In HR (and life) the story that wins becomes the truth!

In HR we hear a lot of stories.

We love to tell ourselves we are hearing the truth from one side and a lie from another side, but the reality is both sides are stories with a little truth and a little lie built-in. We then ‘measure’ who we feel is telling more truth than lie, and that side becomes the full truth.

Throughout history, this plays out. The winners of war decide what the truth is, not the losers. One side is good and righteous, one side is bad and evil. Before the war, both sides were just trying to make it through the day and make their society better. Truth.

We fire someone because they harassed another person. That person is a bad person. The person who got harassed is a victim and is a good person. The problem is, that’s not really reality, is it? Many times the person we fire is actually a pretty good person and the victim is a piece of garbage. But, the winner gets to decide the role they want.

We fire an employee because we are told by their manager that they are not performing well. We trust our manager. We have to it’s what our structure is built on. If we didn’t then what are we really doing? The employee claims they weren’t trained properly, they weren’t given good direction, they were put in a position to fail. You’re fired, you’re a bad employee. You lose, you don’t get to decide the truth.

It’s one major reason why I tend not to really care that a person was fired from a job. The reason probably matters. I don’t want to hire someone who embezzled from their former employer or some other major offense, but if it’s performance, let’s talk. I’m willing to talk because I know there are always two sides to the story. It just happens that this candidate lost their last story, but they might win the next.

It’s important as HR pros and leaders we understand this concept, not just for hiring, but also that we understand most times we don’t deal in complete black and white wins and losses. In HR we deal in the middle, in the gray. Once we make a determination, we are making a determination of ‘win’. We are validating one story over another. We like to tell ourselves and our leadership that this one story is the truth, but it’s really just another version of a story.

So be careful this week as you decide which stories will win and which ones will lose. Truth can be a pretty powerful thing even when it’s just a story.

The Rules for Office Romances

Valentine’s Day is coming up in a couple of weeks. As HR pros we know what this means, which is usually a lot of unwanted advances by horny dudes who think they have a shot at the hot co-worker, who has absolutely no interest in them at all.

Welcome to the show, kids!

I’ve given out some rules in the past. Everyone on the planet has read my Rules for Hugging at the Office, but Office Romances are a little more complicated than the simple side-hug in the hallway. So, I thought I would lay out some easy to follow, simple rules for Office Romances for you to pass out to your employees on Valentine’s Day:

Rule #1 – Don’t fall for someone you supervise. If you do fall for someone you supervise, which you probably will because this is how office romances work. In that case, get ready to quit, be fired, be moved to another department, and or get the person you’re having an office romance with fired, moved, etc.

Rule #2 – Don’t fall for anyone in Payroll. When it ends, so will your paycheck. At least temporarily, and even then it will be filled with errors from now until eternity. It’s a good rule of thumb to never mess with payroll for any reason.

Rule #3 – Don’t mess around in the office, or on office grounds. Look I get it. You’re crazy in love and just can’t wait until you get home. The problem is the security footage never dies. It will live long past your tenure with us, and we’ll laugh for a long time at you. So, please don’t.

Rule #4 – Don’t send explicit emails to each other at work. It’s not that I won’t enjoy reading them, it’s that I get embarrassed when I have to read them aloud to the unemployment judge at your hearing. Okay, I lied, I actually don’t get embarrassed, but you will.

Rule #5 – Don’t pick a married one. Look I get it, you’re the work-spouse. He/She tells you everything. You get so close, you really think it’s real, but it’s not. You’ll actually see this when the real spouse shows up and keys your car in the parking lot.

Rule #6 – Don’t pick someone who has crappy performance. Oh, great, you’re in love! Now I’m firing your boyfriend and you’ll have to pick between him and us, which you’ll pick him, and now I’m out two employees. Pick the great performers, it’s easier for all of us.

Rule #7 – Inform the appropriate parties as soon as possible. Okay, you went to a movie together, not a big deal. Okay, you went to the movie together and woke up in a different bed than your own. It might be time to mention this to someone in HR if there is at anyway a conflict of some sort. If you don’t know if there’s a conflict of some sort, let someone in HR help you out with that.

Rule #8 – If it seems wrong, it probably is.  If you find yourself saying things in your head like, “I’m not sure if this is right”, you probably shouldn’t be having that relationship. If you find yourself saying things like, “If this is wrong, I don’t want to be right”, you definitely shouldn’t be having this relationship.

Rule #9 – If you find yourself hiding your relationship at work, it might be time to talk to HR. We’re all adults, we shouldn’t be hiding normal adult relationships. If you feel the need to hide it, something isn’t normal about it.

