If you’re from outside the US and unfamiliar with the term, “keeping up with the Joneses” is a term that focuses on everyone’s desire to compare themselves with their peers, even when it’s emotionally unhealthy. Instead of focusing on our own strengths, we look at what others have or can do, and we want that instead. There’s a business version of this, and we’ve all been guilty of it at one point or another. For example:

  • We hear success stories and try to mimic what other companies do. For the last ten years I’ve heard more “we want a culture like Zappos” stories than anything else, even if that request has taken a dip in recent years. The problem is people aren’t willing to put their money on the line to make it happen.
  • We find a cool trend and jump on it, hoping for some mythical results. This always reminds me of the goofy “Google interview questions” like how many manhole covers in a city or how many elephants fit in an refrigerator. The questions didn’t predict success on the job, and Google ultimately moved away from them as a selection tool (thank goodness).
  • We get word about some new “best practice” through the news, and everyone wants to try it out. This is where I put unlimited paid time off. It’s a hot topic, but there isn’t anything to show how it really helps to improve the workplace other than anecdotal evidence here or there.

Getting Serious about Talent Practices

A few years ago, someone presented locally on HR metrics. The speaker prescribed specific metrics to everyone in the room, telling them that they needed to be capturing data because these were the “most important” measures. The problem? Some attendees were from staffing firms, others were in manufacturing, and still others were in professional services organizations. The truth is there is no “right” number of metrics, especially for such a diverse group. I haven’t forgotten that kind of peanut-butter-spread approach to advice on measurement, and that’s one reason I am going to be working to fix that this year with some of my speaking opportunities.

This week I’m delivering a workshop to an audience of HR leaders around two key topics: measurement and change. As I’ve been creating the slides and activities, one of the messages I’m striving to get across is that we need to be more of an evidence-based practice. That term goes back to roots in the healthcare community, as evidence-based medicine. The purpose is finding a course of action that is based not on gut instinct or hopeful results, but on some sound and proven science.

Imagine going to the doctor with an illness and getting five different recommendations for cures. You’d be a bit annoyed and unsure about how to proceed, right? But this is what we see daily in the HR profession. If you bring up a problem for discussion, you’ll get those same five different cure ideas from your peers, often based on a personal experience, a story of a friend, or something similar. Don’t worry, I’ve been guilty of this as well.

But this year I’m really focusing on being more intentional about my recommendations. I’m going to be focusing more on finding and uncovering evidence to support my approach. I’m actually going to be interviewing an author soon for the podcast on science-based principles of selling as a way to explore how to influence others. The two topics are connected, because he went through the same thing within the selling profession, taking advice of numerous “gurus” or basing practices on personal experience instead of an approach proven by science.

Best Practices? Maybe

I’ll leave you with this: by the time something becomes a “best practice,” the companies that used it often have moved to something else. The Google interview questions I mentioned above are just one example. One of the challenges of being an early adopter is that I see all of the newest and “best” talent and learning practices. I hear about what’s hot and what’s not. But the thing that never goes out of style is gathering data, making a decision based on that information, and then collecting feedback on results to adjust your direction or stay the course in the future.

Create your own book of best practices that fit your organization and its people. That’s the only set of practices that really matter.

I have done dozens of presentations in my professional life. But boy was I nervous about a recent one. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to deliver my first ever Ignite-style presentation.

I was sweating it, big time.

In short, you get five minutes to explore a topic. The kicker? Your 20 slides auto-advance every 15 seconds, leaving you without any control. Honestly, I’d rather have just one slide and an hour to talk about it than have no control over the 20 slides for a five-minute talk. In the end the session went very well–one in the string of nine other people delivering these types of presentations at the HR Technology Conference Ideas and Innovators session. I had fun, and the next time I have a chance to do an Ignite talk I’ll be less worried about it!

eubanks-gig-economy-presentation

Photo: Talking about the Gig Economy, On-Demand Talent, and More

My topic blended in some ways with others that talked about more fluid decisions in the workplace, but it was a look at something I think is going to shape future talent decisions for organizations everywhere. This is a sort of highlights reel of the presentation and a few of the key stats are listed below. I’d love to hear your thoughts after you read through! (Also, let me know what you think of the tool below that shows the story. It’s something new I’m using and if people like it I will create more of them to help explore complex topics.)

