New Jobs and Development

While the data isn’t yet refreshed, here’s a peek at tenure from September of 2010…

The median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.4 in January 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. This measure, referred to as employee tenure, was 4.1 years in January 2008. The increase in tenure among those at work reflects, in part, relatively large job losses among less-senior workers in the most recent recession.

OK, so new info should be coming soon, but it will suffice for today’s discussion.  It tells thus that workers change jobs, on average, every 4 to 5 years.  It also tells us that less senior staff have shorter employment spans.  While we all work toward retention and the value it brings in productivity, reduced recruiting costs, continuity and employee engagement, it is important to keep this change in mind when planning development activities.

For example, if you are new in your organization or your role, are you really ready to share your weakness, um, I mean opportunities with your new boss?  Are you ready to tell them that you’ve already thought about your next move?  What does that say about your commitment to your new role?

In truth, very little.  We all want people who are always looking forward, and can keep an eye on the present and the future.  So if you are in that position, don’t hold back.  Dream big, and prepare for big things when you execute with your current assignment.  And if you have those new kids on your team, let them know you are sensitive to the situation, but that you are committed to their success now and later.  There’s no reason to wait.

From The Archives: Metric Waste

I’ve been working on a project to create standard processes for the global HR community with my organization for the last two years or so. One of the questions that always comes up is around measurement. How do you measure adoption rate of the processes? How do you know when people aren’t using them? And what are you going to do about it if someone doesn’t want to use them?

We’ve developed a self-assessment to see if a location is aware of the processes and if they are using them, as well as gather their feedback. But we are after more than compliance, we are after the usefulness of the processes and improvement opportunities. We can record adoption rates from there, if we really want to, but it’s all based on self-reporting, which we all know can be spotty at best.

More to the point, though, the question is why would we care? Because we would only want to invest the time and effort into measuring and reporting if it was important. Isn’t it important to know if our process are being used? More and more, I’m convinced the answer is no.

Standard processes are, in most cases, a building block toward something else. In our case, they are pre-work for an HRMS and self-service implementation. We will build upon the basic framework with regional/country adaptations that outline the changes needed for local laws, and then build out the technology and tools on top of that. The use of the standard processes is, to me, secondary. If it were the end goal, then it would certainly warrant reporting. But as an intermediate step, I’m not so sure.

As I’ve said before, new processes/tools/widgets are only going to be successful if they are better than the old version (or at least are perceived by the user to be better). If our long term deliverable, including those systems and tools, aren’t better than the manual way of doing work, we will have failed, and no one will use them. If we do present a new system that is an improvement, people will flock to it. And then the measurement of that interim point isn’t as important.

Trying to measure the success of an intermediate step is, I think, a distraction. Feedback is good, of course, but should be gathered in the context of preparing for the next step. More importantly, trying to measure usage of a manual process would be far more resource intensive than it is worth. And once you know that, why would you spend any more time working on it?

If we are building a system to the needs of the user, it should be their feedback (or lack thereof) that should matter. So keep your communication lines open, listen to them, and give them what they need.

Are you a College or Pro Recruiter?

Football season is almost upon us again, and the lockout has had an interested effect on the free agency period.  (This is American Football, of course.  Sorry for any confusion.)  And while I’m in a candidate experience mindset, I thought it was a good time to talk about the differences in the types of recruiters, and how their stakeholders drive their tactics.

College Recruiters

College gigs are tough.  It puts you, in theory, on a level playing field with your competition if you can’t pay the player.  (Yes, it’s a flawed assumption.  Just roll with it, OK?)  You are trying to bring in talent for your team based on:

  • Playing time
  • Location
  • Amenities
  • Academics
  • Prestige
  • Long term (meaning Pro) career opportunities

Pro Recruiter

The pros can recruit on those things.  But often, it comes down to one thing when wooing a free agent.

