Servant Leadership: Dice


After my recent post on the great things being done by people in our space, I decided this is too important of a topic to not continue.  And my promise to you is I won’t ever pimp out a company that I do any business with unless I tell you.  I’m keeping an eye out for great stories on servant leadership in the HR tech space.  Feel free to send me any stories you have on the topic!

I am partial to good people doing good work.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with the team over at Dice and see how they are working to both support and innovate in our space.  This seems like a good time to share a couple of those stories.

First, the work Dice is doing in the HR space is pretty great.  I love Open Web (and I’m not a recruiter, which means mostly I just admire it from afar).  I like any tool that makes life easier, and a system that pulls together data from so many sources to create a full picture of the candidate is just that.  In some of my conference sessions, I reference my favorite Jay Kuhns quote, “We used to recruit like Abe Lincoln did.  We put an add in the Gettysburg Post and hoped someone read it.”  Open Web gets recruiters off of that mindset by giving them a much better look at where to spend their time.  While there is sometimes the belief that job sites are invested in pushing as many links to the page as they can, the Dice team has moved to make it easier to spend time on the high quality candidates to get the best fit.  And I dig that.

More than that, though, I am eternally grateful for the wonderful partner Dice has been in our space.  They have invested a lot of time and effort into supporting the social media space, including sponsorship at big conferences (like SHRM annual) and smaller, more focused events (like TalentNet).  Both segments are important to our space, and the Dice team not only contributes their dollars in support, they show up and work to make the events better.

Personally, I’m also in their debt for their support of our annual No Kid Hungry event, helping us raise thousands of dollars for a great cause.  I know that when it comes time to start planning, anything we can dream up will get the support of Terry Starr and her team, MaryLou Garcia and Cathy Erickson.  They’ve been wonderful partners, and have used their resources to make the world a better place in a way that has very little to do with their services.

I can hear the cynics out there.  Yes, yes, of course they benefit from it, in brand exposure if nothing else.  But there are a ton of companies in our space who do nothing of the sort.  We should be spending our time celebrating those that choose to do, that choose to contribute, that choose to help.  Doing nothing is easy.  Being an innovative company that changes the space and works to support our varied passions?  That’s pretty rare.

Thanks Terry, MaryLou and Cathy.  I can’t tell you and the team how much you are appreciated.

Dubai – City of Glass and Growth


I was fortunate enough to get a chance to visit Dubai this week.  If you’ve never been, it’s worth the flight over.  A beautiful city, built on twin pillars of opulence and arrogance.  Man made islands built from the endless supply of desert sand are home to top end resorts and amazing homes.  Buildings fly up seemingly overnight, made of glass and steel.  Fascinating architecture including building of all shapes, sizes and method, including one that when finished will include a full 90 degree twist from top to bottom.  I’m shocked they haven’t figured out how to make a building out of a moebius strip.  Not that I’ve seen anyway.

One of the highlights of the trip was the chance to meet Ron Thomas, CEO of Great Places to Work Institute Gulf.  (HT to Crystal Miller for setting it up.)  Ron and I had a lovely conversation, and my eyes were opened up to the world he lives in.  A few things I took away from the discussion…


HR Infrastructure – Dubai, as a city, is only really about 25 years old.  At the end of the Gulf War, many foreign trading companies in the region moved operations to Dubai, and growth started to skyrocket.  That means the power structure of these companies, which has been fairly static for a long time, is nearing the end of their time, and HR leadership roles are opening up more and more.

Opportunities – A western education goes a long way in Dubai.  Someone coming to the market, with the right introductions, can take a role here and fast forward their career by years.  There is very much an appetite for moving the entire business forward, and many of the things we are seeing as common practice (moving away from transactional focus, building on strategy, talent attraction and so forth) are in high demand.  A couple of interesting observations Ron shared with me were that in any given social interaction, 80-90% of the players are expatriates, and most of the children of high ranking leaders, especially those who are from the region, are born in the states.  There will soon be a viable population of workers who are born in the states, raised in the Gulf, and are very valued commodities in the business and political world.

