Thursday, January 23, 2014

Answering the Dreaded Question

There are a lot of tough questions to answer in the interview process. "What are your biggest weaknesses" is one of my least favorite. "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" is the one I find the most annoying. But, by far, the most dreaded question for me is "What was your last salary (or what do you expect to make in this job?" That last question is not just one of the hardest to figure out how to ask, but also the least advantageous according to LinkedIn:
Employers will have the upper hand in your job search as long as you give them it to them. When you decide that you have something valuable and unique to bring to your next organization -- when you really believe it, and act out of that conviction -- you'll quickly move past the managers who don't deserve you, and focus on the ones who do. You won't hand over confidential information about your past salaries, because that's nobody's business but your own.
LinkedIn always has great advice from CEOs and other executives and this time is no exception. And if you needed a way to get away from giving that information while also not totally avoiding the question and not being rude, the author, Liz Ryan, has a script to be able to get you to the right position in the conversation.

For the employers, it's important to have the upper hand in the negotiation but don't you want to make sure once you hire this employee, they're going to be happy and stay around a while? Maybe being upfront about how much the position pays is the best way to make sure that you get that high quality candidate to come on board and stay.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Zappos Model

There are certainly companies that do things differently. Some of those models are ones to emulate and some are cautionary tales to run far from. Zappos, the online shoe retailer from Nevada is one of those companies which certainly comes close to toeing the line between what is cool and modern and what is just plain weird and unproductive. Here are a few examples:

Paying New Employees to Quit

Yes, you read that correctly. Zappos pays its new employees to quit. Why? Well the Harvard Business Review explains: "If you’re willing to take the company up on The Offer, you obviously don’t have the sense of commitment they are looking for. It’s hard to describe the level of energy in the Zappos culture–which means, by definition, it’s not for everybody. Zappos wants to learn if there’s a bad fit between what makes the organization tick and what makes individual employees tick–and it’s willing to pay to learn sooner rather than later. (About ten percent of new call-center employees take the money and run.)"


Calling Its Executives "Monkeys"

According to the CEO, Tony Hsieh, he doesn't like the term "executive" so he instead went with "monkeys" according to the New York Times. Monkey Row is where the executives, er, monkeys sit. Why? And why monkeys? It could be because of the greenery: "The green makes you feel like you are in a rain forest. It started in our old offices, where every row had its own decoration theme and we went with a rain-forest theme. I can’t remember — maybe the term Monkey Row came up after the decorations, not the other way around."


Greeting Guests Loudly

Businessweek went on a tour of Zappos back at the end of 2009 and had this to say: "On the tour, which the online shoe retailer offers 16 times a week, staffers blow horns and ring cowbells to greet the guests, who move among the aisles in groups of 20, trying to get a handle on the company's unique culture."


Saying Goodbye to Bosses

So does this mean no more monkeys? I'm not totally sure but the Washington Post explains how this will work: "It will eliminate traditional managers, do away with the typical corporate hierarchy and get rid of job titles, at least internally...The unusual approach is called a 'holacracy.' Developed by a former software entrepreneur, the idea is to replace the traditional corporate chain of command with a series of overlapping, self-governing 'circles.' In theory, this gives employees more of a voice in the way the company is run."

So which ones do I like? Personally, I'm a fan of the last two (greeting guests and no bosses), not a fan of the first one (paying new employees to quit) and pretty indifferent on the monkey business. Why? I feel like eliminating the traditional manager culture is how many companies are going with eliminating offices and helps spur positive change. I like making guests feel like they're welcome and part of the office--it helps keep a fun environment. "Monkey" isn't exactly the most professional term but I could deal with it if people like it. But I'm not a fan of paying new employees to quit. I understand wanting loyalty, but the hiring process is arduous for all involved and to lose 10% of your newly hired employees seems like a waste. That's just my take on it but Zappos is certainly a company who does stuff differently.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Gamification: Is It for Your Organization?

Gamification is a growing hot trend in HR, and in business in general. The use of game mechanics to engage people in solving problems and to encourage enthusiasm has been gradually gaining popularity in business.  It is estimated that by 2016, over 70% of Forbes’ Global 2000 companies will have some form of gamification in their business.
Marriott International has been a forerunner in using gamification as a means to recruit future employees. In 2011 they released a Facebook game called “My Marriott Hotel,” which allows gamers to manage a “virtual” hotel starting from the hotel restaurant kitchen and then expanding to other areas of the hotel. The game can be played in five different languages.  David Rodriguez, Executive Vice President of Global Human Resources of Marriott International,  states, “As Marriott expands in growth markets outside the U.S., and as we seek to attract more Millennials – those between the ages 18 and 27 – to our workforce, we must find new ways to interest them in hospitality careers…This game allows us to showcase the world of opportunities and the growth potential attainable in hospitality careers, especially in cultures where the service industry might be less established or prestigious.”  The game is located on Marriott’s jobs and careers page on Facebook and has surpassed 100,000 page views with active users from the U.S., Egypt, and India.

