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    Monday
    Jul272015

    Signals of the Corporate Death Spiral #1 - Talking about dress codes

    We have probably all been, at one time in our careers, in an organization where things were not going so well. Maybe sales were down due to increased competition, maybe our products and services were not in alignment with what the market was demanding, or maybe we flat-out had exhausted the supply of every customer who might want one or two of whatever it is we were offering. There are probably thousands of reasons why once successful organizations can fall on hard times. 

    But often, especially when working in a classic support function like IT or HR, we are not immediately aware of just how bad things are becoming for the organization overall. Sure, the CHRO probably has some idea of what is going on, when he/she is asked to provide some numbers on potential staffing reduction scenarios, but often awareness of these plans does not reach very far down into the organization until, of course, it is too late for impacted folks to react or 'pro' act, if you get my meaning.

    So for rank and file folks, who are always the last to know everything, it pays to get attuned to the signs or signals that things in the organization might not be going as well as they once were. These are smaller, more subtle kinds of things that are not as dramatic as a layoff or a C-level shakeup, but might be as important nonetheless, as they point to a present and future that might not be as fun and gamesy as the past. 

    What are some of these signals? First up, courtesy of our pals at venerable technology giant HP is the 'Dress Code Crackdown'. Check this excerpt from The Register:

    Troubled HP has hit upon what it thinks is a terrific idea to revive its fortunes: tell techies to leave their T-shirts and shorts at home and obey the corporate "smart casual" dress code instead.

    Some R&D teams within HP Enterprise Services were sent a confidential memo this week reminding them to follow the IT giant's rules against workplace fashion faux pas, The Register has learned.

    "If you aren't dressed like the models in the posters that HP displays around its locations, then your appearance is sapping the productivity of the workers around you," one source, who asked to remain anonymous, quipped.

    The dress code memo was sent out because higher-ups believe customers visiting HP's offices will be put off by scruffy-looking R&D engineers, we're told.

    The order to tuck in shirts and smarten up for guests has not gone down well, apparently: some HP developers, who do not deal with customers directly, were quite enjoying wearing T-shirts and shorts at work during these warm summer months.

    According to HP, men should avoid turning up to the office in T-shirts with no collars, faded or torn jeans, shorts, baseball caps and other headwear, sportswear, and sandals and other open shoes. Women are advised not to wear short skirts, faded or torn jeans, low-cut dresses, sandals, crazy high heels, and too much jewelry.

    The Enterprise Services division employs more than 100,000 people across the world, from the UK and Australia to India and Germany, as well as cities in the US.

    "There are customers around, and HP doesn’t want them to think riffraff work here," one source told El Reg.

    Nice. At least HP is sticking to the script and the classic reasoning of the dress code police - that 'customers' somehow might be offended if they spot a coder in a T-shirt and a hoodie. 

    What matters here has nothing at all to do with customers, or even if there are really some technical folks at HP that are going a little too far with 'coder casual' attire at work. No company has a 'dress code' problem. They might have a few people here and there that need a little bit of guidance, sure. But when organizations, especially massive ones like HP start going off with internal memos about dress codes and posting up examples of 'acceptable' dress, then you can be sure there are problems far, far worse than the Queensryche T-shirt that Jeremy wore last Tuesday.

    It is a signal, and an ominous one at that. 

    When you are talking about dress codes you are not talking about things that really matter. And often it is because you've run out of ideas for how to attack the things that do matter.

    If you are in a company and get one of those memos, take it as a sign that worse news is coming. and maybe sooner than you think.

    Have a great week!

    Friday
    Jul242015

    On tackling that project you have been avoiding

    Every job, no matter how perfect or ideal has at least some element that is less than exciting. 

    Even my dream job, relief pitcher for the New York Mets, must have some aspect that is not so appealing, (relatively). I can imagine sitting in the bullpen and having to shake sunflower seeds out of your shoes once in a while might get a little tedious.

    But most of us are not professional athletes, and thus, the less exciting elements of our jobs are much more mundane, unglamorous, but still (usually) necessary. So how can we best deal with these aspects, the parts of our jobs we really are not at all excited about, or that project that we have been dreading and avoiding? I have a couple of ideas...

    1.  Break it up into smaller tasks - You know what is awesome? Crossing something off of your 'To Do' list. If you have a project or major task that you have been dreading, it helps to try and break it down into smaller, more manageable elements which you can then complete more easily. That way even a small amount of progress on the project or task feels like victory. Of sorts.

    2. The stale sandwich - This is a strategy I like to use. Basically you 'sandwich' the less than exciting work with tasks you are much more enthused about attacking. Start the day with something that really jazzes you up, then spend an hour or so on the thing you have to do but you have been avoiding, then jump back into something cool to get the bad taste of the lousy project out of your mouth. 

