I know I need to focus on engagement and our HR strategy. But how can I do that when some of our employees don’t even have homes to go home to?

When I had this conversation with an HR leader based in Houston just after the hurricane had unleashed flooding on the state, I had to think carefully about what I was going to recommend. In the end, what I told this woman was the same thing I will recommend today in more detail.

how to comfort employeesWhen employees are going through a tough time, we need to recognize the fact that they are humans.

People.

Individuals.

That man? He’s someone’s father, brother, or son. That woman? She’s someone’s mother, grandmother, or daughter. Just like the story I told in my initial episode of We’re Only Human when the podcast launched last year, it’s important to see people as people.

I haven’t lost sight of the fact that business often goes on as usual in many circumstances. Things need to get done. But by focusing on the person and their fundamental needs first, you can earn amazing loyalty that is difficult to quantify.

One really easy way to show that you care for someone in more mundane circumstances, such as when a child is sick, an employee is dealing with an aging parent, or even a more positive situation like the birth of a child, is to send something unexpected. Research shows that we don’t just like general surprises, we actually like to be delighted.

Spoonful of Comfort is a great example of how to do this with a relatively low investment. Recently my wife and I were struggling to handle several travel activities for my job while juggling the needs of our kids. Plus our youngest was facing a few doctor’s visits for some issue. Basically we were stretched to the max. Thankfully, the team at Spoonful of Comfort sent a care package over for me to test out and it happened to come at the exact perfect time for us. I was so appreciative!

  • We didn’t have to worry about pulling together a family-friendly meal
  • We were able to focus our time on our family needs and taking care of other priorities
  • One word: cookies.

If you’re looking for a simple, practical way to help your workers through a tough time, send them something that feeds their body while also meeting their need for appreciation and attention at the same time.

On a broader scale, people want to know that their employers care about them. They want to know that their managers and others are thinking of them, especially when things are difficult in their personal lives. In the instance of this horrific damage done in Texas, Florida, and elsewhere, it’s important for us as business leaders to stay in tune with what our employees need and make sure we’re offering a helping hand to the extent possible.

I can vividly remember when tornadoes ripped through north Alabama six years ago and one of our employees that had been with us for two days lost his home. Everyone gathered around him in spirit by donating leave so he could take the time with his family to recover and begin the project of replacing what they had lost.

Like many things in HR, this is simple, even if it’s not always easy in the moment. Pay attention to your people. Treat them like people. Meet their basic, fundamental need for attention and support. And in the long term, it will be worth the investment in the lives of the people that enable your business to function.

I received the highlights from a new CareerBuilder study this week and they made me laugh for two reasons. First, because some of these ideas are actually pretty good, and second, because whoever wrote the press release of the data analysis is a bit off the mark. The gist of the research was this: people are looking for jobs (no surprise there) and some of them are doing interesting, strange, or downright weird things to try and stand out from the crowd.

A sampling of the strange

From the press release:

Hiring managers gave the following examples of unusual tactics job seekers used to stand out:

  • Candidate gave the hiring manager a baseball that read: “This is my best pitch of why you should hire me.”
  • Candidate sent the hiring manager daisies with a note that said “Pick me, pick me.”
  • Candidate brought their mother to the interview as an in-person character reference.
  • Candidate developed a whole website dedicated to the hiring manager, asking to be hired.
  • Candidate hugged the hiring manager when introduced instead of shaking hands.
  • Candidate got up from interview and started waiting on customers because the business got busy.
  • Hiring manager had a candidate volunteer to work at the business for a month before submitting an application to show that she was able to do the job.
  • Candidate presented a thick scrapbook of certificates, awards and letters.
  • Candidate sent a Christmas card every year for three years.
  • Candidate sent a cake with their resume printed on it.

Let’s take a moment to break a few of those down before pointing out the interesting flaw in the logic here.

  • The good: candidate got up during interview and started waiting on customers because the business got busy

While this seems like a strange move, I think it’s actually really interesting. If we set aside any labor laws or FLSA issues of having someone perform a work task among real employees for 10-15 minutes, this is the perfect way to see if someone can actually perform the job. In a study we did earlier this year, we found that candidates actually desire assessments and opportunities to prove their ability to perform on the job (they don’t really like generic assessments with no link to the actual work duties).

  • The bad: candidate sent cake with resume printed on it

This is weird. I like cake more than the average person, and even I wouldn’t eat a cake with a resume printed on it. Yes, I understand that the point is to get in front of the hiring manager, but this has nothing to do with qualifications, value, or usefulness. It doesn’t prove to me anything other than you are looking for ways to cut corners and get results without being willing to do something useful like networking, demonstrating value, etc.

