All posts by Michael J. O'Brien

HR Secrets Revealed!

In a new post entitled 10 Things the HR Department Won’t Tell You on the Yahoo! front page this morning, Woman’s Day scribe Kimberly Fusaro attempts to drop the veil on the tightly held secrets of the human resource profession.

But before reading it, be forewarned — especially if you live under a rock or haven’t read a newspaper in years — because this information may just shock you.  

Fusaro begins by saying it’s HR’s “responsibility to make sure you’re doing your job well. Which means they know a lot more than you might think.”

Sounds ominous. But informative? Not really.

Among the many gems of wisdom Fusaro and her gathering of experts offer are the following diamonds in the obvious:

“Smelling like cigarette smoke can work against you, as can having body odor.”

“If there’s something on the Internet you wouldn’t want your boss to see, it’s probably in your best interest to take it down.”

“If you’re applying for a work-from-home position, you need to present yourself as a ‘home professional’ from the get-go. This means that when HR first calls to express interest, there better not be crying babies or barking dogs in the background.”

“You need to continually impress your employer in order to stand out as an exceptional employee. Bad behavior and negative experiences, on the other hand, can linger in an employer’s mind for years.”

After reading the list, it strikes me that the reason HR probably wouldn’t tell you most of these things is because, if you need to be told, then you probably shouldn’t be hired in the first place.

Disabled Workers Lose Advocate

The New York Times is reporting on the death of Paul S. Miller, a long-time advocate for disabled workers who was also born with achondroplasia, or dwarfism.

The paper reported the cause of death was cancer.

Miller was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School, but was rejected by law firms more than 40 times, according to the piece, because of his physical stature:

One time, he said, he was told the firm feared that clients would see his hiring as a “circus freak show.”

Despite those setbacks, Miller was hired by a law firm, and eventually became a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he was director of the university’s disabilities studies program. According to the NYT:

For 10 years before joining the faculty in 2004, he was a commissioner of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. At the same time, he was the Clinton administration’s liaison to disability organizations, a role he reprised in the first nine months of the Obama presidency.

We here at the Leader Board salute Miller and his efforts to lead more disabled workers to their rightful places in the working world.

Pay Scales and Weight Scales

Thanks to the good folks at CBSNews.com, who ran a very interesting story today about some new research from the University of Florida that finds skinny women and overweight men earn more, on average, than their average-sized colleagues:

According to the study, women who weighed 25 pounds less than the group norm earned about $16,000 more per year. A woman 25 pounds above the group norm earned about $14,000 less. Thinner men, on the other hand, made almost $9,000 less than their average male co-worker. 

Now, I get the idea that women who weigh less than their counterparts would make more than their average-size or overweight colleagues. After all, we all live in a society that praises puny and castigates corpulence.

But I admit I was shocked to learn that men who weighed less than the group norm actually made less money than their average-sized colleagues.

And, as a man who has always weighed in on the lighter side of the scale, I’m now wondering if, instead of working harder, I should just start eating more if I want to get a raise.

Read the University of Florida researchers’ paper, which was published in the journal for the American Psychological Association, here.

Funny You Should Ask That

And a happy Monday morning to the blogosphere!

The New York Times site runs a great blog called You’re The Boss, designed for small-business owners, but they sometimes touch on issues that also can affect executives at larger organizations.

This morning’s post takes a look at job-interview questions and how to determine the right questions to ask a candidate:

I’ve learned that different questions work for different jobs. The manager of my picture-framing business, for example, hires people to do “pick-ups” — they retrieve finished framed pictures from a room full of racks for customers. She routinely asks interviewees if they have ever thought about becoming a librarian; those who say they have thought about it tend to do the job best and to stay around the longest.

 Take a look and have a great last week of September.

Oliver Wyman Takes 7th Place?

The good folks at www.vault.com have just released their list of the top ten firms for human resources consulting, which was based on the input of 4,500 consultants and ranks firms by their “perceived prestige” in the field, rather than by size or revenue, according to a company press release.

