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!

What’s Your Beauty Premium at Your Remote Job?

If you know me, you know I love talking about beauty and attractiveness and the impact it has on work! We like to think that how you look has nothing to do with how you perform. Ugly people are told that from birth! “It doesn’t matter how you look, Timmy. You can still be great!”

Academically, that actually does prove out very well, in study after study. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite, and it might be the biggest thing no one talks about at work. This week the newest beauty study hit the street titled, “Student beauty and grades under in-person and remote teaching.”

Okay, I know you’re saying this says student, not employ, so it doesn’t count! Bare with me…

First, this is a legit study, not some vendor survey thing. This was done by a legit PhD at a legit university.

What does the study say?

  1. Both men and women have a beauty premium in terms of their performance. This means, that more beautiful you are in a university class, the more likely you are to be graded higher. (This is real!)
  2. With in-person classes, the beauty premium is the same for men and women. Basically, pretty boys and girls equally get an advantage in grading.
  3. With remote classes, the beauty premium only works for men!

Why does this matter to remote work?

If we know there is a beauty premium in human behavior when judging the performance of students, how hard is it really for us to believe our supervisors and managers also don’t have a beauty premium when it comes to determining work performance? I would argue that there is very little difference between the two judging activities.

This means as many of our jobs switch to remote, we now have an issue with women having their performance judged harsher than men when working in a remote environment because they will no longer get any beauty premium. Again, this only works with beautiful people. The ugly ones were already getting judged more harshly.

We love to believe that remote work favors females for a number of reasons. Saving time on the commute, easier to arrange care for kids and those they might be responsible for, etc. But now we have this issue!

The work beauty premium is real, and it’s not!

The beauty premium is measurable and has been proven in a number of studies. When judging people, we find it more difficult to judge pretty people harshly but easier to beat down ugly people. It’s not real because it’s totally an unconscious bias that even when we know it’s a problem, we ignore it and keep promoting pretty people over maybe higher performing people who aren’t as pretty.

I just find all of this so fascinating! Two-fold, one in that I’m not what any study would find as traditionally “beautiful” from the male standpoint, and that over a long period of time, centuries, genetically, this actually plays out across all cultures. While one culture might like light skin, tall, slender, and those people will have a beauty premium. Another culture might prefer dark, short, chubby people, and that beauty premium plays itself out.

I just need to find the one culture that likes gingers!

The 1 Thing You Have to Do to Fall In Love With Your Job!

Do you know what it felt like the last time you fell in love?

I mean, real love?

The kind of love where you talk 42 times per day, in between text and Facebook messages, and feel physical pain from being apart? Ok, maybe for some, it’s been a while, and you didn’t have the texts or Facebook!  But, you remember those times when you really didn’t think about anything else or even imagine not seeing the other person the next day, hell, the next hour. Falling “in” love is one of the best parts of love; it doesn’t last that long, and you never get it back.

I hear people all the time say, “I love my job,” and I never used to pay much attention; in fact, I’ve said it myself.  The reality is that I don’t love my job. I mean, I like it a whole lot, but I love my wife, I love my kids, and I love Diet Mt. Dew at 7 am on a Monday morning. The important things in life!  But my job?  I’m not sure about that one.  As an HR Pro, I’m supposed to work to get my employees to “love” their jobs.  Love.

Want to know the difference between like and love? The next time your significant other tells you, “I love you!” just say in return, “Yeah, I like you as well!” Then get ready for an argument!

Let me go all Dr. Phil on you for a second. Do you know why most relationships fail? No, it’s not cheating. No, it’s not the drugs and/or alcohol. No, it’s not money. No, it’s not that he stops caring. No, it’s not your parents. Ok, stop it. I’ll just tell you!

Relationships fail because expectations aren’t met.  It seems logical knowing what we know about how people fall in love and lose their minds.  Once that calms down, the real work begins.  So, if you expect love to be the love of the first 4-6 months of a relationship, you’re going to be disappointed a whole bunch over and over.

Jobs aren’t much different.

