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Heather Bussing is a returning contributor to our HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. Heather has practiced employment and business law for over 20 years. She has represented employers, unions and employees in every aspect of employment and labor law including contract negotiations, discrimination and wage hour issues. While the courtroom is a place she’s very familiar with, her preferred approach to employment law is to prevent problems through early intervention and good policies and agreements. Full bio…
Don’t Be a Drag, Just Be a Queen
by Heather Bussing
Last week in John Sumser’s article HR is Female, these words set off a string of comments by people who were offended.
“Being a fundamentally female function, HR behaves differently than other parts of the organization. It’s more networky and can be nurturing. It’s natural that development is housed here.
The essence of HR might be its ability to make clear judgments about really intangible things like personality, potential and match-making. These are stereotypical female things.”
The more articulate called Sumser sexist. One Facebook commenter referred to him as “a douchey smarmster . . . ick.” However, this isn’t about Sumser. He’s often provocative. But he is generally an equal opportunity offender.
Many women were upset at being called “nurturing” at work. They want you to know that they can handle the union busting men of HR and are really most concerned about the financial bottom line. They are busy managing a business. They are not nurturing.
Would you hire these women as a Vice President of HR? Not without knowing how she deals with people, I hope. You might also want to get a good employment attorney.
The role of women in the workplace has changed a lot in the last 25 years. I started working as a lawyer in 1987 after graduating in the first mostly female class at my law school. The US business world was run by 50 year old white guys. As a young lawyer, I was groped, sexually harassed, brought along to carry papers and look cute, called kiddo, darling and always paid less than my male colleagues. I didn’t have children until my very late 30′s because being a professional and having babies were mutually exclusive.
I’ve worked on many gender discrimination cases, including the executive who was excluded from the management retreat because she couldn’t pee off the side of the boat, and the female prison guard who had suggestive tattoos on her leg—of naked women. I have advised insurance companies, banks, hospitals, garbage companies, sheriff’s departments and local governments about gender discrimination. My clients are CEO’s, business owners and HR Departments. Here’s what I’ve observed about how women and the workplace have changed over the last 20 some years.
- The US business world is still run by 50 year old white guys. But these are not the same 50 year old white guys from 20 years ago. These are the guys I went to college and law school with. They have been working with women for 20 years. They have daughters in college who want to run companies. They usually want the smartest person with the best insight and experience doing the job and they don’t care if that person has a y chromosome or not.
- The current crop of 50 year old white guys was mentored by white guys who were a) in charge; and b) didn’t know how to work with women who weren’t secretaries or personnel managers.
- The current crop of 40-50 year old women worked for the old school 50 year old white guys. We were mentored by women who had to work harder, be smarter and put up with a lot of crap. We learned to fight because we still had to.
Gender discrimination still exists in the workplace, but it’s not the same as it used to be. Women run large and small companies. Women run for president. Women are on the United States Supreme Court. Things have changed a lot.
Women now have the opportunity to be complete assholes, just like men.
But many choose not to. Instead, they bring their stereotypical female traits of compassion, empathy, listening and consensus building to the workplace. These skills are especially useful when working with people who, regardless of gender, need to be heard and appreciated.
It’s ironic, but all the sports analogies are really designed to promote working together toward a common goal and improving communication so that the team is both efficient and effective. Many women already know how to do this—whether or not they played team sports—because that’s how girls play together.
One of my favorite clients manages a medical practice with multiple offices and several different work shifts. She oversees all the HR functions of hiring, discipline, benefits, compliance as well as facilities operations, purchasing new equipment and dealing with the physicians– who are all men. She is brilliant, funny, creative, tough and has a penchant for wild glasses. She understands the bottom line and all the lines in between. And she is both caring and nurturing. She signs her name with her title abbreviation QOE—Queen of Everything.
Women business leaders need to be strong, smart, tough and decisive. This does not preclude being compassionate, caring and nurturing. So perhaps it’s time for women to stop being so defensive and be themselves.
Don’t be a drag, just be a queen. Of everything.
Have you read the new report from HRxAnalysts, “What HR Thinks and Feels”? Whether or not you’ve purchased the report (it costs $1,195), you’ll probably want to attend the webinar April 19 at noon Central time.
