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    Entries in HR Happy Hour (258)


    The Wellness Show Recap (like an actuarial shell game)

    Last night on the HR Happy Hour show we talked about the topic of organizational 'Wellness' programs and initiatives with a fantastic and smart panel of guests - Tanya Barham, CEO of Recess Wellness; Fran Melmed, Owner of Context Communications; and Greg Matthews, Director at WCG Consulting.

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

    Listen to internet radio with Steve Boese on Blog Talk Radio


    Listen to internet radio with Steve Boese on Blog Talk Radio


    Here is a quick rundown of the show topics and main ideas:


    Since organizations tend to communicate and promote their wellness programs most actively around the annual Benefits Open Enrollment period, it can be easy for employees and even HR professionals to logically group the two activities together, and to forget (or at least to de-emphasize), wellness initiatives once Open Enrollment is complete. Fran made a great point about Open Enrollment being about 'Choosing' benefits, while Wellness is about 'Using' benefits.

    In the minds of the panel, coupling the two efforts is a mistake, for while Open Enrollment is 'transactional', wellness has to become 'habitual'. Wellness is really more about 'life', not a delineated and time-bound program.  If the only time of the year that program designers, HR pros, and employees think about and communicate the wellness message is at Open Enrollment time, then the efforts are likely to have minimal impact and lasting effect.  The other important point about sustainability of wellness initiatives is that they have to connect with the WIIFM requirement, i.e., the 'What's in it For ME?'.  And the WIIFM has to resonate with the organization; in the form of supporting financial and strategic goals, and the employees; who have to connect with and recognize the personal benefits of the wellness initiatives.


    The group sort of had mixed feelings on the use of incentives to try and influence and direct the behavior of employees toward more desired and 'healthy' options.  Tanya noted that the vast majority of corporate wellness committees want to incent the wrong things.  Programs like 'Free Gym Membeships' and 'Company Biggest Loser' contests, well, they suck.  Greg made an excellent point about the idea of using games and gaming in the design and deployment of wellness activities, and the emphasis needs to be on 'fit'; i.e. incorporating more healthy activities into the flow of the day. Drop one or two of these treadmill workstations in the office to give folks the opportunity to read and walk, or take a con call while taking a moderately paced stroll.

    Incentives are often seen as coercion, and once the incentive goes away, the behavior does too.  And 'dis-incentives', like charging smokers a higher premium for their medical benefits was not seen as a positive or potentially effective strategy.

    The McRib Conspiracy

    Early in the show promotion, I floated the idea of a vast, Fast-Food conspiracy that synchronized the availability of the McRib with most US-based organizations annual benefits open enrollment. But while no one really has bought into my conspiracy theory, the overall macro trends of increasing obesity, diabetes, and other illnesses seem to be such a large, national type problem that I wondered about an organization's ability to effect and fight against these constraints.  But since 'work' is such a major piece of 'life', and that many if not most of us spend most of our waking hours at work or working from someplace, that the panel did indeed feel that there is a role and even a responsibility for the organization to care, to be concerned, and to promote the health and well-being of the workforce, and even their families.  Employers have influence in this area, and can and perhaps should, do more to promote wellness in the broader community. Greg reminded us that there is a moral and social element here that often goes forgotten.

    Wellness programs are more and more common, as organizations struggle to control costs, increase productivity, and retain the best employees. But as Tanya noted on the show, the programs often 'suck'. If you are involved in designing or administering wellness programs in your organization, I recommend having a listen to the show to take the first step in avoiding the 'suckiness'.

    Thanks again to Fran, Tanya, and Greg for a fun and informative show.


    More on Collaboration (I know, you're bored too)

    Last week on the HR Happy Hour show, Jon Ingham from consultancy Social Advantage, and Matt Wilkinson from Enterprise Collaboration Technology vendor Socialcast joined us on the show to talk about HR and Collaboration, and more specifically the approach to and importance of technology in organizational initiatives to enhance and improve collaboration, innovation, co-creation, and likely several other important sounding words ending in '-tion'.