You get a new job, and it’s usually really good!  People listen to your opinion. You seem smarter. Hell, you seem better looking (primarily because people are sick of looking at their older co-workers). Everything seems better in a new job.  Then you have your one-year anniversary, and you come to find out you’re just like the other idiots you’re working with.

This is when falling in love with your job really begins. When you know about all the stuff, the company hid in the closet. The past employees they think are better and smarter than you, the good old days when they made more money, etc.  Now is when you have to put some work into making it work.

I see people all the time moving around to different employers and never seeming to be satisfied.  They’re searching. Not for a better job or a better company. They’re searching for that feeling that will last.  But it never will, not without them working for it.

The best love has to be worked for. Passion is easy and fleeting. Love is hard to sustain and has to be worked on, but it can last forever.

I’m back from London – What did I learn?

I was over in London during the 4th of July holiday. I hosted the DisruptHR London event and attended RecFest 2022. The weather was very un-London like in that it was amazing!

This was my third time in London and every time I learn a little more:

London –

  • Still the best mass transit system around. Nothing beats the Tube!
  • London is a better New York. Big city. Big city stuff to do. Smells wonderful and seems like a smaller city. Flowers everywhere. There’s so much to see.
  • Food is improving, but mainly that’s all the non-English food coming in.
  • Shopping is funny in London. So many people from different countries and middle east tourists love the gaudy logo brand clothing! The gaudier the better! They wait in line to get into the biggest brand name stores! Like, you never have to ask what they are wearing, you can read it clearly across their chest! The English, tend to not be so loud about their dress.
  • They still laugh at how much soda Americans drink, but that’s only because instead of drinking soda they drink the same amount of beer.
  • The English men dress exponentially way better than American men on average. Also, almost none of them wear shorts. I had folks comment on my “American” shorts, mostly that it was too cold for shorts. It was in the ’70s every day.
  • It’s one of the most diverse cities I’ve been to. You meet people from so many countries it’s unbelievable. And no one is complaining that England is trying to make the country their country. London is London, you came here, welcome to London. We’re going to stay being London, we hope you like it. If you don’t, you’re free to leave. That doesn’t mean they aren’t accepting and welcoming, they are. But they are also English, no matter your skin color or nationality.
  • I had drivers from six different countries – Afghanistan, Italy, South Africa, Iraq, Norway, and Croatia. Each one was excited to talk about America and all couldn’t wait to go back or go for the first time. They seemed truly excited. Also, unfortunately, most wanted to go to Las Vegas or New York. To them that’s America! This wasn’t normal driver chit-chat, these folks really wanted to talk about America and many had stories of them trying to get to America, but England was easier.

DisruptHR London –

  • Just an amazing group of HR professionals and speakers. The London HR crowd was so engaging.
  • We struggled to get 200 folks to sign up. Which is strange, but it’s really about advertising and marketing. Everyone who came raved about the event, but almost 100% said they had never heard of it. It felt like we hammered the marketing for eight straight weeks. Also, this was actually the 16th DisruptHR London, so it begs the question of who was coming to the first 16?!
  • If you’ve never done a 5-minute DisruptHR talk – as a speaker – it might be your greatest challenge! You must try one!

RecFest2022 –

  • 4,000+/- Recruiting professionals at an outdoor festival. Jamie Leonard, the founder of RecFest, hates when I call it the world’s largest Recruiting party, but it is! It’s also a festival and conference and it’s amazing.
  • It was a warm, sunny day, and I and like 50 other people had on our American shorts!
  • Word is, RecFest might be coming to America in 2022, but if you have a chance to go over to London for RecFest 2023, it’s a must-do!
  • People in the UK seem to love to queue (that’s standing in line, for Americans). When I arrived at the festival there were 1,000 people in the queue just waiting to get in! Eventually, they just opened the gates, then people went right back into the queue for coffee, food, and beer. I think the English just walk around looking to stand in a queue! That won’t work in America. Jamie and the crew will have to figure that out. If Americans stand in line for ten minutes, they’ll never come back!
  • There is nothing like this anywhere in the world! The RecFest folks truly have something special on their hands.

