HR and Snow Days

Based upon the ‘historic’ snow storm on the east coast this past week, I pulled one from the archives on my feelings about how HR should handle snow days. Enjoy.

Look I get it.  I have 3 sons and Snow Days are a big deal…if you’re 10!   So, if you’re an HR Pro, right about this time tomorrow, you’re going to feel like you have an entire organization full of 10 year olds,  as we begin to see the first signs of Snowmagedon!

I understand people freaking out, that is, if you live in some place south of the Mason-Dixon line, and you’ve never seen snow before. But, I live in Michigan and it snows here. The snow starts around Halloween and ends around Easter.  What I don’t understand is anyone that lives north of, let’s say, Chicago, is even blinking an eye at a snow storm coming.  Let it snow, clear your driveway and get your butt to work.

It’s not a difficult concept! No, I don’t want you to drive to a client if the roads are dangerous, and, no, I don’t want you to drive to work if the roads are dangerous, and, no, I don’t want you to run around the office with scissors and your shoes untied!  But I do expect, we’ll all be adults.

If it looks like there’s going to be a lot of snow tomorrow, you need to make a plan. How about packing some work to do from home, or just plan on watching Lifetime all day, because I completely understand you missing the 3 days’ of warning that the snow was coming! (he screamed to himself in a mocking voice…)

Snow Days are the kind of crap that drives HR and Leadership completely insane!

Why is it, the CEO finds his way into the office, driving his Lexus sedan, but Perry in IT just can’t seem to get his 4X4Chevy Tahoe out of the garage?   If you want a day off that damn bad, take a day off,  but don’t insult the intelligence of all those who found a way to come in.

Be sensible, give your local snow plows some time to clear roads, give yourself extra time to get to work, but at the very least give it a shot. Then, when you get stuck, take a picture with your phone and send it to your boss, they’ll appreciate the effort!

HR Can Learn From Target’s Failure in Canada

If you haven’t heard, America’s darling department store chain Target, failed miserably in Canada and will soon close all of it’s locations in Canada.  I like Target.  I like Target way more than I like Walmart.  Target is more expensive, but I think they offer a better product selection, with higher quality, in an environment I like shopping in.  Walmart sometimes scares me.

For those who don’t know, I spent a little over three years of my HR life working in mass retail (not for Target or Walmart). I find it interesting that a store I like so much could fail in an area I consider not much different than my own environment. I’m sure my Canadian friends and readers will have fun with that statement, but when I go to Canada I don’t feel like I’m necessarily in a different country from where I live in the U.S. in Michigan. It’s cold. People like donuts, beer and hockey. I mean, we’re almost Canadian!

Target’s failures in Canada parallel many of our own failures in HR:

1. Target bought out a failing chain in Canada and many of those locations were in bad, or not convenient, areas.  We do this in organizations.  I had a client who was in the most awful area to try and attract talent. I said, why do we just open up an offsite office in the bigger city near by. They lost their minds I would even suggest that. Two years later, after losing out on so much business, they finally did just that.  Location. Location. Location.  How is this an HR issue?  Lack of talent is an HR issue, even if it means part of the strategy is to open new locations or move. Don’t think that’s only a leader issue.

2. Target charged more in Canada, then the U.S.  Nothing pisses off someone more than to find out they’re getting taken.  Canadians that lived close to the U.S. border would go to U.S. Target locations and see lower prices. This kills your brand.  We do this with employees salaries. Once people find out you pay differently based on some silly reason, you’re done.  Well, Tim makes more because when we hired him he asked for more. Okay, why didn’t you raise up Mary’s salary at that point as well? Well, Mary didn’t ask. Dumb!

3. Target wasn’t prepared for growth in Canada and couldn’t keep its store’s shelves full.  No one is impressed by a half empty store, and they won’t come back.  You only get one chance to impress that first-time customer. You also only get one chance to impress that first-time candidate.  Blow it, and they won’t come back, and blow enough of those, and it gets around.  Soon, you are known in your market as the place no one wants to go to work for.