    It was an interesting and informative show, but while looking back on some of the comments in the #HRHappyHour Twitter backchannel, and then upon reading this post today from Laurie Ruettimann on The Cynical Girl blog I think that perhaps we did not really do a good enough job making the case (as our guests certainly believe), that not only is enterprise collaboration fast becoming a critical concern and initiative for many organizations today, but that HR is uniquely positioned to be the key leader and driver in the organization for these projects.  I know that on the Happy Hour show the core audience are not tech geeks, and that doing shows too focused on specific technologies will unleash the snarky comments on the backchannel faster than dropping the 'seat at the table' reference.  But since I believe strongly in the importance and potential of these technologies, I am going to try to give the HR professional three compelling (I hope) reasons you should care about these technologies (while trying not to talk about technology).  

    Failing that, I will revert to the 'Because I said so' line of reasoning.

    Reason 1 - Twenty Years of Change

    The last major change in organizational collaboration technology was the introduction of individual email accounts and widespread access in the early 1990's.  Since then, for the vast majority of mature enterprises, email remains the dominant tool used for almost all types of workplace collaboration.  And it is an awesome tool, the first and perhaps only 'killer app'.  Despite tremendous (and recent) advances in email capability by public and free email providers (Google, Hotmail, Yahoo), the email application and service that most knowledge workers utilize at work isn't tremendously different or superior to the 1992 model.  

    Almost everything else about work, the organization, the nature of the global economy, the demands of the worker, the modern attitudes, technical ability, and expectations of the newest entrants to workforce has changed.  The need to adapt, to create and organize, to source information and expertise from the extended enterprise, and to develop new ideas and innovations faster than ever before are all real organizational challenges, and increasingly the anchor of email as the primary or sole collaboration tool to meet these challenges is seemingly more and more unsustainable.

    How much stuff have you kept around since 1992? Besides your plumber.  Good plumbers are like gold.

    Reason 2 - It is happening already, probably without you

    Whether it is rogue departments that seek out new and better IT solutions that are currently available and are 'officially' sanctioned, or leveraging external and public networking technologies liked LinkedIn, the shift inside enterprises towards more collaborative and open technologies is begun.  And for a time, and perhaps for just a bit longer, the classic IT and HR reactionary response from the 'block/control/write a policy' playbook will no longer serve the interests of most organizations. In fact, CIO's at large companies seem to already have started to come to this conclusion, witness the growth of the IT-dominated Enterprise 2.0 conferences and the recent observations from industry leader Andrew McAfee about E2.0 beginning to go mainstream.

    Reason 3 - Get that seat, place, position...  Dang it - help deliver results to the C-suite

    In her piece Laurie notes, correctly I think, that the 'business leaders hate HR Technology more than HR itself'. Which is probably accurate when HR Technology is viewed through a lens of compliance, administration, and policy enforcement.  If all HR Technology delivers is accurate Payroll results every two weeks and on-time affirmative action reporting (while both necessary), then I don't blame the C-suite from getting bored by the whole thing.  Time and attendance systems simply aren't sexy.

    But these new enterprise collaboration technologies are much more about creativity than compliance, and designed to better connect people with ideas, content, and more importantly, each other.  These tools are meant to support the generation of new ideas, to allow the entire organization to participate across locations and time zones, and to enable the organization to more rapidly find, surface, and validate innovative ideas and the people best positioned to act upon these ideas.  The reason these technologies are exciting are mainly because they are not traditional HR Technologies at all. So when you as an HR leader decide to pitch or promote these tools, you are 'selling' the ability to deliver results, to address business issues, and to squeeze more out of less.  

    Ok, I am done - there's three reasons why this stuff matters to HR.  

    And if I did not manage to convince you, well then -  these tools matter Because I said so!



