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    Entries in 8 Man Rotation (112)


    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.


    Job Titles of the Future #13 - Video Game Coach

    Last September I posted 'Job Titles of the Future #11 - Minecraft Coach', essentially referencing some speculative pieces on whether or not parents would one day, (and soon), look to hire professional Minecraft and other popular video game coaches for their kids, much like parents hire tutors or sports coaches today. The conclusion of the piece I cited, as well as my own take was that yes, Professional Minecraft Coach would probably become a real job, and fairly soon.

    Fast forward just a few months, and I present for your consideration this recent piece from Fortune, 'You can make $50,000 a year as a video game coach', where we see that in this short time, video game coaches are becoming true, real gig. 

    From the Fortune piece:

    As the world of e-sports heats up, and players battle for prize money that can reach into the millions, the activity has given rise to a field of coaches who want to cash in on training these keyboard-using champions.

    An e-sport coach can make anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 a year, which is pretty much in line with a minor league baseball coach, according to The Wall Street Journal.

    One assistant coach of a group called Team Liquid, which competes in the “League of Legends” tournaments, told the paper he makes in the mid-$30,000s annually plus a performance bonus and health insurance. That’s not too shabby when you consider that the annual income for all coaches and scouts in 2012 was $28,360, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    E-sports are a growing industry that is showing no signs of slowing down - in fact with millions of fans, higher and higher amounts of prize money and player salaries, and even PED testing for the top E-sports competitors, it is getting harder and harder to make a logical argument that E-sports really aren't just 'sports.'

    And we know how sports has always had coaches and consultants and gurus - an entire set of professions around trying to help athletes to perform their best and to guide teams to championships. And E-sports seem to be evolving in a similar manner - celebrity gamers, high-profile and lucrative competitions, drug testing scandals, and yes, people whose job it is to train, coach, and develop game players.

    So considering all of the evidence, and the growth of E-sports, it is probably time to re-classify 'Video Game Coach' as a 'Job Title of the Present, and not something we think will happen in the future.

    Man, why didn't we have this for Ms. Pac Man or Galaga back in the day? My whole career could have taken a different path.

    Have a great week!



    At ESPN Product beats Talent

    Recently cable sports behemoth ESPN, which likes to bill itself as 'The Worldwide Leader in Sports', announced on its website that it was not renewing the contract of well-known personality Keith Olbermann, who has had a long and checkered relationship with the network.  This announcement follows fairly closely on the heels of ESPN deciding to not renew the contract of perhaps the network's most high-profile individual talent, Bill Simmons, editor of the sports and culture website Grantland, and host of the most popular sports podcast, The BS Report. In both cases, the network executives elected to move on without these high visibility, high maintenance, and high compensation performers for a couple of reasons, one more interesting than the other.Simmons, enjoying his time off

    At first glance these moves are straight up cost-cutting measures. It has been widely reported that ESPN's parent, Disney Corp, is looking for significant cost cuts at ESPN, as the sports division has seen a pretty dramatic increase in costs, primarily the rights fees it has to pay to sports leagues like the NFL and NBA for the rights to broadcast games. Increasingly in the heavily fragmented and competitive world of entertainment, particularly TV, live sports games, (along with awards shows), remain one of the very few types of TV shows that require and generate 'live' viewing. Therefore the value of these games has skyrocketed, the leagues recognize this, and are justifiably getting literally billions of dollars of fee increased from cable and broadcast networks for the rights. So, ESPN costs are going up, people like Olbemann and Simmons represent lots of salary costs, so simple math makes (and made), them both vulnerable.

    But the other reason the two personalities were jettisoned is perhaps more interesting and instructive to the rest of us. ESPN, as we can see from the sports rights fees issues above, is essentially in the business of broadcasting live sports events - NFL game, NBA games, MLB games, etc. That is the 'product' they provide to their audience and sell to their advertisers, and as we see above, pay tremendous and increasing fees to acquire. Everything has to be about generating an adequate return on those investments. People like Simmons and Olbermann, (and hundreds of others at ESPN), exist mainly to enhance the product - talk about the games, analyze the strategies, provide insight to the outcomes, and be entertaining while doing all of these things. But none of those things are the actual product - they only support the product. Simmons and Olbermann are more or less the back office, while the folks that acquire and produce the games, (and sell the ads), are the revenue generators. 

    Simmons and Olbermann are (mostly) Genral and Administrative costs to be trimmed, not significant Top Line drivers, (it has been reported that Grantland has never been profitable and podcasts, even Simmons' are notoriously difficult to monetize, and Olbermann's show was not a big revenue producer).

    And when you are G&A, no matter how funny and glib and well-known, your heads are always going to be first up on the chopping block when budget cuts are looming. You have to understand where you fit in the organization, not just on the org chart, but on the Income Statement.

