Category Archives: performance management

Women and the ‘A’ Word

200401077-001A recent analysis of performance reviews by linguist Kieran Snyder has uncovered what seems to be a powerful bias against women who are seen as “too assertive” in the workplace — and the bias seems prevalent regardless of whether the review was conducted by a man or a woman.

Writing in the latest issue of Fortune, Snyder describes how she collected 248 performance reviews from 28 companies that ranged from large technology firms to small start-ups. The reviews came from 180 male and female managers.

Snyder was inspired to do this partly by a conversation she’d recently had with an engineer friend who was preparing performance reviews for two people on his team, a man and a woman. He wanted to promote both, but was concerned that his peers would endorse only one of them: “Jessica is really talented, but I wish she’d be less abrasive. She comes on too strong.” And the male? “Steve is an easy case, smart and great to work with. He needs to learn to be a little more patient, but who doesn’t?”

In examining the reviews, Snyder found that women received much more critical feedback than men did: About 59 percent of men’s reviews included critical feedback, while nearly 88 percent of women’s did. As for constructive feedback, the advice given to women tended to include personality criticisms, such as “stop being so judgmental” and “You can come across as abrasive sometimes. I know you don’t mean to, but you need to pay attention to your tone.”

Snyder also found that the word “abrasive” was used 17 times to describe 13 different women, but the word never appeared in men’s reviews.

Here at HRE, we’ve written about the double standard faced by women, including those in positions of authority. Here’s hoping that HR leaders of both genders take this omnipresent bias into account, and strive to help their organization’s leaders be as fair as they can.

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About to be Asked for a Raise? Feed the Source

A paper is being presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management in Philadelphia, which ends tomorrow, that I thought you might find interesting.

167422861 -- crazy hungryIt seems, according to researchers Emily Zitek of Cornell University and Alexander Jordan of Dartmouth College, the hungrier an employee is, the more entitled he or she feels and the more effective he or she can be in asking for a raise.

Their study, I Need Food and I Deserve a Raise, based on two experiments involving about 270 college students, finds that “hunger leads people to feel more entitled,” according to the report. “Hungry people think about themselves instead of others and focus on their own needs, which leads them to feel and act entitled,” it states. (Here’s the AOM press release about the study.)

The paper, according to the release, “defines psychological entitlement as ‘the feeling that one is more deserving of positive outcomes than other people are,’ and explains that ‘entitled individuals pay attention to themselves and the special treatment that they should receive over other things.”

While research “has tended to focus mainly on social and cognitive causes of increased entitlement, such as recalling an unfair event,” the report states, “the authors posit that it can also be driven ‘by amplified levels of a basic physiological drive — hunger — which may cause people to turn their focus inward and place their needs above those of others.’ ”

The authors’ advice? Feed them. It’ll help you in the raise discussion and can smooth some other workplace rough edges as well.

As the AOM report puts it:

… for the edification of bosses, the researchers observe that ‘entitlement can cause big problems in the workplace, so managers might want to provide food to employees or wait to schedule potentially contentious meetings until after lunch.’ They go on to note that, ‘although certainly due to a host of factors, organizations with readily available food, such as Google, are also known for having unentitled, grateful and satisfied [digestively and otherwise] employees.”

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A Push Toward the Exit

exitIf you can’t fire ’em … isolate them, assign them menial, mind-numbing tasks and hope they wind up so discouraged they voluntarily leave the company.

That seems to be the idea behind “banishment rooms,” where, according to The Asahi Shimbun, some large Japanese companies are sending handfuls of employees in hopes of nudging them toward the door.

The companies operating these rooms—including Panasonic, Hitachi, Sony, Toshiba and Seiko Instruments—have more palatable names for them, of course.

Certain employees at a Panasonic subsidiary, for example, are assigned to “career development teams,” similar to the company’s “Business and Human Resource Development Center,” typically reserved for employees from sections that are performing poorly.

Panasonic and the other companies specified in the article deny they are exerting pressure on workers to resign by relegating them to lesser duties.

At Panasonic, employees are relocated to “career development teams”  to “acquire new skills so they can work at different sections,” according to a public relations official with the company.

