When it comes to leadership, we hear the word on a fairly consistent basis. But what does it really mean, and how do people “get” it? Awhile back I reviewed the book Talent Leadership by John Mattone and really liked it. I was able to get a copy of the author’s latest book, Intelligent Leadership: What You Need to Know to Unlock Your Full Potential, and enjoyed it as well. Here are a few of the key points that stuck out to me.

  • leadership bookWe all have mentors of varying shapes and sizes, and yet when we think about them, they are often people outside the business world that we claim as mentors: friends, family, clergy, etc. There is a definite need for more mentoring within our organizations, and we need to be growing leaders to take those roles. When you think about your managers, you can usually bring to mind a bad boss fairly quickly. What if the mentors we immediately thought of were those people closest to us in our working lives instead?
  • Speaking of growing, Mattone uses a phrase early in the book that sticks out to me. Here’s the quote: “I have come to believe that organizations that do not compulsively develop leaders and future leaders… unknowingly grow and multiply leadership with a high probability of derailment and failure.” Think about it–we’re all being developed and shaped on a daily basis. The question is whether it’s in a positive way or a negative one.
  • The 3 C’s of foundational leadership are capability, commitment, and connectedness. Capability is the set of skills and competencies available for development and enhancement. Commitment is the set of motivational factors that drive people to higher levels of achievement (passion, zeal, etc.) Connectedness involves the alignment with personal values and organizational goals.

The bottom line

As I’ve said before, I really like reading leadership books, because every one is different and I always pick up some new insights. This one was no exception. Mattone brings some great stories and data together to paint a picture of organizations that truly need a strong crop of leaders while demonstrating how you can make strides toward becoming one of those individuals. Get your copy here.

Like this? Check out other book reviews here.

innovation judo book reviewI’ve been reading like crazy lately and have had trouble keeping up with my reviews. Usually it’s even worse: I have no time to read all the books and they just pile up around me. This time around I picked up Innovation Judo: Disarming Roadblocks and Blockheads on the Path to Creativity by Neal Thornberry, PhD (Amazon). I’m a sucker for innovation-focused stuff, and this was definitely a great read on that front. A few good pieces I pulled from the book:

  • Incentives: Want to encourage innovation? Make sure your incentive pay aligns with what you’re trying to promote. Rewarding someone with a movie ticket when they saved the company $10,000 isn’t going to promote additional innovations (or it better be the most awesome movie ever).
  • NIH is poisonous: The “not invented here” mentality that many organizations espouse is a dangerous one. It ultimately leads to more silos and less innovation. Procter & Gamble used to be very closed off, and the book talks about how the business was losing millions of dollars annually due to that sentiment. Now it requires 50% of new ideas to come from outside the company, and it wants to increase it to 80%. That’s a powerful shift and a reason why the company still stands strong year after year.
  • Wackiness: We run into this all the time. People make decisions that make no rational sense and ultimately end up breaking something or causing more work. That can even be the CEO in some cases. Thornberry talks about how nobody wants to tell CEO they are making bad decisions. The good thing is that in the end it usually falls to HR, which can be an opportunity to improve the value of the CEO-HR relationship.

Bottom line

Innovation is about more than sitting in a room “brainstorming” ideas like “we should use less paper in our new hire applications” or “maybe we could print front and back to save money on costs.” It can be a serious differentiator between you and the competition. If you are looking to improve the quality and quantity of innovation your organization is producing, I’d encourage you to check out Innovation Judo by Neal Thornberry, PhD. Get your copy here.

See other book reviews about HR, leadership, and more.

One of the things that we don’t do so well in the HR wold is measuring performance. And by that I mean our OWN performance. Having metrics in place to see how effective our various efforts are is a must, especially when you’re trying to demonstrate an ROI. One of the easiest ways to start is in recruiting.

When it comes to recruiting, organizations have a wide variety of methods to measure effectiveness. Does it come down to time to fill? Is quality of hire the most critical? There are two important things to remember when it comes to measuring talent acquisition. First, each company is going to have a slightly different way of measuring based on unique structure, industry, and goals. Second, these are bigger than recruiting challenges—they can often impact the business at a deeper level.

I’m hosting a webinar tomorrow (Tuesday, September 1st) sponsored by Jobvite if you’d like to listen in. Even if you can’t attend, we’ll send you the slides and a recording if you sign up. This will be the first look at some new data from Brandon Hall Group’s latest talent acquisition survey, so if you’re interested, we’d love to have you join in.