    3. Get up early and knock it out - Once your day gets going, your email inbox starts filling up, and the day gets consumed with meetings, you are almost certainly not going to drop what you have to do, and what you would rather do, to work on that project you have been avoiding. Every second that passes after about 8:30AM reduces the likelihood you will take on what you are dreading by a factor of 100. So you might have to just bite the bullet, get up at 6, and spend 90 minutes or an hour just banging out what you know you have to do, but won't be able to later on. Sure it will stink, but it might not ruin the rest of your day if you can knock it out by 8.

    4. Give yourself a prize - Chances are there are there are not any 'official' rewards heading your way for completing this lousy project. The boss just thinks it's your job, and get it the heck done and shut up about it. So any extra rewards that might help to motivate you have to come from you. So place a prize or incentive for yourself at the end of the slog. It could be a nice dinner out, that expensive bottle of wine you've been eyeing, or maybe just an afternoon off - doesn't matter. Just treat yourself a little. It's ok, I promise.

    5. Find ways to never be in this situation again - Chances are once this terrible project is done, sometime in the future it, or something closely resembling it, will cross your desk again and the vicious cycle of dread will resume. Now is your time, while the stench of this ordeal is still in the air, to think about and implement ways to outsource, eliminate, streamline, or otherwise reduce the pain associated with this task in the future. Even if you can find only a 10 or 20% reduction in the stink, you will be better off the next time. So once the project is done, give yourself an hour or two, (block your calendar), and find at least one way you can make this better for the next time. Do this three or four times and who knows? Maybe this lousy project won't be so lousy in the future.

    Ok, that is it I am out for the weekend! Enjoy the summer sun.

    Thursday
    Jul232015

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 217 - The HR Round Table - Part 2

    HR Happy Hour 217 - The HR Round Table with Hebert and Brennan, Part 2

    Recorded July 9, 2015

    Hosts: Trish McFarlane, Steve Boese

    Guests: Paul Hebert and Sarah Brennan

    LISTEN HERE

    This week on the show, Trish sat down for a HR RoundTable with Paul Hebert and Sarah Brennan.  With Paul's expertise in reward and recognition and Sarah's expertise in HCM technology and research, we had a lively discussion around emerging research in the Talent Acquisition space, thoughts on the recent LinkedIn hack-a-thon, and where reward and recognition fits into the organization of today.

    You can listen to Part 2 of 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

     

    And in case you missed it, Part 1 of the Episode can be found here.

    And of course you can listen to and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, or via your favorite podcast app. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to download and subscribe to the show and you will never miss a new episode.

    The show was so lively that we had to record two episodes to fit it all in!  Please be sure to listen to both Part 1 and Part 2 of the HR Round Table episode. It was a fun show and great to have two guest hosts while Steve was out-and-about in China preparing for HR Tech China!

    Have a great day!

    Wednesday
    Jul222015

    The worst people in the workplace, ranked

    You probably work. You probably work with other people. Many of those other people are terrible. Here is your incomplete, yet definitive guide to the worst of these other people.

    10. The five people in your conference room who are still meeting at 11:05 when they only booked the room until 11 - Your meeting is probably a waste of time and money. The seven of you standing around in the hallway waiting to get inside the conference room is certainly a waste of time and money.

    9. The host who is late to the Conference Call - The virtual equivalent of standing around in the hall at 11:05 because the idiots who reserved the conference room from 10 - 11 can't stop yapping. But only this time you have terrible 'hold' music to listent to.

    8. The 'I never got the email' guy - You got the email, you liar. You forgot/ignored/deleted the email. But you got the email.

    7. The 'Half day?' guy - This is the jerk who feels obligated to track the comings and goings of everyone else in the office. Anyone who drops the 'Half Day?' line at you at 5:02PM is a terrible, sad, humorless dullard.

    6. The 'Marked as urgent' emailer - If it were urgent, you would just call. It is an email, therefore it can't be urgent. Look up the word urgent sometime you jerk.

    5. The Sunday night emailer - Hey guess what? Sunday is (still) technically part of the weekend. You may feel the need to work on Sundays, but that doesn't mean the rest of us want/need/care to. Work on your own stuff on Sundays if you must, but keep the rest of us out of it until Monday morning. 

    4. The 'wears headphones all day' guy - You are at work. You are not on a LAX - JFK flight in an economy class middle seat. You want us to think that actually trying to talk to you is such a burden and will somehow ruin your 'flow'. Give it a break, it won't kill you to take off the headphones once in a while and act like a human being.

