Free Webinar: Preparing for the PHR/SPHR Exam 101


On June 21, 2012 Dovetail Software is hosting a webinar: The Eubanks Review: Preparing for the PHR/SPHR Exam 101. This webinar will cover the details on the process of signing up, preparing for, and taking the exam. Ben Eubanks, founder of the popular Rock the PHR Study Guide , will be collaborating with Dovetail for the first session of a 3-part webinar series on everything you need to know for getting your PHR/SPHR certification.

Eubanks is a prominent and influential HR blogger who has been writing for three years on topics ranging from HR, to leadership, to zombies and pirates. Eubanks started his blog when he realized no one was representing the young HR pro. Eubanks has since built a community around his blog, written an eBook on HR certification and co-founded the HR unconference HRevolution.

Join the us for the first part in this three-session webinar on Thursday, June 21, 2012 from 1:30-2:00 p.m EST. Register for this webinar here.

Causation vs. Correlation

Correlation doesn't imply causation, but it does waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing "look over there."


I love the above comic from XKCD.  I thought of it in the middle of a great conversation recently on TalentNet Live that was, ostensibly anyway, about social media and best practices.  Somehow we stumbled into the difference between correlation and causation.  It’s one of my favorite things to talk about, which in and of itself is a little odd, to be sure.  But for anyone who doesn’t know the difference,  help is here.

Correlation is when two things tend to happen (or not happen) together.  The example I used on the show was the correlation between ice cream consumption rates and drowning deaths.  Statistically, these two data trends move together.  When ice cream consumption rises, drowning deaths do as well.  When ice cream sales start to drop, fewer people drown.

That’s not to say, of course, that people are drowning in ice cream.  Rather, there is another factor in play, which is heat.  When does ice cream tend to be consumed?  When it is hot.  And what do many people do when it is hot?  Head to the water.  Ice cream and drowning incidents have no relationship other than matching trends, both being related to a third factor.  Correlation.

Causation, on the other hand, is when there are two data sets that move in harmony, but one is, in fact, causing the other.  To follow the previous example, there is a causal relationship between the average daily temperature and ice cream consumption.  The rising temperature inspired people to seek out a cool, tasty treat more readily than in the winter.  Causation.

There also exists inverse correlations, in which two date sets tend to move in opposite directions.  An increased number of years spent in school tends to be reflected in a lower unemployment rate.  We all know that higher education isn’t a guarantee of a job, nor are people usually hired only because of their education, but there is certainly a relationship.

I hope now that I’ve given you a quick explanation, the comic at the top of the page is as funny to you as it is to me.


Don’t Miss This Free Webinar!


We’re hosting a free webinar over on the Dovetail Software side today on preventative employee relations.

Who’s on the panel?  None other than friends of the show Steve Browne, Amy Dillman and Paul Smith.  How in the world can you pass that up?  You can’t.  That’s how.

Jump on over and register.  Even if you can’t make the webinar, you can get the replay link.  For free.  Nothing down, nothing a month for a really long time.  That’s a payment plan we can all live with.


Friday Recap

So, if you hadn’t heard, this happened…

Dovetail Software Appoints Dwane Lay as Head of HR Process Design

 New Executive Team Hire to Consult with Prospects and Customers on HR Processes and Reporting

AUSTIN, TX – April 10, 2012 — Dovetail Software, a leader in web-based HR case management and help desk software, today announced that Dwane Lay will join the company as Head of HR Process Design. In his new role, Lay will be responsible for analyzing prospects’ and customers’ current HR processes and recommending improvements to aid in adoption efforts, and will serve as Dovetail’s subject matter expert on HR reporting and analytics.

Dwane brings with him a career of working in Human Resources for medium and large companies, focused on designing and implementing key HR processes in the employee life cycle.  His background also includes experience working with HRIS management and implementation, including optimizing the HR function to fully leverage new systems.

Prior to joining Dovetail, Lay served as the Director of Human Resources for Missouri Baptist Medical Center in St. Louis, MO. He is recognized as a leading authority on the application of Lean tools and techniques in Human Resources, and has a wealth of experience in applying business technology to improve HR processes. Lay is the author of and is a well-known presence on the HR social media landscape.

“Dwane has the expertise, experience and leadership that will help our company gain efficiencies in execution, educate the market on the benefits of HR case management software, and enhance the success of our current and future customers,” says Stephen Lynn, CEO of Dovetail.

“I’m incredibly excited to join a great organization with a great product,” states Lay. “The Human Resources profession has been making huge strides in the last decade to become much more data and process focused, and Dovetail Support Suite for HR takes it to the next level. I’m proud to be part of a brand that is changing the HR landscape.”