Rule #10 – Everyone already knows about your relationship. People having an office romance are the worst at hiding it. You think you’re so sneaky and clever, but we see you stopping at her desk 13,000 times a day ‘asking for help’ on your expense report. We see you. We’re adults. We know what happened when you both went into the stairwell 7 seconds apart. Stop it.

There you go. Hope that helps as you prepare for Valentine’s Day!

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.

I voted for an elderly white man! #YesIDid #vote2020

I’ve written a ton about ageism on my blog. Let’s face it, I’m a 50-year-old white dude. Yeah, I know I love higher 40’s, but still, it is what it is. Ageism is a real problem in hiring. I’ve written often of my support for older workers and them being the most undervalued talent in the marketplace.

That being said, I’m not super excited about hiring a white dude over 70 to be my President. I also wouldn’t be super excited at hiring a black man or woman over 70 to be my President.

Does that make me ageist? Yeah, probably it does! I think it was the broadway musical Avenue Q that said, “we’re all a little bit racist” and I’m saying we’re all a little bit ageist!

Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents, and my grandma and my aunts! They are wonderful dear people! I love spending time with them and explaining things like TikTok and how you don’t have to keep a VCR around any longer. They would do anything for me!

I back the sugar daddies that can grab a girl 40-50 years younger than them, just because they have a ton of money. Wait, no I don’t, that still gross! Like way gross! Stop it!

Being a middle-aged white dude (assuming I live until I’m 100) I was hoping for a selection of candidates that was younger and more diverse. Maybe someone in their 40s! Maybe a female! I don’t know, maybe a Hispanic or Asian! Someone who spoke as I spoke. Someone who viewed the world in a longer-term sense than like I might die before this speech is over.

Call me ageist, if you want. Cancel me. Whatever.

This is our fault. Younger people, like me, are the ones to blame. We allowed this to happen because we don’t get out and vote and say, “Wait, Grandpa, go back home and stop acting like you can run the most powerful country in the free world! We don’t even let you drive long distances any more!” We didn’t show up to vote when it wasn’t the “big” vote. We waited for all the older people, who actually pay attention to this shit, to do the voting, and then we bitch and moan we don’t like the choices!

I think it’s time we just came to the conclusion that, as Americans, we just really like old white dudes! The facts are the facts! The data doesn’t lie! Look, we all have a flavor and apparently, America’s flavor is old, white, and male. Some people get really upset by this, but then go and pick another old white guy. Even Obama, choose an old white buy to be his running mate because he knew the flavor we like. You really think Obama wanted to hang out with Biden!? He could have had someone super cool! He could have had Oprah or Beyonce or Chris Rock, Anyone!

So, go vote for your old white guy today and be happy you were given the flavor you’ve purposely decided you wanted.

 

 

3 Ways You Can Extend the Work Lifecycle of Older Employees

One of the biggest biases we have as leaders is ageism. If you’re 35 years old and running a department and you are looking to fill a position on your team that will be your righthand person, the last thing you’re looking for is a 55-year-old to fill that spot! That’s just me being real for a second.

You and I both know that 35-year-old hiring manager is looking for a 25 – 28 year old to fill that spot

That’s mainly because at 35 you’re still basically stupid. I was. You were. We think 35ish is the pinnacle of all knowledge, but it’s really when we just start learning for real.

So, we have this core issue to deal with in workplaces right now. Our leaders are mostly Millennial and GenX, and Millennials are increasing into these roles at a rapid rate. Because of the Boomers leaving in large amounts, there aren’t enough talented young workers to replace the knowledge gap that is being left. So, we are left grappling with what we think we want (youth) with what really needs (experience!).

A recent study at the University of Minnesota found that employers need to add programs to focus on older workers:

The study argued that programs aimed at training workers won’t be enough to satisfy the state’s need for workers between 2020 and 2030. New policy directives and incentives may be needed, including offering pathways for baby boomers to delay retirement, drawing in workers from other states and supporting immigration from other countries

“There’s all this focus on workforce development, but none of it is guided to older workers,” said Mary Jo Schifsky, whose business, GenSync, advocates for meaningful career pathways for older adults and who helped initiate the study for the Board on Aging with the U’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “We need career pathways for older workers just as much as we do for younger workers.”
 
