2021-2022 HR Trend – Teaching Sales People to Get Back on the Road!

“Yeah, I can get as much, or more, done right from my living room as I did before the pandemic!” (said in the snotty tone of a spoiled brat kid, maybe a slight valley girl vibe) “Like, there is absolutely no need to go visit clients and potential clients in person!”

I don’t know much, but here’s what I do know:

Pre-Pandemic:

  • Next to impossible to hire good salespeople.
  • A constant struggle to get average salespeople to get on the road and meet with potential clients. (Why do we need to meet with people in person when we have email and Inmail?)
  • Overall, sales results weren’t too bad because the economy was on fire.

Post-Pandemic:

  • Next to impossible to find good salespeople.
  • Now everyone thinks working at home is great and why should I ever leave my couch!?
  • Overall, sales results won’t be as good because the economy isn’t as good.
  • Executives will freak the f*ck out because sales aren’t as good.
  • Someone will knock on the HR door and say something like, “Our sales suck, we need better salespeople and better sales training!”

Do NOT underestimate how difficult it will be to get your people back on the road!

Right now you’re thinking the opposite. “Tim, every single day I hear from our sales folks about how they can’t wait to get back on the road!” Yeah, turns out, they’re pretty good at telling you and their boss what they want to hear! They already sucked at getting out and making sales calls, staying home for a year, didn’t make them better!

What can HR do to help the Sales Results at their Company? 

1. Help your Sales Leaders make really good accountable goals that are trackable by individuals.

2. Report to your sales leader weekly travel budget stats. You might not be able to see if they did a good sales call, but you can ensure they actually got on the road!

3. Mentor/Buddy programs. It’s hard making sales calls in person. It’s a bit easier when you get back on the road with a partner. Yes, this increases cost, but we need to break the ice and get back into the groove.

4. Force your sales leaders to get back on the road with their team. We love, as sales leaders, to talk about our glory days, yet, not actually show the kids how it’s done.

5. Add a sales “work sample” into your interview process. Make the person interviewing come in and do a sales call with you and someone else from the sales staff. Make them show you they can actually do it. “Timmy, you’re going to come in sell me this Montblanc Pen. Go!”

HR Pros, do not discount the value you can bring to the sales operation of your organization. Sales, revenue generation, is the lifeblood of your company. Want to elevate your status within your organization? Get involved with helping your sales team thrive!

The Bad Idea Trap!

2020 wasn’t the best year for a lot of people and as such we have so much excitement and anticipation for what 2021 will bring, but we are cautious. Already in 2021, we’ve seen some hangover of 2020!

We believe that 2021 and into the near future will be a bit of a struggle for most organizations. Some character building years ahead of us. We’ve come out of a decade of growth, pandemic hits, and now we have some rebuilding to do.

I truly believe when tough times hit, we see the best in people. As professionals, we work harder than ever to get to the success we want. We come up with all sorts of ideas and things to try to get us back on top. Therein lies the problem.

You see, there is this funny phenomenon that happens, that has now been proven in science. Turns out, during bad times, we come up with more bad ideas than good ideas!

Why do we have more bad ideas than good ideas during hard times?

A great historical example (that might have some context to 2020!) was during the 1920s and 1930s. Extremely hard economic times in Germany led to the rise of the Nazis. I think we can all agree, 100%, the Nazis were a very bad idea. But, because of the awful economy, many folks thought the Nazis were a great alternative.

Turns out, depressions, pandemics, social uprisings, etc. Lead us to more bad ideas than good ideas. We start grasping at straws, believing we are trying to help. We are testing out stuff to see what works when we think nothing is working when in reality, we might actually be starting something worse.

To go along with this, when times are awesome, no matter what you do, you probably are less likely to screw something up. “Hey, we did this crazy thing and our sales were up 3%!” Great, maybe if you didn’t do that crazy thing your sales would have been up 10%, but now you think that crazy idea, that bad idea, actually was positive!

Great times cover up many of our bad ideas. Bad times shine a giant light on our bad ideas.

Why am I talking about Bad Ideas? 

