Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tattoos and IQ: Is There a Correlation?

I am asked questions on a daily basis from my clients, my colleagues, my students and my 17 year old son ("Mom, can I ___fill in this blank_________?").

Today, I was actually rendered speechless during a conversation with an individual about the economy and how she is seeing a pick up in hires in the Atlanta area. She went on to discuss a situation where she had a position to fill and her #1 candidate wasn't a cultural fit. I said, "Why is that?" She told me, "He has a tattoo on his wrist, I really thought he was so smart until I saw that." She went on to say that she was going to have to come up with a reason not to hire him and wished that she could have a side conversation with him about covering up his tattoo with makeup.

Really? Are we in 1950?

She then continued to rant about the younger generation and their need to express themselves using tattoos. "Didn't they understand how that ruins their job search?"


I had to ask her a question: "Why is the wrist tattoo a barrier to entry in your organization?"

Are you ready for this answer, from an experienced HR professional?

'You know how people are that get tattoos, they aren't serious about work, and they probably drink and do drugs." I was hoping for the usual, mantra about being a traditional firm and we don't want to offend our customers, blah blah...That would have been more palatable, even though I don't agree. I couldn't believe what I just heard.

I am speechless....crickets are chirping.

I asked her if she considered me smart. She said she had looked up to me for years and that I am an expert in my field. I asked her did she think I am serious about my work. Yes...she said.

She asked me, "Why do you ask?"

I raised my pants and showed her this:

I pulled my hair up and showed her this:

If I could have taken my shirt off to show her my back....I would have.

Now, she was speechless....and I walked out.

I can't believe this really happens. Am I naive or do hiring professionals really still bring this much bias to the process?

It's enough to make a girl with tattoos drink and do drugs...LOL

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Statistics for HR...Correlation, Regression, OH MY!

In most of my teaching and consulting in the area of Strategic HR, I discuss the importance of HR having or obtaining analytical skills as I truly believe we are moving to an HR model that will look much different in the next few years. (HR 2.0)

I always get the question, "What skills do I need and where do I get those?"

First, I will talk about "what skills." I think basic statistics is necessary in HR to analyze all the diverse data sets in organizations as the data relates to human capital. Here are the must haves:

1) Correlations-are used to understand how data sets are related. In other words, if variable A changes does variable Y change? There are about a million ways this can be used in HR alone. If engagement goes up, does turnover go down? (negative correlation). But in a broader sense, you can analyze the relationship between employee behaviors and customer behaviors. If employees are knowledgeable regarding our products, do sales go up? Correlations can be calculated very simply in Excel or SPSS.

2) Regressions-Regression analysis is widely used for prediction and forecasting. Regression is also used to understand which among the independent variables are related to the dependent variable, and to explore the forms of these relationships. In restricted circumstances, regression analysis can be used to infer causal relationships between the independent and dependent variables. So, correlation tells you if a relationship exists, regression tells you which variables have the most impact on the dependent variable. So, in an example from our work, we look at engagement data to find out what variables have the MOST impact on employee engagement for a particular company. As these variables can be different from company to company it is important to know what drives engagement so you can keep doing the right things. Regressions can also be calculated in Excel and SPSS.

Where can you get these skills?

I am living proof, it can be done. My analytical journey started in 1995 when I reported to the CFO. My days were over when I could embark on the HR program of the week without a business case for why I wanted to create this program and WHAT the expected impact would be.

Fast forward, to stating our own business and working with our client's multiple data sets. We had some very interesting questions that needed statistics to answer properly. So, I enrolled in statistics classes at Georgia State University, where I made the highest grade in a class comprised of math majors. (my business partner was 2nd!) I don't tell you this to brag (well maybe) but to say, we had a distinct advantage over the math majors. We knew how to talk the language of the business and how to tell a story with data...they did not.

Now, back to HR 2.0 that will require analytical skills. It can be TAUGHT IF YOU WANT TO LEARN. But, they can be BOUGHT if you don't want to learn as well.

