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!”

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!

7 Things Dudes Need for their Remote Office

Ladies, you do not need to read this post! You were actually born to put together a remote office. You might even have a Pinterest dream board for the perfect office. Most dudes, suck at this! They are still sitting, hunched over at their card-table, kitchen table they bought at Costco with the four folding chairs, or on the couch.

Sure, we (dudes) probably have a better WiFi connection than you do. That is the extent of our remote office ability. Great WiFi.

But, I’ve been told by many prominent women in my life that I kind of act like a chic, a lot. Many of my good friends are actual women! I have a good eye for interior design, and I think a great space can make you more productive.

BUT, the dude in me also knows this can’t take a lot of time or effort, because us dudes have other more important things to do, like run wifi speed tests to find out why our other dude friends somehow have faster upload speeds than we do!

Here are the 7 Things Dudes Need for their Remote Office (will not include any technology suggestions as that is for the 7 Things Chics need in their Remote Office):

1. Sturdy, Minimalist Desk. I like L-shape, but your space might not be big enough. Essentially, you need something to sit your computer, extra monitors, and stuff on.

2. An Office Chair that costs more than $99. Look the chair you had in the cube at work probably cost $399+. If you’re going to sit in something for over 1,000 hours per year, make sure it’s good and comfortable, for a long time! Plan on $400+ and think Steelcase, Herman Miller, etc. Don’t skip on a great chair! “Looks cool!” isn’t a great trait of a remote office chair.

3. Front Lighting. Sure it looks great to have a window as your backdrop, but it sucks as a functional workspace because every time you are on a video call you get washed out! So, you either have to have a big ring light staring you in the face, or have the window in front of you and let all that natural light make you look great!

4. Head Phone Stand. We (dudes) spend a lot on our headphones, don’t screw up that investment by continually throwing them on the desk every time you get up. Plus, when you leave your desk for the day/evening, it just looks nice!

5. Some Succulents. Some succ-a-what!? Now, my pod-partner Jessica Lee, is love with some sort of rubber tree plant. That’s cool, but maybe too big for a nice desk plant or two! Also, you’re a dude, you will kill real plants, so these are ones that will look great no matter what!

6. Cable Management. I know you don’t care that you have 7 things plugged into three extension cords that are snaking all over your office space, but it looks terrible! Also, a messing space makes you unproductive. Let’s tighten it up!

7. Artwork – Again, this must be strategically positioned so that people can see it. Now, let’s talk about limits. Sure, you can have a Star Wars print, but it better be retro and it better be framed! Another option is great landscape photos of mountain ranges or lakes, etc. You can even go pop culture, just make sure it makes a statement. If you’re questioning your decision, have a friend, who is female, who you think is a neat freak take a look, first! Go big, 36×24, or even bigger depending on your space, no one wants to see some 12X10″ framed photo all by itself on the wall. I’m looking at ordering this print for my office right now – iconic! Check out Etsy for some great prints and prices.

 

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!

At what age should you retire?

We tend to believe retirement is an age thing. Well, once you turn 65, it’s time to retire! Do you know where ’65’ actually came from? Most HR pros will probably guess it, it’s when America instituted social security insurance back in 1935.

The U.S. Government, in 1935, didn’t even use any science to determine 65 years old.  At the time, the national railroad pension retirement age was 65, and about half the state pensions were the same (the other half were 70), so 65 years old was chosen. Way less red tape back in 1935! Can you imagine the government trying to make that decision today!?

So, you turn 65 and you’re supposed to retire. In 1935, that probably was fairly accurate. The actual life expectancy in 1935 was only 61! So, we built social security knowing most people would not live to receive it. Today, life expectancy is around 79 years old!  As you can imagine, 65 years old is no longer a realistic retirement age.

I’m currently 50 years old.  It’s my belief that I have about 20 years left to work and save for my retirement. I’m assuming I’ll work until I’m at least 70.  70 years old today doesn’t seem like 70 years old when I was a kid.  My parents are now in their 70’s and they don’t seem ‘old’. I mean they’re old, but not like they can’t do anything old.  Both could still easily work and produce great work if they wanted to.

