The Worst HR Advice I’ve Ever Given to an Employee

A few days ago this thought came to me: “What is the worst advice I’ve ever given anyone?’  Usually, in a case like this the first thing you think of is usually correct!  In my case, I came up with a number of things right away, none of which really seemed like the worst advice, and more of me making fun of what other people think is ‘good’ advice.

Here’s a sample:

1. Don’t be afraid to fail.

2. Follow your passion!

3. Don’t play office politics.

4. Yeah, go get that Masters degree in HR!

5. Just keep it to yourself, I’m sure no one will find out.

See what I’m talking about?!  All of the above statements have been shared as good advice, but I tend to think of them as terrible advice.

Then it came to me. The worst advice I have ever given to an employee in my HR career.

Here it is:

“Just wait and see what happens…”

This advice was given to an employee who really wanted a different position in the company, outside of their department.  It was going to come open because we all knew the person in the position was going to get promoted. I was early in my career, and I believed our ‘process’ would help this person out.  Just wait, I thought, and once this person takes their new position, you can post for their old position.  How naive I was.

The person who got promoted had a ‘plan’.  That plan had nothing to do with my process or the employee who was wanting that position.  The plan did have the old employee putting one of his buddies into his old position, and seemingly everyone knew of this plan except me.  This was the day I learned that everyone has a plan, and in HR it’s really my job to know what those plans are, and manage expectations early.

The person I told to wait, now didn’t trust me, and truly believed I knew what was going to happen.  The reality was, I should have known, so I really couldn’t blame the person for being upset with me.  My own bad advice probably taught me more about HR than almost anything else I have ever learned in the profession.  As soon as you hear of possible moves, you better get involved.  Waiting to see what happens usually ends up with stuff happening, without you knowing!

Recruiter Roundtable with Loxo CEO Matt Chambers and I!

In this discussion, Loxo CEO, Matt Chambers, and I discuss trends in recruiting that is here to stay, and how modern recruiters will need to evolve to address these changes.

 

Question 1: What do you see as the most impactful changes you’ve seen in the recruiting industry?

Tim’s Answer:

It continues to be the speed at which recruiting is expected to find talent for openings. We’ve gotten to a point where hiring managers have this expectation where you’ll start showing them candidates in a matter of hours, not days or weeks. All of this is driven by technology.

Matt’s Answer:  

Let’s start macro and work our way down to share why these changes are happening.

A generational transformation is underway.  Baby Boomers are retiring, millennials are taking over their leadership roles, and Generation Z is entering the workforce as the first digitally native generation.  This generational transformation is hitting at the same time that the web 3.0 is emerging and we are going to cross a tipping point to broader market adoption.

Unemployment is at an all-time low, and we are also on the longest bull run in history.  A tight labor market magnified lazy hiring practices which relied exclusively on job board postings. Ineffective hiring and subpar results created a robust demand for recruiting agencies and passive recruiting solutions.   Today talent acquisition is strategic; having top recruiters either in-house or as recruiting partners is a major competitive advantage.  We are starting to see a hybrid RPO boots on the ground model becoming very popular.

Executive search, staffing, RPO, and recruiting agencies are facing pressure to find ways to differentiate. Five years ago, the biggest changes were happening on the corporate side, but now executive search, RPO, and recruiting agencies are playing catch up.  It’s a lot of energy and effort for an organization to change software solutions and to consider new approaches to recruiting.  It also can take a year or more for an organization to switch out and upgrade their technology, so those who wait risk putting themselves out of business to modern recruiting practices that just have too significant an advantage.

Matt’s Thoughts on Tim’s Answer:

Hiring managers are being sandwiched by both technology innovation on the vendor/supply side but also from their C-levels measuring progress via KPI metrics.  I think Tim and I would both agree that quality of hire is the most important metric, but as he said to be successful in today’s world you have to get the job done fast or someone else will be there to beat you to it. 

Tim’s Thoughts on Matt’s Answer

As much as we see recruiting evolving and changing, it’s still out on the edges for the most part. The most used recruiting strategy across all functions, markets, and industries is still “Post and Pray”. Post a job, pray someone will apply. While we see the leading edge of recruiting at an advanced stage, it’s still mostly in the minority. One issue, especially on the corporate side, is recruiting is still part of HR and HR hates to recruit. So, they’ll do almost anything else besides picking up a phone and reaching out to a potential hire.

