The UAW is making its last stand, but really it’s already dead!

I’ve never been a fan of unions. I grew up with many grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and parents who belonged to unions. One of my first jobs forced me to join a union and pay dues. Since I was “summer help,” I had to pay full union dues, but I got no protections or benefits from the union. I was told that specifically. I was then repeatedly threatened by union members to slow down my work, even though I was struggling to barely keep up with what was expected.

In Michigan, you are surrounded by organized labor, mostly UAW. Generations are raised only knowing two sides: labor and management. Kind of reminds you of a two-party system in politics, almost like the two are working together to keep everyone in line!

The reality is that we once lived in a time when companies took advantage of workers and did horrible things—locked workers in unsafe working environments. Paid low wages, one could barely survive. Unions had a time and place when they protected workers. Unions no longer do that. Labor is too competitive. The Big 3 vehicle companies now struggle to hire hourly workers. They are getting their lunch handed to them by foreign manufacturers and Tesla.

Union membership is at an all-time low, and it continues to decrease and will decrease because Unions have reached the point where they no longer make companies competitive. In fact, they work in the exact opposite direction. They work to make corporations as least competitive as they can make them without going under, and in many cases, they put them under.

We used to have strikes when companies treated workers like shit. Unions then began to realize strikes aren’t good for business, which is why you barely see them happen anymore. You cost millions, if not billions of dollars, to the companies you are supposed to be partnering with, and that makes the next negotiation really hard. Kind of hard to negotiate for more when there isn’t more.

The UAW knows this, but when you have union leaders who are constantly stealing union dues and doing other bad stuff, you have to take the focus off of your own bad deeds and do something spectacularly stupid, like striking an industry that is going through a major transformation.

But Tim! These CEOs are making millions of dollars per year!

Yep. They are. Do I think that’s right? In some cases, maybe. In most cases, no way. It’s outrageous. Two wrongs don’t make a right, my grandma always said.

We tend to forget that a hundred years ago, when you worked until you were 65, if you lived that long, a company could afford to pay you a generous retirement because if you did make it to retirement, you were most likely dead soon after. That’s a reality. Today, if you retire after thirty years of working an hourly job, you’ll probably live another thirty. Hello, Teacher’s Unions have entered the chat…

Organizations. Companies. Society. Can not survive on that math. It turns upside down where you know 80 cents of every school budgeted dollar going to pay for retirement and benefits of teachers and not educating kids.

What’s the solution? Hell, if I know, but it’s not continuing down this path, thinking that it’s all just magically going to work out in the end. News Flash – it won’t. It ends in bankruptcy. The UAW will eventually bankrupt the Big 3, and all those members and former members who are getting benefits will be high left and dry. I know this because this cycle continues to repeat itself with unions. This is why unions are dying across the world. The system doesn’t work.

The UAW is the walking dead at this point. They fail to realize that the entire auto industry is going through fundamental change, and because these companies have seen record profits, they feel like it’s time for them to get some, which I can understand the desire for. But getting what they are asking for now will hasten the inevitable.

Unions, at one point, could claim they have the most productive and best-trained workers. They can no longer claim this and haven’t been able to in a long time. Now, all they can claim is they have the most entitled workers. I don’t blame the workers. They’ve been taught this by a corrupt complex of people who got rich off their labor. No, not management and CEOs, but their own union leadership.

At some point, the strike will stop. The UAW will claim victory. The truth is they are a dying vestige of time long gone. Because of demographics, workers have the power and will continue to have the power for a long time. Younger generations don’t believe they need older people to represent their best interests for a portion of their wages. That concept seems silly to them. Why give someone else your money when you have the power?

I’m Back!!!

Some of you might have noticed it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I was writing my second book, The Talent Fix, Vol. 2! The new book should be released in April 2024, and the plan is to launch it at the SHRM Talent Conference in Las Vegas!

Last week, I was in Nashville at RecFest USA – the first time RecFest has come to America. RecFest is a large outdoor recruiting festival, and it’s such a fun and interactive event. I can’t wait for next year’s event, and I’ll definitely be taking my full team to Nashville to experience RecFest!