In the U survey, managers ranked baby boomers high on loyalty, professionalism, engagement, and their commitment to producing quality work.
Employers need to find ways to extend the Work-Life Cycle of the older employees that work for them until the workforce, technology, and retraining programs can catch up to fill the void. Most employers are only focused on programs that are looking at younger workers.
So, what can you do as an employer to extend the life cycle of your older employees?
1.  Have real conversations with older employees about what they want. Most employers shy away from having the ‘retirement’ conversation with older employees because they think it’s embarrassing or illegal. It’s not. It’s a major reality of workforce planning. “Hey, Mary, Happy 55th Birthday, let’s talk about your future!” Oh, you want to work 18 more years! Nice! Let’s talk about a career path!
I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard a hiring manager say, “I don’t want to hire him because he’s 59 and is going to hire soon.” Well, I spoke to him and he wants to work until he’s 70 (11 years) and our average employee tenure is 4.7 years. I think we’re good!
2. Stop, Stop, Stop, believing that all you can do is hire full and part-time FTEs into roles. If Mary, my 63-year-old financial analyst wants to give me five more years of work, but only wants to work three days per week, in role ‘traditionally’ we’ve only had a full-timer, I’m taking Mary for three days! HR owes it to our organizations and hiring manager to push them out of the box when it comes to schedules and how we have always filled positions. 3 days of Mary is probably worth 3 weeks of an entry-level analyst in the same role!
We do this to ourselves. I hear it constantly from hiring managers, “HR won’t allow me to do that.” Why? Have you asked? No, but HR doesn’t allow us to do anything. We need to come to our hiring managers with solutions and let them see we are open to doing whatever it takes to help the organization meet its people’s needs.
3. Develop programs and benefits specifically designed to retain older employees. I work with a plant manager who developed an entire engineering internship program around having his retired engineers come back and work three days a week with interns and paid them ‘on-call’ wages for the days they weren’t there, so interns could call them with questions at any time. These retired engineers loved it! They could come to do some real work, help out, and still have a great balance.
It went so well, he kept some on all year, on-call, and partnered them with younger engineers who needed the same support and assistance from time to time. The on-call rate was pretty inexpensive, the support and knowledge they got in return, was invaluable.
It all comes down to flexibility on our part as employers to extend the life cycle of our older employees. We no longer have this choice where we can just throw our older employees away and think we can easily replace them. We can’t! There physically isn’t anyone there!
This is about using each other’s strengths. Younger leaders will be stretched and we need to help them stretch. We need to help older employees understand their roles. In the end, we need to find a way where we can all see each other for the strengths we bring to the table, not the opportunities.
It’s our job as HR professionals to work on how we can extend the life cycle of each of our employees.

You’re not fired, you’re uninvited!

I’m not terminating anyone ever again.

I can’t terminate anyone, because I don’t hire anyone.  I do invite people to join me.  Join me on this journey, on this path. It’s going to be a great trip.  I invite them to be a part of my family.  Not my ‘work’ family, but my actual family.  I spend more time with my co-workers than I do with my wife and children (in terms of waking hours).  So, when I invite someone to join us, it is not something I take lightly.

That’s why, from now on, I’m not terminating anyone.  From now on, I’m just uninviting them to continue being a part of what we have going on.  Just like a party.  You were invited to attend, but you end up drinking too much and making a fool out of yourself, so now you’re uninvited. You can’t attend the next party.  I don’t know about you, but when I throw a party, I never (and I mean never) invite someone I can’t stand.  Sometimes a couple has issues with this, where one spouse wants to invite his or her friend, but their spouse is a complete tool and it causes issues.

Not in my family, we only invite those people we want to be around, life is too short.

Here’s the deal.  When you invited someone into your family, you usually end up falling in love with them.  It’s that way in business. It’s the main reason we have such a hard time firing on bad performers.  We fall in love with those people we hire.  “Oh, Mary, she’s such a nice person!”  But, Mary, can’t tie her shoes and chew gum at the same time.  So, we give Mary chances, too many chances, and pretty soon Mary is part of the family.  It’s really hard terminating part of the family.

I would rather just not invite Mary to attend work any longer.  “Hey, Mary, we love you, but look, we aren’t going to invite you to work.  We’ll still see you at 5 pm over at the bar for drinks.”  Sounds so much easier, right!?  It happens all the time.  I use to get invited to stuff, but somewhere down the road, the group stopped inviting me.  I might have been a little upset over it, but it didn’t last and I’m still friends with everyone.  Termination is so permanent, it’s like death.

Being uninvited sends the same message, but there’s a part of being uninvited that says “you know what, maybe it was you, maybe it was us, but let’s just face it, together it doesn’t work.”

You’re Uninvited.

Working Outside of Your Time Zone Sucks!