But don’t be fooled by such claims, one Panasonic worker told the paper.

Transferred to the “career development team” four years ago, the man—unnamed by The Asahi Shimbun—says he was told the move was only temporary. In the time since, his tasks have included staring at a monitor for 10 hours each day, looking out for irregularities in TV program footage, according to the paper.

The worker also claims that employees given these undesirable assignments “come under enormous pressure to quit,” and described his current work environment as “simply another banishment room.”

A male Hitachi employee in his mid-50s interviewed by the paper recalled feeling “betrayed” by the company, which he says urged him to “find a different career path” upon completing a two-week “career challenge program” last year.

The employee had worked in a computer-related capacity with Hitachi, according to the paper. Upon finishing the program, he says, he was reassigned to a windowless room with only a desk and computer—prepared by a staffing agency—to work on his resume and search the web for job opportunities.

Determining the prevalence of “banishment rooms” in corporate Japan is difficult, according to the article, which also notes Japanese businesses “have been clamoring for an overhaul of employment practices to make it easier for an employer to fire regular workers on grounds that companies need to move more swiftly to seize growth potential.”

Indeed, Japan’s long-standing lifetime employment system often deters organizations from abruptly terminating permanent employees. But here’s hoping the system ultimately evolves to allow employers and employees a cleaner way to make the break.

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Still Taking Aim at Performance Reviews

Roughly three years have passed since the publication of Samuel A. Culbert’s Get Rid of the Performance Review. Culbert, a professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, received a decent amount of press around his book when it first came out, no doubt thanks to performance reviews’ many shortcomings. (Indeed, last year he contributed a byline on this topic to HREOnline.com, in which he summed up his opinion about performance reviews in one word: “bogus.”)

Last week, I had a chance to witness first-hand just how passionate Culbert is about this subject during a keynote he delivered at the i4cp’s annual conference in Scottsdale, Ariz.

RatingsCulbert called performance reviews “old and dishonest” and chided HR leaders for permitting “command-and-control managers, people who don’t know beans about human nature, to continue to put this bankrupt management practice to use.”

“They provide comparisons of people who shouldn’t be compared,” he said. “They allow bad managers to scare employees. They prevent good managers from hearing what employees truly think. Their mere presence destroys trust.”

Culbert pointed out that “performance reviews make it harder for employees to own up to their deficiencies” and “create a culture of fear and intimidation.”

“Bosses have to have something bad to say about the employees or they themselves won’t be seen as objective,” he said. “There’s no evidence that people who receive average or lower [scores believe] they were assessed objectively.” No one wants to be called average, he added.

Culbert spent the bulk of the time detailing to the group the many ways in which performance reviews are broken. (To be sure, his list goes on and on.) But he also devoted a slice of his allotted time to laying out what he’d put in their place: performance “previews.” In his book, Culbert describes previews as …

… an ongoing dialogue between boss and subordinate, where each of them is responsible for asking the other: What can I do to make us work together better and get the results we’re both on the hook for? The focus isn’t on the past and how one person screwed up, but on making the system work better in the future.”

“Let’s have those conversations,” he told the i4cp audience. “Talk about situations when they occur, not later.”

I suspect not everyone in the room agreed with Culbert’s extreme approach to performance reviews; that they represent a practice that should be put out of its “misery.”  But judging from the reaction of the crowd, both the speaker and his audience seemed very much in agreement that employers need to find a better way (hopefully sooner rather than later).

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A Troubling and Costly Skills Gap

82556854-skills gapNot good news emanating from a recent report by Cornerstone OnDemand. The study, Cornerstone OnDemand 2013 U.S. Employee Report, shows more than 19 million Americans planning to change jobs in the next year, leaving U.S. employers looking at a price tag of $2 trillion in potential employee turnover.

Compounding that are three concerns that surfaced in the survey, according to the company’s release:

Increasing absence of ongoing training and development. In the past six months, only about a third (32 percent) of employed American adults has received training and development to better perform their job.

Misaligned goals and expectations between managers and employees. Only one in four respondents (25 percent) has established career goals with their manager/employer.