It didn’t help that Walmart had a two decade head start over Target in Canada as well.  Entering a market, you better have full understanding who is on top, and why are they on top.  Target didn’t give Walmart the respect they deserved and the learning they endured breaking into Canada.  They tried to do what was successful in the U.S. I’m sure my Canadian friends will be quick to point out, unlike me, they know Canada isn’t the U.S.!

How to Hire a Hustler

Hustle: (via Marriam-Webster) “to sell or promote energetically and aggressively”.

Hustle: (via Urban Dictionary) “Anything you need to do to make money”.

Hustle: (via Sackett) “Getting sh*t done with a smile”.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on what really makes someone successful.  I know folks who are completely brilliant, in a way most of us can’t even comprehend, both intellectually and creatively. I know why they’re successful. I also know of people who don’t seem to be the smartest, or the most creative, but they are also super successful. Those are the ones that make me wonder, what makes them successful?

They know how to hustle.

I say that will a love for what they do. Most people can’t hustle. It’s not in their makeup, their DNA.  It’s not a skill you can learn, you are either born a hustler, or you’re not.  Hustling gets a negative connotation. When in reality, it’s not always negative.  I find those people who I’ve worked for that have a hustler’s mentality can be highly professional and highly successful.

The thing is, there is really no replacement for hustle.

Not every organization needs people with that skill, and I don’t think I would want an entire organization of hustlers!  You need some, though, and you need them in the right positions. Hustlers know how to get things done in an organization.  They know how to make people feel like both sides won.  Some of the best hustlers I know in HR are on the labor relations side of the business.  Contract negotiations are usually one big hustle!

I wish someone would come up with an assessment that measured someones hustle level!  Hey, HR Tech, get on that! I’m buying.

Here’s the traits I think you need to find when assessing someone’s hustle level:

1. Are they willing to what it takes to be successful in whatever role it is you’ll be putting them in?

2. Do they have an entrepreneurial spirit?

3. Are they self-driven and ambitious?

4. Do they like competition?

5. Do they enjoy interacting with others?

6. Do they have a high tolerance to handle rejection?

7. Are they coachable and willing to adapt?

I don’t care what kind of department you are running in an organization, you can benefit from having a hustler on your team.  I think you could take most street hustlers off the street, clean them up in a corporate professional way, teach them corporate language, and they would thrive in corporate America!  No formal education. No skills. Just hustle. Let’s face it, most of what we do in corporate America is hustle!

I’m Hiring! Are you sure you want to work for me?

Okay, I’m adding a Recruiter to my team.  At, we do mostly engineering and IT contract recruiting, some direct placement recruiting and some project RPO work for clients around the country.

I would put my team up against anyone.  They’re that good, and most are homegrown!  That’s right, the majority of our staff came in entry level and we smacked off that new car smell like an old bag of Taco Bell that’s been sitting in your back seat for three weeks in the summer.

I started looking around and getting the word out a couple days ago.  You would think it would be easy.  I don’t really ask for a lot, but I sure know it when I ‘hear’ it!   Recruiting is a pretty good gig.  It’s transferable. I’ve worked in 5 different states, 4 different industries and my recruiting skills I can take with me anywhere.  It’s the one thing I can guarantee you if you come work for me. You’ll always be able to find a job and make money.  Every economy needs good recruiters.

The pay is way better than your normal crappy sales jobs selling cell phones or renting cars to people that bring in their phone bill and a report card. The hours are pretty good. No weekends. A few nights here and there.  You get to interact with a great group of people. The latest and greatest recruiting tools.

What’s crazy to me is how hard it is to find people who want to do this job, and that can be good at it!  I like for people to have a four-year degree.  The actual degree isn’t as important, as the process of gaining that degree.  I find those who worked their way through college, tend to be better recruiters.  Bartenders might be the best previous job if I was forced to pick one. Any kind of job that had you on the phone talking to people would be second.

There’s also a need for people who don’t freak out when they are held accountable for results.  That eliminates most people who want to work in government or big companies.  My recruiters don’t sit around and wait to get paid.  So, self-motivation is important, as long as it’s targeted in the right direction.

Work-life balance is really important to me.  Hold on, let me define work-life balance.  Work-life balance is when you do enough work that I pay you so you can have things and do things you want to do.  It’s not you doing whatever you want at any time you feel.  That’s not balance.  Balance means equal both ways, work and life.