2021 might be a ripe time for bad ideas! We all will be pushed and stressed to make things happen. Leaders are going to look for ideas. It’s our job to come up with ideas. Most of those ideas are going to be bad. Sorry, but that’s just simple math. Most ideas are bad, some are good, very few are great.

In HR and TA we tend to believe that our ideas, our projects, our programs, etc. don’t have a giant impact on organizations. Actually, they have more impact than you think, but it’s mostly long-term impact, not short-term. We want these ideas to have an immediate impact, but people and culture tend to take time.

That is why, in 2021, we have to be very careful about the Bad Idea Trap.

I want you to go out and test and try things but move a bit more cautiously out of the gate. Be willing to shut things down quicker. Be more aware of the timing and how your organization is doing. If your organization is killing it, great! Go have some fun, break some things! If your organization isn’t doing well, slow down, take your time, don’t allow yourself to be in a rush, even though it’s going to feel like you should be.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a large corporate meeting room with a bunch of people and some well-meaning executive starts off with “there are no bad ideas! Let me have them all!” Yes, there are bad ideas and the worse idea is a bad idea that is chosen to move forward!

Maybe our 2021 Slogan in HR and TA should be “Yes, there are Bad Ideas!”

How Many of Your Employees Are Going to Get the Covid Vaccine?

I’m sure you’ve been seeing the headlines, across America we continue to hear about front-line workers, healthcare workers who are refusing to get the Covid vaccine. In Ohio, it’s estimated that 60% of nursing home workers declined to get the vaccine!

I want to believe that those choosing not to get the vaccine when they could get that vaccine are just ignorant and natural selection will take its course. But, not even 100% of hospital workers, nurses, and doctors on Covid units are getting the vaccine they are eligible to get!

So, we know that when it comes time that we can help our own employees get the vaccine, not all will want it. This will cause a bunch of issues in organizations that we haven’t even come close to really knowing, yet.

Can you fire an employee who refuses to get a Covid Vaccine? 

Short answer? Yes. The longer answer depends on a number of factors. Do they have a legitimate religious exemption, not one they’ve conveniently made up in the past day or so? Do they have a document medical issue? Etc.

The reality is employers have a lot of ground to stand on when forcing employees to get a vaccine or lose their job. Getting the vaccine becomes a workplace safety issue and the government and the courts have shown a willingness to back these protections.

The more important question is, do you as an employer want to force employees to get the vaccine, or is there a better way to get the same result? This is really a company by company decision.

What are some ways to get employees to want to take the vaccine? 

Let’s face it, the vast majority of most employees, at most employers, will actually want to get the vaccine and get back to life as “normal” before the pandemic. So, anything you roll out to entice your employees to get the vaccine will be a bonus most probably didn’t need. That being said, here’s what I’ve been hearing some employers are doing:

  • Cash bonus to get the vaccine. $100 if you get the vaccine in a certain time period once it’s available.
  • Extra time off.
  • Extra flexibility around their schedule.
  • Making it super convenient, like offering vaccines onsite at the workplace.

It’s basically the carrot or the stick. Most likely, organizations will have to use both to get to the point of ‘herd immunity’. The reality is, based on data, you don’t actually have to have 100% of employees get vaccinated to make your workplace safe.

I think it’s important to remember that factor. You really don’t need 100%. As organizations do we really want to fight that battle with someone who just refuses, yet, they are a good, solid employee? I don’t think it will be worth it in the long run.

The one thing you might try is drafting an agreement for those who refuse which would state, they are refusing to get the vaccine and I would try and add in some language that gives you the right as an employer to be able to let other employees know who are those employees are aren’t vaccinated from a workplace safety issue, so other employees know who they need to continue to social distance from. Is this ideal? Heck no! There are HIPAA issues, among others. But, this is about how do we keep the majority of our employees safe.

Now, before drafting some agreement like that up on your own, get your legal counsel involved. They’ll balk at first, but with some pushing, they can put something together that will protect the organization from any legal blowback.

