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    Entries in workforce (72)


    Onboarding for the rest of us

    Editor’s Note: Today’s post is brought to you by Allied Van Lines, proud sponsor of the “2012 Workforce Mobility Survey”, designed to capture the voice of HR on topics related to workforce mobility. Allied has more than 75 years of experience in corporate, household and international relocation.)


    It's kind of fun at times, particularly if you are like most of us and are grinding it out in one of the thousands of mainstream, solid, and mostly anonymous organizations that quite honestly are most organizations, to read about the wild people practices and processes from Silicon Valley, or startup land, or any company that is young enough or successful enough to just do things differently. You know what I mean, famous places like Google or Zappos, or even less famous but still interesting places like the video game development company Valve, whose recent, irreverent employee handbook was leaked to the internet. If you missed the story about Valve it is worth a quick look, it is a written testament of sorts to that wild, loose, carefree, and unstructured work environment that most of us only dream of inhabiting.Onboarding at Valve

    But we know that most of us can't act like Zappos or Valve, even if we wanted to. We have more history, more culture, more of a need or requirement, (for better or worse), to have more structure, rules, and process around our people management practices. We, and most of our employees and new hires, would fail if we simply set them loose in the organization and told them to figure it out for themselves.

    But instead of looking at that reality as a negative, I think there are opportunities to leverage more formal and expected processes as a strength. Take new employee onboarding for example, an area typically well-defined and with a structured process, but also one that may not be producing the desired results in driving faster time to productivity, cementing the relationship between employer and employee, and ensuring a continuing supply of fresh talent in the organization. If you are like most employers, you say you already 'do' onboarding, i.e., collect the requisite forms, conduct an intake or orientation, offer some opportunity for the new hires to acclimate to culture, process, and work styles. 

    But like any long-term, long-time, been-doing-it-so-long that you think you know how to handle it, there are probably some opportunities for you to improve your game. Thanks to the Workforce Mobility Survey (details here) sponsored by Allied, we've got some actual data about the state of onboarding, and some insights into what the companies that are best in class are doing, (and notably not doing), in the more important than we like to think area of onboarding.

    The chart on the right gives the rundown of what survey respondents are employing in onboarding, andSouce - Allied Workforce Mobility Survey since you are probably like most, and already handling the essentials, it is probably a better idea to take a look deeper into the chart, (and certainly at the complete survey results here), to look for areas where you can raise your game. Maybe it is more social events where new hires get to mix with veterans and company leaders or perhaps setting more concrete goals for the program, or it might be getting more senior level management stake in the game.

    Either way I think the lesson to take away is that you can still add value and make an important impact in the success of the organization while still being your boring, traditional self. Sort of. The key is doing what makes sense for your organization, resonates with the people you are bringing in to the team, and connects them with their peers, managers, and the mission of the organization overall.

    And sure, making it a little bit fun probably won't hurt.


    If you would like to learn more about Allied Van Lines, please check out their website or blog. And if you would like to get more information from the Workforce Mobility Survey, you can click here. It’s definitely worth checking out.


    Disconnect: When what you offer is not what they want

    (Editor’s Note: Today’s post is brought to you by Allied Van Lines, proud sponsor of the “2012 Workforce Mobility Survey”, designed to capture the voice of HR on topics related to workforce mobility. Allied has more than 75 years of experience in corporate, household and international relocation.)


    It's kind of interesting, surprising, and often enlightening when instead of simply continuing to roll out the same workforce programs and practices year after year that organizations stop and actually ASK the constituencies that they are trying to serve and support what is important to them.

    Whether it is an internal training program, the roll out of a new IT solution designed to help make their jobs easier, or even a more outwardly-facing recruiting program or campaign, often it can be very hard for organizations to one, accurately understand the needs and goals of their audiences, and two, take the time to inquire, survey, and assess these needs and goals in a thorough enough manner such that any corrective actions can be justified and taken. Often, we roll out programs and judge them by their outcomes only, and at times not at all aware or capable of understanding the real causes driving those outcomes. All which makes taking the time and putting in the up front effort to understand the market's needs more important.

    I'll highlight one interesting example of this kind of disconnect, this one pulled from the data in the recently released Allied Workforce Mobility Survey 2012, namely the disconnect between what potential candidates looking at a relocation to take a new job opportunity say is important to them, and what organizations typically focus on in their development of relocation packages. I'll share two charts from the survey and then offer my take.

    Figure 1 - Candidates Top Obstacles to Relocation

    Figure 2 - Benefits Offered in Relocation Packages

    Did the disconnect stand out to you as it did to me when I initially saw these results?

    The number one obstacle to a potential job candidate's relocation and their ability to successfully join your organization is their spouse's job situation, yet surveyed organizations almost never directly address this obstacle in their current set of relocation package components. Seems crazy right? And while spousal relocation support is not an easy benefit to provide, since it is so important it seems to me that organizations, (as is typical in Higher Education environments), that can and do offer this service are likely to have much better long-term outcomes.