The growth of RPO is a straight-line direct reflection of this failure. Organizational leadership is giving up on recruiting at a colossal level because CHROs can’t figure out how to fix recruiting and make it work, so let’s just shop it out to experts. The reality is, you’re not shopping it out to experts, you’re shopping it out to 25-year-olds working in call centers who are paid to call candidates. That is now your employment brand, a 25-year-old who probably have never been to one of your locations and knows nothing about you.

It’s not a hit on RPO, they are hired to find talent and fill a position, and they need to do that as efficiently as they can to produce a profit. Turns out, many do a great job at that, but many organizations give up too easily instead of just fixing the core issue. Talent Acquisition is not HR. It can’t be run like HR, or it will keep failing.  

 

Question 2: Process-wise, where do you see recruiters putting in the most effort into moving forward?

Tim’s Answer:

I would love to tell you it would be quality over speed, but I fear it’s still going to be speed. For me this isn’t either/or, it’s both. Yes, I want you to find me talent fast, and, yes, I want you to find me great talent. Far too often, in most shops, recruiters turn this into one or the other. It doesn’t have to be that way. But, that takes a really great process, supported by great tech, supported by high expectations and performance management. BTW – it also costs money!

Matt’s Answer:

At the very top of the funnel. 

Executive search firms and internal talent acquisition teams are focusing most of their effort at the very top of the funnel.   Relying exclusively on job boards for “sourcing” is lazy and results in the lowest quality, yet still remains the primary way most organizations (and even most staffing agencies) recruit.

We have crossed the tipping point, and it is no longer cost-effective to source manually, when there are superior sourcing options on the market that can programmatically deliver an extremely high-quality talent pipeline at a fraction of the cost. 

To give you a concrete example, Loxo AI™ helps our customers build extremely high-quality talent pools.  It removes 90% of the hours spent sourcing by recommending only the very best people for each open position.  This is automated.  Why would you have a dedicated sourcing team when you could have this? Solutions like Loxo AI™ are gaining popularity as more recruiting organizations learn about them and realize how big of a game changer it is to their productivity.

The largest recruiting organizations have started to invest in building their own in-house technology systems.  I think almost everyone except these organizations realizes this is a catastrophic mistake that will lead down a black-hole.  The pace of technological innovation in the open market is 100x faster, so the tens of millions of dollars of investment will cost these organizations a decade of lost opportunity cost.

Corporate recruiters are relentlessly testing and trying new solutions, but often have to figure out workarounds or even pay out of pocket due to the slow and bureaucratic nature of big enterprise. As a compromise, I think you are starting to see market forces demanding open API integrations so their recruiters can use best of breed solutions rather than being forced to use these monolithic systems that put the recruiter’s needs last.  Recruiters will select and choose solutions that they want to use and that solve their problem, even as big enterprise struggle to keep up with the pace of innovation and global regulatory environment.

Matt’s Thoughts on Tim’s Answer:

Spot on –it’s always about the time, quality, cost tradeoff!

The Project Management Triangle is one of the most important constraint models in business operations. Clients always want it faster, better, AND cheaper and service providers always have to remind them that we can do two at once, but you Mr. or Ms. client select the two you want and we’ll adjust accordingly.  Technology innovation in a fully optimized system is the only thing that can improve all three at the same time, but technology will only get you so far so if you don’t have exceptional leaders, process, and people.  If you do you can achieve better quality hires faster than ever before. 

Tim’s Thoughts on Matt’s Answer

Totally agree with you, Matt. Although, I don’t see corporate recruiters “relentlessly testing and trying new solutions”, I would encourage them that they should. They should be demoing and looking at new tech at least once per month. It has to be a priority or the function just falls too far behind, too fast.

I do think as we see more and more of the top of the funnel be automated the real value of recruiters comes back to can you influence the decision of a candidate to believe that the position you have open is right for their career path? Can you get them to say, “Yes!”? That only happens when they trust you and believe that you have their best interest at heart. That takes expert-level relationship building at scale and speed.

