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    Friday
    Apr062012

    How many bad decisions can you get away with - motorcycle crash edition

    How many bad decisions can you get away with and hold on to your job?

    My working theory right now is that there is an inverse relationship between how many bad, foolish, or reckless kinds of decisions one can make and one's relative position on an organization's hierarchy and pay structure, with a 'success' corollary and an 'ease of replacement' factor baked into the equation.

    What am I talking about?

    Just the latest episode in the ongoing 'Powerful, successful, rich men behaving badly at work' saga, this one from the world of sports, (shock), the news of University of Arkansas Head Football Coach Bobby Petrino's recent motorcycle accident, and the subsequent string of deception, fabrication, and simple bad judgment that has subsequently been brought to light.

    In case you missed the story this week, the gist is as follows: (with my snarky comments in bold)

    • Last Sunday, Petrino is taken to the hospital following a mototcycle accident. He suffers four broken ribs and a cracked neck vertebra. Ouch
    • Petrino fails to mention to his boss at Arkansas, Athletics Director Jeff Long one key detail about the accident, that he wasn't alone on that motorcycle. He had in fact lied to Long about this nugget, and the athletic department put out a press release on Monday morning repeating that lie on Arkansas letterhead. Not good.
    • Petrino's passenger was a woman. So what?
    • She was not his wife. Uh-oh.
    • The woman, Jessica Dorrell, is an employee of the Arkansas athletic department. What is the number for the HR hotline?
    • Petrino hired Dorrell, who had previously worked in the athletic department's fundraising arm, to the football staff last week. Get my lawyer on the phone.

    Now, as you would expect, the AD Long has launched a 'review' of the situation and the circumstances surrounding the accident, the deception by Petrino immediately following the accident, and (let's hope), the details surrounding the hiring of Dorrell by Petrino, who it would seem were conducting some kind of relationship while maybe not illegal, was almost certainly inappropriate. 

    Complicating matters for Long is the recent success of Petrino and the Arkansas football team, with a 21-5 won-loss record in the last two seasons, and the team's best finish in the football rankings in ages.

    Petrino, now with no other realistic options, has basically thrown himself at the mercy of his employer, and has apologized for his actions, issuing a statement that read in part - "I will fully cooperate with the university throughout this process and my hope is to repair my relationships with my family, my athletic director, the Razorback Nation and remain the head coach of the Razorbacks".

    It will be up to Arkansas, and AD Long to decide what to do with their highest profile employee, (and highest-paid state of Arkansas worker), and to determine if success on the job weighs more heavily than a series of bad decisions off the job.

    I have no idea how this will turn out, but the realist in me thinks that twenty-one wins in two seasons in the most competitive college football conference in the nation has a way of glossing over even the most obvious flaws in judgement and character.

    What do you think - should Petrino be shown the exit?

    Have a Great Weekend!

     

    Thursday
    Apr052012

    Your latest new hire: Are you paying more for less?

    A quick post today, and in a similar vein to yesterday's post on value pricing of jobs as evidenced by an NFL player's decision to retire fairly young, and the overall maturity in how NFL teams evaluate, compensate, and differentiate talent.  The net-net: in the NFL for some positions, (like running back), it is really easy to cut experienced talent loose as their skills begin to diminish and the compensation they demand rises. There is always another running back available, either one of the reserve players on the team, or a new hire that can be drafted or signed that can offer almost as good, (and sometimes better), production, usually at a significantly lower cost.

    However, for other positions on the team, the differentiation in performance is more significant, and often teams find that bringing in a new Quarterback, (the most important spot on the team), or even a new offensive lineman, doesn't result in a similar blend of performance gain and cost reduction. Often, teams seem to pay more to lure veteran free agents to the team, only to see their performance decline, at least in the short term, as the new player has to assimilate, learn new schemes, adapt to and partner with a new set of coaches and teammates. 

    But as always that might be the case in football, but none of us has the job of managing the talent for an NFL team, (yet). What about in the real world - do 'regular' organizations see this same phenomenon when bringing in higher priced talent from outside the organization?

    Turns out it happens in the real world too, at least according to the results of a recent study by Wharton School Professor Matthew Bidwell titled, "Paying More to Get Less: The Effects of External Hiring versus Internal Mobility."

    The net-net of this study's findings?

    According Bidwell, "external hires" get significantly lower performance evaluations for their first two years on the job than do internal workers who are promoted into similar jobs. They also have higher exit rates, and they are paid "substantially more." About 18% to 20% more. On the plus side for these external hires, if they stay beyond two years, they get promoted faster than do those who are promoted internally.