All of this should change how we look at succession planning in our organizations, but we still use 65 as the ‘expiration’ date of when someone no longer seems to have value. “Oh, you know Tim, he’s going to be 65 next year, I’m amazed he can still stay awake all day!”

65 in 2020 is not the same 65 we saw in 1935!  The health and physical wellbeing of those two people are worlds apart!

Succession Planning needs to catch up with this difference.  HR needs to lead this charge.  Part of this change starts with us changing the language and numbers we use when describing retirement.  Regular retirement age needs to start at 70 years old, at a minimum, and move up from there.  We need to eliminate 65 years old from everything we write and speak.  It’s just no longer valid or accurate.

Once we push this date out, we can then start to plan much more accurately to what our organizational needs will truly be.  Next, we need to have frank conversations with those who we believe are reaching an age where they want to retire and have real conversations.  HR pros have been failing at this for years!  It’s actually not against the law to ask an employee what their retirement plan is! It should be against the law that you don’t ask this question!

If an employee knows that you are working with them to reach their goals, and you let that employee know that ‘hey, we need you for another five years’, most will actually happily stay on the additional time.  My Dad worked in a professional job until he was 72, and they wanted him longer! Don’t ever underestimate the power of being wanted. As we age, that desire to be wanted just increases!

So, I’ll ask you. At what age do you think someone should retire?

Tomorrow I’m Talking for 9 Minutes! Check it Out! #InnovateWork #FindGreatness

My buddy, Chris Bailey, from the Cayman Islands called me and said, “Hey, I’m helping out with this HR thing called InnovateWork. Will you come on the event and do a talk?” I ask, “How long?” He says, “9 minutes.” I say, “9 minutes! I can definitely talk for 9 minutes!”

The event is Tuesday, November 10th at 1 pm ET. You can register here, the entire event takes like an hour or so – besides my 9-minute talk, you can also see Chris, our friend William Tincup, Simmone L. Bowe from the Bahamas, and Dr. Cassida Jones Johnson from Jamaica

Also, hosting the event are some more friends, Julie Turney, Bill Banham, Rob Catalano (Bill and Rob co-Founded InnovateWork).

What will I be talking about for 9 minutes? 

Great question, but I have a way that I think we can discover who is great in your organization! Yep, in 9 minutes I’m going to teach every single person on the webcast how they can discover who is great in your organization No technology needed. I’m not selling anything. Well, I’m selling you a great idea and an exercise that your leadership teams will love!

In 9 minutes I’m going to actually walk you through the exercise that you can then take back to your own organization and use! It’s simple but powerful, I’ve literally done this in organizations and had people crying!

Come check it out! It’s an hour or so out of your week, and I guarantee you it will be worth it!

REGISTER HERE! 

Does Your Average Employee Tenure Matter? (New Data!)

I keep getting told by folks who tend to know way more than me that employees ‘today’ don’t care about staying at a company long term. “Tim you just don’t get it, the younger workforce just wants to spend one to three years at a job than leave for something new and different.” You’re right! I don’t get it.

BLS recently released survey data showing that the average employee tenure is sitting around 4.1 years.  Which speaks to my smart friends who love to keep replacing talent. I still don’t buy this fact as meaning people don’t want long term employment with one organization.

Here’s what I know about high tenured individuals:

1. People who stay long term with a company tend to make more money over their careers.

2. People who stay long term with a company tend to reach the highest level of promotion.

3. People who tend to stay long term with a company tend to have higher career satisfaction.

I don’t have a survey on this. I have twenty years of working in the trenches of HR and witnessing this firsthand. The new CEO hire from outside the company gets all the press, but it actually rarely happens. Most companies promote from within because they have trust in the performance of a long-term, dedicated employee, over an unknown from the outside. Most organizations pick the known over the unknown.

