The Litmus Test for CEO’s Who Say They Value Their People

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I have a simple test to see if CEOs practice what they preach. Does their Head of HR report directly to them or to someone else? If they report to the COO — or even worse– their CFO, it is a red flag.

If you’re a candidate, it’s a great 15-second test to see if the business you are contemplating joining really cares about “its most important resource”. If you work in HR, it’s the pass/fail question before you join the firm you are interviewing with.

So, let’s dig in to this litmus test.

But before we begin, I have a question that I don’t know the answer to. If you look at all the businesses on the various “Best Company to Work For” lists, what percentage have their HR functions reporting to the top dog? I would love to know and wonder if this is even analyzed by the various companies compiling the data and awarding companies their designations.

Well, back to my main point for today. If a CEO truly believes their people are their most important asset, then it would naturally follow that their most senior HR executive would be a critical, if not most important staff member. Well, in some cases the argument might go that the CFO is the most important player on a senior executive’s team. Others may argue they are of equal importance. I would be okay with that last option along with the first.

I won’t bore you with my full theory on this except to say that you typically spend the most dollars in your budget on your people, and your company’s performance is typically dependent on your staff’s performance and creativity. Let’s not complicate this argument, it is a simple one.

I have personally headed HR at two major organizations where I reported directly and sat literally next to the CEO, and had complete 24×7 access. Both businesses made those “Best Company” lists and were people centric. My personal perspective is supported by what I have experienced and maybe I am biased.

But, so many companies that claim their folks are their most important asset don’t practice what they preach. I bet most of them do not have senior HR execs on their CEO’s hip.

So, what do you think and what is your perspective? Inquiring minds would like to know…and would love to see some data on this….

*This first appeared on the SHRM Blog 9/17/17….click here to see it…

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Apology Not Accepted

apologynot accepted

So the recent events for me at Adelphi continue to get stranger and stranger. The good news is that I got promoted to Senior Adjunct…finally. The bad news, well lets just say the rest of this post is dedicated to that.

So here is the back story…

I was referred for promotion to Sr. Adjunct this past spring. It is a title and position created for tenured faculty that do no not want to retire fully, just teach part-time. It grants rights to classes ahead of all other part-time faculty. The loop-hole is that it is also open to Adjunct faculty to get promoted. There is a specific number of slots available, so even if qualified there needs to be an open slot. As a part-timer it is considered prestigious to be a senior as it grants first rights to classes available that have been taught in the past, ahead of all other adjuncts. It also pays a little more per class.

In the business school there has not been a senior role in over 3 decades and the last person to hold this was a faculty member who had spent their entire teaching career at Adelphi.

To make a long story a little shorter, the paperwork (which was excessive) was put in mid semester in the spring of last school year. It took me a couple of weeks and involved about 10 hours of work and about a dozen separate files, including every syllabus from every class I have taught at the university, examples of tests, student evals…well you get the idea. Then it sat with no action for close to 6 months. Of course I made multiple inquiries, to no avail. I honestly don’t know if it was apathy, lack of importance, dislike for me or what was being proposed, or maybe they just didn’t know how to proceed.

Then in the beginning of this semester there was a mad rush to evaluate and complete the process. Only no one had ever done a faculty peer review on me. So they did immediately (actually the same week requested).

Then there was a faculty retreat for the business school and a faculty mtg. all strung together the same day the following week (early September), which all the adjuncts were invited too. Except we weren’t…well I’m talking about the faculty meeting. Three of us were rudely asked to leave by the Dean. Lets just say that lack of professionalism is an understatement…Oh and I was also informed the Dean asked the dept. chairperson if I was qualified to be an adjunct at the school during the faculty meeting I was removed from. Are you kidding me? The scary thing is that I have more business experience in the C-suite then any full-time faculty member except for the 2 clinical Instructors promoted at the same time. Oh, I forgot to mention I have been teaching Grad classes for close to a decade too…

I know un-F’ing believable.

So we left the meeting abruptly as a couple of fellow faculty and staff asked why we were leaving and then received apologies from a couple of sincere administrators who didn’t know what to do as we exited the meeting room. We didn’t know what to do either, so we left instead of facing a potential verbal face-off with the Dean.