For most of my adult life, I’ve worked mostly in the timezone I lived in. So, when I worked in the mountain or central time zones I lived in those time zones. For the vast majority of my career, I’ve worked in the Eastern time zone. I’m not trying to be time zone conceded, but I think most business people live on EST.

If you ranked the top five most workable time zones, globally, I think most people would have it something like:

  1. EST or GMT-4 (New York, D.C., Boston)
  2. GMT+1 (the UK)
  3. WST or GMT-7 (LA, Seattle, San Fran)
  4. GMT+8 (Singapore)
  5. CST or GMT-5 (Chicago/Houston/DFW)

What do you think? Agree, disagree, don’t care.

For a couple of weeks, I decided to work from home from St. George, UT (GMT-6). My team is all EST, so I was two hours “behind” them. I usually get to work around 7:30 am, which meant text messages, Teams notifications, emails, etc. started around 5:30 am.

I had a choice to make. Sleep and work like a normal person and get going around 8 am “my time” at where I was at, or totally just keep my companies EST working time. I decided to try and live normally in Utah, but it was strange. Being two hours off most of your team means you feel like you’re playing catch up all day, and then they get done around 5 pm and you have two hours with almost no interaction at the end of your day.

With more and more organizations going to work at home “forever” and allowing people to work remotely wherever they want, I see this issue increasing. I know global organizations have been doing this for a long time and for many this is a new concept. You’re right, it’s not new.

It just sucks!

I’m sure you get used to scheduling meetings in the middle of the day so it works for everyone or working late into the evening or early morning for those leaders with teams on the opposite side of the world, but when the majority of your team is in one timezone and you are in another, it’s easy to feel like you’re missing out.

It’s probably more difficult for those who have worked in one timezone and then move to another, versus all of those people that worked in a different timezone since the beginning. If it’s all you know, it’s all you know.

So, I’m wondering. How do you cope with living and working in a different timezone than the majority of your team? How do you stay connected and not feel like you’ve missed out? Hit me in the comments with your strategies.

Are you a “People Person”?

I was listening to an executive the other day talk about what he needed in an employee. Of course, there were the job skills and competencies, formal education was one, and then that magical phrase came, “Oh, and the candidates better be a ‘people person’!”

A People Person.

What the living hell does that even mean?

A People Person: A person who enjoys and is particularly good at interacting with others. 

Oh, so like a normal person who isn’t an asshole?

The skill of being “A People Person” might be the most over-valued skill of all time. And not because it’s not important, not one wants you to hire an asshole, but because have you ever met someone who when asked said, “You know, I’m just not A People Person!” No! You haven’t! Everyone, from the beginning of time, says they are A People Person!

The reality is, we ask for it because we know the truth, most people don’t enjoy interacting with others. We put up with idiots we run into every day, some of us are better at than others, no profession really does better than another.

In HR, we like to say, “We the People Person People”, but I find it’s actually the opposite. Most HR pros I run into might have the worst People Person skills, but they are paid to do a job, so put on the act fairly well. Once in a while, you find that true kind soul who seems, almost naively, to get along with everyone. “Oh that Mark, he’s a stinker, but you know he once opened a door for me, he’s good people!” Those people might be only real people persons in the world.

I’ve been labeled A People Person in my career. The reality is I’m an inch deep and a mile wide in terms of my interest, so I just have a skill of finding those few things I have in common with people I meet, so conversation comes easy for me when I meet new people. But, I dislike people at the same rate as others. I would consider myself as much of an asshole as most people, I might just hide it better at the right times.

Maybe that’s the true real skill of A People Person. Not being an asshole at the wrong time. Or at least limiting those times you’re an asshole.

Here’s the thing: The next time you hear someone say or ask for A People Person, just smile and chuckle a bit on the inside, because what they are really saying is “I just want someone who isn’t that much of an asshole” but saying “A People Person” sounds so much more professional!

 

A 30-Minute Commute is All Most People Are Willing to Take!

We all kind of know this fact. Once you get more than 30 minutes away from your job, no matter how you actually come into work, it starts to feel like a chore. You begin to hate the commute. Doesn’t matter if you drive, take a train, walk, etc. 30 minutes, one-way, is our max!

It’s called Marchetti’s Constant: 

Marchetti’s constant is the average time spent by a person for commuting each day, which is approximately one hour. It is named after Italian physicist Cesare Marchetti, though Marchetti himself attributed the “one hour” finding to transportation analyst and engineer Yacov Zahavi.[1] Marchetti posits that although forms of urban planning and transport may change, and although some live in villages and others in cities, people gradually adjust their lives to their conditions (including the location of their homes relative to their workplace) such that the average travel time stays approximately constant.