If you already have something scheduled for that time slot, you should cancel it. We will not be distributing copies of the presentation, and the webinar will not be recorded (HRxAnalysts usually charges for this data). This is a one-time-only presentation of the data from “What HR Thinks and Feels.”
The webinar is hosted by Starr Tincup and features the big brass from HRxAnalysts, George LaRocque (CEO) and John Sumser (principal analyst) along with Bret Starr for color commentary. You probably know this already, but Starr Tincup is the underwriter for HRxAnalysts, a new firm aimed at understanding brand influence in the HCM market segment.
What’s Up with This Webinar?
This webinar will share the results from the latest HRxAnalysts report: “What HR Thinks and Feels.” The report is based on a three-year study of the demographics, attitudes, behaviors and beliefs of HR professionals. I like to think of it as “the secret lives of HR pros.” Check out the table of contents:
- Leisure Activities
It’s easy to see how the information could be used to create industry-specific sales techniques, refine requirements for HCM products and services or even HR career development.
We will share a lot of the data in this webinar.
Here is an example of the data we will share in the webinar:
PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATIONS BY RANK
Overall, certifications among HR professionals are common. And while directors and executives are more likely to have certifications than managers and generalists, the gap isn’t very large:
- 41% of generalists have a ce rtification
- 53% of managers have one
- 59% of directors have one
- 56% of executives have one
HR professionals are more likely to have a major certification (PHR, SPHR or GPHR) the higher they climb up the corporate ladder:
- 29% of generalists have one of the major HR certifications
- 43% of managers have one
- 44% of directors have one
- 44% of executives have one
The type of certification also varies according to rank. The PHR is more common among generalists and managers than the SPHR:
- 17% of generalists hold a PHR, while 12% hold an SPHR
- 22% of managers hold a PHR, while 17% hold an SPHR
The SPHR is more common among directors and executives:
- 25% of directors hold an SPHR, while 18% hold a PHR
- 33% of executives hold an SPHR, while 12% hold a PHR
The GPHR is rare among all ranks in HR.
That’s one of about 1,000 data points in the report (no kidding). And we’ll be sharing many of them on the webinar.
Hope you can make it.
Jay Cross is a champion of informal learning, web 2.0, and systems thinking. He has challenged conventional wisdom about how adults learn since designing the first business degree program offered by the University of Phoenix. Full Bio
Getting The Work Done
by Jay Cross
Workplace learning serves one purpose: getting the work done.
Work used to be simple. Tasks were mechanical. Things rarely changed. Initial lessons lasted a lifetime. This kind of work has largely been automated or outsourced to places where workers earn very low wages.
Next came information work. Information work was often complicated but it was linear. Procedural. Rote. Often information work came with mountains of details; these were put into reference databases, procedure manuals, and performance support systems. Workers could offload memorization and processing to computers and their “outboard brains.” Information work has been commoditized; it no longer produces high value.
Today’s most rewarding work is conceptual. Workers deal with novel situations on the fly. These may be human interactions (service is replacing manufacturing as the driver in almost all the world’s economies) or dealing with uncertainty and surprises (complex environments are inherently unpredictable). Innovation has become more important than production. Doing the right things, often new things, trumps doing things right.
In a world of rapid change, learning can never stop. A conceptual worker cannot tackle new challenges, take advantage of new information, and make judgment calls on novel situations without learning along the way. More than merely being embedded into work, learning has become integral to work. Social learning at work does not exist outside of that context. Likewise, informal learning can’t be isolated from the work itself. Learning is the work.
How did we ever think otherwise? It’s in part because we unwisely used school as the mental model for how to structure workplace learning. The difficulty there is that education is generally isolated from the real world.
Schools erect walls to protect children from the dangers that lurk outside them. When the children are old enough to fend for themselves, academics construct ivory towers to keep real-world noise from interfering with deep dives into artificial disciplines. Neither of these strategies work very well. Children leave school unprepared for life in the real world. Learning a particular discipline with the assumption of “other things being equal” is poor preparation for a messy world where those “other things” have huge impact.