Bottom line....learn them or buy them....you needed these skills yesterday.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Can HR Learn Some Tricks From Marketing?

I asked my Twitter followers last week for questions on the topic of HR Metrics and Analytics. I received a great question from Traci Cuthbertson, (@tracicuth):

Marketing uses metrics/analytics to measure/segment/target customers. Why is HR so reluctant to do similar w/ Employees?

What a fantastic question! And one that I would love to know the answer to. I can discuss what I think are the barriers to segmentation, and what I have seen in my experience. I hope that we get many comments on this topic so we can really discuss this. (hint: please comment)

Here are some reasons I have found why HR does not segment its employee base:

1) I believe there is that lingering concern about "we have to treat employees fairly." And I agree wholeheartedly. But, with many deliverables that HR executes, a one size approach is not going to work. Case in point, rewards and recognition. What motivates me is not necessarily going to motivate my co-worker.

2) I believe that many HR professionals do not have that skill set and/or do not approach their employee base as a diverse group with varying and different needs in an employment experience.

3) I have seen larger organizations taking a "marketing" and "branding" approach to recruiting, targeting different types of recruits using different messages. Why would we not use this approach to our current employees targeting, let's say, generations in the workplace and use different retention campaigns? (probably is related to number 1 above)

4) HR does not see the benefit of such an approach. As in the consumer world, we have all seen the switch from marketing to the masses to marketing to one. I know when I get a personalized ad, using my preferences and past buying behavior.....I am interested. Why would that be different in the employment experience? Using career development as an example, can the organization take the approach that your career preferences are important to us, and we want to align those with the organization's goals?

As many of you know, I spent the last few months going to many conferences on the subject of metrics and analytics. I saw many examples of employee segmentation. It is here, smart companies use this technique. I don't want marketing to do this for us....what are your thoughts? Can HR use a little lesson from marketing?

Think about an example I have used in the past regarding turnover. I really don't care about an overall turnover %. What I want to know is who is leaving and why. Think about segmenting your employees this way:

1) Segment by performance scores
2) Segment by engagement scores

Then look at turnover scores for your highly engaged and high performers and for your low performers and non-engaged, you will be shocked when you look at turnover this way....

How beneficial would this exercise be to your company?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Off Topic Monday-Life Lessons

As many of my long time readers know I base my posts on questions I get from readers and students, projects I am working on, or conferences I have gone to. I am a very experiential writer. I use the term writer very loosely....as I write just like I talk.

Over the last week, I haven't been asked any great questions, no conferences were attended and my projects are moving right along.

But, I have had some life experiences this week, which I do think are important. So, I will share those.

My 85 year old grandmother fell and broke her foot. She is confined to a wheelchair for 6 weeks. Where most of us, would be mad and frustrated, she is continuously looking for work arounds and ways to go about her normal life. Her main concern has been how she would get to Church. The lesson here for me is "in the face of adversity, keep going, be creative and have an awesome attitude."

One of my dear "bestest" friend's mother has lung cancer. She is in her final days. I have gone over to their house where Kathy has decided to spend her final days. She is surrounded by love and kindness. Her friends and family are sharing wonderful stories on how Kathy has impacted their lives in a positive manner. She is a strong woman who is showing that strength up until the last day of her life. The lesson here for me, "live my life so that in my final days, people share stories of how I affected their lives."

And finally, I have a story that gets to me every year. Our company has organized donations for the last 3 years for the homeless here in Atlanta, through the Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency (formerly Samaritan House of Atlanta). Each year, at this time, we send out emails to our contact list to ask for scarves, hats, gloves, toiletries, and underwear for 250 of Atlanta's homeless. We stuff 250 bags so that each client will have a Christmas gift. Each year, especially the last few, I think we may not make our big 250 bag goal. And every year, I have been proven wrong. I sent the email last week, and I had a donation of 100 men's boxers, 50 men's hats, and several checks to buy what we need. Every year, I receive these and I just sit in my office overwhelmed and grateful for the kindness. The lesson for me, "people are kind and they care about others, even in difficult times."