What was the tea coming out of RecFest?

  • Recruiters and Recruiting leaders out of work – This was a little strange for me to hear because in reality, this is very industry-specific. The tech industry has gotten hit hard with layoffs, and TA teams are some of the first to go. At the same time, many of those companies had TA teams that were way too big for the hiring they were doing. So, some of this is simple right-sizing. The problem is, you had recruiters making $150-$200K, and they honestly believe they are worth that much. They aren’t. The downturn is hard on people who were making monopoly money and not really performing at that level.
  • AI was all the talk, but it was mostly talk. My friend Matt Charney says roughly 69% of TA teams currently do not have AI in their recruiting tech stack. I think some of their vendors would disagree with this as most vendors are utilizing machine learning, but the tech nerds would argue this isn’t really AI! AI will transform how we recruit talent, but this will be an evolution that will take years, and most of the true AI will be buried in your tech in a way you won’t even notice most of the tactical pieces of recruiting going away until one day you wake up and we no longer do tactical work in recruiting.
  • There’s a major Candidate and Employer Disconnect. I ran across a GenZ/Millennial candidate panel, and it was laughable listening to it. Candidates complain that they get ghosted and don’t get great feedback. They also are unapologetic about applying for 300 positions in 30 minutes. TA pros complain about being ghosted and do not understand why candidates don’t reply to their spam emails. The Talent Board still shows that 47% of candidates still don’t even get dispositioned for the positions they apply for. Both sides feel wronged, and neither side is willing to take any responsibility for the behaviors. All this means is that the candidates who act professional and the TA pros who act professional will stand out and be rare in today’s world.
  • There is still a lot of talk about DEI, but the talk is changing. If we are honest with each other, the entire DEI talk began as simply we need more black faces in our organization. That started probably twenty years ago. Since then, the world has changed a bunch, and the conversation amongst HR and TA pros has evolved, but in reality, most of the C-suite still sees this as counting faces. The faces might have expanded to include more, but we still are stuck in so many areas. We still are not willing to use data around DEI and have real conversations about what is possible and what is just posturing.
  • Everyone is a unique and special butterfly. Which, for all intents and purposes, makes no one unique and special. We now have Trans Recruiters and Nero-divergent Recruiters and Furry Recruiters and fill in the blank of whatever you are recruiter. If you are a Gay Recruiter today, sorry, you’re just a recruiter! Oh wait, that’s right, we are all just recruiters! Honestly, the next evolution is this will be my AI telling me what kind of recruiter they are! Just fucking recruit! Okay, I say this, but honestly, this is also the solution to more inclusive recruiting. Want more female engineers? Hire females to recruit engineers. Want more Black Sales Reps? Hire Black Recruiters to recruit your sales reps. Want more military hires? Hire former military professionals and teach them how to recruit. We aren’t launching spy balloons, people. This isn’t that hard!
  • Technology recruiting vendors are currently struggling to make their numbers. So, why should you care? I love to get a bargain, and right now you can get a bargain! If you’re super smart, you’ll sign a multi-year contract and lock that bargain in for when it will no longer be a bargain! Right now, you have some major negotiating power if you are in the market for technology or if you’re getting pushed to sign your next contract. Vendors are super competitive with their pricing at this moment.

That’s what I got today.

Moving forward for the rest of the year, I’m going to be hitting the reviews and updates hard on the recruiting technology market. There’s a lot of stuff being developed and the space is moving really fast again with AI development, so my hope is I can help keep you all informed on what’s new and hot and worth your money!

Welcome back!

The #1 Trend in HR, in the world, is the Hiring Crisis!

For many of us, it probably feels like we’ve been in a staffing crisis for half a decade. Before the pandemic, it was very hard to hire and then the pandemic, in many ways, made it even more difficult. The reality, though, is the current US staffing crisis is hitting employers unevenly.

Prior to 2019-2020, the staffing crisis was thought to be in the technology space, primarily. But if you are in healthcare, trucking, or skilled trades hiring you also felt that crisis in a big way. Today, technology doesn’t seem like it’s in a crisis, but it’s still hard to hire great tech talent. Healthcare is still hurting, no one can find teachers, local, state, and federal government can’t hire, the military is having massive trouble hiring civilians, and hospitality and dining are getting killed.