Again, you have to weigh the outcome of doing something like this. Those employees who refuse the vaccine, sign your agreement, and you make that public among your employees is now wearing a scarlet letter around. That isn’t good either, from a cultural standpoint.

This is why HR is so much fun! We don’t live in black and white, we live in the gray. There isn’t one perfect answer to the question. Of course, the best-case scenario is every single one of your employees wants the vaccine and gets the vaccine. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening with too many organizations.

Your Superpower is Your Authentic Self!

I had someone ask me what my superpower is? I found that a hard question to answer. I mean do you think being able to write a 500-word blog post in 15 minutes a superpower!? Some bloggers probably do, but no one else!

I was told that my true superpower was me just being me. My authentic self. Then I asked this person how much I owed them for the life coaching session! 😉

We are told constantly to be ourselves, or live our true life, find a way to be yourself, etc. The reality is being your authentic self might be your superpower, but like all superpowers, they can be used for good or evil.

Let me give you the best example ever! Donald Trump is his authentic self. It’s his superpower and he rode that superpower right into the White House. His authentic self was a superpower he used for evil, and ultimately it destroyed him and his legacy.

What I find a leader of people is that employees living their authentic self either works wonderfully or awfully and rarely anywhere in between!

Here’s the thing about being your authentic self, you must first know if your “authentic self” something others want to be around or if your authentic self off-putting to others. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be yourself, but if your authentic self is a complete asshole, you might want to work for yourself and not someone else!

Let be really frank here, any gender can be an off-putting authentic self. It doesn’t mean you don’t love who you truly are, but you must also realize who you truly are isn’t what most people want to be around. Your superpower isn’t going to be asked to join the Justice League, you’re going to be asked to join the villain side.

In real life, you actually don’t become a villain, unless you’re DJT. Most likely you become your own boss, or you live a miserable existence trying to fit into a work world that doesn’t want you and you don’t want it. Some of the best and brightest people I know can’t work for others. Their superpower is something that allows them to be awesome, but not when working closely with others on a daily basis.

Why does this matter? 

It matters because if some idiot is trying to sell you the snake oil of “Just be your Authentic Self” you must first determine, is your authentic self something others will embrace and want to be around. If so, great, you’re going to probably have a great career. If it’s not, and you want to work in the corporate world, you’re probably in for a lot of therapy.

Also, let me be very clear, not living your authentic self while you are at work isn’t the worse thing in the world. You can be one thing at work and another thing in your personal life. Is it ideal? No. But, I’ve seen many people in my career be successful in doing this. It’s a little like Clark Kent and Superman. I can be Clark Kent at work and then go home and be Superman in the rest of my life.

The worse thing that can happen is you try and force your authentic self onto others and believe they should “accept” your authentic self. Nope. That’s not how it works. You can’t make anyone accept your authentic self, you can only make yourself accept that. If I don’t like your superpower, you can’t make me like it, and if I’m in a position to determine the trajectory of your career, you’re in trouble.

Superpowers are awesome, but they can be super for good or super for bad. Love who you are, but don’t expect others will necessarily love it.

Bad Hires Worse!

If I could take all of my education and experience and boil it down to this one piece of advice, it would be this:

Bad Hires Worse.

In HR we love to talk about our hiring and screening processes, and how we “only” hire the best talent, but in the end, we, more times than not, leave the final decision on who to hire to the person who will be responsible to supervise the person being hired, the Hiring Manager.

I don’t know about all of you, but in my stops across corporate America, all of my hiring managers haven’t been “A” players, many have been “B” players, and a good handful of “C” players.  Yet, in almost all of those stops, we (I) didn’t stop bad hiring managers from hiring when the need came. Sure I would try to influence more with my struggling managers, be more involved but they still ultimately had to make a decision that they had to live with.

I know I’m not the only one, it happens every single day.  Every day we allow bad hiring managers to make talent decisions in our organizations, just as we are making plans to move the bad manager off the bus. It’s not an easy change to make in your organization. It’s something that has to come from the top.

But, if you are serious about making a positive impact on talent in your organization you can not allow bad managers to make talent decisions.