I can’t tell you how many times, as a Recruiter, I was talked into believing this wasn’t true by a candidate that then screwed me by ghosting on an interview after driving to the location and seeing it was too long, declining an offer late, started the job but then quickly left because the commute was too long, or we had to over-compensate to make up for the time the person spent on the commute.

Probably one out of one hundred people can actually take a longer commute and live with it. 99% of people will eventually crack if the commute is over thirty minutes. So, what does this mean for us trying to attract talent to our organizations? There are certain locations in the U.S. that are much easier to have a thirty-minute commute than others:

On average, large metro areas with the shortage commute time:

  1. Grand Rapids, MI
  2. Rochester, NY
  3. Buffalo, NY
  4. Oklahoma City, OK
  5. Salt Lake City, UT
  6. Kansas City, MO
  7. Milwaukee, WI
  8. Louisville, KY
  9. Hartford, CT
  10. Memphis, TN

All of these metro areas have the majority of their citizens with a commute time under 30 minutes.

Who have the worst commute times? Think about the largest metro areas, even when you take into account their transit options: New York, San Francisco, D.C., Philly, Boston, Seattle, Chicago, etc.

So, it’s thirty minutes one-way or one hour per day, or five hours per week that the average person is willing to commute. I wonder if this plays itself out when you begin to factor in work from home options?

Let’s say you ask someone to commute one hour each way, two hours per day, but you let them work from home two days per week. Total commute time is still more at six hours per week, but would that make a difference enough to retrain and attract more talent to your organization? I have a feeling it would. It’s worth a test for those who have longer commutes at your work location.

Also, I have seen this done by any company, but I would love to see turnover data by commute time! I have seen data on hourly worker turnover and it’s amazing to see the differences by miles from a worksite in a radiant pattern. Every mile you get farther from the work site, the turnover increases exponentially until you get to about five miles where it skyrockets. So, we know if you hire hourly, low-skilled workers, your best bet for retention is less than five miles from your location (this also is about a 15-minute commute – car, public, walking, bike, etc.).

So often we want to focus on the stuff we control, versus stuff the candidate or employee can control, but we think it’s ‘their’ decision. The problem is, we allow people to make bad decisions and don’t think it will affect us, but it does in high turnover. All things being equal, or close to equal with candidates, take the one with the shorter total commute!

What’s the Secret to a Great Marriage? The Sackett Rules!

I’m on vacation this week with my wife. It’s our 27th wedding anniversary. Yes, it was a child marriage, don’t judge us. When I tell people I’ve been married 27 years I frequently get “the question”! So, tell us, what’s the secret to a great marriage!?

I like to answer that very straight forward, and while staring at the opposite spouse or partner who asked the question, I say directly into their eyes:

“Great sex!” 

Their immediate reaction to that answer tells me everything I need to know about their relationship.

Kidding! I don’t do that, but I should! That would be fun, but I think most HR ladies would be offended because they aren’t having great sex! 😉

Okay, why has my marriage lasted 27 years in no particular order:

– My wife holds it all together and has made me a million times better person than I would without her.

– My wife is exceptional at managing home finances, which has made our life a million times easier because we have very few disagreements over money. I let her buy anything she wants, and she takes an extremely long time to make up her mind on what to buy. It works!

– I put my wife first, in front of my kids, my family, my friends, my work, and well, maybe not my dog. I’ve told my three boys since they were little, I can make another one of you, I can not make another one of your Mom. (Honestly, I’m not perfect at this – sometimes any of these others get pushed ahead of my wife, but she knows, push comes to shove, whose team I’m on!)

– We have separate passions that we are free to explore, but we also have things we love to do together. I love to fish and golf, she doesn’t. She loves photography and scrapbooking, I don’t. We love to go to movies and to shop. You need alone time and you need together time. All of either doesn’t work.

– I’m a child of divorce, my wife is not. She had to fight like hell to get my head around just because you have a fight or don’t see eye to eye on something doesn’t mean you just walk away. Marriage isn’t easy, but it also shouldn’t be hard.

– My crazy fits her crazy. She constantly will say, “Do you think other people talk like this to each other!?” G*d I hope not for the sake of the world! My humor can be a bit dark, and while she is not that way, I think she secretly likes it.

– I agreed to never write about her on my blog. Okay, to be fair, when we got married I didn’t have a blog! So, just understand that you’ll constantly be renegotiating what you can and can’t do in marriage until you die!

What are your secrets to a great marriage?