It’s 2023 and we have a massive hiring crisis that most non-HR and Talent pros don’t understand because the media doesn’t talk about the reality. If it bleeds, it leads, so let’s talk about MASSIVE LAYOFFS! In reality, layoffs are at a predictable historical amount as compared to other years. We don’t have a layoff problem, we have certain industries that overhired for years using free money and banker came calling.

I did a webcast a few weeks ago on my mid-year HR trends. My friends, Madeline Laurano and Kyle Lagunas, are doing their mid-year trend webinar today. Neither of us talked about a trend being a hiring crisis! Why?

A crisis is something that is short-term in nature. We’ll find a solution and we’ll solve our crisis. Our hiring issues are not short-term in nature. Hiring was hard. It’s getting harder. It will continue to get harder. It will ultimately cost our economy because we don’t have enough workers. Politicians don’t care. They don’t care because they love having 9 million open jobs. You know what a politician doesn’t want to see, no jobs open! Those politicians, regardless of party, lose their re-election.

There is no end in sight to how hard it is to hire great talent!

Our demographics are working against us. We are not making enough humans to replace the workers we are losing. There are only 3 potential solutions that I can think of:

1 – Make more babies! Like, start paying your employees to go home and have sex and make babies! Heck let them have sex in the stairwells like they did at Uber! Uber got crushed for what might be the best replacement strategy of all time. I’m only partly joking. Our younger workers are not having enough babies and it’s mostly because of how expensive it is.

2- Immigration reform! This is another tough one because neither Democrats nor GOP want to tackle this. It’s a lose-lose situation. But we need many more skilled and unskilled immigrants let into this country! We need this changed today. We need our CEOs of companies to rattle politicians’ cages and start putting money toward those politicians who will actually do something.

3 – Technology/Automation/Robots! This is already happening in the natural course of things. We hear how AI will kill us and save us every day. What we need it to do is make one human into 2 or 3 humans. The promise of 10X humans is a great story, but I’ll take a 2X human first!

There will be winners and losers in this crisis.

Some organizations will take a victors mentality to this fight and find ways to attract and hire more talent. They build better hiring machines. They’ll lay out a better vision for their employees who will stay longer and work harder. They experiment more in delivering the experiences that both candidates and employees desire.

If you’re in HR and TA right now you need to make one thing very clear to your organization. There is a big problem in our world. There isn’t enough talent to go around. Our battle is to get our fair share of talent and hang on to the talent we have. That is the only battle we care about. That is the only “trend” that matters.

The Reason You Got Ghosted by a Candidate!

Yesterday I answered a question from a candidate about why an employer ghosted them after their interview. Many readers were upset because they were also getting ghosted by candidates. In fact, like all the time, way more than then they would ever ghost a candidate. Oh, two wrongs do make a right!

All ghosting is sh*tty behavior by candidates and by those of us who hire. Period.

The reality is that this is hard to admit, and as a professional, we own a portion of the candidate ghosting. Are candidates awful for doing it in the first place? Yes. I will not let them off the hook. But I also only control what I can control, and that is my process, behaviors, etc.

Why are candidates ghosting us?

1. We are moving too fast. Wait, what?! We are told to move fast because that’s what candidates want!? Yes, but when you move so fast, the candidates don’t really know you (your company and you personally), the job, the boss, or the reasons why they should come and interview. It all doesn’t seem real. So, it becomes easy to just not show up. (Que Taylor Swift – We need to slow down!)

2. We aren’t giving candidates a way to easily tell us they moved on with another offer. Hourly candidates, especially, are moving fast and have multiple offers. You might have scheduled them for an interview later in the week, but they have already decided to go with another offer. While we gave them instructions on where to go and when we could have made it easier for them to opt out. Many organizations are using auto-scheduling tools like Paradox, which sends reminders and lets candidates choose to reschedule or cancel via text. Those organizations get significantly less ghosting!