    But it also illustrates a more broad set of issues and considerations with recruiting new staff, whether they need to be relocated or not. And that is that very often the decision to accept a new job, to make a career turn, and at times, to uproot a family from one place to another, is a group decision. Spouses, children, extended family, maybe even colleagues and friends all play a role in these big decisions, but typically an organization doesn't or simply can't address them. I don't have a magic secret or simple list of tips that can help organizations and leaders in this, except to say just as you have problems, issues, concerns outside of work, with your family and friends, so does everyone you recruit, hire, and employ.

    People are complicated. And one thing is for sure, ignoring all these complications, and thinking about 'work' and career decisions like they exist in a separate box or compartment from the rest of life is a sure way to miss out on great candidates, and to fail in some respects in becoming a place where great, (and complicated), people will gravitate toward.


    If you would like to learn more about Allied Van Lines, please check out their website or blog. And if you would like to get more information from the Workforce Mobility Survey, you can click here. It’s definitely worth checking out


    10 years later, still talkin' about practice

    This week was the 10th Anniversary of NBA legend Allen Iverson's classic 'talkin' about practice' press conference, where the Philadelphia 76ers star, just a few days after seeing his Sixers team eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics addressed the media and was confronted with questions about his (allegedly poor) practice habits. Iverson had a tempestuous relationship with 76er coach Larry Brown, himself no stranger to controversy, and the 'practice' rant stemmed largely from Brown's comments to the media about Iverson's casual attitude towards practice and preparation.

    Some video exists from the 2002 press conference, (embedded below, email and RSS subscribers will need to click through), that shows Iverson in full on 'practice' rant, mentioning about 20 times in two and a half minutes that he saw it as being ridiculous as a the franchise player, and league MVP just one season prior, and a legendary fierce and fearless competitor, that he had to spend time well, talking about practice.

    Video below and some more comments from me after the jump...

    A few things about Iverson's comments and the 'practice' issue overall.

    One, the video, and most of what everyone remembers from the press conference was the two minutes of so of Iverson repeating, 'we're talking about practice, not a game' over and over, which makes it very easy to call into question Iverson's dedication and commitment. What is missing from the video, and can be found in the full transcript of the press conference here, is that before and after the 'practice' rant, Iverson talked openly about being hurt, confused, and disappointed in trade rumors that were floating around at that time. Iverson, rightly so, considered himself and was recognized by the league, as one of the very best players in the game. In 2002, he was in the middle of an 8 or 9 year run where he'd be named to the All-NBA 1st, 2nd, or 3rd team each year. In our workplace parlance, he was 'top talent' an 'A player' or a purple squirrel if you will. So naturally Iverson would have to be surprised and insulted that the team he had performed so well for, including dragging on his back to the NBA finals just one year prior, would even consider shopping him around the league.

    Two, the rant, and the 'practice' context raise really interesting and ongoing questions about talent and more specifically how hard it can be to 'manage' the best talent. Iverson was a former league MVP, the league's leading scorer, and had an unquestionably ferocious style of play, notable for a guy just 6 feet tall and thin-framed. No one who watched Iverson play consistently ever came away from recognizing his commitment and intensity to winning basketball games.  At the time of the 'practice' press conference, he was 26, had just completed his 6th year in the league, and won his third league scoring title. Was he a perfect player? No. But he was one of the very best in the game and it can be argued he knew how to best prepare himself and his body to stand up to the rigors of a long season and playoffs.

    Should Iverson have been more attentive and subservient to the wishes of the coach, and tried to be a more dedicated 'practice' player?


    Did Brown know the right way how to get the best out of Iverson, his star player?

    Probably not.

    I guess I am coming off as a bit of an Iverson apologist here, especially when most of the people that have seen or heard about the 'practice' rant come to the quick conclusion that Iverson was selfish, pampered, and in the wrong. I guess all I will say to that is as a manager or leader you eventually sink or swim largely by your ability to get the best performance out of your star performers.

    Iverson has some blame here for sure, but definitely not all of it.

    Probably too much of it.


    HR Happy Hour Show Tonight: The American Way of Eating

    The HR Happy Hour Show is back live tonight at 8PM ET with what should be a really fun show about a topic, eating in America, that at first blush might seem off topic for a show mostly about work, HR, Talent Managment, and technology, (and sports), kinds of subjects.

    But I think the show tonight, and talking with tonight's guest, Tracie McMillan, author of the recently published ‘The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table’, will be a great opportunity to learn more about how work, jobs, and the overall circumstance many American workers find themselves in effects that most basic element of life - what, how, and where we eat.

    And The American Way of Eating is a look as much about work in America as it is about food in America, and tonight I will talk with Tracie about that dynamic, as well as some of the incredibly fascinating insights into just how that salad you might be eating for lunch today was actually grown, packaged, shipped, retailed, and prepared.

