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    Monday
    Jan232012

    Checking it Twice - Happy Tim Sackett Day 

    Happy Tim Sackett Day!

    What the heck is Tim Sackett Day? 

    Let's take a step back and try and explain.

    In the last couple of years, more or less tied to the growth and increasing importance of social networking, online reputation, and emerging consideration, (and attempts to quantify), digital influence; the Human Resources and Recruiting world has seen a plethora of published influence lists, rankings, and other measures of (variously), popularity, importance, influence, quality, and so on.Tim!!!

    While the relevance, accuracy, and importance of any of these kinds of lists can certainly be debated, to me, several enduring truths have emerged from their publication and the subsequent analysis, self-congratulation, hand-wringing, complaining exercises that invariably follow.  And these truths are as follows:

    1. When any new 'Top HR or Recruiting' list is published, there are only three possible reactions:

    A. Hooray! I made the list!

    B. How come I didn't make the list?!?

    C. WTF!!!! How did (insert the name of the person you perceive to be slightly less popular/intelligent/influential/good looking here), make the list and I didn't?

    2. For those list named to the newly published list, a round of (fake) congratulatory tweets, Facebook updates, re-tweets ensues. While these updates usually take the form of 'Congratulations Person X for making the list!!!', they can be safely interpreted as 'I am on this list too, and don't forget it pal.'

    3. For anyone not included on the latest list, more of less equal parts of indifference, interest, and genuine enthusiasm for those lucky folks that were included. Actually, when I think about it, I take back the 'equal parts' bit. Most people, especially busy people with a lot of responsibility don't really notice these lists at all.

    4. Last, and probably most importantly, no matter what the latest HR or Recruiting list attempts to measure or rate, chances are VERY likely that Tim Sackett will not be included.

    So while Tim's exclusion from these lists has become an ongoing inside joke in the (pretty small), world of social media and HR, it also raises a few questions about these kinds of lists, what they represent, and if they matter. Since to me, Tim is really exactly the kind of HR and Recruiting pro that should be recognized on these kinds of lists, and the fact that he never seems to land on any of them, while incredibly amusing, is still kind of curious. Tim's a pro, and has been for a long time.

    I think it was this kind of thinking that inspired Laurie Ruettimann to enlist a few of Tim's friends to create Tim Sackett Day. While we are paying tribute to Tim, while subsequently making fun of him, I think the larger point is that there are scores of smart, powerful, influential, and simply indispensible HR and Recruiting professionals out there that do not get the recognition they deserve. Maybe because they don't have time to read and re-share dozens of HR blogs every week, or they don't obsess over chiming in to every Twitter chat, or don't have that touch of narcissism to possess them to blog or heaven forbid, show up to speak at HR events.

    They are just out there, every day, grinding away. Doing their part to keep the trains running, help their organizations, communities, and families. Just like our boy Timmy.

    So while we congratulate Tim today, mainly for never having being recognized, we also recognize all of the great HR and Recruiting professionals today. For Tim is really all of you.

    Only shorter.

    Congrats Tim! 

    Note: 

    You can follow the fun today on Twitter - search for the hashtag #TimSackettDay

    Also, Tim will be a guest on the DriveThruHR internet radio show today at 1:00PM ET - you can tune in at this link - DriveThruHR with Tim Sackett

     

    Friday
    Jan202012

    Smoking and Sloppiness

    We all know the job market is tough - lots of competition for any decent position, tricky and mind-bending interview questions, lack of reliable feedback during the process, hiring managers unwilling to make the call on the offer - you get the idea. In addition to the clear and obvious barriers and hurdles to that job seekers have to overcome, there can often be another set of hidden, and much less obvious things that might result in a candidate getting eliminated from contention for the job.

    These are the kinds of attributes we generally like to classify as 'fit', which is kind of a made up construct to collect all those traits or background elements that we can't really quantify or easily justify in our screening process, but we know what they are when we see, hear, smell them. 'Fit' could come to mean just about anything depending on the organization, position, or whim of the hiring manager. Did the candidate graduate from Auburn and the boss bleeds Alabama Crimson? Maybe the candidate spent the last few years at a company known for its freewheeling and anything goes culture, and your shop thinks cutting loose is casual Friday during the summer. Or maybe a solid candidate just went a little too heavy on the Jean Nate after-bath splash and you couldn't really concentrate on anything they said in the interview.

    Or, if you are looking to get hired as an assistant football coach working for the 'Ol Ball Coach Steve Spurrier on the University of South Carolina staff, you might not want to be a smoker. Or fat and sloppy.