The follow-up was a series of communications to the Union, the Provost office, and even HR.  It’s now 6 weeks later and although told an apology is forthcoming…none has come as of my writing this post…

And here is the craziest part of this conversation. The by-laws of the university state all faculty are welcome at faculty meetings. Maybe the Dean is ignorant or can’t read. Or maybe he is shrewd and has gotten away with this for the past two years. a few of us attended the next mtg. without a formal invite too. It caused some looks from a few faculty and an abrupt statement welcoming us from the Dean after being chastised by the Director of the Union in the hallway 3 minutes earlier.

In any event there has been no apology…so this is my way of accepting the Non-Apology from the Dean…

Oh, and to top it off they made my promotion effective in 2019…that’s over 3 months after being officially notified.

In all my years in HR, I never saw a promotion with a 97 day delay effective date. I might contact the Guinness Book of World Records on that. But seriously, is that how you promote someone, with a 97 day delay…and the reason is???

Boy, talk about making me feel good about the whole thing….or not….you can’t make this stuff up.

Oh, I am still waiting for the Dean to apologize to the three of us for asking us to leave the meeting. I won’t bother with the apology for disrespecting me by questioning my background.

I will keep you informed on how this all turns out.

For those HR folks out there, this is food for thought. How would you react to an employee that was mistreated during a promotion process? A real life case study in Human Relations…

 

Lets Make HR Sexy

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Yes, you heard me right. Lets Make HR Sexy is the title of my DisruptHR Long Island presentation. I will be doing the FAST 5 minute talk on October 11th at the Huntington Hilton on Long Island. Visit the DisruptHR website for ticket information if you would like to attend.

So why Sexy?

Well that is an easy one, because it is not and it needs to be. HR is one of the least desirable career choices for business school graduates. In fact it is what many refer to as a high default career choice. Meaning you start out doing something else.

It is also a profession criticized for being a dumping ground for those that cannot succeed in other areas of business….

Well we no this is not true, however it definitely needs a makeover…

So I hope to see you on the 11th to hear how to change the impression…

Lets bring Sexy back….to HR!

Back to School

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Ok, we still have a month of Summer officially and a week unofficially, and that signals another school year. I’m still teaching HR at Adelphi in their Business program. I’m completing my 8th year there. To be honest, I never thought I would be doing this as long as I have, but I truly enjoy teaching at the University level. I happen to think I am pretty good at it too. Don’t go by me, read my student evals and the fact that the University gave me the Teaching Excellence award for the whole University a few yrs. back.

I get asked often why I do it. Well in the beginning it was part fascination and part stretch for getting in front of a group of 3 dozen people and presenting for a couple hours each week. I thought it would help my presentation skills, which it has to some extent. I also thought it was important to give back to the next generation, specifically those thinking of entering the HR profession. HR has been good to me the past 2 decades, so I feel it is important to pay it back and forward to. Now that I have been doing it for a while it would feel strange if I didn’t have at least one class to keep me in the game. The bottom line is I enjoy it and how many folks can say they do something they enjoy and get paid for it, even if it is only a part-time gig?

Teaching as an adjunct has certainly been challenging at times. Adjuncts do not get grad assistants to help mark tests or homework. So there are times where I am deep into 30 research papers or projects. There also is the issue of how, as adjuncts, we are treated by our particular business school’s administration. The first 5 yrs. were great. We had the respect and support of our former Dean. Lately that has been a major challenge. We are often made to feel and treated as disposable workers.

As those of you who know and follow me are aware, this has been going on since the spring of 2017. The latest issue is the hiring of full-timers and reduction in part-time adjuncts. I won’t get into that today.  I have somehow survived the reductions for now and I am up for a senior adjunct designation change this semester…will see on that.

I have an undergrad class and a grad class this fall.  My undergrad class is the Intro to HR class required of every business student. I haven’t taught this in the past. Its usually the grad classes or Selection and Compensation classes undergrad. Teaching students, many of whom do not have much knowledge of HR, will be a challenge. Maybe one that comes at a good time for me to get rejuvenated. I have not been challenged with pushing my self outside my comfort zone that much recently. So I am actually looking forward to it.