    The study looked at a data set of external hiring and internal promotions and transfers over a several year period in one large financial services firm, so it's conclusions might not be able to be applied with confidence too broadly, and as we have seen in the NFL examples, even within a company or industry the 'switching costs' vary widely across jobs and job families.  But taken more generally, the study documents "some quite substantial costs to external hires and some substantial benefits to internal mobility."

    The study is fascinating, and I'd encourage you to take a few minutes to dig through it in more detail, there is even some interesting data in their about the effectiveness and performance of new hires based on source of hire that I will have to post about another time, but even if you can't spare the time to read the paper you can at least take a few minutes to think about the implications of the findings.

    Unlike NFL running backs, most of the high-tech, high-touch, high-interaction types of jobs that we need to fill in our organizations carry with them some pretty significant transfer costs. It can often take more than a year, even two in large organizations for external hires to sort out the politics, build the relationships, and simply 'learn' how to succeed in the new gig. And all that time an energy comes with a price, and that isn't even the 'extra' salary costs that you had to pay to lure the new talent out of their old jobs.

    What do you think - what has been your experience when faced with the 'Hire from outside vs. Promote from within' choice?

    Wednesday
    Apr042012

    Value, Pricing, and Early Retirement

    When this piece, about Chicago Bears running back Marion Barber announcing his retirement from football at age 28, popped up recently I decided to bookmark the story, although I was not entirely sure why. After all, while Barber was considered a solid NFL player for just about all of his seven year career, his particularly bruising style of play, combined with the typically short useful life span of NFL running backs, make his retirement from the game at what is a young age for just about any other vocation not terribly unusual or surprising. NFL players don't last long, and only the most durable and successful NFL running backs have careers much longer than Barber's seven years.Marion Barber, retiree

    NFL and other professional sports teams talent management professionals have long learned to adapt their practices and talent strategies to the short careers of their players. Team depth charts showing three and four levels of potential (and often needed on extremely short notice) successors, detailed scouting reports of potential college hires (draftees), and a constantly updated assessment of replacement talent either currently employed by other teams, or on the open market are all staples of the professional sports team's head of talent. Although even I would admit not all sports/business/talent management comparisons hold water upon closer examination, even the most skeptical observers would have to acknowledge that the manner in which professional sports teams are constantly planning for the departure of their most important players, whether through injury, retirement, or even at times a sudden, and almost unexplainable drop in performance, is something to be learned from and even copied.

    In that light, in addition to a constant vigilance towards succession planning, pro sports talent managers have another skill (mostly) down cold - namely maintaining a keen understanding of when they need to overpay for talent and where they don't, and that to me is the more interesting aspect of the Barber retirement, (even if in this particular case the issue did not appear to be money).

    In the NFL while running back has been a traditional high-profile position, over time and due in part to a heavier reliance by teams on the passing game, the difference in production between the top few running backs in the league and the average performers at the position has been diminishing in statistical terms, as well as in overall value to team success. And time and time again it has been shown that rookie or second-year backs can perform to acceptable levels, while being paid significantly less than more experienced players. Essentially the league, and the talent managers from the teams, have determined that running back is a position where value usually trumps longevity, only the very best performers are worth rewarding with above market contracts, and replacements are readily found.

    So Marion Barber, a seven-year vet and for the most part an above average performer for the majority of his career hangs it up at age 28 and the Bears, the rest of the league, and the average NFL fan barely notices. The Bears can and will easily find at least a half dozen viable replacements.  And that is I suppose another talent management lesson that we can learn from the NFL. That even the seemingly most easily replaceable elements of the team are indeed, easily replaced.

    And when you can say that about your talent management plans and succession bench strength, that you have the answer and plan ready to go for every spot on the team, then maybe you'll be ready when your next 28 year old, in a high profile spot, and a solid performer decides to walk out the door.

    Tuesday
    Apr032012

    EVENT: The Social Media Strategies for HR Seminar

    In two weeks I will be attending and participating in the Conference Board's 'Social Media Strategies for HR' seminar, along with many other fantastic Human Resources practitioners and leaders. If you are thinking that the 'Social Media in HR' angle is getting really played out and overdone, then you might be right, but you also might be in the tiny minority of HR professionals and leaders that actually have been working with social media, social networks, and proactively using these platforms to support their business and talent strategy.  I think, generally, that the opportunities and challenges that social media present to the typical HR organization are just beginning to be explored. Remember, unlike many of us in the social media bubble almost no real HR leaders spend their year attending seventeen conferences, fourteen tweet-ups, or diving into one of the myriad new HR-themed Twitter chats. Mostly they are too busy in their day jobs, and when they have time, they are trying to figure out how to better their function and their performance, and using social media can be one of those ways - if they could ever find some spare time to try and sort it out.