  • The ugly: candidate brought mom to interview

Seriously?

I don’t know that I even need to say anything here. The moment I see a candidate bring his or her mother, I immediately dismiss them as capable of anything other than calling mommy for help when the pressure is on. Don’t do this and don’t tolerate this.

Does this actually help you get a job?

Back to the findings:

Stunts can have a negative impact on your chances of getting the job — more than a quarter of employers (26 percent) say unusual attention seeking antics from job seekers would make them less likely to call a candidate in for an interview.

While some read this as “26% of employers say you are less likely to get an interview,” I read this as “74% of employers DO NOT say you are less likely to get called for an interview.” That’s interesting because if I use one of these stunts to get attention, I am three times as likely to get attention based on the data they are presenting, even though they skew it the other direction by saying one out of four companies is turned off by these types of antics.

Here’s a clue if you’re searching for a job: don’t rely on some weird tactic to get you in the door. Just like you wouldn’t want to date someone that rides up on a unicycle juggling flaming batons, you shouldn’t be swayed by people relying on these kinds of attention-grabbing activities to showcase their skills (unless it’s a really unique case of having to use those kinds of skills, which is a one-in-a-million kind of thing).

What about you? Any interesting stories of things candidates have done to get attention that are outside the norm of phone calls, emails, hard copy resumes in the mail, etc.? 

This year I have the honor (and challenge) of being one of four analysts working with the HR Technology Conference to pick the next great HR tech company. Of the hundreds of submissions to this year’s contest, eight have been selected and four will actually get to present on-stage at HR Tech to a live audience. That audience will vote on who is the best and a new champion will be crowned.

With that in mind, I’d love some help! I am coaching two companies in the contest, Papaya Global and Proxfinity. In this semifinal round of voting, you can only pick one, but I’d love for you to take a few minutes and check out all of the contenders and make your vote heard!

If you like the podcast medium, you can listen here to Steve Boese, Chairman of the HR Tech Conference, and George LaRocque, a friend, analyst, and the President of the Ben Eubanks fan club (his words, not mine) talk about the eight companies.

If you prefer to read, here is the link to the contest overview where you can learn about the participants and place your vote.

About My Picks

I have two completely different companies in the running and both of them are doing really innovative work. I love both of these companies and would be thrilled to see either of them enter the finals!

Papaya Global is a solution that helps companies that are expanding globally. They focus not just on the compliance side and helping employers understand how to set up entities (or not), hire locally, and manage their payroll and benefits, but they also provide a technology platform that offers transparency and scalability. I’ve hired internationally before. It’s a huge challenge for smaller companies that don’t have a ton of resources and experience. And with more companies expanding globally than ever before (the US has a 4% unemployment rate, for goodness’ sake), this is the time for a company like Papaya to step up. The other angle on this is the increasing reliance on contingent labor. If I need a part-time developer for six months, it may be easier to find and hire that person in Singapore or Brazil than it would be to find, hire, and release that person in my home country. These project-based hires are becoming more frequent in today’s world, which means there’s a big need to fill.

Proxfinity is focused on creating connections in and among your workforce and providing analytics on those connections in ways you could have only dreamed of. It hinges on a few things, primarily a wearable badge that flashes when you are in proximity to someone else with similar interests so you can make that physical connection. I’ve always said there’s nothing that substitutes for a face-to-face conversation and Proxfinity is making those easier than ever. Plus, you can see analytics on the back end, which opens up a world of possibilities. For example, you may find out that your onboarding meetups are not properly mixing your new staff with executives, which may prompt you to change your approach. Or you might realize that while you promote diversity and inclusion, in reality the various groups of workers don’t mix as you might hope. Finally, you might just need to get your people outside their comfort zone and interacting with workers in other departments and functions, and you can program the badges to light up when someone is nearby that doesn’t have your same type of job. It’s a new area for HR to get into but I think there is incredible promise, and it’s the only solution in the competition with a wearable/hardware component.

Don’t forget to vote here. And if you’re going to be at HR Tech this year, let me know and we can try to connect!

engaging learning experiencesBy now you’ve most likely heard about and begun thinking about the employee experience, because you can’t turn around without reading an article or hearing someone speak about it. In essence, it’s a deeper look at the practices you use across the board to create lasting value for employees in the workplace. Within that conversation, one area that I think is going to really explode in growth in the coming year is the learning space. At Lighthouse I’m just wrapping up some research on the topic and have an upcoming webinar to share the findings and some ideas for how to make this work.

