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    How to quickly solve your engagement, retention, and employer brand problems

    If you (and the people in your organization) are representatives of what has been happening more generally in work and workplaces over the last decade or so then you are likely working more hours, remain as disengaged as ever, and now, more acutely, are struggling to find and retain the needed talented people for many of your key roles.

    These challenges of work/life balance, engagement, and retention collectively have had about 4,958,909 articles and 'advice' pieces written about them in the last few years, (I looked it up), and yet most organizations and people still struggle with one or all of these problems. But what if there were one simple change to the design of work and workplaces that actually could improve the situation across all three of these measures? What if there were the equivalent of an HR/Talent/Org Design magic wand that you could wave and you'd pretty quickly see employees happier with their work/life balance, become more enthusiastic and engaged with their work, and be much less likely to leave your organization to search for greener pastures?

    When you hear this idea (especially if you are from the USA), your first reaction is almost certainly going to be 'There's no way that will ever work here', but I ask you just suspend your cynicism for three minutes and at least allow your imagination to play with the concept - it's Monday morning and you are having a hard time getting going anyway.

    So here it is, the easy solution to burnout, engagement, and retention:

    Change your standard workday to 6 hours.

    That's it. Keep everything else (salary, benefits, performance standards, org structure, etc.) the same. Just cut the workday from the 8 hours down to 6, and remind everyone that you still expect and require the same productivity and outcomes as you did on the 8 hour day, but you now only 'require' them to work for 6 hours.

    This is an idea that has been in the news again lately, based on a few experiments both in the public and private sectors in Sweden, and are reviewed in this recent piece in the Guardian. Organizations that have either tested or totally adopted the reduced hours have consistently reported improvements across the three key objectives I have been mentioning - work/life, engagement, and retention.

    From the Guardian piece, the experiences of a tech startup, (a type of company much more commonly associated with 12 or more hour days):

    For Maria Bråth, boss of internet startup Brath, the six-hour working day the company introduced when it was formed three years ago gives it a competitive advantage because it attracts better staff and keeps them. “They are the most valuable thing we have,” she says – an offer of more pay elsewhere would not make up for the shorter hours they have at Brath.

    The company, which has 22 staff in offices in Stockholm and Örnsköldsvik, produces as much, if not more, than its competitors do in eight-hour days, she says. “It has a lot to do with the fact that we are very creative – we couldn’t keep it up for eight hours.”

    And what about a more 'normal' job, say as an auto mechanic? Well their is evidence that shorter workdays can be successful there as well:

    Martin Geborg, 27, a mechanic, started at Toyota eight years ago and has stayed there because of the six-hour day. “My friends are envious,” he says. He enjoys the fact that there is no traffic on the roads when he is heading to and from work. Sandra Andersson, 25, has been with the company since 2008. “It is wonderful to finish at 12,” she says. “Before I started a family I could go to the beach after work – now I can spend the afternoon with my baby.”

    I know what you are thinking - there is no way a 25% reduction in work hours without a reduction in comp and ben costs will EVER work for you. 

    The bosses will never go for it, and for US companies, it just sounds too 'European' and vaguely socialist an idea to ever merit serious consideration. But if you can get past your instinctive reaction as an HR pro and just consider the notion as an individual employee you might think differently.

    How much time, really, do you spend each day on 'non-work' - catching up on your idiot friends posts on Facebook, calling to schedule a Dr. appointment, or doing the lunchtime 'bank/dry cleaner/pharmacy' trifecta? 

    How many of your kids school activites to you either miss or have to guiltily sneak out of work to try and attend?

    How many times to you sit in traffic from 5:45PM - 7:00PM only to reach home completely frazzled and wiped out?

    And after all of that, how much work, actual important and quality work did you get done that day?

    Definitely some, you are a solid pro, but definitely not 8 hours worth, that is for sure. Work expands to fill the available space and time provided, often crowding out the other, 'non-work' parts of our lives. And, if your job is similar to many of the other folks I know, it never really is 'done' anyway - no matter how much time you spend in the office.

    These small experiments with shorter working days all seem to turn out the same - employees are more focused, have more energy, provide better service, are happier, and are much less likely to leave what they perceive to be a great working situation.

    What's not to like about that?

    Nah, it would never work here.

    Have a great week!


    Should you ask for a 1200% raise?

    Hey it's October!  The best month of the year by far. If you don't believe me, check out Months, ranked and get up to speed.

    So happy October. 

    Hey question for you career-minded folks or for those of you who might sit on the other side of the compensation table, making decisions about comp offers, raises, and bonuses for your teams.

    Should you (or anyone) ever have the gumption to ask for a 1200% raise?

    Sounds kind of ridiculous in the land of 3% annual salary increases, (maybe 4% if you are a 'top performer'), and with organizations continuing to do everything they can to resist the inevitable upward pressure on wages that an improving economy with falling unemployment will drive.

    But 1200% of a pop? You would have to be really confident to make that kind of a salary demand.