Besides attracting potential employees, gamification also can be used to engage clients. For instance, Global Corporate Challenge, a company that holds some of the world’s biggest corporations as clients, runs purely on gamification. The business creates a health initiative for organizations, to encourage employees to improve their health through virtual tracking of their health activities and providing challenges.  In the same vein of thought, Nike created a “tag” running app for its Nike+ campaign. Anyone using this app is put in a virtual game of tag where they must keep running to avoid being “it.” In addition, Deloitte Leadership Academy partnered with Badgeville to add gaming to its leadership development programs. Senior executives participate in learning programs online and are given rewards and badges that can be shared on LinkedIn and Twitter. Although these are nice examples, many organization wonder how they too can use gamification to their advantage.

Steve Sims, Vice President of Badgeville, wrote an article for the Human Resource section of that listed 5 Ways Gamification can Improve HR Management. Perhaps this listing can help you to create some form of gamification for use in your organization:    
  • Improve Talent Acquisition and Management
“Providing incentives can not only help attract qualified candidates from the start, but can also dramatically increase onboarding efficiency, as candidates are motivated to complete various steps to earn rewards. At the same time, much like a sales function, HR teams can also use gamification internally to reward top recruiters and incentivize employees to refer top candidates.”
  • Cultivate Corporate Culture and Retain Valued Employees
“You can use gamification to promote a positive corporate culture by rewarding employees for cross-departmental collaboration, providing process or product improvement suggestions, or even participating in company-wide volunteer programs, for example. You can use a gamified platform to track these activities and opportunities, as well as showcase employee participation to their coworkers to provide intrinsic motivation.” 
  • Motivate Employees to Learn and Participate in Training
“Adding a gamification experience to the online learning program can spur action. Employees, who earn rewards and recognition for having completed these tasks, or missions in the gamification lexicon, are far more likely to make it a priority. And HR benefits from the ability to check those boxes for compliance in a timely fashion, without the pressure of having to hound employees to complete the programs.”
  • Incentivize Paperwork and Other Administrative Requirements
“…paperwork is unavoidable in areas such as completion of benefits enrollment forms and expense reports. So why not make it fun? Similar to training applications, rewarding employees with either peer or management recognition — or even tangible incentives — for completing required forms can create a friendly competition where employees try to out-do one another for the title of best expense reporter or quickest to complete benefits update forms.”
  • Map the Path to Career Success
“You can even design such programs to allow team members to recognize one another for contributions made toward a common goal. And, again, all of this data is trackable, creating a valuable historic record to capture employee and organizational knowledge. By consulting the platform, it’s easy to identify employees who have achieved certification in specific skills, worked with clients in a specific industry or make other connections throughout the data. All of this combines to create a more efficient, collaborative, productive and upwardly motivated workforce.
Does gamification seem like a feasible trend for your organization to incorporate into its HR programs?  With so many organizations taking careful consideration of this idea, why not create some internal uses for gamification in your organization?  We’d love to hear your thoughts and current progress in the area of gamification – please send us a note!

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Happy 2014 from Astron

When the clock struck midnight on 2014, I was in Central Park watching the fireworks go overhead, about to run a race to kick off the New Year. As I ran through the frigid cold, I realized that 2014 meant a lot of different things for Human Resources and that we were going to have a lot to cover this year.

It meant new Affordable Care Act measures which The Daily Journal writes that business need to be prepared for: "2014 is a big year for the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare"). Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, employers with more than 50 full-time equivalent employees must offer health insurance to all of them or pay a monthly penalty on their federal income tax return. If your business has fewer than 50 total employees, you're probably exempt from the mandate. But watch out if you have lots of part-time employees: the calculation of full-time equivalent status under Obamacare is very tricky."

There will be a lot of other national issues to address but that will be a big one in 2014.

There are some state issues as well. In the states of Colorado and Washington, marijuana legalization may mean new workplace rules and regulations may need to be initiated--and employee education towards these rules will need to be in place ASAP. But, as SHRM wrote back in November: "Despite the dramatic headlines, a close look at the measures approved reveals that it is unlikely that employers in the affected states will need to take any swift action to amend their drug-free workplace policies or their drug-testing programs on account of these laws."

And, most exciting of all, 2014 will mark the 15th anniversary of Astron Solutions. It feels like just yesterday we were celebrating year #10 but we're on to 15. Thank you all for a great 2013 and to you and your families, we wish all the best in 2014 as we continue to provide you great information about a variety of Human Resources issues.

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