What is the Health Insurance Design Impact to Employer Paid Abortions?

Obviously, we had major news recently around abortion rights in America.

What I really want to talk about today is an amazingly quick response by organizations to immediately offer a new health benefit. Within hours of the announcement, we saw major employers come out publicly stating they would pay for the expense of their employees to obtain legal abortions if they could not get one in the state they lived and worked. Some employers also announced that they would pay for relocations for their employees to live in states with legal abortions.

All of this, just from a health benefit plan design perspective is quite remarkable!

Most employers can’t agree on offering smoking cessation programs for their employees or paying for gym memberships, but within hours, we are now paying for abortions. We have severely unhealthy obese employees, but we won’t pay for bariatric surgery. Organizations tend to move very slowly in making benefit design changes, and those changes tend to mostly be around cost/benefit.

Are we being “Inclusive” by offering an abortion benefit?

Again – I’m 100% in favor of a woman’s right to choose!

But we need to have a conversation about the hypocrisy of some of these decisions being made around this issue. This is what we do as professionals in HR. We discuss decisions we make as organizations, and how each decision tends to lead to other issues we can’t yet know what they might be.

So, we are now offering abortions as a health benefit. Why?

Let’s say we are willing to pay $5,000 dollars for our female employees to get an abortion. It definitely makes us sound like we are a very progressive employer! It’s interesting, though, that many of the employers who are willing to pay for your abortion are not willing to pay for your parental leave if you chose to keep your baby. They are unwilling to pay for childcare assistance after you have your baby.

Why is that?

Could it be, that not having children make you a more productive and less expensive to insure employee?

We must ask ourselves this question, if not only to ensure we are being inclusive in our insurance offerings to our female employees.

If you want to be “inclusive” you offer a woman a full choice. Yes, you can choose to have an abortion and we’ll support you! Yes, you can have the baby, and we will still support you! If you only choose one side, you are being exclusionary. Why?

Abortion as an employer-paid health benefit

There are benefits we pay as employers that have very little financial impact but make us look like we are an employer of choice. College Tuition reimbursement was always the biggest one. We offer you college tuition reimbursement knowing almost no one actually takes advantage of it. It’s one of the lowest-used benefits a company can offer! But, we feel great about ourselves when we market this out to candidates and employees.

Are abortion benefits the next college tuition benefit? You offer it up, knowing it makes you look like a progressive employer, but you know it really has very little financial impact. On the flip side, offering paid parental leave and childcare assistance, well, those benefits actually cost us real money, so no, we won’t offer those!

All women should be allowed to make their own choice with their bodies. Period. Employers are going to decide if they should help women with that decision. I think we, as HR leaders and professionals, should be advising our executives that having a “Choice” is about more than one option. Our benefit plans should support any choice a woman wants to make, not just one.

Abortion is health care. Having and caring for a child is health care. Organizations need to support all choices that a woman might want to make.

Being Fully Authentic Is The Worst Advice You Can Give Someone!

I went to the SHRM Annual Conference this past week. I bet there had to be six different sessions, all jammed packed, with speakers telling HR Pros to “Become their Authentic Selves”. Just typing that makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

I call this content, HR Lady Candy. You might think that is sexist but it’s just data. 80%+ of the SHRM audience is female. Those of us that speak at SHRM are building content for women. Viewing the packed rooms, HR Lady Candy sells and it sells well!

But, it’s awful advice!

If you are truly authentic and bring your whole self to work, you are bringing all of you and I’m just going to take an educated guess that there are parts of you better off left at home. Parts of you that you yourself aren’t extremely proud of at certain times. Yes, these parts are part of you, but just as I don’t walk around outside my house naked, there are certain things I don’t need others to see.

I don’t judge these speakers and their full rooms. It’s so good damn empowering to feel like you aren’t true to yourself and have someone on stage in a power position telling you to “just do it!” It’s freeing. You want to run out of that room and just let your freak flag fly! But usually, in reality, that freak flag isn’t the freeing and empowering tool you hoped it would be.