3. We believe that once a candidate schedules an interview, our job is done. The most powerful human emotion in existence is being wanted by others. Candidates come to you for a number of reasons, all of which they can most likely get from someone else as well. But, you showing them more desirable than someone else is a key to great talent attraction. You still need to do that with your messaging even after the interview is scheduled.

4. We allow it to happen without any ramifications. (Okay, this might be a bit aggressive!) What if, every time a candidate ghosted you for an interview, you posted their picture and details on social media!? Yikes! Right?! “This is Tim Sackett, a cute redhead. He ghosted us for an interview yesterday at 3 pm. If you see him, tell him we are thinking about him!” Do you think it would get noticed? Heck, yes, it would!

5. We are making it too easy for candidates to interview. This is a catch-22. We need talent, so we reduce every roadblock possible for candidates. It’s so easy. Most don’t care if they burn the bridge or not. That is truly why employee referrals are so valuable for most employers. Referrals are far less likely to burn a bridge. That might be a trick to use. Ask a candidate: Do you know anyone at our company? Begin to tie the personal connection back to them, and they will be far less likely to ghost. Also, make it super hard to get an interview, and people will hold it as a higher value! “Only 1% of people who apply to our company ever get an interview! it’s a rare thing we offer to only the top candidates.” If you knew that was the case, you would show up for that interview!

I think most of the candidate ghosting is truly reflective of the poor morals and values of the people who are doing it. You made a commitment to someone. You keep that commitment, or at the “very” least, you inform that person you will no longer be able to keep that commitment. It’s a pretty basic human condition. Those who ghost probably had crappy parents and mentors in their life who didn’t teach them the basics. I’ve never once spoken to or met an upstanding individual who thought highly of themselves that would ghost. High-quality people don’t ghost. Low-quality people do.

People don’t like to hear that. They want to talk about circumstances and bad employers, etc. The reality is high-quality people will contact someone and let them know they no longer want to be considered, regardless of how crappy the employer may or may not be. Low-quality people just don’t show up. Don’t hate the player. Hate the game. I’m just telling you the truth. You already know.

If you’re an employer and you ghost candidates after interviews – You (not your organization). You, personally, are of low quality, just like the candidates who ghost you. I don’t like to hire low-quality people. But I also want to give every opportunity for a low-quality person to become a high-quality person.

A 30-Minute Commute is all Most Employees Are Willing to Make

We all kind of know this fact. Once you get more than 30 minutes away from your job, no matter how you actually come to 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 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 who 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 has 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!

Do People Really Want to Work? (Rants from GenX!)

On my way to work this morning, I saw seven businesses that had “Help Wanted” signs out front. The sign above is from a fast-food restaurant requesting you be nice to the few staff they have that are working their butts off to get you fat! Please be patient. Your fries, double cheeseburger, and shake will be with you shortly.

I was in Las Vegas last week for the SHRM Annual Conference. 25,000 HR professionals. It was giant. I spoke to hundreds of HR leaders and pros. Every. Single. One. of the HR professionals I met was having pain trying to hire and retain talent.

Do People Really Not Want To Work? 

1st – Of Course, People Don’t Want To Work!?! How stupid is this question!? (Wait, so let me get this straight, I don’t have to work? And I’ll get money? And I don’t have to pay rent? Okay, I’m not gonna work.)

2nd – Read #1.

3rd – If you give anyone a choice not to work but still get their bills paid, they will not work! This is what is currently taking place in this great country of ours. Some folks are making more not working than they were working. So, none of this is surprising!

The surprising part is politicians seem to be the only people alive in America who don’t understand that businesses can’t get people to come to work right now. Unemployment is still at historically low numbers, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon. Demographics are working against us, and we are losing people faster than we can replace them at a macro level.

We have a government, both sides, that can’t figure out better immigration policy, while we are surpassed by other rich countries who are now being super aggressive in the talent game. Both Dems and the GOP are lost when it comes to immigration. We need workers!

No, Really!? Do People Not Want To Work? 

Here’s my take:

People want to do things that make them feel valued. Things that make them feel satisfied. Where they have some freedom of choice, and at the end of the day, they feel safe, secure, and that they matter.