Dwane holds an MBA from Lindenwood University in St. Louis, MO, is a certified Senior Professional of Human Resources with HCRI, and has earned a Six Sigma Black Belt.


About Dovetail Software
Dovetail Software delivers web-based case management and help desk software that manages and tracks employee interactions with HR—including employee grievances and general policy questions, payroll and benefits, recruiting-related questions and compliance issues. Dovetail customers cite cost reduction of supplying support, increased productivity, access to complete records of employee interactions with HR, and visibility into analytics that help them improve their processes as key product benefits.


Am I excited?  You betcha.  A great company with a great product.  Can’t beat a package like that.  I haven’t even started yet, and already I love working there.

And yes, there’s room for others.  Looking for a sweet software gig?  There are some open spots on the team for developers, designers and sales.  Check them out.

The train is leaving the station, kids.  Best jump on board before you get left behind.

Social Media Recruiting Basics

I’m certainly no expert on the subject, granted.  In fact, I’m excited to attend the Social Recruiting MacGyver Style! webinar hosted by our friends at Fistful of Talent.  So I would consider myself a novice.  Maybe a little more than that, but not much.  So I think it makes me perfectly suited to tell you the bare minimum.  Or, as I like to think of it, everything I know.


It’s the “professional” networking site.  You’re on there, right?  No?  Stop reading and go sign up.  I’ll wait.

OK, welcome back.  Now take the time to fill out your profile.  Do all the things they suggest, including a picture.  A good one.  A professional one, even.  Now trumpet the heck out of your company and your job as a recruiter, manager, leader, chief bottle washer or whatever.  But you want heavy visibility around what you do and how you can be contacted.

While LinkedIn tells you to connect to only those you know, don’t be shy.  Connect to anyone who asks.  Consider joining a group like LION (LinkedIn Open Networkers) to build your connections.  Connect to everyone in your company, including your co-workers, boss, and internal clients.  Join groups, too.  Your company should have one.  (If not, get someone to start one.  Or do it yourself, if you like.  It is not that hard.)  There are a ton of good recruiter groups (like The Recruiter Network for example).  Consider joining some of the great HR specific groups (LinkedHR, TrenchHR, TLNT, and HREvolution are great examples) or industry specific groups (such as Healthcare Human Resources, if you are into that sort of thing).  There is a group for everything.  If not, make one.  It’s that easy.


I guess this is the “unprofessional” network.  OK, the “personal” network.  Unless you are Jason Seiden, in which case it is the “profersonal” network.  Assuming you are already on the network, start thinking of it as your recruiting tool.

“But I’m not hiring someone to work for me, I’m hiring for my company!”  Then you best get a company page, right?  Know how much that’s going to cost you?  Same as your personal page.  Nada.  So…why don’t you have one?

Get it fixed.  Share the page with everyone you know.  Post your open jobs, of course.  (You may want a FB page just for jobs, if you post enough.)  Talk about how much people like working there.  Get your employees to post about how much they like working there.  Interact with your fans.  Get your message out there.  Think of your page like the classified ads, except free, global, interactive and seen by people who are interested in your organization.  Why aren’t you on there again?


Yes, Craigslist.  Get yourself a cheap refrigerator, free golf clubs, send an anonymous note to that cute girl or guy you saw two weeks ago on the subway, or find a job.  Might work better for some industries than others, but considering the cost (nothing down, nothing a month for a really long time), it’s cost effective.


I know, you probably hate Twitter.  Stop it.  Lots of people love it.  And your candidates are lots of people.  Get an account for your company, and try to work in the company name and “jobs” into the title.  Make sure the description includes “jobs” and/or “job openings.”  People search for that, so it matters.  Post your jobs there in 140 characters.  Actually, try for 100, and include the link to the online application.  Follow other people in bunches.  Often they will follow you back, building your network.  Search for other job accounts and follow them.  (It doesn’t hurt to follow the jobs accounts of your competitors, if they have one.  Wouldn’t you like to know what they are looking for?  Wouldn’t you like to know if they are competing for the same talent or, worse, coming after yours?  Thoughts so.)


One of the most overlooked tools.  How can you recruit with it?  Seriously?  You are a charming recruiter who can close any quality candidate if you can get face time with them, right?  Well, think of this as free face time.  You get to use your charms to send your message to the whole world.  For free.  That’s the kind of coverage you just can’t buy.

And don’t neglect your leaders.  Recruiting a lot of freshly graduated engineers?  Have your engineering leaders talk about what they need in their department and how to best prepare for the job.  Get information to your candidates to help them understand how to be successful, and how to contact you to share their details.  You want them to win, and you want them to win on your terms.  So tell them.  It’s as close to unlimited interviews as you can get from the selling side.