  • Cash

Too often, cash is king in the professional sports world.  (It is one reason I think it is so interesting that there is still so much anger towards LeBron James when he took less money to play with his friends and try for a title.  I mean, I get the anger, but that part gets glossed over.)  And there are plenty of examples where a professional player made their decisions strictly on the dollars.  They are pressured by the player’s association to do so in many cases.  It doesn’t mean the other things aren’t important, but there is a reason why people still joke about Mike Hampton signing with the Rockies and saying “the schools are better” in Denver.  The stacks of cash were higher, too.  It matters.

This came up a bit on my recent Drive Thru HR appearance.  Friend of the show William Tincup asked if I felt a candidate would choose company A over company B if company A provided a horrible candidate experience, but 20% more money.  My response was yes, maybe.  Depends on your situation.  (There’s more to it than that.  You should go listen to the whole thing.)

So which are you?

If you’ve done any time in HR or as a manager, you’ve done some recruiting.  So what’s your style?  Do you roll out the amenities and dance around the question of compensation as long as you can?  Or do you open with a strong package and then spin the “extras” around it?

There’s a time and place for each approach, I suppose.  Recruiters seem to want to talk comp after you are hooked.  It’s a bit like the car salesman that goes after the “is it just the price” angle.  If I know you love the car, and you want the car, the emotional decision is made and the logic part can be wrestled to the ground.  Likewise, if you want to join a team, and they want you on the team, the rest is just details, right?

The truth is, though, our world doesn’t always work that way.  Sometimes talent goes to the highest bidder.  You’ve got to know you candidate, where they are coming from, what is important in their world, and what their hot button will be.  Just like sales.  And if your candidate is all about the Benjamins, it doesn’t matter how new the exercise center is, or the quality of food in the cafeteria, or the free coffee, or the scenic view from their new office.  Sometimes is it just about compensation.

Of course, we all know that compensation doesn’t motivate performance (once moved past the point of being a demotivator, anyway).  That’s when the college recruiter should kick in and make sure that they are aware of the new treadmill, the gourmet salads, the French roast and the 5-acre lake.  They do matter.

There is one other kind of recruiter.  High School recruiters.  For the most part, a player is going to a  school because that’s where the bus takes them.  The recruiter’s job is pretty easy.  They also mostly live with the luck of the draw for getting talent on their team.  And as long as they don’t expect to succeed at the next level with that strategy, they are OK.

Don’t be the high school recruiter trying to fill out a pro or college roster.  You will fail.  So will your team.  Use the perks, use the cash, and create a comprehensive package to get the right talent.  Otherwise, you’re left with hoping to get what you need.  And we all know that hope is not a strategy.



Finding Value In SoMe

There is a lot of discussion about the RIO of social media.  A lot of talk about you “have to do it.”  You “have to be on Twitter.”  You “have to blog.”

It’s nonsense.

But it is nonsense in the same way that “you have to use FIFO inventory control” is nonsense.  Or “you have to outsource IT” is nonsense.  Or “you have to use Lean tools” is nonsense (as much as I’d like it to not be).

The fact of the matter is there are very few absolutes in the way businesses run, outside of legal requirements.  That includes social media.  Would we like to see our organizations more involved in it?  I would say that, if we are SoMe types, they yes.  Just like any other profession would like their profession to be more involved in how the business is run.  So what?

If you want to influence your organization, and you want to show them how important a SoMe investment can be (even the limited investment it requires), you’ve got to quantify.

What’s It Worth To You?

Kinda depends on what you do with it, right?  So let’s brainstorm for a moment about the metrics you are likely to be using in your business.  You can steal these if you want.

  • Recruiting:  Days to fill, cost to fill, % filled by recruiters, retention rate in first 90/180/365 days.
  • Retention: Retention rate, employee engagement, internal movement.
  • Turnover: High potential turnover, turnover by tenure, turnover by critical position

If you really want to know if SoMe is useful to you, do some targeted usage of it to see what happens.  Why targeted?  Well…


It gets very hard to isolate the impact on one variable on a wide population if you don’t have a control group.  In other words, if you make the change for everyone (even if the change is just your level and/or method of communication) it is hard to know if that caused a change, or if there was some other variable or variables that actually caused the change.  Or worse, that the change has a much different impact than you can see, but it is masked by a change driven by some other change.


