upstartHR - entry level HR, corporate culture, and human resources leadership

Group Feedback is Ineffective and Insulting

This just in: group feedback isn’t the best tool in your performance management toolbox…

I was running through some old emails the other day and found an example I had to share. Several years ago I was working as a high school wrestling referee. It was definitely a tough job, but I learned some good stuff from the experiences (not getting overwhelmed when someone’s screaming in your face is an amazing skill).

One of the quirks of the job was that you’d get an anonymous/random evaluation on your performance once or twice a year. I never once received any specific, personal feedback on how I was doing other than informally from my peers. However, occasionally, the reviewer would send out group feedback notes like the ones below…

Overall the officiating has been good. Your hustle and positioning has been generally good. There are some opportunities for improvement. Stalling is still a problem. We need to get more aggressive in calling stalling to eliminate that from the sport. With tournaments coming up at several places, remember that it is your responsibility to ensure the restricted areas of the mat are clearly marked. Also remember that only two people are allowed in the corner and they are supposed to be seated in the chairs. Over the next three weeks, I will be looking closely at how you have responded to my comments from previous evaluation and in determining who should be recommended for the post season. We have several candidates in you Association. This is your time to convince me that you are the one who deserves to be selected.

Let’s imagine for a moment that this was a performance evaluation provided to you and your team on your collective performance. How motivated and engaged would you feel if someone sent you this group feedback in an email along with twenty of your coworkers?

Yeah, I had that same reaction.

I just wanted to share as a little reminder that despite all we know about leadership and effective talent management, there are still managers that need help doing the job of managing people. Wow.

Government Contracting HR: Retaining Cleared Employees

For those of you who don’t work in the government contracting HR world, “cleared” employees are those who the government has granted a clearance to work with sensitive materials. This clearance is very important, and to get one the employee (and employer) have to agree to some specific requirements. Today I’d like to talk generally about a topic that I had experience with previously to give those outside this industry a view of how things are different. If there is sufficient interest I can talk more about some of the other specific requirements of working in HR for a government contractor in future content. You guys let me know…

Reporting employees to the government

One of the primary responsibilities on both the employee and the employer is this: if the person has anything in their life that might affect their judgement or capabilities, the government needs to know about it, because it could affect their clearance. The employee is supposed to supply the information to the employer, but there are times when the employer becomes aware of something that was not brought to their attention (that sometimes is worse, because the requirement for the employee to notify immediately is pretty serious).

Once the information is known, the initial facts are provided to the government representative and a chain of events is set in motion. Sometimes nothing happens, but sometimes it can cause the person to lose their clearance. And in a job where having a clearance is a requirement to do the essential functions, that means they are out of a job.

I illustrate this so we all understand how serious it is, as well as to explain why an employee might cover up this information initially to protect themselves and their family.

The number one rule in HR

If you think about everything you do, one of the most important rules that you have to live by is confidentiality. You have to keep things quiet, secure, locked away, etc. Yes, we need to share when the situation dictates it, but more often than not the conversations we have on a daily (hourly?) basis with our staff are locked away in our heads for nobody else to see or know.

Government contracting HR: The intersection

If an employee comes to you with a story about their spouse being laid off, what do you say? Suppose the employee returns a month later and tells you that they are being foreclosed on due to the job layoff. How do you respond?

This is tactical, hands-on HR. The “good” HR person is going to sit down with them, offer any advice/support they can, and generally be a comforting presence in this troubled time in the employee’s life. Maybe you have something positive to share. Maybe you offer them some flexible time in order to take care of things at home. Whatever the case, you acknowledge their dilemma and offer what support you can.

If you’re in the government contracting HR field, the next step is taking that conversation straight to your security professional and having them report that information to the government. And honestly? It stinks. Because if the government believes that this person is no longer trustworthy due to the personal/financial problems they are facing, they can pull the job out from under them in a moment’s notice.

For me, that was one of the hardest lessons to learn stepping into the government contracting HR world. This stuff has some unique twists and turns that make it harder than usual to handle those personal and emotional issues that come up in the average day to day life of all of us.

If I have to provide a lesson in all of this, it’s just a reminder that ensuring our employees are well in every sense of the word: emotionally, financially, physically, etc. should be a priority for us. Getting the best from our people doesn’t happen by accident; we have to work at it.

Have you ever worked in government contractor HR? Would you even be interested after hearing this example?

Employee Development Ideas: A Free eBook

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a project to collect some employee development ideas for a free eBook. It launched recently, and I’m excited to share it with you today. Click the link below to download this guide full of actionable tips and strategies relating to employee development ideas. I have published a piece of my contributed article below for you to see the kinds of topics the free guide includes.