Lack of individual recognition and performance feedback. Two-thirds (66 percent) said they haven’t received useful feedback from their manager/employer.

Certainly doesn’t sound like companies are doing everything they can to shore up skills in-house. Nor does it sound like they’re gearing up to train the next wave of workers who’ll be happy to take those 19 million job-hoppers’ places.

“The worldwide skills shortage is quickly becoming a crisis across companies of all sizes and industries,” says Jason Corsello, Cornerstone OnDemand’s vice president of corporate strategy and marketing. “Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to address the global skills shortage, but companies can take action to build programs today and invest more in ongoing training and       continuous feedback for their employees.”

Yet another disturbing layer in this mounting skills crisis is something I focused on in my HREOnline news analysis that went live today — an increasing shortage of soft skills (i.e., behavioral competencies, such as communicating, telling the truth, making ethical decisions, working well in a team and getting to work on time) in job applicants and new hires; not just the hard (job-specific) skills applicants seem to be lacking in droves today as well.

Luckily, Corsello and the sources in my analysis have suggestions for getting through this extremely troubling time. Good luck.

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Lifting Boeing’s Pay Grade

At this week’s Total Rewards 2012 conference in Orlando, speakers from Boeing reminded attendees that there often is more than one way to read a piece of data.

During a session titled “Compensation, Fix Employee Pay! When Compensation Professionals are Asked to Address Low Scores on Employee Surveys,” two Boeing comp professionals—Senior Compensation Specialist Cindy Jorgensen and Compensation Specialist Ron Steele Jr.—talked about their efforts to get to bottom of why employees at Boeing’s South Carolina facility had a low opinion of the company’s pay practices.

Steele told those in the room that Boeing’s pay is extremely competitive in South Carolina—where the company employs about 6,000 workers who are dedicated to the building of its 787 (pictured here). But apparently that wasn’t the consensus among Boeing employees there.

Asked to rate the fairness of pay during a 2011 employee survey, workers at the South Carolina operation gave Boeing low marks. (The survey was conducted with the help of Kenexa.)

At first glance, Steele said, the data pointed to a pay system that needed fixing.  But a closer look suggested there might be other factors at work here.

To figure out what those factors might be,  the comp folks began to drill deeper into the data, looking at (among other things) how the South Carolina findings compared to those found at other Boeing operations and in other industries; and by reading through page after page of verbatim comments from the employee surveys. (Boeing employees “aren’t shy,” Steele said.)

This was followed by a series of employee focus groups, which eventually shed some much-needed light on the issue.

In the end, the group’s persistence paid off.

Jorgensen and Steele concluded that the low scores had less to do with what employees were being paid and more to do with employees who didn’t really understand the pay system at Boeing.

That, in turn, led to a much more meaningful response (my words) focusing on initiatives that could have a positive impact, such as managerial training and employee education.

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Salesforce.com Dives into HR

On the surface, Salesforce.com’s announcement earlier today that it entered into an agreement to purchase Rypple, a three-year-old social-performance site (and a winner of our 2010 top HR product award), probably doesn’t qualify as a major acquisition. But because it represents Salesforce.com’s initial entry into the human capital space, it’s obviously newsworthy.

Terms of the deal (expected to close next April) weren’t disclosed. But as the Salesforce.com press release explains, the company views it a first step into HCM. (Salesforce.com EVP John Wookey, a former exec at Oracle and SAP, will head the unit.)

The release goes on to state:

The company “plans to re-launch Rypple as ‘Successforce’ ” and “expand into other areas with a new social model that will revolutionize the way companies recruit talent, build teams, empower employees and achieve results.” (“Successforce?” Sounds a little like another company that was just acquired about two weeks ago, no?)

It’s long been rumored that Salesforce.com (which has a market cap of nearly $15 billion) might eventually stake a claim in HR. Apparently that day has arrived.

One of the early comments on HR Technology Conference Group LinkedIn page described the Rypple deal as a “homerun.” To be sure, with Rypple, it’s acquired a true innovator in HCM.  But what should make this  interesting is where Salesforce.com goes from here.