Along with School, I am speaking at a couple of conferences including the NY State SHRM conference September 23 and 24th in Albany, NY and I am doing a DisruptHR talk in October on Long Island. I’ll be back to talk about them soon.

I’m still consulting too, doing some unique stuff. It will be a busy September will all these things converging. Busy is better then not busy…

 

It’s Time for HR to Embrace Data Analytics

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My time at the #SHRM18 conference in June included a quick demo on Microsoft’s Data Analytics platform.  The timing was perfect as I am starting an online class on HR data analytics next week. At Adelphi University, where I teach graduate HR classes, we are diving into the Data Analytics world heavily. Especially in our HR area of the MBA program.

We have done some research with our recent graduates and discerned this is an area needing coursework and expertise. The problem is that all of us teaching in HR did not grow up with analytics in our vocabulary. So this is truly a learning experience for the professors as well.

The Microsoft Data Analytics platform is truly interesting. My concern was scaling software to meet small business needs. This has been a void in the HR software space in the past. Well pleasant surprise. Microsoft does cater to large scale data warehousing and ERP environments, however they also cater to small business too.

For those not in the know:

There software enables you to make informed decisions quickly with an easy to use front end. It also allows you to connect and explore your data with visual reports that you can collaborate, publish, and share. There software integrates with other tools, including Microsoft Excel, so you can get up to speed quickly and work seamlessly with your existing data files.

There is even a free version to get started with and a low cost solution for small businesses on a monthly subscription based. I’m talking a few dollars a month.

Of course it has a dashboard and it can be accessed on your phone or tablet. Most of us use Microsoft programs (Excel and Access) for simple data collection and manipulation. This software enables you to manipulate the information to a whole different level and allows you to make fact based decisions within your business.

As a novice I am going to troll around on the free software when I am done with taking my class.

I’m a fan of Microsoft, and have stayed with their products over the years (PC, Phone, Software) as I am most comfortable with the way they sync with each other and allow for ease of use for the non-techie…

I’ll be back to revisit this conversation in the fall and let you know how the class went. In the mean time if you are in HR you need to get on the analytics band wagon…

Failing at Work: Overcoming the Stink of Bad Leadership

Originally posted over at Workology: (click here)

In my last HR leadership role, I was introduced to the concept of “stink” being attached to individuals who had fallen from grace with the CEO or certain members of Senior Management. Unlike in real life, getting the stink off your body can be an arduous task in a business setting. Think a skunk spraying you.

It was eye-opening for me the first time I heard the term. Within a few weeks of working at this organization, it became apparent that it was a common and often used analogy. In some cases, this stink became permanent, like a tattoo. Some of these folks worked very hard to remove the stink. A few had no idea they stunk until they became isolated or even worse lost their job. And the last group became aware, resentful and rebelled in angry or disruptive ways as a defense.

Failing at Work

So of course, the first question many of you would like to ask is “how does one get stink of failing or aligning with failure at work”? Well in this work environment it wasn’t all that difficult. The CEO liked to test folks and look for cracks in the consistency of response or work product. Failure was expected of most at some point and how you responded to failure was the key to whether you became smelly. The organization had an apologetic culture where publicly accepting blame and responsibility was expected (can you say toxic?). Folks who did not own their mistakes and go to the business confessional were instead sent to the penalty box for short periods of time, like a 2-minute penalty in a hockey game. Too many penalties and the stink would be applied. Of course, this is metaphorical but real in the sense that you had it and it was difficult to remove. Sometimes stink first gets noticed on a review or coaching session. A supervisor informs you that you need to improve or change your approach to business situations. Or you’re told that you need to take responsibility or apologize for actions even when you may not have run a fowl. Then it would advance to poor reviews, being passed over for assignments, being ignored by leadership, or having a glass is half empty response to your work product (“it’s never good enough”). Think of it as a corporate scarlet letter that all could see.

Many workplaces have this stigma or stink that gets attached to individuals too. Although most refrain from labeling it as stink. It manifests differently in every organization but trust me stink from failing at work does happen.