The vast majority of us in the world, need a good-paying job with good benefits. The vast majority of us want to work hard and get promoted. We want to be the best version of ourselves as much as we can. We want to be wanted by others and grow our relationships with like-minded people. “Like-minded” means how we think like most of the time. Not how we think in our worst and most vulnerable moments. No one wants to be judged in those moments. Yes, that is part of our true self, but it’s not the true self I want others to see.

But, that content isn’t very sexy. No one wants to go sit and watch a speaker say, “Just be more normal!” it’ll work out, on average, a ton better for your career!

Freak flag flyers are awesome. We celebrate them. It usually works out for about 1 out of 1,000. Are you willing to bet your career on a .01% chance of success? What if I said the freaks are successful 1 out of 5! Oh, 20% of the time they are successful. Will you stake your career on that? Doubtful, that’s still really risky!

We love to believe the SHRM HR Lady audience is super conservative. That tends to be the profile of HR professionals. This just might be why we are so attracted to the “live your true self” content. We like it because we know we’ll never really do it, but it feels so good to dream!

Are you “Rainbow Washing” your corporate logo for Pride Month?

I know you’ve seen this going on in June, but you might not have known what it was called. “Rainbow Washing” or “Pride Washing” is when a corporation turns its logo, for the month of June, from its traditional colors to rainbow colors to show its support of Pride Month.

Here are some examples:

Is there any harm in doing this?

My initial impression was “No”. I’ve got gay people in my life and for far too long most companies were scared to even acknowledge gay people were real, let alone show their support, so for me, this is an amazing time. We have billion-dollar corporations willing to come out publicly and state they support their gay employees and customers in a very public way.

But, we also have the bad marketing side of the world.

We have organizations that will Rainbow Wash their logo for June, to act like they are Prideful of their LGBTQ workforce and customers, but then do nothing else the rest of the year. Wait, how do you pronounce “Cinco De Mayo” or isn’t February the shortest of the months for Black History? I joke, this is classic in most organizations. We say we care, but we do the least amount to show we care.

The worst of this is when the organization says one thing, like, hey, look at our rainbow logo, but then goes and gives political donations to politicians who are actively working to reduce or eliminate gay rights. Yes, this is happening. This is far worse than those acting like they care but doing the minimum to increase sales. This is actively lying to employees and the public through behaviors and dollars working to support the other side.

Do you have to rainbow wash your logo to have Pride?

Nope. In fact, I’m sure the LGBTQ community would prefer you not wash your logo and just actually give a damn through your actions and funding of policies that support their community. But, doing those things and washing your logo is also awesome!

Signs and symbols of support shouldn’t be discounted. They are important. A corporation could be the biggest donor to gay rights but hide the fact they do it, that also isn’t great. “Pride” is about having pride for the LGBTQ community and showing your support in a public way that will show those who don’t support that you do and you’re not afraid to show it. Because for way too much of our history way too many were afraid to show their support.

Can Rainbow Washing go too far?

Well, maybe if it goes down the male genital route, you go too far!

This isn’t real, but it demonstrates how a brand can go over the edge with Pride!

Now, you might love the OG and be Gay, and I’m here for it! Everyone loves those breadsticks and salad!

Rainbow washing goes too far when you are doing it for promotion and marketing and not because you want to show Pride for the LGBTQ community. I know, for 100% fact, that some CMO and Revenue officers have had the discussion, “hey, what happens to our sales if we wash the logo? Oh, it’s up 7%! Should we keep it a rainbow for July!? No! That’s the American Flag washing logo, you idiot! Sales went up 8% last year with Red, White, and Blue!”

Rainbow wash your logo. Show support. Give to Gay Rights and Politicians who support Gay RIghts. Show your Pride!

Sackett Tips: Advice for Grads and Dropouts!

Every year around this time the content machine delivers an endless amount of “Graduation” advice to new grads. “As you leave the manicured lawns of your youth…” I’ve actually done the “wear sunscreen” posts myself from year to year. They are easy to write because it allows the writer to just wax poetically about all the mistakes we’ve made ourselves, which in turn becomes the advice for you to do or not do (thanks, Yoda!).