 

Question 3: Where do you think the biggest opportunity is for recruiters to drive more value?

Tim’s Answer:

Click over here to finish reading this interview! Matt and I went back and forth for a few more questions!  (FYI – I get asked this A LOT – Loxo is our ATS and it’s awesome! Also, Individual Recruiters you can sign up use Loxo for FREE! Give it a try.) 

6 Reasons Your Organization is Failing at Recruiting

I’m out in San Francisco this week teaching a class on Talent Acquisition to some great Pros and Leaders who are doing all they can to learn more and help their organization succeed. The class is part of the process for SHRM’s Specialty Credential in Talent Acquisition.  Part of the process is two days of deep learning with an ‘expert’ instructor in-person or virtually. Apparently, the expert instructor got hit by a bus, so they tapped me on the shoulder!

The course is designed for corporate HR pros and leaders who want to get better at TA. This is modern material, designed to help individuals begin to build out a modern recruiting practice. It helps build a foundation in the right way on what best practice organizations are doing in their TA shops right now.

I love spending time with HR and TA pros who just want to learn and get better. Who want to help their organizations be better. It might be one of the funniest things I do all year! At the same time, it might be one of the most frustrating because I see and feel their struggles!

What I find is almost all organizations fail at recruiting for basically the same reasons. Here are those reasons:

1. We fail in recruiting because we are trying to be like everyone else and afraid to stand out from the other competitors for talent in our market. Yes, this is mostly employment branding and recruitment marketing, but it speaks to basic risk aversion we struggle to overcome in traditional HR. What I find is most c-suite executives welcome this risk, but no one is giving them options.

2. We are flat out not persistent enough going after the talent we want. Great recruiting is about pursuing great talent. I married way above my pay grade! The only reason I was able to land my wife was that I didn’t give up. We all want to be wanted. Most corporate HR and TA pros give up on pursuing talent because they initially say they aren’t interested. That should just get us going!

3. We aren’t letting potential candidates know who we really are. Guess what, when you come here you’re going to have to work and we don’t allow you to have pet pigs. Sorry. I mean, we’ll still have fun, challenging work and we’ll support the heck out of your development, but this isn’t a playground, this is a business. If that sounds like you, we will love you and you will love us! It’s okay to help some talent self-select out of coming to work for you. I don’t want to attract every candidate. I want to attract candidates who want us and we want them!

4. We hear your advice, but we just suck at actually executing it because we are busy. Too busy to get better. I hear all the time from leaders that they would love to do all this cool stuff, but they just don’t have the time. So, I ask, are you successful? No, we are broken. So, you would rather stay broken then fix your shop? Well, we still have to keep doing what we are doing. No, you don’t. You can stop. That is an actual option if you let everyone know you have a plan and this is the plan to finally get fixed!

5. We fail because we don’t fully believe we are responsible. Ouch, that one hurts me, because I’ve actually been fully in that position. Someone finally gave me the title but somehow I felt like I still wasn’t really in control. Turns out, I was, but if I wasn’t going to take control, others above me were going to, since someone had to. Ugh. Once I took control, everyone around me and above me gave me full support.

6. We haven’t figured out how to use our network for good. I’ve been royally screwed by people that I networked with, only to watch them f@ck me over and take (Hi! Z.A., you prick!). Yes, this happens. I’ve also reached heights in my career that would never be possible if I didn’t have all of you helping me along the way. I see way too many pros scared that if they share, especially locally in their market, someone will steal their great ideas and secret sauce. So, they don’t and they miss out on so much good in the world! Go share, exchange ideas, and keep doing it, especially with those who reciprocate!

To my first SHRM TA Credential SFO class – go out into the world and do better recruiting! Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to me when you need a little help!

Are you measuring the Intelligence of your candidates? You should be!

Hire for Smarts. Train for Skill. It doesn’t sound right, does it?

The old adage is “Hire for attitude, train for skill”. The reality is, we probably have done this wrong for a long time. We hire for attitude, thinking we can train the person to do what we need if they just have the right attitude. Then Timmy turns out to be dumb and we can’t train him to do anything!