The vast majority of jobs from $10/hr to $20/hr can’t meet those basic needs. That doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t have those jobs. We should. It’s just complex to try to sell someone in that level of job they are truly valued.

If anyone of us was given the choice to not work and have our basic needs met, even for a short period of time (like what happened with the Stimulus package during Covid), most would take it and do things they would rather be doing. Some will help others and volunteer. Some will take time for themselves. Some will actually do nothing and just wait until the time comes around when they have to go back to work to meet their basic needs.

So, basically, if you are hurting for workers and you pay below $20/hr, you are going to be in a world of hurt for a long time. We don’t have enough humans to do no-skill, low-skill work in the U.S., and ChaptGPT isn’t doing those jobs, either!

What Can You Do To Get More Workers? 

First, do everything in your power to keep the workers you have. Be kind. Be helpful. Be understanding. If they are overworked, be empathetic and try to do what you can to help them and their quality of life. Do anything possible to give them some flexibility! Besides more money, it’s the one thing they want, and most people who make less than $20/hr never get the option of flexibility in their work. So, even small options are helpful.

Second, don’t give new employees stuff you won’t give your current employees. I see this constantly. Oh! Hey, come work for us, and we’ll give you a $500 signing bonus! But you won’t give your current employees a $500 retention or Hard Work bonus. Great talent attraction is about keeping your great talent first.

Third, stop thinking you are all that and a bag of chips! You can’t just throw up a Help Wanted sign and get workers. Be Better! Yep, that means you might actually have to put money into recruiting. Yes, hourly recruiting is as essential as salaried recruiting and, in many businesses, more important. But, I find most organizations that hire a lot of hourly workers are vastly under-resourced when it comes to hourly recruiting as compared to salary recruiting.

Fourth, it’s time to take some chances with all those biases you have. Hire folks who test positive for weed. Hire folks who went to prison. Hire folks who aren’t your “Norm.” It’s time to take some chances, which really aren’t chances, but being more inclusive in hiring, but that’s an entire another post.

Finally, vote differently. If one employer is having a problem hiring, most likely, that employer isn’t really that great to work for. If tens of thousands of employers are struggling to hire, something went wrong at a macro scale. In terms of our current situation, we know exactly what went wrong. Bad policy is causing some short/long-term pain for employers.

Economics will eventually take care of this problem. Employers will pay more, offer more, and change. This means we’ll all pay more for stuff we used to get cheaper. Some businesses will go under because you won’t agree that paying more is worth what they offer. This will cause workers to be unemployed. Making it easier for employers to hire at market wages. The law of supply and demand is undefeated.

The 3 Rules of Kissing Your Boss!

On May 20, 2013, I published a silly little post on my blog called “The Rules About Hugging at Work”. The post might have taken me twenty minutes to write. It was just an idea I got, like thousands of others. I thought it was funny, so I wrote about it. To date, it’s been read over 1 Million times. Huff Post picked it up, it went viral on LinkedIn (I got over 1300 comments), and I’ve been interviewed and called “The World’s Foremost Expert on Workplace Hugging.”

Twenty minutes of writing, a throwaway idea.

Months later, I posted the exact same post on LinkedIn’s publishing platform. This was before everyone could publish (remember that). You had to be invited. I got a call from the LinkedIn chief editor offering me access. I didn’t know if it was really anything, so I just threw up old posts I had already written but added a few new pieces.

On the Hugging post, I added at the bottom my next post would be: The 3 Rules About Kissing Your Boss! as a joke. I never wrote it. Five years later, I got a message last week from someone who found the hugging post for the first time, asking how they could find the kissing post! I didn’t even know what they were talking about!

So, here’s the kissing post! 

It would be easy to dismiss the notion of kissing your boss as something that would never happen. When I say ‘never,’ I mean never. I mean, honestly, do any of us ever feel it would be appropriate to kiss your boss!?

This one is hard for me. I come from a family of huggers and kissers! My father is 80, and he still kisses me on the lips when I greet him or say goodbye. Some folks would find that super weird. Different cultures do different things.

My son was overseas this summer visiting friends in Belgium, and it was quite common for new people he met to give him that traditional kiss on the cheek, but he said those same people would not give you a hug or a handshake. This kiss-on-the-cheek greeting is very common in many parts of the world.