Schools encourage students to learn alone. Students are evaluated in isolation; group activity is called cheating. Grades are awarded to individuals, not groups. And this is at the heart of why grades are totally unrelated to anything outside of the school system: they fail to measure what one can accomplish with others. Students chase after grades that do not correlate with income, happiness, marital status, power, or anything else. If only teachers would wake up to the fact that people respond better to group rewards than individual rewards.
There are only a few situations where it makes sense to separate training from work. One is when the task is not so much learning how to do things as indoctrination.
Compliance is a prime example. You’re expected to perform in the official way; not much thinking involved in that. What people learn is boundaries: what not to do, what constitutes crossing the line, and the detail steps of procedures. The reason indoctrination is required instead of learning while working is that regulatory compliance has not kept up with the way people work; compliance can’t handle the unforeseen.
Another situation where it makes sense to separate learning from work is when you’re looking for outside viewpoints. Innovation requires importing patterns of thought from foreign sources into the workplace. For example, an executive who attends a six-week advanced management program at Harvard B-School re-enters the workplace with all manner of new frameworks and approaches to try.
Work is holistic. It encompasses everything it take to get the job done, i.e. to create value. Talking about informal learning, social learning, discovery learning, or any other kind of workplace learning is misleading, for it suggests that they lead some sort of independent existence apart from work.
Better than talking about learning, we should talk about learning while working or learning the job while doing the job or simply working smarter. The focus should always be on performing the job.
People learn to do their work in the course of doing their jobs. As Picasso said, “I do things I do not know how to do in order to learn how to do them.” Workers learn through discovery borne of trying things out, mimicking others, and engaging in conversation. They do this on the job, not in the classroom. Learning is the new work.
There’s a land rush in the social media for HR and recruiting world. There are about 30 companies, ranging from Jibe to BraveNewTalent who claim everything from network data to referrals to online talent communities. Everyone is trying to harness the power of the new platforms.
It’s very, very early in the evolution of social media and the infrastructure that supports it. Although the majority view focuses on the three main continents (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), there are submerged continents (like Google, Yahoo and AOL) and large empires in search of land (Microsoft, Apple, the big pseudo platforms Salesforce, NetSuite). More importantly, there are a kajillion little islands of activity posturing with a social bent.
If you lift the next rock you see, you’ll find a social media provider and an ecosystem that includes some form of HR or Recruiting offering. Like those bugs under the rocks, those swarming undifferentiated insects are wooing the funders and talking up micro-clients.
And, things will really heat up once LinkedIn goes public. Armed with an acquisition war chest, they will spark a buying spree whether or not they actually buy anything. Everyone you know will suddenly develop an appetite for social media acquisitions. This is why the funding of these startups is going bananas.
Meanwhile, HR departments are freaking out about the supposed liability and risk associated with the introduction of Social Media into the hiring process. On one extreme we have the holy host of fear mongers who forecast a nuclear holocaust of discrimination litigation based on hiring processes that are tainted by suspect information. On the other hand, there are more reasonable voices who suggest that the fear mongering is pure nonsense; that there is no way to identify the damaged class of people and no way to collect the evidence.
In these sorts of battles, the lawyers (otherwise known as Chief Fearmongering Officers) prevail. Since the chance that there might be a risk of liability is the key to billable hours (or departmental expansion), they are required to see boogeymen everywhere they look. As a result, you can expect to see a real growth in the services who supply plausible deniability and repeatable processes.
That means that while we’re not sure that there’s an actual need, we are certain that the new service offered by Social Intelligence is going to be a success. It will be widely copied and its marketing claims will become industry standard buzzwords.
Their pitch is completely straightforward: “Social Intelligence Corp. is a fully compliant consumer reporting agency (CRA) with processes and operations designed and operated in adherence with federal, state, and local employment laws as well as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).”
In other words, if it scares you, they’ve got it covered.
Effectively, the company is pioneering a new form for Background check that focuses on the risks a company faces for not doing adequate due-dilligence in the hiring process. As far as we know, there are no other operations that take the FCRA to this extreme.
They are quick to point out that they focus on Background checking. They believe that this form of background check will be as commonplace as a criminal check. If, somehow, their model prevails, this is a home run.