Following a conversation with Wookey, our HR Technology columnist Bill Kutik, writes that “[Wookey] wants to create the social process of HR and not ‘the back-end and payroll.’  In fact, he readily lists the modules he’s interested in: Performance (which he gets with Rypple); Recruiting; Onboarding; Learning; Career-Pathing (or Career Development) and maybe Comp as a future.”

Most expect this won’t be Salesforce.com’s last HCM acquisition. 

(If you’re not a member of the LinkedIn group and want to read more on what folks are saying about the deal and/or participate in the discussion, simply click here, ask to join and you’ll be accepted as a new member within 24 hours.)

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HR Bloggy Goodness

For some post-candy, pre-turkey goodness, we’ve got a lot of interesting — let’s even say, colorful, since we still have some beautiful fall foliage here in the East — blog posts for you to read from this, our first hosting of the Carnival of HR.

I was putting this together while listening to tunes on my iPod, thus the subheads, which are all songs — although only one of them is on my playlist (and it’s probably the one few of you know; hint: it’s by Randy Newman).

Since this is the season, I guess the first post should be about the flu. Nancy Saperstone of Insight Performance’s Workplace of Choice Blog points out HR’s vital role in keeping employees healthy and productive.

Speaking of vital roles, should HR be skilled at gathering information on competitors? Mark Stelzner at Inflexion Advisors offers up some thoughts — but no simple answers — on capturing competitive intelligence.

Maybe it’s a cultural thing, like respect. John Hunter at Curious Cat Blog writes about practical ways to respect co-workers and colleagues, while Ian Welsh at HR Toolbox says employee relations is the key to HR success.

 Everybody’s Talking at Me

Tim Gardner at the HR Introvert explores the “cult” factor in a company’s culture and Doug Shaw at Stop Doing Dumb Things To Customers just wants to sing about work and not in a good way, as evidenced the title, Crap Engagement.

Maybe you’re not into singing your heart out, but still want to communicate? Steve Roesler at All Things Workplace suggests you take your communication cues from your audience and “meet people where they are.”

One critical skill, writes Trish McFarlane of HR Ringleader, is mastering the art of negotiation — and she offers some practical tips to successfully enhance that competency, while Jennifer V. Miller at The People Equation writes that HR’s role in the workplace is similar in ways to curating an art competition.

 Leader of the Pack

Moving from the art world to the workplace, Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership writes that managers must enjoy enabling workers — if they are to be effective at their jobs. Want much more detail? Tanmay Vora at QAspire Blog provides 25 ways to effectively facilitate business strategies.

To create high-performing organizations, Laura Schroeder at Working Girl offers a list of questions that HR should ponder before making any workforce decisions, and Jon Ingham at Strategic HCM writes about human-centric management.

Humans are not created equal, I guess, as Ben Eubanks at upstart HR looks at some gender preferences for male and female bosses.

There’s also a difference, writes Dan McCarthy at Great Leadership, between leaders and managers. And there’s a difference between good succession plans and bad ones, writes Lois Melbourne at Aquire Blog.

Lonely at the Top

Carol Morrison at i4cp’s TrendWatcher writes about leadership competencies — and if companies are taking aim at the right ones or missing the target altogether — while Mike Haberman at Omega HR Solutions explores five powerful leadership lessons.

One of those lessons, writes Linda Fisher Thornton of Leading in Context, should point out the important reasons to engage in social media.

We can segue from there into HR technology, which is where Naomi Bloom at In Full Bloom puts on her turban and does an imitation of Carnac the Magnificent by providing answers to 2011′s unknown questions. (Full disclosure: I met Johnny Carson once and she doesn’t look anything like him!)

 On The Road Again

John Sumser at HR Examiner, on the other hand, did an imitation of a nonstop traveler, and even though it lasted only seven weeks, it pointed him to some insights about mobile recruiting.

The insights offered up by Paul Baribeau at Workplace Tribes Blog involve those impacting HR strategies at a game development start-up.

Paul Smith at Welcome to the Occupation says HR can do better when it comes to recruiting disabled job candidates; Joe Jones at The Rainmaker Group’s Maximize Possibility Blog says ditto about leveraging the sales-talent selection process; and Mike McCarty of Safe Hiring Solutions says ibid on adding value to employment background checks.