Email subscribers must click through to view the presentation below.

Presentation Highlights

  • Gigs are nothing new, but the idea of using them to get business tasks completed is.
  • Some of the interesting companies (not an exhaustive list) that are playing in the space of providing gig-economy-writeupon-demand workers include Toptal, Shiftgig, Wonolo, Upwork, and others.
  • There are more than 800,000 workers in the platform-based gig economy. That means they are working through an intermediary, not as a solo independent contractor. If that was a company, it would be the second largest in the US, twice the size of McDonald’s.
  • While the relative size of the labor sharing economy is not that large, it has grown rapidly and will continue to over time.
  • The interesting piece is that many people automatically assume these workers are doing gig work (W9) full time. In reality, many of these people are doing this work in addition to their full time (W2) job. But why?
  • One of my theories is that this disengagement epidemic could even be caused in some respects by employees that are using gig work to get the satisfaction, flexibility, variety, etc. that their day job just can’t offer.
  • One thing I see on the horizon is pressure on outdated government rules. Companies (and people) want the flexibility to make granular talent decisions about who, what, and where they work. The existing rules limit that freedom and flexibility, as evidenced by some of the Uber (and other services) lawsuits around independent contractor vs employee.
  • One of the neat ideas I want to see come to fruition is embedding on-demand workers into the employment processes. For instance, onboarding a consultant to teach them about your culture or offering training to a temp worker to improve their performance.

This is a topic I’m incredibly interested in, and I look forward to exploring it more in the coming months. What questions do you have about the gig economy and how it affects the workplace?

Originally posted on the Lighthouse Research blog.

When I speak about HR strategy, one of the things that inevitably comes up is that it’s hard to plan ahead. Things change. The business changes. The objectives shift. It makes it difficult to pin down the right HR strategy to support the organizational goals.

And that’s okay. Death, taxes, and change are the things we can count on in this life. In the video below I tell a personal story that helps to illustrate the need to not only be prepared for change, but to actually expect it in some regard so that the molehills don’t become mountains.

(Email subscribers click through to view the video)

It’s quick and to the point, but I hope you get the idea. We can let changes break us down or we can use them to get smarter, faster, and better in our approach.

I’d love to hear your story! Tell me about a time (whether in HR or not) where you had a carefully crafted plan and things suddenly went awry. How did you cope? What were the results? I enjoy sharing stories with my audience both here and from the stage, because stories are powerful and connect us at a deeper level than a series of stats and data points.

 

I’ve had this question pop up from a few people I have met in recent weeks, so excuse the commercial if you’re not looking for a speaker for your event or to train your HR team… :-)

I know from interacting with many of the readers of this blog that you guys are tied in to various regional, state, and local organizations that require speakers. Just recently I attended the 2016 Annual SHRM Conference in DC where I spoke at the SHRM Smart Stage about choosing the right HR technology for your company, but I also speak about a wide variety of HR, recruiting, and leadership topics.

Today I added the “Speaker” tab at the top of the homepage to help you guys reach me specifically about speaking/training opportunities. One of my favorite activities is writing, but right behind that I really enjoy getting out and spending time with you, the HR leaders in the trenches that make your organizations great. That’s funny considering the fact that I’m an introvert by nature–I just think I like the practice and process of teaching enough to overcome those natural tendencies.

Over the past few years I have spoken with local SHRM chapters across several states for 20-100 people. I’ve been to larger events, like the SHRM Conference, that attract more than 15,000 participants. I have done seminars, workshops, conferences and vendor events as well.

If you are seeking speakers for an upcoming event, I would love to talk with you about joining the roster. I will be doing some local workshops in the coming months (several of the workshops receive up to three hours of strategic/business credits), but there is definitely room for more.

In addition, if you currently lead an HR team and need someone to come and talk with your team about some of the topics I have listed on my Speaking page, I would love to chat with you about the opportunity. My email is ben@upstarthr.com

Thanks! We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming next week.

With this blog I normally try to stick to HR content that you can put to good use, but today I’m going to lean back and give a quick update on the things that are going on.

