Posts Tagged ‘High performance’

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 attended the Indy SHRM lunch today, and ran into an old friend at the sign in table.  She had seen the postings about performance management and the notes about Jack, and wanted to vent a little.

“I was a big believer in the power of performance reviews and the importance of documentation, but now, looking back on it, I guess that all of that guidance and corrective advice we were giving never really did change behaviors.  Maybe it wasn’t worth the time.”  She laughed.  “Maybe, I’m just getting old and cynical.”  I assured her that she was….and that that was OK.

We all need a little watering, some encouragement, and occasional pruning.  Without the attention, we wither and die…

I was reminded a while ago when I found a dessicated and VERY dead office plant in an office, a great metaphor for performance management in our modern world.

When you feel old and dried up, like this plant, it's time to change jobs.

When you feel old and dried up, like this plant, it's time to change jobs.

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Well, hey.  Remember that speech that Jack gave at the SHRM conference?   Some of his remarks made the paper…and, not in a good way.  You can read the story here or, if you’re like me and don’t pay for internet content unless necessary, read the Salon post about it here. My savvy Uncle Tony saw it and forwarded it.

Hmm.  When I was sitting there listening and he delivered the  quote that is controversial, I looked around and saw a shocked sea of female faces.  They had come to see a big shot who was “good at HR”, and they were seeing a curmudgeon who is unapologetically cranky and not family friendly at all.

The quote in question:

“There’s no such thing as work-life balance,” Mr. Welch [said]. “There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.”

Mr. Welch said those who take time off for family could be passed over for promotions if “you’re not there in the clutch.”

“The women who have reached the top of Archer Daniels, of DuPont, I know these women. They’ve had pretty straight careers,” he said in an interview with journalist Claire Shipman, before thousands of HR specialists.

“We’d love to have more women moving up faster,” Mr. Welch said. “But they’ve got to make the tough choices and know the consequences of each one.”


What makes this more interesting to me was the reaction of a woman I met on the shuttle bus that night.  She was still fuming, but from a surprising perspective.  “I’m mad, but because I WORKED for him.  I was in one of the GE divisions that he talks about, and we all knew that the window dressing did not match the world we saw from the inside.  Now, he’s starting to reveal that truth.”

Employer of Choice?  Perhaps, only in the marketing.  Not in the execution…

Take a minute and read the comments on the WSJ article – no subscription needed, and very enlightening…

Your thoughts?

Smilin' Jack

Smilin' Jack

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So, HR has been accused of not taking risks.  We’re being told that risk taking – good risk taking –  is an important part of our economic recovery.

Why should we?  For decades, HR has been browbeaten into risk avoidance, not risk taking.  The hiring of HR people has included people with administration backgrounds and legal backgrounds.  In general, neither administrators or lawyers have entrepreneurial leanings.  Neither of these types pushes the envelope and tries new things.  Risk taking is not in the “comfort zone”

What to do?  If we agree that good risk taking behaviors are needed in the HR community, we need to make a few basic changes.

First, we need to make Risk Management a more prominent part of the “body of knowledge” in the Human Resource Certification Institute’s certification process. Teach it, and require it as a part of PHR or SPHR certification.  When I took my SPHR exam, I don’t recall answering any risk questions.  To be fair, I was in enough of a test panic mode that I doubt I could recall any question in the SPHR exam beyond what year the Taft-HartleyAct was passed.  1947, I think.

Second, we need to practice good risk behaviors in our personal lives. This is a life skill, and taking good and prudent risks is not well tought in our society.  Just as negotiation is not a part of the North American culture, the basic midwestern risk profile is to not do it until at least three other people have tried it, whatever it is.  I know people with rotary dial phones in their house – this touch tone thing is just a fad, perhaps…

Finally, we need CEOs and CFOs that recognize and reward good risk taking. Behavior rewarded is behavior repeated.  We have been talking about performance management and performance reviews.  I’ll bet money that none of your review forms have a discussion of good risk behaviors that are a part of the feedback loop, unless the job title has “Actuary” in it somewhere…

Until we’re rewarded and not punished for it, I don’t think it will happen.

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You don’t have to be high tech to “get it.”

Thinking about Hank’s comment to my last post as I drove by a car wash a minute ago.  The staff was out front in neckties and white shirts, waving in a line of cars and selling the service of a clean car.   Me?  I’m cheap and I use a discount gas station.  It’s $3 cheaper.

The local car wash chain ran an interesting series of advertisements a while ago.  They weren’t selling their service directly.  They spent their advertising dollars to have their hourly staff talk about the high quality of their bosses and how much they enjoyed the opportunity for personal development and what motivates them on the job.  They talked about how tough it was to get a job there and what they thought of having to wear a necktie.  They were clearly proud of it all.

And, they clearly think we have more intelligence than the average terrier or sheepdog or whatever breed it was that I recently saw in a parked car.

Seen on the street near my house...

Seen on the street near my house...

They never talked about washing cars or coming to Mike’s Car Wash.

My takeaway was that they are clearly a group of high performers at the bottom of the corporate food chain, and that I get more than $3 of additional service at their place. Also, I am impressed that the leadership team is proud enough of their culture to spend advertising $$$ to sell HR, not coupons.

To me, it is proof that good performance management and communication and high standards for hiring all pay off.  I’m going back there this afternoon for a wash…and I’m expecting a good experience.

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I’m going through the presentations at SHRM National, looking for clues and trends on Performance Management and how social media might be used.  I’ll check back with updates.  Has anyone seen any data or heard of anyone doing this?  I think it’s a very interesting concept…

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One of my takeaways from the conference – everyone is mad at performance management.  Managers hate doing it.  HR hates administering it.  CFOs hate having a huge asset (people) with no real feedback loops or accountability system.

I have an idea.

Instead of using software to automate a flawed system, use new communication channels (social networking, perhaps?) to build a fast feedback system that is more direct, and get a better result with less hassle.  I’ll be meeting with some social networking wonks and geeks next week, and I will be pushing this idea on them.  They don’t have an HR background, and that may actually be an advantage.  This is a marketing and communication and system design problem, more than an HR issue.  It’s just an issue that we all need to fix.

Now more than ever.  I’ll keep you posted.

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Coming off as a kind of cranky, rumpled professor, John Kotter presented a general session that looked at economics and our nation’s sense of urgency.  Acutally, he is a cranky, rumpled professor at Harvard Business School.  Details to follow – but the big deal to me was that he didn’t use Powerpoint – he was using overhead projector technology and I found it very refreshing.

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Just had a chat with a very frustrated head of HR from a social service agency.  She was on the trade show floor shopping for performance management software.

I challenged her that when she installed the online system, that the managers would hate it at the same as they hate the paper based one, only at a faster rate.  They would be ignoring her at the speed of light, not the speed of paper.

The answer?  Use the guise of the economic crisis to redesign the system using a “clean sheet of paper” approach, both eliminating waste and respecting her people.  Simply put, make it better and stop the madness.

She is going to call a meeting with her managers, and redraft the system using social networking tools as the engine of communication, and get away from annual reviews.  Faster, simpler, better.  I’ll keep you posted.

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