Category Archives: HR profession

‘Yelp’ for Rating Managers??

Many of us turn to the website Yelp.com–the site that compiles user reviews of local restaurants and other service providers–when we’re looking for a good place to eat in whatever location we happen to be. But the folks at Cisco Systems are giving some serious thought to creating a homegrown version of Yelp that would let Cisco employees post reviews of their managers in a public forum available to all of the company’s employees, in a fashion similar to the way Yelp.com users rate the newest sushi joint or Italian bistro.

“We’re trying to figure out how ‘ungoverned’ we can be without getting into legal trouble,” said Don McLaughlin, Cisco’s chief learning officer, during a panel discussion on using social media for corporate learning at the HR Technology® Conference.

McLaughlin said he thinks it’s a great idea, although he admitted he’d be a bit worried about getting negatively “Yelped” himself. But the concept ties into Cisco’s long-term strategy with respect to social learning, he said, which is to create a new “capability set” for the company’s next generation of leaders.

Some in the audience were receptive to the idea of a Yelp for managers. “How can you really know what sort of training a manager might need without really frank, honest feedback from his or her direct reports?” one attendee asked.

Others were skeptical. “You might have people afraid to post honestly for fear of reprisals,” said another audience member. “Then you’d also run the risk of managers who are afraid to do anything that might be unpopular for fear of getting trashed.”

“What about combining the employee reviews with hard data, such as metrics on turnover in a manager’s group, and its business performance?” said another. “That might be really powerful.”

Moderator Jeanne Meister, author of the book The 2020 Workplace, said the concept could be an improvement over performance reviews. “Aren’t we all tired of performance feedback that arrives too late? Why not find out immediately if there’s something we may need to improve, skills we need to learn, rather than waiting six or twelve months down the line?”

Erickson Opens Conference with a Call to Embrace the Times

As the opening keynote speaker for the 13th annual, and largest-ever, HR Technology Conference® and Exposition in Chicago, Tamara Erickson — collaboration and innovation expert, blogger and author of numerous books on generational evolutions in the workplace — got things rolling with an inspiring look at where technology’s taken us from the beginning of man to where it’s now taking American businesses.

That is, if they’re savvy and open enough to evolve.

Starting with the caveman’s need to share ideas  in order to make the very first tools and taking us through the 20th century corporate organizational model where “we had to make enough stuff at good-enough quality and low-enough costs to sustain the company and help it prosper,” she said,  “now, this century, if you can’t figure out how to tap into the knowledge and ideas of customers and employees … and do [the latter] on a more horizontal org. chart,” she said, you won’t make it.

Challenging listeners to adopt an entire new approach to employment; that is, away from expecting employees to perform because you pay them and into a model where you need to entice them to expend “discretionary effort,” she said, Erickson listed off numerous companies that are starting to adapt: Best Buy, Deloitte, Rypple, Kraft Food, the list went on.

But most companies, she said, are still stuck in the old way. “They’re not providing the technologies and investing in the tools so employees will choose to innovate,” she said.

“You have to invest in their discretionary effort,” Erickson said. “Now is the time for the combination of to invest in their discretionary effort,” Erickson said. “Now is the time for the combination of technology and HR. This time is ripe. HR holds the key to the next step change in our organizational technologies.”

Executive Comp Gets its Credentials

It’s not surprising that the WorldatWork Society of Certified Professionals has developed a new certification for executive compensation, available in October.

As the Washington-based agency notes in its recent announcement of the move, “In the wake of the economic crisis and continued scrutiny of executive compensation by media and shareholders … executive compensation practitioners are being called upon to design and manage programs that attract, motivate and retain dynamic executives and leaders who have the ability to drive positive business results.”

The new certification — designed for executive rewards practitioners, consultants and human resource professionals involved in the design and administration of executive compensation — would help to “ensure that companies are working with knowledgeable and competent executive rewards practitioners,” the release states.

Don Linner, executive compensation practice leader for the Washington-based total-rewards company, says the alternative — poor executive comp practices — “can lead to intense public scrutiny, organizational instability and turnover.”

It’s about time this expertise became legitimate, test-worthy and trustworthy, especially in this environment. Had something like this been in place several years ago, it might have spared a few organizations I can think of some unwanted publicity.

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.

 

Reforms Stalled by Inadequate HR?

As we wrote on HREOnline™  a few months ago, an ambitious federal hiring-reform initiative wouldn’t be an easy task, requiring both training and buy-in from staff.

When Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry announced the initiative, he said that, “for far too long, our HR systems have been a hindrance. We have great workers in government now in spite of the hiring process, not because of it.”

But it seems as if HR is still a problem — and that has been acknowledged by OPM’s chief human capital officers, according to this story in the Washington Post about a Partnership for Public Service survey.