They have to know, through performance management, that:

1. You’re bad (and need fixing or moving);

2. You no longer have the ability to make hiring decisions.

That is when you hit your High Potential manager succession list and tap on some shoulders.  “Hey, Mrs. Hi-Po, guess what we need your help with some interviewing and selection decisions.” It sends a clear and direct message to your organization we won’t hire worse.

Remember, this isn’t just an operational issue it happens at all levels, in all departments.  Sometimes the hardest thing to do is look in the mirror at our own departments. If you have bad talent in HR, don’t allow them to hire (“but it’s different we’re in HR, we know better!” No you don’t – stop it).

Bad hires worse, over and over and over. Bad needs to hire worse, they’re desperate, they’ll do anything to protect themselves, they make bad decisions, they are Bad. We/HR own this. We have the ability and influence to stop it. No executive is going to tell you “No” when you suggest we stop allowing our bad managers the ability to make hiring decisions they’ll probably hug you.

It’s a regret, I have something I will change. If it happens again, I won’t allow it. I vow from this day forward, I will never allow a bad hiring manager to make a hiring decision at least not without a fight!

What can your employees count on from you in 2021?

At the HR Technology Conference his fall, Marcus Buckingham gave a talk on some new research he did on resilience. It was definitely timely because of the year that is 2020. Also, when you talk to c-suite leaders all will say one of the most sought after attributes they want in their employees would be resilience.

From his research, Marcus found that employees determine how much they trust a leader and an organization comes down to just a few simple things, and one of those major things is not what you hope and dreams are for the organization, but what you can specifically tell employees that they can count on, 100% count on.

We see organizations come out all the time with examples of this:

  • Google said they will not have in-office work until September 2021, but the plan is to bring people back in-office at that point. Concrete date and plan, of course, it might get pushed out again, but at the very least you know you have remote work until September 2021.
  • I’ve seen CEOs come out in 2020 and tell their employees we will not lay one person off this year. For many employees in those companies, that was such a relief to hear.
  • It can be as simple as letting your employees know you will not be changing your benefit plan for the coming year or moving your home office after a merger or acquisition.

Of course, all leaders want to share their vision and dreams. We love aspirational leaders, even if we don’t completely trust them! What all employees want, based on the research, is a leader who will tell them what they can count on moving forward, even if it’s something small.

“I can you this much, for sure…” Then, from a trust standpoint, you move heaven and earth to make that happen! So, the old leadership axiom of under-promise, over-deliver fits really well into the trust dynamic.

Also, don’t make this lame! 

“You can count on me to always tell you the truth!” No, I can’t! That’s a lie right there! As soon as something happens, let’s say talks about acquiring a new company, or having your company acquired, you won’t be able to share anything about that.

“Hey, are we getting bought?” Well, I can’t yes or no to that question, and that’s the truth! No, you’re an idiot who is saying nothing, and now I don’t trust you.

What can your employees count on? 

Sometimes this is the most difficult question to answer because there is way more we can’t count on, then we can. But, if you can come up with those few concrete things, you can leverage that trust a long way.

2020 has shown our employees are not as fragile as we like to believe. For the most part, employees who truly understand the truth of their circumstances are much more resilient than we think. “Hey, 2021, is going to be extremely hard on the organization. We need sales, or we will be in trouble. Everything we will do needs to focus on how to help us sell more.”

Yes, some employees will run and find a new job. But, many more will fight and show their resilience and reward your honesty. At the end of the day, we just want to know we aren’t being lied to and after that, it’s pretty remarkable what we are willing to face and conquer.

Leadershipping on Christmas

First, it’s Christmas and the majority of the world is not working. Okay, you Mr./Mrs. Hustle is still working, but normal people, those who celebrate Christmas and those who don’t, and primarily not working, so why are you reading this dumb blog post!

But, while I have you…

I think great leaders do certain things really well (also, I’m not trying to set myself up as a great leader, I’m not, but man I’m trying to be better):

  • They let people know you care about them when they least expect it, but probably need it the most.
  • They have the ability to come across as sincere because they are and probably are very particular in letting people know.
  • They have the ability to make others feel special in the best ways.