OK, if you want to know what it is doing for you, take low cost approach to getting into SoMe.  Need an idea?  OK.  And like any good pusher, I’ll tell you that the first one is free.

How hard would it be to get on Twitter and Facebook?  (Answer: It’s not.)  How much would it cost you to reach out to your potential candidates in high school or college? (Answer: Not much.)  How easy would it be to engage you leaders of really important, specialized functions to do web chats with those people on how to prepare to enter the workforce and be better prepared to land a good job in those fields?  (Answer: Very, very easy.)  What kind of impact might that have on your recruiting in those areas?  (Answer:  Sorry, you’ve got to figure that one out on your own.  It’s not totally free.)

So, what’s the value of all this social media stuff.  Dunno.  Depends on your business and how good you are at it.  But to fin out, you’re going to need to parse our your target population, do some experiments and, of course, get some data.

Let me know if you need any help.  I’ll be there for you.

Phone Hacking and HR Responsibilities

I am, as I may have mentioned, a junkie for news and politics.  Not in the “my extreme views are more correct than your equally extreme views” kind of way.  I believe that Fox News and MSNBC are equally full of shit.  But I love the theater.

You can probably imaging how hooked I am on the phone hacking scandal.  It’s got everything!  Old, rich, white guysRoyaltyCell phonesDeath to a 168 year old newspaperSpecial sessions of ParliamentHigh end executives being toppled left and right!  What’s not to love?  It’s like a Michael Mann film! (Sadly, Sean Hoare, one of the first to come forward, was found dead this week.  That tempers the enthusiasms, while being a reminder that powerful people very often play for keeps.  And the police statement that his death was being treated as “unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious,” should give everyone a chill.)

But, as an HR practitioner, there are a couple of points in the larger story that make me scratch my head.  Nick Davies, reporter for the Guardian UK, has done a nice job of chronicling the timeline, if you are interested.

Clive Goodman

Clive was the royal editor (whatever that means…sounds important, though) at News of the World.  Clive was arrested with two others for hacking the phones of the royal family in 2005.  Was convicted and spent four months in jail.  Not surprisingly, he was let go.

Then he filed a wrongful dismissal charge against the paper, claiming the practice was widespread.  The investigation and review of thousands of emails did not turn up any supportive evidence, but the paper settled with Goodman on the basis that they had violated contractual employment law procedures.

Jonathan Rees

Good old J.R. is a private detective from Surrey.  He was first arrested on suspicion of (but not charged with) murder in 1987.  He was charged in 1988, but the case was dropped.  He was investigated several times over the intervening years for things like robbery, corruption and drug trafficking.  In the 1990’s, we find our friend pulling down £150,000 a year as an “investigator” for News of the World, including duties such as phone hacking.  In December of 2000, he was convicted of conspiracy to plant cocaine on a woman to damage her standing in a child custody case and sentenced to seven years in jail.  A stand up guy.

Skip ahead a bit, and we find Rees released from prison and re-employed by News of the World, doing the same type of work as before.  Plus some work with corrupt police officers, said some.


You’ve got an employee dismissed for what amounts to gross misconduct, but is paid a handsome separation sum because they couldn’t properly execute a dismissal?

You’ve got a career criminal sent to jail for framing an innocent woman who finds a well paying gig waiting for him when he gets out?

I often believe that the two jobs of HR are really just to manage talent and keep your employer out of jail.  Whoever runs the HR department at News of the World failed at both.  Oddly enough, no one on LinkedIn claims that title.

I can’t wait see how the testimony goes!

From the Archives: Protect and Promote your Practice

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.  I get the day off, too.  Enjoy this look back, originally published Oct 17, 2008.

I worked this week with a great group of HR people in building and shaping process maps for the future of our HR function. They have the vision to see many places where centralization and technology can streamline services, reduce costs, empower employees and make the organization more responsive to employee needs overall.