How to Move Forward From Bad Leadership and the Stink of Failure

On a personal level, I have for many years believed that when dealing with acerbic executive management, you keep to the facts and use data to back up your actions or statements. Kind of interesting that data is the hot topic these days. For behavior issues, it has been a tool for better than two decades. Just utilized in a different way. In this case defensive cover or CYA. It’s hard to take someone down that is always coming from a position of data and facts.

From an HR leaders’ perspective, the issue is complex. With no easy answers. I have struggled in two different organizations dealing with management applying stink to individuals. When I worked as the CHRO for a major accounting firm, the stink was less noticeable. It usually started with folks not being assigned to top clients or the individual’s utilization (how much billable time they had each month) being lower than others in their peer group. This was usually explained by Partners as capability or lack thereof. Upon digging, or should I say sniffing, many of the individuals had been sprayed for personality clashes, style differences, or just not being part of the gang.

How to Start with a Clean Slate

Starting over and bouncing back in your organization or work from failure is never easy. While there is no essential formula for success, in my experience I found my organizations were able to move forward doing one, all or a combination of the following

Scheduling Employee Interactions

One of the ways we helped the organization and leadership start over fresh was by dealing with fairness at the organization was to have HR schedule all work or at least manage the final scheduling each week with senior managers. This allowed for an impartial individual to even out some inequities or have conversations with senior managers when someone was struggling or starting to “smell.” An early intervention of sorts and it avoided some individuals from getting sprayed and others to get a shower before the stink became too difficult to remove.

How you schedule employee interactions is up to you. I’ve personally found success in skip-level interviews or meetings where leadership takes a more direct approaching talking with employees.

Earlier in my HR career, we had monthly micro-coaching sessions with our corporate staff. This was a preventative measure. We coupled this with frequent 360 assessments of our senior management team to look for behaviors that lent themselves to be a corporate skunk. Now the trend is weekly or bi-weekly check-ins at many organizations. There are certainly many ways to prevent or curtail stink and even more to reverse it.

Openly Discussing Challenges with Managers and Leadership

I mentioned this earlier but it bears repeating again. In order to create a fair workplace that is fresh and clean means having open conversations about challenges and things that are surfaced through surveys, these micro-coaching sessions, or directly from employees. Talk to your managers and leaders about the issues being discussed by employees so that the individuals and the organization can take planned as well as personal steps to try and move forward making progress.

Is this happening in your organization? How are you dealing with it? We would love to hear and continue this conversation. Feel free to comment or connect. In the mean-time lots of soap and shampoo!

It’s the Allstar Break, Catching Up with HC3

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It’s been a while since I have posted here. And it’s the half way mark in the baseball season too. So, lets catch you all up on happenings at Human Capital 3.0.

First the major portion of the Last HR Jedi Tour is complete. Successful presentations at SHRM conferences in DC, Vegas and most recently Chicago went well. I know I made the SHRM top speaker list at Talent and am waiting on Legislative and Annual. I had 1400 plus at my Decisions breakout at the Annual too!!! About 3k practitioners saw me at the 3 events, that’s a lot of HR folks.

I continue to write for Fistfuloftalent.com and am contemplating a podcast channel with a partner…Stay tuned for updates.

I am teaching a graduate HR class at Adelphi this summer and taking a data analytics class online to get savior on the topic…teaching and being taught…

I made a lot of new friends with the blog squad at #SHRM18. There all prolific in their own right! Love you all…!!!

I have been tweeting more recently too. I made the top 44 list for tweeting at the annual conference…that’s a big deal given my limited tweet reach!

So, what is ahead for the summer and early fall?

Well I will be doing 2 presentations at the NY State conference on September 23 and 24th

I am doing a few Sexual harassment trainings over the next couple of the months as well! Please contact me if you are a NYS business that needs compliance training, we are set to go on this!!!

My golf handicap is getting close to being under 30 on the links…. a few weeks more to stay under 100 consistently….

I am doing DisruptHR on LI in October…can you say, “Lets make HR sexy”?

I am doing a social media vacation till 7/24 as my pc is going in for some maintenance…ok I will still tweet and comment using my phone in the interim!

I’ll be back soon…