Networking – The circles run deep and wide, and the art of forming connections is the key to business.  In an hour long meeting, you can expect to spend the first 45 minutes getting to know each other, then five or ten hammering out business.  Being open about what you are trying to accomplish goes a long way.  For those of us based in the states, it becomes critical to take the first step to establish ourselves in the region, usually at our own expense.  From there, you can build off of those connections and relationships.  There is a demand for knowledge in the region, but if we want the chance to share what we know, it is on us to take the leap.

Aside from being a great source of local knowledge and ambassador to the area, I think it worth noting that Ron is also a man who knows how to wear a suit.  (Ron, if you read this, I’ve got to know where you picked that number up.  Slick.)  I appreciate a snappy dresser, and Ron has clearly leveraged access to the quality available in the area.  Makes we wish I had time for shopping.  Maybe next time.

On the whole, a great trip.  There’s no substitute for travel when it comes to learning about the culture of another part of the world.  I hear travel rates get very reasonable in the summer months (no one wants to hang out in the desert when it is hot, apparently) so you may find a great chance to come visit if you try.  It’s absolutely worth the effort.

Vendors and Education – Servant Leadership

I wrote a post a while back talking about the infuriating trend of vendors who speak at events and do nothing but sell. It gives others a bad name, and leaves the audience with a bad taste in their collective mouth. It’s not ok, and I maintain that if you ever see it happen, you are not only allowed but obligated to walk out. The tragedy is that there are many of us in the vendor space know our topics, know what matters, and have a lot to love for HR. And too often, that is forgotten.

So I wanted to take a moment to share a great example of people in the vendor space who not only know how to share their vast knowledge without making it a commercial, but who are making the HR space a stronger community in the process.

Anyone who has spent time around Eric Winegardner will know that he is not only brilliant, but he is of the most caring, giving people in our space. And he IS Monster to most of us. I’ve had the pleasure of watching him present several times and have always been blown away by the depth and breadth of his knowledge. I remember at an HRevolution event a couple of years ago talking to Dan Crosby about Eric. Dan’s comment was, “If you are presenting, and Eric is sitting your room, you better be ready because the conversation level is about to be ratcheted up several notches.” That’s the kind of game the man throws.  And that resonates throughout the team.

So it fills my heart with joy to see the Power Recruiter Workshops Monster is putting on right now. (Full disclosure: I do no business, spend no money, and receive nothing from Monster on a regular basis. Just so we’re clear.) Eric, Lisa Watson (who is divine in her own right) and their team are out on the road presenting six hours (SIX HOURS) of free, HRCI certified training for recruiters out in the trenches. It’s been several years since these were offered (the last round, I hear tell, were before Twitter was a thing). The content is designed to teach recruiters how to be, well, recruiters. (Don’t take that lightly. Too often recruiting as a job gets short shrift in the HR world. We like to think anyone can recruit, which is kind of true. But not just anyone can recruit in a way that changes the business.)

How much does the course cost, I can hear you asking. That would be zero dollars. Nothing down, nothing a month. How many new clients does Monster expect to sign at these events? I’m guessing also zero. This is them giving back to our community and making it stronger. It’s what we should ALL be doing, though most vendors in the space pass it over in search of the quarterly sales numbers. This kind of contribution is important, and we need more of it.


I had the chance to drop in on the team, which included Alanna Lombardi, Karla Russell and Paul MacGillivray, in Boston as they were preparing for a session the next day. There was no marketing team getting everything ready. No army of minions making sure there were just the right number of bottles of water, bowls of M&Ms (no browns, of course) in strategically placed areas, no one making sure Eric, Lisa and their team were picked up in black s500 with the interior at exactly 71 degrees. The team were all in the room busting their humps to make sure the people who came the next day had a great experience and learned as much as possible.

You know what that’s called? Servant Leadership. And we need more of it.

I’m proud to know these people, and to think of them as friends. I’m even more proud to work in the same space and share their service with others. If you are in Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Los Angles or San Francisco, and have any interest at all in learning more about the recruiting space (or just in learning in general) check out the upcoming dates in those cities. (Sorry Dallas and Boston. Maybe next time.) More importantly, keep your eyes open for vendors in the space who do this kind of service to our profession and ask nothing in return. Those are the people we should appreciate and support. They are worth your time and attention. Give it up.

The Tao of HR



I’ve been remiss in writing much around here, but thought if you were looking, you deserved to know I’ve a new post over on HRExaminer.  Go check it out!