    Yep, according to a couple of tweets from a Coumbia State newspaper reporter, the 'Ol Ball Coach when asked what he was looking for in potential assistant coaches, Spurrier said he wanted non-smokers, and also had a dislike for 'fat, sloppy guys.'  Here are the tweets from the press conference:

     

    Not great if you happen to be a good coach that is a smoker who is also fat and sloppy.  It is kind of tough to take a lot of offense with Spurrier's point of view, many companies are now starting to penalize smoking employees with health insurance surcharges, and some are refusing to hire smokers at all.

    The 'fat and sloppy' part of the opinion is perhaps less defensible. But like smoking, and at least in Spurrier's opinion, being 'fat and sloppy' suggests something about a candidate, that they won't be a good public face for the team, that they might be undisciplined, or they might not been seen to 'project' some kind of image that Spurrier envisions for the team. Truth is, it is hard to know what exactly is in Spurrier's head, or any hiring manager's for that matter, when they start evaluating, ranking, screening, etc. on these kinds of 'fit' factors.

    If you are a job seeker, you already have a lot going against you, mostly things you can't do much about. It might be too late and too expensive to get that Harvard MBA, or score 10 years of 'progressive managerial responsibility' in the EXACT industry you applied to. 

    But if you are still smoking you probably can quite. And you might be able to lose a couple of pounds. And tuck in that shirt while you are at it. You never know what you're begin graded on, so you might as well assume it is everything.

    Thursday
    Jan192012

    Company Town

    I've lived in the greater Rochester, NY area for over a decade, and while not my 'real' hometown, this mid-sized Western New York city has certainly has become my adopted hometown. And like many similarly sized and geographically situated cities, in the last 20 years or so Rochester has seen a kind of sea-change in its industrial base, demographic makeup, and general perception of itself, as well as the perceptions of outside observers. Rochester's situation and story in some ways is also being told and played out in places like Buffalo, Cleveland, Toledo, and others.  The story is as familiar as it is depressing - the exodus or demise of traditional manufacturing firms, taking with them many thousands of decent-paying middle class jobs; a similar exodus of recent graduates from Rochester's numerous and excellent colleges as young people flock to the excitement of New York City and Chicago, or the opportunity and sunshine of California; and the general malaise that seems to overtake a Great Lakes city when the sun sets for the last time in October and doesn't seem to rise again until April.Vintage Kodak Ad - 1920s

    For over a hundred years Rochester has been known as the birthplace and hometown of Eastman Kodak, the legendary company founded in 1881, (not a typo, I promise),  by George Eastman, and for most of its history, the global leader in imaging, cameras, and film processing. Kodak, itself an invented word, invented the concept of amateur or everyman photography. By developing and manufacturing cheap, mass-market cameras and film, Kodak made it possible and popular, for just about everyone to capture, chronicle, and pass on memories of people, places, events.  As long ago as 1888, Kodak's slogan, 'You press the button, we do the rest', spoke to several succeeding generations of Americans who captured their own personal 'Kodak moments', as the snapshot became ingrained in the culture.

    As time passed, Kodak continued to innovate and grow, eventually reaching almost every household in the country and employing at its apex about 145,000 employees, reaching about 90% in market share for film and cameras, and having revenues of $16 billion. But as is often the case with corporate giants that possess near-monopoly power and profits, a series of managerial mis-steps, failure to quickly assess and prepare for the rapid changes in the market and consumer preferences for new digital technologies, and the decision to protect the still very profitable if shrinking film business have all conspired to lead to what is now a precarious, teetering on bankruptcy situation for the once mighty Rochester icon.

    I won't even attempt to delve into the specifics of Kodak's key failures of the last few decades, for this excellent piece from the Economist covers the saga in depth and better than I could. Rather I'd like to speculate on what, if anything, the idea of the 'Company Town' means in 2012. For over 100 years Kodak, (and really George Eastman himself), dominated the local economy, influenced community affairs, and by virtue of the incredibly high proportion of direct and indirect employment supported by Kodak, the day-to-day well being of the entire region. For a long, long time Kodak was Rochester and vice versa. Sure over time several other major corporations rose, (and have also fallen), in this city, but none ever rose so high and were so much a part of the essence of the community as Kodak. Everyone here has a friend or relative that at some point worked at Kodak.

    Kodak's long and slow decline - with it shedding workers, closing facilities, spinning off divisions; has taken the element of surprise from its demise, but it has not made it any easier to accept. The likely end of Kodak as we have always known it, an American corporate legend, and in many ways the foundation of this community, will take with it more than the last few surviving employees and some landmark pieces of our downtown skyline. It will take a part of the city's soul with it as well. 

    No, Kodak's end is about much more than money or jobs or fodder for eventual business school case studies. It's mostly about a legacy and a memory of a different age, when organizations, their leaders, and their cities were much more intertwined and inextricable from one another. Kodak-Rochester, Rochester-Kodak; when you live here, you can't imagine one without the other.