We aren’t saving the world.  For some people that’s really important.  We do find people some really, really good jobs.  Some people find that cool and rewarding.

I care about you as a person, and I want to see you be wildly successful.  I’ll treat you like family. The family that you actually like, not the ones you try to forget about.

The position is in Lansing, MI. No, you can’t work remote or virtual or on a boat, unless the boat is in the parking lot of our building, then you can work on a boat.

So, if you’re interested send me a note –  

If you are interested, and I don’t think you’re a fit, I will actually tell you why I don’t think you’re fit.  Some people like that. Some people think they’ll like that.  Some people don’t like that at all!

The Crappy Job Badge of Honor

As some of you may have realized from recent posts (Wanted: People Who Aren’t Stupid), I’ve been interviewing candidates recently for the position of Technical Recruiter working for my company HRU. I love interviewing because each time I interview I think I’ve discovered a better way to do it, or something new I should be looking for, and this most recent round of interviews is no different.  Like most HR/Talent Pros I’m always interested in quality work/co-op/internship experience – let’s face it, it’s been drilled into us – past performance/actions will predict future performance/actions.  So, we tend to get excited over seeing a candidate that has experience from a great company or competitor – we’re intrigued to know how the other side lives and our inquisitive nature begs us to dig in.

What I’ve found over the past 20 years of interviewing is that while I love talking to people that worked at really great companies – I hire more people that have worked at really bad companies.  You see, while you learn some really good stuff working for great companies – I think people actually learn more working for really crappy companies!  Working at a really great companies gives you an opportunity to work in “Utopia” – you get to see how things are suppose to work, how people are suppose to work together, how it a perfect world it all fits together.  The reality is – we don’t work Utopia (at least the majority of us) we work in organizations that are less than perfect, and some of us actually work in down right horrible companies. Those who work in horrible companies and survive – tend to better hires – they have battle scars and street smarts.

So, why everyone wants to get out of really bad companies (and I don’t blame them) there is actually a few things you learn from those experiences:

1. Leadership isn’t a necessity to run a profitable company. I’ve seen some very profitable companies that had really bad leadership – people always think they’ll leave those companies and they’ll fail – they don’t.  Conversely, I’ve worked for some companies that had great people leaders and failed.

2. Great people sometimes work a really crappy companies.  Don’t equate crappy company with crappy talent.  Sometimes you can find some real gems in the dump.

3. Hard work is relative.  I find people who work at really bad companies, tend to appreciate hard work better than those who work a really great companies with great balance.  If all you’ve every known is long hours and management that doesn’t care you have a family – seeing the other side gives you an appreciation that is immeasurable.

4. Not having the resources to do the job, doesn’t mean you can’t do the job. Working for a crappy company in a crappy job tends to make you more creative – because you probably won’t have what you need to do the job properly, so you find ways.

5. Long lasting peer relationships come through adversity.  You can make life-long work friends at a crappy job – who you’ll keep in contact and be able to leverage as you move on in your careers.  And here’s what each of you will think about the other: “That person can work in the shit!”  “That person is tough and get’s things done” “That person is someone I want on my team, when I get to build a team”

We all know the bad companies in our industries and markets.  Don’t discount candidates who have spent time with those companies – we were all at some point needing a job – a first experience, a shot at a promotion or more money, etc. and took a shot at a company we thought we could change or make a difference.  I love people who worked for bad companies, in bad jobs with bad management – because they wear it like a badge of honor!

Recruiters! Conferences Don’t Care About You!

I’m down at ERE’s Fall Conference in Chicago this week.  It’s a conference designed for Talent Acquistion leaders (FYI – they don’t like to be called ‘Recruiters’).  It’s really cool the folks at ERE do a great job putting together great content and work to push the role of Talent Acquisition forward in organizations around the world.

HR Tech also does a great job for HR folks looking for HR Tech.  So does Sourcecon, for people wanting to be better sourcers.  So does TLNT’s Transform for HR leaders. Heck, even SHRM National has some great content.