Now, don’t go off and start sending messages to everyone on your team!

Do go send a message or two to a few people who need it. Who made a difference to you this year, or to that someone who just needs it today.

The holidays can be the best time of year and the worse time of year depending on your circumstances. You might not actually be having a great day, today. But, I bet sending a note of gratitude and thanks to someone else, will definitely lift your spirits and theirs.

Happy Holidays, Friends!

3 out of 4 Employees Actually Want to Return to the Office!

I think most HR pros disagree with this number. I didn’t make it up like I do most of the time, but I was having this feeling that way to many HR leaders and pros were feeling that their entire office workforce just wanted to remain remote. The number is from this recent Human Experience study.

Basically, it’s saying 25% of workers want to return full-time to the office, 50% want some kind of hybrid model where they will return, but have additional flexibility to work remotely, and 25% want to stay remote on a permanent basis.

My guess is most HR leaders and pros if asked this question are under the belief that 50%+ of their office workers want to remain remote, full-time. At least, that’s what I hear when I ask that question to them. Much smaller sample, but it’s also what I hear and read.

What the article is really showing is that our workforce has had a taste of flexibility, and most really, really liked what it tasted like! I find that in very large cities, organizations and leaders are much more flexible. It’s just the nature of big city life. Trains don’t always run on time, commutes can be crazy, etc.

As you get out into smaller communities the expectations changed. You can always make it into work because you’re driving your own car. If you were 15 minutes late in Milwaukee, people will question you. If you’re 30 minutes late in New York, no one says a thing. So, having some flexibility to be treated like a real, functioning adult, for most people has been a breath of fresh air.

But, and it’s a big but – we can’t be naive as HR leaders believing everyone just wants remote. They don’t want remote, the vast majority, want flexibility. They want some understanding. I can be a high performer, and  I can meet my goals and exceed them, just treat me like an adult.

The pandemic might change many things about work and life moving forward, but it won’t change our desire as humans, most of us, to want to have live interactions, one-on-one, face-to-face, to congregate, to share ideas, and see your real-life body language, if at all possible.

Don’t be fooled by a loud minority voice saying a remote workplace is the best workplace. It’s “a” workplace, great for some, horrible for many. Just as in-office is great for some, and horrible for others. The best organizations will figure out the balance.

The 5 Faces of Thought Leader!

I’m not sure when this started, but over the past few years I’ve been introduced as a “Thought Leader”.  At first, it was flattering.  Wow, a ‘Thought Leader’!  I wasn’t sure what it meant, but it sounded cool.  You mean, I’m a ‘Thought Leader’ like Steve Jobs? Well, slow down Sparky, not quite like Steve Jobs. Oh!? Than a Thought Leader like whom?  (The thought leader in me wants to ‘who’, not ‘whom’, but something tells me my blogger thought leader friends will tell me I should have used ‘whom’, but knowing I used ‘whom’ at all means, it’s probably wrong!)

That’s when it hit me.  Thought Leaders come in many different sizes and shapes.  I wasn’t a great Thought Leader of our generation.  I was more of a great Thought Leader at that specific moment, in a very narrow segment of ideas and knowledge. Context is everything.

Let’s face it, we all have different perceptions of who and what we believe to be Thought Leadership.  Here are my Faces of Thought Leadership:

1. The Thought Righter.  This is a Thought Leader that you agree with. You believe they are Thought Leader because you agree with what they are saying, so they must be a leader!

2. The Thought Stayer. This is a Thought Leader who has been around for a long time.  Well, they’ve been in the industry for thirty years, they must be a Thought Leader at this point!

3. The Thought Thinks Differently Than Everyone Else. Yep, this person just thinks differently, thus they are Thought Leader.  This is probably what a lot of people believe is ‘true’ thought leadership (Leading thought, thus they are thinking it before you).

4. The Thought Best Practicer. This is conference thought leadership at its best. It’s not really thought leadership, it’s thought leadership from five years ago.  It’s now just popular thought leadership.