I still believe tenure matters a great deal to the leadership of most organizations.  I believe that a younger workforce still wants to find a great company where they can build a career, but we keep telling them that is unrealistic in today’s world.

Career ADHD is something we’ve made up to help us explain to our executives why we can no longer retain our employees.  Retention is hard work. It has a real, lasting impact on the health and well-being of a company. There are real academic studies that show the organizations with the highest tenure, outperform those organizations with lower tenure.  (here, here, and here)

Employee tenure is important and it matters a great deal to the success of your organization. If you’re telling yourself and your leadership that it doesn’t, that it’s just ‘kids’ today, we can’t do anything about it, you’re doing your organization a disservice. You can do something about it. Employee retention, at all levels, should be the number 1, 2, and 3 top priorities of your HR shop.

Why do we suck so much?

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

Timmy is a bad performer. Why?

He doesn’t follow through on anything. Why?

It seems like he gets things started well and then moves onto other things before the first thing is finished. Why?

He likes the energy of starting new projects. Why?

He thinks if he’s on the front side of the project, he’ll have more influence in the direction the project is going. Why?

Because that has been his experience with our organization.

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

I don’t know if you have to use to 5 whys each time, I do think you have to ask at least 3 whys to get past the emotion of any decision.  We tend to make most decisions with some element of emotion.  Getting to the third why will get the emotion out in the open.  That is important in any decision-making process.

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

“We need to change our hiring process!”

Why?

“We have had 3 consecutive failed hires.”

Why?

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

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

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

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

 

Could Employee Data Portability be the Future of Employment?

Do you remember when cell phones first came out? If you were with Verizon and you wanted to switch to Sprint, you actually had to change phone numbers! Think about how that would impact your world today. We switch from company to company, go-between social apps all day long, never worrying that our “profile” our data, won’t follow us.

In the mid-2000s the FCC finally made the determination that we should be able to move our phone number from one carrier to the next. Our phone number was part of our personal data. It’s how people recognized us.

Now, think about how our jobs are similar to our phone number, in terms of data.

You go and work at company A. You do a great job. You want to use that great work to get a new job at company B, but company A is restricted from telling company B anything about you, besides maybe some dates of employment.

What if we had a full digital file of everything we did at company A. Our performance records. Our training and development records. Maybe even records of peer reviews, etc. Exactly which jobs you held and what you did.

Do you think that would help you get that next job?

For most, it would help a bunch. If you sucked it might hurt your chances, but hey, you sucked, get better at your current job and turn it around!

Workday has been working on making employee data portable between Workday customers. That is close, and it’s definitely a step in the right direction, but so far you can’t take your Workday record and take it to a competitor HCM solution like Oracle or SAP. But, if you worked at three Workday HCM shops in a row, theoretically they are putting into place the ability for you to make your employment data portable.

That’s really cool! Because one of the biggest issues we face as candidates and as employers is truly knowing what someone has done previously, and letting a potential future employee know what we have actually done. Unfortunately, way too many people flat out lie on their resume/application/LinkedIn profile, that it’s hard to take any of those things as concrete proof of work.

I actually really like the idea of employee data portability. We allow employees to have a copy of their employee file, but so often, there isn’t really any substance in those files to help an employee get their next job. I also, get that if you had a negative job experience, you might not want that, but let’s face it, most people have some negative job experiences along the way, and I think all of that would come out in the wash.

We are the collective of our experiences, not just our most recent experience. As a hiring manager, I’m looking for trends and growth, understanding an individual might have made a bad job choice that didn’t fit well, and that might pop out. But, I also like the fact that if someone is truly a bad apple, that will also pop out.

We are all quickly becoming portable data sets. Facebook, Instagram, Snap, TikTok, Twitter, etc. already know this. Most consumer marketing pros already know this. Employer technology tends to lag behind, but I think we are all headed down a path where one day getting hired will be less about your resume or profile, and more about your complete data set you can show an employer with a simple click.