Besides ERE, though, where does a TA leader or Recruiter go to keep up on their industry. To get better. To challenge and measure themselves and their organizations to get better?  No where, that’s where.

ERE does a fall and spring national conference.  If you don’t have the budget for a national conference, usually $1-2,000 to attend, plus travel which usually doubles the cost, you’re screwed when it comes to getting really good recruiting content.

SHRM has both local and state opportunities for HR Pros to get further development and expand their knowledge base.  Do you have a local recruiting organization or a state recruiting organization that will offer this to you?  Most likely No, unless you live in D.C. (RecruitDC) or Minnesota (Hello Paul!).

It’s crazy when you really stop and think about it.  Almost no where are we really leveraging the minds and the dollars to bring these people together at a state or local level.

I’m in Michigan.  I know right now I could put two days of content together, leverage some awesome Recruiting talent from around the world to come in and speak, and get 250-500 Recruiting/Talent Acquisition Pros from Michigan to attend at $400-500 each.  That’s anywhere from $100-250K just in conference fees, not including probably another $100-200K in sponsors. So, some company isn’t interested in $400-500K!?

Southeast Michigan is begging for technical talent. Organizations would spend the money to spend their TA teams to something like this.  All across the country many areas are hurting for talent and willing to invest (a little) to get their recruiting teams better.  But, most are not willing to have those same teams travel across the country at the price tag of $3,000 each for the same content.

Build it and they will come…just don’t build it too far away!

I see this work on the HR front.  Monthly local SHRM meetings will get 50-100 participants at $50 per meeting for lunch and one hour of content! State conferences give you a day and half of content for $500-750, and most of that is vendors trying to sell you crap.

It just seems insane to me that someone who actually does conference planning for living can’t figure out how to leverage the largest 25 metro areas and put together a calendar of ‘local’ level recruiting conferences.

Like I said, ERE does a good job nationally, their just leaving about 90% of the money that is available out there locally on the table.

Fear Can Create Sustainable Success

I’ve been told that fear can only create short-term success.  That’s a lie.

You see I grew up with a single mom.  She probably didn’t sleep most nights, and the nights she did it was probably helped by a glass of cheap boxed wine.  She had a mortgage and she had two kids to feed.  She lived every single day in fear.  Fear of losing her kids.  Fear of losing her house. Fear of her check bouncing at the grocery store.

She did the one thing she knew how to do, recruiting, and started her own business.  She started as a branch manager for a local temporary employee company.  Learned the business in the hardest way possible. Temp staffing is the lowest common denominator in the staffing world.  It is the definition of ‘grind’!  She knew technical staffing, high end bill rates, was a much better life, but she was a woman and it was the 1970’s.  Fear.

She built a successful technical staffing business that has lasted for the past 35 years.  Never has the fear stopped.

You see she grew up in an era where you managed by fear.  It seemed normal.  If I’m living in fear, why shouldn’t I share some of this fear.  It was a very common management tactic in the baby boom generation.  You had Opec, the cold war, recessions, etc.  People didn’t believe they have the choices they have today.  If you got a job, you had to keep ‘that’ job, and if that meant a little fear, so be it.

If you didn’t do what you were told.  If you didn’t make your monthly goal. If you talked back. All of that could get you fired, and you never wanted to be fired.  Fear.

I took over the company five years ago.  I’m a man.  I also have fears.  I fear I won’t be able to pay my mortgage if I don’t have a good job.  I fear how I’ll pay for my son’s college education. I fear I’ll have enough money to ever retire.  Different fears than my Mom.  But I live with some fear in my heart.  Maybe I was wired that way from growing up the way I did.

Fear pushes me out the door to work every single day.  Fear isn’t my enemy.  Fear of failure motivates me to succeed.  If I didn’t have fear, I’m not quite sure how I would perform.

I tend to believe businesses and business people who succeed have embraced living with this fear.  They’ve decided to become partners in a way.  Fear is their life coach. I won’t call fear a friend, but I know it’s something I can count on. Rarely a day goes by when we don’t meet for some reason or another.