    Why is that particular figure on my mind?

    From reading recent piece on Business Insider, Vikings part ways with their mascot after he demanded a 1200% raise.

    From the piece:

    Ragnar, the Vikings' unofficial mascot, and his motorcycle have been a fixture at Minnesota Vikings games for over two decades, but that appears to be over as the two sides have been unable to reach an agreement on a new contract.

    Ragnar, whose real name is Joe Juranitch, was seeking a new contract that would pay him $20,000 per game, according to Michael Rand of the Star Tribune. That would translate to an annual salary of $200,000 for eight regular season and two preseason games, and an increase of more than 1,200% from his previous pay of "about $1,500 per game" last season.

    I have never been to a Vikings home game, so I am really not too sure what exactly Ragnar brought to the table, and particularly what he thought would be worth about $5,000/hour (game lasts about 3 hours, add 1 hour for pre and post game work). But it is pretty clear from the way the Vikings basically responded to this demand with a 'Thanks Ragnar, it's been really nice working with you. Good luck!' that Ragnar had severely overestimated his value and his leverage.

    What can us normals take away from this little viking adventure, even if we are just trying to secure a reasonable bump, say 10% or so?

    1. Have some idea of how much actual value, (revenue, increased customer retention, tangible cost savings, etc.), we are directly responsible for creating. 

    2. Have some idea how painful it would be to the company if we actually walked out when our crazy demands were not met.

    3. Have some idea of the market more generally for folks who do what we do.

    Our pal Ragnar pretty much failed on all accounts. He likely did not generate any appreciable revenue for the team. Even though his Facebook page was full of comments from fans expressing support and anger towards the team, it would take an enormous stretch of believability to conclude that any actual fans would refuse to attend games due to his absence. 

    He also didn't really grasp that the games would carry on pretty much unaffected once he was no longer a part of the show. The team preparation certainly would not be affected. His absence actually would create less work not more for the game day operations staff. In fact, other than the small number of fans who missed his performance at the game, everyone else lives got a little bit easier.

    Finally, there is almost no chance that Ragnar surveyed the landscape of professional sports mascots to come up with market comparables that led him to make a $20K per game demand. If team mascots were really pulling down anywhere near that kind of scratch, there would be line hundreds of people long to try out for those gigs. More than likely, one of Ragnar's buddies got into his head that he was somehow underpaid and under appreciated, (and that he was WAY more important to the product than he was).

    Look, I get wanting to make every last dollar you can. We are probably all underpaid for the amount of crap we have to put up with. But the key question is knowing just how much you are really underpaid, and making sure you are honest about your value, how replaceable you are, and your ego.

    Happy October.


    PODCAST: #HRHappyHour 221 - HR Gives Back

    HR Happy Hour 221 - HR Gives Back

    Recorded LIVE at ADP Analyst Day, Friday September 25, 2015

    Hosts: Trish McFarlane, Steve Boese

    Guest: Mollie Lombardi


    Hosts Trish McFarlane and Steve Boese recorded this episode LIVE at the ADP Analyst Day in New York City. They were thrilled to have Mollie Lombardi as their guest to talk about her project....HR Gives Back.  HR Gives Back to a Future without Parkinson’s is an idea started by Mollie Lombardi, Mike Pauletich, Teresa Thieme and Jeanne Achille. It is a way to help raise money and awareness for the fight against Parkinson's Disease.  It will live on as a way for HR to give back to other charitable organizations in the future. 

    This year Mollie and her friend Mike are competing in a fundraising effort leading up to the HR Technology Conference October 18- 21 in Las Vegas.  There are some fun ways to get involved in raising money and awareness and we encourage you to learn more at www.hrgivesback.net.  

    October 21, 2015 marks the day that famous DeLorean landed in the future. It also marks the last day of the 18th annual HR Technology Conference and Expo. What better time to help HR give “Back to a Future” without Parkinson’s than a fundraiser supporting The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF).  Join members of the HR technology community in a virtual marathon October 1-21, raising funds and running or walking 26.2 miles over 21 days to support the cause, and at the HR Technology Conference Oct. 18-21 for an onsite challenge sponsored by FitBit.

    You can listen to the show on the show page here, or using the widget player below:

    Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio


    Join us for a lively show about this outstanding event as well as an update on ADP and a little flash back to the 80's at the beginning!

    And remember you can subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes or using your favorite podcast app - just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to add the show to your favorites and you will never miss a show.


    Learn a new word: fact-resistant

    Let's start with the definition, courtesy of Wordspy:

    fact-resistant adj. Impervious to reason, counter-examples, or data, especially when they contradict one's opinions or values.

    From the examples given on the Wordspy entry (on the science behind global warming, politics in the Middle East, violence due to firearms), the term fact-resistant seems to have been most commonly applied or ascribed in these kinds of political or 'hot-button' kinds of contexts. I suppose using the term fact-resistant is a slightly kinder and gentler way of saying. 'What the heck is wrong with you, you big dummy. Can't you just accept the truth of what I am telling you?'