Tension in the Room

I’ve noticed an odd trend over the last couple of years.  I wanted to share to see if anyone else has seen it, or if it is just me.

When you work in HR tech, you straddle the line between two functions.  I find myself in meetings with HR teams or with IT teams, though rarely are they mixed.  And the HR meetings are always, ALWAYS, more tense.

I don’t mean to say there is arguing or undue conflict.  Rather, it seems there is always some unspoken tension that hangs in the air.  The exception seems to be high level HR leaders who know how to command a room and run a meeting.  Their rooms are much less tense.

In contrast, I see IT meetings as being, in many cases, much more laid back.  Some number of people, each with a task to accomplish, and they quickly run through the list and talk about potential issues.  More often than not, the conflict is minimal.  When it does pop up, it is largely fact based and detail oriented.  (I’m not saying every IT meeting is this way, but a lot of them are.  Specifically the ones that are just IT.)

There are two differences between the groups I can see.  First is that, as you might imagine, the HR meetings are overwhelmingly made up of women, while the IT meetings are just as overwhelmingly made up of men.

Second, there seems to be a higher level of confidence on the IT side, as their work is in many ways fact based.  You know it or you don’t. HR work is more subjective, with as many different opinions on how succession planning should really be run as there are people running it.

To be clear, I’m not saying or implying that women are less confident or capable than men.  Nor am I saying that HR is somehow inferior.  But there is certainly a difference in the tone of the meetings, and a level of tension with HR that I just don’t see an much in IT.  Has anyone else seen this?  Or am I imagining it?

Why You Should STFU About SHRM

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating.  If you want to be critical of SHRM, if you want to talk at length of how many things they get wrong, but you are not willing to pitch in and make it better?  STFU.

There has been a long standing and well documented amount of indifference, disdain and sometimes anger at the governing body of Human Resources.  They don’t do enough, they do too much, they aren’t listening, they listen to too many people, they can’t make decisions, they make the wrong decisions…essentially all the complaints you hear about large organizations, right or wrong.  But there is criticism aplenty, and much of it probably deserved.

What’s interesting, though, is that much of this criticism comes from those who are no longer members and/or no longer practitioners.  And rarely comes with a side of “maybe they should try this idea instead.”  And sometimes, just sometimes, those same critics will attend a state SHRM event or the big annual event, take the free pass, and consider the conference lucky to have them.  I’m not saying they have nothing to contribute.  In fact, I think they are some of our best and brightest minds, and could make a huge impact if they were actively engaged.  But for reasons too numerous to list, they are not.

I’d hesitate to say that I’ve been active with SHRM, though I keep my membership up, maintain my SPHR and speak at a lot of SHRM events, both state and regional.  When I go, though, I try to add a little value.  I try to hit the Twitter channel, write a post or two, work the social media desk to tutor attendees, speak or help with some kind of charity event.  There are a lot of ways to contribute, and I try to hit at least a couple of channels.  But I’ve been woefully inactive at the local level, and recently attended my first HRMA STL meeting.  Ever.

But there are those in our community who bust their hump to make a difference, and do so in their spare time.  I am regularly inspire by Steve Browne, a true HR leader/practitioner who puts in more hours that anyone would care to count with local, state and national SHRM.  He went and testified in front of Congress, and made us all proud.  He is one of the leaders who spoke up when SHRM lost their Social Media leader to make sure we didn’t lose ground.  He takes complaints from the masses and, believe it or not, shares it with the people who ARE ASKING FOR THAT FEEDBACK.  Crazy, right?  He takes responsibility to make the profession better, and he inspires me to be better.  He’s not the only one, of course, but there are far too many names to list.  (More on that in future posts, I promise.)

So this week, I was asked and agreed to take the role of Social Media Director for Missouri SHRM.  When I was offered the role, I didn’t know what all I would need to do or how much time it would require, but I knew that it was a chance to help out, spread the message of the state SHRM team and connect with more practitioners in my home state.  And a light bulb went off.  If I wasn’t willing to step up and be part of making things better, why should I expect others to do so?

So I’m taking the job.  And hopefully, I’ll be able to contribute something in the process.

