Archive for August, 2009

This is tough duty.  I walked in the Westin and was met by a bed.  In the lobby.  And the manager of the hotel was in a bathrobe with fuzzy slippers.  Offering me a Martini.  Hmm?

Your correspondent is on site for the Indiana State SHRM Conference.  I am pleased to report that the 10th anniversary of the “Heavenly Bed” at the Westin meant that I was handed a free adult beverage and a slice of cake.  So far, this conference ROCKS.  Details tomorrow as I live blog the action at the annual Indiana State SHRM Conference.

Stay tuned.  This should be good…


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This posting is both funny and kind of sad.

The mental arms race is on – people that are “repackaging” themselves a little too aggressively in the organizational marketplace.

People are trying to differentiate themselves from the thousands of people that are just like them – both inside organizations and in the floods of people in the job market. It is relatively easy to do if you have two things – something clever to talk about that is new and current, and have a basic understanding of marketing.

I have positioned myself as a thought leader in redesigning HR processes, and in new metrics to align HR with the organization.   I have been trying to re-package myself with some success at the national level, and am working on a book that will make a difference (I hope) and am enrolling in a PhD. program.  Fine.

Because of this, I am always on the lookout for people that are doing either a better job than I (so I can learn) or a worse job (so I can feel a little smug.)  Today, I ran across an amazing example of repackaging that is as fascinating as a train wreck.

Remember Jayson Blair?  He was the journalist that resigned from the New York Times because of plagiarism in 2003.  As you can see from his Wikipedia entries here, he had a life-long history of poor reporting and fabricating important information in his stories.  Simply put, he is a very bad reporter and a chronic user of other peoples’ information.  At his student paper, he got in trouble for 4 stories.  At the New York Times, it was in the hundreds.  Yikes.

Drummed out of the journalism corps andthe subject of quite a bit of national press, I always wondered where he might get a job.  A greeter at Wal-mart?  A drive through order person?

No.  Try personal coaching and career consulting.  I’m not kidding.  I stumbled across Jayson’s web site here.  It looks very professional.

Read his page on Career Coaching.  He is offering his personal experience as a writer and journalist, and his personal experience as a defrocked professional who broke multiple ethical laws, as the reason you should hire him.

Wow.  First, I am not happy that someone can sell their lack of personal ethics as a benefit.  That the fact that they were caught at it as a point of personal pride, and is now a billable part of their package.  Marketing a stinky past as perfume is done often in politics, and I’m disappointed that it is now in the professional ranks.

I’m also irritated that he joins the ranks of career counselors and life coaches.  At the very least, they should keep a very close eye on his ethics….

Whatever.  I guess the moral to my story is that re-packaging is rampant out there, for better or worse.  Be careful, and screen your relationships and new hires well.

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The Dow is up and I’m getting nervous.

Capitalism is sleeping at the switch.  Big explosion coming, but I think that we’re missing some of the clues that will be obvious later.

As I talk with CEOs and CFOs, there is a common theme of “we’re hunkered down, and going to make it if we don’t take chances or make bad decisions.”  Fine with me.  The problem comes in a two-part storm that is coming.

The first clue are the low turnover numbers.  Nobody is going anywhere, fast.  The normal “breathing” of the job market has stopped.  The  normal movement of high performers from place to place is not happening.

High performers have long had careers based on a project world, and when a project is done they either move internally to a new challenge, or move over to another organization.  This is a group of people that seldom have an updated resume, both because they are moving quickly, and because their next employer already knows them and does not need a resume.  (Low performers ALWAYS have updated resumes…)

Therefore, pressure is building for movement within the ranks of high performers.  When the “coast is clear” for movement, it will happen quickly.

The second driver of the coming explosion is health care.  When – not if – our nation figures out a way to get everyone insured with baseline medical care, the handcuffs that are holding people to jobs that they do not like will be dropped.  The good news is there will be an explosion of entrepreneurial energy as the barrier of health care will be lowered.  Bankers will open flower shops.  HR professionals will become consultants or change professions completely, knowing that they can focus on service delivery and not worry about their health care.

The scary part is that I am confident a large percentage of dis-engaged high performers in our organizations will choose to set up their own businesses.  This removes them from the available labor pool.  They don’t leave the economy, but you can’ t hire them.

Here is the really scary part.  Both of these storms are probably going to happen at about the same time.  When the Dow gets back above, say 12,000, kapow.  When health care gets implemented, kapow.  If they both happen in the same quarter, kablooie.

So, what are you doing to stay dry?  I have some ideas…would love to hear yours.

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I felt I had been here before.   Image a large room full of marketing types and business leaders, all wearing name tags and juggling coffee and folios and talking about how great they were doing.  It was the new incarnation of the Business Rally, and I was happy to be back in a room of artificially happy people. The smiles were nice, even if they were forced.

Ron Brumbarger, CEO of Bitwise, had pulled this together, and was happy with the turnout.  I was happy for a free cup of coffee and getting some energy from a room of marketing types.  I think everyone needs a dose of happiness every now and then, even if it is partially artificial.  The rules on the invitation were clear – this was not a job search event, so if you were looking for work, look elsewhere.  That also meant that the requests for 20 minute networking meetings were eliminated.

What was different and refreshing was the presence of several key Human Resources professionals, and how they might have the answer to the turnaround.  Yes, there were bankers in one corner talking about cash flow and operations types in another corner talking about new tracking systems.  The surprise was a pair of HR experts, and the answers that they had for american industry.

Chuck and Chris make it simple for us

Chuck and Chris make it simple for us

Chris Woolard, whom you may already know, is a national expert on employee engagement at Walker Information.  Chuck Gillespie, ex-senior HR person at a local logistics company, is now leading the charge at Peoplebase, with a new take on HRIS systems.  Between the two of them, an organization could make sure that their high performers were fully engaged, and then use that knowledge to produce a better outcome.

It just made me feel proud that, here at ground zero of the business turnaround, that HR was at the table along with the money and the operations.

It also made me proud that people clearly knew who they were.  All of that work that HR has done to be taken seriously is starting to pay off…

The coffee was brewing, the suits were talking, and HR was in the room.  This was good.

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