Click here to register.

As HR is increasing its presence as a strategic part of the business, key performance indicators, or KPIs, are becoming a key part of the language for discussing how it is actually performing. Recruiting, in some ways, is actually easier to measure because it is very similar to sales: you either have results or you don’t. Today I want to talk about first year retention, a measure that I believe is going to continue to grow as a recruiting metric, even though many companies wouldn’t consider it even remotely linked to recruiting as of today.

recruiting kpiWhen I realized the link from retention to recruiting

Several years ago I ran into the wall. Figuratively, that is. I was spending about 50% of my time processing termination paperwork and 49% processing new hires. The other 1% was spent wondering just how we were going to sustain this churn. We were turning over about 50% of employees in positions that made up 90% of our workforce. In a company with more than 600 employees, you start to get the picture for just how bad things were. Like I said, my entire job was dedicated to moving the people into and out of the organization.

So I decided to try something. I gathered information. I pulled five years of archived files and noted termination reasons along with tenure and manager information. I looked into our Stone Age HRIS and pulled the same items for more recent terms. Once I had amassed the data, I started analyzing. I quickly identified a few key trends and highlighted them in the report I developed.

A few days later I presented my findings to the VP of HR, demonstrating through the data that approximately half of those terms not only happened within the first year, but within the first 90 days on the job. We were spending hours recruiting, training (each employee received over a dozen hours of training before starting work), and coaching these people, only to have all of that effort wasted. The data showed that if an employee made it past the 90-day mark, they were significantly likely to stay for a year or longer.

This is when I realized that recruiting has a very strong link to retention, especially first year retention.

[Check out: What it’s like to be a recruiter]

First year retention, examined

When we think about retaining employees, a more senior staff member might come to mind. We automatically assume that if someone took the job just a few weeks ago that they are going to be excited and engaged for months to come (hint: the honeymoon period). Well, that depends on several things, including the recruiting process. Here are the ways the two are linked:

  • Realistic job preview-during the recruiting process, an accurate picture of the job must be depicted at every stage (job ad, phone screen, interview, etc.) If not, the candidate might get a more rosy picture of the position than is actually accurate, which leads to frustrations on day one. People are quick to skim over areas that might be bothersome for them in the leap to a new company–it’s critical to show the good, the bad, AND the ugly to provide a full understanding of the job and what it entails.
  • Manager engagement in the hiring process-having managers who not only join in the selection process, but actually lead it, is key. Managers who develop questions to probe candidate abilities and fit ultimately pick better people than those who use a stock list of “what is your greatest strength” type questions.
  • Team engagement in the hiring process-a great way to help people feel like they have friends on day one? Let their team interview them. When I have done this I request that they ask some technical questions, but that they also focus heavily on fit: does the candidate gel with the existing workers? Are they similar in terms of values and passion? How have they felt about coworkers in the past? If a person feels like they have friends at work, they’re more engaged and less likely to bolt a few weeks later.

[Check out: How one of the best managers I’ve ever seen engages new hires from day one]

The future of recruiting metrics

In the past and still today, recruiting has been focused on some very surface level items: mainly time to fill and quality of hire. If we’re solely looking at those numbers, I could have phenomenal time to fill and quality numbers, only to have them dropping out of the workforce a few weeks or months later. Using a metric like first year retention as a recruiting metric provides a more well-rounded picture of just how well it is actually being performed. And it also brings a long-term, holistic view to recruiting.

What recruiting KPI’s does your company use? Are they working? What do you think of first year retention as a metric?

Last week I wrote a post about innovation and employee engagement over at the Brandon Hall Group blog. The basic idea is that listening to, and implementing, employee ideas is a great way to get them engaged within the business.

In the post I talked about a recent Indiegogo campaign I contributed to. I’m really excited about the campaign, so I wanted to share more details here.

I have three kids. One is still in a car carrier, but the other two are in booster seats. Those boosters are massive, and they are tough to get in and out of the car. Then I heard about this new thing called a mifold.

mifold graphic

This is pretty amazing for a variety of reasons:

  • it’s small enough to fit in a backpack, yet safe enough to protect my kids
  • it doesn’t try to seat a child like an adult (pushing up); instead, it pulls the lap belt down to their level.
  • if my older kids are still in boosters when my youngest is ready for one, all three will fit
  • we hate planning for booster seats on travel–we either have to fly with seats or pay to rent them when we arrive

Innovation happens at the point of need

What this most reminds me of is just how innovation happens. It’s typically not when people are sitting in a room and trying to “brainstorm” ideas. It comes when someone has a frustration that isn’t being met by the current system. The times I was able to truly push something innovative through the pipeline were when they affected several people, caused stress or other problems, and had a solution that wasn’t one of the “normal” ways of resolving problems.