The problem is there are not resources readily available to make that vision a reality. Given the current economic climate, who knows when they will be again? A year? Two? More? How many of the current team will be around to see the change?

I’ve already heard of companies cutting heads, and sometimes the Lean people go early because they are “overhead” or a “cost center” instead of a profit center. I contend this is our own fault for not positioning ourselves right in the organization.

I met a couple of OD consultants for the Navy (civilians, I should note) who treated their internal practice as a consultancy. After securing backing for two years from their champion in advance, they moved from part of the “overhead” to a service that no one pays for indirectly. They spent those two years building their business, quoting jobs for their internal customers and delivering as if their next contract depended on it. (It did, by the way.)

After less than a year, they were being inundated with requests for their time. (I should also note this was not a new group, just a new approach. They had problems getting traction earlier because they were seen as overhead, and it tainted how the front line managers dealt with them.) They became self sufficient in 9 months. They “repaid” their seed money from the “profits” of their practice, after covering their salaries, benefits, training, conference costs, materials, marketing, etc.

What was the difference? Very little, really. But the perception of the customer base had changed. Their approach to work had changed. They set expectations early in the process and beat their targets. They owned their business and treated their co-workers as their customers. Which they are.

So, how’s your practice doing these days? Secure? Or is there a chance you will be swept out with the other consultants who haven’t made themselves indispensable?

Putting Kano Models to Work in HR

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about Kano Models and how what they mean.  (If you haven’t read it, or need a refresher, go ahead.  The rest of us will wait here…OK, welcome back!)  We had also worked to put together  a list of some of the key processes/duties of the HR department.  I offered a few suggestions as a starting point, and received some great additional material.  I’d like to use a few of these examples to talk about how to put together a Kano model in the HR world, and then talk a little about what to do with them.

From friend of the show Darren Bond, we have the list below:


  • Setting salary and bonus targets
  • Benchmarking competitive compensation structures
  • Managing corporate balanced scorecard
  • Paying performance bonuses

So let’s break these down into the three Kano categories.  These are my opinions based on experience, though your particular experience may be different:


Setting salary and bonus targets – Managers and employees rarely want a new and exciting way of getting this data, or new ways to look at your targets.  They generally want to see the targets so they have an anchor point for conversations and comparisons.
Benchmarking competitive compensation structures – Generally benchmarking is a snapshot, or multiple snapshots over time, based on criteria that are hopefully derived from your strategy.  Delivering the results of benchmarking is more about understanding how you compare to others, so you are by nature somewhat restrained in innovation.  If you get too innovative, after all, there may not be a benchmark.  A good problem to have, but it takes you in another direction.
Paying performance bonuses – Much like any payroll function, this is an area where execution is critical, but innovation is less sought after.


Managing corporate balanced scorecard – OK, “managing” a scorecard could be seen as a Basic function.  But I’m going to assume that part of management of the tool is changing or enhancing that tool as well.  Looking for new ways to measure how we perform, teasing out correlations and metrics in a transactional world, and relating those back to hard business results can uncover interesting and valuable data.  (Admittedly, it may not be exciting to everyone, but it is to me.)


Nothing on this list, I would say, falls into the Performance range.

So what does this mean?  How does this change your day?

Basic tasks should, in general, be developed until they reach the satisfaction stage, and then either a) left alone or b) centralized/automated/outsourced.  When you only have to be “good enough” there is no reason to spend more effort there.  So stop it.  (Note:  “Good enough” will vary on the task, naturally.  For payroll, “good enough” may be “error free.”  Don’t assume “good enough” is a half-hearted effort.)

Excitement and Performance tasks are where differences are made.  They should take up the biggest part of your attention.  The better you get at them, the more value they return to you and, more importantly, your customers.

So where are you spending your time?


From the Archives: HR Metrics 101

Something of a look back for President’s Day.  A we’ve been focused on tools and methods for improving the HR practice, it’s good to remember that measurements are the key to showing progress.  This post is a look at some of the basic principles of metrics.  Originally published September 20, 2010.