    But soon it seems like we will have to. Rochester, certainly, will carry on. There are already positive signs that Rochester will be just fine in the long run. And perhaps something of Kodak will survive after all. But either way the city of Rochester, and America, will have 130 years of memories.

    Almost all of them taken by Kodak cameras, captured on Kodak film, and printed on Kodak paper.

     

    Wednesday
    Jan182012

    Robot Toys and Team Building

    Note : From this point forward, I make no more apologies for posting about robots, sports, Jeff Van Gundy, nor any more empty promises to refrain or limit such posts. There, I feel better.

    Check out the video below, (email and RSS subscribers will have to click through), a demonstration of a new kind of robot-themed toy called Cubelets from Modrobotics. Cubelets are a modular robot building system, where each cube possesses different features and capabilities, and once combined, form a simple, functioning robot.

    Really neat idea right, and how about the spokesperson?

    Beyond being a clever idea for a flexible and adaptive building toy system, I think the design of the cubes themselves into three distinct archetypes - 'Action', 'Sense', and 'Think', also demonstrate a pretty insightful understanding of team dynamics, and more specifically, what kinds of diverse capabilities that have to be assembled and unified to some extent to achieve successful outcomes. 

    'Action' cubes do things and focus on outputs and come with names like 'Drive', 'Rotate', and 'Flashlight'

    'Sense' cubes pay attention to things and focus on inputs, with names like 'Temperature', 'Brightness', and 'Distance'

    Finally, 'Think' cubes perform simple logic functions like 'Maximum' and 'Passive'.

    If you check out the demonstration video, and can pay attention despite the lederhosen-wearing demo dude, you will see that the cube types are easily assembled to create simple toy robots. The key feature being that at least one cube of each type is needed to make a functioning robot. Adding more cubes, and varying their position and orientation allows the users to create more subtle and sophisticated toys, but the basic elements of 'Action', 'Sense', and 'Think', influence the outcomes.

    Remember, Action cubes do things, Sense cubes pay attention to things, and Think cubes do the math and handle the complex technical stuff. Thinking, doing, and processing the technology - the three important kinds of skills you need in any project I think.

    Oh wait, there is one more skill type I forgot, and there doesn't seem to be a Cube for - 'Creativity' or 'Insight' - essentially coming up with the right ideas in the first place, deciding what needs to be done, and the best way to do it. Figuring out if the robot should even be built in the first place. In the Cubelet toy set, there doesn't seem to be a cube that can do that.

    Because that's your job. For now anyway. 

    Until the robots figure out how to do that one too.

     

    Tuesday
    Jan172012

    What a Year's Worth of Email Can Teach You

    Email. A burden. A time-suck. An endless stream of incoming messages, some batted back, some ignored, some discarded, most forgotten. But still a necessary and important tool for getting work done today, two decades after its introduction into our working lives.

    And despite dramatic and continuing popularity and value provided by alternate forms of electronic communication, (SMS, social networks, enterprise collaboration technologies), email, for most information workers, remains the dominant digital collaboration and discussion medium. We hate it but we can't live without it. Kind of like Reality TV or Facebook.

    But for a tool that is so dominant in many of our professional endeavors, we often have little insight into how we use the tool, and how our usage might be effecting our success, productivity, and career prospects. We know we use email a lot, perhaps even all day long, and we can see how many unread messages we have in our Inbox, but after that, the level of understanding about a communication and work platform is typically extremely limited.

    That's why a new service from ToutApp is so interesting, an 'Email Year in Review' report that provides, in a neat little infographic, a rich look into an entire year's worth of email traffic, messages, response rates and more. My full report of Gmail usage from 2011 is here, (a small sample of the full infographic is below).

     

    Other sections of the report dig into most frequent correspondents, most commonly emailed 'circles' or groups of recipients, and some interesting chronilogical data around email usage. Did you find that last Spring's project missed its deadline by a few weeks? Could have had at least something to do with a spike in email traffic right around the critical Go-live? Or do you find yourself mainly pushing email all day long, forcing you to do 'real work' late at night or on weekends? If you are like me, you will probably be surprised by at least some of the data from a year's worth of email.

    Currently the Email Year in Review is only available for Gmail accounts, so its usefulness for most corporate employees will be limited, but for frequent Gmail users the report is illuminating, and for all of us that are interested in improving performance and collaboration both personally and inside our organizations, the approach to analyzing the data is instructive.

    Email is one of those tools and processes that is so familiar, so entrenched, so deeply immersed in our working lives that it can be really hard to look at its use dispassionately, with some perspective, and with an analytical eye. But understanding more about how email might be impacting your success is something many of us should spend some time considering.

    If you are a heavy Gmail user, I'd encourage you to request your own custom email analysis report from ToutApp here. You might be surprised at the results.