    3. The 'community candy' lady - This story is 100% true, (small details changed to protect everyone, especially me).  Think massive, Fortune 100 type tech company housed in a giant high-rise. On each floor there is a central reception desk manned by one or two people throughout the day. On said desk on Floor 29, there lied a large candy bowl with the expected assortment of treats, chocolates, twizzlers, whatever. Everyone coming and going from that floor would take a treat or two from the bowl as they walked by. No one really 'asked' if they could have a piece, it was just understood that the candy was for everybody. Then one day one of the company employees, who was wearing a visible company badge, actually asked the lady at reception if it was ok if he could take a piece of candy. And the reception lady said 'No'. for whatever reason, she refused to allow this particular employee to take a piece of the community candy. The rejected employee proceeded, (irrationally for sure), to freak out, accuse the receptionist of racism, shout a few choice and unprintable words in her direction, and knock the candy bowl and its contents to the floor. This exchange led to a series of urgent emails, executive meetings, HR interventions, written warnings and literally tens of thousands of dollars worth of managerial time to sort out. The bottom line: Community candy is terrible.

    2. War story guy - This is the guy who shows up to work every Monday in a splint, with a soft cast, with some kind of bandage over the eye, or a noticeable limp. He then has to regale you, (because you feel like you have to ask), with some crappy story about how he totally rocked it on the side of some cliff or shooting the rapids or playing on the 40+ rugby team. Hey doofus - once you hit say 35 or so, it is time to grow the hell up and quit turning up for work like it is the first day of 5th grade. And no, we don't want to see your killer Go Pro footage of that radical tumble you took on the Black Diamond slope.

    1. Nothing is good enough for my high standards guy - The standard issue office chair? Not going to work. The whiteboard that fits on the wall of each office leaving room for the door to open? Not big enough. The pens and pencils that are stocked in the office supplies drawer that are used by everyone else? Not going to cut it. Basically nothing in the way the office works is good enough for this guy who needs a special version of EVERYTHING. I am not talking about any real accommodation issues here, no, this guy just has to be different. This is often accompanied by bringing personal supplies like staplers and binders, and frequent references to former employers, something along the lines of 'When I was at ACME Company, we had the nice pens.' You know what? Go the heck back to ACME company, and take your stupid stapler with you.

    Ok, that is it...

    Who did I forget? Let me know in the comments.

    Tuesday
    Jul212015

    CHART OF THE DAY: Competition is global - at least one-third of it is

    Today's installment of the Chart of the Day series I think represents perfectly why I like to run these posts - it actually uses hard data to reveal the reality about a topic about which it can be really easy to sort of just accept without much research or questioning. 

    Quick - before looking at the data, try to take a stab at answering this question: In the modern, connected, networked, and global economy, about what percentage of revenues of large US-based companies (represented for the sake of argument by the members of the S&P 500), are earned from outside the USA?

    About half? Maybe more? I'm not sure, but I bet it is a lot?

    Let's look at the data, then a couple of quick, FREE observations from your pal. That is me.

    Some quick takes:

    1. It may be a little hard to read, so I will break out the important numbers. Total revenues earned outside the US by the members of the S&P 500 companies is about 33%, with the largest share of non-US revenues coming from EMEA, (12%), and APAC, (8%). I am not sure about you, but when I saw this data, I was really, really surprised still in 2015 how much domestic revenues dominate the mix in America's largest companies. I mean I feel like we have been hearing FOREVER how all competition is now global, and that in order to grow most companies have to look outside the USA. So while I do think that is still true, I was surprised by the extent to which neither of those things are really happening in a significant way.

    2. Having said that, your organization's best opportunities for growth may still be in the USA. If nothing else, these statistics reveal still how hard it is for US-based companies to compete in foreign markets. At least 25 years of attention to places like Asia and Europe still have not generated much more than about 10% of the S&P 500 companies revenues, respectively. If you are a smaller company, perhaps you should still keep your primary and secondary growth strategies focused on the domestic market, even if you feel like it is a tapped out. Upselling, expanding your target customer size, making adjacent market moves are all much, much easier on familiar territory than they are in one of the hundreds of places in the world who have no idea who you are.

    3.  It is more important to have diversified customers, no matter where they are, than customers all over the world. Reducing your organization's reliance on one market, even one the size of the USA, sounds like a smart strategy. But if the reality of the difficulty in cracking markets overseas makes the 'global' strategy too hard to execute, then domestic diversification is the next best, (maybe even the best) thing. It is more important to make sure that one or two massive customers don't represent half of your revenues than it is to worry that 96% of your total revenues come from inside the USA. 

    So that's my take, I found this data really interesting and surprising too. Would love to hear if you felt the same.

    Have a great Tuesday!