If you are a naysayer, a critic, or a conscientious objector, I’d challenge you to get involved to make SHRM better as an organization.  Work at the local level, the state level, the national level, or any combination of those.  There is an entire profession waiting for help that needs your input, that needs you voice, that needs your energy.  You can choose to do as little or as much as you can handle, but it is only through those contributions that we can shape our community and make it better than it is today.  That’s the challenge.  That’s the opportunity.  That’s your chance to change the world.

And if not, STFU.  The rest of us have work to do.


Should Freedom of Speech Go to the Top?

I consider myself browser neutral (as long as it isn’t IE), and spend most of my day with both Firefox and Chrome running.  So news about either of them tends to catch my eye.  So when I see news that Mozilla employees are asking the CEO to step down via Twitter, it gets my attention.  After all, the guy just got the job a few days earlier.  So why all the fuss?

It seems that the CEO in question, Brendan Eich, donated $1,000 to California’s Proposition 8 initiative against same-sex marriage.  Four years ago.  (He also invented JavaScript and is, by all accounts, a pretty impressive tech brain.)  So there is outrage that he has been appointed CEO,  given his political beliefs, citing the Mozilla code of diversity and inclusion.

But here’s the thing.

Doesn’t diversity and inclusion sort of imply that a person is free to believe as they will, so long as it doesn’t lead to discrimination in the workplace?  Are we really going to expect someone to give up their professional ambition because they choose to donate their own money (and not an overwhelming amount, though not trivial) to a cause that is unpopular?  I expect there are C-level officers in almost every company in the world that don’t believe in same-sex marriage.  Just look at the list.  Feelings on this issue tend to run along age lines, and the more experienced business leaders tend to be older.  We can make a reasonable extrapolation, then, that there are a number of leaders who feel the same as Eich.  They also happen to be good at what they do, and capable of leading an organization.

Don’t misunderstand my view on the issue.  I find the ongoing movement to deny two consenting adults life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to be archaic nonsense, free of both logic and compassion.  But I also imagine that were a CEO who had supported the opponents of Prop 8 been asked to resign over their beliefs, there would be outrage.  Rightfully so, I think.

As HR professionals, this is the kind of thing that we need to be able to step back and consider dispassionately.  Do the private donations of an individual to a legitimate political group have any bearing on their ability to lead?  Are we suggesting that diversity is only a positive thing when it meets our personal world views of equality?  Or can we build a truly inclusive workplace where even these kinds of divisive issues could be met not with demands of resignation, but instead with open dialogue and an attempt to understand the person on the other side of the issue.

I know which kind of workplace I’d rather join.

King IPO Disappoints. Here’s the Lesson.

King, who brought us the completely addicting Candy Crush, filed for their IPO yesterday.  It was not what you might call a success.  Day two did not start off better.  How could anyone have seen this coming?

King is, at this point, a one-trick pony. Not the kind of thing upon which successful companies are built.  Have you tried their other games?  Even worse, have you gone more than a week away from Candy Crush and actually missed it?  Didn’t think so.

What we see here is the flawed thinking that because people enjoy something, they will be willing to invest in it.  Sometimes it is true.  I’d gladly invest my own money for an Iron Man suit.  Or to hang out with Robert Downey Jr. for a few hours.  But I’m not likely to invest in a time-filler game that I’ve never spent a dime on.  Yes, there is revenue coming from in-app purchases.  But it doesn’t cry out as a long term upside like facebook or Twitter.  Long term being relative, I guess.

The lesson for the HR community (because you knew there was going to be one, right?) is that just because employees enjoy something doesn’t mean you can turn it into a program and expect instant success.  I’m thinking specifically about all those Employee Wellness programs that are rolled out to much fanfare and little response.  People love being outside!  We have three softball teams!  Why don’t employees want our program?

There is a huge difference psychologically between choosing to be active and being paid, essentially, to be active.  One is fun, the other is an obligation.  And people do not, in general, appreciate being bossed around.  That’s why even when you have employees who are active, they resist the idea of a wellness program.  That’s what limits adoption in many cases.

How do you fix it?  It varies by culture, of course, but one suggestion is to let the employees run the program.  Too often, the HR MANDATE is immediately looked upon with suspicion, just because of the source.  But an employee designed and led program that can help reduce insurance costs?  Say, that sounds a whole lot better!  It wouldn’t be a bad idea to make sure the programs are easy to use and don’t require much in the way of tracking, logging, journaling, or writing-downing.