I realized just yesterday the problem with the grad advice columns is we’ve completely forgotten about dropouts! In today’s world, with declining higher ed enrollments (college starts are down 5 quarters in a row) it’s even more important that we talk to the dropouts as well. Of course, we see many more dropouts when unemployment is very low as it is now. With a ton of jobs open, young people can make really great money without going to college, so it’s a natural phenomenon.

The Sackett Tips for Grads and Dropouts

  • Work for the biggest brand possible right out of the gate. You most likely won’t have a great experience, but it will help your career out way more in the long run. We are all enamored with the person who worked for Amazon and Apple over JBE Automation in central Iowa. Like somehow that Apple job where you got to focus on a sliver of a project is way more valuable than actually owning an entire project. But that’s life. Go work for a giant brand.
  • Calculate the value of leaving a job and people you really like. You will hear estimates from “experts” telling you not to change jobs unless you get a 10-20% increase. And that is really a lot of money. But, what if the new job sucks and the new people suck. Is that $5,000-10,000 worth it? Each of us has to make that call. What I find is most people will tell you it’s not worth it. 
  • Maintain relationships with peers and co-workers from other jobs you left and with those who left your company. That network will pay you back in the future like nothing else you have.
  • Say, “Yes” to jobs no one else wants. Those are the jobs that get noticed by executives. We all know the stuff no one else wants to do, so when someone steps forward and “takes one for the team” you stand out above the rest. 
  • Protect your time, but have a reason. Executives totally understand the person who says, “I can’t this weekend, I’m coaching my little girl’s soccer team and I have to be there for her” vs. someone who just says “No”. 
  • Every executive is looking for people who treat the organization and the brand like their own. I get it, they make a crap ton more than you, but they always didn’t make more. At some point, they made peanuts as well but treated the company like it was their own. Protected assets, spent budget wisely, etc. 
  • Diversity isn’t about color, gender, etc. But it also is about all that. You want to hire great people who fit your culture and who are also from diverse backgrounds. Most organizations fuck this up by just hiring color or gender and forgetting about the fit. It’s not one or the other, it’s both. 
  • Don’t wait for an employer to develop you. Find ways to develop yourself. Build a business case as to why your employer should pay for you to take a class that costs money. 
  • Make yourself as pretty as possible. Every single study you can find will show that the more attractive you are the more money you make, the more likely you are to get promoted, work for a great company, etc. Turns out, everyone loves pretty people. You, like me, might not have been blessed with “pretty” DNA, but we can all make ourselves the best version of ourselves! Don’t believe people that tell you looks don’t matter. They matter greatly, they’ve just given up.
  • Put on your own oxygen mask first. I run into so many kind souls who are trying to protect and help co-workers, peers, etc., but not helping themselves. Take care of yourself, so you can properly help others.

Oh, and wear sunscreen.

So, what’s the difference in advice between the grads and dropouts? None. Turns out, once you start working no one gives a shit whether you have a degree or not, now you have to actually perform.

It’s a great time to be a hard-working, attractive, smart person in our society. Take advantage.

Are you a people-first company? #Open22

I’m in NYC this week for the annual Greenhouse Open. Greenhouse is a best-in-class ATS with over 7,000 customers, and this is their annual user conference. So, a whole bunch of recruiters and recruiting leaders nerding out on recruiting stuff! Meaning a perfect place for me!

Greenhouse has a philosophy that they are the perfect hiring engine for organizations that consider themselves “People-First”. What does that mean? That’s the big question because every company I know, or at least every executive I know, would claim to be People-First. But, what I know is very few actually are people-first.

Daniel Chait, the co-founder of Greenhouse laid out what he considers people-first. The hallmarks of people-first companies:

  • Organizations that invest in tools that allow employees to be their best selves.
  • Organizations that work to improve collaboration amongst employees, cultivate belonging, and increase fairness.
  • Organizations that really care about culture, values, DEI&B, and allyship.
  • Organizations that care deeply about recruiting talent because the only way you lead and stay competitive is through great talent.