Think about your organization as you look at the mifold. How could you bring a solution to a common problem (or multiple problems) today?

Recently someone asked me about allowing employees to volunteer for free instead of being paid. I wanted to answer that more fully here because it might be something you have run into or might be considering in your own business.

For starters, here’s the DOL ruling on that. Let’s break it down and look at two broad categories: for-profit and non-profit organizations.

Employing volunteers at non-profits

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines employment very broadly, i.e., “to suffer or permit to work.” However, the Supreme Court has made it clear that the FLSA was not intended “to stamp all persons as employees who without any express or implied compensation agreement might work for their own advantage on the premises of another.” In administering the FLSA, the Department of Labor follows this judicial guidance in the case of individuals serving as unpaid volunteers in various community services. Individuals who volunteer or donate their services, usually on a part-time basis, for public service, religious or humanitarian objectives, not as employees and without contemplation of pay, are not considered employees of the religious, charitable or similar non-profit organizations that receive their service.

As you might expect, non-profits have some leeway here. I talk again at the end of this article about a specific problem non-profits might run into with employees and volunteering. It’s when we get to the for-profit side of things that it really cracks down on what employers can do.

Can paid employees volunteer for their employer?

Under the FLSA, employees may not volunteer services to for-profit private sector employers. On the other hand, in the vast majority of circumstances, individuals can volunteer services to public sector employers. When Congress amended the FLSA in 1985, it made clear that people are allowed to volunteer their services to public agencies and their community with but one exception – public sector employers may not allow their employees to volunteer, without compensation, additional time to do the same work for which they are employed. There is no prohibition on anyone employed in the private sector from volunteering in any capacity or line of work in the public sector.

Okay, so that helps us understand if employees can volunteer their time.

  • Private/for-profit=no
  • Public/for-profit=yes, as long as the person isn’t an employee doing the same work they normally perform

Even if the employee wants to do it and offers, there is still the chance that the employer would be seen in a negative light. Remember my visit to the OFCCP a few years back? Here’s the highlight of the visit:

Ever heard the phrase “innocent until proven guilty?” Not the way of life with the OFCCP, apparently. During the seminar, the speaker reminded us that having interview notes and other data available could help in the event of an investigation. However, in the next second he casually mentioned, “If you don’t have the data to back up your claims as to why person X was paid differently from person Y and one of them is a minority, we will assume the worst intentions.”

I’ve been around the business world long enough to know that if you’re looking for trouble, you’ll find it. If you assume the worst, you’ll find something to substantiate your claim, no matter how minuscule.

Even if the person is a good employee, there’s no guarantee that will always be the case. DOL audits aren’t started by employees who are happy with their work. They are started by people who are generally unhappy or even those who had a single rough day at work and are looking for a way to fight back. Keep that in mind–it happens to everyone.

Can employees volunteer to work fewer hours?

There is an interesting tangential discussion that I wanted to include here. One of our employees at a previous job was interested in reducing her work schedule to help get through lean times without eating up all of her vacation time. In that instance, exempt employees can voluntarily reduce their work hours, and their pay, without causing issues for the employer.

In that instance, I simply had her draft a short email to her manager and me stating that. The verbiage was something like:

To Whom It May Concern: 

I realize that we are seeing tighter budgets and I would like to voluntarily request a 32 hour (4 days per week) schedule every other week until further notice. I understand that I will not be compensated for the additional 8 hours I take off and that those hours will not be deducted from my leave balance. I also understand that my manager can recall me to full time service at any time without notice. 

Sincerely, 

Jane Doe

Again, if we had simply told the person to stop coming one day every other week, that could have opened up some FLSA issues since technically the person could have said they were an exempt professional ready and willing to work (thus owed their full compensation).

Can volunteers be considered employees?

One final area to cover. Can volunteers be treated like employees? As we have seen, for-profit organizations would do well to stay away from the entire concept of volunteers. For that reason we’ll discuss nonprofits. If given the option, I would try to avoid having volunteers performing any work that other ordinary employees are doing. That helps to keep the “swim lanes” separate and can help to avoid any issues between staff. Imagine doing work for free that the other person next to you is being paid for and you’ll quickly understand that concept.