    Possible reasons I won't be presenting at SHRM '11

    Monday morning started early this week, in a breezy and crisp ‘autumn is pretty much over and winter will be here very soon’ kind of way.  Me, semi-staggering from the early hour and the too-much Halloween candy from the night before cobwebs managed to have a reasonably productive start to the week only to be interrupted by an unfamiliar visitor, the mail guy, who dropped off an official looking letter addressed to me.

    Sort of odd, because in the short time I have been here I don’t think I had received any snail mail at all, in fact, I can’t imagine the career prospects for folks that actually still deliver snail mail in corporate campuses to be all the bright.

    This letter was from SHRM, the Society for Human Resources Management.  A few months ago I, along with many of my colleagues and friends had submitted presentation proposals for next June’s SHRM Annual Conference.  In fact, I want to say I submitted the presentation for consideration about a year before it would be (theoretically) delivered, SHRM had better hope nothing significant changes in the world of work and HR for twelve months.  But I digress.

    As you can tell from the post title, and from the image on the right, my proposal was rejected.  For the purposes of full disclosure, my proposal was not for a formal or traditional presentation, it was a pitch to do a live, on-site version of the HR Happy Hour show, and I offered as my ‘proof-of-performance’ the archive of 70-odd shows that we have done, highlighting some of the best episodes that featured leaders and well-known experts like Dave Ulrich and Andrew McAfee.

    The form letter I received informing me of the rejection offered nothing specific about why the session was rejected - my theory - the folks that evaluated the session had never heard of the show; but a close read of the text does offer some clues as to perhaps why the HR Happy Hour show will not be on the program at SHRM ‘11.

    Possible reason 1 - ‘We strive to offer a balanced program of educational sessions’

    Likelihood - Thinking no, as I can’t imagine there were any other ‘live radio show’ sessions pitched.  So including the HR Happy Hour could not have ‘unbalanced’ anything.  In fact, something like the show would have been a good counterweight to the 13 sessions given by lawyers.

    Possible reason 2 - ‘(we) select proposals that best fit the overall programming framework of the conference’

    Likelihood - Pretty high I think.  Assuming that the ‘overall programming framework’ doesn’t include ‘different’, ‘unique’, or ‘innovative’.  Can anyone actually describe this framework anyway? But this had to be the main reason for the snub.  The Happy Hour show just does not fit the typical and expected template.  And I do believe that SHRM does know what its members want.

    Possible reason 3 - ‘Please understand that we receive many proposals with several on the same topic’

    Likelihood - On the ‘many proposals’ part - sure; on the ‘several on the same topic’ - no way.  No one else is crazy enough to keep organizing, producing, and presenting a weekly show on HR and Workforce topics.  Maybe I should take that as a sign there really isn’t much of an audience for this sort of thing.

    The end result is that the HR Happy Hour show will not be broadcasting from SHRM ‘11 next June, at least not as part of the ‘official’ proceedings.  I am not trying to whine and complain about being rejected, I quite honestly did not put that much effort into the submission, but I did want to let listeners of the show (all seven of you) know what was going on.  From experience broadcasting from several prior events, I have come to the conclusion the only way to reach anyone outside the core audience is to get on the 'official' conference program. Whether or not that will ever happen is another story.

    Regardless, after writing this piece, and processing all the information, I actually think I figured out where I went wrong.  Instead of pitching a live HR Happy Hour show, the pitch should have been ‘HR Professor Steve Boese will interview a panel of legal and communications experts on the perils of unfettered access to internet radio in the workplace’.

    I bet that would have matched the overall programming framework.



    You might be too fat to work here

    Tonight on the HR Happy Hour Show the topic is 'Wellness'.