Here’s what I know from 35 years of sustained profitable success.  Fear isn’t what you believe it to be.  We believe fear can only motivate for short bursts, and then people will fall down in a puddle and be less productive.  That’s a lie.  The unmotivated are selling this version of fear.  Those who don’t want to reach levels they never thought they could, are selling this version of fear.

Fear can create sustainable success, but it might not be as comfortable as you would like it to be.

Riding The School Bus

It’s that time of year when parents and kids make a big decision, to ride or not ride the school bus! From the Project archives.

I read a very funny quote today from a comedian, Jenny Johnson, which she said

“If you rode the school bus as a kid, your parents hated you.”

It made me laugh out loud, for two reasons:

1. I rode the bus or walked or had to arrive at school an hour early because that was when my Dad was leaving and if I wanted a ride that was going to be it.  Nothing like sitting at school talking to the janitor because he was the only other person to arrive an hour before school started.  Luckily for me, he was nice enough to open the doors and not make me stand outside in the cold.  Lucky for my parents he wasn’t a pedophile!

2. My kids now make my wife and I feel like we must be the worst parents in the world in those rare occasions that they have to ride the bus.  I know I’m doing a disservice to my sons by giving them this ride – but I can’t stop it, it’s some American ideal that gets stuck in my head about making my kids life better than my life, and somehow I’ve justified that by giving them a ride to school their life is better than mine!

When I look back it, riding the bus did suck – you usually had to deal with those kids who parents truly did hate them.  Every bully in the world rode the bus – let’s face it their parents weren’t giving them a ride, so you had to deal with that (me being small and red-headed probably had to deal with it more than most).  You also got to learn most of life lessons on the bus – you found out about Santa before everyone else, you found out how babies got made before everyone else, you found out about that innocent kid stuff that makes kids, kids before you probably should have.  But let’s face it, the bus kids were tough – you had to get up earlier, stand out in the cold, get home later and take a beating after the ride home, just so you had something to look forward to the next day!

You know as HR Pros we tend also not to let our employees “ride the bus”.   We always look for an easier way for them to do their work, to balance their work and home, to do as little as possible to get the job done.  In a way, too many of us, are turning our organizations and our employees into the kids who had their Mom’s pick them up from school.  I’m not saying go be hard on your employees – but as a profession we might be better off to be a little less concerned with how comfortable everyone is, and a little more concerned with how well everybody is performing.

Too many HR Pros (and HR shops for that matter) tend to act as “parents” to the employees, not letting them learn from their mistakes, but trying to preempt every mistake before it’s made – either through extensive processes or overly done performance management systems.  We justify this by saying we are just “protecting” our organizations – but in the end we aren’t really making our employees or organizations “tougher” or preparing them to handle the hard times we all must face professionally.  It’ll be alright – they might not like it 100%, but in the end they’ll be better for it.

I was fired for taking a 15 Minute dump

I believe in natural selection.  When the internet when crazy last week because some little known company was only allowing their employees 6 minutes to use the bathroom each day, I didn’t have a strong reaction.  I didn’t care because I know, from experience, companies only do this because they are forced into the position, for some reason or another, or they have horrible leadership. Or, sometimes, both.

This might be the case for Water Saver Faucet Company out of Chicago, but quite honestly, I don’t know. Here’s what we know.  The owner of the company makes his employees swipe in and out of the bathrooms to monitor usage.  Sounds horrific, the internet screamed!  How could anyone do this?! Well, he’s doing it, and in a Teamsters union shop (this could be a post on how far the union has fallen!).

We could argue for days about why this is wrong, but no one wants to argue about why this might be right!

Here’s what we don’t know, but a savvy HR Pro would question before coming to conclusions:

1. Why did he feel the need to install such a system to begin with?

2. How much money is the company losing for excessive bathroom use?

3. Did we try other measures, first, before deciding on this measure?

4. Were employees consulted about this change, before making it?

5. Are we actually breaking any laws by doing this?

6. Are we putting ourselves in a unfavorable recruiting stance, by making this change?

We could go on, and on, but our reality is, there might very well be great reasons to monitor the use of your bathroom facilities at your office.