(Once you get comfortable with YouTube, come back and we’ll talk about Skype and online interviews.)

What else is there?

Well, there’s that pesky “real life” thing.  Time after time we have seen studies that tell us people get jobs based on who they know.  So know lots of people if you are a recruiter.  Meet them for coffee.  Or breakfast.  Or lunch.  Or whatever excuse you can come up with.  Your job is to know people.  So get to know them.

In a lot of ways, it’s the best job you can have.  Assuming you like people.  And I’m assuming you do.

Who Owns Social Media Accounts?

So, who’s seen the story about Noah Kravitz being sued over his Twitter account?

PhoneDog LLC filed a lawsuit in July against Noah Kravitz, a writer who worked for the Mount Pleasant, S.C., company from 2006 until last year. Attorneys for the website, which reviews mobile devices like phones and tablets, said Kravitz owes them $340,000.

The company said when Kravitz resigned, he changed his Twitter name from PhoneDog_Noah to noahkravitz, and kept his 17,000 followers. The company said the followers should be treated like a customer list, and therefore PhoneDog’s property.

PhoneDog said Kravitz should pay $2.50 per follower per month for eight months, or a total of $340,000.

So Noah opens an account, builds a following, leaves the company, changes the account name to be clear he’s no longer with the company, then is sued over the value of his account.
 There’s also a story about Dr. Linda Eagle’s fight over her LinkedIn account..

Dr. Linda Eagle…teamed up with Clifford Brody and founded Edcomm…In October 2010, Sawabeh Information Services entered into an agreement…to purchase Edcomm. Sawabeh proposed to retain the three as executives, but abruptly terminated them in June 2011. This prompted a flurry of litigation.

The Lawsuits: Eagle sued…alleging that defendants improperly accessed and continued to use Eagle’s LinkedIn account. Defendants turned around and asserted counterclaims, alleging that Eagle misappropriated a telephone number that had been assigned to Edcomm and improperly caused AT&T to transfer this number to Eagle personally. Defendants also asserted that Eagle misappropriated a laptop, as well as the LinkedIn “connections” associated with Eagle’s LinkedIn account (which defendants allege was maintained by Edcomm for the Edcomm’s benefit).

Got that?  She and her partners sell the business, get canned, then sue because their former employer took over her LinkedIn account. Her personal account.
I’ve heard of (but not personally seen) companies that not only ask employees to remove them as the current employer upon termination, but have the activity on their exit checklist and will watch an employee make the change.  Never made much sense to me, as it is easy to change it back or falsify that record.
Both that example and the Twitter discussion, to me, end in the same place.  Too many companies (read: leaders) don’t understand the implications or use of social media tools yet.  Want to make sure you own those intellecual rights?  Open the account, point it to a company email and ISSUE the password.  Yes, you’ll have to share it with the user, but you giving it to them brings some implicit ownership to the party.  But your best bet is to have separation between creation and use of the account.  Then there isn’t a lot of debate over where the ownership ends and the utility begins.
Think of physical tools.  If an employee goes out and acquires a screwdriver, laptop or car for use in company business, you’d expect some haggling over ownership down the road, right?  That’s why the business buys the equipment.  Clarity.  Just because these accounts are free doesn’t make them less valuable to your business.  And the ownership rules aren’t much different.  Take the time to be clear up front on the ownership of the accounts, starting with how they are established. Twitter, Facebook and Google+ company pages should be established and maintained by the company, and the content belongs to them.
But keep your hands off personal LinkedIn accounts.  They are personal for a reason.

Living Pareto Charts

We’ve talked about Pareto Charts before.  They are a lot of fun.  Really.  I mean it.  But I was recently introduced to a new tool, and couldn’t wait to share it.

When you are living in a Lean world, part of your job is looking at certain metrics every day.  When one of your metrics goes off the rails, it becomes the leader’s job to determine what is causing the defect and define the corrective action.  The living Pareto chart will help you do that in real time.  Let’s take a closer look:

Count of incident is on the left side.  Reasons for defect are on the bottom.  Dates in the grid are a list of each time that particular incident occurred.  Stuck on your Gemba board, this allows you to get good data at the point of failure each time.  But even more important is that red line.  That line is the upper control limit.  If the number of incidents cross that line, it’s time to take action.

From there you have your choice of tools, of course.  Five Whys, Fishbone, FEMA, or plenty of others.  It doesn’t really matter which one you use.  But this tool lets you track how often you have a defect, what caused the defect, and tells you when it is time to act.  I love it.  And I couldn’t wait to share.

Give it a shot.  You’ll love it, too.