Give the people what they want.  Don’t ask them to buy into your own personal Candy Crush.

Michael Sam – What Most People Missed


I’m proud to be a Mizzou fan.  Even getting spanked outplayed outlasted by Auburn in the SEC title game was a pretty great moment.  But the coverage this week of SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam coming out?  Even more so.

Yes I’m proud that he’s a Tiger.  And yes I’m proud that the school and program have produced a young man willing to step up share who he is.  And yes I’m proud that he chose to do so before the NFL combine, knowing it could impact his draft position and his contract.  But that’s not what I’m really proud of.  What I’m really proud of is that he came out to his team at the start of the season.  Months ago.  And not only did it not cause any problems, but it also did not get any coverage.

No leaks.

No ugly incidents.

No turmoil.

Just a team.

It would have been easy in this season of Tiger football for someone to make an innocent remark that gets picked up by the press.  It would have been understandable if someone on the team decided to make a big show of their own homophobia and ignorance.  It would have been commonplace for Sam to keep his mouth shut and go through the season quietly, then let his teammates wonder later why he didn’t trust them enough to be honest about who he was.  But it was his trust in his teammates, their solidarity and support, and the way in which they acted as a team that is not only remarkable, but has been mostly missed (though not completely) in the coverage of this story.

We’ve all been members of teams, some of which we trusted, and some we didn’t.  The impact on our performance is noticeable, especially our long term engagement and productivity.  When we are surrounded by those we trust, who work to make our lives easier, and whom we know we can depend on day in and day out, we are better.  What’s more, we are programmed for reciprocity, so our inclination is to return trust and helpfulness.  This can snowball into an amazing cycle of peace on Earth and goodwill toward men (and women) if we let it.  I’ve been part of teams that defied all expectations of productivity and tenure, all because they truly enjoyed working together.  (As an aside, how together was this team?  Sam came out to his teammates in August.  He came out to his parents in January.)

It doesn’t always work that way, of course.  A breakdown of trust can sink a team faster than unrealistic expectations, a poor leader, or cement loafers.  I’ve seen teams that should succeed fail simply because of that lack of trust.  If the Tigers weren’t acting as a unit, this season could have quickly gone from SEC East Champion to complete disarray.  Credit to Gary Pinkel, the coaching staff, the university, and the young men who served as locker room leaders for not letting this happen.  It’s a great example of teamwork and togetherness overcoming adversity to succeed.

I won’t pretend to understand the burden carried by someone who has to hide who they are every day.  But I hope that this at least gives them comfort in the thought that coming out is not an event that you go through alone.  There are people around you that will support and uphold you.  Having a strong team can make even the biggest of mountains a molehill.

(And yes, I’ve heard the comments about “I don’t care if he’s gay, it shouldn’t be a big deal.”  You’re right.  It shouldn’t be.  But it is.  Let’s make it so in a positive light.  Because there are plenty of people out there who will take a opposing view, and do so very vocally.  These young men deserve all the positive reinforcement we can muster.)


From the Vault: What’s Missing From Diversity

It’s one of the most popular topics in the workplace.  Either you have a lot of resources being put toward diversity (A policy! A program! A diversity officer!) or you think you are already diverse and want to shout it from the rooftops (Metrics! Team photos! Recruiting strategies!).  And that’s great.  I don’t know many people who are willing to speak out against diversity.  Yes, there are some unintended consequences if not handled properly, but I think we can give organizations the benefit of the doubt in most cases.

What troubles me about diversity, though, is what we so often leave out.  Let’s think for a second about what generally falls into the “diversity” arena:

  • Gender
  • Race
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation

All very traditional topics, and all traits that define who we are.  And all fairly easy to measure.  But there are so many other things that we never really talk about, and that are a little tougher to quantify, such as:

  • Personality
  • Work style
  • Learning style
  • Learning capacity
  • Drive

Ugly list, huh?  But they sure do more to define who you are, in my opinion, than the color of your skin.

A team that represents the all the colors of the rainbow isn’t necessarily a diverse team.  And a team made up of three sets of triplets could be one of the most diverse you’ve ever seen.  Diversity is about finding out looking for the bet talent, figuring out how people think, work and succeed, and then putting them in a position to best utilize those skills so that everyone gets ahead.

Kinda sounds like the foundation of good management to me.

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