For instance, there’s a specific practice that high performers follow before developing learning content that separates them from low-performing companies. Hint: it’s more than just throwing out yet another eLearning module that employees have to click through and get credit for. Sign up at the link to join me on the webinar and learn that and other insights from the study!

The Truth About Creating Learning Experiences

It’s all about the experience. Learning content isn’t just about volume or format–it’s about creating a high-quality learning experience that resonates with your audience. Yet according to our new Learning Content Strategy research study, just one in four companies says their learning experiences are engaging and drive value for those that consume the content.

Yet high-performing companies, as identified in the study, are much more likely to say that great learning content leads to a variety of positive outcomes, from better business and individual performance to higher consumption of mission critical content. Creating engaging learning experiences isn’t just a “nice to have”–it’s essential for success.

And don’t forget: today’s learners have higher expectations than ever before. You’re not just competing with work tasks with your content–you’re competing with mobile apps, entertainment, and other sources of information for their attention and brainpower. In order to meet and exceed those expectations, we need to rethink how we approach learning content and the user experience.

Key Stats from the Data

The research data tell an interesting story. For instance:

  • One in five companies admits that their learning content doesn’t engage learners and doesn’t create a positive learner experience. 
  • Less than 3 in 10 companies say they have a strong L&D strategy in place that is driving content development and deployment.
  • The number one driver of learning content is to close skill gaps. This is validated by companies pointing out that, the most common measure of learning effectiveness is better performance.
  • Nearly half of companies are allocating 10-25% of their L&D budgets to content strategy, development, and delivery.

 

I’d love to have you join me on an upcoming webinar to explore these topics! I’ll be sharing not only the research but also a few stories of companies that have taken a stand and said they are going to change their approach to be more employee-centric. The session will not only cover the key pillars of learning content strategy (process, governance, user experience, etc.) but also how to target learner populations and more. I hope to see you there!

When we think about tools like Expedia and Yelp, we realize the value of transparency in the marketplace. The
underlying issue is information asymmetry – when one party has more information than the other, that party
has additional leverage in a discussion or negotiation. Leveling the playing field between two parties in an
exchange helps both to feel like they got a fair deal, which is essential in an employment situation. This
specifically applies to compensation as well. There is value in openness, and companies that find the right
balance can reap the benefits of pay transparency

Research Supports an Open Approach: Research points out that companies where employees understand the pay philosophy are more likely to see engagement from employees. A sense of trust and openness at work can create bottom-line business results. On the other end of the spectrum, pay secrecy has proven to limit business impact. This combination of factors clearly makes the case that businesses need to seek transparency at some level.

Trends in Transparency: A wide variety of trends have contributed to this increased demand for compensation transparency. From the deep insights offered by tools like Charity Navigator (and other online transparency sites) to the media sharing stories of corporate corruption and scandal, many drivers have created an environment that is ripe for additional openness.

Delivering a High-Quality Employee Experience: The good news is that any organization can improve pay transparency. Using tools like transparency audits and frameworks, companies can deliver a culturally-appropriate level of openness that improves the employee experience. These methods help organizations to make decisions (both big and small) in search of the right balance of transparency.

The Business Case for Transparency

Several years ago, Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist and professor at Duke University, performed an analysis of country-specific organ donation rates. His findings showed that countries like Austria and Poland had higher than 99 percent donation rates, but countries like Denmark had dismal rates in the single digits. He wanted to find out what made each group different, because Denmark is very similar to its neighbors in terms of culture, religion, and other socioeconomic factors.

It turned out that the key influencer was not an intrinsic one at all. Each country’s Department of Motor Vehicles actually used a different method for enrolling someone in organ donation. For Austria and Poland, the enrollment form’s default was to participate in the program. For countries like Denmark, the enrollment form required them to opt into the program. That small difference led to significant impacts on organ donation and availability, and it offers a compelling lesson on how our default reactions can shape outcomes.

The lesson here is, given the choice, we should default to transparency. For some business leaders, it is reflexive to protect information, keeping it secret unless they have a good reason to share. While working as an HR leader, I performed plenty of coaching with my executive team focused on the concepts of pay transparency and business transparency in general. I always told them their default should be to share openly unless there are specific reasons not to. The benefits of this approach include greater awareness and engagement in the employee population.

If you’re interested in reading and learning more about compensation transparency, be sure to check out our free eBook on the topic underwritten by the great team at Salary.com, where this content was pulled from. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic!