From the Archives: More on Y to X Trees

A quick recap, and a look forward

This week, we’ve covered what a Y to X tree is and how to create them, as well as the difference between fixed and variable costs, and how to use the two when creating cost-focused trees. So why did we spend so much time on this?

When the year started, I really wanted to get away from the “here’s what’s wrong with HR” stuff. There is more than enough of that floating around already. Instead, I want to focus on sharing what I know and putting some tools in your kit to help you think differently about work.

When I went through black belt training, it changed my perception of the world. I no longer see things around me as “work.” I see processes and distinct workflows. I see inputs and outputs. I see waste and value. And I see how it could be better, and I see the things that hold us back. I want to share that with my HR brethren, because I know you can do great work with it.

So where do we go from here?

I have a list of topics that I want to cover. Some of them may feel very elementary to you, some may feel completely foreign. That’s ok. We are all at different levels of comfort. I’m hoping to establish a baseline of knowledge, skills and abilities that will at least get us to neutral. From there, if the feedback is positive, we can start looking at more complex tools and statistical analysis. But my focus for now will be on the basics.

Back to Y to X trees.

Yes, this is a simple tool. Yes, it takes about 5 minutes to learn. And yes, it can help keep you from choking on high level, nearly impossible goals. So why is it so powerful?  I think it’s beauty comes from simplicity.

There are plenty of complex analytical tools you can use if you want to look smart.  There are software programs that sell for hundreds of dollars that will promise to tell you the future.  I’m more interested in things we can use today, for free, to make HR successful in the trenches.

Once you know a tool like the tree, it becomes second nature to use it as needed.  You might not even realize you are using it, but the act of taking huge challenges and breaking them down into manageable chunks is the end goal, regardless of whether or not you realize you are doing it.  And the tree is a nice way to do it visually so you can collaborate with others.

What else can we use?

There are plenty of tools that are just as simple and useful, especially in a collaborative environment.  Those the tools on which I’ll focus.  I hope you will join me, and please jump in with comments or questions. I’ll try to keep it interesting for you. Thanks for reading.

From the Archives: Y to X Trees in Use

A video post today, walking through using the Y to X trees we’ve discussed this week.

From the Archives: Fixed Cost vs. Variable Cost

Yesterday we talked about my favorite Lean tool, Y to X trees.  If you haven’t read it yet, go check it out.  We’ll wait.

OK, welcome back.  Today we are going to talk about one of the foundational principles of operational management, fixed costs versus variable costs.  They are the two components you will find when breaking down your costs, be they production, sales, marketing or HR.

Fixed Costs

Fixed costs are the ball and chain of the business world.  You will pay these costs week to week, month to month, year to year.  They do not change based on your level of activity.

One of the most traditional examples of a fixed cost is rent of your office space.  You will pay that cost according to your lease even if you have no business operations that month.  Conversely, you’ll generally pay that same amount if you are running at 200% capacity.

Office equipment is another fine example.  Your lease costs for laptops, printers, desks and the like aren’t likely to change month to month, regardless of how often they are used.  That’s not to be confused with consumable materials, such as paper or toner for your printer.  Those would be considered…

Variable Costs

These are costs that will change based on your level of activity (or some other business variable).

In the manufacturing world, variable costs are often tied to the number of widgets produced.  If your factory is creating a physical product, there is some level of raw material used.  If we assume $1 of steel is needed to make a $2 widget, then I’ll need $100 of material for 100 items, $200 for 200 items, and so on.  Your cost will vary based on activity level, but is still predictable based on your business plans.

Another variable cost is labor.  Let’s assume I employ 10 hourly workers at $10 per hour, 40 hours per week each.  My simple cost of labor is $4,000 per week.  And at capacity, they produce 1,000 widgets.  My material cost is $1,000, bringing my operation cost to $5,000 that week.  Simplified, of course.

But if my orders increase, now we pay overtime.  For 2,000 items to be produced, I double my cost of materials.  And I need my team to work 80 hours this week at overtime rates of $15 per hour over 40.  Material is now $2,000, labor is now $4,000 for the first 40 hours, plus $6,000 for the second 40, bringing cost of operation to $12,000.  My output has doubled, but my costs have increased even more based on the change in production level. My lease on the factory, though, will have remained the same.

Fixed vs Variable Costs in HR

These are simple concepts, at least at this level.  The application can become complex, but the point here is to try to identify the difference.

HR, of course, has both types of cost as well.  A few examples:

Fixed costs: equipment lease, exempt salaries, ATS contract rates

Variable costs: job postings, applicant materials, travel

There are plenty of other examples of course.  Tomorrow, we will take a look at how these two costs can be combined with our Y to X tree to start identifying action plans from strategic goals.

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