And while the overwhelming majority of the names on the list are well-known to anyone in who has spent at least a single day wandering in the broad field of human resources — with Mercer, Towers Watson and Hewitt Associates among those listed — one name in particular elicited looks of suprise at a recent staff meeting since we had never had any previous contact with the No. 7 firm: Oliver Wyman.

A quick search of Hoover’s database finds that the No. 7 name on the list does not, in fact, refer to Oliver Wyman, a partner at Cambridge, Mass. -based On The Rise Inc.; nor to Oliver A. Wyman, president of Atlanta-based Rug Hold National Service Center Inc., but rather Oliver Wyman Inc., the New York-based consulting firm that was founded in 1972.

This from Hoover’s: Diversified consulting firm Oliver Wyman Group is led by its Oliver Wyman unit, a management consulting specialist that operates from more than 40 cities in about 15 countries worldwide. Oliver Wyman draws clients from a variety of industries and offers advice on business transformation, leadership, marketing and sales, operations and technology, risk management, and strategy. Other Oliver Wyman Group units include Lippincott (branding and identity) and NERA Economic Consulting. Oliver Wyman Group is a unit of insurance giant Marsh & McLennan, whose subsidiaries also include Mercer, a human resources and benefits consulting firm.

According  to its own site, Oliver Wyman has 35 years experience serving Global 1000 clients, with a staff of 2,900.

So congratulations to Oliver Wyman, the company, and all apologies to the other two Olivers who were named here and who may soon be receiving a Google alert referencing their name as a result of this post.

 

Don’t Be Late

According to the good folks at the Associated Press, at least one African nation’s government (Nigeria) is taking a stand against an internationally known productivity thief: tardiness.

As part of a push to end tardiness, a number of federal offices in the nation’s capital Abuja locked out hundreds of tardy workers Tuesday. The move is part of an ongoing government effort to end chronic late arrivals among employees in Africa’s most populous nation.

The offices opened their doors an hour later to let the late employees in.

While it makes sense to discourage tardiness at the workplace, we’re not so sure that locking employees out for an hour will do anything to boost productivity rates.

Want to Work with Mad Men?

To celebrate the new season of Mad Men, (quite possibly the highest-quality TV series of all time, in this blogger’s humble opinion) the AMC Web site now offers an interactive “job interview” so fans can see how well (or not) they’d fit in with the mad men (and women) at the newly formed Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce ad agency.

Take the quick quiz and see how you do. (Full disclosure: After taking the quiz, I was not offered a position with the firm, but that’s probably because I asked too many pointed questions about their positions on equal-employment opportunities, family leave and accomodations for disabilities; none of which were on the law books in their current form when the show’s Season 4 takes place, in late 1964.)

But even if you’re not hired, there’s at least one way to still be a part of the action: The next episode of Mad Men airs Sunday at 10pm on AMC. Be there or be square.

FDA Warns Lab: Make Better Hires

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently sent a warning letter out to Abbott Diabetes Care Inc., an Alameda, Calif.-based company that manufactures glucose-monitoring equipment.

(Tip o’ the hat to Jim Edwards who first wrote about it here.)

Among the varied charges leveled in the letter is that the company did not conform to necessary guidelines when hiring for critical positions at the company, especially ones that are responsible for quality control, calibration of equipment and regulatory affairs: 

4. Failure to have sufficient personnel with the necessary education, background, training, and experience to assure that all activities required by 21 CFR 820 are correctly performed, as required by 21 CFR 820.25(a). For example: 

a. The job description for the Director of Quality Systems requires that the person have a Bachelor of Science/Technical/or Engineering discipline. The person holding the position does not have this type of degree, but rather a Business Administration degree. 

b. The person holding the Regulatory Affairs Manager position lacks the minimum of 5 years of regulatory experience required in the job description. 

c. The person holding the Quality Control Supervisor position lacks the required Bachelor degree in science or the alternative five to eight years experience in Quality Control.  

d. The person holding the Calibration Coordinator position lacks the required Bachelor degree and the four years of relevant experience.

