them. Let’s put a little focus back on what we got going on right here, sparky. Putting too much emphasis on a job you love during the interview is annoying. We get it. It was a good gig. You f*ck’d it up and can’t let go. Now we’ll have to listen about it for the next nine months until we fire you.

5. Complaining or being Rude to waitstaff.  I like taking candidates to lunch or dinner, just to see how they treat other people. I want servant leaders, not assholes, working for me. The meal interview is a great selection tool to weed out bad people.

What are your signs not to make an offer?  Share in the comments!

How Can Organizations Succeed In a Multi-Channel Work Environment?

I’m keynoting the HRM Tech Asia conference in 2023, and as part of that, HRM Magazine did an interview with me for their Aug/Sept Magazine. The idea is we all want to offer flexibility. Our employees and candidates are demanding flexibility, but building a solid culture across all of these work environments is very complex!

Here’s some of what I had to say:

You can read the full article by clicking here!

4 Strategies to Get Candidates to Open Your Emails!

I found some cool data that probably got overlooked a while back from CB Insights. Now, this data is from 2016, but it’s super relevant!

CB Insights did some testing with their own email newsletter that went out to 175K+. A very big sample, and the reality is they have the exact same goal as we all do, Get Candidates to Open Our Email!

These four things work really well in getting people to open your email:

1. Brand Names. CB found that using a big brand name like Apple, Google, Nike, etc., in your subject line increases your odds greatly of getting someone to open your email. Now, you might be asking yourself, “Tim, how the heck am I going to use a brand name in my recruiting emails!?” How about something like, “3 Ways we are a better place to work than Apple!”

2. Short Titles. Less is more when it comes to attention-grabbing subject lines! I suggest under five words if possible. “Are we paying too much?” or “I’ve Got a Quick Question” or “Sackett” – Yep, in my own testing, the one email that gets open at a higher rate than any other is when I only put my last name in the subject line!

3. Negativity. This seems counter-intuitive. No way! People love positivity. You are right, but negativity draws them in! “How Candidates Fall on their Face!” will get opened way more than “How Candidates Succeed!” Again, in ten years of blogging and making headlines, this data also rings true. I get way more interaction on negative headlines than positive headlines.

4. Surprises. Different viewpoints that people don’t expect. “Punching Your Boss Can Get You a Raise!” or “Older Workers Have More Energy Than Millennials!” or “Hiring Dumb People!” Basically, people open these because they don’t agree with the headline. What the heck is Tim talking about today!?!

So, if all of these things work. What does CB Insights say doesn’t work?

What should we stop doing with our subject lines? 

  • All of the opposites of the above! Long headlines, positive headlines, boring, etc.
  • Question Headlines. “What 3 Things Are You Doing to Hurt Your Brand!” While Buzzfeed has made billions with these clickbait headlines, CB found readers are getting fatigued with these types of headlines. (I will tell you “The X Things to do…” headlines still work in my world. 5 Ways to Hire More People! Will always do well.
  • Broad topics do worse than Niche. A headline that says “5 Ways to Attract More Talent” will do worse than “5 Ways to Attract More Nurses Right Now!”

The key to great email subject lines is they get opened! If you send out a hundred emails to candidates and no one opens them, it doesn’t matter what the content is and how much time you spent making it perfect. Get Them To Open Your Emails! Is the single most important thing you should worry about first!

It’s very Recruiting 101, and it’s something almost every recruiting shop struggles with, but then we go and focus on the picture we’re using. Does it have a puppy and a kid in a wheelchair? No, stop the presses! Stop it. Fix the basics first, then worry about doing the higher-level stuff.

What is your most responsive email subject line?

Why do you fight to keep what you have vs. fight for what you need?

I had a great conversation with the co-founder and President of Greenhouse Software, Jon Stross. Jon developed a model he calls the Hiring Maturity Model. Basically, it’s a scale or curve of where your recruiting department is in terms of technology maturity.

Part of that conversation was a fascinating piece about why we keep technology that isn’t moving us forward or making us successful. Don’t say budget! It’s not budget! Let me explain that.

What are the four reasons why we would rather keep stuff we have versus get stuff we actually need? 

1. We fear the pain of change. “Moving from one ATS to another ATS is hard work and takes years, and it’s just not worth it, Tim!” You’re wrong. It was that way when we had on-premise software, but with modern-day Saas platforms, this isn’t as painful by a mile! My most recent ATS change took six weeks, and we had zero downtime because we kept the legacy system going while we got used to the new system.

2. We fear short-term lower performance over the benefit of long-term gains. Well, it might not be great, but we know what we have. What if we change and it’s worse!? It won’t be because you will do your due diligence and research, and you’ll make sure it will be exponentially better! If what you have isn’t that good, you must be willing to build something better. Your organization needs you to do this.

3. We feel stupid and don’t know the technology enough to advocate for change. This is very legitimate. I feel stupid every single day about technology. I’ve got some stupid thing with my Macbook going on, and I can’t figure it out. And it drives me crazy! Demo. Demo. Demo. I felt stupid about our TA Tech space, and I just started demoing everything I could find, and it opened up a completely new world of what is possible in talent acquisition.

4. It was your call, originally, to get what you have, so bailing on it now looks bad on you. Do you still have an iPhone 4? No!?! What!?! Why not!? When the iPhone 4 was launched, it was AWESOME! Oh, wait, the iPhone 12 is better? Turns out, technology improves. What you thought was best two or three years ago is now a dinosaur in the technology world. So, just like IT, Finance, and Operations, it’s okay to say, hey, the tech we have now isn’t what we need today to stay competitive for talent.

Did I say demo? For the love of St. Petersburg, Demo! It’s the single best thing you can do to develop yourself around getting smarter about the technology in your functional professional area of expertise.

Too many of us keep processes and systems way too long for reasons that, when you really dig into it, don’t even make sense. “Well, Tim, we have to use this ATS because payroll is tied to it, and payroll says we can’t change.” Um, what!? Does payroll drive revenue for the organization? Does payroll find and develop talent for the future of the organization? Stop it! Stop the excuses.

Oh, Budget! 

I forgot it’s the pandemic. You don’t have a budget. Actually, you do. I mean, you’re already spending it on crappy software that isn’t working for you. Stop spending that, and you have all kinds of budgets! I have never met one CEO/CIO/CFO who, when shown a better, more efficient way of doing business wasn’t all in on giving it a try if it didn’t cost them more money. Same money? Okay, let’s do it!

Check out the Greenhouse podcast with Jon and me. He’s a great dude. I love his voice and cadence. I could listen to him all day!