 5. The Thought I Work For  A Cool Company. If you work for a cool company you automatically garner status of thought leadership, when in actuality, you might be a “Thought Idiot”. I won’t give you an example, you know who these folks are.

6. The Thought Innovator.  This is a person who believes everything is perpetually broken and they must fix it.  “You know what is wrong with babies, they don’t come out of the womb talking and walking. If we just forced gestation to 218 weeks and planted electrodes into their brains we could be having babies that were as smart as Einstein!”  Um, what!?

Thought leadership is a funny little silly thing.  You can call yourself a “Thought Leader”, but that basically just informs everyone you’re not.  If it is bestowed on you by someone else, they basically are defining what you are as a Thought Leader. Which can be dangerous, if you really aren’t that person.

I like to think of Thought Leaders as people who come up with ideas before everyone else but those ideas will eventually become popular belief.  This means you are really only a Thought Leader in hindsight.  Steve Jobs was a Thought Leader because he did things before others saw them, then they became wildly popular.

In this scenario, I had a chance to become a Thought Leader in Workplace Hugging, but then the pandemic hit and now I’ll be known as the Thought Leader who tried to kill workers by encouraging them to hug and catch the virus. It’s a fickle world…

Side Note:

Somehow “Influencer” in the HR/TA space has become a bad word. I know other “Thought Leader” “Influencer” types who refuse to call themselves this title, or also don’t want to be labeled as such. They’re okay with other socially acceptable titles: Analyst, Expert, make something up, it’s all the same. The reality is, it comes back to people wanting to be able to label you so they know how to describe you. I don’t think of it as bad or good.

The truth is, we are all selling something, and the person who tells you they are selling nothing is selling you the hardest. I might not be selling you a product or service, but you can damn be sure I’m trying to sell you on an idea at the very least. You can call me anything you like, as long as you’re calling me something, I’m probably doing it right.

3 Things you can do at the office the Friday after Thanksgiving – Remote Work Edition!

So, in the United States, if you have to work the day after Thanksgiving in an office environment, we’ve had this neat little game we play. You act like you work all day, while basically doing nothing!

I’ve written about this in the past and tried to give advice to those poor souls who must go into the office the day after Thanksgiving. I was trying to help them be productive, things like:

  • Clean out your files – paper and digital
  • Send out emails to folks you are thankful for but haven’t told recently
  • Organize your calendar for the next month to ensure you kill the last month of the year.

This year, for so many office workers, it’s completely different! You now are remote. The vast majority of you will have no watchful overload to see if you are actually doing anything or not. It’s just you and your conscience, working all alone at your home.

So, what should you be doing this Friday?

Well, the try-hards in the bunch will do the things listed above but also add:

  • Early morning email out to folks that manner with some kind of important question. Make sure to note, “No reply needed today, but you get a minute…”
  • Late afternoon update on something with data. “I was just crunching some 3rd quarter data and found that we can probably do a budget adjustment for 4th quarter on “X”.”
  • Pro-Level: send a text message to someone else who is working asking for a file you can’t find.

This will show the powers-that-be that you’ve been working super hard all day!

Then there are the other things you can do in between that 8 emails and that 4:30 pm email:

  • Black Friday online shopping (this should take up most of the day) – at least one stop at some sort of office supply site, because “office supplies”
  • Catch up on some Netflix documentaries that have some sort of connection to whatever you do. Research for work stuff.
  • For those who love holiday decorations, this is a perfect time to “decorate your office”
  • There’s always some sort of football game on, just have it running on your second or third screen, I mean you’re working!
  • I like to make a big pot of chili for lunch on Black Friday (it’s okay, you’re working you get to eat lunch)
  • I like to send out holiday cards to my professional network on this day, which is probably really is work, so I might hold off until Monday for this task.

If any of my own team at HRU Tech is reading this – do not send me emails early in the morning or late in the afternoon – unless you really need something, because I know you’ll be doing work if it’s needed, and you’ll be enjoying your life if it’s needed! You can sed me any text messages with great deals you find that you think I should be aware of!