HRExaminer v3.23 June 8, 2012
Table of Contents
I’ve been reading stuff from Bob Lefsetz for years. Overflowing with content, always opinionated and usually on to something, Lefsetz is the last patriot in the land of thre music business. His writing focuses on the disruption and transformation in the sector that brought us jet-setting rock stars but now delivers bespoke music for small, intimate audiences.
Lefsetz, more than any other writer, chronicles the power of individuals to make a difference. Whether it’s the latest one hit wonder or a cruise through music history, he illuminates the power of vision and authenticity (both in and by his writing). While the music industry continues to pan its streams in the hunt for gold veins, Bob sermonizes about the importance of playing for the sake of playing. He’s the representative for the notion that fame is fleeting but quality work lasts forever.
Bob has fits (and sends them to you in his voluminous emails) when he sees someone with no talent being driven by the hunger for fame. They always try to find shortcuts; they think they’re entitle to your time based on their ambition; they’re sloppy and undistinguished.
When Bob finds something good, you’re the first to know about it. As a music fan I relish the people he’s turned me on to. Ever since radio died and the kids left home, I’ve been at a loss for finding new things to listen to. Lefsetz fllls the gap.
He’s got opinions and no shortage of them. When he’s at his best, he sizzles with focus. When he’s at his worst, he moralizes about the irrelevant.
He’s on way more than he’s off.
People who make a difference are never all sugar and light. Like I do with Lefsetz, you take the good with the bad, mostly because the good is so amazingly good.
We should hold ourselves to such high standards. Rather than a passing grade in all subjects, excel in some and fail at the others. That’s what makes the difference.
Here’s the conclusion of Bob’s most recent piece about the kinds of people who make a real difference.
“In other words, one man or woman can make a difference.
But these people who do make a difference, they listen only to themselves, they categorically can’t work for someone else, unless that person gives free reign, which is incredibly rare.
If we’re looking for breakthroughs, we need to look outside the system. Don’t expect the usual suspects to deliver them. And sure, many obtuse ideas will fail, but enough will succeed to change the paradigm.
20th Century Fox was not a believer in “Star Wars”, I saw the trailer multiple times and the audience laughed, it was so cheesy. Not only did “Star Wars” become the biggest grossing movie of all time, it spawned sequels and imitations and created the merchandising paradigm.
Capitol refused to release the first Beatles album.
And Apple fired Steve Jobs. Because he just couldn’t get along, he was a troublemaker.
Now ultimately these people needed help to succeed. But they didn’t share power, they were dictators, it went down their way, their vision was unsullied.
There’s no safety net when you’re trawling the far reaches of creativity. But that’s where the next big thing is gonna come from.”
- I sat in on a Twitter chat session about ‘candidate experience.’ Lots of assertions, lots of speculation, no evidence that there is a real cost associated with bad candidate experience. My take continues to be that this is a solution that is in search of a problem.The costs associated with treating candidates badly vary with the economy (and the region).
Any inventory in a massive surplus position gets treated roughly. Any inventory in a position of scarcity gets treated royally. These are the dynamics of the labor market. As long as jobs are the core of the labor market, inventory will be treated according to the laws of scarcity.
I have a hard time imagining the day that migrant workers are treated to a ‘respectful’ candidate experience. The same holds true of many jobs at the low end of the economy. Candidate experience is an item that defines the difference between one class and another.
That’s a way of saying that jobs in big companies (which are the ultimate relics of the industrial era) are now the exclusive privilege of the upper middle class. They may even define upper middle class in certain parts of the East Coast.
Great candidate experience goes hand in hand with great health care benefits and extensive paid leave.
- Big Data is the new oil. Most of what you see in HR, however, is a begrudging acceptance of the analytical tools that everyone else has been using since the beginning of the Total Quality movement in the 1980s.
- I am a part of a team teaching Social Media and Internet Law at the local Law School. It turns out that the law doesn’t work the way I thought it did. My view was: legislature makes laws; executive branch enforces laws; judiciary sorts it out when things go crazy. Not so much.
The rate of acceleration in technical change is, itself, accelerating. That means that what took Microsoft 15 years, took Facebook five; that the rate of change is leaving our 18th Century political system in the dust; that the new approach to government is using other countries as proxies; that the moment we nail it down, it gets screwed up again.
The way that law actually happens is that two advocates fight it out in negotiations and courtrooms, while they try to define the metaphor. Once early precedent is established, the legislature acts. Usually, the early results are laws that wither under challenge. The first laws limp into their futures as skeletons of the original legislation. Meanwhile, the executive branch runs willy-nilly creating and enforcing regulations.
Lawyers are the people who navigate this messy cauldron.
Today, they have to understand technology. The most interesting lesson in this class was the judge in the Oracle-Google case. He informed his work by creating and working with computer code during the trial. With an adequate understanding of the core technology, he was able to guide the process with common sense.
Meanwhile, we’re teaching this class how to think in advance of the emergence of the law. That’s the essential skill of 21st Century attorneys.
- Rewards are punishment. The research is very clear; incentives (carrots) do not produce sustainable change. Mostly, they create an appetite (and a sense of entitlement) for getting incentives. Competitive incentive programs are the root of overcompensation for CEOs.