Lazlo at Google tried to tell us this, but we didn’t really listen in his “Work Rules” book. Scientist have been trying to tell us for years as well, that if you don’t have the ability to watch someone actually do the job you need them to do, the best bet across the board is to hire the smartest person you can, that actually wants to do the job you have available.

Smart + Desire to do the job = a pretty good bet on a hire. 

A new study just out doubles down on this concept that hiring smart people will actually give you an employee who is also more cooperative:

Our experimental method creates two groups of subjects who have different levels of certain traits, such as higher or lower levels of Intelligence, Conscientiousness, and Agreeableness, but who are very similar otherwise. Intelligence has a large and positive long-run effect on cooperative behavior…Note that agreeable people do cooperate more at first, but they don’t have the strategic ability and consistency of the higher IQ individuals in these games.  Conscientiousness has multiple features, one of which is caution, and that deters cooperation, since the cautious are afraid of being taken advantage of.  So, at least in these settings, high IQ really is the better predictor of cooperativeness, especially over longer-term horizons.

The great thing about intelligence is it has nothing to do with actual educational success. A person can be a high school drop out, but still, be intelligent. You might also see a number of bachelor degreed individuals who test fairly low on intelligence. So, whether you are hiring for a low-skill job, or a high-skilled job, intelligence is a fairly good predictor in hiring, as compared to things like personality.

I would love to see a large organization, someone who does thousands of hires per year, actually measure the intelligence of those who term from their employment! We haven’t seen this, because of the obvious difficulty of getting a past employee to take an intelligence test, but I think the right organization/research partner could make this happen. I theorize that when taking a look at performance and tenure, you would see lower intelligent employees performing lower and having less tenure than those employees who have higher intelligence.

Cognitive assessments are actually fairly cheap and quick, and some organizations are using gamification to measure cognitive ability of applicants as an application pre-screener currently.

I have a bias against personality profiles. I think they are mostly witchcraft and sorcery. In my career, I just haven’t seen them consistently predict better hires during the interview screening process across all levels and kinds of candidates. So, I know I have that bias. On the other hand, I’ve seen cognitive ability raise the level of an organization when used consistently over time.

What do you think?

No, really, just keep being wrong!

I was with some HR Pros recently and one of them shared a standard HR axiom about what we do as HR Pros in the vain of maintaining consistency. If we are wrong in the beginning then we just keep being wrong!  It sounds idiotic doesn’t!?! But you see it every single day in HR. At one point someone made a decision, for who knows what reason, and no matter what the reason precedence was set and through hell and high water we will keep making that same decision!

We are HR! We are HR! We are HR! (keep the chant going!)

I’m this person.  Well, I’m trying not to be. You see in my organization we do the same stuff.  If my recruiters exceed their goals we have various rewards that get – one of those is the ability to have a flex day throughout their week, where they can work from home or come in late, leave early, etc.  It’s up to them.  In our environment, that reward is worth its weight in gold!  But (there’s always a “But”) when a holiday week happens where the person is already going to be off for a day, we have said no flex day that week.  Seemed like a reasonable plan.

But was it?

A reward is set up to be a reward it shouldn’t matter if the person has a vacation, or has a holiday, etc.  I had to ask myself why do we do this, take this away just because of a holiday? I trust my people, especially those working their butts off to exceed their goals, so why take it away? I was wrong.  So, I decided to change it and do the right thing.

Do you know what the first reaction was?  Yep, it was “Wait” that’s not how we did it before. A very normal reaction we have as leaders because we want to deliver consistency to our teams, and I agree with that concept for sustained engagement but there’s one thing that should override this. When you’re wrong!

So, do you have the courage to stop being wrong?

Most of your peers don’t. They get caught up in groupthink. They get caught up thinking they are being “consistent” and that is good. But being consistent on doing something wrong is just being consistently wrong!  You have a choice, keep being wrong or start being right!  What will you do?

IN 2025, APPLICATIONS WILL BE accepted for the job of a lifetime—literally!

Swedish artistic duo Simon Goldin and Jakob Senneby recently announced their next project which they are calling “Eternal Employment”. The project is fully funded and they have even started to write a job description for this ‘artistic’ endeavor.

What is “Eternal Employment“?

“A fair starting salary, with annual wage increases that match those for Swedish government workers, vacation time, even a pension, and the job is yours for as long as you do it. So what’s the job? Anything you want.