    First the specifics:

    HR Happy Hour - 'Wrestling with Wellness' - 8PM ET - listen live on the show page, using the player below, or by calling in to  646-378-1086.

    src='http://www.blogtalkradio.com/btrplayer.swf' flashvars="file=http://www.blogtalkradio.com%2fsteve-boese%2fplay_list.xml?show_id=1268718&autostart=false&shuffle=false&volume=80&corner=rounded&callback=http://www.blogtalkradio.com/flashplayercallback.aspx&width=215&height=108' width='215' height='108' type='application/x-shockwave-flash' pluginspage='http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer' quality='high' wmode='transparent' menu='false' name='1268718' id='1268718'>

    Wellness programs seem to have exploded in corporate America in the last few years.  Who hasn't been handed a pedometer (handy when many of sit at a desk all day), been hit up with propaganda about the 'pyramid of nutrition' (Cheetos fit where?), or been cajoled, convinced, or coerced to get more 'well' by our caring employer?

    But 'Wellness' initiatives are not stopping there, at good natured advice to exercise more, eat better, and get more rest. Many organizations are setting up tiered employee benefit contribution rates to penalize or punish smokers, or to reward employees that agree to undergo health screenings.

    For the companies that enact these programs the motivation seems clear - healthier employee are more productive, are absent less, and reduce the companies cost of providing health benefits and insurance. And who could argue from the employee perspective that getting 'more well' (whatever that means) isn't better?

    But do companies have a right/obligation/fiduciary responsibility to promote, or even require 'wellness' at work? Do employees have to be subjected to what can seem like a barrage of 'get off your fat butt and eat some veggies' messaging from their employer? Can this whole 'wellness' thing go too far, even reaching into hiring processes and become a factor in retention decisions? Can someone be 'too fat to work here?'

    And once the organization makes the decision to pursue a 'wellness' agenda, what design, execution, and communication strategies can they employ to try and accomplish their goals, while not seeming to come off like Big Brother, or that one nasty babysitter that would not let you eat cookies for dinnner.

    Joining us on the show tonight will be Fran Melmed, Tanya Barham, and Greg Mathews, folks with expertise and a point of view from all sides of the wellness equation, communications, design, and organizational.  It should be an interesting and fun show - I hope you can join us.


    Tomorrow's HR Today - Tonight

    Wow, that is a confusing title for a post. Tomorrow. Today. Tonight. 

    What the heck am I talking about?

    Since it is Thursday, it's time for a new episode of the often imitated, but never surpassed HR Happy Hour show.  Let's get the particulars out of the way.

    HR Happy Hour - Thursday September 16, 2010 - 8PM EDT.  Listen live on the show page here, using the player widget below, or calling in on the listener line at 646-378-1086.

    src='http://www.blogtalkradio.com/btrplayer.swf' flashvars="file=http://www.blogtalkradio.com%2fsteve-boese%2fplay_list.xml?show_id=1255011&autostart=false&shuffle=false&volume=80&corner=rounded&callback=http://www.blogtalkradio.com/flashplayercallback.aspx&width=215&height=108' width='215' height='108' type='application/x-shockwave-flash' pluginspage='http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer' quality='high' wmode='transparent' menu='false' name='1255011' id='1255011'>

    Have you ever listened in to a webinar given by some high profile executives or attended a conference session presented by one of the top thought leaders in the HR, Management, or Technology space and thought - 'Boy that was an awesome session, but I really wish I could ask a few more questions'

    Well tonight on the show, you will get your chance. 

    Joining us on the show to talk about the future of HR, and what tomorrow's HR leader will need to succeed, will be Leighanne Levensaler, Vice President of HCM Strategy at Workday, and Jennifer Fitzpatrick, Director HR & Talent Management at Chiquita Brands International.

    These are the kind of experts that normally you'd be lucky to dial in to a webcast and maybe ask a question via the chat box, or you would have to queue up with another 38 people to try and have a quick moment with them after a presentation at a Conference Board or HR Executive event.

    But tonight, Leighanne and Jennifer will be live on the Happy Hour, talking with you about the future of HR and talent and technology and whatever else is on your mind.

    I hope you can join us!