The Development Scale – Leading the Right Shift to Self and Organizational Development

Employee Development Ideas: Encouraging Development

employee development ideasCongratulations! You’ve picked a development goal for yourself. It’s big, but that’s okay, because the important thing is that you’re focusing on your development and setting goals for yourself. Now let’s sit back, relax, and enjoy the happy feelings associated with setting a personal goal.

Or not.

See, the problem that I consistently see with employees making development goals is that they don’t give enough thought to the actual completion of the goal. It feels good to set a goal and declare our intentions, but when you’re mired in the “everyday” tasks, the goal is the furthest thing from your mind.

The important thing here is that we all need some encouragement to pursue those stretch developmental goals — they don’t just happen accidentally.

And research shows that employee development may have a larger impact on their overall work and results than previously believed…

Click here to check out the guide and read the rest of my piece, along with content from some of the other highly intelligent development ninjas in the space! A big thanks to my pal Chris Ponder for putting this guide of employee development ideas together!

HR Humor: Ten Ways to Prevent Fun at Work

When I started this blog, I tried to regularly thread in some HR humor to make things more lively. In anticipation of the fifth anniversary of upstartHR’s beginning, I am sharing this humorous top ten list. Enjoy!

  1. Cancel the monthly birthday celebration. We paid attention to them last year, right?
  2. Make sure your supervisors are treating people at the bare minimum threshold of the law and not a bit better. Anything above that is wasted effort.
  3. Forget about that whole “engagement” mess. Nobody ever really enjoys their work or puts in extra effort.
  4. Test employees for their weaknesses and make them spend time training on those areas. Forget about their strengths and only focus on the things they’re not good at.
  5. Create a new policy requiring everyone to notify their boss when they have to visit the restroom. This will finally allow us to account for EVERY minute they are in the building during the work day.
  6. Cancel all of the employee perks. They’re getting paid–why should they expect more?
  7. Make all official communications go out via email and don’t let any staff talk with management about issues or problems. We’re here to tell THEM how things are, not the other way around.
  8. Cancel direct deposit and make everyone start picking up their checks from payroll. The walk to the payroll building will replace our wellness initiative.
  9. We need to manage risk more actively. Effective immediately we will force any new ideas for “innovation” to go through a seventeen step approval process to only allow the safest and least risky ideas to be implemented. Oh, and cancel any bonuses for approved ideas–we need people submitting them for our benefit, not theirs.
  10. We’re going to replace our health insurance plan with Google–by our records people are already job searching there during the work day, so we might as well give them a second reason to visit.

HR humor courtesy of Dilbert!

HR Humor Dilbert comic strip

Courtesy of


The Idea Driven Organization (Book Review)

The Idea Driven Organization by Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder

I recently finished this new book, and it was an excellent read. I’ve been on the hunt for a good book on innovation and generating new ideas in the workplace, and this is exactly what I was looking for. Check out the video review below for my thoughts on the book.

Video notes

  • Management driven vs front line driven ideas
  • “Successful” managers vs effective managers
  • Resourcing for time: how to have time to innovate
  • Being problem-sensitive versus problem averse (also known as “that’s not my problem” syndrome in the corporate world)

Should you get it?

I’d recommend this for anyone looking to drive more innovation in the workplace. HR always talks about strategy and impacting the business, and this is a great way to make that happen by harnessing the power of your people. Click below to grab your copy!

How to Get Into Human Resources

I recently received a reader email asking how to get into human resources without experience. It made me pause, because I had just responded to an email asking virtually the same thing less than five minutes before. So I dug into my email and looked at how many times I’ve had a conversation with someone over the past five years about how to get into HR. The result? I’ve had over 250 conversations in just five years, and those don’t include the many interactions outside of email. Today I’m sharing my thoughts on the subject, some data from a recent survey I developed, and insights from other HR professionals on how to get into human resources without experience. This is going to be long, but it’s going to be good.

Table of Contents

  1. How to get into HR
  2. Relating real-world work to HR
  3. Improving your HR education (mostly for free)
  4. How to position yourself for success
  5. Things to remember for your first HR job
  6. Comments from the experts
  7. Additional resources

How to get into human resources

I think its hard to get that first HR job without any experience. What would you give as advice for the newbies to land the first job in hr? Alison
Keep reading…

HRevolution 2014

Since 2009, HRevolution has been creating unique opportunities for HR professionals, recruiters, consultants, and vendors to come together to discuss and debate the future of HR.

This year we are celebrating our fifth anniversary by taking the event back to its roots. We have crowdsourced the location preferences and are excited to announce the location of our event!

HRevolution 2014
Keep reading…

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