    But where fact-resistant is likely to be more relevant and applicable in the HR/workplace/talent management worlds are the conflicts and tensions that can arise between the data and analytics camps and the folks who prefer (or are just more comfortable with), the traditional or old-school ways of evaluating, assessing, and managing people.

    Here are a few specific scenarios where you, as a modern, progressive, and 'seen Moneyball six times' HR pro might run into some fact-resistant colleagues:

    The hiring manager that 'just can tell from looking in the candidate's eyes' whether or not they should be hired. He's been managing by 'gut feeling' for so many years, why should he change now? What does it matter what your data shows about what sources, backgrounds, and characteristic of candidates predict better performance? 

    The CEO who 'gets a good feeling' when she walks around the office at 8AM (and again at 5PM), and sees cube after cube of people diligently working. She is not interested in hearing about your data that shows that engagement, retention, and productivity would all be improved by the introduction of more flexible working arrangements. Everyone looks happy to her, so why make changes?

    The Chief Operating Officer that doesn't care that your compensation benchmarking data shows that you are trailing the market in some key areas and job roles - those same places and roles where your data also shows increased attrition and longer time-to-fill open roles than in less important areas. The COO just want to ensure that 'we pay just a little below market' to ensure stable and consistent gross margins. Peg everyone to '5% below market' and stop bugging me about this.

    I think you get the idea. But the trouble with these fact-resistant types is not identifying them, it is trying to figure out how to rebut them. Because your normal and expected recourse is to just present more facts. And by definition, this probably isn't going to help very much.

    Maybe appealing to the end results, the outcomes, instead of the math and data needed to get there is the best bet. Rather than hitting them with dashboards or spreadsheets that try to sell your idea, just go big on how you know how to fix the problem with X, Y, or Z, and how they will not only benefit, but also look like a hero in the process. 

    The fact-resistant types are tough though. I still think the Knicks are a title contender this year.

    I don't care what the numbers say.

    Have a great week!


    Need to fill a technical job? It helps if you are in one of these four cities

    Some really interesting and detailed data on jobs, job seekers, employment opportunities and the interplay among all the moving parts of the recruiting game in the recently released report from Indeed titled Beyond the Talent Shortage: How Tech Candidates Search for Jobs.

    There is plenty of fascinating information in the report, but the one element I wanted to call out was the really pronounced and increasing preference by tech candidates for only four popular work locations - San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle, and Austin. According to the Indeed report, "In 2013, interest in the 18 software-related jobs we analyzed was 3.3 times greater in San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle, and Austin than in the US on average. In 2015, interest in those cities was 3.6 times greater."

    The below chart from Indeed shows how these job seeker preferences for the 'Big 4' tech hubs compared to the US overall have increased over time:

    So the Indeed data just puts some numbers behind what you have probably known for some time - if you are recruting technical talent and are not located in one of these Big 4 hubs, you're likely entering the competition already in a losing position. The Indeed data shows that while cities all across the US, heck, all over the world, are seeing increases in open technical jobs, that tech candidates are only honing in their efforts more on the Big 4 tech hubs.

    So while in the past, and especially in times of recession, candidate interest would have been primarily driven by the availability of jobs, the increasing candidate interest in these 4 tech hubs suggests further concentration on the part of job seekers on these locales. 

    What can/should you be doing if indeed, (pardon the pun), you have difficult technical jobs to fill and you are not located in one of the Big 4 tech hubs? The analysis from Indeed offers a few decent suggestions:

    1. Get yourself to one of the Big 4 citiies. This is the 'fish where the fish are' strategy, and of course it is easier said than done. But if these trends continue on their recent trajectory, it is only going to become more challenging to recruit tech talent to non Big 4 locations. It might be worth setting up a small, satellite office in one of these sought-after locations when compared to the opportunity cost of having important roles remain empty.

    2. Let go of your 'Everyone needs to be physically at HQ' policy. Organizations have seemingly gone around and around on the value/importance of having everyone on the team physically co-located versus embracing more flexible work arrangements. And I suspect these conversations and shifts in attitude will continue to go on pretty much forever. But if the talent you need has decided they (mostly) would rather be in Seattle or San Jose and you are in Pennsyltucky then you might have to make some kind of a compromise.

    3. Figure out how to better 'sell' what your location does have to offer to candidates that generally prefer the big Tech hubs. A while back I wrote a post about 'selling' your non-glamourous city to candidates, and the things i touched upon then I think are more or less still true now. The Big 4 cities may have a lot to offer candidates, but (hopefully) your city does too. And it might also be time to take a cue from politics once in a while and go negative - those Big 4 tech hubs are not all wonderful, and your city might have the edge in things like cost of living, open space, even the presence of 'winter', which I am told some people enjoy.

    There is plenty more interesting information in the Indeed report - take some time to look it over if you are at all interested on what their data shows and suggests about the market for technical talent.

    Have a great weekend!