Sometimes, it is important to get off topic, and look for lessons in our everyday lives. I know these spill over to our work lives, if we pay attention when they happen. I know I don't do this enough, last week, was just one of those extraordinary weeks, where it couldn't really be helped. I would have to be in a coma not to notice...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Can "Strategic Thinking" Be Taught?

I read a great blog post last week by the HR Bartender that has really made me think. That is what great blogs, do...make you think. Sharlyn Lauby discussed the fact that strategic thinking and creating a strategy are 2 different but interrelated competencies.

As a teacher/facilitator/participant in both of these subjects, I began to think, where do these skills sets come from?

Are you born strategic or can you learn to be strategic? (focusing on the HR profession)

Before I attempt to answer that question let's think about the human brain for a moment. My business partner, Barbara Hughes is a licensed facilitator of the HBDI instrument which assesses our thinking styles or preferences. I will attempt to use some of the HBDI methodology to understand and answer the question above.

We all know the discussion around right brained people being the "creative" types and left brained people being the "number crunching" types.

The HBDI model divides the brain into 4 quadrants (see picture above) with the right side being your creative, people oriented side and the left being your planning, organizational analytical side.

I would like to compare strategic thinking and strategic planning as those are the two skills sets I hear about most often in my work.

So, strategic thinking is all about the right side of the brain which includes, thinking about the future, innovation, new ideas, etc.

Strategic planning to me, takes on some of the left side as you are planning, setting goals, and formulating action plans. Also, a big part of strategic planning is obviously about the people which is part of the right side of the brain.

Fast forward to today and HR's dilemma to become strategic...(whatever that means to the profession). Given the above information on our brains and how we are wired, it would seem that we as HR professionals should be awesome at the planning part. Where we may need some help is in the "strategic thinking" area as typical HR professionals do not have a preference for that type of exercise.

Can we learn, you betcha! But not with any typical school curriculum. Sure, we can get the basics and read theory. Thinking strategically requires practice, practice, and more practice.

The first step is, assessing your preferences and becoming aware of what you naturally prefer to do and those areas that you don't show a strong preference.

Back to my question, Are you born strategic or can you learn to be strategic? What do you think, let's get this discussion started....

Monday, November 1, 2010

7 Ways to Tell if Your Metrics Matter

Many times when we are working on metrics projects, we are asked the question, "Which metrics should we be focusing on?" In other words which metrics are the ones that are tightly linked to measuring the desired business results? It is a valid question, but a difficult one.

I have a passion around HR Metrics but this discussion can apply to any organizational metrics, as I have had conversations with marketing, operations and sales professionals that struggle with WHAT to measure.

Below is a list of questions we have asked in the quest for making metrics matter:

1) Did you start your metrics journey by mapping your organizational strategy?
2) Do you use value metrics that are tightly linked to profits, revenue, cost or budget?
3) Is it a metric that is near and dear to your CEO's heart?
4) Does the metric stand the test of time? (it is used to gain valuable trending information)
5) Is it a metric that you take action on when it changes?
6) Is it a metric that can be used to be predictive?
7) Does the metric measure efficiency or effectiveness? Do you need both to tell the whole story?

After the questions above are answered, you can usually get a really good first "draft" of metrics that are candidates for the "ones that matter most."

I have been in many meetings where we started out with hundreds, yes I did say hundreds of metrics and reduced those to less than half...because they really didn't matter.

If I have learned one thing this year it is the importance to tell a story with your data. Context is crucial when you are reporting data. Data is just data until you tell a compelling story. Then data becomes insight which leads to better decision, better results, and a competitive advantage for your organization.

Ask yourself the questions above...how many of your metrics truly matter? I bet it's not 100!