    That is why a dedicated event like the Social Media Strategies Seminar for HR is so compelling to me.  In the early days of social media in the workplace, there were hours of trial-and-error while learning because there were no classes or conferences or case studies where you could learn how to use these platforms more effectively.  The benefit for today’s professionals getting into the space or for those who are using the platforms but want to take that use to the next level is that there are events where you can go and learn more in a day than many of us did in a month or a year.

    If you or someone in your organization is wants to learn more about using social media platforms for HR and recruiting, you need to mark your calendars now for The Conference Board’s Social Media Strategies for HR Seminar.  Join me in New York City on April 17- 18, 2012 as we discuss and learn how to:

    • Leverage social networks to benefit the entire organization
    • Implement and manage social networks to spur innovation and knowledge sharing
    • Use social media to increase employee engagement and bolster employer branding
    • Manage the legal implications of social media in the workplace

    I’ll be co-leading a session on how you can use social media to strengthen your employer brand and bolster employee engagement.  My co-presenter will be Trish McFarlane, Director of Human Resources for Perficient and co-founder of the HRevolution.

    Use discount code SB1 to get $250 off the registration cost!  You can register for one day or both.  I hope you’ll join us, you won’t be disappointed.

    Monday
    Apr022012

    The one thing you bring to the (operating) table

    Oh the Linsanity...

    Over the weekend New York Knicks phenom and new starting point guard Jeremy Lin was diagnosed with a more serious knee injury than was originally thought, and with the necessary surgery and rehab it seems likely that Lin will miss the remainder of the NBA season, and this development may quite possibly derail the team's chances at a playoff run. Bibby - Sans headband

    Upon learning the news, I (sort of) joked over an email to the 8 Man Rotation team that perhaps the Knicks should ask for a knee ligament donation for Lin from (backup point guard and veteran player on the last stretch of his useful career), Mike Bibby's cadaver. A bad joke I suppose, and perhaps an unfair cheap shot at Bibby, who even with his best days as an NBA player far behind him, by all accounts has been a good team player and citizen on this current Knicks team.

    But the 'cadaver' joke led me to thinking about how at times it can be really easy to see contributors on a team or in an organization for what they can't do or what they can no longer do, instead of seeing (and admittedly looking harder for), what they still can bring to the table, even if it is only that one thing.

    In sports it could be the late career veteran or that single-skilled expert that you might only need once in every five games, but when you need that skill, he or she can be counted on to deliver, whether it is a timely three-point shot in hoops, or in soccer to be calm enough to come off the bench and cooly and efficiently take a penalty kick.

    At the office it might be that past-his-prime account rep that landed the 'Big Account' fifteen years ago and has not been doing that much since. But every year at contract renewal time the client still wants to have him in the deal and his presence and stability ends up being a big part of getting the deal done, and a nice chunk of revenue locked up.

    Or it even could be one of those 'been there forever and is skating the last three years until retirement' guys that has pretty much checked out, but whenever one of the junior staff is in a jam, and wakes him up long enough to ask a question, he always knows what to do, who to talk with, and (maybe more importantly) who not to talk with.

    The key that ties these kinds of scenarios together?

    That the unique contribution, that 'one thing', that these types of contributors bring to the table - the donated ligament, the long-term customer relationship, or the deep understanding of organizational politics, are all really personal, really hard to replicate, are extremely important, and can't truly be captured in any kind of database or information management system.  They're 'owned' so to speak by the one person alone.

    Two things to take away then. One, as a manager or leader that you'd be wise to make sure when you are cutting people loose or shipping out so-called dead weight or low performers, that you are not losing some critical 'one thing' that no one else can bring to the table. And two, if you are one of those 'one thing' kinds of contributors yourself, well you better make sure you are ready and willing to step up on those rare occasions when your number is called, and that you are still willing to do what it takes, even if it might not be easy.

    Even if, possibly, it involves donating a ligament to the new hotshot on the team.

     

    Note: Hat tip to Kris Dunn at the HR Capitalist for his help shaping up this post as he is very concerned about the playoff prospects for the Knicks.