This summer at Lighthouse we’ve been working our way through a number of research studies, but to be honest one of the ones I’ve been incredibly pumped about is focused on performance management. It’s probably because I get a sense of the discontent around this practice regardless of where I go and who I speak with. It’s incredibly hated at so many companies by HR, management, and the employees.

But there are also companies that are using it as a kind of secret weapon. In the research (the full report will be published in September) I am seeing some very interesting points on how companies plan to approach the practice of performance management, and it’s encouraging me to focus on it not just as managing or reviewing past performance, but enabling great future performance.

Top 10 Research Highlights

  1. We keep hearing it in the news–performance management is shifting/changing/dying. It’s certainly not staying the same. Approximately 60% of employers have made changes (including both minor adjustments and major shifts) to their performance process in the last 24 months. Another 25% are planning to in the near future.
  2. Despite the common discussion, annual goals still rank as the number one way employers manage performance. This is followed by recognition, coaching, and leveraging strengths.
  3. While performance feels like a drag for many employees (anecdotally :-)), the number one reason employers still practice it is to improve individual performance for workers.
  4. Which seems kind of said, because just 4% of employers say that their approach is highly effective and enables greater employee performance.
  5. Nearly one in five companies say that their performance management technology is clunky and difficult to use, which hinders progress in performance management, measurement, and improvement.
  6. At the same time, two-thirds of companies say that their approach improves engagement levels for their workforce. This is very much split by the kind of culture a company has (more on this below).
  7. High-performing companies are 58% less likely to say their approach to performance management is ineffective.
  8. High-performing companies are 20% more likely to say their performance management philosophy improves engagement rather than diminishing it.
  9. Astonishingly, companies with a competitive or controlling culture were more than three times as likely to say their approach to performance management failed to deliver the results and may actually impede employee performance and engagement.
  10. The performance practice spectrum. We’re analyzing the data through the lens of performance management activities on a spectrum. On one end are the old-fashioned, unpleasant activities like forced ranking and annual reviews. On the other end are more positive, engaging practices such as development coaching, peer feedback, and more.

    What we see in the preliminary results is that companies with a more collaborative culture are more likely to practice on the positive end of the spectrum while firms with more controlling cultures are more likely to fall on the negative end. More to come on this as we explore the data!

These highlights, while intriguing, are fairly high level. Look for additional insights in our upcoming white paper and webinar (to be announced) that focus more deeply on culture, what high-performing companies do differently, and other key insights from the research!


Tried to find a new job lately? It’s easy to feel like a rat in a wheel, running faster and faster yet getting nowhere. Despite this being a candidate’s market, it’s easy to feel like you are never going to get ahead of the game.

In today’s conversation (click here to listen), Ben Eubanks interviews Terry Terhark, founder and CEO of randrr. randrr is a recruiting technology firm that is focused on meeting the needs of candidates and individuals by providing highly targeted job opportunities and career insights.

During the conversation, Ben and Terry discuss what’s wrong with recruiting today and how to meet the needs of today’s job seekers. In addition, Terry talks about the issues he sees that bleed across generational and demographic lines, hampering each company from being both efficient and effective with their recruiting efforts. Ben also points to some recent data from Lighthouse Research that focuses on talent acquisition priorities for 2017 and why they matter within the context of the conversation.

Here’s a brief snippet of the conversation:

Ben: So, would you say then that we’re in a candidate’s market?

Terry: I definitely think recruiters understand that today. And it’s not just in high pressure fields like we’ve seen traditionally such as nursing, software, etc. Now it’s crept into skilled trades, sales, and other areas.

There’s tremendous pressure. Recruiters understand that it’s a candidate’s market, but from a company perspective they don’t necessarily realize that opinions have changed. Even today some of the statistics that we have gathered show that the process for job search or recruiting is disappointing and frustrating. Nearly three in four polled individuals said their online job search is frustrating. Company behavior and recruiter behavior has to change to fit that.

Ben: This definitely reminds us of the recent case study with Virgin Media. The company was losing tons of revenue because it treated its “silver medalists,” or candidates it didn’t select, so poorly. Those individuals wouldn’t even shop at the company after that treatment, but the company turned it around and really points to that as a huge revenue opportunity today.

Terry: That’s the issue. We see that companies are getting an average of 150 resumes per posting. That’s virtually impossible to qualitatively sift through, yet many technologies people use encourage more applications/submittals both for candidates and for employers, which compounds the problem…

Click here to listen to the episode and find out what the answer is to this and other problems facing companies today.

To find out more about randrr, be sure to check out http://randrr.com

Thanks everyone, as always, for checking out We’re Only Human. If you’d like to hear previous episodes just check out our archive at http://upstarthr.com/podcast