Each morning, the chosen employee will punch a clock in Korsvägen train station, currently under construction in Gothenburg, Sweden, which will turn on a bank of bright fluorescent lights. Other than that, “the position holds no duties or responsibilities besides the fact that the work should be carried out at Korsvägen. Whatever the employee chooses to do constitutes the work,” reads the job description. The employee can also choose how publicly visible or anonymous they would like to be while on the clock.”

So, how is this art?

“As Gothenburg’s working class finds itself marginalized, Goldin and Senneby see a job that gives total control to the worker as an act of economic imagination.”

It’s an interesting concept, even more so as we move into the world of A.I. knowing so many tactical jobs we do now will go away and many economists are already talking about these concepts of people being given a living wage to basically just live, but not work.

This is truly art potentially mimicking life. We can already foresee a time when we don’t need most of the workers we have today, yet we still have to provide for the population and understand a new kind of productivity when ‘work’ isn’t apart of the equation.

So, what would you do in this job?

It’s a great question to think about. If you didn’t have to worry, every, for the rest of your life, about finances, and you couldn’t be fired. What would you do in this train station each day on your shift?

I want to hope that I would find ways to brighten the day of others. To welcome them to the day, to wish them the best on their way home, and everything in between, but it’s such a far-out concept it’s really hard to even imagine.  It kind of reminds me of the movie with Tom Hanks, The Terminal. While he had to stay in the airport and couldn’t leave, he basically had to figure out how to spend his time in this pass-through public space.

I have a feeling this ‘job of a lifetime’ would probably get super boring for most people. Most of us would start out with the best intentions, but eventually, fall into the trap of not really doing anything productive. Maybe that’s part of the “art” to select someone who actually would take full advantage of this opportunity. I would love to be on the selection committee!

What would you do if you were given this job? Hit me in the comments.

 

The Rise of the Super Star Employee

Artificial Intelligence is changing the future of work, but there’s one thing that AI won’t be able to do. AI will not be able to create more ‘geniuses’.

A recent study by MIT professors found that as the digital versions of labor grow and will continue to grow, and labor will be able to reproduced cheaply in a number of industries and positions, but the one thing that can’t be duplicated by digital technologies are genius employees. Those employees who are your truly lift your organization to another level.

We all know those rare superstar employees. The one person who has built a product for your organization that will be the future of what you do. The one person who sells 40%+ more than any other person on your team, consistently, year after year. The one person on your team that consistently attracts A players to your team and great talent from other organizations want to work for.

These aren’t your 20/80 employees. 20% of your employees do 80% of the work. These are your employees who are above that. They would rank as your number one employee out of that top 20%. These are the employees that if you had an employee draft on who starts a new company, these folks would always be number one pics.

Our reality as HR leaders, TA leaders, organizational leaders is we will have to start focusing on how do we keep and attract superstar employees. Right now we really work to fill roles with solid hires. Basically, that’s the goal. With the rise of AI-driven automation of transactional work, it will be critical for us to hire a few superstars, more than a bunch of rank and file.

I have a feeling the future of TA team design will have a component of superstar recruiting. In college athletics, the superstar recruit is a 5-star kid. There are very few 5 stars. If you get one, you hit a grand slam in recruiting. Very few schools get 5-star kids. Most schools will be fighting for 3-star and 2-star kids.

I had a feeling that Sourcing automation was going to kill sourcing as a function, but I now see this design where really high-level sourcers will continue to have a very valuable role in finding not just ‘a’ person to fill a position, but finding ‘the’ person to fill a position. Where it will be the job of a part of the TA team to discover who are truly the superstars in certain skill sets across an industry and then work to attract those few potential 5-star employees.

AI will take away a big subset of work that can be easily automated. It won’t be able to take away genius-level, superstar work because those individuals create the future and make things work that aren’t working. They solve unsolvable problems. They predict the unpredictable. You need them more than most of your other employees.

The future of TA is your ability to find, attract and hire superstars. Not everyone will get one. Some will get more than one. The real value of great TA in the world of AI is your ability to hire 5-stars.