The hard part about being people-first, because I will tell you right now, every single one of your executives will read the list above and go, “yeah, that’s us!” is just that. They, being an executive, believe you are people-first, but as move down the food chain, it begins to feel less and less like people first.

I think about my own company and go, “yeah, we are people-first!” but I know for a fact that the feeling of individuals is very different based on a lot of variables. Great performers vs. low performers. New employees vs. experienced employees. Higher paid vs. lower paid. Etc.

That is the difficulty of being a people-first company. It’s the difficulty with the concept of belonging. It is super hard to make every single person in your company feel like they belong every day. You can do all the right stuff, and one day, one employee with a certain mindset, comes in the hears the wrong thing, and all of a sudden, they don’t feel like they belong. Does that not make you a people-first organization?

I think what Daniel is saying is that you espouse to do all the hallmarks the best you can today, and you keep trying to improve. Part of having a great culture and a great hiring process is finding a diverse and inclusive set of employees who match your culture. The feeling of belonging is critical to your hiring process and selection, as much as the environment you will ask them to work in.

Why is a recruiting software company talking about people-first? Because what they have discovered over the past ten years of being in business is you can sell software to anyone, but if they don’t share your same values and beliefs, it probably doesn’t work out very well for either party! Your tech isn’t just lines of code. It was built on a philosophy and continues to be developed and improved by a certain philosophy. A true partnership with your technology comes when your philosophies align.

Check out the Greenhouse Open this week virtually if you can!

Ugh! Being an inclusive employer is a lot of work!

It seems like being an ‘inclusive’ employer would be super easy! You just accept everyone! Can’t we all just get along!?

The reality is, that being an inclusive employer is hard because being inclusive isn’t about accepting everyone. What!? Oh, great, Tim has finally lost his mind, buckle up!

I wrote a post about Jeff Bezos’s annual letter and how he lays out a great framework for how organizations and leaders should manage performance. Many people liked the post, but there was also a strong reaction from a lot of people who hate Amazon’s culture.

They hear and read media accounts of Amazon being a bad place to work. About Amazon’s hard-charging, work a ton of hours, you don’t have a great work-life balance, etc. Some people go to work for Amazon and tell themselves during the interview process that “yeah, I’ve heard the stories, but I’m different, I want this, I want to be a part of a giant brand like Amazon, I can handle it because it’s a great step in my career.”

That’s when they find out they actually lack self-insight and they should never listen to their inner voice because it lies to them!

So, what does this have to do with ‘inclusion’?

If you truly believe in inclusion, you then believe that Amazon is a great place to work, for those who desire that type of culture. It might not be a culture you would ever choose to work in. Amazon actually likes the people that self-select out! It makes their job easier because they don’t want you anyway!

If you stand up and shout Amazon is an awful employer, you don’t understand inclusion. No one forces you to go to work at Amazon, and Amazon does not hide who they are. In fact, Amazon might actually be the best company on the planet to show exactly who they are as an employer and what you’re signing up for if you decide to go to work there.

Amazon is giant and the vast majority of its employees love working for them. Those employees thrive in that environment. It’s what they were looking for. It’s how they are wired. If you put them into another what you might consider, an ’employee-friendly’ environment, they would hate it and fail.

Inclusion is hard because it forces you to think in a way that theoretically every environment is potentially a good fit for the right person. We struggle because in our minds something that is opposite of what we want must be bad. Because it’s so hard for us to even consider someone else might actually love an environment we hate.

Being an ‘inclusive’ employer is about accepting all types of people (race, gender, religion, etc.), but it’s also about only accepting all of those people who actually fit the culture you have established. That’s the hard part! Amazon accepts everyone, but you better be ready to go a thousand miles an hour and never stop.

Being an inclusive employer is hard because if it’s done right, it’s not just about being an accepting employer of all, it’s about being accepting and then only picking those candidates who actually fit your culture. The outcome can be awesome. The work to get there can be overwhelming. And if done incorrectly you go from being inclusive to exclusive.