Talking social for HR

Tuesday I am speaking to a local SHRM chapter (Winfield) about social media for HR professionals. Love talking about this topic and I think it’s unique since I don’t 1) try to sell social media as the best thing since sliced bread or 2) act like the legal universe implodes if you use Facebook for recruiting.

It will be a small, informal group, so I hope to have a good bit of Q&A to keep things lively. (Side note-I love speaking to HR professionals! If you have a group you’d like me to connect with, just shoot me an email and we can discuss the details).

NextChat-Employee Rating Systems

Wednesday I will be doing a Twitter chat with the fine folks at SHRM. The #nextchat will focus on rating employees and will be a lot of fun. If you are on Twitter, I’d love to have you join in the conversation! I will be talking all about how organizations can use rating systems for succession planning and talent management, but I’ll also look at how those tools can be ineffective or even damaging to a company if used poorly.

The last NextChat on how to get a job in HR was a lot of fun! We talked about transitioning to an HR career, both from an entry level standpoint and a lateral move from another profession.

More social, more HR

Thursday I will be speaking to the Huntsville NASHRM Mentor University (NMU) group about social media. I’ll be tweaking this one a little from the Tuesday session to talk a little more about using it for professional development, since I’ll be speaking to the younger/less experienced HR crowd.

I’m honored to go back and speak to this group, because I was in the inaugural NMU class and was able to land a phenomenal job due to the networking within the group. It’s a great initiative and I’m looking forward to seeing the group they have put together.

Other items

On the work front, we’re recruiting for over a dozen positions right now, and while I enjoy the recruiting, it’s taking over my life. I had a nightmare the other night that I couldn’t get the right candidate for a highly specialized job. Whew. We’re going to be starting mid-year reviews in about a month, we are changing insurance vendors, and I’m looking at increasing staff at the local office by about 50% within 4 weeks. Yeah, it’s fun to be a one-man HR shop sometimes! :-p

Also, I just confirmed that I will be covering the Alabama SHRM State Conference as a blogger. More details on that in the next few weeks.

What’s up with you guys? I like staying in touch with everyone and learning what is keeping you busy. 

I’ll be talking on DriveThruHR today, and I’d love for you to call in or listen online. The show is at noon central time and runs for a (fairly quick!) thirty minutes. If you miss the show, you can listen to the archive afterward.

I have had a busy week, and I honestly am not sure yet what I’ll be talking about when I get the famous “What is keeping you up at night?” question. Here are a handful of things I’ve been working on in the past few weeks:

  1. Worked to determine how to compensate a team for delivering an amazingly complex project on time and on budget
  2. Looking at potential performance issues and how to deal with them through the eyes of one of our new managers
  3. Working with our events team on living out our “create an enjoyable work environment” value through fun, exciting events throughout the year (paper airplane contest, tailgating, and more!)
  4. Completed the local wage/benefits surveys and had to hand deliver paper printouts of several spreadsheets; no electronic copies of the Excel file that you had to add data to could be submitted
  5. Prepared for the quarterly all hands briefing
  6. Set up our team trivia practice for an upcoming fundraiser (IMPACT Alabama)
  7. Dealt with email flame wars that seemed to go on indefinitely
  8. Developed flow charts to illustrate our processes with regard to recruiting, performance management, etc.

Those are just a few of the things that have kept me busy in the past week! Outside that maybe we can talk about events, HRevolution, and other fun stuff.

Short post today because I’m preparing for a presentation I have to give at lunch to a local SHRM chapter. The title is as bland as they come–Social Media for HR–but it isn’t the usual “rah rah for social media” content you hear. Here’s my opening:

If I was a lawyer, this is where I’d start talking about how social media is the biggest liability your company has ever seen.

If I was a recruiter, this is where I’d start talking about social media being a silver bullet for hiring great candidates with free tools.

But I’m not either of those. I’m an “in the trenches” HR pro, and I have a real job to do. I manage to integrate social media into what I do to some degree, and this is how I do it.

I talk less about statistics (yeah, we all know that social media is the next big thing). I skip the part about how Company X has a great Facebook page you should copy. I like to focus on professional development, networking, and how to use the social tools to be more effective and efficient on a daily basis. It’s something you can walk out of the room and put into action much easier than a twenty point plan for using Twitter.

Just my two cents, but it’s working, so that’s what matters. :-)