Metrics are critical to running your HR practice, but far too many HR practitioners haven’t been taught what they really need to know about them.  Here’s a few tips that might be helpful:

  • No one really cares about headcount.  How can you tell?  Ask a simple question.  If the headcount next week is ten fewer than last week, what will you do about it?  The answer is usually “it depends.”  And that’s the right one.  Headcount is an indicator, an important denominator for some metrics that are truly indicative of what is happening.  But alone, it’s almost meaningless.
  • No one really cares about straight turnover. What they care about is the cause of turnover, and what can be done about it.  To deal with it, you have to understand what kind of turnover  you are dealing with (Voluntary?  Involuntary?  Regrettable?  Retirees?  Internal movement?) and then you can start to find the root cause.
  • Business leaders watch trends more than numbers. Don’t’ get hung up in the minutia of reporting.  Look for trends that are playing out over weeks, or even better months, instead of day to day.  Businesses are run that way.  Your practice should be too.
  • But know the numbers, too. Nothing will sap your credibility faster than presenting a set of trends and not being able to talk about the details.  Present the important part and tell the story that needs to be told.  But be ready when they ask for more, and be able to discuss not only the details, but what they mean to the business.  That will bring your credibility up, and help you guide your partners in making better decisions for your population.
  • Learn to distinguish between correlation and causation. Sure there are more drownings when ice cream sales are at their peak.  But few people drown in ice cream, right?  Knowing the difference can help you guide a business leader to hire lifeguards, not bad butter pecan.

Kano Analysis

Once upon a time there was a wise man named Noriaki Kano.  He developed the model you see above (courtesy of our friends at Wikipedia) to explain different dimensions of customer value.  Let’s take a look at the basics of this model and how it works.

Primary Components

The horizontal axis is the measure of need fulfillment.  We move from the need being unmet on the left to the need being fulfilled on the right.

The vertical axis is a measure of customer satisfaction.

The three colored lines are representation of types of transactions or services.

Excitement – These activities generate a high response from users once a certain level of performance is achieved, but below that level there is not much return for the effort.  In other words, meeting the basic need of the user generated little more response than ignoring that need completely.

Performance – The classic intersection of performance and reward.  The better you perform, the more it is appreciated.

Basic – This activity type generates great levels of dissatisfaction if not fulfilled, but very few bonus points are awarded for excellence.

Activity Types in Action

Excitement:  Also known as “delighters,” these activities can be skipped with very little impact, but providing them makes the difference in customer satisfaction.  If you attend a movie in a theater, you have expectations of the screen, the sound, the popcorn and the soft drinks.  But what if the theater also provided additional amenities, like a private lounge for the screening, or a selection of alcoholic beverages?  These are not the normal experience, and the lack of their availability are not likely to cause their patron to feel dissatisfied.  Providing them, though, can turn an average movie experience into a memorable night and drive return business.  This group is where innovation really drives performance.  Don’t forget, though, that these “delighters” can quickly become commodities that turn into expectations, driving them into the “basics” area.  (Imagine a theater that didn’t sell concessions!)

Performance:  A great example of this is a purely price driven market.  The lower the price of a commodity, the higher expected user satisfaction will be.  When the price of gas goes up, our satisfaction goes down.  When it goes down, our satisfaction rises.  This assumes, of course, you are the consumer and not the president or shareholder in a major refining company.  In that case, the line would still likely be the same, but the needs and satisfaction ratings viewed a bit differently.

Basic:  Most of us own toasters.  They make toast.  And as long as it makes toast when asked, it generally doesn’t get a lot of attention.  A slightly faster toaster?  Yawn.  Available in many colors?  Great, thanks.  Upgraded timer feature?  Hand crafted outer casing?  Aerodynamic plunger?  Not likely to get anyone excited.  As long as our bread gets toasted, we don’t get think too much about the extra functions of the toaster.

What are Kano Models used for?