We will close out this section on recruiting with an infographic from Joseph Fung at Tribe HR, exploring whether job boards matter anymore to the recruiting process and we’ll close out this issue of Carnival of HR with a blog post by Lynn Dessert at Elephants at Work on the importance of saying thank you.

So, thanks to everyone who participated in this Carnival of HR — and to everyone reading this. I hope you find this HR bloggy goodness is something to sing about.

And while you’re here, please scroll around The Leader Board. Some of our recent posts include this report from The Conference Board’s Human Capital Metrics Conference; the induction of three new Fellows as well as the induction of IBM’s Randy MacDonald as a Distinguished Fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources; and a bit of Romance, HR-Style.

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Drug Maker Sets Sights on Shift Workers

Are your shift workers having trouble staying alert on the job? Well, if so, pharma maker Cephalon contends it might be time for them to ask their doctor, “Is Nuvigil right for me?”

So reports a story titled “Do Sleepy Shift Workers Need a Pick-Me-Up Pill” in yesterday’s Bloomberg Businessweek, which says that Cephalon is stepping up its marketing campaign aimed specifically at shift workers suffering from “shift work sleep disorder.”

“Cephalon’s media campaign is its first to widely trumpet alertness pills by stressing the recognition of shift work disorder by doctors and sleep experts, who estimate the malady may affect one in four shift workers,” the article says. The story mentions a Cephalon study of 359 shift workers that found 77 percent those who took the pill were more alert for the last part of their shift or drive home, compared with 57 percent who were given a placebo.

But the story also points out that not everyone is convinced employees should trade in their second or third cups of coffee for the pills, noting that they are “possibly addictive” and could have serious side effects.

 “We as a society rely too much on pills and medication,” Robert Basner, director of Columbia University’s Cardiopulmonary Sleep and Ventilatory Disorders Center, is quoted saying. “That’s not always the best approach. Caffeine is a very good wake-promoting agent, and it’s a lot cheaper.”

In an age when everyone is looking for quick fixes, I guess it’s not surprising to learn that more than a few shift workers are swallowing Cephalon’s message and pill. Sales are reportedly growing 50 percent annually. But I was also glad to see that the Businessweek story—and the experts quoted in it— didn’t understate the need for such workers to consider the pills as a last resort, trying “life-style changes first.”

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Delivering Happiness

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, brought his message of the importance of happiness to the SHRM conference in a morning keynote address on Tuesday. 

He shared a bit of his personal history — making and selling pizzas while in college (eventually hiring as the Zappos CFO his No. 1 customer — who he found out was buying his pizzas and then selling them by the slice to college kids — and later, creating an online company he eventually sold to Microsoft when he dreaded going to work in the morning because it wasn’t fun anymore.

Selling out during the dot-com boom, he became an investor and ultimately decided to join Zappos, which he describes as “a service company that just happens to sell shoes.” It is a company designed to offer “the very best customer service and customer experience.” To that end, for example, Zappos offers free shipping both ways and a 365-day return policy.

But a company can’t offer excellent customer service, he said, if it doesn’t have an excellent company culture. So, everyone hired at Zappos goes through two types of interviews — one for skills and one for cultural fit. Regardless of skill level, individuals will not be hired unless they fit — and they may be fired for the same reason.

To ensure new hires are excited about the oportunity of working there, Zappos offers a bonus of a few thousand dollars if they want to quit during the training period — and everyone, regardless of job title, goes through the same training, which includes two weeks on the call center phones, he says.

His story has been covered a lot — especially since his 23-city book/bus tour last year – but it’s surely a welcome message for HR leaders, as they are the keepers of the culture — and as they are the executives who talk up the value of culture with their C-suite colleagues.

During those talks, they could share some of the research findings Hsieh talked about that link successful companies with both strong cultures and “counterintuitively,” offer a higher purpose beyond higher profits.

That vision, that purpose, that passion, he said, gets companies — and individuals — through the tough times. It inspires employees and seemlessly results in better performance — and higher profits.

“There’s a huge difference between motivation and inspiration,” he said. “Conmpanies with a higher purpose actually generate more profits in the long term.”

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