    At ESPN, and I suppose where you work too, Product drives the Top Line. Not all talent does however. And good luck to folks who can't tell the difference.


    Three Talent Management Observations from the First Day of NBA Free Agency

    I continue to be on record as stating that HR/Talent pros can learn just about everything they need to know about talent management, leadership, team dynamics, managing for performance, and a million other things from careful observation of professional sports - and most notably the NBA.

    Yesterday was the first full day of the league's free agency period - the time where teams are free to recruit, negotiate with, and sign to new contracts those players whose contracts had expired - thus making them 'free' agents. As usual, Day 1 of free agency led to a flurry of announced and rumored deals between NBA teams and the most coveted of these players, three of which I want to mention here, as they all reveal some interesting insights towards talent and how top talent and exemplary organizations think.

    1. LeBron James and the 1-year deal - While the norm across the NBA on Day 1 of free agency has been for the most prized free agents to agree to 4 and 5-year deals for very large dollar amounts, (Kevin Love, Draymond Green, DeMarre Carroll, etc.), the league's very best player Lebron James is reported to only be willing to accept a 1-year deal from his current team, the Cavaliers. This short-term deal, while being riskier for James, (in case he gets injured), secures his leverage with team ownership, as he can demand that the Cavs do everything possible to field a contending caliber team, with the threat of losing James looming at the end of each season. Keep LeBron happy and you get to keep him. So while lots of talented players are willing to take 4 and 5 years, the best player doesn't need that security, he would rather keep the power shifted in his direction. The same probably holds true for the best, most-talented pros in any field. You need them more than they need you.

    2. Gregg Popovich will not call you at midnight - Popovich, the longtime coach of the San Antonio Spurs, one of the league's most admired and successful teams of the last 15 years, eschews the practice of attempting to begin wooing free agents at the stroke of midnight on July 1, the official starting point of free agency. According to Pop, "I'm not calling anyone at midnight, I'll be in bed. And if that's the difference in someone coming or not coming, then I don't want them." That stance cements two points in the recruiting process for the Spurs. One, they don't need to try and impress free agents with the (silly) gesture of the midnight phone call. And two, they realize that any player that requires that kind of a gesture in order to have their ego massaged is probably not the kind of player the famously unselfish and team-first Spurs are interested in having anyway. This is a great example of an organization living up to and reinforcing their specific culture in the recruiting process.

    3. LaMarcus Aldridge is not impressed - One of the most in-demand free agents this year is LaMarcus Aldridge, formerly of the Portland Trailblazers. In his meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers, a storied team that has recently fallen on hard times, Aldridge came away unimpressed. The reason? The Lakers presentation focused too much on off-the-court opportunities that the Los Angeles market can provide, and not enough on how the team plans to actually get better at playing basketball.  Aldridge has his pick of about a half-dozen teams, the market price for a player like him is pretty well defined, so money is not really an issue, so it actually boils down to the work and the opportunities to be on a competitive team that matters to him. The Lakers are trying to play off a reputation that might have mattered 20 years ago, but is lessened in its value today. Lesson here? You might have been a top place to work in 1998, but that matters almost nothing today to talented pros who want to grow in their careers. 

    As these three short examples indicate, the power dynamics at play between organizations and the best talent are always fascinating to watch. While different, they all lead us to just about the same place - he/she who holds the power gets to make the rules. And that balance is just that, a balance. Which means it can shift, subtly at first, but sometimes dramatically, leaving the unprepared side to wonder what the heck just happened.

    Have a great July 4th holiday weekend in the USA.  

    Quick editorial note - I am on the road for most of the next two weeks, making my first trip to China and Hong Kong in preparations for next years' first ever HR Tech China Conference. So posting may be a little sporadic over that time.


    Ways to describe basketball talent, ranked

    Following up yesterday's post on last night's NBA Draft, (and yes, the subject of that post, one Kristaps Porzingis was indeed selected by my New York Knicks, long may the Porzingis era reign), with a new edition of the ever-popular Ranked series on the blog.

    Today, after watching about 5 hours of draft coverage, (and pre-draft and post-draft shows), I offer up ways to describe basketball talent, ranked:

    10. Efficient

    9. Wingspan

    8. Fluid

    7. Motor

    6. Elite-level athleticism

    5. Second jumpability

    4. High ceiling

    3. Toughness

    2. High basketball IQ

    1. Tremendous upside

    Quick note - If any readers are heading to the SHRM Annual Conference next week in Las Vegas, your humble HR Happy Hour Show hosts, (myself and Trish McFarlane), will be co-presenting a session on HR Technology implementations, (I promise it will be more fun than it sounds), on Tuesday June 30 at 7:00 AM. We will have some HR Happy Hour Show swag to give out as well as busting some common myths about HR technology. Hope to see some of you there.

    Have a great weekend!