The company claims they lost 120 hours of productivity in May alone to unscheduled bathroom breaks. In a shop where they already get one 10 minute mid-morning break, a lunch break and a 15 minute afternoon break.  At which time they can use the restrooms as freely as they would like.  The six minutes of bathroom break monitoring is for unscheduled breaks.

This still sounds barbaric for so many of my HR friends.  Many of which have never worked in a union shop.  I have.  I played the union game.  I’ve spent time in the bathroom for long periods with nothing to do, but not wanting to build another pallet or haul more material. So I hid out.  By the way, I was showed how to do this during my union mandated 3 weeks of supervised training, for a job that took me about 30 minutes to learn.  I was showed when to go, where to go, and how much time I could stay without repercussions.  I was also showed where I could go to play cards, smoke, sneak outside to my car, etc.  It was a ‘great’ training program!

Should someone who physically has to use the restroom ever feel like they can’t or they’ll use their job?  Absolutely, not.  Should employees who take advantage of ‘using’ the bathroom to get out of work? Yes.  But that is so hard to prove! So, what do you do?  In this case, leadership decided to limit access.  Will it work? Who knows, but it got the point across to the workforce that someone is watching.



The #1 Technical Recruiting Firm In The World

I’m happy to announce that today that my company, HRU Technical Resources, is the #1 company in the world when it comes to Engineering and IT staffing!  Yay, me! Is that freaking awesome!!!  Wow, unbelievable, I’m so excited.  If you want to work with us, the #1 Technical Recruiting Firm in the World, just give me a call – 517-908-3156!

How’d we get that honor? Um, next question. We are #1!!!

Let’s face it, I’ve known for so long that my company is number one.  It’s pretty easy to see.  I have a rock star team of recruiters who get it at a level that far surpasses everyone else I’ve seen.  I have an Account Management and Biz Dev team that grinds every day, and my back office is full of chicks on mental steroids.  It’s always great when, not only are you recognized as number one, but when you truly deserve it as well.

My company has never gotten a position it couldn’t fill. True story.  Knows how to recruit socially and non-socially.  They literally breakdown walls in recruiting everyday.  I’m glad we decided to finally recognize ourselves for who we really are, the #1 Technical Recruiting Company in the World!

Have you really ever wondered how this stuff is measured?  Sometimes there are third party organizations that claim to be unbiased, but they only exist if those companies they are touting actually pay them some money to keep them in business.  Analyst really aren’t any different.  They do research, but at the end of the day, someone has to sponsor that research, or they can’t pay their bills.

I would say the only true measure of deciding who is better than whom would be if an organization is willing to work with you over your competition, but we know that is bogus.  Time and again I’ve run into companies who are working with #2 companies in our industry because they have a relationship, or they gave me tickets to see Katy Perry, or they drop off bagels the first Monday of every month.  This has nothing to do with who is better.

Sometimes it’s based on total revenue or number of hires, but that to doesn’t make you better, it just shows you’re bigger.  Our industry loves to use revenue as a key to success, then you’ll see staffing and RPO firms who are growing like weeds and losing money.  Is that success?  Well, yes, if you’re goal is to just buy market share.  I’m sorry but I can’t say a company is number one in anything if they’re losing money.

BusinessWeek had an article that helps straighten this all out:

“The organization in charge of policing this dispute and the several dozen like it in the U.S each year is the National Advertising Division. There are laws against publishing misleading advertisements, and in the early 1970s it seemed as if Ralph Nader-style consumer groups would result in more regulations. “There are ticking sounds that we hear in all the pressure groups, congressional hearings and other forums that are meeting to decide our fate,” said Victor Elting Jr., the chairman of the American Advertising Federation, at the time.

So the advertising industry founded the National Advertising Division in 1971. While various federal agencies and state attorneys general have authority to regulate misleading advertising, the division is the way for the industry to handle things before they get to that level. Cases often originate with one company complaining about a competitor’s sketchy claims. NAD holds hearings and asks fibbers to cut it out. While it has no enforcement power, it does have an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission that it will look at any case in which the violator doesn’t change its ways. That threat is usually enough to keep companies in line.”

So, now you know, the NAD will let us know who’s number one.

Until then, I’m still happy to announce we are #1!