The more an organization relies on incentives, the worse things get. Still, performance management (with its emphasis on incentives) continues to manipulate our work environments with a theory of motivation derived from lab animals.
Rewards and incentives are ways of doing things to workers. As long as our management approach rests on objectification, we’re never going to see the sort of engagement people are fantasizing about these days.
- There are two different HR conversations. When the CEO talks about people as the most important asset, he means those people who make a high value contribution to the organization. These are the people who create the core value of the company. When HR talks about people, they mean every single person in the company.
Building processes that work for everyone makes the organization treat the core players badly. Because of their role in the value chain, they are entitle to better than what other people get. When HR proceduralizes and standardizes, it drives the company towards mediocrity. The answer is in the other direction.
- The C-Level of most organizations is damagingly myopic. I don’t really have to tell you where most of them have their heads. You work with them. When HR tries to plan for foreseeable difficulty, they are derailed with executive intuition about people. The shortage of data in personnel decisions is a two way street in most companies
The first 100 respondents to complete all questions will receive a $5 Starbucks card. The 15th, 150th, and 1,015th respondents will receive a $100 Visa gift card in celebration of our 15th year. All respondents will receive an advance copy of the results in early October 2012. The Survey is now available at www.CedarCrestone.com/hrssv46 and responses will be collected until July 2nd, 2012.
Taking Work Back
Peter Weddle is about the last guy you’d expect to propose a revolution. The head of the Employment Websites Association is a retired Army Officer, a West Point graduate, a mountain climber, a novelist and a publisher. He’s a tireless advocate for job hunters.
When Weddle starts preaching “economic disobedience”, it’s time to look around. There’s trouble in the heartland.
Weddle’s latest opus is a business-y novel about the importance of not settling. With a not-so-small nod to Ayn Rand, Weddle weaves a tale of a world in which the really talented refuse to work for a certain range of people. His target is the patrician class of wealthy people who have made their money exploiting their employees.
At the core of the plot is a utopian group nown as Wladen 4g (or Wally). Wally is a a group of folks who contribute to an online database that chronicles the realities of working inside of the best and worst companies in America. They evaluate the policies, politics and practices of those companies and enable database users to make clear choices about who they invest their time in.
Weddle describes a kind of career activism that places the worker at the center of the equation. By focusing on the consequences of investing your time in this company or that, he sees a way to bring personal responsibility back to the employment equation.
Like most revolutionaries, Weddle is fundamentally a patriot. The subtitle of the book is “A Novel About Rediscovering the American Dream’.
Echoing the great visonaries of American culture, Weddle persuades that utopia can be a personal creation. That happiness is a pursuit rooted in the fulfillment of one’s talent. Talent, he says, is a gift that one has to discover and nourish within oneself.
It would be easy to dismiss Weddle’s work as an update of the Horatio Alger stories of inspirational people. In the early 20th Century, popular literature was focused on portraying the journey from the bottom of the class structure to the top. Somewhere right about where 50 Shades of Gray fits in, there used to be inspirational literature focused on personal fulfillment through accomplishment and persistence.
Weddle evokes those older points of view while staying contemporary in his organization. The evil in society, from Wally’s point of view, comes from unthinknigly giving the fruits of your labor to an employer who doesn’t deserve them. This is what he means by economic disobedience.
In one of the novel’s bright moments, a woman who has been looking for work for months gets a job offer. She goes and visits the company. She turns the job down once it’s offered because the company is not the right place for her talent.
That sort of looking discomfort right in the face is at the heart of Weddle’s vison for career activists who make themselves better by seeking the right places and the right people to join.
The most interesting aspect of this work is that it proposes a radical solution that can be implemented without bloodshed or massive social upheaval. By focusing on the perfection of our talents and refusing to taint them for the sake of money, Weddle points to a viable approach for the Occupy movement’s future. The real place for revolution is in your own life.
You might take a look at A Multitude of Hope: A Novel About Rediscovering the American Dream. It’s a surprising and delightful work from one of the elder statesmen of our industry.
What if the goal of the HR operation was to put itself out of business? Not as a way of moving on to a better type of HR but as an end in itself. Why shouldn’t HR be responsible for solving a set of problems and then closing the door?
Part of HR’s Public Relations problem stems from the idea that HR should be a permanent fixture. What if that just doesn’t make any sense at all? Who says that the problems HR addresses can’t be settled, wrapped up and dispensed with? Why shouldn’t having an HR function demonstrate a lack of maturity in an organization.
Plenty of organizations, committees, task forces and project teams are convened for a precise purpose, a specific agenda or a fixed time frame. The goal is to solve a problem and disband, to address the issue, design solutions and then go away. Why not HR.
In its current forms, HR rides its host organization like a parasite that extracts a nearly fixed percentage of the organization’s revenue. It’s like a sales tax or the mob’s weekly ‘insurance’ charge. While there is a lot of arm waving, HR finds it nearly impossible to show ROI for the money the company invests. In many cases, there is good reason to think that it’s actually double tax… you pay a percentage of revenue to get a function that slows things down.
A jaundiced eye notices that HR is a catch all for the cats and dogs that no other function wants. Providing the glue that holds employees to the organization is the best description that can be mustered. As the need for that glue evaporates, one wonders about the relevance of the department.
What would we miss if HR just went away?