In America, you would probably get punched in the face if you tried kissing someone on the cheek you were meeting for the first time! I mean, look, if I don’t know you, I certainly don’t want your germs all over my face! Most Europeans I meet for business purposes in the States who come here often have gotten used to handshakes. Rarely do I see one of them do the cheek kiss greeting.

All of this is way different, though than kissing your boss! Kissing your boss would have to be a unique circumstance or special occasion. I’m guessing if you’re kissing your boss, one of a few things probably hasn’t happened in that relationship. You’ve probably become “very good” friends, some once-in-a-lifetime event is happening, or you’ve become romantically involved, in which case, not really your boss any longer! (Cue, Taylor Swift, they’re your “Lover”!)

So, if we can see a time in which you might kiss your boss, the excellent HR pro in me says we better put some pen to policy and make some rules!

Here are my three rules for kissing your boss:

1. No kissing on the lips. Kissing on the lips is a slippery slope you can’t put back in the bag! Wants that happens you might as well just get undressed. Sh*t just got real! We’re going to assume this kiss is not romantic in nature, completely as professional as kissing your boss can be professional!

2. Do not leave moisture on your boss’s cheek. Okay, somehow, we got down this rabbit hole to a point where I’m kissing my boss on his or her cheek. Let’s not make this super awkward by leaving a nice big wet spot on the side of their face. If you’re so excited to be kissing your boss’s cheek that you leave it wet, you should be checked into a mental ward.

3. Do not have bad breath. First impressions are critical, and even though your boss knows you, your boss doesn’t know the kissing you. Do not go in for that first boss kiss with bad breath! I love Ice Breakers Mints, and I have some close by almost always. Why? I can’t stand bad breath. Coffee breath is the worst, and I know many of you are major coffee drinkers! Guess what? Diet Mt Dew breath smells like a flower garden! Think about that next time go for a fill-up at the coffee station at work!

See? That’s how you do it. That’s how the World’s Foremost Expert in Workplace Hugging becomes the World’s Foremost Expert in Boss Kissing. You can’t be a one-trick pony in this world, folks. We all need to keep striving to reinvent ourselves. Watch out fall conference circuit! If you see Sackett coming, I might have just raised the game!

So, hit me in the comments. What are your rules for kissing your boss!?

HR 101: My Favorite (and Biggest) HR Mistake!

I’ve made more mistakes in my HR career than I care to even remember. I could probably write a book!

It’s funny to think about your mistakes because I think invariably every person takes those mistakes and tries to turn them into some type of “learning.”

It’s a classic interview question – “So, Mr. Sackett, tell me about your biggest mistake in your career and what did you learn from it?” I have even asked it myself when interviewing others.

A nauseating response

Just once, I want someone to answer, “Well, besides coming to this lame interview, I’d have to say drinking my way through college, getting average grades, and having to take positions within HR, are probably my biggest ones. What I’ve learned is that all those high school kids in band and on the debate team really were smarter than me, and my ability to be a third-team all-conference point guard, in hindsight, probably didn’t get me into the career I was hoping for.”

But it never happens. No one is really honest about their mistakes because in making the most mistakes you do something stupid – something so stupid, you would rather not share it with anyone. So, we come up with answers like, “My biggest mistake was working too hard on a project with my last employer and not getting others involved, and I’ve learned while you can get the project done and on time by yourself, you really need to include everyone.”

That kind of answer makes me vomit. And somehow, as HR pros, we accept that answer and move on to the next question, almost like that question was just a test – a test to see if you were stupid enough to actually tell us the truth and brighten up our day!

But I’ve got a good one. I do have a favorite HR mistake, and two friends of mine recently made me think about it.

Yes, this is my favorite HR mistake

Here’s my all-time favorite HR mistake – Telling someone to go after a promotion and more money, leaving a position they truly enjoyed.

When I started my career right out of college, I gave myself 12 years to become a Vice President. Seemed like a logical goal at the time, but in hindsight, it seems obviously stupid now. It took me 16 years, and only after I realized it no longer mattered did I finally reach that level.