We used volunteers when I worked at a nonprofit organization and the screening process was handled outside of the normal employment process for the sake of simplicity. We didn’t want to clutter up an already busy hiring process with people who wouldn’t technically be employees.

What other thoughts do you have about employees and volunteering? 

parental leave requirementsMy friend Lance Haun wrote last week about why he thinks we should fight for legislating parental leave in the US. I don’t know that I’ve ironed out my point of view 100%, but I don’t know that I agree with him at this point. Remember, this is a dialogue, not a requirement to conform. :-)

So, as a father to three small children, you might expect me to be for this type of thing. I mean, heck, getting paid to stay home with a baby would be pretty darn awesome. I love my three kids and spending time with them is pure joy.

But here’s the core reason I’m not a raving fan of legislating parental leave:

it’s not the government’s job

Now, if a company out there wants to pay parents, men or women, for leave, then that is an excellent idea. I’m all for it, and I would be happy to work for such an organization. But the truth is that according to census data, approximately half of the workers in the US are working for employers with fewer than 500 employees. I’ve worked in several companies from 10-600 employees (and some larger) in my working life, and I have no earthly idea how those companies would be able to afford paying people for not working. I remember at one employer we had six of our staff members having new babies in a single month!

Family medical leave is one thing–holding your employee’s job while he or she takes time at home for a variety of health and family-related reasons isn’t easy, but it’s doable. But paying them to not work? That’s something else entirely. Several of those companies I worked for were very small or nonprofit organizations, which meant there was little to no wiggle room for things like bonuses or other performance-related measures, much less a coffer set aside to pay people who were expecting children.

But what about Netflix?

The big story last week in this world was about Netflix offering a full year of paid leave for new parents. Having a baby? No worries–take up to 12 months off. People declared the company forward-thinking and were quick to jump on board with the idea.

But this wasn’t forced. It wasn’t legislated. Nobody made them do it.

They chose to.

Why? Probably because it’s a great recruiting tool. It’s also pretty awesome as a retention tool for new parents.I’ve talked before about when our girls were born and my boss didn’t seem especially receptive to me taking ANY time off, even though I only requested a week. 

And you know what? That’s what started the ball rolling for me to leave that company and find an employer who did offer me some flexibility to support my family, whether financially or by being there physically for them. I think more companies will offer slightly-less-boisterous benefits in this area over time, because they’ll see (as they did with medical insurance, workplace flexibility, and a host of other benefit offerings) that it makes them more competitive, makes employees happier, and creates a better working environment. 

Last year I was talking with a company about a new leave program for fathers. The company had been losing male employees in the 20-35 age range at 2-3 times the rate of other employee groups, and they determined that it was the long hours surrounding the birth of a new child that often contributed to the turnover.

So the company began offering 1-3 months of paid leave for new dads and reversed the negative turnover trends within a few short months. That’s an exciting story and one that I expect to hear more often as time goes on.

Facebook got a series of kudos and strange looks when it offered to freeze eggs for young ladies who would rather work than start a family. It’s the same story. The company wanted to offer something different that appeals to a specific audience and makes it more competitive than others in the space. 

The recruiting spin

I’ve recruited for some great (and not so great) companies. The thing that I absolutely loved about one of the good ones was that I could play up some of the benefits we had that no other company offered. Flexibility? We don’t just say it, we live it. Healthcare? We have you covered. Need personal leave? We treat you the same as we treat the CEO–no questions asked. Have an issue? You can get access to anyone, up to the Owner/CEO, in moments.

I’ll say it again: I loved representing the company that offered what others didn’t. And that’s why I think Netflix is doing this. And that’s another (smaller) reason I’m not keen on the government attempting to force employers to provide paid leave for parents. It has to be a choice for the company. Some can afford it and some can’t. Some would be overly burdened, some wouldn’t care. But it’s not a blanket solution, at least not overnight.

Seriously, I’ve been there

When my son was born almost a year ago, my wife had no work benefits to continue her pay. She had some accrued leave and then we used savings to keep her at home until she was ready to go back to work at the end of her leave. And it was fine. I didn’t ask or expect anyone else to foot the bill for her to stay home, because it was our choice in the end. Just as it is her employer’s choice to offer the benefits it does.

This isn’t the same as the Civil Rights Act or the ADA. People don’t choose a specific color, gender, or disability. The discussion here is whether we should pay people who choose to have children, and I’d say it’s up to the company to decide, not the government.

I’d love to hear your thoughts…