10 Things That Scare Me

I listen to NPR in the mornings on my way to work. It helps me keep up on how my ultra-liberal friends are thinking, plus it’s my only access to news outside the U.S. on a regular basis. It’s important we make ourselves aware of all sides of the conversations taking place.

On a recent ride in I was introduced to an NPR produced podcast called “10 Things That Scare Me” which is a podcast about our biggest fears. The interview struck me with the idea that I’m not sure what my biggest fears are because my brain subconsciously helps me not think of them! 

I thought a good experiment would be to try and list ten things that scare me, with how I rationalize these fears. Here’s what I came up with in random order:

  1. Bees – My wife laughs at me about this. There’s an actual video of me she took of me freaking out about a bee chasing me. There’s no logical reason that I don’t like bees. Oh, wait, yeah there is, bee stings hurt!
  2. Heights – Let me preface this by saying I’ve jumped off the Stratosphere in Vegas and I’ve done many Zipline adventures. I love roller coasters. But have me climb a ladder and walk on the roof of my house and my legs are shaking like crazy! I think the difference is all about safety harnesses. I don’t mind heights if I’m safe, I mind heights when I could fall and die.
  3. Horror Movies – I don’t go to them, I don’t watch them, you can’t make me. Again, completely stupid I know, but yeah, I’m out!
  4. Something Bad Happening to my Wife, kids, or dog. I think I spend too much time thinking about this, but not half as much as my wife, but it’s still a fear. Probably will always be a fear.
  5. Not being able to pay my bills. This might seem irrational to many people. I’m a successful person. It comes from childhood and being raised by a single mom, who was trying to launch a business, and many times being at stores where they wouldn’t allow her to write a check because she had ‘bounced’ so many. And we definitely didn’t have any cash! Taking food back to the shelves of a store because you can’t afford it doesn’t leave you. That walk, with the employees staring at you feels pretty bad.
  6. Not knowing the right answer. For most of my life, in almost any situation, I’ve felt like I’ve had ‘the’ answer. School, work, life, love, okay, way less in love, but most things! So, I’m fearful of not having the right answer that will solve the problem. Turns out, some problems don’t have answers, or at least not a ‘right’ answer.
  7. Dying unexpectedly. I have this notion that I’ll die with some warning. I’m planning on it. There’s really only one time in life when you can truly tell people what you think, and I do not want to miss out on that time! We see random death every day, and it’s hard for me to understand it.
  8. Embarrassing people who are important to me. To know me is to know anything might come out of my mouth. Mostly that’s been a great trait over my life. Every once in a while, not so much. I truly care about my family and friends, and if I say or do something that embarrasses them, it truly impacts me deeply. Just not enough, apparently, to change my personality!
  9. Access to guns. Guns don’t scare me. I grew up around guns. I’ve shot guns. Hunted. Shot skeet. Etc. The access that mentally unstable people have to guns scares me because of fear #4 above. Guns are too readily available in our society and I can only pray and hope for the safety of those I care for.
  10. Failing my Mom’s company. For those who don’t know, I run the company my mother started and ran quite successfully for decades. 2nd generation family businesses have an extreme failure rate. I work and stress every day to not be a statistic. So, call me and do work with me! Help me conquer this fear!

So, what do you think? It feels pretty good to get your fears out there in the open. To look them in the eye. To introduce them to the world. They are definitely more scary when they are locked in my head!

What fears do you have that you have admitted? Hit me in the comments and let’s do this cleanse together!

What’s the most luxurious benefit you can offer an employee in 2019?

I read a bunch of article about what’s the next greatest benefit to offer employees. I read one the other day that tried to make it seem like now offering food at work is normal, like everyone is giving away breakfast and lunches, like you give away health insurance.

It’s the one thing I hate about reading mainstream media HR articles. Apparently, the only employers in America are located in the 50 square miles around Silicon Valley. Do you really think I believe that the majority of companies in America are giving away free food to their employees?

Come on, that’s not happening!

If you are lucky enough to work for a place that feeds you, great you won the job lottery, enjoy it! If they offer you Kombucha as well, then I’m just sorry for you, because that means they hate you.

What’s the #1 luxury benefit to offer in 2019?

It’s Time.