Two friends both recently had opportunities to leave organizations and positions they really liked, and I gave them both the same advice – you can’t even come close to measuring the value of truly liking the job you have. You just can’t, so answer me this one question: Do you love what you are doing, and who you are doing it for?

If the answer is “yes,” stay put. It’s that simple, and that was my learning.

I finally learned my lesson

I’ve left two positions in my life where I loved what I was doing and loved the organizations – both to take promotional opportunities with other companies. Both times I made the wrong decision. That is a tough mistake to make twice

I used to give out this advice to people — go ahead and leave because you’re going to have ten-plus jobs in your life, and you might as well move up as fast as you can. I don’t do that any longer; in fact, I now spend time trying to talk people out of taking new jobs – which I know is ironic since, at my core, I’m a recruiter!

I think we all hope that we learn over time from our mistakes. Once in a while, I actually do!

Should Lululemon Fire Employees For Attempting to Stop Theft?

This week’s big news in HR is everyone’s favorite retailer, Lululemon, firing two employees who attempted to thwart some shoplifters at one of their stores in Georgia. The story is pretty straightforward, a group of folks runs into a Lulu store, grabs a bunch of stuff, and runs out. The two employees didn’t really do much. One yelled at the shoplifters to get out, and one followed them outside. Also, one took a video and called 911.

Apparently, this was enough to break a company policy and get them fired.

So, what’s the policy?

Basically, the Lulu policy on shoplifting is to let the shoplifters take whatever they want. As an employee, you do nothing to antagonize the thieves, so to ensure you do not put any employees or patrons of Lulu in harm’s way. You can call 911, but you’re best to wait until the shoplifters leave because, I mean, that might upset the thieves causing them to harm employees and/or patrons.

Is that clear?

It’s super easy to make fun of this. But, in reality, many companies have similar policies. Because, as it turns out, thieves are bad people willing to do bad things. But I will still make fun of this because this entire thing is just dumb.

Should these two Lulu employees be fired, is the real question?

My first thought:

Yes, they broke the policy, and both knew what the policy was. Lululemon claims they ensure every single employee knows this policy. How? Most likely, in onboarding and training, when they make you sign documents that say you learned it, but you might not have, but we sign stuff all the time because we want the job and a discount on those nice leggings.

If you don’t fire them, what you are really doing is telling every employee to try and stop shoplifters. This becomes a slippery slope as employees go to greater lengths to stop thieves, and all of a sudden you’ve got Lulu employees carrying guns and mace and stuff. Lulu vigilantes.

My next thought:

No! We all want “loyal” employees trying to do the right thing. These two employees didn’t try and tackle these thieves. They did what any normal human would do that saw this happen, and they reacted. They said get out. They tried to get some evidence. They called the police.

This is the problem with policies in most companies. They are black and white, but we live in a world of gray. Do these employees need some “re-training”? Yes. But Lulu says they have a zero-tolerance policy on this because it’s about employee and patron safety. That’s somewhat of a lie. This is what Lulu’s legal team is saying to the CEO. “If we get a patron or employee shot in a robbery, we’re going to have to pay millions to the victims and their families.”

I mean, it’s bad employment branding and product marketing to have dead people in stores. Even when they are wearing those amazing leggings. I mean, her butt looks great, but she’s way dead. That’s never going to be a slogan that makes it past legal.

Next next next thought:

If we live in a society that doesn’t respect the rule of law, chaos ensues.

I don’t want to live in a place where thieves have no fear of retribution. Where they can just run into any store and take what they want because they know nothing will happen to them. Do I want my employees handing out their own brand of justice? No. But am I going to fire them when they say, “Stop! Get Out! I’m calling the police!” Also, No!

If Lulu was Mom and Pop Hometown Retailer, would they have this policy? Most likely, no. Lulu gets away with this because they do not have a problem getting people to work for them because they are currently a sexy brand, and many people want that discount for their overpriced stuff.

Final thought:

The HR Guy in me knows this is an easy call, even when it’s one of those that is very hard to swallow. The policy is written and approved. It’s trained and signed off on. I might not agree with it, but I have agreed to take on this role in HR or Operations and ensure policies are followed. If I don’t agree with this policy to the extent I can not uphold it, I would need to quit.