We have reviewed your response dated March 26, 2010, and have concluded that it is not adequate because the replacement Regulatory Affairs Manager does not have qualifications that meet the qualifications required in the job description. You stated that you are conducting a global review of personnel to compare qualifications and job descriptions of all individuals who have direct product impact to determine if their background and experience match the requirements of their current job description and are conducting a review of the Human Resources processes that support the development of job descriptions and the identification and selection of personnel. However, this process is ongoing and evidence of its completion and effectiveness was not provided.

For its part, the company says it is working with the FDA to clear up the problems.

“Abbott Diabetes Care has taken and continues to take the actions necessary to address the items outlined in the letter and is communicating those actions directly to the agency,” says Greg Miley, the company’s director of public affairs.

But with all the highly skilled — yet unemployed –workers out there currently flooding the job market, it boggles the mind to think that the company’s HR department is not able to find any qualified candidates for such important positions.

Furthermore, if you are an end-user of one of Abbott’s products, such as the FreeStyle glucose-monitoring and the Navigator continuous-monitoring systems, how sure are you that the product in your hand has been properly calibrated and tested for quality assurance if the people responsible for such things may not be qualified to do their jobs?  

When critical positions are filled by unqualified candidates, it’s a simply a recipe for disaster.

Watchdogs or Snitches?

A new survey of nearly 3,000 doctors published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that 36 percent “do not feel obligated by professional commitment” to report impaired or incompetent colleagues to the proper authorities.

“It’s possible that there’s a real cultural issue here,” Catherine DesRoches, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor at the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Harvard Medical School, told the LA Times. “It’s a topic that might not have been addressed back when they were in medical school, so they do not know how to handle it.”

DesRoches also told the newspaper: “It’s concerning that there’s this somewhat large portion of physicians that don’t agree with the commitment to report when they have direct personal knowledge of a colleague that is in need. Since physicians themselves are the primary mechanism for detecting such colleagues, we must look to them to improve the situation.”

While the study only looks at doctors, one wonders how other specialized workforce segments that are involved in keeping the public safe and healthy — such as airline pilots, police officers, and firefighters, to name a few — handle that same situation when confronted with a colleague’s behavior that could very easily put someone in harm’s way.

Supreme Court Rules on Texting at Work

The U.S. Supreme Court has just unanimously ruled that a California police chief was within his constitutional rights when he viewed sexually explicit text messages sent by an officer’s work pager to two different women.

According to the LA Times, Sgt. Jeff Quon sued the police department after learning that thousands of messages he separately sent to his wife and a girlfriend had been viewed by his police chief in Ontario, Calif. He previously won his case in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but lost today because:

In this case, the high court said the police chief’s reading of the officer’s text messages was a search, but it was also reasonable.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy agreed the police chief’s actions amounted to a search, but it was reasonable, he said, because it had “a legitimate work-related purpose.” He wanted to see whether officers were using their text pagers for police work or for personal matters. “Because it was not excessive in scope, the search was reasonable,” Kennedy said.

While it’s true that many, if not most, employers tell employees that they should have no expectation of privacy when using company-owned communication devices, an Associated Press report on the ruling reports that Kennedy also offered some advice to employees on the topic:

Kennedy said that it is true that many employers accept or tolerate personal communications on company time and equipment. But he suggested that employees who want to avoid the potential embarrassment of having those communications revealed might “want to purchase and pay for their own” cell phones and other devices.

Ultimately, one wonders if this ruling will prompt HR departments across the country to revise, with stronger language, their employees’ handbooks on the use of company-owned telecommunications devices and the accompanying lack of an expectation of privacy.

Or maybe they should just send out a text message to everyone with a company cell phone.