Time is the one thing every single one of us needs more of. For many it doesn’t even have to be paid time off! Just allow me some time to do some of the stuff that impacting my life, so I can better focus on work when I’m at work.

But of course Paid Time is always appreciated.

I know some employers have gone to unlimited paid time off and studies have shown that when organizations go to this their overall use of paid time off actually goes down. This is a sad commentary on our society.

I know a lot of HR friends of mine argue this can’t be the case because it seems so contrarian to what you would think would happen. “If I had unlimited time off I would never come in and just be on vacation every day!” Okay, Betty, and you would be fired!

The reality is unlimited time off is the answer, because psychology it doesn’t work. Some have the self control enough to use it appropriately, but most people fear that taking time off will somehow impact their performance, so even when they do take their unlimited time off, they still are connected, working in some way.

I know of a few organizations that completely shutdown for a week or two completely. Notice out to clients – “hey, it’s our annual refresh the batteries, 100% of us will be off and not connected, we can’t wait to come back fully recharged to rock your world”. I like the idea but get it probably impractical for so many organizations.

I think the best thing we can do as leaders is to ensure our people are actually taking their paid time off and when they do they know that it’s okay to completely disconnect. That we’ll have their back and to enjoy themselves.

I wonder how many of your leaders pull quarterly or annual reports of PTO to see if their team is taking time for themselves?

The Non-Smoker Smoke Break!

Let’s break down some math on the amount of time smokers take, paid, in smoke breaks daily: 

An average smoker smokes 15 cigarettes per day. I’m going to assume that when awake the smoker smokes about 1 cigarette per hour, so that’s 40 cigarettes per week smoked at work.  It takes about 5 minutes to smoke a cigarette. 

I’m going to assume that it takes probably 5 minutes round trip to get to your designated smoking area, 5 minutes to smoke your cigarette, so 10 minutes per break. I’ll say a good worker only smokes 6 cigarettes on the clock, so 60 minutes per day, one hour, paid to smoke. 5 hours per week paid, to smoke, 255 hours per year to smoke.

Is everyone following me? 

255 hours of paid smoke breaks – or basically taking an in-office vacation for roughly 6 1/2 week per year, on top of their actual away-from-office vacation time. 

So, what I’m trying to get to is how can we/HR build in non-smoker smoke breaks!? We know HR won’t do that! Can you imagine an official policy to take breaks not to smoke!? Does anyone have an official Smoke Break policy in today’s world? 

Here’s my idea: 

  1. If you don’t smoke and you have a co-worker that does smoke, just go out with them every single time they smoke. In fact, get a group of people to go with them and build and strengthen relationships, just don’t try to breath too much! 
  2. Petition to get paid 12.5% more than someone who smokes, because that’s basically how much more your working than the average smoker. 
  3. Take a two-hour lunch break and when HR tells you that you can’t do that, take them into a conference room and run them through the math on a white board! 

I don’t understand smoke breaks. It’s kind of like sexual harassment. For the longest time we thought it was completely normal for a boss to sleep with his secretary and now we know it’s very wrong! 

I’ll be honest. I feel the same way about how it became the norm to offer free coffee at work. No one has every offered me free diet Mt. Dew at work! (I take that back, my friend Jim D’Amico did at Celenese when I went to visit!) 

So, we let people go take smoke breaks, paid, and it’s somehow completely fine. 5 hours per week, paid. Completely fine, to actually for real not do work. Just stand outside and slowly kill yourself and you get paid for it! How great is work!? 

Let’s face it, I’m not actually mad at smokers, I’m super jealous! I can’t tell you how hard it is for me not to start smoking knowing all the great benefits you get! I’ve actually tried hanging outside with smokers, but because I was in HR, and didn’t smoke, I think they thought I was trying to get them in trouble or spying on them. I wasn’t, I just wanted all that free time off! 

I’ve been thinking about starting that meditation, mindfulness crap. That might work. I could just randomly stop working, sit down in the middle of the hall all criss-cross-applesauce and just put on some headphones and close my eyes. Make people walk around me and my mindfulness break! 

I wonder what HR would do? “Hey, Tim, we’re not paying you to relax, get your butt back to work! Now, if you want to get all jacked up on nicotine, that’s fine, get off the floor and go light one up!”