By setting itself up as a Consumer Reporting Agency (a CRA is like a credit bureau, in this case a bureau for employment information), SocialIntelligence is creating an entirely new category of service under existing regulation. Their offering forces you to answer the question about whether or not Social Media liability is real. (See the end of this article for a definition of a CRA)
The company looks for disconfirming evidence in a variety of ways. They screen pictures, evaluate various alternative resumes, monitor chat rooms and dig deeply into those thousand of islands of social media.
The really interesting thing is that their execution model is a hybrid of technology and human infrastructure. If you’ve been following our view of the evolution of software, this is exactly what the next generation of software looks like. Software as a service is a service and it is increasingly about the people who deliver it.
SocialIntelligence has a number of things right. Our bet is that they are widely emulated and acquired early.
Consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) are entities that collect and disseminate information about consumers to be used for credit evaluation and certain other purposes, including employment. Credit bureaus, a type of consumer reporting agency, hold a consumer’s credit report in their databases. CRAs have a number of responsibilities under FCRA, including the following:
- Provide a consumer with information about him or her in the agency’s files and to take steps to verify the accuracy of information disputed by a consumer.
- Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), an amendment to the FCRA passed in 2003, consumers are able to receive one free report a year.
- The free report can be requested by telephone, mail.
- If negative information is removed as a result of a consumer’s dispute, it may not be reinserted without notifying the consumer within five days, in writing. CRAs may not retain negative information for an excessive period.
The FCRA describes how long negative information, such as late payments, bankruptcies, tax liens or judgments may stay on a consumer’s credit report — typically seven years from the date of the delinquency. The exceptions: bankruptcies (10 years) and tax liens (seven years from the time they are paid).
A couple of years ago, I spent a really long time with a VP of Marketing whose definition of a brand was a logo, a tag line and a color pallette. I tried as hard as I could to explain that a brand was far more than a set of choices in stationary selection. I talked about reputation, customer intimacy, the difference between customers and the marketplace, the role of customer service and awareness.
With a completely blank stare, she asked me what I thought of the shade of blue she was thinking about.
Logos, taglines and color choices are important. They can set the tone for communications and shape both market perception and the organization’s internal aspirations. They are big deals.
A well run branding process that just focuses on logos, taglines and their infrastructure can transform a company. The artwork takes on a symbolic meaning as the various stakeholders come into alignment. I’ve seen masterful executions that have reshaped company cultures.
But, a company with a fresh new logo, a smart tag line and well chosen colors is a lot like a teenage boy dressed and ready for his first formal dance. Looks good, smells good and makes mommy proud. The rubber meets the road at the curb of the girlfriend’s house. From there it’s about putting substance into the fresh clothes and cologne; it’s passing the girlfriend’s father test; it’s creating a good experience; it might even involve customer intimacy.
Long after the cologne wears off, the tuxedo goes out of fashion and the father mellows, the reputation launched that night will be evolving and growing. No reputation remains pefectly pure and spotless. Experience, learning, partnerships, performance, tenacity and a host of other intangibles shape the world’s perception of that young man.
The same is true with organizations and their brands.
In the long run, the logo and the presentation have the same relationship to long term success as the young boy’s careful fashion choices on the first date. Much more important are his choice of school, the way he builds his network, his integrity and tenacity, his levels of creativity the ratio of self-centeredness to compassion, the overall value he creates in the world and the consequence he leaves in his wake. Companies also have brands that include comportment, values, customer experience and the views of potential buyers.
Faced with this hard to manage/understand set of variables, it’s not much of a surprise that a certain set of Marketing managers focus in on logos, stationary and color choice. That’s something you can control.
But the brand is something entirely other than a choice of paper.
Great step-by-step review webcast from Ultimate Software that features one of their customers, CommuniCare, on how they hunted for and deployed a new HCM solution. Rachel Stevens of CommuniCare provides details on obtaining top management buy-in, strategic planning, the evaluation process, and creating an executive summary and analysis. Hear a firsthand account of everything involved in the selection of a new solution, including tips for HCM demos, site visits, client references, activation, testing, and going live.
Listen to the Podcast Now