    Listen to the show live starting at 8PM ET on the show page here, using the listener call in line 646-378-1086, or on the widget player below:

    Listen to internet radio with Steve Boese on Blog Talk Radio


    You can also follow the backchannel conversation on Twitter - just search on hashtag #HRHappyHour

    It should be a really interesting show tonight and I hope you can join us!


    Book Review : The American Way of Eating

    "What would it take for us all to eat well?”

    A simple enough question on the surface. But think a little bit longer about the question and how in America should we go about improving the quality and variety of our diets, expand the access to good, fresh food for people living in decaying inner cities, and somehow begin to understand why and how that the problem of obesity and its associated health concerns continue to escalate, well all of a sudden you will realize that finding an answer is a much larger and more complex proposition.

    "What would it take for us all to eat well? "

    That is the question that author The American Way of Eating author Tracie McMillan sets out to answer when she begins her year-long sojourn along the front lines of the food industy - as a farmworker in the grape vineyards and garlic fields of the Central Valley of California, at two different stops working grocery and later produce in Detroit-area Walmarts, (did you know that Walmart is the nations' largest food retailer?), and finally inside the kitchen at a Brooklyn Applebee's, where in America's most popular sit-down restaurant, meals are more assembled from pre-made components, than actually cooked.

    Along the way, Ms. McMillan alternates the story of her experiences as a bottom of the labor food chain with a deeply researched and revealing look at the rights, (or lack thereof), of the farmworkers, the development of and eventual power over the nation's food supply of the supermarket industry in the United States, and the growing share of restaurant eating that has come to claim in the average American's diet.  And what we learn, via her first-hand experiences and her in-depth reporting makes us uncomfortable. Ms. McMillan plainly states the rights of the typical farmworker coolly and succinctly -

    "Under federal labor laws, I have no rights to days off; I have no right to overtime pay; I have no right to collective bargaining."

    The farmwork is as we'd expect  - exceedingly hard, mundane, dangerous,and incredibly poorly paid. And similar to the Apple/Foxconn situation that has been so widely reported recently, the labor costs of farmworkers contribute a tiny fraction, about 6%, of the product's eventual retail price. But unlike one of the 'protests' consumers can bring to bear over the Apple situation, simply withholding the purchase of new gadgets until Apple improves working conditions, won't work when the product is real apples, (or lettuce or garlic or peaches). 

    From the fields of California and the front lines of production,  Ms. McMillan ventures into the front lines of food retailing, and recounts two separate stints as a stock person at Walmart supercenters. Here we learn about Walmart's incredible power and influence over the local produce supply and quality in markets where it dominates, the lengths to which Walmart will go to save the salability of its produce, (hint, don't buy any lettuce that is visibly smaller than the rest of the lot), and the challenges faced by the generally good-natured and well-intentioned workers.  The key metric about Walmart, stated plainly on p. 138 -

    Walmart's share of our food supply grew at an unparalleled pace; at 22 percent, it now sells more than twice as much as the next three largest stores combined.

    McMillan accurately compares Walmart's rise as a mega-retailer is analogous to the rise of the mega-farms. As in retail where many towns have few choices about where to shop for fresh produce, chances are good that produce was grown on one of the 6% of farms that supply 75% of farm sales in the United States. Larger farms, feeding larger distribution networks, stocking supercenter stores, most located in the suburbs, where space for stores, parking, and affluent shoppers determine retail location choices.

    From Walmart, Ms. McMillan joins the kitchen staff as a food expediter at a busy Applebee's location in Brooklyn. Here we learn that 'cooking' is not what really happens at Applebee's, rather it's a controlled chaos of food assembly, from mostly pre-cooked, pre-measured, and frozen component parts. And while the staff and management come off as mostly friendly and supportive an end of the book McMillan is sexually assaulted while sleeping and after being drugged during a farewell party with fellow Applebee’s workers.

    The American Way of Eating is certainly a book about food, but just as much it is a book about economics, corporate America, and the kind of work that millions of people do every day, and that many of us are more comfortable not thinking about too much. Farmwork, life as a minimum wage, part-time, no benefits retail worker, as an exhausted and overworked kitchen assistant - these jobs are not only hard to do, they are hard to survive doing. McMillan repeatedly faces struggles making ends meet, and often it is only the kindness of newly made friends on the food front lines that help see her through.

    By the end of the book, you are forced to think about all the ways we need to do better. Farmworkers should be treated better. Walmart and other mega-stores should open locations in the food deserts of places like Detroit, and we should do more as a society to think of food like we think about electricity or clean water - as a social good, not a luxury item.

    "What would it take for us all to eat well?”

    The determination and commitment to re-think how food is grown, harvested, marketed, and sold.

    Easy and incredibly hard at the same time.

    The American Way of Eating is a fascinating, challenging, and important book, that I strongly recommend.


    Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table

    By Tracie McMillan

    319 pages. Scribner. $25