“The ‘competency of HR workers’ is one of seven ‘major obstacles’ to building a first-class federal workforce,” according to the 68 CHCOs, who “expressed strong doubts that the human resources community, the very people who will be on the frontlines seeking to implement the hiring reform plan, are up to the task.”

The problem seems to be a lack of training and adequate technology, according to the article.

In the Federal Eye blog on the Post site, OPM responded that CHCOs are generally positive and supportive of the reform, and that criticisms of the initiative “have been taken seriously and have been responded to promptly, leading to a more cooperative, productive and collegial environment for members.”

Well, as long as they are all getting along …

Ruling Against Google Will Impact HR

The California Supreme Court ruled today on a pretty big age-discrimination case against Google that folks in the employment-law sector think could have significant repercussions in the HR profession.

The decision in the case Reid vs. Google basically rules on two things: one, whether evidentiary objections are waived on appeal if a trial court does not rule on them (the court says they are not) and two, whether California should follow the federal “stray remarks” doctrine, which basically says statements made by employees who are not involved in the employment decision a discrimination suit is based on cannot be considered in support of a discrimination claim. (The court says that doctrine is unnecessary and should not be followed.)

I won’t spell all the details of the case out here. They’re in the ruling linked above. What I will share are concerns from two employment attorneys who see some real precedent-setting effects on employers because of this, and not just employers in California.

Eric Steinert, an employment partner at Seyfarth Shaw in San Francisco, says that, “as a practical result [of this ruling], employers will win fewer age cases on summary judgment. More cases will go to trial and presumably more evidence will come in at trial regarding general workplace comments not made by direct supervisors or decision makers.”

Anthony Oncidi, who heads the Labor & Employment Law Group in Proskauer Rose’s Los Angeles office, seconds that and adds that the stray-remarks decision “points to the need for HR to be more comprehensive in doing complete investigations to determine whether or not there was discrimination” after a complaint is filed.

It will no longer be sufficient, he says, “just to run the allegation down with a supervisor and not ask any further questions. HR will really need to ‘tease’ it out of the [complainant] now to get him or her to say there is or is not anyone else who did or did not make [similar discriminatory] comments.”

Oncidi also says it will now be “very important to bear this ruling in mind” when you’re conducting anti-discrimination training and do everything you can to train “as many people as possible about what they can and cannot say” about a co-worker or employee.

He also thinks more HR leaders will be putting arbitration agreements in place now, because the ruling makes it harder to get summary judgment granted before trial — something many employers relied on up to now as a way to dismiss what they considered to be frivolous lawsuits.

And don’t sit back on the fact that it’s only the California (not the U.S.) Supreme Court. Oncidi says this is the most broad-based, lengthy and definitive ruling in this legal area to date, “reviewing all the existing stray-remark cases throughout the country.”

“I would not be surprised,” he says, “if other courts look to this as precedent.”

Sartain Joins Manpower’s Board

It’s hardly a tidal wave, but slowly but surely companies are waking up to the merits of having someone with a solid HR background on their board of directors.

The latest example: Manpower. Yesterday, the Milwaukee, Wisc.-based workforce solutions firm named Libby Sartain, former chief human resources officer of Yahoo! Inc. and Southwest Airlines, to its board. (A story on the Milwaukee Business Journal website notes that five of Manpower’s 11 directors are now women or minorities.)

“Libby’s distinguished 30-year career in human resources will be a great asset to our company as we continue to strengthen our position as a multi-faceted provider of HR services that complement and expand upon our roots in the staffing industry,” said Jeffrey A. Joerres, Manpower Inc.’s chairman and CEO.

As the press release goes on to point out, HRE named Libby one of the 25 most powerful women in HR when it last compiled such a list five years ago.

Considering the business Manpower is in, it’s a no-brainer to add a top-notch former HR leader to its board (or that it has decided to assemble a board that is one of the most diverse around).  But when you contemplate the kinds of HR-related challenges awaiting companies in the coming years, I would think someone with a strong HR background is going bring a valuable perspective to most boardroom discussions—even if they’re not in the business of providing “workforce solutions.”

Changes at SHRM

Lon O’Neil out. Hank Jackson in.

Two years after taking over the helm at the Society for Human Resource Management, Lon O’Neil announced his resignation. “It was a personal choice. He chose to leave,” says Kate Kennedy of SHRM’s office of public affairs.

The change — which elevates CFO Jackson to the CEO and president position pending completion of a search for a new leader — was made announced Monday.

SHRM put a notice on its website today.

Kennedy says O’Neil greatly helped the organization by helping to “create a new vision for SHRM’s leadership role” by developing a strategic business plan (which we wrote in September 2009).

She says she can’t  address rumors that the organization had been disorganized under O’Neil’s leadership.

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.