The strength of the model is in helping you develop strategy and target your efforts in a way that will increase customer satisfaction.  You can be sure that world class companies spend their time innovating theater experience, not redesigning toaster plungers.

One of the benefits of the tool is that you don’t need hard data to use a Kano Model.  These are intuitive discussions on the things you do in your normal business activities.   In the HR world, where data can be so difficult to obtain, these types of tools are too valuable to be ignored.

Earlier this week I asked for help in putting together a list of HR functions.  (If you haven’t added yours, it’s not too late!)  Coming up, we will take a look at those functions through the Kano lens, and you can think about how much time you spend on each type of activity.


In our never ending quest to help HR understand basic tools and prinicples, today we at the blog present the SWOT analysis.

SWOT is a simple tool, at least on the surface.  Once you understand the tool, you should be able to execute quickly and effectively.

What is a SWOT?

SWOT is a tool designed to give you insight into your current state, much like the SIPOC.  The difference is the SIPOC is a snapshot of a process, where the SWOT looks at your business or your practice overall.  The SWOT is made up of four quadrants.


This section is a list of what you have going for you.  What are you proud of?  What can you count on?  Some classic examples of strengths for a business include:

  • market position
  • global footprint
  • efficient distribution system
  • technical patents

For HR, this list would be a little different, of course.  Some items you might list in an HR SWOT:

  • Bench strength
  • Thorough succession plan
  • Well leveraged HR Technology platform
  • Deep knowledge of HR-facing laws


You might think this is a tough area to complete, but experience has shown that this box tends to be filled up first.  Most people are wired to see faults, especially in their own business.  For example:

  • Incomplete data for metrics
  • Market reputation not aligned with strategy
  • Low cash reserves

Your weaknesses are not specifically things that need to be fixed, but are focused on constraints in your operation.  You may see actions to fix these issues later (in the opportunities area), but don’t spend too much time thinking about fixes here.  What kind of constraints might you find in HR?

  • Unclear strategy for talent movement
  • Skillset gaps for new HR generalist(s) – finance, labor negotiation
  • HCM not connected to benefits, compensation systems


These are the internal or external factors that could negatively impact your practice going forward.  Some of them you will be able to proactively deal with, some will be out of your control.  The key is to recognize them so you can start thinking about contingency plans.

  • Political unrest in developing markets
  • Weather delays in construction projects
  • Expiring contracts with union groups

From an HR standpoint, your threats may be more balanced between internal and external.

  • Job market creating high flight risks in top performers
  • Lack of qualified candidates for high-skill positions
  • NLRB rulings
  • Expected reduction in operating budget and headcount


The sunshine field, here we list all the wonderful things that can be accomplished.  After completing your weaknesses and threats, this field should almost populate itself with answers to those problems.  Additionally, of course, you might recognize trends in the market or other events that you could leverage to your advantage.

  • Trend of consumers toward smaller, fuel efficient vehicles
  • Economy of scale in supply chain – standardize materials in manufacturing operations
  • Competitor patents expiring

For your HR practice, you will again have a balance of internal and external items:

  • Business struggles of competitor for skilled labor; opportunity to recruit from their labor pool
  • Software upgrades in LMS creating greater access for EEs from home
  • Potential partnership with staffing company to reduce costs and increase candidate quality
  • Renewed executive focus on R&D activities and succession planning

OK, so what do I do with it?

The SWOT is an exercise that should be completed at the beginning of your planning stage.  Your strategy, whether for your business, department or project, should use this starting point to make sure you are not only leveraging your strengths and opportunities, but addressing weaknesses and threats.   The insight gained from a frank conversation on these four areas should make you more aware of your environment and more prepared to move forward with planning.

The most important thing to remember about the SWOT is that you must be honest with yourself in your analysis.  Like so many other tools, the SWOT is only as good as your conversation around it and your action plan you create with it.  This session is not the time to be modest, to be protective, or to hide your flaws.  The level of self-awareness the tool can bring will help you move your practice forward significantly, but only if you open up and trust your team enough to take a candid look at the world around you.

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