This week I’m at the HR Technology Conference. I wrote about everything I’m looking forward to and planning to talk about last week on the Lighthouse blog if you want to check it out. One thing I’m doing again this year is a 5-minute Ideas and Innovators talk to close out the conference, and this time I’m talking about something very personal and very close to my heart. The video below was my semi-practice run and reflection on a few of the things I’ll be squeezing into the 5-minute presentation. Plus, Berklee joins me for the first time on video! (subscribers click through to the website to view)

Check out this behind the scenes peek and let me know your thoughts below. If you’re interested in hearing more of the takeaways from my talk I should be able to get a recording for you after the conference.

Be sure to read all the way to the end. I’m giving away free stuff to those that help!

The first person I ever met with Parkinson’s disease was Mollie. She is an incredibly sharp analyst and friend, and she taught me some great lessons in my days transitioning from practitioner to analyst. She is a proud supporter of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research and this year has asked me to help as a supporter of her campaign.

At this point my team is behind and we need to surge and pull ahead. I know many of you are runners, walkers, just parents that cover a lot of ground chasing your kids, etc. :-) I think we can still win this but I need your help!

How to sign up

  • Head over to the website to register
  • When given the option, whether on the website or the app, be sure to choose Team East, since I’m the captain
  • After you register and download the app for your phone, it will take you back to the website to donate the required $15 minimum to participate
  • The steps challenge will take place Sept 25-Oct 6 (just a few days left, this isn’t a big commitment!)
  • Help my team win the step challenge by walking at least 5k steps and checking in on the app (every 5k steps you log, ADP will donate additional money to the cause)
  • If you have issues with the app, step tracking, etc. the app support team is very quick to respond

A special “thank you”

If you sign up to help within the next 24 hours, just forward me the signup confirmation email as proof and at the end of the challenge I will send you a copy of the HR Recertification Guide or the Rock Your Corporate Culture Guide, whichever you prefer, as a special “thank you” for supporting this challenge.

Thanks in advance for helping!

power of moments

I’m reading a new book, and it’s pretty amazing. The Power of Moments tells stories and gives examples of how to create amazing moments of value for employees, students, families, etc. Two of the principles from the book can be leveraged for employee reviews and I want to focus on them today.

Assurance + Expectations > Feedback

The first concept is called Assurance + Expectations. Researchers performed a study on students that received graded feedback on their work.

  • In the first group, students received a generic “these comments are feedback.”
  • In the second group, students received “I’m giving you this feedback because I have high expectations and know you can do better.”

After receiving the feedback the students had the opportunity to edit and resubmit their work. A much larger portion of group two resubmitted their work for review. But why?

The concept comes down to Assurance + Expectations. If we provide assurance and give a set of expectations, we can empower individuals to perform at a higher level, provide greater depth, and make the transaction much more of a positive experience. Those individuals in group one didn’t get any positive reinforcement, insight into expectations, etc.

Within the performance process, it’s not enough just to give someone a piece of feedback and move on, especially when it’s critical. We need to provide critical feedback in the context of assurance (you can do great work) and expectations (I expect you to do great work). That relatively minor change shifts the whole context of the conversation from punishing someone for messing up to helping them discover how they can improve.

Backward Integrated Design

The second concept that applies to the performance management process is backward integrated design. This basically means backing out the design process and starting with the outcomes you hope to achieve. For example, many would say the ideal outcome of performance appraisals would be to help employees perform better. But when we look at how they are structured (especially when done once or twice a year), that simply can’t be the case, because we spend our time measuring their old performance, rating it, telling them what they did right or wrong, etc.

Instead we need to think about what actually creates better performance:

  • Recognition
  • Coaching
  • Feedback

By incorporating these elements into the process we can actually improve our chances of hitting the overarching goal of improving employee performance. Our research shows that high-performing companies are much more likely than low performers to use these and other elements in the performance process. You can check out the rest of our findings on the Lighthouse Research website if you’re interested.

We're Only Human Podcast

HR compliance is a necessary evil in the workplace. Rarely do employers make it to the top of the “best employers” lists by handling FMLA or DOL regulations well. Yet time and time again we see HR professional flocking to sessions like “Top 10 Ways to Get Sued in 2018,” taking notes like this is golden content.

Why do sessions like those attract so much attention when they don’t help employers create a more employee-centric, engaging workplace?

In today’s podcast discussion, I get the answers to these questions and others by interviewing Mike Haberman, one of the HR industry’s best resources for staying on top of compliance and labor requirements. Mike takes a very balanced approach by covering not only the compliance topics, but also by exploring future trends and how employers can improve their HR practices.

It’s a fun discussion and listeners will be treated to the story of when I was audited by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, providing a great example of how NOT to make decisions about what’s best for your employees. #truestory

To connect with Mike or learn more about his work, you can find his blog at:
http://omegahrsolutions.com/

To listen to the archives of We’re Only Human and learn more about the show, check out:
http://upstarthr.com/podcast

how to comfort employees

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!