There’s always more to these stories than the mass media finds out or will tell us. I’m sure the two employees actually knew the policy but also disagreed they should be fired, and they got the story out. The media loves beating up on a big, sexy brand like Lululemon. They also, apparently, love thieves just being able to go into stores and take anything they want without repercussions (Hello, San Francisco!).

Welcome to the show new HR graduates! You were taught in school most of HR will be black and white. What you’ll soon find is HR is almost never black and white.

Can America still lead the world in HR?

I got the chance to travel to Singapore recently to be the closing keynote speaker at the largest HR Technology conference in Asia, HRM Asia Tech Festival. It was an amazing event, and I got to meet so many amazing global HR professionals. But this one question stuck with me long after I got back on the plane to return to the States!

Can America still lead the world in HR?

Now, some of my global HR friends might already be questioning, “Does America really lead the world in HR?” I’m not here to say if we do or not, but when I travel globally to speak at HR and Talent conferences, I’m constantly told, “Tim, we are excited to have you speak here, but you have to understand “X Region” is five years behind America in HR and Recruiting.”

It happens every single time!

What I actually find is the top 10% of HR shops around the world are fairly equal. If your organization has a major focus on HR and Talent, you are probably closer to best in class to your peers than you think. Where the truth lies in their statement is the bottom tends to be lower or there are just so many fewer organizations working to get to world-class HR practices overall as compared to America.

When it comes to America continuing to lead, it’s a legitimate question.

Now, I know a bunch of thought leaders in HR, mostly who are American, who love to rip on how awful American companies are at HR. It must be some weird American influencer power thing to believe that foreign audiences want to hear you make fun of America. What I find is this is true in Europe. Europeans love when you make fun of America, especially when you are American! But most of the other parts of the world, especially in Asia, don’t really react well to those making fun of the West. Much of Asia actually likes the West, so they are confused to hear a speaker rip on America.

The crazy part of my Singapore trip is the only time I heard anyone say negative things about America. It was coming from American Expats who now live abroad. So, my guess is these folks just didn’t really like America to begin with.

The question of whether America can lead in HR came from a local Singapore HR leader asking an American Expat speaker after his talk, where he spent the majority of it talking down America.

To his credit, he answered it rather well:

  1. The rest of the world has all the opportunity to now lead in HR. There is nothing holding them back from a technology or knowledge perspective. The world has gotten smaller.
  2. The rest of the world, through mass media, gets to see the worst of HR in America with examples like Uber, Twitter, etc. You see all the bad stories in the media and none of the great ones.
  3. The US has some unique cultural advantages that have kept it in the lead so far, including not having traditions, a willingness to move quickly and break stuff, and a willingness to be progressive.

Most of the world, especially in Asia, is steeped in tradition and saving face. HR Leaders in America can make a big mistake, and their career can survive it. That is not the same case in all places in the world. Thus, innovation and change do not happen quickly. What is the old adage, “You never get fired for buying IBM.”

So you have HR and Talent leaders who are not rewarded for making big changes and improvements. They are rewarded for not making mistakes. This makes it very hard to become a leader in that kind of environment. To lead, you must innovate and make change. If you innovate and make change, you will make some wrong turns. Wrong turns are career killers in other parts of the world.

America will lead in HR.

America will lead in HR for these simple facts. Much of the most innovative HR technology is still developed in America. Innovation in any function, including in HR, happens on the fringes. America has an amazing startup culture that pushes the boundaries and norms of what we should expect organizations to do. This is more conducive to developing leading HR practices and innovations.

It doesn’t mean that other regions around the world can’t create this, they are just pushing uphill on many fronts, and many of those are cultural, which are very hard to change. What I do think we’ll see are global HR and Talent teams who will work across regions to try and test things on a much more global front to see global HR change. It doesn’t have to be us vs. them. It can be all by working together.

One of my big takeaways from traveling around the world and speaking is every employer, and most countries face the exact same issues. How we go about solving them has been very different to this point, but that doesn’t mean it has to be as we move forward in the future.